Privileged speech delivered by Bayan Muna Rep. Crispin B. Beltran
October 6, 2003
Mr. Speaker, officials and key leaders of the entire House of Representatives as well as key national security, police and military agencies in the government are currently falling all over themselves in preparation for the visit of United States President George W. Bush this coming October 18. President Bush is the most powerful man in the entire world, the leader of the undisputed superpower; and based on the preparations the public is now witnessing, his visit is seen by the Philippine government as an event of national import.
The Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo government is drum beating this visit as an expression of the strengthening of the supposed friendship between the US and the Philippines. Leaders of both countries are wont to say that RP-US relations have come a long way since it began in 1898 when the US declared a genocidal war against the Filipino people, killing over 600,000 in the course of the Fil-American war. Now, the two countries are supposedly allies in the war against terrorism.
Mr.Speaker, there are many similarities, commonalities between these two presidents. They are both the children of two former presidents. They were both sworn in to the presidency on January 20, 2001. They both became presidents not through victory in the polls. Mr. Bush became president through a decision of the United States Supreme Court. Mrs. Arroyo ascended to the highest office because of People Power 2 and also on the say-so of the Supreme Court. Both have been hounded by election-related scandals – Bush was haunted by the contributions made by Enron, while Mrs. Arroyo is being linked to money laundering charges through the “Jose Pidal” accounts.
But among the biggest similarities between them, Mr. Speaker, are their die-hard commitment in pushing the so-called war against terrorism, their perennial problem of plunging popularity and approval rates in the wake of this die-hard commitment, and, most crucial at this point, is their intent to remain in power beyond 2004.
This, then, Mr. Speaker, is where the similarities end. Let us make no mistake Mr. Speaker, and think that these commonalities are indicative of equality in their stature, or equality in the power they wield as leaders of governments.
This representative would like to firmly register the position that Mr. Bush’ s upcoming visit is not the sort a friend makes to another. Rather, the nature of this visit is one a master does to the home of his slave, an emperor surveying the territories of his empire, and inspecting the lay of the land. Pres. Bush’s arrival in the country exemplify the strengthening of the unequal, one-sided and exploitative relations between the Philippines and the US since 1898.
But before this representation delves further into that discourse, Mr. Speaker, it would be best to give a background on the current leader of the Philippines’ supposed closest ally. Allow this representation to share a short background on the personal history of the man the House leadership wants sorely to feel welcome and honored, US President George W. Bush.
Bush Junior is the 43rd president of the United States. He was born on July 6, 1946 to Barbara Pierce Bush and George Herbert Walker Bush. Bush Sr. accumulated the bulk of his wealth by mining oil in Texas. He then used his economic power to build political power and enter the system of governance. He eventually became the 41st president of the US.
As for Bush Jr, it was earlier determined that he was not made of the stuff that makes academic achievers. As his own teachers would testify, Bush Jr’s intellectual powers were limited, but on the influence of his surname, Bush was able to get into Yale University and get his bachelor’s degree in 1968. As the joke goes, he finished in the top 80% of his class.
After Yale, Bush joined the Texas Air National Guard. He became a 2nd lieutenant, but again, as his instructors would point out, it wasn’t because he possessed any extraordinary flying ability but because of his influential surname. After getting his rank, Bush went AWOL for more than a year.
Closing that phase in his life, Bush entered Harvard University to get his MBA. After that, he returned to Texas to become a CEO in a company he himself established, the Bush Exploration Oil and Gas Company. This company lasted 11 years before going belly up. The failed experience, however, taught Bush that the oil industry was very important to the US economy, and, more importantly, private American corporations seeking to expand their wealth.
With the backing of his father and every ounce of influence his surname could exert, Bush Jr. was elected governor of Texas. He is the first governor to be elected in two consecutive terms. It’s not surprising because his candidacy was bank-rolled by the biggest oil companies in Texas.
Bush Jr. attracted the attention of the Republican party. Despite the limits posed by his intellect, lack of political acumen and experience, the Republicans made him their standard bearer. He proved to be malleable candidate, apart from possessing the name of Bush. He also had behind him the strong support of the giant oil and energy monopolies in the country whose economic interest he shared. He got for his running mate a former CEO of energy monopoly Halliburton and a major defense contractor of the US government Dick Cheney.
Mr. Speaker, it would be interesting to note that Bush Jr. accepted and utilized a record $190 million in campaign contributions from giant oil and energy companies. Because of this, it comes as no surprise that he will be forever beholden to these monopoly business interests because it was through their financial backing he was able to reach the White House. This also strengthens the assertion of millions of anti-war activists that Bush pushed hard for war against Afghanistan and Iraq because he and his allies in the monopolies wanted to take control of these countries’ oil deposits; that the war he waged against humanity were wars in the name of oil and profit.
When his biggest campaign contributor the Enron company was exposed to have facilitated the biggest stock market fraud in American history, Bush and his vice president Cheny washed their hands of the scandal.
Let us now proceed to Mr. Bush’s achievements as president.
In the US, he cut federal spending on libraries by $39 million, cut $35 million in funding for doctors to get advanced pediatric training, cut by 50% funding for research into renewable energy sources, cut funding by 28% for research into cleaner, more efficient cars and trucks. He also suspended rules that would have strengthened the government’s ability to deny contracts to companies that violated workplace safety, environmental and other federal laws.
Bush also cut $200 million of work force training for dislocated workers. He repealed workplace ergonomic rules designed to improve worker health and safety. He cut $700 million in capital funds for repairs in public housing. He also closed the White House Office for Women’s Health Initiatives and Outreach. Bush also proposed and imposed a $2 trillion tax cut, of which 43% will go to the wealthiest 1% of Americans. He signed a bill making it harder for poor and middle-class Americans to file for bankruptcy, even in the case of daunting medical bills. Finally, he is also seeking the dismissal of class-action lawsuit filed in the U.S. against Japan by Asian women forced to work as sex slaves during WWII.
But beyond the damage he has wrought in the lives of the American poor and working people, Bush was also able to wreak direct death and destruction in two nations. He ordered the military attack and take-over of Afghanistan and Iraq. He ignored and overturned the authority of the United Nations, and single-handedly swept aside international law. He also holds the record of accumulating the biggest budget deficits, allocating the biggest fractions of the US budget to military, and bringing down the standards of living of millions of Americans.
As a result of all this, Bush became the public official most targeted by political protests in the United States and in other nations. On February 15, 2003, over 15 million citizens of the world came out into the streets to denounce Bush and his war-mongering against Iraq.
Mr. Speaker,it’s only recently that Bush has been exposed to the world as having used falsified intelligence reports to justify the attacks against Iraq and the take-over of the once sovereign nation. The Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) has also admitted that its reports on the supposed weapons of mass destruction in Iraq were not water-tight and completely credible. Even as this Representation delivers this speech, not a single weapon of mass destruction has been unearthed in Iraq. On the other hand, over 400,000 Iraq civilians have been rendered homeless, arrested by occupying forces, and killed in the attacks and continuing operations.
Given all this, Mr. Speaker, it becomes very morally unconscionable to welcome such an official, such a person to the country. The outrage this Representation feels at the idea of the Philippine government rolling out the red carpet for such an individual is barely containable.
Mr. Bush is going to spend eight hours in the Philippines, but this is already more than enough for his government to conduct a loyalty check and secure guarantees that the Philippines continues to abide by the orders, dictates of the US, including the program and plan of action regarding the “war against terrorism” and the complete liberalization of the economy.
Mr. Speaker, allow this Representation to make a few well-thought out predictions. It’s easy to determine the contents of Bush’ speech. First he will thank Pres. Arroyo for her ‘invaluable support’ to the campaign against terrorism, nevermind the escape of the terrorist Fathur Al Ghozi. Then he will repeat his attempts at flattery, and remind the Philippine government of the label he granted it – that of being a ‘major non-NATO ally.”
Then, after all the pleasantries and platitudes have been done away with, Mr. Bush will begin making his government’s exactions on the Arroyo administration.
On the matter of the so-called war against terrorism, the US is demanding more expansive access arrangements for US military forces. This through the Mutual Logistics Support Agreement (MLSA) and the Balikatan Exercises. The Philippines is a virtual military base because of the constant and sustained presence of US troops in the country in the guise of joint exercises. Even before talks of Bush’s arrival to the country were finalized, there have been several confirmed reports of the entry of US military officials and psy-war experts in areas such as Panay, Bicol and General Santos.
In the meantime, President Bush will also not neglect to thank the Macapagal-Arroyo government for its quick response to the US’ “request” that US troops in the country be given immunity from criminal prosecution. Upon the US’ prodding, the Arroyo government has not only refused to ratify the country’s membership in the International Criminal Court (ICC), but it has forged an executive agreement exempting US military personnel from any criminal liability while in the country.
For its part, the US government through Bush will flaunt the military aid it has given the Philippines. Mr. Speaker, this so-called military aid has made the Arroyo administration fluff its own feathers and preen, nevermind that in truth, the aid was in the form of old, much-used equipment. The American military even have an interesting name for these – Excess Defense Articles.
Doubtless, too, Bush will thank Pres. Arroyo for the support she continues to give to the US war against the people of Iraq. Despite the widespread local and global protests against the war, Pres. Arroyo has veen sent a motley crew of “peacekeeping forces” in Iraq.
This, again, favors the US who constantly sees multilateral support for its troops, and added finances to sustain its occupation of Iraq. Pres. Arroyo believes that the US, in turn will show its gratitude by providing overseas Filipino workers with employment in Iraq. After all, the strategic industries in Iraq are now being controlled by American monopoly firms.
In the economic arena, the US will push for trade arrangements that fell through in the last World Trade Organization (WTO) ministerial conference in Cancun, Mexico. Bush will attempt to push on with these arrangements by demanding bilateral trade agreements. These will entail the increased liberalization of the economy, liberalization in the areas of finance and ownership rights of foreign businesses in the Philippines.
It’s highly unlikely that new jobs will be created in the wake of Bush’s visit. It’s the US’ dictate-policy of Liberalization that kills employment in the country. Already, joblessness rates have registered an all-time high in the last year.
If the US does give anything resembling a ‘economic package,” it’s dead certain that there will not just be strings attached but strong ropes tied to them. If the US will grant any “trade concessions,” for sure they are concessions that will heavily favor the US. The US remains the Philippines’ biggest trading partner, it is where 40% of the country’s exports go.
In the area of politics, hands down, Mr. Speaker, Pres. Arroyo and her remaining supporters are waiting with bated breath for Bush to declare its support for Pres. Arroyo’s ambitions to remain in power beyond 2004. In the history of this country, the US has always played a key role in the determination of who will become president.
There’s a big fly in this ointment, however. Pres. Arroyo cannot depend on Bush’s support. It’s not a done deal yet. Why, Mr. Speaker? Because Bush himself is planning to run for a second term next year. It will be to his disadvantage if he allows himself to be too closely associated with a neocolonial government that is steeped in corruption scams, political controversies, and military instability.
The Arroyo administration, doubtless, knows all this. This is then the reason why it is breaking its back bending over backwards to ensure that Bush’ visit will be a success. Already, the administration has already spent P10 million beautifying and fortifying security measures of the Ninoy Aquino International airport (NAIA). Malacanang itself is also under renovation, and who knows how much the administration is shelling out for that.
Mr. Speaker, millions of citizens all over the world – poor and working people, professionals, academics and religious, denounce the US as the number one terrorist government in the world. There is strong basis for this, because behind very bloody, violent and brutal war in the world, the US is behind it. The US holds the bloodiest war record in the world, and it has added to its list of the wars it backed or waged this recently introduced century.
Under no circumstances should the almost one million Filipino killed during the duration of the Fil-Am war be forgotten. Neither should the people forget those who were poisoned and killed by the toxic wastes from the American bases, or those shot when caught allegedly trespassing the area around the bases. Neither should the leaders of the Philippines be allowed to ignore and deny the last 100 years of colonial and neocolonial relations between the two economies that have resulted in the stunted, mutilated development of the Philippines.
Mr. Speaker, members of this august chamber, the impending visit of Bush all the more exposes the subservient character, the colonial character of the current administration. This visit will all the more isolate the swiftly weakening Arroyo regime. This is also evidenced by the intensifying acts of repression the government’s police and military forces are perpetrating against the people.
The “No permit, no rally” policy has caused shocking police brutality; execution of youth activists, the most recent being the four Maco activists from Anakbayan and an SK chairman from Compostela Valley; and the numerous vicious police attacks on striking workers.
Finally, Mr. Speaker, it should be understood that the protests against Bush are actions sanctioned by history, enforced by the collective, political will of the Filipino people as they struggle to free this nation from the shackles of oppression and exploitation.
Bush as an individual and as a leader of imperialist nation has committed grave crimes against humanity, and he does not deserve the respect much less the emulation of this nation’s leaders. The crimes he has perpetrated against the people of the world should not be swept under the rug for the sake of propriety, hospitality, politeness. The infamous, brutal role of the government he represents in subjugating other nations in the world should be exposed. So should be the one-sided, and exploitative relations between the US and the Philippines.
For the Filipino people, the only alternative to the hopeless, backward and anti-people economic and political set-up is an independent system of economics and politics. Now more than ever the nation should forge an independent foreign policy, unchained, unfettered by the dictates of foreign powers. All this can only be achieved by ending the unjust relations of slave and master between the United States and governments it places in power in the Philippines.
Mr. Speaker, beyond the demand of the officers of this august chamber for the representatives to observe protocol, the challenge for us lawmakers is to take a stand for national interest and dignity.
In the end, Mr. Speaker, it is the Filipino people who will make all this come to pass.
Thank you very much and good evening. #
Crispin Beltran is a member of the Philippine Congress representing the party-list organization, Bayan Muna(People First). He was Chairman of the Kilusang Mayo Uno(KMU) or May First Labor Movement and is currently the Chairperson of the International League for People’s Struggles(ILPS). He delivered this privileged speech before the Philippine House of Representatives last Oct. 6, 2003.