Martial Law: Lorenzana and Año’s “innovative” approach not just vs. Maute?

Defense Sec. Delfin Lorenzana and AFP Chief of Staff Gen. Eduardo Año (Photo from Frances Mangosing/inquirer.net)

Is Martial Law Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana and armed forces chief (and now Martial Law administrator) Gen. Eduardo Año’s “innovative” approach to end the armed conflict in Mindanao and to achieve the military establishment’s self-imposed target of wiping out armed groups in the region before President Rodrigo Duterte’s first State of the Nation Address (SONA) in July?

Is it actually aimed not just at the Maute and other terrorist groups but also legitimate rebel forces, including those that the Duterte administration is pursuing a negotiated peace agreement with?

At the start of the year (January 9), Lorenzana declared that the military would crush the Maute group (and Abu Sayyaf) in six months. To achieve the stated target, Lorenzana said they would use an “innovative” approach. “We are going to do something new or innovative to finish this problem once and for all,” Lorenzana said as quoted by the Philippine Daily Inquirer.

Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) Chief of Staff Gen. Año followed up Lorenzana’s declaration with the deployment of more than 50 Army battalions in Mindanao. It is said to be most massive AFP troops deployment ever with the avowed goal of “wiping out” the Abu Sayyaf, Maute group, and Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighter (BIFF). The military is set to assess the progress of this bold counter-insurgency target in June.

By end of January, Lorenzana reported that the “all-out war” against the Maute and other terrorist groups is already in full swing, using the military’s ground, sea, and air assets (including newly purchased FA-50 fighter jets).

The AFP’s operations against Mindanao’s terrorist groups under the Duterte administration have actually started long before the January pronouncements of Lorenzana and Año. In its report for the first 100 days of Pres. Duterte, the AFP said that it has already launched 579 “massive focused military operations” against the Abu Sayyaf, Maute and BIFF that resulted in the neutralization of almost 150 terrorist personalities (killed, surrendered, or captured).

Prior to the Marawi clashes, the AFP said that the Maute group has been suffering heavy blows from the sustained military campaign. On April 24, the military reported that the Maute group’s main camp in Lanao del Sur has already been seized and occupied by state forces, with some 30 of its members supposedly killed in the combat operations.

Meanwhile, hours before Lorenzana and other Cabinet officials, who were in Russia, announced Pres. Duterte’s Martial Law order late Wednesday (May 23) night, officials on the ground were saying that the Marawi situation is already under control. (See Timeline)

With an already sustained campaign and deployment of huge military resources, what justifies the Martial Law declaration? And why the entire island of Mindanao when the incident that supposedly triggered it is only in Marawi City?

Apparently, for Lorenzana, the target of Martial Law is not just the Abu Sayyaf and Maute group in Marawi City but also the New People’s Army (NPA). In justifying the declaration of Martial Law over the entire island of Mindanao, Lorenzana, as quoted by MindaNews, said: “Because there are also problems in Zamboanga, Sulu, Tawi-tawi, also in Central Mindanao, the BIFF (Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Forces) area, and also some problems in Region 11 (Southern Mindanao) yung pangongotong ng NPA (extortion by the New Peoples’ Army)”.

Lorenzana and the military establishment have been carrying out a sustained campaign to undermine the peace talks with the NPA, Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP), and National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP). The DND/military propaganda against the CPP-NPA-NDFP has been clearly aimed to delegitimize the peace talks such as Lorenzana’s terrorist tagging of the rebel group just before the last round of formal peace talks between the NDFP and government panels started last April. NPA units have been the strongest in Mindanao with a string of successful tactical offensives against the military and police as well as against abusive businesses operating in the region such as mining companies and plantations.

Martial Law does not single out Maute, Abu Sayyaf or BIFF. It opens everyone in Mindanao – including those that the AFP and DND are accusing of as being NPA members or sympathizers and CPP front organizations – to the many abuses and atrocities of state forces. Gen. Año who will be the administrator of Martial Law has been notorious for committing such grave human rights abuses under the military’s anti-NPA campaign.

The human rights situation in Mindanao and throughout the country has already been appalling – with the military and police as among the main perpetrators – even without Martial Law. We do not need to imagine what will happen to human rights under a military rule, we just need to remember the Marcos dictatorship. ###

Advertisements

CPP founding anniversary: Peace talks is Duterte’s best option against 48-year old insurgency

13122879_1060082937384993_2893363811517623391_o
Photo by Southern Tagalog Exposure

The Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) warned the Duterte administration that it may be forced to soon withdraw its declared unilateral ceasefire amid the continuing armed operations of the military and unfulfilled commitment of the President to release all political prisoners. The CPP made the statement as it marks the 48th anniversary of its establishment today, December 26. (Read here)

About half a million Filipinos in more than 500 barrios nationwide are affected by military presence and alleged human rights atrocities and repression after units of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) occupied their areas, in violation of the military’s own unilateral truce and apparently taking advantage of the rebel-declared ceasefire. Meanwhile, some 400 political prisoners remain in detention in various jails around the country.

One week after becoming the clear winner of the 2016 presidential polls, President Rodrigo Duterte said he would seek general amnesty for all political prisoners. The move was seen as a confidence-building measure in pursuing peace talks with the CPP, its political arm the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) and its armed unit New People’s Army (NPA). (Watch here)

Before Duterte’s official inauguration last June, his then incoming Labor chief and peace panel chair also said that the new government would release political prisoners covered by the Joint Agreement on Security and Immunity Guarantees (JASIG) even before a general amnesty is granted. Also to be released early supposedly are the elderly and sick on humanitarian reasons. (Read here) The JASIG is a 1995 agreement produced by the peace talks between the NDFP and the then Ramos administration. It prohibits the state from arresting or persecuting rebels who are participating in the negotiations as NDFP consultants. (Read here) Just early this month, Duterte reportedly again committed the release of 165 elderly and sick political prisoners during a meeting in Davao City with top NDFP officials. (Read here)

But now six months into his presidency, only one political prisoner has been released through presidential pardon under Duterte. No detainee has been freed because of JASIG or for humanitarian grounds, much less through general amnesty, with one elderly and sick political prisoner already succumbing to poor health. The 19 NDFP peace talks consultants were temporarily released on bail while another 21 political prisoners won their cases in courts or availed of legal remedies. Further, 15 new political prisoners were illegally arrested and detained since Duterte became President. (Read here)

Meanwhile, despite its own declaration of ceasefire, the AFP continues to militarize the rural areas and to conduct armed and intelligence operations, the CPP claims. The notorious Oplan Bayanihan, according to reports, will not be discontinued by the Duterte administration but will even intensify albeit with “minor additions” in the light of the ongoing peace talks. (Read here) Duterte’s appointment of the controversial and alleged human rights violator General Eduardo Año as the new AFP chief also signals that the anti-communist counterinsurgency campaign targeting the civil and political rights of civilians, including through extrajudicial killings of activists, will remain. (Read here)

It seems that instead of creating a more conducive environment for the peace talks, the Duterte administration is making it even more difficult for the already complicated negotiation on social and economic reforms – the agenda in the upcoming round of talks – to succeed. Coupled with its repressive and bloody drug war that targets the poor and powerless, avowed commitment to continue the neoliberal economic policies that impoverish the people, and role in completing the political comeback of the despised Marcoses, the Duterte administration is in fact creating conditions for greater social conflict and unrest.

The NPA ceasefire, which at more than 100 days is now the longest in its almost five-decade existence, shows the eagerness of the revolutionary groups to negotiate a peace agreement with Duterte that will address the roots of what is essentially a civil war being waged by landless peasants and other oppressed and exploited classes in Philippine society. Despite flip-flopping on his earlier commitments on a general amnesty for all political detainees and the release of those who are elderly and sick, the NDFP still expressed willingness to discuss Duterte’s call for a bilateral ceasefire agreement.

Duterte should not throw away this opportunity. For almost five decades, six regimes with support from the world’s richest economy and most powerful military, the US, have used brutal dictatorship and all-out war, ruthless extrajudicial methods as well as treacherous propaganda to end the civil war, but to no avail.

Despite being up against the formidable machinery and resources of the state and its imperialist backers, the NPA today, under CPP leadership, is said to operate in more than 70 provinces covering hundreds of municipalities and thousands of barangays nationwide and can supposedly move freely in 80% of Philippine territory – a claim bolstered by its string of successful tactical offensives in recent years. (Read here) Indeed, it appears that the negotiating table is the Duterte administration’s best option against the longest running and most resilient insurgency in the region. ###

Mining and climate change: Aquino’s policy incoherence

The Aquino administration assures the public that it is proactively dealing with climate change but continues to promote programs like large-scale mining that aggravate the adverse impact of extreme weather events (Photo from facebook.com)

First published by The Philippine Online Chronicles

What caused the massive flooding in the provinces of Central and Northern Luzon, several of which remain submerged more than a week after  typhoons Pedring and Quiel left the country? Elderly village folks in affected areas swear that they have not seen such flooding before, that what happened was abnormal. For this, the catch-all explanation of the Department of Science and Technology (DOST) is climate change. “What we consider as abnormal we should now consider as normal,” its undersecretary was quoted as saying.

But the Aquino administration assures the public that it is proactively dealing with the issue of climate change. In fact, President Benigno S. Aquino III has made Climate Change Mitigation and Adaptation as one of the five Cabinet clusters that will implement his programs until 2016. In Aquino’s proposed 2012 budget, P36.2 billion is allocated for climate change adaptation and mitigation activities.

Priority area

Ironically, however, the Aquino administration also continues to promote programs that aggravate the vulnerability of the country to the adverse impact of climate change. One example is large-scale mining, which is among the priority areas of government’s Philippine Development Plan (PDP) 2011-2016. While the PDP talks about linking the mining industry to the domestic production of manufactured goods and industrial products, its ultimate goal is to double the sector’s exports by 2016.

The importance that Malacañang gives to the mining industry as among the sectors with the “highest growth potentials and generate the most jobs” explains its strong reaction to the simultaneous attacks on three mining firms in Surigao de Norte last Oct. 3 by the New People’s Army (NPA). The rebels cited the serious harm to the environment being inflicted by the large-scale mining operations in the province as one of the main reasons for staging the attacks.

Massive deforestation

Mining contributes to both the cause and effect of climate change. The Philippines is considered one of the most mineralized countries in the world (third in gold, fourth in copper, fifth in nickel) due to its location along a belt of volcanoes in the Pacific. According to the Mines and Geosciences Bureau (MGB), an estimated “nine million hectares of the Philippine total land area of 30 million hectares are geologically prospective for metallic minerals”. But much of these areas lie underneath the country’s forests, which have to be cleared to extract the minerals, resulting to massive deforestation. It has been reported that the Philippines ranks number three in the world (behind Honduras and Nigeria) with the fastest deforestation rate. The Center for Environmental Concerns (CEC) Philippines, citing government data, said that the country’s forest cover is just about 18% of the total land area.

Together with corporate logging, large-scale mining is behind the significant deforestation in the country. The forest cover in the town of Claver in Surigao del Norte, where the target of the recent NPA offensive –Taganito Mining Corp. (TMC), Taganito HPAL Nickel Corp., and Platinum Group Metals Corp. (PGMC) are operating – is just one in a long list of forests denuded by large-scale mining. Generated through Google Maps, a satellite image of Claver where TMC operates shows a vast portion of the mountains in reddish hue, indicating massive deforestation.

A recent documentary by the GMA’s “Reporter’s Notebook” also presented the extent of environmental damage, including deforestation, caused by the mining operations in Claver as well as in Surigao del Sur. The GMA report said that the massive mining in Claver has almost leveled the mountains with the extracted minerals being exported to Australia, China, and Japan for processing.

Aggravating climate change

The clearing of forests is one of the factors behind global climate change as forests store huge amounts of carbon. According to the Greenpeace, “when forests are logged or burnt, that carbon is released into the atmosphere, increasing the amount of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases and accelerating the rate of climate change. So much carbon is released that they contribute up to one-fifth of global man-made emissions, more than the world’s entire transport sector.”

In the Reporter’s Notebook documentary on mining in Claver, reporter Jiggy Manicad noted the thick blanket of dust from the mining areas. Environmental advocacy group World Rainforest Movement (WRM) pointed out that this dust does not only pollute the air and causes serious health problems but also triggers a release of gases and toxic vapor, including “sulphur dioxide – responsible for acid rain – is produced because of metal treatment, and carbon dioxide and methane – two of the main greenhouse effect gases causing climate change – are also released, due to the burning of fossil fuels and the creation of artificial lakes for the hydroelectric dams, built to provide energy for the casting ovens and refineries.”

Of course, the amount of GHG emissions of the Philippines, including from deforestation, is dwarfed by the emissions of the world’s largest industrial countries. The US alone accounts for 25% of historical GHG emissions, according to the Friends of the Earth (FOE). Furthermore, much of the GHG emissions of poor countries actually come from the operation of First World companies plundering the natural resources of poor countries such as in the case of the Claver mines where Japanese giant mining company Sumitomo Metal Mining Co. has stakes in the TMC and Taganito HPAL Nickel Corp. Nonetheless, it does not downplay the incoherence in the Aquino administration’s proclaimed environment-conscious medium-term plan and its avowed promotion of supposed “development” programs that worsen climate change such as large-scale mining.

Worsening impact

But for Third World countries like the Philippines, the bigger concern is how deforestation and other environmental problems caused by large-scale mining increase the vulnerability of communities to extreme weather events such as unusual volume of rainfall (like typhoon Ondoy in 2009, which according to local weather officials poured a month’s volume of rain in barely six hours) due to climate change. Deforestation, for instance, aggravates flooding in rural and urban areas, which in the Philippines has become increasingly worse and more frequent. Forests play a crucial environmental role in preventing  floods. A report said, quoting the findings of a research conducted by the Charles Darwin University and the National University of Singapore, that “as little as 10% loss of forest cover leads to an increase of as much as 28% in flood risk.”

Another way that large-scale mining aggravates flooding is the siltation of rivers. One source of sediments are the tailings disposed by mining companies in rivers such as in the case of the Abra River that according to the Cordillera People’s Alliance (CPA) has become heavily silted because of the tailings disposal of Lepanto Consolidated Mining Company. As a consequence, an estimated 465 hectares of riceland have been washed out, the CPA claimed. Experts have also attributed the heavy flooding in Centra Luzon, aside from the ill-timed release of water from privatized dams, to the siltation of rivers due to denuded mountains in the region, which also hosts a number of mining operations.

Not a recent concern

Contrary to the common notion, climate change is not a recent concern of the government. In fact, the Philippines was among the first to recognize, at least on paper, climate change as a phenomenon and the urgent need to address its causes and mitigate its impact. As early as 1991, Noynoy’s mother, the late President Cory Aquino has already created the Inter-Agency Committee on Climate Change (IACC) through Administrative Order (AO) No. 220.  The Philippines was also among the first to ratify the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change(UNFCC), which it did in 1994.

These initiatives suffer from basic defects such as the promotion of market-based mechanisms to mitigate climate change (e.g. allowing rich countries to buy cheap emission credits from poor countries which allow industrial countries to evade their responsibility to cut down their own emissions) as well as low emission reduction targets. Worse, as a result of lobbying and pressure from First World corporations and financial institutions and their local agents, Third World countries like the Philippines continue to implement programs that allow the wanton corporate plunder of natural resources and enormous destruction of the environment. A year after ratifying the UN agreement on climate change, for instance, the Philippine Congress passed the Philippine Mining Act of 1995 or Republic Act (RA) 7942, which liberalized and consequently intensified large-scale mining in the country.

Two decades since the country officially acknowledged the challenge of climate change, there is no indication that government is willing or capable to promote development programs that are truly sustainable and responsive to the country’s environmental and social concerns and economic needs. #

Red-baiting: ang maruming laban ni Risa Hontiveros

Ano ang maganda sa laban ni Risa? (photo by rcmanila on Photobucket)

Hindi naman daw red-baiting ang ginagawa ni Risa Hontiveros ng Akbayan/Liberal Party (LP) sa senatorial candidates na sina Satur Ocampo at Liza Maza ng Makabayan. “Nowhere in my press statement did I call them communist,” ani Hontiveros.

Ano exactly ang sinabi ni Hontiveros? Nasa ibaba ang portion ng isang direct quote sa kanyang press statement:

“Actually, the links between the left-wing candidates in the NP slate and the Communist Party is something that nobody really questions.”

Ano exactly ang links na tinutukoy ni Hontiveros? Muli, direct quote sa kanyang press statement:

“It doesn’t help that Satur Ocampo and Lisa Maza keep on pussy-footing on ideological roots and organizational links.”

Wala naman daw nagdududa sa links nina Ocampo at Maza sa CPP. At huwag na raw magkakaila sina Ocampo at Maza sa ideological at organizational links na ito.

Hindi ito red-baiting?

Sa kanyang depensa sa batikos na magkatambal sila ni Gen. Jovito Palparan sa red-baiting, iginiit ni Hontiveros na: “It is actually their refusal to condemn the atrocities and abuses of the CPP-NPA that indirectly helps human rights violators like Palparan to commit further abuses.”

Sa ilohika ni Hontiveros, kasalanan (kahit pa indirectly) nina Ocampo at Maza kung bakit patuloy na pinapatay, dinudukot, at tinutoryur ng Arroyo administration at ng armed forces nito ang mga aktibista. Kung kukundenahin lang nina Ocampo at Maza ang “atrocities and abuses” ng CPP-NPA, matitigil na ang state-sponsored human rights violations?

Ganito mangatwiran ang mga doble-karang oportunista. Mapanganib ang mga taong ganito.

Karapatan s’yempre ni Hontiveros at ng Akbayan na batikusin ang ipinagpapalagay nilang atrocities at abuses ng CPP-NPA. Pero ibang usapin ang red-baiting.

Tandaang hindi ito ang unang pagkakataon na nag-red-baiting ang Akbayan.

Noong January 2005, sa internationally circulated statement ng Bangkok-based na Focus on the Global South kunsaan executive director si Walden Bello ng Akbayan, sinabi nitong: “Being part of a bigger global movement for social justice, we have interacted with, worked with, or even supported groups that are associated or working closely with the CPP such as Ibon Foundation, Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP), Cordillera People’s Alliance (CPA), International League of People’s Struggles (ILPS), KMU (May 1st Movement), Asian Student Association (ASA), and Migrante. We now appeal to the sense of decency of individuals in these and other groups and urge them to denounce these actions and apply moral suasion on Sison and other leaders of the CPP and NPA to refrain from the threat and use of force and assassination.”

Mahigit isang libo na ang biniktima ng extrajudicial killings sa ilalim ng Oplan Bantay Laya

Kagaganap pa lamang noon ng Hacienda Luisita massacre nang ilabas nina Bello ang kanilang statement. Ginatungan nito ang propaganda ng militar na mga komunista daw ang nasa likod ng welga sa Hacienda Luisita. Sa dokumentong Knowing the Enemy, na lumabas sa publiko pagkalipas ng ilang buwan, tinukoy ng AFP na communist fronts daw ang mga organisasyong binanggit nina Bello.

Sa mga dokumento ng Oplan Bantay Laya (OBL), ang mga “sectoral front organizations” ng CPP-NPA ang target ng neutralization ng AFP. Ito ang kwento ng extrajudicial killings ng mga aktibista sa bansa.

Ang mga doble-karang oportunista ay nagpapanggap na progresibo. Sa isang banda, ipinagyayabang na sila ay human rights at peace advocates.

“How can I be a supporter of a human rights violator, when I filed a case for the disqualification of his (Palparan) party-list? When I authored a lot of resolutions investigating incidents of human rights violations? When I have bills penalizing torture, enforced disappearance, and strengthening the Commission on Human Rights?” tanong ni Hontiveros.

Isang bagay ang mag-file ng maraming bills at resolutions tungkol sa human rights. Ibang bagay ang mag-red-baiting. Ibang bagay ang ginagatungan at inuulit-ulit ang black propaganda ng AFP laban kina Ocampo, Maza, kanilang mga kasamahan at grupo.

Hindi maikakaila ni Hontiveros at ng Akbayan na ang kanilang red-baiting ay ginagamit ng Arroyo administration upang pagtakpan ang napakasahol nitong human rights record.

Noong 2008, nang lumabas ang report ni Prof. Philip Alston, ang Special Rapporteur on Extrajudicial, Summary, or Arbitrary Execution ng United Nations (UN), binira ng Malacañang ang integrity ng report. Pinagbintangan nito si Prof. Alston na pinapaboran ang CPP-NPA-NDF. Ang ebidensya ng administrasyong Arroyo? Ang mga naunang pahayag nina Bello at Etta Rosales ng Akbayan.

Sa official statement ni Ambassador Erlinda F. Basilio, Permanent Representative to the UN and other international organizations ng bansa, sinabi nitong:

“Prof. Alston’s partiality, selectivity and double standard are fully demonstrated in End Note no. 46 of Prof. Alston’s report. This concerns two leftist government critics – Prof. Walden Bello and Ms. Etta Rosales, whose freedom of expression and right to life were threatened, not by pro-government groups, but by Prof. Alston’s favored group (i.e. the CPP-NPA-NDF). Mr. Bello and Ms. Rosales are leaders of the party-list group Akbayan.”

Bakit hindi si Noynoy ang hamunin ni Hontiveros na i-denounce ang Hacienda Luisita massacre at SDO?

Ang tinutukoy ni Basilio ay ang pahayag noong December 2004 nina Bello at Rosales tungkol sa pagkakabilang nila sa diumano’y NPA hit list. Muli, isang bagay na kundenahin ang ipinagpapalagay nilang hit list (na actually ay diagram ng mga counter-revolutionary groups at kanilang international links, downloadable ito sa CPP website; tingnan ang page 8 ng Ang Bayan, December 7, 2004 issue). Ibang bagay ang malisyosong “umapela” sa mga ligal na organisasyon at institusyong gaya ng KMU, KMP, IBON, CPA, at iba pa dahil sila ay “associated” o “working closely” sa CPP-NPA. Ito ay red-baiting.

Balikan natin ang statement ni Hontiveros. Sabi nito, “She said that the PTC (permit to campaign), the NPA’s human rights violations, and allegations of corruption committed by Villar are valid electoral and political issues that all candidates, regardless of party affiliations, should address”.

Kung valid electoral at political issues ang PTC at NPA, bakit kina Ocampo at Maza lamang ito ibinabato ni Hontiveros? Bakit sina Ocampo at Maza lamang ang kailangang mag-denounce sa CPP-NPA na para bang sila ang kumukumpas sa mga gawain ng CPP-NPA?

Hindi ba’t para sa isang nagsasabing s’ya ay human rights at peace advocate, mas valid na electoral at political issue, in relation to the CPP-NPA, ang peace talks sa halip na denunciation nina Ocampo at Maza?

Kung naghahanap ng valid electoral at political issues si Hontiveros, bakit hindi n’ya hamunin si Noynoy Aquino na i-denounce ang Hacienda Luisita massacre at ang stock distribution option (SDO), na lehitimong human rights issues? Hindi ba’t mas may value ang denunciation ni Noynoy sa Hacienda Luisita massacre at SDO dahil siya at kanyang pamilya ang kumukumpas sa Luisita?

Bakit hindi ang peace talks, Oplan Bantay Laya, o Hacienda Luisita ang gustong pag-usapan ni Hontiveros? Dahil red-baiting ang totoong adyenda nila ng Akbayan.