Who are behind the killings of journalists and Leftists?
HIGH GROUND By William M. Esposo
Inq7.net 2006-06-01
MANY people ask me who can be behind the killings of journalists and militant leaders and followers in the country. For a country that is not officially at war and claims to have freedom of the press, these killings are indeed puzzling and deserve the attention it has received from the foreign community.
On the killing of leaders and members of leftist movements, I can see no other party that can be doing it except the military. I do not for a moment buy the military line that these killings are the result of another internal squabble among the leftist groups. Just because the extreme Left undertook a purge in the late 1980s does not mean that there is another purge going on these days.

The leftist purge of the post-EDSA People Power period can be traced to certain developments. The Left was discombobulated by the democratic space that 1986 EDSA People Power revolution created. Many of their members were feeling the strain of the years of struggle. Homesick and longing to be back with their families, many wanted to give the new Cory Aquino government a chance. Many were responding to the Cory government’s offer of rehabilitation if they abandoned their armed struggle, opting to abandon the gun and pick-up the plough.

At the same time, government propaganda and intelligence operations achieved their objectives and sowed internal strife within the leftist movement, making them suspect one another and imagine that the next rebel could be a deep penetration agent of the government. That led to the purge and eventually the mass graves containing the bodies of liquidated comrades were discovered.

Such conditions do not exist today. The NDF-CPP-NPA (National Democratic Front-Communist Party of the Philippines-New People’s Army) and others of the extreme Left are at not at odds with one another. In fact, they are discovering renewed strength and support delivered by the repressive policies of the Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo regime and the prevailing socioeconomic conditions. Just as the dictator Ferdinand Marcos proved to be the top recruiter for the NDF-CPP-NPA in the 1970s and early 1980s, Madame Arroyo is unwittingly increasing the ranks of the NDF-CPP-NPA.

However, there is one big difference between the conditions of the 1980s and today. The Left then was purely an outlawed group. But because many leftists opted to reenter the mainstream of Philippine politics, we now have the legitimate organizations that promote the tenets of socialism sans the armed struggle.

The government asserts that the armed group and the mainstream group of the Left are one and the same, a Jekyll-and-Hyde communist ploy. That is a case that the government has yet to establish and prove. The government claim that there is an ongoing purge belies the other claim that the armed and the mainstream leftist groups are coordinated.

Thus, we can only find one plausible explanation for the killing of leftist leaders and members -- the military is behind it. And image evoked by the likes of Major General Jovito Palparan reinforces that deduction. General Palparan has been at the center of many controversies surrounding similar killings of known leftist operators. His reactions to all these allegations suggest that he approves of the policy and method.

The killings of journalists seem to be individual crimes that are rooted to controversies that the victims had exposed. I do not see any evidence to suggest that they are part of the Arroyo regime’s policy to stifle the freedom of the press. For one, the journalists who have been murdered were involved in local issues, not national controversies. Madame Arroyo may be blamed for the climate of crime and violence but I do not see anything to indicate a regime policy to suppress information by murdering journalists.

Madame Arroyo and her husband Mike may be out to harass and suppress information that is unflattering to them. But their preferred weapons have been “kindness” and coercion on the part of Madame Arroyo and the filing of libel charges on the part of Mike.

Madame Arroyo has been extremely “kind” to media people who sing hosannas to her. You’ll find some of them in the government’s Development Bank of the Philippines, government commissions and the boards of government corporations. Some are even given airtime on government- controlled media to better spread the propaganda of the regime.

To critics of the regime who cannot be influenced by “kindness” or coercion, there is of course the libel suit. You see, when a libel case is filed against a journalist, the law on “sub judice” (one cannot comment on the merits of a case being tried) prevents not only the journalist who is sued but also everybody else from further discussing in the media the issues of the libel suit.

Mike Arroyo has filed a host of libel charges against writers who have said uncomplimentary things about him. In fact, I am honored to be the recipient of one such libel suit, which was later accompanied by a travel hold-departure order. I really feel honored to be sued for libel by someone like Mike. To writers who take their responsibility seriously, it is a badge of honor to be sued for libel by people in high places who imagine themselves to be above press commentary.

In fact, I was so thrilled to be sued by Mike that I decided to treat the INQ7.net staff to a “merienda sena” that was served in our editorial offices.

The libel suit is par for the course for a journalist. But the travel hold-departure order that Mike Arroyo has caused to be imposed on me by the court -- that I consider a cheap shot. I’ve been through the rough and dangerous years that led to EDSA People Power I and II uprisings, and I was a player in both. But never did I, during those trying times, seek asylum or respite abroad.

You may e-mail William M. Esposo at: macesposo@yahoo.com.

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