George & Gloria have done it. The amazing tandem has delivered a deadly blow to its opponents in the Philippines. Congratulations to their loyal groupies who have struggled long and hard to witness this day. Woe to the Pearl of the Orient Sea for the Human Security Act has now risen. Woe to opposing ideas and discontent, woe to disquiet and protest. Terror is upon us.
In my youth, Martial Law was a vague concept even if I was born and lived under its rule ‘officially’ for nine years and in reality, 15 years. That my father was a victim of this oppressive era only became a clearer concept to me after democracy was won back by the Filipino people in 1986. Sadly, that great moment didn’t last and soon thereafter, the Philippines fell again in the clutches of the eagle, the feudal rich and of the military powers albeit under different presidents.
During the post-Marcos era, it was some small comfort that Republic Act 1700 (Anti-Subversion Act) was repealed by RA 7636, which legalised the Communist Party of the Philippines (more on paper than in action, but nevertheless, it had legal basis). This didn’t mean that, all of a sudden, the concepts of the political left shed off their evil mark and became more or less ordinary fare in the realm of political economy and governance as it is in most parts of Europe. But at least it offered some measure of recognition that the Left should be able to express its views without fear of persecution. With the enforcement of the Human Security Act, all the efforts made by the Progressive Left in the country in conducting parliamentary struggles are threatened to be thrown out to the lion’s den. For no matter what its creators claim, this law will throw the cloak of terrorism over civilian activists, opposition and critiques.
“The law empowers enforcers to crush the terrorist movement in the country … while at the same time ensuring that civil rights are protected,” said Press Secretary Ignacio Bunye.
Gee, that sure beats Groucho Marx’ famous quote: ‘military intelligence is a contradiction in terms´. In these days, my brain just refuses to function when I hear ´fighting terror´ and ´protecting civil liberties´ in one breath. It just doesn’t compute. Especially in a country where the notion of military rule over civilian empowerment still holds sway, and the idea of involving the Progressive Left in governance still an alien and undesirable option.
Remember, this is a country where terrorists = communists and communists = activists / oppositions even before Bush began his war on terror. This is also a country, whose government encouraged the Philippine Left to join the elections – which it topped in the Party-List proportional representation in 2002 – but started putting the same progressive left in the line of fire. Some 800 plus journalists and members of the Progressive Left have been victims of extra judicial killings since Arroyo came into power in 2001.
It’s also the same government, which recently has been exposed to have allegedly planned the neutralisation of the Left and, thus, may have begun the wave of extra-judicial killings. The paper, titled “The Bayan Muna Party-list Victory and the Prospects for its Wider National and Local Political Participation”, calls for the use of massive “special intelligence operations” to counter the “grassroots clout” of Bayan Muna and its allied organizations. (Bayan Muna refers to the “People First Party” that represents the broad marginalised sectors of the Philippines.)
I remember discussing an older version of this anti-terror law with my students back in the late 90’s. I remember being happy when the act wasn’t passed. I knew then that it wasn’t completely dead, but I nursed the hope that, at least, it was buried. And now it has crawled out from its hiding place and nourished itself back to life. It has undergone extreme makeover and is pimped up to the max with its new name ‘Human Security Act’.
Human security? Human??? WTF?@#! How can that be when it doesn’t only give legal muscle to the US-backed Philippine war on terror — it has given it the fangs and the claws to strike out those who are ‘against us’. It has been given the sight to distinguish only the shape of dissent and quell it. Humanity is irrelevant. The monster has been unleashed. Woe to its creators who think they can control it. Courage to the Filipino people in these dark, grave times.