Abolition of PCGG, an insult to Sag-od massacre victims

Since 1981, the struggle for justice and reparations has been fought vigorously for the past three decades. For the victims, it was a positive sign that while there were still multitudes of claimants unincluded in the list formed by the Human Rights Violations Claims Board (HRVCB), more than eleven thousand victims would receive monetary reparations after their harrowing experience under the Marcos dictatorship. It seemed like only a matter of time until the list would be expanded to accommodate and consider even more cases nationwide.

But shortly after the elating news, the House of Representatives passes on its’ third reading, House Bill 7376 which seeks to abolish the Presidential Commission for Good Governance (PCGG), the agency tasked with recovering ill-gotten wealth of the late strongman Ferdinand Marcos and his family. Instead of the PCGG, the bill transfers the reacquisition of Marcos’ illegal riches at the hands of the Office of the Solicitor General.

For the victims of Martial Law, this comes as a low blow especially here in Eastern Visayas where one of the most internationally notorious massacres took place in a small barangay in Las Navas town, Northern Samar called Sag-od. The mass murder was commissioned by no less than the administration’s Defense Minister at the time, Juan Ponce Enrile who owned a large logging firm operating in the province. The military forces involved in the killing spate were initially tasked to protect Enrile’s logging operations but were convinced that the barrio folk were part of subversive groups. 45 people were killed while only 13 survived, 5 among whom were just children.

In 2017, Enriquita Obin who chaired the Justice for Sag-od Massacre Victims Movement expressed her earnest demand that the victims’ historic plight over the infamous Sag-od massacre be addressed by the government. Obin, who is not part of the current HRVCB list, is now compelled to place her share of the reparations’ future to the Solicitor General, Jose Calida, a man who has campaigned side by side with the Marcos camp in the 2016 Presidential Elections.

In essence, the Duterte-led supermajority in Congress has practically shoved off the shelf all hope for the victims to receive compensation promised by the state years ago. The abolition of the PCGG, though in itself was not a guarantee for justice, is tantamount to the administration’s implied declaration that it has no time for the decades-worth of impunity forcibly placed on the shoulders of the dictatorship’s victims.

BAYAN-Eastern Visayas strongly condemns this latest step by the national legislature and demand that such a bill be vetoed and stricken down by the President. In order to prove that such a decision wasn’t of his own work, he must block the piece of legislation from becoming law.

Only by doing this can he prove that he is for justice and public interest, otherwise the people of Eastern Visayas will take it as an insult to the already suffering locals of Sag-od and will hold the President accountable for taking steps that encourage historical revisionism and impunity.


Panlantaw* Feature | Just the Same Old Wolf: A Brief Anatomy of IPSP Bayanihan

Just the Same Old Wolf: A Brief Anatomy of IPSP Bayanihan

After Oplan Bantay Laya’s (Freedom Watch) frustration to win an ambitious war against state enemies, a new Oplan unfolds to make up for defeats suffered by its militarist and widely criticized predecessor Bantay Laya 1, 2 & Extension. Oplan Bayanihan (OpBay) is simply the counter-insurgency plan dressed anew. It is patterned by the US-Aquino II Regime from the United States’ Counter Insurgency (COIN) Guide of 2009. While it has consistently denied allegations of human rights violations in the previous Oplan, the new Internal Peace & Security Plan (IPSP) Bayanihan said it will not win this counter-insurgency war by “just killing the person” or its perceived ‘enemy’ as it did in the previous plans but by winning him by championing “peace & development.” With new strategies and concepts at hand, a “new paradigm” unfolds.

A new paradigm?

Oplan Bayanihan (IPSP Bayanihan) boasts its “paradigm shift.” It is a deviation from “defeating the enemy” to “winning the peace” and giving equal and same emphasis to combat and non-combat dimensions of military operations.  Even with the concept of winning the peace, OpBay mandates massive and focused military operations. It means identifying a target area where all firepower and military force shall be concentrated. Meanwhile, non-combat dimensions of military operations espouse the tactic of giving emphasis on Civil Military Operations (CMO) and their effective use of the Civilian Relations Service (CRS). The CMO’s activities include giving relief missions, medical missions and other humanitarian mission, while the CRS has for its goal the saturation of military propaganda in the mainstream mass media.

This so-called paradigm shift offer new names with the same old concepts. The “Reengineered Special Operations Team” (RSOT) is now known as the “Peace and Development Teams” (PDT). The PDT focuses on “clearing” the Barangays. By clearing means the military focuses on one barangay which they believe to be an insurgency hotbed or barangay which has an ongoing anti-feudal struggle or active peasant organization and movement. Once they were able to identify the Barangay, they will have their military installation on said barangay and conduct their so-called “Community Organizing for Peace and Development.” Its aim is to allegedly “bring the government closer to the people” by delivering basic social services, constructing schools and roads, all for the purpose of counter insurgency.

The “Peace and Development Teams” is programmed to identify the peasant leaders in the target community. Upon identification, they will use their “hard” and “soft” approach. By soft approach, they do convincing of the identified peasant leader or the community leader to cooperate and to “give information” on the alleged concentration of rebels in the community. If said leader choose not to “cooperate,” the time comes for the “hard” approach. “Hard approach” includes subjected the person to harassment, threat, intimidation, interrogation, physical assault, torture, and worse, killing.

The “Strategic Holistic Approach” (SHA) is dressed anew as the “Whole of Nation Approach” but a new concept like “People-Centered Approach” is introduced. By the “Whole of Nation Approach,” it prescribes concerted efforts of all concerned—the National Government, the Local Government Units, Government Agencies, Non-Governmental Organizations, Civil Society Organizations, and the people as a whole, they being the recipient of “peace and development” efforts of the government. All of these components are all under the command and control of the Armed Forces of the Philippines. “Under the command” would translate that all agencies/government units will all be waiting for the AFP to prescribe them what they will do, when to do it, and how it would be done.

Still militaristic

OpBay allows a clear transgression and affront to the Constitutional mandate that “Civilian authority is supreme over the military.” In a much simpler term, OpBay is an implied Martial Rule. The “People-centered Approach” gives emphasis to the military’s compliance to human rights, international humanitarian law, and the rule of law. This is a concept which is both an admission of guilt and a façade used to fool the people into showing the “good side” of the military but in reality; they still espouse their barbaric and mercenary nature.

This new packaging is based on the 2009 US COIN (Counter-insurgency) Guide and the military document “Civilianizing the Counter-Insurgency War” written by Gen Francisco Cruz, Jr. of the Armed Forces of the Philippines. The military document gives emphasis to two points: the vital role of the government agencies and the vital role of the local chief executives. The clear-cut practice in compliance with this document is the formation of the Regional Peace and Development Councils and the Provincial Peace and Order Councils. Said formations showcases the “cooperation” of all heads of government agencies, local chief executives, the police and the military: “whole of nation approach” at work.

In harmony

The Governor is mandated to act as a Brigade Commander while a Mayor is mandated to act as a Battalion Commander. The local chief executives are called to act out their vital role in winning the counter-insurgency war; this translates to giving a civilian face to the military concepts and military war.

The heart of OpBay is banked on the concept of “perception of relative deprivation” and “exploitable issues.” OpBay sees the economic condition of the Philippines with “unequal economic opportunity” and the presence of a “large gap between the rich and the poor.” However, OpBay do not see this economic situation as the root cause of insurgency in the country. OpBay sees that there is only the so called “perception of relative deprivation” which causes the people to think that he is poor and that he needed to demand from the government or take up arms because the “left” is using the so called “exploitable issues” to “fuel” and “convince” the people to think as such.

In sum for OpBay, economic crisis, poverty, hunger exist only in the minds of the people; hunger, poverty, human rights violations and other issues are only “exploitable issues”. Because of this premise, the government through the AFP, the prime mover of OpBay, will do everything and will use all efforts to change the “perception” of the people towards the government. The Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC) is a major counter-insurgency project in relation to changing the perception of the people. The AFP thinks that even without land reform or peasants owning their own lands as long as the government constructs roads to far-flung areas, the farmers would think there is development coming into their households. Everything the local government units and government agencies are doing, through the mandate of the AFP, is only aimed at changing the perception of the people towards the government. In brief terms, OpBay has become a grand psywar scheme.

Lastly, OpBay has espoused in its pronouncements the phrase “peace and development” as its main propaganda battle cry. By peace, they mean opposition is absolutely absent; and by development, they mean constructing roads and giving conditional cash transfers. However, peace and development cannot just exist in the minds and eyes of the people but it must arise from a material condition wherein there is genuine agrarian reform and national industrialization. Genuine peace shall come if it is based on justice while development will only truly exist by addressing the cause of the persistent economic crisis shrouding the whole Philippine Archipelago. (Article by KC, Panlantaw July 2011 Issue)

*Panlantaw is the official publication of Bagong Alyansang Makabayan-Eastern Visayas.