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A fervent prayer for peace
page2 by CESAR TORRES

Ideologies, world-views, and relationships among nations, globalization, and strategies of national liberation may have undergone radical changes. The “Cold War” may have been succeeded by “The Clash of Civilizations”. Hence, the messianic struggles going on now which have no borders. But even then, hunger, poverty, disease, malnutrition, exploitation and death are the lot of most of the peoples of the world, whether Christian, Muslim, Buddhist or Pagan.

Aside from iniquitous political, economic, and social orders, the entire world has to confront the challenges of natural calamities that have no national boundaries. In the Philippines, the impact of Global Warming on our 7,107 islands could mean more powerful killer typhoons, continuous rains, landslides, rising tides, floods, droughts, etc. They could exacerbate the hunger among our people. Then there is the bird flu. Despite our nearness to the Asia mainland, we have been fortunate that we have so far escaped its possible devastation.

Obviously, no one is expecting that the NDF should just give up its gains that have been paid for dearly by the martyrdom, the sacrifices, the blood, and the lives of its adherents. No one is expecting them to entrust everything to the generals, and the soldiers and their trapostic and oligarchic masters and their international manipulators. This requires a painstaking, sincere, sensitive, international, broad approach that could revolve around a renunciation of the armed struggle in attaining the objectives of a more progressive, respectable Philippines.

An introspection, and a new and more relevant approach to the National Democratic Front’s vow — which in substance seems no different from those in the reformist group in the Military, the Church and other religious groups, the civil societies, other progressive groups, international organizations, more enlightened and less exploitative international business organizations — of liberating the masses from their bondage of poverty and exploitation, might be crafted from the rapidly evolving sentiments and emotions of our people. This will not only spring from the hardships and the suffering of our people in the homeland, but also from among the 8 million Filipinos in Diaspora who are likewise suffering greatly, in addition to the objective and concrete realities of the international political and economic order.  International sympathy — and even outright support — can be gained if there is a sincere and honest realization and acceptance that the protracted war, the armed struggle, the never-ending killings, the wasted lives, and the agony suffered by those affected by violence may no longer be valid in effecting fundamental changes in Philippine society.

Is this possible?

Perhaps. If the true leaders of the Philippines can part with a little bit of their pride and modify their articles of faith. After all, it is not for themselves and how they might be perceived by the future generations that the masses of the Filipino people are being asked to offer everything they have, including their lives.

In Latin America, the spirit and the memory of the revolutionary who captured the imagination of the world, Che Guevara, will never be forgotten as long as the Andes Mountains are there. But his legacy of the armed struggle is undergoing a continent-wide re-evaluation.

Massive, fundamental reforms are being felt in this land that has so much in common with us Filipinos. These radical changes are not being effected through the power of the barrel of the gun, in the words of Mao. These are being effected by developing strong and cohesive organizations and by participating in the democratic electoral processes.

The trailblazers came from Uruguay. The deadly Marxist urban guerillas, the Tupamaros, laid down their arms to join other progressive groups, in a broad united front, lead by Gen. Liber Seregni, to form the Frente Amplio.  Through the electoral process the Frente Amplio is now in control in Uruguay, now considered the most politically stable country in all Latin America. But Gen. Liber Seregni himself was imprisoned for 12 years by his colleagues in the Uruguayan military for his commitment to the Uruguayan masses.

Hugo Chavez in oil-rich Venezuela, where nevertheless the chasm between the very rich and the very poor seemed unbridgeable, has strengthened his position despite the sniping from the religious right in the US such as Pat Robertson who wanted Chavez “taken out”. The poor in Venezuela are involved in a massive re-education and re-structuring of its exploitative society.

In Chile, Michelle Bachelet, a socialist, a former political prisoner, an exile, and a single mother of three, has been elected as the first woman President of Chile. A daughter of an air force general who was jailed for treason and who died in prison after Gen. Augusto Pinochet took power in an American-supported coup in 1973 which resulted in the death of Salvador Allende, Bachelet was tortured by the Chilean military.

In Bolivia, the country's first-ever indigenous president — Evo Morales — has been sworn to office. He pledged to bring justice to Bolivia’s indigenous majority, to nationalize the country's vast natural gas reserves and to ask wealthy nations to write off Bolivia's $3.4 billion dollars in foreign debt. He opposed the proposed Free Trade Area of the Americas, convinced that it was the surest way to “enslave Latin Americans to the interests” of American multinational corporations.

Bolivia is considered the poorest country in Latin America. But it has the second-largest natural gas reserves on the continent. Morales had an unprecedented popular support at 74%.

In Peru, voters might elect a populist and socialist president. Like the Philippines, Peru has also had its own share of political and economic upheavals, including the impeachment of its president in 2000, around the same time the Philippine Senate was deliberating the impeachment of then-president Joseph Estrada. While impeachment proceedings against Estrada stalled in the Senate over the issue of the “second envelope” and snowballed into People Power II, the Peruvian Congress successfully impeached Alberto Fujimori while he was on a visit to Japan, where his parents were born.

Unlike the Estrada impeachment, the Peruvian proceedings were speeded up by a military-civilian rebellion led by Army Lt. Col. Ollanta Humala, and his younger brother, Major Antauro Humala. The rebellion, though bloodless, nevertheless resulted in a brief imprisonment for Lt. Col. Humala. The incident, however, turned the military officer into an overnight sensation as this one, single act to protest the Armed Forces’ continued support for Fujimori polarized public opinion and galvanized the Peruvian Congress’ decision to speed up the proceedings and impeach Fujimori two months later.  Humala was later amnestied by the transitional president and assigned overseas to serve as military attaché, first in France, and later in South Korea.

Now, Ollanta Humala, a die-hard nationalist with a pro-poor and a pro-agrarian reform platform of government, is running for president and is the frontrunner in the final national poll, taken 5 days before the casting of ballots. The former military officer is given an excellent chance of winning the election, given the support he has gained so far from the lower classes and the marginalized sectors of society who, finally tired of corruption, traditional politics, and neoliberal economic policies that have so far failed to improve the quality of life of ordinary Peruvians, are willing to take chances with this military officer who has never before held public office.

Although political observers are quick to label Ollanta Humala is a “leftwing military officer”, he describes himself as, “Neither from the Right nor from the Left, but from below (the masses).”  It appears that in Peru, the people “from below” — the workers, peasants, the unemployed, the poor, and the slum-dwellers — might yet carry this idealistic military officer all the way to the Casa de Gobierno (Peru’s presidential palace), without firing a shot or staging a coup d’etat.

Right alongside the United States, in Mexico, Manuel Lopez Obrador, a “Leftist”, is the front-runner in the presidential election that will be held in July.  The Mexicans are dual citizens of both the US and Mexico.  Mexicans in the US can run for public office in Mexico unhampered by “residency” requirements. The Zacatecaños in California have popularized a system by which hometown associations in California which have projects in their hometowns back in Mexico can increase their funds by a factor of 3.  Hence, they call this system “3 X 1”.  Any amount the hometown association in California generates for their projects in Mexico is matched by the State of Zacatecas and by the Mexican Federal Government.

The parade of leaders whose ideological persuasions do not correspond to the neoconservative criteria in America and who are being catapulted to political and governmental leadership through the electoral process in South America must be giving some sectors of the American ruling class some anxious moments. But history does not stand still. For one, this phenomenon can be construed as a backlash against ineffectiveness of the free-market policies championed by the US. Secondly, this could be a realization that the old ways of doing things are no longer acceptable.  Even in America itself, the unbelievable poverty of the residents of New Orleans, unmasked by the Hurricane Katrina would certainly require a radical re-evaluation of how economic policies are formulated and implemented in the poor areas of the US.

A few weeks after the cataclysmic destruction of the Twin Towers in New York in September 11, 2001, President George Bush and Prime Minister Tony Blair vowed that their countries will lead the world in instituting a world-wide program to “drain the swamps” that breed fanaticism, terrorism, and martyrdom. That was almost five years ago. However, it would seem that the swamp continues to fester with the pestilence that they want to eradicate. But hope springs eternal. It is possible that the mindset of other powerful leaders of the world is changing to include an acceptance that the world has changed so much especially in Latin America.

The “classless society”, the socialist principle of “From each according to his ability, to each according to his needs” is something that mankind can continue to hope for.  But is this attainable at all?

Incidentally, the mission orders of the Uruguayan Soldiers include cleaning the streets of Montevideo and repairing the potholes in Uruguay’s roads. Can this be done by the Government Soldiers in Samar working together with the NPA guerillas and the Samarnon peasants?

That would be a dream come true…

[Originally published in the SHS-SNS souvenir publication during the Grand Alumni Homecoming in Catbalogan on April 24-30, 2006 which was managed by Class 1980. The author graduated with honors in Class ’57 and was President of the Student Government.  He was the President of the SHS-SNS Alumni Association in 1983 when the first ever alumni souvenir publication, The Alumni Crosscurrents, was published. During his presidency, the group, the alumni, Samar and the Philippines were poor. The only major prizes they could afford was a small black and white TV and a small refrigerator for the First and Second Prizes during the raffle. But they did give cash prizes and awards to our Alma Mater’s outstanding teachers and an administrative staff worker.  He was a prime mover in organizing the hibernating SHS-SNS Alumni Association of North America serving as its Interim President and later as Secretary General which is now headed by Mr. Apolinario del Rosario.  He was also President of the San Francisco-based Samareños of California, Inc. The author was a former faculty member of the University of the Philippines Department of Political Science and a Senior Consultant of the Development Academy of the Philippines. He chaired the Skeletal Task Force that organized the UP in Tacloban in 1972. A temporary resident of California, the author is a columnist of the Los Angeles-based "Manila US Times" and "The Filipino Insider", a monthly supplement of "The San Francisco Chronicle", one of the major periodicals in America with a distribution of 500,000.  He is one of the original founders of the Filipino-American Forum of San Francisco in California and a moderator of Gugma Han Samar Cyberspace Movement. He can be reached at Cesar1185@aol.com.]

 

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