Saturday, May 26, 2007

JUDGMENT AT THE PEOPLE'S TRIBUNAL, THE HAGUE, NETHERLANDS


Dr. Carol Pagaduan-Araullo


FILIPINA REVOLUTIONARY LEADER. DR. CAROL PAGADUAN-ARAULLO, BAYAN Chairperson, CONDEMNS PHILIPPINE PRESIDENT ARROYO AND GEORGE W. BUSH FOR “CRIMES AGAINST HUMANITY”

By E. SAN JUAN, Jr.
Philippine Forum, New York City

Last March 21-23, at The Hague, Netherlands, the Permanent People’s Tribunal, an international opinion court independent from any State authority, rendered a judgment of guilty for “crimes against humanity” against the Philippine government headed by Gloria Arroyo and its chief backer, the Bush administration. Their accomplices include the International Monetary Fund, World Bank, World Trade Organization, and multinational firms and banks notorious for having plundered the Philippines and exploited the Filipino people since the colony’s nominal independence from the U.S. in 1946.

Deprived of any access to a fair and just court of law in the Philippines, well-known civil-society organizations from the Philippines presented oral testimonies of victims, together with substantial depositions of witnesses and experts on the massive violations of human rights under the current Gloria Arroyo government. To date, over 840 extra-judicial killings, abductions, forced disappearances, massacres, and tortures have occurred. The victims--church people, community leaders, peasants, journalists, lawyers, human rights activists, and persons associated with legal progressive organizations—are often vilified as “communists” or “front organizations” of “terrorist” groups (meaning the Communist Party of the Philippines and its New People’s Army). After his investigation in February, UN Special Rapporteur Philip Alston identified the Philippine military and police as the perpetrators of these crimes. In his report to the UN of March 22, Alston charged that the Arroyo regime’s counter-insurgency strategy and propaganda “encourage or facilitate the extrajudicial killings of activists and other enemies” of the state.

In her March 27 oral intervention to the UN Human Rights Council , Marie Hilao-Enriquez, chair of the leading human-rights monitor in the Philippines, KARAPATAN, supported Alston’s findings. She stressed the continuing “climate of impunity” which allowed two witnesses of Alston to be murdered just after his visit. The killings and kidnapping by Arroyo’s police and military have accelerated in the weeks after the Tribunal verdict; the latest is the attempted slaying of Jose Garachico, public information officer of KARAPATAN; and the abduction of two women militants: Nilo Arado, chair of BAYAN (New Patriotic Alliance), and Maria Luisa Posa-Dominado, spokesperson for SELDA (Society of Ex-Detainees for Liberation, Against Detention and for Amnesty). This latest incident reinforces Alston’s March 27 report to the UN Human Rights Council that “there is no reasonable doubt that the military is responsible for a significant number of the killings.”

Testifying before the session of the Permanent People’s Tribunal, Dr. Carol Pagaduan-Araullo, chairperson of the dynamic multisectoral people’s organization, BAYAN, furnished one of the most cogently irrefutable evidence for the charges levied by peoples’ organizations against the Bush-Arroyo collusion.

In her 16-pages affidavit submitted to the panel of jurors of the Tribunal, Dr. Araullo focused on the Arroyo regime’s violent suppression of civil liberties and other constitutionally-mandated citizen’s rights. She inventories numerous instances of violent dispersals of peaceful assemblies and demonstrations by the authoritarian State. During a rally on 13 July 2004, Dr. Araullo “was hosed down with high-pressure water canons and hit on the head.” She suffered a two-inch scalp laceration and contusions all over her body. Hundreds also were roughed up and terrorized by abusive policemen and security agents licensed by the State to brutally suppress public criticism of the policies and actions of Arroyo’s corrupt and illegitimate rule. The editor of the Manila newspaper Daily Tribune Ninez Cacho-Olivares has described Arroyo’s henchmen as “Gloria’s murderous military” (Tribune Online Editorial, 3/30/2007).

Dr. Araullo, a physician by profession, is a veteran national-democratic organizer responsible for founding the first human-rights organization of medical professions and health workers, the Health Alliance for Democracy, which protested the Marcos dictatorship (1972-86). In 1989, she was included in the military’s “order of battle” with a price on her head, alleged to be a high-ranking official of the Communist Party of the Philippines,” an allegation which she challenges. In her testimony, Dr. Araullo documents the Arroyo government’s systematic vilification of progressive, left-wing nationalist groups, setting them up for “extrajudicial” assassinations. Citing several cases of Arroyo’s fascistic measures—among them, proclamation 1017 of a “national emergency” last February, and the anti-terrorism bill, ironically titled “Human Security Act of 2007,” Dr. Araullo indicts the Arroyo regime for “gross and systematic violations of civil and political rights” as well as economic, social and cultural rights, including the right of the Filipino people to national self-determination and liberation.

How is the Bush administration linked to these horrors? Aside from hefty U.S. military aid to Arroyo’s security forces, the intervention of US Special Forces in the brutal Philippine counterinsurgency campaigns has precipitated and sustained these catastrophes. U.S. military aid increased from $38 million in 2001 to $114 million in 2003 and $164 milllion in 2005, making the Philippines the fourth largest recipient of such aid (US Congress-Federal Research Division, March 2006). In effect, Bush has been using US citizens’ tax dollars to fund political killings, torture, and other atrocities inflicted on civilians quite unprecedented in Philippine history. Not even the Marcos dictatorship (1972-1986) could rival Arroyo’s excesses. Through various unequal treaties and diplomatic skullduggery, the US government has underwritten the ongoing counter-insurgency operations as part of its “global war on terrorism,” thus justifying the political murders and the unconscionable impunity of both Philippine and U.S. governments.

Philippine Senator Jamby Madrigal, who testified at the Tribunal hearings on the ecological destruction wrought by local and global corporations, condemned the de facto martial rule in the Philippines, with Arroyo functioning as a mere figurehead. Proof of this is the arrest of legally elected representatives to the Congress: Crispin Beltran of the ANAKPAWIS party was detained in February for spurious reasons. From March 16 to April 3, Representative Satur Ocampo, head of the party-list political group, BAYAN MUNA, was in jail for a charge of “multiple murders” that took place 22 years ago. Clearly, the Arroyo regime is hell-bent on stifling all legal opposition, if not liquidating physically all dissenters and critics, by State terror.

What are some of the after-effects of the Tribunal verdict? Compelled by the rigorous documentation of these “crimes against humanity” by Amnesty International, the Asian Human Rights Commission (see their substantial report in the journal Article 2 (February 2007), and the Philippine National Council of Churches (see their powerful critique of the Arroyo regime in their ecumenical brief, “Let the Stones Cry Out,” March 2007), Senator Barbara Boxer and officials of the U.S. State Department have expressed concern. Too little, too late.
Unless the Bush administration cuts off aid for the Pentagon-guided Armed Forces of the Philippines and removes the “terrorist” label from the internationally-recognized legitimate liberation groups, the New People’s Army and the Communist Party of the Philippines (peace talks have been conducted between the umbrella group, the National Democratic Front and the Philippine government for several years now, sponsored by Norway and the European Union), those rumblings from Washington will mean nothing. At best, it will prompt Arroyo to mobilize her “public relations” outfits to streamline their lobbying so as to extend her rule indefinitely, using bribes, coercion, and threats from death-squads.
Meanwhile, the Philipine criminal justice system (described by the Asian Human Rights Commision as “rotten”) will begin to apply this July the heinous provisions of the anti-terrorism bill to criminalize all radical, anticapitalist organizations and all public rallies critical of the neocolonial system, U.S. imperialist aggression, IMF-World Bank, and predatory transnational corporations. UN Special Rapporteur Martin Scheinin has warned that the “Human Security Act” passed by Congress contradicts international principles of legality and is bound to trigger more political killings and other State terrorist abuses. Arroyo’s “lawful” terrorism is bound not only to worsen the misery of 87 million Filipinos over half of whom are direly impoverished (one million leave every year, joining 10 million overseas Filipino workers spread around the planet). State terrorism will surely feed and stoke the fires of revolutionary resistance—both peaceful and armed—against oligarchic barbarism and corporate savagery.

What is to be done? U.S. citizens must mobilize to stop Bush and the Pentagon from conniving with Arroyo to slaughter more Filipinos. The crisis in the Philippines has dramatized again the disastrous consequences of the Bush policy of fomenting a global war of terror on subalternized peoples. It has demonstrated blatantly, as it has in Afghanistan and Iraq, its catastrophic impact on “third world” dependent formations, neocolonized polities like the Philippines, whose citizens have become hostages to the unrelenting militarized ambitions of the hegemonic business elite. Not only in the Philippines but also in numerous sites of fierce class warfare around the planet—in Palestine, Sudan, Nepal, Colombia, Mexico, India, Venezuela, and elsewhere—the popular struggle for national liberation, social justice, and socialist democracy will continue. What the People’s Tribunal’s verdict on the Arroyo-Bush collusion signifies is the value of “speaking truth to power,” as well as the inexhaustible power of people’s solidarity, its invincible strength in forging versatile weapons of resistance against oppressors and exploiters everywhere.
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Dr. E. SAN JUAN, Jr. was recently fellow of the Rockefeller Foundation Study Center at Bellagio, Italy, and Fulbright professor of American Studies at the Katholieke Universiteit Leuven, Belgium. His recent books include Racism and Cultural Studies (Duke University Press), Beyond Postcolonial Theory (Palgrave Macmillan), In the Wake of Terror: Class, Race, Nation and Ethnicity in the Postmodern World (Lexington Books), and US Imperialism and Revolution in the Philippines (Palgrave).

Monday, May 21, 2007

SMASH THE U.S.-ARROYO TERRORIST KILLING MACHINE!





THE MAY DAY THESES: EMERGENCY TOOLKIT FOR THE DISMANTLING OF THE ARROYO KILLING MACHINE

By E. SAN JUAN, Jr.
Philippine Forum, New York


Ang sagot sa dahas ay dahas din, kung bingi sa katwiran.
---JOSE RIZAL

No uprising is ever wasted. Each is a step in the right direction.
--SALUD ALGABRE, leader of the Sakdal Insurrection



Election day, May 14, 2007: a time of reckoning for the oppressors, a time of judgment for the avengers of the oppressed, exploited and slaughtered generations of Filipinos, from the 1.4 million killed by the U.S. invaders in the Filipino-American War (1899-1913) to the over 850 victims murdered by Arroyo and her generals and their death-squads. Even as more imbecilic pretexts and mendacities are spun by Arroyo apologists from the recent Burgos/Posa/Arado kidnapping, and the well-oiled cheating dynamos revving up for a last-ditch effort, synchronized with the rusty gears of the killing machines of the AFP/PNP, the masses are assembling for a final confrontation. Who will prevail? I rehearse the “Seven Theses,” published earlier in BULATLAT, on the possible answers to that urgent question, with some key revisions.
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A fortuitous conjuncture of recent events seems to augur the inexorable downfall of the Arroyo presidency. With the defiant manifesto of “Nanay Ude” (Lourdes Rubrico) of UMAGA (Ugnayan ng Maralita Para sa Gawa at Adhikain Federation) and the attempted killing of KARAPATAN officer Jose Ely Garchico and the abduction of Maria Luisa Posa-Dominado (SELDA) and Nilo Arado (BAYAN), we confront the desperate panic of the regime side by side with the implacable resistance of the popular forces. Oppression always begets resistance, as the adage goes. And with more oppression goes certain retribution.

The inertia of tyranny at first seemed impervious to humanitarian blandishment. Arroyo may shed crocodile tears, but her cabal of generals and security advisers doesn’t care and seems addicted to the opium of violence. Despite Alston’s exposure in the Human Rights Council of the “Order of Battle” blueprint of OPLAN BANTAY LAYA I and II, Arroyo’s minions continue to ratchet up the score of extra-judicial killings and forced disappearances. Despite the judgment of the Permanent People’s Tribunal and rigorous condemnation by Amnesty International, National Council of Churches of the Philippines, Asian Human Rights Commission, the Japanese Human Rights Now, and the InterParliamentary Union, among others, of the obscene platform of “impunity” for operatives linked to the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and the Philippine National Police (PNP), the political murders show no signs of abating. In an unprecedented “overkill,”AFP troops have saturated urban poor communities in Metro Manila and elsewhere to openly harass and intimidate citizens inclined to BAYAN MUNA and other progressive party-list candidates in the weeks before the May elections. What more atrocities are being hatched in Malacanang in step with Bush’s global war of terror?

Before the May 14 elections, the Arroyo clique may be gearing to “clean up its act” by public-relations magic. In a belated response to the concerns of U.S. Senator Barbara Boxer, Rep. Ellen Tauscher, and the U.S. State Department officials over U.S. aid being used for the vilification and summary executions of activists, the Arroyo -AFP’s show of a “state of denial” can be gleaned from the bureaucratic maneuvers of creating so-called special courts to try human rights cases. This comes after Alston’s witnesses were killed, betraying the tendentious character of such reforms. Could this cover up or compensate for the utter insipidity of Task Force Usig and the Melo Commission? It would be wishful thinking to believe in a sudden reversal of entrenched policy.

Scourge of the People

Unless her U.S. sponsors demand more concrete measures to stop the killings, the Arroyo clique will cheat—as KONTRA DAYA and others have predicted based on plans already hatched with premeditated care—and cheat massively in the May elections. It is only proceeding with “business as usual,” in the time-honored tradition of elections since 1946. The regime will then quickly proceed to implement the Human Security Law that will finally legalize the “de facto martial law” which, for Senator Jamby Madrigal (speaking at the People’s Tribunal at The Hague in March), already prevails. But legitimacy cannot be earned by legislative fiat. Last April 18, the University of the Philippines University Council passed a resolution condemning Arroyo’s curtailment of civil liberties, a mild show of protest from a fraction of the salaried intelligentsia. However, that is still symptomatic of the fact that Arroyo lacks that essential element of hegemonic consensus needed for any ruling bloc to survive. Violence may soon become the only weapon available, a sign of total moral and political bankruptcy of that “elite democracy” so beloved by former “left-wing” friends who hailed “the democratic space” of Cory Aquino as she was about to massacre the Mendiola peasant protesters, a class penchant proved again in the Hacienda Luisita massacre of 16 November 2004.

Urgent questions interpose themselves between local and international developments. Amid unceasing U.S. political-military intervention, can the realization of martial law de jure be stopped? Can the killings and abductions be deterred if not halted? Can the national-democratic opposition initiate a wider, more in-depth realignment of all anti-imperialist forces throughout the country? Can we establish a more radical discursive and organizational framework to build the united front for nationwide insurrection, rallying the middle strata beyond what has already been accomplished so far?

As of now, BAYAN and BAYAN MUNA, the main progressive detachments, by themselves alone cannot mount a sustainable challenge to the terrorist Minotaur without either getting the support of other nonleftist anti-Arroyo forces, or neutralizing them. What other sectors can be mobilized to strengthen the democratic forces and unleash emancipatory energies that have been stifled by authoritarian habits and practices grounded in the comprador-feudal structures of our society? What historic openings for liberation might be seized from this coming electoral exercise that can precipitate immediate change? Or if not that, at least, catalyze a regrouping of forces that can ultimately prove pivotal not just for the collapse of the Arroyo regime but also for the continued growth of participatory democracy centered on worker-peasant protagonism? What theoretical and practical breakthroughs may be read from the signs of micropolitical resistance in the city and countryside, as well as in the turmoil of the recalcitrant Filipino diaspora worldwide?

Here we take cognizance of the economic and social facts already rehearsed in recent movement documents from the liberated zones, as well as numerous IBON analysis of the sharp polarization of social classes in the last six years. We need an armed people’s defense force, no doubt, to relieve the agony of ruthless AFP/PNP counterinsurgency drives. On another occasion, we hope to explore the problem of why the strategy of people’s war (as traditionally construed) predicated chiefly on military action deviates from the principle of class struggle as a political resolution of historic contradictions by a combination of diverse means/modes, not just by violent means. Any physical combat in the social realm is, as Clausewitz once observed, always an extension of politics by other means. Yes, “el pueblo unido seran jamas vencido.” But it is still a long way to go in uniting “el pueblo,” ridden as it is with sharp divisions across the multiple axes of gender, ethnicity, religion, locality, and other cultural/ideological determinants that underlie the structural class cleavage. The U.S.-imposed neocolonial “social contract” may show signs of unraveling; the point is not just to interpret but to hasten its complete breakdown.

We demur from the triumphalism of our comrades, notwithstanding the heroic advances that have already been registered in the ejection of U.S. bases in 1991 and the Subic Rape case in 2006 (to cite only two examples). The dogmatic hubris of vanguardism cannot let us forget the regression to militarism/urban adventurism committed by those who were targeted by the Second Rectification movement. Such left and right tendencies will always exist in a neocolony severely ravaged everyday by capitalist alienation, commodification, anomie, as well as the destructive effects of archaic, feudal practices (such as sexist-masculinist abuses, clientelism, religious skullduggery, etc.). Neither pessimism of reason nor optimism of the will can help, I think, but a consistent regimen of criticism-self-criticism of political calculation can assist us in learning from mistakes of the past and thus forge a less wasteful path of social transformation.

Realize the Impossible

We seek to broach here a more heuristic and self-reflexive line of cognitive mapping of the sociopolitical arena. We hope to advance the anti-imperialist struggle within the framework of what is feasible in the short-term compass of Arroyo’s moribund tenure. “Realize the impossible!” –this slogan rests on grasping what is possible, just as freedom rests on comprehending necessity. To be sure, the people’s cause of social justice and true independence will emerge victorious in the end, via an orchestration of all means of struggle attuned to the dynamic changes in the political consciousness of various sectors. Vanguardism cannot preempt the slow hard labor of mass political education, organizing, and critique. The basic question is: how can we move out of this morass of impunity and relative disarray of anti-Arroyo forces? After all, Crispin Beltran is still detained by the military, and Satur Ocampo (as well as others of the “BATASAN 6,” “TAGAYTAY 5,” and hundreds of activitists named in the AFP “Order of Battle” a copy of which was recently submitted by Alston to the UN Human Rights Council) still faces an uphill legal battle, and all anti-imperialist militants face threats of prison or “neutralization” every moment of the day.

Here we will concentrate on the specific contradictions faced by the ruling bloc and its ramifications. This positing of problems faced by the enemy is offered as a way of revitalizing the project of communal democracy so necessary to advance the national-democratic program as a stage of socialist reconstruction, within the framework of an uninterrupted revolutionary process. Of course, unpredictable events and new players/actors may intervene that could gradually, or by leaps and bounds, change the parallelogram of forces and require a new theoretical calibration of class trajectories. However, we need to always pursue the principle of historical-materialist analysis in order to unfold the inner laws of motion from the surface of everyday circumstances whose bizarre oscillation may seduce us into easy consolations and premature celebrations of victories. True, you need to break eggs to make an omelette; but there is no guarantee that the omelette will be edible or savory at all. The categorical imperative for the wretched of the earth is still: Makibaka, huwag matakot!

Needless to say, the propositional form of this intervention invites further scientific inquiry and practicable exchange, with the resulting hypotheses to be tried in concrete praxis in the historical arena. What is necessary is to agree on the purpose and goal of the national-democratic project of replacing the Arroyo regime, not only illegitimate but politically and ideologically bankrupt, with one reflecting the liberatory aspirations of the exploited classes and all sectors committed to egalitarian democracy and genuine national independence. Here the desideratum of “the mass line,” its ripeness, signifies everything.

Impeachment Feasibility

Thesis 1: After the Garci exposure and the failed impeachment attempts, the Arroyo bloc has definitively lost any shred of legitimacy it may have putatively enjoyed after People Power 2. While bribes and other inducements offered to Batasan trapos have practically made the impeachment route counterproductive, the educational-propaganda value of the impeachment case, as well as the obscenity of extrajudicial killings, has not been fully exhausted. Other venues have to be found. A preponderant number of Filipinos in the U.S., for example, doesn’t know the details, much less the implications, of the Garci fraud. Like other migrants, they still cling to the belief that the incumbent (like the Marcos regime in the seventies) should be allowed to run the government and preserve law and order for everyone.
The task then is to engage in a wide-ranging pedagogical, “conscientizing” effort of propagating the merits of the impeachment brief to as wide a constituency as possible, appealing to the traditional sense of fair play, clean elections, honesty, and so on. This will reach otherwise conservative, pro-US sectors of the population in the country and abroad, and also energize liberal fractions of the “national bourgeoisie” (now reduced to rentier and comprador pursuits). This is not to endorse parliamentary cretinism; rather, it is to maximize what is still legally allowed in a republican framework of class conflict and use it as a point of departure for accelerating political education and organizing toward insurrectionary readiness. This is to engage the bulk of civil society still adhering to the old maxim, Salus rei publicae suprema lex, bearing in mind that this current rei publicae exists to reproduce class inequality and imperialist domination.

Authoritarian Cul de Sac

Thesis 2: The nearly absolute reliance of the Arroyo clique on AFP/PNP counterinsurgency tactics, including extrajudicial killings and selective persecution (Beltran, Ocampo) of progressive dissenters, is a clear symptom of weakness due to the loss of suasive power. A militarized bureaucracy (entrenched since the Marcos period) has no political intelligence at all, tied to a technocratic ethos. Its tactics are reactive, hence their agents fall prey to conventional guerilla maneuvers even with the help of sophisticated techniques given by Pentagon/U.S. advisers. Without genuine popular support, the regime’s days are numbered.
Aside from private armies of thugs and assorted mercenaries, the main coercive agency of the ruling bloc is the U.S-trained and U.S.-indoctrinated military and police apparatus. Such limitation of agency cannot be remedied by more bribery of politicians, or by expedient compromises with other fractions of the oligarchy: the Marcoses, Joker Arroyo-type vacillating “libertarians,” etc. Arroyo and her Cabinet Oversight Committee on Internal Security, however, are bedeviled by three ineluctable determinants: 1) internal dissension within the military ranks due to the politicized nature of promotions, division of the loot, etc.; 2) limited internal resources, including decimation of ranks through desertion, casualties, intractable clandestine activities, etc.; and 3) utter dependence on the Pentagon and Washington for logistics, training, etc., which may suffer the vicissitudes of political shifts in the metropole. Aside from clientelism and opportunism, the military-police bureaucracy is riddled with vicious in-fighting and personality cults that cause inefficiency, paralysis, etc. Moreover, as in any uneven, dependent formation, there exist in the ranks honest elements who may be won over in the course of the struggle, hence the key lies in commonalities of political aims, not ideological standardization.

Balikbayans Blasting the Bastions

Thesis 3: A wholly new condition has emerged since the Marcos dictatorship: the phenomenal increase of OFWs (Overseas Filipino Workers). About three thousand leave everyday, a million every year, adding to the nearly 10 million Filipinos abroad. As already established, the temporary stability of the economy hinges on the ability to pay the foreign debt, which in turn depends on the continuing growth of remittance of dollars from OFWs, a large part of which comes from the Middle East and North America. Foreign investments have declined considerably, though transnational corporations can still exert some influence (as in the Walmart-Gap criticism of Arroyo policies handicapping union struggle for work-place rights). What is more valuable for the corrupt Establishment is the huge reservoir of taxes and fees extorted from OFWs through the OWWA Omnibus Policies amounting to at least P17 billion so far, which will surely be raided again for this May exercise. If the migrant community becomes fully mobilized in fighting for social, cultural and political rights, this can deliver the heaviest blows on the ability of the regime to deliver on its debts in time, satisfying the IMF/World Bank and the greedy appetite of finance capital.

Given the precarious nature of overseas hiring (consider recent Saudi Arabia’s restrictions, Taiwan’s prohibitions, etc.) tied to the geopolitical prospect of heightened conflicts in the Middle East, as well as periodic tremors in the Asian region (affecting Singapore, Taiwan, Hong Kong—the largest employers of OFWs), the Arroyo regime is vulnerable to such reverberations. Any explosion of conflict in those regions is bound to produce dire repercussions on the local political economy. This is where MIGRANTE and other formations oriented to OFW concerns are bound to play a key and possibly decisive role in precipitating a crisis of failure to pay both internal and external debts fatal to the ruling bloc.

Moros Undefeatable and Inescapable

Thesis 4: The Moro insurgency remains an integral part of our national-democratic struggle. The Moro people have suffered the most since the Marcos dictatorship: hundreds of thousands killed, with more than half of the four million internal refugees coming from the Moro villages and towns. They have also rallied the largest armed combatants in the country and inflicted severe blows on the AFP. The unrelenting resistance of the Moro community (represented currently by the Moro Islamic Liberation Front and sections of the Moro National Liberation Front) cannot be assuaged, or fully pacified, by Arroyo’s diplomacy and cooptation. Nor can the AFP/PNP, even with the help of U.S. Special Forces, ever succeed in eliminating the Abu Sayyaf or the conditions that reproduce such a phenomenon. Not because the Abu Sayyaf is a parasitic and coeval creature of the CIA and its military/civilian patrons, which remains the case—Bush’s War on Terror subsists on the continuing existence of this bandit group—but because this is tied with the whole turbulent milieu of the Islamic world (Indonesia, Malaysia, parts of Thailand, Bangladesh, Pakistan, etc.) and the internal decay of its structures and ethos. Note that a large part of the combat-ready AFP troops are tied with the fighting in Mindanao and Sulu, thus enabling breathing space (exchanging space for time) for building up the liberated zones and pursuing a war of attrition and encirclement.

Here, the Organization of Islamic Conference is a crucial international body whose ideological shifts will certainly affect the capacity of Moro separatism to grow or diminish. What is imperative is for the radical assemblage to incorporate the Islamic resistance much more adequately than it has done so far. A wider anti-imperialist united front cannot be realized without the substantive participation of the Moro movement for autonomy. Luis Jalandoni’s affirmation of the Moro (and other national minorities’) right to self-determination, emphasized in his March 23 presentation to the Permanent People’s Tribunal, is a salutary move in the right direction.

Subterranean Rumblings

Thesis 5: Aside from the Bangsa Moro people, the indigenous communities (Lumads, Igorots, etc.) need special inducements for their inclusion in the united front against the Arroyo clique. So far, this has not been done, despite advances in the Cordillera front. We need to pay closer attention to indigenous practices of solidarity and coalitional work, esp. in the mines, remote villages, and plantations. Perhaps the nationalist appeal for liberation needs to be modified to promote the local demands for livelihood, preservation of ancestral lands, and fostering of local religious customs, including prophetic millenarianism. The same goes for the utopian experiments of artists, anarchists, and other marginalized sectors. Christian chauvinism remains the main obstacle here as well as dogmatic scientism and other “orientalist” prejudices. Can our postmodern babaylans stir up the slumbering chthonic energies of Mother Filipinas?

Arming the Spirit

Thesis 6: The religious front requires special analysis in the light of unrelenting U.S.-influenced evangelization. While the theology of liberation may have been eclipsed by actual practices of progressive “fundamentalist” sects, this aspect of the underground movement during the Marcos era may still be reconfigured to draw quietistic and conservative believers to a more dynamic worldly thrust that will dovetail with emergent programs of industrialization, sustainable development, and the building of a self-reliant economy. Given the attacks on the Philippine Independent Church, and reformist church officials of the Protestant denominations, there exist great opportunities to channel anti-statist sentiments in a more decolonizing political direction. This has been done with women, gays, and unorthodox intellectuals with their utopian dreams, so why can we not appeal to the salvific impulse and direct it to secular ends (material well-being, health, care for the environment)? Father Ed de la Torre’s incarnational politics awaits vindication in a revitalized theology of national liberation disabused of pettybourgeois reformist illusions. We need to call on the Jacobin spirits of Reverend Aglipay and Isabelo de los Reyes to aid us in this new materialist “reformation.”

Pedagogical Reconaissance Force

Thesis 7: Now that KABATAAN party, with its techno-cyber √©lan worldwide, has been launched, it may be superfluous to emphasize the imperative of arousing and cultivating the youth sector of the united front. Instead of accenting the age/generational aspect, we would rather stress the institutional category of students (from grade school up) that should be the target for intense conscientization and mobilization. After all, institutions, not status or age groups, serve as the sites of radical social transformation, the transmission belts of what Spinoza calls deus sive natura. As our history has demonstrated without fail, from the time of Emilio Jacinto and the Propagandistas to the First Quarter Storm of Ed Jopson, Judy Taguiwalo and Carol Pagaduan-Araullo, the institutional site of schooling/studentry functions as the crucial arena for political education, organization and agitation. Time, energy and resources should be allocated carefully and chanelled to this front in order to deepen, widen and reinforce the ground already sedimented by the pioneering initiatives of the League of Filipino Students (LFS), CONTEND, ACT, and other affinal assemblages. Students, not youth (to modify Rizal’s invocation), is the genuine hope of the motherland.

Imperial Rescue?

There is no doubt that the public support of the United States is probably the only driftwood the Arroyo bloc still clings to. But there is no certainty in permanent U.S. patronage that is always based on the prior claims of U.S. racial “manifest destiny,” that is, global hegemony. What is bound to snap the U.S-Arroyo linkage is this: Arroyo cannot pacify the internecine fighting of oligarchic factions, which may push Washington to opt for a substitute among the contending elite politicians. A carnage-prone state that cannot reconcile the internal feuds within elite ranks, much less conciliate the dispossessed, cannot defeat the popular challenge.

Fellow-travellers during the Marcos dictatorship failed to predict the dispensability of the dictator for the U.S., thus withdrawing from the electoral struggle in 1986. As the case of the Subic rapist Daniel Smith has recently shown, the U.S. always tests any administration in the crucible of subservience, whether by bribes (more military aid) or coercive pronouncements (suspension of the Balikatan exercises). And no group of subaltern functionaries is indispensable, as withdrawal of support for the Marcos dictatorship has shown if what is at stake is the preservation of the subordinate social relations of capital accumulation and its governability. If Arroyo proves totally discredited, and the impasse of her corrupt, fraudulent rule jeopardizes U.S. control and precipitates the entry of the National Democratic Front into the scene, then the U.S. will immediately abandon Arroyo and substitute the next compromise elite fraction. Thus the fight against U.S. political and military intervention remains central to the articulation of all the demands and goals of the national-democratic assemblage.

In sum, the U.S.-Arroyo terrorist state is plagued with incoherence, vulnerabilities, and intrinsic inadequacies characteristic of the authoritarian state in the periphery (an earlier treatise on this, Clive Thomas, The Rise of the Authoritarian State in Peripheral Societies, 1984, may be useful; obviously, the “global war on terror” and U.S. unilateral hegemonism have changed the historical context, thus the need for new analysis). The Arroyo state is neither a populist nor a classically fascist (European) state. It has neither vast popular cross-class support nor does it promote a messianic leader to channel middle-class frustrations, a racialized savior who promises redemption, or even to make “the nation great again” (as Marcos tried to do with the help of shoddy pundits like Blas Ople and other hirelings). Its use of violence is narrowly instrumentalist, not mystical or primordialist. (The old debate among Ernesto Laclau, Ralph Miliband, and Nicos Poulantzas on facism and populism in the European and Latin American context may be instructive here.) Of course, even if the Arroyo regime is saddled with multiple problems sketched earlier, it will not fall by itself (barbarism exceeding yesterday’s carnage is always an option)—the popular forces have to dismantle it gradually, or by leaps and bounds.

Point of No Return

This May election may prove to be a decisive turning point both for Arroyo and the anti-imperialist united front. It will certainly narrow the paths open to all contending forces. Either Arroyo will cheat and entrench her authoritarian rule, or the popular resistance will unseat her in a series of flanking moves and direct confrontations hitherto unforeseen. We are in that interregnum where the people can no longer accept the status quo and the ruling elite can no longer implement phony democracy in the old style—an in-between phase of the struggle replete with morbid symptoms; hence, either the old system crumbles, or its agonizing death-pangs are prolonged at the expense of the intolerable suffering of millions from globalized market profiteers and their local henchmen.

Let us repeat what seems to be commonplace now, though inflected in a more dialectical stance. Arroyo’s makeshift combination of trapos and militarists, Cold War ideologues, and pettybourgeois propagandists, betokens an expedient mechanism for narrow get-rich-quick schemes by manipulation of the State apparatus and raiding the public treasury. Except for its disproportionate use of the military and police in extrajudicial killings, regional counterinsurgency drives, massacres and tortures, the Arroyo state is a conjunctural result of several intertwined contingencies: electoral fraud, advanced disintegration of the oligarchic bloc of comparators-landlords-bureaucrat capitalists (their productive base has considerably diminished and their ideological control over peasants and workers has been countered by increased underground agitation and labor-union organizing); and, sad to say, the still divided mass of workers, peasants and middle elements who have not yet been effectively interpellated and fused into a revolutionary counterhegemonic bloc. In short, the objective conditions have ripened, but the subjective forces have not yet fully matured to take over state power, or articulate a new consensus, a new “common sense.” The alibi or escape route of OFWs still beckons. Nonetheless, the process of maturation can occur rapidly, depending on a sudden turn of circumstances that cannot be predicted despite our claim to know “the laws of motion” of the capitalist mode of production.

Our neocolonial condition has always been a permanent state of emergency. But it is not one imposed by Proclamation 1017, but by the vicious operation of sustained colonial oppression and imperialist havoc. The treason of the technocrats that Alejandro Lichauco (see his Hunger, Corruption and Betrayal, 2005) bewails is only a symptom of the general crisis of a minor neocolony that has been sharpening since 1946. No doubt, mass hunger has worsened. But everyone knows that poverty and suffering do not translate automatically into a fight for justice and equality. There are 25 million hungry Filipinos (roughly 3.4 million households) who are desperately hungry, but not all are marching for food and the overthrow of the iniquitous order.

Customary traditional beliefs, together with subaltern mentalities and habits, offer outlets of anger and grief; emigration and charity drives another. In After Postcolonialism: Remappping Philippines-United States Confrontations (Rowman 2000) and also in U.S. Imperialism and Revolution in the Philipppines (Palgrave 2007), I tried to analyze the institutionalized ideological mechanisms that perpetuate subalternity. No appeal to neoliberal “free market fundamentalism,” nor pluralist governance (how can the Batasan or the courts perform check-and-balance procedures when a culture of corruption and opportunism prevails?) will enable the reform of COMELEC, the trial of Gen. Jovito Palparan and his ilk, or the successful investigation of corruption and electoral fraud by the courts or Ombudsman of the current regime. Arroyo, however, cannot institutionalize anxiety and fear for a classic fascist mobilization since she has no genuine mass movement to deploy. Nor is there any affective identification with a leader who can channel persecutory anxiety against “communists fronts” (as Franz Neumann noted in The Democratic and the Authoritarian State, 1964). Her gambit hinges on the passivity of an electorate that can, however, be volatilized and reoriented by critical popular interventions in a revolutionary direction.

The Messiah Intervenes

Only two final points can be made here due to space limitations. As an emergency measure to undercut the “climate of impunity,” a tactical move of armed self-defense by local communities may be adopted. This can be done through exemplary arrest, trial and punishment of publicly known assassins, torturers, and abusive police and military officers. People’s justice needs no special juridical or moral justification. We don’t have to wait for these criminals to leave the country and be put on trial years from now in a European State which recognizes the International Court of Justice. We need only invoke the provisions of the CARHRIHL (the Comprehensive Agreement on Respect for Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law) that the Philippine government signed together with the National Democratic Front, which in turn draws its force from the International Covenant of Civil and Political Rights and other ratified international laws. The question is: who has the power to implement it now? Time will tell.

A nagging question pursues us entailed by the last query. If, as has been repeated everywhere, the regime is irretrievably bankrupt and totally devoid of legitimacy, ruling only through force, deception and bribery, sustained only by the inertia of habit and the customary deference (the fabled “compassion” of the mythical Filipino) of the neocolonized subaltern, what needs to be done to finally bury it? Aside from the arguments drafted here, only an allegorical answer can be ventured here, since the concrete strategy is already being fleshed in the collective praxis of “the mass line”: The Messiah will come when you least expect it, and only through that tiny space of our prison’s emergency door about to be slammed shut. “For every second of time [is] the strait gate through which the Messiah might enter” (Walter Benjamin). It is the tiger’s leap into the presence of the Now blasted from the continuum of history. And “Messiah” is nothing but the nom de guerre of the combative people’s empowering agency, ang bayang lumalaban.

Prelude to Resurrection Day

Celebrating the Peoples Tribunal’s “guilty” verdict against the U.S.-Arroyo collusion, Mrs. Evangeline Hernandez, the mother of Benjaline Hernandez, one of the 850 victims of extrajudicial killings under the Arroyo dispensation (372 of them belong to activist or progressive sectors), announced in a public rally last March 27: “We who have lost our loved ones, who have been violated, will not allow Arroyo to prolong her stay in Malacanang…. The Filipino people will make this government pay for its blood debt.”

This cry of people’s justice will also signal the advent of a proactive grass-roots initiative that will begin to Filipinize the so-called “Maoist” insurgency that the U.S. State Dept. exploits to stigmatize the insurgency as “terrorist. Why “Maoist” when People’s China has long become thoroughly capitalist? Notwithstanding the now jejune RA-RJ squabble, why indeed can we not move beyond parroting the “Red Book” and invent our own national-liberation philosophy and methodology from the raw materials provided by our own rich history of anticolonial revolts combined with the world treasury of liberatory ideas (from the European Enlightenment that Rizal, Bonifacio, Mabini up to Amado V. Hernandez and Renato Constantino have incorporated in their praxis)? We have a massive durable history of revolutionary experiences, from Soliman to the Katipunan, the Hukbalahap, the First Quarter Storm, the generation of Maria Lorena Barros, the Tagamolila brothers, Lean Alejandro, and the present legal and extra-legal resistance.

In the wake of past defeats of peasant and worker revolts—nothing is really lost, as Salud Algabre reminds us, the indigenous culture of Filipino nationalism constantly renews its redemptive emancipatory voice by mobilizing new forces (women, church workers, ethnic minorities, gays, etc.) and utilizing all means possible in an all-encompassing radical democratic movement of all the oppressed and exploited millions. This struggle is organically embedded in local and regional social movements whose origin recalls the fight for national sovereignty and social justice in the tradition of third-world struggles (Gandhi, Ho Chi Minh, Che Guevara, Fanon, etc.), but are in practice identical with the local insurgencies of diverse communities against continued U.S. domination.

The Philippines, prosperous and sovereign, is still a project in the making. Our nation may be conceived as an “imagined” and actually lived/experienced ensemble of communities and civic formations—not just families or clans, but desiring-machines producing and reproducing the paramount Desire called Becoming-Filipino. Filipinas/Pilipinas, universal and singular, is in the process of being constructed and nourished through the many-faceted social and political resistance of Filipinos everywhere, in the homeland and abroad, against predatory corporate globalization and its brutalizing commodity-fetishism.

The embodied spirit of the nation, its ecumenical body germinal in the progressive groups and in the thousands of martyrs of the national liberation struggle, is creatively fashioning an appropriate culture of subversion, humanist solidarity, and self-empowerment worthy of its own people’s history, its collective vision and sacrifices, for freedom, material well-being, and human dignity.

Becoming-Filipino, an invincible power born from the ruins of the terrorist U.S.-Arroyo State--- Mabuhay ang sambayanang lumalaban! --###

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

SANA'Y MAUNAWAAN NATIN KAPWA


NAWALANG E-MAIL NA HINDI NAIPAABOT MULA SA ISANG NALIMOT NA POOK SA MASALIMUOT NA LANSANGAN NG DEN HAAG, NEDERLANDS

Ipagpatawad mo ang kabaliwan...

Naligaw ang kaluluwa ko at bulag na lumapit sa mutyang walang pansin
kamalaya'y nakatutok
sa paraisong darating...
--ikaw na darating, dinggin sana ang pagsamo kong
sa kasalukuyang kirot at hapdi,
awa at unawa sana'y magtalik sa risomang bumuka sa iyong mga labi

marahil sa isang panaginip ng tag-sibol
sa panahong lumaya na tayo sa ating mga katawan, yapos ang biyayang

lunas ng kamatayang walang sawa sa paghihintay

handog ang ngitng di ko nasilayan

kalakip ang halik ng walang katapusang tag-lagas....

--ni E. SAN JUAN, Jr.

MAKIBAKA SPOKESPERSON CONI LEDESMA SPEAKS



MAY ELECTION 2007: HISTORIC SHOWDOWN IN PHILIPPINE POLITICS

INTERVIEW WITH CONI LEDESMA, INTERNATIONAL SPOKESPERSON OF MAKIBAKA, FILIPINO REVOLUTIONARY WOMAN’S ASSOCIATION


By E. SAN JUAN, Jr.


May 14, election day in the Philippines, may signal a historic turning-point in its political devolution since the February 1986 “people power” revolt overthrew the U.S.-backed Marcos dictatorship. The prospect is grim. Either the country declines into unprecedented barbarism—so far, international monitors (Amnesty International, World Council of Churches, UN investigators) have documented thousands of victims of extra-judicial killings, forcible “disappearances,” torture and massacres exceeding those committed by Marcos—or President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo is impeached by a majority of elected representatives for treason, violation of the Constitution, corruption, etc. This may temporarily stop the “impunity” for State-affiliated criminals. This legal route of redress of grievances is by no means a revolution; it can be aptly described as an in-house purging of decay and rot. Either way, this ritualized election of local officials and Congresspeople will prove a veritable test-case for the country’s neocolonial, oligarchic institutions and the status quo of class inequality that have been, in one way or another, fostered by the United States, its former colonizer, for over a century now.

Elections in the Philippines, designed by the U.S. colonial government, began as a way of preserving the power of the moneyed, privileged elite within a monopolized party system offered as an alternative to armed resistance by Filipinos. Since formal independence in 1946, the elite bloc of landlords, compradors and bureaucrat-capitalists has partitioned power among their ranks, with personalities overshadowing any ideological differences, if any. Any progressive, radical challenge to elite hegemony, such as that posed by Claro Recto and Lorenzo Tanada in the fifties, or by the progressive party-list today (among them, BAYAN MUNA, ANAKPAWIS, GABRIELA, KABATAAN, MIGRANTE), has been stigmatized as “communist” or “terrorist.” Just as in many “third world” dependent societies characterized by flagrant class conflict, electoral democracy in the Philippines has been distinguished by large-scale bribery of voters, corruption of officials, systematic violence—this time with the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and the national police engaged in campaigning for the incumbent administration. The question of legitimacy or accountability is thus decided by the old formula of “guns, goons and gold.”

Fraud as Spectacle and Testimony

In a recent commentary, the Center for People Empowerment in Governance, a think-tank based at the University of the Philippines, concludes that “fraud is an endemic disease that has been institutionalized by a political system—the government, executive and legislative structures, political parties—that remains dominated by political dynasties” (Issue Analysis, No. 7, May 2007). A week ago, a group of retired military and police officers revealed a devious plan of Arroyo’s adviser, General Hermogenes Esperon, AFP Chief, to hijack 14 million votes in 4 regions and 12 provinces to insure the victory of Arroyo’s team.

It is instructive to cite here a recent Social Weather Station survey of citizens’ attitudes to the coming elections. The survey found that 40% of Filipinos expect the government will cheat, while 69% believe that the votes will be stolen by the Arroyo regime through “flying voters,” coercion and other means used during Arroyo’s election in 2004 in which the officials of the State’s Commission on Elections (COMELEC) manipulated the counting of votes in Arroyo’s favor. Arroyo unwittingly admitted her fraudulent tenure in the widely publicized “Hello Garci” phone expose.

During the Cold War, the Philippines was touted as a “showcase” of U.S.-style democracy in Asia. Elected politicians toed Washington’s “free world” party line. With the help of the CIA and the Pentagon-supervised and -trained AFP, a surrogate army of U.S. finance capital, the puppet president Ramon Magsaysay defeated the Communist-led Huk uprising in the fifties. Today the Philippines is hailed as the second “battlefront” in George W. Bush’s “global war on terror.” The U.S. State Department has labeled the 38-year-old insurgent New People’s Army (led by the Communist Party of the Philippines) as a “terrorist” organization, along with the CIA-built and AFP-coddled Abu Sayyaf bandit-group. While the country in the fifties was barely recovering from the enormous devastation of World War II, today, the economy is in shambles: 80% of 87 millionFilipinos are struggling to survive on $2 a day, below decent living standards, while 46 million Filipinos do not even meet their 100% dietary energy requirement (IBON Media Release, 4 April 2007).

Scourge of the Nation

Just like her predecessors, Arroyo has sacrificed the Filipino people’s welfare by implementing neoliberal globalization policies (privatization, deregulation) imposed by the World Bank, Inerrnational Monetary Fund and World Trade Organization. The result is a humanitarian disaster. Filipino economist Alejandro Lichauco has documented unprecedented mass hunger throughout the country in his book Hunger, Corruption and Betrayal (Manila, 2005). Three thousand Filipinos leave every day to join 10 million Filipinos working in hundreds of countries around the world, remitting $12 billion to keep the economy afloat—indubitable proof that the Philippines has plunged from relative prosperity in the fifties to the wretched “basket-case” of Asia in this new millennium of global capitalism.

Meanwhile, the elite desperately clings to power by consumerist propaganda and violence. So ruthless is the carnage in the “killing fields” of the Philippines that it has alarmed some U.S. lawmakers, among them Senator Barbara Boxer and recently Congresswomen Ellen Tauscher (Inquirer.net, April 26, 2007) who urged Arroyo to prevent more murders of left-wing political activists by “prosecuting those responsible for the crimes.” The US Senate Foreign Relations committee is inquiring into the link of U.S. foreign aid with Arroyo’s brutal counterinsurgency program that has caused such unconscionable massive atrocities.

Last March, UN Special Rapporteur Philip Alston, who (at the end of his February visit) accused the government’s counterinsurgency scheme of encouraging or facilitating the killings, presented to the United Nations Human Rights Council a copy of the secret AFP “Order of Battle” document which converts soldiers as combatants in a “political war” against civilians. Arroyo and the military were not just in a “state of denial.” They were and are deeply involved in vilification of anyone critical of the Arroyo regime and complicit in the summary executions of those they label as “enemies of the state.” The party-list group BAYAN MUNA and allied organizations like BAYAN, for example, have been targeted as “communist fronts” by Arroyo’s Cabinet Oversight Committee on Internal Security. At present, 130 members of BAYAN MUNA (approximately 356 activists from various civic organizations) have succumbed to extra-judicial murder, abduction, arbitrary arrest, harassment and torture by State terrorist agents and paramilitary death-squads.

Mapping the “Killing Fields”

Dr. Carol P. Araullo, chairperson of BAYAN, has called the plan of extra-judicial killings, abductions, and torture a scarcely concealed “state policy” (see “Streetwise,” Business World 9-10, 16-17 March 2007). Last April, Human Rights Now, a Japanese human rights organization, concluded its fact-finding mission with the appeal to Arroyo “to immediately stop the policy of targeting civilization organizations and individual activists,” and to respect its obligation to follow the International Covenant of Civil and Political Rights which the government has ratified. It will lobby the Japanese government to suspend all loan agreements “until it recognizes the human rights situation and accountability mechanism have clearly improved” (Press Statement, 21 April 2007). This was reinforced by the prestigious InterParliamentary Union’s statement denouncing the arrest of Rep. Crispin Beltran and the harassment of the “Batasan 6” party-list representatives.

Earlier, on March 25, the Permanent People’s Tribunal handed down a verdict of “guilty” against Arroyo and Bush for “crimes against humanity.” Based on substantial evidence, testimonies, etc., the killings, torture and forced disappearances “fall under the responsibility of the Philippine government and are by no means justified in terms of necessary measures against terrorism.” Not only is the AFP involved in “the majority of the scenarios of human rights violations,” but it functions as “a central component and instrument of the policy of the ‘war on terror’ declared jointly by the Philippine and U.S. governments” that is being used to justify the political killings and impunity of both governments. Filipino Senator Jamby Madrigal, who testified at the People’s Tribunal against the Arroyo-Bush partnership’s ecological havoc, opined that Arroyo’s de facto “martial rule” has already turned the Philippines into a virtual “killing field.”


Encountering Coni Ledesma

During that historic March session of the People’s Tribunal at The Hague, Netherlands, I was fortunate in meeting again Ms. Coni Ledesma, a member of the Negotiating Panel of the National Democratic Front-Philippines (NDFP) in peace talks with the government of the Republic of the Philippines. My first meeting with Coni took place over twenty years ago, in Rome, Italy, which I visited after I had chaired and participated in an international cultural symposium in Dubrovnik, Yugoslavia, in 1981. At The Hague, Coni was as vibrant as ever, knowledgeable and generous, open-minded particularly in relation with diasporic intellectuals from the “belly of the beast” like the present expatriate. I decided then that it would be a useful and rare opportunity to conduct this dialogue with an exemplary personality on themes and issues of general interest to a global audience.

To give a framework to this interview, I recapitulate the main events in Coni’s political history. Coni traces her politicization in the 1970s during the mass demonstrations in the Philippines against the Marcos regime which was then collaborating with the United States in the imperialist war in IndoChina. After some legal political seminars and activities, she went underground and became one of the founders of the Christians for National Liberation, a significant formation of church people that initiated a pathbreaking Filipino version of the “theology of liberation.” In August 1972, she was captured and detained for a year until she was released with the help of the Catholic bishops and the National Council of Churches (as Frank Cimatu reports in KASAMA, April-June 1998). She continued working with sugar workers in Negros, at which time (September 1973) she met her future husband Luis Jalandoni, who is now chair of the NDFP Negotiating Panel.

Aside from her role in the NDFP, Coni is also the international spokesperson of MAKIBAKA, an underground revolutionary organization of women, which has spearheaded the fight for women’s rights and collective well-being in the Philippines. MAKIBAKA, for the record, is not a feminist (in the Western academic construal of the term) but a nationalist women’s group concerned with women’s liberation in a neocolonial “third world” setting, allied with the NDFP. It has roots in the complex debates on “the woman question” in the sixties and seventies (see my book Filipina Insurgency, Giraffe Books, 1999) and in the militant participation of numerous women combatants in the revolution such as Maria Lorena Barros, Cherith Dayrit, Judy Taguiwalo, and Vicvic Justiniani, to cite only a few names.

In my view, Coni’s role in the national-democratic struggle has been immense and substantial, her experience a rich and dynamic reservoir of wisdom for use by solidarity groups everywhere. Thus I feel that her insight into what’s going on may afford us a perspective not available from other sources. My encounter with Coni at The Hague, at a time and place that fused the urgency of the crisis in the human-rights situation in the Philippines with the combative elan of the witnesses at the People’s Tribunal, the impasse of the anti-war efforts here in the metropolitan wasteland, and, above all, the realization that this wild and savage May election may be the pivotal turning-point in our national political life, has prompted this interview (conducted via the Internet from April 23 to May 8.)


ESJ: The May election is crucial for Arroyo’s survival. What is your reading of the situation today, before the elections on May 14? What is your prediction should massive cheating be exposed and the public becomes infuriated?

CL: Although the May elections is not a presidential election, it is crucial for the survival of Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo. She has survived two impeachment charges initiated in the House of Representatives, because she was able to buy the votes of the majority of the Congressmen, or because they were administration Congressmen and so voted against the impeachment.

If the opposition is to get at least one third of the seats of the lower house and a majority in the Senate, Congress could bring corruption and other charges against Arroyo and this could lead to her impeachment. She needs to ensure her hold on power and preserve the rotten and bankrupt system especially because she wants to conceal her crimes against the people.

She is already taking drastic steps to ensure the victory of administration candidates by using the Commission on Elections, the military and buying votes. Although the the law prohibits the AFP from electioneering, there are reports that General Esperon sent a radio message to all personnel of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) to rig the results of the elections and ensure a 12-0 victory for the administration’s senatorial candidates. AFP personnel are supporting and setting up campaign posters for the party list of General Jovito Palparan (also known as “the Butcher of Mindoro”). AFP elements attacked the residence of religious leader, Eddie Villanueva, because of his anti-GMA stand (one of his sons is running for mayor in one of the cities of Mindoro, and another son heads the party-list Cibac). Former President Corazon Aquino recently discovered that her telephone is being bugged. And most recently, Makati Mayor Jojo Binay, who is also the president of the opposition party, United Opposition, was ordered suspended and was ordered to vacate City Hall. Supporters of Binay filled the City Hall, making it impossible for the police to send him out. Binay is running for reelection and is expected to win against the Malacanang candidate, Lito Lapid.

It is expected that there will be “dagdag-bawas” (add-subtract) during the counting of the votes. This means, adding votes for the administration candidates and taking away votes from the opposition. This was the method used to make Arroyo “win” the presidency in 2004.

The increase in extra-judicial killing and enforced disappearance, especially of leaders and members of progressive political parties and organizations, is also a desperate and futile attempt of the Arroyo government to scare and disenfranchise these parties and organizations.

What would happen if the massive cheating is exposed and the public becomes infuriated? The public is already infuriated. Arroyo’s popularity rating is very low. She is considered an illegitimate president because of massive cheating used to get her elected. A possible reason why she still hasn’t been ousted is because of the question of who will take her place as president. The logical constitutional succession would be the current Vice President, Noli de Castro. But the large majority does not think he is qualified to be president.

Yet, an incident could ignite the people’s anger so much that it can lead to mass actions which can lead to Arroyo’s ouster. This was the case with Ferdinand Marcos, and later, with Joseph Estrada.

ESJ: Should Arroyo’s group win and dominate the Batasan, do you agree with some observer’s opinion that Arroyo will implement the anti-terrorism law and suppress BAYAN and other opposition groups, including the party-list political formations – in other words, heighten de facto martial rule?


CL: Even without the anti-terrorism law, Arroyo is already trying to disqualify progressive party-lists like Bayan Muna, Anak Pawis and Gabriela Women’s Party. But the passing and implementation of the anti-terrorism law is important not only as an instrument to help Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo stay in power, but also to preserve the interests of US imperialism. The US “war on terrorism” is actually a war against national liberation movements, anti-imperialist forces and against those who pose a threat to US interests.

But the Filipino people are challenging the law and continuing to fight for their democratic rights.. They are holding mass actions, protests, and moving to have the law declared unconstitutional.

ESJ: What is your forecast of the next year or two of Arroyo’s presidency, assuming she will win a majority in the Congress? If she doesn’t, will impeachment unseat her?

CL: If Arroyo stays as president until 2010, and if her current dependence on the military continues, and if she will continue to enjoy the backing of the US, the gross violations of human rights will continue and even worsen. She will implement the anti-terrorism law, or as it is euphemistically called “Human Security Act of 2007.” She will continue with the implementation of Operation Bantay Laya II (Operation Freedom Watch II).

Bantay Laya II is a continuation of the failed Bantay Laya I, a military campaign to crush the revolutionary movement, carried out in 2002-2006. Bantay Laya II is aimed at wiping out the revolutionary movement in five years. It is more vicious than Bantay Laya I, especially in its attacks against unarmed civilians and political activists living in the cities and towns. Death squads who kill or forcibly “disappear” anyone who opposes the regime is part of Bantay Laya II.

At the same time, Arroyo is faced with many problems which she has neither will nor capacity to solve. She could be impeached if the opposition takes the majority in both houses of Congress. She is isolated and unpopular. The AFP is wracked by deep divisions within its ranks due to corruption and complicity in criminal activities. The economy is in chronic crisis. It is being held afloat by massive borrowing and through the remittances of overseas Filipinos. Meanwhile, the mass movement continues to grow. A people’s movement could oust her.


ESJ: The Permanent Peoples’ Tribunal Second Session on the Philippines pronounced a verdict of guilty on the US- Arroyo collusion. Please assess for now the impact of this historic conference.

CL: The Permanent Peoples’ Tribunal is a court of international opinion and independent from any State authority. The importance and strength of its decisions rest on the moral weight of the causes and arguments to which they give credibility and their recognition in the UN Commission on Human Rights. The jurors are persons prominent in their respective fields of work. The PPT itself has prestige within the United Nations and among NGOs.

The Second Session on the Philippines was held on March 21-25, 2007, in The Hague, the Netherlands. It was held shortly after the Melo Commission and UN Special Rapporteur for Extra-judicial Executions, Philip Alston, came out with their respective reports finding the military responsible for the torture, extra judicial killings and disappearances of hundreds of leaders and members of progressive people’s organizations.

The Tribunal judged the governments of Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo and of George Walker Bush, accountable “ for crimes against humanity, with all the consequences for the persons who are responsible for them.” It also stated that “such violations must be stopped immediately.” The Tribunal connected the human rights violations with the interests of the United States. It gave a more comprehensive and deeper analysis of the Philippine situation.

The appeal, indictment and verdict can be used as guides in studying the situation in the Philippines. They are also important documents for solidarity groups and organizations in planning activities and campaigns for the Philippines. The Tribunal denounces as unacceptable the inclusion of the Philippine government in the UN Human Rights Council. A campaign should be launched to call for the removal of the Philippines from the Council.

ESJ: Please give a brief survey of the European attitude to Arroyo’s bloody human rights record.

CL: With the increase in gross violations of human rights, more and more European governments and inter-governmental bodies have spoken out to condemn and call a stop to these violations. In a forum in Oslo, Norway, a representative of the Norwegian government expressed concern about the human rights violations in the Philippines. No official of a European country has voiced such a concern in the past.

During the ASEM meeting in Helsinki, on September 10-11, 2007, the President of Finland, Tarja Halonen, raised the issue of political killings during Arroyo’s official call on her. The Finnish Foreign Minister later said, “We also want to see an end to the political killings which still form a harsh reality of that country”. Shortly after that, when Arroyo visited Belgium, European Commission President, Jose Manuel Barroso reminded Arroyo that the political killings in the Philippines were a matter of concern to the European Commission.

The European Commission’s chief envoy to the Philippines, Ambassador Alistair MacDonald, expressed shock over the human rights abuses that have become a daily occurrence in the country.

The European Parliament, in a plenary meeting in Strasbourg, passed a resolution expressing “grave concern at the increasing number of political killings that have occurred in recent years in the Philippines”, and urged “the Philippine authorities to make the necessary investigations in a timely, thorough and transparent manner and to bring those responsible to justice.” The Inter Parliamentary Union has expressed concern about the continuing repression of six members of the Philippine Congress, Congressmen Satur Ocampo, Crispin Beltran, Liza Maza, Joel Virador, Rafael Mariano, and Teddy Casino and called for the release from detention of Crispin Beltran.

After conducting its own fact-finding mission on the human rights situation in the Philippines, the World Council of Churches issued a statement on September 2006 condemning the extra-judicial executions and called an end to the killings.
An international fact-finding mission of lawyers (from the groups, Lawyers for Lawyers, Lawyers Without Borders, and International Association of Democratic Lawyers) went to the Philippines last June 2006 to specifically investigate the killings of lawyers and judges. After the disappearance of Jonas Burgos, in late April 2007, the Amnesty International campaign coordinator said the Philippines’ image has become that of “ a land of lawlessness.”

ESJ: What role have Filipino migrants in Europe and elsewhere performed and accomplished in the task of confronting the political killings and massive corruption of the Arroyo regime? Are there new signs of political mobilization on their part?

CL: Filipino migrants in different parts of the globe have formed human rights organizations and have set up forums and other public events to inform the people of the host country about the situation. They are participating in the different actions because their families back home are affected by the policy of killings by the Arroyo government and the military. During forums held, they share the experience of their families and friends who have become victims of human rights violations.

And now, after the Tribunal, Filipino organizations are holding forums and symposia to talk about the verdict of the Tribunal and call for more actions against ongoing human rights violations in the Philippines.


ESJ: Finally, what is your assessment of the gains of the national democratic movement so far, and what are the problems it faces in the future?

CL: In the Philippines, we have the legal national democratic movement composed of legal and open people’s organizations. And we have the 17 allied organizations of the National Democratic Front of the Philippines and the millions of the revolutionary masses they lead, undertaking national democratic revolution through people’s war.

Both the legal and the underground revolutionary movements accept the analysis that the root causes of the problems in Philippine society are US imperialism, feudalism and bureaucrat capitalism. They also accept that a change in the present system is necessary. Both aspire for a society where the Philippines will be free from US domination, where the feudal mode of production and values are replaced with genuine land reform, and peasants will be given land of their own to till. Where the natural wealth of the Philippines will be owned and managed by Filipinos. Where there will be national industrialization. And bureaucrat capitalism will be replaced with a government free of corruption, where the vast majority of Filipinos (workers, peasants, fisherfolk and petty bourgeoisie) will be adequately represented. A system where there will be real democracy.

The Arroyo regime calls the legal people’s organizations “front” organizations of the CPP and the NDFP. They are not front organizations of the CPP and the NDFP. These legal organizations subscribe to and are guided by their own constitutions, organizational principles, and programs.

The national democratic organizations comprise the legal mass movement which has been the most consistent in the anti-imperialist and democratic legal struggle in the country. It has a strong mass movement. It has members in parliament. It is creative in using all forms of struggle to push for reforms and fight against the ongoing exploitation and oppression in the country. It organizes and mobilizes hundreds of thousands in different organizations and is deeply rooted among the Filipino people.

Of the substantial gains and achievements of the national democratic movement since the 1960s, I will only mention the following: One significant achievement of the national democratic movement has been its politicalization of the Filipino people as a whole. There is now a greater awareness of US imperialism’s hold on Philippine political, economic and cultural life than there was twenty or thirty years ago. For example, the broad mass movement was instrumental for the Senate voting the bases out of the Philippines in 1991.

The national democratic movement played a most crucial role in ousting two presidents, Marcos and Estrada, and by doing so has weakened the neocolonial system.

Major achievements have also been the two major Rectification Movements of the Communist Party of the Philippines. The first rectification movement was in the 1960’s. It repudiated the errors of the Partido Kommunista ng Pilipinas and led to the re-establishment of the Communist Party in 1968. The Second Great Rectification Movement was in 1992. The Central Committee took a strong position to analyze the major errors in the ideological, political and organizational line of the Communist Party and correct them. The rectification movement of the CPP influenced other national democratic organizations to look into their work and to undertake major corrections. The growth and vigor of the national democratic movement today is the result of this rectification movement.

The NDFP, the CPP and the New People’s Army organize mainly in the countryside. Organs of political power and revolutionary organizations of women, youth and peasants are continually being established and strengthened. Mass campaigns such as health, education and economic programs that benefit hundreds of thousands of women, youth, peasants, settlers, and indigenous peoples are taking place in over 120 guerrilla fronts throughout the country. Implementation of the minimum program of agrarian reform such as lowering of land rent, increase of farm wages and farm gate prices, lessening of usury and establishment of cooperatives, is benefiting the peasant masses.
One of the gains of the national democratic movement has been the growth in political awareness and participation in the struggle of women. Women in their numbers have joined national democratic organizations. They have been elected to positions of responsibility and are among the most militant in defending their rights.

MAKIBAKA (Makabayang Kilusan ng Kababaihan / Patriotic Movement of Women), a revolutionary women’s organization and a member of the NDFP, draws its membership from peasant, worker and women of petty bourgeoisie in the cities. Many MAKIBAKA members have joined the NPA and have shown excellence in the field. Many have given up their lives in the struggle.

What problems will the national democratic movement face in the future? Because of the crisis of the present system, the national democratic movement can expect more repression from the reactionary state. And so, the national democratic forces have to be prepared for this.
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E. SAN JUAN, Jr. works with the Philippine Forum, New York City, and the Philippines Cultural Studies Center in Connecticut. He was recently Fulbright professor of American Studies at the Katholieke Universiteit Leuven, Belgium; visiting professor of cultural studies at National Tsing Hua University, Taiwan; and fellow of the Rockefeller Foundation Study Center, Bellagio, Italy. His recent books are Filipinos Everywhere (IBON), In the Wake of Terror (Lexington Books), and U.S. Imperialism and Revolution in the Philippines (Palgrave Macmillan).