By FIDEL V. AGCAOILI
Chairperson, NDFP Human Rights Committee
The National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) wishes to respond to the Statement of Concern issued by 11.11.11 on December 10, 2004 in which the latter condemns so-called human rights violations in the Philippines.
You posit the premise that there is a violent environment obtaining in the Philippines and you claim that this prevents human development. By violent environment you mean presumably the armed conflict between the Government of the Republic of the Philippines (GRP) and NDFP forces. This is for us a faulty premise. This is another variant of the GRP line that the armed struggle being waged by the people to overthrow the unjust ruling system in the Philippines is the cause of poverty and underdevelopment. This is turning the truth upside down. Before the people's armed struggle, there is first the unjust social order. This unjust social order is more violent and vicious because it kills the poor daily and silently. This unjust social order cannot remain. It must be overthrown.
But the people who benefit from the existing oppressive and unjust ruling system and fight with all their might to maintain it are sometimes the loudest in calling for peace. They make such sentimental appeals as "Why should brother kill brother?" or "We are all Filipinos, why should we fight one another?" In fact, what they want is a peace of the grave. They are usually the first to use violence against the people as in the case of Hacienda Luisita. But they want the people to stop fighting so that they can go on oppressing and exploiting the people.
Those who call themselves progressive must take care that they do not fall into this same framework. But those who have an uncritical bias for so-called peaceful methods often end up being on the side of the oppressors and singing their tune.
In the peace negotiations between the GRP and the NDFP, the revolutionary forces have always maintained the position that a just and lasting peace is only possible upon the resolution of the roots of the armed conflict. The people will not stop fighting until the unjust social order is overthrown.
We also take exception to the terms "state and non-state actors". These terms that are becoming fashionable in the NGO world tend to degrade the status of revolutionary forces by lumping them together with so-called "non-state actors" as right-wing paramilitary groups, bandit groups, armed gangs, etc.
The Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP), New People's Army (NPA) and NDFP are waging a revolutionary struggle to overthrow the unjust social order in the Philippines. Even before nationwide victory, a new social order is already being set up. The democratic organs of people's government are being formed in many areas of the country based on the organized masses in the countryside and urban areas. Socio-economic programs that benefit the people are being carried out. A legal and judicial system to maintain peace and order and punish criminals has been established and being further developed.
The complaint regarding so-called "prominent CPP dissidents" being targeted has been answered and explained in statements issued by the CPP, NPA and NDFP. The revolutionary movement makes a distinction between ideological and political differences on the one hand and criminal activities on the other. The revolutionary movement struggles against contrary ideas through discussion and debate. Criminals are punished in accordance with the revolutionary legal and judicial system.
Concerning what you cite as a "growing fear among a number of progressive political parties, NGOs and People's organisations in the Bondoc Peninsula (Southeast of Manila) to become 'legitimate targets' of the military operations of the NPA", let us proceed to look into the truth of the matter.
The so-called progressive groups you refer to actually serve as appendages of the GRP in its "counter-insurgency" program against the revolutionary forces. For your information, no less than the chairman of AKBAYAN Ricardo Reyes is notorious as among those chiefly responsible for the hysterical Kampanyang Ahos (a bloody witchhunt that victimised hundreds of CPP cadres and members, NPA commanders and fighters and mass leaders and organizers). There is an outstanding complaint against him before the people's court for grave human rights violations and for having been an intelligence asset of Colonel Robert Delfin. The Baraquel brothers, who are both military officers, are reported to be among the handlers of AKBAYAN.
During the election period, the party list AKBAYAN together with the propagandists in the AFP orchestrated a smear campaign against progressive party lists Bayan Muna, Anakpawis, Anak ng Bayan, Gabriela Women's Party, and others by tagging them as "communist fronts". This red-baiting was meant to intimidate people from voting for these party list groups. This was also used to justify the violent attacks on leaders and members of these progressive party list groups. In the countryside, GRP troops were openly campaigning for AKBAYAN and threatening reprisal against people who would vote for the progressive party list groups.
The pseudo-progressive NGO you refer to in the Bondoc peninsula is playing the same counter-insurgency role. It promotes the reformist line that begging the Manila government to implement its bogus land reform program will deliver land to the peasants. The bogus land reform law to which these pseudo-progressives are hoodwinking the masses to put their trust in was passed during the presidency of big-landlord Corazon Aquino, whose family owns the unreformed Hacienda Luisita and now the site of the infamous Hacienda Luisita massacre, and has failed to solve the age-old feudal problem in the Philippines in its 17 years of existence. This pseudo-progressive NGO is perpetuating an illusion and giving false hopes to the peasant masses. It is organizing reformist "people's organizations" to draw the peasant masses away from the revolutionary mass organizations. It thus plays a special role in the divide-and-rule tactic being applied by the military in the countryside.
The so-called "farmer leader" you refer to in your statement is in fact a local intelligence agent of the Philippine military and member of the military's barrio intelligence network (BIN). This BIN is set up by the military to spy on the revolutionary movement and the peasant masses in the countryside. This so-called "farmer leader" was always armed. He was responsible for the arrest and murder of suspected supporters of the revolutionary movement. Please read closely the reference material previously sent to you.
The revolutionary movement at present is widely implementing the minimum program of land reform. It consists of the lowering of land rent paid by peasants to landlords, the increase in wages for farm workers and the elimination of usury. The revolutionary movement also promotes various forms of cooperation to increase production and improve the living standards of the peasant masses. This minimum program benefits the people and is in accordance with the overall strength of the organized masses and the armed strength of the revolution. The maximum program of land expropriation and free distribution to the tillers can only be implemented when the revolutionary forces have seized political power.
The pseudo-progressives want to pose as being more revolutionary than the revolutionary movement by promising land to the peasants immediately. But they are merely spreading an illusion because they want the masses to pin their hopes on the goodwill of the big-landlords who are vehemently opposed to land reform. They thus play a useful role in the military's counterinsurgency program that uses violence and deception against the people.
In any case, the Comprehensive Agreement on Respect for Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law (CARHRIHL) signed by the GRP and the NDFP in their peace negotiations provides a framework for the protection of human rights and the redress of grievances. Please be reminded that the NDFP was the negotiating party that initiated and demanded the CARHRIHL as the first item in the substantive agenda of the peace negotiations. A mechanism to monitor the implementation of the CARHRIHL has been set up by the GRP and NDFP, with the assistance of the Norwegian government. Complaints of alleged violations can be submitted to either the GRP or NDFP section in the Joint Monitoring Committee (JMC) for appropriate action.
We decry the fact that AKBAYAN and other detractors of the national liberation movement in the Philippines spread their unfounded charges through the press, instead of submitting whatever complaint and evidence to either the GRP or the NDFP in the Joint Monitoring Committee. We are also disappointed that 11.11.11 seems to be partisan to the detractors of the NDFP and other revolutionary forces by echoing and mimicking unfounded charges and conjuring the illusion that the GRP and NDFP are close or equal competitors in committing human rights violations. For your information, to date, there are 275 complaints of human rights violations against the GRP and only two against the NDFP among the complaints submitted to the JMC. Moreover, in its latest tabulation of reported human rights violations under the Arroyo regime, from 21 January 2001 to 5 December 2004, KARAPATAN listed a total of 3,560 cases, involving 198,308 victims, 18,977 families, 123 communities and 1,016 households. KARAPATAN is the leading alliance of human rights and people's organizations in the Philippines.
Foreign NGOs working in the Philippines should be more circumspect and take into account the social realities in the Philippines if they wish to play a positive role. Those of you who call yourselves progressive should take care that you do not end up embracing the framework of the hysterical US ":war on terror" and the reactionary forces that are fighting tooth and nail to preserve the unjust social order. Otherwise, you become the unwitting supporters and apologists of the oppressors and exploiters.