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Statement issued by the Office of the Chairperson, International League of Peoples’ Struggle (ILPS)
21 September 2015

On the ceaseless state terrorism against the Filipino people since 1972

The International League of Peoples’ Struggle expresses its solidarity with the Filipino people in their commemoration of the 43rd anniversary of the declaration of martial law by the US-backed Marcos fascist regime, as well as in recalling the epic resistance by the masses of the people and their heroic sons and daughters until the hated regime was overthrown in 1986. Our solidarity goes beyond the martial law period, to extend continuing support to the Filipino people in their many struggles against the persistent state terrorism of post-Marcos regimes including the worsening attacks of the current US-Aquino regime especially against the peasantry and indigenous peoples.

The imposition of martial law by then President Ferdinand Marcos in 1972 must not be viewed purely from the narrow framework of the megalomania of just one man and his small coterie, and their greed for dictatorial powers and immense wealth. Martial law meant 14 years of open terrorist rule by one fascist clique, but it was imposed in the name of “saving” the rotten semicolonial and semifeudal system that was reeling from crisis to crisis, and with the blessing and support of US imperialism. The emergence of fascist dictatorships, in fact, became a distinct trend in Asia, Africa and Latin America from the 1960s and throughout the 1970s and early 1980s, because of US imperialism’s general strategy of staving off its worsening global crisis, escalating Cold War, and the growth of national liberation movements.

Marcos took the signal from Richard Nixon that authoritarian governments were needed as anti-communist bulwarks in Southeast Asia, in the context of the US plan to withdraw from Vietnam. In a few years after the imposition of martial law on the Philippines, Jimmy Carter took note of the gross and systematic violations of human rights but deemed it clever to tell Marcos to dress up his dictatorial rule with a so-called “normalization” process towards eventually “lifting martial law” and morphing into “constitutional authoritarianism”.

As in the case of many US-backed dictatorships throughout the world, the Marcos fascist regime was eventually overthrown by a combination of mass uprising and a shift in loyalties among the reactionary armed forces. However, again as in most client states of US imperialism, the result was a mere reconfiguration of reactionary power among the various factions of the ruling classes while the masses, mobilized in their millions to overthrow the hated regime, had to fight tooth-and-nail for their rights and pursue their aspirations for national freedom, genuine democracy, and peace based on social justice.

This pattern of post-dictatorial regimes retaining many critical elements of fascist dictatorship has been much in evidence in the Philippines, from the presidencies of Corazon Aquino (1986-1992) and Fidel V. Ramos (1992-1998), to the subsequent regimes of Joseph Estrada, Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, and Benigno Aquino III. These critical elements include a semicolonial and semifeudal society under the domination of the US and other foreign imperialists, local big compradors, landlords and bureaucrat capitalists; a reactionary state controlled by the ruling classes, with a US-indoctrinated and US-equipped reactionary armed forces at the core; suppression of the rights of workers, peasants, women, youth, and indigenous peoples even as formal democratic processes are recognized.

The overall result is that human rights violations have continued to thrive, in the form of brutal attacks (including massacres, bombings and forced evacuations) by the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and Philippine National Police (PNP), as well as by a wide assortment of fascist paramilitary groups, private armies and death squads, against the broad masses, especially in rural areas where the people’s army operates. The patriotic and progressive mass movements, their organizations and leaders, are also subjected to political repression, including forced disappearances, extra-judicial killings, illegal arrests and detentions, and anti-communist propaganda calculated to demonize progressive leaders and personalities in the mass media.

This has been the relentless trend from the Gloria Arroyo regime (2000-2010) with its strategic Oplan Bantay Laya (Freedom Watch) I and II, to the current BS Aquino regime and its own Oplan Bayanihan (Cooperative Effort). In the five years of the Aquino regime from July 2010 to June 2015, 262 victims of extra-judicial killings (EJKs) have been recorded — many of them from peasant and indigenous communities. Even prominent political murders which are evidently the work of death squads if not Army troops, such as those of Italian missionary Fr. Fausto Tentorio, fair-trade activist Romeo Capalla, Dutch aid worker Willem Geertman, three botanists led by world-renowned researcher Leonard Co, and anti-mining activist Juvy Capion with her two children, have not been acted on, underscoring the fact that those in power are committing heinous crimes with impunity.

The rate of EJKs has escalated this year, with human rights organization Karapatan listing 33 cases of politically motivated killings from January to June 2015 alone; this is 1-2 persons killed every week. Just this August-September, 12 victims of EJK have been reported, in addition to two massacres and the most brazen killings so far, that of three prominent personalities including the director of the ALCADEV indigenous school.

Karapatan lists 528 political prisoners languishing at present in various police and military jails nationwide, including 14 consultants of the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) who are supposed to be covered by immunity guarantees as agreed in the peace talks. Most of the prisoners are in jail charged with fabricated criminal cases. They are maltreated and denied of basic human rights, in extreme contrast to certain high government officials arrested for various abuses, such as ex-president Gloria M. Arroyo, Senator Juan Ponce Enrile, and General Jovito Palparan.

Progressive mass leaders and human rights advocates have been the target of false criminal charges fabricated by the military and police. In some cases, helping hundreds of indigenous Manobo and B’laan evacuees driven from their ancestral lands by military operations is construed as a crime by the military and police authorities. Even in urban and town centers, many leaders of progressive mass organizations and party-list groups are subjected to various types of harassment such as covert and overt surveillance, brazen death threats, and threats of legal action, just because they have been the most determined in exposing top-level government corruption and collusion with big business and in arousing, organizing and mobilizing the masses to fight for their rights.

This year, the US-Aquino regime’s most brutal campaign of terrorism against the people of Mindanao under the banner of “counterinsurgency” has reached an unprecedented level, especially among the Lumad (indigenous) communities that have been persistent in their legitimate struggle for land, livelihood and culture, particularly for ancestral land and the right to self-determination. The regime’s AFP operations under Oplan Bayanihan are clearly intended to clear the way for the mining, logging and plantation enterprises of foreign corporations and big compradors and to destroy the suspected mass base of the NPA in the various regions of Mindanao—on the basis of its claim that 74% of NPA fighters in Eastern Mindanao are Lumad while 90% of the NPA mass base is supposedly Lumad communities.

The US is behind the murderous policy and campaign of the Aquino regime in terms of doctrine, funding, and tactical direction to some extent, with US Special Forces units discreetly based in certain Mindanao enclaves participating in selected intelligence and strike operations using drones and other high-tech devices. The counterinsurgency policy is broadly implemented through the joint activities of the AFP’s main field forces, and through its various paramilitary groups that can operate with seeming independence under the cloak of tribal warriors, “civilian volunteer organizations” and private security guards. The campaign also features ostensibly civilian operations (actually psywar masquerading as “peace and development” programs) by such agencies as the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process (OPAPP), Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD), Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG), as well as certain NGOs funded by big business and imperialist agencies.

Combining all these fascist security, civilian and propaganda machineries, the Aquino regime attempts to control the Lumad areas by outright military operations to intimidate the local mass organizations, by forced recruitment of Lumad individuals into paramilitary groups masquerading as “bagani” (indigenous warrior) forces, by manipulating old tribal animosities, by employing its tribal puppets to act as “datus” (indigenous chieftains), and through other divide-and-rule tactics. The regime thus hopes to obscure its bloody responsibility by showing that the Lumad areas are merely “caught in the crossfire” of the AFP-NPA war, or even more incredibly, that the NPA is the perpetrator of violence against Lumad folk.

Just as his predecessors from Marcos onwards have pursued, Aquino’s counterinsurgency policy and intensifying militarization serve the interests of their imperialist masters and of the big compradors and landlords, which include big mining, logging, and agribusiness operations that aim to plunder the country’s rich resources including those found in indigenous peoples’ ancestral lands. The aim of this policy is not merely to eradicate the armed resistance led by the CPP, NPA and NDFP, but all other forms of mass resistance against such imperialist plunder and fascist repression. Even such new social facilities created by the Lumad communities themselves as indigenous schools have been systematically attacked and destroyed by the fascist military and paramilitary forces.

The ILPS salutes and commends the Lumad peoples, the Filipino people as a whole and especially in Mindanao, for their unflinching principles and courageous stand against the terrorism of the US-backed Aquino regime. We express solidarity with the many progressive organizations and human rights advocacy groups for resisting the brutal and bullying tactics and exposing the litany of lies of this regime. We are pleased and inspired that the fight against the regime´s human rights violations is now being taken up more actively by the Churches and faith-based groups, the academe, the mass media, national cultural circles, and even increasingly by official delegations and rapporteurs of the UN, EU and other foreign countries.

As the world enters a new period of worsening crisis in the following months and years, the ILPS commits itself to carry the struggle of the Filipino people against US-sponsored fascist campaigns further afield in the international arena, and to link their struggles to the broader struggle of oppressed countries and peoples against imperialism and all forms of fascist terrorism and political repression.