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A report by Sandugo, Suara Bangasa Moro, Karapatan, Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas and Bagong Alyansang Makabayan

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Introduction

 

On May 23, 2017, President Rodrigo Duterte declared Proclamation 216 that placed the whole of Mindanao under Martial Law, including the island provinces of Basilan, Sulu and Tawi-Tawi. This was in reaction to reports that a small band of armed men identifying themselves as Dawlah Islamiya, had staged attacks around the Islamic City of Marawi while President Duterte was in Russia for an official visit.

 

Dawlah Islamiya was led by brothers Omar and Abdullah Maute, former members of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), who pledged allegiance and started to set-up “ISIS camps” in their hometown of Butig, Lanao del Sur. In their siege of Marawi City, they were aided by Isnilon Hapilon, a known Abu Sayyaf commander from the island of Basilan, who was proclaimed ISIS Emir in Southeast Asia.  The government was supposed to serve a warrant for Hapilon’s arrest on May 23 on the basis of a US$5 million bounty put up by the US State Department for alleged terrorist acts against US citizens.

 

At around 10pm in the Philippines, Duterte had signed a proclamation placing the entire island of Mindanao under Martial Law. The scope of Martial Law was way bigger than the area where the actual armed conflict was taking place – in Marawi.

 

Under the Constitution, Martial Law could last for 60 days. Duterte needed to report to Congress about the basis for declaring Martial Law. Congress, however, did not convene for a special session to determine whether or not to revoke Martial Law. Petitions where then filed questioning the factual basis of Martial Law for the entire Mindanao region, especially since the fighting was limited to Marawi and its surroundings. The Supreme Court ruled on these petitions within the required period, and upheld the validity of Duterte’s Martial Law. The Supreme Court’s majority decision held that the President need not wait for fighting to spread to other regions before placing those regions under Martial Law. The SC decision set a very dangerous precedent, according to critics.

 

Through a joint session of Congress, just before the State of the Nation, Martial Law was extended, from the original 60-days to another 5 months, until December 31, 2017. At this time, Marawi has experienced almost daily bombings by government forces. There have been more than 403,000 civilians displaced by the fighting. As of October 2018, according to news reports, 1,009 have been killed in the war, including 160 government forces, 802 alleged fighters of the local armed groups, and at least 47 civilians. Marawi residents believe many more have died and have not yet been recovered.

 

When fighting had died down, and with government declaring victory in Marawi, the people demanded the immediate lifting of Martial Law in Mindanao. This would not happen though. After the breakdown of the GRP and NDFP peace talks, and with Duterte declaring the CPP-NPA as “terrorist” organizations, Martial Law for Mindanao was extended by Congress for another year.

 

Different groups again questioned before the Supreme Court the validity of extending Martial Law for another year. How can government continue to justify Martial Law in Mindanao if the fighting in Marawi was already over? How can Duterte introduce a new “threat” that was not in the original declaration of Martial Law? Indeed, there was already the view that Martial Law will be used – not for suspected ISIS-inspired groups – but against the people, and the revolutionary forces of the CPP-NPA.

 

True enough, Martial Law provided the support for intensified counter-insurgency operations, against the CPP-NPA, and their suspected supporters now branded as “terrorists”.

 

On December 5, the Supreme Court upheld its ruling, affirming President Duterte’s declaration of martial law in the whole of Mindanao. On December 14, 2017, Congress again granted President Duterte’s request for an extension of Martial Law – until the end of year 2018. The regime claimed that Martial Law is needed to ensure the military’s plans for rehabilitation of Marawi City.

 

Within the first quarter of the 2018, cases of human rights violations involving farmers, Lumad, union members, and others will see a marked increase.  

 

It should be pointed out that the period of Martial Law in Mindanao saw the introduction of a new US counter-terror operation – Pacific Eagle: Philippines. This is the first named-operation since 2002, targeting so-called terrorists in Mindanao. The US operation is open-ended, having no time frame, nor clear terms of reference, for troop deployment and the activities they can undertake. The US, on top of its direct combat involvement, will also provide funding, support and advice to their counterparts in the AFP.

 

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Ground zero: Marawi

 

The whole Marawi City was put on a lockdown as the armed battle between the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and the Maute group had already caused more than 10 civilian casualties, several military men killed, evacuation of residents, civilians trapped and held hostage including a priest, and houses, a Catholic cathedral and a Protestant school burned to the ground.

 

Following the suspension of habeas corpus, the AFP set up 17,494 checkpoint operations and curfews in 129 cities. In Davao City, Mayor Sarah Duterte ordered the lockdown of the city while the military rounded up of more than 250 civilians without identification cards, mostly belonging to a certain Moro tribe. On May 25, a Moro populated area in President Roxas, North Cotabato was bombed by the military forcing several families to evacuate.

 

On the third day of the fighting, the military decided to conduct airstrikes aimed at rebel positions and burned houses inside the battleground to prevent the rebel groups from using them as camps. The airstrikes prompted a massive evacuation of residents, not only in the 24 barangays near the Lanao lake, but the whole Marawi City and neighboring municipalities. There were also reports of several civilians killed due to aerial bombardment.

 

Four days after the bombings, Muslim clerics under the National Ulama Conference of the Philippines and other humanitarian groups appealed to President Duterte to stop the airstrikes in Marawi City and solely conduct ground assaults, in the hopes of rescuing civilians trapped inside the battlezone. This prompted President Duterte to establish a “peace corridor” with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) on May 30, to ensure the safety of displaced civilians, and to ensure the delivery of relief and other needs.  This was conducted on June 4 by representatives of the GRP-MILF peace panel, but was halted because of intense fighting. After several attempts, the peace corridor was able to rescue at least 270 civilians.

 

On May 30, instructions on how to conduct arrests under Martial Law were released by the Department of National Defense. Six days after, the second general order was released, this time with a list of 186 individuals belonging to groups behind the attack in Marawi City, namely the Abu Sayyaf, Maute group, Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF), Maguid group and a vague category of “known as perpetrators/supporters/couriers.”  By the end of August 2017, more than 132 individuals were reported arrested in Northern Mindanao and Lanao provinces on various cases including drug possession and violation of the curfew, including the parents of the Maute brothers.

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According to the Internally Displaced People (IDP) Assessment Report of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), the number of internally displaced due to the Marawi Crisis reached 359,680 individuals by July 22, with 94% of the IDPs staying with host families in nine (9) regions and around 21,000 individuals distributed in 78 evacuation centers.

 

Three weeks after the the declaration of Martial Law in Mindanao, reports of human rights violations due to Martial law declaration and the continuing aerial bombardment were documented in a National Interfaith Humanitarian Mission (NIHM) that covered Marawi City and provinces of Maguindanao, North Cotabato and Davao del Sur. Violations included forcible evacuation, aerial bombardment, indiscriminate bombardment, destruction of properties, divestment of properties, violation of domicile, use of civilian facilities for military purposes, threat, harassment, intimidation, and death in evacuation centers.

 

Most of the IDPs interviewed in Marawi City were not convinced that an air assault was needed to suppress the Maute group. The aerial bombardment had only caused massive destruction of Marawi City. The NIHM warned of  a looming, terrible humanitarian crisis should martial law and intense bombing of communities in Mindanao continue.

 

This was affirmed during the second NIHM on July 2017 that documented several cases of rights violations including extrajudicial killings, disappearances, and torture of Marawi residents, who were accosted by soldiers while in the process of evacuation, and several complaints of looting, by soldiers who forced their way inside abandoned homes and took household items and other properties.

 

In its report about the human rights situation of Marawi City displaced residents,  Amnesty International said that the military air strikes killed non-combatants, and may have been used in excess during the five-month operations, and called for an investigation to the reported violations. Amnesty’s report belie US Defense Secretary James Mattis statement praising the Philippine military for upholding human rights in a five-month battle against pro-Islamic State group militants in Marawi City.

 

Among the accounts documented by fact finding missions was that of Idris Rascal, 55, and son Jalal, 25. On May 23, 2017, Idris and Jalal were on their way to evacuate their family when the two decided to rush back to their house in an attempt to salvage more belongings. Jalal’s sister, during the interview, said she saw with her own eyes how the bomb hit the house while the two were still there. Her nephew, Saypudin, 13, followed suit but the army personnel took him. Until today, Saypudin has yet to be found, and the bodies of Idris and Jalal have yet to be recovered.

 

On May 24, 2017, the body of Ramos Malik, 35, was found at the Banggolo bridge in Marawi. His family evacuated on May 26, 2017 from their residence in Brgy. Cameri, Marinaut, Marawi. His family learned from their neighbors that Ramos was arrested by the military, as evidenced by a footage from a local media outlet. The victim was wearing black at that time. They later received confirmation that Ramos was already dead, his body found on a bridge. The family received word from other families still inside Marawi that Ramos’ body was brought to Baloi.

 

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Turning Southern Philippines into a Killing Field

 

Since the declaration of martial law on May 23, 2017, Karapatan documented at least 46 victims of extrajudicial killings in Mindanao, with one victim killed every week. Many of the victims were indigenous peoples and members of local peasant organizations, targeted for their local campaigns for genuine agrarian reform and against militarization. Karapatan also documented 22 cases of torture, 112 victims of frustrated extrajudicial killings, 71 victims of illegal arrest and detention, 336,123 victims of indiscriminate gunfire and aerial bombings. Many more reported cases reveal a much graver magnitude of the effects of martial law. The dangers to personal security during travel prevent news gatherers and documenters from looking into the human rights situation in the region.

 

Evidenced by the numerous cases of political killings, illegal arrests and detention, and bombings in Mindanao during martial rule, the military seems to have let go of any pretenses when violating people’s rights.

 

In Lake Sebu, South Cotabato, composite elements of the 27th IBPA and the marines massacred a group of T’boli and Dulangan Manobo in Sitio Datal Bong Langon, Brgy. Ned, Lake Sebu, South Cotabato on December 3, 2017. This group of indigenous peoples was occupying the area land-grabbed by the Consunjis, and used by their corporation as a coffee plantation. The land is part of the ancestral domain of the Dulangan Manobo and T’boli. The Consunjis have long been operating in the ancestral domains of different indigenous communities in the region. Those killed were Victor Danyan, Victor Danyan Jr., Artemio Danyan, Pato Celardo, Samuel Angkoy, To Diamante, Bobot Lagase, and Mateng Bantal. Also reported wounded were Luben Laod and Teteng Laod. The victims were all members of the T’boli Manubo Sdaf Claimants Organization (TAMASCO). The incident also resulted in the forcible evacuation of 70 families.

 

In Talaingod, Davao del Norte, a 19-year-old student of the Salugpongan ‘Ta Tanu Igkanogon Community Center was shot by two armed members of the Citizen Armed Force Geographical Unit (CAFGU). Obello Bay-ao was on his way home from his family’s farm in the afternoon of September 5, 2017, when paramilitary elements fired at and chased after him. He was rushed to the hospital by villagers, but was eventually declared dead in the evening of the same day.

 

In Cabadbaran, Agusan del Norte, Vivencio Sahay, 53, chairperson of the Unyon sa Mag-uuma sa Agusan del Norte (UMAN-KMP), was gunned down by suspected military agents on November 23, 2017. Sahay, accompanied by his pregnant daughter Jovy, was on his way back home from tending to their carabao at around 6am. While walking, they were blocked by a bonnet-wearing armed man. The perpetrator asked Sahay to put his hands to his head, and then shot him four times. Jovy tried approaching her father, which prompted the assailant to aim the gun at her. Jovy then tried to run as fast as she could back to their house and scrambled for help. The armed man tried to chase her but refrained from shooting; he eventually left after seeing Jovy enter the house. According to Sahay’s family, he was targeted because of his active involvement in UMAN-KMP, an organization continuously red-tagged by the military as a “legal front” of the NPA.

 

Torture and illegal arrests

The harassment, torture, mass arrests and illegal detention of members of local peasant and indigenous organizations escalated in Mindanao. Included among the cases documented by Karapatan is the torture of two small-scale miners whom soldiers tried to burn alive, among other atrocities.

 

On November 28, 2017, Janry Mensis and “Jerry”, 16, small-scale miners and members of the Kahugpungan sa mga Mag-uuma sa Maco (KAMAO) were illegally arrested and tortured by elements of the 71st IBPA in Brgy. Visayan Village, Tagum City. The perpetrators accused the two of being thieves, and brought the victims to the police station in Tagum City where they underwent interrogation. They were eventually released  by the police, but were taken again into custody by the AFP.

 

The soldiers brought the victims to the 71st IBPA camp in Mawab, Compostela Valley where they were heavily beaten, after which they were tied and detained in a military ambulance inside the camp for 9 days. Soldiers provided them food only for 6 days.

 

On December 6, 2017, at around midnight, Janry and Jerry were forced to wear military uniforms. They were boarded inside a 6×6 military truck and brought to Barangay Masara, Compostela Valley. When they arrived at the hinterland of Masara, they were hogtied and their mouths covered with packaging tape. According to the victims, around 20 military elements were present during the incident. The soldiers then proceeded to dig out a pit. The victims were brought near the pit and were strangled using a rope. Janry and Jerry acted as if they were already unconscious, and the perpetrators dragged them into the pit. The military threw pieces of wood and poured a container of crude oil into the pit which they set on fire.

 

Janry and Jerry were able to run and escape the fire after the military left them. Janry suffered third degree burns.  

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In the Saguiaran evacuation center, Arafat Lala, 38, evacuated from Marawi City with his family on May 24, 2017. According to an affidavit issued by his wife, Noraidah, he was arrested on July 23, 2017 by elements of the Crime Investigation and Detection Group (CIDG) of the Philippine National Police (PNP), based on the mere suspicion that Arafat was a terrorist. Noraidah, however, denied such allegations, claiming her husband was not an ISIS member and was even chosen as one of the leaders in the evacuation center to help systematize the distribution of relief goods. Local DSWD officials and fellow evacuees in Saguiaran attested to his identity and work in the evacuation center. In fact, hours before he was arrested, Arafat and several volunteers just came back from bringing in boxes of relief assistance from Iligan City. He was in the custody of the CIDG in Cagayan de Oro before being transferred to Taguig City Jail.

 

An average of six individuals are illegally arrested and put in jail every month, since martial law was imposed in Mindanao.

 

On February 12, 2018 elements of the 73rd IBPA illegally arrested eight individuals, all from the Kaolo tribe, in Sitio Tangis, Brgy. Datal Anggas, Alabel, Saranggani. Civilians Nonoy Sanama, Morelo Sanama, Simeon Salda, Jun Moda, Claude Palbe, Garzon Palbe, Renel Ompao, and Sabelo Colano were physically assaulted and then detained at the 73rd IBPA military camp. They were eventually surrendered to the police on February 15 with trumped-up charges of frustrated murder and illegal possession of firearms. They were later transferred to the BJMP in Baluntay, Alabel, Sarangani. The group were members of Lumad Kasbakas de Saranggani (LUMAKAS), a local indigenous organization in the area.

 

On June 2, 2017, over 100 fully-armed combined elements of the 66th IBPA and PNP Compostela Valley, along with guards of the Shin Sun Tropical Fruits Inc. in Compostela Valley, arrested 12 workers who were on strike. The guards of the said company sprayed the striking workers with formalin and violently dispersed the group. The soldiers forcefully crossed the picket line and demanded that the workers end their strike, adding that “This is martial law; we will not honor the labor code.”

 

On July 22, 2017, 11 Tigwahanons who were working under the DENR Reforestation Project, were illegally arrested by composite elements of the 68th and the 8th IBPA in Brgy. Cawayan, San Fernando, Bukidnon. According to the victims, soldiers arrived in Sitio New Tibugawan at around 8 in the morning and approached the farmers. Soldiers alleged that there were NPA members seen in the community, after which the perpetrators started accusing the farmers as NPA members and sympathizers. The 11 were then taken to the sitio hall of New Tibugawan guarded by the soldiers, while their officer-in-charge talked to the sitio leader and announced that they would be conducting search operations because “martial law” had already been put in effect.

 

By night time, 10 of the farmers were allowed to go home, with the exception of Junty Sedom. A case of illegal possession of explosives was lodged against Sedom the next day. He was brought to the Provincial Detention and Rehabilitation Center in Malaybalay, Bukidnon where he still remains detained.

 

On February 7, 2018, Jolita Tolino, 24, an adult literacy community teacher of CLANS Lumad Community School in Sitio Tinagdanan, Brgy. Hinalaan, Kalamansig, Sultan Kudarat, was “invited” by two marines in civilian clothes and two barangay kagawad “Pilok” and “Kanoy”. She was brought to the village hall, the Marine camp, and then to the Kalamansig Police station where she was interrogated on the CLANS school curriculum. She was transferred to Isulan Jail the next day without being told what the charges were against her. Only later was she informed of murder charges filed against her by individuals unknown and unnamed.

According to Barug Katungod Mindanao, at least 404 human rights defenders, indigenous peoples, peasants, and environmental activists have been charged with trumped-up criminal offenses.

 

Forced evacuations, aerial bombings and community occupation

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More than previous post-Marcos presidencies, the Duterte regime has displaced the highest number of people in Duterte’s nearly two years in office. Nearly half a million, or 402,605 persons, have been forced to flee their communities due to military combat operations, and long-term militarization and occupation of rural communities by combat troops. The biggest of the displaced are the residents of Marawi City and nearby communities.

 

In Marawi City, Lanao del Sur and Lanao del Norte alone, there are at least 385,117 individuals who forcibly evacuated due to seemingly incessant bombings by the AFP, leaving thousands of residents homeless and penniless, as their properties and cash were destroyed or looted.

 

In Sitio Tangis, Solutan and Dalid in Alabel, Sarangani, military choppers of the 73rd IBPA who had been encamping in residents’ homes since February 3, 2017, dropped a total of six bombs in a clearing operation on February 11. This forced 120 households to evacuate the area.

 

On June 2, 2017, some 1, 248 families from Shariff Aguak and Datu Saudi Ampatuan were forced to evacuate when the 57th IBPA and the 2nd Mechanized Reconnaissance Battalion conducted aerial bombardment in their communities.

 

In July 2, 2017, six bombs were dropped in Purok 4, Sitio Tagbawi, Barangay Rizal, Monkayo, Compostela Valley. The aerial strikes occurred in response to an encounter between the 25th IBPA and the NPA on July 1. The combined aerial and ground military operations resulted to numerous violations,including the burning of nine houses perpetrated by government troops.

 

Karapatan has recorded at least 4,399 victims of threats, harassment and intimidation by State security forces, which includes members of fact finding and solidarity missions who conducted independent investigations on the report of rights violations, during the one year of the implementation of martial law, causing fear among community residents and further stoking impunity in Mindanao.

 

Forced or Fake Surrenders

 

As of end of March 2018, Karapatan has documented 661 victims of forced or fake surrenders, majority of them in Mindanao. This specific violation not only targets individuals, but also entire organizations and communities. It is meant to create an illusion that the government’s counterinsurgency program is succeeding, and the martial law declaration is an appropriate means to such end.

 

At least 500 residents of Lupiagan and Licoan, Sumilao, Bukidnon were gathered by soldiers of the 1st Special Forces Battalion in their camp in Brgy. Mampayad, Manolo Fortich, Bukidnon on January 28, 2018. The soldiers announced that a half kilo of rice and 500 pesos will be distributed to each of the residents. Upon arrival at the detachment, the residents were fed, asked to sign an attendance sheet, and had their pictures taken. Days later, the residents heard from the local radio that their names were included in the military’s report of NPA surrenderees.

 

Also on March 5, 2018, 15 members of the Tribal Indigenous Oppressed Group Association (TINDOGA) were called, along with other members of the community, to the house of Datu Santiano Abdahan Jr. The meeting was attended by six soldiers of the 8th IBPA and 22 unnamed members of the Citizen Armed Force Geographical Unit (CAFGU). The residents were invited “to surrender”, lest they get a criminal case lodged against them. Those who would “surrender” would be trained as new paramilitary members and would be enrolled in a livelihood project.

 

At least 428 cases of forced or fake surrenders were reported in the Southern Mindanao region, in the recent fact finding mission led by the Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP) in April 2018. These cases usually involve groups of residents being gathered together and simultaneously forced to surrender; using local government officials to spread misinformation on “wanted persons” or inclusion of names of activists in communities in a so-called Order of Battle list; singling out family members of known leaders in peasant communities for interrogation; or requiring residents to go to military camps to “clear” their names. The mission was able to document 10 victims of forced surrender in Brgy. Katipunan, Kidapawan City; 18 victims in Brgy. Manggayon, Compostela Valley; and at least 400 victims in Puting Bato, Brgy. Ngan, Compostela Valley.

 

Soldiers threatened to withhold social services such as the Pantawid Pamilya Pilipino Program (4Ps) if residents refuse to sign documents indicating they are surrenderees. They use death threats, shoot-to-kill orders, and threats of arrests, coerce residents to sign documents that are either blank or has content written in English that are not explained to the victims.

 

On February 28, 2018, residents and members of the Compostela Farmers Association in Brgy. Manggayon, Compostela, Compostela Valley were forced “to surrender” by elements of the 66th IBPA. The soldiers announced that the CFA members’ enrollment in the Pantawid Pamilya Pilipino Program (4Ps) would be cancelled if they did not sign a document. The names of the farmers were later announced on the radio as surrenderees.  

 

In Caraga, soldiers go to homes of peasant leaders, members of organizations and their relatives to intimidate them into “surrendering.” According to the peasants, the soldiers offer them firearms which they should bring when they surrender and promise them PhP5,000.00 as livelihood assistance.

 

Those who refused to be coerced were subjected to trumped-up criminal charges. Many face charges for illegal possession of firearms and explosives, with the soldiers working in cahoots with State prosecutors to justify the baseless searches, arrests and detention of peasants and to plant evidence against them.

 

In once case, prosecutors provided a lawyer from the Public Attorney’s Office and asked money ranging from PhP150,000 to PhP400,000 from the arrested peasant in exchange for his release. Apart from the psywar objective of making the government counter-insurgency campaign appear effective, the fake surrenderee program is a big money-making scheme for corrupt officials.

 

Paramilitary elements, some of whom have outstanding warrants, were also paraded as surrenderees. Karapatan received reliable information that among those included in the so-called surrenderees are members of the paramilitary Magahat-Bagani force involved in the infamous Lianga massacre.

 

Marawi Rehabilitation: Turning grief into profit

 

On March 30, displaced Meranao residents of the 24 barangays identified as mostly affected areas (MAA) in Marawi City held a march protest calling for a permanent return to their communities considered by the military asl off limits to civilians.

 

The protest criticized the government’s rehabilitation plan which excluded them and reserved 250 hectares for the construction of a military base and an economic zone. They called their protest Kambalingan (to permanently return), as opposed to the government-sponsored Kambisita (to visit).   It called on residents to reclaim and rebuild their community, with or without government support.

 

The group appealed to President Duterte to allow the Meranaw residents to  lead the building of Marawi City to preserve their cultural identity. They criticized the blueprint presented to the public on March 21-22 during the Multi-Sectoral Consultation on Marawi Rehabilitation at the provincial capitol.

 

The fighting in Marawi left the city in ruins with 95% of the structures within the 4 square kilometres of the main battle area heavily damaged and collapsed, 3,152 buildings completely destroyed and 2,145 buildings partially to heavily damaged due bombings. About 12,000 families, or around 60,000 individuals, used to live in what was the main battle area.

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Plans for Marawi’s rehabilitation started since with the creation of Task Force Bangon Marawi (TFBM), a government inter-agency task force group organized to facilitate the rehabilitation, recovery and reconstruction efforts in Marawi, through President Duterte’s Administrative Order no. 3 dated June 28, 2017. Martial Law administrator Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana Jr. was tasked to head the taskforce with 23 members from different agencies including the AFP, DSWD, NEDA and others.

 

TFBM was tasked to create a “Bangon Marawi Comprehensive Rehabilitation and Recovery Program,” and was mandated to supervise the construction of temporary and permanent shelters for displaced persons, “immediate restoration” of water and electricity and the repair or reconstruction of “public buildings and infrastructure.” Initially, President Duterte ordered P20 billion be set aside for the rehabilitation program.

 

Lorenzana announced last year that foreign aid had already reached P2.1 billion from Australia, Japan, Thailand, the European Union, US and China. World Bank (WB) and International Monetary Fund (IMF) were the lead lending agencies that will fund the rehabilitation of Marawi City and provide the technical advice and expertise for reconstruction.

 

After the “liberation” of Marawi City, President Duterte designated retired military general and now HUDCC (Housing and Urban Development Coordinating Council) chair Eduardo del Rosario as head of the TFBM through Administrative Order No. 9, which the Chief Executive signed on October 27, 2017.

 

Private investors were also tapped to invest in the government’s rehabilitation of Marawi City. Maynilad Water and Manila Water will invest in the city’s water system. The Philippine Business for Social Progress (PBSP) chair Manuel V. Pangilinan and MPIC executives will invest in the power and water system. The Ayala Foundation will build a hospital. Other groups being eyed for the rehabilitation include Udenna Corp, Aboitiz Group, Jollibee Foods Corp, Pepsi Cola Philippines, FF Cruz, Meralco, Coca Cola, Cebuana Lhuillier, San Miguel Foundation as well as donors such as World Vision, Oxfam, SM Foundation and LBC Foundation.

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Last December 2017, the Department of Finance (DOF) announced that they have plans of turning the Islamic City of Marawi into a “community-based economic zone” envisioned to be a center for marketing, technical training, and food processing ventures for micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs).

 

On January 30 this year, President Duterte announced that a 10-hectare regiment-size military camp worth P400 million will be built inside the MAA. Marawi City already has a military camp near the provincial capitol where the 103rd Infantry Brigade of the Philippine Army is stationed as well as an unknown number of US soldiers.

 

In March 2018  The Bangon Marawi Comprehensive Rehabilitation and Recovery Program (BMCRRP) blueprint that National Development Authority (NEDA) presented to the public included livelihood, business deployment and land resource management as among the key priority programs and another 860 projects for livelihood and business sectors will be implemented from 2018 to 2022. According to TFBM, based on the post-conflict needs assessment, damage was assessed amounting to more than P11 billion; losses that amounted to more than P6 billion; and needs that amounted to more than P51 billion after 148 days of fighting.

 

The sell-out and plunder of Mindanao under Duterte

 

Martial Law has an economic basis: the protection of elite economic, foreign and local, interests.  The motive force that drives the Duterte regime to impose Martial Law on Mindanao is the same interest being pushed in the Marawi rehabilitation.

 

When one considers how Mindanao is also the location of large-scale foreign plantations, mining companies, energy projects, and a persistent target of US military exercises; it becomes apparent that Martial Law is merely part of a bigger project for the region.

 

Mindanao hosts the country’s last remaining frontiers. It has a large agricultural base, and remains a significant food basket. More than six million of its more than 10 million hectares of land are classified as forest lands. Its greatly varied geography composed of high and rugged mountains, broad and swampy plains, and rolling plateaus, host fertile soils, rich deposits of minerals, and diverse biospheres.

 

Under Duterte’s Build, Build, Build! infrastructure program, such natural wealth will be sold to foreign and local business interests. The first Mindanawon president has pushed for a grand “development” plan, estimated to cost at least Php 1.25 trillion, for the whole island under the Mindanao Development Authority (MinDA). The entire plan is composed mainly of mega-infrastructure projects and agri-business programs, backed by deceptive sociocultural schemes – all for the purpose of facilitating the entry and flow of foreign capital in the entire region. The plan divides the region into Northern, Western and South Central Mindanao, forming interconnected “development corridors” that will be connected internationally to a subregional trade network (between Brunei, Indonesia, Malaysia and the Philippines) and further on, to the global market.

 

Most touted by the president himself is the TransMindanao High-Speed Railway Project, which would supposedly connect key cities across the island through a 2,000-kilometer rail system. Just its first phase already costs Php 36 billion of public funds and foreign loans from China, Japan, and Korea. A transportation undersecretary has revealed that the succeeding phases will be funded solely by China. Not just in Mindanao, Chinese capital is “an important ingredient” of the nationwide Build! Build! Build! program itself. The Duterte regime drools over these loans even as various countries (from Cambodia to Sri Lanka to South Africa to Argentina) have already fallen victim to China’s debt trap and are compelled to give up control of parts of their territory and resources.

 

While China’s increasing role is undeniable, the decades-old dominance of foreign loans from USAID, IMF-WB, ADB, and JICA remain. They are contained in MinDA’s other flagship “catalytic” infrastructure projects which include at least seven airports and four seaports, each costing from a few to tens of billions in pesos. Mindanao maintains its huge geopolitical significance for US military and economic interests; as it is located near major international shipping routes and an ideal launching pad for military actions against US traditional adversaries mainly China and North Korea.

 

The projects will also be awarded to local big businesses thru hybrid public-private partnerships. Hybrid PPPs use public funds and foreign loans to build an infrastructure before handing over its operation and maintenance to the private sector, burdening the people with debt-servicing, the private operator’s profit-guarantees, and high user fees. Certain to profit are the biggest local oligarchs already benefiting from previous PPPs, such as San Miguel, Metro Pacific, Ayala Corp. and SM Holdings.

Rubber Plantation in Mindanao Philippines - YouTube

Aside from profiting from the actual construction, the infra projects themselves will only serve the interests of foreign and local big business by easing the transportation of commodities and capital.  Meanwhile, the construction of these projects will displace thousands of farmers, indigenous peoples, and urban poor.

 

Another key aspect  of the development plan is the creation of so-called “Agro-Economic Cooperative Zones” (AECZ). Its most pronounced aim is to “modernize” agriculture by establishing “agro-fishery infrastructure and agro-based enterprises.” It aims to further boost the production of for-export crops such as rubber, pineapple, Cavendish banana, oil palm, cacao, and sugarcane – as opposed to food crops needed domestically. MinDA targets to build these zones over the ancestral lands of indigenous peoples and lands awarded to agrarian reform beneficiaries (ARBs). This explains the obsessive targeting of Lumad communities and ARB organizations by the military.

 

Indicatively, agribusiness plantations have been aggressively expanding in Mindanao. Such plantations cover about 500,000 hectares, or 12 percent of Mindanao’s total agricultural lands. Another million hectares are targeted for oil palm plantations by 2022.

 

AECZs will only facilitate landgrabbing of millions of hectares of farmlands and ancestral lands, leading to the further displacement and deprivation of millions of farmers and indigenous peoples across Mindanao. On the other hand, long-time landowning political dynasties (such as the Floirendos, Lorenzos, Lobregats, and Dimaporos), in collaboration with multinational agro-corporations, are once again the ones expected to profit form these schemes.

 

The same families are also in cahoots with foreign mining interests from China, US, Canada, and Australia. Destructive large-scale mining operations cover huge parts of Mindanao, destroying whole ecosystems. Most notably, 23 of the country’s 48 largest operating mines are all in Caraga, covering 5% of the region’s total land area.

 

MinDA’s development plan includes a sociocultural aspect, an attempt to justify and legitimize the anti-peasant and anti-people programs. Academic institutions such as the planned Mindanao Executive Leadership Development Academy and Mindanao Marine Merchant Naval Academy will be established to train pro-big business bureaucrats, policy makers, researchers, and other intellectuals. The agency also declares its commitment to environmental-protection by supposedly implementing “responsible” mining, using renewable energy, and promoting eco-tourism. Meanwhile Moro culture is tapped by professing the promotion of “Islamic financing” and the development of the Halal industry.

 

All these grand proclamations however crumble at the reality of the Duterte regime’s attacks against peasants and indigenous people. Lumad-built and managed schools (where indigenous knowledge and practices are being developed), instead of being supported, are threatened to be bombed while their school staff and community leaders are killed, abducted, and harassed. Similarly, the most direct stewards of forests and mountains, the poor peasants and indigenous people, face bullets, cannons, forced “surrender” campaigns, trumped-up charges, etc. The Moro too are victimized under the Islamophobic “war on terror” designed by the US, leaving the country’s only Islamic City in rubble.

 

Resistance to Martial Law, achieving a just peace

 

Far from paving the way for peace, these projects and programs are bound to aggravate rural unrest in Mindanao – especially with the AFP serving as mercenary forces to secure these investments through acts of state terror. Struggles for the right to land by peasants, and self-determination by Lumad and Bangsamoro peoples are expected to intensify. We continue to call for the immediate lifting of Martial Law and and end to state terror and militarization, especially in the countryside.

 

The most intense of such resistance to economic and environmental plunder are expressed through the revolutionary movements led by the CPP/NPA/NDF and the remaining armed movements of the Moro people through BIFF and fighting BIAF forces.

 

There also exists a militant mass movement of Moro people, Lumad, peasants and workers opposing Martial Law. A most significant development is the movement of Meranaos asserting their right to return to Marawi and rebuild their communities, while opposing the disaster capitalism framework of the Duterte regime. They have launched several mass actions and marches in Marawi to air their demands.

 

The Mindanao peasant and Lumad movements have also been launched in the heart of the national capital and Malacanang on several occasions to call attention and demand action on agrarian and human rights issues as seen in the numerous Lakbayans launched since 2015.

 

The key to a just and lasting peace in Mindanao is addressing the roots of the armed conflict, which includes demands for socio-economic reforms, social justice and genuine self-determination. These can be achieved through the collective struggle of the people and in venues such as peace negotiations. Martial Law, militarization and state terror are not the answer to unrest in the island. If anything, these attacks will surely generate more resistance to the Duterte regime.  ###

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Hindi Lamang Rally

Posted: March 21, 2018 in Uncategorized

Sa mga seryosong nagtatanong sa tunay na ginagawa ng mga aktibista, kami po ay laging nakahandang sumagot at magpaliwanag. Basta ba hindi bastusan ang usapan, pwedeng-pwedeng makipagtalakayan.

Halimbawa, sa mga nagtatanong, “Ano ba ang nagawa nyo bukod sa mag-rally?”

Heto po ang ilan.

Naghain kami ng kaso para ipawalang bisa ang DAP ni Aquino. Naipanalo ito sa SC. Bawal na ang DAP.

Naghain ng reklamo sa Ombudsman kaugnay ng maanomalyang kontrata sa MRT na nagresulta sa pagkasira nito. Naghain din ng petisyon sa SC laban sa MRT at LRT fare hike.

 

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Naghain ng petisyon para pigilan ang Meralco rate hike noong 2013, hanggang ngayon dama pa natin ang epekto ng TRO.

Ipinaglaban na maipamahagi ang Hacienda Luisita na pag-aari ng mga Cojuangco-Aquino. Mga magsasaka at aktibista ang nagsulong nito.

Image may contain: 9 people, people smiling, crowd and outdoor

Nagsagawa ng mga relief and rehab operations para sa mga biktima ng Ondoy, Yolanda at iba pang mga kalamidad. Libo-libo ang pinakilos para dito. Andun po kami mismo sa mga lugar na nasalanta.

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Matagumpay na naipaglaban ang P1,000 dagdag pension para sa mga senior citizens na miyembro ng SSS. Mga progresibo ang nanguna sa laban na ito. Alam yan ng mga senior citizens.

Image may contain: 19 people, including Melo Acuna and Heber Bartolome, people smiling, text

Naghain ng panukalang batas para sa libreng edukasyon, na kinalaunan naipasa at napirmahan. Patuloy itong ipinaglalaban na maipatupad nang lubusan.

Ipinaglaban ang dagdag benipisyo para sa mga guro at iba pang kawaning publiko.

Nag-organisa ng election watchdog para bantayan ang halalan.

Marami pa pong nagawa at ginagawa. Maraming mga bagay na hindi lumalabas sa TV at media, na tahimik na ginagawa ng mga aktibista tulad ng pag-oorganisa, pagtatayo ng mga paaralan, paglulunsad ng mga pag-aaral, trainings at iba pa.

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Ang pagiging aktibista ay HINDI pagra-rally lamang tulad ng nais palabasin ng iba. Paninira lamang ito lalo’t papalabasin pa na bayaran kami. Isang bahagi lamang ito ng aming gawain. Hindi lang po iyon ang aming tungkulin.

Buksan din po natin ang ating pananaw, at alamin ang katotohanan na andyan lang naman madaling i-Google. Huwag agad manghusga batay lamang sa sulsol, pira-pirasong impormasyon at mga pekeng balita.

Magtanong po tayo kung nais nating maliwanagan.

Salamat nga pala sa mga nagtanong nitong mga nakaraang araw, kahit di tayo magkakilala. Sa mga nakinig at mahinahong nakipagpalitan ng panananaw, nakiknig din kami sa inyo. Maaaring magkaiba tayo ng pananaw pero hindi naman kailangan mauuwi sa bastusan. Siguro kinalaunan, magagawa nating magkaunawaan. Ang dami nating parehong interes at pangarap para sa ating bayan. ###

 

 

Meralco, ganid!

Posted: October 12, 2017 in Uncategorized

The onerous Meralco power supply agreements

Meralco is rushing the ERC approval of supply contracts with generating companies that it owns. These 7 contracts, expcected to generate 3,551MW annually, have been described as sweetehart deals. The contracts will tie us with these generators for the next 20-25 years. What made the contracts questionable is that these were done in violation of the ERC’s own guidelines on competetive selection. Garapalan at ipinilit talagang maipasok ng Meralco ang mga kontrata. Pinayagan naman ng ERC.

Now if Meralco gets power from its own generation companies, it can no longer claim that high power rates are just being “passed on” and that “hindi kumikita ang Meralco”. The additional charges that will be passed on to consumers will go to Meralco sister companies. Kaya kitang-kita ang kita ng Meralco. To stress, the contracts amounting to more than P2 trillion, possibly even P3 trillion depending of fluctuations in fuel cost, will be for a duration of 20-25 years.

How did we come to this?

Ever since the power industry was privatized under the EPIRA, it was the big corporations that have gotten the upperhand and controlled the industrty. Private control was made worse by cross-ownership between distribution utilities and generating companies. Meralco, the country’s biggest DU, is allowed to operate its own generators. It no longer seeks to get electricity from the cheapest and most stable source since it is more profitable to get electricity from its sister companies. Even if more expensive compared to others. Even if there are oneous provisions. Even if consumers will be at the losing end.

Such is the pitfall in allowing cross-ownership in a privatized regime. The ‘temptation” to get power from your sister company is too great. It is a disincentive to get power from other cheaper sources. Time will come when Meralco will be so powerful even in the generation sector that it can dictate terms on other companies. You want to secure a supply agreement with Meralco the distributor, you give Meralco equity in your generating plant.

What is the solution?

Ultimately, we need to reverse the privatization of the power industry and nationalize it. In the meantime, allow government to build and run power plants again to meet the demands of the population. This will also counter the monopoly control of private firms.

There should also be a total ban in cross-ownership in the power sector to prevent powerful DU’s like Meralco from exercising monopoly control over the industry, to the detriment of consumers. Stop Meralco from dictating terms when entering into contracts with power generators. So long as cross-ownership exists in a privatized regime, power companies like Meralco will always find ways to go around ERC rules on competetive selection.

Power should serve people’s needs and national development, not the private monopoly profits of Meralco and its affiliate companies.

Right now, we are justified in exclaiming “Meralco, ganid!”

For the Solidarity and Fightback Conference Against US militarism and neo-fascism

Toronto, Canada, August 5, 2017

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Warm greetings of peace to comrades and friends gathered here today. I regret that I cannot join you since I had not been issued a visa by the Canadian government. Despite my physical absence from the conference, we in Bayan hope to contribute in a meaningful way and provide updates on the issues and struggles in the Philippines.

 

As you may have seen in the news, there is a raging conflict in the Philippines today, in the Islamic city of Marawi in the province of Lanao del Sur in the southern Philippine island of Mindanao. An anti-terror operation by government forces against so-called IS-inspired groups last May 23 triggered intense fighting across the city and led to the imposition of Martial Law for the entire Mindanao region. The Martial Law declaration has been extended, from the original 60-days to another 5 months, until December 31, 2017. Marawi has experienced almost daily bombings by government forces.

 

The conflict persists today, more than two months since it started. There have been more than 403,000 civilians displaced by the fighting. As of July 28, 2017, some  114 government troopers, 45 civilians and 471 alleged rebels affiliated with Dawlah Islamiyah and Abu Sayyaf have been killed.

 

Marawi marks the first time since 2015 that the US has been openly involved in an actual armed conflict of this magnitude in Mindanao. The last time the US forces were revealed to be involved in a major anti-terror operation was in January 22, 2015, in a raid against an alleged Indonesian terrorist that cost the lives of 44 Philippine special action troopers and several civilians. This operation has since been known as the Mamasapano incident which resulted in the indictment of Philippine President Benigno Aquino III for usurpation of authority and graft. After the disastrous operation, the US announced that it was wrapping up its operations in Mindanao under the Joint Special Operations Task Force – JSOTF Philippines under the US Special Operations Command. In its place was left a smaller unit of US forces supposedly assisting and advising local counterparts in anti-terror operations.

 

The JSOTF-P had been operating uninterrupted in the Philippines since 2002, first under the banner “Operation Enduring Freedom: Philippines”. US forces  took advantage of provisions in a lopsided Visiting Forces Agreement that allowed permanent US presence even without a basing treaty.

 

Now, US special forces have been photographed in Marawi operating drones. P3 Orion planes have also been spotted in the area. The US controls the high-tech equipment for intelligence gathering, and claims to be providing situational awareness for Philippine officials. The US embassy in Manila claims that there are no boots on the ground in Marawi, that US forces are not involved in actual combat operations. However, with their exclusive control of surveillance and intelligence gathering equipment, and by providing situational awareness, the US is practically directing the conduct of the war in Marawi.

 

How did it come to this, that the US is again engaged in a conflict in the Philippines? And how did it happen under a Philippine President who just last year lambasted the US for its crimes against the Moro people of Mindanao during the bloody US occupation of the Philippines?

 

Philippines a priority for US Special Ops

PHILIPPINES-US-MILITARY-ARMAMENT

Philippine Marine Commandant Major General Emmanuel Salamat (R) listens to US military representatives during a handover ceremony of weapons from the US military, at Marine headquarters in Manila on June 5, 2017. The United States on June 5 gave counterterrorism weapons to help the Philippine military fight Islamic militants, authorities said, despite tirades from President Rodrigo Duterte against arms from Washington. / AFP PHOTO / TED ALJIBE

The Philippines ranks high in the priority areas for military intervention by the US Special Operations Command. This was revealed in the testimony of General Raymond A. Thomas, III, U.S. Army, Commander of the United States Special Operations Command, speaking before the US Senate Armed Services Committee last May 4, 2017. His testimony came just three weeks before the siege of Marawi City in southern Philippines.  

 

Thomas categorized the ISIS as a “Violent Extremist Organization”, the threat of which “remains the highest priority for USSOCOM in both focus and effort”.  

 

“Special Operations Forces are the main effort, or major supporting effort for US VEO-focused operations in Afghanistan, Syria, Iraq, Yemen, Somalia, Libya, across the Sahel of Africa, the Philippines, and Central/South America – essentially, everywhere Al Qaeda (AQ) and the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) are to be found,” Thomas said.   

 

Marawi is just one of the many fronts where the USSOCOM is engaged in throughout the world. According to Thomas,”on a daily basis, we sustain a deployed or forward stationed force of approximately 8,000 across 80 plus countries.”  US Special Operations Forces “are conducting the entire range of missions in both combat and noncombat situations with a wide variety of Joint, Interagency, International, and Multinational partners.”  

 

Echoing the US counterinsurgency doctrine, Thomas said that their methodology “is more comprehensive than simple counter-terrorism and is an important part of an overarching whole-of-government approach to advance broader national security objectives”.  

 

The Philippine’s national internal security plans Bayanihan and Kapayapaan are patterned after the US counterinsurgency doctrine and also involves a “whole-of-government’ approach as part of the psywar against so-called insurgents and their supporters.

 

Thomas added that they have the capability “to fight in contested areas, often leveraging and enhancing the capabilities of indigenous partner forces”.

 

The USSOC says Thomas, “continues to invest in ways that allow SOF to assist our partners better: command and control; Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance; Building Partner Capacity (BPC); and Aviation Foreign Internal Defense. An enhanced ability to leverage local relationships will ultimately help us better influence regional outcomes.”

 

Duterte and the US

Early on his term, Rodrigo Duterte criticized what he described as “US meddling” in Philippine affairs along with US hypocrisy when it came to human rights issues. Duterte had reacted negatively to criticisms by the US of his drug war which has claimed thousands of lives.

 

By October 2016, Duterte had announced his separation from the US and his pivot towards Russia and China. Duterte had earlier sought economic and military deals with the two US rivals. He also threatened to end US military exercises and the Philippines and called for the expulsion of US troops in Mindanao. He slammed the US for being the reason why “Mindanao continues to boil”, citing the historical injustices committed by occupying US troops against the Moro people at the turn of hte 20th century.

 

The conflict in Marawi erupted at a time when Duterte and his top defense officials were in Russia for a high-profile visit that sought to cement economic and military ties. The visit was cut short after Duterte declared Martial Law in Mindanao.

 

Not only did Marawi scuttle Duterte’s Russia trip, it provided the US an opportunity to retain influence over Philippine affairs amid the Duterte pivot to China and Russia. When asked who sought US assistance in the conflict in Marawi, Duterte said it was the AFP not him. He said that the AFP was historically pro-US. He thanked the US just the same for its role in the conflict.

 

Faced with what he claimed was a growing IS threat, Duterte backtracked on almost all his pronouncements regarding US military presence in the Philippines. He allowed US military intervention in Marawi and sought greater military aid.

 

Duterte’s predisposition to address social problems such as illegal drugs and terrorism with iron-fisted rule fit perfectly in the US scheme to maintain its dominant role in the Philippines as imperialist master. To carry out his war against IS, Duterte would eventually need material and political support from the Philippine’s longest-standing treaty ally. This came in the form US forces in Marawi, new weapons for PH troops and US tacit political support for Martial Law.

 

In exchange for US support, Duterte has allowed continuing US military exercises, US direct involvement in anti-IS operations and the implementation of the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement for setting up of new US bases. Duterte has struck a modus vivendi with the US and has exposed himself as an instrument of US intervention.

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It’s also important to note that another casualty of Martial Law in Marawi is the formal peace talks between the Government of Republic the Philippines and the National Democratic Front of the Philippines. Martial Law has been invoked by the AFP in carrying out intensified military operations even in areas far from the Marawi conflict. The targets have been revolutionary forces and progressives who are opposed, among others, to US intervention and imperialist plunder of the economy. The Duterte government had demanded that the revolutionary forces under the CPP-NPA-NDFP to agree to a prolonged ceasefire even as government forces carried out operations against the revolutionary forces. The untenable situation has brought the peace talks to another standstill, with Duterte saying he no longer wants to talk to the NDF. Duterte has threatened to wage all-out war against the NPA after he wraps up operations in Marawi.

 

Human rights violations under Martial Law are expected to increase due to stepped-up military operations, repressive measures and the systematic targeting of revolutionary and progressive forces.

 

Expanded US role in the Philippines

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There are now indications that the US wants a bigger role in Mindanao following the events in Marawi. US Defense Secretary Jim Mattis, testifying before the Senate last June 13, said that the US ended its anti-terrorism task force too soon, “out of perhaps a premature view that we were gaining success.” At its peak, the US had 600 SOF elements operating in Mindanao.

 

The US had previously wanted to establish de facto bases under the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement or EDCA. They continue to maintain a small force of SOF operatives who “assist” the Armed Forces of the Philippines. They have maintained a permanent military presence in Mindanao for the last 15 years. We foresee full implementation of the EDCA during the term of Duterte.

 

The vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Paul Selva, testifying before the US Senate Armed Services Committee last July 17 said that the United States should consider restarting a named military operation in the Philippines, similar to Operation Enduring Freedom, in order to counter the rise of the Islamic State.

 

Expanded cooperation in the fight against IS may be the highlight of US President Donald Trump’s Philippine visit in November this year where he meets Duterte for the first time. The meeting will result in US  imperialism retaining a firm foothold in the Philippines, and in the Southeast Asian region, even as Duterte says he is seeking greater cooperation with Russia and China.

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Asserting sovereignty

Bayan has consistently opposed US imperialism in the Philippines. There is nothing benevolent in the continuing US role in Mindanao and other parts of the country. The US intervenes to advance its own economic and geopolitical interests in a region. These are same interests which lie at the root of US destabilization of the Middle East, particularly the destruction of sovereign countries such as Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria and LIbya. These countries have been plunged into chaos as a result of US bombings and regime-change operations. US intervention has also given rise to extremist groups such as ISIS or Daesh. When it suits US interests, these so-called terrorist groups are supported by the US to destabilize or bring down a regime such as the one in Syria.

 

In the Philippines, the US used the Abu Sayyaf threat in 2002 to gain a permanent foothold in Mindanao, establish de facto bases and engage in direct military intervention. US military presence in the region also helps US economic interests as US forces protect US investments in the area. Fifteen years after the US Special Forces were deployed in Mindanao, the Abu Sayyaf remains a serious security threat. It’s important to also point out that the US was instrumental in the creation of the Abu Sayyaf when the US was still waging a proxy war in Afghanistan against the USSR.

 

The US is now using ISIS as pretext for intervention and plunder in the Philippines. ISIS is being used to justify US power projection in Southeast Asia, which is also directed as US rivals such as China.

 

It is important to note that many of the IS-inspired fighters in Mindanao were previously part of the Moro Islamic LIberation Front that had signed a peace agreement with the Manila government. The more radical fighters saw the peace pact as cooptation and have eventually  been drawn to a more extremist pole. At the root of the conflict in Mindanao are conditions of poverty, injustice, human rights abuses and other social ills that cannot be solved by bombing IS positions on a daily basis.  

 

The Filipino and Moro people are determined to resist US military intervention and plunder. Mass protests are being readied for Trump’s November visit. The people are also resisting Martial Law and intensifying state fascism under the US-Duterte regime. We join the oppressed people’s of the world in fighting US militarism and neo-fascism and in building a world where there is peace based on justice. ###

 

PHILIPPINES-US-MILITARY-ARMAMENT

The Philippines ranks high in the priority areas for military intervention by the US Special Operations Command. This was contained in the testimony of General Raymond A. Thomas, III, U.S. Army, Commander of the United States Special Operations Command, testifying before the US Senate Armed Services Committee last May 4, 2017. The testimony came just three weeks before the siege of Marawi City in southern Philippines.

US Special Operations Forces are said to be involved in direct military intervention against so-called ISIS-inspired groups in Marawi. US provides local commanders with “situational awareness” through its exclusive control of high-tech surveillance equipment. This allows the US to practically direct military operations in Marawi City.

Marawi is just one of the many fronts where the USSOCOM is engaged in throughout the world. According to Thomas,”on a daily basis, we sustain a deployed or forward stationed force of approximately 8,000 across 80 plus countries.”  US Special Operations Forces “are conducting the entire range of missions in both combat and noncombat situations with a wide variety of Joint, Interagency, International, and Multinational partners.”

 Thomas categorized ISIS as a “Violent Extremist Organization”, the threat of which “remains the highest priority for USSOCOM in both focus and effort”.

“Special Operations Forces are the main effort, or major supporting effort for US VEO-focused operations in Afghanistan, Syria, Iraq, Yemen, Somalia, Libya, across the Sahel of Africa, the Philippines, and Central/South America – essentially, everywhere Al Qaeda (AQ) and the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) are to be found.  Our priorities are disrupting external attack capability, destroying/neutralizing AQ and ISIS, developing a long-term approach to defeat and/or counter VEOs, and building partner capacity – helping our partners stabilize their environment and secure gains,” Thomas said.

Echoing the US counterinsurgency doctrine, Thomas said that their methodology “is more comprehensive than simple counter-terrorism and is an important part of an overarching whole-of-government approach to advance broader national security objectives”.

The Philippine’s national internal security plan Oplan Bayanihan and Oplan Kapayapaan are patterned after the US counterinsurgency doctrine and also involves a “whole-of-government’ approach as part of the psywar against and co-opting of insurgents.

The USSOCOM also looks forward to long-term military intervention in the priority regions. “Organizations such as ISIS and AQ are trans-regional threats that require the Joint Force to work with partners across the US government as well as coalition partners. It requires focused effort to secure and hold our gains by empowering local entities within and among the populations that terrorists exploit,” Thomas said.

Thomas added that they have the capability “ to fight in contested areas, often leveraging and enhancing the capabilities of indigenous partner forces.  Accordingly, we continue to invest in ways that allow SOF to assist our partners better: command and control; Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance; Building Partner Capacity (BPC); and Aviation Foreign Internal Defense. An enhanced ability to leverage local relationships will ultimately help us better influence regional outcomes.”

US Special Forces in Marawi claim to be helping Philippine forces through so-called “technical assistance”. They have been photographed flying surveillance drones in the conflict area. US P3 Orion planes have also been spotted in the area.

Two years ago, US Special Foces were also involved in the botched Mamasapano operation in the province of Maguindanao which saw 44 Philippine Special Action Force troopers die in an attempt to neutralize a US target in the area.

 marawi_p-3-orion_reuters-640x456

Operation Gallant Phoenix

There are indications that the US wants a bigger role in Mindanao following the events in Marawi. US Defense Secretary Jim Mattis, testifying before the Senate last June 13, said that the US ended its anti-terrorism task force too soon, “out of perhaps a premature view that we were gaining success.” At its peak, the US had 600 SOF elements operating in Mindanao.

The US had previously wanted to establish de facto bases under the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement or EDCA. They continue to maintain a small force of SOF operatives who “assist” the Armed Forces of the Philippines. They have maintained a permanent military presence in Mindanao for the last 15 years.

The Philippine government should disclose if it is part of Operation Gallant Phoenix, an SOF-led activity that is “designed to empower, support and integrate the efforts of our international, interagency, and Joint Force partners involved in US “counter-terror” campaign. Southeast Asian nations have reportedly been integrated into Gallant Phoenix. Thomas said that they have reportedly 19 foreign partners into the program. What is the extent of the Philippines involvement in this program as well as the extent of US meddling in our internal affairs?

For example, was Gallant Phoenix used by the US to provide the AFP with the intelligence on Isnilon Hapilon in Marawi, which triggered the armed conflict last May 23? Was the AFP operation so timed that it would scuttle Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte’s Russia visit? With Gallant Phoenix, how much did the US already know of the operations of the Maute-Abu Sayyaf group in Marawi?

Asserting sovereignty

Bayan has consistently opposed US military intervention in the Philippines. There is nothing benevolent in the continuing US role in Mindanao and other parts of the country. The US intervenes to advance its own economic and geopolitical interests in a region. These are interests which lie at the root of US destabilization of the Middle East, particularly the destruction of sovereign countries such as Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria and LIbya. These countries have been plunged into chaos as a result of US bombings and regime-change operations. US intervention has also given rise to extremist groups such as ISIS or Daesh. When it suits US interests, these so-called terrorist groups are supported by the US to destabilize or bring down a regime such as the one in Syria.

In the Philippines, the US used the Abu Sayyaf threat in 2002 to gain a permanent foothold in Mindanao, establish de facto bases and engage in direct military intervention. US military presence in the region also helps US economic interests as US forces protect US investments. Fifteen years after the US Special Forces were first deployed in Mindanao, the Abu Sayyaf remains a serious security threat.

The US role in the disastrous Mamasapano counter-terror operation that cost the lives of 44 Filipino troopers is a prime example of the folly of US military intervention. Filipino lives were sacrificed so that the US can get its target, alleged Indonesian terrorist Marwan. National sovereignty was violated when US Special Forces directed the entire operation.

As we have seen in Mindanao, US cannot protect us from the terrorist monster it created in the first place. The US however will continue using this monster as pretext for its military intervention in the country.

President Rodrigo Duterte said it best, US historical misdeeds “are the reason why Mindanao continues to boil.” His allowing of US intervention in Marawi however is in direct contravention of this and everything he said last year. ###

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12909478_10154068804996740_7847045706941493788_oAng Student Alliance for the Advancement of Democratic Rights – UP o STAND UP, ay isang progresibong alyansa ng mga estudyante ng UP Diliman na itinayo noong Hulyo-Agosto 1996 sa panahon ng paglahok sa halalang pang-kampus. Makabayan at demokratiko ang oryentasyon nito. Pinangunahan ito ng mga pambansa demokratikong organisasyong tulad ng LFS, CNS, PSC, SCM, Gabriela Youth, Alay Sining at CSJP at mga progresibong fraternity at sorority tulad ng Sigma Kappa Pi, Sigma Delta Pi, Gamma Sigma Pi, Lambda Sigma Pi, EMC2 at Astrum Scientis at mga progresibong regional organizations tulad ng Ibalon. Marami sa mga unang kasapi ng STAND UP ay nagmula pa sa naunang alyansa na Sandigan para sa Mag-aaral at Sambayanan o SAMASA.

 

Ang STAND-UP ang nagpatuloy ng progresibong tradisyon ng mga naunang alyansa sa UP tulad ng Partisans at Sandigang Makabansa noong dekada 60-70 at SAMASA noong dekada 80-90. Bahagi tayo ng militante at makabayang tradisyon ng kilusang kabataang estudyante sa UP mula pa sa panahon ng SCAUP noong 1959 at Kabataang Makabayan noong 1964. Hindi mabubuo ang STAND UP kung wala ang mga naunang organisasyon at progresibong alyansa ng naghawan ng landas para sa atin. Mahalaga na hindi natin malimot ang kasaysayan at hindi natin ihiwalay ang sarili sa naging pag-unlad at pagsulong ng kabuuang kilusang estudyante sa UP Diliman.

 

Ang mga naunang progresibong alyansa noong 60’s-70’s ay lumaban para sa demokratikong karapatan sa kampus at kontra sa gerang interbensyon ng US sa Vietnam. Kasama ang UP student movement sa mga lumahok sa makapangyarihang Sigwa ng Unang Kwarto na nagtambol ng linyang pambansang demokrasya. Tampok din sa kasaysayan ang Diliman Commune noong 1971. Ang UP student movement ay nasa unahan ng paglaban sa martial law at diktadurang US-Marcos. Marami ang lumahok sa armadong pakikibaka at itinanghal na mga martir ng bayan.

 

Ang SAMASA ay itinayo noong 1980 bilang sentro ng militanteng pakikibaka para sa pagbabalik ng demokratikong karapatan sa kampus, kabilang ang mga campus publications at student councils. Kalahok din ito sa pagpapabagsak sa pasistang diktadurang US-Marcos. Binuo ito nang mahigit 100 organisasyong estudyante. Matapos mapabagsak ang diktadurang US-Marcos, ikinampanya din nito ang paglalansag sa mga base militar ng Kano noong 1991. Nilabanan nito ang total war ni Cory Aquino at ang unang pagpapatupad ng mapanlinlang na STFAP/TFI noong 1989 at TFI noong 1992.


Katunggali ng SAMASA noon ang Tugon na mas kiling na soc-dem, gayundin ang ISA na ang ilang miyembro ay nagmula pa sa SAMASA. Matapos ang ilang taon, lumiit din ang SAMASA mula sa orihinal nitong bilang.

 

Sa panahon ng dekada 90, umigting ang tunggalian sa loob ng SAMASA matapos mabahura ito sa repormismo, lokalismo at kompromiso. Kinuwestyon ng ilang namumuno ang halaga ng militanteng paglaban. Pinagdudahan ang kapasidad ng mga estudyante na maunawaan ang ating pagsusuri sa mga problema ng lipunan at ang makabayang alternatibo dito. Sa halip na ibasura ang STFAP, naghanap ng paraan para i-reporma ito. Sa halip na ipaglaban ang dagdag na badyet sa edukasyon mula sa estado, nagkasya na lang sa paghahanap ng alternatibong pagkukunan ng pondo. Sa halip na ipaglaban ang radikal na pagbabagong panlipunan, naghahanap lagi ng kagyat at kongkretong tagumpay, kahit na nauuwi sa hindi prinsipyadong kompromiso.

 

Marahil pamilyar sa atin ang mga konseptong ito dahil buhay pa rin ang repormismo, bagama’t naghihingalo na at ilang ulit nang itinakwil ng masang estudyante. Nandyan pa rin ang repormismo bagama’t ibang mga partido na ang nagdadala nito sa ngayon. 

 

Mahalagang ipunto na palagian ang tunggalian sa repormismo sa UP dahil itinataguyod ito ng mismong pamantasan na may reaksyunaryo at kolonyal na oryentasyon. (Halimbawa, sa panahon na ipinapasa ang STFAP noong 1989, itinaguyod ng UP admin ang repormistang linya na maaaring magkaroon ng tunay na democratization sa UP nang hiwalay sa pagbabago ng sistema sa edukasyon at sistema ng lipunan).

 

Sa bahagi ng SAMASA, nang naging malinaw na tumigas na ang repormismo sa pamunuan nito, nagpasya na ang mga progresibong grupo na umalis na sa alyansa upang magtayo ng bagong grupo.

 

Kung susumahin ang kasaysayan, dapat pa ring kilalanin ang malaking positibong ambag ng SAMASA sa kilusang kabataang estudyante at kilusan ng mamamayan, habang pinupuna naman ang mga naging kahinaan at kamalian nito, lalung-lalo na ang repormismo. Dapat ding patuloy na itanghal ang mga martir mula sa mga kasaping organisayson ng SAMASA tulad nina Lean Alejandro, Alvin Dulfo at Joselito Ame.

 

Tunggalian at paghihiwalay

 

Ang STAND UP ay produkto ng matinding tunggalian laban sa repromismo sa loob ng SAMASA. Ang pagtatayo ng STAND-UP ay kongkretong tugon sa lumamalang krisis ng malakolonyal at malapyudal na lipunan at sa mahigpit na pangangailangan abutin ang mas malawak ng masang mag-aaral at pakilusin sila para ipaglaban ang kanilang pambansa at demokratikong interes.

 

Hindi naging madali ang pagtatayo ng bagong alyansa. Dumaan tayo sa isang awkward period noong 1995 kung saan tinawag natin ang sarili bilang SAMASA TMMA o Tunay, Militante at Makabayang Alyansa. Siyempre nakakalito ito sa masang estudyante dahil nga naman parehong gamit ang pangalang “SAMASA”. Tila hindi pa tayo maka-let go at maka-move on.

 

Noong 1996, ang mga organisasyong bahagi ng TMMA ay nag-inisyatiba na bumuo ng malapad na alyansang elektoral. Ito ang magiging unang STAND UP. Nakuha pa nito ang suporta ng mga organisasyon tulad ng SAMASKOM, UJP, Ibarang at iba pang fraternity, sorority at academic organizations. Ngunit sa kabila ng lapad na inabot, nabigo ang STAND UP na maipanalo ang mayorya ng kanyang pinatakbong kandidato sa unang sabak nito sa eleksyon. Malaking disbentahe na walang napatakbong chairperson ang STAND UP. Biiruan noon, “kaya nag-stand up kasi walang chair”. Hindi rin masiglang naisulong ang mga lokal at pambansang pakikibakang masa na siyang mag-iiba sa atin sa iba pang alyansang pangestudyante. Pero sa halalang ito ay nakapagpundar ng pangalan at ugnayan ang ating alyansa. Ipinagpatuloy ang pagbubuo at pagkokonsolida ng STAND UP lagpas sa eleksyon.

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Rally sa Malacanang, taong 1999 para itaas ang budget sa edukasyon. Sa larawan ay mga mag-aaral ng UP na kabahagi ng STAND UP. Marahas na dinisperse ng pulis ang rally matapos umabot sa Gate 7 ng Malacanang ang nagpo-protesta. Apat na student leaders ang inaresto.

Lilipas pa ang ilang taon ng pagpupunyagi at sunod-sunod na pagkatalo sa eleksyon. Sa kabila ng kabiguan, hindi bumitiw sa linya ang STAND UP. Kahit wala sa pamunuan ng konseho, ilang taong nilabanan nito ang Commonwealth Property Development Plan o CPDP. Inilatag nito ang pagsusuri kaugnay ng komresyalisasyon ng “idle assets” at ang ugnayan nito sa kolonyal at komersyalisadong oryentasyon ng edukasyon sa UP. Patuloy nitong tinutulan ang STFAP at pagtalikod ng estado sa responsiblidad nito sa edukasyon. Nilabanan nito ang mga mapanupil na patakaran sa kampus. SInuportahan nito ang mga pakikibaka ng mamamayan tulad ng People’s Caravan laban sa APEC sa Subic, mga welga ng manggagawa ng SM, Manila Hotel, Grand Boulevard Hotel at LRT. Kasama ito sa kampanya laban sa pagtaas ng presyo ng langis, all-out war sa Mindanao at laban sa pagpapatibay ng RP-US VIsiting Forces Agreement.

 

Kinikilala natin ang mga naging kahinaan sa panahon ng 1996-1999 sa usapin ng pagsusulong ng lokal na pakikibaka, pag-uugnay nito sa mga panlipunang usapin, pagdadala ng tamang political line at mass line, wastong pakikipag-alyansa sa mga progresibo at positibong pwersa sa kampus, at mahigpit na pakikipagkapit-bisig sa aping mamamayan. Nagsikap ang STAND UP at ang militanteng kilusang estudaynte sa UP na lutasin ang mga problema at lagpasan ang mga kahinaan.

 

Makabuluhang pagsulong

 

Magaganap ang malaking pihit nang pangunahan ng STAND UP, kasama ang iba pang sektor sa pamantasan, ang pambansang pakikibaka laban sa budget cuts at komersyalisasyon sa UP noong 1999. Mula Kamara, Senado hanggang Palasyo, nagmarka ang mga militante at papalaking pagkilos ng mga mag-aaral ng UP. Nauna nang pinangunahan ng STAND UP ang pagbubuo ng malapad na alyansang Ugnayan ng Mag-aaral Laban sa Komersyalisasyon o Umaksyon at ang multisectoral na KilBac o Kilusan Laban sa Budget Cuts.

 

Ang sigla ng lokal at sektoral na pakikibaka ay sinabayan pa ng pagtindi ng krisis sa pulitika sa panahon ng rehimeng Estrada. Humugis na ang malawak na hanay kontra-Estrada at lumaganap ang mga protesta. Naubo na rin sa panahong ito ang komprehensibong organisasyon ng kabataan, ang Anakbayan.


Sa taong 2000 ay natamo ng STAND UP ang unang landslide na panalo sa konseho. Lahat nang tumakbo sa university-wide slate ay nakapasok. Sa pagbabalik ng militansya sa konseho, pinamunuan ng STAND UP ang ang mas malawakang pagkilos kontra sa budget cuts at komersyalisasyon ng edukasyon. Mangunguna din ang STAND UP at USC sa pagpapakilos ng libo-libong estudyante sa pag-aalsang EDSA 2.

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Protesta at die-in ng mga UP students kontra sa budget cuts sa panahon ng deliberasyon sa Senado.

Masusundan ito ng ilang taon ng dominanteng pagkapanalo sa konseho at matatagumpay na kampanya tulad ng pagbabasura sa ROTC. Mangunguna ang STAND UP sa student strikes, walk out at mga martsa para sa demokratikong karapatan sa edukasyon. Kalahok din ang STAND UP sa malawak na kilusang nanawagang patalsikin si Gloria Macapagal Arroyo dahil sa pandaraya sa eleksyon, kurapsyon at pasismo. Hanggang sa panahon ni Aquino, hindi tumigil ang STAND UP sa pagbibigkis ng mga mag-aaral para ipaglaban ang pagbabago.

 

May mga panahon din na nalasap ng STAND UP na sunod-sunod na pagkatalo sa konseho. Sa mga panahong ito ay nagkaroon ng kahinaan sa pagsusulong ng pakikibaka ng estudyante at mamamayan, kahinaan sa pagdadala ng linyang makabayan at demokratiko, pagdadala ng wastong linyang masa, kahinaan sa gawaing alyansa at maging kahinaan sa usaping pang-organisasyon.

 

Kadalasan natatalo tayo kapag hindi natin napanghahawakan ang mga isyu’t pakikibaka ng estudyante at mamamayan. Kadalasan natatalo tayo kapag hindi natin sapul ang pangunahing mga isyung kinakaharap ng mga mag-aaral at kung gayon ay hindi malinaw ang dalang mensahe o linya ng ating kampanya. Kadalasan natatalo tayo kapag makitid ang ating balangkas ng pagpapakilos o kapag hindi natin nabubuo ang malapad na pagkakaisa ng mga estudyante para ipaglaban ang kanilang mga interes at interes ng mamamayan. Natatalo tayo kapag walang solidong base na aasahan nating magsulong ng laban.


Natatalo tayo kapag hindi natin mapagpasyang nailalantad ang repormismo at mga grupo at institusyon na nagdadala nito sa kampus.  Natatalo tayo kapag hindi malinaw na naiguguhit ang linya para sa makabuluhang pagbabago at kapag hindi napagkakaisa ang pinakamalawak at pinakamalapad para sa layuning ito. 

 

Susi kung gayon ang walang-humapay o buong-taong pagbubuo ng malawak na pagkakaisa ng masang estudaynte at kanilang patuloy na paglaban sa iba’t ibang isyung lokal at pambansa. Sa halalang pangkampus, mahalaga na may simple at matalas na mensahe na kayang pagkaisahin ang pinakamarami. Susi din ang mga taktikang alyansa para abutin at pakilusin ang iba’t ibang tipo ng suporta. Maraming organisasyon ang sumusuporta sa STAND UP tuwing eleksyon kahit hindi sila pormal na kaanib ng alyansa. Lubhang mahalaga ang mulat na pagbaka, kapwa teoretikal at praktikal, sa mga repormistang ideya at mga gawi ng mga katunggaling partido. Pinakamabisang paraan ng paglalantad sa repormismo ay ang militanteng pagsusulong ng mga laban nga mag-aaral at mamamayan. Sa aktwal na pakikibaka, sa pagkakaroon ng karanasana sa pulitika, nagiging malinaw sa masang estudyante ang kaibahan ng linyang militante at repormista. 


Sa tinagal-tagal ng paglahok natin sa eleksyon, nakahalaw din tayo ng maraming aral sa pagbubuo at paglalatag ng makinarya sa iba’t ibang kolehiyo at departamento. Nasapol na rin natin ang wastong kumbinasyon ng mga kandidatong may subok na track record sa pamumuno at popular na suporta. Siyempre pa, tayo lang ang alyansang nagtatamasa ng suporta mula sa iba’t ibang sektor ng pamantasan, mula sa mga guro, kawani, komunidad, tsuper at manininda.

 

Sa pagpupurisge ng mga kasama– sa pamamagitan ng puspusang pakikibaka at matatag na pamumuno kahit wala sa konseho– nakakabawi ang STAND UP mula sa mga pagkatalo.

 

Tumatanaw na ang STAND UP sa ika-21 taon nito ngayong 2017. Halos lahat ng katunggaling alyansa ng STAND UP nang ito ay itinatag ay hindi na lumalahok sa eleksyon. Marami sa dating kasaping organisasyon ng SAMASA ay matagal na ring sumanib sa STAND UP.

 

Sa ngayon, ang STAND UP ang pinakamatagal o longest-standing university-wide student alliance o political party na lumalahok sa eleksyon sa kampus. Hihigitan na nito ang dalawang-dekadang kasaysayan ng SAMASA. Aabutan pa nito ang ika-30 taon ng socialized tuition sa UP sa 2019. Ito na ang inabot ng 20 taon ng militanteng pakikibaka at puspusang paglilingkod sa sambayanan.

 

Sa loob ng 20 taon, maraming alumni ng STAND UP ang tumampok sa iba’t ibang larangan ng pakikibaka at iba’t ibang propesyon sa lipunan. Nagpupugay tayo sa mga martir na nagmula sa mga kasaping organisasyon ng STAND UP, silang nag-alay ng panahon at buhay para sa pagpapalaya ng sambayanan. Sa bawat anibersaryo ng alyansa, marapat na alalahanin sila at ipagbunyi bilang mga huwaran para sa mga kabataan.

 

Sa pasupusang pakikibaka at sa di matitinag na pananalig sa lakas ng masa, tiyak na aani pa ng mas maraming tagumpay ang STAND UP sa susunod na dekada. ###


*Ang may akda ay naging lider ng LFS UP Diliman at bahagi ng SAMASA mula 1992-94. Kabilang siya sa mga nagtatag ng STAND UP noong 1996. Naging unang tagapangulo din siya ng Anakbayan.

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March 29 marks the 48th anniversary of the establishment of the New People’s Army. It is recognized as Asia’s longest running armed rebellion, with an army composed mainly of poor peasants, joined by workers and educated youth.

The fact that the NPA has outlasted several regimes, including the Marcos dictatorship and two Aquino regimes, shows the need to seriously address the root causes of the armed conflict in the Philippines.

Many military campaigns have been launched by previous regimes, all supported and funded by the United States, yet the AFP has been unable to decisively defeat the revolutionary forces. President Rodrigo Duterte himself has acknowledged many times that the NPA is supported by the poor and thus could not simply be defeated militarily. Duterte somehow understands the basis for the armed rebellion being waged by the revolutionary forces. This has led him to engage the revolutionary forces in peace negotiations.

At the core of the demands of the revolutionary forces are land reform, national industrialization, genuine democracy and freedom from foreign dictates.

The peace talks is an arena where both the GRP and the revolutionary forces represented by the NDFP, can address the root causes of the armed struggle by forging substantive agreements.

The talks have made significant achievements over the past seven months and is expected to move forward with the scheduled 4th and 5th rounds. There is a possibility that agreements on socio-economic reforms and political and constitutional reforms can be signed by this year and next year.

Signining the Comprehensive Agreement on Socio-economic Reforms can pave the way for a more stable bilateral ceasefire between the GRP and NDFP.

Successful negotiations on economic reforms will lead to negotiations on political reforms. The possibility of the GRP and NDFP working together for a federal republic has been raised. This entails providing safeguards against puppetry to foreign interests, political dynasties, fascist dictatorship and guarantees on civil liberties.

Duterte can choose to push the peace talks to a favorable and just conclusion through the forging of substantive agreements. This will lay the foundation for a just peace. He may also choose to abandon the talks and take a more reactionary position towards the revolutionary forces.

All things considered, he is compelled by the current economic and political crisis to choose the path of achieving a just peace. Should he choose otherwise, so long as the roots of the armed conflict remain, the forces of revolution will most certainly persist and outlast his administration.

The 4th round of formal peace talks starts on April 2 in The Hague, Netherlands. ###