Sunday, July 30, 2006

People's Democratic Front of India (PDFI)

To the Preparatory Committee of the People's Democratic Front of India
Through the Revolutionary Democratic Front
Solidarity Message of ILPS
to the Founding Conference of the PDFI

Prof. Jose Maria Sison
International League of People's Struggle
30 July 2006

On behalf of the International League of Peoples' Struggle (ILPS), I wish to extend warmest and most militant greetings to the more than 150 fighting organizations of the Indian people from various regions of India that are meeting to form the People's Democratic Front of India (PDFI). We wish you utmost success in this founding conference and in the hard struggles ahead.

We are deeply pleased that the founding of the PDFI is a further development of the process that was greatly boosted by the Mumbai Resistance 2004. Mumbai Resistance 2004 was organized parallel to the World Social Forum in order to promote a clear anti-imperialist line in the anti-war and anti-globalization movement. Thanks to the close cooperation between participating organizations of the ILPS and progressive mass organizations in India, Mumbai Resistance 2004 was a resounding success.

India is a big country, with a hard working people and rich natural resources. The imperialists are frenziedly putting their hands on the enormous natural and human resources of India under the auspices of the US-instigated twin policies of neoliberal globalization and war of terror. And they find willing accomplices among the local compradors and landlords who act as junior partners in the oppression and
exploitation of the Indian masses.

The recent decision of the UPA (United Progressive Alliance) government to reduce state subsidy on grain under the PDS (Public Distribution System) is a clear example of how the local exploiting classes can easily give in to the demands of the imperialists to open up the economies of the underdeveloped world to the plunder of imperialist multinationals. This will further aggravate the already desperate situation of the Indian masses. According to one report, 350 million Indians go to bed hungry and 10,000 die of hunger every day.

While the imperialists stubbornly insist on subsidizing their agriculture and implement other protectionist measures, they arrogantly dictate on the underdeveloped countries to open up their economies. The latest failure of the so-called Doha Round of the WTO has exposed the hypocrisy of the imperialist powers who want to hold on to their subsidies and protectionism while dictating on others to denationalize and liberalize.

More and more the imperialist project of "free market" globalization is coming to a dead end. More and more the intensified exploitation and oppression that this imperialist globalization is foisting on the world's peoples is generating the determined and intense resistance from the people.

The consolidation of anti-imperialist and democratic forces in India under the banner of the PDFI is a very timely development that will surely give further strength to the struggles of the Indian masses against the imperialists and their local accomplices. We wish you all the success in your aim to develop the PDFI as the "storm centre of people's struggles against unbridled imperialist exploitation of India and the source of building a genuine democratic and self-reliant India."

The ILPS supports the struggle of the Indian people and the people of the world for genuine independence, democracy and social progress. This can only be realized upon the defeat and dismantling of the imperialist system through the peoples' struggle for national and social liberation. The ILPS looks forward to an ever rising level of anti-imperialist and democratic mutual understanding and militant cooperation and coordination with PDFI and all its component organizations. ###

Friday, July 28, 2006

(Report) International Fact Finding Mission (IFFM) on the Attacks against Filipino Lawyers

25 July 06; Tue; 305am


Please find as attachments the Press Release, Executive Summary and Full Report ("From Facts to Action") released last night by the International Fact Finding Mission (IFFM) on the Attacks against Filipino Lawyers and Judges organized by the Lawyers for Lawyers Foundation upon the initiative of the Dutch Lawyers without Borders and also participated in by the International Association of Democratic Lawyers (IADL) and Lawyers for the World.

The Mission was held last June 15-20, 2006 in the Philippines.

Also reproduced as inline below is the Executive Summary for easy reference.

Thank you.

IFFM Host Committee
Counsels for the Defense of Liberties (CODAL)



From 15-20 June, 2006, the IFFM held interviews and conferences in Quezon City, Manila and Tacloban City, Leyte, with lawyer-victims, the families of slain lawyers, the Integrated Bar of the Philippines, human rights advocates, concerned government agencies (Philippine Commission on Human Rights, Philippine National Police, Armed Forces of the Philippines, National Bureau of Investigation, Department of Justice, Department of the Interior and Local Government), members of the judiciary (Supreme Court) and legislators (Senate and House of Representatives). It also studied relevant documents, including those provided by the aforementioned individuals, agencies and organizations.

Human rights lawyers and judges in the Philippines are increasingly threatened, intimidated and killed as a consequence of which they encounter more and more difficulties in carrying out their legal profession.

The harassment and killings of members of the legal profession undermine the independence of judges and lawyers and, as a consequence, also the rule of law and the faith in (the function of) the judiciary system.

There is a pattern in the harassment and killings of human rights lawyers and judges, which must be seen in the light of other killings in the Philippines including the killings of members of leftist groups. Prior to the attacks, victims are usually labelled by the military as “members or supporters of the CPP/NPA”, “communists” or “enemies of the state”. The next step is that victims are threatened and usually be subjected to surveillance by the military. The way victims are killed is also similar. Almost all assassinations are shooting incidents with a hit-and-run character conducted by a team of unidentified motorcycle-riding men. Even the most brutal atrocities hardly elicit any decisive action or condemnation from the government; and to this date, all cases have remained unsolved.

Many people believe that the state security forces are involved in the killings and these allegations are supported – amongst others – by the Philippine Commission on Human Rights, based upon its own investigations.

Although the primary duty of the Government is to protect the life of the people, including lawyers and judges, the Arroyo administration has hardly done anything to address the extrajudicial killings effectively. In particular it has neither responded seriously to strong allegations that its own security forces are involved in the killings nor has it taken effective measures to improve the poor record of prosecutions of the perpetrators.

Only recently, President Arroyo has ordered that these extrajudicial killings be thoroughly investigated and eventually be stopped. This order has led to the establishment of a special Task Force, known as Task Force USIG, which is supposed to primarily take charge of the over-all management of the investigations in these cases. So far, however, Task Force USIG has not proven to be an independent body: It is chaired by the PNP which has a poor record as far as the effective investigation of the killings is concerned and which is mistrusted by the Philippine people.

Furthermore, the Arroyo administration has not condemned the killings publicly and in strong terms.

This lack of an effective response of the Arroyo administration has led to a culture of impunity in which even more killings and human rights violations may take place. The IFFM notes that, up to this date, the killings continue unabated.

Consequently, this culture of impunity has further diminished the people’s faith in the functioning of the constitutional state and the system of law culminating in a climate in which, for instance, lawyers and judges consider it “part of their job” to be threatened and in which witnesses of killings do not cooperate with the police or the public prosecutor out of fear or because they find it a waste of time as it comes to nothing.

The Philippine government is under the obligation to take steps to ensure the compliance with human rights and the right to life in particular. In order to stop the killings, the threats and harassment of lawyers and judges, the IFFM calls on the government:

1. to condemn the killings publicly and in strong terms;
2. to immediately take vigorous steps to protect the safety of human rights lawyers and judges, which steps should include the prosecution of alleged perpetrators;
3. to leave no stone unturned in investigating the serious allegations that its own security forces are involved in the killings;
4. to constitute and fully support an independent body, i.e. not controlled by the government, to investigate the killings, threats and harassment and to follow its recommendations;
5. to take all other measures needed to end the culture of impunity and to restore the people’s faith in the functioning of the constitutional state and the rule of law.

- Press Release -
d.d. 24 July 2006
Lawyers for Lawyers Foundation

The Enchanted Kingdom SONA

Dispatches from the Enchanted Kingdom: The Enchanted Kingdom SONA
by Manuel Buencamino

Wednesday, 26 July 2006
Buencamino writes political commentary for Action for Economic Reforms. This article was published in Business Mirror, July 26, 2006 edition, p. A6.

Mrs. Gloria Arroyo displayed a map of her Enchanted Kingdom and slipped out the back door. That's all there is to say about the SONA delivered last 24 July 2006.

Unfortunately, my editor does not like empty white spaces on her paper, so with great reluctance and trepidation, I will fill in the blank space.

I regret not believing Ignacio Bunye when he warned a reporter that, "The SONA will not be a political speech. It will be a highly rhetorical speech."

For once, Bunye did not lie. The SONA was a highly rhetorical speech. Just like every other political campaign speech ever delivered.

But I'm not sure what to make of Bunye's remark. Rhetoric means, "artificial eloquence; language that is showy and elaborate but empty of clear ideas or sincere emotion". And rhetorical means, "using or characterized by mere rhetoric, or artificial eloquence; showy and elaborate in style."

I hope Bunye was not putting down Mrs. Arroyo. But what damage has cha-cha advocate Raul Lambino wrought to the people's initiative? In preparation for the mention of Charter change in the SONA, he ran a full-page ad in a Sunday paper proclaiming that Sigaw ng Bayan belonged to the Evil One's legions.

Lambino's ad said, "We in Sigaw ng Bayan have never hidden our identities and our specific interests. We're local officials, professionals, small businessmen, office workers. OUR NAME IS LEGION, FOR WE ARE MANY." (Emphasis mine.)

The sentence in capital letters was lifted almost verbatim from the Gospel of Mark. It refers to an exorcism performed by Jesus. "8 For he had said to him, 'Come out of the man, you unclean spirit!' 9 And Jesus asked him, 'What is your name?' He replied, 'My name is Legion; for we are many.'" (Mark: 5: 1-18.)

I saw Lambino and, I think, Romela Bengzon applauding wildly when Mrs. Arroyo mentioned Charter change. They were not alone, their fellow clappers were legion.

Going back to the SONA. When Mrs. Arroyo displayed her map of the Enchanted Kingdom, I immediately looked for the "You are here" caption. I wanted to know where I was. I couldn't find me. All I saw was "You will be here." So, what is the State of the Nation? A promise. Just like the one Mrs. Arroyo made to the little paper boat makers from Payatas five long years ago.

Mrs. Arroyo claimed she achieved the first phase of her master plan. I understood that to mean she had finished redefining classroom shortage, unemployment, housing, poverty, rural electrification, water delivery, health care, nutrition, and a whole slew of other problematic quality of life measurements.

Next, she announced that phase two of her plan was about to start. I took that to mean convincing the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) to follow her example and to change their measurement standards so that the Philippines wouldn't remain permanently stuck as number 84 in the annual UNDP Human Development report.

Eighty four out of more than 150 countries is not a bad ranking, but it doesn't look good when compared to Cuba, which managed to reach number 53 despite a 40-year American-led economic blockade. Cubans have better health care, nutrition and cleaner water, among several other quality of life indicators. Consequently, their life expectancy is longer than ours. I hope Mrs. Arroyo's brush with acute infectious diarrhea taught her a thing or two about longevity and clean water.

The Powerpoint show was not bad. Senator Ralph Recto said it taught him geography. That's one way of looking at it. The other way is to view the map as a Rorschach inkblot. One can see in it what one wants to see in it.

I'm glad Mrs. Arroyo invited beauty contest winner Precious Lara Quigaman to the SONA. She was the only good positive I could find. So thank you, thank you, thank you and thank you again. For Lara's presence and nothing else.

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Para kay Nanay Concepcion

Teo S. Marasigan

Para kay Nanay Concepcion

Madaling araw na po ng Hulyo 22 ngayon. Birthday na po ni Karen. Bukas, kayo ang magdiriwang ng kaarawan. Sa makalawa, ako naman. Tiyak po akong iisa ang hiling natin ngayon sa mga kaarawan natin: ang ilutang at palayain sina Karen at Sherlyn.

Lagi po kayong ikinukwento ni Karen noon, partikular ang pag-aalaga ninyo sa kanya. Sa inyo po galing ang islogan naming magkaibigan: "Kapag gutom, kumain." Mapili po kasi siya sa pagkain noon, ano? Pero dahil sa paglubog sa batayang masa – sa mga komunidad ng maralitang lungsod noong una, pagkatapos ay sa mga magsasaka – at sa laging paalala ng islogan ninyo, marami siyang natutunang kainin, lalo na ang mga gulay at isda na noong una'y ayaw niya. Noong minsan, napadalaw kami sa bahay ninyo. Nagkita rin po tayo noong kinuha ninyo ang mga gamit niya sa bahay namin.

Ngayon, humahanga po ako sa tatag at tapang na ipinapakita ninyo sa paglaban para sa pagpapalutang at pagpapalaya kina Karen at Sherlyn. Kalmado at buo ang loob ninyo noong unang nagkausap tayo sa telepono, gayundin po noong nagkita tayong saglit. Nakita ko po sa dyaryo ang paglusong ninyo sa baha para kilalanin kung si Karen nga ba ang isa sa mga bangkay na napabalitang nakuha sa Hagonoy. Kung hindi po ako nagkakamali, suot ninyo ang vest ninyo bilang prinsipal sa paaralang elementarya: Paalalang kayo mang ina ng marami ay naghahanap ng pinakamamahal ninyong anak.

Na mahal na mahal din po namin. Mabuting tao po si Karen. Relatibong komportable po ang pag-aaral niya sa UP noon, salamat sa pagsisikap ninyong igapang ito. Pero tinalikuran po niya iyon para ipaglaban ang mga guro, manggagawa – naikwento rin niyang unyonista at welgista pa nga si Tatay - magsasaka, at iba pang binubusabos na uri at sektor sa ating bansa. May ilang kapwa-aktibista po ang nagsabing "dalisay ang puso" ni Karen: matatag sa prinsipyo, masipag at masigasig, mahusay makitungo sa mga kasama at masa, mapangahas at palaaral, matapat sa paglalahad ng saloobin.

Pero hindi po istiryutipong aktibista si Karen. Ang totoo, wala naman pong ganoon. Isinanib po niya ang kanyang katangian at pagiging karakter sa pagrerebolusyon. Minsan, kapag gutom siya, nawawalan siya ng ganang kumain. Minsan, kapag puyat siya, hindi siya makatulog. Kung gaano po siya ka-sinop sa mga datos at ulat, ganoon din po siya ka-linis sa bahay. Ang mga kasamang makalat sa bahay, inaaway niya. Mahilig siyang sumayaw, pero hindi kumanta. Noong huli, nahilig din siyang mag-gitara. Palabiro't bungisngis. Isa sa paborito namin ang magtaguan at mag-gulatan sa grocery.

Napapakwento na lamang po ako tungkol kay Karen dahil ang totoo po'y nahihirapan akong sumulat sa inyo ngayon, halos isang buwan mula noong sila'y dukutin at hindi ilutang. Dalawa po ang tendensiyang tinitimbang ko. Ang isa po'y ang pesismismo at pagiging palasuko, na hindi nakikita ang mga pwede pa nating makamit sa paglaban. Ang isa naman po'y ang maligayang optimismo, na hindi kumikilala sa totoong kalupitan ng militar, lalo na ang mga yunit sa ilalim ni Palparan. Mahirap pong pawiin ang pag-asa natin sa yugtong ito, pero mahirap din po kung purong pag-asa lang ang mayroon tayo.

Siguro, ang sasabihin ko po sa inyo ay ito: Patuloy po tayong lumaban para sa pinakamainam, habang ihinahanda ang ating sarili para sa pinakamasahol. Lumaban po tayo para sa pinakamainam dahil wala pang pinal na balita sa maikling panahong ito. Pero ihanda po natin ang sarili sa pinakamasahol dahil alam po nating malupit ang militar, lalo na sa ilalim ng rehimeng ito at partikular ang yunit ni Palparan. Ang totoo po, sa ganitong kalagayan, sa paglaban lamang tayo may pag-asa. Hinihikayat ko po kayong ipagpatuloy ang paglaban, humantong man tayo sa mabuti o masamang balita.

Dahil ang kawalang-katarungang ito kina Karen at Sherlyn – mabubuting anak ng bayan na tumalikod sa komportableng buhay nila para makita ang kaligayahan sa pagsanib sa pakikibaka ng mga magsasaka at maralita – ay patunay po na tama ang paniniwala nila: Na malupit at kalaban ng mamamayan ang naghaharing sistema sa ating bansa.

Ipinag-utos na po ng Korte Suprema na ilutang ang dalawa sa Lunes, a-bente kwatro ng Hulyo. Kasama ninyo akong mag-aabang, kasama ang mga kaibigan namin ni Karen at Sherlyn, gayundin ang mga naging kaibigan natin sa makatarungang paglabang ito.>>>

Natanggap ko ang liham na ito sa e-mail. Inilathala ko ito nang buo.

Sumulat sa

Friday, July 21, 2006

America's Robot Army

America's Robot Army

Already there are killing machines operating by remote control. Soon the machines will be able to kill on their own initiative. A new warfare is on its way.

by Stephen Graham

New Statesman Cover Story (June 12 2006)

War is about to change, in terrifying ways. America's next wars, the ones the Pentagon is now planning, will be nothing like the conflicts that have gone before them.

In just a few years, US forces will be able to deal out death, not at the squeeze of a trigger or even the push of a button, but with no human intervention whatsoever. Many fighting soldiers - those GIs in tin hats who are dying two a day in Iraq - will be replaced by machines backed up by surveillance technology so penetrating and pervasive that it is referred to as "military omniscience". Any Americans involved will be less likely to carry rifles than PlayStation-style consoles and monitors that display simulated streetscapes of the kind familiar to players of Grand Theft Auto - and they may be miles from where the killing takes place.

War will progressively cease to be the foggy, confusing, equalising business it has been for centuries, in which the risks are always high, everyone faces danger and suffers loss, and the few can humble the mighty. Instead, it will become remote, semi-automatic and all-knowing, entailing less and less risk to American lives and taking place largely out of the sight of news cameras. And the danger is close to home: the coming wars will be the "war on terror" by other names, conflicts that know no frontiers. The remote-controlled war coming tomorrow to Khartoum or Mogadishu, in other words, can happen soon afterwards, albeit in moderated form, in London or Lyons.

This is no geeky fantasy. Much of the hardware and software already exists and the race to produce the rest is on such a scale that US officials are calling it the "new Manhattan Project". Hundreds of research projects are under way at American universities and defence companies, backed by billions of dollars, and Donald Rumsfeld's department of defence is determined to deliver as soon as possible. The momentum is coming not only from the relentless humiliation of US forces at the hands of some determined insurgents on the streets of Baghdad, but also from a realisation in Washington that this is the shape of things to come. Future wars, they believe, will be fought in the dirty, mazy streets of big cities in the "global south", and if the US is to prevail it needs radically new strategies and equipment.

Only fragments of this story have so far appeared in the mainstream media, but enough information is available on the internet, from the comments of those in charge and in the specialist press to leave no room for doubt about how sweeping it is, how dangerous and how imminent.

Military omniscience is the starting point. Three months ago Tony Tether, director of the Defence Advanced Research Projects Agency (Darpa), the Pentagon's research arm, described to a US Senate committee the frustration felt by officers in Iraq after a mortar-bomb attack. A camera in a drone, or unmanned aircraft, spotted the attackers fleeing and helped direct US helicopters to the scene to destroy their car - but not before some of those inside had got out. "We had to decide whether to follow those individuals or the car", he said, "because we simply didn't have enough coverage available". So some of the insurgents escaped. Tether drew this moral: "We need a network, or web, of sensors to better map a city and the activities in it, including inside buildings, to sort adversaries and their equipment from civilians and their equipment, including in crowds, and to spot snipers, suicide bombers or IEDs [improvised explosive devices] ... This is not just a matter of more and better sensors, but, just as important, the systems needed to make actionable intelligence out of all the data".

Darpa has a host of projects working to meet those needs, often in surprising ways. One, called Combat Zones That See, aims to scatter across cities thousands of tiny CCTV cameras, each equipped with wireless communication software that will make it possible to link their data and track the movements of every vehicle on the streets. The cameras themselves will not be that different from those found in modern mobile phones.

Seeing through concrete

Already in existence are sensors the size of matchboxes which respond to heat, light, movement or sound; and a variety of programmes, including one called Smart Dust, are working on further miniaturising these and improving their ability to work as networks. A dozen US university teams are also developing micro-aircraft, weighing a few grams each, that imitate birds and insects and could carry sensor equipment into specific buildings or rooms.

Darpa's VisiBuilding programme, meanwhile, is making "X-ray eye" sensors that can see through concrete, locating people and weapons inside buildings. And Human ID at a Distance is working on software that can identify individual people from scans of their faces, their manner of walking or even their smell, and then track them anywhere they go.

Closely related to this drive are projects involving computer simulations of urban landscapes and entire cities, which will provide backdrops essential for using the data gathered by cameras and sensors. The biggest is Urban Resolve, a simulated war against a full-scale insurgency in the Indonesian capital, Jakarta, in the year 2015.

Digitised cities

Eight square miles of Jakarta have been digitised and simulated in three dimensions. That will not surprise computer gamers, but Urban Resolve goes much further: the detail extends to the interiors of 1.6 million buildings and even the cellars and sewers beneath, and it also includes no fewer than 109,000 moving vehicles and people. Even the daily rhythms of the city have been simulated. The roads, says one commentator, "are quiet at night, but during weekday rush hours they become clogged with traffic. People go to work, take lunch breaks and visit restaurants, banks and churches."

Digitise any target city and integrate this with the flow of data from many thousands of sensors and cameras, stationary and mobile, and you have something far more powerful than the regular snapshots today's satellites can deliver. You have continuous coverage, around corners and through walls. You would never, for example, lose those mortar bombers who got out of their car and ran away.

All this brings omniscience within reach. The US web-based magazine DefenseWatch, which monitors developments in strategy and hardware, recently imagined the near-future scenario of an operation in the developing world in which a cloud of minute, networked sensors is scattered like dust over a target city using powerful fans. Directed by the sensors, unmanned drones patrol the city, building up a visual and audio picture of every street and building. "Every hostile person has been identified and located", continues the scenario. "From this point on, nobody in the city moves without the full and complete knowledge of the mobile tactical centre".

Another Darpa project, Integrated Sensor is Structure, is working on the apex of such a system: huge, unmanned communications and surveillance airships that will loiter above target areas at an altitude of 70,000 feet - far above most airline traffic - providing continuous and detailed coverage over a whole city for a year or more.

From these platforms, all the information could be fed down in real time to soldiers and commanders carrying the hand-held computers being developed by the Northrop Grumman Corporation with Darpa funding. The real aim, however, is not to expose flesh-and-blood Americans on the ground, but where possible to use robots. That way there will be no "body bag problem"; and in any case machines are better equipped than human beings to process and make use of the vast quantities of data involved.

In one sense, robots are not new: already, armed drones such as Predator, "piloted" by CIA operators from screens in Florida, have been responsible for at least eighty assassination raids in Iraq, Afghanistan, Yemen and Pakistan (killing many civilians as well). Defence contractors have also developed ground-based vehicles capable of carrying cameras and weapons into the battlefield.

But this is only the start. What will make the next generation different is that they are being designed so that they can choose, all on their own, the targets they will attack. Operating in the air and on the ground, they are being equipped with Automated Target Recognition software capable not only of comparing signals received from new-generation sensors with databases of targets, but also of "deciding" to fire guns or launch missiles automatically once there is a good "fit". Automated killing of this kind hasn't been approved by anyone yet, but it is certainly being planned. John Tirpak, editor of Air Force Magazine in the US, expects initially that humans will retain the last word, but he predicts that once robots "establish a track record of reliability in finding the right targets and employing weapons properly", the "machines will be trusted to do even that".

Planners believe, moreover, that robot warriors have a doomsday power. Gordon Johnson, a team leader on Project Alpha, which is developing robots for the US army, predicts that, if the robot's gun can return fire automatically and instantly to within a metre of a location from which its sensors have detected a gunshot, it will always kill the person who has fired. "Anyone who would shoot at our forces would die", says Johnson. "Before he can drop that weapon and run, he's probably already dead. Well now, these cowards in Baghdad would have to pay with blood and guts every time they shoot at one of our folks. The costs of poker went up significantly. The enemy, are they going to give up blood and guts to kill machines? I'm guessing not."

Again, this may sound like the plot of a B-movie, but the US military press, not a body of people given to frivolity, has been writing about it for some time. DefenseWatch, for example, also featured robots in that future war scenario involving sensors dispersed by fans. Once a complete picture of the target city is built up, the scenario predicted, "unmanned air and ground vehicles can now be vectored directly to selected targets to take them out, one by one".

The silver bullet

It is shocking, but will it happen? The project has its critics, even in the Pentagon, where many doubt that technology can deliver such a "silver bullet". But the doubters are not in the ascendant, and it would be folly, against the background of the Iraq disaster and the hyper-militarised stance of the Bush administration, to write it off as a computer gamer's daydream.

One reason Washington finds it so attractive is that it fits closely with the ideologies of permanent war that underpin the "war on terror". What better in that war than an army of robot warriors, permanently cruising those parts of the globe deemed to be "supporting terrorism"? And what a boon if they destroy "targets" all on their own, with not a single US soldier at risk. Even more seductively, this could all take place out of sight of the capricious western media.

These technologies further blur the line between war and entertainment. Already, games featuring urban warfare in digitised Arab cities are everyday suburban entertainment - some are produced by the US forces themselves, while a firm called Kuma Reality offers games refreshed weekly to allow players to simulate participation in fighting in Iraq almost as it is happening in the real world.

Creepy as this is, it can be worse: those involved in real warfare may have difficulty remembering they are not playing games. "At the end of the work day", one Florida-based Predator operator reflected to USA Today in 2003, "you walk back into the rest of life in America". Will such people always remember that their "work day", lived among like-minded colleagues in front of screens, involves real death on the far side of the world? As if to strengthen the link with entertainment, one emerging military robot, the Dragon Runner, comes with a gamer's control panel. Greg Heines, who runs the project, confesses: "We modelled the controller after the Play Station 2 because that's what these eighteen- and nineteen-year-old marines have been playing with pretty much all of their lives".

The US aspiration to be able to kill without human involvement and with minimum risk raises some dreadful questions. Who will decide what data can be relied on to identify a "target"? Who will be accountable when there is an atrocity? And what does this say about western perceptions of the worth and rights of the people whose cities are no more than killing fields, and who themselves are mere "targets" to be detected, tracked and even killed by machines?

Finally, the whole process feeds alarmingly into the "homeland security" drive in the cities of the global north. The same companies and universities are supplying ideas to both, and the surveillance, tracking and targeting technologies involved are closely related. What we are seeing is a militarisation of urban life in both north and south that helps perpetuate the biggest and most dangerous myth of all, which is that technical and military solutions can somehow magic away resistance to George W Bush's geopolitical project.

Stephen Graham is professor of human geography at Durham University. His latest book, Cities, War and Terrorism, is published by Blackwell (GBP 19.99)

Copyright (c) New Statesman 1913 - 2006
Bill Totten

In search of service

Activist-turned-rebel misses life with family

By Madonna Virola
Last updated 01:41am (Mla time) 07/20/2006

Published on Page A14 of the July 20, 2006 issue of the Philippine Daily Inquirer

HE spoke with passion as he talked about his work as a spokesperson for the communist-led National Democratic Front (NDF) in Occidental Mindoro.

But when asked about his family, the rebel leader, who introduced himself only as Felizardo, talked about how it was to be separated from his loved ones.

“It is traumatic for my 4-year-old daughter,” he said.

The government has launched an “all-out war” against the New People’s Army, military wing of the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) that leads the NDF. The Maoist rebels have been waging the longest armed insurgency in the world since 1969.

The military places the NPA strength at 7,500.

Felizardo said he could not support the studies of his only child, “but I know she will understand one day.”

If his wife agrees that it is now the right time, Felizardo would rather have her explain to their child why he chose to be away from them.

Felizardo, 37, said he grew up in a religious family. He was active in the choir and in organizing basic ecclesial communities. He even wanted to be a priest.

“I was searching then for the meaning of service,” he said.

Once, he was watching some nuns in a convent. He was disturbed that they were expected to be both earning and doing house chores.

When a missionary box was passed around in a school, Felizardo asked the nuns: “Why not serve the next community first, which is also in need?”


Felizardo joined the League of Filipino Students and found himself with a box collecting donations for the organization.

But he was “demonized” by some men in uniform. “I was accused of being a communist. I didn’t [even] know what it meant. I researched in the encyclopedia and found out more about it,” he recalled.

He continued to join rallies and stay with the poor. His first major assignment was to distribute campaign leaflets.

Instead of just shouting, “Down with imperialism!”, he would elaborate on the issue at hand, he said.

While many idealists are focused on changing the society, Felizardo said “the bigger challenges are those about the self—like listening more than talking …, to be patient, because I still didn’t know a lot of things.”

He appreciated the feedback sessions in the movement. “They say I’m frank and emotional,” he said.

Felizardo acknowledged a difficult life with his kind of work but added that the farmers were in a more difficult situation, plowing the land to feed their families.

The warm accommodation of the people, he claimed, was enough to compensate for missing his daughter.

If he had a normal life, he would try to “create a climate for her to discover her inner strength to enable her to love more freely and have the courage to fight whoever and whatever hinders her,” Felizardo said.

Will the time come when one in search of service does not have to leave his family?

“Perhaps, only God can tell,” he said.

Thursday, July 20, 2006

G8 summit must remember the needs of the poor

G8 summit must remember the needs of the poor

St Petersburg in Russia will host this year's G8 meeting

11 July 2006

The forthcoming meeting of heads of the world's industrialised nations must not let self-interest detract from the challenge of global poverty and efforts to soften the impact of globalisation on the developing world.

One year ago, the streets of Edinburgh in the United Kingdom were filled with hundreds of thousands of protesters demanding that poverty be made history. Their target was the leaders of the world's leading eight industrialised nations � known as the G8 � who were about to hold their annual meeting in nearby Gleneagles to discuss common problems and challenges. The protestors' goal: to ensure that tackling global
poverty was kept high on the meeting's agenda.

This year's G8 summit takes place next weekend in the Russian city of St Petersburg. There are unlikely to be any mass demonstrations on the same scale as in Edinburgh. Nevertheless it remains essential that global poverty gets the attention it requires and deserves.

The issues on the summit's agenda certainly offer an opportunity to address novel ways in which the world's most powerful nations can � if they chose � mould the globalisation agenda to give the poor a greater share of its benefits. Issues such as energy supply, chronic and infectious diseases, and even the challenges of climate change, each contain within them the potential to achieve exactly that.

The danger is that, however well-meaning political leaders sound, particularly in front of the world's media, the rhetoric is not always matched with reality. All too often bold promises and commitments falter under the pressures of self-interest. And the poor inevitably suffer, partly as a result of their powerlessness.

This is already happening with the latest 'Doha round' of trade negotiations. When negotiations started, members of the World Trade Organization promised that the needs of developing countries would be at their centre � and with them an exploration of ways to modify the world trade rules to meet these needs.

In practice, however, protectionist policies, such as Europe's farm subsidies and the US position on sugar, have made progress virtually impossible. It would be a tragedy if there were to be the same impasse on the range of issues up for discussion at the G8 summit.

Action on climate change

Take, for example, climate change. As a global concern that is likely to affect each of the G8 member states in different ways, as well as one for which each state has a degree of responsibility, it is exactly the type of issue the annual G8 summit should be tackling.

Furthermore, it is widely recognised that developing countries are the least guilty culprits in creating the problem. Also that they are the most likely to suffer from its impacts, whether it hits food production in Africa, threatens low-lying communities from rising sea levels, or increases the severity of tropical storms.

Last year, the UK government, which hosted the Gleneagles summit, made a major effort to ensure that climate change was high on the meeting's agenda. But its success was limited, primarily because of the reluctance of the United States to sign up to any international agreement that would place restrictions on the driving habits of its citizens (see Climate change after Gleneagles).

This year, the prospects for significant action look even dimmer. The issues have not gone away. Indeed diplomats are hoping that, at least in the corridors of the summit meeting, it will be possible to make headway on the biggest outstanding issue currently facing negotiators, namely how to engage emerging economies such as Brazil, China and India in a global strategy for reducing carbon emissions.

The issue therefore remains firmly on the table. We can all expect some fine words in the final communiqu� claiming to have made a commitment to do more. Separately, several imaginative ideas for further action are being circulated. An idea from the World Wildlife Fund is to launch a 'Climate and Energy Security Plan', similar in scope to the Marshall Plan that was behind much of the reconstruction of Western Europe after the Second World War.

But Russia, aware of the potentially negative impacts on its energy exports, is rapidly backtracking from its previous enthusiasm for the Kyoto Protocol. There are also signs that Canada is reconsidering its position for similar reasons, and with continued opposition to concerted international action from the United States, the prospects for any meaningful action in St Petersburg look bleak.

Energy security

The situation is similar for energy supplies, even though � in contrast to climate change � it will be high on the agenda at the summit, not least because of the political ramifications of Europe's growing dependency on Russia as a key source of oil and gas.

The need for improved energy security is, like climate change, a problem that the G8 member states have in common. Indeed, many of today's regional conflicts, such as those in the Gulf region, have at their heart disputes over access to energy sources.

Furthermore the needs of developing countries have not been entirely forgotten in this debate. Several proposals � including suggestions about how such nations can be encouraged to make greater use of nuclear energy � will be discussed in St Petersburg. And a meeting of the finance ministers of the G8 countries held last month explicitly emphasised the need "to give a specific pro-poor focus to energy strategies".

The problem, as several non-governmental organisations have pointed out, is that discussions at the summit, as well as any actions that flow from it, are likely to focus on issues surrounding greater energy supply rather than more efficient energy use.

Supply issues are certainly important. But they must not overshadow the fact that unless we find more efficient ways of using our energy resources � particularly non-renewable ones � and convince rich nations to use less of them, energy costs will continue to rise. And this is likely to pose yet another obstacle preventing the world's poorer nations climbing out of the poverty in which they currently find themselves.

David Dickson
Director, SciDev.Net


English to be fully restored as medium of instruction

Yehey! Mag-iinglesan na uli, kahit mali-mali naman, may penalty pa ang mahuhuling nagsasalita sa dialect..

Bakit kaya hindi gumaya ang mga Koreans, Taiwanese, Hapones, Chinese, German, Franses, etc at imbes na mga lengwahe nila ang medium of instruction ay English na rin? Batay sa sinasabi sa balita (appended), mas matututo sila at siempre lalong uunlad ang kanilang ekonomiya, laluna ang S&T.

English to be fully restored as medium of instruction
By Ding Cervantes
The Philippine Star 07/18/2006

CLARK FIELD, Pampanga — Incoming Education Secretary Tarlac Rep. Jesli Lapus said here yesterday he will fully restore English as the medium of instruction in the country to upgrade the quality of education and make it "market-driven. "We have to put English back on the frontline," he said, adding that laws have been passed in Japan requiring that English be taught at the grade school level.

Lapus, who is set to assume his new post at the helm of the Department of Education (DepEd) next month, lamented the deterioration of the quality of education in the country.

He also cited findings that Filipino students rate among the lowest 10 percent in mathematics and science proficiency in Asia and below the passing 75 percent in mastery achievement tests. He said books in math and science are written in English and are difficult to translate into Filipino.

Lapus also cited the need to strengthen the "technical orientation" of high school students to make the system more "market-driven." He said high school students' "infatuation" with white-collar jobs cause many students to take white-collar courses, though many of them end up jobless. Meanwhile, there is a growing demand for skilled technicians who can command salaries even higher than that of a vice president in a corporation.

"We will fully support the ladderized curriculum of the TESDA (Technology and Science Development Authority) that offers short-term technical courses — especially for high school dropouts," he said.

Lapus also said his priority as education secretary is to improve the quality of education by providing more training for teachers. "Most math and science teachers have masteral degrees in other fields," he said, adding that the help of the private sector will be tapped for these teacher-training programs.

With a reenacted 2005 budget of only about P102 billion budget, the DepEd is short by some P7.5 billion for programs meant to be implemented this year, Lapus said.

"I plan to ask the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) for some flexibility in this by allocating some savings for education needs," he said.

"Our student population grows at an average rate of 2.7 percent, while the education budget grows only at about two percent," Lapus said. "We can't catch up with backlogs with inflation rates also rising. Even if education gets an increase of 7.5 percent in its yearly budget, it would be able to catch up only with the (student) population increase."

He said that, in 2000, the national budget's allocation for education was set at 14 percent, but this year's allocation is only 11 percent of the total budget appropriation.

Lapus also said that with the huge problems confronting the education sector, the DepEd should be "spared from the political crossfire."

He said the DepEd covers about 30 percent of the government bureaucracy, with 92 percent of its budget allocated for payroll.

He said that while "I will be the first to advocate fair compensation" for teachers, any pay increase for mentors depends on the availability of funds.

Adequate salaries, he said, would boost the morale of teachers and lead to upgrades in the quality of public education.

Lapus said he will try to work out "new standards" for teachers' salaries — similar to the standards applied for members of the police and military services.

In Congress, Lapus authored bills that sought to improve the welfare of public school teachers, including one that established ceilings on how much could be deducted from their salaries to pay for loans and another imposing a maximum of 18 percent interest, instead of the then prevailing 70 to even 100 percent interest on loans they obtained from various sources, including loan sharks.

Sunday, July 16, 2006

Israel bombs, blockades Lebanon

Update and analysis on the widening war on the Middle East
Israel bombs, blockades Lebanon

By Richard Becker,
West Coast Coordinator of the ANSWER Coalition

The Israeli military command claims that its planes hit “hundreds of targets” today in Lebanon, killing more than 50 Lebanese civilians, wounding at least 103 and destroying the runways of the Beirut International Airport. The Israeli Navy has imposed a naval blockade on all of Lebanon. All air and sea transportation has been cut off, and Israel has threatened to bomb the Beirut-Damascus highway, the country’s remaining major transit link.

The massive assault comes one day after the Hezbollah military forces captured two Israeli soldiers and killed eight others in fighting along the Israel-Lebanon border.

The new conflict opened a second front in an expanding war. The Israel Occupation Forces (IOF) have been carrying out an offensive in Gaza since the capture of an IOF soldier more than two weeks ago, using fighter-bombers, tanks, helicopters and ground troops to devastate the area. At least 75 Palestinians have been killed, hundreds wounded, and the power, water, food and health care systems destroyed or severely disrupted.

Since the Palestinian election in January 2006, Israel, the United States, European Union, Canada and Japan have worked together to strangle the Palestinian economy. Israel has continued to stage lethal air attacks and raids in the West Bank and Gaza. More than 9,800 Palestinians, kidnapped from the West Bank and Gaza, remain confined under deplorable conditions inside Israeli prisons. Yet, the White House, State Department and their media parrots act like the crisis only began with the capture of an Israeli soldier. The implicit racism of this outlook is so obvious that it requires little explanation. For U.S. leaders—Democrat as well as Republican—and corporate media hacks, Israeli life is important, while Palestinian life means nothing.

The U.S. government, the main military supplier, funder and protector of Israel, has expressed its open and complete support for Israel in its two-front war. Today, the U.S. vetoed a resolution at the UN Security Council calling on Israel to halt its offensive in Gaza. This despite the fact that Israel is openly engaging in collective punishment against both the Palestinian and Lebanese peoples, in clear violation of Geneva and Hague international law conventions. The vote at the Security Council is more proof that from Washington’s perspective, international law is something to invoke against enemies, but which never applies to itself or its allies.

Will it become a three- or four-front war?

The Israeli bombardment of Lebanon is nothing new. In the 1960s, 70s and 80s, Israeli bombing raids were common and devastating. In 1982, Israel invaded Lebanon and bombed Beirut non-stop for three months, resulting in the deaths of at least 20,000 Lebanese and Palestinian refugees. Israel then occupied two-thirds of the country. An 18-year struggle, led by the Hezbollah organization, ensued. It ended with the Israeli withdrawal from most of southern Lebanon in 2000. Hezbollah, labeled as “terrorist” by the U.S. government, is held in very high regard among the Lebanese people and throughout the Arab world for its unprecedented achievement of forcing the Israelis to relinquish Lebanese territory.

In response to the massive Israeli air raids over the past 24 hours, Hezbollah reportedly fired more than 100 missiles into northern Israel. Some reports say that Haifa, about 20 miles from the Lebanese border, was hit for the first time.

There is strong likelihood that Israeli ground forces will invade and re-occupy southern Lebanon. The Israeli army’s chief of staff, Lieutenant-General Dan Halutz, today stated that if the soldiers are not returned, Israel will target Lebanese infrastructure and “turn back the clock in Lebanon by 20 years.” He elaborated, “Nothing is safe [in Lebanon], it’s as simple as that.”

The possibility that Israel will also attack Syria is being openly discussed. The U.S. and Israeli governments are issuing statements blaming Iran and Syria—both targeted by Washington for regime change—for the unfolding crisis. “We also hold Syria and Iran, which directly support Hezbollah, responsible for this attack and for the ensuing violence,” said Frederick Jones, a spokesman for the U.S. National Security Council.

But the fundamental causes of the unfolding war are indisputably clear: imperialist war and colonial occupation. The United States government is seeking hegemonic domination over the entire region. To achieve its goal, Washington is seeking to crush the popular resistance movements in Palestine, Lebanon and Iraq, and to overthrow the governments of Iran and Syria.

Israel, as a militarized garrison state, has dual objectives. On the one hand, it is an instrument of U.S. imperialist strategy in the region; on the other, it is seeking to expand its own territory by confiscating much of the West Bank, while increasing its own regional influence by military means.

All progressive, anti-war, Muslim, Arab American, trade union and civil rights organizations should stand with the oppressed peoples of the Middle East and demand an end to the U.S.-Israeli war.

Click here to read more about the objectives of Israel's assault on Gaza.

Para kay Solita "Mareng Winnie" Monsod

Para kay Solita "Mareng Winnie" Monsod
Teo S. Marasigan

Sumulat na ako sa iyo noon. Sariwa pa noon ang usapang "Hello Garci" at matapos ang ilang panahon ng pagmumuni – minsang sumama sa pagdarasal sa simbahan ni dating Pang. Corazon "Cory" Aquino – naging masugid kang tagapagtanggol ni Mrs. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo. Tuwang-tuwa ka noon sa bangkaroteng argumento ni Presidential Management Staff Sec. Michael "Mike" Defensor, na nagsabing kahit ibigay ang lahat ng lamang ni Arroyo sa Mindanao sa kalaban niyang si Fernando Poe, Jr. sa halalang 2004, lalabas pa ring panalo ang tumawag kay COMELEC Commissioner Virgilio Garcillano.

Kakatapos ko lang manood ng programa mo – oo, nanonood pa rin ako kahit madalas akong mabwisit – tungkol sa pagiging ligal o iligal ng pag-atras ng suporta (withdrawal of support) ng sundalo sa pangulo ng bansa. Kahit malinaw na kontra-Arroyo at dawit sa kontrobersyang ito ang co-host mong si Oscar "Oca" Orbos, matapang mo pa ring inilahad ang opinyon mo hinggil sa inilabas na video ng pag-atras ni Brig. Gen. Danilo "Danny" Lim ng suporta kay Arrroyo. Malinaw na nananatili ang pagpanig mo kay Arroyo, katulad ng barumbadong si Cong. Luis Villafuerte. May tatlo kang punto, ayon sa iyo.

Una, ayon sa iyo, walang suportang popular ang ginawa – o ang nabigong gawin – nina Lim. Noong inatras ni dating Gen. Angelo Reyes ang suporta kay dating Pang. Joseph Estrada noong 2001, ayon sa iyo, ginawa lamang nila ang gusto ng taumbayang tatlong araw na natipon sa Edsa para manawagan kay Estrada na magbitiw. Taliwas dito, ayon sa iyo, nanawagan si Lim ng suporta at pagkilos ng taumbayan. Maingat ka: Hindi mo ikinumpara si Lim sa ginawa nina dating Gen. Fidel Ramos sa pagpapatalsik kay dating Pang. Ferdinand Marcos noong 1986 – dahil nga malinaw na magkatulad sila ng ginawa.

Mali ka. Malaganap ang pagtutol at paglaban ng sambayanan kay Arroyo. Sang-ayon sa surveys, siya na ang pinaka-inaayawang pangulo pagkatapos ni Marcos. Napakadami ng nananawagan na magbitiw na siya – kasama ang dalawang pinaka-popular na pangulo pagkatapos ng rehimeng Marcos. Higit pa rito, gayunman, hindi lamang suportang popular ang mahalaga sa anumang pagkilos laban sa pangulo. Sinasabing mas marami ang dumalo sa Edsa 3 kaysa sa Edsa 2 ngunit walang batayang moral ang pagkilos na ito. Iyon – ang "batayang moral" – ang dapat na pamantayan sa pagpanig.

Ikalawa, ayon sa iyo, hindi katanggap-tanggap ang plano ng mga grupo sa militar na palitan ang rehimen ni Arroyo ng isang transisyong konseho. Para sa iyo, pagsapaw ito ng talino ng iilan sa talino ng taumbayan. Kung papalitan si Arroyo, ayon sa iyo, dapat siyang palitan ng konstitusyunal na kahalili. Mainam at nasasabi mo na ito ngayon. Ibig sabihin, sa iyong hinagap ay napagmumunian mo na ang pagpalit kay Arroyo. Muli, maingat ka: Hindi mo sinabing ang lahat panukalang magbuo transisyong konseho ay nagsasabing kagyat na maglulunsad ang mga ito ng eleksyon upang palitan si Arroyo.

Pero mali ka. Tutol ka sa banta ng inaakala mong pagsapaw sa talino ng taumbayan ng talino ng iilang uupo sa transisyong konseho, pero ipinagtatanggol mo ang tunay at naganap nang pagsapaw ng talino ng iilan sa talino ng taumbayan. At iyan ay ang pandaraya ng pangkatin ni Arroyo – kasabwat si Garcillano at mga opisyal sa burukrasyang sibil at militar – sa halalang 2004. Nagiging katanggap-tanggap ang isang transisyong konseho kung ipapalit ito sa isang pekeng pangulong nandaya sa halalan at patuloy sa pagkapit-tuko sa kapangyarihan. Iyan at iba pa ang batayang moral nina Lim.

Ikatlo at panghuli, ayon sa iyo, dapat harapin ng mga kasangkot ang parusa sa kanilang aksyon. Na parang naparusahan si Ramos sa ginawa niya noong 1986 at si Reyes noong 2001. Alam mong hindi nyutral o walang-kiling ang nagpapatupad ng batas – "*the winner takes all*" – pero nasabi mo ang pagpapanagot nang lubos ang panggigigil. Dito, malinaw ang pagkampi mo kay Arroyo. May dalawang Winnie Monsod kung gayon: iyung naniniwala sa Diyos at may moralidad at prinsipyo, at iyung naniniwalang ayos at dapat lang gawin ng nasa kapangyarihan ang gusto niya, kahit pa mandaraya siya.

Tinutulan ng una si Marcos at kinampihan ng ikalawa si Arroyo – kahit pareho lamang sila. Mareng Winnie, pagpasyahan mo kung alin ang mangingibabaw sa dalawa.

Sumulat sa

Friday, July 14, 2006

Reply to a Comrade

Reply to a Comrade

Last night we had a talk,
in a bus filled with people
on their way home.
I talked about the moon
sailing silently on a cloudless sky.
And you talked about the trees
on the plaza we passed by.

It is the same moon
which shone upon Chingkanshan
and the Red base at Yenan.
It is the same moon
which brightened up the streets of Peking
on the first day of October
in nineteen-hundred and forty nine.

Who knows that today
the same moon showers its glow
upon our comrades in the countryside
lighting their way up dangerous mountain trails.

The trees we saw are much the same
as those that shelter our comrades
from the sun and rain and reconnaissance planes.

Moon and trees
though thousands of miles apart
become our allies in the people's war ---
Like Wu Kang, too, who will serve us
his cassia-flower brew.

Many years from now
we shall talk about the moon moving triumphantly
across a red sky;
we shall talk about the trees swaying
amidst red banners on the plaza we shall pass by.

We shall talk of things
that will stir our hearts
and widen our visions;
and of man becoming god.
Perhaps still in a bus full of people
happily on their way home
to the communes.

November, 1976

Click here for similar poems


July 13, 2006


After failing to arrest and prosecute the brains and triggermen behind the murders of journalists, 44 of whom have died under Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo's watch, the Philippine National Police, through Deputy Director General Avelino Razon, now claims that the New People's Army is responsible for our colleagues' unsolved deaths.

We will not debate the veracity or lack of it of Razon's claims.

But neither can we accept his claim at face value.

For, if anything, Razon's statement sounds too much like another cop-out, an attempt to get away with, at best, the inability to fulfill his sworn mandate to protect the lives and liberties of people, at worst, a deliberate effort to sweep culpability under the rug.

Much like previous statements form law enforcement and government authorities, most notably justice secretary Raul Gonzalez, that a number of our slain colleagues deserved their fates, or those harebrained suggestions to arm journalists.

Particularly since, as quoted in news reports, Razon linked the murders of our colleagues to a supposed internal purge by the rebels that the military has also used as a convenient excuse to explain away the unabated killings and abductions of activists and legal dissenters.

Razon's claim, which as far as we know remains just that � a claim � is particularly galling since it was made by no less than the officer named to head Task Force Usig, which was formed specifically to solve the killings of both journalists and activists.

If, indeed, the New People's Army is behind the killings, then it is reprehensible and condemnable. But there have never been any indications that this is so.

If anything, most colleagues who have taken it upon themselves to investigate the deaths of their friends and co-workers say the signs invariably point the other way � to the involvement of state security forces, whether as hired guns or actually undertaking black operations.

We can only point to the latest atrocity against the independent Philippine media, which eliminated not a colleague but an entire media outfit, Radyo Cagayano.

But even if Razon's claim is true, it does not and cannot justify inaction.

For his mandate, as it is the mandate of every policeman or soldier, as it is the mandate of government itself, is to put an end to the killings and see that the perpetrators and masterminds are punished, not to seek excuses for inaction.

For as we have said again and again, and will continue to say, inaction can only mean culpability or, at the very least, a tolerance of such a wide-scale and wanton violation not just of the media's but of the people's civil, social, political and human rights.

National Union of Journalists of the Philippines

Voices of Peace Muffled by Rising Mideast Strife

Down with imperialism!

Voices of Peace Muffled by Rising Mideast Strife

CAIRO, July 13 — A few months ago, representatives of every Lebanese political faction gathered in downtown Beirut to discuss the issues that divided them — including how and when to disarm the Hezbollah militia.

Intent on keeping its weapons, however, Hezbollah has stymied that discussion by crossing into Israel, killing and capturing Israeli soldiers and prompting a fierce Israeli counterattack that has all of Lebanon in a defensive posture.

“It is strange that one man representing a faction of the Shia, Hassan Nasrallah, is holding the whole Lebanese population hostage,” said Elie Fawaz, a Lebanese political analyst and critic of Hezbollah, speaking of the Hezbollah leader.

With three Israeli soldiers kidnapped — one now in Gaza and two in Lebanon — and Israel carrying out military reprisals, there is for now less room in the Middle East for moderate voices, voices of peace, according to political analysts, government officials and security officials in Syria, Jordan and Egypt. The region’s agenda, as often in the past, is largely being set by militants — with the masses swept along in emotion, anger and vengeance.

“They are happy, very happy,” said Marwan Shahadeh, an Islamist and researcher in Amman, Jordan, speaking about the groups that want to focus on war with Israel.

The same dynamics are true of governments. The leaders of Egypt and Jordan, the only two Arab countries with peace treaties with Israel, are facing increasing hostility in the news media and on their own streets, while Iran and Syria, strong opponents of peace with Israel, have seen their credibility on the street increase. Sensing the tension among their people, Egyptian and Jordanian officials have stepped up domestic security efforts. In Egypt officials have moved to rein in the news media and stop street demonstrations. In Jordan, officials have pressed older members of the Islamic Action Front, the political arm of the Muslim Brotherhood, to rein in its more militant young members.

“They are in great embarrassment,” Taher al-Masry, a former prime minister of Jordan, said of Jordan and Egypt. “These two countries have signed peace treaties, but having and observing peace with Israel is not the same as letting Israel do what it likes because we have peace with them. I think there is a major burden on both countries to do something. I don’t know what, but something.”

Regional momentum is supporting hard-liners. Newspapers and television commentators have assailed Egypt and Jordan for trying to negotiate a peaceful solution between Hamas and Israel. The Palestinian president, Mahmoud Abbas, who planned to call a referendum on whether to support a two-state solution, has been increasingly silenced. Even the Hamas leadership in Gaza, which had sought to forge a consensus with other Palestinian factions, found itself trumped by its more militant members.

Trying to explain his own impotence, Egypt’s president, Hosni Mubarak, told an Egyptian newspaper that he had tried to negotiate a settlement between Hamas and Israel over the capture of Cpl. Gilad Shalit. He said he had worked out a deal — but a third party pressed Hamas to back out.

Mr. Mubarak said he did not want to name the third party, but political analysts here said they believed that it was most likely Iran or Syria.

“Politically active Islamist groups like these kinds of battles because they reap misery for the people who then automatically adhere to extremist groups,” said Aly Salem, an Egyptian playwright who has supported normalizing ties with Israel, but says now that there is no margin even to discuss such ideas.

The crisis directly involves four parties — Hezbollah, Lebanon, Israel and Hamas, but is being driven by multiple and diverging agendas. That has often been the case in Lebanon, which for decades has been a proxy battlefield for foreign forces. Gaza has also been a front for varying agendas, from Iran’s desire to strengthen its regional role, to the exiled faction of Hamas trying to maintain control over its group. Caught in the middle are civilians.

While recent events seem to have served Hezbollah’s interests, there is also a strong feeling that the decision to take that action was guided by Iran’s interests as well. Leaders of the top world powers, including Russia and China, agreed this week to haul Iran back before the United Nations Security Council for what they said appeared to be its unwillingness to negotiate in good faith over efforts to stop its enrichment of uranium.

“They have a lot of interests, strategically, in the kidnapping, in light of their position today, which is very uncomfortable regarding their nuclear capability,” said Jonathan Fighel, a retired Israeli colonel who is a senior researcher at the International Policy Institute for Counter-Terrorism. He said he did not believe that Syria benefited by seeing the crisis escalate. Syria has far less influence with Hezbollah since its forces were withdrawn from Lebanon and is at risk of being attacked by Israel.

Those benefiting most from the bombs and the blood are those groups that want to see the rise of radicalism throughout the region. Even before this crisis, people were increasingly disillusioned with the political process as a means to achieve change, and were increasingly offering support to groups like the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt.

The victory of Hamas in Palestinian elections, and the subsequent decision by the West to deny it financial support, had a strong influence on Arab public opinion, with many saying it was hypocritical not to support the duly elected government.

Now those groups, from Hamas to Hezbollah to the Brotherhood, are trying to use the events in Lebanon and the Gaza Strip to build support. On its Web site, the Muslim Brotherhood of Egypt said, “Hezbollah, with its modest military capabilities relative to the capabilities of organized state armies, was able to achieve what several Arab governments did not do while they were satisfied to remain silent about the slaughter of our brothers in Palestine.”

Mona el-Naggar contributed reporting for this article.

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

The Radio station the farmers built

July 9-15, 2006

The Radio station the farmers built
Radyo Cagayano: Burned but Not Silenced

After a three-year preparation, Radyo Cagayano started its test broadcast this May. By July 2, the community radio was off the air, after armed men razed the station. But its unfazed although shaken staff promise they would not be silenced permanently.


Susan Mapa remembered shedding tears of joy the first time Radyo Cagayano went on the air. Mapa is the station manager of dwRC 90.1 FM, a community radio station which began its test broadcast last May 25. After three years of preparing and hurdling all obstacles, they were finally heard in the mountainous town of Baggao and its neighboring villages in Cagayan province (some 500 km. north of Manila).

On July 3, Mapa again shed tears, this time during a press conference at News Desk in Quezon City. Armed men, suspected to be soldiers, razed the station July 2 early morning. Mapa recounted how she and five other radio staff helplessly watched as the radio equipment, as well as their personal belongings inside the station, were burned. (Link sa breaking news July 3)

“Ang nararamdaman ko ngayon ay lungkot. Pero alam kong sa bayan ng Baggao, hindi titigil ang mamamayan, dahil alam ko ang hirap nila sa pagtatayo ng Radyo Cagayano.” said Mapa, 32, and a former broadcaster for Bombo Radyo in Tuguegarao City in Cagayan. (I am sad about what happened, but I know that the people of Baggao will not stop, because I know what they went through in putting up Radyo Cagayano.)

The five other radio crew who were hurt in the attack were Eric Ayudan, Arnold Agraan, Armalyn Badua, Joy Marcos, and Arlyn Arella.
Ilocano Love Songs

Radyo Cagayano had been mainly playing music, airing for only two hours, three times a day, for a total of six hours. The station did not have an air conditioner and the radio transmitter had to be turned off to cool down after every two hours of broadcast.

Mapa said that she and the station crew took turns disc jockeying, music spinning and reading greetings, text messages and dedication. Ilocano love songs, such as Agbabakket (Old Woman) were the most requested.

High school and elementary students would flock to the station after school, to request and dedicate songs, or to simply greet on air. “Mama, andito ako,” (Mama, I’m here at the station) Mapa recalled how young students would give simple messages on air. She said some parents were glad to have their children hanging around the station, instead of loitering elsewhere.

When they learned about the station’s burning, listeners of the community radio were distraught and were immediately by the staff’s side.

“Why would anyone want to burn dwRC?” Mapa quoted a question by a peasant listener. Indeed, why would anyone want to block the airing of a small, one-kilowatt community radio, run by amateur, peasant broadcasters and plays mostly music?

Mapa said that for three years, the airing of the community radio had been blocked by elements of the military, namely those under the 5th Infantry Division. She said that their main suspects were soldiers of the 17th Infantry Battalion, who have been spreading black propaganda against dwRC, saying it was a radio station of the New People’s Army (NPA).

At the press conference, Mapa was joined by the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP) and the World Association of Community Broadcasters. The media groups said that what happened to dwRC is clearly media repression.

Mapa said that the perpetrators were threatened by what the community radio could bring to the airwaves. Radyo Cagayano is a community radio owned by the Alyansa Dagiti Mannalon iti Cagayan or Kagimungan (Provincial Peasant Alliance of Cagayan), a Cagayan Valley region-wide peasant organization.

Aside from playing music, Mapa said that they were airing informative plugs and practical tips, such as herbal medicine and preventive medicine. Had the station not been burned, informative talk shows catering to peasants, youths and women would have been lined up for airing this month.
Built by Peasants

Isabelo Adviento, general secretary of Kagimungan, said that the peasants wanted a voice and that they have long waited for the broadcast of dwRC.

“Ang Radyo Cagayano ay hindi pag-aari ng isang tao, kundi ito ay pag-aari ng buong mamamayan. Maraming nagsakripisyo at naghirap para maitayo ang isang radyo na maglilingkod sa mamamayan,maging sandigan sa pagpapahayag ng aming hinaing at karaingan,” he said. (Radyo Cagayano is owned not by one person but by the people. Many have sacrificed to build a station that will serve the people, and be a channel to express our grievances.)

Funding for Radyo Cagayano, released in 2003, came from the congressional development fund of Bayan Muna party-list Rep. Satur Ocampo. The funds paid for the radio equipment, the tower and the construction of the station.

But it was the peasants of Baggao and neighboring towns that moved hollow blocks, sand and cement up the hill where the station was built. Farmers, teachers and other radio listeners donated the furniture which were mainly benches, tables and shelves. This year, friends and neighbors donated plates, pots, water jug and other kitchen ware, light bulbs and even the paint that was used inside the booth.

Mapa recalled that the community radio had their first batch of broadcasters trained as early as 2003. But its airing was delayed due to several problems.

Military Harassment

On July 1, 2003, a few days before the groundbreaking rites at the station’s site, a group of soldiers in civilian clothes attacked four Kagimungan leaders – namely, Adviento, Joey Javier, Ronald Reyes and Benito Abarrientos – who were on their way home after clearing weeds and bushes at the site. The soldiers pretended to be drunken civilians arguing by the roadside, then jumped on the passing peasant leaders who were on board a hand tractor.

Javier, then Kagimungan chair, was hit by a soldier’s bolo on the left arm. The leaders identified the leader of their attackers as Capt. George Domingo, the detachment commander of the 41st Infantry Battalion stationed in Baggao. The leaders charged the soldiers with frustrated murder, but a local court acquitted the latter. Javier’s veins in his wrist were severely injured, making him lose muscle control of his left arm.

After the attack, the groundbreaking rites still pushed through on July 6, 2003, despite the presence of the military who positioned themselves by the roadside leading to the site. Still, some 500 peasants attended the activity from Baggao and nearby towns.

The construction of the station was completed in 2003, but the setting up of the community radio, however dragged on, with most of the staff having shifted to other interests and to other jobs.
Battling Termites and Lightning

The station covered an area of three by six meters, built like a container van with iron sheets for walls. The interior walls had a double panel of ply board. The floor was also made of wood. The station’s builders however did not treat the ground, which was infested with termites. Before dwRC was even launched, termites had eaten up the inner walls, the floor, as well as the egg trays, which lined the walls to soundproof the radio booth. The station underwent major repairs before it finally began operation this May.

Last year, the peasant group Kagimungan delegated a staff to finally get the community radio on the air, but the efforts were again met by problems.

In November 2005, the dwRC staff applied to get electrical connection to the station. The electric company however required permission from the village council before approving the connection. For its part, the barangay (village) captain of Baggao Centro attempted to get the station out of the community by conducting a survey on whether the residents favored the setting up of the station.

The newly formed staff of the radio station found out that the village head was changing the survey question and manipulating the results to get them out of the village. Kagimungan then conducted a counter-survey which they presented to the barangay council. It showed that the barangay population wanted the community radio, and the barangay council had no choice but to allow its operation.

By January 2006, the station had electricity to use.

A week after its first airing, dwRC was temporarily cut off the air after the antenna was struck by lightning. Fortunately, the rest of the station’s equipment had electrical grounding and were not affected. Mapa said that they put up the antenna on top of a nearby gmelina tree, and resumed airing after a week.
Voice of the peasants

The Radyo Cagayano staff consisted of volunteers aged 17 to 25, all coming from peasant families in Baggao town. They were all members of different village chapters of Kagimungan. Most had finished only secondary education, and had undergone a short training on broadcasting just last April. Mapa said that the staff knew that working for a non-profit, community radio entails much work but no income, yet they were all committed. The staff also knew about the military harassment on the community radio.

With their lack of broadcast training experience, some of the young staff were even “buckling,” stammering or hesitating as they spoke on air as DJs. Each had their share of “dead air,” or the unwanted silence during broadcast. Yet listeners tuned in to dwRC, as the voices they heard were peasant voices like their own, the music played were their kind of music.

As Mapa traveled from Baggao to Manila for the press conference, the other dwRC staffs also went around local radio stations in Cagayan Valley to give their account of the burning.

Mapa recalled how she and the five radio crew were at a loss in the July 2 early morning attack at the station. “Anong gagawin natin?” they asked each other, while the arsonists escaped. (What are we going to do?)

“Magpapatuloy pa rin ang Radyo Cagayano,,” said Mapa. (Radyo Cagayo will still continue.) Kagimungan sources said there are initial plans to raise funds to rebuild the radio station.

The community radio built by peasants is not about to be silenced permanently. Bulatlat

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

seize the moment and take off where the CBCP has stopped leading


Please find below the full text of the CBCP Pastoral Letter dated July 9 and released July 10. The source is:

Personally, the tenor of the pastoral letter betrays the CBCP's refusal to assume a more militant role, or, in ecumenical parlance, a genuinely prophetic role as advocates of the people. Nagtatago sa maraming palabok ang nasa isip ng maraming obispo: Wala o kulang ang aming alam, ayaw naming ganap na makialam, ayaw naming mamuno, ayaw naming gamitin ang aming pusisyon at group para sa kabutihan ng lahat. Inilibing ito sa sangkatutak na palabok ng mga sipi mula sa encyclical, papal pronouncement, chuch dogma, doktrina, dating CBCP statements, etcetera etcetera.

About the impeachment, the bishops are putting forward an unrealistic criteria for supporting impeachment efforts while offering nothing concrete to the people as to how to effectively ferret out the truth. Kawawa naman ang masa na uhaw sa katotohanan!

The second part of the portion about political killings is disappointing, to say the least.

It is now incumbent upon the more militant Catholic bishops and their counterparts in Protestant and Evangelical churches to seize the moment and take off where the CBCP has stopped thinking, feeling and leading.


Click here for the pastoral statement

Friday, July 07, 2006

What is the objective of the new U.S.-Israeli assault?

What is the objective of the new U.S.-Israeli assault?

July 5, 2006
By Richard Becker, West Coast coordinator of the ANSWER Coalition

The intensifying U.S.-backed Israeli assault on the Palestinian people in Gaza and the West Bank is aimed at dismantling the recently elected Palestinian National Authority (PNA) government and forcing the Palestinians to accept an Israeli-dictated "peace settlement." The Israeli government is utilizing the capture of one of their occupation troops as the pretext to carry out a multi-faceted attack on both Palestinian governmental institutions and the population as a whole. At least one-third of the PNA cabinet and many members of parliament, mayors and other officials have been imprisoned by Israel. Altogether, more than 9,000 Palestinian political prisoners, all abducted from their homeland, remain behind the walls of Israeli jails.

The operation currently underway has been preceded by several years of economic strangulation, which was turned into a near-complete blockade imposed on Gaza after the January 2006 Palestinian elections.

The victory of the Hamas party in that election was followed immediately by a cut-off in most trade as well as international assistance from the European Union, U.S., Canada and other countries. International assistance became critical due to the deliberate destruction of the Palestinian economy by Israel.

The Israeli government under the notorious racist Ehud Olmert (who succeeded the even more notorious Sharon) has been tightening the screws on the Palestinians in Gaza for months, causing widespread shortages of medicine, food and other necessities preventing supplies or funds from getting in to Gaza. Israel cut off tax payments of $55 million per month owed to Palestinians.

The racist apartheid character of the Israeli state is made clear by statements from Israeli leaders themselves. Over nine days in mid-June, 14 Palestinian civilians were killed in Gaza by Israeli missile strikes. The last one killed Fatima Ahmed, the pregnant 37-year-old mother of two young children, and her brother, Zakaria, while wounding 13 other members of the family and destroying their home.

The new Israeli offensive launched on June 27 began with the destruction of Gaza's only power plant, water facilities and the main roads connecting the north and south. The Israeli Air Force has carried out many air strikes, and constant sonic booms over heavily populated areas. Israeli heavy artillery barrages are continuing around the clock. On July 1, the office of the Palestinian Prime Minister, Ismail Haniyeh was destroyed by an Israeli bombing.

As of July 5, 11 Palestinians have been killed and many more wounded. Israeli troops, tanks and helicopters have re-invaded Gaza, surrounding the northern towns of Beit Hanun and Beit Lahiya, and the southern city of Rafah.

In the face of the massive and pre-meditated destruction inflicted by the Israelis, Washington has shown complete backing for Israel’s crimes against humanity. Underlining that the assault has full U.S. backing, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice today said only that it is “high time” the Palestinians release the captured soldier, Gilad Shalit. While attempting to create a global hysteria about North Korean Scud missiles test-fired into the sea, neither Rice nor any other Washington official has uttered a word of criticism of the countless high-tech missiles Israel has fired into populated Palestinian areas.

The U.S.-Israeli strategy against the Palestinians is similar to the one used against Iraq: years of enforced economic hardship, followed by a massive military assault.

As the Palestinian Prime Minister has stated, "the total war is proof of premeditation." There can be no doubt that this offensive has been in the works for a considerable period of time. Nor can there be any doubt that an operation of this magnitude and potential political consequences could have been undertaken by Israeli without close consultation and approval from Washington.

There is a possibility that what is unfolding in Palestine may turn into a wider, regional war. The over-flight of Syrian President Bashir-al-Assad's residence in Latakia, Syria on Wednesday was met with Syria anti-aircraft fire. Both the U.S. and Israeli ruling classes are seeking "regime change" in Damascus.

A key element in the U.S.-Israeli strategy inside Palestine is to seek to demoralize the Palestinian people. The Israeli government is openly trying to show the Palestinians, by inflicting maximum misery on the entire population, that their elected government cannot provide for their basic needs and never will as long as it maintains a posture of resistance. The central message is: All resistance is futile. You (the Palestinians) must either accept your status as a subordinated, enslaved people, or you can (preferably) leave.

Both Tel Aviv and Washington hope that the new Israeli offensive will crush the Palestinian resistance, a key goal of the U.S. and Israel for nearly four decades.

There is, however, no indication, despite all the indescribable suffering imposed by colonial occupation, that the Palestinians are any more ready to surrender today than they were in 1987 or 1967 or 1947. The remarkable fighting spirit of the people despite the immense odds they face appears very strong.

But the Palestinians, who have held out for so long, cannot win by themselves. The forces arrayed against them are too powerful for them to overcome alone. What is needed now more than ever is international solidarity, especially here inside the imperialist state that really constitutes their main enemy.


Two militant leaders killed

July 6, 2006

Two militant leaders killed
“Calderon is engaged in double speak!”-KMP

The militant Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP) condemned in the strongest terms, the killings of two activists in as many days.

According to Danilo “Ka Daning” Ramos, secretary general of KMP, “yesterday at around 12 noon Andro Dimaculangan, 32, a baranggay councilor of Padre Garcia, Batangas and a Bayan Muna municipal coordinator was shot at close range by a motorcycle riding assailant with a Delica van back-up, when he was weighing pork in Brgy. Banaba, Padre Garcia. He was shot in the head and died instantly. He is also a brother of Anakbayan-Batangas treasurer Fortune Dimaculangan. Andro was also charged by the 402nd Provincial Police Mobile Group (PPMG) and the 28th Special Forces Company as being an accessory to a crime in 2002 in an encounter of the police and military units with the New People’s Army (NPA). The case was dismissed,”

“While the other night at around 9pm John Gado, 28 and an active member of Alyansa ng Magbubukid ng Gitnang Luzon-Nueva Ecija (AMGL-NE), the KMP chapter in the province, was shot and killed by military men while he was watching TV at his home in Brgy. Yuson, Nueva Ecija. Before the incident he was attacked and abused by soldiers from the 71st Infantry Battalion under Gen. Jovito Palparan,” said Ramos.

“Now what is new Philippine National Police Chief Oscar Calderon is saying that one of his marching orders to his men is to stop the killings of militants and journalist? From our point of view this is nothing but an empty promise and double speak. In the case of Dimaculangan, we have reason to believe that the 402nd PPMG of the PNP is involved in his murder. The police are also long involved in the anti-insurgency drive and are also active in harassing not NPA rebels but civilian militants who have nothing to do with the insurgency. His order to crush the insurgency and stop the killings is contradictory to what his men are doing because they are the ones killing the militants and strengthening the insurgency,”

“If this continues, Calderon’s battle for the hearts and minds of the people is already lost, even before he has started. The key to licking the insurgency problem is for government to give the basic demands of the people that is land, jobs, decent wages and education. Another way is to reenter the peace talks and to implement the agreements. If this does not happen, then they are fighting a losing war as AFP Chief Senga already admitted,” ended Ramos. # # #

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

Palparan on the cover of Sunday Inquirer

In his all-out war against the Reds, this General claims…
…conscience is the least of his concerns

By Fe Zamora
Last updated 07:18am (Mla time) 07/02/2006
Published on page Q1 of the July 2, 2006 issue of the Philippine Daily Inquirer

HIS head is the first thing one notices about Major Gen. Jovito Palparan. It's small and round like a sineguelas fruit, with ears jutting out like teacup handles. With his crewcut and cheery mien, Palparan looks more like a scout master herding a group of playful youngsters on their first bivouac. Instead, on this sweltering May afternoon in Bgy. Sampaloc, San Rafael, Bulacan, the commanding general of the 7th Infantry Division, is speaking in this "peace rally" organized by the military. Surveying the crowd, Palparan starts his speech soberly: "Sabi nila, mamatay-tao ako (people say I'm a killer)." Breaking slowly into a grin, he continues: "Hindi naman lahat aking pinapatay (But I don't kill everyone)."

The menfolk break into nervous laughter, the women crane their necks for a better view of the speaker. Palparan pauses to savor the moment. "What will we get if we make you suffer?" he continues, teasing the crowd in Filipino. "I don't want to go through life hated by so many people. As soldiers, we are here to help because that is our duty, that is our happiness."

Earlier in the day, some 500 barangay officials as well as alleged members and sympathizers of the communist New People's Army (NPA) members had a seminar on how to defend their communities from NPA intrusion. One after the other, the barangay captains mounted the stage and unfurled an orange cartolina scribbled with answers to several questions posed by the military. "What is the situation in your barangay before the soldiers came? Were there communists present? Why/how did they get there? What did you do to get rid of the communists? What will you do to keep them away?" the questions read.

One barangay captain who had difficulty explaining the situation in his NPA-infested village got a sharp reprimand from the moderator, a military-looking man wearing a vest and who spoke crunchy Filipino. "Don't call them people. Call them NPA, criminals, terrorists," the moderator said gruffly.

"What to do if they refuse to leave?" he prompted, before answering his own question. "Kill them then…" he said, voice booming across the open gymnasium of the Carlos Gonzales High School "Perhaps if we have weapons…" the barangay captain suggested tentatively, twisting his lean body towards the moderator.

"Wala ba kayong mga itak (But don't you have machetes)?," the moderator replied. "Dead men cannot complain anymore. Remember what General Palparan said last night?" The men nodded in approval.

Never has killing and death been spoken of so blithely than on this afternoon of counter-insurgency talk. "Kung hindi aakyat sa stage, tigok! (Come up the stage, or you're dead)," the emcee joked as he called on an ex-NPA member to denounce his former comrades. The crowd tittered nervously, and with good reason. Palparan has vowed to cleanse Bulacan—and Central Luzon, for that matter—of NPAs before his 56th birthday on September 11, a birthdate he shares with deposed strongman Ferdinand Marcos.

"They surrender, they evacuate, they disappear, they die, I don't care what happens to them. What's important is that they are no longer here," Palparan declares.

*Shameless mastermind*

Though delivered light-heartedly, Palparan's statement should not be taken lightly. Of the more than 600 extrajudicial killings of militants, peasants, fisherfolk, students and human rights advocates reported since 2001, almost 500 have been blamed by militants on Palparan, whom they have tagged "the butcher of Mindoro and Eastern Visayas," where he was assigned from 2001 to 2005.

Militant groups have described the general as shameless and "thick-faced" for masterminding the deaths of hapless farmers and fisherfolk, the same people, they say, who toil hard so that the likes of Palparan, President Arroyo and the rest of the country, can have food on their table.

"Palparan is not only arrogant, he is also psychotic," says Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP) Secretary General Danilo Ramos. But Palparan merely scoffs at the accusations.

"(The killings are) being attributed to me, but I did not kill them. I just inspired (the triggermen)," he chuckles. "We are not admitting responsibility here, what I'm saying is that these are necessary incidents."

In the week following President Arroyo's declaration of total war against communist insurgents, Justice Secretary Raul Gonzalez has said as much, dismissing the loss of innocent lives as "collateral damage." Palparan does him one better. "There are no innocent victims," he says. "These people are suspected of having done wrong in the community." He then gave a litany of how the NPAs meted so-called revolutionary justice on villagers suspected of playing footsie with the military.

"The victims (of NPA justice) have families, they have relatives. If the threat comes to them to a point when they have to take action, then maybe they should. They are only defending themselves," he adds.

Palparan similarly shrugs off charges of human rights abuses leveled against him. "Wala akong hang-up dyan. (I have no hang-ups about that). We are fighting a movement that is violent. More violence will come to us if we just allow them to do what they want," he says.

*Simple choice*

He rues as well the lack of troops fielded against the enemy, and how some soldiers lack motivation in pursuing the target. "If I were the chief of staff, I'd take control over resources. Those who don't work will get relieved, as simple as that. What's important is for them to do the job. Do everything you can to clear the area. It's all up to you."

A fellow officer who has worked with Palparan says the general is actually giving people a choice. "The choice is simple: who would these people rather have as foes: the military or the NPA?"

Palparan may have been described by his detractors as a soldier of death, but he is no phenomenon in the Philippine countryside where poverty rules and the wealthy govern. The disparity between the impoverished majority and the wealthy few has provided a natural fertile ground for insurgency in Central Luzon where Col. Napoleon Valeriano and the "skull squadrons" hunted the Huks in the '50s. The '70s and the '80s produced other notorious personalities, among them Col. Carlos Lademora with the Lost Command, who sowed terror in Samar and later in Mindanao, and Lt. Col. Rodolfo Aguinaldo, the self-styled rebel hunter who, in the North, had been known to torture his prey.

*Killing machine*

Palparan joined the Armed Forces just as the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) launched its secessionist war in Mindanao in 1974. Unlike the Huks who were into guerilla hit-and-run tactics, the MNLF favored conventional warfare, firing rockets at the government troops in battles that often lasted from dusk till dawn. Palparan was shipped off to Jolo, the heartland of the Moro secessionist movement. He was with the 24th Infantry Batallion, which has been described by a retired Army general as a unit geared for "shock action" against the MNLF.

"That unit was a virtual killing machine: we had to caution them to slow down," the retired official said. Palparan describes it as "a kill-or-be-killed situation." He said the fighting was so fierce that he lost 40 men during a month-long battle in 1979. The 500-strong battalion would lose over 200 troops in the manhunt for Usman Sali, the leader of the group that massacred Brig. Gen. Teodulo Bautista and 34 soldiers and men on October 10, 1977.

"So I became company commander and operations officer at the same time because no other officer would report to the unit," Palparan recalls.

The battalion commander then was Col. Jose Dado, while the brigade commander was Brig. Gen. Rodolfo Canieso, a tough-talking soldier who became a legend in Mindanao as "kan-yonieso," mainly because his preferred weapon of engagement was the cannon. According to lore, Canieso never balked at raining cannons upon enemy positions. He was reportedly as eager to fire cannons at troops who hesitated to attack the enemy, making sure that the cannons landed on the soldiers' asses, thereby jolting them to move forward.

Still, in any armed conflict, it is the civilians who suffer the most, acknowledges Palparan during the interview in Bulacan. Women and children become natural victims "because they don't know where to run, how to hide," he says. The worse part was that in Sulu, battle-weary soldiers saw the Tausug children as "future enemies, so the thinking was to finish them off while they were still young," Palparan reveals.

*Convincing victory*

But it was a "convincing victory" that the 24th IB achieved in Patikul some 26 years ago, the general crows. "We finished off the MNLF—at least in Patikul—until Butz Aquino revived it by bringing Nur Misuari back in 1986."

The 24th IB would be moved to Central Luzon in the early '80s to fight the NPAs. Palparan would also join the unit, and by 1989, would assume the post as battalion commander, which he held until 1991. His list of human rights violations reportedly started about this time, with him scoring at least seven incidents of salvagings, five incidents of harassment, five incidents of illegal arrest and detention, two incidents of grenade bombing, and one incident each of massacre and aerial assault, according to the militants' report on Palparan's human rights record.

The controversial officer also claims "convincing victory" in Naujan, Victoria and Baco, all in Mindoro Oriental, which were among his areas of operation as chief of the 204th Brigade from 2001 to 2003. Another "convincing victory" was in Calbiga, Samar, which he also covered as chief of the 8th Infantry Division from February to June last year. But it's a victory daubed with blood, according to militants, who tally nearly 300 incidents of extra judicial killings. Such a record has earned Palparan the "butcher" tag from several people's organizations.

*Alleged abuses*

Despite the reported trail of death and disappearances that follow in his wake, Palparan remains in the good graces of the Arroyo administration. In September 2005, he was assigned to head the 7th ID which has jurisdiction over Pampanga, Tarlac, Zambales, Bataan, Pangasinan, Aurora and Bulacan. By January this year, Bulacan Gov. Josefina dela Cruz started receiving reports about Palparan's alleged human rights abuses.

"I have no quarrel with General Palparan on counter-insurgency, but I cannot quite agree with his methods," says Dela Cruz. She was particularly miffed when Palparan's men began house-to-house searches without even informing the mayor, much less the local police.

"Sabi ba naman, walang mayor-mayor or governor-governor sa amin (He said he doesn't give a damn about mayors or governors)" Dela Cruz says, quoting the report from a local official.

Since then, Dela Cruz has been crossing swords with the controversial general in public. And Palparan has fought back by telling the media that the governor was an NPA supporter. Dela Cruz says Palparan's move was predictable. In fact, she notes, the general has also linked Bulacan Rep. Lorna Silverio to the rebel movement after the legislator held a dialog with the military following the February 1 massacre of five farm workers in San Ildefonso town.

(Palparan and Governor Dela Cruz met last week and agreed to "open lines" on issues involving the conduct and operations of soldiers in Bulacan amid the government's heightened anti-insurgency campaign.--Ed.)

*Ignored resolution*

Separate fact-findings conducted by the militant Karapatan and the provincial board pointed to the 24th IB as the culprits. In March, the provincial board passed a resolution urging Palparan to pull out Sgt. Rizal Hilario, a member of the 24th IB, from San Ildefonso, to allow scared witnesses to come out and testify. Palparan had apparently ignored the resolution because Hilario is still maintaining his base in Barangay Pinaod, site of the massacre.

Through all these controversies, Palparan would only shrug his shoulders.

"Hindi pwedeng atrasan dito, tuloy tuloy na ito (There's no going back now; we have to keep going)" he says. In fact, he adds, the military is already behind schedule.

"If only I could assign one soldier to guard every house…" he says wistfully.

If he can't clear Central Luzon of insurgents by September, Palparan says he is hoping that his successors "would do the job so at least I can retire in peace," he says. He definitely doesn't want to end up like Aguinaldo, who was killed by the NPA hit squad in June 2001.

Indeed, Palparan has gone a long way from his humble beginnings in Cagayan de Oro City, where he was born on Sept. 11, 1950. The boy spent his childhood in his father's hometown in Malitnog, Southern Leyte, his high school years back in CDO, and college at the University of the East in Manila where he earned his BS in Business Administration in 1973. He pursued further studies even while in the military, tucking an MA in Management from the Philippine Christian University and an MA in National Security Administration from the National Defense College of the Philippines.

*Low-key life*

Through all his high-profile war against the NPA, Palparan leads a low-key private life. Details about his family are scanty. "If they see me worried, then they would also worry. They would be reacting to me," he says.

"But I can still go to Divisoria with my wife. She is bigger than me, so she's my security," he laughs.

He continues: "If I pray every morning for God to protect me, He might think I have become nervous. If you are doing right, God will protect you, so I do my job. You do not ask God for things that you can do; you only ask God for things that you cannot do yourself. I'm a practical person that way. I don't want to give the Lord too much burden," Besides, Palparan avers, he has no problem sleeping at night. There are no skeletons walking in his dreams, he says.

"That's being paranoid; time to be confined at Ward 24 and ½," he laughs out loud. "It could also be conscience. But I don't have that," he shrugs