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Crackdown in Philippines

by Carlos Reyes |
April 12, 2006
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San Jose, CA - On Feb. 24, Philippine President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo declared a state of emergency, banning public protests, allowing for government takeover of the media and arrests without warrants. This declaration came on the eve of the twentieth anniversary of the revolt that ousted former dictator Ferdinand Marcos and was aimed at stopping mass protests trying to commemorate the date.

The ‘state of emergency’ was widely criticized as being the same as Marcos’s ‘martial law’ that gave him dictatorial powers for thirteen years. President Arroyo even had left-wing congressperson Crispin Beltran, a former labor leader, arrested on a warrant issued by Marcos twenty-one years ago!

While President Arroyo claimed that she was preventing a military coup, the main blow was aimed at silencing opposition media and politicians, suppressing grassroots organizations and fighting the growing revolutionary movement led by the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP).

Despite President Arroyo’s lifting of the state of emergency, repression continues in the Philippines. Under Arroyo, death squads have assassinated more than 500 community organizers. She has suspended peace talks with the NDFP and ordered the arrest of their negotiators. Backed by a growing presence of U.S. military advisors and troops, Arroyo has joined Bush’s ‘war on terror’ to unleash government terror on the people of the Philippines.

The growing crisis in the Philippines is the result of more than one hundred years of U.S. domination. After 50 years of U.S. colonial rule, the Philippines has been ruled by a long line of pro-U.S. politicians backed by big landlords in the countryside and cronies of U.S. corporations in the cities. The Philippine economy is in shambles, with millions of Filipinos going hungry, while millions more are forced to move abroad in search of a living.

In the cities, a mass movement of workers, professionals, students, women and others is challenging Arroyo’s rule after helping to bring down two other presidents - Marcos in 1986 and Estrada in 2001 - through mass street protests. In the countryside, there is a growing insurgency by the New People’s Army of the Communist Party of the Philippines, which are both members of the NDFP. And in the south, there is still widespread opposition to the government among the Moro [Philippine Muslim] minority.

President Arroyo’s growing repression is going hand-in-hand with greater U.S. military involvement in the Philippines. In addition to long-standing U.S. economic interests, the U.S. sees the Philippines as a key part of the anti-China alliance it is trying to construct in east, southeast, south and central Asia.