Tuesday, December 29, 2009




In the global North, the plight of academics being fired or denied tenure scarcely merits attention in the media. This is so starkly banal today when teachers’ salaries are either drastically frozen or cut back (as at Harvard University, University of California, etc.) while tuition fees are jacked up. Becoming redundant or retrenched has not spared professor-scholars in this unprecedented crisis of global capitalism. Economics has become politicized when Washington rescues failing banks with taxpayers’ money; politicians’ decisions can no longer be quarantined from the carnage in Wall Street.

During the decades of the Cold War, of course, it was routine for professors to be weeded out for being “commies,” Soviet spies, traitors, etc. When I was first hired in 1965 at the University of California, Davis, I had to sign an oath of loyalty to the U.S. government even though I was not a citizen. My former professor at Harvard, Howard Mumford Jones, was famous for refusing to sign that oath as a condition for being hired by the University of Texas then. During the sixties and seventies, radicals such as Bruce Franklin and Barbara Foley--to name only two of many--were purged for their activist stance in protesting the Vietnam War, torture and war crimes in Latin America perpetrated by the “shock doctrine” technocrats of disaster capitalism (to borrow Naomi Klein’s terms). Franklin and Foley are brilliant and prolific scholars, respected in their disciplines. But obviously it was not their intellectual worth but their anti-imperialist political commitment that brought down the wrath of the Establishment on their heads. Like all state apparatuses, the university is not a sacred “think-tank for alternative models,” but a cog in the machine for reinforcing the oppressive status quo and stifling dissent.

In the Philippines, as in embattled “third world” countries generally, it is difficult if not impossible to disentangle the academic realm from that of everyday political struggles. Everyday life is a mixed affair of politics, economics, and witchcraft. Traditional customs of peasant life based on kinship, religious beliefs, memory, habits, etc. disturb the presumably “neutral” market competition of equal citizens. Ethics is compromised in political skulduggery and business deals carried out by political dynasties, warlords, and corporate hustlers. The reification or commodification of life in industrialized bourgeois society has not materialized enough to fully compartmentalize the public sphere from the private. This is a product of uneven development and the unsynchronized process of imperial subjugation and exploitation.

In a peripheral dependent formation such as the Philippines, the sociohistorical field of power is constituted by the dynamic interplay of economics, politics and ideology. Class struggle, while anchored in production and property, proceeds on various interacting levels. If Filipinos suffer from a “damaged culture,” this can be viewed as a logical outcome of the legacy of over three hundred years of Spanish colonial domination and more than a century of being “tutored” by U.S. entrepreneurial democracy and market pluralism. Class and racial differences are supposed to wither away in the course of “free market” modernization. Except for the perennial “maoist” insurgents and recalcitrant Moros, Americanization succeeded in molding the thinking of the intelligentsia, especially the academic gatekeepers at the University of the Philippines, and the self-reproducing hierarchy of civil servants in the judiciary, military-police agencies, and so on.

Missionary Positions

After killing 1.4 million natives, the United States ruled the Philippines from 1898 to 1946 as a direct colony. The fruit of this “civilizing” experiment is nearly a century of severe underdevelopment of the economy and disintegration of the collective psyche whose symptoms are evident today. The colonial power preserved the feudal-oligarchic property system, overlayering it with the trappings of comprador electoral democracy. One result is the authoritarian Marcos regime (1972-1986) whose human-rights violations have now been surpassed by the corrupt Arroyo regime flourishing in the midst of extreme class inequality, nurturing barbaric warlords such as the Ampatuan dynasty responsible for the recent Maguindanao massacre of 57 unarmed civilians. Not that the U.S. ruling class is to blame for everything—indeed, the founding of the local educational system is supposed to be one of the durable contributions of U.S. colonialism to the heroic task of civilizing those “benighted” natives, Nonetheless, a large share of what Filipinos enjoy today can be ascribed to the “benevolent assimilation” policy of the wise suzerain William McKinley and his no doubt well-intentioned successors.

One of the institutions established by the U.S. colonizers is the University of the Philippines (UP). It was designed to produce functionaries to serve the ideological state apparatuses of the colonial state. The U.S. needed trained “little brown brothers” (William Howard Taft’s affectionate terms of endearment) to legitimize the particularist motive of capital as one identical with the general interest. Its prestige eventually rested on the nurturance of generations of scholars and a significant number of activist intellectuals since its founding in 1908. Despite what historian Renato Constantino called “the mis-education of Filipinos,” that is, the slavish worship of EuroAmerican values and its elite gurus such as Richard Rorty and Benedict Anderson, UP students led mass demonstrations against the Vietnam War in the sixties and ruthless US interventions in Latin America and the Middle East from the seventies up to the present.

Class struggles worldwide could not be kept away from the classroom. Not only has the UP served to train subalterns for the colonial bureaucracy; it has also exposed students (given the internal contradictions of capitalist rule in a semifeudal dependency) to counterhegemonic, revolutionary ideas. During my student days in UP in the fifties, the writings of Frantz Fanon, Malcolm X, Bertrand Russell, Jean Paul Sartre, and later on of George Jackson, Ho Chi Minh, Che Guevara, Mao, and other progressive activists were disseminated among student-faculty discussion circles. From this arose organizations that spearheaded the national-democratic movement which challenged U.S. imperial hegemony and its support for the bloody dictatorship of Ferdinand Marcos and his successors, up to Arroyo. To a limited extent, the UP still serves as an arena of ideological -theoretical debates reflecting the intense conflicts and antagonisms of a nation of over ninety million most of whom live on less than $2 a day, under a brutal regime praised by Barack Obama and credited with over a thousand victims of extra-judicial killings, forced disappearances, and torture.

Subalterns Speak

Now comes the news that within the hallowed halls of “academic freedom,” which the oligarchy takes pride in as “the marketplace of ideas,” the persecution of a prodigiously talented militant scholar, Sarah Raymundo, is going on without much fanfare. Except for the local demonstrations of sympathizers from student organizations in the campus and, incredibly, the massive support of academics, public intellectuals, and professionals from around the world, her case is scarcely noticed by Manila pundits and commercializing media celebrities. Globalization thus works in contradictory and paradoxical ways.

Raymundo’s case may be a minor affair compared to the issues of global warming publicized at Copenhagen or the genocidal wars in Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan. Still, with the Philippines labeled a danger zone because of the unrelenting attacks by the Abu Sayyaf, one of the home-grown “terrorist” groups beloved by the U.S. State Department (the other being the Communist-led New People’s Army, stigmatized by then State Secretary Colin Powell), we might take the case of Raymundo as an allegory of what’s going on in that otherwise obscure tropical archipelago once noted for hosting the largest US military bases during the Korean and IndoChina wars—a nearly anonymous remote group of islands that is still remembered for Bataan and Corregidor and the thousands of Filipino and American dead sacrificed by General Douglas McArthur for the Empire’s honor.

Raymundo’s plight has been succinctly summarized by Dr. Walden Bello, a tenured sociology professor at the same University and now a representative of the party-list Akbayan in the Philippine Congress (accessible at ). Although trained by the Jesuit-run Ateneo de Manila University, Bello knows the inner workings of the UP academic bureaucracy. The facts are simple: On April 2008, the tenured faculty of the Sociology Dept. in a vote of seven to three recommended granting of tenure to Raymundo on the basis of her substantial academic record. Seven months later, Raymundo was informed that the faculty decided to reverse their decision. What happened?

Wonders can happen, even in bureaucratic chambers, without covert CIA (or local military-police) cues. In the hiatus of seven months, the minority schemed to overthrow the majority by “manipulating the Chancellor for Academic Affairs” (to quote Bello) to demand that the majority who voted for Raymundo justify (again!) their decision. Surprise? This was evidently a ploy since the majority report affirmed that Raymundo exceeded the necessary requirements for tenure. Meanwhile, the college’s highest governing body, the College Executive Board (CEB), upheld the majority decision. Finally, the Diliman campus Chancellor Sergio Cao dismissed the CEB’s decision and refused tenure. In effect, the Chancellor sided with the minority. Why? Not because of Raymundo’s lack of academic excellence; everyone concedes that. It is because of Raymundo’s ethical stand, political beliefs, and civic conduct as the general-secretary of CONTEND (Congress of Teachers/Educators for Nationalism and Democracy) and active member of ACT (Association of Concerned Teachers) and the All-UP-Academic Employers Union. She is being penalized for those rare virtues.

Raymundo is alleged by her detractors to have been involved with groups in support of victims kidnapped, tortured and killed by the military, in particular Karen Empeno. To such vague and muddled allegations that she hid such involvements, Raymundo has fully responded in a substantial memorandum submitted on Nov. 16 to university president Erlinda Roman. She has never made her activism a secret to anyone. The department allegations are all shoddy innuendoes and insinuations, unworthy of even a C- sociology major. Roman, for her part, played the coy and hedging fox (or is it mealy-mouthed Pontius Pilate?) in her Dec. 14 memorandum to Cao and the current department chair Randolf David as she tendentiously recounted the whole rigmarole.

Admitting that there was no argument about Raymundo’s academic qualifications, president Roman seemed obsessed with a conundrum: whether the April vote really showed “consensus.” Given the contentious, politically charged milieu of everyday life in the Philippines from which the university is not immune, Roman believed that Raymundo’s politics fouled up, or more exactly problematized, consensus. The original vote of 7-3 did not truly express “consensus” if by the term we mean unanimous. It was hard to really determine what the department’s consensus was despite or notwithstanding the April vote, Roman thought aloud. In effect, that little word “consensus” became Roman’s alibi out of this sorry mess. Alternatively, it was her fortuitous disguise to appear neutral and above board, not least that she was exercising conscientious leadership of a great institution.
No, Roman was not a hypocrite, only a realist. Cognizant that the composition of the department’s tenured faculty had meanwhile changed with the dropping-out of Raymundo’s supporters, Roman ordered another vote, which this time yielded the right “consensus”: 4 for-6 against Raymundo. The latest is the really more authentic “consensus” for Roman. Beholden to her neoliberal patrons in the “old boys’ network,” Roman knows that she has to safeguard her clientele within the university by upholding departmental cliques, “yahoo” mediocrity, at the expense of a more inclusive, libertarian, democratic, forward-looking vision of higher learning. This is perhaps too much to expect, given the politicized genealogy of UP presidencies. Compounding authoritarian methods and chicanery with fatuous casuistry, this whole exercise has now become a sad comment on the abysmal sinkhole to which this group of UP faculty and administrators have succumbed.
In summing up his brief supporting Raymundo, Dr. Bello pleaded to president Roman to “reverse a terrible miscarriage of justice and reassert UP’s commitment to academic excellence.” He was appealing to one of the executioners. Of course, operating legalistically within the institutional framework, Bello could not do otherwise—even though the case had already been thoroughly politicized by Raymundo’s enemies, those against Raymundo’s radical left-wing politics. He had already alienated the “yahoos” of the sociology department, which contaminated alleged progressives such as Randolf David and Cynthia Bautista. Can the Board of Regents, the last resort for the aggrieved, succeed in resisting the proven inertia of institutions and overturn Cao, Roman, and David? Maybe, if the popular-democratic voices prevail. Probably not, given the scandalous shenanigans of the traditional politicians challenging the Arroyo clique.
I want to sketch a parenthetical aside here. A subtext or submerged narrative, threaded with complex nuances that I cannot elaborate here, lurks behind this instructive controversy. Despite Bello’s tie-up with the Akbayan party and his record of defending his World-Social-Forum personality against the suspicions of former comrades in the anti-imperialist National Democratic Front-Philippines and in Bayan-Muna party (with which ACT and CONTEND are allied), he seems to have transcended sectarian narrow-mindedness, not to speak of barkada scholasticism. Meanwhile, the media-savvy Randy David, a leading member of BISIG (Bukluran sa Ika-uunlad ng Sosyalistang Isip at Gawa; Association for the Advance of Socialist Words and Deeds), an admirer of Rorty and other Western elite missionaries, finds himself somehow aligned with conservative if not reactionary Neanderthals, or “yahoos” (to quote Bello). In a single stroke, he forfeited his claim to be a nationalist (in the tradition of his distinguished kin, Renato Constantino). Incidentally, BISIG is one of the groups allied with Akbayan; BISIG’s former chair, UP President Francisco Nemenzo and other colleagues figured prominently in the 1993 Forum for Philippine Alternatives which rejected the political strategy and tactics of the Sison-led Communist Party of the Philippines and the National Democratic Front-Philippines. Former comrades split, symptomatic of what was then happening in the Philippines during the retrograde administration of the late Corazon Aquino. For many academic leftists in a tributary shark-infested milieu, opportunism and obligatory tithes seem more functional if risky preoccupations in advancing careers than supporting human-rights organizations, or the cause of nationalist democracy. At any rate, this dialectical twist of events, one more proof of Lenin’s thesis that reality/practice is richer than theory, may augur a renewal of progressive and radical energies in the UP, despite Raymundo’s predicament. This may be a hope, but in a permanently crisis-wracked country like the Philippines, the improbable sometimes becomes realizable.

Lessons for Lilliputians

Our critique of abusive authority and conservative power needs to extend beyond the university precincts. As noted earlier, the neocolonial university is permeated with manifold contradictions symptomatic of the whole moribund system. To be sure, the balance of political forces may suddenly change and affect pedagogical agencies. One more Maguindanao massacre may stir up slumbering “people power.” If Raymundo’s case is not only flawed with procedural mistakes and ethical misjudgments, but also corrupted by scarcely veiled charges of political activism and humanitarian/social conscience on Raymundo’s part, it is shortchanging the victim if we do not put at the center of this whole affair the active complicity of Roman, Cao, Paredes, David, Bautista, Aquino, and others with a bankrupt regime that thrives on flagrant corruption, lies, mendacity, threats, and fascist violence—not least, the symbolic violence that the great sociologist Pierre Bourdieu associates with bureaucratic discourse, authoritarian procedures, and administrative rituals, such as tenure-granting (in which academic capital trumps intellectual capital), that insure the petty privileges of a self-perpetuating, obsequious elite.
What is to be done and undone? The now notorious “culture of impunity” fomented by the shameless Arroyo regime seems to have descended on the Diliman campus and is saturating the hallowed classrooms and libraries of this once esteemed sanctuary of learning. As it did before, once in the McCarthyist-like persecution of a community of pro-people nationalist scholars as communist sympathizers during the Magsaysay-Garcia regimes; this U.S.-styled witchhunt was repeated periodically in the terrible nights of collective suffering and resistance from the time of Marcos to Arroyo.
But lose no hope, friends and partisans in the global commons. While the UP is slowly being commercialized and privatized, students and faculty who are relatively privileged are feeling the pressures of unemployment, anomie, environmental degradation, and ubiquitous military-police violence. While serving the neocolonial state and the predatory merchants of global capital, the UP remains funded by taxpayers and is ultimately answerable to the Filipino people. Resistance to capitalist globalization is gradually rising, as shown by this robust and enthusiastic international support for Raymundo and what she stands for.
In California and elsewhere, students and faculty are rebelling against state terrorism: cutbacks in salaries, privatization, lay-offs, deterioration all around. Many are beginning to grasp that higher public education is a social and human right, no less than health care, food, and adequate shelter. Peoples around the world are mobilizing against the global war of terror launched by the U.S. corporate elite. The Filipino people are crying “No more massacres” by Arroyo and her Ampatuan accomplices. Whatever the final arbitration of her case, Sarah Raymundo’s voice cannot be repressed or denied “tenure”—an index of the inexhaustible resources, energy and intelligence of the Filipino people fighting for justice and liberation in solidarity with others beyond the surveillance of the gatekeepers of the University of the Philippines and other public institutions.--###
Dr. E. SAN JUAN, Jr. emeritus professor of English, Comparative Literature, and Ethnic Studies, was a recent fellow of the W.E.B. Du Bois Institute, Harvard University. He recently taught at Leuven University, Belgium, as a Fulbright lecturer in American Studies, and at the University of the Philippines as visiting professor of English and Comparative Literature. He received his A.B., magna cum laude, in English and Philosophy from the University of the Philippines in 1958; and his doctorate from Harvard University. He has taught at the U.P. from 1958-60. 1966-67, 1987-88, and 2008. His recent books are Working through the contradictions (Bucknell U Press), US Imperialism and Revolution in the Philippines (Palgrave), Critique and Social Transformation (The Edwin Mellen Press), and Toward Filipino Self-Determination (SUNY Press).

Sunday, December 06, 2009


ELECTORAL GORE: Warlord Violence, Oligarchic Decay, and U.S. Neocolonial Domination in the Philippines

by E. SAN JUAN, Jr.

The mass slaughter of 57 civilians in Maguindanao, Philippines, on November 23 by a local warlord diverted world attention from the much more heinous destruction of whole villages in Afghanistan and Pakistan by U.S. drones. So what’s new? In the Philippines, the number of victims acquires symbolic density by the resonance of contextual historic factors linked to US colonial occupation of the country from 1899 to 1946, and its neocolonial predicament today. How is the U.S. implicated in the massacre?

Three recent developments may be cited at the outset. First, Barack Obama anointed the unpopular Philippine president Gloria Macapagal during her visit to Washington early this year as the privileged Asian U.S. “connection” in the war against Al-Qaeda, giving a stamp of approval to her corrupt bloody rule. Second, the impending 2010 elections in the Philippines may jeopardize U.S. military-political maneuvers in Southern Philippines where organized Muslim separatists (specifically, the Moro Islamic Liberation Front [MILF] exist side by side with the shadowy, diminutive Abu Sayyaf—the pretext for regular U.S. military operations in the Philippines. Third, the U.S. is playing both sides, supporting the traditional oligarchy’s elite rule while negotiating with the MILF for access to land and resources in the areas they control. The role of the federally funded US Institute of Peace has been revealed in the laest negotitations between the MILF and the Arroyo regime. While the rest of the Philippines’s natural resources have been depleted, its 90 million citizens subsisting on less than $2 a day, the southern island of Mindanao borders Indonesia, Malaysia, and the Singapore strait, providing a strategic location for force-projection of severely constrained U.S. global power.

Its status as a former U.S. classic colony also makes the Philippines sentimentally close to the thinking and tastes of the U.S. plutocracy. The Filipino ruling class is the only Asian group tutored in US-style pragmatic liberalism by U.S. advisers/policy-makers for nearly a century, from 1899 up to the present. Business ethics and electoral politics follow U.S. paradigms. The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) as well as police units continue to be trained, supervised, and equipped by the U.S. Thus, while the country rivals Bangladesh in being an economic “basket-case,” with 10 million Filipinos working abroad as domestics and low-skilled contractual labor, it is vitally central to Washington/Pentagon’s scheme in maintaining global hegemony in the face of challenges by China, Iran, North Korea and of course the terrorists in Afghanistan, Pakistan and Indonesia, Obama’s favorite Asian nation-state.

Let us return to the barbaric massacre of 57 (60 in a recent count) unarmed civilians in broad daylight by the local warlord Ampatuan clan in Mindanao where hundreds of U.S. Special Forces operate within AFP bases. The facts have been repeated in numerous news reports: In preparing for the 2010 elections, a convoy of the Mangudadatu clan accompanied by media workers and women lawyers on the way to the capitol to register for elections was by halted by Philippine National Police (PNP) forces with hundreds of Civilian Volunteer Organizations (CVO) supervised by the PNP. Both PNP and CVO are led by the Ampatuans. Together with other motorists passing by, they were directed to a farm road to be shot, the bodies of women mutilated, and all (together with vehicles) buried in mass graves dug by machines owned by the provincial government headed by the patriarch, Datu Andal Ampatuan Sr. His son Andal Ampatuan Jr. is now charged for masterminding this brutal slaughter in broad daylight, on a national highway, in Sharif Aguak municipality controlled by the Ampatuan clan. This murder of innocent civilians under such circumstances ranks as one postmodern example of “a crime against humanity.” But for many, it is just ordinary electoral gore/mayhem.

Who are the Ampatuans? While notorious in Philippine politics, this is their first entrance into a world stage of rogues—from Attila the Hun to George Bush and his neocon advisers. When Gloria Arroyo wrested the presidency in 2001, Ampatuan Senior was a Congressman with a record of past collaboration with the military in fighting the communist New People’s Army (NPA) and Muslim guerillas of the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF). His rise to power followed the contour of historic opportunities. Soon he became a military-sponsored elected governor of Maguindanao whereby he was able to manipulate the electoral machinery to secure the winning votes for Arroyo in the 2004 elections. This was repeated in the senatorial elections of 2007. The Ampatuans gained most favored spot in the Arroyo clique’s patronage system.

Consequently, the Ampatuan clan became the single dominating Muslim dynasty in Mindanao—except for Sulu Islands and Basilan, the Abu Sayyaf’s staging ground. Endorsed by Arroyo, Zaldy Ampatuan became governor of the Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao (ARMM), a bureaucratic category through which national funds are chanelled, supposedly to improve the welfare of the Muslim population in those impoverished provinces. The dynasty counts 18 officials in the government, including Zamzamin Ampatuan, Arroyo’s energy undersecretary. But that is not as important as their control of the coercive machinery of government and its access to bureaucracy and all institutions of civil society.

Under the regime’s counterinsurgency plan, known as Oplan Bantay Laya, the undermanned and poorly equipped AFP and PNP deploys the old U.S. tactic of using paramilitary groups, here the Ampatuans’ private army of about a thousand men. They are legalized as members of the Citizens’ Armed Force Geographical Units (CAFGU) and CVOs. During the emergency of 2006 when mass protests called for Arroyo’s resignation because of admitted cheating and other anomalies, Arroyo issued Executive Order 546 arming the CVOs and placing them under the Ampatuans’ control. The Philippine Army’s 6th Infantry Battalion as well as police units, together with tanks and firearms, also served the private interests of the Ampatuan clan. All of these—personnel, weapons, ammunition, communication apparatus—were involved in the November massacre, with policemen themselves participating in murdering the civilians.

How do we clarify this complex of events and persons from a historical-materialist viewpoint? Fierce class warfare and persisting U.S. domination of local institutions explain the convergence of diverse political and social forces. The Center for People Empowerment in Governance (CENPEG), a local research group, provides a starting-point by stating that the massacre displays “traditional politics at its madness.” It describes how “the compact between the strong-arm president and political warlords results in the militarization of the civilian bureaucracy and breeds despotism that undermines civilian authority. It transforms the local government system into purely electoral machinery for the mutual support and benefit among the powers-that-be. It also converts many Local Government Units (LGUs) into instruments of counter-insurgency instead of being made to address the generational problems of poverty and social inequality” (quoted from Issue Analysis No. 14). In effect, the culture of impunity—the extrajudicial killing, kidnapping and torture of thousands of anti-Arroyo activists in the last ten years—can be accounted for by the toleration of warlordism and symbiotic political dynasties necessary to maintain entrenched oligarchic power, the intensifying poverty of the majority, and rampant social injustice occurring everyday.

One of the more systematic analysis of why Philippine-style elite democracy seems to sustain a self-regulating elite dominating the majority has been written by Prof. Temario Rivera. In his essay “The Crisis of Philippine Democracy,” Rivera argues that while other developmental states in “the third world” succeeded in solving problems of national unity, rules of political contestation, agrarian reform and other key issues of socioeconomic modernization,” this did not happen in the Philippines because “the political oligarchy propped up by American economic and military power survived or evaded these cataclysms and sidetracked the effective resolution of these key issues” (from Oligarchic Politics, ed. Bobby Tuazon, Quezon City 2007, p. 151). The US plays a deeper role today in the production of what I call “electoral gore” by supporting antagonists and preserving the ideological-moral supremacy of free-market neoliberal institutions and practices, including the retinue of organic intellectuals attached to corporations, universities, NGOs, and private think-tanks.

This neoWeberian analysis, however, focuses on the weak, politicized administrative apparatus without attention to crucial economic and ideological factors. Weber tried to explain feudalism as the “routinization of charisma” in which power was organized in a patrimonial manner. Current American scholarship on the Philippines (from popularizer Stanley Karnow to Alfred McCoy) has been bogged down by this reifying approach, failing to account for the internal dynamics of the multiple historic forms of rent that Marx first analyzed. Weber borrowed the idea from Marx, but obfuscated it by focusing on the system of enfeoffment by which serfs were exploited. Weber also ignored the historic determinants of colonialism and neocolonialism.

Vassalage, modernized as clientelism or patronage, indeed still characterizes the behavior of political dynasties in the Philippines. The “warrior ideal” (embodied by Amapatuan Jr., for example), hereditary succession, ritual obligation, and implied contract of mutual benefit, still inform local political behavior, although reconfigured by globalizing business utilitarian techniques. In the case of the Ampatuans, however, the central role of bureaucrat-capitalism and comprador trade overshadows quasi-feudal ownership of land (mostly uncultivated due to war, corruption, etc.). T. J. S. George’s Revolt in Mindanao (1980) lists three types of Muslim leaders in Mindanao: development administrators, intellectual-parliamentarians, and revolutionary fundamentalists. The Ampatuans elude these categories, for the dynasty is a chiefly a product of neocolonial bureaucrat-capitalism fostered by the Arroyo clique’s manipulation of tributary politics for material gain, prestige, and survival.

Nor is religion invoked for legitimation. Traditional Islamic doctrines may underwrite customary practices but scarcely plays a role in preserving the Ampatuan politico-military stranglehold on territory. The MILF has monopolized Islam for its ideological potential and occupied Maguindanao territory. While rent and private landholding still yield surplus for dynastic luxuries, the parasitic dependence on funding by the national state (negotiated with World Bank and other foreign philanthropies), as well as USAID and other UN agencies, may be said to subsidize and enable the Ampatuan excesses. This supersedes patrimonialism.

The phenomenon is of course more complex than these notes might indicate. Manila columnist Conrado de Quiros employs a somewhat mechanical “cause-effect” grid to explain the Ampatuan atrocity as an effect caused by Arroyo’s fascist crimes utilizing state power, in short, the culture of impunity often cited by Arroyo’s critics. However, this culture which caused extrajudicial killings and corruption from Arroyo to the ordinary policeman cannot be defined simply as local mayhem and the Arroyo signature as the “epitome of warlordism.” Institutional structures and historical practices cannot be reduced tout court to singular personalities. Addressing the mechanisms of Moro political dynasty, Islamic scholar Julkipli Wadi takes account of plural causation. He uses Basilan governor Wahab Akbar as a model of the postmodern hybrid dynasties, making the Amapatuans genealogical dinosaurs. However, he discounts the historic force of U.S. intervention in our history, including Moro history.

In a public statement (27 Nov 2009) as chairperson of the International League of People’s Struggle, Jose Maria Sison succinctly formulates the overriding influence of U.S. hegemony as the framework within which the logic of the Ampatuan massacre can be grasped. He reviews the organic links of Ampatuan power with the CAFGU, CVO, the AFP and the PNP, national bureaucracy, counterinsurgency agencies, etc. Except for its lack of elaboration on the imperial mechanisms of transmission (provided by other general studies of Moro society such as CENPEG’S The Moro Reader or Marites Vitug and Glenda Gloria’s Under the Crescent Moon), Sison offers the left’s more comprehensive and substantial point of view on this specific event. I can only quote his conclusion here: “The US has been the most culpable for whipping up state terrorism and vigilantism by local tyrants and by army and police commanders under the pretext of combating communists and Muslims who are unjustly labeled as terrorists…. The US has provided the doctrine of warfare against the people and supplied the military equipment and training and other wherewithals of the reign of terror….Together with the Manila-based puppet government, local tyrants like the Amapatuans and all their military, police and paramilitary minions, the US is culpable and condemnable for pushing state terrorism and the gross and systematic human rights violations and emboldening the human rights violators to commit their crimes with impunity under the pretext of combating terrorism.”

In sum, imperial interventions may be said to “overdetermine” if not thoroughly elucidate the local dynamics of surplus extraction and distribution of social wealth and its accompanying political-ideological apparatus enabling reproduction of the total social relations. The full exposition of the political economy undergirding the Maguindanao massacre may have to wait for a trustworthy court investigation and trial of the suspects—the Ampatuan clan—which, judging from all accounts, may have to wait for the proverbial “kingdom come.”

In the meantime, I propose this structural explanation to understand the Maguindanao massacre and its future replication. Political coercion in neocolonial Philippines is nourished not only by the extraction of surplus product (value) from the labor of Filipino workers and peasants (including their Muslim counterparts) but also by the U.S.-led global war on terror and its imperial ramifications in the Philippine conjuncture. This war led by US finance-capital applies to the Filipino diaspora (10 million strong) and the immigrant predicament of ethnic communities such as Mexicans, Arabs, Africans, and so on in the Global North (Europe, North America). US citizens are implicated in the genocidal process occurring in Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan and elsewhere. In the Philippines, several million taxdollars are spent every year to support the AFP in counterinsurgency operations against the MILF and the NPA, or whoever the regime labels “enemies of the state.” They fund the killings and torture of Filipino citizens who dare to criticize the oligarchic system and resist globalized exploitation.

Few Americans know that the campaign against the alleged Al Qaeda-linked Abu Sayyaf has been used since 9/11 for legitimizing the Visiting Forces Agreement. This agreement (not ratified by the U.S. Senate) allows U.S. troops and their clandestine military operations in the country in violation of the Philippine Constitution. This succeeds the Cold War strategy of suppressing any democratic move to eliminate the bases for class inequality, “failed state” symptoms, and regional fragmentation, using the Philippines as a springboard for interventions in IndoChina, the Middle East, and Asia as a vital region of global profitmaking (already documented by numerous studies). With the Cold War mutating into the global war of terror against oppressed subalterns and indigenous communities, the Philippines became the second battlefront (after Aghanistan), though lately supplanted by Pakistan. Still, as long as the Abu Sayyaf is deliberately fostered by a confluence of warlord/patronage politics and US clandestine maneuvers, one can expect more massacres in what William Blum (in Rogue State, 2005) regards as the United States’ longest-held colony on earth.--##

[RE-posted from MONTHLY REVIEW mr-zine 5 December 2009, slightly revised]