[News] Philippines: Macapagal-Arroyo: Above Human Rights

Anti-Imperialist News News at freedomarchives.org
Mon Nov 28 14:45:13 EST 2005

was taken from Bulatlat, the Philippines's 
alternative weekly newsmagazine 
www.bulatlat.net, <http://www.bulatlat.org>www.bulatlat.org).
Vol. V, No. 42, November 27-Dcember 3, 2005


Macapagal-Arroyo: Above Human Rights

Macapagal-Arroyo is not literally deaf and blind 
to the persistent protests and appeals here and 
abroad to cease the wanton violations of human 
rights. Out of lust for power, she has been 
consumed by her own “war on terror.” Crafted to 
stop the criminal activities of the ASG, used 
against the NPA and now as a tool to suppress 
political dissent, the anti-terrorism track is 
now being harnessed simply to keep Macapagal-Arroyo in power.

By Bobby Tuazon

Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo is not known for heeding 
demands to whip into line the Armed Forces of the 
Philippines (AFP) and other security forces for 
what is reported as their brazen violations of 
human rights. This is so not only because 
political repression is evidently a state policy 
that is at the core of the embattled president’s 
“war on terror” but more so because maintaining 
her perceived illegitimate rule has increasingly 
relied on brute force and other anti-democratic forms.

Macapagal-Arroyo’s accountability for the 
continuing spate of military atrocities against 
civilians especially those identified with the 
militant people’s organizations and progressive 
party-list groups was underscored once more when 
Army troops opened fire on a group of 47 
civilians at the break of dawn Nov. 21in Barangay 
(village) San Agustin, Palo, Leyte. Various 
accounts tended to show that the soldiers, 
wearing ski masks and armed with high-powered 
rifles including grenade launchers, appeared 
geared for a mayhem. There were no warning shots. 
“They (soldiers) just fired at us,” a survivor narrates.

The shooting lasted 30 minutes. As the smoke of 
gunfire settled, seven of the civilians lay dead. 
Two others died in the hospital. Among the dead 
were two women one of them pregnant. Eight others 
were critically wounded; eight were also arrested 
for being New People’s Army (NPA) suspects.

Military officials called the incident a 
“legitimate encounter” with the NPA and even 
showed reporters firearms they said were taken 
from the victims. Nothing was said however 
whether the firearms were fired or why not one 
soldier was hurt from the “encounter.”


Preliminary investigations by church and human 
rights groups and Bayan Muna (BM or people first) 
- whose two organizers in Leyte were among the 
casualties - revealed that those fired upon were 
farmers from the San Agustin Farmer Beneficiaries 
Association (SAFBA) and BM party-list. They were 
in a meeting about “balik-uma” or occupation of 
the land awarded to them by the Department of 
Agrarian Reform (DAR) under the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program (CARP).

Macapagal-Arroyo extolled the soldiers but 
characteristically shed no tears for the civilian 
victims. The alleged perpetrators of the massacre 
came from the Army’s 8th Infantry Division - the 
same unit that was previously commanded by Brig. 
Gen. Jovito Palparan with 570 cases of violations 
of human rights and international humanitarian law.

The Palo massacre happened on the heels of 
similar incidents of extra-judicial killings, 
disappearances, forced evacuation and other human 
rights violations committed in recent days and 
weeks and which add to the more than 4,300 
documented cases since Macapagal-Arroyo came to 
power in 2001. The cases affected 235,000 
individuals, 24,500 families and 240 communities. 
At least 400 persons were victims of summary 
execution; 110 of forced disappearances. Twenty 
of those killed were rights volunteers.

What kind of a president would possibly turn the 
whole country into a killing fields of sorts?


Macapagal-Arroyo took power in January 2001 on 
the crest of a second civilian uprising and, as 
president, took charge of a military institution 
that is also widely considered as a surrogate 
army of the U.S. Until that time, the AFP had a 
30-year record of hundreds of thousands of 
victims of military abuse that begun during the 
Marcos dictatorship. The new president soon 
courted the support of the politicized AFP to 
defend her presidency against her political 
opponents and so-called “destabilizers.” It 
became her trademark that under the “war on 
terror” which she launched to support U.S. 
President George W. Bush’s post-9/11 “war without 
borders,” she began to transform the AFP into a 
“counter-terrorist” war machine.

Even before unleashing her “war on terror” in 
2002, however, Macapagal-Arroyo had backed the 
AFP’s continuing campaign against the armed Left. 
It was clear to her that a few weeks after taking 
over as president the AFP was already gearing for 
yet another full-scale war against the NPA but 
that this time the alleged legal infrastructures 
of the underground Left more particularly its 
alleged party-list network would have to be 
reckoned with more than ever. At about this time, 
although so much hype was played on the Abu 
Sayyaf bandit group defense and military 
officials were pointing to the armed Left as the 
“top national security threat.” By mid-2005, 
Defense Secretary Avelino Cruz would pledge to 
break the backbone of the NPA in 10 years.

The real danger, of course, came from Macapagal-Arroyo’s own “war on terror.”

The “war on terror” not only traded the country’s 
sovereignty for U.S. military aid and the return 
of U.S. forces in the guise of military training 
and war exercises; it also posed a graver threat 
to the people’s democratic rights and civil 
liberties. On the pretext of fighting 
“terrorism,” Macapagal-Arroyo revived the 
mothballed National ID system and declared as 
priority the anti-terrorism bill (ATB). The ATB 
has been denounced as a mechanism for curtailing 
civil liberties and as Macapagal-Arroyo’s 
political weapon against her critics particularly the Left.

Above the law

Under the “war on terror,” political dissent, 
progressive legislation and ideologically-driven 
rebellion were lumped with the ASG and other 
alleged “terrorist networks.” Macapagal-Arroyo 
toed the line of Bush by placing the war against 
terrorism above the law and above critical 
dissent: “terrorists” and mere suspects have no 
rights and have to face the iron fist.

The AFP, through its official newsletter Ang 
Tala, sought to neutralize the Left’s alleged 
front organizations particularly Bayan Muna and 
other militant groups. The same time that this 
came out, a top AFP official warned that 
progressive party-list groups have no right to be 
in Congress. More, a concerted campaign was 
launched by Malacañang’s national security 
adviser to demonize and criminalize the militant 
organizations linking many of them to the 
“terrorist” NPA. This would be followed by the 
AFP’s low-intensity black propaganda and “hit 
lists” of legal personalities and groups 
including certain church-based and media 
organizations. Not a few of those in the list 
have fallen as victims of assassination, summary execution and abduction.

If the charges against Brig. Gen. Jovito Palparan 
are true, it is quite probable that the general’s 
alleged bloody suppression campaign against 
unarmed civilians, party-list activists, lawyers, 
local executives, priests as well as rights 
volunteers in Mindoro, Eastern Visayas and now in 
Central Luzon is part of a carte blanche issued 
by the commander-in-chief to the whole AFP for 
conducting a reign of terror in the countryside. 
It is not a coincidence that the number of 
suspected ASG rebels killed has been surpassed 
several times over by that of activists and other victims of state terrorism.

A recent report by Statewatch, the Campaign 
Against Criminalizing Communities, and the Human 
Rights and Social Justice Institute at the London 
Metropolitan University, reveals that 
"proscribing" - or labeling groups and 
individuals as terrorists - in order to 
"criminalize their activities or impose sanctions 
against them with no right of appeal" has become 
"integral" to the war on terrorism. In their 
joint report, "Terrorizing the Rule of Law: The 
Policy and Practice of Proscription," the three 
groups also said the proscription of alleged 
terrorists raises serious human rights concerns.

Wrong basis

Statewatch, which monitors civil liberties, says 
“terrorist lists are frequently drawn up on a 
basis of secret intelligence, and that the normal 
judicial process governing such serious 
accusations, and their prosecution, is "discarded."

"Hundreds of groups and individuals have now been 
criminalized around the world and the various 
lists are expanding as states attempt to add all 
groups engaged in resistance to occupation or 
tyranny. Those exercising what many people around 
the world see as a legitimate right to 
self-defense and determination are increasingly 
being treated - on a global basis - the same way 
as Osama Bin Laden," the report says. There have 
been serious breaches of human rights, it adds.

The Philippines, the second front of Bush’s “war 
on terror,” is no exception. Here, 
“counter-terrorism” is just a camouflage for state terrorism.

Macapagal-Arroyo, through her generals and 
anti-communist secretaries, is prosecutor, judge 
and executioner at the same time. She has 
replaced the judicial process which, anyway, is 
biased against the poor and defenseless and is 
using Congress to ram through the ATB, charter 
change and other anti-democratic measures. And 
now she is resorting to more repressive devices 
such as the calibrated preemptive response (CPR) 
and gag orders in response to the snowballing 
call for her removal on charges of stealing the 
presidency, culpable violation of the 
constitution, betrayal of public trust and 
ever-increasing human rights violations.

And yet it is not only at home that 
Macapagal-Arroyo - who, as a president should be 
the first to uphold the law - has been condemned 
for these serious infringements. The regime’s 
dismal human rights record, for instance, has 
been either cited or denounced at the UN Human 
Rights Committee, Amnesty International, Human 
Rights Watch, the Asian Human Rights Commission 
and several other rights watchdogs throughout the 
world. Similarly she has been held accountable 
for crimes against humanity at various people’s 
tribunals in Tokyo, New York and, most recently, 
at the International People’s Tribunal in the 
Philippines. The impeachment charges that 
Macapagal-Arroyo was able to stop in Congress 
through trade-offs and alleged bribery are now 
being heard before the Citizens Congress for Truth and Accountability (CCTA).

UNDP report

In a recent report, the United Nations 
Development Program (UNDP) in collaboration with 
two other international agencies, cited the 
"militarist policy" of the Arroyo government for 
worsening the insurgency in the Philippines. The 
Philippine Human Development Report (PHDR, 2005) 
also said the U.S.-led "global war on terror" has 
only added fuel to the local war situation. 
Likewise, the UNDP report refuted claims by the 
Macapagal-Arroyo regime that the local communists 
are “terrorists” by engaging in violent acts 
against civilians. From its historical record of 
armed struggle, policy and general practice, the 
report states, the communists “have not engaged 
in terrorism or acts of terrorism by deliberately targeting civilians."

In its current phase, Macapagal-Arroyo’s “war on 
terror” has spread its tentacles by targeting 
legal activities aimed at exposing the truth 
behind the 2004 elections, raising the issue of 
human rights and rallying the people for her 
removal. She has tagged broad coalitions of 
forces seeking her removal as the handiwork of 
the “communist terrorists.” The brutal and 
anti-democratic character of the 
counter-terrorism campaign is now at the heart of 
the desperate efforts of the regime to cling to 
power amid the increasing public clamor for her 
to leave. Having lost all moral, constitutional 
and political grounds to remain as president, 
Macapagal-Arroyo will rely more and more on the 
AFP, the police and other security forces to stay in office.

Macapagal-Arroyo is not literally deaf and blind 
to the persistent protests and appeals here and 
abroad to cease the wanton violations of human 
rights. Out of lust for power, she has been 
consumed by her own “war on terror.” Crafted to 
stop the criminal activities of the ASG, used 
against the NPA and now as a tool to suppress 
political dissent, the anti-terrorism track is 
now being harnessed simply to keep Macapagal-Arroyo in power. Bulatlat

© 2005 Bulatlat  Alipato Publications

Permission is granted to reprint or redistribute 
this article, provided its author/s and Bulatlat 
are properly credited and notified.

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