Why Illegal Possession of Firearms and Explosives is the Usual Charge Against Activists

By Atty. Edre U. Olalia

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On International Human Rights Day yesterday, December 10, the Philippine National Police (PNP) was on a spree, arresting journalist Lady Ann Salem and six trade union organizers. The PNP’s Criminal Investigation and Detection group said the raids were against a crime syndicate in possession of many guns, ammunition and explosives.

Curiously and ironically, those detained are human rights defenders. They have never figured in any crime but are, without exception, mere activists. The search warrants also came from Quezon City Regional Trial Court executive judge Cecilyn Burgos-Villavert who has repeatedly issued warrants that resulted in raids of offices and houses of activists throughout the country. All were charged with the same offense of illegal possession of firearms and explosives. Deaths have also resulted from such raids, including the infant River Nasino who was born in detention and yanked away from his mother even when he contracted a life-threatening disease.

National Union of Peoples’ Lawyers president Edre U. Olalia explains why the police actions are not crime solving and prevention as it claims but are political acts that persecute citizens and violate human rights.

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1. Search warrants can be procured by going through the motions and by mere presentation even under oath of supposed witnesses from the authorities to claim that such materiel are supposedly in the possession of those to be arrested.

2. It is easy to plant these materiel whose possession are monopolized by the police and military especially if done at dawn or night and when the arrested persons are first segregated, controlled or neutralized and have no chance to prevent or witness such anomaly.

3. The routinary legal presumption of regularity in the performance of official duty is always invoked against serious claims that these are planted and irregular.

4. Possession of explosives is normally a non-bailable offense so you rot in jail meantime and need to go through a rigorous process over time to prove that the evidence of your guilt is not strong for you to avail of bail if you are lucky.

5. It is easier to convict on mere testimonial evidence that is rehearsed and developed over the years to “prove” mere possession of a thing and its “chain of custody.”

6. It fits into the false political narrative of the State that legal activists have links with the armed underground movement and are, therefore, “terrorists.”

7. It demonizes legal activists as plain criminals who are armed and dangerous and not fighting for a legitimate cause and issues of public interest through non-armed means and fora.

8. It sends a clear message of threat and intimidation that you can be next even if the first and last time you held a gun was when you were playing cops and robbers during childhood.

9. The authorities want to parade that – with all the arsenal of various firearms, explosives and ammunitions supposedly going around and purportedly being kept by open, legal and visible activists – they are incompetent, inutile and ineffective to keep “peace and order” with all its vast powers, draconian laws and measures and the strictures of the pandemic.

10. They don’t bloody care because they believe they are invincible and that there is forever apart from endless love. #

Political Psychology of a Warrior

by Fr. Delfo Canceran, OP

If you listened attentively to the State of the Nation Address (SONA) speech of the President, you can glimpse at his state of mind being revealed in his style.

First part: Attack the enemy. After greeting the audience, he immediately artacked his critics, singling out Senator Franklin Drilon with regard to his comments on his family members labeling them as oligarchs.

Second part: Defend policies. He then went to enumerate his accomplishments, saying that hid anti-drug campaign and now anti-terrorism act are meant to defend human rights too.

Third part. Direct troops. He advanced his plans by directing the executive branch to implement his programs in different areas.

Ad Lib: Defend allies. He again repeated his stand on the contested territory in the West Philippine Sea, that the Philippines cannot go to war against China. He considered it as an exercise of futility to confront China due to our incapacity.

Fourth part: Back to attack. He again went back to Senator Drilon and attacked him, accusing him as part of the real oligarchs since he protected the interests of such as the Ayalas and Pangilinan.

What can you get from these parts of his speech? You can see that the speech is dominated by attacks at the beginning and ending of his speech. This preponderance to attacks speaks clearly of a mentality of an avenging warrior against the enemy.

Who is the enemy? Duterte is fond of saying “my country or my people.” These phrases seem to be inclusive since it encompasses the collective country and people. But that inclusivity is only in the surface level. If you dig deeper into that inclusivity, you will discover that it is in fact exclusivity. The phrase only includes his followers and believers and excludes his critics and oppositions.

Is he really for country and the people? Again, seemingly, the rhetoric is filled with patriotism. However, if you check it against the facts, you will again discover that it is not a true patriotism. The fact that he accepted his inutility against powerful China speaks of his alliance and subservience to China. Our sovereignty is compromised by his admitted inutility. If he really prioritizes our national interest, then he should defend our sovereignty. War against China is not the only option left for us.

The avenging warrior lashed against his perceived enemies and protected his chosen friends. His friends include his family members, his followers and China while his enemies include his critics, the oppositions and the old oligarchs. This division into friends and enemies reveals a government of nepotism and exclusivism.

A good government listens to the people, both friends and foes. Listening to friends and foes can provide us with a balanced picture and informed decision on any issue. Hence, the President should listen to them and incorporate these criticisms to his plans.

Democracy is the government of the people, not just his friends. The government is only the people’s representative and not its dictator. As representative, the government should feel the pulse of the people. The President should listen to surveys and include them into his programs. The people want the government to attend to their basic needs and not to its self serving interests. #

Neri Colmenares on Anti-Terror Law and Street Protests

Opposition and resistance have overwhelmed the Philippine political landscape amidst the Covid19 pandemic, when the ‘anti-terror bill’ became a law. Now, the broad people’s resistance has become a test if the regime can continue to intimidate the people with the law and the virus.

In the end, the anti-terror law and the tyrannical regime that gave birth to it will be quashed by the protest movement of the streets where significant victories have been achieved in the past.

On the question of fascism in relation to the Duterte regime

Interview by Prof. Regletto Aldrich D. Imbong
Department of Philosophy, University of the Philippines-Cebu

Prof. Imbong: Not so many intellectuals in the Philippines develop a strong theoretical argument on Duterte’s fascistic tendencies. Many assume rather than argue that Duterte is a fascist. What conditions should be met for one to be considered a fascist?

Prof. Jose Maria Sison (JMS): Any individual, group or movement can be fascist or have fascist tendencies in mentality, advocacy and behavior and is usually motivated by rabid anti-communism, a key factor that is ingratiating to the big bourgeoisie, especially the imperialists. But for an entire government or regime like that of Duterte to be described as categorically fascist and not merely having fascistic tendencies entails certain considerations and requirements.

To be fascist, the government or regime must be rabidly anti-communist and rule by open terror in the service of the big bourgeoisie (be it the comprador big bourgeoisie in the Philippines or the industrial monopoly class as in Hitlerite Germany) even as it uses demagogically nationalist, racist or even pseudo-socialist slogans to deceive the people. Most importantly, it has promulgated fascist laws to carry out the violent suppression of any opposition and prevent it from any recourse to the democratic rights guaranteed by a liberal democratic or socialist constitution.

The Duterte regime commits acts of state terrorism on behalf of the worst part of the Philippine big bourgeoisie but it has not yet reached the point of getting rid of the Bill of Rights and other relatively democratic provisions of the 1987 Constitution. However, Duterte is now on the verge of making his regime categorically fascist by enacting the so-called Anti-Terrorism Bill which practically gets rid of the Bill of Rights and is worse than the Marcos martial law proclamation in1972. He can also make charter change to formalize and entrench fascist dictatorship as Marcos did in fixing the 1973 Constitution and faking the referendum to ratify it.

Prof. Imbong: In several interventions, Walden Bello argued why Duterte is a fascist. His claim is that Duterte is a fascist original. By this I understand that right from the start Duterte is a fascist and that the (extreme) Left, being an initial ally of Duterte helped in Duterte’s ascension into the heights of fascist power. Classical fascism, however, is essentially an anti-communist movement (as pointed out by Enzo Traverso), a reaction or mobilization of the middle class and nationalist bourgeoisie against the internationalist working class. In this case, Duterte’s early presidency would not count yet as being fascistic. Could you give a comment on this claim of Bello and the role of the Philippine Left, in general, concerning Duterte’s fascism?

JMS: You are correct in saying that Duterte could not have been described as fascist or fascistic within the first six months of his presidency, especially if you evaluate him or his regime according to Enzo Traverso’s definition of classical fascism as being essentially an anti-communist movement that is a reaction or mobilization of the middle class and nationalist bourgeoisie against the internationalist working class. Duterte had to unfold himself first as a fascist or fascistoid in contradiction with his avowals of being “Left” and “socialist”.

You are correct in saying that Walden Bello is wrong for claiming that he knew Duterte as a fascist even before any manifestation of his being a fascist by word or deed. Before becoming president, Duterte never manifested himself as an adherent of fascism and was never the leader or member of a self-proclaimed fascist group or movement. As mayor of Davao City, he never declared himself a fascist. He had become vice mayor at first by being appointed by Cory Aquino. At the same time, he maintained close relations with the Marcos crony Floirendo of Tadeco and used him to become mayor.

In the course of his mayorship, Duterte used Dirty Harry tactics to impress the electorate that he was a law-and-order leader and also used violence to kill or silence his political opponents in the course of conflicts among the various political agents of the comprador big bourgeoisie and the landlord class. Among the competing reactionary leaders, he sought to ingratiate himself with the revolutionary movement. In response, the revolutionary movement considered him at the most as an unreliable and unstable ally against those reactionary leaders deemed worse than him on a certain scale of of political and tactical reckoning.

Even though Duterte claimed to be a close friend of the late Comrade Parago and helped in public events to honor him after his martyrdom, there have been questions within the revolutionary movement about Duterte’s close relations with top intelligence officers in the AFP and whether the report from inside the ISAFP that it was he who gave the A-1 information about the whereabouts of Comrade Parago to General Ano. The rapid promotions given by Duterte to Ano when he became president have aroused further the suspicion and investigation of his betrayal of Comrade Parago.

Prof. Imbong: Since the Philippine Left initially started as an ally of the Duterte regime, I believe it initially did not recognize the latter to be fascistic. At what particular point did the Philippine Left begin recognizing and labelling Duterte as a fascist? What were the triggers behind the redefinition of a former ally?

JMS: There was never any alliance between the Duterte regime and the revolutionary movement. In fact, the people’s war along the line of the new democratic revolution has proceeded, despite limited ceasefires to promote the peace negotiations. Warring parties can never be construed as allies until they can conclude at least a long-term truce for the purpose of alliance and other purposes beneficial to the people. The rabid anti-communist Walden Bello makes conclusions that are not based on the facts.

At the beginning of his presidency in 2016, Duterte presented himself as the first “Left” or “socialist” president of the Philippines, wishing to have peace negotiations and a just peace with the NDFP and the Filipino people and promising to amnesty and release all political prisoners. But within a few weeks after assuming his presidential office, he was in effect declaring himself a rabid anti-communist, he was reneging on his promise to amnesty and release the political prisoners and was carrying out the massacre of the poor as suspected drug users and peddlers.

Ka Oris as spokesperson of the CPP promptly criticized and condemned the aforesaid massacre of the poor within June 2016 and I also called Duterte a “butangero” on June 29, 2016 to his face when he was talking tough and reneging on his promise to amnesty and release the political prisoners. He wanted to trick the CPP into recommending certain personalities for four cabinet posts but he appointed them anyway on the basis of their individual merits.

He revealed himself categorically as an incorrigible enemy of the revolutionary movement when he included the CPP and NPA as targets of his martial law proclamation for Mindanao in May 2017. So, since early on, the revolutionary movement has considered Duterte as a rabid enemy and a rabid puppet of US imperialism by surrounding himself with generals who are notorious assets of the CIA and DIA of the US, carrying out immediately an all-out war policy under the cover of continuing Aquino’s Oplan Bayanihan until he launched his own Oplan Kapayapaan in early 2017.

Eventually, the NDFP came to know that when he met Trump in November 2017 Duterte promised to wipe out the revolutionary movement and give US corporations the right to own to the extent of 100 percent any enterprise owning land, exploiting natural resources and operating public utilities and other businesses. He was proving to Trump that he was a loyal puppet to the US despite his posturing as a close friend of China.

Prof. Imbong: Enzo Traverso claims that some of the current populist and rightist movements the world over are irreducible to the classic definition of fascism. These have developed features that do not anymore fit into the classic definition of fascism. He rather called these movements as postfascism. In Brazil also, Jeffery Webber acknowledges the current Jair Bolsonaro regime as a neofascism. Do the current political and economic manifestations of the Duterte regime still fit into the classic definition of fascism? Or is his regime more of what is called as postfascism or neofascism?

JMS: Since the collapse of the Soviet Union and end of the Cold War in 1991, US imperialism has increasingly used the term “terrorism” as the bete noire (black beast) for targetting by the most extreme forms of reaction, including fascist movements, official repressive measures, state terrorism, full blown fascist regimes and wars of aggression. The term “terrorism” is so broad as to encompass not only Islamic jihadists that the US intelligence agencies create but also the communists and other anti-imperialist and democratic forces that are supposed to be the target of “classical fascism”.

The imperialists, the ultra-reactionaries and the fascist movements still vilify their enemy as “communist”, “terrorist” or “communist terrorist” wherever the communist parties and working class movements are relatively strong in the legal struggle and/or the armed struggle and are regarded by the big bourgeoisie as imminent threat to the ruling system. Anti-communism is still a major element in the ideological and political line of fascism, fascist regimes and movements, notwithstanding the imperialist propaganda that communism died in the years of 1989 to 1991.
Duterte points to the CPP as the main enemy of his regime and the main target of his state terrorism. In this regard, he is no different from Mussolini and Hitler and the fascist dictators of China, South Korea, Indonesia and Vietnam after World War II.

In looking at social and political phenomena, I am guided by the laws of contradiction and uneven development. There are generally similar phenomena that at the same time have distinctive dissimilarities or differences. Even at the time of Mussolini the original fascist, Hitler, Franco, Tojo and others, the fascist regimes had generally similar characteristics but also had distinctive dissimilarities.I do not like to play with prefixes like post and neo as some academic pedants do to claim any kind of new and unique discovery.

In my study of fascist movements and fascist regimes that arose before and after World War II, I have observed the following elements in their character and conduct:

1. The fascist groups and movements are ideologically and politically anti-communist and seek and get support from the big bourgeoisie (be it the industrial and financial big bourgeoisie in imperialist countries or the comprador big bourgeoisie in underdeveloped countries).

2. They use xenophobic, chauvinist and racist slogans and target certain racial and ethnolinguistic minorities as the enemy to blame for the suffering and grievances of the people and deflect attention from the exploiting classes.

3. They use the biases of the politically backward section of the masses in order to create the base for their “mass movement”. From this base, they try to influence and win over the middle section of the masses; and try to counter and ferret out communists and other revolutionary forces from the advanced section of the masses.

4. They collaborate with the big bourgeoisie and with the armed apparatuses of the reactionary state in breaking up demonstrations of democratic forces, assaulting workers’ strikes and attacking the persons and properties of people who are communist or progressive in their stand or who belong to any minority deemed as enemy and target of hatred.

5. They ascend to absolute power through elections by taking up the grievances of the people and at the same time enjoying the support of the big bourgeoisie. They can also take power through a military coup against a discredited and weak civilian government. When in power by any degree, they can stage a series of false flag operations to scapegoat the communists and to justify the adoption and implementation of fascist laws.

6. They use the open rule of terror (fascist laws and actions) to suppress any criticism of or opposition to the fascist regime through the adoption and enforcement of laws that comprehensively and profoundly dissolve and violate the basic democratic rights and fundamental freedoms of the people which have been defined and guaranteed by the liberal democratic or socialist constitution.

All the above elements in varying forms and degrees of gravity have characterized the fascist movement and regimes that are employed and supported by the big bourgeoisie upon the failure of conservative and reformist parties, institutions and movement to contain and appease the exploited classes and counter the rise of the revolutionary party of the proletariat and the mass movement that it leads. #

Should Brown Filipinos Fight for Black Lives too?

“The child who is not embraced by the village
will burn it down to feel its warmth.”
– Old African Proverb

By L.S. Mendizabal

“Baluga.” “Nognog.” “Pwet ng kawali.” “Ita.” Even “negro.” These are just some of the terms with negative connotation that Filipinos fling around carelessly about people who have darker complexions. And the majority of us are kayumanggi (brown skinned), so that’s saying a lot. You don’t even have to be Black to be called these words in the Philippines. Here, there’s no such thing as “racial slur” for we have made sport of physical appearances such as being pango (flat-nosed), pandak (short), tabatsoy (fat) and payatot (skinny) which are oddly what most Filipinos look like.

As a morena for most of my life, experiencing discrimination for not being light enough is not new to me. Mind you, I’m not even that dark. When I was in fifth grade, I had to hand an excuse letter on behalf of my little brother to his class adviser. He had fever and wouldn’t be able to take the exams that week. Upon reading it, the old mestiza teacher with a Spanish-sounding last name looked at me and asked who I was.

“I’m his Ate (older sister),” I said. She ogled me through her reading glasses with intense curiosity.

“Then why are you darker? You don’t look alike! I thought you were the daughter of the kasambahay (househelp),” she said casually, waving the letter to signal that I could go.

I don’t remember how I felt then, but I remember how angry Mama was when I told her later that day. I guess she just got so busy at work that it was never brought up again. Looking back, not only did my brother’s adviser reek of colorism but one that is borne of class consciousness as well. Darker skin is usually equated to being poor, uneducated and thus tied to physical labor in the service of lighter skinned employers. What’s sadder is that she was not a conventionally “bad” person. I’d even go as far as saying that she was one of the best teachers in our elementary school. Most Filipinos, especially from the older age brackets, “boomers” if you will, just happen to think that way. It’s normal.

That’s what you get after around four centuries of colonial rule—three years under the Japanese occupation, 48 with the Americans and 333 as territory of the Spanish Crown to be precise. As product of colonial interbreeding (not excluding the rape of our female ancestors), Filipinos have this concept of beauty centered on Western features: statuesque; blonde hair; a Grecian nose; and most importantly, smooth, radiant, fair skin. Just see all the local TV commercials, the billboards strewn along EDSA, the most popular local celebrities and our two most recent Ms. Universe titleholders who are all Fil-something.

A Filipino-American joins the massive protests against racist killings in the USA. (Bayan-USA photo)

Filipinos have been programmed to want to be Caucasians because for the longest time in our collective memory, they were our governor-generals, friars, lords, teachers, ideal husbands, messiahs who would deliver us from adversity. Heck, even Jesus Christ looks white in the portrait that hangs in every Filipino household! Not a hundred armed uprisings could’ve changed this mentality easily because it’s widely reinforced up to this day. We are still a semi-colony of the USA, granted that the Duterte administration has been turning its allegiance over to China, which if I may add, is a land of chiefly lighter skinned Asians.

Now, imagine being Black in America. Not only were they colonized, but forced out of their native Africa, traded across seas and oceans like silk and spices, then owned by pale strangers for their feudal and capitalist interests. For three centuries. For the color of their skin. After the Civil War that led to the Reconstruction Amendments which abolished slavery and recognized emancipated Blacks as American voting citizens, white supremacy was reborn in the form of racist extreme right-wing organizations like the Ku Klux Klan (KKK) which terrorized and killed them. The lynching of African-Americans by white mobs for crimes they did not commit or out of pure hate also became prevalent during this entire period. Then came the Civil Rights Movement in the 50s through 60s which condemned these racial injustices and put an end to the Jim Crow laws and disenfranchisement, among many other legislative triumphs. All these years of the Black Liberation Movement, however, did not arrive at the current global uprising that is Black Lives Matter without at least a million of them being continuously exploited, raped and slaughtered in order to bring a White-dominated USA to where it is now: the world’s foremost imperialist superpower. A steady offering of Black lives by white supremacists to Uncle Sam and Lady Liberty—this has always been the fuel to the American dream machine.

As per writing, 20 people, mostly Black, have been killed, countless are injured and at least 11,000 arrested since mass mobilizations broke out in the US following the May 25 incident when a white cop, Derek Michael Chauvin, knelt on the neck of a Black man, George Floyd, for eight minutes and 46 seconds, causing his death. Black women and children are being abducted and slain everywhere. And in a harrowing throwback to the Reconstruction, five Black people have been found dead hanging from trees. The police have ruled out foul play and classified these lynching as “suicide,” as if a bunch of African-Americans would not have chosen a more appropriate time to end their lives amidst a revolt that demands that all Black lives should matter, as if they could not have thought of any other means of dying but publicly hanging themselves as in the historical hate crime that killed thousands of their ancestors. All these happened in just three weeks since a series of racist killings have triggered massive protests across all 50 states of America as well as the world.

Undeterred by ongoing police brutality, the protests show no signs of letting up. Aside from their demands to defund the police and abolish the whole prison industrial complex, poetic justice is somehow served what with the number of police stations, capitalist establishments and other anti-Black institutions that are being burned down, of racist monuments and memorials uprooted and destroyed. The message is clear: businesses and buildings can be replaced; Black lives cannot. The dismantling of statues of slavers, slave owners and those responsible for Black genocide is nothing compared to everything that’s been wiped out in the name of the “the white man’s burden.” Calling them “George Floyd protests” is an understatement, for as much as the murder of Floyd was their catalyst, so were all the Black lives lost over centuries of systemic racism, their faces too many to count, their names too crowded in our collective consciousness that it’s difficult to learn them all. BLM began as a hashtag in 2013 but the broad movement that it has bred is but an eruption of generations of Black sentiment and dissent. Slavery, they’ve experienced, was simply reformed, not abolished, since their emancipation never quite translated into racial equality. America is literally ablaze with the flame of revolution and the rest of the world is catching fire, albeit long overdue.

A caravan protesting racist killings in the USA. (Bayan-USA photo)

“Why should we Filipinos give a damn?” some might ask. “Most of us are not Black.” “The Duterte diehard supporters (DDS) should have no business with BLM because they condone extrajudicial killings by the police!” “You’re just following what’s trending.” “We already have enough problems in our own turf! #BrownLivesMatterToo” are just some posts by random Filipinos that I’ve seen hovering on social media.

So why must we, regardless of ideology and political beliefs, support BLM?

1) Because all Black lives matter. Period! and

2) because we share a common enemy.

The white-dominated imperialist USA has perpetually fed on the exploitation of our people and natural resources, all the while presenting itself as savior and benefactor, for instance, by keeping the national economy afloat through debt so they can exploit more.

Neoliberalism has made the Philippines and the rest of the Global South beholden to white imperialist powers through the state.

Meanwhile, the AFP-PNP are the oppressive instruments of the state that ensure that the exploited remain exploited. State violence and brutality is not a mere offshoot of abuse of power or a mishandling of guns, but a very specific neoliberal design implanted in the workings of the establishment. The uprisings of all peoples of color against white supremacy in solidarity with BLM in the neo-colonies (our own backyards) as well as within the countries of white imperialists (the homecourts) possess the impact of a flurry of a thousand blows from all sides.

By “uprising,” we do not mean simply participating in Instagram story chains, or posting black squares hashtagged with BlackOutTuesday and calling it a day, or being passionate about BLM while endorsing or staying mum on the Anti-Terrorism Bill (ATB) which, if signed by Duterte, is worse than Martial Law with its draconian anti-people provisions.

I mean, whatever happened to “All cops are bastards?” Fascist violence is the universal language of the police. You cannot be for BLM and root for the PNP! Some Filipino makeup artists also thought it was a good idea to pay tribute to Black lives by posting blackface looks on social media. Blackface, originally sported in 19th century theatre to represent black caricatures, is repulsively unacceptable in 2020! These performative and selective types of activism are not only lethargic but as hollow as a national artist writing a poem on each day of the quarantine in an attempt to “encourage the public to read more poetry” while his fellow artists are starving during the pandemic.

Which brings me to a rather tough but necessary question: Are Filipinos merely uneducated on institutional racism or are we, as a people historically inclined to serve White men, inherently racist?

Let’s not even stray far into colonial history. In fact, let’s talk about how we currently treat our own Indigenous Peoples, the Aeta (“eye-ta”) population in the country. The Aetas, an Australo-Melanesian race, which may be traced back to Africa eons ago, are the Philippines’ oldest, if not first, inhabitants. Their culture and ways of living are often said to be “backward” but in reality, they are natural taxonomists, herbal medicine experts, not to mention excellent farmers and hunters. And yet, Aetas face constant abuse from their fellow Filipinos (“mga unat,” they call us). Not only are they completely ignored by the government but with its blessing, Aetas are frequently driven away from their ancestral lands by land grabbers, huge logging and mining companies and the AFP. The country’s upland regions, which are home to Aetas, are being used as the military’s counter-insurgency training and operations areas. Worse, the AFP usually tags Indigenous Peoples standing their ground to protect their livelihoods as “rebels” and enemies of the state, too. In addition to all these, Aetas, being darker than most Filipinos, are on the receiving end of widespread racial discrimination. Where else did “baluga,” “nognog” and “Ita” come from? Colorism is a child of racism. You don’t have to be a white cop lynching African-American kids to be racist. Anti-Blackness is a global thing, and it can be as subtle as the whitening lotion you slather on your body after bath every day.

Internalized racism is the culprit behind the thinking that it’s harmless to do blackface, or repost a #BlackLivesMatter story chain and nothing else, or call our darker-complexioned friends names that we think are hilarious. White racial antipathy has evolved in its different forms of expression, the less explicit being racial prejudice and racial apathy. Asians, despite being POC, are notorious for being racist at worst and racially apathetic at best. After all, the police officer who stood next to Chauvin kneeling on Floyd who was saying he could not breathe and did nothing about the murder is Hmong-American, while the convenience store that called the cops to report Floyd is owned by an Arab-American. Sure, we Filipinos love Black culture, fashion, athletes, rappers and Beyonce, but why did we laugh out loud at Elizabeth Ramsey, Blakdyak, Whitney Tyson and Wilma Doesnt when they popped up on TV? Their complexion was a comedic antic in itself! Truth is, we Filipinos still have a long way to go before we can fully overcome racial prejudice and apathy, let alone rectify centuries of reinforced internalized white supremacy. We’ve also suffered from white oppression and exploitation, yes, but it is important to note that the age-old problems of our Black sisters and brothers are rooted in the history of being enslaved not for differences in ideology, religion or culture but solely based on the difference of skin color, resulting into the very concept of “race” that’s anchored on lighter skin being superior to dark. This is what we mean when we say that “not all lives can matter until Black lives matter.”

While writing this, I’ve come to realize how it’s a privilege to read up on racism instead of having to fear being Black every day of my life. Signing petitions and sending money to donation drives (preferably by Black community organizers and protesters) in support of BLM, advancing or reopening of cases and bailing out arrested protesters is a good start.

We must also take the time to educate our fellow Filipinos on racism by sharing books and reading materials not just online, but most importantly, within our homes where prejudices are first learned and fortified. These days, when most of the world is mobilizing against many social injustices in the midst of a pandemic no less, there should no longer be room for bigotry, not on the internet or at the dining table where you say grace with your family.

Call racism out and educate the racists, including yourself. After all, this isn’t about you.

Furthermore, racial discourse does not stop online or at home. Filipino-American communities in different states have joined and organized BLM demonstrations. Here in the Philippines, Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (Bayan) has led peaceful protests against the ATB, the biggest and most recent of which, dubbed as “Grand Mañanita” on June 12, had the protesters simultaneously take the knee in solidarity with the Black Movement. Anti-racism mass mobilizations have also been conducted in the UK, France, Germany, Japan, South Korea and countries across Africa, to name a few.

The latest pronouncements by the imperialist-sponsored World Health Organization (WHO) itself, expressing support for these worldwide protests in the middle of COVID-19 are proof that late capitalism—in which the principally white Global North, especially the USA, has reveled in through hundreds of years of exploitation of their own people and those in their neo/colonies—is clearly on its last legs. BLM as a movement against systemic racism and white supremacy could not have been a more fitting spark to start a prairie of fire, to borrow Mao Zedong’s words.

Even so, we cannot afford to let our guard down. This is just the beginning. As long as the carceral state is not abolished, as long as there is racial inequality, racial profiling, redlining of African-American neighborhoods and even misogynoir and transphobia within the Black communities themselves, the fight is far from over. As long as there is no justice, there will be no peace. In fact, we may not see the end of it.

Renowned activist, Marxist feminist and author, Angela Davis, shared in a recent interview that she often tells comrades “to consider the very long trajectory of Black struggles. Most important is the forging of legacies, the new arenas of struggle that can be handed down to younger generations.”

Indeed, Black Lives Matter is more than just a trending hashtag. It is a continuing revolution that will not cease until perhaps when our children’s friends call them by their real names and when grade school teachers do not perceive only the color of their skin. #

Duterte is a paper tiger in strategic terms and is in the process of being torn apart

By Jose Maria Sison

In tactical terms, Duterte has still enough power and enough armed minions to abuse the people and act like a real tiger. He can still kill any specific social activist, critic or anyone opposed to his brutal and corrupt regime. He can still persecute journalists, lawyers, human rights defenders, bishops, priests and opposition leaders as well as their institutions and organizations in so many ways.

But in strategic terms, Duterte is a paper tiger already in the process of being torn apart. Every oppressive or exploitative act that he commits is rousing the people to fight back. Thus, the patriotic and progressive forces are gaining ground rapidly. Duterte is lucky if he can survive politically before the middle of 2022 or he will be even more unlucky and meet a more powerful resistance if he succeeds to extend his power beyond 2022 through any foul means offensive to the sovereign will of the people.

In taking advantage of the COVID-19 problem in order to grab emergency powers, subject the people to extreme repressive measures and steal public funds in the hundreds of billions of pesos, Duterte has sabotaged the Philippine economy and bankrupted his own government and has thus grievously offended the people whom he has deprived of the means of livelihood and frustrated with the false promise of food assistance and economic relief.

In their tens of millions, the workers, peasants and the lower middle class are hungry and angry at the Duterte regime and are eager to move against it. The professionals and entrepreneurs have been deprived of income and have fallen into debt and bankruptcy and are ready to join the toiling masses in concerted actions to protest and make demands. Even the big compradors and landlords who are not his close collaborators now consider him a plague worse than the COVID-19 virus.

The Christian churches are now calling on their people to make Duterte account for his crimes against humanity, his gross and systematic violations of human rights and his blasphemy in cursing and spitting on God’s face. He can invoke the freedom of thought and belief. But he cannot use his state power to persecute and humiliate the Churches without meeting the just resistance of believers,

Duterte has terminated the peace negotiations with the NDFP in obedience to Trump’s order for him to do so in 2017. And to prove his continuing puppetry to the US, he obsequiously promised to Trump that he would do everything in his power to destroy the revolutionary movement and to allow US corporations to have 100 per cent ownership of land and all types of businesses, including natural resource exploitation and public utilities.

Since then, the inter-imperialist contradictions between the US and China have sharpened. The US is now displeased with Duterte for having allowed China to build and militarize seven artificial islands in the exclusive economic zone of the Philippines, control the Philippine national power grid and to put up cell towers of China Telecom and its Philippine dummy in the AFP military camps in collision with the EDCA which privileges the US to have its own bases within AFP camps.

Despite his betrayal of Philippine sovereignty in his relations with China, Duterte has gotten far less than the loans that he expected to get from China even at the most onerous terms for his much-touted plan of infrastructure-building. It has become obvious that China has preconditioned most of the loans with demands for the most outright and brazen surrender of Philippine sovereign rights over the West Philippine Sea and its rich oil, gas and marine resources.

While Duterte and his military minions boast daily in government and commercial mass media that they have wiped out the armed revolutionary movement several times over, they expose their big lie by railroading a bill of state terrorism supposedly aimed at destroying at the same time the armed revolutionary movement in the countryside by likewise destroying any form of legal opposition that can be suspected or interpreted as being helpful to armed revolution.

The armed revolutionary movement of the Filipino people is daily being taunted and insulted by militarist psywar that it is already dead and being challenged to prove that it is still alive and kicking. In this regard, the leadership of the revolutionary movement has announced that each one of its more than 100 guerrilla fronts will deliver lethal blows to their enemy every week and every month in accordance with their current strength within the context of national guidelines under the principle of centralized leadership and decentralized operations.

Indeed, if the revolutionary forces of the people would carry out their fighting tasks very well against the enemy armed units, the human rights violators and plunderers, they can contribute significantly to the isolation, discredit and overthrow of the traitorous, tyrannical, genocidal and plundering Duterte regime. When they were much smaller and weaker and less experienced, the revolutionary forces contributed significantly to the overthrow of the Marcos fascist dictatorship from its inception in 1972 to 1986.

They are now definitely in a much stronger and better position to give a greater contribution to the effort of the Filipino people to get rid of a tyrant of a lower calibre than Marcos, a mediocre mimicry of his master monster. They can assure all their allies that under current circumstances the balance of forces does not yet allow seizure of political power by the revolutionary proletariat but certainly allows constitutional succession among the conservative forces to depose a physically, mentally and morally deranged tyrant and provide relief to the suffering people.

As they did in the fight against the Marcos fascist dictatorship, the conservative forces can avail of the broad united front of forces against the Duterte tyranny, persuade the civilian and armed personnel of the state to withdraw support from the tyrant and apply their principle of constitutional succession to get rid of him and his gang of butchers and thieves. If they succeed, then they shall have created the conditions for the resumption of peace negotiations with the NDFP. All advocates of a just peace can seriously consider this point. #

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The author is the chief political consultant of the National Democratic Front of the Philippines.

Promote Forests for Health

By Leon Dulce

The COVID-19 pandemic, like many catastrophic infectious disease spreads the world has faced, could have been avoided if we treated our forests differently.

Indeed, various studies have demonstrated that 60 to 70 percent of recognized emerging infectious diseases (EIDs) are zoonotic, or originating from animals, mostly wildlife. A United Nations Food and Agricultural Organization study showed that 15 percent of these EIDs are associated with forests.

COVID-19 itself has been genetically traced back to bats, which are nocturnal forest and cave denizens. Bats are seen as the “ultimate incubator” for COVID-19 because of its robust immune system encouraging viral strains they host to adapt and evolve into dangerous and highly infectious pathogens.

Epidemiologists are scrambling to determine how exactly COVID-19 ‘spilled over’ from bats to humans, though initial scientific explanations point to the virus jumping from bats to other mammals to humans in the live animal markets of ground zero Wuhan, China.

What is clear is that the coronavirus would have remained dormant if its carrier species remained isolated away in intact forest ecosystems they inhabit.

Web of life, web of consequence

Forest biodiversity plays a huge role in disease control by promoting good microbiota that compete with the disease-causing pathogens, and flora and fauna that compete with or predate on virus-carrying species to keep their populations in check.

Forests also provide various ecosystem services such as food, water, climate regulation, and pollution control, all helping human populations improve their health and wellbeing.

This complex web of life is continuously unraveling as we continue to lose our forests. The Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) itself estimates that our forest cover is down to just 7 million hectares or just 23.3 percent of the Philippines’ total land area. What can be considered intact forests are actually a mere 7 percent of our original pre-colonial forest cover.

The consequent biodiversity loss is catastrophic. In 2011, the rate of biodiversity extinction in the Philippines was already 1,000 times faster than the natural rate. Global average extinction rates at present are now up to 10,000 times faster.

The country’s latest climate change assessment report roots the biodiversity problem in key drivers such as land conversion, deforestation due to logging and conversion to agricultural land, mining, introduction of exotic species, and pollution.

The Philippine Forest Code has failed to arrest deforestation and these multiple challenges to the use of forest lands. It has served only to promote export-oriented timber plantations instead of sustainable forest management practices. Other extractive and destructive policies such as the Mining Act of 1995 also provide convenient trojan horses into forest protection policies.

This web of consequence extends to the global level through the Philippines serving as a waypoint for the global wildlife trade. We are not only a hotspot for poaching but also a porous entry and exit point of wildlife trafficking that reaches as far as Africa and Europe. Weak wildlife protection law enforcement clocking in at just 26% conviction and 13% penalization rates are failing to stop this continuing plunder of our biodiversity.

Rainforesting, rewilding

We the public deserve a ‘Green New Normal’ beyond the COVID-19 crisis. Promoting forests for health, from rainforestation to urban rewilding, is a crucial solution to the coronavirus emergency, recovery, and post-pandemic new normal that we urgently need.

We must address the perennial lack of public funds for forest protection. Latest available data indicate that there is an 80% financing gap between the actual average budget for biodiversity protection of P4.9 billion, and the recommended level of spending from 2008 to 2013. Government must double its current annual budget for environmental protection and biodiversity conservation up to P25 billion per year to address these financing gaps.

Government forest rangers and personnel are just 10% of what we need to sufficiently cover our entire forest areas with adequate enforcement. We must increase the number of employed forest rangers and personnel, and improve their job security by increasing their wages and protection needs.

Finally, we need to overhaul our forest, biodiversity, and natural resource laws. We have to be strict with the tradeoffs, making sure not a single project that threatens massive biodiversity loss will be allowed in our remaining forest corridors. #

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Leon Dulce is the national coordinator of the Kalikasan People’s Network for the Environment (Kalikasan PNE), a grassroots-led national environmental campaign center established in 1997. Kalikasan PNE is a convening organization of the Citizens’ Urgent Response to End COVID-19 (CURE COVID), a national people’s initiative of various communities and sectors in response to the pandemic crisis and its impacts on their health and livelihood. 

Paano aalagaan ang mental health ngayong COVID lockdown?

Sa panahon ngayon, importante ang social connection at psycho-social support sa bawat isa. Ok tayo sa pisikal na distancing pero tuloy dapat ang social connection. Sa social connection papasok ang pagtutulungan ng bawat miyembro ng pamilya para matagalan ang ECQ. Ito ang panahon ng family bonding.

Ni Dr. Reggie Pamugas/Panayam ni Raymund B. Villanueva

Sinasabi ng mga eksperto sa mundo na nagiging pandemya na rin sa mental health ang krisis na dulot ng coronavirus na pinalalala ng kwarantina at mga lockdown na nag-uutos sa mga tao na manatili na lamang muna sa loob ng bahay. Dahil mahigit nang dalawang buwan ang lockdown sa mga bansa katulad ng sa Pilipinas, marami na marahil ang nakakaranas ng psychological stress dulot ng pagkakakulong, kawalan ng interaksyon sa mga dating nakakasalamuha at kawalan ng kasiguruhan sa hanapbuhay at ikabubuhay.

Kinapanayam ng Kodao ang isa sa pinaka-aktibong sikolohista na nagbibigay-tulong sa mga pamayanang nakararanas ng matinding psychological stress. Siya marahil ang pinaka-aktibong tumulong sa mga pamayanan sa Silangang Bisayas matapos ang super-bagyong Yolanda. Siya rin ang nagbibigay-tulong sa mga taong may psychological stress dahil sa kanilang trabaho, tulad ng mga mamamahayag.

Yuris Alhumaydy
@yrss

1. Ano ang mental health?

Ang kalusugang pangkaisipan o mental health, ayon sa World Health Organization ay isang kalagayan ng kagalingan kung saan ang isang tao ay maalam sa kanyang abilidad, kayang umagapay sa pangkaraniwang stress ng buhay, nakakapag-trabaho ng maayos, at nakakapag-ambag sa kanyang pamayanan.

Ang sakit sa pag-iisip o mental illnesses naman ay isang kondisyong pangkalusugan na nakakakitaan ng pagbabago-bago sa emosyon, pag-iisip o pag-uugali o kumbinasyon ng mga ito. Dulot ito ng distress o mga suliraning nagmumula sa sosyal, trabaho, o relasyon at aktibidad sa pamilya. Ito naman ay ayon sa American Psychiatric Association.

2.  Ano ang dulot ng lockdown na ito sa mental health ng karaniwang mamamayan, partikular sa tila walang malinaw na plano hinggil sa kabuhayan, pagkain, transportasyon ng mga kailangan pa ring lumabas bilang frontliners o manggagawa o arawan lamang ang kita?

Malaki ang epekto ng lockdown sa mental health ng tao. Ang tao ay social beings, kaya nung pinatupad ung social distancing na kasama sa ECQ, medyo nahirapan ung mga tao. Karamihan ay nakaramdam ngstress, nerbyos, pag-alala, kahirapan sa pagtulog, at iba pa dahil sa isip na walang kasiguraduhan at ang pagbabago ng situation (pandemic na). At dahil first time itong naranasan ng karamihan ng Pilipino, marami talaga ang kinakabahan at na-apektuhan ang kanila at ating mental health. Ang nakadagdag pa sa problema ay hindi malinaw na guidelines o plano mula sa ating gobyerno o pa-iba-iba ang sinasabi ng gobyerno at kulang ng information dissemination sa mga tao at komunidad.

3. Paano nakaka-apekto ang lockdown na ito sa mental health ng karaniwang mamamayan sa pagmamalabis sa implementasyon nito ng mga taong-gubyerno, tulad ng pagbibilad sa mga violators daw sa quarantine, pananakit sa iba, pamamahiya, at iba pang banta sa kanila?

Sa mga taong may otoridad (pulis at military o barangay tanod) lalong dumarami ang pang-aabuso sa  kapangyarihan. Dahil ang training nila ay security response at hindi medikal o matinding pag-unawa sa kapwa. Kaya, madalas, labis na implentasyon o paglabag sa karapatang pantao ang ginagawa nila. Iba ang perspective ng nagpapatupad/ LGU/ national government kumpara sa mamamayan. May covid19 pandemic man o wala, basta may paglabag sa karapantang pantao, itoy nakaka-apekto sa isipan ng tao. Isa itong traumatic experience sa kanya na hindi nya makakalimutan at pwedeng magdulot sa sakit sa isipan. Nakakalungkot lang isipin na kahit sa panahon ng covid19 ay may pangyayaring pang-aabuso pa rin sa kapwa Pilipino sa halip ng compassion, pag-unawa at pagpapasensya.

4. Ano ang dulot ng lockdown na ito sa mental health ng karaniwang mamamayan matapos nilang malaman na ang mga taong may pribilehiyo tulad nina Senador Koko Pimental ay nakakaikot pa sa mga lugar at may mga wala namang sintomas at hindi  frontliner ay nauuna sa Covid-19 testing?

Minsan nahahati ang reaksyon ng mga tao dahil sa pag-iisip na opisyal sila ng gobyerno kaya may pribilehiyo sila. Pero karamihan ng mga tao ay nagagalit sa mga pag-aabuso ng mga gobyernong opisyal. Sa panahon ng covid19, dapat may role model o responsableng tao/opisyal na sinosunod ang mamamayan para may kaayusan. Pero hindi ito nangyayari. Kapag hindi matino ang isang leader o gobyernong opisyal, magulo ang resulta. Korapsyon at pang-aabuso sa kapangyarihan ang nangyayari.

5. Ano ang dulot ng lockdown na ito sa mental health ng mamayan kung bawas ang impormasyong natatanggap nila dahil sa limitasyong imposed sa mga alagad ng media?

Kapag kulang ang impormasyon na nakukuha ang mamamayan dahil sa limitasyon ng media ay lalong nagdudulot ito ng pangamba, takot, nerbyos sa mga tao. Ang dagdag problema pa ay dumadami ang mga fake news na lalong nakakalito sa mamamayan.

Photo by Jinky Mendoza/Kodao

6. Ano ang dulot ng lockdown na ito sa mental health ng mamamayan kung naglipana ang fake news, pati na rin ang galing mismo sa pamahalaan?

Hindi nakakatulong yung paglaganap ng fake news sa ating bansa. Ang mga tao sa panahon ng krisis ay umaasa sa tulong ng ating gobyerno. Kapag nalilito ang tao dahil sa fake news lalo sa panahon ng krisis, lalo silang matatakot at magpa-panic. Pwede rin itong magdulot ng away sa kapwa tao.

7. Ano ang dulot ng lockdown sa mental health ng mamamayan kung walang malinaw na impormasyon kung matagumpay ba o hindi ang ginagawa ng pamahalaan upang tugunan ang krisis, kung kailan ba matatapos ang lockdown, at kung ano ang plano matapos ang ilang buwang community quarantine?

Kung walang malinaw na impormasyon sa plano kung paano sugpuin ang covid19 o hanggang kalian ‘yung lockdown, lalong maging nerbyoso, magpa-panic o matatakot ang mag tao. Kaya ang iba ay hindi sumusunod sa ECQ/ quarantine, maliban pa sa rason na ekonomiko dahil hindi malinaw ang impormasyon tungkol sa covid19 o plano sa pagsugpo nito.

8. Bakit mahalaga na pangalagaan ang mental health ng mamamayang isinasailalalim sa community quarantine, lalo na yung mga nasa isolation, forced o voluntary?

Mahalagang mapangalagaan ang mental health sa panahon ng ECQ para hindi magkasakit sa isipan. Ang tao ay sociable creature by nature kaya nakakapanibago itong isolation or ECQ sa mga tao. Natatakot, kinakabahan o pwedeng magkaroon ng pagduda sa ibang tao kapag nagkaroon ng matagal na isolation.

Photo from Unsplash.com/Jonathan Burbank

9. Paano pangangalagaan ang mental health ng mga nasa lockdown at quarantine? Paano magtutulungan ang mga miyembro ng pamilya upang matagalan itong community quarantine ng pamahalaan?

Mahalaga na mapangalagaan ang ating mental health sa panahon ng lockdown. Sa individual pwede niyang gawin ang ABC ng Mental Health Care.

Ung “A” ay awareness. Self-awareness at situational awareness. Dapat kilala mo sarili mo, ang inyong kalakasan at iyong pwede pang ayusin. Dapat well-informed ka din sa mga balita. Pero mag-ingat iyong mga vulnerable sa isip, yung mga madaling mag-alala.

Yung “B” ay balance. I-balanse ang ang buhay mo sa trabaho at sa pamilya mo. Dapat ay may regular sleep pa din, may hobbies, doing work (work from home), doing exercises. Pwedeng gumawa ng schedule for a day o daily routine ng isang linggo na pwede sundan.

Ung “C” ay connection. Sa panahon ngayon, importante ang social connection at psychosocial support sa bawat isa. Ok tayo sa pisikal na distancing pero tuloy dapat ang social connection. Sa social connection papasok ang pagtutulungan ng bawat miyembro ng pamilya para matagalan ang ECQ. Ito ang panahon ng family bonding. Family can do games, teamwork in household chores, at iba pa. Sa mga magulang, sana at dapat kalmado lang ang ipinapakita nila sa anak nila, dahil nakikita at naramdaman ng kanilang anak ang kanilang kilos at reaksyon sa sitwasyon. Ipaliwanag sa anak ang nangyayari sa lebel ng kaalaman nila. Huwag sanang takutin ang mga bata sa covid19. Sa mga anak/bata, gumawa ng mga nakakatuwa or interesadong aktibidad na makatulong pag-alis ng boredom.

10. Paano mabawasan ang takot at agam-agam ng mamamayan sa lumalala pa ring pandemic na ito?

Normal matakot sa panahon ng covid19 pandemic. Pero dahil sa kakulangan ng impormasyon sa mamamayan o walang malinaw na direksyon o guidelines galing sa LGU o national government ay lalong natatakot at naging nerbiyos ang mga tao. Para mabawasan ang anumang takot at agam-agam ng mamamayan ay kailangan nilang i-practice ang ABC ng mental health/ kalusugang pangkaisipan. Pwedeng palakasin ang community care/ bayanihan din sa bawat komunidad. Ito rin ang panahon ng social solidarity, pagtutulungan sa kapwa PiIipino. Sa mamamayan na miyembro ng organisasyon, ang  tiwala, tulong, at lakas galing sa mga kinabibilangang organisasyon ay makakatulong din sa kanila. (Organizational care)

Kuha ni Jola Diones-Mamangun/Kodao

11. Ano ang panukalang national mental health program sa mga panahong tulad nito at pagkatapos?

Kahit mayroong national mental health program ang ating gobyerno, ito ay hindi nakatuon sa panahon ng covid19 pandemic. Ang pagdating ng covid19 ay hindi inaasahan ng mga tao. Pero nakikita at na-obserbahan natin na may epekto ang covid19 sa mental health ng bawat Pilipino. Kaya dapat ay importanteng maipatupad ng ating gobyerno ang mental health program sa panahon ng covid19 pandemic at kahit pagkatapos nito.

Ang national mental health program ng gobyerno ay merong promotive, preventive, treatment and rehabilitative services component. Integrated sa ibat- ibang settings sa paggamot mula sa komunidad hanggang sa pasilidad, implemented from the national to the barangay level.

Ang mga program na kalakip nito ay:

1. Wellness of Daily Living sa eskwela, trabaho at iba pang programa

2. Extreme Life Experience- pagbibigay ng psychosocial support sa personal and community wide disasters

3. Mental Disorder

4. Neurologic Disorders

5. Substance Abuse and other Forms of Addiction

Dapat ay tuloy-tuloy pa rin ang pagbibigay serbisyong mental health at psychosocial support sa lahat ng mga Pilipino sa panahon ng covid19 pandemic. Sa panahon ng ECQ mas kawawa ang mga taong may sakit sa isipan at yung iba pang may kapansanan. Paano ang access nila sa mental health care provider at sa gamot kung sarado ang mga hospital na tumitingin sa kanila dahil naka-pokus lang tayo sa covid19. Sana holistic care pa rin. #

Covid 19, the Neo-liberal Policies and Chinese Imperialism (Part II, Section II)

By Prof. Edberto Malvar Villegas, PhD

(This article is presented in two parts and will be given in three posts. The first part covers “Covid 19 in the Phillippines”, “The Imperialist Neo-Liberal Policies of the IMF-WB-WTO”, and the “The Neo-Liberal Policies and US Overproduction”. The second part comprises “The Emergence of Chinese Imperialism”, “China’s AIIB”, “China’s Debt Trap”, “The US-China Rivalry and Covid 19” and the “Conclusion”. While the rapid spread of Covid 19 in the Philippines is due to its poor health system because of the policies of the IMF-WB, the virus was directly caused by the easy entry of Chinese nationals into the country due to the too open accommodation of the Duterte’s administration of Chinese imperialism.)

China’s Debt Trap

The Philippines, which is an original founder of the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) and is a participant in the Belt and Silk Road initiative, has borrowed from the bank the amount of $217 million for development of infrastructures in the NCR. Duterte has also borrowed from the Chinese government-owned Eximbank, which will finance 19 of his 75 projects under his vaunted Build-Build-Build (BBB) program, which includes a P4.37 billion loan for the Chico River dam and P12.2 billion for the Kaliwa dam projects. It is to be noted that out of the BBB’s 75 projects, only nine are barely starting and it is the last lap of Duterte’s term. Where are all the borrowed monies from China, with their high interest of 2% per annum, 10 times higher than Japanese loans? It may be just lying idle in the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas or being used elsewhere than its intended purpose.

We fear that the Philippines will just fall into another debt trap with China as it has with loans from the IMF and WB. Zambia, Djibouti, Guyana, Pakistan and Sri-Lanka are already in the deadly grip of such Chinese debt traps with Sri-Lanka having to give up its Hambantota port in its southernmost part to defray unpaid loans from Chlna. The acquisition of Hambantota was accomplished through the help of a $8 million bribe the Chinese extended to Sri-Lanka president Rajapaska to support his presidential campaign. (New York Times, April 20, 2019) Actually, China Construction Company, the parent company of Chlna Harbor which constructed the Hambantota port, using Chinese workers, was banned by the WB from participating in the biddings for the Bank’s projects for 8 years due to corrupt practices in the Philippines. (Forbes, op. cit.)

China has insidiously inserted in its loan contracts with other countries a provision which specifies that in case of a default on its loans, a country must give up its immunity of sovereign rights and forfeit property, which could include land and sea. This is found in the contract for the Philippine loan for the Kaliwa Dam in Article 8.1(Waiver of immunity). Such onerous provision has also been included in China’s loan contracts with other developing countries like Guyana, Zambia and Kyrgystan (Rappler, Made in China, 2019) Workers in Kitwi, Zambia, have protested such odious condition, rioting and battling police and attacking Chinese shops, when they found out that their government-owned timber company, ZAFFICO, will be turned over to China since their political leaders could not pay a loan to Beijing. They were afraid that they will be replaced by Chinese workers as Chinese investors are wont to do in countries where they operate. Beijing, confronted with such violent reactions to its planned acquisition of ZAFFICO, restructured the loan. (Forbes, ibid.)

China’s “debt diplomacy” is a military as well as an economic strategy in its fierce competition with the US to control vital sea and land routes. China has docked its submarines at Hambatota port in Sri-Lanka since it is located in a strategic area near the Suez Canal where thousands of ships, including 4,500 oil tankers, pass by annually. Beijing has also already installed military facilities in the Spratly Group of islands in the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea to Beijing) as its route is traversed by 50% of world trade yearly. The weak Philippine Rodrigo Duterte has accommodated, in fact acceded, to China’s takeover of the Spratly islands, even though these lie within the exclusive economic zone of the Philippines, whose claim to the area was upheld by the UN arbitral tribunal at the Hague in 2016. Duterte refuses to assert the Philippines’s sovereign rights to Spratlys, claiming China will declare war on his country if he did. What a dereliction of duty! He should resign or be booted out from power if he is such s wimp of a president that he cannot even defend the integrity of the country. China consequently warned US ships from patrolling in the vicinity of the Spratly’s Group of islands, insisting they lie within its territorial jurisdiction.

US and China’s Rivalry and Covid 19

The deadlock struggle of US and China to control global world trade has even led them of accusing each other of creating Covid 19 in the other’s respective laboratory for biological warfare. US military scientists say that Covid 19 is a man-made combination of viruses obtained from bats and pangolins which accidentally leaked out from a lab in Wuhan, China, due to faulty handling. They debunked China’s claim that the virus came from bats in a wet-market in Wuhan as a cover-up since there are no bats for sale in that market. The lab concerned is only several blocks away from the market. Chinese officials fired back that the virus came from a lab in Fort Derrick, US, and was brought to China by American soldiers during a military sports competition in Wuhan in October, 2019. (Read the arguments of both sides which are replete in the internet and decide for yourself.) Be that as it may, whether Covid 19 originated from a Chinese or American lab for biological warfare, its effect on the world has been devastating with hundreds of thousands dying from it. The deadly activities of the imperialist powers to prepare for war against each other by creating dangerous viruses in their labs should be condemned by the UN and an investigation started by this body on which country is guilty behind this world pandemic after we have passed through it.

The quarrel between American and Chinese imperialists is also adversely affecting the job security of US workers caused by the raising of tariffs by the Trump government on goods coming from China, leading to the rising of production costs in American firms and the retrenchment of workers. (In the US, it is to be noted that the top 1/10 of 1% of Americans own almost as much wealth as the bottom 90%, according to erstwhile candidate for US president, Senator Bernie Sanders, based on the findings of his research team.) We do not know the effects of the US-China trade war in Chinese factories, since Xi Jinping’s government is very secretive regarding the going-on in his society.

Conclusion

We will survive this Covid pandemic, but there is still a heavy responsibility facing all of us. US monopoly capitalism (imperialism) and its rival, China, with its equally rapacious imperialism, are causing the Filipino masses and other peoples of the world to be impoverished, while their leaders subservient to the imperialists wallow in wealth and power. Indeed, imperialism with its predatory activities and its contradictions, primarily its warlike nature using the masses as cannon fodder, is the scourge of humankind. Imperialism must be finally expunged from the face of the earth in order to uphold the well-being of the exploited classes, the wretched of societies, and to prevent the destruction of our planet caused by capitalist greed. A new generation of socially-dedicated and unselfish individuals, coming from a united front led by the enlightened working classes with their allies, both national and international, must arise to finally dismantle the dominance of those whose ,main concern is to plunder for profit no matter the costs. A new world order must be built to advance first and foremost the welfare of the majority classes and zealously guard the rights of all persons. History is calling each of us to be counted in this new generation and contribute what we can to accomplish this great task for the salvation of our species and our mother earth. #

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The author is a retired Social Sciences Professor of the University of the Philippines-Manila and De La Salle University. He is also a novelist and an author of several books on many topics.

Covid 19, the Neo-liberal policies and Chinese Imperialism (Part2)

By Prof. Edberto Malvar Villegas, PhD

(This article is presented in two parts and will be given in three posts. The first part covers “Covid 19 in the Phillippines”, “The Imperialist Neo-Liberal Policies of the IMF-WB-WTO”, and the “The Neo-Liberal Policies and US Overproduction”. The second part comprises “The Emergence of Chinese Imperialism”, “China’s AIIB”, “China’s Debt Trap”, “The US-China Rivalry and Covid 19” and the “Conclusion”. While the rapid spread of Covid 19 in the Philippines is due to its poor health system because of the policies of the IMF-WB, the virus was directly caused by the easy entry of Chinese nationals into the country due to the too open accommodation of the Duterte’s administration of Chinese imperialism.)

The Emergence of Chinese Imperialism

China entered into the global trade during the period of Deng Xiaoping, after the death in 1976 of Mao Tse-tung, (founding father of the Chinese People’s Republic), the incarceration and eventual deaths of the so-called Gang of Four in 1978 and the purge and executions of around 20,000 Maoists (adherents to the ideology of Marxism-Leninism-Maoism) who were leading cadres of Mao’s cultural revolution. China’s GDP grew by leaps and bounds, reaching 11% in the late 1990’s due to very low workers’ wages in government corporations in partnerships with foreign MNCs, mostly US and Japanese, located in free trade zones. Deng restored capitalism in China and considered the establishments of free trade zones as vital part of his so-called four modernization program. Hundreds of millions Chinese workers in sweat shops in the trade zones were receiving the lowest wages in the world ($2/day) and the number of those living below the poverty line in China was growing at a fast rate. (Pao-yu Ching, 2010) Soon, an emergent Chinese bourgeoisie, based on trading activities and mostly former government bureaucrats were amassing great wealth in tandem with corrupt government officials so that by the first decade of the 21th century, China had the most number of billionaires in the world. (Forbes) The new rich were living in the cities, particularly in Shanghai and Beijing, while the vast Chinese majority (60%) of its population belonging to the lower classes, earning below $2 to $20/day were mostly inhabitants in the provinces. (Pew Research Center, 2015) Thirty-nine percent of the Chinese people are middle class and 1% occupies the upper echelons of society, which include billionaire businessmen and politicians.

President Rodrigo Roa Duterte poses for posterity with People’s Republic of China Vice President Wang Qishan who paid a courtesy call on the President at the Foshan International Sports and Cultural Center in Guangdong on August 31, 2019. (Palace photo)

Since the Chinese elite political leadership in China has grown to be a totalitarian state after the demise of Mao who called for a rule of the working masses, it began to suppress dissent from workers and students regarding its economic and political policies. In 1989, the Chinese government massacred with tanks and machine guns around 10,000 demonstrators, led by students and workers, in Tianamen Square in Beijing. The demonstrators were criticizing government corruptions and asking for democratic reforms and transparency from their political leaders. (BBC, Dec. 23, 2017) Since then, protests in China have occurred in far-off provinces mostly launched by striking workers and miners, especially in the provinces of Guangdong and Heilonging. (China Labor Bulletin) In 2018, however, millions of protesters led by students erupted in the territory of Hong Kong, demanding democratic reforms. For China to call itself still a Communist country is a misnomer since Marxist communism, to which Mao adheres, advocates the abolition of capitalism, the disappearance of the state and the prioritization of the welfare of the poor classes. The current Chinese regime has called its kind of state (bureaucrat) capitalism as actually socialism with “Chinese characteristics” as envisioned by Mao! Mao may be restlessly turning in his grave.

China accumulated tremendous surplus capital from the surplus value created by underpaid workers in the factories of the comprador and bureaucrat capitalists. China began lending this surplus capital to other nations for it to earn interest. In the late 1990’s, China’s bourgeoisie targeted Africa as the region it can mostly dump its surplus goods and capital, using its strategy of a “debt diplomacy” to aggressively penetrate the continent. Some Chinese critics of their government have accused it of turning Africa into its “second continent” to exploit the latter’s very rich natural resources. Africa supplies a third of Chinese oil and is very abundant, among other natural resources, with manganese and cobalt, the first used as ingredient for steel production and the second for electronics.(Forbes, Aug.4, 2018) Soon 10,000 Chinese companies, bringing Chinese workers with them, were set up in Africa and the continent became the foremost area for Chinese imperialism.

In order to receive favorable concessions, the Sino government, particularly that of the current president Xi Jinping, began unloading their huge surplus capital, derived from the wage slavery of Chinese workers as debts to African countries like Zambia, Nigeria, Kenya, Djibouti and others. As of 2020, total African debt to China is $200 billion, or 15% of its external debts. Beijing started to bribe corrupt African politicians and were able to impose debt contracts advantageous to China.

African critics have accused China of building infrastructures, highways, buildings, bridges, etc. using poor and overpriced materials. These critics specially mention cutting costs by Chinese contractors for the shoddy infrastructures they build in Africa. (Forbes, ibid.) It is to be noted at this point that bridges and buildings in China, for that matter, have been collapsing due to lack of government biddings and a non-transparent government. As one Chinese furniture maker says, “Who will police the police?” so that he says the Chinese people are so used to sloppy government constructions in their country. (Morning edition, Aug. 2012) For instance, from April 2011 to August 2012 alone,  eight major bridges collapsed in China, the most known of which was the $300 million Yangmingtan bridge in Harbin City which broke only after less than 2 years of operation. It is the same situation with buildings with the latest the Xinjia Express Hotel, being used to house Covid 19 patients in the city of Wenshou, collapsing in March, 2020, with 10 dead. On May, 2019, a Shanghai building collapsed with 25 dead and in October of the same year several buildings housing migrant workers stumbled to the ground in the province of Wenghou with 22 dead. (smartcities. Dive site)


President Rodrigo Roa Duterte gives a warm welcome to Communist Party of China (CPC) Chongqing Party Chief Chen Min’er who paid a courtesy call on the President at the Malacañan Palace on September 16, 2019. (Palace photo)

China’s Asian Infrastructure and the AIIB

In 2015, China established the AIIB (Asian Infrastructure and Investment Bank) for Chinese capitalists to rival US imperialist dominance in the world economy and as an alternative to the WB and its regional bank in Asia, the Asian Development Bank (ADB). Though AIIB’s capital at $100 billion is only about half of WB’s and its membership totals 84 compared to WB’s 189, the goal of this government-controlled bank is to extend China’s trade influence over other countries by funding the so-called Belt and Silk Road through Asia, Africa, Europe and eventually to the Americas. It is envisioned to achieve this ambitious project by spending from $4 to $8 trillion by the year 2049 through the expansions of infrastructures, highway complexes, railroads, ports, airports, etcetera along the Belt and Silk Road. China’s philosophy of development is supposed to be based on building mega infrastructures which it poses against the export-oriented development policy of the IMF-WB-WTO.

The Belt Road, which is actually a maritime route, would cover the South China Sea, the South Pacific Ocean, and a wide part of the Indian Ocean. Does one have to wonder why China is aggressively pushing for the control of the South China Sea, including the rich resources under it, at the expense of the Philippines under its slavishly subservient to China, President Rodrigo Duterte? The gains of countries which participate in the Belt and Silk Road project have, however, been one-sided, to say the least, in favor of China. For instance, between 2014 to 2016, the trade volume of China along the Belt and Silk Road exceeded $3 trillion, but only created $1.1 billion revenues and 180,000 new jobs for countries involved. (Wikepedia) Overproduction, the inherent contradiction of capitalism, in Chinese factories have grown since the late 1990’s and this is the reason China relies heavily on the export of goods as well as capital, the latter primarily through the AIIB, to maintain its high growth rate. Overproduction has led to hundreds of thousands of goods worth $64 billion stockpiled in factories, representing one-fifth of China’s total production. (Chicago Tribune, Feb. 4, 1997) #

(Conclusion/Section 2 of Part 2: China’s Debt Trap, US-China’s Rivalry and Covid 19)

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The author is a retired Social Sciences Professor of the University of the Philippines-Manila and De La Salle University. He is also a novelist and an author of several books on many topics.