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Reign of Terror in the Philippines; women’s movement criminalized

CounterPunch (2006-03-17): Philippines: the Killing Fields of Asia:

Since President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo joined the US global War on Terrorism, the Philippines has become the site of an on-going undeclared war against peasant and union activists, progressive political dissidents and lawmakers, human rights lawyers and activists, women leaders and a wide range of print and broadcast journalists. Because of the links between the Army, the regime and the death squads, political assassinations take place in an atmosphere of absolute impunity. The vast majority of the attacks occur in the countryside and provincial towns. The reign of terror in the Philippines is of similar scope and depth as in Colombia. Unlike Colombia, the rampaging state terrorism has not drawn sufficient attention, let alone outcry, from international public opinion.

Between 2001 and 2006 hundreds of killings, disappearances, death threats and cases of torture have been documented by the independent human rights center, KARAPATAN , and the church-linked Ecumenical Institute for Labor Education and Research. Since Macapagal Arroyo came to power in 2001 there have been 400 documented extrajudicial killings. In 2004, 63 were killed and in 2005, 179 were assassinated and another 46 disappeared and presumed dead. So far in the first two months of 2006 there have been 26 documented political assassinations. …

… On February 23, 2006, the eve of the 20th anniversary of the overthrow of the Marcos dictatorship, Macapagal Arroyo declared a state of emergency, banning all rallies, demonstrations and closing opposition media. She issued orders for the arrest of 59 individuals including members of the Congress, military officers and social critics, on charges of rebellion against her regime. Rallies were planned to commemorate the end of the Marcos dictatorship and to protest the electoral fraud, corruption, economic mismanagement and human rights violations of the Macapagal Arroyo regime. Some rallies defied the President’s decree, went ahead and were violently repressed.

Those charged with rebellion included six Congress people from leftwing political parties, a human rights attorney, retired and active military officers and social activists. Most of the charges have no substance and are totally arbitrary. For example, Anakpawis (Toiling Masses) Congressman Crispin Beltran, age 73, veteran labor leader and anti-Marcos activist, was arrested shortly after the Emergency Rule declaration, at first on the basis of a 25-year-old charge made during the Marcos dictatorship. When these charges were shown to have been dropped decades earlier, he was charged with rebellion.

This is the latest of a series of attacks on the part of the Macapagal Arroyo regime aimed specifically at destroying class-based political parties and trade union activity, including Bayan Muna and its coalition partners. The campaign of assassination and disappearances of 80 members of this party alliance between 2001-2005, including mayors and provincial elected representatives has finally reached the top elected representatives in the Philippine Congress. In 2006, repression turned from the countryside to the capital, from peasant leaders to Manila-based Congress people, media, working class and left party leaders. Of the 26 political assassinations in the first 10 weeks of 2006, 3 have been Bayan Muna officials. …

… In the face of the disintegration of the economy and society, and the regime’s use of force to sustain its hold on power, plus its gross incompetence in the face of several ecological disasters, popular resistance has spread from the countryside to the cities. The popular mass organizations, involving peasant and indigenous minority farmers, industrial workers, teachers, journalists, civil servants, students, women, artists, human rights workers, lawyers and clergy have grown despite the campaign of state terror. On the 20th Anniversary of the 1986 overthrow of Marcos, tens of thousands defied the State of Emergency and marched in Manila and in cities throughout the country. Over 10,000 women defied police bans to march on International Women’s Day.

— James Petras and Robin Eastman-Abaya, CounterPunch (2006-03-17): Philippines: the Killing Fields of Asia

Women’s Media Center (2006-03-16): Media Silence on Major Asia Story: Philippine Congresswoman Charged with Rebellion; Women’s Movement Declared Illegal:

Why the media blackout on a major story from the Philippines? Filipino papers are not permitted to cover it but whatever happened to free press in the west?

On the 20th anniversary of the 1986 People Power uprising that toppled the Marcos dictatorship, the current president, Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, issued Presidential Proclamation 1017, declaring a state of national emergency. The phraseology of PP1017 and Marcos’ martial law proclamation was close enough to cause the late dictator’s daughter, Imee Marcos, now a congresswoman, to exclaim that Macapagal-Arroyo was (badly) mimicking her father. PP1017 was followed by General Order #5 which enabled the military and police to conduct raids and arrests sans warrants; disperse and ban demonstrations, rallies, and mass assemblies; occupy and close down media offices; and threaten everyone with charges of rebellion and/or sedition. Arrests were made, one newspaper, the Daily Tribune was closed down, a television station, ABS-CBN, was threatened with sedition charges, Congressman Crispin Beltran of the Anakpawis Party was imprisoned and five others marked for arrest.

Among them was Representative Liza Largoza Maza of the Gabriela Women’s Party, Asia’s only all-women political party and one of only a half-dozen of its kind in the world. Rep. Maza was the main author and sponsor of the Philippines’ Anti-Trafficking Law and the Violence Against Women Act. Last year, she filed a divorce bill. A thorny issue for a predominantly Catholic country, divorce was becoming a necessity as hundreds of thousands of women departed to work overseas. Rep. Maza, with her four colleagues on the to be arrested without warrants list, obtained sanctuary at the congress building, asserting their constitutional immunity from arrest while congress was in session. As the five hunkered down on sleeping bags, the military and police ringed the building in a strange standoff that continues to date.

The Gabriela Women’s Party is known for its unflinching advocacy of women’s rights and freedoms. Launched in 2003 amidst predictions of failure, it garnered enough votes to merit one congressional representative. It is backed by the women’s mass organization GABRIELA Philippines–born in 1984, after 10,000 women marched in Manila, defying a Marcos decree against demonstrations. GABRIELA Philippines unites some 200 women’s desks, institutions, and organizations; its membership reflects Philippine demographics: peasant women constituting the largest number, worker women next and then youth and students, professionals, and religious women. Ms. Maza was formerly GABRIELA’s secretary-general and is currently its vice-chair.

The state of national emergency, claimed the government, was occasioned by a coup attempt of a hodgepodge alliance of military factions, right-wing groups, and left-wing opposition. All the accused denied the accusation. The military men said they only wanted to declare non-support for Macapagal-Arroyo; the civilian groups said they only wanted to commemorate People Power 1986; the left-wing opposition said it didn’t believe in coups. The state of national emergency quickly spun down to farce. It was lifted seven days later, with not one military man charged with rebellion. Instead, the list of “leftists” accused of either rebellion and/or sedition grew longer and longer, as military and police even in far-flung provinces drew up lists.

Several more women ended up in the rebellion list, including Carol Araullo, chair of BAYAN (The People); Eliza Lubi, founding vice-chair of the Gabriela Women’s Party; Julieta Sison who lives in Holland, and several a.k.a.s and Jane Does. Emmi de Jesus, secretary-general of GABRIELA, made it onto another list while both GABRIELA and Gabriela Women’s Party were included in a list of organizations to be rendered illegal. While the fight for women’s rights and freedoms has always been fierce, a NEW LOW POINT has certainly been reached under this government. In the last five years, 15 women organizers, connected with GABRIELA, its allied organizations, or Gabriela Women’s Party, have been assassinated. All told, some 500 activists, organizers, media people, church leaders, and opposition politicians have been killed.

At stake are two issues.

First, the Philippine Constitution. Critics say Macapagal Arroyo wants to remove (a) provisions that enable the marginalized, like women, workers, and peasants, to have congressional representation; and (b) provisions that ban foreign troops from the country. The Philippines hosted the largest overseas US military bases until 1992 and was a major rest-and-recreation center for the US military. Plans to bring these back hit a snag when four US marines allegedly raped a Filipina in November 2005. GABRIELA was the loudest to call for ending further hosting of US troops because of, among other things, the impact of military r&r on fostering prostitution.

Second, control of the country’s main export : women. Last year, some 700,000 women were exported to 168 countries, following the government’s stated intent to export a million workers each year. In 1992, women comprised only half of exported workers; in 2005, they were 75 percent. One-third work as domestics while 30 percent are entertainers and dancers, hidden under the category professional and technical workers. Assuming women contribute only 65 percent of total remittances from overseas workers, they sent home half a billion dollars in January 2006 alone. Where a national economy depends on disguised sex-trafficking and labor -trafficking, the fight for women’s rights and freedoms can become threatening to the status quo indeed.

If Sen. Barbara Boxer or Rep. Maxine Waters had to seek sanctuary in Congress to avoid being jailed for sedition, while the New York Times was closed down and if the National Organization for Women was outlawed, would it be considered newsworthy? Yet the Philippine government is modeled after the US and considered a strong ally. So the question remains: why the media silence?


Ninotchka Rosca is a Philippine-born novelist and writer. She was the recipient of the 1993 American Book Award.

— Ninotchka Rosca, Women’s Media Center (2006-03-16): Media Silence on Major Asia Story: Philippine Congresswoman Charged with Rebellion; Women’s Movement Declared Illegal

Solidarity

GABRIELA Philippines has a Philippine-U.S. solidarity organization, the Gabriela Network. They are organizing demonstrations against the reign of terror in the Philippines. I can’t find a working donations page on their website, but you can send checks to:

GABRIELA Network
PO Box 403, Times Square Station
New York, NY 10036

The human rights organization KARAPATAN can be contacted by e-mail at krptn@philonline.com, and by post at:

KARAPATAN–National
23-D Mabuhay St., Bgy. Central, Diliman,
Quezon City
1101 PHILIPPINES

Submitted for Lileks’ approval, or: the Last Good War

Thanks to Amanda, I recently found James Lileks’ new hobby, Patriotica, a loving collection of genial homefront propaganda from World War II. Lileks’ tone is jokey and sometimes downright satiric. But he makes it clear enough that that’s just his usual campy, self-deprecating schtick, applied at the level of his nation-state; part of the point here is that he’s collecting WWII propaganda because, deep down, he believes in it, and he thinks we have something to learn from it. And it’s clear enough that his audience on the Right is getting the message. (As he comments in the Daily Bleat: New update to Patriotica here, a sad reminder of the days when nearly everyone agreed there was actually a war on, and it had to be won. As a fan at the Independent Women’s Forum puts it, Those were the days when our media supported our troops! Pro-Victory writer Dadmanly wistfully remarks: For all those who think that the current administration is over-hyping the Global War on Terror, a little reminder of how they REALLY knew how to whip up the masses in WW II.)

Let’s everyone get in on the campy collecting fun! Here’s some submissions I’d like to see Lileks put in Patriotica. I’m sure you can soon find these collectibles from the Last Good War on loving display in Lileks’ collection.

We begin with Private Joe Louis clearing it all up for us. We’re going to win because we are acting as the Sword of God:

poster: Pvt. Joe Louis says: "We're going to do our part ... and we'll win because we're on God's side"

Next, there’s nothing quite so genially amusing — especially for conservatives — as absolute government command over the economy. Obey the price controls, and make sure you get your meat ration, citizen! (We’ll be taking the rest of it.)

poster: "Pledge your conscience to your country: I shall buy no more meat than my ration stamps entitle me to ... because the rest of the meet is needed for the war."

poster: "My pledge to you: I charge no more than Top Legal Prices. I sell no Rationed Goods without collecting Ration Stamps.

poster: "Keep the Home Front Pledge: Pay no more than Ceiling Prices. Pay your Points in full."

On a similar theme, we have the following adorable bit of naked attempts at intimidation, in order to whip the masses into line:

poster: a scowling soldier's face, with the words “Have you REALLY tried to save gas by getting into a car club?”

Here’s some more choice bits for Lileks, also on the topic of intimidation. Specifically, a genial reminder from the government to shut the fuck up, citizen.

poster: a dead soldier, with the text "Somebody blabbed. Button your lip!"

poster: "Watch yourself, pal! Be CAREFUL what you say or write!

poster: Uncle Sam shoves his hand over a surprised man's mouth. Caption: "Quiet! Loose talk can cost lives!"

That last image is actually pretty famous. This one isn’t quite so famous, in spite of being a classic combination of two great themes of American World War II propaganda: overbearing commands for silence, and violent racist caricature.

poster: a crudely caricatured Tojo is caught in a mousetrap. Caption: "KEEP YOUR TRAP SHUT. Careless talk may cost American lives."

Speaking of which, here’s several more I just can’t wait to see in Lileks’ gallery. Submitted for his approval, without further comment.

poster: slant-eyed caricature of a Japanese diplomat with a lupine grine, offering an olive branch labeled "PEACE" to the Statue of Liberty, while a huge, sharp-nailed arm with the label "JAP TREACHERY" raises a knife behind her back with a swasitka on the hilt and "Dec. 7th" on the blade. Caption: Remember Pearl Harbor. Buy WAR Bonds."

poster: cartoonish caricature of Tojo and a bill of sale for several items; caption: "Buy this man a HARI-KARI KIT on December 7, 1944. Buy EXTRA War Bonds on PEARL HARBOR DAY!"

poster: a buck-toothed, slant-eyed caricature of Tojo, wailing underneath some kind of molten substance labeled "Dec. 7th bond purchases." Caption: "Pour it on."

poster: a lurid caricature of Tojo with blood dripping from his fingers, clutching at Australia and the South Pacific on the globe. Drops on his head seem to be enraging him. Caption: "Your bit can help drive him mad!"

poster: headline reading "JAPS EXECUTE DOOLITTLE MEN." Uncle Sam's arms strangle Tojo in a lurid drawing. Caption: "WE'LL PAY YOU BACK / TOJO / Through the Payroll Savings Plan / if it takes our last dime!

poster: seedy, porcine caricature of a buck-toothed Tojo clasping his hands and saying, "Go ahead, please- TAKE DAY OFF."

poster: bestial caricature of Japanese soldier slams a kneeling American prisoner in the head with a rifle butt while other soldiers force men to march in the background. Top caption: "What are YOU going to do about it?" Newspaper headline reading: "5200 Yank Prisoners Killed by Jap Torture in Philippines. Cruel 'March of Death' Described." Bottom caption: "STAY ON THE JOB until every MURDERING JAP is wiped out!"

… Yeah.

I really fucking hate World War II propaganda.

Westinghouse-controlled Ex-Im creates corporate welfare boondoggle for Westinghouse; Westinghouse-controlled media buries story

The Number 5 Censored news story for 2000 is an particularly pernicious form of corporate welfare through the United States Export-Import Bank, which has funded numerous nuclear energy building projects in the developing world. Ex-Im is a government program which extends artificially sweet loans — guaranteed by U.S. taxpayer money — to the governments of developing countries in order to allow big U.S. contractors to build there. In a typical boondoggle,

Westinghouse built the Bataan nuclear power facility in the Philippines in 1985 at a cost of $1.2 billion, 150 percent above their projections. However, the Bataan plant was never brought on line due to the fact it was near an active volcano. Despite the fact that the plant never generated a single kilowatt of energy, the Philippines still pays about $300,000 a day in interest on the Ex-Im loan that funded the project. Should the Philippines default, U.S. taxpayers will pick up the tab.

Similar projects have netted Westinghouse alone literally billions of dollars in plants that never even operate, scamming both the people of the developing world and U.S. taxpayers. Why is this allowed to go on? Well, it just so happens that the head of President Clinton’s Export council was the CEO of Westinghouse. And since Westinghouse also owns CBS and fellow Ex-Im beneficiary and nuclear contractor General Electric owns NBC, the debacle has not received coverage on network news. Meanwhile you and I and the taxpayers of the Philippines and many other countries continue to pay billions of dollars for nuclear power plants which never even produced electricity. People often think that conspiracy theorists are a bunch of paranoid loonies, and often they are. But it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to see how the interlocking systems of economic and political power continue to allow elites to victimize you and I with the silent complicity of an elite newsmedia. Just goes to show you that what’s good for MNCs is not necessarily good for America.

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