Phillippines: Lessons for Thai politics-Asian Correspondent

October 28, 2010

[FACT comments: We found this article interesting because it parallels so closely what is happening in Thailand today. FACT emphasis supplied. Read carefully if you don’t want this very scenario for Thailand’s future.]

Philippines: Remembering martial law

Prab Reyes

Asian Correspondent: September 21, 2010

Today marks the 38th year of the declaration of Martial Law in the Philippines. On September 21 1972, then President Ferdinand Marcos issued Proclamation 1081, which placed the military in control over the country. Individual liberties were suspended, and opposition figures, journalists, workers and students were arrested. Extra-judicial killings, enforced disappearances and rampant human rights violations by the military were commonplace. This was one of the darkest periods in the country’s history.

Fast forward to the present where martial law has been lifted, and the country is under a new administration that promises change, hope and good governance under the catchphrase “daang matuwid” (straight road). Don’t be fooled, however. The country may not be under “actual” martial law, but extra-judicial killings, enforced disappearances and injustice is still pretty much prevalent Philippine society today.

Extra-judicial killings

Human rights group KARAPATAN has recorded more than 1,200 instances of extra-judicial killings (EJKs) under the previous administration of Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, and 13 instances under the current administration of President Benigno Aquino III.

The EJKs are a result of the Arroyo administration’s Oplan Bantay Laya 1 (OBL 1) and Oplan Bantay Laya 2 (OBL 2). The supposed counter-insurgency program by the AFP, which was recently extended by the Aquino administration, does not distinguish between legal organizations and the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP). In fact, the AFP has tagged legal organizations as fronts of the CPP.

In his final report, United Nations Special Rapporteur Philip Alston said that the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) was behind the killings. The report also belied claims made by some groups that the EJKs was the result of an ongoing purge in the communist ranks.

Enforced disappearances

Among the 200 enforced disappearances recorded by KARAPATAN, two cases have received much publicity. The first is the abduction of farmer-activist Jonas Burgos, son of internationally-renowned journalist Jose Burgos. The second is the abduction of University of the Philippines (UP) student-activists Karen Empeño and Sherlyn Cadapan.

On April 28, 2007, Jonas was abducted by gunmen while he was having lunch inside a mall in Quezon City. The unidentified gunmen, one of whom, according to a witness, identified himself as a police officer, then forcibly dragged Jonas to a waiting van. That people would be brazen enough to abduct critics of the government in broad daylight and inside a crowded mall sends a chilling message to ordinary citizens that there are no longer any safe places for anyone. Crowds of people and dozens of security guards will not guarantee protection against abduction.

Karen and Sherlyn were abducted on June 26, 2007 in Hagonoy, Bulacan, which is north of Manila. Karen, a sociology major from UP Diliman, was chronicling and studying the life of peasants in Bulacan for her thesis. Sherlyn, a varsity scholar at the College of Human Kinetics at UP Diliman, had to stop schooling to make way for her sister. She worked part time as a tutor and was a community organizer. Sherlyn was two months pregnant when she was abducted.

The fact that there have been little to no resolution to cases such as these only embolden abductors to continue with what they are doing.

The “Morong 43”

On February 6, 43 health workers, composed of health professionals and volunteer community health workers, were arrested in Rizal by the combined forces of the AFP and the Philippine National Police (PNP).

Collectively referred to as the Morong 43, the group, composed of two doctors, a registered nurse, two midwives and 38 volunteer community health workers were undergoing training sponsored by the Community Medicine Development Foundation and the Council for Health and Development when they were arrested. The military has accused the group of being members of the New People’s Army (NPA) and were undergoing training on bomb-making.

Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (BAYAN) secretary-general Renato Reyes Jr. noted some anomalies during the Commission on Human Rights hearing last March 18, including:

1. The target of the combined 140 armed elements from the government was a lone gunman going by the name of Mario Condes.

2. No one from the PNP knows anything about Mario Condes other than that he has guns and that he accosted a neighbor last January 3, based on an unverified complaint. No records (blotter) exist of this complaint.

3. Despite not knowing anything about Mario Condes, the PNP believes he is an influential person, who has influence even with the Rizal courts. This is supposedly the reason why the PNP applied for a warrant in Cavite, which is far away from the influence of the mysterious Mario Condes.

4. The PNP was sure that the house they were raiding belonged to Condes, even if overwhelming evidence pointed the house belonged to Dr. Melecia Velmonte.

5. After arresting the 43, none of whom was Mario Condes, the PNP considered the operation a resounding success.

6. The PNP is no longer looking for Condes who remains at large and is considered armed and dangerous.

Never again!

It may have been 38 years since the declaration of Martial Law, and there is evidence that the Philippines is still under a virtual one. The people have to be more vigilant, and fight for human rights. President Aquino may have established the truth commission, but establishing one and actually making sure that justice will be served is another thing. In fact, one of the criticisms against the truth commission is that it doesn’t include human rights abuses under the previous Arroyo regime.

The extension of the dreaded Oplan Bantay Laya (OBL) is unbecoming of the Aquino administration. While it supposedly wants to bring about change, and wants to champion human rights, the OBL extension shows the exact opposite. For someone who supposedly treats the masses as his “boss,” Mr. Aquino sure is deaf and blind to the numerous atrocities committed during the course of OBL 1 and 2.

Former President Corazon Aquino, the current President’s mother, made it a point to release political prisoners during her term from 1986-1992. But now, almost 100 days into the younger Aquino’s administration, political prisoners such as the Morong 43 have yet to be released. If it wasn’t for the effort of concerned people like Senator Teofisto “TG” Guingona, Judilyn Oliveros, one of the Morong 43 detainees who recently gave birth at the Philippine General Hospital, might have stayed longer at the Bicutan jail with her baby.

Mr. Aquino must then make sure that all the victims of enforced disappearances would be surfaced. If this administration really sincere in making sure that there is justice for everyone, it should be at the forefront of this struggle. After all, Mr. Aquino’s father and namesake, Benigno Aquino, Jr. was one of the victims of Martial Law.

Otherwise, Mr. Aquino would soon find his popularity and approval rating take a nosedive, and people would soon forget that they once pinned their hopes for a new beginning on his shoulders.


One Response to “Phillippines: Lessons for Thai politics-Asian Correspondent”

  1. Roddy Says:

    Harry Nicolaides was freed some months ago. You need to take down your FREE HARRY NOW banner.

    Re the article: Agree completely. Scenario is pretty much shaping up as you describe in Thailand, with one notable difference being that while the Philippine Gov condemns the upcoming election in Burma as a total sham, the Thai PM goes over there and shakes hands with the Devil Himself, Than Shwe on a massive port deal.

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