This essay was solicited by i Report, the online magazine of the Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism, for its current series on political predictions. The views expressed in the essays included in this series do not necessarily reflect those of the PCIJ or any of its staff members.
THE RULING system in the Philippines is semicolonial and semifeudal. It is dominated by foreign monopoly capitalist countries headed by the United States and Japan. It is ruled by the comprador big bourgeoisie and the landlord class and managed by their political representatives. The foreign and local exploiters collaborate against the national and democratic rights and interests of the Filipino people.
The ruling system has its inherent weaknesses due to the backward, agrarian, pre-industrial and semi-feudal character of its social economy and is subject to the policy impositions of the United States and other imperialist powers. These powers keep the Philippines as a reliable source of cheap raw materials and labor, a lucrative market for surplus goods, a field of investments for surplus capital, and a source of super-profits. The illusion of development conjured by low-value-added, semi-manufacturing for re-export, and the boom in private construction has been shattered since the 1997 financial crisis.
The ruling system is in a chronic and ever worsening economic and social crisis. It is prevented from accumulating the capital for national industrial development because the surplus product of the country is appropriated by the imperialist super-profiteers, the local exploiting classes, and corrupt government officials. The toiling masses of workers and peasants and the middle social strata are subjected to an ever-rising level of exploitation. The entire nation is made to suffer ever bigger budgetary and trade deficits and ever-mounting levels of debt and tax burden.
The socioeconomic crisis has been aggravated and deepened by the U.S.-imposed policy of “neoliberal globalization.” The gravity of the socio-economic crisis has resulted in an unprecedentedly serious political crisis, involving far sharper contradictions among political factions of the exploiting classes within the civil bureaucracy and within the military and police apparatuses of the state.
The ruling faction of Gloria Macapagal Arroyo is detested not only by rival factions within the reactionary classes, but by the broad masses of the people because of its illegitimacy based on electoral fraud, rampant corruption, and gross human-rights violations. It has taken advantage of the U.S.-dictated war of terror to take the initiative of using military force against the entire range of opposition forces and broad masses of the people. Thus, the growing conditions of violence and instability in the country.
THE SHARPENING socioeconomic and political crises generate popular demands for reforms, as well as for revolution. The basic reforms most in demand are meant to uphold, defend, and promote national sovereignty and independence; economic sovereignty and the national patrimony; genuine land reform and industrial development; a patriotic, scientific, and democratic system of culture and education; and independent foreign policy. These are demanded by the patriotic and progressive reformers within the ruling system as well as by the revolutionary forces.
But the Arroyo regime is deaf to the demands. It continues to raise funds for all its counterproductive and corrupt purposes by seeking foreign loans at commercial rates, by increasing the local public debt and making heavier the tax burden of the people. Such financial irresponsibility has clear limits. The Philippine economy has actually been depressed since 1997. A bigger wave of economic disaster is currently on the way from the direction of the U.S. economy. The unsustainability of high consumption based on borrowed funds, the bursting of the housing bubble and the limits of high military spending as economic stimulus are moving towards an unprecedented U.S. recession and drastic drop in U.S. consumer demand for goods from China, the whole of Asia, and the rest of the world.
The Arroyo regime has always construed as the needed reforms the dictates of U.S. imperialism under the rubric of “neoliberal globalization.” It has also misrepresented as “political reforms” the changes it wants to make on the 1987 Constitution. At the maximum, it wants to imitate the late strongman Ferdinand Marcos by pretending to shift from the presidential to a parliamentary form of government in order to concentrate powers on Arroyo as a transitory president, and to get the support of the United States by according national treatment to all kinds of foreign monopoly investments and by allowing the return of U.S. military bases.
At the minimum, the regime has hyped the campaign for “charter change” in a futile attempt to distract the attention of the opposition and the people from seeking to oust Arroyo. Up to now, Speaker Jose de Venecia is pushing a “constituent assembly” without the approval of the Senate as a distinct body. Such unconstitutional assembly will either be foiled by the Supreme Court or, if somehow pushed through, generate political turmoil.
Because of the extremely reactionary and violent policies and actions of the Arroyo regime, the honest reformers who are patriotic and progressive find themselves completely frustrated in seeking reforms within the reactionary system. Thus, they increasingly appreciate and welcome the revolutionary movement as a pressure on the ruling system. Even the reformists, who denounce the revolutionary movement and wish to use reforms for counterrevolution, find themselves totally discredited. They are best exemplified and embarrassed by the clerico-fascist Norberto Gonzales, the national security adviser, who long misrepresented himself as a social-democratic reformer.
Revolutionaries are necessarily reformers even as they are definitely not reformists. They seek reforms in being open to peace negotiations with the reactionary government. They also wish the better elements in the reactionary government to prevail over the bad ones on the matter of reforms. The Hague Joint Declaration of 1992 clearly states the basic economic, social, and political reforms that the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) seeks in order to address the roots of the armed conflict in negotiations with the reactionary government.
The NDFP has already demonstrated that it is capable of arriving at a comprehensive agreement on respect for human rights and international humanitarian law. And it has demanded that the economic, social, and political reforms be negotiated and agreed upon. But the Arroyo regime has treacherously sabotaged the peace negotiations by collaborating with the United States in putting the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP), the New People’s Army (NPA), and the NDFP chief political consultant in the so-called terrorist list and in launching Oplan Bantay Laya in order to carry the extrajudicial killings, abductions, torture, massacres, and so many gross human-rights violations.
THE ARROYO regime has repeatedly declared that it has no interest in peace negotiations with the NDFP and that it is determined to destroy before 2010 the revolutionary mass movement led by the CPP. In view of the intransigent position of the regime, the revolutionary forces and people cannot pursue the peace negotiations and have no choice but to defend themselves and defeat the all-out war policy of the regime.
It is out of a narrow-minded kind of self-interest that the Arroyo regime wants the civil war to continue and rage in the country. Arroyo herself has publicly admitted several times that the all-out war policy is intended to rally and unite the military and police forces under her baton and to gain economic and military support from Washington, in line with its policy of “war on terror.” She has deliberately pushed higher the level of U.S. intervention from year to year.
There are yet no clear indications that she wants to resume the formal talks in the peace negotiations. She seems to be unaffected by the fact that the Bush war of terror (wars of aggression and global promotion of fascism) has been repudiated by the U.S. electorate. It is very likely that the regime will continue to escalate the military and police campaigns against the people in suspected guerrilla fronts and the cowardly extrajudicial killings and abductions of unarmed progressive party-list leaders, workers, peasants, women, youth, journalists, lawyers, religious and human-rights activists.
Because of its fear of impeachment and conviction by Congress, the Arroyo regime is hell bent on either pushing the unconstitutional “constituent assembly” in order to cancel the 2007 elections of congressmen and senators or cheating in these elections in order to control Congress. Either way there will be political turbulence. Arroyo is determined to use violence against the opposition and the people in order to keep herself in power.
In response to the all-out war policy and Oplan Bantay Laya of the regime, the CPP, NPA, NDFP, and the broad masses of the people have resolutely and militantly fought back. They have issued publications informing us that they have been able to frustrate the military and police campaigns of the regime and to launch various forms of tactical offensives within the strategy of defense. They are successfully waging an intensive and extensive guerrilla warfare based on an ever widening and deepening mass base. They have seized more arms from their enemy, often without firing a single shot. They are therefore increasing the number of their fighting units and are forming more guerrilla fronts, organs of political power, and mass organizations.
They are becoming stronger from year to year. They can contribute significantly to the ouster of the Arroyo regime before 2010 or they can at least help ensure that the Arroyo regime is finished in 2010. They expect to deliver the hardest blows on the worst rascals of the regime as these become more brutal and vicious but are fast weakening or about to exit from political power. They look forward to resume the formal talks in the peace negotiations with a new regime, especially because this will be a product of the struggle against the Arroyo regime by a broad united front of patriotic forces and by the broad masses of the people.
The Filipino people will demand more strongly than ever before that reforms be made to advance national independence, democracy, social justice, all-round development, and peace. By then, the socioeconomic and political crises of the ruling system shall have become worse, despite the loss of power by the Arroyo ruling clique. The reforms can be arrived at and implemented through peace negotiations between the revolutionary movement and a government that is more enlightened and more reasonable than the present one. Otherwise, oppression and exploitation will persist at intolerable levels. Thus, the revolutionary forces and people will continue to wage armed revolution for national liberation and democracy against U.S. imperialism and its local lackeys.
Jose Ma. Sison is the founder of the Communist Party of the Philippines or CPP. Currently in exile in the Netherlands, Sison describes himself these days as the chief political consultant of the National Democratic Front of the Philippines, the CPP’s political arm.