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Bulatlat: 4 September 2007

PHILIPPINES
ANALYSIS OF THE STATE TERRORISM BEHIND SISON'S SUDDEN ARREST

The much-touted bonanza of consumerist globalisation may have produced its most hackneyed if repulsive scenario yet, this time in the land of state-approved prostitution, where a handful of Filipino political exiles have taken refuge from the brutal regimes back home. The personnel and offices of the National Democratic Front Philippines (NDFP), legally allowed in Utrecht since the late 1970s, was raided on August 28.

By E. SAN JUAN, JR


Feedback to Cafe Pacific blog

Contributed to Bulatlat, Bol VII, No 30, september 2-8, 2007

An interview with DR. CAROL P. ARAULLO by Dr. RAINER WERNING

EXCEPT for what may appear to be relatively minor investment of Dutch capital
in the Philippines and the presence of 18,456 Overseas Filipino Workers (OFWs)
in the Netherlands, nothing really connects Filipinos with the land of fabled
windmills. But the events of last week may presage a change. The much-touted
bonanza of consumerist globalization may have produced its most hackneyed if
repulsive scenario yet, this time in the land of state-approved prostitution,
where a handful of Filipino political exiles have taken refuge from the brutal
regimes back home. The personnel and offices of the National Democratic Front
Philippines (NDFP), legally allowed in Utrecht since the late 1970s, was raided
on Aug. 28.

The assault evokes memories of the Nazi Gestapos in an early morning raid on
the Dutch resistance, except the victims this time are Filipino national
democrats and socialist intellectuals. The NDFP's chief political consultant,
Jose Maria Sison, was arrested by trickery and coercion. Behind the tulips now
prowl the undercover sleuths of both the Dutch and Philippine governments who
don't seem to be hobbled by human-rights guarantees sanctified by the
Constitution of the Netherlands and the European Convention of Human Rights.
Jails and police brutality now await Filipino activists in the land of the
atheist Spinoza (at least, of the Spinoza Museum), of free marijuana in
Amsterdam and auctioned "sex work."

Seizing on this sordid event, U.S. Ambassador to the Philippines Kristie Kenney
volunteered the full force of the U.S. imperial state apparatus to persecute
progressive Filipinos for imputed "terrorism." Despite its catastrophic
failures in Iraq and Afghanistan, Washington is not too busy to ignore this
minor incident. Not everyone knows of the heavy and deep involvement of U.S.
troops and clandestine agents in Mindanao and other regions in the Philippines
since 2002. The Pentagon's close supervision of the Philippine military dates
back to the days of Col. Edward Lansdale, whose notorious "Phoenix program"
of systematic assassination of suspected enemies in Vietnam was first tried in
the Philippines against the Huks in the 1950s. So the U.S. may turn out to be
the "real handlers" if not the chief accomplice in this August operation.

Ambassador Kenney told reporters that the U.S. is "willing to help"
prosecute Sison and anyone supporting the New People's Army (NPA), the
communist-led guerilla force labeled "terrorist' by the U.S. State
Department immediately after Sept. 11, 2001 (Philippine Daily Inquirer, Aug.
31, 2007). The NPA has been a headache to the neocolonial regimes since its
founding in 1969. It was proclaimed to have been defeated again and again by
successive administrations since the dictatorship (1972-1986) of Ferdinand
Marcos, aided by General Fidel Ramos (who allowed the return of U.S. troops
after the closure of Clark and Subic bases in 1991) and business tycoon Juan
Ponce Enrile, sponsor of the dreaded anti-terror bill (ironically named
"Human Security Act, Act 9372).

Refugees, beware of Dutch treats
Domiciled in that reputedly "tolerant" country since his release from
prison in 1986, Sison has applied for political asylum—only to be put in the
European listing of terrorists at the behest of Washington. Sison is the most
well-known Filipino "Maoist" refugee in Europe. He helped re-establish the
moribund Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) in 1968 as a spearhead of the
socialist revolution in the Philippines. In the last decade, Sison has been
serving as a political adviser to the NDFP in peace talks with the Philippine
government.

Despite the patently weak evidence presented to the court at The Hague last
August 31, the Dutch judge extended Sison's detention to 14 more days until a
second hearing on Sept. 7. Meanwhile Sison is held incommunicado at the National
Penitentiary in Schveningen where the Nazis used to imprison and torture Jews
and Dutch resistance fighters during World War II. His wife Julie de Lima-Sison
claims that her husband is being kept in solitary confinement and denied
medicine, visits from his wife or doctor, and access to newspapers and TV. If
true, this speaks volumes about Dutch liberalism and concern for human rights.
As a Dutch activist W. Wijk noted after the hearing, "The persecution of
Sison through the use of the judicial process exposes the rottenness and
corruption of the Dutch justice and political system."

The "liberal" Dutch treat here so far has offered us the spectacle of
warrantless arrest, theft of personal belongings, and racist inferiorization of
Filipinos. Not to be outdone by the Nazi Gestapos who terrorized Holland,
hundreds of Dutch police and security agents raided the offices and homes of
NDFP staff, broke down apartment doors, ransacked and confiscated computers,
records, and assorted private property in the hunt for evidence. In this
instance, pious bourgeois law quickly translated into arbitrary fascist
coercion. The NDFP has been based in Utrecht since the 1970s, legally
representing the revolutionary forces in peace negotiations with the
neocolonial government of the Philippines, talks sponsored by Norway and other
states in the European community. Colluding with the corrupt, illegitimate
Arroyo regime in the Philippines, Holland's justice ministry revealed its
fascist core by the deceitful method of Sison's arrest and its violent attack
on legal residents.

What is Sison's crime? He is alleged to be guilty—not presumed innocent, as
legal niceties would have it—of ordering from his remote residence in Utrecht
the killing of two former associates (Romulo Kintanar and Arturo Tabara) in
2003 and 2004. The leadership of the NPA had already publicly admitted that it
was responsible for punishing the two for their counter-revolutionary crimes
against the people. Whether Sison personally can order the collective
leadership of the NPA or not for this specific act, is a pseudo-issue for
anyone familiar with the praxis of Filipino insurgent solildarity and its
durable tradition. Filipino jurists such as Prof. Raul Pangalangan and others
have asked whether the Philipine government has given up its sovereignty by
allowing Dutch jurisdiction over a case committed on Philippine soil. What
Dutch law has Sison violated?

Former U.S. Attorney-General Ramsey Clark commented that "the Dutch can't
determine the facts. They can only rely on what the Arroyo government tells
them, and what it wants is persecution for Sison….The demonization of Sison
will destroy us if we permit it to continue" (News Release of the New York
Committee for Human Rights in the Philippines, August 31, 2007).

Sinister conspiracy
It has been public knowledge for some time that those associates had been
collaborating with the military in the persecution and murder of many
underground activists. Sison has no court case on this matter in the
Philippines. A similar concocted accusation against him, six Congresspersons,
and other civilians (which includes the killing of the Kintanar and Tabara)
have already been dismissed by the Philippine Supreme Court last July 2, 2007,
as politically malicious and without merit. Recently, journalist Kenneth Guda
reminded us of the confession of police official Col. Reynaldo Berroya that in
May 2000 Kintanar and Tabara, already in the employ of the AFP, were
commissioned by the government to assassinate Sison in the Netherlands. The
project was botched, so the AFP/PNP and security officials had to wait until
Aug. 27.

Recently, Arroyo officials in Malacanang as well as AFP and PNP officers have
admitted furnishing documents, testimonials, forensic evidence, etc. to the
Dutch government, as well as financing the travel and other living expenses of
the two widows (Gloria Joy Kintanar and Veronica Tabara) to the Netherlands
(Inquirer.net, Aug. 29). Arroyo officials are thus the main sponsors of the two
widows who filed an affidavit against Sison with the Philippine Department of
Justice. This is the basis of the case that the Dutch are pursuing (Newsbreak,
28 August 2007). Sec. Raul Gonzalez confessed that his office gave all kinds of
assistance to the Dutch National Criminal Investigation Department, including
names and data of NDFP personnel. In short, trumped-up charges, collusion of
Dutch and Filipino officials, skullduggery and bureaucratic abuses all climaxed
in the August 27 attack. The editor of The Daily Tribune (Aug. 30) predicted a
shameful embarrassment awaiting the Dutch, "given the history of the Arroyo
government's practice of manufacturing evidence against its political
foes."

One theory why the Dutch and Filipino sleuths decided on this preemptive action
is this: Sison won his case in the European Court of First Instance in
Luxembourg last July 11. This is arguably a landmark decision for all
anti-imperialist refugees or exiles suspected of being "terrorists." The
Court annulled the May 29 decision of the Council of the European Union to
retain him in its "terrorist" blacklist. The Court condemned the European
Union for violating Sison's rights of defense and depriving him of judicial
protection. This sent shivers to his enemies, exposing more legalistic fraud,
thus their strategy of pre-empting any further erosion of their defenses by
concocting this new accusation (the Dutch Embassy in Manila fallaciously
claimed that the new "terrorist" listing of June 29 which included Sison
was exempted from the Court's decision). As Julie de Lima, Sison's wife,
accurately noted, it's Arroyo/Bush's dirty war in the mode of psychological
warfare and solitary confinement that Arroyo and her Dutch patrons are engaged
in.

Evidently, this exercise in criminalizing the Filipino popular democratic
struggle is meant to physically handicap Sison and distract his followers from
the more urgent TASK of unseating Arroyo in Metro Manila. It is meant to
deflect attention from the extra-judicial carnage, the rising anger at Jonas
Burgos' kidnapping, the "Hello Garci" hearings, deepening economic
bankruptcy, and scandals of large-scale corruption involving the higher
echelons. The International Committee of DEFEND is on target with its
hypothesis that Arroyo, Washington and the Dutch reactionaries "are using
judicial proceedings to put political pressure on the NDFP to surrender to the
Manila government."

However, underneath these incidents we suspect a larger narrative or subtext of
causality and historical determinations. To understand why this Filipino-Dutch
"connection" is occurring at this specific conjuncture, we need to take
into account three important developments that seem to triangulate the
impending ruin of the Arroyo regime and its replacement by a new set of
oligarchs who may have a more "populist" appeal to calm the turbulent
masses. As I discussed in an earlier commentary (see "Seven Theses,"
Bulatlat Online, April 29-May 5, 2007), the crisis and disintegration of the
Arroyo clique cannot be eluded by Arroyo's meretricious rhetoric of defeating
the worker-peasant and Moro insurgencies by the end of her term in 2010. It can
at best delay or soften the impact of the crash, but not permanently defer it.

So what are the parameters for understanding the August surprise?

Contradiction No. 1
First, the brutal and corrupt Arroyo regime has been severely criticized by
numerous human rights organizations, among them Karapatan (Alliance for the
Advancement of People's Rights), Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch,
Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC), the World Council of Churches (WCC), and
the United Nations (UN). Arroyo has shrugged off the criticisms lodged by the
president of Finland and other international monitors.UN Special Rapporteur
Philip Alston's visit last February gave a stamp of authority on the judgment
that President Arroyo has command responsibility over the Armed Forces of the
Philippines (AFP) and its paramilitary death-squads. State terrorism has been
responsible for over 900 extrajudicial killings and 200 forced disappearances
or abductions of civilians since she assumed office in 2001. Despite claims
that she is concerned about this horrendous events, Arroyo glorified one of the
"butchers," Gen. Jovito Palparan, who is now being linked by two peasants
with several abductions and murders. Arroyo, together with her chief patron
George W. Bush, was indicted by the Permanent People's Tribunal (PPT)last
March for "crimes against humanity" committed in the pursuit of the
U.S.-led "war on terror" in the interests of global profiteers.

All this is of no consequence to Arroyo were it not for the danger raised in
the U.S. Congress of a real halt, if not drastic reduction, of military and
economic assistance. Impelled by the crescendo of complaints, Sen. Barbara
Boxer and Rep. Ellen Tauscher in April and May urged Arroyo to "move
quickly" against the murder and abduction of left-wing political activists.
Last July, after lobbying by influential church groups, the U.S. Senate
appropriations committee instructed the State Department to monitor U.S.
military assistance so that it is not "misused by units of the security
forces…against civilians…who are members of political opposition parties
and human rights groups" (Inquirer.net , July 5, 2007).

Last month, the pressure climaxed with the highly publicized letter of 48 US
lawmakers, initiated by Rep. James Overstar of Minnesota and Joseph Pitts of
Pennsylvania, that expressed alarm on the atrocious human-rights situation and
called on Arroyo "to prosecute the perpetrators" (Tribune Online, August 6,
2007). At last, the regime seems to be registering pain and anxiety over
possible long-term damage. The recommended token cuts of over fifty million
dollars in the Foreign Military Financing, the International Military Exchange
Training for the AFP and funding for the Philippine National Police (PNP), if
implemented, would demoralize Arroyo's supporters, particularly the generals
and hirelings dependent on their share. It would also prove that Arroyo cannot
"deliver," thus lending credibility to her essentially hollow claims of
economic progress and stability.

Contradiction No. 2
Second, the defeat of the Arroyo camp in the May elections despite the usual
rampant cheating supervised by Arroyo flunkeys in the Commission of Elections
(Comelec) exposed the inherent weakness of the current bloc of the neocolonial
elite. It revealed the flaws in the hegemonizing effort to unite the most
backward, malefic oligarchs. Fearing that that the detained ex-president Joseph
Estrada might rally his followers, many of whom got re-elected, to a repeat of
"People Power 2"—the mass demonstrations in 2001 that unseated him and
catapulted Arroyo to power—when a verdict of his case is handed down in the
near future, Arroyo ordered thousands of troops to saturate Metro Manila and
environs in addition to already militarized urban zones. This is an unequivocal
symptom of panic and political bankruptcy.

Further, the election of Sen. Antonio Trillanes, one of the officers who led
the aborted "Oakwood mutiny," is a clear repudiation of Arroyo's
illegitimate rule. As former president of the University of the Philippines
(UP) Francisco Nemenzo observed, the presence of civic-minded nationalist
officers inside and outside the Establishment who oppose Arroyo may not support
her advisers' view that the military is always political neutral: "The
military is either partisan for the elite or partisan for the people." While
the other maverick officer and elected Senator, former Col. Gregorio Honasan,
may have been "pardoned" as a compromise by the Arroyo bloc, Trillanes and
other principled officers (beholden to other political factions of the elite,
or nationalists in their own right) still pose a serious threat to the
prolongation of Arroyo's tenure. The horrific slaughter of AFP troops in
Basilan and scarcely suppressed criticism from the ranks are a forecast of
further mutinous upheavals from the ranks (on the Moro crisis, more below).
Could bribery, threats, and concessions allow Arroyo to complete her term?

Meanwhile, Arroyo's favorite bureaucrat, Comelec chair Benjamin Abalos, Sr.,
is now implicated in one of the most outrageous bribery scandals in Philippine
history. It involves the Chinese firm China ZTE Corp. which won a government
contract for $1.6 billion without any rival bidding. Named accomplices are
Arroyo's appointees, among them Transportation Secretary Leandro Mendoza,
Finance Secretary Margarito Teves, Trade Secretary Peter Favila, and the
aforementioned Abalos, among others. But this is nothing new to Arroyo; it has
been her modus operandi since she entered public service.

At this point, it would not be anticlimactic to mention that before Sison's
arrest, the Netherlands won a valuable multimillion dollar oil exploration
contract from the Arroyo administratiion. Rep. Crispin Beltran revealed that an
oil exploration company with significant Dutch participation, Premier Oil, was
granted by the Arroyo regime the right to drill for oil within a million
hectares in the Ragay Gulf of the Bicol region. Aside from this, Dutch
investments (from oil to banking, insurance, electronics, etc.) are expanding
rapidly. It is now the Philippines' third largest trading partner, and the
second largest foreign investor in the country, hence its willingness to
support the criminal Arroyo regime for the sake of profit and imperial
self-aggrandizement. After all, Arroyo has turned over to the Dutch capitalists
the gas reserves of Malampaya and the indigenous people's ancestral lands,
hence the quid pro quo.

The most worrisome is the Supreme Court Chief Justice Reynato Puno's show of
independence from the executive branch. Last July Puno initiated a summit on
human rights to which civil-society activists and left-wing groups were
invited. Like the Melo Commission and the government's Human Rights
Commission, this exercise in ritualized respect for "the rule of law" would
have been just that, an inutile exercise, were it not for Puno's courage in
protecting two escaped peasants, the Manalo brothers, from testifying to their
reprehensible imprisonment and torture by the military, and their first-hand
witnessing of military complicity in nefarious crimes of kidnapping and
extra-judicial murder. Earlier, several top generals expressed willingness to
offer substantive evidences of such complicity in the process of Congressional
or Supreme Court inquiries.

In addition, perhaps inspired by the global monitoring of the human-rights
situation, various groups—aside from Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (Bayan or New
Patriotic Alliance) and Karapatan—have finally gathered their forces to
petition the Supreme Court to declare the reprehensible Human Security Act or
Republic Act No. 9372 as unconstitutional. Aside from religious and church
groups, lawyers and lawmakers (among them Sen. Jamby Madrigal, Sen. Serge
Osmena and former senator Bobby Tañada) have argued that the Act would give
license for those temporarily in power, or in control of State apparatuses, to
label any act as "terrorist" if it expresses "a demand deemed unlawful by
the government." Basically the Act would suppress the constitutional right to
freedom of expression and of assembly for the redress of the people's
grievances. Authored by the right-wing Sen. Enrile, who was a fanatical
persecutor of critics of Marcos authoritarianism, the Act is modeled after the
infamous USA Patriot Act and similar measures aimed at warrantless arrests,
surveillance, and repression of democratic rights and civil liberties.

Not to be neglected is the recent passage in the Philippine Congress of a bill
penalizing State agents for forcible "disappearances" and abductions,
putting pressure on the Senate and Arroyo to ratify and sign the United Nations
International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced
Disappearances (so far Arroyo has withheld her endorsement). In the light of
the revelations over the abduction and torture of Ptr. Berlin Guerrero of the
United Church of Christ in the Philippines (UCCP) and the military kidnapping
of Jonas Burgos, two college students, and other highly esteemed civic leaders,
the well-organized campaign against extra-judicial killings and other human
rights violations is gearing up with full force, mobilizing millions not only
in the Philipines but in the shifting diaspora of about 10 million OFWS around
the world. Indeed, given the fact that its annual remittance of $12 to $14
billion to the government treasury is the single reason why Arroyo can meet its
huge foreign debt payments, the OFWs can deliver fatal blows on U.S. imperialism
and its local subalterns if they can be fully united and mobilized for
national-democratic liberation.

The splits within the elite have undermined any claim of Arroyo to moral or
ideological leadership of the U.S.-subservient local oligarchy. The formation
of such a broad consensus critical of Arroyo's attempts to suppress any
public protest against her corruption and cheating, threatens Arroyo's
monopoly on State power. With a possible revival of impeachment moves
coinciding with the coming out of military officials involved in the "Hello
Garci" spying (the secret taping of Arroyo's manipulation of votes during
the presidential elections of 2004), Arroyo cannot rally the legislative branch
to support her failed policies on the economy (the Philipines has regressed to a
status well behind Malaysia and Thailand) and the two militarily undefeatable
insurgencies. Whether impeachment proceeds or not, the investigation of
corruption scandals, the final judgment over the Estrada case, the challenge to
the Human Security Act and other schemes, plus the Moro and peasant-worker
rebellions exploding everywhere – all these trends, exacerbated by a severely
eroded agricultural-industrial base, are bound to converge in the inexorable
exhaustion and collapse of the Arroyo presidency.

Contradiction No. 3
Finally, the third fatal blow to Arroyo's dominance will come not from the
NPA, nor from Sison and the NDFP—although one should not underestimate their
ideological elan as a catalyzing point of departure—but from the Bangsa Moro
nation, arguably the most victimized group in Philippine history. I am
referring not to any particular group, whether the Moro National Liberation
Front (MNLF) or the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), both of which have
provided formidable if uneven leadership to the Moro struggle for cultural
dignity, political self-determination and communal justice. I have in mind the
quite ethnically diverse communities of more than six to ten million people of
Islamic faith who, given their heroic resistance to Spanish, American and
chauvinist neocolonial oppression, have collectively embodied the spirit of
liberation and justice in our region of the world (see my chapter on the Moro
struggle in my recently released book, U.S. Imperialism and Revolution in the
Philippines (Palgrave Macmillan, 2007). All Filipinos (if we might claim to
speak editorially here) owe the Moro people tribute for their sacrifices,
endurance, and collective solidarity in the fight against imperialism and
corporate globalization.This giant is yet to fully flex its muscles; it is
capable of overcoming U.S. Special Forces together with its mercenary AFP/PNP
helots.

U.S. military intervention heightened after 9/11 when Bush sent thousands of
U.S. Special Forces to the Philippines in early 2003 under the pretext of joint
war exercises called "Balikatan." Both Marcos and Estrada vowed to crush the
Moro aspiration for self-determination in their "total war" policy, but to
no avail. Spellbound by the same imbecilic or addlebrained experts on terrorism
from the military and bureaucratic intelligentsia, Arroyo has fallen into the
same path of ignominious disaster. In the last four years of Arroyo's tenure,
utter barbarism and havoc--with thousands of innocent civilians driven from
their homes and farms, turned into famished refugees or killed outright in the
engagements with the Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG) –have characterized the
government's obscene treatment of the Moro struggle for independence (often
deplored as fanatical "separatism"). The recurrent turmoil in Basilan
island, southern Philippines, is a symptom of the larger cynicism and hypocrisy
of the elite toward the plight of the Moros (see the insightful article of
Carlos Conde, "Abu Sayyaf in Basilan: A Deadly Redux," in Bulatlat Online
Magazine, Aug. 26-Sept. 1, 2007).

How do we explain this chaotic confusion? Arroyo's militarist-chauvinist
method of stopping what she calls "mayhem and bloodsport" cannot be
prettified by tawdry humanitarian gestures. Arroyo's impromptu gifts and
gratuitous donations only prove the cynical program for resolving historically
profound and complex sociopolitical problems that underlie the deprivation and
desperation of the Moro communities, not to speak of the ethnic Lumads and
other indigenous peoples in Mindanao and Sulu. While hypocritically claiming to
be committed to peaceful negotiations with the MILF, monitored by Malaysia and
the Organization of Islamic Conference, the Arroyo regime—to all
indications—has no coherent, long-range strategy of solving the social,
economic and cultural demands and needs of the Moro nation. Its only approach
to this most crucial problem in Philippine society is military-technocratic
violence, aided by U.S. Special Forces, the CIA and FBI, and the diplomatic
sorcery of US State Department officials such as John Negroponte and Admiral
Timothy Keating of the US Pacific Command, both recent visitors praising
Arroyo's savage onslaught on the Moro resistance in Jolo and Basilan.

Invincible Bangsa Moro nation
Here I can only speculate briefly on two reasons that have bedeviled Arroyo and
her advisers on the Moro revolution. First, Mindanao is not only the last
remaining undeveloped economic frontier of the country, incalculably rich with
untapped natural resources, minerals, and human labor. It also provides the
ideal forward staging ground for U.S. military forces intervening in the "hot
spots" of the Middle East and Asia as a whole. Aside from an impending
confrontation with Iran or North Korea, U.S. strategic interests (always
impelled by profit-driven corporate gangsterism) dictate their scrutiny of what
is happening in Indonesia and IndoChina as part of a long-range strategy to
circumscribe China's power, China (allied with a revitalized Russia) being
the real contender for U.S. hegemony in this part of the world. Reports of huge
U.S. investments in military infrastructure in Mindanao, as well as experiments
in unconventional warfare, reinforce the theory of prolonged U.S. intervention
in the Philippines. The second reason is the need to sustain the myth of the
Abu Sayyaf (and by extension the Jemiah Islamiyah chiefly based in Indonesia)
as the main rationale for continued U.S. military "exercises" and permanent
training of Filipino officers and soldiers for atrocious genocide, for
unconscionable exploitation of the natural environment and its inhabitants.

In the annals of neocolonial history in the Philippines, and perhaps for third
world countries in the region, perhaps the ASG will remain one of the most
enigmatic and hilarious hoaxes, if it were not a deadly serious affliction to
millions of Moros as well as for Filipinos as a whole. It is public knowledge
that this group was formed by a collusion of military officers, public
officials, and businessmen to divide the MNLF that was leading the struggle
against the Marcos dictatorship from 1972 up to 1996. It was also a lucrative
business deal. While some of its members may have been trained in Indonesia or
Afghanistan during the Reagan period as potential manpower for the anti-Soviet
mujahideen, the majority were and continue to be disaffected, lumpen elements
(with a handful of religious teachers or mentors) egged on by local politicians
or warlords, and tolerated or encouraged by regional military officials who have
benefited from its kidnapping-for-ransom business. In short, the ABS is
distinctly a local problem with a historically specific provenance in the
Philippine economic, political and cultural terrain.

It is really remarkable how the dead in the southern Philippines can resurrect
after periodic intervals. From the administrations of Ramos to Estrada and
Arroyo, the government has announced repeatedly that the ASG has been
decimated, curtailed, and finally defeated. This ritualized alibi persists ad
nauseam. Arroyo and her security council are quick to grab the opportunity to
boast of their definitive extirpation of the ASG. But like the mythical
hydra-headed monster, the ABS rears its head everytime, as it did last July 10
when it killed 14 Marines as a result of a mistake—the soldiers failed to
heed the warnings of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) not to venture
into their territory in Basilan. Originally, the troops were supposedly in
search for ABS partisans who kidnapped an Italian missionary priest. However,
the truth is that Arroyo and her clique may have wanted to instigate heavy
fighting with the MILF, labelling its encounters as attempts to suppress
"terrorists." This also applies to the heavy fighting in Jolo and other
areas of Sulu islands which has been raging since February 2005 when over 100
soldiers, including two colonels, were killed by fierce MNLF resistance by
government attacks in their territory. Arroyo has to shore up her credentials
as a bonafide leader of the U.S.-sponsored global war on terror, thus deserving
material and political support from Washington/Pentagon.

The AFP in the last two months have suffered the largest number of casualties
so far, disturbing the rank and file, as well as the hundreds of widows and
orphans of the dead. It is not Basilan that is the target but Jolo and the Sulu
island chain where MNLF forces are entrenched and whose reach encompasses the
strategic region of Davao and Cotabato. This is where the issue of autonomy
will be decided. While its former leader Nur Musuari earlier compromised with
the government in 1996 when he signed the final papers of its agreement to join
the government (the negotiation over the treaty began in Tripoli during the
Marcos dictatorship, with Libyan strongman Khadaffy's sponsorship),
significant numbers of the MNLF bypassed Misuari in order to continue the
Bangsa Moro struggle for independence.

Meanwhile, with the MNLF's decline, the MILF, with a more openly religious
orientation compared to Misuari's secular program, took up the leadership of
the armed struggle against the Manila government. It is with the leadership of
the MILF that Arroyo is now negotiating, even though a dual policy of fighting
and talking seems to have been adopted and practiced by both sides. Even if a
truce or treaty is signed, this will not solve the enduring problem of
exploitation, oppression, and lack of any dignified viable future for millions
of Moros and indigenous communities in the southern Philippines, not to speak
of thousands of impoverished Christian peasants and workers inhabiting the same
region.

The ASG is surely bound to outlast Arroyo and her tutors. So long as Arroyo and
her generals, as well as their Washington advisers, persist in judging the ASG
as a military problem, or an isolated case of anomie or loss of identity and
cultural status, as some American anthropologists and social scientists
believe, the ASG will thrive and attract followers. After all, so many of its
handlers are benefiting from the kidnappings and plunder. This is in addition
to the U.S. and Arroyo's need for an enemy as vicious as these
"terrorists" who allegedly behead their dead enemies. The people who live
in Basilan, Jolo or any part of Mindanao know why the ABS exists and remains:
the misery of everyday life from exploitation of land and other resources by
transnational corporations, the immense poverty and desperation of the
thousands who feel there is no future. That is why U.S. officials find it
necessary for them to say that their heavily armed Special Forces are not just
fighting the terrorists, they are also "winning hearts and minds" (the old
tired formula from the Vietnam carnage) by digging wells, building bridges,
curing the sick, etc. Stop-gap solutions, charitable work, with no
participation on the part of the communities—such is Arroyo's formula for
thwarting "terrorists."

Self-determination is the key
Due to lack of space, I will simply quote the conviction of Abhoud Syed Lingga,
the executive director of the Institute for Bangsamoro Studies, a non-profit
research group devoted to Filipino Muslims, concerning the present situation:
"The problem in Basilan or Sulu cannot be isolated from the overall problem
of the Bangsamoro people….I have doubt on the effectiveness of the government
strategy….because it does not address the grievances and aspirations of the
people. The best way to fight terrorism is to address people's grievances and
to open democratic avenues where people can pursue peacefully their political
aspirations. Self-determination for Muslims will open the windows of
opportunity to resolve the long-drawn conflict peacefully" (quoted by Conde
in article cited earlier).

In the context of this wider perspective, Sison's arrest will not stop the
NDFP nor theNPA from the protracted complex struggle for national democracy and
genuine sovereignty. Neither a picnic nor a dinner party, as the old adage goes,
the progress of the revolution does not depend on individual leaders or heroes,
however important their contribution might be. The torture of Sison will not
lead to the capitulation of the CPP or NPA, as Arroyo's advisers expect; nor
will it diminish its powerful appeal or influence. It will certainly dampen if
not halt the peace negotiations. It surely will not postpone Arroyo's
downfall. Bayan chairperson Dr. Carol Araullo summed up the thrust of these
events in a news release during a protest in front of the Netherlands Embassy
in Metro Manila last August 30: "It is clear that the Arroyo regime really
has no intention of talking peace. It is only interested in waging all-out war.
This is not just about Joma now. This is an attack on the Filipino people and
their aspirations for a just and lasting peace." Given her distinguished
leadership of Bayan, one of the largest coalition of progressive groups in the
Philippines today, and her vital role in the united front against the state
terrorism of Arroyo, the U.S. and the Dutch reactionaries, Araullo's
commentary in her column "Streetwise" in the Business World magazine (Aug.
31-Sept. 1, 2007) deserves to be quoted at length:

"The Arroyo regime is blinded by its denial of that great lesson of
history—that revolutions bred by social injustice and oppression cannot be
defeated, much less be eradicated by the state's iron hand and that brutal
suppression of revolutionary leaders only constitute temporary setbacks. Many
more invariably stand up to take their place in the frontlines of the struggle.
The Netherlands government thinks that by colluding with the Philippine and U.S.
governments to politically persecute Mr. Sison and the NDFP and to scuttle the
GRP (Government of the Republic of the Philippines)-NDFP peace negotiations, it
has done away with a big thorn in its throat, a political embarrassment as well
as a pesky obstacle to Dutch multinational corporations' unbridled
profit-making in the country…. The Dutch has clearly interfered in the matter
of the sovereign right of the Filipino people, the right to determine its
political affairs including the political settlement of internal armed
conflicts. Its shameful role in this outrageous episode shall, in due time, be
thoroughly exposed and it shall consequently be held accountable."

INTERVENTION FROM THE BOOONDOCKS:
An interview with DR. CAROL P. ARAULLO by Dr. RAINER WERNING

Leading in the defense of Sison and other persecuted Filipino refugees/exiles
today is the militant coalition of civic organizations, BAYAN (New Patriotic
Alliance) in the Philippines, with affiliates around the world. Its chairperson
is Dr. Carol P. Araullo, an exemplary Filipino progressive intellectual and
nationalist organizer. She has a long brilliant record of political activism,
dating back from her student days at the University of the Philippines and as a
doctor engaged in community medicine while opposing the Marcos dictatorship. As
former executive director of the Philippines Peace Center, she promoted the
peace negotiations between the Manila government and the NDF. She acts as
global vice chair for external affairs of the International League of
People's Struggle, co-convenor of the Gloria-Step-Down-Movement, and other
broad alliances. Her regular column, "Streetwise" in the Manila journal,
Business World, has provided lucid, insightful analysis of current developments
(I recommend in particular her two articles in its August issue on the recent
fighting in Mindanao-Sulu, "The crux of the Moro problem" and "Tell that
to the Marines," accessible from her Website and from Bulatlat). Her
commentaries may be taken to represent one of the most provocative and
sophisticated trends in current progressive circles in the Philippines today.

The following is a transcript of an interview of Dr. Araullo (CPA) conducted by
Dr. Rainer Werning (RW) during her attendance at the Permanent People's
Tribunal Session 2 on the Philippines held at The Hague, the Netherlands, last
March 2007. Dr. Werning is a distinguished political scientist and journalist
teaching at the Internationale Weiterbildung und Entwicklung of Bad Honnef,
Germany. He has lectured in various countries, UK, Japan and recently in the
Philippines sponsored by the Goethe Institute and other universities. He
interviewed Jose Maria Sison in a notable book, The Philippine Revolution: The
Leader's View (1989), and co-edited with Nicklas Reese the highly useful
Handbuch Philippinen (2006). This interview (slightly edited here for grammar
and coherence) was recently aired over German public radio and published here
for the first time.

RW: It is now more than 30 years ago since the ouster of the Marcos
dictatorship. What, in your viewpoint, constitutes the chief differences
between Marcos's rule and the GMA administration?

CPA:  The fall of the Marcos dictatorship was supposed to have restored
democratic processes and institutions in my country. We did not expect it to
overhaul radically the social stratification, the wide gap between the rich and
the poor, the stranglehold of the elite on economic and political power. But at
least there were high hopes then that civil political liberties and human
rights would be upheld and promoted under a so-called democratic regime.

But under the current government of Mrs. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, which
ironically came to power on the heels of a people's uprising that toppled a
corrupt and oppressive government (that of former President Joseph Estrada),
the hope did not materialize. Arroyo's regime is proving itself to be as
brutal, as vicious, as terribly fascist as that of the former dictator. What is
exceptional is that it does not have the honesty and decency to call "a spade
a spade." It engages in oppressive policies in political repression under the
guise of democratic processes, under the guise of a rule of law. Mr. Marcos at
least declared "martial law" and made clear that he was an authoritarian
leader who had control of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and would
utilize the AFP to impose his will. Mrs. Arroyo pretends to be a democratic
leader.

RW: I understand there were several executive orders and laws passed under the
Arroyo administration that turned out to be quite oppressive. Could you name
such orders and laws and tell us what the essentials of these laws are?

CPA: There is a law that was carried over by the previous Marcos dictatorship.
It is a law that purports to uphold free speech and assembly—it dates back to
Marcos' martial law era—but instead it is used consistently and persistently
by the Arroyo administration to curtail freedom of assembly. It is used in a
very conscious effort to preempt the massing up of people in protest against
her policies and against her government in general. It is deployed to preempt a
wave of mass demonstrations and protests that could culminate in an armed
uprising in the cities that could topple her government.

As you know, the Arroyo regime is undergoing a crisis of legitimacy. It is
under a cloud of having engaged in massive and systematic fraud in the last
presidential election. Now this law, while guaranteeing the fundamental right
to freedom of assembly and to seek redress from government, has an obnoxious
provision: it states that a permit is required to be applied for and gotten
from local government officials purportedly to insure that traffic
inconvenience and other forms of disorder are avoided. Now this provision has
been misinterpreted by all governments after Marcos—much more so by
Arroyo's government—as a no-permit no-rally policy. Consequently, the
arbitrary refusal of a mayor to give demonstrators a permit has in actuality
curtailed the basic freedom of assembly.

Mrs. Arroyo carried this repressive policy a step further by proclaiming by
executive fiat the so-called "calibrated pre-emptive response" decree which
she announced on Sept. 21, 2005, the anniversary of the declaration of Marcos'
"Martial Law." This decree essentially magnified the maximum intolerance
policy of government to any forms of street protest, workers' strikes, or any
kind of democratic expression of opposition by citizens to government policies.
Essentially, it was a way of cutting short any attempt to mass people up and to
stage a mass demonstration.

By February 2006, this reached its height during Arroyo's proclamation of
Emergency Rule, Proclamation 1017, which was bodily lifted from Marcos'
dictatorial Proclamation 1081. Arroyo's proclamation essentially mimicked the
provisions of Marcos' "Martial Law," but stopped short of calling itself
"Martial Law." When this was announced by the Arroyo government, a big, big
demonstration scheduled on that day was violently dispersed and for one week, no
demonstrations were allowed at all.

Now, these are, shall we say, bits and pieces of discreet laws that attempt to
undercut the fundamental rights of citizens, but now an anti-terrorism bill has
just recently been passed by Congress. It is ironically or euphemistically
titled "Human Security Act." It is a compilation of oppressive provisions
that is patterned after other anti-terrorist legislations such as the USA
Patriot Act. It was lobbied for by the US embassy and the main authors were
architects of the Marcos' martial-law regime. It permits warrantless arrests,
it allows being held under police custody and interrogations for three days
without any charges being filed. Even if a person has been able to avail of
bail, and despite the fact the current law itself says that a person can not be
detained if there is no sufficient evidence against him, under this "Human
Security Act," the person accused could be put under house arrest and
prevented from using any form of communication, whether internet, telephone or
whatsoever.

Worse, it sets up an anti-terrorism council which is essentially composed of
the current members of the Cabinet Oversight Committee On National Security,
the heads of the AFP and of the Philippine National Police, the National
Security Adviser, the head of the Local Government , Cabinet
Secretary—persons who have a military mindset. These people will now compose
the anti-terrorism council headed by the president. And they will have the
power to apply to any court to call for the illegalization or proscription of
any organization on the basis of whatever they say, and so these organizations
are deemed "terrorists."

As you know, there is no anti-subversion law anymore in the Philippines—it
was repealed during the presidency of Fidel Ramos. The intent was to allow the
Left—Communists if you will—to enter into the legal parliamentary arena, no
longer to be illegalized. Of course, armed rebels are still illegal and can be
punished as rebels. But with the Anti-Terrorism Bill, we expect that New
People's Army and its leadership, the Communist Party of the Philippines,
will be proscribed as terrorist organizations. And legal organizations or
progressive organizations that are being smeared, up to this day, as front
organizations of the CPP will be in practice treated as guilty by association.
Or eventually, under the anti-terrorism bill, they will be proscribed as
terrorist organizations.

So we are anticipating a massive crackdown after the election in May when the
bill comes into effect. In addition, the president has issued Executive Order
464 which basically requires all government officials to get permission from
the office of the president …

RW: (Mic problem) We start again…

CPA: Executive Order 464 was issued by Arroyo in September 2005 about the same
time that the policy called "Calibrated Pre-emptive Response" was
announced. Basically, Order 464 disallows any official in the executive
department at any level to appear before any congressional investigation on any
subject matter without getting prior explicit approval from the Office of the
President. This includes military officials, police officials, officials of any
of the departments under the Executive. What is the rationale for this Executive
Order? We believe—and it has been proven that it was used—it is being used
by Mrs. Arroyo to prevent any kind of investigation by Congress of any
corruption, scam, any illegal use of government funds, any involvement of high
government officials in election fraud, or any entering into any kind of
agreement that undermines national sovereignty—like the agreement entered
into by the national security adviser with a US private company to lobby
Congress in a campaign to change the constitution of the Republic of the
Philippines.

In other words, this order is designed not just to stifle but prevent from the
outset any kind of relatively independent investigation into the shenanigans of
the government. And the idea here is to deprive the opposition and the
progressive movement from being able to utilize any issue that can spark public
disaffection with government and possibly spark public outrage and massive
protests against the government.

RW: Carol, what's your analysis of the ongoing counter-insurgency
plan…Oplan Bantay Laya. I understand there are two phases.

CPA: No…the government recently announced Oplan 2—Operation Plan Bantay
Laya 2—which is actually not a phase but a new Oplan along the same lines.
Basically, Oplan Bantay Laya 1, which started in 2002 if I am not mistaken, the
period for the implementation of Oplan Bantay Laya 1 just ended, and they have
not been able to achieve the objectives of that counter-insurgency
program…That is why they have re-issued it under Oplan Bantay Laya 2. It is
essentially the same, it has the same objectives and features as previous
counter-insurgency programs; they are patterned after the counter-insurgency
programs of the US military that were tried out in Vietnam, for example. And in
Latin American countries, dubbed as the secret "dirty war" in Latin American
countries.

These counterinsurgency schemes are simple to understand. They basically
utilize military forces to clear an area of guerilla activity and then to hold
that area by means of destroying the political infrastructure and support of
the guerillas in that area and introducing socio-economic alleviation programs
and basically turning the population away from support for the guerillas. But
this model of counter-insurgency has failed and it has been proven incapable of
achieving its objectives in destroying the armed revolutionary movement and the
support of its mass base. However, it is now being re-cycled by the current
government with a distinct and very brutal, very vicious component and that is
the systematic targeting of progressive groups and activists for the purpose of
intelligence gathering, harassment, surveillance and eventual filing of trump-up
charges of rebellion and other criminal activities. Or worse, these concerned
citizens or groups are set up as targets for death squads that are under the
direction and control of the military.

This is the most reprehensible, the most terrible, aspect of this new
counter-insurgency program in that it fails to stem the tide of armed guerilla
activity. It is being turned against non-combatants, civilian populations and
mass organizations of the poor and exploited, who by means of the legal arena,
by means of the protest movement and by entering into Congress through the
elections, are pushing a progressive agenda. The Arroyo regime's objective is
to annihilate this kind of legal progressive opposition to the government--to
incapacitate it by basically killing people or putting them in jail.

RW: From what we gather, the influence of the military is quite pronounced.
Would you have any figures how many military people are currently placed in
strategically high positions in the government?

CPA: There are figures but, sometimes, we stop counting. The trend is clear.
For example, there was supposed to be a clamor to put civilians at the head of
the national defense department, but now it is occupied by an ex-general. The
telecommunications portfolio is held by an ex-general, also the department
of—many generals are now serving as consultants or under secretaries in the
Office of the National Security adviser. Many of them are also in the
Department of Interior and Local Government, they are spread out. And Mrs.
Arroyo clearly is employing retired generals who, after retirement are
immediately assigned to civilian positions—either as sinecures or as
strategic locations—to put them into strategic control for the
administration.

Because it is a beleaguered government, an illegitimate government, the Arroyo
regime is reviled by a majority of the people. All the surveys show that people
want Arroyo either to resign or be removed from power. We have a government that
is more and more relying on the military and police to stay in power as well as
the support of the United States, the business community. And as it holds on to
power, it becomes more and more tenuous. It will rely more and more on the armed
forces, that is why she is giving them all the money all the leeway... Arroyo
has clearly made a policy of impunity for any kind of infraction of the
generals… not only with respect to violations of human rights but also
massive corruption in the military. In other words, Mrs. Arroyo is being
propped up by the military that may soon devour her if she does not watch out.

RW: Do you feel harrassed in your daily activities?

CPA: Yes, even during the time of Marcos, especially in the later years of the
Marcos dictatorship when the mass movement, the guerilla movement and the
international public opinion had turned against the Marcos dictatorship, if you
have the support of the church, or if you are a professional…let us say you
are known in the international human rights community, you have some kind of
mantel of protection. But now the government appears to be …very defiant of
all of these considerations in making its decisions about implementing a
counterinsurgency program that is bound to generate a lot of protests, and a
lot of …there would be lot of political fall-out on the basis of this
program. So that makes us very, very vulnerable. Either you would be taken out
by a death squad, a death squad that is not necessarily politically sensitive
or even mindful of political consideration before they pull the trigger. Or
else, you are set up for criminal charges, a situation that can keep you in
jail until you are old and grey and are hardly a political threat to the
government. So we feel insecure, we are threatened and we try to find ways to
minimize the risks but, yes, we are very, very vulnerable. Contributed to
Bulatlat

   ( categories:

  * 2nd story [5]

)
[1]
http://www.bulatlat.com/2007/09/netherlands-philippines-state-terrorism-attacks-filipino-revolutionaries-washington-applauds
[2] http://www.politicalaffairs.net/article/author/view/266
[3] http://www.homestead.com/homefront
[4] http://www.peoplestribunal.org
[5] http://www.bulatlat.com/taxonomy/term/2



E. SAN JUAN, Jr. works with the Philippine Forum, New York, and the
Philippines Cultural Studies Center in Connecticut. He was recently a fellow at
the Rockefeller Study Center in Bellagio, Italy, and Fulbright Professor of
American Studies at the Katholieke Universiteit Leuven, Belgium. His recent
books are Filipinos Everywhere (IBON), In the Wake of Terror: Class, Race,
Nation, Ethnicity in the Postmodern World (Lexington Books), U.S. Imperialism
and Revolution in the Philippines (Palgrave Macmillan), and BALIKBAYANG SINTA:
An E. San Juan Reader (Ateneo de Manila University Press). He is a member of
the American PEN Center, National Writers Union, and the Committees of
Correspondence for Democracy and Socialism.



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