POSTSCRIPT / May 19, 2005 / Thursday


Philippine STAR Columnist

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Not only journalists fall in rash of assassinations

PESKY FLIES: Not just journalists are being swatted down like pesky flies.

We see hired assassins also targeting mayors, judges, businessmen, priests and others who dare to act or speak against injustice, corruption and the arrogant display of power.

While prices of essential goods continue to go up, the value of human life appears to have dropped in this Strong Republic as evidenced by the rash of assassinations being carried out in full view of witnesses.

We journalists appreciate whatever is being done to protect us from hired guns, but the big to-do with protecting a clump of trees will not save an endangered forest.

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NONE EXEMPTED: The threat and the actual use of violence to silence media and oppositionist views pervade the air. Nobody is exempted.

Violence does not visit just the newsroom, the beat, the home, and other places where newsmen are wont to be. Like the “Phantom of the Opera,” it is everywhere.

It is myopic for the government to see the climate of fear as a phenomenon peculiar to journalists. For the government to aim and fire while suffering from blurry vision is to ensure its failing to hit the bull’s eye.

The problem exists not just at the level of the working press. It comes from a higher plane. It is a manifestation of a general breakdown of law and order affecting all sectors.

It is not just easy to kill journalists — it is just as easy to kill whoever else gets in the way of people in power.

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CHEAP LIVES: That is the core problem — the spreading climate of fear and the devaluation of human life — that President Arroyo may want to address.

I do not presume to talk for my colleagues, but I dare say that while we in media appreciate the administration’s show of concern, we wish the government would go deeper and dig out the roots of violence putting everybody in jeopardy.

We thank President Arroyo and Speaker Jose de Venecia for collecting P5 million for a Press Freedom Fund to be used in solving the murders of media men.

I hope their raising the special fund does not mean that without the P5 million, it would be difficult to capture the triggermen and the masterminds in the assassination of journalists — totaling 23 since Gloria Macapagal Arroyo became president in 2001.

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CAPAMPANGAN PRESS: While we are engrossed with the systematic decimation of the ranks of Filipino journalists, the integrated Capampangan in Media Inc. (iCAMI) is looking back to its proud heritage.

The group is preparing to establish a more lasting recognition of the contributions made by Capampangan writers to the flowering of Philippine journalism.

This is how iCAMI director Jose Cortez explains the project: “The history of Philippine journalism in the past century is studded with outstanding writers and journalists, who paved the stellar path of what we now call modern media in Filipino and English.

“Names like Diosdado Macapagal, a former cub reporter of the old Tribune who became President of the Philippines; Carlos P. Romulo, former editor of the DMHM newspapers who became president of the United Nations General Assembly; Benigno Aquino Jr., former senator, now a martyr; Jose Luna Castro, the journalists’s journalist, former editor of the pre-martial rule Manila Times; Emilio Aguilar Cruz, a National Artist and former editor of the Daily Mirror; Luis Mauricio, former editor of the Graphic magazine; Osmundo Abad Santos of the Sunday Times Magazine; Celso Cabrera of the Manila Chronicle; Jose Lansang Sr., editorial writer of the Philippines Herald, to name a few, easily come to mind when we link the dots in the hagiography of Philippine journalism.”

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POLICY PAPER: Some Filipinos will be intrigued by a piece by Jorge Emmanuel on PPS/23 (Policy Planning Staff memorandum 23), a top-secret State Department document that defined US policy towards the Philippines. I am sure some readers will contest its content and interpretation.

PPS/23 established an interventionist policy to keep the Philippines in hands which the US could “control and rely on” even at the expense of “human rights, the raising of living standards, and democratization.” The secret policy explained many historical events since the 1950s including secret US counterinsurgency operations in the Philippines, covert manipulations of national elections, and support for the Martial Law regime after 1972.

Excerpts from PPS/23: In February 1948, a top-secret US State Department document, known as Policy Planning Staff memorandum 23 (PPS/23), was formulated. It defined US post-war policy in Asia, focusing in particular on Japan and the Philippines. The policy paper had been drafted by George Kennan, the first director of the State Department’s Policy Planning Staff.

PPS/23 stated that the United States government should see to it that the Philippines and Japan should “remain in hands which we [the United States] can control and rely on.” The Philippines was to be permitted independence in internal affairs but was to be preserved as a “bulwark of US security in the area.”

The reasons behind this policy were stated quite candidly in PPS/23:

“We [Americans] have 50 percent of the world’s wealth but only 6.3 percent of the population. This disparity is particularly great between ourselves and the peoples of Asia. In this situation, we cannot fail to be the object of envy and resentment. Our real task in the coming period is to devise a pattern of relationships which will permit us to maintain this position of disparity without positive detriment to our national security.

To do so we will have to dispense with all sentimentality and daydreaming…. We should cease to talk about vague, and for the Far East, unreal objectives, such as human rights, the raising of living standards, and democratization. The day is not far off when we are going to have to deal in straight power concepts. The less we are then hampered by idealistic slogans, the better.”

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BACKGROUND: In 1947, then Secretary of State George Marshall appointed George Kennan to head a Policy Planning Staff which was established to develop US foreign policy from a long-range perspective. Kennan became known as a proponent of the domino theory, the notion that if one country in a region turned to communism, other countries would “fall” like dominos.

In 1948, he completed PPS/23 which set the course for an interventionist US policy towards the Philippines that showed little respect for Philippine sovereignty. Many years later, Kennan seemed to have a change of heart as, in 1977, several years after the declaration of Martial Law, he called for immediate and complete withdrawal of U.S. bases from the Philippines arguing that there was no “serious need” for the bases and that Marcos’ demand for military and economic aid in exchange for bases was tantamount to “paying huge annual bribes as a form of hush money.”

Even though PPS/23 was declassified in the 1970s, its existence was known only to a few scholars and policymakers. In 1984, Professor Richard Falk of Princeton University, a well-known authority on international law, drew attention to this previously classified document at an international conference on the Philippines held in Stony Point, New York.

Falk argued that PPS/23 was given the highest level of classification to keep Americans ignorant of the true nature of US policies in the region.

As the journalist Raymond Bonner explained, PPS/23 was put into effect a few years later as the United States waged a secret counterinsurgency war against the Huks (short for Hukbo ng Bayan Laban Sa Hapon or People’s Army Against Japan), a peasant-based guerrilla army originally formed in 1942 by left-wing labor and peasant leaders to fight the Japanese military during World War II.

PPS/23 also explained why the US government, through manipulations and funding by the US Central Intelligence Agency, made certain that only presidential candidates favorable to the US would win national elections. US policies in light of mounting human rights abuses during and after the declaration of Martial Law in 1972 were also consistent with PPS/23; these policies included US consolidation of police forces, massive infusion of US military aid including counterinsurgency weapons and riot-control equipment, and US training of Philippine security forces accused by human rights organizations of systematic and widespread abuses.

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(First published in the Philippine STAR of May 19, 2005)

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