CLIMATE of terror and fear is now gripping not only in Negros Oriental, but the entire island. And the scenario seems to point to more killings, arrests in the days ahead especially with the threat of President Rodrigo Duterte to impose martial law in the island.
Based on straight news account, a total of 81, mostly farmers and leaders of progressive organizations, have been killed in Negros since President Duterte assumed presidency. The breakdown is 20 were killed in 2016-2017, 29 in 2018 and 32 from January till july31, 2019.
In the last two years, most extrajudicial killings were in Negros Occidental. Recently, Negros Oriental took most of the beating, with only four or six in south Negros Occidental. This exclude reported murder attempts.
Of those killed, three were lawyers, including Atty. Trinidad in Guihulngan town; all identified as lawyers of victims of land conflict and exploitation.
Why has there been no letup in extrajudicial killings in Negros? Why the victims were mostly identified with the progressive organizations and communities earlier tagged as fronts and supporters of the armed insurgents? Who are the brains and culprits? Who benefits from these onslaughts on human lives?
Most killings were linked with land struggles, labor disputes and those critical of the administration, local politicians, military and the police. If so, this could all be about silencing dissent, and the mass murder of identified leaders of the armed insurgents and progressive groups, and the perpetuation of the local status quo.
If most victims were identified with the progressive organizations critical of the ruling administration, the logical culprits could only be those in power, private goons of the landed elites, death squads of the military and police, and anti-communist groups. It is incongruous to put the blame on the armed insurgents who have been working hard to get mass support for their cause.
I agree with some views that the mass killings would not have gone this far and wide had there been no official blessing from the top officials of Malacañang. What could be more instructive than the Memorandum Circular 32 signed by the President in 2018 calling for the implementation of measures to suppress and prevent lawless violence, and the Executive Order 70 s. 2018 calling for the creation of national task force to end local communist armed conflict? Somebody must have been inspired by somebody, whether good or bad.
State security forces who believe in President Duterte’s strong man rule, are certainly emboldened by the President’s orders and raw exhortations to kill those who stand against his deadly campaigns. And Duterte’s assurance of presidential protection when they kill on duty is like a bullet-proof vest given them to go on rampage.
What I worry more are the rabid anti-communist groups and the fanatical supporters of President Duterte who by the same exhortation may have organized themselves into death squads, get arms from the landowners, and trainings from the military and police, and carry out mass killings of their own.
Negros was notorious for this in the late 70s and 80s, and what we are seeing now, could be part of the bigger and rehashed scenario developed and mastered by the psywar and combat specialists of the military and police.
Who benefit from these killings? Certainly not the ordinary folk, but those who want to maintain and perpetuate the old feudal order, that still largely characterized the Negros society.
I feel so sad and angry that the solutions of the government is still the failed strategies employed by the Marcos fascist regime and the post Marcos administrations, e.g. brutal anti-insurgency campaigns, massive troops build up, border control, food blockades, hamletting, mobilization of armed fanatical groups in the mountains, control of citizens movement, massive recruitment to anti-communist organizations, and now, localized martial law, or martial law in regions and provinces where armed insurgents are bigger and stronger.
Where is the local government in this?
I keep on repeating in my past write ups, lectures and seminars, that good governance is one of the keys to defeating armed insurgency, not military actions, not psywar operations, not transforming everyone to become support units of the military and police.
Bad governance always breed poverty, community neglect, corruption of services, discontentment, sporadic dissent, and finally enrollment to the armed insurgency.
The communist insurgency thrives not only by the strength of its own ideology, but also by those conditions fueled by bad governance, e.g. corrupt politicians, government acting as extension of private property of the landed class or a political dynasty, non-functioning mechanisms of participatory governance, inadequate or absence of social services, biased against the poor, patronage politics, among others.
Martial law is not the answer, nor militarization. Both will only disrupt and destroy economy, fuel dissent and armed insurgency, bring more widows, crippled children, parent-less families.
But when good governance flourishes, political dissent and armed insurgency diminishes.
Hope somebody up there and down here should listen, be sober, and see the bigger picture and impact more than their pockets.