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U.S. behind reign of terror sweeping Philippines
Published Jan 9, 2007 11:38 PM
The International Action Center (IAC) sent a fact-finding delegation to the
Philippines Dec. 7 to Dec. 19. The delegation was comprised of IAC National
Co-Director Teresa Gutierrez, and Dianne Mathiowetz of the Atlanta IAC. Also on
the trip were two representatives of BAYAN USA and a member of the Malcolm X
Grassroots Movement from New York City.
International Human Rights Day
demonstration, Dec. 10, Cebu City,
WW photos: Dianne Mathiowetz
Jan. 8—Our trip coincided with the scheduled meeting of the Association
of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) which was to take place the first week of
December in Cebu City. ASEAN’s main role is to facilitate economic and
political penetration of the area for imperialism. However, the Philippine
government announced that the ASEAN meeting would be cancelled due to a
reported typhoon that was to hit the island at the same time. It was evident,
however, that the summit of 25 Asian countries was actually cancelled due to
the political typhoon sweeping the country.
Major demonstrations and massive political sentiment against the president of
the country, Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, were the real reasons the summit was
cancelled. As of this writing, President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo has announced
that the ASEAN summit will take place here in Cebu City from Jan. 10 to 15.
One of the most outstanding developments revealed to our delegation was the
tremendous wave of repression hitting the Filipino population. Since 2001, over
700 people in the Philippines have been killed or disappeared. The wave of
repression against the people is so stark that every week since 2004
approximately two activists have been killed and one has disappeared.
This alarming situation was described to us repeatedly, confirming published
reports by several sources. Amnesty International issued a report in August
stating its concern over “continued violation of human rights in the
In fact, during the two-week period since we arrived, a total of seven people
have been reported missing or killed by the official newspapers of this
The findings of the “Stop the Killings in the Philippines
Campaign,” published by the IBON Foundation, concluded that, “The
pattern of assassinations and political persecution of activists, members of
people’s movements, and leftist leaders in the Philippines has become an
urgent international issue.”
IBON continued, “While killings and summary executions are not rare in
the Philippines, this trend of political assassinations intensified in 2004
during the national elections, and has continued in the last two
years—making it possibly the worst period for human rights violations
since the Marcos era.”
Behind the wave of terror: U.S. imperialism
The wave of terror currently sweeping the Philippines is part and parcel of
U.S. imperialism’s historical and bloody drive to dominate and control
the South East Asian region, especially the Philippines. These aims are best
capsulated in the words of U.S. Sen. Alfred Beveridge when he said in 1900,
“The country that rules the Pacific, rules the world.”
U.S. imperialism invaded and occupied the Philippines and other countries of
the Asia Pacific region at the beginning of the 20th century.
Indeed, East Asia is key to imperialist aims to control markets and make ever
greater profits. Over 2.5 billion people live in this region—one-third of
the world’s population—and their economies are 25 percent of the
world’s gross domestic product. Southeast Asia is 9 percent of the
world’s population and 5 percent of the global GDP.
The region is home to some of the most strategic countries in the world: China,
Korea and Vietnam, which have all been at the center of imperialism’s war
drive. Japan, an imperialist country, is a major rival to Wall Street.
According to the Institute of Political Economy, based in the Philippines, the
U.S. currently has more than 386,000 U.S. troops deployed in 150 countries,
including 70,000 troops in East Asia. There were 850 U.S. military bases in 138
counties as of 2005.
Thailand, Malaysia and Indonesia are key nations to Washington, used in every
way possible to maintain its domination in the area.
The task of these thousands of troops is to make sure that the main strategic
objectives of the U.S. are protected in the region. Southeast Asia is of
particular interest to the U.S. It seeks to maintain hegemony with its puppet
regimes and exclude Japan and China, one reason why the Philippines is key to
the U.S. It wants free access to major sea lanes and to deepen and expand trade
and investment in the area.
Imperialism carries out these aims at the same time that it drives the Asian
Pacific people further and further into poverty and despair. Eliza Griswold, a
journalist, writes: “[T]he most pressing problem in today’s
Philippines isn’t terrorism or even government corruption but poverty and
a lack of social mobility. About 15 percent of its people live on less than $1
The war on terror: a basis for re-colonization
The U.S. has operated military bases in the Philippines since 1947. After
righteous struggles that shook the country, most of these bases closed in 1992.
But with the advent of U.S. imperialism’s so-called war on terror, there
is now a concerted effort to once again militarize the Philippines. The
rebuilding of official U.S. bases in the Philippines is centered in Mindanao, a
primarily Muslim area.
U.S. Navy Commander Adm. William J. Fallon—commander of the U.S. Pacific
command—said last March 7, “Southeast Asia is the front line of the
war on terror.”
President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo has not only become a key ally of
imperialism, she is a puppet of Washington.
This so-called war against terrorism is in reality a war of terror against the
Victims of repression in the Philippines—those who have died as a result
of these extrajudicial killings—are mainly people who are fighting
against deadly economic policies or who are denouncing the repression:
activists, students, labor leaders, journalists, members of people’s
movements and leftists.
State terror reigns in the Philippines. The situation is so serious and so
critical that even spokespeople of foreign chambers of commerce and
transnational corporations have been forced to pay lip service against the
On Jan. 6 the Macapagal-Arroyo administration announced that the government
will spend about 10 billion pesos in 2007—a lot of money for an
impoverished nation. About $200 million is earmarked for the purchase of attack
helicopters and other military equipment, which is a sign that the repression
will not only continue but intensify.
Repression breeds resistance
Since Macapagal-Arroyo assumed office in 2001, about 730 people have been
They include Bishop Alberto Ramento; Markus Bangit, an indigenous leader of the
Malbong Tribe of Tomiangan, Tabuk, Kalinga and the coordinator of the Elders
Desk of the Cordillera People’s Alliance; activist teacher Napolean
Pornasdoro; Bayan Muna Party (People First Party) members Jayson Delen and
Jimmy Mirafuente; Cris Hugo, the regional coordinator of the League of Filipino
Students; and Nestle Union president and KMU leader, Diosdado Fortuna. The KMU
is the revolutionary workers union in the Philippines and stands for the May
More than 168 leaders and activists remain missing.
The IAC delegation met with the mother of one of missing student leader,
Sherlyn Cadapan. Sherlyn was abducted with another student leader, Karen
Empeño, and 55-year-old activist Manuel Merino.
The young women, both in their early 20s, are students at the University of the
Philippines (UP). The three were abducted on July 26, 2006. They were
volunteers of the Alliance of Peasants in Bulacan, Philippines.
Six armed men forcibly entered the house where the students were staying.
Merino, who was staying at a house nearby, came to help the two young women.
All three were forced into a vehicle and driven away. The young women’s
parents believe that troops of the 56th infantry Battalion in Bulacan were the
ones who abducted the three activists.
The commander of the 7th Infantry Division, based where the abduction took
place, told the family that the young women were members of the New Peoples
Army, the armed wing of the resistance in the country. The family believes that
such statements indicate the military knows the whereabouts of the three.
The mother of Sherlyn Cadapan told me at a demonstration against proposed
changes to the Philippine Constitution that she will not stop until she finds
Despite the wave of repression sweeping the country, the movement is strong.
The abductions and assassinations have not stopped the people’s struggle
for self determination and freedom from imperialist domination.
Despite a heavy police presence in preparation for the scheduled ASEAN
conference here, the movement organized conferences for Jobs and Justice and
against Global Terrorism, as well as demonstrations in the streets, which IAC
representatives participated in.
Many of the people who attended these events told of family members missing or
dead. But the history of the will of the Filipino people to resist domination
is as long as imperialism’s aims in the region. It will be the Filipino
people who will ultimately prevail, as seen by the courage and commitment
Copies of the IBON Foundation report can be ordered at
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