anti-insurgency campaign or a broad crackdown against the opposition?

May 30, 2006 at 9:49 am Leave a comment

We’ve been informed by Bulacan Rep. Lorna Silverio that last weekend, a ‘peace rally’ organized by the military burned effigies of opposition leaders, including myself. The peace rally was the culminating activity of a 3-day anti-insurgency workhop that the military organized in a town in Bulacan. It was attended by about three thousand people, and local government officials and former communist rebel leaders spoke during the mobilization.

This method, which was also employed by the military during the Martial Law, is by no means a simple propaganda strategy. It seeks to intimidate opposition groups and prime local communities of the possibility that the target of the witch hunt would eventually expand. The core message of the anti-insurgency workshop, including these “peace rallies”, is for the communities to fight the New People’s Army and the Communist Party (labanan ang CPP-NPA). It is a dangerous call, especially since the military allegedly leaves the decision to the communities whether they want to take up arms and build paramilitary groups or not.

In a press conference today with Partido ng Manggawa Rep. Rene Magtubo and Rep. Erin Tañada of the Liberal Party, the military’s intimidation was denounced. Rep. Tañada urged Malacañang to put the tiger back to its cage, while Rep. Magtubo echoed the sentiment of most opposition groups – we will not be intimidated. In a privilege speech in Congress today, fellow AKBAYAN Rep. Etta Rosales urged Congress to investigate the incident.

Read below the statement issued by AKBAYAN in Congress:

A CRACKDOWN AGAINST THE OPPOSITION IN THE OFFING

The military is poised to broaden its crackdown against anti-GMA forces. A witch hunt against democratic opposition groups in rural communities is being waged today, with the tacit support of the government.

Last Saturday, May 27, 2006, Rep. Lorna Silverio of Bulacan witnessed a so-called ‘peace rally’ in one of the municipalities under her district. With these ‘peace rallies’ becoming more common in rural areas, what caught Rep. Silverio’s attention was the burning of the effigies of key opposition leaders, among them AKBAYAN Rep. Risa Hontiveros-Baraquel. The demonstrators were carrying placards that warn the public to shun the infiltrators of communism, a growing menace that should be thwarted immediately.

These “peace rallies” are the concluding activity of the military’s community-based anti-insurgency workshops. In an act that is truly reminiscent of the Salem witch hunt, they rallies are done in town plazas or major thoroughfares, where effigies of suspected Communist leaders are burned and their names ostracized. Gen. Jovito Palparan, an unapologetic McCarthyist, has boasted several times that he has personally organized some of these rallies. How the military has come up with this list has always been questionable, and the whole method itself has been proven ineffective in eradicating insurgency.

What it does, instead, is stoke an irrational fear and hatred against all forms of dissent and opposition in local communities. It creates an environment where extrajudicial killings are employed as a means to regulate dissent, and worse, tolerated by the general public. It also prods civilians to bear arms and take side in a conflict where violence from both sides has rendered the possibility of dialogue and peaceful resolution nil.

What makes an already disturbing situation graver is this: the ridiculous inclusion of opposition leaders like AKBAYAN Rep. Risa Hontiveros, who happens to be a former member of the peace panel representing the government, means that the military wishes to push its envelope further. The government’s indolence and ineptitude in pursuing the numerous cases of extrajudicial killings has emboldened the military’s sense of impunity, and they now believe that they can include just about anybody – members of the Communist Party, journalists, democratic and openly legal opposition personalities – in their hate list.

The symbolic burning of effigies by a government institution that controls the coercive arms of the State is meant to send a chilling effect on opposition organizations and their constituents. It also means that communities are being primed to tolerate and accept a wider crackdown against the opposition. What makes the act more barbaric and unjust is the fact that it is being employed against organizations and groups that have chosen to uphold the free market of ideas, not violence, as an expression of their struggle for reforms.

We denounce in the strongest terms this witch hunt against members of the opposition. If tolerated, these military tactics would worsen a carnage that is already crippling our democracy. We vow to exercise the full weight of Congress’ oversight authority to investigate this witch hunt and compel the AFP to stop committing acts that violate fundamental freedoms and basic rights.

We shall also hold the current government accountable for its failure to check the abuses that the military wantonly commits. We likewise urge the House leadership to act with prompt and diligence against this assault against our democracy and against the members of the opposition. The impunity being enjoyed by the military would only end if all institutions would start speaking against these abuses.

These acts of intimidation would fail because we will neither be silenced nor forced to use violence to promote our goals. Rather, we will take this situation as an opportunity to celebrate our version of democracy, where the truth reigns supreme and the people are not mobilized through terror, but through respect for dignity and the full enjoyment of basic rights and fundamental freedoms.

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Entry filed under: AKBAYAN in Congress, Philippines in Crisis.

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AKBAYAN Party

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