Twisting EDSA 1986 to suit NTF-ELCAC's goals
AT GROUND LEVEL - Satur C. Ocampo (The Philippine Star) - February 29, 2020 - 12:00am

Central to the remembrance of EDSA [1986] is its historic role in the attainment of genuine peace and democracy in the country.  The celebration will also be an appropriate avenue to emphasize the similar goals being put forward by the National Task Force on Ending Communist Armed Conflict (ELCAC)…This year’s celebration will focus on safeguarding the Filipino families from the destruction of the communist terrorist groups (CTGs)…”

Thus, in part, states DILG Memorandum Circular 2020-037, dated Feb. 19, signed and issued by Interior Secretary Eduardo Año to all provincial governors, city and municipal mayors, BARMM chief minister, DILG regional directors, and others on the 34th commemoration of the ouster of the Marcos dictatorship.

It looks like Año is trying to redefine the fundamental character of that historic event – the culminating action of the Filipino people’s arduous struggle to kick out the Marcos fascist dictatorship – twisting it in order to serve the Duterte government’s obsession to end the 50-year armed conflict by 2022.

It was President Corazon C. Aquino who launched the initial attempt at gaining genuine peace by addressing the root causes of the armed conflict in peace negotiations between her government and the National Democratic Front of the Philippines, with the goal of attaining genuine peace and democracy. Mrs. Aquino’s efforts were brazenly opposed and sabotaged by the military.

In a way, Año has sought to hijack the official observance, which President Duterte has persistently avoided being physically involved in. On Feb. 25, the day 34 years ago when the Marcoses were plucked out of Malacañang by American helicopters and later brought to safety in Hawaii, the DILG secretary issued this odd statement:

“It was the Filipino people, not the communists, who overthrew the Marcos regime…History tells us that the country did not need armed struggle. To effect change means having a new Constitution accepted and followed by the people. […] Dictatorship and human rights abuses were ended and democracy was restored through the 1987 Constitution sparked by the peaceful 1986 Edsa Revolution.”

I can’t recall any instance or statement wherein anyone claimed it was the communists who overthrew the Marcos dictatorship. However, there have been many research findings and media reports pointing out that the sustained anti-dictatorship struggle – both armed and unarmed – led or influenced by the Left revolutionary forces progressively weakened and politically isolated the dictatorship from the people, leading to its overthrow. In fact, it has been widely acknowledged that the CPP-NPA phenomenally grew in strength under Marcos, leading to comments that he was in fact the best recruiter for the NPA.

Also, it is undisputed, locally and internationally, that the struggle of political detainees and their exposure of widespread use of torture and other forms of human rights violations contributed to the political isolation of the Marcos dictatorship.

Año claims that, along with the dictatorship, “human rights abuses were ended… through the 1987 Constitution.” This is not true. Documented reports by the Karapatan Task Force Detainees of the Philippines, Amnesty International, and other monitoring groups have shown a consistent, continuing pattern of human rights violations under all post-dictatorship administrations. And, the unchanging climate of impunity has been pointed out and documented by these investigations.

I have repeatedly written in this space about the glaring failure of any post-dictatorship government to identify, investigate, charge, prosecute and penalize human rights violators among the state security forces. 

Incidentally, yesterday I got hold of a copy of a report by three missions that travelled to the Philippines in May 1975, November 1975, and February 1977 – among the first groups that told the world about the terrible abuses under Marcos’ martial law regime.

The prestigious International Commission of Jurists (ICJ), based in Geneva, Switzerland, commissioned William J. Butler, John P. Humphrey, and G.E. Bissom to make the report, which they titled “The Decline of Democracy in the Philippines (1977).” Among the ICJ’s members at the time was Roberto Concepcion, former Chief Justice of the Supreme Court.

The three missions interviewed 120 political detainees (from among 1,400 “subversive detainees”) and their military custodial officers. In its section on “Prolonged Detention Without Trial and Torture,” the report discloses:

“Our interviews led us to conclude that the Government, especially in cases involving alleged membership in or association with the Communist Party of the Philippines and/or the Moro National Liberation Front, acts in an arbitrary and unreasonable way” in the following ways:

“[1] It fails to obtain the proper arrest warrants and arbitrarily picks up suspects, thereby denying them their legal safeguards; [2] Detains these detainees without charges in private houses and places known as ‘safehouses’; [3] Regardless of the disciplinary proceedings mentioned later in this section, has condoned the infliction of torture by security agents of the military during sometimes very long interrogation processes, using such methods as water treatment, electric shock, isolation for long periods of time chained to beds, etc., and physical beatings.”

Many of the political detainees they interviewed survived their ordeal, but many are now gone. We are also reminded, from the charge sheets submitted by the military, that the practice of red-tagging was already being done under martial law, with the members of numerous legal organizations being accused of links to the CPP-NPA.

Appended to the report is a comprehensive, yet succinct, account of “The Administration of Justice under Martial Law” written by Chief Justice Concepcion.

He wrote a brief, penetrating analysis of the relationship of the security forces and the political leadership. “Under a martial law regime,” said Concepcion, “the support of the Armed Forces is…essential for the Head of the Government. To obtain and maintain that support, he must keep the military, particularly its ranking officers, loyal to him. For this purpose, he has to satisfy, if not pamper them with promotions, increases in pay, commendations, etc.”

Besides, he went on, “the enhanced power and influence of the military, even in the political field, cannot but fill them with a sense of elation at the greater if not transcendental importance of their role in society under martial law. As a consequence, the ability of the Commander-in-Chief to curb their abuses is necessarily affected.”

Who will listen to this wise voice speaking to us from a distance of 40 years?

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