Losing her grip
Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo's pretensions to heading a democratic regime and of having a firm grip on power are fast falling apart. The almost weekly, if not daily, political killings and abductions carried out by suspected agents of the state have exposed the seeming "inability" of Mrs. Arroyo's government to put a stop to these heinous crimes.
The victims' families, the activists and the human rights groups are finally being listened to when they say that there is an unacceptably huge number of people whose murders or involuntary disappearances are related to their political beliefs and activities with the military, police and/or government-sponsored "death squads" as prime suspects.
An overwhelming number are identified with the national democratic movement, as exemplified by the progressive party lists such as Bayan Muna and the militant formations such as Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (Bayan), but other activist groups like Kilusang Pambansang Demokratiko (KPD) and the followers of former President Joseph Estrada in the United Masses for Justice and Democracy (UMDJ) have also been recently victimized.
The government line -- these are just individual, unrelated cases that they are dutifully investigating; there is no pattern to the mayhem; and those who decry military/police involvement are communists or communist sympathizers whose unfounded accusations ought to be dismissed outright -- has been completely debunked.
After pretending for more than a year that the problem did not exist, government has resorted to a different tack. The favored explanation by Malacanang today is that the Leftists are killing each other off.
The argument goes: they've done it before, they can do it again. Why they are doing so now and how government can put a stop to this supposedly fratricidal rampage are questions that Messrs Ermita, Gonzales & Gonzalez and the PNP/AFP's smart generals seem to consider irrelevant.
That incredible theory has not caught on considering the victims' track record as militant leaders, human rights advocates and even just plain civic-spirited citizens. In fact, the victims' kin, friends and co-workers have consistently denounced the tagging of the New People's Army as the perpetrators to be a malicious attempt to get the real culprits off the hook.
However, the recent murder in broad daylight of Sotero "Ka Teroy" Llamas in Tabaco, Albay appears to be a renewed attempt to give credence to the discredited government line that the killings are the result of the blood thirsty vindictiveness of the communist movement, if not part and parcel of another violent "purging" of its ranks.
Mr. Llamas, a legendary communist leader in the Bicol region who gained national prominence when he was wounded and arrested after a firefight with government troops, was subsequently released and became an adviser to the National Democratic Front in peace talks with the government. He then helped found the progressive party list Bayan Muna before running for governor of Albay under the Laban ng Demokratikong Pilipino (Lacson wing). He chose to retire from political involvements and run a small business after he lost his electoral bid.
As such, he did not run afoul of the CPP in any way nor the progressive party list he had joined after having given up the armed struggle. But SOLCOM head, General Pedro Cabuauy, has foisted his ignorant if not malicious speculation that Mr Llamas was killed by his former comrades because he had run for governor allegedly against their wishes. This canard was immediately belied by Mr. Llamas' widow but the government persists in peddling the lie to the uninformed public.
Presidential Defender Mike Defensor added a touch of the comic to official avowals that government could not have had any reason for wanting Mr. Llamas dead by claiming that the former rebel had been helping the government in certain projects. He apparently had forgotten or was completely ignorant of the fact that the Justice Department had included Mr. Llamas, along with more than fifty others including progressive party list legislators Satur Ocampo et al, among those government charged last month with conspiracy to commit rebellion.
It did not take long for the police body tasked to investigate the political killings, to posit another incredible theory. Former Senator "Gringo" Honasan and his followers in the Guardian Brotherhood Inc. are being implicated in the unsolved murders. This was just after National Security Adviser Norberto Gonzales announced that the CPP-NPA planned to assassinate Mrs. Arroyo and other Cabinet members even as they were also planning to assassinate their alleged allies in the Opposition. Again no plausible reason could be provided by the National Conspiracy Adviser.
Is this a convoluted if somewhat crass plan to disrupt the broad anti-Arroyo alliance or are Mrs. Arroyo's defenders simply running out of excuses and ruses?
Whatever it is Mrs. Arroyo's boys are cooking, her refusal to condemn the killings, her failure to order an honest-to-goodness investigation by an impartial and credible body and her inability to sanction immediately and severely those police and military men found to be remiss in their jobs of running after the true perpetrators or worse, as in the recent case of the ambush by Cavite policemen of a militant trade unionist, of participating in such crimes themselves, speak loudly about where her true attitude and intentions about these killings lie.
Seen in the light of the political persecution that Mrs. Arroyo's opponents are currently being subjected to such as the six progressive party list representatives and others accused or implicated in false rebellion charges, the red labeling and demonification of legal democratic organizations as "terrorists", the continuing Gestapo-like arrests of critics and alleged dissidents in the name of countering "destabilization" and the state terrorism being inflicted on ordinary people by
government's militarization of the countryside, what adds up is that Mrs. Arroyo is resorting to sheer violence on top of wholesale deception in order to prop up her tottering regime.
Mrs. Arroyo is generating more political turmoil, more rebelliousness and the just condemnation by the Filipino people as well as the international community among whom there still exists high regard for the rule of law and respect for human rights and human dignity.#
By Carol Pagaduan-Araullo
Published in Business World
2-3 June 2006