PERMANENT PEOPLES’ TRIBUNAL
Via della Dogana Vecchia, 5-00186 Rome – Italy
THE FILIPINO PEOPLE at the suit of HUSTISYA, DESAPARECIDOS, SELDA and BAGONG ALYANSANG MAKABAYAN,
– versus –
GLORIA MACAPAGAL-ARROYO, The GOVERNMENT OF THE REPUBLIC OF THE PHILIPPINES and the FILIPINO INDIVIDUALS more particularly listed in the FIRST SCHEDULE hereto,
GEORGE WALKER BUSH, The GOVERNMENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA,
THE INTERNATIONAL MONETARY FUND, THE WORLD BANK, WORLD TRADE ORGANIZATION (WTO),
MULTINATIONAL CORPORATIONS (MNCs) and FOREIGN BANKS DOING BUSINESS IN THE PHILIPPINES more particularly listed in the SECOND SCHEDULE hereto.
Second Session on the Philippines
1. Gross and Systematic Violations of Civil and Political Rights
Extra-Judicial Killings, Abduction and Disappearances, Massacre, Torture, etc;
2. Gross and Systematic Violations of Economic,
Social and Cultural
3. Gross and Systematic Violations of the Right to National Self-Determination and Liberation
The Philippines is a rich country, with bountiful land, water and human resources. But the Filipino people are poor and are groveling in poverty, hardship, misery and oppression.
For centuries, the social wealth created by the Filipino toiling people has been unjustly appropriated, first by foreign colonizers and then by foreign capital and their local agents, always through a combination of force and deceit, and with the collaboration of the local elite. The Spaniards used the spread of Christianity as a pretext for three centuries of feudal and mercantilist exploitation and oppression of the Filipino people. The American colonizers invoked “benevolent assimilation”, democratization and education to conceal and sugarcoat its real goal of turning the Philippines into its military outpost, source of raw materials and cheap labor, market for its products and outlet for surplus capital. Both Spaniards and Americans ultimately resorted mainly to coercion and brute force to subjugate the Filipino people who had always, from the beginning, ferociously resisted foreign domination and oppression.
To suit its imperialist design, the US has imposed on the Philippines, since the turn of the 20th century to the present, a colonial pattern of trade that stunted the growth of the Philippine economy, consigning it to its present backward, agrarian, pre-industrial state. Roughly 75 percent of its population are peasants, suffering under various forms of feudal and semi-feudal exploitation and oppression. Big landlords (landlords owning more than 50 hectares), who constitute less than 1 percent of the population, or less than 20 percent of all landowners, own more than 80% of all agricultural land. Most big landlords are themselves big compradors or merchant capitalists who are the trading partners of foreign, mostly US, capital.
Rather than allow the Filipino people to chart their own path to progress and prosperity after granting the Philippines formal political independence in 1946, the US imposed onerous and unequal military and economic treaties and agreements such as the Military Bases Agreement granting the US extraterritorial rights in vast tracts of rent-free land, the Mutual Defense Pact, and the Parity Amendment on the 1935 Philippine Constitution granting US nationals equal rights as Filipinos to exploit the country’s natural resources and freely repatriate profits.
The US has been able to do this because of the collaboration of a ruling elite composed of the big landlords and big compradors whose political and economic fortunes depend on total subservience to their US (imperialist) masters. The series of governments from 1946 to the present have invariably been characterized by puppetry to US imperialism, to the complete detriment of the interest of the Filipino people. Each government’s economic policies were tailor-fit to benefit US and other foreign capital and their local comprador agents. Philippine foreign policy never deviated from that of the US, including sending Philippine troops to support US-led aggression and military intervention such as in Korea and Vietnam.
It is important to note that since the formation of the Philippine Scouts, the precursor of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP), during the American colonial period to the present, the AFP has been virtually controlled and directed by the US, especially through the Joint US Military Advisory Group (JUSMAG) which provides and supervises its military training and doctrine, logistics, intelligence and planning.
The 1960s saw the deteriorating political and socio-economic situation brought about by foreign domination, economic stagnation, widespread poverty, and a graft-ridden bureaucracy led by the greedy ruling elite. Inevitably, this led to the revitalization and rapid upsurge of mass protest actions nationwide calling for national sovereignty, genuine democracy and social justice. Armed challenges to the Philippine government reemerged when the re-established Communist Party of the Philippines formed the New People’s Army in 1969 and the Moro National Liberation Front was formed in 1971 with its Bangsa Moro Army.
Both deception and force were resorted to by the US-backed Philippine government, led then by President Ferdinand Marcos, to coopt and suppress the democratic and legal mass protest actions. The rabid anti-national, anti-people and anti-democratic character of the Marcos government reared its monstrous fascist head in 1972, when, to keep himself in power and acquire more wealth, Marcos declared martial law. Not surprisingly, the US government and foreign chambers of commerce immediately gave their blessings to the dictatorship. This plunged the entire nation into fourteen (14) dark years of full-blown dictatorship marked by widespread human rights violations by state and paramilitary forces, criminal syndicates led by top AFP and police generals, IMF-imposed structural adjustment programs favoring foreign capital, spiraling prices of basic commodities, wage increase moratoriums, greater landlessness under a bogus land reform program, and unprecedented rampant graft, corruption and plunder of the economy by multinationals in connivance with the Marcos clique.
Rather than cow the people into submission and passivity, state repression under martial rule merely fanned the flames of people’s resistance. Legal mass protest actions, as well as armed resistance, spread over the land. For a long time, the Marcos dictatorship managed to survive because it was propped up by the US, loans from the IMF-WB and foreign capital.
In 1980, the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) and the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF), acting in behalf of the Filipino people and the Bangsa Moro people, appealed to the Permanent People’s Tribunal (PPT) to examine the Philippine situation. After convening and hearing the cases presented by the NDFP and MNLF from 30 October to 3 November 1980, the PPT found the Marcos regime guilty of political repression and blatant abuse of state powers, violation of the sovereign rights of the Filipino people and the Bangsa Moro people and other grave and numerous economic and political crimes. It also condemned the US government and censured the IMF-WB and ADB, and foreign multinationals and banks operating in the Philippines for supporting, encouraging and sustaining the Marcos dictatorship for their own interest and in violation of the sovereign rights of the Filipino and Bangsa Moro peoples.
In February 1986, a military mutiny combined with a popular unarmed uprising overthrew the Marcos dictatorship. The widely acclaimed “People Power” uprising brought hopes for the restoration of democracy and a new era of relative peace and prosperity in the Philippines. Unfortunately, this was not to be so.
While the formal democratic processes and structures such as elections and the legislature were restored, anti-national and anti-people policies and structures remained. The Aquino administration, led by the anti-Marcos, anti-fascist faction of the ruling elite whose interests nonetheless coincided with those of foreign capital, pursued the same economic policies dictated by and favoring US and other foreign monopoly capital. Rather than seize on the opportunity to institute basic and wide-ranging social, economic and political reforms, the Aquino government and its foreign backers took advantage of the post-Marcos euphoria and the anti-fascist image of Aquino as a smokescreen to squelch and coopt the people’s clamor for change. Repressive instrumentalities, statutes and measures were not repealed, such as the criminalization of political offenses, warrantless arrests, dispersal of protest actions, etc. Military campaigns and operations escalated and intensified, resulting in widespread human rights violations by state and paramilitary forces. In a short while the euphoria faded and the restiveness of the people reemerged as the economic and political crises intensified. Elements of the military, led by former military rebels as well as Marcos loyalists in the military, attempted several coups d’etat against the Aquino government.
The economy turned from bad to worse as the succeeding Ramos and Estrada governments implemented more and more policies imposed by the IMF-WB-WTO that opened up the Philippines’ resources wider to foreign exploitation, destroyed local industries, caused increasing joblessness and landlessness, and brought unprecedented hardship and misery to the Filipino people. In 1994, then Senator Gloria Macapagal Arroyo sponsored the bill and spearheaded the campaign to ratify the World Trade Organization (WTO) treaty, making the Philippines a member of the WTO and subjecting it to the destructive neoliberal policies of deregulation, liberalization, privatization and de-nationalization. Ramos accelerated the economic crisis by granting huge incentives and sovereign guarantees to foreign investors, and by running ahead of WTO schedules in dismantling protective trade tariffs, investment controls and currency controls. As a result, the economy became vulnerable and suffered heavily under the speculative attacks that triggered the 1997 Asian financial crisis, from which the Philippine economy never quite recovered.
In an attempt to create even a semblance of political stability that was needed to attract foreign investments, Ramos initiated peace negotiations with armed opposition groups such as the military rebels, the CPP-NDFP-NPA and the Moro secessionist movements. These negotiations resulted in a memorandum of agreement with the military rebels in 1995, and a Final Peace Accord with the Moro National Liberation Front in 1996. Negotiations with the NDFP (representing the CPP and NPA) and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) were both on-and-off under the Ramos administration over issues of sole political authority or sovereignty and the non-implementation by the Ramos government of prior bilateral agreements.
Unlike Ramos who won the presidency on a minority vote and needed to protect his flanks by engaging in peace negotiations, his successor Estrada won by a big majority over his electoral rivals. Banking on his apparent popularity and the firm support of the US and of foreign capital, Estrada recklessly junked the peace negotiations with the NDFP as well as the MILF. Under Estrada in 1999, the Philippines entered into the Visiting Forces Agreement (aka “status of forces agreement”) with the US, allowing US troops in the Philippines and virtually granting them extraterritorial rights, reversing the historic rejection by the Philippine Senate of the US-Philippines Friendship Treaty and the dismantling of the US bases in the Philippines in 1991. Estrada launched the counter-insurgency campaign “Oplan Makabayan” (Operation Plan Patriot) against the NDFP starting July 1998, and waged an “all-out-war” against the MILF in 2000. Heavy military spending drained the national treasury already rendered bankrupt by the economic plunder under the Ramos regime, resulting in even deeper economic crisis. This combined in turn with subsequent exposes of rampant graft and corruption and immorality in the Estrada administration to fuel another unarmed “people power” uprising.
“People Power 2” — supported by a disaffected and alarmed big business community, the dominant Roman Catholic hierarchy, and finally the military – overthrew the Estrada government and catapulted Macapagal-Arroyo to the presidency. Once again, an extra-constitutional exercise of sovereign power by the people was allowed and supported by the powers-that-be to remove a ruling section (faction) that had turned from a useful instrument into a liability and source of embarrassment, and replace it with a more effective one with a fresh mandate from the people.
Once again, the people’s euphoria and celebration over the expulsion of a corrupt, repressive and widely undesirable president turned out to be short-lived. No sooner had Macapagal-Arroyo taken office when she announced that her economic policies would continue to favor big business and attract, rather than drive away, foreign capital. True enough, under the Arroyo government, IMF-WB-WTO imposed policies and measures have been dutifully implemented and accelerated, to the delight not only of foreign capital but also of the local big landlords and compradors who share a fraction of their profits. Faced with unprecedented heavy government debt and deficit, the Arroyo government resorted to increasing tax burdens (VAT and EVAT) and drastic budget cuts on health, education and other social services while increasing debt servicing and military spending and opening up Philippine natural and human resources, such as mineral resources and manpower resources, to foreign capital. The obvious Arroyo logic is that the way out of the financial crisis is to impose more burdens and sacrifices on the people in order to make the economy more palatable to foreign creditors and investors.
True enough, as the PPT had warned in its 1980 verdict, the Marcos dictatorship was replaced by a series of neocolonial governments dependent on and subservient to US and other foreign interests.
The shameless puppetry and obsequiousness of the Macapagal-Arroyo government to the US came to the fore once more when, shortly after the September 11, 2001 New York bombings, Macapagal-Arroyo declared the Philippines’ total support for the US-led “global war on terror”. She immediately offered Philippine troops, doctors and other professionals, and the use of Philippine territory, air space and facilities by the US and its allies for military actions against unnamed “terrorist” enemies and unnamed regimes supposedly harboring these “terrorists”. In November 2002, the Arroyo government signed the Mutual Logistics Support Arrangement (aka “access and servicing agreement”) allowing the US unhampered access and use of Philippine facilities for all its military needs and unspecified military activities. The VFA and MLSA combined virtually turn the entire Philippines into an unsinkable US military base, veritably a giant US aircraft carrier strategically positioned in the middle of the South China Sea.
Macapagal-Arroyo asked for, then welcomed, the US designation of the CPP and NPA as “foreign terrorist organizations” and the NDFP chief political consultant Prof. Jose Ma. Sison as a “terrorist” and actively campaigned for their inclusion in the “terrorist” listing of the European Union and other countries. She launched an “all-out war” against the CPP-NDFP-NPA under the US-directed counter-insurgency campaign “Oplan Bantay Laya” (Operation Plan Freedom Watch), suspended formal peace talks with the NDFP, and used the “terrorist” tag to gain leverage to pressure the NDFP into capitulation. At the same time, the US and Arroyo also played the “terrorist” card on the MILF, alternately threatening and attacking the MILF and offering it “socio-economic aid and rehabilitation” in exchange for a peace agreement that acknowledges the authority of the Philippine government over the Moro people and their ancestral domain and territory.
Under US encouragement and direction and using as pretext the US “war on terror”, the Arroyo government has not only intensified its “counter-insurgency campaign” against the CPP-NDFP-NPA, it has also flagrantly resorted to physically attacking the legal democratic movement since 2001. Leaders and activists of progressive organizations have been harassed, arrested without warrant, abducted and forced to disappear, as well as summarily executed with a frequency and brutality exceeding that under martial law. Finding her regime’s legitimacy under question after fraudulent elections in 2004, Macapagal-Arroyo further resorted to repressive measures and expanded the targets to include the open and legal democratic movement and the political opposition.
The growing number of extrajudicial killings and other gross human rights violations committed by the Arroyo government’s military and police forces in the Philippines today cry out for justice. KARAPATAN (Alliance for the Advancement of Peoples’ Rights) has documented since 2001 when Mrs. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo assumed the presidency more than 800 victims of extra-judicial killings, not including more than 350 who survived assassination attempts. At least 207 have been abducted and forcibly disappeared. Tens of thousands have also become internal refugees as a result of military operations, which include indiscriminate bombings and strafing of rural communities, and Vietnam-vintage “hamleting” to depopulate “rebel-infested” areas and “remove the water in which the fish swims”..
These atrocities have been perpetrated systematically and relentlessly for more than five years with hardly an utterance of concern, much less condemnation, from Macapagal-Arroyo. In fact, she praised, promoted and coddled the military commanders, including those with track records of grievous human rights violations . As commander-in-chief, she publicly gave both tacit and overt approval and encouragement to the military campaigns of suppression. Those who perpetrate the atrocities enjoy the license to kill, abduct, torture and massacre “enemies of the state” with impunity. The rapid promotion and public acclamation accorded to the most vicious, ruthless and outspoken proponent of the killings, Maj. Gen. Palparan by Macapagal-Arroyo herself was the clearest proof that indeed, the killings were state policy.
Oplan Bantay-Laya, the Arroyo government’s counter-insurgency campaign launched in 2002, differs from its failed predecessors mainly in targeting suspected civilian sympathizers and supporters of the CPP-NPA in town and urban centers. The AFP, police and other government strategists searching for the elusive key to victory over the three-decades old people’s war have come to the conclusion that they have been too soft on the legal democratic organizations. AFP documents and other official documents on internal security stress now the need to conduct military operations not only against the guerrilla forces in the countryside but also against the aboveground, legal machinery that allegedly supports the armed revolutionary movement. The AFP embarked on a “Target Research” program in 2004 aimed at an intelligence build-up, complete with quotas and timetables, on progressive organizations and personalities tagged as “enemies of the state” and marked for “neutralization’, a military euphemism for physical elimination. Most of those assassinated, forcibly disappeared,tortured and massacred were priority subjects of this “target research”.
The Arroyo government’s intensified attacks on the people, marked by the cold-blooded murder of unarmed political activists, church people, journalists, lawyers and judges, teachers and human rights defenders continue to multiply with impunity. These are motivated by Arroyo’s drive for political survival and are in line with the US government’s “war on terror” and the economic interest of multinational corporations in the Philippines. This explains why the Arroyo government has not lifted a finger to render justice to the victims of human rights violations, and to address the violations of the people’s social, economic, cultural rights, as well as the violations of the Filipino people’s sovereignty and right to self-determination. Taking a cue from the US-led global war on terror and emboldened and encouraged by the US government, the Arroyo government estimates it can also justify, gloss over or cover up, in the name of counter-terrorism, violations of human rights, international humanitarian law, and international law.
Well-documented cases of human rights violations have already been brought to the attention of the United Nations through its offices in New York and Geneva. A number of international entities have also conducted fact-finding missions and have issued reports, recommendations and condemnations of the regime’s lack of resolute action to stop the killings. Among these international groups are the Amnesty International, International Parliamentarians’ Union, Asian Human Rights Commission, the International Labor Solidarity Mission, the International Peasants Fact Finding Mission, the Hong Kong Fact-Finding Mission to the Philippines, Reporters Sans Frontiers, a delegation of church leaders led by the World Council of Churches and the Christian Conference of Asia, Lawyers without Borders and Lawyers for Lawyers from the Netherlands, International Association of Democratic Lawyers, International Association of People’s Lawyers, and four women lawyers from the United States.
Various church organizations like the World Council of Churches, Christian Conference of Asia, World Alliance of Reformed Churches, World Methodist Council, Episcopal Church of the USA, Uniting Church of Australia, United Church of Canada, United Methodist Church of the USA, United Evangelical Mission of Germany and the National Council of Churches in Japan have likewise issued their statements and resolutions calling on the Manila government to bring an end to the killings. Notably, a number of Members of Parliament from Europe and a number of officials from other countries have also expressed their concerns over the deteriorating human rights situation in the Philippines. The list continues to lengthen.
In response to this growing international pressure, Macapagal-Arroyo belatedly saw the need to take a pro-forma official action by creating the Melo Commission in September 2006 to look into the killings. This step was clearly intended to deflect and diffuse the barrage of criticisms against her government. But before this Commission could start its investigation, Mrs. Arroyo issued a blanket statement absolving her military and police forces of any wrongdoing, despite testimonies from survivors and witnesses to the contrary. As expected, the Melo Commission, in the report it had recently submitted to President Arroyo, cleared her and the AFP top brass of any responsibility, instead blaming the killings on Gen. Palparan and a “small group” of rogue military and police elements, as well as gangsters and even the New People’s Army. Curiously, Malacanang adamantly refused to release the Melo Commission report to the public until it had to give in to both international and local pressure to do so.
Nearly simultaneous with the submission and eventual release of the Melo Commission report was the statement of Philip Alston, the UN Special Rapporteur on Extra-judicial killings, on his findings after a 10-day visit. Mr. Alston met with the representatives of the government, including top Cabinet, military and police officials, human rights groups and relatives of victims of extra-judicial killings. In his press statement, Mr. Alston rejected the various government, military and police “theories” that absolved them from any responsibility in the killings. While he said it was clear to him that the killings are not state policy and are not centrally directed, Alston nonetheless attributed some of the killings to the government’s counter-insurgency program and indicated he would examine this in greater detail in his final report. Despite the findings of Mr. Alston and the Melo Commission attributing political killings to the AFP, Arroyo reiterated her earlier statement absolving the military of the crimes and declaring that “99.9% of the AFP is good”.
The struggle to uphold and defend human rights and the peoples’ rights continues. The Filipino people have shown that they cannot be cowed by terror nor duped by the Arroyo regime. They persist in seeking and finding avenues to make this despicable situation known throughout the world, to seek justice, and gather the broadest support for their just and legitimate struggle for national self-determination and social emancipation.
It is with this aim and hope that we file our case today at the Permanent People’s Tribunal.
This is an indictment brought by the Filipino People – the peasants, workers, women, youth & students, urban poor, fisherfolk, indigenous people, migrant workers, church people, lawyers, journalists, teachers, government employees, health workers, artists and other professionals, human rights workers – in solidarity with other oppressed and exploited peoples of the world, through the following people’s organizations:
HUSTISYA, an organization of friends and relatives of victims of human rights violations under the US-Arroyo Regime;
DESAPARECIDOS, an organization of families and friends of victims of enforced disappearances since the martial law years up to the present;
SELDA, an association of former political detainees from the martial law years up to the present; and
BAGONG ALYANSANG MAKABAYAN (New Patriotic Alliance), a nationwide, multisectoral alliance of progressive people’s organizations, hereinafter referred to as the “Complainants”.
This Indictment is against the Government of the Republic of the Philippines, its President, GLORIA MACAPAGAL-ARROYO, and the Filipino individuals listed in the First Schedule hereto, the Government of the United States of America, its President, GEORGE WALKER BUSH JR., the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank and the World Trade Organization (WTO), and the Multinational Corporations (MNCs) and Foreign Banks doing business in the Philippines listed in the Second Schedule hereto, hereinafter referred to as the “Defendants”.
The Defendants are hereby charged by the Filipino people of the following:
I. Gross and systematic violations of civil and political rights. These include extrajudicial killings/summary execution, abduction and enforced disappearances, massacre, torture, illegal arrest and detention, forced dislocation of communities and other human rights violations;
II. Gross and systematic violations of economic, social and cultural rights of the Filipino people; and
III. Gross and systematic violations of the rights of the people to national self-determination and liberation
The aforesaid acts and omissions violate:
a. The Universal Declaration of the Rights of Peoples (The Algiers Declaration of July 1976);
b. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights of 10 December 1948;
c. The International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights of 16 December 1966;
d. The International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights of 16 December 1966;
e. The United Nations Convention against Torture;
f. The GRP-NDFP Comprehensive Agreement on Respect for Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law;
g. The 1996 GRP-MNLF Peace Agreement; and
h. The generally accepted principles of international law which form part of the laws of the Philippines under Section 2, Article II of the 1987 Philippine Constitution
General and specific allegations
of gross violations of civil and political rights.
From the time Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo came to power on January 21, 2001 up to November 2006, there have been a total of 6,990 cases of human rights violations victimizing 396,099 individuals recorded and documented by KARAPATAN, a human rights alliance.
From 2001 to the present, there have been 834 documented cases of extrajudicial killings, with 357 more cases of frustrated assassinations, i.e., the victim or intended victim survived the attempt on their lives. At least 198 persons have been forcibly disappeared and remain missing to this day, most of them already presumed dead. Hundreds have been tortured while tens of thousands have been harassed and displaced from their homes and farms, and have experienced physical and psychological assault in the course of military operations or while exercising their rights to assembly and free speech.
The targeted victims are peasant leaders, union leaders and members of farmers and workers’ organizations, human rights workers, judges and lawyers, journalists, priests and church workers including a former Supreme Bishop of the Philippine Independent Church. Most were uniformly subjected to anti-communist slander, villification and demonization, and death threats by the military before they were physically attacked.
The intensifying political repression is being done with utmost brutality and impunity. From January 2006 to February 8, 2007 alone, 148 leaders, members and supporters of different mass organizations and party-list groups were summarily killed throughout the country;
Witnesses point to the police, military and paramilitary forces as the perpetrators of the killings, disappearances, torture, illegal arrests and detention and other violations;
The killings are concentrated in Southern Tagalog, Central Luzon, Bicol region, Eastern Visayas, the Ilocos and Cordillera regions. These are the regions identified in Oplan Bantay Laya as “priority areas” and where “counter-insurgency” military operations are most intense and sustained.
The commission of the violations is centrally directed, showing a clear pattern and practice based on the state policy of deliberate terror;
Specifically, the following illustrative and highlighted cases– chosen from among seventy case files of summary execution or extrajudicial killing, abduction and involuntary disappearances, massacre, torture, illegal arrest and detention, forced dislocation of communities and other violations of human rights in the Philippines since Pres. Gloria Arroyo assumed the presidency on 21 January 2001– show the breadth and depth and the heinousness and unmatched impunity with which violations of human rights as well as general principles of international law have been perpetrated by the Defendants in concert with each other.
The Hacienda Luisita Massacre
On November 6, 2004, in Hacienda Luisita, a sprawling sugarcane estate in Tarlac City covering more than 6,400 hectares and owned by the Cojuangco-Aquino clan, the workers therein belonging to United Luisita Workers’ Union (ULWU) and the Central Azucarera de Tarlac Labor Union (CATLU) simultaneously declared a strike to compel the management/owners to heed their legitimate economic demands, such as increase in wages and better terms and conditions of employment. ULWU also demanded the reinstatement of the illegally dismissed officers and members of the union. Their strike also exposed the fraudulent scheme adopted by the management to deprive the farm worker-beneficiaries of their right to land through the deceptive Stock Distribution Option (SDO) instead of distributing it to them pursuant to the avowed land-for-the-landless policy of the state as provided under the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Law. By a combination of misrepresentation and intimidation, the management was able to impose the SDO scheme on the farm workers and peasants in the hacienda. It promised to them that the SDO would improve their lives. In reality, though, the scheme has further impoverished them.
Officers and members of ULWU believe that their filing of a petition in 2003 seeking the revocation/nullification of the SDO in Hacienda Luisita may have been the reason for the union busting and the illegal dismissal of the farm workers.
On November 6, 7 and 15, 2004, despite the peaceful strike of the workers, hundreds of police officers attempted to break up the picket line using tear gas, water cannon, truncheons and later firearms, which seriously injured many strikers.
Despite the threat of an impending bloody dispersal, the strikers stood their ground. On the other hand, though, President Macapagal-Arroyo and her government simply turned a cold shoulder to the plight of the striking workers. Her deafening silence was interpreted as acquiescence to the police violence in Hacienda Luisita. Worse, her alter ego at the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE), Secretary Patricia Sto. Tomas, issued an Assumption of Jurisdiction (AJ) Order on November 10, 2004. Although it was issued solely against CATLU, curiously, said AJ was forcibly served upon ULWU. More strangely, the Labor Secretary deputized not only the police but also the Armed Forces in the supposed full implementation of the AJ.
To avert further violence against the strikers, in the morning of November 16, 2004, the respective officers of ULWU and CATLU went to the Makati residence of former Congressman Peping Cojuangco, a co-owner of Hacienda Luisita. Their purpose was to negotiate with the former congressman and his wife to spare the people from the looming violent and bloody dispersal of the strike as enunciated in the AJ. Insisting that the ULWU officers no longer had any personality to talk with them because they were deemed dismissed, Mr. Cojuangco and his wife denied the ULWU officers entry into their house.
No agreement was reached during the negotiation. Mr. Cojuangco stood firm on his stance to leave the matter to the decision of the DOLE. Thus, the union officers went back to the picket lines in Hacienda Luisita. At that time, hundreds of PNP elements and AFP soldiers in full battle gear were already deployed inside the sugar mill compound. Positioned along with them were two armored personnel carriers (APCs), two pay loaders and four fire trucks. Only the steel gate at Gate 1 of the sugar mill separated the combined military and police forces from the strikers.
Immediately thereafter and without any negotiation between the strikers and the dispersal teams taking place first, the latter assaulted the strikers. The dispersal teams blasted the strikers with water from the fire trucks, which stung their skin. They also lobbed the strikers with tear gas. Unsuccessful in their attempt to crush the picket line, the dispersal teams commandeered an APC that pounded upon the steel gate. When it had smashed open the gate, the people started throwing stones or anything they could put their hands on at the APC to thwart its attempt to disperse them. Having caused the APC to retreat, the people lifted their hands in jubilation, only to get shocked shortly thereafter by successive gunshots indiscriminately fired upon them. Every one scampered and ran for cover. In just a moment, seven strikers lay dead while a number of others sustained severe gunshot wounds. A little while later, more than a hundred other strikers were illegally arrested and arbitrarily detained en masse by the military and the police, not sparing a woman who was seven months pregnant.
The violent massacre did not put an end to the gross violations of the rights of the striking workers. On the contrary, the Cojuangco-Aquino family, in conspiracy with the military, the police, the paramilitary groups such as the Civilian Armed Forces Geographical Units (CAFGU), and other hired agents/gunmen, has continued to harass, threaten and violate the rights of the hacienda people.
On the night of December 8, 2004, Marcelino Beltran, himself a peasant and a key witness to the massacre, was brutally murdered in his home in a remote village in Tarlac.
On the night of January 5, 2005, hacienda workers George Loveland and Ernesto Ramos were fatally injured when still unidentified bodyguards of Rep. Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino, who were armed, attacked them at the picket point outside Las Haciendas gate.
On March 3, 2005, Abelardo Ladera, a duly elected councilor in Tarlac City, a member of Bayan Muna and a staunch supporter of the strike, was shot dead by a single bullet in the chest while he was buying some spare parts for his automobile.
On March 13, 2005, Fr. William Tadena of the Philippine Independent Church, who also strongly supported the plight of the strikers, was likewise gunned down after officiating mass in his parish in La Paz, Tarlac.
Thereafter, another peasant strongly supporting the strikers, Victor Concepcion, was likewise summarily executed in his house.
In the nighttime of October 25, 2005, while resting after personally distributing the unpaid earned wages and benefits of the sugar mill workers, Ricardo Ramos, president of CATLU and village chairman of one of the barangays located inside the hacienda, was brutally gunned down near his house.
Villages in the hacienda have become heavily militarized. Many villagers have complained of being subjected to illegal arrest. Others have been unjustly suspected of being NPA members and are being forced to admit and sign rebel returnee’s papers.
At 2 a.m. of November 14, 2005, strikers manning the picket point in Brgy. Balete were mauled and seized by elements of the 48th Infantry Battalion under the command of Maj. Gen. Jovito Palparan who was then chief of the 7th Infantry Division. Eleven of the strikers were illegally and forcibly taken to a safe house where they were interrogated. Three of them were subsequently charged with illegal possession of firearms on the basis of planted evidence.
Rene Galang, president of ULWU, and his family have been principally targeted by the military and the police. Several elements of the military have virtually maintained a detachment in a house just across his residence. They would ask around about his whereabouts. In addition, on or about September 26, 2005, they broke into his house. His wife was slapped in the face by the military for having told the people about the break-in by these soldiers. Even his children experienced harassment and intimidation by the military while at school.
On March 17, 2006, around midnight, another officer of ULWU, Tirso Cruz, was murdered in cold blood by the military near his house inside the hacienda.
Remarkably, all throughout the struggle of the workers and their families, Macapagal-Arroyo maintained almost complete silence and showed her utter lack of concern over the issues confronting the people. Only once did she issue a statement, at the prodding of the CBCP, hypocritically hoping for a peaceful resolution ot the conflict at Hacienda Luisita. To the Hacienda workers and farmers, the president’s cold response amounted to tacit approval of the continuing unlawful aggression committed by the military, police and paramilitary forces, in collusion with the hacienda owners, against the poor working people in the hacienda.
On January 13, 2005, ULWU and CATLU and the victims of the Hacienda Luisita massacre filed criminal cases for multiple murder and multiple frustrated murder, among others, against the owners of the hacienda, the numerous military and police officers who perpetrated and ordered the violent dispersal of the otherwise peaceful strike, and Sec. Patricia Sto. Tomas. To date, however, the Office of the Ombudsman, before which the cases were filed, has sat on their bounden duty to investigate and prosecute these cases.
The Philippine National Police, feigning an impartial and unbiased investigation into the incident, likewise came up with its report of its investigation which, expectedly, absolved the state forces, save for less than a handful low-ranking police officers.
The victims of the massacre and their relatives and supporters have already brought this case to the attention of the local Commission on Human Rights, the United Nations and other international fora. It has also been the subject of legislative inquiries in the two chambers of the Philippine Congress. After more than two years and despite efforts of the victims and their relatives and supporters to seek justice, the Office of the Ombudsman is yet to act upon their petition.
Massacre of Farmers in Palo, Leyte
The San Agustin Farmer Beneficiaries Multi-purpose Cooperative (SFBMC) is composed of more or less 60 farmer-members in Brgy. San Agustin, Palo, Leyte.
Sometime in June 2004, the members of the cooperative – Rene Margallo, Renato Dizon, Fe Muriel, Bernabe Burra, Francisco Cobacha and Ariel Santiso sought help from the cooperative regarding the landgrabbing by Pedro Margallo of their respective lands.
The Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR) has already rendered a decision in favor of the 6 farmer-members but Pedro Margallo still insisted on taking possession of the land.
SFBMC member Bernabe Burra sought help from Bayan Muna-Metro Tacloban Chapter. When Bayan Muna positively responded, the members of the cooperative decided to schedule a “balik-uma” (return-to-the-land) on the land awarded to the farmers by the DAR and help the 6 farmers till their lands.
The members of SFBMC set the “balik-uma” on November 21, 2005. In the evening of November 20, 2005, the farmers who would be participating in the “balik-uma” were already in the “kamalig” or make-shift hut owned by the father of Rene Margallo to make preparations for the early morning planting activities. The “kamalig” was near the land to be tilled by the farmers.
At around 5 a.m. of November 21, 2005, more or less 50 farmers were gathered in the “kamalig.” It is the practice of farmers to invite neighboring villages at the opening of the planting season and this is usually met with a feast; thus, other farmers from Brgy. Teraza and Capirawan and farmer-members of the Alang-alang Small Farmers Association (ASFA) based in the nearby Alang-alang, Leyte joined the “balik-uma”.
Some of the farmers were already awake cooking their food and having coffee when, without any warning, they were peppered with gunfire by men wearing ski masks that almost covered their faces. The farmers shouted out they were unarmed civilians but these were ignored and instead, the armed men continued to fire their guns. Five hand grenades were also thrown at them.
As a result, eight farmers died including Alma Bartoline who was seven months pregnant. More than ten were injured.
When the firing stopped, the armed men who were in full-battle gear approached the “kamalig.” They were members of the 19th Infantry Battalion of the Philippine Army. They ordered the farmers to lie face-down and stepped on the farmers’ back, forcing them to admit they were members of the NPA.
The soldiers insisted that the farmers are members and sympathizers of the NPA, and were concealing some firearms. When the farmers denied the allegations and explained that they are plain and simple farmers and were unarmed, a soldier came with a sackful of firearms and “subversive” documents and insisted that these belonged to the farmers.
The farmers pleaded for immediate medical attention but the soldiers refused.
Col. Louie Dagoy admitted that members of the 19th IB of the Philippine Army carried out the attack but claimed that this was a legitimate military operation.
What the soldiers perpetrated was a cold-blooded massacre of innocent farmers not an encounter between the military and the NPA as falsely claimed by the military authorities in their official statements. It was clearly pre-meditated, as evidenced by the fact that the soldiers had prepared a sackful of old firearms and “subversive documents” to be planted at the scene of the crime.
To justify their actions and cover up their heinous crime, the 19th IB PA filed charges of illegal possession of low-powered firearms against nine farmers who survived the massacre, arrested and detained them. Another case of illegal possession of high-powered firearms was filed at the Regional Trial Court (RTC) in Tacloban City. Unable to post bail, the farmers remain detained at the Kauswagan Provincial Jail.
While under detention, they continue to receive death threats. One of them, Joselito Tobe, a member of Concerned Citizens for Justice and Peace and Bayan Muna Party-list died while in detention. The Kauswagan Provincial Jail authorities alleged that he suffered a stroke. But the relatives and friends of Joselito Tobe are not convinced considering that two (2) weeks prior to his death, Tobe informed his relatives and friends that he and his co-detainee Arnel Dizon had received death threats.
Due to the financial support generated by various human rights groups, two of the farmers who have been receiving death threats while in detention were released on bail.
On October 3, 2006, the Regional Trial Court of Tacloban, Leyte dismissed the case of illegal possession of high-powered firearms. They are still awaiting the decision of the Municipal Trial Court in the other case.
Counter-charges are being prepared by the farmers against the members of the 19th IB, Philippine Army.
SUMMARY EXECUTIONS OR EXTRAJUDICIAL KILLINGS
The case of Rev. Andy Pawican
On May 21, 2006, Pastor Andy Pawican of the United Church of Christ of the Philippines (UCCP)-Pantabangan was on his way home to Sitio Maasip, Barangay Tayabo, San Jose City from Sunday worship in Sitio Maluyon, Barangay Fatima, Pantabangan, Nueva Ecija. He was with his wife, Dominga Pawican, their eight-month-old baby, his mother-in-law Maria Binlingan and a neighbor named Bernadette Tayaban.
About 200 meters before reaching their house, they were stopped by three soldiers in uniform belonging to the 48th Infantry Battalion which is under the command of the 7th Infantry Division of the Philippine Army.
The soldiers ordered Pastor Andy Pawican to stay allegedly because they wanted to discuss something with him. Thus, Maria Binlingan, Dominga Pawican and Bernadette Tayaban went ahead while Pastor Andy, who was carrying his eight month-old baby, stayed behind.
At around 2:30 p.m., several shots of gunfire were heard from the place where Pastor Andy was held by the army soldiers.
Several minutes later, a soldier came to the house of Dominga Pawican carrying Pastor Andy’s eight month-old baby, her shirt stained with blood and with a scratch on her face. It was then that the family of Pastor Andy learned that he was shot to death by the soldiers for allegedly being a supporter of the New People’s Army and for allegedly fighting back at the soldiers.
The relatives and friends of Pastor Andy were not allowed to go near his body which was heavily guarded by military soldiers until the following day.
On May 22, 2006, residents of barangays Fatima and Tayabo, namely, Blacio Binlingan (father-in-law of Pastor Andy), Roger Binlingan, Mempe Ruiz, Marlon Talac, Mariano Muling, Pastor Sebio Guindayan, Carlito Hongduan, Telio Palting, Paredes Baguilat, Anton Balectad, Fidel Palting and Ruel Marcial went to Sitio Maasip, Brgy. Tayabo upon the plea of spouses Paredes and Estela Baguilat to accompany them back to their house in Brgy. Tayabo, Nueva Ecija. The spouses were among the residents of Brgy. Tayabo who fled their homes when the military soldiers started firing their guns.
On their way to Brgy. Tayabo, they saw the body of Pastor Andy being guarded by more or less sixty soldiers led by Lt. Ariel Galado and Lt. Freddie Lobusta of the 48th IB, 7th Infantry Division of the Philippine Army. The residents saw a gunshot wound on the head of Pastor Andy, his arms heavily bruised and bore cigarette burns, his eyes swollen with a heavy black-eye and his feet twisted. He was still wearing the barong tagalog he wore during the Sunday mass.
When the soldiers saw the residents, they asked them where they were going and if they were supporters of the NPA. They noticed Fidel Palting who had long hair and asked him if he was a member of the NPA. Under duress, he was forced to lie and say that he was a member of the NPA. The soldiers also forced him to point to other members of the NPA. Fidel Palting was forced to say that Ruel Marcial, his first cousin, was an NPA supporter.
The soldiers asked the residents to carry the body of Pastor Andy to Brgy. Tayabo, San Jose City. They were escorted by more or less twenty soldiers.
Upon reaching Brgy. Tayabo, the remains of Pastor Andy was boarded on a six by six military truck. The soldiers ordered Blacio Binlingan, Mempe Ruiz and Marvin Palting to bring the corpse to Funeraria Ilagan in San Jose City. The other residents were ordered to go home.
Fidel Palting and Ruel Marcial were, however, ordered by the military soldiers to stay. They were forcibly brought to the Sto. Niño Camp 2nd in San Jose City which is the headquarters of the 48th Infantry Battalion under the leadership of Lt. Col. Joselito Kakilala. The 48th IB is a component of the 7th Infantry Division of the Philippine Army which is under the command of Maj. Gen. Jovito Palparan.
The abduction and torture of Ruel Marcial
Ruel Marcial is a farmer from Aritao, Nueva Viscaya and a member of the United Church of Christ in the Philippines (UCCP).
After the body of Pastor Andy was brought to Funeraria Ilagan, the other residents of Brgys. Fatima and Tayabo were ordered to go home, except for Fidel Palting and Ruel Marcial,
Palting was forced to ride on a motorcycle with a soldier. When the motorcycle returned, Marcial was also told to board the same motorcycle. He was later transferred to a waiting L300 van. Marcial was blindfolded, handcuffed and brought to a place he later learned to be Sto. Nino Camp, a military camp in San Jose City.
Inside the camp, while Marcial was still blindfolded and handcuffed, his shorts and briefs were removed. He was subjected to interrogation. He was forced to admit being a member of the NPA. He was asked, “Where are your comrades?”; “Where are they keeping their guns?” Whenever Marcial replied he was not a member of the NPA, physical assault and torture were inflicted on him for two straight days.
He was kicked on his left shoulder and neck. He was punched on his left shoulder and abdomen. He was beaten using a wooden bat on both arms and the lower parts of his body especially his buttocks. His skin on the lower left thigh was pinched with mechanical pliers. A lighted cigarette was pressed on his legs. He was burned on his legs and lower parts of his body with a flaming wooden stick.
During the interrogation, the soldiers were drunk. Marcial was also forced to drink liquor. His captors tried to burn his nose with a lighter. With bullets inserted between his fingers, his hands were squeezed. His anus was pricked with the pointed tip of a bolo or knife.
The torture was inflicted continually. Marcial was not allowed to sleep nor rest. He was threatened he would be killed. His captors inserted cogon grass and stalks into his penis. At times during the interrogation, he was made to lie down and remove his blindfold but his eyes were rubbed with salt. His captors also forced open his mouth, poured water in and tried to drown him. They also choked Marcial with a rope. The nails of his big toes and the 2nd digit of his left fool were pried off using a bolo. The soldiers also cut his hair using a knife or a bolo and removed part of his scalp on the back of his head. Unable to bear the pain and horror of torture by the soldiers, Marcial was forced to declare that he was a member of the NPA and that he was willing to cooperate to find the rebels’ camp. Thereafter, in the course of the physical and psychological torture, Marcial lost consciousness.
When he woke up, his foot was bound to a post with a metal chain. His blindfold was removed. From then on, he was allowed to sleep and the soldiers fed him. He was held captive for more than one month.
While Marcial never saw Palting inside the camp, he surmises that Palting was in one of the huts in the camp because he saw soldiers guarding a hut and bringing food.
On July 7, 2006, while the soldier assigned to guard Marcial left for a few minutes to get food for their supper and while only a few soldiers were in the camp at that time, Marcial was able to free himself using a big nail to remove the lock of the metal chain that bound his foot. He ran away from the camp and walked in the forest for about 2 days. He sought help from a friend who brought him to a safe place.
While Marcial was brought to a sanctuary, a petition for habeas corpus was being prepared by the family of Fidel Palting. Before they could file the petition, however, the military surfaced Palting and brought him back home. Palting was seen holding a handheld radio and cell phone apparently given by the military requiring him to report to the military. To date, Marcial fears for his life and continues to stay in a sanctuary.
The case of Rev. Isaias Sta. Rosa
On 3 August 2006 at around 10:35 p.m., Pastor Isaias Sta. Rosa was abducted and then murdered in Brgy. Malobago, Daraga, Albay by armed men wearing bonnets, at least one of whom was positively identified as a soldier.
Isaias Sta. Rosa was a member of Legaspi City United Methodist Church in South Bicol District, a freelance writer, project consultant for non-government organizations and Executive Director of the Farmers’ Assistance for Rural Management Education and Rehabilitation, Inc., a non-government organization that gives assistance to farmers in improving their economy. He was also an active member of the peasant group Kilusang Magbubukid ng Bikol (Bicol Peasant Movement), an affiliate organization of the Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (Philippine Peasant Movement) which is active in the fight for genuine land reform and calls for the ouster of President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.
At around 7:30 p.m. of August 3, 2006, three (3) hooded armed men who, except for one who appeared to be the leader and was wearing a maroon shirt and black short pants, were all wearing army-issued camouflage pants, combat boots and dark long-sleeved t-shirts, barged into the house of brothers Ray-Sun and Jonathan Sta. Rosa. The armed men were looking for their brother Pastor Isaias Sta. Rosa. They were told to lay prone on the ground while the armed men stepped on their heads and poked their guns on them. Ray was able to observe the presence of more armed men positioned amidst the bushes. Jonathan was hit with a gun barrel on his head when he tried to look around.
They then accused the two brothers of being members of the New People’s Army, which the two denied. Thereafter, Jonathan was dragged at gunpoint to the house of his brother Pastor Sta. Rosa situated just a few meters from his own house.
Sonia, the wife of Pastor Sta. Rosa, heard a commotion outside their house. She peeped through one of their windows to check but she did not see anything. At that time, Isaias Sta. Rosa and children Demdem, Philip and Mikko were also inside the house.
They heard a knock on the door and Sonia heard the soft voice of Jonathan calling Isaias. She opened the door and saw Jonathan looking pale. As Sonia was calling out Isaias, a short stout man wearing a ski mask, a maroon t-shirt and short pants, and armed with a .45 cal. pistol barged inside their house and ordered them to drop to the floor. The armed stout man was followed by about six to ten similarly armed men who were hooded with ski masks, wearing black t-shirts, camouflaged pants and combat boots. Isaias Sta. Rosa was then immediately tied with his hands at the back. He was mauled while he was being forced to admit that he was the “Elmer” that they were looking for and that he had a gun.
They herded Jonathan, Sonia, Dem-dem, Mikko, Philip and Ray into one of the rooms while Isaias was brought to the other room. The soldiers then left the house taking with them Isaias, who was still tied and bloodied. His laptop computer and cellular phones were taken from him.
Sonia rushed outside and called for help from her sister Madelyn, who lives near their house. The neighbors were stirred as Madelyn shouted for help. A few minutes later, gunshots were heard – six shots, a pause, then another three shots.
Ray, Jonathan and their neighbors immediately went to the direction where the gunshots came. There they found the body of Isaias Sta. Rosa along a creek about 50 meters away from his house.
They also found another dead body, with the face covered by a bonnet, wearing a maroon shirt and shorts about five meters away from the body of Isaias, along with a .45 caliber pistol fitted with a sound suppressor or silencer. He was the same man who led the armed group that abducted Isaias.
Afterwards, a group of policemen led by Colonel Capinpin, the chief of Daraga Police Station, arrived along with the barangay chief, Artita Padilla. The police recovered from the scene the pistol as well as one spent shell for .45 caliber pistol and one .45 caliber slug. Also recovered by the police from the then unidentified body were a Philippine Army identification card of one Private First Class Lordger Pastrana with expiration date of 9 December 2008, and a mission order issued in the same name by the 9th Military Intelligence Battalion of the 9th Infantry Division, Philippine Army, based in Camp Weene Martillana, Pili, Camarines Sur. The mission order is signed by Major Ernest Marc Rosal and bears the effectivity date 11 July 2006 until 30 September 2006.
The other dead body was later identified to be that of Pfc Lordger Pastrana of the Military Intelligence of the 9th Infantry Division.
Autopsy reports showed that Isaias Sta. Rosa died after sustaining six gunshot wounds while Pastrana sustained one gunshot wound.
Immediately after the killing of Isaias Sta. Rosa, the police quickly announced it through media to be a case of robbery with homicide.
However, on 24 August 2006, the regional office of the Philippine Commission on Human Rights released its Initial Investigation Report positively countering the theory of the police, stating thus:
It is evident that there is legal ground to prosecute the army soldiers in the company of Cpl. Lordger Pastrana for murder as this case would not contemplate robbery with homicide, but one of murder in view of the mission order found in Pastrana’s possession and the prior incident of assault upon the household of Sta. Rosa’s neighbor, Alwin Mirabuna, wherein these armed suspects inquired the whereabouts of Isaias Sta. Rosa, a person possible subject of the secret mission. Since the identity of the suspects cannot be ascertained, it is recommended that the Commanding Officer in the above-cited mission order be legally made answerable under the principle of command responsibility governing military conduct.
The military and the police did not conduct further investigation on the case. The military also refused to reveal any relevant data, such as the names of the team members of Pastrana. The military and the police tried to cover-up the case by declaring that Pastrana was on Absence Without Leave (or AWOL) and that he was in the place to woo somebody. The PNP on the other hand declared that the case is a simple case of robbery with homicide.
In the meantime, Sonia and her children are now living in constant fear, while Ray and Jonathan had to move out of their barangay. Sonia is also scared of filing a case in court because of the threat of retaliation from the perpetrators.
The case of Eddie Gumanoy and Eden Marcellana
Eden Marcellana, then Secretary General of KARAPATAN-Southern Tagalog; and Mr. Eddie Gumanoy, Chairman of KASAMA-TK, a peasant organization in Southern Tagalog, led a fact-finding team of 11 persons to Gloria, Mindoro Oriental on April 19-21, 2003 to investigate cases of human rights violations in that area.
On April 21, on their way back to Calapan City after their fact finding investigation, the passenger van the group was riding was blocked by armed men, some of whom were wearing military uniforms, at the town of Naujan, Mindoro Oriental. The armed men forcibly took away Ms. Marcellana and Mr. Gumanoy. Four others were separated from the group, blindfolded and dropped off in different places in Mindoro Oriental.
The following day, April 22, 2003, the lifeless bodies of Ms. Eden Marcellana and Mr. Eddie Gumanoy were found in a roadside ditch in Brgy. Alcadesma, Bansud, Mindoro Oriental. They were both brutally tortured before being killed. MSgt. Donald Caigas, intelligence officer of the 204th IBPA and military asset Aniano “Silver” Flores as well as elements of the 204th IBPA under the command of then Col. Jovito Palparan, Jr. are believed to be behind the killings and other human rights violations committed upon this group. Elements of the 204th IBPA, together with military assets who were former rebels, are also believed to be behind these killings.
Threats, Harassment and Intimidation, Coercion, Divestment of Property – The other members of the 11-person fact-finding team that went with Ms. Eden Marcellana and Mr. Eddie Gumanoy to Gloria, Mindoro Oriental experienced threats and harassments while they were under the control of the armed men who commandeered the van they were riding. The soldiers and armed men took their cell phones and wallets and threatened to kill them if they continue with their work.
The summary execution of Bishop Alberto B. Ramento
In the early morning of October 3, 2006, Bishop Alberto B. Ramento of Iglesia Filipina Independiente or IFI (Philippine Independent Church), widely known as the “bishop of the poor peasants and workers”, was brutally stabbed to death in his room at the San Sebastian Church in Tarlac City.
Simply because his cellular phone and bishop’s ring were missing and presumed stolen, the Philippine National Police was quick to dismiss the case as a simple case of robbery with homicide. But the family of the bishop and the church to which he belonged are not convinced about the investigation conducted by the police for the following reasons: The crime scene investigation by the police was perfunctorily done and completed in only about two hours, after which the crime scene was not cordoned off to preserve the evidence. Apparently, no fingerprint was lifted from the crime scene; the police report never came up with a fingerprint finding. Except for the sworn statement of the church caretaker, Archimedes Ferrer, there was no interview of any family member, church member or other people close to Bishop Ramento.
The family of Bishop Ramento and his church strongly believe that the investigation conducted by the police is a cover-up and a sham. They are certain the killing was politically motivated. They cite the numerous death threats received by the bishop which he had communicated to them. They believe he was murdered because of his political activities and affiliations as a human rights advocate, especially his staunch and active support for the striking workers of Hacienda Luisita and his open condemnation of the human rights violations committed by state forces not only in Central Luzon but throughout the country.
A man of peace, Bishop Ramento formed and headed the IFI’s “Peacemakers”, was Co-Chair of the Philippine Peace Center and a Convenor of Pilgrims for Peace, a multi-sectoral network supporting the peace negotiations between the Government of the Republic of the Philippines (GRP) and the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) and advocating a just and lasting peace based on justice, freedom and democracy. In 1998, the NDFP nominated him as an Independent Observer in the Joint Monitoring Committee of the Comprehensive Agreement on Respect for Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law (CARHRIHL).
Bishop Ramento was likewise often in the frontlines of protests and rallies denouncing the ills of Philippine society and demanding the ouster of President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.
The killing of Alice Omengan-Claver & frustrated killing of Dr. Constancio “Chandu” Claver
Dr. Constancio “Chandu” Claver, a practicing physician, is the Chairperson of Bayan Muna-Kalinga and Vice-Chairperson of Cordillera Peoples Alliance-Kalinga. He is also the Chairman of the Board of the Philippine National Red Cross in Kalinga and a member of the Kalinga Medical Society. He served as the Executive Director of the Community Health Education Center in Kalinga Apayao. On the other hand, Alice was an active member of the Cordillera Peoples Alliance during her college years in Manila. Upon returning to Tabuk, she had been very generous in providing support to people’s organization including the Cordillera Peoples Alliance in Kalinga.
Sometime on 31 July 2006 at around 6:45 in the morning, Alice Omengan-Claver and Dr. Constancio “Chandu” Claver were aboard a Black Pajero Van when they were ambushed by unidentified gunmen-wearing black bonnet and sweatshirt. The assailants were on board a White and Black Delica Van with plate number BFC-372 and TNB-901, respectively. They were supposed to drop their daughter, Cassandra, to school at Saint Tom’s College in Barangay Bulanao, Tabuk, Kalinga when the incident happened.
Dr. Chandu Claver was seriously wounded while Alice Claver sustained multiple gunshot wounds. They were brought to the Kalinga Provincial Hospital where Alice expired six hours later while undergoing surgery. Their daughter, Cassandra (7 years old), escaped the attack physically unharmed but severely traumatized psychologically.
Task Force Bulanao was created to investigate the incident. The members of the Task Force showed Dr. Claver a cartographic sketch of a man who was seen by the witnesses as one of the gunmen who fired at their vehicle on July 31, 2006. Dr. Claver affirmed that the cartographic sketch matched the features of the man he saw briefly standing at the left side of his vehicle before he was fired at by the other man in a black ski mask and black sweat shirt.
The killings of Agnes Abelon and Amante Abelon, Jr. and the frustrated summary execution of Amante Abelon, Sr.
Amante Abelon, Sr. and his wife are active members of Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP or Farmers’ Movement in the Philippines) and the progressive party-list organization Anakpawis (Toiling Masses) in Zambales, an area within the jurisdiction of the 7th Infantry Division of the Philippine Army under the command of General Jovito Palparan.
Amante Abelon, Sr. is likewise an incumbent councilor of Barangay San Rafael, San Marcelino, Zambales. He is also the Vice Chairperson of Alyansa ng mga Magbubukid sa Gitnang Luzon-Zambales Chapter (AMGL or Alliance of Central Luzon Farmers) a chapter organization of KMP. He likewise served as Municipal Chairperson of Anakpawis in San Marcelino, Zambales.
On March 20, 2006, at around 11 a.m., while he, his wife Agnes, and their five-year old son, Amante, Jr., were on board their motorcycle on their way home from the Municipal Hall of Castillejos, Zambales, two (2) men on board another motorcycle fired at them. Amante, Sr. was hit by three (3) bullets on his left arm. The motorcycle the Abelons were riding skidded and fell to the ground. Knowing that he was the target of the gunmen, his wife prodded him to run. While running, he told his wife and child to do the same as he believed the armed men were only after him as the gunmen continued to fire at him. They stopped shooting only when they reached a crowded place.
Amante, Sr. suffered nine (9) gunshots wounds in different parts of his body. He was able to call for help and was brought to a hospital for treatment. It was only after his one week confinement in the hospital when he learned that his wife, Agnes and his son, Amante, Jr., were shot in the head by his assailants.
While Amante, Sr. was in the hospital, unidentified men were still looking for him.
Despite the fact that the incident happened on the highway and the police responded immediately, they did not conduct an investigation, did not even take photographs of the crime scene nor, at the very least, made a sketch of the place of the incident and the relative position of the victims, all of which are standard operating procedure in crime investigation.
To date, the perpetrators remained unidentified. However, Abelon believes that his frustrated summary execution and the killings of his wife and child were the handiwork of the intelligence forces of the Philippine Army and the same were politically motivated as they were active members of KMP and Anakpawis.
The killing of Diosdado Fortuna
Diosdado Fortuna or “Ka Fort” as he was fondly called by his colleagues was the president of the Union of Filipino Employees, the recognized bargaining union of the employees in Nestlé Philippines. He led the workers’ strike starting January 14, 2002 after the management refused to comply with the 1991 Supreme Court ruling on the inclusion of the workers’ retirement benefits in their collective bargaining agreement.
Fortuna was also the chairperson of PAMANTIK-KMU, the regional formation of trade unions based in Southern Tagalog; and the chairperson of Anakpawis Party-list in the same region.
On 22 September 2005, Diosdado Fortuna was shot twice in the back by two unidentified armed men in the subdivision near Sagara Factory in Barangay Paciano, Calamba City. The bullets went through his chest fatally injuring his heart, liver and spleen, and causing his instant death.
Prior to his death, he reported that he had constantly been under surveillance from the time the union went on strike. He had several encounters with the police on different occasions.
Sometime on April 2002, Fortuna, together with other sectoral leaders, was invited by the then General Cesar Sarino at Camp Vicente Lim to supposedly discuss the problems in the picket line. During the meeting, however, they were told that 95 unions under the banner of Kilusang Mayo Uno (KMU or May First Movement) were suspected fronts of the CPP-NPA and were all under surveillance.
On 12 October 2003, Jose Betito, another labor organizer in the region was abducted in front of the PAMANTIK office. The abductors mistook him for Fortuna. According to him, he heard one of the abductors tell his companion that Betito was not the one they were looking for. Betito was illegally detained for more than 24 hours during which time he was shown surveillance videos and photos of Ka Fort. There was even a video and photo of Ka Fort with X marks, he said.
Disodado Fortuna was the second Nestlé Union president killed during the workers’ strike. His predecessor, Meliton Roxas, was killed in front of the picket line in 1989.
Although Ka Fort’s case has been reported to Calamba-PNP and Task Force FORTUNA was created to investigate the case, to date the investigation has not progressed.
The case of Rogelio & Gabriel Calubad
On 17 June 2006, at about 7:00 a.m., Rogelio Calubad, 53 years old, and his son, Gabriel, 29 years old, left their house in Barangay Apad-Lutao, Calauag, Quezon for Barangay Bangkuruhan of the same town, to fence off a parcel of land recently purchased by Rogelio’s sister. They left on a motorcycle driven by Gabriel.
About twenty (20) meters from their destination, Rogelio and Gabriel‘s vehicle was suddenly overtaken by a dark blue van bearing no license plate and a motorcycle, causing Rogelio and Gabriel to fall off their motorcycle. Immediately, several armed men alighted from the van and forced Rogelio and Gabriel to lie face down on the ground. They handcuffed and jostled Rogelio into the van, while they forcibly took Gabriel onto their motorcycle. After snatching Rogelio and Gabriel, the convoy sped away and abandoned the motorcycle belonging to Rogelio and Gabriel.
Worried about her husband and son’s failure to return home that day, Rogelio’s wife, Elizabeth, searched for them in vain the following day in Barangay Bangkuruhan.
Having been told by a villager in Barangay Bangkuruhan who witnessed the abduction, Elizabeth, accompanied by the chairpersons of barangays Bangkuruhan, Apad-Lutao and Madlandungan, next went to the Calauag Police Station to report the incident. There, Elizabeth was informed that the victims’ motorcycle had been earlier turned over to the station by a barangay peace officer. Elizabeth also learned from police investigator Nestor Afuen that the police already knew about the incident as early as 10:00 a.m. of 17 June 2006.
Having obtained no information from the police about the whereabouts of her husband and son, Elizabeth, together with the three barangay chairpersons, proceeded to the 76th Infantry Battalion stationed at Brgy. Biñas. The commanding officer, a certain Ben Tibano, denied having custody of Rogelio and Gabriel. Elizabeth and her group also searched for the victims at the headquarters of 417th Provincial Police Mobile Group at Camp Villarasa in Brgy. Sta. Maria, but the public information desk officer there denied having custody of the missing Calubads.
Prior to the abduction of Rogelio and Gabriel Calubad, on 10 August 2005, Rogelio’s brother, Cesar Calubad, was unlawfully arrested without a warrant by the Police Mobile Group of Camarines Sur. Cesar had later confided to Elizabeth that he was subjected to a tactical interrogation in which he was asked mainly about the personal circumstances and whereabouts of his brother, Rogelio. Cesar’s captors tortured him in an attempt to force him to turn in his brother.
Elizabeth also recalls that on September 2005, an alleged representative of the Department of Local and Interior Government conducted a purported census on Elizabeth’s house and underhandedly asked personal information about Rogelio Calubad.
Elizabeth strongly suspects that the military belonging to the 2nd Infantry Division of the Philippine Army based in Camp Nakar, Barangay Gulang-gulang, Lucena City, Quezon, by order and at the behest of SOLCOM Chief Lt. Gen. Alexander Yano, ISAFP Chief Commodore Leonardo Calderon, Jr. and AFP Chief of Staff Gen. Hermogenes Esperon, Jr., and their agents were behind the abduction of her husband and son, especially because Rogelio Calubad is a consultant to the NDFP Negotiating Panel. As such, Rogelio is a duly accredited and protected person under the Joint Agreement on Safety and Immunity Guarantees (JASIG) between the Government of the Republic of the Philippines (GRP) and the NDFP, and enjoys immunity from surveillance, harassment, arrest and detention by the GRP’s securiy forces. Moreover, he and his son had not committed any offense for which they may be arrested or deprived of their liberty without any formal charge or judicial warrant.
On 3 August 2006, Elizabeth, representing her missing husband and son, filed before the Philippine Supreme Court a petition for habeas corpus. The Supreme Court remanded the case to the Regional Trial Court of Lucena City where the respondent military unit operates. For fear of her life and that of her family, Elizabeth had asked the court to send the case back to the Supreme Court but the same was denied. On motion for reconsideration, however, the Supreme Court granted the transfer of the case to the Regional Trial Court of Manila. To this day, the case has not been resolved and Rogelio and Gabriel remain missing.
The case of Patricio Abalos
In the evening of March 28, 2005, Patricio Abalos, 67 years old, the provincial chairman of the farmers’ cooperative in Brgy. Guindapunan, Catbalogan, Samar, was at home with his family and other relatives. They were watching television when suddenly Patricio’s daughter, Cristina, noticed a Toyota Revo van parking in front of their house and saw some men around the vehicle. She told her father about it. When he went out to check, the car was gone.
When the van came back, four (4) armed military elements belonging to the 8th Infantry Division under Maj. Gen. Jovito Palparan forcibly took Patricio Abalos at gunpoint. Thereupon the van sped away. A motorcycle bearing no car plate like the van was on tail.
In the evening of the same day, Patricio’s family reported to the police the fact of the abduction.
The next day, Cristina and her mother searched for Patricio at Camp Lucban in Maulong, Catbalogan where the 8th Infantry Division of the Philippine Army is based. But they were denied entry into the camp. They then tried to seek the help of the Public Attorneys’ Office. But said office, explaining that it was also being harassed, turned them down. Not giving up, on March 30, 2005, they went back to the military camp, but once again they were shooed away.
On March 31, 2005, six soldiers barged into and searched Patricio’s house against the will of the members of the family and without a search warrant. The group was headed by one who introduced himself as Lt. Wilbert Basquiñas who arrogantly admitted having custody of Patricio. He told Patricio’s family that he and his men were looking for a gun allegedly kept in Patricio’s wooden trunk. Cristina and her family pleaded with the soldiers. Lt. Basquiñas ignored them and proceeded to ransack the house, threatening and aiming his pistol at the family while brandishing his fan knife.
While the soldiers could not find any gun, they still took with them Patricio’s trunk which contained his IDs, wallet and medicines. They also threatened to take Patricio’s wife should she not surrender the gun they were insisting was inside the trunk. Cristina’s family later reported the incident to the police. But the latter refused to help them, saying they would not want to antagonize the military.
On April 2, 2005, Cristina went back to the police station and reiterated the fact that her father remains missing.
On April 7, 2005, Cristina and her mother went to seek the help of Congressman Figueroa. They chanced upon Gen. Palparan at the congressman’s house. Cristina noticed that the general’s vehicle parked outside the house was the same vehicle used by the military in the abduction of her father.
Cristina and her mother confronted Gen. Palparan. But Gen. Palparan ridiculed Patricio and itried to bully the family into admitting that Patricio was an NPA. Palparan threatened the family, saying: “I hope that when your father and I talk again, he won’t be as hard headed as he is. I’m bad when I get angry and I’m getting angry now.”
Cristina asked Palparan why her father was being illegally detained and why they were not allowed to visit him. At this, Palparan replied that he had given the go-signal to visit Patricio. Cristina and her mother also insisted for the release of Patricio, but Palparan rejected it, saying Patricio was old anyway.
After Palparan left, Cong. Figueroa told Cristina and her mother that Palparan had admitted Patricio was in the military’s custody.
Cristina filed a petition for habeas corpus against the military unit illegally detaining Patricio before the Court of Appeals in Cebu City. However, the court dismissed the petition on the ground that there was no sufficient proof of detention. The order of dismissal of the petition was issued despite the fact that Cristina and other witnesses were presented to prove that armed military elements belonging to the 8th Infantry Division and upon the order of Gen. Jovito Palparan forcibly abducted Patricio Abalos from his house on March 28, 2005.
Cristina has also filed cases of arbitrary detention, robbery, violation of domicile, among others, against then Brig. Gen. Palparan and Lt. Basquiñas. But the Office of the Provincial Prosecutor in Samar absolved Palparan from the charges.
The case of Sherlyn T. Cadapan and Karen E. Empeño
Sherlyn T. Cadapan (“Sherlyn”) and Karen E. Empeno (“Karen”) are both students from the University of the Philippines who were doing research in Barangay San Miguel, Hagonoy, Bulacan when they were abducted.
On 26 June 2006, at around 2:00 a.m., Sherlyn and Karen who were then staying in the house of one Raquel Halili at Barangay San Miguel, Hagonoy, Bulacan, were forcibly taken with their hands tied by elements of the Philippine Army based in the Headquarters of the 56th Infantry Batallion, Iba, Hagonoy, Bulacan, under the command of Maj. Gen. Romeo Tolentino, Brig. Gen. Jovito Palparan and Col. Rogelio Boac.
The soldiers also took Manuel Merino, a farmer who was then staying in the adjacent house (owned by William Ramos) and who went out to help the two UP students. Manuel Merino was also tied down, brutalized and seized.
William Ramos and his son, Wilfredo Ramos, saw the victims being led to a private stainless jeep with plate number RTF 597. Father and son were made to lie face down with their hands tied. The stainless jeep fled towards Iba, Hagonoy, Bulacan.
When this abduction incident came out in the news, the human rights group KARAPATAN-Bulacan Chapter immediately launched a quick response team composed of Alyansa ng Mamamayan para sa Pantaong Karapatan or ALMMA (Citizen’s Alliance for Human Rights) members and volunteer staff of Barangay Human Rights Action Center headed by Mildred Benitez.
The group went to the 56th Infantry Battalion Headquarters and there they saw the stainless jeep with plate number RTF 597. The military camp which used to be open for visitors was closed and they were not allowed inside. Mildred, however, heard a barbecue stand vendor ask who they were looking for. “Yung mga babae ba?” [“Are you looking for the women?”] he asked, but when the reply was “yes,” the vendor did not say a word again.
On 28 June 2006, at around 10:00 in the evening, Alberto Ramirez was awakened by shouts from Manuel Merino, the same person who was abducted earlier on together with Sherlyn and Karen. When Alberto looked out he saw that Manuel had two male companions who immediately pointed their guns at Alberto. The men forced Alberto out of his house. Outside, he saw more armed men who were waiting for them in a vehicle with plate number RTF 597. The incident was also witnessed by people in the neighborhood who were all threatened by the armed men not to say a word about what they saw.
Alberto was brought to Brgy. San Miguel, Hagonoy, Bulacan and thereafter in the military’s detachment at Brgy. Mercado located at the second floor of the barangay hall. At the detachment, one of the men who took part in the abduction introduced himself to Alberto as Arnel Enriquez. Arnel showed Alberto two leaves of bond paper with names written thereon. Arnel asked Alberto about those names. Arnel also mentioned the names Sherlyn Cadapan who according to him is also known as “Ka Tanya” and “Ka Lisa” and Karen Empeno as “Ka Sierra.”
Alberto was asked by Arnel to cooperate with them and to help them identify or point to the persons whose names were listed in the bond papers or suffer the consequences. He was allowed to leave but was warned to report back to the detachment at 2:00 p.m. the following day. But instead of going back to the detachment, Alberto left the place and reported the matter to the human rights group KARAPATAN.
A Petition for Habeas Corpus was filed on behalf of Sherlyn Cadapan, Karen Empeño and Manuel Merino. A writ of habeas corpus was issued against Maj. Gen. Tolentino, Gen. Palparan, et. al. In their Return of the Writ, they all denied having custody of the victims and even denied having knowledge about their abduction. To date, the three are still missing.
The case of Perseus Geagoni
Perseus Geagoni is an active organizer and the Education Officer of the Negros Federation of Sugar Workers (NFSW) in Bacolod City, a duly-registered organization of sugar plantation workers.
Perseus Geagoni was on his way home on a borrowed red-black KMX Kawasaki sports motorcycle with motor plate “for registration” from the office of Negros Federation of Sugar Workers (NFSW) in Bacolod City in the evening of 05 December 2005 when he was abducted by unidentified men.
A witness named Thadea B. Vivero said that about 6:30 P.M. of 05 December 2005, she saw a red and black colored Kawasaki sports motorcycle overtaking the jeep she was riding. Ahead of it were a Honda motorcycle and a gray, tinted Tamaraw FX van swerving and deliberately blocking the Kawasaki sports motorcycle.
According to Perseus’ wife, Nieva, sometime on the third week of December 2005, a soldier confirmed that a group of thirty (30) operatives led by 1st Lt. Clarence Garrido of the 11th Infantry Battalion and under the supervision of the Visayas Military Intelligence Command under the command of Major Ariel Quiachon of the Philippine Army were responsible for the abduction of Perseus Geagoni.
Prior to the incident, Geagoni had reported several instances of being tailed. One particular incident was in November 2005 when he was chased by a motorcycle-riding man in Garita, Brgy. Zone 14-A, Talisay City. He avoided the man by speeding up towards Colegio de San Agustin, Bacolod. Also, on several occasions, two unidentified men had asked for his whereabouts.
The fact of his abduction has been reported to the police. The victim remains missing.
The cases of Oscar Leuterio, Bernabe Mendiola, Virgilio Calila
and Teresa Calilap
On April 17, 2006, at around 10:35 in the morning, while Bernabe Mendiola was handing out the salaries of the workers in Iron Ore Mining, around 30 military elements in plainclothes, together with civilian guides Bitoy, Alladin and Alvin Pastrana, indiscriminately fired upon the workers’ site. At that time, there were more or less 60 workers in the work site. The assailants were armed with high caliber rifles such as M203, M16 and M14, and their faces covered. The civilian guides who were bare-faced were also armed with high caliber rifles.
The armed military men went to the workers’ huts located in the mining site. The workers were bodily searched and their personal belongings such as cellular phones, money and other personal items were forcibly taken from them. More or less 30 cellular phones and cash amounting to about P200,000 were taken from the workers.
The workers were all ordered to lie face down on the ground in front of the hut located at the center of the site and under the scorching heat of the sun from 10:35 am to 5:00 pm. Oscar Leuterio, Bernabe Mendiola, and the couple Virgilio and Teresa Calilap were separated from the rest of the workers. Their hands were tied and they were kicked, trampled and hit by M16 and M14 rifle-butts in different parts of their bodies. While being beaten, they were forced to tell the armed men the names and whereabouts of the members of the NPA.
At around 5:00 pm, the four victims were ordered to stand up and were blindfolded. Their abductors took them to the woods about 200 meters away from the center of Brgy. Camaching on board a truck owned by Iron Ore Mining. At the woods, the four workers were subjected to further beatings. They were again interrogated on the whereabouts of the NPA.
At around 10:00 pm, they were brought to Camp Tecson in San Miguel, Bulacan. Oscar Leuterio said he saw where they were taken to because his blindfold got loose and he saw the words Camp Tecson on the arch they passed through. They were taken to a small hut in the rear part of the camp. They were deprived of food, and they were subjected to more beatings. A certain Boy Muslim in yellow T-shirt and denim pants and who was drunk was carrying out the torture.
Boy Muslim pounded on Oscar Leuterio’s head with a 2×3 piece of wood that produced a big gash on the left side of his head. The same piece of wood was also used to pound his fingers and toes causing them to burst open. The wood was also used to clobber his legs and knees. When Boy Muslim once again struck his head with the piece of wood, Oscar lost consciousness. The other three victims suffered the same fate as Oscar’s. The latter related that before he lost consciousness, he witnessed the beatings suffered by his other companions since they were all placed inside the same hut.
When Oscar regained consciousness, he saw his companions and an investigator who did not identify himself. The investigator told him that they were thankful that he regained consciousness because they all thought he was already dead. The investigator tried to mollify him by saying that Boy Muslim is really evil when drunk and he was only doing his job.
In the morning of April 18, 2006, Oscar was taken out of the hut and was brought to a table beside it for questioning. The investigator asked him the names of the members of the NPA and where they were hiding. Oscar told him that as far as he knew, the NPA usually inhabit the forest and set up their camps where there are sources of water. The questioning lasted for half an hour, after which, he was brought back inside the hut and the rest of the victims were also taken out for questioning. They were given lunch and were given first aid treatment. They applied betadine on Oscar’s head wounds and he was also given antibiotic and pain reliever.
Oscar related that because they were blindfolded and their hands were tied, a boy who introduced himself as Noli fed him during lunch. Noli was an altar boy of Fr. Viola, a Roman Catholic priest from their hometown and the son of Oscar’s friend Lito. Noli was arrested because his brother is suspected to be an NPA member and the whole family allegedly supports the NPA.
They were made to take a rest after lunch and at about 8:00 in the evening they were taken on board a van; Oscar assumed this because they entered it through a sliding door on its side. He also sensed that other than the four of them, there were military men on board the van.
The travel lasted for about three hours. They were brought to a house in the middle of the woods, which they later found out to be inside Fort Magsaysay in Laur, Nueva Ecija. They figured this out when they heard male voices talking about their plan to go to a wet market in Cabanatuan. This was later confirmed when they heard aircraft landing and taking off in a nearby airstrip. Fort Magsaysay is the closest military installation with an airstrip.
They were taken into a house with four adjoining cells. Each cell measured about 6x3x5 feet. It had concrete walls and floor and metal grills topped with galvanized iron roofing. It also had a toilet made of hollow blocks at its other end.
Oscar was placed in the cell closest to the door, to his right was placed the Calilap couple, next to their cell was Bernabe Mendola’s and the last cell was occupied by the brothers Raymond and Reynan of Bohol na Mangga, San Miguel, Bulacan. Until now Bernabe Mendiola remains missing.
The following day, they were untied and their blindfolds taken off. They were given respite and time for the wounds to heal. On the seventh day of their incarceration, the beatings resumed. They were whipped with a water hose in different parts of their bodies while being questioned on where they hid the guns and the names of those in possession of guns. The whipping lasted for about 5 minutes.
They were blindfolded every time they were taken out of their cells for questioning but their blindfolds were removed once they were inside. Since Oscar’s cell was beside the door, he could see the people outside through the space in the door when it was not properly closed.
The guards told them that “lolo’s replacement will take them home”. Oscar found out that it was a certain Gomez who accompanied them. Oscar and Manuel together with another one abducted and finally released from Peñaranda and six more soldiers rode in a Pajero. Oscar was made to get off in San Ildefonso, Bulacan and was told to hire a tricycle to go home. It took him two weeks to find a cellular phone to contact his son to pick him up.
The illegal arrest, arbitrary detention and torture
of the “Tagaytay Five”
Now collectively known as Tagaytay Five, Riel R. Custodio of Batangas City; Michael M. Masayes of Tagaytay City; Axel Alejandro A. Pinpin of Indang, Cavite; Aristedes Q. Sarmiento of Calamba City and Enrico Y. Ybanez of Tagaytay City are peasant leaders, organizers and advocates associated with Katipunan ng mga Magsasaka ng Kabite (KAMAGSASAKA-KA) a provincial peasant organization of the KMP.
At around 6:30 sundown of April 28, 2006, while traveling along Ligaya Drive, Sangay, Tagaytay City, the members of Tagaytay Five were forcibly and illegally abducted by an estimated 30 to 40 heavily armed elements of the Philippine National Police and the AFP-Philippine Navy Intelligence and Security Force (NISF). Their abductors wore various uniforms and plain clothes, all bearing no name plates, and carrying no warrants of arrest or search warrants.
For three (3) agonizing days, which seemed eternity for them and their relatives, they were kept blindfolded and hog-tied, involuntarily interrogated without the aid of counsel, physically harmed and repeatedly threatened with electrocution and summary execution. They were held incommunicado in various military and police camps and safe houses and deliberately hidden from their relatives. They were divested of all valuables, personal belongings, and organizational properties. The unmistakable marks of torture are now borne by at least two (2) of them. Sarmiento’s 2nd degree burn wound on his right leg remains unhealed three (3) months after their abduction.
Unable to get even a shred of evidence, the above-mentioned PNP unit planted belatedly evidence on the Tagaytay Five and declared in a press conference presided over by the then Chief of the PNP, Director General Arturo Lomibao in Camp Crame, Quezon City on May 1, 2006 that they belonged to a group of NPA sent to destabilize the Arroyo government during the Labor Day celebration. Brute force and psychological torture were inflicted to force the Tagaytay Five to admit membership in the NPA. They however failed to break the spirit of Tagaytay Five, who steadfastly denied the accusations.
A case of rebellion was filed against the Tagaytay Five before the Regional Trial Court of Tagaytay City. On the other hand, despite complaints and evidence of torture found on the Tagaytay Five, the arresting officers were not even investigated by the PNP and the Navy.
The illegal arrest, arbitrary detention and torture
of the “Lopez Six”
Fernando Torres, Nonilon Parro, Herbert Imperial and minors Jefferson Paraiso, Kennedy Abilio, and Joey Imperial collectively known as the “Lopez Six” are farmers from Lopez, Quezon.
On June 7, 2006, an encounter between the NPA and elements of the Philippine Army occurred in Sitio Amogis, Barangay Pisipis, Lopez, Quezon, where an army soldier was killed and another wounded.
On that day, minors Jefferson Paraiso, Kennedy Abilio and Joey Imperial together with Herbert Imperial were gathering copra, (dried coconuts for milling) when they heard the gunfire from a nearby area. Since it was dangerous for them to continue with their work, they stopped and went to their uncle, Fernando Torres. They decided to resume working when the gunfire stopped. Along the way, however, they met the elements of Philippine Army who immediately took them into custody and brought them to the scene of the encounter. They were hogtied and subjected to bodily harm by the military. Thereafter, they were brought to Barangay Villa Espina where a truckload of soldiers were waiting.
They were brought blindfolded to a military camp in Barangay Banabain, Lopez, Quezon. A case of rebellion was filed against them by the military. They were, however, not members of the NPA as claimed by the military. While in military custody, they were subjected to physical and psychological torture to force them to admit to their alleged membership in the NPA.
The illegal arrest, arbitrary detention and torture of Angie Ipong
On 8 March 2005 at about 2:00 in the afternoon, Angie Ipong was forcibly abducted without a warrant of arrest by armed men wearing bonnets who introduced themselves as members of the Philippine National Police-Criminal Investigation and Detection Group (PNP-CIDG) at the Anastacia Mission Village in Barangay Lumbayao, Aloran, Misamis Occidental where she was supposed to have a consultation meeting with peace advocates regarding CARHRIHL. With only sleeping garments on, she was dragged into a silver white van and blindfolded despite her pleas.
Ipong was held incommunicado until 11 March 2005 inside a bunker at the 1st Infantry (Tabak) Division Camp of the Philippine Army in Pulacan, Labangan, Zamboanga del Sur. She was photographed against her will. As a sign of protest, Ipong went on a hunger strike.
On 12 March 2005, she was brought to the AFP-Southern Command Headquarters in Zamboanga City where she was interrogated under duress, tortured and sexually molested. There her abductors tied her hands to her back, punched her at the sides and hit her head. They blindfolded her every time she was interrogated. They undressed and subjected her to acts of lasciviousness. They fondled and made her breasts and other private parts the object of fun. Ipong was placed in a room with the air-conditioning unit intentionally switched on full blast. It was under this condition that Ipong was forced to admit though untrue that she was a top ranking official of the CPP-NPA.
After the forced “admission,” Ipong was spared from further torture. Although obtained through force and under duress, this was made the basis for the rebellion and triple murder cases filed by the Judge Advocate General Office of the Armed Forces against her before the Regional Trial Court of Dipolog City.
On 14 March 2005, Gen. Braganza of the Southern Command presented her to the media allegedly as a captured NPA leader. At that time, she was so sick, nauseated and pained that her abductors had to wheel her in.
On 18 March 2005, she was brought to the Molave Municipal Hall then to Ramon Magsaysay Prison.
The following day, or on 19 March 2005, Ipong was taken to Pagadian City Jail where she is currently illegally detained. It was only on this day that she started to eat porridge and root crops.
From the time Ipong was abducted until 20 March 2005, her family, friends and legal counsel had searched for her in different military camps, including the 1st Infantry Tabak Division in Pulacan, Labangan, Zamboanga del Sur. But the military denied having arrested Ipong or having her in their custody.
It was not until 21 March 2005 that Ipong was allowed to be visited by her lawyer, Atty. Andres Nacilla, and by KARAPATAN.
Attacks on church people
Church people have also been the targets of attacks either by troops in uniform, military agents or their death squads. To date, 23 church workers, 10 of whom were pastors and priests have become victims of extrajudicial killings.
Rev. Jeremias Tinambacan was a resident pastor of the United Church of Christ in the Philippines (UCCP) in Calaran, Calamba, Misamis Occidental. He was an active member of the Kapatirang Simbahan para sa Bayan (KASIMBAYAN), the Promotion of Church People’s Response-Western Mindanao and the Gloria Step-Down Movement (GSM)-Misamis Occidental. He was also the Provincial Chairperson of Bayan Muna – Misamis Occidental chapter, and the Center for Relief and Development (CENRED), and the executive Director of the Mission for Indigenous and Self Reliance People’s Assistance Incorporated (MISPA, Inc.)
On May 9, 2006, at around 5:30 p.m., Rev. Jemias and his wife Rev. Marilou Tinambacan were on their way to visit some relatives in Oroquieta City, Misamis Occidental on board their Besta van. When they reached Barangay Mabod in Oroquieta City, four armed men on board two DT Yamaha-Type motorcycles suddenly appeared on their side and began shooting at them.
Upon seeing that they were being shot at, Rev. Marilou immediately hid beneath the dashboard. Rev. Jemias lost control of the car after being hit and crushed onto a gemelina tree. The suspects continued firing at the vehicle. Rev. Marilou saw one of the suspects, Mamy Guimlan, who is a known military intelligence agent, who cried out “Buhi pa ang bay!” (The woman is still alive!) But he failed to see her because she was able to hide.
Rev. Jemias was hit thrice in the head, while Rev. Marilou sustained a wound on her head that was narrowly missed by a bullet and some bruises on her shoulder as a result of the car crash.
The victims were immediately rushed to the Misamis Occidental Provincial Hospital in Oroqiueta City, but Rev. Jemias was declared dead on arrival. Rev. Marilou was treated for her wounds.
Rev. Edison Lapuz was the Chairperson of Katungod-Karapatan in Eastern Visayas, founding member of PCPR, convenor of Justice for Atty. Dacut Alliance, conference minister of North Eastern Leyte Conference (NELCON)-UCCP and coordinator of Eastern Visayas, Visayas jurisdiction, UCCP. He was also the BAYAN MUNA coordinator for Leyte and Samar. On March 12, 2005, around 6:30 p.m. Rev. Lapuz was shot by two unidentified assassins aboard a motorcycle, hitting him on the left temple and stomach. He died on the spot. His companion, Alfredo Malinao, a peasant leader and barangay captain was also wounded on the chest, near his heart. The killing took place in San Isidro, Leyte. Sometime in May 2005, military men went four (4) times to the house of Rev. Lapuz’ father. They asked him about the whereabouts of his son. The military men also asked for a copy of the latest picture of Rev. Lapuz. One of the military men was identified as a certain Lt. Mangohon. On May 13, 2005, Lt. Mangohon, along with four military men visited the wake of Rev. Lapuz, a few hours after he was gunned down.
Rev. Father William Tadena was assigned to the parish of the Iglesia Filipina Independiente (IFI) in La Paz, Tarlac and had served well his parishioners. He was appointed as the Chairman of the Human Rights and Social Concerns Committee of the Diocese of Tarlac. He was a member of the local chapter of the local chapter of the Promotion of Church People’s Response (PCPR) and Alliance for the Advancement of Human Rights (KARAPATAN). He was a genuine advocate for the legitimate rights of the workers and a supporter of the struggle of the Hacienda Luisita workers.
On March 13, 2005, at about 7:00 a.m., Fr. Tadena celebrated Mass at the mission chapel of the Iglesia Filipina Independiente, Barangay Guevarra, La Paz Tarlac. After the mass, around 8:00 in the morning, he proceeded to the La Paz town proper for the next mass, together with his sacristan Charlie Gabriel, parish secretary Miss Ervina Domingo and his guitarist Carlos Barsolazo on board his owner type jeep. As they drove along the provincial highway towards La Paz they slowed down in front of the Guevarra Elementary School (approximately 50 meters away from IFI chapel) because of a hump on the road. An unidentified person at the waiting shed called his name saying “father”, at the same time waving for him to stop. He was joined by another unidentified person. Both were wearing helmets. As the two persons approached the jeep, Father Tadena sensed some danger and told Ervina Domingo who was sitting at the front seat “Ambush na ito.” (This is an ambush!) At that moment, the two men immediately shot Father Tadena three times as well as Carlos and Charlie who were sitting at the back seat. One of the perpetrators positioned himself beside the jeep and parried Ervina while firing two more shots hitting Father Tadena on his nape and head.
Thereafter, the perpetrators hurriedly boarded their motorcycle and drove towards the town of Victoria, Tarlac. Several IFI parishioners rushed to the scene of the incident and after seeing Father Tadena and his companions seriously wounded helped them and rushed them to the La Paz Medical Center for first aid. Then they were brought to the Central Luzon Doctors’ Hospital in Tarlac City. Medical attention was given but to no avail. Father Tadena died of the gunshots wounds. Church guitarist Carlos Barsolazo was in critical condition after he underwent surgical operations. Charlie Gabriel sustained two gunshot wounds in the legs and was pronounced out of danger. Ervina Domingo sustained bruises on her wrist and leg, suffered extreme anxiety and was in a state of shock.
Attacks on journalists/media people
Since President Macapagal-Arroyo assumed the presidency in 2001 to date, there have been 48 work-related killing of journalists. Remarkably 12 of them were killed in 2006. Other journalists face threats and harassments in an attempt of those in power to silence them.
Spouses George and Maricel Vigo, both journalists in Kidapawan City, were on their way home on a motorcycle in the afternoon of June 19, 2006 after a visit to and meeting with Fr. Peter Geremia, an Italian-American missionary who has worked in Mindanao since 1977, when they were shot to death by a gunman on a motorcycle with companions.
At the time he was killed, George Vigo, 33, was a correspondent at the Union of Catholic Asian News (UCAN)-Philippines. Maricel, on the other hand, was a program host at the church-run dxND radio station in Kidapawan, North Cotabato. Both were peace advocates and wrote about the church and communities’ peace initiatives in their region and conducted campus journalism training in Kidapawan City where they shared the idea of public and peace journalism.
George regularly wrote about the rights of the ‘Lumads’ (or the ‘indigenous peoples’) particularly against the intrusion of banana plantations around Mt. Apo which is considered sacred by the Lumads.
After their murder, the police pointed to a certain Dionisio Madanggit, allegedly an NPA hitman, as the perpetrator; but the NPA strongly denied the police theory. The following day, the police summoned Maricel’s mother to the police station and asked her to sign some documents. She was told that the papers were meant to establish that she was Maricel’s mother and that George was her son-in-law. Alave, who has failing vision, said she signed the documents even though she could not read what was written on them.
It was only later when her son, Gregorio, discovered that the documents his mother had signed included a paragraph that identified the killer as a certain Dionisio Madanguit. Mrs. Alave said she retracted the statement because she never knew that man.
Marlene Garcia-Esperat, was a chemist who became an anti-corruption activist and columnist for the Midland review, a community paper in Central Mindanao.
She was gunned down on March 24, 2005, at her home in Tacurong City while taking supper as her daughter and two sons watched in horror.
Before her death, she filed two dozens graft and corruption cases and other complaints of irregularities against local and national officials before the Ombudsman and other quasi-judicial bodies.
These cases include the P423 million fertilizer scam involving former Department of Agriculture undersecretary Jocelyn “Joc-Joc” Bolante, former national Food Authority Administrator now Department of Agriculture Secretary Arthur Yap, and many other key DA officials.
She was also instrumental in furnishing vital information on the P728 million fertilizer fund scam, which led the Senate to cite Bolante in contempt and order his arrest.
On 6 October 2006, the Cebu City Regional Trial Court convicted Gerry Cabagay, Randy Grecia and Estanislao Bismanos on charges of murder. However, the murder charges against the alleged masterminds, Department of Agriculture Region XII Finance Officer Osmeña Montañer and accountant Estrella Sabay were dismissed. Suspect-turned-state witness ex-seargeant Rowie Barua, the self-confessed henchmen who hired Cabagay, Grecia and Bismanos to kill Esperat was acquitted for lack of evidence.
Last year, multiple libel cases were filed by First Gentleman Miguel Arroyo against 43 reporters, columnists, editors, publishers and subscription manager of different publications. There was even an attempt by the police to arrest and detain one of these journalists charged with libel during a press briefing right at Malacanang palace where the presidential family resides and the President holds office. The First Gentleman has also filed libel suits against the Tulfo brothers.
Attacks on lawyers
The country is not only a dangerous place for journalists and activists but for members of the legal profession as well. In 2006 alone, a total of seven lawyers have been killed while nine lawyers, one judge and one law student were killed in 2005. Most of those killed were human rights lawyers and were killed by reason of the exercise of the profession or advocacy. Also reported were a number of cases of threats and harassments against lawyers involved in land and labor disputes and human rights cases.
Juvy Magsino, 34 years old, a woman human rights lawyer and the Vice Mayor of Naujan, Mindoro Oriental at the time of her death. She was also the Chairperson of Mindoro for Justice and Peace and a candidate Mayor for the 2004 elections. Ms. Leima Fortu, 27 years old, was a teacher and Acting Sec. Gen. of Mindoro Oriental. On the night of February 13, 2004, Atty. Magsino and Ms. Fortu were on board a Toyota Revo on their way home to Naujan coming from Calapan City. At around 11 pm, as they were leaving their friend’s house, a man fired at them. As they sped off, two men on a motorcycle chased them and repeatedly fired shots at them. Later, their lifeless bodies were found inside Atty. Magsino’s Toyota Revo that was ditched in a rice field at Bgy. Amuguis, Naujan, Mindoro Oriental. Elements of the military were responsible for this crime. The shooting happened only 500 meters from the 204th Brigade Headquarters.
Felidito Dacut, 51 years old, married, was the Regional Coordinator and Legal Counsel of BAYAN MUNA Partylist in Eastern Visayas. He was also a member of the Board of Directors of the Integrated Bar of the Philippines (IBP). On March 14, 2005 at around 6:45 p.m., Atty. Dacut was shot at his back by two unidentified men aboard a TMX single motorcycle at Real St., Tacloban City while he was on board a multi-cab vehicle on his way home from a meeting. The assailants used a short pistol with ‘silencer’ wearing white round T-shirts and maong pants. Atty. Dacut was among those who initiated a ‘solidarity mission’ to investigate human rights violations in Catarman, Northern Samar; He was handling human rights and labor cases.
Gil Gojol was a human rights and labor lawyer since the 1990s. He was lawyer to farmers in Bicol and those political persecuted and charged by the military with acts of rebellion. On December 12, 2006, Atty. Gohol was killed with his driver Danilo France in Gubat, Sorsogon about 200 meters from a detachment of the 22nd Infantry Battalion of the Philippine Army. Gohol had just come from a court hearing and was on his way to Sorsogon City when four motocrcycle-riding men shot at his van. France was the first to be hit causing the vehicle to stop. Gohol tried to flee from his assailants but bullets hit him at the back and his buttocks, causing him to fall on his face. The assailants then went near him and shot him in the head causing his instant death.
Charles Juloya is a human rights lawyer who serves as the Legal Adviser of the Ilocos Human Rights Alliance, an organization of human rights advocates affiliated with human rights group KARAPATAN. On March 22, 2005, Atty. Juloya parked his car across the road to his law office in La Union, Philippines. As he was about to cross the road on his way to the wake of another victim of human rights violation, an unidentified male fired at him with a caliber .45 pistol. The assailant fired eight consecutive shots, hitting Atty. Juloya twice. One bullet fractured his left foot while another went through his stomach. Fortunately, he survived the attack.
Attacks on Party List Organizations
Bayan Muna is a national political party duly accredited by the Philippine Commission on Elections to participate in the Party List elections. Composed mainly of workers, farmers, professionals and other progressive sectors, Bayan Muna champions the cause of “New Politics, the “politics of change” in the Philippines. Campaigning for social reforms and firmly opposing foreign domination, feudal bondage and bureucratic corruption, Bayan Muna won three seats in the House of Representatives in the 2001 elections, under the party list system.
The party list system is a mechanism designed to allow the “marginalized sectors” representation in Congress. A Party List organization can win seats in the House of Representatives if it garners at least 2.5 percent of all votes cast for the Party List.
Bayan Muna was joined in 2004 by Anakpawis, a Partylist party representing the interests of the toiling masses; Gabriela Women’s Party List party, representing the interests of the women sector; Suara Party representing the interests of the Bangsa Moro; Migrante Party List party, representing the migrant workers; and Anakbayan, representing the interests of the youth. In the 2004 elections, Bayan Muna won three seats, Anakpawis two seats, and Gabriela Women’s Party List party, one seat in the House of Representatives.
Together, they became known for championing the rights and welfare of the marginalized sectors of the country, i.e., workers, peasants, women, youth, fisherfolk, indigenous peoples, urban poor and other down-trodden by actively pushing urgent people’s concerns in the halls of the Philippine Congress. They also participate in the parliament of the streets, directly engaging in and supporting mass protest actions on a variety of issues.
Since Bayan Muna emerged victorious in the 2001 elections, its leaders and members have been the target of brazen attacks by government officials, notably by National Security Adviser Norberto Gonzales. Anakpawis, Gabriela WPL, and Suara have similarly been targets of killings, harassments and other human rights violations since 2004. The Arroyo regime has repeatedly branded these party list parties as “front” organizations of the Communist Party of the Philippines and as target for “neutralization” (in military parlance, physical elimination of the subjects).
Since 2001, one hundred and twenty-eight (128) members and leaders of Bayan Muna have been summarily killed. Since 2004, thirty-two (32) Anakpawis, two (2) Suara, and one (1) Gabriela party list members and leaders were killed. A still undetermined but considerable number have survived assassination attempts, while fourteen (14) party list members and leaders have forcibly disappeared.
On March 9, 2005 at around 4:30 p.m., Romy Sanchez, the Ilocos Regional Coordinator of Bayan Muna was in Baguio City with his companions to buy 2nd hand clothing materials. They were along Kayang (?) Street of the said city when Sanchez was shot by unidentified men. His companions saw him already lying on the pavement with blood oozing from his wound. Sanchez died on the spot. Before his killing, he had been receiving death threats and was being implicated by the military in the murder of Fr. Conrado Balweg.
Florante Collantes was the Secretary General of Bayan Muna in Tarlac City. He was also a labor organizer at the Bataan Export Processing Zone. On October 15, 2005 at around 11 am, unidentified men shot him in front of his home in Barangay Tuec, Camiling, Tarlac. According to witnesses, Collantes was attending to household chores when motorcycle riding men stopped in front of their house. Thinking that the men would buy cigarettes from their store, Collantes attended to them. But suddenly, one of the two men got off the motorcycle and shot Collantes killing him instantly. The victim’s wife later described the assassin as a burly man wearing dark jacket. According to her, three days before the incident, same man on board his motorcycle had stopped by the store and bought cigarettes. Prior to the incident, Colantes had been subjected to surveillance.
Ricardo Uy, a 57 year old businessman was the Chairperson of Bayan Muna in Sorsogon City Chapter. He was also a member of Sorsogon Independent Media Reporters Incorporated (SIMRI).
On November 18, 2005, while he was alone inside his rice mill, a tall man with long hair wearing sunglasses and a hat went inside and shot him at his back. According to Uy’s helper, he heard five gunshots. He immediately rushed to the rice mill; inside the mill, he saw the assassin who leveled his gun at him and shot him but the gun had no bullet anymore. The man casually walked and went back to his motorcycle parked near the rice mill.
Uy was an active human rights worker and had been a constant subject of verbal attacks by the military in their radio programs for being allegedly a supporter of a communist legal front organization.
Alden Boy Ambida is the regional coordinator of Bayan Muna-Eastern Samar and Vice-president of the Borongan Trycicle Drivers and Operators (BTDOA). On April 9, 2005, at around 11 a.m., Ambida was driving his tricycle with passengers when he noticed two men with XLR motorcycle following him.
When his passengers were getting off the tricycle, he again noticed from his motorcycle’s mirror the two men approaching him. He then positioned his tricycle towards the direction of the approaching motorcycle; he saw the man on the motorcycle draw his gun with a silencer, aimed the gun at him and fired shots at him. He managed to jump out of the driver’s seat. He sustained one gunshot wound on the chest and another on his side. Fortunately he survived the attack. Prior to the incident, Ambida was warned by a family friend to be careful because military elements are after him.
In most military operations in both urban and rural areas, Bayan Muna has been subjected to vilification campaign. Residents of the community identified as supporters of Bayan Muna have been harassed and forcibly asked by elements of the military to ‘clear’ their names or ‘surrender’.
Bayan Muna regional offices have been raided, fired at or burned down. In Eastern Visayas, Bayan Muna office in the province of Northern Samar was lobbed with homemade Molotov using military newsletter as wick. In Eastern Samar, the provincial office was burned down. In Central Luzon, the provincial office of Tarlac was also burned down. These incidents happened in 2005.
Attacks on Civil Liberties
Since the 2004 elections, valid issues on Mrs. Arroyo’s legitimacy as the duly elected President have been raised by a broad spectrum of political forces in Philippine society. These political forces include various multisectoral and sectoral organizations, the progressive party-list organizations and their representatives, opposition parties and leaders, churches and religious leaders, students, professionals, academicians and artists, business groups and retired military officers.
Furthermore, the Macapagal-Arroyo administration has continued to face serious threats of mutiny from restive military and police officers and men questioning the involvement of some of their seniors in election fraud in 2004 and rampant corruption in the military-police establishment. Most significantly, President Macapagal-Arroyo’s tenuous leadership is being challenged by the 85 million Filipino people themselves, majority of whom according to poll surveys, want her to resign while a substantial number want her ousted from office.
Facing the prospect of a mounting call for here ouster after her hasty and dubious proclamation as President-elect, Macapagal-Arroyo clamped down on legitimate protest actions that threatened to snowball and reinvigorate the movement calling for her to step down from office. She launched a desperate political offensive through a series of repressive measures aimed at stifling dissent, suppressing all forms of legitimate protest activities and curtailing basic freedoms of speech and assembly.
President Macapagal-Arroyo resorted to repressive measures such as violent dispersal of protest rallies, the “calibrated pre-emptive response,” “no permit, no rally policy,” Executive Order 464, Presidential Proclamation 1017 and General Order No. 5, and a massive crackdown on her critics and political opponents, including media, the political opposition, civil society groups and particularly the progressive party list members of the House of Representatives and other progressive personalities.
Violent dispersal of peaceful assemblies and mass protest actions
On 13 July 2004, members of Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (BAYAN or New Patriotic Alliance) and Migrante International, an organization of overseas Filipino workers, held a rally at Plaza Miranda, Manila to demand the withdrawal of Filipino troops in Iraq to ensure the release of Mr. Angelo de la Cruz, a Filipino worker held captive by an Iraqi resistance group.
While the program was ongoing, the police used force to prevent a jeepney carrying demonstrators and a powerful sound system from entering the plaza. In the process, the police elbowed BAYAN staffer Alberto Villamor in the face, hit him with a truncheon, handcuffed and hauled him off to the Western Police District substation near Plaza Miranda.
Shortly after, the police commanding officer P/Supt. Sapitula arbitrarily revoked the agreement between the police and the demonstrators that the rally could proceed until 7 pm, and ordered the protesters to disperse in fifteen minutes. The protesters promptly moved out of Plaza Miranda and regrouped on Quezon Avenue so that they could march to Liwasang Bonifacio. The police blocked them and, with absolutely no provocation, trained their powerful water hoses at the rallyists and charged at them, wildly swinging their truncheons and using their shields to shove the rallyists back.
Carol Araullo, Chairperson of BAYAN suffered a two-inch wound on the head and was bloodied when she was treacherously struck from behind by one SPO1 Levy Cardiño with his truncheon. Other policemen, many of them in plainclothes, conducted arrests with excessive force. They seized Renato Reyes, General Secretary of BAYAN; Glyziel Gotiangco, General Secretary of the National Union of the Students in the Philippines; and Edgar Faldas. Faldas, was whacked and bashed with truncheons, punched and slapped by the police while he was being dragged the police car.
Gotianco and Villamor were brought to Police Station 3 in Sta. Cruz, Manila where they were joined by Reyes and Faldas. They were all taken to the Jose Medical Reyes but the diagnoses did not reflect their injuries. At no time during their arrest and detention were they ever informed of their rights under custodial investigation.
P/Supt. Sapitula ordered the filing of charges of Direct Assault, Violation of BP 880, Violation of Section 1119 of the Revised Ordinance (RO) of the City of Manila and Resisting Arrest against Araullo, Faldas, Reyes, Villamor and Gotianco. In a Resolution dated 18 August 2004, the Assistant City Prosecutor for Manila, Ms. Lolita Rodas, dismissed the cases filed against them on the ground that the allegations of the police constitute no probable cause. .
Calibrated Pre-emptive Response
On September 21, 2005, in the wake of the defeat of impeachment moves and a looming upsurge of mass demonstrations calling for Mrs. Arroyo’s resignation or removal from office, the Arroyo administration through Executive Secretary Eduardo Ermita declared the enforcement of the “calibrated preemptive response” rule in lieu of maximum tolerance. The Philippine National Police (PNP) was then also instructed to strictly implement the “no permit, no rally” policy provided for by Batas Pambansa Blg. 880. Following this declaration, violent dispersals of even the most benign protest actions became the order of the day. The vicinity around the presidential palace was declared a “no rally zone” to include historic Mendiola Bridge, the traditional venue for airing grievances against the government.
The calibrated pre-emptive response rule was immediately challenged and defied by various groups. A series of rallies starting on the first week of October 2005 were designed to reach Mendiola. On October 4, 2005, the “Walk for Democracy” in defense of civil liberties and in defiance of the CPR was held under the auspices of the Movement of Concerned Citizens for Civil Liberties (MCCCL). The police violently dispersed the peaceful assembly and arrested and charged some of the participants.
On October 6, 2005, the multisectoral alliance BAYAN and the Gloria Step Down Movement, an informal alliance of different organizations calling for the resignation of President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo led a protest rally in the City of Manila to denounce the rising number of extrajudicial killings and to reiterate their demand for Mrs. Arroyo to step down following the electoral fraud scandal and other corruption cases.
More or less one hundred elements of Western Police District (WPD) -Philippine National Police in full battle gear led by C/Supt. Pedro Bulaong arrived. Majority of the policemen were not wearing nameplates. As the group started to line up for the march, the leaders presented the Endorsement from the office of the Mayor to the ground commander Supt. Bernard Diaz.
Without any warning, one WPD official commanded his men to disperse the protest action. The demonstrators were then violently pushed back with the use of metal shields and were thus forcibly dispersed. Several protesters were hurt and illegally arrested. Criminal charges were filed against the policemen with the Office of the Ombudsman but the office is yet to act on their complaint.
On October 14, 2005, a religious procession led by three Catholic bishops and former Vice-President Teofisto Guingona, Jr. was dispersed using water cannons as they approached Mendiola.
Even the freedom of belief and religion was trampled upon when the Presidential Security Guard (PSG) refused entry to four priests and a handful of church-goers attending a “Mass for the Victims of Hacienda Luisita Massacre and Political Killings” at the San Miguel Church near Malacanang Palace on November 15, 2005.
In a decision promulgated on April 25, 2006, the Supreme Court declared as unconstitutional the calibrated preemptive response (CPR) policy of the Arroyo Administration.
Executive Order 464
In order to prevent the Senate and the House of Representatives from unearthing the truth about anomalous government contracts, the fertilizer fund scam, the Hello Garci tapes (a tape of a tapped conversation evidently between Macapagal-Arroyo and a member of the Commission on Elections, where the former sought and got assurance from the latter that she can be made to appear the winner in Mindanao by a million votes) , electoral fraud and other scandals involving the presidency, Mrs Arroyo issued Executive Order 464 on September 26, 2005, requiring all heads of departments of the executive branch, all senior officials of the executive departments, all generals, flag officers and “such other officers in the judgment of the Chief of Staff” of the Armed Forces of the Philippines, officers of the Philippine National Police with the rank of chief superintendent or higher and “such other officers in the judgment of the Chief of the PNP,” senior national security officials “in the judgment of the National Security Adviser,” and “such other officers as may be determined by the President” to secure the President’s prior consent before appearing before the Senate or the House of Representatives.
The Executive Order is practically a gag order on government employees or officials and a violation of the people’s right to information. It renders inutile the oversight functions of Congress and destroys the system of checks and balances between the legislative and executive branches of government.
Proclamation No. 1017
On February 24, 2006, Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo declared a state of national emergency pursuant to Proclamation No. 1017. She cited a “tactical alliance” and “concerted and systematic conspiracy” between elements in the political opposition, “authoritarians of the extreme left, represented by the NDF-CPP-NPA, and the extreme right, represented by military adventurists.” After making the finding of the alleged conspiracy and the additional finding that their “consequences, ramifications and collateral effects constitute a clear and present danger to the safety and integrity of the Philippine State and of the Filipino people”, Mrs. Arroyo as President and Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) ordered the AFP “to maintain law and order throughout the Philippines, prevent or suppress all forms of lawless violence as well as any act of insurrection or rebellion and to enforce obedience to all the laws and to all decrees, orders and regulations promulgated by me personally or upon my direction…”
On the same date, Mrs. Arroyo also issued General Order No. 5 reiterating the provisions of Proclamation No. 1017 but adding the phrase “terrorism” and directing the Philippine National Police, in addition to the AFP, “to immediately carry out the necessary and appropriate actions to suppress and prevent acts of terrorism and lawless violence.”
On February 25, 2006, Anakpawis Representative Crispin Beltran was arrested in Del Monte City, Bulacan by an armed team of PNP-Criminal and Investigation Group (CIDG) operatives led by a certain Police Chief Inspector Rino Corpuz. The arrest was made without a warrant of arrest in violation of his constitutional rights, and while the Congress was in regular session in contravention of his parliamentary immunity. He was later charged with inciting to sedition and rebellion. Up to the present, he remains in the custody of the PNP.
Similarly, Bayan Muna Party-List Representative Joel Virador was illegally arrested while at the PAL Ticketing Office along Roxas St. in Davao City on February 27, 2006. Aware that they would be subjected to a similar illegal arrest and arbitrary detention as their colleague Crispin Beltran, Bayan Muna Party-list Representatives Saturnino Ocampo and Teodoro Casiño, Gabriela Party-list Representative Liza Maza and Anakpawis Representative Rafael Mariano sought the protective custody of the House of Representatives in the evening of February 27, 2006. They were later joined by Rep. Joel Virador, who was allowed to leave police custody to join his colleagues. Such protective custody was granted by the House of Representatives. They remained in the custody of the House until they were able to leave the Batasan Complex on May 8, 2006 without being arrested. Rebellion charges were filed against the progressive party-list representatives, which are still pending before the courts.
Attacks on Communities
As an integral and major component of its “counter-insurgency”, “counter-secessionist”, and now “counterterrorist” strategy, the AFP and PNP have invariably conducted massive military operations in the countryside, in “critical areas” identified as “rebel-infested or influenced”, or areas controlled by the NPA, Bangsa Moro (MILF and MNLF), and the Abu Sayyaf Group.
Based on vintage-Vietnam US military doctrine, these counter-guerrilla strategies hew to the basic Clear-Hold-Consolidate-Develop formula, all of which consider and treat the majority of the civilian population as suspected sympathizers, if not actual members of the armed guerrilla groups. In other words, the people are the enemy. Thus, AFP and police counterguerrilla doctrine include such “food and population control” measures as census-taking, curfew, rationing, hamletting, “no-man’s-land” zones, etc.; as well as civil-military operations such as holding mass meetings, forming “volunteer civilian organizations”, and forcible recruitment into the civilian paramilitary forces.
Not explicitly stated in the field manuals but clearly understood and widely practiced by the military is the “psychological warfare” component aimed at “winning the hearts and minds” of the people. The military mindset and practice has always been to strike terror in the minds and fear in the hearts of the people. As a US general infamously declared during the Vietnam war, “grab them by the balls and their hearts and minds will follow”. Thus, during the dark martial law years when the military reigned supreme over civilian authority, and even after, state forces have been wont to resort to all sorts of coercive measures and human rights violations, including assassination of mass leaders, abduction, torture and massacres in order to intimidate and control the civilan population. The selective assassinations are also aimed at “dismantling the rebel political infrastructure”.
The big difference now is that under the current “internal security operations” plan codenamed “Oplan Bantay Laya” these military operations have deliberately and consciously been brought out from the remote and interior barrios (villages) to the town centers and even the metropolis. The targets are no longer limited to the underground guerrilla organizations and their rural mass base but to the legal and open democratic organizations alleged to be ”front organizations”. While the known leaders and members of progressive organizations tagged as “front organizations” are marked for “neutralization”, entire communities much closer now to the town centers than before are subjected to counterguerrilla military operations. Despite the absence of any formal martial rule declaration, the civilian authority in these areas is intimidated and supplanted by the military. The rule of law breaks down entirely. The military commits grave human rights violations with impunity.
Recently, the AFP has moved into communities in Metropolitan Manila where the progressive movement apparently has a considerable electoral and mass base and began to undertake these coercive and repressive population control operations.
The case of Barangay Conversion, Pantabangan, Nueva Ecija
Around midnight of October 8, 2006, about 50 soldiers from the 48th Infantry battalion of the Philippine Army (PA), led by Lt. Noel Roysal and a certain Lt. Garcia, arrived in Barangay Conversion, Pantabangan, Nueva Ecija. Upon arrival, they immediately occupied the barangay hall and converted it into a military detachment.
The following day, the soldiers ordered at gunpoint some residents to come with them to the barangay hall for questioning. Among those who were forcibly brought to the barangay hall were spouses Librado and Martina Gallardo, Macera “Neneng” Villajuan, Arthuro Tarlino, Boy Pascua, Delfin and Victor Castañeda, Dante Castro and Boy Ramos.
Siblings Librado Gallardo and Macera “Neneng” Villajuan were fetched by soldiers from their respective houses for questioning at the barangay hall.
Librado and Neneng were brought to two separate rooms at the second floor of the barangay hall. Neneng was blindfolded while being interrogated. She was asked if she was a supporter of the New People’s Army (NPA) and if she was giving food to the NPA. She denied being a supporter of the NPA. The soldiers then threatened to harm her family if she refused to admit giving support to the NPA.
On the other hand, Librado was beaten and hit with a rifle butt by the soldiers when he denied being a member and supporter of the NPA. He was being forced to surrender an M-16 rifle he allegedly owned. When he denied having any gun or rifle, he was again beaten while his face was covered with a plastic bag.
The interrogation and beating stopped only when both Librado and Neneng were instructed to attend a barangay meeting at around 2 pm. The meeting was called by barangay captain Wilfredo Riparep upon the order of the military. It was held at the plaza or public square of the barangay. In the meeting, the military accused the residents of supporting the New People’s Army (NPA) and Bayan Muna, which they charged was a “front organization” of the NPA. The soldiers warned the residents to stop supporting the NPA. They also presented a list of alleged or suspected NPA members or supporters, and ordered those whose names were in the list to report to the barangay hall, clear their names and surrender their firearms.
Pastor Eduardo Navalta Jr. of the Methodist church in the area was one of those tagged by the military as an NPA supporter. The meeting was finished around 6-7 pm but Librado was instructed to stay behind. He was allowed to go home only at around 8pm.
The next day, October 10, Librado was again forcibly taken from his house by soldiers together with his wife, Martina and sister Neneng Villajuan. The interrogation continued, forcing them to admit that they were giving support to the NPA. During the interrogation, Librado was again beaten up by the soldiers. He was allowed to go home before lunch but was again fetched in the afternoon and subjected to further beatings and interrogation which lasted until 9 pm. Before leaving, the military threatened to kill him and his family the next day if he would not surrender the armalite rifle he was accused of hiding, the amount of P 40,000 and some documents.
For fear that their whole family would be killed and because they could no longer bear the mental and physical torture being inflicted on them by the soldiers from the 48th IB, Librado and Martina committed suicide on October 11, 2006. Their son Leo had been killed in 2001 by soldiers from the same unit. They left nine children.
The case of Basilan Province ( June – September 2001)
On July 2001, following the failure of the Armed Forces of the Philippines to solve the kidnapping incident in Lamitan Island by the Abu Sayaff terrorist group on June 2001, the Arroyo government declared Basilan in a state of lawlessness. Through a memorandum from the Department of Justice, the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) was ordered to arrest even without warrant all persons suspected of being Abu Sayyaf members and sympathizers.
Following this declaration there was heavy military deployment of up to 11 battalions under the command of the 103rd Infantry Brigade. The AFP formed Task Force Comet to pursue the Abu Sayaff. Task Force Comet consisted of Task Group Thunder headed by Col. Hermogenes Esperon based in Isabela, Task Group Lightning headed by Col. Pedro Ramboanga based in Tipo-Tio; and Task Group Tornado headed by Marine Col. Renato Miranda based in Maluso.
On 12 July 2001, elements of the 103rd Army Brigade had already been dispatched to different areas in Barangays Tabuk and Sunset, Isabela, Basilan, Province. When night fell, the troops positioned themselves in the pre-identified areas where suspected members and sympathizers of the ASG dwell. They cordoned the houses where their targets can be found.
Checkpoints peppered the one and only road that connects the six towns and one city of the province. From Isabela City to Sumisip town, a few kilometers apart, 16 checkpoints manned by military and paramilitary groups were set up.
By dawn of the following day i.e., 13 July 2001, while the local residents of the villages were still asleep, soldiers wearing masks to conceal their faces, conducted a saturation drive and barged into the houses of the residents and forced them to come out so the military could conduct searches on their houses. The males were herded in one place while informants with their faces masked, pointed out alleged ASG members and sympathizers, who were immediately arrested, hogtied and blindfolded, and their houses subjected to intensive search. Despite demands by the residents for search and arrest warrants, the soldiers did not show them any warrant.
Twenty-eight Isabela residents were arrested and brought to the 103rd Brigade Headquarters in Barangay Tabiawan, which is about four (4) kilometers away from Barangay Tabuk.
Inside the military camp, those arrested were subjected to tactical interrogation. Some were physically and mentally tortured to force them to admit complicity with the Abu Sayaf Group. They were mauled, slapped and beaten. Afterwards, they were made to sign a document saying that they were treated well and were not harmed.
Cases of kidnapping and Serious Illegal Detention were filed against the twenty-eight civilian residents.
On 22 August 2001 AFP launched an operation where several villages were bombarded in Sumisip town, causing the evacuation and displacement of entire communities.
By 23 September 2001, Philippine government’s Department of Social Welfare and Development placed the number of Basilan residents affected by the military operations to 78, 736 individuals or 13, 421 families.
Brazen and extensive looting occurred in the abandoned houses of the residents. The displacement and the destruction and looting of their houses had caused the residents loss of their livelihood and untold suffering.
Forced evacuations had also resulted in the disruption of classes because schools were either occupied by the soldiers or used as evacuation centers, or the school buildings had been damaged by mortar shelling or aerial bombing during military operations. More or less 100 civilian residents were also illegally arrested.
Military operations had resulted also in extrajudicial killings. From June to August 2001, ten victims of extrajudicial killings were documented; all characterized by brutality as revealed by the perpetrators’ mutilation of the remains, signs of heavy torture inflicted on the victims and arrogant and blatant manner of killing. Victims were identified as: (1) Roque Hamajin, 17 years old ; (2) Jaang Pulaan, 50 years old; (3) Mr. Hamajin, husband of Jaang Pulahan who all died on July 11, 2001 during the military operation conducted by 32nd IBPA in Brgy. Pipil, Tipo-tipo, Basilan; (4) Ibno Mallaji, 27 years old was abducted and burned to death on September 7, 2001 by elements of Marines and CAFGU; (5) Banadin Ujajon, 45 years old; (6) Abdua Ujajon, 17 years old; and (7) Abubakar Ujajon 13 years old were found dead a month after they were abducted by CAFGUs in their farm on July 24, 2001; (8) Nuramum Asunum, 27 years old was arrested in a check point at Brgy. Colonia, Lamitan and killed the day after; (9) Hadji Ahmad Asan was killed by CAFGUS and found dead on August 27, 2001 buried under a pile of coconut husks, his entire body was swollen from beating and his left foot was cut off; (10) Jasan Linungan, 22 years old was shot to death by elements of the military on June 10, 2001.
At present, the illegally arrested victims continue to be in detention, they had been transferred to Camp Bagong Diwa in Bicutan, Taguig, Metro Manila.
On March 14, 2005, around 7:30 a.m., about 10 prisoners planned a jailbreak led by Alhamser Manatad Limbong, aka Commander Kosovo in Camp Bagong Diwa. A team composed of Gov. Hussin, Cong. Hataman, DILG Sec. Angelo Reyes and Gen. Avelino Razon was formed to negotiate with the group of Commander Kosovo. The jailbreakers demanded from the negotiators a guarantee that they be not harmed should they surrender, a speedy trial of their cases, an investigation of the human rights violations committed against them and full media coverage while surrendering to the police. On March 15, 2005, at around 9:15 a.m., Sec. Reyes ordered the PNP-SAF (Special Action Force) to assault the SICA (Special Intensive Care Area) Building. The PNP-SAF indiscriminately fired at the SICA Building, resulting in the death of 24 inmates, 11 of whom were included in the Free 73 Basilan, and injured many inmates.
The forced evacuation of Marihatag, Caras-an and Lianga in Surigao Del Sur
From April to May 2005, about 316 families with 2,241 individuals evacuated from the towns of Marihatag, Caras-an, Lianga in Surigao Del Sur province due to the military operations against MAPASU communities (Malahutog Pakigbisog Alang sa Sumusunod or Preserving Struggle for the Next Generation) – an organization of lumad communities in Lianga, San Agustin, San Miguel and Marihatag, around the Andap Valley to protect the mining operations in the area;
The evacuation of families began in the morning of May 7, 2005 at the height of military operations and massive bombings, purportedly against the New People’s Army. Strangely, however, the operations mainly affected civilians and there were no reports of NPA casualties.
Farmers were physically assaulted, threatened and coerced into giving unfounded information on the NPAs. Elderly men and women were photographed and misrepresented as armed rebels. Minors were forced to serve as guides, accompanying soldiers in actual combat operations. Houses were looted and burned. Civilians were tortured and abducted in full-view of evacuees. After being shot and denied medical attention by soldiers, a farmer died while evacuating with his family.
Interestingly, the usual sites of military operations have been in coal-rich Andap Valley, PICOP logging areas, Atlas gold mining areas, ARTIMCO and SUDECOR logging concessions in Surigao del Sur. The AFP’s Special Operations Teams have also been reportedly active in the gold-rich Jabonga and Kitcharo municipalities of Agusan del Norte, Zapanta Valley of Surigao del Norte, and logging concession areas in Agusan del Sur.
With the military operations occurring in areas located along Andap valley, it is quite apparent that such atrocities were connected to mining and logging interests. In the whole of CARAGA, a parallel has been established between military deployment and the presence of logging and mining interests.
Strong local people’s organizations have consistently opposed the entry of mining companies in the area as this has been a historical source of dislocation of their communities.
General and specific allegations
of gross and systematic violations
of economic, social and cultural rights
The 1980 verdict of the Permanent People’s Tribunal on the Philippines concluded that “Philippine society was semi-feudal and semi-colonial in character whose economy was an adjunct of the United States (U.S.) and the world capitalist system and bound by policies dictated by the U.S. and the U.S.-controlled International Monetary Fund (IMF) and World Bank (WB).” The Tribunal recognized that this was the reason for the economy’s being backward, agrarian and pre-industrial as well as its being mired in severe and chronic crisis – which resulted in the deep, widespread and worsening poverty of millions of Filipinos across the country. This was not a situation that the Filipino people chose for themselves but, rather, was a condition forced on them by U.S. imperialism in collaboration with domestic economic and political elites.
Today, nearly three decades later, the situation remains essentially unchanged with neither real economic development nor improvements in the lives and welfare of the people. The U.S. remains the dominant imperialist power in the Philippines and in Southeast Asia, as it is in the rest of the world. The Filipino people – the peasants, fisherfolk, workers, odd-jobbers, low-paid professionals and other working classes – remain deprived of the fruits of their labors by a distorted and deeply undemocratic economic system that is structured for the profits of foreign and domestic elites. There are more poor Filipinos today than at any time in the country’s history: some 65 million Filipinos or 80 percent of the population struggle to survive on the equivalent of US$2 or less each day (at current exchange rates). Some 46 million Filipinos do not meet the daily dietary requirement. The incidence of poverty and hunger is worst in the areas of the Bangsa Moro people in Mindanao, southern Philippines.
All this prevails in the context of a backward, agricultural and pre-industrial socioeconomic system. The Philippines is a fundamentally agricultural nation. Yet feudal and semifeudal monopolies over the means of agricultural production persist despite decades of government land and agrarian reform programs none of which has genuinely distributed land on a widespread scale or delivered the vital services to make this land productive. The lack of true agrarian reform continues to deny the economy its base for development. Severe exploitation by landlords, usurers, traders and middlemen destroys peasant initiative and incentive thereby greatly undermining productivity. The low agricultural output in turn means little economic surplus for industrial investment. Widespread rural poverty meanwhile hinders the development of a domestic market for local industrial producers. The lost economic potentials and opportunities are considerable.
The country’s semifeudal character most of all underpins the massive lack of jobs and livelihoods in the country. This is aggravated by the virtual absence of public social insurance or safety nets for millions of the country’s poorest and most vulnerable. Most Filipino workers work in the informal or underground economy or, if they are in formal sector, are hired as casual or contractual labor. Hence they do not have access to social security and health insurance that, in any case, even has very limited coverage. Barely half of the employment is in wage and salary work with the rest being own-account or unpaid family work. Unemployment benefits are unheard of.
Indeed the situation today is in some key critical aspects even much worse than in the 1980s. The last two and a half decades have seen a brutal and intensifying imperialist economic offensive: the denationalization of the economy through trade and investment liberalization, privatization of social and public services, and deregulation of economic life. This neoliberal “free market” offensive has adversely affected the lives and welfare of tens of millions of Filipinos who suffer inadequate livelihood, food, shelter, health, education and public services. But on top of that it has also destroyed domestic productive capacity and further undermined the potential for future economic development.
Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo assumed the presidency on January 20, 2001 and has been the chief executive and head of state for six years now. Since coming to power she has willfully and actively worked not only to sustain this oppressive economic system but also to further surrender the national economy to foreign plunder and exploitation. She has continued to defend the policies of neoliberal “globalization” put in place by her predecessors, has added to these anti-people policies even beyond the nationalist bounds of the Philippine Constitution, and is even striving to change the fundamental law of the land to be able to surrender wholesale the Filipino people and the national patrimony. The Arroyo regime has kept the people miserable, aggravated their plight, and is working to add even more to their misery.
Imperialist “globalization” in the Philippines is implemented through iniquitous treaties, agreements, laws, policies and programs pushed by foreign monopoly capitalists and their domestic big business partners and that serve their economic interests. These exploiters generate their massive profits by forcibly stealing the labors of the Filipino working classes and from the sheer plunder of the national patrimony. The Philippine labor force is recognized and in demand worldwide for its skills, talent and perseverance; the country is also considered one of the most biologically-rich and diverse in the world with substantial agricultural, fishery, forestry, mineral, oil, gas and geothermal potential. Yet the national economy has been and continues to be designed for the aggrandizement of a few which leaves the majority of Filipinos in a wretched and worsening state.
Overall economic policy framework
The entire configuration of Philippine economic policy is designed to benefit foreign monopoly capital and domestic big business elites at the expense of the majority of the people. The situation is not only fundamentally unchanged since the beginning of the Philippine neocolonial era, upon the granting of nominal independence after the end of the Second World War, but has been gravely worsening in the last nearly three decades of neoliberal “globalization”. Landlord elites continue to dominate the vast rural economy and peasants remain mired in unremitting semifeudal toil. At the same time, greatly increased implementation of so-called “free market” economic policies has dismantled vital economic protections, turned basic social services and essential public utilities into luxury goods for a few, and made generating profits for foreign monopoly capitalists as the central fact of modern economic life.
The Philippines had a population of 87.0 million and gross domestic product (GDP) of approximately P5.5 trillion (US$110 billion) in 2006. The dismal socioeconomic situation of the majority of Filipinos today is a direct result of the country’s long history of economic plunder made even worse by the interlinked array of “free market” measures increasingly implemented since the 1980s and, under President Arroyo, until today. The U.S. government, IMF, WB, World Trade Organization (WTO), transnational corporations (TNCs), transnational banks (TNBs), and their domestic partners have been relentless in pushing policies that intensify the exploitation of the Filipino people and the plunder of the Philippine economy. The U.S. government has directly crafted domestic economic policy through the USAID project Accelerating Growth Investment and Liberalization with Equity (AGILE) with “satellite offices” in 11 key government and quasi-government agencies that have produced at least ten major economic laws. “Free market” policies are also persistently pushed by the U.S. through visits of high-ranking economic officials, in U.S. embassy statements and country assessments, and in statements of foreign chambers of commerce. The U.S. Trade Representative maintains an annual list of what it deems as restrictive Constitutional trade and investment barriers.
The IMF’s regular country monitoring reports and their “recommendations” remain influential and compliance has been compelled not only through financial blackmail by commercial banks but also through global capital markets. The WB also continues with its country strategies and development policy loans, the most recent of which is a US$250 million loan approved for disbursement in December 2006 after government implementation of harsh fiscal measures including higher taxes and reduced spending. All told there have so far been US$12.5 billion worth of loans and US$88.8 million of grants in WB “development assistance” for 188 programs and projects, and 24 IMF programs with attached loans worth US$3.0 billion and SDR2.6 billion. Monopoly finance capital has since the 1990s also increasingly used international bond markets and sovereign credit ratings as leverage to compel both “free market” policies and tight fiscal and monetary policies that had traditionally been the purview of the international financial institutions (IFIs).
Successive regimes since the 1980s have progressively taken away policy instruments of state guidance and protection critical to domestic development. Through their control of the presidency, Congress and the judiciary, political elites have passed laws and implemented policies that brazenly serve their own personal economic interests as well as of their fellow elites and of foreign monopoly capital.
Imports were liberalized through successive tariff reform programs beginning as early as 1981 and spanning two decades. On the foreign investment front, 100 percent foreign ownership has been allowed in all but a few sectors since 1991; there is complete freedom to repatriate capital. Foreign exchange controls were dropped in 1993. Water transport was liberalized and deregulated in 1992 telecommunications in 1993, banking and shipping in 1994, airlines in 1995, mining in 1995, oil in 1996 and 1998, and retail trade in 2000. Some US$4.0 billion worth of government assets has been privatized including oil firms, water utilities and power plants. Essential road and power infrastructure has been turned over to the private sector through build-operate-transfer (BOT) projects following deregulation in 1993. Hospitals began the process of “corporatization” around 1999. The General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT) was ratified by the Senate in 1994 and the Philippines became a founding member of the WTO in 1995.
Foreign monopoly capitalism’s opportunities for profit lie in there being as few barriers, controls and regulations as possible to its productive, extractive, commercial, usury and speculative operations. The neoliberal policies of recent years are designed precisely to give big private profit-seeking interests unparalleled latitude to dominate the economy and make their profits at the expense of the majority. Yet these policies grossly violate economic sovereignty because they deny Filipinos their economic and social rights, and because they relinquish access and control over Philippine human and natural resources. Moreover, surrendering the national patrimony to foreign plunder gravely undermines the finite material basis for future economic well-being and social progress.
The cumulative macroeconomic effects of all this neoliberal restructuring of the economy are severe. The average annual GDP per capita growth rate of 0.6 percent in the “globalization” era 1981-2005 is barely one-fourth of that in the previous period 1959-1980 (2.4 percent). It was also only in this “globalization” period that the economy was hit by crisis so bad that it actually shrank: in the years 1984-1985, 1991 and 1998. Recently, annual real average family incomes even dropped by 10 percent since 2000 to just P130,594 (US$2,612) in 2003; these are measured at current prices and, with an average family size of six, correspond to P60 (US$1.20) per person per day.
However, not only has growth been slowing but the gains from these meager growth rates have not even been going to the broad masses of the Filipino people. Much of that growth is driven by increased foreign investment in the domestic economy and the corresponding returns have accrued largely to the foreign investors. Moreover, even for those returns going to Filipino households, the gains have been grossly lopsided and already deep inequality has become worse. Between 1985 and 2003 the poorest 60 percent of the population have actually seen their share in national income becoming even smaller – falling by 1.8 percentage points to just 25.8 percent of total income – while the richest 20 percent were able to increase their share by another 1.2 percentage points (i.e. to 53.4 percent of total income). The income of the richest 10 percent of households in the country is now 21 times that of the poorest 10 percent of households.
Hunger is widespread. The country’s nutritional status is in step with its poverty: around 9.3 million households (56.9 percent of total households) with 46.3 million Filipinos do not even meet just the 100 percent dietary energy requirement. This is supported by a recent national survey with 67 percent of households reporting difficulty in buying food. 
“Globalization” is also destroying the capacity of the economy to create jobs and directly undermines the livelihoods of millions of Filipinos. Joblessness and job scarcity have reached historic highs under the Arroyo regime. In 2006 there were 11.6 million Filipinos unemployed (4.1 million) or otherwise underemployed and still looking for more work (7.5 million) – this is the most number of Filipinos looking for work in the country’s history. The average annual unemployment rate of 11.3 percent and underemployment rate of 18.7 percent over 2001-2006 is also the worst six-year period of these rates in the country’s history. The surging underemployment in particular reflects how the jobs available are increasingly of low quality (i.e., non-wage or -salaried work, part-time work, low-paying and insecure informal work, etc.). The underemployment rate has severely deteriorated and increased by some six percentage points in the last six years to a decade-high 23 percent.
Deprived of their right to find decent productive work in their home country, some 3,200 Filipinos are forced to leave the Philippines every day to find work abroad. There are now over 9 million overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) – equivalent to one-fourth of the country’s labor force – scattered in 192 countries worldwide. Their some US$13 billion in remittances yearly is equivalent to around 15 percent of GDP which is a five-fold increase from being equivalent to less than 3 percent of GDP in 1983. This makes the Philippines the most overseas remittance-dependent economy of any significant size in the world. The social costs are however severe: domestically, families are split up; abroad, OFWs face discrimination, abuse and violations of their rights to decent wages and working conditions.
On the other hand, the last five years of the Arroyo regime have been extremely profitable for the country’s 1,000 biggest corporations which have seen their cumulative annual net income increase 325 percent from P117.0 billion (US$2.3 billion) in 2001 to P497.4 billion (US$10.0 billion) in 2005.
President Arroyo, an economist, is unequivocally an advocate of imperialist domination of Philippine social and economic life. As a senator in the 1990s, she was the author and primary sponsor of the Senate ratification of the GATT and Philippine accession to the WTO (Senate Resolution No. 97) and of the laws on: comprehensive foreign investment liberalization (Republic Act, or RA, 8179); allowing foreign investors to lease land up to 75 years (RA 7652); foreign investment in domestic mining (RA 7942), domestic banking (RA 7721), public infrastructure projects (RA 7718) and special economic zones (RA 7916); making export-orientation central to national economic strategy (RA 7844); promoting high-value cash crops (RA 7900); the expansion of regressive value-added taxes (RA 8241); and oil industry deregulation (RA 8479). These are among the laws which have gone so far in the neoliberal restructuring of the economy.
As the current head of state President Arroyo vigorously defends “globalization” policies, has implemented additional measures, and is taking further ones that will consolidate and deepen foreign monopoly and domestic elite control of the economy. She has also abetted and tolerated bureaucratic bribery and corruption by foreign capital seeking profitable opportunities in the country.
In her foreword to the Medium Term Philippine Development Plan (MTPDP) 2004-2010, President Arroyo asserts: “[I have] involved myself seriously in the formulation of the MTPDP particularly in the crafting of the basic outline to ensure that the policy strategies and programs therein are more focused.” Consequently, the central thrusts of the MTPDP are distinctly neoliberal: “focused [foreign] investment promotion in priority markets” especially in the U.S., Europe and Japan (MTPDP, p. 15) and continued participation in and conclusion of free trade agreements (MTPDP, p.17).
Most recently, in September 2006, the Arroyo regime signed an onerous free trade agreement with Japan – the so-called Japan-Philippines Economic Partnership Agreement (JPEPA) – which is the country’s first post-colonial free trade pact. The deal is unequal in itself with backward agricultural Philippines liberalizing its trade and investment regime even more than advanced industrial Japan. But the inequity will be even worse in practice where monopoly capitalist Japan is, by virtue of its economic strength, in a far better position to take advantage of the drastic tariff cuts and removal of controls on foreign investment. The JPEPA, moreover, even allows Japanese businesses to dump their toxic wastes and other hazardous industrial materials into the Philippines. In late 2006 the Arroyo regime also declared its intent to enter into a similar free trade pact with the U.S. at the soonest possible time.
The regime is also pushing to open up the economy in the most far-reaching way possible: by changing the Philippine Constitution itself and removing its explicit economic sovereignty provisions. In her annual State of the Nation Address in July 2005, President Arroyo called for “fundamental change, [the] sooner the better, [through] charter change” and pitched for “less government [that is] more conducive to free enterprise and economic progress.” The Arroyo regime aims to remove all general and specific provisions pertaining to how, “The State shall develop a self-reliant and independent national economy effectively controlled by Filipinos” (Article II Section 19).
Yet the dismal global experience with so-called “free market” and “globalization” policies in recent decades is well-established with countries across Asia, Africa, and Latin America seeing slowing growth, increasing poverty, greater inequality and worsening performance in a wide range of social indicators (e.g. infant, child and adult mortality, life expectancy, education spending and enrollment). The historical and continuing experience of the Philippines in the neoliberal “free market” era cannot but be miserable and, given the elite-bias and subservience to imperialism of the current regime, augurs the worst for the Filipino people in the years to come.
Trade and investment liberalization
Philippine trade and investment liberalization policies are distinct but they combine to comprehensively create the conditions for foreign monopoly capitalist superprofits by opening up the economy: to cheap goods from abroad; to foreign direct investment aiming to exploit cheap Filipino labor and plunder natural resources; and to foreign portfolio investment seeking gains from speculation. This causes both immediate and long-term damage to the economy and to people’s welfare.
In the short-term, trade and investment liberalization undermines local producers who have already been made “uncompetitive” by decades of foreign-imposed backwardness. Hundreds of thousands of peasants, workers and low-paid professionals are displaced as are small domestic industrial and commercial capitalists. And because whatever potential benefits might be gained from foreign trade and investment are given up to ensure maximum profits for monopoly capital, this is tantamount to the destruction of the domestic economy’s productive capacity which gravely damages prospects even over the long-term. The situation is made even more serious with the plundering of the economy’s finite natural resources.
Trade liberalization has been implemented through successive Tariff Reform Programs (TRP): TRP I (1981-1985), TRP II (1991-1995) and TRP III (1995-2004). These have caused average nominal tariffs in agriculture to fall from 43.2 percent in 1981 to 11.0 percent in 2003, and in manufacturing from 39.1 percent to 5.4 percent actual trade-weighted tariffs (i.e. based on actual imports) are even smaller and in 2004 were just 9.2 percent for agriculture and 3.0 percent for manufacturing. This process that begun in the 1980s, accelerated in the 1990s and is sustained in the 2000s has exposed local producers to lower-priced competition from abroad – made cheap by technologically-advanced or subsidized first world producers as much as on the basis of exploited third world labor – and caused domestic agriculture and industry to collapse. As it is, backward agricultural and pre-industrial Philippines has the lowest tariff protections in Southeast Asia outside of Singapore.
These tariff cuts have caused the Philippine economy to become import-dependent and export-oriented to an unprecedented degree. Combined imports and exports were equivalent to more or less around half of GDP from the mid-1970s and throughout the 1990s. This drastically increased with rapid trade liberalization in the 1990s where they shot up from 61 percent of GDP in 1990 to stabilize at around 100-110 percent in the years since the 1997 Asian Crisis until today.
Investment liberalization has been implemented through the Omnibus Investment Code of 1987 and various Republic Acts, executive orders and Board of Investment (BOI) official orders enacted or issued from the 1990s until today. The end result is that the Arroyo regime grants foreign investors wide-ranging special privileges to enable them to make as much profit as possible in 77 so-called special economic zones and industrial estates scattered around the country. These privileges include generous incentives both fiscal (ex. tax credits, deductions and exemptions, non-payment of fees and charges, etc.) and non-fiscal (ex. duty-free imports, unrestricted profit repatriation, etc.), removal of performance requirements that might have created benefits for the domestic economy, removal or circumvention of Constitutional restrictions on equity ownership and land ownership, and labor repression. The revenue foregone from fiscal incentives alone has been estimated to come to P340.5 billion (US$6.8 billion) annually. The net result is that the regime unabashedly forsakes the right of the Filipino people to direct and control foreign capital in the economy for domestic benefit, which is a brazen surrender of national economic sovereignty.
Agricultural trade liberalization has combined with state neglect to increase food insecurity and insufficiency. Domestic food production has fallen 27 percent from 1,509 kilograms per person per year in the period 1979-1981 to 1,100 kilograms in the period 2000-2002. As a result, the country is now more dependent than ever on foreign sources of food. Comparing the period 1991-1995 with the period 2001-2003: the annual volume of rice imports increased by 1,015 percent, corn by 527 percent, vegetables by 315 percent, root crops by 405 percent, sugar and other sweeteners by 200 percent, pork by 3,400 percent, poultry by 2,000 percent, beef by 269 percent, and fish by 149 percent.  Correspondingly, the average annual agricultural trade surplus of US$52.9 million in 1990-1994 turned into an annual deficit of US$1,135 million in 2000-2004 and US$1,284 million in 2005. The country’s import of 1.9 million metric tons of rice in 2005 has made it the world’s largest rice importer.
Among the worst affected by agricultural liberalization are garlic, onion, mongo, coffee and sugar producers who have seen not just slow growth but actually falling production in the period 2001-2005. On the other hand, the fastest growing agricultural sub-sectors are in export crops – bananas, mangoes, pineapple and coconuts – where TNC agribusiness and landlord elites dominate production and corner the benefits. The Philippines also continues to serve as an outlet for the dumping of surplus U.S. agricultural goods through the U.S.’s Public Law 480 program.
The flood of cheap agricultural products from abroad has deprived tens of thousands of peasants of their livelihoods and forced them to migrate to urban centers to seek whatever work is available. The share of agriculture in total employment is in a long-run decline and has fallen particularly steeply in recent years, from 37.1 percent in 2000 to 32.6 percent in 2006.
Investment liberalization has increased foreign monopoly capitalist penetration of the domestic economy with pseudo-benefits for the people far outweighed by the net capital and resource losses. Cumulative FDI reached US$18.7 billion in 2005 resulting in an almost threefold increase of the FDI stock’s share in GDP, from an average of 5.5 percent in 1980-1984 to 15.7 percent in 2000-2005.  Net foreign direct investment averaged US$860 million per year in the period 2001-2005, with a further US$1.4 billion in the first eight months of 2006. Total approved FDI in 2001-2005 has gone to key sectors: for labor exploitation (manufacturing, 48.0 percent; services, including ICT-related services, 7.9 percent), resource plunder (gas, 25.3 percent; mining, 5.8 percent), and monopoly profiteering in public services (communication, 4.3 percent; electricity, 3.6 percent). By country, net FDI into the country over 2001-2005 of US$4.3 billion has been mainly accounted for by Japan (23.1 percent) and the U.S. (21.8 percent), followed by Singapore (8.9 percent) and Hong Kong (6.3 percent). All this has increased the presence of TNCs with, for instance, TNC shares in total gross revenues of the country’s top 1000 corporations markedly increasing from 40 percent in 2001 to 49 percent in 2005. Yet foreign investment takes out more from the economy than it brings in and capital repatriation since 1980 has already been estimated to be US$19.6 billion.
Belying the plethora of benefits supposedly brought about by FDI, the past decade of greatly increasing FDI has also been a period of decreasing government revenues (from 18.9 percent of GDP in 1995 to 14.8 percent in 2005), of decreasing gross domestic capital formation (from 22.5 percent of GDP in 1995 to 15.7 percent in 2005), of rising foreign debt (from US$39.4 billion in 1995 to US$60.6 billion in 2005) and of falling exchange rates (from P25.71 to the US$1 in 1995 to P55.09 in 2005). Particularly significant and indicative of the diminishing economic potential of the national economy are the steady falls in the rates of gross domestic savings and gross domestic capital formation since the mid-1970s and especially from the early 1980s. From 28.6 percent and 32.9 percent of GDP, respectively, in 1976 these are down to 20.1 percent and 15.7 percent in 2005.
Investment liberalization: False industrialization
Industrial trade and foreign direct investment liberalization have combined to undermine domestic industry and to reduce it to a low value-added, low-employment-generating and anti-developmental link in global TNC supply chains. TNCs have dramatically increased their domination of local industry and increased their share of total manufacturing sales of the country’s Top 1,000 corporations from 55.9 percent in 1999 to 75.0 percent in 2004.  However, the domestic manufacturing sector as a whole (i.e. including TNCs) continues to shrink and its 24.3 percent share of GDP in 2005 is even smaller than its 24.6 percent share in 1960 over four decades ago. The rush of cheap imports and lack of industrial policy badly ravaged an already stunted sector: per capita production of textiles in 2000 was half that in 1986; metal industries’ output was 17 percent lower, and that of food, beverage and tobacco products was 10 percent less.
The manufacturing sector is also increasingly unable to generate jobs and its share in total employment has fallen from 12.1 percent in 1960 to just 9.3 percent in 2006. An average of four firms a day were either closing or retrenching workers in the period 1995-2000, which doubled to eight firms a day in the period 2001-2005. Just in 2005, 3,054 firms reported closures and retrenchments that displaced 57,821 workers which is a drastic 52.1percent increase from the year before. Local small and medium enterprises (SMEs) are the worst hit with 2,589 SMEs going bankrupt over the period 2001-2003 and displacing an average of 34,000 workers annually.
The largest TNCs in the country include the likes of Texas Instruments, Royal Dutch Shell, Toshiba, Chevron-Texaco, Nestlé, Fujitsu, Philips, Zuellig and Panasonic. Of the PhP10.0 trillion (US$200 billion) in total TNC revenues in the country in the period 2001-2005, over half were accounted for by Japanese (29.4 percent) and American (23.8 percent) TNCs who were distantly followed by Dutch (7.3 percent), British (6.8 percent), Swiss (3.5 percent) and German (1.6 percent) TNCs; by sector, 79.6percent were concentrated in just manufacturing followed by wholesale and retail trade (6.2 percent) and financial intermediation (4.9 percent).
Philippine deindustrialization is a direct result of the progressive trade liberalization under successive regimes. The country has far and away become the most “globally-integrated” economy in Southeast Asia outside of the small trading city-state of Singapore. The Philippines has the region’s lowest import-weighted average tariff (3.6 percent, which is much lower than that of Malaysia, Indonesia, Thailand and Vietnam where this goes as high as 14-15 percent) and the greatest share of parts and components in trade (these account for 49 percent of Philippine imports and 56 percent of exports). The Philippines also has the biggest share of parts and components in manufacturing exports in the whole of East Asia (over 70percent). These have merely intensified the export-orientedness, import-dependence and enclave nature of local manufacturing – where TNCs merely exploit cheap Filipino labor – to the detriment of the domestic productive economy.
Investment liberalization: Imperialist mining plunder
The Philippines is among the world’s most mineral-rich areas. For decades, the country’s mineral wealth have been dug up by big foreign TNCs collaborating with junior domestic partners and then exported, in raw or semi-processed form, to industrialized powers such as the U.S. and Japan. Millions of tons of copper, nickel, chromites, zinc, gold, and silver have already been mined with industry production and exports since 1970 amounting to over US$25 billion worth of minerals – yet the benefits from these have always been cornered by giant foreign mining corporations and local comprador and bureaucratic elites. Most recent estimates are that the country has 6.7 billion metric tons of metallic minerals estimated to be worth from US$840 billion to US$1 trillion. By mineral resources per unit area, the country ranks third worldwide in gold reserves, fourth in copper, fifth in nickel and sixth in chromites. As it is, nine million hectares or one-third of country’s land area has potential deposits and is targeted by the Arroyo regime for “development”.
The WB was among those who pressed the Ramos administration for Republic Act (RA) 7942 or the Mining Act of 1995. This law allows 100 percent foreign ownership of mining companies and gives a wide range of incentives – grossly depriving the Filipino people of their fair and rightful share in the nation’s mineral wealth – while shrouding minerals plunder in supposedly “environment-friendly” requirements. The Arroyo regime has taken mining sector liberalization even further in the last two years with its National Policy Agenda on Revitalizing Mining in the Philippines (EO No. 270-2004), Minerals Action Plan for mineral resources development (Memo Circular No. 67-2004) and the creation of the Minerals Development Council (EO No. 469-2005). It has also gone on international mining road shows abroad and held international mining conferences in the country.
All these are aimed at increasing foreign investment in the domestic mining sector. Hence, the regime is also careful to take any and all steps necessary to encourage foreign mining companies to conduct business in the Philippines. In 2004, for instance, it exonerated Marcopper Corporation of any wrongdoing even after it spilled four million metric tons of waste into the Boac river and coastal areas of Marinduque island in 1996 and destroyed the livelihoods of thousands of villagers. Marcopper is partly-owned by the Canadian mining firm Placer Dome.
More recently, in 2005, the US$200 million Polymetallic Mining Project of Australian subsidiary Lafayette Philippines Inc. (LPI) in Rapu-Rapu Island, Albay province operated in disregard of environmental safeguards. Touted as the government’s flagship mining project, the mining firm discharged waste water with a high cyanide content that made its way to the open sea, killing fish and exposing residents of six villages to heavy metal contamination. The declaration of the mining site as a special economic zone also results in an inequitable 77 percent-23 percent split of benefits from the copper, zinc, gold and silver mined in favor of Lafayette and against the government, which is even undermined by various fiscal and non-fiscal incentives.
Foreign firms are similarly the primary beneficiaries of Philippine natural gas and oil. The US$4.5 billion Malampaya Deepwater to Gas Project in the province of Palawan – reputedly the single largest investment project in the country’s history – was begun in 2001 by Chevron-Texaco and Shell Philippines Exploration which evenly split 90 percent ownership of the project. The government only has a 10 percent share through the Philippine National Oil Company (PNOC) which it even intends to sell off to other foreign buyers. Since these foreign firms exercise monopoly control over these fuels – through an onerous Service Contract No. 38 – they effectively exercise monopoly control over the entire country’s fuel production since the Malampaya project accounts for all (100 percent) of the country’s natural gas production and two-thirds (66 percent) of its crude oil production. Chevron’s Malampaya operations earned it a net income of P17.0 billion (US$340.1 million) just in the period 2004-2005.
Investment liberalization: Speculation and financial instability
Financial sector and capital account liberalization since 1991 has created the conditions for dangerous speculative capital flows and, correspondingly, volatile financial and exchange rate movements. This resulted in the Philippine side of the 1997 Asian financial crisis: the build-up of short-term debt and portfolio investments to finance speculative, real estate and construction activities.
The aftermath of the bursting speculative bubble was a drastic 40 percent depreciation in the peso against the dollar – from around P26 to the U.S. dollar in 1996 to P40 in 1998 – and marked the beginning of a new period of exchange rate volatility around a trend of more rapid depreciation. Short-term portfolio flows have rapidly gone in out of the country in knee-jerk reaction to rapid, if often fleeting, domestic political and economic developments as much as to global changes such as in U.S. interest rates. There has been US$7.0 billion in net foreign portfolio investments into the country over the 2001-2005 period, or much more than the US$4.3 billion in net FDI over the same period.
Transnational monopoly finance capital has exploited the removal of restrictions on its entry and operations – and on the desperation of the regime to attract foreign capital at whatever cost – to engage in widespread speculation in foreign exchange and insider trading. The largest TNBs operating in the country are Citibank, Hongkong and Shanghai Banking Corporation (HSBC), Standard Chartered and Deutsche Bank, and ING Bank and are among those seeking profits not so much through making productive loans to Filipino enterprises than through speculative activities, lending to the debt-ridden national government and facilitating TNCs’ cross-border operations – especially with real domestic credit and investment contracting sharply in the last few years. The top five TNBs declared net incomes of P5.5 billion (US$110 million) in 2004.
The Philippines’ total external debt (public and private) is US$60.5 billion as of June 2006. Of this: by debtor, 60 percent is owed by the government and 40 percent by private debtors; by creditor, 40 percent is borrowed from multilateral (IFIs) and bilateral agencies, 34 percent from bondholders/noteholders, 20 percent from commercial banks and the rest from suppliers and others. The external debt is equivalent to around 60 percent of GDP, after a recent peak of 73 percent in 2001. The damage to the economy however does not just come from the size of the debt per se but rather due to the payments on this and how they are made.
The Philippines’ annual combined public and private foreign debt service over the period 2001-2005 is at a historic high under the Arroyo regime, both in nominal terms (US$9.6 billion a year) and as a percentage of GDP (equivalent to 11.8percent); the annual average in the previous 20 years and four regimes was just US$3.9 billion and 7.7 percent, respectively. As it is, the country has already made repayments accumulating to over US$127.3 billion over the period 1981-2005.
The role of foreign debt in consolidating the Arroyo regime’s elite and undemocratic rule is undeniable. Annual central government borrowing as measured by annual foreign financing over the period 2001-2005 of US$1.7 billion is the largest of any administration in history; the Marcos dictatorship had accumulated just US$218 million annually from 1972-1985. Correspondingly, measured at prevailing exchange rates, annual public foreign borrowing has almost tripled as a percentage of GDP from the Marcos dictatorship (0.75 percent) to the current Arroyo pseudo-democracy (2.03 percent). Moreover, public borrowing is bloated further by massive additional borrowing locally – including from foreign banks in the country – and total public sector debt approaches P6 trillion (US$120 billion) in 2006.
The Arroyo regime has brought the country to its worst ever fiscal crisis; it is making the most public debt payments and is the most indebted government in Philippine history (as well as among the most heavily indebted in East Asia). Central government foreign and domestic debt payments in 2005 ate up 85 percent of total revenue – the highest level ever recorded – even as the total public sector debt stock of P5.1 trillion (US$92.6 billion at prevailing exchange rates) was equivalent to 93 percent of GDP. Total central government debt stands at P3.914 trillion (US$78.3 billion) as of October 2006. Total public sector debt – i.e. including debt of government corporations and other government entities – meanwhile approaches P6 trillion (US$120 billion) or equivalent to some 110 percent of GDP. These do not even yet include contingent liabilities of P552.7 billion (US$11.1 billion) as of September 2006. The regime has strictly adhered to the infamous Marcos-era Presidential Decree 1177 on automatic appropriation for debt servicing in national budgets which ensures that all public debt is absolutely and unconditionally paid for.
The fiscal crisis is rooted in the general backwardness of the economy that limits revenue generation. The government however has aggravated this situation with its recent policies: trade liberalization has drastically reduced government revenues by some P100 billion (US$2 billion) annually; investment liberalization has meant up to P171 billion (US$3.4 billion) worth of fiscal incentives, tax exemptions and subsidies for big business annually. The public debt stock has also been bloated by onerous power privatization contracts in the 1990s and pseudo-developmental “aid”. There is also the rampant bureaucratic corruption which bleeds already scarce government finances.
In nominal terms, total public debt service has increased 186 percent from its level in 2001 to reach P784 billion (US$15.7 billion) in just the first 11 months of 2006. In real per capita terms (i.e. taking inflation and population growth into account) debt servicing doubled over the same period to P9,015 (US$180) per person in 2006. Among the measures taken by the Arroyo regime to make these high and rising payments on massive public debt are drastic cuts in spending on social services that have been brought to levels lower than five years ago. Real spending per capita on education of P1,508 (US$30.16) in 2006 is 22 percent lower than in 2001, on health of P159 (US$3.18) is 25 percent lower, and on social security, welfare and employment of P532 (US$10.64) is 9 percent lower.
Debt service has crowded out social services in the national government budget and interest payments alone on public debt have drastically increased their share of the budget from 16 percent in 1997, to 25 percent in 2001, to 35 percent in 2006. Total public debt service payments in 2006 are nearly five times combined education, health and housing spending. At the same time, the government borrowed P592.4 billion (US$11.9 billion) in the first 11 months of 2006 of which over four-fifths went straight back to creditors in debt servicing.
The declining spending on public education is occurring amidst long-standing gross neglect. As it is, the Department of Education (DepEd) itself admits that there is a lack of 20,517 teachers (assuming 45 students per teacher), 45,775 classrooms (assuming 45 students per classroom), 3.2 million seats and 67 million textbooks in the school year 2006-2007. The burden of health spending is also increasingly borne by those least able to afford it. The government’s share in the country’s total health expenditure has drastically fallen under the Arroyo regime with possibly the steepest drop in such a short period in history. National and local government’s share in total health expenditure was 40.6 percent in 2000 and fell by over 10 percentage points to just 30.3 percent in 2004. Filipinos were forced to make up the overwhelming share from private sources, primarily from additional out-of-pocket spending.
The Arroyo regime’s priorities are clear: reduced spending on vital economic and social services to be able to unconditionally service its debt. Central government expenditures as a percentage of GDP have fallen between 2000 and 2005 for, among others: agriculture and agrarian reform (from 5.1 percent in 2000 to 2.9 percent in 2005); communications, roads and other transportation (2.3 percent to 1.0 percent), education (6.4 percent to 4.7 percent), health (0.4 percent to 0.3 percent) and housing (0.1 percent to a negligible 0.0 percent). This was done to accommodate rising total debt service which nearly doubled its share in GDP from 6.8 percent in 2000 to 13.4 percent in 2005.
The Philippine tax system has been found to be the second most regressive in Southeast Asia, next only to Malaysia. This situation has been made even worse with the IMF- and WB-dictated additional value-added tax imposed in 2005 and projected to generate an additional P100 billion (US$2) billion in revenues yearly. A further P175 billion (US$3.5) billion is expected to come from “sin taxes” and additional petroleum tariffs as well as higher government fees, charges and power rates. There were also 10,000 less government workers in 2005 from the year before and, with P10 billion (US$200) million in separation pay being allotted beginning in 2007, tens of thousands more are due to be laid-off.
Water and power privatization, oil industry deregulation
The Arroyo regime has continued implementing the burdensome water and power privatization and oil industry deregulation begun in the 1990s. Yet not only have the prices of these vital public utilities and of oil products inexorably increased, they have increased most rapidly during the last five years of the Arroyo regime.
Privatization of the Metropolitan Waterworks and Sewerage System (MWSS) in 1997 – then touted as the world’s biggest water privatization – has caused water rates in the two resulting water service concessionaires to increase by 344 percent (Maynilad) and 391 percent (Manila Water) over the period 1997-2006. The largest rate increases have occurred over the 2001-2006 period – 249 percent (Maynilad) and 313 percent (Manila Water) – with yet another round of rate hikes programmed at the start of 2007. These prohibitive user fees are making water services ever more inaccessible to poor households. Manila Water had a net income of P5.2 billion (US$105 million) over the 2001-2005 period while Maynilad, through mismanagement, had a net loss of P2.5 billion (US$51 million) and was bailed out and then reprivatized by the government in 2006.
Power rates have soared especially for residential consumers. From 1993 to 2006, Manila Electric Company (Meralco) electricity rates per kilowatt hour have increased by: 211 percent (residential), 187 percent (commercial) and 165 percent (industrial). The largest annual rate hikes happened under the Arroyo regime: of residential rates by 20 percent (2006), commercial rates by 22 percent (2001) and industrial rates by 22 percent (2001). These rate hikes were made especially through the scheme of “power purchase agreements” (PPAs). Undeterred, and also to be able to quickly raise cash for the repayment of its debts, the government is pushing for the sale of its remaining public power generation and transmission assets especially of the National Power Corporation (Napocor). One of the first major pieces of legislation the Arroyo regime passed upon coming to power in 2001 was the Electric Power Industry Reform Act (EPIRA). To facilitate greater power sector privatization, the EPIRA also specifically allowed for various “pass-on provisions” that further drove up electricity rates.
Power privatization is also a significant factor in aggravating public indebtedness. The state-owned National Power Corporation (Napocor) entered into onerous contracts in the 1990s with private so-called independent power producers (IPPs) which, among others, has caused it to have over P500 billion (US$10 billion) in outstanding debt and P1.5 trillion (US$30 billion) in stranded liabilities. These IPPs are owned by such big power TNCs as Mirant, Edison Global and Kepco. Privatization of the power industry has only made electricity more expensive and inaccessible.
The deregulated downstream Philippine oil industry is completely dominated by foreign companies particularly Chevron-Texaco, Shell and Aramco which control 87 percent of the market. Pump prices of petroleum products have increased over a hundred times since industry deregulation in 1997 with nearly three-fourths of these occurring under the Arroyo regime (or an average of once a month). Overall, pump prices of gasoline have increased 283 percent and of diesel 347 percent over the 1997-2006 period.  From 1996-2000, gasoline prices increased 61 percent and diesel prices by 88 percent; in the last six years since 2001, under the present government and in compliance with global oil price manipulation by the oil TNCs, they have increased 138 percent. The oil TNCs already generate monopoly superprofits from their global oil price increases. But in the Philippines, foreign oil companies have even padded local pump price increases beyond global oil price movements to generate further additional profits of P6.9 billion (US$137 million) over the period 2000-2005. As it is, the three biggest oil TNCs in the country declared a combined net income of P48.0 billion (US$960 million) over the period 2001-2005.
Violations of economic and social rights of peasants and fisherfolk
The Philippines remains a basically agricultural country. Seventy percent (70 percent) of the labor force and 40 percent of economic activity that enters the market is directly connected to agriculture, agricultural processing and non-farm agricultural inputs. Agriculture’s share increases to some three-fourths of GDP if all agriculture-related activity and food produced for subsistence is considered.
Yet rural land, credit, trading and marketing monopolies remain ascendant in the vast countryside and tens of million of peasants and fisherfolk subsist in conditions of severe semifeudal oppression. This is because none of various governments’ so-called land and agrarian reform programs – there have been five in as many decades – have genuinely addressed the basic problem of serious land and rural inequities. The Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program (CARP) implemented and dragging on since 1988 is only the latest in a long series of bogus programs unable to deliver on the essential demand of “free land to the tiller”. The labors of poor landless and land-scarce peasants continue to be appropriated by landlord and rural elites, as has been the case for countless generations.
Domestic agriculture also remains bereft of real government support – government spent less than 4 percent of its 2006 budget on agriculture – and is extremely backward. Some 2.4 million out of a total of 4.8 million farms still rely on plows and there are only 11,500 tractors and 700 harvester-threshers in use nationwide. Only 2.9 million hectares or 30 percent of the country’s total farm area is irrigated, with government-provided irrigation system only accounting for 27 percent of irrigated farms.  Over 70 percent of the country’s poor live in rural areas.
A recent infamous case is that of the 6,453 hectare Hacienda Luisita in Tarlac province of Central Luzon. The landlord Cojuangco family was able to evade agrarian reform in the late 1980s by entering into a so-called stock distribution option in which farmworkers supposedly became co-owners with the Cojuangcos of Hacienda Luisita Incorporated (HLI). Yet this resulted in farmworkers eventually getting a rate of just P194 (US$3.90) per day that, with deductions, in some cases reduced to a net take of P9.50 (US$0.19) per day – further aggravated with workdays forcibly reduced to just one paid work day a week.
Despite decades of successive agrarian reform programs, less than a third of landowners still own more than 80 percent of agricultural land. Land ownership declined from 63 percent of total farm area in 1971 to 51 percent in 2002; the number of farms fell from 58 percent of the total number of farms in 1971 to 48 percent in 2002.  Put another way, 52 percent of all farms in the country covering 51 percent of total farm area remain under tenancy, lease, and other forms of tenurial arrangement. Official land distribution figures are bloated in various ways to cover up declining land ownership and the persistence of tenancy, lease and other tenurial arrangements. The peasantry is moreover laboring with backward technologies. Some 2.4 million farms out of a total of 4.8 million still rely on hand tools, plows and carabaos (water buffalos); only 30 percent of the total farm area is irrigated.
The policy of neoliberal “globalization” is hostile to genuine land reform. In this context, the Arroyo regime is deliberately neglecting agrarian reform and actively encouraging even greater reversals. For 2007 the main thrust of the so-called Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR) is not even going to be ensuring land distribution but rather to consolidate some 1.8 million hectares of agrarian reform lands for contract-growing arrangements and agribusiness ventures, especially with foreign TNCs engaged in the production of cash crops for export.
Yet while corporate agribusiness delivers profits to its owners, this is at the expense of the laboring peasants and farmworkers who face severe exploitation. A case in point is the U.S. subsidiary Dole Philippines which among others has a 21,443 hectare plantation with pineapple, banana and asparagus in Southern Mindanao. Since the 1990s, thousands of peasants have been forced to cede their land to Dole through lease arrangements plotted with local agricultural traders and usurers. These and many others were also forced to enter into onerous contract growership arrangements that charge high prices for Dole-provided inputs and pay low-buying prices for products. Dole, moreover, extensively uses hazardous chemicals while having unsafe methods of waste disposal. These have polluted the area around the company’s cannery plant and its plantations, causing serious health problems to workers and citizens of the surrounding communities. Dole has also rapidly contractualized its workforce to the point that only 27 percent of its 20,000 workforce are regular workers allowed to unionize and eligible for legally-mandated benefits. At the same time, contractual workers are forced to deal with oppressive “labor cooperatives” that charge exorbitant fees, delay wage payments and effectively oblige usurious loans.
Violations of economic and social rights of workers
One of the main attractions of the Philippines for foreign investors is the profit they can make from exploiting Filipino workers through low wages, long working hours, strict output quotas and oppressive working conditions. In the process, millions of Filipinos are denied decent work and stable livelihoods. The depressing effect on workers’ wages of historic unemployment and underemployment – i.e., indicators of an excess labor force – is evident.
The real minimum wage of workers has been persistently insufficient for even minimally-decent living. Combined basic minimum wages and emergency cost-of-living-allowances (ECOLA) have not kept up with the daily family cost of living. In the National Capital Region (NCR), the estimated living wage for the average family (with six members) is PhP766 (US$15.32) as of November 2006 which means a monthly living wage of P19,916 (US$398). Yet the daily nominal minimum wage plus ECOLA in the NCR is just PhP350 (US$7.00) which means a monthly wage received, times 26 working days, of just P9,100 (US$182) – for a monthly wage gap for minimum wage earners of P10,816 (US$216). Put another way, the legislated basic in the NCR is just 46 percent or not even half of what is needed by the average family of six for simple living. As it is, the monthly minimum wage actually received nationwide in 2004 ranged from just P4,829 (US$97) for the lowest paid unskilled workers to P18,133 (US$363) for the highest paid supervisors and foremen. In the poorest regions, wages fall short by 67 percent (agricultural) to 70 percent (non-agricultural) for decent living.
These trends starkly manifest at the macroeconomic level. National output has been expanding with GDP increasing in absolute terms by 67 percent between 1990 and 2005 (at constant 1985 prices). Increasing labor productivity is a significant factor with the labor productivity index, or the ratio of national output to employment, increasing 13 percent between 1990 and 2004. However total non-agricultural employee compensation has fallen 13 percent over that same period, with the steepest fall in manufacturing compensation which dropped 51 percent. These are consistent with the decades-long “globalization”-induced trend of a falling share of labor in national income – which has drastically dropped by 23 percentage points from 60 percent in 1979 to just 37 percent in 2004 (with capital correspondingly increasing its share from 40 percent to 63 percent).
These macroeconomic statistics are reflected at the firm level in vicious labor repression and severe worker exploitation. Over 600 workers at a plant of the giant food transnational Nestlé in Laguna, Southern Luzon have been fighting a five-year struggle that began over issues arising from their Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA). Since the struggle started in January 2002, the Swiss TNC has used company goons, police and the military in repeated violent attempts to disperse the strikers and two of the union’s leaders, including its president, have already been assassinated while others are facing threats, harassment and surveillance. Nestlé Philippines has consistently been among the top 15 most profitable corporations in the Philippines and in 2004 had a net income of P6.1 billion (US$123 million).
Workers at Toyota have also come under attack in their efforts to assert their right to self-organization and to build a union. In 2001, Toyota summarily dismissed 233 union members including all 15 union officers. Following a threat by Toyota that it would withdraw its investments from the Philippines, the Arroyo administration intervened and railroaded the “legalization” of the dismissals in violation of prescribed legal processes. In the last five years, pickets have been violently dispersed and workers and their families have been harassed and detained. Toyota is the country’s biggest motor vehicle manufacturer and in 2004 the combined net income of all its Philippine corporate identities was P657 million (US$13 million).
The dismal domestic jobs situation has forced millions of Filipinos to migrate and find work abroad – temporarily and permanently, legally and illegally. The overseas Filipino worker (OFW) phenomenon today is on a scale unparalleled in the country’s history, and is such as to have severe and adverse implications. Millions of OFWs face oppressive working conditions and employer abuses overseas even as their families face long periods of separation and deal with deep disruptions in family lives. The national economy is also drained of precious human resources with OFW labor actually contributing more to building the economies of their host countries than of the Philippines.
Violations of economic and social rights of urban poor (slum dwellers)
There are at the very least 11-13 million urban poor residents in the Philippines. The urban poor (or slum dwellers) face the same problems of other Filipinos in terms of the dearth of livelihoods, hunger, lack of social services and inaccessibility of public utilities. In addition, they also face serious problems of demolitions of their homes, loss of property, and physical and economic displacement following forcible evictions. Urban poor slums in Manila can have as many as 70,000 to 100,000 residents living in small, cramped and unhygienic communities of shanties made from scrap.
There have been massive dislocations in recent years. Since early 2005, some 29,000 families from Metro Manila and Bulacan province have lost their homes due to the government’s Philippine National Railways (PNR) North Rail-South Rail Linkage Project. If the projected figure of 80,000 families to be evicted materializes, this would be the single largest government-initiated displacement of communities in the country’s history.
The alliance of urban poor groups Kadamay, meanwhile, estimates that about half a million urban poor dwellers are threatened by various government privatization and modernization projects in the National Capital Region, Central and Southern Luzon. Among the biggest of these projects are the North Rail-South Rail Linkage Project, Manila North Harbor port privatization, Batangas City port expansion, and the C-6, STAR and CALABARZON highway projects. Evictees to date have not consistently been relocated even as relocation sites in nearby Bulacan and Laguna provinces, among others, have been far from livelihood opportunities and have deficient or otherwise exorbitantly expensive water, electricity and housing.
Violations of economic and social rights of children and women
The worsening economic and social conditions reflect in the condition of children and women who comprise the most vulnerable sector in society. In terms of magnitude, the biggest number of poor is found among them: 14.1 million children and 12.2 million women.
Improvements in the child mortality rate in the early 1990s have completely reversed under the Arroyo regime. In 1990, there were 24 deaths among children aged 1-4 years old per 1,000 population; this improved to 14 deaths in 1998 but then took a severe turn for the worse in 2003 when it increased to 40 deaths per 1,000 population. Extreme systemic poverty and hunger has also resulted in 6.1 million Filipino children being underweight: 3.7 million below five years old and 2.4 million between 6 to 10 years old (or 25 percent of children in this age group).
Millions of children are unable to obtain decent education. Out of every 100 children who enter Grade 1 at six or seven years of age: only 66 percent will finish elementary school, only 43 percent high school, and only 14 percent college. The quality of this education is even questionable. In 2003, 16 percent of Filipinos between 10-64 years old or 9.2 million Filipinos were found to be functionally illiterate – i.e., unable to read, write, subtract and add, or understand simple instructions. Even at the high school level, only 7 percent of students had mastered English, only 2 percent mastered Science and only 16 percent mastered Math.
And yet under the Arroyo regime, the number of children in school is even dropping dramatically especially at the high school level. In 2002, 92.2 percent of children 6-12 years old were in elementary school and 96.8 percent of children aged 13-16 years old were in high school. However this dropped to 91.4 percent and 63.0 percent, respectively, in 2004. Drop-out rates that had been steadily improving since the 1990s took a turn for the worse and increased from 6.5 percent in 2001 to 8.9 percent in 2003. Many of these children dropped out of school because their families could no longer afford to support their education and are thus themselves forced to find work as well. By 2006, some 2.5 million children aged 5 to 17 were working either to augment family income or fend for themselves. Over three-fourths of these children were working as laborers and unskilled workers in psychologically and physically hazardous conditions. The number of street children nationwide was estimated at 1.5 million in 2004.
Women comprise almost half of the population yet they bear a disproportionate share of the burden of the economic crisis. They are unrelieved of domestic tasks – spending more hours per week than men in combined economic, child care and family tasks – even as they bear the most immediate responsibility of making meager household budgets meet their families’ needs. The demands on their time and energy are great. When they enter the work force it is as poorly-paid second-class labor. Indeed the tendency has been for women to account for more and more of the desperately poor – the “feminization of poverty”.
Increasingly difficult economic conditions have forced women into whatever work is available for them. Some 40 percent of jobs are taken by women – with two-thirds of employed women being married – however female unemployment rates are higher for females than males and they tend to find work more in low-paying service jobs (i.e. as retail trade salespersons, domestic workers, public school teachers, etc.) than in professional jobs (i.e. as managers, engineers, doctors). Women also only take up 38 percent of wage and salary jobs, while accounting for 57 percent of unpaid family work. The OFW phenomenon is also a starkly female phenomenon: 72 percent of the OFWs deployed in 2005 were women, mainly going to work as domestic workers, entertainers and caregivers.
Women’s reproductive health needs are also grossly neglected by the ineffective public health system. In 2002 only 37 percent of mothers received at least the minimum two doses of tetanus toxoid while pregnant. In urban areas only 54 percent of mothers delivered in a health facility. In rural areas just 22 percent delivered in a health facility, while 59 percent delivered unassisted by a doctor, nurse or midwife. Anemia is a major health problem among pregnant and lactating women at 44 percent and 42 percent, respectively; in addition, 27 percent of pregnant women and 12 percent of lactating women are underweight.
Violations of economic and social rights of indigenous peoples
The estimated 12-15 million indigenous peoples in the Philippines comprise some 15 percent of the total population and are spread across Luzon (33 percent), the Visayas (6 percent) and Mindanao (61 percent); they are assimilated into the mainstream economic, political and socio-cultural setup of Philippine society in various degrees. They have ancestral territories in at least 50 of the country’s 79 provinces of which the state recognizes about five million hectares. However their continuing survival as distinct peoples is under threat and their rights to ancestral domain, to practice and develop their indigenous socio-political systems, and to self-determination are under attack.
The most basic rights of national minorities pertain to their ancestral domain. Yet the Regalian Doctrine which underpins Philippine land law presumes that all natural resources in the country belong to the state. In practice this has given the government legal mandate to make public land available for mining and forest concessions, agricultural plantations, and industrial and commercial use as it wishes. Like all the regimes before it, the Arroyo regime systematically refuses to genuinely recognize the right to ancestral domain of national minorities and, especially with the liberalization of the mining industry, even promotes their physical and economic displacement. This has intensified the disintegration of their livelihoods, culture and communities.
Among the 23 priority mining projects of the government estimated to be worth up to US$6.5 billion, 18 are in identified ancestral lands: ten in Mindanao; one each in Mindoro and Palawan; and six in Cordillera and the rest of Northern Luzon. Many of these have already grossly violated indigenous communities’ rights. The Canadian mining firm TVI Pacific has forcibly relocated and demolished homes of Subanon in their ancestral domain in Zamboanga del Norte, and hundreds of local villagers resisting relocation have been threatened both legally and by government paramilitary forces. Local farmers and fishermen have also reported damaged crops, reduced fish yields and skin infections due to pollution from the mine. As in other mining sites across the country, increasing militarization of the community has also resulted in increasing incidents of human rights violations. In Nueva Vizcaya and Quirino provinces, Australian firm Climax Mining Ltd. – which holds one of the biggest gold and copper exploration portfolios in the country – encroached on the ancestral domain of Ifugaos and Bugkalots and displaced hundreds of families. The company also used deceit and force to obtain certificates of free prior and informed consent (FPIC).
Various indigenous peoples’ communities are also adversely affected by large dam projects under the Philippine Energy Plan (PEP) 2000-2009: the Tumanduk people by the Pan-ay River Dam; Ifugao and Bugkalot communities by the Casecnan Dam; Ifugao communities by the Matuno River Development Project; and Dumagat and Remontado communities by the Laiban Dam.
Destruction of the environment
The Arroyo regime’s prioritization of monopoly capitalist and domestic elite profits has also involved a willful neglect of the adverse environmental consequences of industrial, agricultural and resource-extractive operations. TNCs spend as little as they can for environmental safety measures to be able to maximize their profits, which the state accommodates through inadequate monitoring, low penalties for violators and the unchecked corruption of government regulators. Environmental destruction and degradation has continued uncontrolled and unabated, causing hardships, loss of livelihood and health problems for peasants, fisherfolk, indigenous peoples and urban poor. Among the most recent environmental disasters have been continuing toxic mine spills in the Cordillera region, in northern Philippines. Every day, an estimated 160,000 tons of mine tailings find their way into rivers, lakes and irrigation systems across the country. There have also been massive floods and landslides in heavily deforested areas of Southern Tagalog, Bicol and Eastern Visayas regions.
The Cordillera region in Northern Luzon contains about 25percent of the country’s gold ore and 39 percent of its copper ore. Mining permits and applications already cover some two-thirds of the region’s total land area. In recent years the bulk of Philippine gold production has come from mines in the region operated by Lepanto Corp. (which has the Australian mining firm CRA and the Canadian firm Ivanhoe Mines as partners) and Benguet Corporation (with U.S. mining firms Cede & Co., Pacific & Co., Kray & Co and BHP) and. Philex Corporation (with Philex Gold, Inc. of Canada) in turn is the region’s main copper producer.
Acid mine drainage from Lepanto mining operations into the Abra river and its tributaries has adversely affected three communities with residents suffering the effects of high levels of exposure to lead, mercury and cyanide – including severe skin, eye, nasal and gastrointestinal symptoms. Communities have also complained of decreased agricultural and fishing yield, loss of plant life and death of domestic animals. The large-scale operations of Benguet Corporation and Philex Corporation have likewise been reported to be discharging toxic wastes and tailings, and of creating serious health and environmental hazards. These three corporations also have operations outside the Cordillera region with similarly poor environmental records in Zambales, Negros Occidental, Compostela Valley and Zamboanga del Norte.
Large-scale logging over decades has destroyed the country’s forests. In the mid-1960s, about 45 percent of the country’s total land areas was still forested. However today, forest cover is down to 4.7 million hectares, or less than 16 percent of the country’s total land area. Moreover, forest cover in erstwhile forest land is down to just 34 percent and 46 percent of total eroded areas suffer moderate to severe erosion. Yet by 2003 some 3.5 million hectares of forests were covered by various government tenurial agreements that effectively pave the way for corporate logging and further deforestation – including Timber License Agreements (TLAs) covering some 60 percent of the remaining 800,000 hectares left of primary or old-growth forests that are critical habitats of biological diversity and endemic hardwood tree species. As it is, tens of thousands have recently been killed or displaced by massive landslides in Quezon, Albay and Leyte provinces following typhoons striking heavily deforested areas.
Bureaucratic corruption is endemic to the Arroyo regime and while there are varying estimates of its extent, they are all scandalously high. There is an estimate that the equivalent of up to 20 percent of each central government budget is diverted to graft and corruption – which would for example mean P200 billion or US$4 billion just in 2006. The government’s chief graft-buster in turn has estimated P1.2 trillion (US$24 billion) lost over the period 2001-2005. The Arroyo regime itself has been implicated in various cases, although none of which have been brought to court. These have included instances of foreign capital allegedly paying bribes to corner profitable opportunities in the country.
A government contract in 2001 with Argentine contractor Industrias Metalurgicas Pescarmona Sociedad Nonima (IMPSA) to rehabilitate the Kalayaan-Caliraya-Botocan hydropower plants was reportedly “facilitated” by US$14 million in pay-offs. The “civil society” CODE-NGO earned P1.4 billion (US$28 billion) from brokering the issue of so-called PEACE Bonds allegedly in connivance with its connections in government. There was supposedly a P536 million (US$10.7 million) overprice of the P1.1 billion (US$22 billion) 5.1 km Diosdado Macapagal Boulevard, named after the father of President Gloria Macapagal- Arroyo. Officials of the German firm Fraport AG said that they were asked for pay-offs of between US$20-70 million by a law firm closely linked to President Arroyo to obtain the contract for a US$425 million PIATCO-Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) Terminal 3 project.
The so-called “Jose Pidal exposé” was about the presidential couple amassing hundreds of millions of pesos in ill-gotten wealth through unreported and unused campaign funds, properties abroad, and monthly kickbacks from government-owned and -controlled corporations (GOCCs). President Arroyo also allegedly spent some P7.3 billion (US$146 million) in government funds in her campaign for the 2004 presidential elections. This included P729 million (US$15 million) from a non-existent government fertilizer fund.
General and specific allegations
of gross and systematic violations of the rights of the people
to national self-determination and liberation
The enjoyment of the right to national self-determination and liberation has never been a collective reality to the Filipino people because of the long-standing subjugation of the country by colonial powers who ruled the country in collaboration with the local elite. Spain colonized the Philippines from 1571 to 1898, or for more than three centuries, followed by U.S. imperialism in 1898 until 1946, the year the Americans granted “independence” to the country but not after establishing a neo-colonial relationship. U.S. imperialism continued its domination of the Philippines economically and militarily and by instituting elite-controlled puppet governments that became subservient to U.S.’ economic and military objectives in the country, in East Asia and beyond. Throughout this long period of colonialism and neo-colonialism, the Filipino people have carried out heroic revolts, uprisings, revolutionary struggles and anti-imperialist movements in order to free the country from foreign domination and establish a truly democratic government.
Today, the U.S. has once again established a military presence in the country expedited no less by the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) of 1998 and other subsequent bilateral security agreements, war exercises, special operations trainings and covert and overt missions under the guise of the global war on terrorism.
When the “war against terrorism” was extended by the Bush administration to the Philippines and the rest of Southeast Asia in the aftermath of 9/11, President Gloria M. Arroyo immediately expressed her support and offered the Philippine territory for use by the U.S. forces in the military campaign. With full U.S. military support, Mrs. Arroyo also unleashed an all-out war on so-called “terrorist groups” in the country using the most vicious attacks against the Communist Party of the Philippines-New People’s Army-National Democratic Front of the Philippines (CPP-NPA-NDFP) as well as the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF). Characteristic of all counter-insurgency campaigns in past regimes, Mrs. Arroyo’s security forces have conducted brazen political assassinations of hundreds of activists, human rights defenders, church leaders, lawyers and legislative volunteers on the mere suspicion of being members of the revolutionary movement’s “front organizations” even as the same forces are also sowing a “reign of terror” in the rural countryside.
Ignoring the far-reaching implications of her role in the U.S. armed aggression to the country’s own security as well as national sovereignty, Mrs. Arroyo accepted hook, line and sinker Mr. Bush’s prefabricated lies in launching his “war against terrorism,” and supported it in violation of the 1987 Philippine Constitution provision that renounces war as an instrument of foreign policy. Mrs. Arroyo also stood on the side of Mr. Bush in using this war of aggression as a unilateral and pre-emptive action in violation of the UN Charter and other international laws.
By her imprudent support for the war of aggression, the President was acting contrary to the rights of peoples of countries against which the war was launched particularly with regard to their territorial integrity and self-determination. Consequently, she also placed the Filipino people in grave danger due to possible retaliations from the countries that became either victims or future targets of Bush’s war as well as from other groups who might have been hurt, displaced or threatened, in one way or the other, by this act of aggression and grave injustice.
Subsequently, the military collaboration between the U.S. superpower and the Arroyo puppet government led to the forging of new iniquitous and onerous security agreements under the umbrella of the 1951 Mutual Defense Treaty (MDT) and the 1998 Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA).
The continued implementation of the 1951 MDT, the imposition of the 1998 VFA, and other security agreements forged by the Bush and Arroyo governments since 2001 violate the Filipino people’s rights to national sovereignty and self-determination. They were concluded in disregard for the Filipino people’s fundamental rights especially because crimes have been committed by both the U.S. and Arroyo governments and their security forces – all in the name of these unequal and lop-sided treaties and agreements and their joint “counter-terrorism” programs. The fundamental rights of the people that have been violated include, among others, the right to national self-determination and national liberation and to be free from any colonial, neo-colonial or foreign intervention; the rights of liberation movements and their revolutionary forces to the protection of the international humanitarian law; the right to existence and not to be subjected to any form of political persecution; as well as the people’s right to national sovereignty and territorial integrity. Such violations and crimes committed – some of which directly involved U.S. forces or were perpetrated largely with U.S. military aid – have been mounting and were done with impunity as the Arroyo regime enforced state terrorism on the Filipino people in collusion with the global superpower.
Unequal security agreements and the current U.S.-directed
global war on terror
The 1951 Mutual Defense Treaty and the 1998 Visiting Forces Agreement
In collaboration with the Philippine President, the U.S. government continues to invoke the 1951 Mutual Defense Treaty (MDT) and the 1998 Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA).
A Cold War relic, the 1951 MDT provided for a mutual defense response to an external attack against any of the two countries but nowhere does it call for U.S. automatic retaliation to an external aggression against the Philippines. As a party to the MDT, the Philippine government under its various Presidents had been under obligation to support the U.S.’ wars of aggression in Korea (1951-1953), in Indochina (1960s-1975), and in the first Gulf War of 1991. Aside from sending Filipino troops to the first two wars mentioned, the Philippine government also allowed the use of U.S. military bases in the Philippines to launch punitive air and naval attacks on the peoples of Korea, Vietnam and Iraq.
The MDT is now being invoked as a basis for the VFA and – in the guise of “close security cooperation” between the two countries – in the “war against terrorism” waged by U.S. President George W. Bush, Jr. and supported by Gloria M. Arroyo. Signed on Feb. 10, 1998 and ratified by the Philippine Senate in 1999, the agreement tramples upon the Filipino people’s right to national sovereignty and territorial integrity, grants American soldiers and civil employees of the U.S. Department of Defense visiting the Philippines special rights and privileges, and runs counter to the country’s own laws particularly on criminal justice and equal protection of the law.
The fact that the VFA was negotiated by the U.S. and Philippine governments under secrecy and was publicized only after it was signed showed contempt for the country’s constitutional procedures governing agreements and treaties with foreign governments; constituted an act of betrayal of the rights of the Filipino people and violated the principles of presidential accountability and transparency.
Furthermore, the VFA should not be considered binding since it was never ratified by the U.S. Senate. Under U.S. constitutional law, an executive agreement is not considered a treaty that binds the U.S. government.
The VFA is also contrary to international norms under which fair agreements or treaties are crafted since it was an imposition on the Filipino people by the U.S. in order to use the country’s ports, training facilities and logistical bases for its wars of aggression and intervention in different parts of the world, especially in Asia Pacific and the Gulf Region. The agreement virtually makes the Philippines a support and training base for current U.S. military operations in Afghanistan, Iraq and elsewhere, as well as for the military encirclement of China, North Korea and other potential “military competitors” in the region. The Balikatan (shoulder-to-shoulder) war exercises between U.S. and Philippine troops have been held all over the Philippines, with some 11,000 U.S. troops involved in exercises in 2006 alone.
The American military “visits” are supposed to be temporary and are made from “time to time.” These “visits” cannot be described as “temporary” since many U.S. troops have been staying indefinitely. Yet there are already permanent fixtures built and used by the U.S. forces. For instance, a permanent American camp is now even built inside the Southern Command camp in Zamboanga City. Moreover, the VFA does not set the number of American troops to be designated in the Philippines within a period. It may reach hundreds or thousands of American soldiers.
The “activities” of the American troops in the Philippines will be approved by the RP-U.S. Mutual Defense Board (MDB) – which is not under the jurisdiction of the Philippine government, according to Domingo Siazon, the Foreign Affairs Secretary of the Philippines who signed the VFA in 1998.
The VFA, furthermore, violates the Filipino people’s national sovereignty and self-determination and other fundamental rights because:
First, “extra-territoriality” is awarded to U.S. soldiers in the whole Philippine territory. Under Article VIII of the VFA, there is no limitation to the “access” of the American troops in the Philippines, even in the remotest areas in the country.
Second, the VFA exempts American soldiers from certain Philippine regulations. Under Articles III, IV, VII, and VIII of the VFA, special privileges, which are denied to ordinary Filipino citizens, are conferred upon the American troops. Assigned or visiting American soldiers need not abide by laws and regulations regarding passport and visa; driver’s license; vehicle registration; payment of custom duties and taxes. Incredibly, there are no reciprocal rights and privileges given to the highest officials of the Philippine armed forces or diplomats visiting the U.S.
Third, the VFA virtually exempts American soldiers from the country’s criminal prosecution and regulations of judicial process. Under Article V, “Criminal Jurisdiction,” American soldiers who violate Philippine laws or commit even a non-bailable crime are taken under the custody of the U.S. Embassy or U.S. authorities. Next, the Philippine court which has jurisdiction over a case involving an American soldier has only one year to finish proceedings. Beyond that, the U.S. is not compelled to present the accused to the court and has the right to take him out of the Philippines.
Fourth, under Article VI, “Claims,” both countries voluntarily waive their right to asking for damages caused by combat and non-combat operations under the VFA in any part of the Philippines. This is the rule despite the danger to human lives and the environment posed by the use of live ammunition and explosives in military exercises by the American soldiers.
Fifth, there is no provision in the VFA restricting the U.S. military from bringing in nuclear arms despite the strict constraint in the 1987 Philippine Constitution. Adding insult to injury is the fact that the VFA mentions only a “certificate against quarantinable diseases.” But quarantine inspection is authorized only to the U.S. military commander who also issues certificates even if he is considered a “visitor” entering the Philippines.
The U.S. has also blatantly violated provisions requiring training operations under the VFA to be conducted bilaterally. Teofisto Guingona, who was Vice-President and secretary of foreign affairs, complained about the unilateral operations of the U.S. conducted in Batanes, Clark and Cordillera.
The Mutual Logistics Support Agreement (MLSA)
The MDT and VFA were also invoked to justify the imposition of more lop-sided agreements that compound the U.S. government’s infringement of the Filipino people’s rights to national sovereignty and self-determination.
The 5-year Mutual Logistics Support Agreement (MLSA), signed on Nov. 21, 2002, paves the way for the U.S.’ “permanent-temporary” basing facility and the entry or stockpiling of weapons of mass destruction, including nuclear weapons. The MLSA covers the basic elements of an operational base that include supplies (food, oil and ammunition), support services (billeting, transportation, medical services, operations support and construction, training services, repair and maintenance, storage and port services), and open access to all ports and military facilities nationwide. This makes the whole Philippine archipelago an operational base for the U.S. forces and as a staging area for U.S. unilateral interventionist actions in Asia Pacific and other parts of the world.
In another executive agreement, the Non-Surrender Agreement of 2003, the Philippine government is under obligation to not surrender U.S. military or civilian personnel operating in the Philippines to the International Criminal Court (ICC) or any international tribunal unless it is established by the UN Security Council, without the express consent of the U.S. government. The personnel involved in this agreement are those accused of committing genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity. Apparently, Philippine military and civilian personnel who are committing similar acts are also protected by the U.S. government under the American Service Members’ Protection Act (ASPA) passed by the U.S. Congress in 2002. The Act prohibits the ICC from exercising jurisdiction over not only U.S. officials and military persons but also “covered allied persons” who include, according to its Section 2013, those from “major non-NATO ally…for so long as that government is not a party to the ICC…”
The Non-Surrender Agreement – actually, a mere exchange of notes between the U.S. ambassador and the Philippine foreign secretary – was a precondition to making the Philippines a Major Non-NATO Ally (MNNA) which was proclaimed by U.S. President Bush the same year. The MNNA waived the prohibition of U.S. military assistance to the Philippines provided the Arroyo government honored the Non-Surrender Agreement.
The Non-Surrender Agreement is contrary to the Rome Statute of 1998 establishing the ICC, particularly Article 9 which seeks cooperation from UN members. The contention of the bilateral agreement that U.S. soldiers are above international law is not acceptable under the Charter of the UN. In fact, many countries in Europe consider that bilateral agreements on immunity to U.S. soldiers effectively make them “free” to commit international crimes. Furthermore, the Non-Surrender Agreement is also of dubious legitimacy because it derogates on long-standing obligations of the Philippines that are embodied in international law norms of jus cogens character.
The system of security agreements, regional organizations that justify the U.S.-designed “counter terrorism” agenda, and the Arroyo administration’s continuing subservience to the U.S. have also given the U.S. government, particularly through its Pacific Command (PACOM), an extensive strategic and tactical command advantage over the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP), widely believed to be America’s surrogate army in the country particularly in counter-insurgency. This power is exercised through the following security instruments, some of them formed only in recent years: the Cold War-vintage Joint U.S. Military Advisory Group (JUSMAG); the Defense Policy Board (DPB); a Joint Defense Assessment (JDA); and the Security Engagement Board (SEB). The U.S.-Philippine DPB was created as “a new bilateral defense consultative mechanism” in November 2001. Drawn up by the U.S. PACOM and the U.S. DoD and concluded in 2003, the JDA identified 10 key areas of U.S. policy intervention such as the critical security areas of planning, training, doctrines development and logistics procurement. JDA is being implemented by the U.S. military under cover of “modernization assistance” through the Philippine Defense Reform (PDR). Formed in 2006, the SEB covers “non-traditional security concerns beyond the mandate of the 1951 MDT, including terrorism, transnational crimes, maritime security and safety, and natural and man-made disasters. Aside from the series of Balikatan (shoulder-to-shoulder) U.S.-Philippines joint war exercises where up to thousands of troops from both sides participate in one exercise, the U.S. government conducts at least 10 more military and police trainings for Philippine security forces. In particular, the U.S. International Military Education and Training (IMET) program trains AFP special forces in anti-terrorism and counter-insurgency and assists U.S. goals of “access and influence within the AFP and Philippine government more broadly.”
All these structures and programs strengthen the U.S. hand over the AFP, the police and paramilitary forces to make them more compliant with America’s military objectives in the Philippines and in the region as a whole, supportive of a repressive government and reliable in suppressing the national and democratic aspirations of the Filipino people. Indeed, according to the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO), U.S. military aid and training programs held in the Philippines “are generally consistent with the National Security Strategy of the United States.”
In return for the Arroyo government’s support to the MDT, VFA and other security impositions by the U.S., along with its support to U.S. President George W. Bush’s “war against terrorism,” the U.S. government has increased military aid to the Philippines by 1,111 percent. The military aid in the form of grants and loans has been used by the Arroyo government for its counter-insurgency program leading to the escalation of human rights violations and crimes against humanity, even as parts of the military assistance were also funneled to buy more weapons of mass destruction from U.S. arms manufacturers. The increase of U.S. military aid to the Philippine government including its military modernization program is also based on the Major Non-NATO Ally Agreement (MNNA) which is accorded to governments that have shown unrelenting support to the U.S.’ wars of aggression contrary to the Filipino people’s rights to national sovereignty and self-determination.
Likewise, the system of onerous and lop-sided security arrangements imposed upon the Filipino people serves to strengthen U.S. domination of the Philippines under the neo-colonial relationship that was established after the second world war. It props up a puppet government even if U.S. support has made it more repressive vis-a-vis the Filipino people.
In many other respects, the system of security arrangements violates the people’s right to an independent foreign policy that allows the country to interact with its neighbors peacefully and non-threateningly and to establish relationship with them that is friendly, mutually beneficial and cooperative and upholds the sovereign rights of peoples of other countries.
The fact also that Mrs. Arroyo’s legitimacy as President, especially following the fraudulent May 2004 elections, remains questionable with majority of Filipinos agreeing that she should be removed from office, all the more gives her no constitutional authority to either enter into agreements with the U.S. or to continue honoring them. Correspondingly, the U.S. government has no right to deal with a President who is considered illegitimate especially on security agreements that are imposed upon the Filipino people and which violate their rights to national sovereignty and self-determination.
On the other hand, the Bush government should be held culpable for violating U.S. laws that restrict the provision of military aid to foreign governments whose security forces are found to have committed gross violations of human rights. The U.S. government’s own Government Accountability Office (GAO), citing the U.S. State Department’s 2004 Country Reports on Human Rights Practices, confirmed that elements of the Philippine government’s security forces “were responsible for arbitrary, unlawful and, in some cases, extrajudicial killings, disappearances, and torture, and arbitrary arrest and detention.”
Linkage of U.S. security policy and the all-out war policy
of the Arroyo regime
As were her predecessors, President Macapagal-Arroyo is indebted to the support of the U.S. government and ever subservient to U.S. economic and political impositions of U.S. multilateral institutions IMF-World Bank and the World Trade Organization (WTO). As such, she gives all-out support for the U.S. government’s security policy not only for the Philippines but in the region as a whole.
The security policy of the U.S., as articulated by the Bush administration in various doctrines, security reviews and strategies is to “secure” the region from “regional instability” arising from “terrorist threats” as well as “threats” posed by China as a rising military power, by North Korea and national liberation struggles. Underlying such security policy is the U.S. objective to ensure its global hegemony, economically and militarily. Thus, the security policy calls for launching military operations particularly against “terrorist cells” in the Philippines’ southern provinces (as well as in Indonesia and other countries). Inevitably, for the Philippines, this called for strengthening its bilateral security agreements with the Arroyo government, drawing up a five-year program of war exercises which is renewable, and special operations trainings, support for intelligence and surveillance operations, and other forms of military assistance.
All these happened particularly after Mrs. Arroyo became the first head of state in Asia Pacific to express support for Bush’s “war against terrorism” in the aftermath of 9/11. Her declaration of support paved the way for Bush’s declaring the Philippines and the rest of Southeast Asia as the “second front” in the war against terrorism thus hastening the entry of U.S. troops particularly in southern Philippines followed by a series of military arrangements and operations as aforementioned.
Even before the U.S. could revive its strong military presence in the Philippines, it had as early as the aftermath of the dismantling of its military bases in 1992, maneuvered through secret talks with then President Fidel V. Ramos to reinstall its military facilities in the country. In 2000, a U.S. think tank funded by the U.S. Air Force, Rand Corporation, proposed to the Pentagon that “…access to the Philippines and Vietnam would help establish air superiority over the sealanes of the South China Sea.” Zalmay Khalilzad, who later became the U.S. envoy to Afghanistan, advocated “a robust security assistance program to allies in the region particularly the Philippines. Angel Rabasa, another Rand senior policy analyst, called the Philippines “a frontline state in the war of terrorism.” The U.S. considers the Philippines as a key security ally along with Japan, South Korea, Japan, Taiwan, Thailand and Australia.
To justify the U.S. war of aggression in the Philippines, both the Bush administration and its ally, Arroyo, inflated reports about the alleged links of the Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG) to al Qaeda and, much later, to Jemaah Islamiyah (JI), when in fact Arroyo’s own AFP generals had reported months before 9/11 that the ASG, a mere bandit or kidnap-for-ransom gang, had been “neutralized” and reduced to an insignificant few. Apparently, this “counter-terrorist” security objective was only being used as a pretext for a priority security target in the Philippines: the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP), its armed component, the New People’s Army (NPA) and their alleged legal “front organizations.”
Since the Marcos years, the U.S. government has tagged the CPP-NPA as a security threat not only because of its strong anti-imperialist advocacy but also because its political victory would be inimical to America’s military presence in the Philippines and the region as a whole. 9/11 provided the opportunity for increased military intervention in the country that had earlier been revived with the signing of the VFA in 1998 – long before “terrorism, Al Qaeda and Abu Sayyaf” became buzzwords in the Philippines. “Counter-terrorism” particularly the anti-Abu Sayyaf operation provided the excuse for increased military assistance – an objective that readily secured the budgetary support of the U.S. Congress – to a client government together with all the military doctrines, equipment, trainings and combat support needed for counter-insurgency.
Originally conceived as a military blueprint against the ASG, Oplan Bantay Laya I (OBL or Operation Plan Freedom Watch), was adopted by the Arroyo government in 2002 as an “end game strategy” against what its President claimed as the country’s No. 1 “state enemy” – the CPP, NDFP and NPA and their alleged front organizations all of whom, by that time, had been tagged as “terrorist organizations.” In early 2006, Mrs. Arroyo’s Cabinet Oversight Committee on Internal Security (COC-IS) refined OBL as the Enhanced National Internal Security Plan (or NISP). In the campaign against the armed Left, OBL or the internal security plan was to be prioritized in regions where there is strong NPA presence combining combat, intelligence and civil-military operations. But OBL also stresses the “neutralization” of the communists’ “sectoral front organizations” and their “most vulnerable infrastructures” to make it effective. By experience and as understood by rights watchdogs and activist groups, to “neutralize” translates into physical elimination or political assassination, which is part of the unconventional warfare doctrine and practice of the U.S. and Philippine military.
Historically, the U.S. has been involved in counter-insurgency in the Philippines – either as the architect or through military aid – since the Huk rebellion (1950s, which also involved CIA operations); in the series of suppression campaigns under Marcos (1970s-1986); Corazon Aquino (“total war” and CIA-sponsored low-intensity conflict, 1986-1992); Fidel V. Ramos (VFA, 1992-1998); and Joseph E. Estrada (total war in Mindanao, 1998-January 2001). All previous counter-insurgency campaigns and the present OBL are based on US counter-insurgency doctrine. More so now under the current regime of U.S. armed intervention and aggression. These doctrines emphasize the use of psychological or unconventional warfare that essentially justifies the use of terror including political assassination, abductions and massacres against “enemies” of the state.
U.S. intervention in the conduct of counter-insurgency in the Philippines has been carried out through military commands, bilateral agencies and programs: the U.S. Pacific Command (PACOM) which includes the Philippines as a key country in its “area of responsibility”; the Joint U.S. Military Advisory Group (JUSMAG), which has traditionally been involved principally in the planning and implementation of U.S.-aided counter-insurgency operations in the Philippines; the Joint Defense Assessment (JDA) and the 5-year Philippine Defense Reform (PDR) supervised by PACOM; Defense Policy Board (of both the DoD and DND); Security Engagement Board (SEB); and the Philippine Army Special Operations Command (PASOCOM, which is composed of seven special forces battalions and two scout ranger battalions). These provide the mechanisms for U.S. strategic and tactical influence over the AFP and other state forces involved in counter-insurgency. Ultimately, they also ensure that the Arroyo administration’s counter-insurgency instruments serve the U.S. government’s security objectives in the Philippines and in the region.
“Terrorist listing” of the CPP, NPA and NDFP chief political consultant and subverting the peace process
In collusion with the Arroyo government, the Bush administration reinstated the CPP-NPA and Prof. Jose Maria Sison, Chief Political Consultant of the NDFP peace panel, in the State Department’s “foreign terrorist organizations” (FTO) list on Aug. 9, 2002, with the Council of the European Union and, on Oct.22 the same year, the Dutch government following suit by including Professor Sison in their “terrorist lists.”
The U.S. action made it illegal for anyone in the U.S. to “provide material support or resources” to the groups; required U.S. financial institutions to block any assets held by them; and prohibited representatives or members of those groups from entering the U.S. or made them subject to deportation from the U.S. Several days later, the U.S. Treasury Department listed the CPP, NPA, and Sison among the organizations and individuals that are targets for the freezing of assets by financial institutions.
At the same time, the Arroyo government peace panel pressed the NDFP side to accept a fast-track formula for the talks, which was essentially a blueprint for surrender. Meantime, the Government of the Republic of the Philippines (GRP) refused to accede to the demand of the NDFP to work for the removal of the CPP-NPA and Professor Sison from the “terrorist lists” in accordance with agreements already signed by both parties and to uphold the principle of non-interference by a foreign country The GRP tactics apparently provoked the NDFP to protest leading eventually to the collapse of the peace talks in Oslo, Norway. In response, the GRP unilaterally suspended the Joint Agreement on Security and Immunity Guarantees (JASIG) placing all NDFP personnel vulnerable to military attacks.
The “terrorist listing” and suspension of JASIG fitted into the U.S. position of not negotiating with the Left and its preference for keeping the military ante as a means of forcing the NDFP to surrender. Both the U.S. and GRP had anticipated the collapse of the peace talks paving the way for the escalation not only of counter-insurgency operations but also the political assassinations and enforced disappearances of suspected Leftist activists. Former government chief peace negotiator, Silvestre Bello III, recently spilled the beans somewhat when he said that the current internal security plan aims to force the NDFP back to the negotiating table where the GRP panel can talk “from a position of strength.”
Clearly, the tagging of Professor Sison and the CPP-NPA as “terrorist” was political blackmail and was bereft of any legal justification under international law that protects the rights of political refugees as well as those of revolutionary organizations. Their designation in the “foreign terrorist lists” of these governments was designed to blackmail the revolutionary organizations and force them to surrender, deprive them of international solidarity support and rob them of their credibility and recognition as a national liberation movement or entities fighting for freedom and independence for the Filipino people by vilifying them as “terrorists.”
The struggles of these revolutionary organizations, as the PPT found in its first session on the Philippines in 1980, are legitimate under international law. But this right to armed resistance is now downgraded by the EU Council, the Dutch and U.S. governments to a criminal act. The “FTO” tag on the CPP-NPA also violates agreements signed by both the GRP and NDFP during peace negotiations reiterating the Filipino people’s sovereign right to resolve the armed conflict and non-interference by any foreign government.
In particular, the Council of the European Union and the Dutch government violated the rights of Professor Sison, a political refugee living in The Netherlands. By freezing his bank accounts, the Dutch government cut off his small allowance that he had been receiving for health insurance, housing and other basic necessities. Both the EU Council and the Dutch government also violated his rights by: 1) not initiating any investigation even after the Philippine secretary of justice in 1998 cleared Sison of any involvement in any criminal activity in the Philippines; 2) the supposed grounds for including Professor Sison in the “terrorist” list were derived from secret intelligence dossiers in 1993 which a Dutch judge described as “stale” and, moreover, the source itself – the Dutch intelligence agency (BVD) – could not qualify as a “competent judicial authority”; 3) Prof. Sison’s bank accounts could not be proven as being linked to or used for “terrorist activities” precisely because not only are these constituted small amounts intended for his essential living expenses but also come from the Dutch social welfare agency.
The EU Council also grossly violated Professor Sison’s rights to examine the basis or evidence that became the grounds for his inclusion as a “terrorist” and to a fair trial and to defense.
The Amnesty International (AI), in August 2006, also said that Sison’s inclusion in the “terrorist” list “illustrates how the decision and procedure to include an individual in the list of terrorist organizations can violate elementary basic rights, including the right to presumption of innocence, the right to due process, and the right to defense.” AI also agreed with the analysis of the EU Network of Independent Experts, that the asset-freezing provisions of the “terrorist” blacklist affect the presumption of innocence because it prejudges the guilt of persons who have not been convicted of a crime. The fundamental rights of persons include the right to be protected against damage to honor and reputation and the right to be presumed innocent until guilt is established.
In the case of the CPP-NPA’s designation in the U.S. Department of State’s FTO list, the basis was entirely on hearsay and there was no legal opportunity for counter-evidence by the revolutionary organizations affected. There is no international law that will support the U.S. state department’s action considering, among others, that the United Nations has no universally-agreed upon definition of the “international crime” of “terrorism,” specifically on whether to include national liberations movements within the scope of the term “terrorism.”
In fact, the Supreme Court of the Philippines ruled on May 3, 2006 that there are no “acts of terrorism” in the Philippine criminal justice system, thus belying the false presumption of foreign governments as well as the Arroyo government. The SC ruling repudiates in unmistakable terms the claims of the Arroyo administration that the CPP, NPA and NDFP Chief Political Consultant Professor Sison “committed and are liable for the crime of ‘terrorism’ under Philippine laws.
It is the U.S. government that has waged terrorist acts against the Filipino people and propped up an illegitimate President in order to conduct a systematic and nationwide political persecution of activists and progressive critics resulting in the gross and systematic violations of human rights. In so doing, the U.S.-backed Arroyo government likewise qualifies as a prime example of state terrorism. The collusion between Bush and Arroyo in this regard serves no purpose other than to prolong and exacerbate the armed conflict and the suffering of the Filipino people in violation of joint agreements signed between the GRP and NDFP calling for the comprehensive solution of the roots of the armed conflict toward a just and lasting peace.
Crimes in U.S. military intervention
In the name of the “war against terrorism” which was launched by U.S. President Bush and Mrs. Arroyo in the Philippines including on the Mindanao island, U.S. forces have committed war crimes and crimes against humanity.
The crimes were perpetrated during combat operations against both the ASG and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), in the course of war exercises and special training operations and other activities. To the extent that the U.S. government has rejected demands to accept accountability for previous and continuing crimes – such as the toxic contamination in its former military bases affecting large communities – such cases are also mentioned. The cases cited here do not include a long list of crimes committed under the U.S.-backed counter-insurgency operations throughout the Philippines with most of the victims being non-combatants, civilians and suspected Leftist activists and supporters.
Displacement of whole communities
Hundreds of thousands of people have been displaced particularly in southern Philippines (Mindanao) during joint U.S.-Philippine military operations against the ASG. In January-August 2002, about 90,000 villagers were uprooted many of them in western Mindanao (Maguindanao province), on the islands of Jolo and Basilan, and Lanao del Sur. Forty-five thousand of them were in the Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao or ARMM. The forcible evacuations and other forms of displacement were often a result of indiscriminate bombardments resulting in killings and injuries and the destruction of property. Reports also said that as military operations were ongoing, government agencies provided no adequate relief and rehabilitation measures, evacuation centers had poor conditions, with epidemics of diseases as well as starvation becoming widespread.
From January to September 2005, a total of 158,375 persons were reportedly displaced by armed hostilities between the U.S.-aided AFP troops and Moro guerillas and suspected ASG bandit extremists with the worst incidents taking place on Sulu island province where there were active U.S.-supported military and police operations against the ASG and similar operations against the MNLF resulting in the displacement of more than 85,000 people in early February alone. Previous U.S.-aided operations against the ASG in a Sultan Kudarat town in December 2004-January 2005 also resulted in the displacement of 8,866 people. From January to August 2002, 90,000 people were displaced by joint military operations mounted by the AFP and U.S. troops, many of them in Maguindanao (western Mindanao) and on the islands of Jolo and Basilan.
Elsewhere, in Central Luzon, in 2002 Balikatan 02-2 U.S.-Philippine war exercises led to the militarization of 27 out of 29 Aeta communities. In militarized villages, martial law-style rules were imposed such as curfew, illegal house searches, military checkpoints and constant interrogation of residents. There was a virtual food blockade as the purchase of food was restricted to the minimum with military claiming that food items were being brought to NPA guerillas in the area.
Overall, from 1972, when military rule was declared by Marcos, until 2005 the U.S.-backed counter-insurgency operations have led to the displacement of 8.7 million people or about 10 percent of the country’s present population of 87 million. About one-third of the 3.030 million internally-displaced persons (IDPs) or internal refugees of the armed conflict from 1986 to 2005 were displaced during the Arroyo administration (2001-2005).
Killings, abductions, and illegal arrests
Attacks by the Philippine military with the support of U.S. forces on villages suspected of coddling ASG members were perpetrated between 2002-2005 resulting in the killing of civilians as well as abductions and illegal arrests. In some incidents, U.S. forces were involved in direct combat or provided military support to Philippine soldiers. This was confirmed by former U.S. Defense Undersecretary Paul Wolfowitz in 2002 when he said that U.S. military aid to the Philippines “includes direct support of military operations (against the Abu Sayyaf).” The involvement of U.S. troops in local combat operations have long been confirmed by media reports and interviews with local residents who said they had seen fully-armed U.S. troops accompanying Filipino soldiers in combat operations against the Abu Sayaff.
Contingents of U.S. Special Operations Forces (SOFs) have been stationed in southern Philippines since 2002 and conduct unconventional warfare against suspect “terrorist” groups “under the guise of an exercise,” according to Col. David Maxwell, the first commander of the Joint Special Operations Task Force-Philippines (JSOTF-P). U.S. SOFs have “intentionally ventured into known Abu Sayyaf territory.”
Some specific cases
US troops engaged in combat operations
and involved in shooting civilians
Midnight of July 25, 2002, a U.S. soldier shot and wounded an unarmed civilian, Buyong Buyong Isnijal, in a small village of Tuburan, a town on Basilan island, southern Mindanao. The shooting happened during a raid without warrant by a composite team of U.S. and Filipino soldiers on the home of Isnijal. The wounded victim was taken by the military after the incident and his family was not told about Isnijal’s whereabouts. The incident was also in blatant violation of the spurious Terms of Reference of Balikatan joint war exercises prohibiting U.S. forces from participating in combat operations on Philippine territory. In many areas, the U.S. troops were given free rein to play the role of military and police in local matters, bypassing the civilian authorities.
In a similar incident, Arsad Baharon, 25, was shot and wounded by U.S. soldiers during a live fire exercise in Zamboanga City, southern Philippines in 2004. According to a report, the U.S. military conceded that they mistook Baharon for a cow. Baharon was received no medical aid from the soldiers.
Also in southern Mindanao in 2002, U.S. spy planes were spotted circling overhead for hours, just before Philippine troops raided communities and arrested residents without any warrants or charges. A U.S. spy plane provided the information that led to the massacre of three unarmed fisherfolk in Lantawan. The U.S. planes also dropped what appeared to be barrels of toxic waste in the coastal waters of Basilan and the islands of Sulu.
The ISM report also cited one witness who testified that her 11-year-old child was abducted by Philippine soldiers and was later reported killed along with three other alleged ASG members in what appeared to be a summary execution. There were also chilling stories of women and minors harassed and then arrested and thrown into prison on unsubstantiated charges with ho medical care. At least one woman prisoner lost her unborn child.
In July 2005, U.S. and Filipino forces launched a joint operation in Mindanao in pursuit of the suspected leader of ASG, Khaddafy Janjalani. An ASG spokesman said that U.S. forces were engaged in direct combat. In a denial, a U.S. military official stated that U.S. forces were only supplying communications and intelligence support but admitted that U.S. Army Special Forces and Navy SEALs were working in the area with Filipino forces. U.S. Navy P3 Orion aircraft and unmanned aerial vehicles were also reportedly involved in intelligence support for this operation;
Rape by a US Marine and violation of Philippine jurisdiction
and custody of the convict
On Nov. 1, 2005, four U.S. Marines and a Filipino driver were involved in the gang rape of a 22-year-old Filipina, identified by the court only as “Nicole,” in a van inside the former U.S. naval base of Subic Bay in Olongapo City, north of Manila.
Complaint papers said that Marine Lance Cpl. Daniel Smith, 21, raped the Filipina, while three fellow Marines cheered him on to the beat of loud music. Also charged were Lance Cpl. Keith Silkwood, Lance Cpl. Dominic Duplantis and Staff Sgt. Chad Carpentier. Invoking the VFA and against the country’s Revised Penal Code, the U.S. Embassy in Manila took custody of the four U.S. Marines while they were on trial.
Smith was found guilty of rape and was sentenced to a 40-year imprisonment by the Makati Regional Trial Court on Dec. 4, 2006. The three other co-accused U.S. Marines were exonerated for lack of evidence and were immediately whisked off back to the U.S. While the decision was on appeal, and upon instructions of the Philippine government, through its Departments of Justice and Foreign Affairs, and the U.S. Embassy, Smith was clandestinely spirited out of the Makati City Jail and brought back to the U.S. Embassy midnight of Dec. 29, 2006, in violation of the country’s sovereign right to exercise exclusive jurisdiction and custody of the convicted rapist.
Bombing incident involving a CIA operative
A suspected CIA operative, Michael Terrence Meiring, 65, was arrested by police on May 16, 2002 with explosives in his possession at the Evergreen Hotel in Davao City, southern Philippines.
An inadvertent blast caused by the explosives blew his legs off and severely damaged his hotel room. American agents who identified themselves as being from the U.S. National Security Agency and Federal Bureau of Investigation barged into his room at the Davao Medical Mission Hospital, brusquely prevented the city mayor and police from holding crime inquiries and flew him back to the U.S. A few weeks after the explosion, a searing expose of Meiring’s ties to the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) and the Abu Sayyaf was published in the Manila Times. In September the same year, Davao City Prosecutor Raul Bendico announced the city’s findings on the Evergreen Hotel blast and proclaimed Meiring a “terrorist.” The case raised suspicions that the CIA was involved in bombing incidents in Davao at that time and in pinning the blame on “terrorists” to justify U.S. armed intervention in southern Philippines.
The Meiring incident took place at the time when Col. David Fridovich headed a “Special Operations” task force in Mindanao. Fridovich, now a major general, now heads the Special Operations Command, said to be the military vanguard against terrorism under the U.S. Pacific Command (PACOM).
U.S. bases’ toxic contamination: Deaths, illnesses, injuries and deformations, ecological destruction and destruction of livelihoods.
The U.S. government continues to refuse to account for the deaths, illnesses, injuries and deformation, ecological destruction and destruction of livelihoods caused by its operation of at least 25 U.S. bases, camps and installations as well as military exercises held from 1898 – when U.S. forces invaded and took control of the Philippines as a colony – until 1992, a year after the rejection by the Philippine Senate of the proposed treaty for bases renewal.
Citing documents released by the U.S. Department of Defense, the U.S. General Accounting Office and several other scientific findings, the Philippine Senate, based on Committee Report No. 237 (submitted by the upper chamber’s Committees on Foreign Relations, Health and Demography, and Environment and Natural Resources) in 2000, confirmed the substantial environmental contamination in the former U.S. bases particularly in Subic Bay Naval Base in Olongapo City and Clark Field Air Base in Angeles City, alleging likewise that the U.S. forces knowingly conducted “hazardous activities, operations and improper waste management practices…within the military bases.” The Senate also said that the environmental damage caused in Subic and Clark “was substantial and had serious adverse ecological, human health and economic implications for the residents within the area and for the Philippines in general.” It also held that the U.S. government has the “corresponding duty to repair and compensate for such damage” and, if it refuses, for the Philippine chief executive to file a case against the U.S. government before an international body, such as the International Court of Justice, to demand repatriation and compensation for toxic contamination.
At the former Clark Air Base Command (CABCOM) in Mabalacat, Pampanga, at least 100 residents, many of them children, died of various ailments ranging from cancer, leukemia, heart failure, kidney disorder and other ailments attributed to toxic contamination from 1995-1999 alone. At least 500 other residents were feared awaiting the same fate as of 2001.
Despite its admissions that the toxic contamination at the former U.S. bases posed hazards to public health and the environment, the U.S. government has, since 1993, refused to take heed on demands for clean-up, repair and compensation with the Pentagon itself saying its government imposes on host nations the costs and risks of cleaning up toxic sites discovered after bases have been turned over to host countries. On June 24, 1999, U.S. Deputy Undersecretary of Defense Sherry Goodman also maintained that the 1947 Military Bases Agreement (MBA), as amended, did not require the U.S. to conduct any environmental restoration upon its termination. On the other hand, the Philippine government, from Corazon Aquino to the present President, has not actively pursued the case with the U.S. government beyond issuing “requests” for assessment and investigation of the toxic contamination. On this basis alone, the Arroyo government should be cited for its partiality in upholding U.S. interests at the expense of the Filipino people’s national sovereignty and self-determination.
Yet, the U.S. government is liable for the deaths, illnesses, injuries and deformations, environmental damage and other ill effects wrought by the operations of the U.S. bases – as well as by present military exercises and operations that U.S. forces continue to conduct today – under both Philippine laws and international law. In January 2005, the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco, California was set to hear an appeal filed by residents near Subic and Clark, together with the Filipino/American Coalition for Environmental Solution (FACES) and Arc Ecology to compel the U.S. military to conduct an assessment of contaminated areas near the U.S. bases.
Law Dean Amado Valdez, in his former capacity as director of the VFA monitoring commission, reported U.S. troops violations of the VFA including a drunk-driving accident involving U.S. soldiers in Zamboanga City.
Wherever there are U.S. troops, there are reports of proliferation of prostitution, child molestation, and displacement of indigenous Aeta communities.
CIA creation of “Islamic terrorists” and anti-terrorist hysteria
The Bush administration lied when it named the Abu Sayyaf as a “terrorist group” in order to justify a “counter-terrorist” war particularly in southern Philippines. The anti-terrorist hysteria that ensued was in turn applied against the people’s democratic revolution, which has been waging an armed struggle against imperialism, feudalism and bureaucrat capitalism since 1969, by subjecting it to vilification and criminalization. Even the legal opposition against U.S. military aggression and its struggle for comprehensive social, economic and political reform has been threatened with brutal political persecution and “legal” actions.
In the same way that al Qaeda, the terrorist network alleged by the U.S. government of being behind the 9/11 bombings and similar incidents across the world, is said to be a CIA creation, the Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG) also traces its roots to CIA operations during the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan.
The ASG was founded by remnants of the Islamist mujahadeen, bankrolled and manipulated by the CIA, the Pakistani ISI, and elements of Saudi Arabia’s wealthy elite during the jihad against the Soviet Union in the 1980s. Philippine Sen. Aquilino Pimentel, Jr. called Abu Sayyaf a “CIA monster.” According to John Cooley, author of Unholy Wars, the Abu Sayyaf was the last of the seven Afghan guerrilla groups to be organized late in the war in Afghanistan in 1986 or three years before the Soviets withdrew.
The fact is that since the early 1990s, the group which by then had gone back to Mindanao, has been involved chiefly in criminal operations while maintaining liaisons with both military and local officials. This is partly the reason why the group refuses to die. Just as the U.S. has inflated the al-Qaeda legend, the U.S. and Philippine officials are playing up the Abu Sayyaf “monster” and its alleged connection to al-Qaeda to justify a bigger U.S. military assistance program and bigger U.S. operations in the Asia Pacific region.
As a kidnap-for-ransom group, the Abu Sayyaf has been covertly supported by some Philippine military and police officers since the 1990s. Senator Pimentel said that during the Ramos administration (1992-1998), these officers did not only “handle” but also coddled, trained, protected them, passed on military equipment and funds from the CIA and its support network.
Both the Bush and Arroyo administrations have lumped the ASG not only with the MILF with the CPP-NDFP-NPA as well, thereby demonizing the revolutionary movement along with its alleged front organizations as “terrorist.” Again, in 2004, the AFP, in its “Military Strategy for Combating Terrorism,” named the NPA as a “terrorist group.” The same document identifies each “NPA support element” as a “potential node or critical vulnerability [that after identification] would be the focus of preemption or swift and decisive retaliation since such attacks would hurt the enemy the most.”
Likewise, the anti-terrorist and anti-communist hysteria has been used to justify the rush to enact the Anti-Terrorism Bill (ATB). The bill was passed by a special joint session of Congress on 19-20 February 2007. Patterned after the US PATRIOT Act, it strips away the constitutional provisions and the judicial and due process safeguards and protection against unlawful harassment, arrest, detention and torture by state forces of anyone tagged and merely suspected of being a “terrorist”. It lends itself to being used by the state authorities to intimidate and suppress all forms of political dissent, including the advocacy of comprehensive social, economic and political reforms, and deny the people of their basic civil and political rights.
The enactment of an anti-terrorist law has actually been demanded by the Bush government as another requirement for making the Philippines its “second front” in the U.S. global “war against terrorism.” The war extends America’s state power and its national security doctrines across the globe, particularly the provisions of its much-condemned USA PATRIOT Act, in suppressing the people’s rights to political dissent and free expressions to save the “free world” from its “enemies” and “rogue regimes.” It is one particular component of U.S. aggression in its drive to cause the rewriting of the constitutions and domestic laws of many countries and tailoring them to its security objectives at the expense of human, civil and political rights and the whole array of international laws, conventions, protocols, and human rights instruments.
Furthermore, the anti-terrorist hysteria hatched by the Bush and Arroyo governments has rekindled discrimination against the Moro population in the Philippines as indicated, for instance, by frequent police raids on Muslim communities in Metro Manila and the perpetration of human rights violations indiscriminately against many Muslims, including women and minors.
Based on the foregoing facts and the evidence which will be presented to the Tribunal, complainants respectfully recommend the following findings, actions and measures:
With respect to gross and systematic violations of civil and political rights:
1. defendants Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo and George W. Bush and their respective governments be adjudged guilty as charged of gross and systematic extra-judicial killings, gross and systematic abductions and enforced disappearances, gross and systematic torture and gross and systematic massacre of Filipino and Bangsa Moro peoples;
2. defendants Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, George W. Bush and their respective governments be adjudged guilty as charged of deliberately and massively assaulting, attacking and imposing military occupation of communities and villages suspected as CPP-NPA-controlled or influenced areas and bailiwicks of progressive mass organizations and partylist groups. The attacks consist of aerial and ground bombings, heavy artillery fire, strafing, arson, food blockade and illegal imposition of military checkpoints and curfew that result in death and injuries, forced mass evacuation and displacement, harassment, intimidation, torture and illegal arrest and detention of civilians and non-combatants and general breakdown of the rule of law and local civilian authority.
3. These heinous crimes and human rights abuses have been committed with the following aggravating circumstances:
3.1 the extra-judicial killings, abductions and enforced disappearances, torture and massacre are politically-motivated;
3.2 they have been committed by military, police, para-military and other government-directed forces pursuant to the “total war” policy of the Macapagal-Arroyo government against the revolutionary forces of the New People’s Army (NPA) the Communist Party of the Philippines and the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) under the US-directed counter-insurgency campaign “Oplan Bantay-laya (Operation Plan Safe-guarding Freedom) and the US global “war on terror.”
3.3 The principal targets and victims of the physical attacks are mass leaders and activists of legal progressive organizations and partylist groups engaged in parliamentary and legal struggles for fundamental reforms and genuine national sovereignty and democracy whom the defendants have maliciously labeled as “front” organizations of the CPP and the NPA;
3.4 the commission of these heinous crimes and human rights abuses is a state policy, centrally-directed from the highest level of the defendants’ decision-making process and continue to be committed with escalating impunity callousness and brutality;
With respect to gross and systematic violations of the economic, social and cultural rights:
In furtherance of the Filipino people’s economic, social and cultural rights which are enshrined in the Universal Declaration of the Rights of Peoples (or the Algiers Declaration of 1976), the United Nations (UN) International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR) and Convention on the Elimination of all forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW), the various conventions of the International Labor Organization (ILO), and other applicable international laws, treaties and conventions, we hereby appeal to the Permanent People’s Tribunal (PPT) to:
1. defendants Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo and George W. Bush and their respective governments, the International Monetary Fund (IMF), the World Bank (WB), the World Trade Organization (WTO), and the various transnational corporations (TNCs) be adjudged guilty as charged of the gross and systematic violations of economic, social and cultural rights of the Filipino and Bangsa Moro peoples which have resulted in the destruction of their livelihoods, their deepening poverty and the worsening of their welfare.
2. declare that the willful, deliberate and sustained actions of the defendants and their systematic attacks on the rights of the people have greatly contributed to the intensified exploitation of workers and peasants, the worsening oppression of women and children, the cultural disintegration of national minorities, and the severe destruction of the environment.
3. declare that the neocolonial economic and social system imposed on the people by U.S. imperialism in collaboration with domestic economic and political elites directly transgresses economic sovereignty, leads to the unrestrained plunder of the national patrimony, deepens the backward, agrarian and pre-industrial state of the economy, and effectively denies the majority of the people their basic rights to food, health, education, housing and work.
4. declare that the U.S., Japanese, European and other foreign monopoly capitalists operating in the country have made their superprofits from the sheer exploitation of the people and the gross plunder of the national patrimony in violation of the people’s just share in the fruits of their labors and of their sovereign rights to the country’s natural resources, and correspondingly to affirm the right of the people to effective remedies.
5. declare the corrupt government of Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo guilty of plundering the scarce economic resources of the Filipino people and to call for the regime to be held criminally- liable for its actions.
6. declare as null and void the grossly inequitable bilateral and multilateral treaties and agreements imposed on the Filipino people by the big imperialist powers and successive Philippine governments, including that of Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, which make the economy function mainly for the benefit of foreign monopoly capital and which have severely undermined domestic agriculture and industry. This particularly includes the unprecedented far-reaching and expansive agreements under the WTO.
7. affirm the sovereign right of the Filipino people to resist all forms of foreign economic, social and cultural aggression and domination and to undertake any and all measures necessary to uphold the people’s welfare including implementing genuine programs of agrarian reform and national industrialization, forging foreign trade and investment relations based on the principles of equality, independence and mutual benefit, ensuring just wages and decent jobs for workers, ensuring land and livelihoods for the peasantry, securing social services, and asserting the right to self-determination of national minorities.
8. call for the absolute and unconditional cancellation of all illegitimate Philippine debt that is patently onerous, imbued with corruption, forced by creditors, used for projects harmful to the people and environment, merely borrowing to repay debt, and whose uninterrupted repayments over the decades have wrought social, cultural, ecological and economic devastation. In particular, call for the return of payments on the billions of dollars in debt servicing on debt incurred by the dictator Marcos, which is the most brazenly illegitimate and odious debt burden suffered by the people.
9. condemn the U.S. government for systematically supporting, sustaining and strengthening the oppressive and exploitative Arroyo regime, through among others infusions of debt financing and economic aid, so that it may act to advance U.S. economic and geopolitical interests.
With respect to the gross and systematic violations of the rights of the people to national self-determination and liberation:
In furtherance of the Filipino people’s rights to national self-determination and liberation which are enshrined in the Universal Declaration of the Rights of Peoples (or the Algiers Declaration of 1976), the Universal Declaration of Human Rights of 1948, the UN Charter, the UN’s seven international human rights instruments particularly the International Convention on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR of 1966), the Nuremberg Principles as adopted by the General Assembly of the United Nations, the Comprehensive Agreement on the Respect of Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law (CARHRIHL) signed between the Government of the Republic of the Philippines (GRP) and the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP), and all other applicable international laws, treaties and conventions, we hereby appeal to the Honorable Jurors and Judges of the Permanent People’s Tribunal (PPT) to:
1. declare the Mutual Defense Treaty (MDT) of 1951, the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) of 1999, Mutual Logistics Support Agreement (MLSA) of 2002 and Non-Surrender Agreement of 2003 which were contracted in disregard of the fundamental rights of the people as null and void and for all obligations provided for under the aforementioned instruments to cease;
2. declare all operations, activities, programs and military aid done and extended in pursuit of the aforementioned unequal treaty and agreements in contravention of the rights of the Filipino people to be free from any foreign interference and military aggression, to peaceful life and existence, and their national sovereignty and territorial integrity be respected by other countries as part of their international obligation;
3. adjudge defendants Government of the United States of America and President George W. Bush, Jr. in particular, guilty of the international crimes it committed and is continuing to commit against the Filipino people under the pretext of “war against terrorism” including, in particular, the displacement of whole communities; deaths, injuries, rape, torture and other physical harassments; as well as the destruction of the environment;
4. adjudge defendants Government of the United States of America and President George W. Bush, Jr. in particular, guilty of the international crimes it has committed against the Filipino people as a result of its collusion with and support for the Government of President Gloria M. Arroyo in conducting the “war against terrorism” and “counter-insurgency” such as, in particular, the brutal militarization of communities; extra-judicial killings, abductions, and enforced disappearances; illegal arrests and detention; torture and sexual abuse; and other forms of gross and systematic violations of human rights;
5. adjudge defendant Gloria M. Arroyo guilty for the treasonous acts of upholding and signing unequal treaties and agreements with the U.S. Government as well as for her declaration of support to President George W. Bush, Jr.’s “war against terrorism” in disregard of international law; and for the “war against terrorism” and “counter insurgency” campaigns that have resulted in the wanton, gross and systematic violations of human rights of the Filipino people despite persistent international demands to put a stop to these crimes and to protect the civil and political rights of the people;
6. declare the Arroyo regime, for its subservience to a foreign power, the U.S., its blatant abuse of state power, and its acts of state terrorism as deprived of legitimate standing as a government in international society and lacking in the competence to act on behalf of the Filipino or Bangsa Moro people;
7. support the demand of the Filipino people to make the U.S. Government accountable for the toxic contamination of communities in the Philippines as a result of the operations and activities in its former military bases which have resulted in numerous deaths, injuries, deformities and other health hazards, as well as for the economic losses and destruction of the environment such operations have wrought and continue to cause; that such legitimate demand by the Filipino people be given due course in a court of justice in the international community to compel the U.S. Government to fulfill its international obligation by way of indemnification, clean-up of the contaminated areas and communities and other forms of legal relief and remedies;
8. call for an immediate stop to Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo’s “total war” policy against the Filipino people including the Bangsa Moro compatriots in southern Philippines and for the immediate pullout of all U.S. forces from the Philippines as well as Philippine security forces from parts of the country where military operations are ongoing resulting in the gross and systematic violations of human rights;
9. demand that the U.S. government and EU countries stop their “terrorist” labeling of the CPP-NPA and Prof. Jose Maria Sison in accordance with international law and in consonance with Point 5 of the Permanent Peoples’ Tribunal’s “Judgment of the Appeals of the Filipino people and the Bangsa Moro people” on the First Session on the Philippines (1980) recognizing the status of the National Democratic Front of the Philippines as a belligerent and legitimate representative of its people;
10. call for the resumption of peace talks between the GRP and the NDFP in accordance with the agreements signed between the two parties including the CARHRIHL and in cognizance of the demands of the interfaith community, human rights organizations, people’s organizations and NGOs both in the Philippines and abroad for the resumption of the peace process that would provide for the comprehensive solution of the social, economic and political roots of the people’s struggle toward a just and lasting peace;
11. declare the Filipino people’s struggle for national self-determination and liberation as well as the Moro people’s struggle for self-determination and to their ancestral land as legitimate in consonance with the Permanent People’s Tribunal’s “Judgment on the Appeals of the Filipino people and the Bangsa Moro people” on the First Session of the Philippines (1980) and, accordingly, to reiterate the principles of Point 15 of the same Judgment, calling upon world public opinion, progressive governments, organizations and individuals, to lend their support to the struggle of the Filipino and Bangsa Moro peoples to achieve national self-determination, liberation from the U.S.-Arroyo regime and the neo-colonial system of repression.
12. call on the Philippine Senate to immediately work for the ratification of the Rome Statute of 1998 or the International Criminal Court (ICC) Treaty in furtherance of the demand of human rights organizations, the church and faith community, civil libertarians and other sectors for the Philippine government to comply with its pledge to uphold international law and to protect the human rights of the Filipino people foremost of which is their rights to national self-determination and liberation.
 IBON calculations on National Statistics Office (NSO) data. The government officially reports population poverty incidence of 30% by using an unrealistically low poverty line of just PhP33.72 (US$0.67 at current exchange rates). The official poverty figure is also understated by excluding those without “official and permanent residence” – i.e. those living in squatter areas, in the streets, ambulant rural poor, etc.
 This estimate is from the United Nations Development Programme’s (UNDP) Second Philippine Progress Report on the Millennium Development Goals. Using the official subsistence food threshold, the government reports 11 million Filipinos unable to meet food subsistence requirements. However, as with the official poverty threshold, the subsistence food threshold is extremely questionable for being set at an extremely low P22.33 (US$0.45) a day, or P7.44 (US$0.15) per meal.
 AGILE held office in the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas, Department of Finance, Department of Budget and Management, Department of Trade and Industry, Department of Agriculture, Department of Transportation and Communications, Bureau of Customs, National Telecommunications Commission, National Economic Development Authority, Securities and Exchange Commission, and the Philippine Stock Exchange. Among the programs and laws it drew up are on rice sector liberalization, Electric Power Industry Reform Act (EPIRA, RA 9136), Plant Variety Protection Act (PVPA, RA 9168), Anti-Money Laundering Act (AMLA, RA 9160), General Banking Act of 2000, Electronic Commerce Law, Countervailing Measures Act, Anti-Dumping Act, Safeguard Measures Act and the Securities Regulation Code.
 National Statistics Office (NSO, 2005), 2003 Family Income and Expenditure Survey (FIES)
 National Statistics Office (NSO), Family Income and Expenditure Survey (FIES) various years.
 Food and Nutrition Research Institute (FNRI, 2005), 2005 Updating of the Nutritional Status of Children in the Philippines.
 IBON Nationwide Opinion Survey, June 2006.
 Income & Employment Statistics Division, Household Statistics Department, National Statistics Office (NSO).
 Net income data in pesos from Business World Top 1000 Corporations in the Philippines, various years. These conversions to US dollars use an exchange rate of P50:US$1.
 These include the overall declarations of nationalist economic policy covering foreign economic relations and domestic policy thrusts (Art. II. Declaration of Principles, Sec. 7, 17, 19, 21). There are also various specific provisions: restricting foreign ownership, the degree of their involvement in decision-making and the grounds for expropriation (Art. XII, Sec. 1, 10, 11, 17, 18, 19; Art. XIV, Sec. 4; Gen. Provisions, Sec. 11); regulating the exploration, development and use of the national patrimony and defining corresponding rights, privileges and concessions (Art. XII, Sec. 2; Art. XIII, Sec. 7, 8); giving preference to Filipinos and stating the responsibility to protect, encourage and promote Filipino economic activity (Art. XII, Sec. 12, 14); and giving the state various powers by which to assert national sovereignty, i.e. regulating trade, monopolies, and other economic activity in the public interest and in favor of Filipinos (Art. XII, Sec. 1, 6, 12, 13, 19; Art. XIV, Sec. 12; General Provisions, Sec. 11), defining treaty-making powers (Art. VII, Sec. 21) and giving the Supreme Court the power to assert the constitution’s nationalist provisions (Art. VIII, Sec. 4, 5).
 IBON calculations on data from Department of Finance (DOF).
 Including cereals, fruits, vegetables, root crops, sugar, spices, dairy products, meat, fish and other aquatic products. IBON computations on FAOSTAT data.
 IBON computations on FAOSTAT data.
 National Statistics Office (NSO) Quarterly Labor Force Surveys, various years.
 IBON computations on BSP data.
 Approved investments refer to the project cost or committed investments. IBON computations on BOI data.
 However 44.5% of FDI came from unspecified countries or for which country breakdowns are unavailable. IBON computations on BSP data.
 Business World Top 1000 Corporations in the Philippines, various years.
 IBON computations on ADB and BSP data.
 IBON (2006), “On the FDI Myths of Cha-Cha”, September 2006.
 Business World Top 1000 Corporations in the Philippines, various years.
 Bayan Muna (2002), “Philippines 2002: People Last”, October 2002.
 Business World Top 1000 Corporations in the Philippines, various years.
 World Bank (2005), World Development Indicators.
 Yumiko Okamoto (2005), “Emergence of the ‘Intra-mediate Trade’: Implications for the Asia-Pacific Region”, February 19-21, 2005.
 Prema-Chandra Athukorala and Nobuaki Yamashita (2005), “Production Fragmentation and Trade Integration: East Asia in a Global Context”, Australian National University.
 IBON computations on data from Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) and Mines and Geosciences Bureau (MGB).
 National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA).
 IBON computations on data from Asian Development Bank (ADB) Key Indicators and from Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP).
 IBON computations on data from Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) and International Finance Statistics (IFS).
 IBON computations based on data from International Monetary Fund (IMF) International Finance Statistics and Asian Development Bank (ADB) Key Indicators 2006
 At its peak in 2003, the total public sector debt stock was equivalent to 118% of GDP.
 Bureau of Treasury (BTr) data.
 Contingent liabilities are government-guaranteed loans and other obligations under build-operate-transfer schemes and other similar arrangements.
 Bayan Muna (2006), “Fiscal crisis, financial meltdown and the people”, August 10, 2004.
 Peso values are in 2001 pesos and converted to US dollars using an exchange rate of P50:US$1.
 IBON computations on data from the Department of Budget and Management (DBM).
 National Statistical Coordination Board (NSCB, 2006), Philippine National Health Accounts.
 National Tax Research Center (NTRC) study cited in “RP tax structure ‘not equitable,’ says study” by Michelle Remo, Philippine Daily Inquirer, January 1, 2007.
 Maynilad – a consortium of the French giant Suez and Benpres, a local corporation owned by one of Philippine elite families, the Lopezes (who later supported Arroyo in her bid for the presidency) – won the west zone concession of Metro Manila. Manila Water – a consortium of UK’s United Utilities, Japan’s Mitsubishi Corporation, the World Bank’s International Finance Corporation (IFC), and Bechtel, which entered into a partnership with the Ayalas, another elite family, took the east zone. Maynilad rates increased from P7.21 (US$0.14 at current exchange rates) per cubic meter in 1997 to P32.05 (US$0.64) in 2006 and Manila Water rates from P4.02 (US$0.08) to P19.72 (US$0.39). Metropolitan Waterworks and Sewerage System (MWSS).
 Residential rates increased from P2.81 (US$0.056 at current exchange rates) in 1993 to P8.75 (US$0.175) in 2006, commercial rates from P2.84 (US$0.57) to P8.14 (US$0.163), and industrial rates from P2.66 (US$0.053) to P7.04 (US$0.141). Manila Electric Company (Meralco).
 The onerous provisions included: a) Napocor paying for power produced whether or not the power was actually used (i.e. a take-or-pay provision); b) the Philippine government absorbing loans if the IPPs defaulted; c) Napocor absorbing fluctuations in the peso-dollar rate; and d) Napocor supplying and paying for the fuel used in plant operations.
 The remaining 13% is nonetheless also taken up by other TNCs such as Total Fina Elf and SHV Netherlands. Strictly speaking, the government owns 60% of the oil firm Petron in which Aramco is the other partner – however the government in practice still takes its lead in terms of pricing from the three big oil TNCs and does not on its own exercise any leadership in oil product pricing.
 Gasoline was P9.42 (US$0.19 at current exchange rates) per liter in 1996 and diesel P7.42 (US$0.15); gasoline increased to P15.16 (US$0.30) in 2001 and P36.05 (US$0.72) in 2006, and diesel to P13.96 (US$0.28) in 2001 and P33.17 (US$0.66) in 2006. Department of Energy (DOE).
 IBON computations based on DOE data.
 Business World Top 1000 Corporations in the Philippines, various years.
 Reported during the “Workshop on Policies to Strengthen Productivity in the Philippines”, AIM Conference Center, Makati, Metro Manila, June 27, 2005.
 Major land reform legislation in the country started with the Agricultural Tenancy Act of 1954, Land Reform Act of 1955 and the Agricultural Land Reform Code of 1963. Following the Agrarian Reform Code of 1971 and Presidential Decree No. 27 (PD 27) in 1972 under the Marcos regime, agrarian reform took organizational form with the creation of a Department of Agrarian Reform. The most recent legislation is Republic Act (RA) 6657 or the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Law (CARL) of 1988 initiating the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program (CARP) which has been ongoing for 18 years now.
 Department of Budget and Management (DBM), 2007 National Budget.
 Data on plows from National Statistics Office (NSO) 2002 Census of Agriculture and on agricultural machinery from FAOSTAT.
 National Statistics Office (NSO, 2004), 2002Census of Agriculture.
 The figure is based on data from the 2000 Family Income and Expenditure Survey (FIES) of the NSO. There is no urban-rural breakdown on the magnitude of families below the poverty threshold in the more recent 2003 FIES.
 NSO, 2002 Census of Agriculture.
 Living wage data from the National Wages and Productivity Council (NWPC), converted to US dollars using an exchange rate of P50:US$1. Monthly living wage multiplies daily living wage by 26 days.
 National Statistical Coordination Board (NSCB), 2005 Philippine Statistical Yearbook.
 Labor’s share is the share of total labor income– i.e. the sum of labor compensation and derived labor income from net household operating surplus – in GDP. National Statistical Coordination Board (NSCB).
 Rough estimate using the figure of 9.6 million magnitude of poor in urban areas in the 2000 Family Income and Expenditure Survey (FIES) as the base and inflating this using annual population growth rates.
 Centre on Housing Rights and Eviction (COHRE), Geneva.
 Dabet Castaneda (2006), “Urban Poor Yearender: RP is 2006 Housing Rights Violator”, bulatlat.com.
 Latest figures using official poverty lines and year 2000 data. National Statistical Coordination Board (NSCB, 2006), Development of Poverty Statistics for the Basic Sectors.
 Department of Health (DOH, 2003), National Demographic and Health Survey 2003.
 Department of Education (DepEd), FY 2006 Budget Proposal, December, 2005.
 2003 Functional Literacy, Education and Mass Media Survey (FLEMMS).
 National Statistics Office (NSO) Annual Poverty Indicators Survey, 2002 and 2004.
 Bureau of Labor and Employment Statistics (BLES).
 Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (POEA, 2006), OFW Global Presence: A Compendium of Overseas Employment Statistics.
 Department of Health (DOH, 2003), National Demographic and Health Survey 2003.
 Food and Nutrition Research Institute-Department of Science and Technology (FNRI-DOST, 2004), Sixth National Nutrition Surveys, Initial Results.
 National Commission on Indigenous Peoples (NCIP).
 Rodolfo Stavenhagen (2003), Human Rights and Indigenous Issues in the Philippines, Report for 59th United Nations Commission on Human Rights.
 Antonio Tujan and Ros-B Guzman (2006), Globalizing Philippine Mining,
 Forest Management Bureau (FMB, 2002), Development of Criteria and Indicators for Sustainable Forest Management in the Philippines.
 Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR, 2002), Draft Framework Plan for Environment and Natural Resources Management.
 These include 2.3 million hectares under so-called Community Based Forest Management Agreements (CBFM) and Industrial Forest Management Agreements (IFMA) and over 500,000 hectares under Timber License Agreements (TLAs). Center for Environmental Concerns (CEC, 2006), “MTPDP, SONA and the State of the Philippine Environment” citing FMB data.
 Bayan Muna (2006), “Fiscal crisis, financial meltdown and the people”, August 10, 2004. See also USAID’s Country Program for the Philippines, 2001-2004 which noted “[Estimates] that government spending is inflated by as much as 20 percent, or roughly US$2 billion a year, due to procurement irregularities.”
 Ombudsman Ma. Merceditas Gutierrez (2006), “Seminar on Corruption for Quezon City Barangay Captains”, May 23, 2006.
 Allegedly divided between Mark Jimenez (US$7 M), Pres. Arroyo herself and her husband (US$4 M), Justice Secretary Hernando Perez (US$2 M) and others.
 Article IV of the Treaty (signed Aug. 30, 1951) provides: “Each Party recognizes that an armed attack in the Pacific Area on either of the Parties would be dangerous to its own peace and safety and declared that it would act to meet the common dangers in accordance with its constitutional processes.”
 The 1951 MDT was actually an imposition upon the Filipino people to force them to support U.S. armed intervention in the Korean War, in the Indochina War (late 1950s-1975) and other wars and armed conflicts in Asia Pacific and neighboring regions. Along with the onerous 1947 Military Bases Agreement (MBA), it was used to justify America’s use of its military facilities in the Philippines to launch offensive air and naval bombings as well as refueling and repair during the Korean War, the Indochina War and the 1991 Desert Storm war against Iraq.
 In defiance of the Filipino people’s opposition, the VFA was ratified by the Philippine Senate in 1999 at a time when Gloria M. Arroyo was also serving as vice president.
 In the first place, the MDT could not be invoked since it could not be proved that an “external power” launched the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks on the United States, assuming that it was indeed an “external attack” and not a conspiracy from within the U.S., as many theories indicate. It was the U.S. that attacked Afghanistan and later, Iraq, showing no credible proof that would link either of the two countries to 9/11.
 The VFA is in fact a form of Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA), although different from the SOFA of other countries with U.S. bases. When the U.S. still had military bases in the country, the SOFA was included in the RP-U.S. Military Bases Agreement.
 Philippine Daily Inquirer, Dec. 15, 2006, quoting former Senate President Jovito Salonga.
 Various reports say that the American forces are actually in the Philippines for training, to test the capability of the AFP and other security forces in counter-insurgency, as well as to conduct intelligence, surveillance and other covert operations.
 IBON Facts and Figures, “The glue that binds,” Table 5. Monitored US-RP Military Exercises, 2006. June 15, 2006.
 As said so, by former Senate President Jovito Salonga and Sen. Wigberto Tanada who led a group of lawyers including retired Court of Appeals Justice Jose de la Rama and international law professor Harry Roque, Jr. in filing a petition before the Supreme Court Jan. 19, 2007 to declare the VFA unconstitutional since it does not recognize the court’s rules of procedure on a rape case that found a U.S. Marine guilty of rape.
 So far, from 2002-2004, there had been 12,000 U.S. troops under the U.S. PACOM entering the Philippines under the cover of “war exercises,” “special operations training,” “disaster relief and recovery,” “medical, dental and humanitarian mission,” school infrastructure building, and other pretexts.
 In a de-classified document in 1997, the U.S. Pentagon admitted that during the period of modern military bases in the Philippines (1947-1992) at least 60 nuclear weapons were deployed in the Philippines from 1961 to 1977. Norris, Robert S., Arkin W.M. & Burr, William, (November-December 1999). “Where they were.” Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, Vol. 55, No. 06.
 Former DFA officials such as VFA Commission Director Elmer Cato and DFA Undersecretary and VFA Commissioner Amado Valdez also reported such violations of VFA provisions. They were both removed from the VFA Commission by the DFA. The VFA provides that all training exercises should be bilateral, i.e., there should be both Filipino and American participants in joint exercises. Yet reports told of U.S. unilateral training operations by U.S. troops at the former Clark airbase in Angeles City, Pampanga; unilateral flights and pollution of Subic Bay off Olongapo City, site of the former U.S. naval base. VFA officials also reported the absence of Filipinos on board a C-130 when it landed at Clark in April 2001 and only Americans were conducting parachute jump training. In January 2002, a U.S. Air Force cargo plane on a flying mission had no Filipino pilot or airman on board. Several U.S. airplanes were also sighted during war exercises in “no fly zones” including the upland areas of Kalinga-Apayao, Sierra Madre and Caraballo mountains in northern Luzon. (Bulatlat.com Dec. 7-13, 2003).
 “Philippine Country Report” for the Philippines Reader on U.S. Bases, Atty. Cora Fabros of the Nuclear-Free Philippines Coalition (NFPC), 2004.
 The secret Non-Surrender Agreement (or bilateral immunity agreement) signed on May 13, 2003 was just an exchange of notes between U.S. Ambassador to Manila Francis Ricciardone and then Philippine Foreign Affairs Secretary Blas Ople. The U.S., as of 2003, has secured similar immunity guarantees from 43 other countries prompting the Financial Times, in a June 12, 2003 editorial, to describe it as “judicial imperialism.”
 Magallona, Merlin M., “Some comments on the Non-Surrender Agreement between the Philippines and the United States,” The World Bulletin, Vol. 20, January-June 2003, University of the Philippines Law Center.
 Art. 53 of the Vienna Convention on the Law of the Treaties, of which the Philippines is a party, provides that any treaty including an executive agreement in conflict with a peremptory norm of general international law at the time of its conclusion is void. (Magallona, “Some Comments…)
 The Commander-in-Chief of the PACOM (CINCPACOM) is considered America’s viceroy in the region and therefore commands considerable influence on governments in the region.
 Africa, Sonny. “U.S. Imperialism in Southeast Asia and ASEAN,” Institute of Political Economy Journals (Dec. 2006). Quezon City, Philippines: Institute of Political Economy.
 Source: U.S. Military Aid in East Asia and Pacific, 2006-2007. IMET has been considered “highly successful in the Philippines.” The AFP chief of staff, all three service chiefs, and the Marine Corps command are graduates of IMET. IMET graduates who occupy top AFP positions are said to have promoted close U.S.-AFP military relations.
 U.S. GAO, “Report to Congressional Committees, July 2005.”
 Since 2001, the Arroyo government has received some $310 million in military aid making it the largest recipient of U.S. military assistance in Southeast Asia. Africa, Sonny, “U.S. imperialism in Southeast Asia and ASEAN,” Dec. 2006.
 The Philippine Aidwatch Network warned that increased U.S. military aid and development assistance focusing in conflict areas may only be used by the AFP to intensify its attack not only against the NPA guerillas but against unarmed civilians especially leaders and members of legal organizations. (“U.S. aid militarization and Arroyo’s policy of repression,” Ibon Features in A New Wave of State Terror in the Philippines, 2005. Quezon City, Philippines: Ibon Foundation, Inc.
 Weapons have also been flowing in. The U.S. delivered $67.6 million in military equipment to the Philippines between 2001-2003. Between 2001 and 2005, the Philippines also received $145.8 million in Foreign Military Financing and another $11.5 million in military training aid, for a total of more than $157.3 million. In 2005, the Arroyo government was slated to receive $20 million in FMF and another $2.9 million in IMET for 2006. (Source: Arms Trade Resource Center / World Policy Institute)
 The neo-colonial relationship was structured by a set of onerous economic and military treaties imposed on the Filipino people upon the “granting” of independence on July 4, 1946. The retention of the Philippines as a neo-colonial adjunct of the U.S. is amplified in the Policy Planning Staff (PPS)/23 memorandum of the U.S. State Department of 1948 which seeks the U.S. control of the Philippines as a “military bulwark” requiring that all subsequent Presidents of the Philippines should remain “friendly” to the U.S. This strategic policy on the Philippines would be reiterated in a series of secret directives spanning governments until at least that of Corazon Aquino. Whatever specific policy directives came after that period remain unavailable to researchers.
 Tuazon, Bobby (ed.) 2006. Fraud: Gloria M. Arroyo and the May 2004 elections. Philippines: Policy Study, Publication and Advocacy, Cemter for People Empowerment in Governance (CenPEG).
 This is definitively in violation of the Algiers Declaration. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights provides that “the will of the people shall be the basis of the authority of government.
 U.S. GAO Report to congressional committees, July 2005.
 U.S. national security policy justifies the use and expansion of military forces including in Asia Pacific to secure America’s access to world resources, its trade and investments as well as strategic commercial sea routes. U.S. military projection also aims to prevent certain countries from challenging its armed supremacy as well as threatening other countries that dare oppose U.S. imperialism and militarism.
 Truth is, even before 9/11, the Philippines, along with Iraq, Afghanistan and more than 50 other countries had been in the CIA list of targets of U.S. military intervention under its emerging doctrine of “counter-terrorism.”
 Edberto Villegas, Bobby Tuazon, et al, Unmasking the War on Terror, Nov. 2002, Philippines. Educated perceptions about the choice of Mindanao as the priority entry point for U.S. forces and facilities especially after 9/11 point to its strategic importance: Not only is it closest to the Muslim-populated Indonesia and Malaysia where major commercial sea routes are also located, it is also a “confirmed oil country.” Discoveries of oil and gas in Palawan and Cotabato reinforced the satellite findings of the National Aeronautics and Space Agency (NASA) that the largest deposits of oil and gas in Asia could lie in the area covered by Mindanao, Sulu and Palawan (Minsupala). Liguasan Marsh alone has reportedly 1.3 trillion cubic feet of proven natural gas reserves.
 OBL I has been extended in January 2007 as OBL II for another five years.
 Urgency was prescribed for OBL’s implementation when Mrs. Arroyo declared that the dismantling of the backbone of the armed Left be fast-tracked from 10 years to two years.
 The adoption of the Aquino military’s U.S.-sponsored Low Intensity Conflict (LIC) coincided with the frequent visits of CIA officials including Gen. John Singlaub. A report by the independent news service, Philippine News and Features (PNF) on April 6, 1987 revealed that “a CIA branch of 70 agents was recently established in Mindanao.” There were also, according to the report, frequent visits of USIS official William Parker to Lt. Col. Franco Calida, who masterminded the formation of anti-communist vigilantes in Davao City in Mindanao. President Reagan was also reported to have authorized the release of $10 million and the deployment of 12 new CIA agents to conduct covert operations in the Philippines. The book, Pumipiglas 3: Torment and Struggle after Marcos, also reveals that Reagan officials pressed the Aquino administration to take a hard-line counter-insurgency program, with a ranking Reagan official reiterating Washington’s view that “military force is the only way to defeat the NPA.” About $64 million military aid was given to the AFP for the counter-insurgency program. During the Aquino presidency, there were about 250 anti-communist vigilante groups with some of them notorious for beheading and mutilating the bodies of their victims. (Carranza-Paraan, Rowena, and Eileen C. Legaspi, et al, Bobby Tuazon, ed.; Pumipiglas 3: Torment and Struggle after Marcos: A report on human rights trends in the Philippines under Aquino, March 1986-June 1992. 1993. Quezon City, Philippines: Task Force Detainees of the Philippines)
 Originating from national security directives issued over the past 50 years, the Philippines remains a key security ally of the U.S. in the Asia Pacific region. In this situation, the Philippines serves as a strategic outpost in America’s military projection in the region, in ensuring U.S. control of strategic trade routes, in the military encirclement of China and similar other military objectives in the Korean Peninsula and elsewhere.
 Joseph Mussomeli, then the U.S. charge d’affaires, said the FTO tag will be removed only after a final peace agreement between the GRP and NDFP was reached. “The NPA has been on the FTO list for several years now…If they reach a peace accord then they can get off the list. The FTO is really an incentive to them to start talking and give up terrorism.” Philippine Foreign Affairs Secretary Blas Ople also said that only when the CPP-NPA give up their armed struggle would the “terrorist” tag be removed. Sometime mid-2006, Silvestre Bello III, former GRP chief negotiator, similarly confirmed that the government’s counter-insurgency operations are aimed at forcing the NDFP to go back to the negotiating table when the GRP shall be talking “from a position of strength.”
 The revolutionary Left, i.e., the CPP-NPA-NDFP, is waging a war of national liberation against U.S. imperialism and a democratic revolution against feudalism and bureaucrat capitalism. Based on their program, the revolutionary struggle seeks to dismantle the semi-colonial, semi-feudal structure of the Philippine society and work for national industrialization and genuine agrarian reform toward socialism. But even as it wages armed struggle, the CPP-NPA-NDFP pledged to commit themselves to uphold the Comprehensive Agreement on Human Rights and Respect for International Humanitarian Law (CARHRIHL) signed by the NDFP and Philippine government in 1998. The NDFP stands on record as accusing the Philippine government of violating provisions of the agreement particularly under its U.S.-initiated and support “war on terror.”
 “Amnesty International defends the basic rights of Prof. Jose Maria Sison in ‘terrorist’ blacklist case,” DEFEND Committee, Aug. 8, 2006.
 See the case of the People’s Mojahedin Organization of Iran vs Albright, and Liberation of Tigers of Tamil Eelam vs Department of State, U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Colombia, June 25, 1999.
 Kilusang Mayo Uno et al vs President of the Philippines Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo et al, GR No. 171483 involving Presidential Proclamation 1017, SC decision of May 3, 2006.
 UN ad Litem Judge Romeo T. Capulong, as cited in “Philippine Supreme Court belies basis of ‘terrorist’ listing of Prof. Sison by the Council of European Union,” DEFEND Committee, May 26, 2006.
 “Displacements Due to War on Terror,” Global IDP Project, Nov. 25, 2002; citing reports from the Ecumenical Commission for Displaced Families and Communities (ECDFC), AI, Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD), Oxfam, United Nations Resident Coordinator (UNRC), UNDP, U.S. Committee for Refugees (USCR), U.S. Department of State.
 “Profile of Internal Displacement: Philippines,” Global IDP Database of the Norwegian Refugee Council, Sept. 3, 2005, citing reports by the Philippine government’s Disaster Monitoring Center (DROMIC) and media accounts.
 “More Filipinos displaced in war on terror,” Global IDP Database of the Norwegian Refugee Council, Nov. 25, 2002, citing reports by ECDFC and other accounts.
 Proceedings of the National Workshop of Indigenous Peoples on Human Rights (Feb. 24, 2004). Quezon City: Ateneo de Manila University.
 2005 Report of the Citizens’ Disaster Response Center (CDRC), citing figures from the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) and its own field reports. The CDRC report does not include the estimated number of IDPs for 1985.
 Joint exercises started in 2000 and from the outset there were incidents. In March 2000, there were joint naval exercises; three U.S. sailors were arrested and charged with bashing up a Cebu City taxi driver in a dispute over his fare. The case was dropped after the U.S. paid the cabbie $5,000. A more deadly situation occurred in August 2000, also on Cebu. Navy SEALs (Sea, Air, Land Special Forces) and their Philippine Navy counterparts held a secret exercise (Flash Piston exercise) in the former Atlas Mine at Toledo, in the island’s interior. They left an unexploded rocket-launched grenade behind while they were swimming. Local kids found it, the thing blew up, killing two and injuring another. Charges of homicide and injury were filed against 39 U.S. SEALs and Philippine Navy commandos (the U.S. claimed immunity for its men). The parents of the dead boys were paid P1.5 million, with the prosecutors asked to drop the charges.
 Herbert Docena, “U.S. troops’ unconventional presence,” Malaya, Jan. 15, 2007, citing Maxwell, U.S. Army Combined Arms Center’s Military Review journal and the Center for Defense Information (CDI, Washington, DC).
 “Against U.S. Armed Intervention in the Philippines,” Statement of the International Solidarity Mission (ISM), July 24-31, 2002. Joint U.S.-Philippine operations in the area started in January 2002.
 Philippine Daily Inquirer, “Parents told: Keep kids from US troops,” Feb. 17, 2007. In the period of the U.S. military bases in the Philippines, scores of civilians were shot dead by American soldiers guarding their facilities or in live exercises, claiming in most cases that they mistook the victims for a “boar”.
 ISM, July 24-31, 2002.
 Source: Arms Trade Resource Center / World Policy Institute.
 See GMA News.tv “The witnesses’ testimonies in gist” (June 22, 2006) Last accessed January 11, 2007.
 During the time of the U.S. military bases in the Philippines, particularly between 1983-1988 or in just five years, many of the 108 reported rape cases committed by U.S. soldiers were dismissed due to the absence of the accused – they were actually whisked back to the U.S. before they could even be charged in court. (“U.S. Custody of 6 Marines Unconstitutional: Philippine Laws Prohibit their Transfer Abroad,” Atty. Neri Javier Colmenares, Counsels for the Defense of Civil Liberties of CODAL, Nov. 10, 2005.
 The transfer of custody to the U.S. Embassy in Manila was based on an agreement between Foreign Secretary Alberto Romulo and U.S. Ambassador Kristie Kenney. The declaration of the agreement as null and void has been sought by former Senate President Jovito Salongato and former Sen. Wigberto Tanada a petition to the Supreme Court Jan. 19, 2007 which cited the agreement as creating a “privileged class among the criminals.”
 Joel Garduce, “Shadowy Groups and Bloody Deceits of the War on Terrorism,” March 2-8, 2003, Center for Anti-Imperialist Studies (CAIS), published by Bulatlat.com. See also Carolyn O. Arguillas, “The Meiring mystery: Affront to Philippine sovereignty” and “The extradition that never was” (May 30 – June 1, 2003), MindaNews; and The Philippine Star, “CIA whisks away Brit-Am blast victim; now in U.S.” Edith Regalado July 9, 2002.
 Philippine Insight, special issue, “Understanding intervention in their own words” (August 1989). Philippines: Ecumenical Partnership for International Concerns.
 Treaty of Friendship, Cooperation, and Security Between the Government of the Republic of the Philippines and the Government of the United States of America, signed between the two governments on Aug. 27, 1991.
 Philippine Senate Committee Report No. 237, “On toxic contamination in the former U.S. bases in the Philippines (2000).” The committee based its report on various documents, including: a) U.S. DoD, “Potential restoration sites on board the U.S. facility, Subic Bay” (October 1992) by the U.S. Navy; “Underground storage tank inventory: Subic Bay, Philippines”; and “Environmental review of the drawdown activities at Clark Air Base, Republic of the Philippines” by Col. John J. Allen (September 1991); b) U.S. General Accounting Office (National Security and International Affairs Division), “Military bases closure: U.S. financial obligations in the Philippines” (Jan. 22, 1992); c) World Health Organization (WHO), Mission Report, Subic Bay environmental risk assessment and investigation program, May 9, 1993; d) “Environmental and health impact report on known and potentially-contaminated sites at former U.S. military bases in the Philippines,” by Paul Bloom, PhD, Jorge Emmanuel, PhD, et al, Aug. 13, 1994; e) “Environmental baseline study/soil and water baseline study” on Clark by Weston International; f) “Environmental baseline study/environmental quality study” on Subic, November 1996, by Woodward-Clyde International, commissioned by the Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority; g) “Health for all survey” conducted around Clark Field Air Force Base, 1998, by Canadian epidemiologist Dr. Rosalie Bertell; h) Philippines’ Department of Health, results of 32 well samples taken at Clark, 1995.
 Philippine Senate Committee Report No. 237 (2000). Also see Zelda Soriano, “America’s toxic waste legacy” Special Report (March 30-April 15, 2001), Bulatlat.com; and the testimonies of Armando Rivera and Mario de Leon, former base worker, “Health impact: Philippine experience,” U.S. Military Bases and the Environment: A Time for Responsibility,” proceedings of international forum, Nov. 23-26, 1996.
 In August 2000, the Philippine Task Force on the Bases Clean-Up (PTFBC) on behalf of the toxic victims filed a class suit with the Regional Trial Courts of San Fernando, Pampanga and Olongapo City. Instead of supporting the suit, then Philippine Foreign Secretary Domingo Siazon, Jr. warned the complainants “they would have a hard time proving their case,” adding that Philippine courts have no jurisdiction to compel the U.S. to answer the charges. Soriano, Zelda, “America’s toxic waste legacy” Special Report (March 30-April 15, 2001), Bulatlat.com.
 Including, for instance, Republic Act No. 6969, or the “Toxic Substances and Hazardous Nuclear Wastes Control Act”; the 1972 Stockholm Declaration on the Human Environment, particularly Principle 21 (“States have, in accordance with the Charter of the United Nations and the principles of international law, the sovereign right to exploit their own natural resources pursuant to their own environmental policies, and the responsibility to ensure that activities within their jurisdiction or control do not cause damage to the environment of other States or of areas beyond the limits of national jurisdiction.”); and Principle 2 of the Declaration of the UN Conference on Environment and Development or the Rio Declaration.
 See complaint filed before the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California, San Jose Division, filed by Atty. Scott J. Allen, Dec. 3, 2002.
 Bulatlat.com, Dec. 7-13, 2003.
 Pimentel, Jr., Sen. Aquilino, “Treasonous handling of the Abu Sayyaf,” privilege speech, Senate of the Philippines, July 31, 2000 http://www.nenepimentel.org/speeches/20000802.shtml Last accessed Jan. 15, 2007. Also see “The United States in the Philippines: Post-9/11 Imperatives,” Larry Chin, Online Journal, Aug. 22, 2002.
 Bobby Tuazon, Bulatlat.com.
 According to Sakib Salajin, mayor of Maluso (a hotbed of Abu Sayyaf activity), the Abu Sayyaf functions as a “protector of foreign drug trafficking syndicates.” The group also controls a thriving marijuana production post. Salajin says his office has compiled “substantial evidence” of drug trafficking,” but said that no funds or personnel were available to plug the problem. Basilan police director, Chief Supt. Bensali Jabarani, confirmed Salajin’s assertion. “Drugs are a major source of Abu Sayyaf funds,” he said. “Aside from drugs from the Golden Triangle, marijuana grown here is exported to Zamboanga and other parts of the Mindanao mainland.” In a paper, Professor Peter Dale Scott writes that major U.S. military campaigns “whether by coincidence or not, have all aligned the U.S. on the same side as powerful local drug traffickers. Partly this has been from realpolitik—in recognition of the local power realities represented by the drug traffic. Partly it has been from the need to escape domestic political restraints: the traffickers have supplied additional financial resources needed because of U.S. budgetary limitations, and they have also provided assets not bound (as the U.S. is) by the rules of war. And partly (I believe) it has been from a concern to manage the drug traffic itself, and ensure that it will never fall under the control of another hostile power.” Larry Chin, op cit.
 AFP Military Strategy for Combating Terrorism, General Headquarters-AFP, Feb. 18, 2004.
 In at least two occasions in 2006, the U.S. Department of State called the attention of the Arroyo administration to the absence of “comprehensive” legislations on counterterrorism, reminding the Philippine President to do so to make the Philippines “a more effective partner in the global effort…against terrorism and its financing.” Then, on Oct. 1, 2006, Admiral William J. Fallon, U.S. Commander-in-Chief of the Pacific Command, told former President Fidel V. Ramos for the Philippine government to pass its anti-terror bill “as soon as possible.” (“U.S. urges Philippines to pass ATB,”
The date posted here is due to our website rebuild, it does not reflect the original date this article was posted. This article was originally posted in Yonip in Mar. 10th 2007