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March 5, 2006

Prelude to a bloodbath? Can this be prevented?

Yes! If the ruling elite in the Philippines and the Filipinos in America and other parts of the world can devote a little more of their time, their money, and their compassion to the welfare of the 79 million of their people who are suffering greatly.

Yes! If the Filipinos in America and other parts of the world can sway the thinking of the powerful in America - the religious leaders, the executives of the mammoth American corporations operating in the Philippines, the government leaders and their advisers, even the war freaks in the American Military - not to support violence in the resolution of profound economic, social, and political problems in the Philippines.

Yes! If it will finally dawn on the Americans and the international community that military assistance to or outright intervention in countries in turmoil and on the verge of becoming "failed states" - Iraq, Afghanistan, and possibly the Philippines - can only embroil the entire world resulting in massive dislocations, death, and misery for millions of human beings, in the midst of unbelievable poverty worldwide, in the midst of an unfolding "clash of civilizations" which knows no borders.

Yes! If the National Democratic Front and their fraternal organizations and other "progressive" groups on the Left side of the political spectrum, that could conceivably include the reformist groups in the Philippine military who feel that the elite in Philippine society have been using them to further their own selfish interests can organize themselves into one broad united front, similar to the Uruguayan "Frente Amplio" so that they can provide the Filipino masses with an alternative to the oligarchic, exploitative political groupings who have been dominating Philippine society.

Yes finally. If even just 300,000 of the estimated 3 million Filipinos in the United States will register to vote and participate in the electoral processes there and vote for the leaders who will manage the Philippines instead of just shrugging their shoulders and muttering imprecations and telling themselves:  "What can I do?" thus leaving the final decision in choosing their leaders to the na´ve and easily manipulated Filipino voters who choose incompetents, movie actors and actresses, the wolves in sheep's clothing, the hack religious leaders, and the perennial plunderers collectively referred to contemptuously as "Trapos", in the Filipino national language, meaning "dirty dish rags".

The rhetorical questions and the succeeding suppositions spring from the recent events in the Philippines last month. Last February 24, 2006, President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, a US-trained Ph.D. in Economics, declared a State of Emergency because "elements in the political opposition had conspired with authoritarians of the extreme Left represented by the National Democratic Front-Communist Party of the Philippines-New People's Army and the extreme Right, represented by military adventurists - the historic enemies of the democratic Philippine State - who are now in a tactical alliance and engaged in a concerted and systematic conspiracy, over a broad front, to bring down the duly constituted government elected in May 2004."

The Philippine and international media were replete with reports that a brother of the super rich Cojuangco family, ex President Cory Aquino, Peping Cojuangco, and a "Pastor" Saycon were at the core group planning the entire strategy which involved groups and personalities agitating for massive reform in the Philippines through whatever means, in this case through "extra-constitutional means". A Time Magazine reporter was even quoted as saying that Pastor Saycon called someone in America assuring him that if ever, the Philippines would still be "friends" with America and not with Communist-Capitalist People's Republic of China.

On February 26, 2006, leaders of the Philippine Marines debated among themselves whether to "withdraw support" for the administration of President Arroyo. By a narrow vote of 9 against withdrawing support and 6 in favor of withdrawing support, the Philippine Marines decided to "follow the chain of command" in the Philippine Military.

Indeed, through a very "democratic process", an elite military group of 15 Filipino generals, a possible bloodbath was avoided, albeit termporarily, until there is a strong government in the Philippines whose leaders would be considered as being invested with the mandate of the Filipino people without any doubt, one which will get the respect of the majority in the Philippine military, the National Democratic Front of the Philippines, the Muslim separatists, the bandit groups such as the Abu Sayyaf, foreign governments, and the majority of the 87 million Filipinos.

As an afterthought, I wonder where the other groups orbiting around Dr. Francisco Nemenzo Jr.'s "Laban ng Masa" were while all of these things were being hatched. For one, one of its members, UP Professor Randy David was temporarily out of circulation.

With the Philippine Military reorganizing itself, the civilian supporters in a quandary, the oligarchic elite wondering what next, what of the National Democratic Front? I suppose the protracted and armed struggle will continue until the 7,107 islands are inundated by the fast-developing global warming because of the melting ice caps.

In the meantime, the wife of an impoverished garbage-scavenging couple, was in agony. According to a reporter, her husband was severely wounded when security guards shot him while they were picking garbage and scrap to sell to recyclers.  In tears and in grief she told the reporter: "What do we care about protests and coup d'etats and Arroyo's emergency power? That's a game for the rich and powerful and we, the poor, will continue to toil every day regardless of the result." She did not know where to get the money to buy the medicines and the bandages for her wounded husband, and their food for the night.

As we go to press, President Arroyo is reported to have lifted the declaration of emergency. The threat of a coup d'etat has been quashed. Criminal charges have also been filed against some 50 opposition members, military personnel, and lawmakers for attempting to remove Arroyo, her ruling group, and the government,  whatever that means, so that a "Transitional Revolutionary Council" is organized.

Does it matter?  No.  Only the very na´ve will say that "Happy days are here again." For as long as the conditions that breed massive discontent are there, and the majority of the Filipinos are wallowing in poverty and a hopeless future, aggravated by questions of the legitimacy of her mandate as President of the Philippines, the dark clouds hovering on the azure Philippine skies will continue to be there.

[This article is reprinted from "The Filipino Insider", a monthly supplement of "The San Francisco Chronicle", one of the major periodicals in America with a distribution of 500,000. The author was a former faculty member of the University of the Philippines Department of Political Science. He is one of the original founders of the Filipino-American Forum of San Francisco in California and an occasional columnist of the Los Angeles-based "Manila US Times". He can be reached at Cesar1185@aol.com.]

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