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No to Balikatan! Junk VFA!

Posted on 04 April 2013 by admin

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Dagdag ng tropang Kano sa PH

Posted on 04 February 2012 by admin

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Legal opinion on the VFA – Public Interest Law Center

Posted on 24 May 2011 by admin

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Praymer sa VFA

Posted on 01 April 2009 by admin

1. Ano ang VFA?
Ang RP-US Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) ay isang kasunduang pang-militar sa pagitan ng Pilipinas at ng Estados Unidos (US). Ito ang ginagamit na ligal na balangkas sa pagpasok-labas at pananatili ng mga tropang Amerikano sa Pilipinas. Ito ang umiral na kasunduang militar sa pagitan ng dalawang bansa, patungkol sa “status of forces”, matapos ibasura ng Senado ng Pilipinas ang bagong tratado para sa base militar ng US. Layon nitong mapanatili ang pwersang militar ng US sa bansa kahit walang bagong tratado na nagpapahintulot ng mga base militar ng US.

Ang VFA ay binubuo ng dalawang dokumento – ang VFA 1 at ang VFA 2. Ang VFA 1 ay tungkol sa pagtrato sa mga sundalong Amerikano na nasa Pilipinas habang ang VFA 2 naman ay tungkol sa pagtrato sa mga sundalong Pilipino na nasa US.

Nagkaroon ng bisa ang VFA noong Mayo 27, 1999 matapos itong pagtibayin ng Senado ng Pilipinas. Ayon sa Konstitusyon ng Pilipinas, ang pagpasok at pananatili ng dayuhang tropa sa Pilipinas ay nangangailangan ng isang tratado na pinagtibay ng Senado. Itinuturing kung gayon ng Senado ng Pilipinas na isang tratado ang VFA.

Taliwas naman ang katayuan nito sa US, dahil hindi naman ito pinagtibay ng Senado ng US. Sinabi lang US Ambassador noon sa Pilipinas na kinikilala ng US ang VFA bilang isang tratado.

Ayon sa mga gobyerno ng Pilipinas at US, ang VFA ay implementasyon ng RP-US Mutual Defense Treaty (MDT) na pinagtibay noong 1951. Isinasaad ng MDT na magtutulungan ang US at Pilipinas kapag nagkaroon ng pag-atakeng militar mula sa ibang bansa sa teritoryo ng alinman sa US at Pilipinas.

Bahagi diumano ng pagpapatupad ng MDT at VFA ang isinasagawang taunang Balikatan Military Exercises sa pagitan ng tropang Amerikano at Pilipino (gayong wala namang panlabas na banta sa Pilipinas). Libu-libong sundalong Amerikano ang pumupunta sa Pilipinas bawat taon upang magdaos ng mga tinatawag na pagsasanay militar, magsagawa ng mga diumano misyong “humanitarian” at iba pa. Tinatayang nasa 30,000 hanggang 50,000 sundalong Amerikano na ang nakapasok sa bansa sa ilalim ng Balikatan.

Katuwang ng VFA ang iba pang kasunduang pang-militar sa pagitan ng US at Pilipinas kabilang ang 2002 Mutual Logistics Support Agreement (MLSA). Sa ilalim ng MLSA, malayang naipapasok ng US ang mga kagamitang pang-militar nito at nakakapagtayo ng mga pasilidad para diumano sa mga pagsasanay at proyekto ng Balikatan. Binuo rin ang Security Engagement Board (SEB) noong 2006 upang pangasiwaan ang diumano kooperasyong panseguridad ng US at Pilipinas. Pinatitindi ng mga kasunduang ito ang presensya at panghihimasok militar ng US sa bansa.

2. Bakit may VFA?
Ayon sa mga opisyal ng gobyerno ng US at ng Pilipinas, layunin ng VFA na pahigpitin ang relasyong pang-seguridad ng dalawang bansa. Para sa gobyerno ng Pilipinas, mahalaga ang VFA upang diumano maging modernisado ang hukbong sandatahan nito. Sa mga nakaraang taon, ginagamit na din ang “gera kontra terorismo” upang bigyang katwiran ang VFA.

Pero ang totoo, idinikta ng gobyerno ng US ang VFA sa gobyerno ng Pilipinas dahil kailangan nitong magkaroon ng kapalit sa ibinasurang 1947 Military Bases Agreement (MBA). Matatandaang bunga ng protesta ng mamamayan, tinanggihan ng Senado ng Pilipinas ang pagkakaroon ng bagong tratado sa base militar matapos mawalang bisa ang MBA noong 1991. Pinalayas ang mga permanenteng baseng militar ng US sa Subic, Clark at iba pang lugar ng bansa.

Mahalaga ang lokasyon ng Pilipinas sa istratehiyang pang-seguridad at pang-militar ng US sa rehiyong Asya Pasipiko. Kasangkapan ang VFA upang panatilihin at palakasin ang pwersang militar ng US sa rehiyon. Ipinuposisyon ng US ang tropang militar nito upang bantayan ang mga pang-ekonomikong interes ng US sa rehiyon tulad ng mga negosyong Amerikano, ruta ng kalakalan at interes ng nito sa langis at iba pang likasyaman maging ang pampulitikang interes na panatilihin ang dominanteng impluwensya nito sa rehiyon. Dahil dito, kailangan ng US ng akses para sa tropa nito sa loob ng Pilipinas. Sa halip na malakihang permanenteng baseng militar, ikinukubli ngayon ng US ang permanenteng pagbabase nito sa iba’t-ibang bahagi ng bansa sa pamamagitan ng VFA.

Sa ilalim ng VFA, maaaring pumunta kahit sa alin mang bahagi ng bansa ang mga  diumanong “bisitang” tropang Amerikano. Ang buong Pilipinas, kung gayon, ay nagmimistulang baseng militar ng US. Bahagi ng pananatili ng mga tropang US sa bansa
ang mga itinayong permanenteng pasilidad at opisina ng mga sundalong Amerikano sa loob ng mga kampong militar ng Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) na tinatawag nilang Cooperative Security Locations (CSL) hanggang sa mga tinatawag na Forward Operating Sites (FOS). Mayroong CSL sa Camp Aguinaldo, ang punong himpilan ng AFP; at FOS sa Camp Navarro sa Zamboanga City gayundin sa mga kampong militar sa Cotabato City at Basilan.

Ang matagalang presensya naman ng mga tropang Kano sa Sulu ay maaaring tignan na nakatali sa ginagawang oil exploration ng Exxon Mobil sa Sulu Sea. Ang Amerikanong Exxon Mobil ang tinuturing na pinakamalaking kompanya ng langis sa mundo ngayon. Sinasabi din na sa proseso ng mga high-tech na surveillance at satellite mapping na ginagawa ng mga tropang Kano, natutunton nila ang mga posibleng nakaimbak na langis, mineral at iba pang likas yaman sa teritoryo ng Pilipinas.

3. Bakit tinututulan ng mamamayan ang VFA?
Nilalabag ng VFA ang pambansang soberanya at panteritoryong integridad ng Pilipinas. Pinapahintulutan nito ang malayang labas-pasok at walang taning na pananatili ng walang hanggang bilang ng tropang Amerikano. Mula 2002, halimbawa, naka-istasyon na sa Mindanao ang mga tropang Amerikano para sa mga diumano misyong “humanitarian”, na sa aktwal ay interbensyong militar. Ang mga permanenteng pasilidad nila sa Camp Aguinaldo, Camp Navarro at iba pang kampong militar sa bansa ay patunay ding hindi lamang bumibisita ang mga sundalong Amerikano at katunayan ay permanente
nang nagbabase sa Pilipinas.

Ang US Joint Special Operations Task Force-Philippines (JSOTFP) sa ilalim ng US Pacific Command ay nakahimpil sa loob ng Camp Navarro sa Zamboanga mula pa noong 2002. Ito ay sa kabila ng pagbabawal ng Konstitusyon sa permanenteng presensya
at base militar ng dayuhang tropa sa Pilipinas. Di maaaring basta basta pasukin ng sinumang Pilipino ang Headquarters ng JSOTFP. May sarili ding seguridad ang pasilidad nito na pinamamahalaan ng mga Amerikano habang may Pilipino ring security force. Ang pananatili ng dayuhang tropa at mga gamit militar sa isang bansa ay palantandaan na ito ay hindi tunay na malaya. (Ito ay bukod pa sa ipinagbabawal ng Konstitusyon ng Pilipinas ang dayuhang baseng militar sa loob ng bansa kung wala namang tratado.)

Tanda ito ng patuloy na dominasyon at panghihimasok ng US sa mga panloob na usapin
ng isang tinaguriang independyenteng bansa. Masahol pa sa dating MBA ang VFA dahil sa walang itong taning; mawawalang bisa lamang ang VFA kapag magbigay notisya ang isa sa magkabilang panig. Hindi rin malinaw ang maaaring gawing aktibidad ng mga tropang Amerikano sa ilalim ng VFA. Nagresulta ito sa maraming kaso ng tuwirang paglahok ng mga sundalong
Amerikano sa aktwal na mga “combat operations” ng AFP, bagay na labag sa Konstitusyon at pinanindigan ng Korte Suprema ng Pilipinas sa kasong Bayan et al vs Zamora (1999). Lumalahok ang mga tropang Amerikano sa mga combat patrol,
armadong convoy, hanggang sa pagsasagawa ng paniniktik o surveillance.

Dagdag pa, walang paraan ang gobyerno ng Pilipinas upang malaman kung sinu-sino ang mga pumapasok na tropang Amerikano sa bansa at kung gaano sila katagal mananatili dahil hindi sila obligadong kumuha ng visa. Inalis din ng kasunduan ang kapangyarihan ng Kongreso na magpataw ng buwis at hindi sinisingil ng customs duty ang mga kagamitan ng pwersang Amerikano na ipinapasok sa bansa.

Lubhang pumapabor sa mga Amerikano ang VFA. Sa ilalim ng VFA 1, halimbawa, kapag may nilabag na batas ng Pilipinas ang isang sundalong Amerikano, siya ay maaaring manatili sa “custody” o pangangalaga ng US habang nililitis ang kanyang kaso.
Kahit sinasabing nasa ilalim na ng “jurisdiction” o awtoridad ng Pilipinas ang mga Amerikano, hindi ito nangangahulugan ng “custody” sa mga sundalong lumalabag sa mga batas ng bansa. Kabaliktaran ito sa sinasabi naman ng VFA 2 na awtomatikong
ilalagay sa “custody” ng US ang isang sundalong Pilipino na lumabag sa batas ng US. Ang pagturing ng US sa VFA bilang isang simpleng kasunduang pang-ehekutibo habang itinuturing naman itong tratado ng Pilipinas ay isa pang tanda ng hindi pagiging patas ng VFA.

4. Ano ang naging epekto ng VFA sa karaniwang Pilipino?
Katulad ng panahon na may malalaking mga base militar ang US sa Subic at Clark, at marami pang mas maliliit na instilasyon sa iba’t ibang bahagi ng kapuluan, kaliwa’t kanang pang-aabuso at paglabag sa karapatang pantao ang dinaranas ng karaniwang
mamamayan sa kamay ng mga sundalong Amerikano sa ilalim ng VFA. Isa na rito ang panggagahasa ni Lance Corporal Daniel Smith sa Pilipinang nagtago sa ngalang “Nicole” noong 2005.

Nakipagsabwatan ang administrasyong Arroyo sa gobyernong US upang pagtakpan ang mga pang-aabuso sa karapatang pantao at iba pang krimen katulad ng ginawa nila kay “Nicole”. Dahil sa VFA, hindi na nailagay sa “custody” ng Pilipinas si Smith, kahit pa nga nahatulan na itong may sala sa krimen ng panggagahasa.

Nagsabwatan ang dalawang gobyerno noon nang itakas mula Makati City Jail si Smith at itago sa Embahada ng US, kung saan ito nananatili hanggang ngayon. Bagama’t nagdesisyon na ang Korte Suprema na iligal ang kaayusang ito, samu’t saring maniobra pa rin ang ginawa ng administrasyong Arroyo at US manatili lamang si Smith sa kustodiya ng US.

Dahil sa kaso ng “custody” kay Smith, tuluyang nalantad ang lubhang tagibang o dipantay ng VFA at ang pagiging papet ng rehimeng Arroyo. Binalewala nito ang papalakas na opinyong publiko kontra-VFA at ang panawagan na ibasura ang kasunduan. Upang pigilan ito, pinwersa si “Nicole” na maglabas ng panibagong affidavit na tila nagbibigay duda sa kanyang naunang testimonya na ginahasa siya ni Smith. Ang bagong affidavit ni “Nicole” ay ginawa mismo ng mga abogado ni Smith.

Marami pang kaso ng pang-aabuso at paglabag sa karapatang pantao ng mamamayang Pilipino ang kinasangkutan ng mga sundalong Amerikano. Kabilang dito ang pambubugbog kay Marcelo Batesil sa Cebu City; ang pamamaril kay Buyong-Buyong
Isnijal sa Basilan; ang pagmasaker sa tatlong sibilyang Moro sa Barangay Sipangkot, Umapoy Island, Tawi-Tawi; at ang pamamaslang kay Arsid Baharon sa Barangay San Roque, Zamboanga City. Ipinasara rin ng mga sundalong Amerikano ang Panamao District Hospital sa Panamao, Sulu noong Nobyembre 30, 2007 at binantaan pa ang mga empleyado ng ospital na babarilin sila kung hindi susunod sa utos ng mga tropang Amerikano.

Meron ding kaso na nadadamay ang mga sibilyan sa mga live-fire exercises ng mga tropang Kano, tulad ng isang babaeng nasabugan ng M-203 grenade habang sya ay naglalaba sa ilog. Noong 2008, namataang kasama ang mga tropang Kano sa isang yunit ng AFP na nagsagawa ng pagmasaker sa pitong sibilyan sa Maimbung, Sulu.

5. Ano ang ating dapat gawin?
Dapat tuluy-tuloy na labanan ng mamamayan ang VFA at ang mga aktibidad na binibigyang matwid sa ilalim nito, tulad ng tinaguriang Balikatan “joint military training exercises”. Walang ibang alternatibo kundi ang pagbabasura ng di-pantay at mapaniil na VFA, kasabay ng pagwawakas ng iba pang mga kasunduang militar sa pagitan ng Pilipinas at US tulad ng Mutual Defense Treaty, Mutual Logistics Support Arrangement at Security Engagement Board. Ang mga kasunduang ito ay tanda ng katayuan ng Pilipinas bilang mala-kolonya ng imperyalismong US. Ang mga kasunduang ito ay nagpapanatili at nagpapalakas sa dominasyon at panghihimasok militar ng US sa Pilipinas.

Ang panawagan para ibasura ang VFA ay nakadirekta mismo sa Pangulo ng Pilipinas. Siya sa ngayon ang tanging may kapangyarihan para tuluyang ibasura ang kasunduang ito.

Kailangang ilantad at tutulan ng mamamayan ang nagaganap na mga diumano pagsasanay militar at maging ang mga diumano misyong “humanitarian” sa iba’t ibang bahagi ng bansa sa ilalim ng Balikatan at iba pang “military exercises”.

Sa Bicol, kung saan magsasagawa ng diumano mga misyong ”humanitarian” tulad ng dental at medical mission ang tropang Amerikano sa Abril, dumaranas na ng pang-aabuso ang mamamayan. Napaulat ang pagpababawal ng pangingisda sa mga lugar na malapit sa mga pinagdadaungan ng mga barkong US. Noong Pebrero, namatay ang isang sanggol at malubhang nasugatan ang mga batang may edad sampung buwan hanggang siyam na taon sa isang clearing operation ng AFP bilang paghahanda sa Balikatan sa Bikol.

Sa Senado, nakahain pa rin ang petisyon ni Senador Kiko Pangilinan na nananawagan sa Malacañang na ibasura ang VFA. Sinusuportahan ito ng iba pang mambabatas kabilang sina Sen. Joker Arroyo, Chiz Escudero, Jamby Madrigal, Ping Lacson at Pia Cayetano. Isa itong mahalagang pampulitikang presyur sa rehimeng Arroyo at dapat suportahan ng mamamayan. Kailangan ding kumbinsihin ang iba pang senador na pumirma sa nasabing resolusyon at ilantad naman ang mga kakampi ng Malacañang na tumatangging pumirma. Sa kasalukuyan, nakasampa pa rin ang mga petisyon ng Bayan at iba’t ibang grupo sa
Korte Suprema upang kwestyunin ang VFA at paglabag nito sa Konstitusyon. Nakasampa rin ang isa pang petisyon na kumukwestyun sa kaduda-dudang sirkumstansya ng panibagong affidavit ni “Nicole”. Kailangang sabayan ang mga hakbang na ito sa Korte ng mas malakas, malaki at malawak na kilusang kontra-VFA upang idiin ang presyur sa rehimeng Arroyo na ibasura ang VFA.

Tulad noong 1991 nang patalsikin ang mga base militar ng US sa Pilipinas, ang mga pangmasang kilos-protesta ng ng mamamayan at nagkakaisang hanay laban sa VFA ang syang magiging mapagpasya sa pagwawakas ng VFA. Kailangang ng walang humpay na pagmumulat, pagpapakilos at pag-oorganisa upang higit na ilantad at labanan ang papalaking interbesyong militar ng US at lagutin ang tanikala ng imperyalismo sa bansa.

Inihanda ng
Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (Bayan)
Abril 2009

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JPEPA Exchange Of Notes: A Trojan Horse Exposed

Posted on 05 September 2008 by admin

Bagong Alyansang Makabayan
September 5, 2008

After many delays, Manila and Tokyo have finally produced the “exchange of notes”. The much awaited document, Senator Miriam Santiago said, will supposedly correct the constitutional flaws of the controversial Japan-Philippines Economic Partnership Agreement (JPEPA) and seal its ratification by the Senate.

Only five pages, the actual document is composed of: (1) the diplomatic letter of Foreign Affairs secretary Alberto Romulo to Japanese foreign minister Masahiko Koumura, dated August 22, identifying four major points of “shared understanding” between the Philippines and Japan and (2) Masahiko’s reply to Romulo, dated August 28, citing verbatim the points he raised and a statement confirming the shared understanding.

The first two points of the shared understanding refer to general statements pertaining to the parties’ commitment to respect each others’ national laws, including their constitutions; and to implement the JPEPA in accordance with each other’s respective charters.

Point number three, meanwhile, enumerates the provisions of the 1987 Constitution that the Philippines clarified shall not be amended by the JPEPA. These include provisions in Article II (Section 15), Article XII (Sections 1, 2, 3, 7, 8, 10-12 and 14), Article XIV (Sections 4 and 12), and Article XVI (Section 11). The provisions cover, among others, the protection of Filipino enterprises from unfair foreign competition; restrictions on foreign ownership of public lands and in the exploration and exploitation of natural resources; limitation to Filipinos of certain investment areas; preferential rights, privileges and concessions granted to Filipinos covering the national economy and patrimony; regulation of foreign investments; regulation of technology transfer and promotion; and the promotion of preferential use of Filipino labor, domestic materials, and locally produced goods.

The need for an exchange of notes arose from the indisputable fact that the JPEPA seriously violates several provisions of the 1987 Constitution. Santiago, main sponsor of the treaty and a self-styled constitutional expert, recognized that ratifying the JPEPA in its present form invites the risk of an eventual rejection by the Supreme Court (SC).

The constitutional provisions listed in the exchange of notes contradict the bilateral treaty’s terms on National Treatment (Japanese investors will enjoy the same rights and privileges reserved to Filipinos), Most Favored Nation (Japan will get the same most favorable treatment that the Philippines accorded to other countries), and prohibition of performance requirements (Japanese investors could not be forced to transfer technology or to procure locally their production needs).

Santiago described the exchange of notes as an agreement wherein “Japan” promises explicitly and specifically that it will respect the nationalist provisions of the constitution”. She also called the document an “integral” part of the JPEPA, which under the 1969 Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties can be considered as a treaty “when the parties agree”.

With this document, the chair of the Senate foreign relations committee and her co-sponsor Senator Mar Roxas, head of the trade and commerce committee, are confident that the JPEPA will surely pass scrutiny by their colleagues. By October, they hope to muster the needed two-thirds vote and complete the ratification process – more than two years after the JPEPA was signed by Gloria Arroyo and then Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi.

But despite all the hullabaloo about the exchange of notes, including Roxas’s refusal to defend the JPEPA unless it was produced and Santiago’s “no exchange of notes, no treaty” stance, the document is nothing but a general statement of commitment from Japan to respect the1987 Constitution. It could have been a stronger and more binding document if it explicitly amended the questionable provisions of the JPEPA, as originally proposed by retired SC justice Florentino Feliciano who first raised the constitutional issues during one of last year’s Senate hearings.

In fact, the exchange of notes could be a Trojan Horse just awaiting the opportune time to attack. A closer look at point number four of the shared understanding reveals the hidden intentions of the document:
“4. The present exchange serves only to confirm the interpretation of and does not modify the rights and obligations of the Parties under the provisions of the JPEPA.” (emphasis added)

In other words, the unconstitutional provisions of the agreement remain and will still bind the Philippines once the JPEPA gets ratified. The exchange of notes did not resolve the constitutional issues but in effect just deferred the question to be tested by actual legal conflicts over the treaty’s implementation that may arise in the future. This places the Constitution under unnecessary duress because under the Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties, the Philippines could not raise unconstitutionality for failure to comply with its JPEPA obligations.

Point number three of the exchange of notes, in reality, does not guarantee that the JPEPA will not undermine the 1987 Constitution. It simply clarified that the bilateral agreement will not amend the pertinent constitutional provisions. But it does not prevent Japan, for example, to insist before an international court on its right accorded by the JPEPA to fully own local public utilities because the Philippines did not exempt it from Article 89 (National Treatment). Another potential area of legal tussle is the prohibition of performance requirements and future non-performing measures. What the Philippines reserved in the JPEPA are existing measures, thus undermining the constitutional mandate of Congress to restrict foreign investments in certain economic activities in the future when the national interest requires.

The Trojan Horse in the exchange of notes is also exposed by the calculated use of the phrase “shared understanding”. As such, Japan can argue in the future that as a simple “shared understanding” and not a categorical “agreement”, the exchange of notes is merely a diplomatic note that does not modify anything in the main treaty and does not bind Japan to specific legal obligations. As a matter of fact, it is equivalent to the diplomatic correspondence between the foreign affairs heads of Japan and the Philippines in May 2007 confirming the former’s vow not to dump toxic wastes in the country. But despite this exchange of diplomatic notes, the liberalization of toxic waste trade between the parties under the JPEPA remains, which creates the condition for increased exports of Japanese hazardous materials to the Philippines.

Despite Santiago’s relentless propaganda that the JPEPA will be ratified by the Senate, a host of issues about the treaty remains unresolved. The exchange of notes itself is viewed differently by some senators. According to Senator Francis Pangilinan, the exchange of notes is in effect a renegotiation of the original JPEPA and said that a bloc of four to five senators is forging a consensus that renegotiation is the best option. Senator Aquilino Pimentel, on the other hand, pointed out that aside from constitutional issues, there are also equally important trade issues that must be scrutinized by the Senate.

The battle against the JPEPA is certainly far from over. Advocates of just and mutually beneficial economic agreements and defenders of national patrimony and sovereignty must be more aggressive in convincing at least eight senators to firmly reject the obviously defective economic treaty. With a host of bilateral economic deals, including one with the US, in line, the outcome of this campaign takes a higher level of strategic importance. (END)

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After the summitry, more of the same

Posted on 01 January 2007 by admin

By Dr. Carol Araullo
January 2007
1st Publish in Business World

As expected, de facto President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo lost no time in trying to parlay her claimed “success” at the 12th ASEAN Summit and the East Asian Summit into glowing predictions about the economy not just in the medium-term but within the year 2007.

Understandably, Mrs. Arroyo is basking in the afterglow of two regional summits that turned out to be one grand production (incidentally, with a price tag of two billion pesos) in terms of the sprucing-up of the public infrastructure of Cebu; the elaborate table settings and sumptuous food served at the official receptions; the pleasing song-anddance numbers in the program and historical reenactment sideshows; and the spike in the military cum police forces-to-civilian ratio.

There were plenty of nice photo-opportunities and good sound bytes for the expectant foreign and local media that had turned surly after the seemingly arbitrary change in the original schedule last December based on suspiciously manufactured grounds of a threatening tropical storm that turned out to be a brewing political one.

But was there anything of substance, especially for the majority of Filipinos experiencing unprecedented joblessness and poverty? From news reports, the security agenda was the main course and the Convention on Counterterrorism the main output. The so-called legally-binding ASEAN charter, with mechanisms for bringing erring or uncooperative member countries in line, is just so much whipped cream at this point.

While firming up of the trend towards bilateral trade agreements under the auspices of the WTO and the signpost of neoliberal globalization and pushing ASEAN countries into supporting the return to the Doha Round of the stalled WTO negotiations, there is the illusion being foisted that ASEAN has the makings of a regional economic block that can rival something like the European Union.

To understand the outcome of the latest ASEAN pow-wow, there is a need to backtrack a little and revisit its brief and lackluster history. The ASEAN was formed in 1967 with the blessings of the US and initially included only five countries: Indonesia, Philippines, Thailand, Malaysia and Singapore. Its main thrust was to be a bulwark against the spread of communism, specifically, from the perceived threat of China, North Korea and Indochina. Over the decades its range of concerns has broadened from political and diplomatic concerns to also include economic issues and now, in the post-9/11 era, to
overtly security matters. It also grew to include Brunei, Myanmar (Burma) and all three Indochinese countries by 1999.

Its members vary widely in terms of economic development and political histories which factors combine to make it, so far, a loose and non-binding organization that, according to the policy studies group, Institute of Political Economy (IPE), has been “unable to deal, on its own, with sensitive and potentially divisive internal issues” as exemplified in the tepid ASEAN responses to the 1978 Vietnamese intervention in Cambodia, the East Timor crisis, and the long-standing Spratly Islands dispute.

Moreover, IPE points out that the ASEAN is “unlike the European Union (EU) which, pooling economic and political resources to better challenge the US, has formal mechanisms for majority voting in major policy areas that obliges corresponding
domestic economic policies. It also does not have ‘supranational’ institutions like the European Commission, European Courts and the European Parliament”.

The same goes for efforts to achieve regional economic coordination. The ASEAN Free Trade Area (AFTA) in 1992 was a milestone for ASEAN in being its first real regionwide economic integration effort. In practice, however, it was a very limited deal that was even overtaken by aggressive unilateral liberalization moves by member countries. The AFTA merely gave the appearance of political cooperation on economic policy changes that were happening anyway.

The IPE observes that “such weaknesses consequently limit the extent to which the organization can be used to advance region-wide agendas.” Nonetheless, the group recognizes that “recent global developments may be forcing a change in this (situation).” It is not difficult to see what these developments are, namely the renewed aggressive global political-military and economic offensive of the US at the onset of the 21st century. Since 9-11, this has been packaged as a US-led “war against terrorism” working hand-in-glove with the US drive for “free trade globalization”.

It is no wonder that, despite the conspicuous absence of US government officials at the Cebu extravaganza (last December, US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice was rumored to grace the occasion), the US economic and politico-military agenda was more than adequately carried by the Philippine delegation, with Mrs. Arroyo more than eager to play the US drummer girl in the regional body.

As a case in point, the ASEAN Convention on Counterterrorism falls in neatly with what the neoconservative cabal in the Bush administration dream of as a “New American Century” of US global hegemony conveniently wrapped in the rhetoric of the “global war on terror”.

The IPE notes, “In 2000, then US Pacific Command Chief, Admiral Dennis Blair, declared that ‘current security arrangements are inadequate for handling the challenges of the 21st century’ and proposed a regional ‘security community’ for Asia. At the same time it was asserted that ‘U.S. bilateral treaties and security partnerships remain the framework for deterring aggression and promoting peaceful development in the region.’ ASEAN correspondingly began to expand its involvement on security issues and, at its 7th Summit in November 2001, issued the ASEAN Declaration on Joint Action to Counter Terrorism which signified ASEAN’s unequivocal alignment with the U.S.-led ‘war on terror’.”

On the other hand, the recent declaration to accelerate the formation of the ASEAN Economic Community by 2015 instead of the original target of 2020, only underscored the ASEAN member countries’ current trend to be sucked into the vortex of the
neoliberal doctrines of liberalization, deregulation and privatization peddled by the US dominated WTO/IMF/World Bank combine.

The ASEAN once more proved itself to be basically a grouping of neocolonial client states of the US or of governments, like those in Indochina, transitioning from their previously socialist moorings, and eager to become integrated into the world capitalist system. The heads of state that gathered at the 12th ASEAN Summit continue to represent their respective countries’ political and economic elites and not the majority of exploited and oppressed peoples in the region.

The ASEAN is not about national economies coming together to strengthen themselves through such a regional formation and merely reflects consistent efforts to open up/liberalize such economies for imperialist plunder. At the end of the day, the “success” of the 12th ASEAN Summit bodes more of the same failed national policies and regional “cooperation” for facilitating imperialist domination and plunder aka “globalization” and “war on terror”.###

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US imperialism in Southeast Asia & Asean – Institute of Political Economy – Nov 2006

Posted on 24 November 2006 by admin

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US Imperialist Globalization and Its Elite Partners in the Philippines Trade, Inequality and State Terrorism

Posted on 01 November 2005 by admin

December 12, 2005
by the Bagong Alyansang Makabayan – BAYAN
(New Patriotic Alliance)

The Philippines entry into the World Trade Organization (WTO) in 1995 ushered in a tumultuous decade for Filipinos. Our ten-year experience under the new global trading regime is marred by a never-ending series of crises hitting the country – the financial crisis in 1997, a people’s uprising in 2001, a persistent fiscal crisis that could make the country the next Argentina, and crisis-level human rights violations worse than what the country experienced under martial rule.

In most underdeveloped countries, imperialist neoliberal economic policies are slowly but surely killing the livelihoods of millions of people, but the tragedy that critics of the WTO have predicted, appears to be unfolding at a faster pace in the Philippines. Consider the facts – the Philippines has one of the lowest GDP growth rates in the ASEAN, a double-digit
unemployment, high inflation rate and a high debt to GNP ratio.

Human rights violations are also on an exponential rise. As of the latest tally, there are now 152 victims of political killings since January of this year. This led two international organizations to name the country as the second most dangerous place for journalists, next only to Iraq and one of the most dangerous for trade unionists. The economic and political crises as these have unfolded however are not independent of each other. They are intertwined since one crisis tends to feed on the other.
Before one completely dies down, another one erupts. Why then does the situation in the Philippines appear to be worse than its neighbors?

Fast-track globalization

Back in the early nineties, while other underdeveloped countries were negotiating for exemptions or a slower tariff reduction schedule under the GATT-WTO, the Philippine government boldly announced that it is fasttracking the country’s trade liberalization commitments. The Philippines’ disastrous performance over the past two decades is therefore just the natural consequence of imperialist globalization taking its toll on a semicolonial and semifeudal society as facilitated by the Philippine
ruling elite.

It was a recipe for national disaster. But not everybody in the Philippines fared badly under globalization. For the country’s ruling elite – the big landlords and bourgeois compradors, it opened opportunities to consolidate and amass more wealth. As a result, the gap between the rich and the poor further widened. In 1994, the richest 10 percent earned an average income that
was 19 times more than the income of the poorest 10 percent of the population. In 2003, however, the gap was 24 times more between the top and bottom 10 percent income deciles, leading to a further marginalization of the poor and underprivileged. For the same year, the income of the richest 20% comprised 53% of total national income. The remaining 47% is shared by 80% of the rest of the population.

The Philippines before WTO

The Philippines, prior to joining the WTO was a country still trying to recover from the ravages of a twenty-year dictatorship. The dictator Marcos, a strategic US Cold War ally, and his gang of cronies plundered the nation’s coffers and plunged it into debt. In 1979, the country was among the first to enter the IMF Structural Adjustment Program. The combined effect of
deregulation, privatization, and liberalization led to a general economic contraction. During the mid eighties GDP growth was a negative 3.9 percent. By the early nineties, GDP growth hovered at a mediocre range of to 4% to 5.7%.

The opportunity for reforms after the 1986 People Power uprising was wasted because the Aquino regime chose to uphold the same pro-imperialist policies as her predecessor. Aquino turned her back on the people and chose to honor the payment of all debts, including fraudulent ones, to earn the IMF seal of good housekeeping and to please foreign creditors. But by prioritizing debt payments above everything else, the country had to make huge sacrifices in education, health, infrastructure and other basic services to the people. Over the years, the government failed to make significant reforms on education and health as the
budgetary allocation was just sufficient to cover operating and maintenance expenses.

Managing the economy for the purpose of genuine national development, poverty alleviation and a more equitable distribution of income then became a very challenging, if not an impossible task as the IMF and the World Bank were practically dictating on the government what to do and not do.

If Marcos and Aquino submitted government to foreign control, the total surrender of Philippine economic policy to the dictates of US imperialism was almost completed under the Ramos regime of 1992-98. Ramos implemented full trade and capital account liberalization that removed all restrictions on the entry of goods and repatriation of foreign capital. Trade and investment policy were surrendered to a global institution dominated by giant corporate interests, the WTO.

By the time of the Arroyo regime in 2001 the government had become a complete appendage of imperialist economic interests. Government was, reduced to a managerial function in the service of foreign creditors and giant multinational interests.

To comply with its WTO commitments, the government changed 40 laws and regulations without regard for the basis of their existence, their possible consequences, or a careful long-term plan. New laws were also introduced including the liberalization and privatization of the power sector. There is now a drive for changing the Constitution and removing provisions that protect the national patrimony and economy. It was recently revealed that a US-based lobby group, Venable LLP, was hired by the Arroyo government to seek US congressional funding for the Philippine government’s thrust to revise the constitution.

The extent to which the government had become an appendage of US imperialism had at one point become literal. In February 2003, representatives from the Bayan Muna party revealed that a USAID-funded group called Accelerated Growth, Investment and Liberalization with Equity (AGILE) held office in 11 key government agencies and drafted 12 important economic bills
heavily favoring the US which would later be passed into law. These involved among others the safeguarding of intellectual property rights, the Special Purpose Asset Vehicle (SPAV), liberalization of retail trade and reform of the government procurement system.

Staking a claim on globalization

The economic restructuring proceeded at a dizzying pace. This led peasants, workers, and sections of the middle class under the organizations of Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP), Kilusang Mayo Uno (KMU) and Bayan to actively protest the globalization policies.

From a political economic perspective, it is apparent how a congruence of interests between imperialist powers and the traditional local ruling elite has reached its peak , albeit at the expense of the people. Lethal mix: financial and trade liberalization

The government, which in the Philippine case is historically an elite-dominated and controlled institution, was sold to the idea that the best way to achieve faster growth is to subject the country to a neo-liberal shock treatment. It opened all sectors of the economy to foreign competition (even with respect to natural resource extraction such as mining), completed the privatization of the government-controlled utilities sector such as power and water, and allowed the full repatriation of foreign capital.

The entry of surplus goods and capital in the country coincided with the lowering of tariffs in many sectors including manufacturing and industry. Cheap imports started flooding the market and displaced locally made goods. Manufacturing establishments were closing down in droves. It was not a good time to invest within the productive sectors of society. Money instead went into real estate speculation, consumption, non-tradeables other activities of the same nature.

For the landed class and the bourgeois compradors whose oligarchy extends to the banking sector, financial liberalization was a lucrative prospect. Having a majority or controlling share in one or two banks allowed them to obtain loans at very favorable interest and terms. Money flowed from foreign creditors right into their own hands which enabled them to shift into real estate speculation or enter into merger or takeover deals.

But sooner than expected, the speculative bubble burst as it became clear that a lot of bad loans had been made. Foreign portfolio investment left as quickly as they came leading to a sharp peso devaluation and a drying up of the country’s foreign reserves.

There were calls for the government to impose foreign exchange controls like what Malaysia did to stop the peso dive and prevent runaway inflation caused by the peso devaluation. The government however prioritized the interests of foreign creditors above the welfare of the people and did nothing.

Fiscal and financial crisis

The response of the government to the financial crisis was hardly imaginative. It resorted to the same contractionary program of the eighties. The devaluation raised the value of the dollar-denominated debt in peso terms. However, tariffs and custom duties, which were significant sources of revenue dried up. IBON Foundation, a socioeconomic research think tank placed the estimates of foregone revenue from tariff reduction at P100 billion a year. Revenue losses from tax exemptions granted to large corporations amount to P229.1 billion.

The number of government-owned or controlled corporations or agencies up for privatization dwindled. The sale of these government assets artificially buoyed up government revenues during the period of restructuring which made possible the budget surplus posted from 1994-97, the only years that the country did not post a fiscal deficit.

The nation’s total debt under the Arroyo regime rose to a historic high of P5.9 trillion in 2003 from P 2.167 trillion in 1995. Bayan Muna estimates that for every peso in tax paid by a Filipino, 94 centavos goes to servicing the country’s debt.

Forming strategic alliances in utilities

The bond between foreign interests and the big local conglomerates tightened with the spate of new strategic alliances in the form of joint venture and mergers and acquisitions. Most of these partnerships are concentrated on deregulated utilities, power, shipping, banking, telecommunications, and infrastructure.

Two large conglomerates owned by the traditional business elite, the Ayalas and Lopez, won the concession to operate the privatized water distribution service Manila Water and Sewerage System (MWSS) in 1997. Manila Water, went to the Ayala Group of Companies with its American and Japanese partners Bechtel, United Utilities and Mitsubishi Corp. Maynilad Water went to Lopez-owned Benpres Holdings Inc. with its French partner Suez Lyonnaise des Esaux partner.

Utilities are especially prized because of their status as a natural monopoly and the assured high and steady stream of revenue it generates. The local and foreign partnership had disastrous consequences for the people as the granting of monopoly rights led to water rates going up by 450% since 1997.

2001 People’s uprising

The Estrada administration which assumed office a year after the 1997 financial crisis erupted had to face the brunt of the crisis. His economic policymakers tried another tack and instituted a short-lived expansionary program to boost aggregate demand. Priority was given to a bankrupt housing program and higher military spending justified by the “total war” policy in Southern
Philippines. However, the expected multiplier effect from pump-priming did not materialize. Instead, the reality that government was spending more than it was earning in revenues kicked in.

Although corruption is endemic to all Philippine administrations, the issue of corruption under Estrada became more pressing as the ruling clique expanded the scope of its operations to include illegal activities largely as a result of drying up of opportunities for bureaucrat capitalism.

The political and economic crisis eventually led to a second People Power uprising in 2001.The removal of Estrada from office paved the way for the ascendancy of neo-liberal economist Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo who during her stint as Senator pushed for the country’s membership in the WTO. Corruption however worsened under the Arroyo regime. A 2004 study by the United
Nations Development Program (UNDP) placed the yearly revenue losses from corruption at 13 percent of the national budget while the National Tax Research Center (NTRC) estimates annual corruption losses at 20- 30 percent.

In its drive to liberalize the economy, the Arroyo regime was said to have entered into shady deals with foreign corporations such as the IMPSA (Industrias Metalurgicas Pescarmona Sociedad Anonima) transaction which is said to involve at a $2 million payoff in exchange for a sovereign guarantee by the Philippine government.

Agriculture

The absence of genuine land reform has been a big stumbling block to national development. The biggest landlords come from a traditional land owning class that has been characterized by its general lack of interest in making investments to increase productivity. Landlords rely on feudal exploitation to amass wealth. Backward methods of agriculture and an inequitable distribution of distribution are the main reasons why two-thirds of the country’s poor can be found in the rural areas.

Genuine land reform would have addressed the age-old inequalities spawned by the semi-feudal set up. But the land reform program under Aquino, herself coming from the landed class, was riddled with loopholes. It contained numerous provisions wherein land owners can actually evade distributing their land by converting it to commercial, industrial and other uses.

The schedule for the redistribution of private land coincided with financial liberalization. Big landowners were desperate to evade land reform, so those who had access to capital took advantage of the cheap loans to convert lands into other uses. During the nineties, land use conversion became a big problem for farmers. Rice and corn farmlands were being converted into golf
courses, luxury resorts and residential subdivisions. Based on government records, from 1988 to 2004, around 800,000 hectares of agricultural lands had been converted to other uses. Land conversion, according to a source from DAR, is the “easiest way of circumventing the law on land reform.”

Also during this period, agricultural farm subsidies were slowly being dismantled by the government as part of the economy-wide shock treatment being implemented. Subsidized rice procurement by the National food Authority (intended to protect farmers from retailers who buy from farmers at very low prices) was reduced. During the mid nineties the NFA procured an average of 5 percent of total rice production when it would need to buy at least 24 percent of the national harvest in order to
influence the market. Agricultural tariffs were also gradually reduced. By 1995, compared to other Southeast Asian neighbors, the Philippines had one of the lowest average agricultural tariffs.

The result was that even the small number of land reform beneficiaries ended up selling their land because farming was no longer a viable source of income. The Center for Peasant Education and Services (CPES) in Southern Tagalog and Central Luzon regions showed that three out of five holders of Certification of Land Ownership Award (CLOA) or Emancipation Patent (EP) sold their rights or mortgaged their land then stopped paying the amortizations and abandoned their properties.

Worse, imported agricultural products from imperialist countries with highly subsidized agriculture were being dumped in the Philippines. While poor countries removed subsidies, industrialized powers maintained high subsidies.

Instead of employment generation, 4 million jobs were lost in agriculture since 1995, and 9,900 farmlands went bankrupt.

Rice, corn, vegetables

Among those hardest hit by land conversion and import liberalization were the rice and corn farmers. Prior to the WTO, rice imports averaged 96,000 MT and rose to 1,126,000 MT in the next five years, or an increase of 1,072%. Average corn imports on the other hand rose from 55,000 MT to 414,000 MT, or by 653%.

The original government plan was to shift from these socalled low value-added agricultural goods to high value crops like cut flowers and asparagus. But this required a huge capital investment for the producers.

As average vegetable imports rose by 169%, vegetable farmers in the Cordillera and Central Luzon found themselves victims of the lopsided and unjust global trading regime.

Prior to globalization, farmers in the Cordillera were encouraged to plant potatoes. When the market was flooded with cheap potato imports, farmers found no buyers for their produce. Many left their potatoes to rot in the fields.

Poultry and livestock subsection

The US twice brought to the attention of the WTO Dispute Settlement Body (DSB) certain measures like delays in granting of import licenses that allegedly impeded the entry of American hog and poultry into the country and accused the government of violating its WTO commitments. The US move was supported by the EU which was also interested in the Philippine market.
The dispute was settled with the government conceding to the US request at the expense of local producers. As a result, the average importation of hogs rose by 1,700% and poultry by 1,200%.

Manufacturing and Industry subsection

Globalization’s destructive effects on business establishments and labor is staggering. According to IBON, each day, from 1995 to 2004, six firms closed down, and 164 people were forced out of work daily due to closures or retrenchment.

In a similar survey conducted among the members of the Federation of Philippine Industries (FPI), 56 member firms closed down from 1995 to 2001, displacing 80,319 workers. Twenty nine firms have downsized their operations and retrenched 4,019 workers.

In the shoe industry 20,000 workers lost their jobs due to retrenchment or closure, in the cement industry, 23,400; in steel 2,000; rubber wheels, 7,000; flour, 1,000 and in motor vehicles, 7,000.

Even more alarming is the trend towards higher degrees of monopoly or oligopolistic concentration within the manufacturing and corporate sector. A report by the Department of Trade and Industry showed that the fourfirm concentration ratio (C4) for all manufacturing (which is the share of the top four firms in the industry), increased from 70.88 in 1988 to 73.64 in 1995. In the same study, profits in manufacturing tend to increase with the concentration index indicating that the biggest firms possess sufficient market power to fix prices.

Another study conducted by the Philippine Institute for Development Studies, showed that the industry-wide C4 concentration ratio increased from 71% in 1988 to 88% in 1998.

The same trend is refleted in the corporate sector. Among the publicly listed firms, one dominant shareholder controlled on average 41% of equity. The top 5 shareholders have a majority control of 3 out of every 4 listed companies. Far from encouraging competition, the number of closures, coupled with the number of mergers and acquisitions under globalization only served to reduced the number of firms to a few monopolies.

Data from 1990 to 1996 showed 21 cross-border mergers and acquisitions (M&As) took place in the Philippines amounting to US$515.90. In 2004, there were 46 publicly announced merger and acquisition deals with a combined amount of US$420.9 million.

The quantitative losses were matched by a qualitative decay in manufacturing structure. Firms that have survived and can potentially survive the onslaught of globalization are those engaged in very little value-added production. A large proportion of inputs are imported and the products eventually exported.

This is true for the country’s two top leading exports-electronics, where almost two-thirds of its total value is imported- and garments and textiles, where imported inputs comprise 64% of the total value.

The export winners failed to form any backward linkages with the rest of the economy. Since the abolition of laws that required that a certain percentage of manufacturing inputs should be sourced from the Philippines, the country became a part of the internationalization of the global production processes of corporate global giants.

The percentage of manufacturing share to total GDP deteriorated over the last three decades. From 25% during the 1970s, this went down to 22%. According to the Ecumenical Institute for Labor Education and Research (EILER), the share of manufacturing value added and employment is actually lower today when compared to the mid-fifties level.

As former National Economic Development Administration chief Cielito Habito put it, “Manufacturing is narrow, hollow and shallow.” This give rise to the phenomenon of jobless growth where any nominal GDP growth is not accompanied by an increase in employment.

Labor

Unemployment is now the highest since the last half century. About 4.8 million Filipinos are unemployed and 8.4 million are underemployed, bringing the number of people looking for work or still looking for additional sources of work to 13 million.

For the employed, the daily minimum wage of PhP270 is not even sufficient to cover the daily cost of living at PhP618.09. Workers have long demanded for a legislated wage increase but the government’s export-oriented economic strategy is anchored on maintaining cheap wages and a docile labor force.

Having a job also does not mean that one can keep it. Hiring of contractual labor is fast becoming the norm. Workers are hired, fired and rehired in a cycle of six months thus narrowing, if not eliminating, the chances of landing a regular job. Other forms of contractualization include subcontracting, agency-hiring, job-out and homework.

These irregular forms of employment were intended to make the labor market more flexible, and drive down labor costs, thus making foreign investments in the Philippines more profitable. Job security and other hardwon gains by the unions are undermined. The formation of unions are discouraged. In most cases, a contractual does not have social security and other benefits a regular worker enjoys.

In 1990, two-thirds of all establishments employed workers in irregular and atypical employment. According to EILER, “the combined share of casual, contractual and part-time workers in total enterprisebased employment fluctuated around 14-15 percent from 1990 to 1994 but jumped to 18.1 percent between 1994 and 1995, and further to 21.1 percent as of 1997 (for which latest data is available). However, this underestimates the extent of contractualization, to be sure, considering that these account for only three forms of insecure employment and only those reported by employers to the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE).”

IPR

The US alleged that it has been losing US$120 million in copyright violations in the country; the Philippines is on the Super 301 Priority Watchlist of violators. While the US claims to be losing on this ground, it gained headway with the of IPR protection laws that favor US multinational interest in the country such as the Intellectual Property Code and the Electronic Commerce Act.

More recently, the farmers’ groups were shocked to hear Congress revelations that the Plant Variety Protection Act otherwise known as RA 9168 was based entirely on a draft prepared by a US lobby group funded by the USAID. According to the Bayan Muna Party-list, the law allows foreign seed and biotechnology transnational corporations to secure protection rights over plant varieties in the country, to the detriment of informal and indigenous breeders who have been developing and improving on local plant varieties for centuries.

The same lobby group also provided assistance to the Department of Agriculture, Department of Health and Department of Science and Technology in developing guidelines to make present and future biotechnology laws consistent with international obligations.

This was how the US agri-giant Monsanto succeeded in introducing its genetically modified Bt corn seed in the country on a massive scale. A bag of Bt corn seeds for a hectare of land costs P4,500 while ordinary hybrid corn costs only P2,300. According to Masipag, a network of scientists and peasants of which KMP is a member, the difference roughly corresponds to Monsanto’s charge for its IPR use. In 2003, as there were 20,000 hectares of land planted to Bt corn in the country, Monsanto earned P44 million.

People’s resistance and increasing human rights violations

As millions of people lose their jobs, and are deprived of their basic right to live decently, the number and scale of protests have also risen. The fight for economic survival transformed into a deeper understanding of the workings of the unseen villains behind their personal tragedies.

Already isolated from the people, the Arroyo regime desperately woos Washington to convince the US that, despite the public clamor for Arroyo’s removal from office, she is still their best puppet. As one of the first national leaders to express support for the US invasion of Iraq, she had already proved her worth as a rabid ally of the US. During the recently concluded APEC Summit in Korea, Arroyo proposed that the Philippines host an APEC meeting of counter-terrorism experts and that the US lead the initiatives within the regional body. Her spin doctors now call her an international leader in the global fight against “terrorism”.

It has been acknowledged worldwide that the US “war on terror” is aimed at protecting US politico-military and economic interests world wide. There is a logical link between the targets of the US “war on terror” and the economic and military expansionist thrusts of the Bush administration under imperialist globalization. The wars in Iraq and Afghanistan followed this logic. US military intervention in the Philippines on the other hand follows from US strategic political, military and economic interests in Southeast Asia.

Arroyo’s efforts were richly rewarded with the rare opportunity of a US state visit in 2003 where talks of considering the Philippines as a “non-NATO ally” surfaced. Bush explained that this would mean that it will be easier for the US to answer Philippine requests for military equipment and other forms of aid in modernizing the capabilities of the military.

The Arroyo regime also concocted a devious and dangerous scheme to tag a revolutionary people’s movement as “terrorist” and lobbied for the formal inclusion of the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) and the New People’s Army (NPA) in the US list of terrorist organizations. However, the 2005 Philippine Human Development Report (PHDR) commissioned by the UN Development Program and the New Zealand Aid practically exonerated the Communist Party of the Philippines from allegations that it is a terrorist group. It said, “In fairness to the CPP-NPA (New Peoples Army) historical record of armed struggle, it has not, as a policy and generally in practice, engaged in terrorism or acts of terrorism by deliberately targeting civilians,” the report said.

It now appears that the Arroyo regime’s baseless and maliciously erroneous pronouncement is just a smokescreen to hide the real intent of quashing all forms of legitimate protest directed at bankrupt economic policies and corrupt leadership. Fearful that she will suffer the fate of her predecessor who was ousted by a popular people’s uprising, Arroyo has expanded the definition of “terrorism” and “terrorist” activities to include legitimate forms of protests. She has specifically targeted leaders and members of progressive people’s organizations and cause-oriented groups such as Bayan, KMU, KMP, Bayan Muna, Gabriela and Karapatan who are critical of imperialist globalization and the government’s “all-out war” policy and whose membership were key forces in the ouster of the previous administration.

In a speech given before business leaders in 2002, Arroyo declared war against “criminals, drug lords, gambling lords… and those who terrorize factories that create jobs.” Her open declaration of war against striking workers led to the death of three trade union leaders this year. Diosdado “Ka Fort” Fortuna, the respected 51-year old union president of the global food giant Nestle Philippines Inc. was shot on the head by motorcycleriding gunmen in October. In September, Teotimo Dante, union board member of the Schneider Packaging Workers’ Union (SPWU) died at the picket line when company security forces opened fire on the strikers in an attempt to disperse them. Recently, Ricardo “Ka Ric” Ramos, president of the striking Central Azucarera de Tarlac Labor Union (CATLU) in Hacienda Luisita was shot dead by armed men suspected to be soldiers.

The Center for Trade Union and Human Rights (CTUHR) recorded 27 cases of assault at the picket lines involving 1,457 individuals nationwide from January to September this year.

During his state visit, US President Bush congratulated Arroyo for her tough stance on “terrorism” and offered some words of advice: “You can’t talk to them (terrorists), you can’t negotiate with them, you find them.” Arroyo explained that “in the Philippines, terrorism (sic) thrives and gets its recruits, not coincidentally, in the provinces that are the poorest, in the region that is the poorest in our country.”

Since January this year up to the time of this writing alone, Arroyo’s state-sponsored terrorism claimed the lives of 152 people according to the human rights group KARAPATAN. They have been assassinated or killed because of their involvement with people’s organizations, participation in rallies or strikes, opposition to foreign mining firms and other multinational corporations’ operations in the country, and staunch opposition to the US-backed Arroyo regime.

A total of 4,207 cases of human rights violations were recorded affecting 232,796 individuals or 24,299 families in 237 communities. Most of the cases occurred in poor rural areas that are grievously affected by the policies of imperialist globalization.

Conclusion

In the Philippines, imperialist globalization breeds a vicious and never-ending cycle of economic and political crises. US imperialism imposes policies to further open up the Philippine market for their surplus products and capital while the ruling elite benefits from corrupt activities because of huge payoffs and lucrative partnerships with foreign firms. By their nature, these policies reduce the majority of the people to poverty and misery and alienates them from government that is supposed to promote their basic interests.

With mounting people’s resistance, the current ruling clique implements a heightened policy of repression which also includes adherence to the obligatory requisites of the US-led “war on terror”.

Fighting US imperialist globalization involves unmasking the nature of the strategic class alliances that perpetuates neocolonial relations. In order to defeat US imperialism in the Philippines, the people must unite to end the rule of the big landlords, big compradors and bureaucrat capitalists. It is the Filipino peoples’ fervent hope that defeating imperialist rule in the country will bring about the further weakening of imperialism worldwide, thus contributing substantially to the international anti-imperialist struggle.#

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