4 November 2005

It should be amply evident by now that the killing of Church people, lawyers, members of people’s organizations, and leaders and members of progressive party-list groups is part of a state policy to eliminate dissenters, left-wing personalities involved in the electoral process, and political activists.

Although implemented prior to the May 2004 elections to prevent leftist party list groups from winning additional seats in Congress, an added impetus to this state policy is the involvement of progressive groups in the campaign for the resignation of Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.

The conclusion that it is the government that’s responsible for the killings is based on several reasons. That these killings have been systematically carried out, were well-planned, and committed by well-armed assassins is only one of them.

The Arroyo government, through the Armed Forces of the Philippines, escalated in 2004 its campaign of demonizing left-wing party-list groups. In a systematic campaign aimed at legitimizing the harassment and even murder of political activists, the AFP also labeled journalists’ and Church groups as well as legal people’s organizations “fronts” of the Communist Party. In AFP official publications and internal communications, these groups, their leaders and their members were identified for “neutralization” as part of the alleged “legal machinery” of the Communist Party of the Philippines.

As part of this campaign, but more immediately to prevent their winning additional seats in Congress, at the height of the campaign for the May 2004 elections the National Security Adviser echoed the AFP claims, and even alleged that party- list groups like Bayan Muna were funding NPA operations.

This campaign must be seen in the context of the orchestrated effort to curtail civil liberties, press freedom and individual rights through a host of initiatives that since 2001 have included:

� The creation by Gloria Macapagal Arroyo of a national ID system through an executive order and without congressional approval;

� The introduction, mostly by majority congressmen, of bills in Congress that would impose prior censorship on Philippine media;

� The “no permit no rally” policy and its twin, the “Calibrated Preemptive Response (CPR)” approach to the dispersal of demonstration in place of the “maximum tolerance” policy mandated by law; and

� The anti-terrorism bills pending in Congress that would allow wire taps, secret raids on residences, and the interception of private communications, and which imposes death sentences and huge fines on “terrorist” offenses that now include harboring suspected terrorists, and hampering the operations of public utilities.

But Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo’s steadfast silence even in the face of five political killings that occurred within a 48-hour period last week speaks at least as loudly as the steps the regime has been taking. The killings are neither random nor the result of one general’s fascist brutality, but a deliberate, systematic, and orchestrated policy.

Mrs. Arroyo’s has broken her silence over the killings only twice�once by blaming “the insurgency” for the loss of tourism opportunities for local communities; and, last week, by ordering an investigation into the killing of the Hacienda Luisita union president, in an obvious attempt to link the Aquino family to it.

Mrs. Arroyo’s political ploys notwithstanding, the killings can only be part of a wider effort not only to terrorize legal progressive organizations and dissenters in general, but also to eliminate them physically.

Much has been said of an alleged state policy that allows dissenters to participate in the electoral and parliamentary process. Until two years ago, the standard AFP line was that there was no need for any group to take up arms because they can now “join the mainstream” and fight for their programs, no matter how progressive, in the legal sphere.

The killings demonstrate that a policy exactly the opposite of the stated one is in place. They belie the regime’s claim that even leftists can participate in the parliamentary process, or even in petitioning the government for the redress of grievances. In the process they validate the thesis of the armed left wing groups that only by taking up the gun can change be achieved in this country.

Center for People Empowerment in Governance

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