Monthly Archives: March 2008

Leftist killings a state-sanctioned policy?

FINDINGS of an international fact-finding mission looking into the tide of political assassinations since Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo came to power in 2001 appear to give credence to the theory that the killings are part of a national security policy adopted by the Arroyo administration with regards to the communist Left.

The 68-member International Peasant Solidarity Mission (IPSM), which included 16 foreign participants from nongovernment and people’s organizations in the United States, Belgium, Canada, The Netherlands, Japan, and Nepal, said there were clear indications of the military’s culpability, including controversial Maj. Gen. Jovito Palparan, in most cases of extra-judicial killings of leftist activists. The conclusion was based on testimonies gathered from the victims’ families during the three-day mission that investigated cases in Central Luzon and Southern Tagalog, where many of the killings happened.

Miriam Coronel Ferrer, associate professor of political science at the University of the Philippines in Diliman, first posited the theory about the killings being sanctioned by the Arroyo government’s national security policy in an essay published in the June issue of Sulong Update. Sulong is the publication of Sulong CARHRIHL, a citizens’ network promoting the observance of the Comprehensive Agreement on Respect for Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law (CARHRIHL) between the government and the National Democratic Front (NDF).

Ferrer said Arroyo’s national security policy is founded on the two conjoined impetus of a global war against terrorism and the continued opposition to Arroyo’s rule. The Communist Party of the Philippines, New People’s Army, and NDF have been singled out in the anti-terrorism campaign while the national democratic left is seen to play a visible role in efforts to oust Arroyo, she pointed out.

These reasons, Ferrer said, effectively make the national democratic left the Number One enemy of the Arroyo government. So it is not at all surprising, she added, that the national democratic left is being attacked through military, political and extra-judicial means.

Ferrer said such policy was foreshadowed by the alarm from within the administration over the good electoral showing of the national democratic party-list groups, alongside the CPP-NPA-NDF’s use of force during the elections in 2001, and which was further validated by their good showing in the 2004 polls.

Though Palparan gets all the blame, Ferrer said that the geographic and organizational spread of the victims of killings and arrests is reflective of a “national policy” in place.

“This is not just Gen. Palparan showing the way. This is the Armed Forces of the Philippines, the Philippine National Police, the National Security Council led by the national security adviser, the Department of Interior and Local Governments, and the Department of National Defense at work,” she said.

Both National Security Adviser Norberto Gonzales and the PNP, however, denied Ferrer’s assertions. Gonzales, who heads the Partido Demokratiko Sosyalista ng Pilipinas (PDSP), a biiter critic of the communist Left, declared that “there’s no excuse for extra-judicial killings; and that “no government will employ such a tool.”

Government and military officials have also suggested that the killings were the result of an ongoing purge within the communist movement.

Below is Ferrer’s essay:
National Security: The Invincible Code?
by Miriam Coronel Ferrer

The horrendous rise in political killings of leftist activists appears to be in line with the slant of the national security policy the Macapagal-Arroyo administration has adopted since 2002, with regards to the communist left, in particular. In her first years, alarm from within the administration was already expressed over the good electoral showing of the national democratic party list groups, alongside the CPP-NPA-NDF’s use of force during the elections (enforced collection and other punitive measures on electoral candidates). Their good showing in the 2004 polls further validated the “fears”. Coincidentally, or shall we say consequently, political killings targeting the left began in late 2004. Peace talks were suspended for various reasons including the postures taken on by the other party, and the JASIG consequently retracted since 2005.

Currently, the national security policy of the GMA administration is founded on two conjoined impetus — the global war against terrorism where the CPP-NPA-NDF has been particularly singled out (along with the Abu Sayyaf), and the continued opposition to GMA where the national democratic left plays a very visible role. These two rationale effectively make the national democratic left the Number One enemy of the current government. The Abu Sayyaf and the military adventurists only come next, and the latter is treated with kid gloves. Not surprisingly, the national democratic left is being attacked through military, political and extra-judicial means.

The focus of condemnation has for a long time been Gen. Jovito Palparan. While he did play an important “pioneering role”, the geographic and organizational spread of the victims (killings and arrests) reflect that a “national policy” is in place. This is not just Gen. Palparan showing the way. This is the Armed Forces of the Philippines, the Philippine National Police, the National Security Council led by the national security adviser, the Department of Interior and Local Governments, and the Department of National Defense at work. The Department of Justice under the present secretary can hardly be expected to go against the grain. Perhaps only the Supreme Court, the Commission on Human Rights, and to the extent that the Department of Foreign Affairs has to defend the country internationally, can be expected to raise qualms.

The killing of two women leaders of the Kilusan para sa Pambansang Demokrasya (KPD), a left organization not allied with the CPP, and former NDF peace talks consultant and ex-Bicol regional CPP leader Sotero Llamas alongside Bayan Muna, et. al., seems to be a ploy to pass on the blame of the killings on “purges” or factional fighting. It serves the triple purpose of debilitating all left groups, further discrediting the CPP, and diverting blame away from the government.

The main reasoning of government, as reflected in remarks by government officials like Secretary Mike Defensor, is that the armed and the legal national democratic groups are one and the same (both espouse armed struggle); they are involved in the attempt to overthrow the government, the basis for declaring the state of emergency in February; and they have been proscribed as terrorist organizations in the international community. Therefore, without admitting that government is responsible and denying culpability, there is a basis to clamp down on them. Military and police officials, at the same time, have been bragging that they will lick the insurgency by 2010, the official end of the current presidential term.

The political leadership ultimately would have to be responsible for the unabated killings. Just as in the killings of journalists, whether or not a government institution or officer is involved, the onus on protecting the rights of its citizens falls squarely on the government. The sheer number of killings of selected targets and the modus operandi point strongly in the direction of a government “national security” policy — strictly confidential perhaps, limited to a few circles, perhaps, but ultimately sanctioned by the leadership through sheer inaction or inability, or worse, actual complicity.

Defeating the logic

All angles should be advanced to respond to the nefarious logic of national security, as presently enforced.

Summary executions violate the basic right to life (ironically upheld by GMA in the pardon given to death row convicts and the priority given to repealing the law on the death penalty).
The attack on one political ideology is discriminatory.
The attack does not support political mainstreaming, will justify the use of retaliatory violence, and sustain the logic of armed struggle.
Killings will not snuff out, in fact will inspire others, especially the youth to take up arms, given perceived futility to effect changes through parliamentary means.
Killings are contrary to the pledges made by the Philippine government to the international community, especially the fact of its recent election into the Human Rights Council.
The armed groups fight in the battlefield; the legal arena should be confined to a battle of ideas, or contending politics.
Killings violate the CARHRIHL; both parties should continue to observe this even though the peace talks are suspended.
Assassinations do not have a place in civilized society; the practice is condemnable, must not be tolerated and must not be allowed to be embedded in our social and political life (thus, the CPP-NPA should also stop the practice of executions and imposing the death penalty).
Whipping up the “red scare” is anachronistic to the post-Cold War age. The resort to assassinations using the communist bogey manifests the weakness of the AFP in the battlefield, and the government’s inability to govern, and get the support of the people.
Possible Mechanisms

As peace and human rights advocates, here are some of the steps we can take:

Generate more provincial or localized responses such as the publicized statement, “We thirst for peace (in Bulacan)”. Contacts in provinces where most victims came from should be encouraged to draw up similar responses. Meanwhile, other provinces should also be asked to issue “preventive” statements, where they ask that their localities be spared from these violations.
Write an open letter to the UN on the fact of the Philippines being elected to the Human Rights Council amidst all these killings. Call on the government to make good its pledges to this body.
Request meetings/dialogues with foreign embassies, the Executive Secretary, and the OPAPP (Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process), AFP, PNP, DND and National Security Council leaderships on this concern.
A saturation point where government will see that it will ultimately lose politically on the domestic and international fronts if it continues to follow this security track, need to be reached soon in order to stop this bloodletting.