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January 24, 2007

Comments

eevilmidget

goddamn bandit country! Things like this depress me and put me off coming back...

frayed

The figures are alarming: "The latest killings brought to 113 the number of Bayan Muna members killed since 2001, when President Arroyo assumed power, the Inquirer tally showed."

And that's just Bayan Muna -- it doesn't even include peasant and labor leaders, farmers, radiomen...

Sodding Pinay in Barnsley

I'm with eevilmidget on this one. It's something you try your damnest to not so much as ignore but hope to GOD and his angels to sort/even out but alas...It is the wild wild west in the east. My poor sodding countrymen.

Happy new year Torn & Frayed. Nice to have you back online ;)

Wowee

That's why we need to elect Richard Gomez! He will fix this problem!

torn

But how? I'm interested, does Richard Gomez have a plan?

Tomas Henry

What riddles me in all this is the underlying assumpion that President Arroyo is directly responsible for these killings. All this "since Arroyo took power..." suggests nothing but. However, a lot of these killings can be attributed to provincial strongmen (or women for that matter) that may have no ties to the present administration whatsoever. In the Philippines Arroyo is presently blamed for about anything happening. Including typhoons, land slides and failures of the harvest...

Frayed

Hi Tomas Henry. Pres. Arroyo may not be responsible for all the killings but during her administration there have been no arrests and no real word from the Palace about concern over these killings or hopes of justice taking place (not even the usual, "We will not stop until we find these killers"). Finally, her appointment of the main suspect, Maj. Gen. Palparan, Chief of Staff of the Army and her praise of him during her SONA last year says a lot, doesn't it?

Tomas Henry

Dear Frayed,
in direct response to your post an excerpt from Monsters and Critics, today, found in Google News:
"Presidential spokesman Ignacio Bunye said Arroyo vowed to use the powers and resources of the government to put an end to the attacks that victimized mostly leftist activists."
She does not manage, I agree with you, but the statement is there and not for the first time. And when it comes to Palparan - until now, there has never any hard evidence been presented. It is circumstantial evidence that "people start dying when he is appointed somewhere". You could also call it hearsay - the country is full of it. It would be helpfull if the accusers would come foreward with real evidence but it always turns out as blabla.

torn

Hi Tomas Henry

It really depends on your perception of how genuine the president was when she “vowed to use the powers and resources of the government to put an end to the attacks”. You believe that she should be taken at her word and I hope you are right in that.

On the other hand, it did seem a bit odd that she should say in her SONA that "I condemn political killings and urge witnesses to come forward" (in English) but that she should single out for praise the main person accused of carrying them out (in Filipino). One possible interpretation of that is that she approves of Palaparan’s approach but that she wants to appear to a critical foreign audience as though she is taking action to stop the killings.

You point out that little hard evidence has been produced to tie Palparan or the President to the wave of killings. The experience of countries like Argentina and Chile is that there is often little hard evidence of state-sponsored violence, but that doesn’t mean it did not take place. The reasons are not hard to guess: in such circumstances witnesses are often scared to come forward, thinking (rightly) that they and they families might be next.

What we have is: (1) a dramatic increase in killings of leftists, (2) a senior army officer who always seems to be present when activists are killed in large numbers, (3) a senior member of the government (Norberto Gonzales) who believes that all left-leaning parties should be labeled “communists”, and (5) a President who not only fails to censure the main person accused of the killings but singles him out for praise in her major speech of the year.

Most important of all, we have no prosecutions. At the very least we should ask what the police are doing while hundreds of people are being murdered. Why has not one person (to my knowledge) even been arrested?

I do agree with you that at least some of the killings are down to local goons and politicians (who may not be connected to the administration). Yet even in these cases shouldn’t the “powers and resources of the government”, in Gloria’s own words, be bringing the killers to justice?

Tomas Henry

Hi Torn,
this is a rather interesting exchange of opinions. Unfortunately, people are dying and, as you have pointed out, no one has yet been brought to justice. Let me try to give you my view of things. I start out with the assumption, that Ms Arroyo is meaning well and working hard on behalf of her country. All I read about her attitude towards her job is positive, she works a lot and does party only little which makes a huge difference to the rest of that lot that call themselves politicians. I observe that the Philippines are doing better economically month by month and, in spite of what is said on the streets, also Filipinos are doing better than before. I have lived in the Visayas in the 90s and when I return there these days I can compare. But when I look at the political situation, I find it grotesk: since Arroyo took office, the opposition has but one goal - to oust the president. Not that anyone would have any real program, no, but ousting the president unites the most unlikely groups (e.g. Aquino and Marcos). For what reason? Because Arroyo called an election official? Well, they all did and in the present election they will probably try their best to cheat again - whoever they are. If she really did cheat, well, she has put the country back on track.
Now, on whom can Arroyo rely to support her? Well, apart for the armed forces, there is little support in sight.
Let me now look at the killings that are taking place all over the country - a relative of mine has been a target and survived out of chance, mostly the people are not so lucky. The typical news goes like this: two men on a motorbike approached the victim, shot him in head and chest and disappeared again. This looks to me like people who know how to handle guns. So I assume that at least some of them are recruited from the armed forces where such training is available. But it is unlikely that the killers are the ones selecting the targets - they are hired and paid to do a job. Who would have an interest to kill these people? Well, I think that depends against whom the victims were working. Since a lot of the killings actually occur in the provinces, I suspect local strongmen who have an economical interest to keep people down. Where I stayed in the Visayas, Manila was far away and the local strongmen did all the telling. The influence of Manila gets smaller the further you go away from it.
Now, what should Arroyo do? If she acts strongly against the armed forces on the likely suspicion that the killers are recruited from there, she brings her leftover supporters up against her - that would be political suicide.
Wield her influence to curb the provincial lords? That is hard to do, she does not have all that much influence in the provinces.
Step down? Then all she has achieved to get the country back on its economical track will be lost - at least that is what I believe when I look at potential alternatives.
So she does what she does best: continue the reforms to keep the country going foreward and accept what she cannot prevent. This may be cynical, but when you wheigh the alternatives, the scales give you an answer.
For the political killings in the Philippines I blame the opposition which for idle vanity tries to prevent the president from doing her job and leaves her no choice but to rely on those to stay in power who might probably hide the killers in their ranks - but hardly the masterminds.

torn

Tomas Henry

I agree that (i) the killers are hired, (ii) many of the killings probably reflect local rather than national politics (though because of government inaction we can’t know that for sure), (iii) the power of the federal government diminishes with distance from the capital, and (iv) the president is hard working and has done quite a lot to improve the economy, especially in reducing the national debt, sustaining growth, and controlling inflation.

On the other hand, being powerless to prevent the killings is one thing, establishing a context in which killers can thrive is another. Take her response to the report of the Mello Commission yesterday. Telling the commission to continue its work without taking any action to address the issues raised in its report does not seem to me the approach of someone committed to addressing the problem. One interpretation would be that she wants to seem as though she is taking action without actually doing a thing. The same with her sweeping comments that she will never support political killings: fine, that’s easy to say, but what is she doing to prevent them?

Again, you may be right that there is little hard evidence against Palparan (though I am not sure the authorities have actually looked very hard) but did she have to single him out for praise in that way? Did she have to consider him for a post-retirement job in, of all places, the Justice Department?

If your analysis of the situation is correct—and, as I have said, I agree with at least some of it—I don’t know where this leaves the future of the Philippine state. Is the President to become merely an economic manager, while local bullies impose their own version of the law in the provinces? Whatever became of the “strong republic”?


Tomas Henry

The Philippines I know has never been a strong democracy. But there is hope, at least for me. More and more Filipinos go abroad to work in other countries, see other places, collect experiences and, along the way, money. Eventually, most of them go back to the Philippines to live a comparably wealthy life and encourage others to follow in their footsteps. These people are no longer forced to bow before the local goons because they are economically independent and have acquired a much broader view of many things. Such a growing middle class that sees more than the small towns they live in is the chance for the Philippines to change; the days of the local overlords that preside over the countryside and rule there supreme are numbered.
By facilitating the process of going abroad, by making it easier for the people to obtain a passport and a registration as overseas worker, Arroyo does what in the long run will propel the country out of its present state. She is much criticized for this by opposing politicians, probably because they find it increasingly difficult to get maids and workers that do what they are told 16 hours a day and for 500 Pesos a month and then sleep in a corner in the kitchen or in a corner of the garage. There are better jobs to be had elsewhere and people know it. At present there are an estimated 10 million Filipinos abroad, more than 10% of the population. And there is a perpetual in and out, so the number of Filipinos that have seen more than their own village is continuously increasing. From these people, eventually a new Philippines will come, still proud, but no longer willing subjects of local bullies.

talgrund

Do you seriously think supporting the brain drain is a sound economic policy?
Do you seriously think that the majority of OFWs want to return to a lawless country?

You paint a picture of an "Enchanted Kingdom" while living in the eastern equivalent of the wild west.

A majority of the people no longer trust the administration, they believe she cheated in the 2004 elections and can spout nothing but lies from her putrid little mouth.

Your dream of a "new Philippines" is quite humorous and all, but it remains a dream still. You want a better country? The solution is really really simple, vote for decent people. Where are these decent people you ask? Certainly not in malacañang (Hello Garci?).

One very very very decent person is "Abang" Mabulo from Bikol. He has been involved in dozens of NGOs that take affirmative action with regards to the community. He is currently running for congress as the representative of the 1st district of camarines sur. Who is he running against you ask? Well none other than the presidential son "Dato" Pidal-Arroyo (who is not even a Bikolano, fancy that).

Abang has no money and connections with the local bullies that you cited in your posts (read: Villafuertes, Alfelors), what he has is the support of the people, integrity, and an incalculable amount of courage.

But the people of the first district are deathly afraid of what will happen in the aftermath of the 14th of may. As Dato strolls around the barrangays, campaigning with goons in tow, people feign smiles and handshakes. We know that Dato will cheat, and we know that if he wins, the military operations in Pamplona will intensify. More farmers and community leaders will dissapear.

The people want to have decent leaders, that is a fact. But under an administration witout a mandate and with a clearly partisan comelec, will our voices and our balots really count? Under a president that hails a well-known butcher, are we really safe in our own homes? Under a government that no longer serves the people, do we really have a hope in hell of achieving your "new Philippines"?

Mr. Henry, the one remaining hope for this country lies in the small towns, villages, and barrios that you take joy in deriding. Small, rural communities like this, when properly organized, can enact real changes in the lives of the people in the grassroots. These people do not need handouts or jobs as housekeepers abroad, they need sustainable sources of income that this administration, in its omnipresent doctine of partonage politics, does not provide. Subsidizing the needs of farmers would greatly increse thir standard of living, and, perhaps equally important, their self-worth (no more "magsasaka lang po" statements). But does the government take action with regards to these farmers needs? No. Will Dato Arroyo provide anything to these farmers besides empty promises of new roads and irigation systems? I highly doubt it.

The arroyo administration has contributed nothing to the realization of your "new Philippines" Mr. Henry. In fact, it has done the opposite by cultivating a culture of impunity that is threatening to drag us back to lawlessness.

Be it a concerted effort on their part or sheer incompetence, Arroyo et al. has undermined the baby-steps taken by samll communities towards self-relience by targetting unarmed community leaders. These were good people Mr. Henry, they sincerely wanted to affect change in the lives of the fogotten and marginalized. They did not deserve to die. Arroyo does not deserve to remain in the highest seat in the land.

Please pray for the safety of Abang Mabulo.
God help us all.

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