Wednesday, August 09, 2006

No. 1 recruiter of the NPA

No. 1 recruiter of the NPA

By Conrado de Quiros
Last updated 01:09am (Mla time) 08/08/2006

Published on Page A10 of the August 8, 2006 issue of the Philippine Daily Inquirer

WITH all that business of the overseas Filipino workers in dire straits in Lebanon and the money of the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration that failed to get their way, I never got to write about the horrendous killings that took place last week. I can't let that pass without bearing witness.

Frankly, I don't know what's happening to us. Three deaths were recorded Monday last week and, in Metro Manila at least, I never saw lamentations being sent to the heavens or people taking to the streets in violent protest. Is it possible we now think it's perfectly normal to butcher activists and journalists and the planet does not stop spinning on its moral axis when these things happen? Have we sunk to the level of animals, unmindful of the plight of others, concerned only with our ragged efforts to survive?

The official government propaganda is that these murderous efforts are being taken to end once and for all a scourge of democracy in a record two years' time. It is wrong on both counts: on the scourge and on the timetable.

If the current murder spree proves anything, it is that you will not find the scourge of democracy in the victims, you will find it in the perpetrators. That is patent in one of the (intended) victims on that bloody Monday, Dr. Constancio Claver, who was ambushed on the national highway in Tabuk, Kalinga, in broad daylight. Claver had just driven his 11-year-old daughter to school when the attack took place. He survived the attack but his wife, Alice, did not. Their 7-year-old daughter was unharmed but remains in shock. Claver himself was treated for multiple gunshot wounds.

Doesn't your blood just boil at this atrocity? It's the worst nightmare of all. Every time I read about someone being gunned down in front of his children, I do not think of those who die, I think of those who see them die. Psychologists say it leaves a lasting scar in the mind. I myself think it's a wound that never heals, the blood continues to spurt at unguarded moments. But for this to happen to a 7-year old! I can't see that Claver can be happy to have survived. He has been murdered several times over.

And what was his crime? Nothing more or less than to belong to the Bayan Muna party-list group. Otherwise, he is a doctor who has foregone a practice in the city, or abroad, to minister to the needs of the dirt-poor of Tabuk. He is a "barefoot doctor," and one much loved by his community. Alice's burial itself drew a record 7,000 people, some from far-off villages. Grateful tribute to one who had been with them in times of adversity.

It does remind you of another barefoot doctor who spurned the call of an easy life, or indeed a luxurious one, to devote a life to tending to the wretched of the earth. He was Bobby de la Paz, whose name will continue to ring after all the other Filipino doctors here and elsewhere have become a hollow memory even to their kin. He was gunned down by Ferdinand Marcos' henchmen during martial law in the heart of Samar Island for the same crime as Claver. Then, as now, keeping the poor alive body and soul, flesh and spirit, was, and is, the most subversive thing in the world.

Look at the fallen, like Claver, and look at the standing, like Maj. Gen. Jovito Palparan and the multitude of grinning "trapo" [traditional politicians] assembled at the House of Representatives on the day Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo presumed to tell the nation its state, and ask yourself: Who is the scourge of democracy? Claver or Gloria? Alice or Palparan? The more than 700 dead activists, many of them students in the first flush of youth, or House Speaker Joe de Venecia and his cohorts, many of them still outright crooks in the twilight of their lives?

Which brings me to the part about ending the insurgency in two years' time. That was what Marcos advertised, too, when he wreaked a bloodbath upon this earth. He succeeded only in fanning it. It is the folly of tyrants and dictators to imagine they will weaken anything they call a scourge or enemy. They merely turn the thing they call scourge into salvation, they merely turn the thing they call enemy into friend. Tyranny and dictatorship are the magic wand that turns anything they find despicable into something lofty and honorable.

It's now a crime to join Bayan Muna? Then join Bayan Muna!

What makes the killings more damnable today than during Marcos' time isn't just that Marcos was at least elected twice before he became a dictator while Arroyo never was before she did -- though that is a humongous difference enough as it is. It is that Marcos came to power on his own while Arroyo became so because of us. We rested upon her shoulders our people-power dreams of a vibrant democratic life, the very thing she is now "salvaging" with abandon.

But in the end, during Marcos' time the US Department of State itself became alarmed at the strength of the insurgency, almost single-handedly fanned by Marcos himself. In the end, we ourselves will be alarmed by the fury of the insurgency, almost single-handedly resurrected by Arroyo herself. What the US called Marcos then, we might call Arroyo now:

The No. I recruiter of the NPA.

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