PHILIPPINES: 'War on terrorism' targets the left



The Philippines government, in alliance with Washington, is using the "war on terror" as cover for a full-scale assault on the revolutionary left.

Immediately after the 9/11 attacks in the US, Manila announced its backing for Washington's "war on terror". It urged the US to bring its war to the Philippines, initially to help the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) to hunt down and destroy the kidnap group Abu Sayyaf, which was holding hostages — including two US missionaries — on the southern island of Basilian.

The US sent nearly 1000 soldiers as advisers, trainers and logistics personnel in an exercise with the AFP known as Balikatan 02-1. Washington also increased military aid to the Philippines by US$92.3 million, for AFP counterinsurgency operations. In 2002, there were 10 exercises in the Philippines, involving 5000 US troops.

In return, Philippine President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo signed the Mutual Logistics Support Agreement, which give the US access to the Philippines bases it was forced to give up in 1992.

Having destroyed the Abu Sayyaf group on Basilian, Manila and Washington are now targeting the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) and its armed wing, the New People's Army (NPA). The Philippines left fear that this also signals a more general crack down on left and progressive forces.

On August 8, the US State Department placed the CPP-NPA on its lists of international "terrorist" groups. The European Union and Australia took similar actions in October 28. CPP-NPA bank accounts and other assets abroad have been frozen.

The CPP was formed in 1968 as a Maoist split from the pro-Moscow Partido Komunista ng Pilipinas; the NPA was created a year later. The CPP became one of the largest of the revolutionary left parties in the region and played a leading role in the struggle against the US-backed dictator, Ferdinand Marcos.

On January 24, Romulo Kintanar, former head of the NPA was shot dead in Quezon City. On January 27, NPA spokesperson Gregorio Rosal was quoted in the Manila Times as claiming NPA responsibility for the assassination.

Kintanar joined the NPA in 1970 and became its chief of general command in 1985. He was captured in August 1991 by the military but was released in September 1992 on bail as part of the Philippines government's peace initiatives. However, he was expelled from the CPP after political differences and in 1996 he formally joined the Lakas-NUCD party. At the time of his death, Kintanar was security consultant for the Bureau of Immigration and Deportation and the National Electrification Administration.

The Manila government quickly went on the offensive, charging Jose Maria Sison, chief political consultant of the National Democratic Front and founder of the CPP, with murder and launched a "final" peace plan.

"This conflict shall be settled by resorting to all the means within the democratic arsenal, including the use of legitimate force and principled negotiation under our constitution", presidential spokesperson Ignacio Bunye said in a statement quoted in the Philippine Inquirer on January 27.

Bunye said that President Arroyo had ordered the military to step up its operations against the CPP-NPA and that security forces would "conduct intelligence saturation drives to flush out underground cells and to expose the front organisations that are according them political and material support and sanctuary".

The government would "bring before the eyes of the international community more evidence of the terrorist and criminal acts of the CPP-NPA and to file charges against terrorist leaders trying to escape justice in foreign lands", Bunye said.

On January 27, police filed separate charges of murder against Sison in local courts for the killing of former congressman Rodolfo Aguinaldo in Cagayan on June 12, 2001, and two police officers at Quezon police station in late 2002. Sison currently lives in Utrecht, Holland. Police are basing these cases against Sison on the claim that the killings were carried out after he issued instructions to the NPA to intensify attacks against the government and its facilities. The Philippines police also want to charge Sison with the murder of Kintanar.

The Philippines government has asked the Dutch government to surrender Sison. According to Philippines foreign secretary Blas Ople, who has met with Dutch secretary of state for European affairs Atzo Nicolautch, the Dutch government has agreed to the request.

The Philippines government's "final" draft peace plan was endorsed by Arroyo on January 25. In reality, it is an ultimatum to NPA. In return for an amnesty, the leadership and combatants must surrender their weapons and renounce the armed struggle.

On January 25, Patricio Ramirez, spokesperson for the left-wing Workers Party of the Philippines (Partido ng Manggagawang Pilipino — PMP) said in a statement: "The assassination of Kintanar is being used and intentionally manipulated to whip up anti-communist hysteria to discredit the entire progressive movement. These efforts dovetail with recent attempts to label progressive organisations as 'terrorists', as shown by the statement of the President referring to militant unionists who 'terrorise the factories'. Such anti-communist hysteria conveniently feeds into the 'war against terrorism' propaganda that is being used to attack democratic rights, as well as the progressive movement."

From Green Left Weekly, February 12, 2003.

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