Analysis: Martial Law and Back

Dec. 03, 2006

In six years, the Arroyo administration has reversed the gains of the Filipino people, no matter how small, when it toppled the Marcos fascist dictatorship.


MANILA — It has been a little more than 20 years since the Filipino people toppled the dictatorship through a People Power uprising. With the euphoria felt by many Filipinos during that fateful day in February 1986, one would have thought that they would be celebrating International Human Rights Day, December 10 with more meaning, from then on. It proved to be wrong.

With the Aquino and Ramos administrations, Filipinos experienced the total war in Oplan Lambat Bitag I, II, III, IV, which brought nothing good to them. Worse, it caused the displacement of about 1.5 million people and the enforced disappearance of 810 persons. There were also selective political killings targeting lawyers and prominent mass leaders of peoples organizations. The peasantry neither had peace nor enjoyed their rights.

However, political prisoners, especially those who were arrested during the Marcos fascist dictatorship, were released. A Commission on Human Rights was created albeit without powers. There was a formal restoration of democratic rights and a general feeling that there was democratic space in the cities.

Generally, the people could conduct protest actions without being violently dispersed, except in January 1987 when a peasant march in Mendiola was fired upon, resulting in the death of 13 marchers. There was freedom of the press. Bowing to public pressure, the Senate was thumbed down the proposed renewal of the U.S. Military Bases Agreement even if then President Aquino was pushing for it.

During the Ramos administration, the country was hit by the Asian financial crisis. There were widespread suspicions that Ramos was out to curtail civil liberties and perpetuate himself in power because he was pushing for the passage of certain bills which would infringe on human rights such as the Anti-Terror Bill, Crime Control Act, Anti-Racketeering Act, and the National ID system. The former general also pushed for Charter Change that would lift the term limits of elected officials and enable him to stay on as prime minister. But massive protest actions forced Congress and the Ramos administration to put these in the backburner.

Stepping back

At least the Ramos administration had the political sense to know when to step back. Moreover, peace negotiations between the government and the CPP-NPA-NDFP and the MNLF achieved some progress.

Under the short-lived Estrada administration, massive operations under Oplan Makabayan and Oplan Balangai led to the displacement of thousands of Muslim communities in southern Philippines. Then President Estrada was embroiled in controversies involving corruption, gambling, and plunder. He also tried to bully his critics.

In the end and after only two years as president, Estrada was forced to step down when confronted by massive demonstrations calling for his ouster.

Under the current administration of Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, the Filipino people did not achieve any measure of progress. The legitimacy of the Arroyo administration continues to be a question. Poverty, hunger, and joblessness are still worsening. The prices of basic goods, utilities, and services are increasing in leaps and bounds.

Worse, the country seems to be back to the days of martial rule.

Laws are being bent to run after the critics of government. Anakpawis Rep. Crispin Beltran is under detention on the basis of false charges and fabricated evidences. Ridiculously false charges are being filed against Bayan Muna Representatives Satur Ocampo, Teodoro Casino, and Joel Virador, Anakpawis Rep. Rafael Mariano, and Rep. Liza Masa of Gabriela Womens Party as well as personalities of multi-sectoral alliances and peoples organizations such as Vicente Ladlad, Elisa Lubi, Rafael Baylosis, Randall Echanis, and Rey Casambre. .

The government also tried to arrest Sen. Jinggoy Estrada inside the Senate building and have Rep. Allan Peter Cayetano expelled from Congress and disbarred on the basis of libel suits filed by Miguel Arroyo, husband of the president. .

The Arroyo administration tried to suspend and remove Makati Mayor Jejomar Binay and the whole city council. It also threatened to charge Sen. Jamby Madrigal with treason for trying to put back on track the peace negotiations between the Government of the Republic of the Philippines and the National Democratic Front of the Philippines.

Political killings

Political killings, numbering 185 as of December 1, and enforced disappearances, currently reaching 93, are being committed with impunity. The 797 extrajudicial executions committed during six years of the Arroyo administration is already more than 50 percent of the 1,500 extrajudicial killings documented during the 14 years of Martial Law under Marcos.

The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) is implementing a reign of terror in the countryside. They lord it over rural areas and civilian officials are rendered helpless in protecting the rights of their constituents. Barangay officials, especially those intervening in behalf of their constituents, are victimized themselves. Curfew is imposed. The movement of people is controlled. They are required to carry cedulas at all times. And peasants are threatened, accosted, interrogated, tortured, and killed by soldiers on mere suspicion or whim.

Media agencies are being threatened with closure and journalists are being harassed with libel suits. Arroyo, the presidential husband, has the notoriety of being the person with the most number of libel suits filed against journalists at 43 cases. Aside from having political clout as husband of the president, Mike Arroyos actions are meant to create a chilling effect on journalists exposing corruption cases involving the presidents family.

Macapagal-Arroyo has also surpassed former President Marcos, as well as other Philippine presidents, in terms of puppetry to the U.S. and has reversed the historical victory of the Filipino people in removing the U.S. military bases from the country.

She was one of the first to praise the U.S. when it invaded Afghanistan and Iraq. She allowed our airspace and ports to be used by U.S. forces in attacking Iraq and sent a contingent to help in securing American occupation.

With the signing of the Mutual Logistics Support Agreement in 2002 and the conduct of a series of Balikatan exercises, thereby allowing the continuous presence of U.S. troops in the country, the U.S. Pacific Command is able to establish a temporary-permanent presence and a forward operating site to project American military hegemony in the region.

The Arroyo administration also allowed the U.S. Armed Forces to tighten its control over the orientation, direction, policies, and programs of the AFP with the establishment of the joint Defense Policy Board and Security Engagement Board, in addition to the Joint U.S. Military Assistance Group. And with significant U.S. involvement in the Philippine Defense Reform program, it is able to have strategic and tactical control over the planning and operations of the AFP.

In six years, the Arroyo administration has reversed the gains of the Filipino people, no matter how small, when it toppled the Marcos fascist dictatorship. It even tried to impose Martial Law once again when it declared a state of national emergency by issuing Presidential Proclamation 1017, which was copied from Proclamation 1081 of Marcos, in February of this year.

Karapatan was right when it said that this is the worst year for human rights since the Filipino people removed the Marcos fascist dictatorship from power. But we may see the worst yet if we allow the Arroyo administration to continue with what it is doing. Bulatlat

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