Posts Tagged ‘philippines’

WikiLeaks today began the release of some 251,287 cable transmissions and memos from some 274 US embassies worldwide. The release is being described as a diplomatic bombshell for US diplomacy. It exposes many of the ‘behind-closed-doors’ activities of the US in the conduct of its foreign relations with its allies and rivals.

According to WikiLeaks’ website “The cables show the extent of US spying on its allies and the UN; turning a blind eye to corruption and human rights abuse in “client states”; backroom deals with supposedly neutral countries; lobbying for US corporations; and the measures US diplomats take to advance those who have access to them.” The WikiLeaks site has reportedly been subjected to a Denial of Service attack (hacking) on its first day of release.

Five international media outfits were given access to the complete files. You can check out The Guardian (UK), The New York Times (US), Der Spiegel (Germany), Le Monde (France) and El Pais (Spain). The Guardian has a very informative guide which includes headings and tags but not the full text of the memos. The New York Times meanwhile gives a selection of the transmissions.

Some of the more controversial memos come from the US Secretary of State. In one memo dated July 2009, Sec. of State Hilary Clinton ordered US officials to spy on members of the UN Security Council and the UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon. All permanent members of the security council – including Russia, China, France and the UK – were targeted by the secret spying mission, according to the UK’s Daily Mail. Information the US wanted included biometrics, internet passwords and even credit card numbers.

Another leaked file gave a detailed profile of Libyan leader Mohammar Qadafi, citing some of his ‘quirks’ during air travel, choice of hotel accommodation and a description of his Ukrainian nurse as a “voluptuous blonde”.

There’s also the Saudi King pressing the US to attack Iran, and the Yemeni cover-up of US attacks where the Yemeni President said that his government will continue to claim the US airstrikes vs Al Qaeda as Yemen’s own.

The complete files will be released in stages over the next few months.

Focus on the Philippines

Around 1,796 leaked files and transmissions from the total cache are from the US embassy in Manila. The Wikileaks website indicates that there are some 65 “secret” and “749” confidential files included in the cache. Some 982 files are described as “unclassified”.

Except for two files, all the rest of the Manila files cover the period of January 2005 to February 2010, during the regime of Gloria Macapagal Arroyo.  The files include “tags” or descriptions of topics such as terrorism, human rights, foreign relations, military operations, military assistance, internal governmental affairs and external affairs.

The period of 2005-2010 was the most tumultuous for Arroyo since it was during this time that protest movements for her ouster reached their peak. Many wondered how the US government treated Arroyo in the face of public clamor for her removal from office. It was also during the same period that the controversies in the VFA came to the fore with the Subic rape case and the decisions of the Supreme Court in relation to the custody of then convicted rapist Lance Corporal Daniel Smith.

It is no secret that the US embassy in Manila is actually a post for US intelligence gathering and US intervention in Philippine affairs. In the US Counter-Insurgency Guide released in 2009, the US embassy is the command center for US military operations in any country. The US ambassador is also considered a very powerful individual.

To quote the US COIN Guide, “All United States Government COIN strategies, plans, programs, and activities are undertaken in support of the affected government and managed through the U.S. Mission’s Country Team, led by the Chief of Mission (COM) in coordination with the Department of State. As the U.S. Ambassador, the Chief of Mission is the President’s personal representative to the host nation and is responsible for recommending and implementing U.S. policy regarding that country, as well as overseeing all executive branch employees there and the activities of such employees with limited exceptions. Appointed by the President and confirmed by the Senate, the Ambassador has extraordinary decision-making authority as the senior U.S. official present during periods of instability and crises. Where a confirmed ambassador is not present, the Charge d’Affaires represents the Secretary of State as the senior diplomat accredited to the foreign government.”

The WikiLeaks files may help us better understand how the US exerts its influence on our country in light of several domestic controversies over the past nine years.

The Philippine government should at the very least be alarmed if it is shown that the US government is actively spying on us, undermining our sovereignty and interfering in our internal affairs. Gloria Macapagal Arroyo’s dealings with the US government should also be looked into.

The release of the files comes at a crucial moment for PH-US relations when the Visiting Forces Agreement is being reviewed by Malacanang.

The logic of US imperialism is that it thinks it can have its way with anyone. No one, not even the United Nations, is safe from their surveillance operations. And as WikiLeaks pointed out, the US employs a two-faced foreign policy. Things are not always as they seem. Official pronouncements are not always synonymous with official policy.

Maybe through these files, we can better understand the US positions on the VFA and the US troops in Mindanao. We would also like to know why the US has solidly supported the Arroyo government despite widespread calls for her ouster. The US has long been considered one of the main pillars of support of the Arroyo government, even during the most difficult period of Arroyo’s presidency.

It would also be interesting to know what really went on during the visits of US Defense Secretary Robert Gates, US CIA Director Leon Panneta and US Secretary of State Hilary Clinton, all of whom visited during 2009. Prior to them, US intel czar and former Philippine ambassador John Negroponte also paid the Philippine a visit.

We will have to wait though for the release of the complete files in the coming weeks. In the meantime, we should closely monitor how other countries are reacting to the potentially damaging expose of US “diplomacy”.

Australia has expressed support for any US action against WikiLeaks and Australian founder Julian Assange. US allies in the Middle East have remained silent on the matter. At any rate, the leak is considered a diplomatic nightmare for the US, and were just scratching the tip of the iceberg.

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Despite the setback faced by the 43 before the Court of Appeals (when the petition for habeas corpus was denied by a vote of 3-2), the Commission on Human Rights has announced that it will pursue its own investigation into the complaints of rights abuses filed by the 43 health workers who were arrested last February 6 in Morong, Rizal.

The CHR is set to hear the complaint of the 43 health workers on March 18 at 9am. It is not yet clear if the Armed Forces of the Philippines will comply with the CHR order to present the 43 on the said date. It is also not clear if the officials summoned to attend the hearing, Gen. Jorge Segovia, Col. Aurelio Baladad, Prosecutor Senson and Judge Mangrobang will attend.

There should be no reason for them not to attend since there is ample time for them to prepare all the necessary logistics for the 43. We surely don’t want a repeat of what they did last February 12 when the AFP defied a Supreme Court order.

Let’s show our support for the 43 by joining the mass action on March 18. Let’s show the 43 that the number of advocates is growing everyday . See you at the CHR at 8am.

Next week, we also hope for some positive updates in the appeal filed by lawyers before the Court of Appeals. The CA is supposed to elevate the appeal to the Supreme Court. This should get the ball rolling in our quest to free the 43 and have the Martial Law relic known as the Ilagan doctrine forever removed from our jurisprudence.

The 43 detained health workers went on the offensive today as they filed a complaint before the CHR, asking the commission to look into gross human rights violations in the arrest and detention of the 43 health workers last February 6 in Morong, Rizal.

The counsels for the 43, the Public Interest Law Center and the National Union of People’s lawyers submitted a letter complaint and the affidavits of the 43 which detail the various rights violations and accounts of torture during detention.

Among those being held responsible were Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, commander-in-chief of the AFP who did not do anything will the violations were ongoing, AFP chief of staff Victor Ibrado, 2nd ID Chief Maj. Gen. Jorge Segovia, 202nd IB chief Col. Aurelio Baladad and other officers who were involved in the military operation against the 43. The lawyers were also joined by the relatives of the 43 and the various groups supporting the campaign.

For her part, CHR chair Leila de Lima said that the Commission was already preparing an order for the AFP to explain the various allegations of torture, ill-treatment and violations of human rights.

The CHR will also ask the Department of Justice in particular why the 43 were denied counsel during the inquest proceedings held in Camp Capinpin on February 7. Based on the testimonies of the 43, it was only on the day of inquest that their blindfolds and handcuffs were removed. They were asked to line up and their names called. They were then informed of the charges against them. After this, the DOJ prosecutor Romeo Senson left the camp. The 43 were not allowed counsel during the inquest proceedings.

This seems to be the first time a prosecutor of the DOJ is being investigated for human rights violations. This is should serve as a warning to other prosecutors who will undertake similar legal short-cuts, denial of rights and denial of due process.

Atty. Romeo Capulong, lead counsel for the 43, said that the lawyers will also file a motion to transfer the detention of the 43 from Camp Capinpin to Camp Aguinaldo. Both lawyers and doctors contend that the continued stay of the 43 in the military camp places them at risk of torture.

Families of the 43 were also allowed to air their concerns to CHR chair de Lima. Doctors also complained that those of them identified with any of the cause-oriented groups are barred from entering the Camp.

The CHR hopes to schedule a hearing once the necessary papers are submitted.

February 27, Saturday, will mark three weeks since the 43 health workers were arrested and detained. We must press on with the campaign to FREE THE 43.

Last Wednesday was the deadline for the submission of memorandum ordered by the Court of Appeals in the petition for the writ of habeas corpus. The decision can come out on or before Wednesday next week. We must be ready.

Doctors have found it increasingly difficult to access the detainees at Camp Capinpin. Families have also complained of delays during visits to the detainees. These restrictions come at a time when the AFP is desperately trying to cover up allegations of torture and ill-treatment against the 43.

Members of the United Methodist Church Cal-Pacific delegation from the United States were first hand witnesses to the suffering of families trying to visit their relatives in Camp Capinpin.

The UMC delegation is just the latest among many international formations that have expressed support for the 43. International pressure continues to snowball with protestant churches, health workers associations, and recently, the sister of the president of the European Union adding their voices to the growing clamor for the release of the 43. The campaign to free the 43 is now global.

Local political leaders have also crossed party lines on the issue of the 43. Almost all candidates for president and vice-president have spoken out on the issue of the health workers. Senator and vice-presidential candidate Loren Legarda has called on President Arroyo to speak out on the issue. Malacanang has responded that the president does not need to speak on the issue because it is already in the courts.

Senatorial candidate and former justice secretary Frank Drilon has also given the opinion that mere membership in the NPA cannot a be basis for arrests, and that an overt act or crime must first be committed to justify the arrests of the 43. That is why the AFP has repeatedly said that they caught the 43 “in the act” of making bombs (despite the fact that the arrests were done at 6am.)

Protests have also been held the past week. Last Saturday, relatives and supporters of the 43 witnessed firsthand state fascism when they were hosed down at the gates of Camp Aguinaldo. The protesters which included the human rights group Hustisya, Health Alliance for Democracy, Bayan, Katribu and Bayan Muna merely wanted to post paper doves with the names of the 43 on the walls of Camp Aguinaldo. The disproportionate use of force was indeed condemnable.

Later that day, different artists converged in Kamuning, Quezon City for a solidarity night and fund raising for the campaign to free the 43. “Taumbayan” was the venue for Hilom, a cultural event which gathered poets, musicians and other advocates to lend their talents for the campaign. The place was packed and folks spilled over in the sidewalks. We did a re-worked version of “The Forty-Three”, a song written by Carl Lopez of Cebu, which was among the new works that have come out because of the campaign. Also look out for the new poems by Stum Casia and Kislap Alitaptap. More artists are expressing their support, through their works, for the 43.

Let’s keep those support statements, mass actions and contributions coming. On the third week of the campaign to free the 43, we thank all those who have given their all-out support. We give recognition to the families of the 43 who have been patient and unwavering through all the difficulties of this struggle. They need our support more than ever.

On the sixth day of their detention, the 43 health workers were visited by lawyers, doctors, the Commission on Human Rights and the Office of Sen. Pia Cayetano. Initial reports say their morale was boosted by the visit.

The Department of Justice today also filed cases of illegal possession of fire arms and explosives against the 43 health workers. The case was filed in Morong, Rizal. No bail was recommended.

Meanwhile, in what could be the best news so far, the Supreme Court gave due course to the petition for the writ of habeas corpus filed by the families of the victims. A hearing has been set for tomorrow, Friday at 2pm at the Court of Appeals in Manila.

The AFP continues to deny that they are subjecting the detainees to torture, calling it instead reasonable restraint. Bayan called on the Arroyo government to comply with the United Nations Convention Against Torture and the Philippines’ own anti-torture law. the Arroyo government has not done anything to address the findings of torture made by the Commission on Human Rights and the Health Alliance for Democracy.

The fight is not yet over. We still need to do all we can, here and abroad, in the courts and in the streets, to free the 43.

Health workers, including the wife of Karapatan Deputy Secretary General,

illegally arrested in military raid in Rizal province

submitted on Sun, 02/07/2010 – 14:59


UA case type:

Violation of Domicile; Destruction of property;
Divestment of Property; Illegal Search and Seizure;

Illegal Arrest; Illegal Detention; Threat, Harassment and Intimidation, Fear for Safety


Illegally Arrested and illegally detained (partial list)

* Dr. Mary Mia, Health Education and Training Services coordinator for Council for Health and Development (CHD)
* Dr. Alexis Montes
* Gary Liberal, Registered Nurse (Jose Reyes Medical Memorial Center)
* Teresa Quinawayan, Midwife
* Lydia Ubera, health worker
* Reynaldo Makabenta, health worker
* Delia Ocasla, health worker
* Jane Balleta, health worker
* Janice Javier, health worker
* Franco Remoroso, health worker
* Ailene Monasteryo, health worker
* Pearl Irene Martinez, health worker
* Ellen Carandang, health worker
* Dany Panero, health worker
* Rayom Among, health worker
* Emily Marquez, health worker

Threat, harassment and intimidation; Violation of domicile

* Dr. Melecia Velmonte
* Bob Velmonte
* Bernardo Landag
* Two caretakers

Place of the incident:

Residential compound of Dr. Melecia Velmonte in Bgy. Maybangcal, Morong, Rizal

Date of the incident:

06 February 2010, at 6:15 in the morning

Alleged perpetrator(s):

Joint elements of the 202nd Infantry Brigade of the Philippine Army (202nd IBPA), and Rizal Philippine National Police (PNP) headed by Colonel Aurelio Baladad, commander of the 202nd Infantry Brigade of the Philippine Army based in Tanay, Rizal and Police Superintendent Marion Balonglong of the Rizal PNP.

On February 1, around 40 medical practitioners and health workers participated in a First Responders Training, sponsored by the Community Medicine Foundation, Inc. (COMMED) and Council for Health and Development (CHD) at Dr. Melecia Velmonte’s Farm, a conference and training facility in Morong, Rizal.

Dr. Velmonte is a renowned and respected infectious disease specialist and a consultant at the Philippine General Hospital. Her farm is a regular venue of health trainings, with participants coming from both the communities and the academe.

According to initial reports gathered by Karapatan, at 6:15 am on February 6, 2010, around 300 heavily armed elements of the military and police forced their way into the farm of Dr. Melecia Velmonte in Bgy. Maybangcal, Morong, Rizal. At gunpoint, the military forced

the caretaker to open the gates. Inside, the soldiers fanned out to different directions. They also kicked the main door to get into the building.

When Dr. Velmonte and her son, Bob demanded for a search warrant, they were merely brushed aside by the military.

All medical practitioners and health workers, were ordered to line up at the garage, frisked, and handcuffed. The victims were also questioned and photographed by the military, while another took a video recording of the interrogation. The male victims were then blindfolded with old
shirts brought in by the soldiers and secured with packaging tape. All of the personal belongings of the victims were also taken by the military.

When the participants were already handcuffed, it was only then that Police Superintendent Marion P. Balonglong showed Bob a search warrant for a certain Mario Condes of Bgy. Maybangcal, Morong, Rizal, charged with illegal possession of firearms. The search warrant dated February 5, 2010 and issued by Judge Cesar A. Mangrobang of Branch 22 of the Imus, Cavite Regional Trial Court, did not indicate the exact address of the Velmonte compound.

Bob asserted that the warrant did not specify their address, and that Mario Condes, who is subject of the warrant, is not even the owner of the house, but he was ignored by the authorities.

Outside the compound, were eight (8) vehicles. Along with the four (4) 6 x 6 military trucks were two (2) Armored Personnel Carriers (APC), a KIA Pride car, and an ambulance. Some of the vehicles had no plate numbers while the rest of the license plates were either covered, or smeared with mud.

The health workers were forced into the military trucks and were brought to Camp Capinpin in Tanay, Rizal, headquarters of the 202nd Infantry Brigade of Philippine Army.

The military declared that the victims were members of the New People’s Army because of the explosives allegedly found inside the compound. However, according to witnesses, the military conducted the search of the compound’s premises only after all of the victims, as well as the residents, were already outside the buildings. Witnesses also said that the military have brought in with them plastic bags with the GMA Kapuso logo printed on it.

Allegedly found were C4 explosives, a pistol with seven bullets, 3 grenades (one allegedly found under a pillow); beside the grenade were some improvised landmines. However, Bob said that they were not issued a receipt of the inventory of the said firearms and explosives.

The illegal search of the Velmonte compound ended at past 9:00 in the morning of Saturday, February 6, 2010.

The military and police arresting team were led by Col. Aurelio Baladad and Police Superintendent Marion Balonglong.

In the afternoon of the same day, Karapatan Deputy Secretary General Roneo Clamor, husband of Dr. Merry Mia, Olive Bernardo, Karapatan Services Head, along with Karapatan counsel, Atty. Ephraim Cortez, Dr. Geneve Rivera and Dr. Edelina De La Paz, chairperson of Health Action for Human Rights (HAHR), went to Camp Capinpin to inquire about the victims. They were not allowed to enter the camp premises.

As of this writing, the military has not allowed any of the relatives of the victims to see anyone of them.

Recommended action:

Send letters, emails or fax messages calling for:

1. The immediate release of the health workers who are illegally arrested and illegally detained at Camp Capinpin, Tanay, Rizal.

2. The government to ensure the safety of the victims and that they are not harmed; their belongings be returned immediately to them.

3. The immediate formation of an independent fact-finding and investigation team composed of representatives from human rights groups, the Church, local government, and the Commission on Human Rights that will look into raid and illegal arrest of the health workers conducting health skills training in Morong, Rizal.

4. The military to stop the labeling and targeting of human rights defenders as “members of front organizations of the communists” and “enemies of the state.”

5. The Philippine Government to be reminded that it is a signatory to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and that it is also a party to all the major Human Rights instruments, thus it is bound to observe all of these instruments’ provisions.

by Renato Reyes, Jr.

Jose Maria Sison, former youth leader and founder of Kabataang Makabayan celebrated his 70th birthday last February 8. As an activist and revolutionary for 50 years, his ideas remain very relevant for the youth of today. On February 19, Joma will be launching two books, forming a part of his selected writings from 1991-2008. I have no doubt it would be a sure hit among activists.
Joma’s ideas on the youth movement, first put forward during the 60’s and 70’s, were crucial in shaping and developing the youth and student movement in the 90’s. More than just historical references, Sison’s ideas on the YS movement had an immediate practical impact on the activist movement of our time.
During the 90’s, Joma’s ideas took on special relevance as the YS movement was reeling from errors and problems after the tumultuous 80’s. As a new activist then, I had the opportunity to take part in the rebuilding, expansion and strengthening of the movement. We consider it important that we had the chance to study Joma’s writings and apply these to our particular circumstances, while taking stock of the historical lessons and experiences gained by the movement.
Basic analysis of Philippine Society
Joma’s books such as the Philippine Society and Revolution and the Struggle (PSR)for National Democracy (SND)were the basic “textbooks” for the 90’s activists. The first provided the fundamental analysis of Philippine history and society, the three basic ills and the national democratic alternative. My first copy of the book, I borrowed from my Math 17 teacher Fidel Nemenzo, who encouraged me to read it and other JMS works. My second copy I got from my Mom who said a friend gave it to her for safekeeping during Martial Law.
The book SND became valuable in defining the role and orientation of the youth movement, and in expounding on a broad range of topics from Rizal, neo-colonialism, fascism, and even the standard issues of the day. Our favorite articles then were “Student power?” and “Youth on the March”.
The “grasslands” on the side of UP’s Palma Hall (AS) would be turned into a study area as activists huddled to discuss their basic “ED’s”. The UP tambayans would have afternoon lectures on the PSR and SND. We would have similar sessions in the communities in Village A and B and even in the picket lines of Shoe Mart in North Edsa and Cubao. ( I remember losing my PSR book at the SM North Edsa picket line in 1994).
Since it was a time of an intense two-line struggle, the PSR and SND became important in clarifying the nature of Philippine society and the role of the Filipino youth in changing society. In UP, like many other places, these basic concepts were being attacked by those who had taken the reformist route.
Through the PSR, activists studied how Philippine society, through its historical development, became semi-feudal and semi-colonial. They vigorously defended this analysis in various fora and debates. Essential readings also included Joma’s Diliman Review 1984 article on semi-feudalism in the Philippines and his articles in Philippine Crisis and Revolution.
Youth activists also stressed the need to link up with the basic sectors of society as the only potent means for the youth to bringing about change. There can be no autonomous “student power” that is detached from the workers and peasants. In practice, this was translated through integration campaigns in urban poor communities, picket lines, and in the countryside. There was systematic integration and eventual deployment of activists to the basic sectors.
In 1993, the LFS solicited a message cum lecture from Joma called “On the Question of Revolutionary Violence”, which I think is an important reference material on understanding the revolutionary struggle in the Philippines. Since there was no high speed internet then, we had to rely on a video-taped lecture. When we came out with the flyer invites, some people actually thought that Joma would be delivering the lecture in person in UP. The video didn’t work though, since it was in the European PAL format (and not NTSC). We ended up having the message read by someone and copies later distributed to the audience. (That historic video would later be converted to its proper format and publicly viewed, though I don’t know if a copy still exists now).
Drawing the line
Joma’s 1993 and 1995 messages to the National Congress of the League of Filipino Students were particularly important in drawing a sharp line verses the factionalists in the ND movement. The message correctly exposed the class basis and role of the special agents and counter-revolutionaries. It helped arm student activists to expose those who were desperately trying to undermine the ND movement through ultra-Left or reformist ideas.
The critique of the ideology and politics of what Joma then described as “special agents” helped the LFS understand its own history and development during the 80’s. The lessons derived from those experiences were crucial in strengthening the organization.
Whether they were the “Left” insurrectionist types or the reformist types, Joma provided a clear critique of their class basis and role as counterfoil to the ND movement. Almost two decades have passed and these groups who viciously maligned Joma have splintered again and again for various reasons.
Mass movement
Joma’s wealth of experience was not confined to theoretical issues. His long and intimate involvement with the youth and student movement from the founding of SCAUP and Kabataang Makabayan proved to be a well-spring of valuable ideas and lessons for a new generation of youth and student organizers. Joma’s writings provided sound tactics for organizing, building chapters, expansion and consolidation, waging mass campaigns and in contributing to the overall ND movement. Joma always thought big when it came to the mass movement. He wasn’t really a fan of the adage “Small is beautiful”, not when you’re referring to the mass movement.
Many of Joma’s solidarity messages for the anniversaries or congresses of the LFS and Anakbayan dealt with the necessity of developing a truly mass-based organization along the ND line. He would subtly criticized elitism among mass organizations, warning against raising too high the standards for membership and stressing the need for aggressive expansion. He clarified the relationship between expansion and consolidation. He gave us an idea of how expansion through chapter-building is done in colleges, departments, and even classrooms. He stressed the need for waging mass struggles along the anti-imperialist, anti-feudal and anti-fascist line, along sectoral and multi-sectoral issues and on local and national concerns.
In 1997, the LFS National Executive Committee released what is now a rare publication called “JMS to LFS”. It was a compilation Joma’s solidarity messages and keynote addresses to various LFS activities, including several national congresses from the 80’s to the 90’s. There was also a failed attempt to publish an SND part 2 containing Joma writings and messages during the 90’s.
In the publication JMS to LFS, one could read that as early as 1984, when the League of Filipino Students was at its peak, Joma already suggested the possibility of a comprehensive youth organization that would go beyond student organizing. By comprehensive, he meant youth from all walks of life, not just the students. The proposal went largely unnoticed for more than a decade.
In June 1998, in a message to the Congress of the Bagong Alyansang Makabayan, Joma again mentioned the need for the formation of a comprehensive youth organization in the tradition of the Kabataang Makabayan. This time the call resonated and was given the careful study and urgent response that it deserved.
Anakbayan was formed in November 30, 1998. The new comprehensive youth organization spread like wildfire throughout the country. In three years, it became a formidable mass formation with thousands of members in schools, communities and workplaces.
Joma clarified that having more than one mass organization should not be a problem since there were thousands of youth and students that need to be organized. There should be some friendly competition between mass organizations, perhaps in the tradition of the KM and SDK.
Anakbayan drew on the lessons and experiences of Kabataang Makabayan, from the KM founding documents, constitution, as well as the historic First Quarter Storm of 1970. Incidentally, January 2010 will mark the 40th anniversary of the Storm.
Sharp perspective
Joma’s statements and commentaries on various issues were always eagerly awaited. For me, the memorable topics ranged from the 1996 APEC meet in the Philippines and imperialist globalization, the 1997 financial crisis, the united front against the Ramos charter change of 1997, the Visiting Forces Agreement and the future of the Estrada regime. These were important writings because they clarified many theoretical as well as practical issues.
For example, Joma gave us our first comprehensive understanding of neo-liberal globalization at a time when Manila was going to host the APEC summit. Globalization then was a fashionable catch-phrase for academics and the media and carried with it the promise of progress.
It has been more than a decade since the APEC summit in Manila and look where the world is at now, thanks to “globalization”. The neo-liberal ideology is being thoroughly discredited by the global financial meltdown and recession. Joma’s views on globalization, taken from the basic teachings of Marx, Engels and Lenin, are vindicated.
When it came to observations on political developments, Joma has a keen eye for opportunities for the mass movement. Even before anyone talked about the possible ouster of former president Joseph Estrada, Joma was already raising the possibility that Erap might go the way of ousted Ecuadorean president Abdalá Jaime Bucaram Ortiz, popularly known as “El Loco”. He said it two years before US-based think-tank Stratfor predicted an Estrada ouster. Psychic? Not really. He was just being a dialectical materialist.
Joma inspired our generation to study society, history, political economy, philosophy and to merge theory with practice. He was a patient teacher for many generations of activist youth. Sometimes I wonder if he ever gets tired of reiterating the same points that we seemed to have failed to understand in his earlier messages and writings. Reading his recent messages to the youth, it doesn’t seem that he does get tired of teaching the basics.
With advancements in internet technology, Joma is no longer just read. You can now chat with him via Facebook, or hear him speak in a forum through live streaming on the web. He now reaches a wider audience and a much younger generation of activists. ###

well that sure was an awesome smackdown of the republican party, george bush and john mccain.

i understand fully why people cried when obama was declared winner.

for the african americans and other people of color, the symbolism of the obama win dates back to the struggle against slavery up to the civil rights movement.

for most people, the victory signals the end of the bush regime. an end to eight years marked by two wars….economic mismanagement…abuse of power. people are grateful that one of the worst regimes in US history is now coming to an end. (i remember how people cried as well when george bush got a first then second term, those were tears of despair.with obama, those were genuine tears of jubilation).

the end of the bush regime signals a possibility for a new beginning, a break with military unilateralism, a departure from the tax breaks for the wealthy, a departure from the arrogance of power, gunboat diplomacy, and all around bullying. there are possibilities.

with his election, the expectations on obama are now greater than ever. people expect him to fulfill his promise to end the war in iraq in 16 months. people expect him to deliver on his pledge to give tax breaks to the american middle class. the high hopes and expectations are shared by the rest of the globe, people who are affected by US foreign and economic policies.

malacanang hopes it will be business as usual in washington. maybe. but you can’t help us think and expect that there should be some changes in the ways the US deals with the Philippines. if the US pulls out troops in Iraq, in the same spirit, it should pull out troops in mindanao.

yes, there should be no illusions as there will be stumbling blocks and failed expectations. the people’s vigilance is important. the mass movement is still the key. it’s the mass movement that can make leaders accountable. as the great punk rocker patty smith once cried, “the people have the power….to redeem the work of fools…the power to dream, to rule, to wrestle the world from fools”.

in the philippines, where the sitting president is as despised by the population as bush is in the US, we wonder if a GMA endorsement would have a bush-mccain effect too. will an arroyo endorsement of a candidate be viewed as six more years of GMA?

by 2010, arroyo would have been in office longer than the two terms of george bush. that’s an awfully loooong time.

we surely could use some CHANGE that we all can believe in, and fight for.

Kasama ako sa EDSA2!

January 16 marks the start of a historic period in Philippine history known as the Edsa 2 People Power uprising which culminated in the ouster of then president Joseph Estrada from Malacañang on January 20. The protests started on the evening of January  16 when youth and students and different groups marched to the Edsa Shrine and held a protest program. Dormers from the University of the Philippines Diliman even marched from their school all the way to Edsa, arriving a bit late but just in time to claim their mark in history as among the first to march to Edsa that night.


I joined the protest actions on January 16, joining the march of UP students and teachers that some estimate to have reached 15,000 people. We stayed at Edsa till past midnight only to return early the following day.


We were part of the Estrada Resign Youth Movement (ERYM) at that time. There was Anakbayan, LFS, NUSP, CEGP, SCM and other student councils and organizations. We were joined by Mon Pagdangangan (may he rest in peace) and China Cojuangco (who hosted some of the meetings at her parents home in Forbes).


Our official ride was a passenger jeep from a driver in Sampaloc who lived beside the Anakbayan HQ. Our cell phones could be described as “pangkaskas ng yelo” by today’s standards. And we didn’t really have a lot of resources except for a portable table, some chairs, and a tent we borrowed from some local politician (God bless him). But we had that fire burning in us, the strong desire for change.


We had our speakers in the main program. We did our photo-ops, including the memorable brown envelopes at the steps of the Shrine.


We got by because of the support of many friends and allies. We had our field HQ at the 17th floor of some building in Ortigas through the help of some friends. Nope, not Linden Suites (that’s what Gloria used). We held office in a much older building. We could only use it after office hours of course. We had some late meetings at that place.


Black was the official protest color. I did hear some stalls in Robinsons’ galleria running out of black clothes, even the more expensive ones. I never did wear black though.


I remember a lot “balimbings” at that time, those who withdrew support from Erap at the last minute and went to Edsa. Some of them were booed by the people. Others were prevented from speaking on stage.


I spoke before the crowd on the fourth day, it was almost 6am. I was asked to provide some agitation before the march to Mendiola. At that time, not everyone was convinced we had to march to Mendiola, but a good majority was already raring to go. I could tell from the reaction of the crowd during the speech.


We already dispatched an advance team of several thousand activists from various sectors to go to Manila to prepare the people for the coming of the main march in the morning of January 20. That was at the dawn of January 20. The main body of the Bayan forces were already in marching formation from the corner of the POEA Edsa and up along Ortigas Avenue. It was a very formidable and solid looking contingent among the different forces assembled at Edsa on that day.


The signal to march was given at 6pm. Our forces were ready and in formation and we started moving. Some smaller group I think identified with Roilo Golez wanted to march ahead of everyone else. Some overeagerness I think.


It was a loooong march from Edsa, to Shaw, to Sta. Mesa then Nagtahan, then Forbes then Morayta then Recto. Everyone knew it wasn’t wise to go through San Juan.


It was still dark when we marched. The sun had not risen. None of us felt tired. The people of Mandaluyong lined up along the streets were giving us water and food.


We marched along Recto to Mendiola. The Estrada supporters scampered. We took Mendiola. We held a program on top of a flat-bed truck. We received news Erap left the Palace. In a few hours, Mrs. Arroyo was sworn in at Edsa. Nope, we didn’t go back to Edsa to witnesses the oathtaking. It wasn’t about GMA to begin with. The Mendiola march was the climax for us. Around 75,000 joined that march with started at 6am and ended by noon.


After the rally, I remember resting inside a movie house along Recto, watching the Joyce Jimenez-Rica Paralejo flick “Balahibong Pusa”. I slept through most of it. I also discovered I wasn’t the only activist who thought of taking a snooze in the movie house.


Some lessons I learned since that time include:


  1. There’s no single formula for people power. It’s always about the existing conditions at a given time and how subjective forces interact with these conditions. It is difficult to artificially replicate these conditions in the hopes of getting the same results.
  2. From its very name “people power”, we can conclude that the only thing constant in these upheavals are the people. The most decisive force is the people. Mass movement ang kailangan, more than anything. The fact that Malacañang is still terrified sh*tless by the mere mention and hint of people power tells us that this is still the most effective weapon in combating tyranny. What irony though that they are terrified by the force that brought them to power in the first place.
  3. It was never about Gloria. To those who say that Edsa 2 was about bringing Gloria to power, please, give us a break. It was never about her. She just happened to be the main beneficiary but we sure as hell did not spend four days shouting at Ortigas just so she could be president. Do we regret what we did? NO. But maybe one regret was the lack of a better alternative at that time. Sure, Gloria turned out to be a really bad president but at that time, people had high hopes and were willing to give her the chance to do some good. She blew are her chances.
  4. I don’t really subscribe to the theory of people power fatigue. That is a cynical way of trying to explain why the anti-Arroyo forces have failed to muster the people power necessary to replace Arroyo with a better government. There are many problems facing the anti-Arroyo front, but people power fatigue doesn’t even rank high among these problems. There’s the basic problem of unity and struggle within the anti-Arroyo front, the ability to unite on alternatives, the clashing political and economic interests and so on.
  5. The Arroyo government will do everything to prevent a repeat of people power, even if this means widespread bloodshed. We have seen it before. It gives us something to ponder on, and prepare for.