Gang of generals, undeclared martial law are keeping Arroyo in power

By LUIS G. JALANDONI
Member, NDFP National Executive Committee
Chairperson, NDFP Negotiating Panel

The Filipino people have been clamoring for Gloria M. Arroyo’s ouster not only because they consider her a fake president but also because she used the May 2004 elections as her own coup in her desperate greed to stay in power. Military rule is back in the Philippines and the whole country is virtually under a state of martial law.

By LUIS G. JALANDONI
Member, NDFP National Executive Committee
Chairperson, NDFP Negotiating Panel

The Filipino people have been clamoring for Gloria M. Arroyo’s ouster not only because they consider her a fake president but also because she used the May 2004 elections as her own coup in her desperate greed to stay in power. Military rule is back in the Philippines and the whole country is virtually under a state of martial law.

Arroyo can be ousted from power if the broad array of all democratic and progressive forces, anti-Gloria politicians and patriotic members of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) act as one to force the reactionary president and her tiny gang of military and police generals out of power.

Arroyo’s executive secretary, retired General Eduardo Ermita, and AFP chief, Gen. Hermogenes Esperon, Jr., should stop playing their worn-out antics by trying to conceal what patently is an undeclared martial law and the fact that what is holding Arroyo in power is the support given to her by a handful of most-favored generals and her subservience to the Bush government.

Esperon is either out of sync or is in need of a “reality check” when he says that unlike what happened in Thailand this week no coup d’etat will ever take place in the Philippines because the AFP chain of command remains "intact" and the military is "loyal to the constituted authorities to include the judiciary, the legislature, and the executive."

Esperon is wrong on two counts: Arroyo and her gang of military and police officials, including the current AFP chief and former police general Arturo Lomibao and Comelec commissioners, staged their own coup in May 2004 by manipulating the elections to make it appear that Arroyo won the presidential race. It was through the conspiracy of a number of generals and their use of the coercive machineries of the AFP and police, backed by the Commission on Elections (Comelec) and a few other agencies, that defrauded the people of their votes in that election. A number of lives were sacrificed and many more have received death threats for exposing this monumental fraud.

It is precisely this silent coup that, absent of what her critics aver as “constitutional legitimacy”, has kept Arroyo in power. The presidential title is just a façade and Arroyo wields power mainly because of her other position, even if fraudulently usurped, as “commander in chief” of the reactionary AFP. Without the military and police officials who backed her “election” and her subservience to the Bush government, Arroyo is just a wimp.

That the reactionary AFP chain of command is “intact” is also baseless and Esperon is probably only speaking for himself. Just beneath the top hierarchy is an undercurrent of unrest simmering among officers and soldiers who are not only fed up with the unbridled corruption by top military officials but are also increasingly aware that soldiers are only being used by Arroyo and her own clique for her narrow political greed and for persecuting the people.

As a holdover of the Marcos fascist dictatorship, Ermita should be the last person to pontificate about martial law. As a junior implementor and US-trained “psywar expert” during Marcos’ martial rule, Ermita was part of the dictatorship’s psychological warfare program which became a major component of fascist rule. Today, he is simply playing the same role particularly when he “wishes” that “the condition that led to the declaration of martial law in 1972 will not reappear so that it will not necessitate such drastic measure”. In the first place, it was Marcos and military men like Ermita who created the conditions for martial law then, blaming the Left for its declaration. It is the presence of Ermita and his ilk in the Arroyo regime, and the anti-people and anti-democratic policies that they pursue, that make for martial law today.

Ermita is part of a clique of military and police generals and other senior officials, numbering about 25, who now occupy strategic positions in the Arroyo regime making it the most highly-militarized government since Marcos. As presiding officer of Arroyo’s war board, otherwise called the “Cabinet Oversight Committee on Internal Security”, he is in command of Arroyo’s total war policy, “Operation Plan Bantay Laya” (OBL). OBL is nothing but a recycled Marcos-style operation which aims to physically eliminate leaders and members of the most effective legitimate opposition by demonizing them as “enemies of the state” and making them easy prey of death squads.

Oplan Bantay Laya is Arroyo’s principal instrument in keeping herself in power and in “neutralizing” democratic dissent, alongside other measures such as the February emergency rule, gag orders, the so-called calibrated preemptive response and press censorship. The de facto martial law is being aided by the rush to railroad amendments to the reactionary Constitution – which will lead to the further consolidation of Arroyo’s power – and the anti-democratic “anti-terrorism bill.”

The fact alone that Arroyo and her generals can commit a spate of extra-judicial executions, abductions, enforced disappearances and numerous other human rights violations and still create a task force and a commission in order to wash their hands off these atrocities attests to the supremacy of the military over the so-called civilian bureaucracy.

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