Category Archives: Military

In pictures: U. S. soldiers used ‘water cure’ on Filipino ‘insurgents’

Before ‘water cure’ or ‘water boarding’ was known to have been used on ‘terrorists’ or ‘insurgents’ by the U.S. soldiers, this mode of torture have already been used on Filipinos they also called ‘insurgents’.

“This is a photograph of the “water-cure,” one mode of torture and interrogation used by the U.S. soldiers” during the Philippine-American War/photo by Jonathan Best Collection; from the book The Blood of Government, by Paul Kramer.


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Filed under Human Rights, Military, Place in History, Torture

The impotence of the Manila coup

The short-lived revolt in Manila last week, led by a soldier-turned-senator, will be added to the Philippines’ history of dozens of coup attempts since democracy was restored in 1986. All of these military-led attempted coups were crushed.

Unlike the recent soldier-led coup, the uprising that ousted President Joseph Estrada in January 2001, under allegations of massive corruption, was led by the people. Estrada was convicted for plunder earlier this year.

The notion that Estrada’s ouster would eventually put an end to corruption, and that new leadership with high moral ascendancy would take his place, has unfortunately not occurred. Years later, the new leadership has failed to improve the lives of Filipinos and to provide meaningful change.

Many believe that the present administration of President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo is even “worse” than Estrada’s, with the current government facing serious allegations of corruption amid a deteriorating human rights record that pushes the Filipino people to the depths of frustration. Some Filipinos living and working abroad even maintain that life was better previously.

However, the country’s long history of military coups and People Power activism undoubtedly demonstrates that deep-rooted and systemic problems cannot be solved merely by a change of leadership. No attempt by soldiers to take power or topple the civilian government can succeed in addressing the problems underlying the coup attempt.

This claim is not a theory but a reality based on years of experience by Filipinos themselves. The call for meaningful change begins from the people who suffer and are directly affected by the country’s depressing conditions — not by soldiers espousing coups and soldiers-turned-politicians who face criminal charges in court. Change is not effected by replacing a condemned leader with a new one, be it because of mere dislike or dissatisfaction with the current leader, nor does it happen overnight.

Meaningful change develops over time by strengthening the basic institutions of the country, including the police, judiciary and other civilian institutions. These institutions have the constitutional right and duty to provide practical solutions to practical problems. Such solutions will not materialize through empty rhetoric by soldiers or coup leaders who claim their actions are based on the “people’s mandate.”

Thinking they can decide the fate of the Filipino people based on their own judgment is not only an insult to the people’s intellect but reflects complete disrespect for the country’s institutions and the people’s right to take part in the country’s affairs. Any attempt to weaken or dismantle the country’s basic institutions through coups, mutinies or other illegal acts, without the consent of the people directly affected by these actions, is a threat to democracy.

It is a fact that there is widespread discontent within the country. However, discontent should be expressed according to the law and by nonviolent means unless there is no space for lawful action and the government is irrationally consuming the people’s lives.

If deep frustrations justify illegal and violent action, then Burma’s democratic leader Daw Aung San Suu Kyi undoubtedly has the right to resort to violence. Yet after many years of incarceration and tremendous abuses inflicted on her people by the military junta, she remains resilient in pushing her cause, and has earned worldwide sympathy and understanding. Indeed, her detention has become a symbol of both oppression and hope for democracy in Burma.

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Filed under Laws, Military, Police, Public opinion

A history of walk outs


Even before Senator Antonio Trillanes and Brig. Gen. Danilo Lim walked out from a court in Makati City, our country and outside has already had histories of walk outs that made change.

But unlike other walks outs, for instance the officers of the National Movement for Free Elections (Namfrel) in 1986 snap elections; and the senators during the Joseph Estrada’s impeachment trial in January 2001, theirs was a complete failure.

When Mexican-American or Chicano students in East Los Angeles, US in 1968 felt extremely discriminated against, they too had series of walk out from their schools to protest unequal treatment of students; for instance, they are not even allowed to speak their native tongue, eat Mexican food and toilets open at all times.

Namfrel’s walk out eventually lead to the toppling of the dictatorial Marcos regime, Senator’s walk out from impeachment trial lead to EDSA II, the Chicanos walk out to eradicate discrimination of Chicano students in US schools and eventually improves treatment of students there.

What made this histories of walk outs successful that eventually get peoples’ involvement is that they felt the object of protest and walk out are the people’s issues too. That in their daily lives they have long been suffering and directly affected by this.

I first thought that when Senator Trillanes and Brig. Gen. Lim walk out from court, it was meant to protest the delay of their cases in court and question of fair trial–which is widely common in our court system. Cases in our court drags on for years, if not decade, and thousands of detainees are presently in extremely poor jail conditions waiting for their case to be resolve. Others could not even obtain fair trial due to their inability to get competent lawyers.

But it turns out that Senator Trillanes and Brig. Gen. Lim’s walk out was different, and their demands for change too also was different. Their walk out fails to obtain enormous public support and involvement as those mentioned above. We could only conclude that perhaps the people felt it wasn’t their issue or concern at all, only theirs.

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Filed under Letter to the editor, Military, Politics, Public opinion

Dictators can never be “benevolent”


This is in reaction to the letter to the editor: “Filipinos can learn from Musharraf

First, the late Ninoy Aquino should have not been compared with Pakistan’s Benazir Bhutto. Though they both originate from influential rich class, they could not be similar. And, it is also wrong to suggest the situation in Pakistan could have been similar in the Philippines had Ninoy not been murdered.

Second, the Congress should have not given Medal of Achievement in 2005 to Gen. Pervez Musharraf. It was a complete stupidity if not lunacy for members of a duly elected members of Congress to confer award on a person who seized power in a military coup and declare himself as both President and Chief of Staff of Pakistan’s armed forces.

To discuss whether or not the award should be recalled is worthless, but declaring it null and void giving explanation why is it so, would perhaps help members of the Congress in 2005 to regain their credibility and intellectual judgement.

Third, there can never be “benevolent” dictator. Weighing the country’s economic progress as basis of good leadership is an old school notion which had been exploited by dictators, authoritarian, police state, and other countries who had histories of tremendous abuses. These are the leaders, to mention a few, Chile’s Pinochet, Cambodia’s Pol Pot, Indonesia’s Suharto, Marcos and others who perpetrate large scale corruption and murders.

Democracy does not develop overnight yet it matures over the time . It heavily depends on how established a country’s institutions are, particularly the independence of the judiciary. The strength of democracy depends on the strength of its legal institution. That is why Musharaff systematically targeted judges and lawyers because, as he admits, they are blocking his way, and justifies his lunacy on pretext of saving the nation by stepping aside democracy.

Marcos too used this lines when he declared Martial Law on pretext of saving the nation from escalating communist insurgency in 1971.

It is sad that while thousands of lawyers arrested and judges place under house arrest all over Pakistan, there are still squabbles like this. Worst, to suggest that the Filipinos could learn from a dictator and self-criticized our own democracy.

I’m sure, had today been Marcos regime, or I’m in Burma and China, this letter to the editor I am writing would have not been published. Or, this blog would have been tracked down by intelligence agents.

And this is what is happening in Pakistan today, laws and ordinances are imposed to silence critics, government seized operation of media outlets, journalist are systematically attacked.

Our democracy is maturing that any acts like this would face tremendous resistance from Filipinos, I believe.

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Filed under Human Rights, Laws, Letter to the editor, Military, Public opinion

Musharraf is Marcos reborn


When late Ferdinand Marcos placed the entire Philippines under Martial Law, he justified his acts of saving the country from communist insurgency.

His declaration came after the deadly Plaza Miranda bombing in 1971, which wounded members of the political opposition and killed a journalist and a child. The reign of Martial rule were proved murderous and brutal; extrajudicial killings, enforced disappearance, systematic attack against members of the opposition, was a way of life then.

While military president Pervez Musharraf of Pakistan defended his actions of saving the country from terrorists, Marcos then defended his actions of saving the country from communist insurgency. Communism was at its peak in the Philippines at the time, in addition to Polpot’s Khmer Rouge in Cambodia, the Russian federation, among other things.

Musharraf too declared state of emergency following the deadly bomb blast of a political caravan in Karachi. Their manner of saving their own country anyhow were nevertheless at the expense of civilians and its established institutions.

Unlike Musharraf though who took power in a military coup in 1999, Marcos was an elected president who abuse and accumulate power which centers to himself, his cronies, police and military loyalists. They are the one who kept him in power for years, and his regime fell apart when they defected.

Like Marcos, Musharraf sacked the chief justice of the Supreme Court, arrests lawyers, judges, members of the opposition, imposed restrictions and seized the media organisation. Once a person is arrested by Marcos notorious police, PC (Philippine constabulary) , the victim’s relatives would also not be properly informed of his condition or his whereabouts, or allowed access to visit.

Marcos’ time was in 70s while Musharaff is today, 2007.

What is unthinkable is that Musharraf, who took power over a military coup and declared himself as president, had been able to do this in our modern times. His notion of democracy likewise is bleak. To believed his rhetoric is a complete stupidity, if not lunacy about declaring emergency rule on the pretext of saving his country, and to step aside democracy in this case was justifiable.

It was apparent though that terrorists were never the target of this emergency rule as Musharaff claims to be, but the basic institutions of the country–particularly the Supreme Court.

Like Marcos, President Musharaff may have felt that the laws doesn’t serve his choice and the court had prevented him from doing his thing, then why not suspend the Constitution and sacked justices–like Marcos did.

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“I’m not a Pakistani either”


A week ago, a group of persons were giving out handbills inviting Pakistanis and other South Asian nationals to join a demonstration against the imposition of state of emergency in Pakistan. The demonstration was scheduled November 9 at the Consulate in Hong Kong.

One of the passersby said in refusing to accept the handbills: “I’m not a Pakistani”, suggesting he need not to join the demonstration. However, he was telling it to an American whose colleague was a Filipino present there.

On the third occasion the demonstration was held at the Consulate on November 15, the crowd however reduced its number compared to those who joined to the second one–which was bigger than the first one.

But one thing was clear, only handful of Pakistani and South Asians joined. Expectedly largely none of those invited by handbills came for second occasion. One reason, however, perhaps it’s difficult for them to come on weekdays. And none of those informed for the third occasion came also.

Nevertheless, it’s not only common to Pakistanis, but also for other nationals whose concerned individuals usually hold protest actions at their respective Consulates and Embassies on issues concerning back home. It concludes that even those persons directly affected by issues which is the subject of protest, they shows little sign of support.

Of course, picketing is not the only way of expressing one’s support. However, when its already second or third time, yet none of those concerned nationals came, or the demonstrators number either have not increased or reduced, perhaps there’s something wrong with that.

For me, whether you’re a Pakistani or not it doesn’t matter. What concerns me and condemnable are the actions by the Pakistani government against its own people, and the civilian institutions. This regime suspended the country’s Constitution, put justices of Supreme Court and district courts under house arrest, rounded up lawyers and restricted the media, and so on and so forth.

The regime has virtually abducted its own legal professional, and detained their own institution of justice on pretext of protecting the failing country. It’s impossible to obtained legal remedies there. Anyhow, foreign government and foreigners had to deal with this regime–for one reason: they have the justices, lawyers and others with them.

This situation isn’t solely at all concerns the Pakistanis, but for all of us and those who desire to live a just and humane society. What disheartens me is how cold the Pakistanis and South Asians in Hong Kong on this. I maybe wrong, but if they either won’t speak or shows disinterest, who else would?

This is not a question of nationality or race, but of how we respond to the suffering of human beings, and of how human beings should have been treated. Justices, lawyers, human rights activists, political activists, and others, are the same regardless of where they are and their nationality.

We shouldn’t be constrained to our own only.

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Police and military should be made to answer for bombings

Inquirer Last updated 03:54am (Mla time) 01/13/2007

YET another bombing, this time in my home city, General Santos City. This is too much.

From television news reports here in Hong Kong, I get the impression that Philippine police, military and officials figured out nothing new about the bombings: diversionary tactics, the handiworks of rebels or terrorists. And they knew of it beforehand. Why they failed to prevent the bombings, they have no clear explanations. Instead, they blame the community for either being lax or for not reporting suspicious persons or movements.

Never have we heard the police and military admitting their ineptness in fulfilling their duty to protect the people. Never have they admitted that they need to improve their capabilities and competencies. They never learn from their previous mistakes. This is no longer just an issue of armed groups out of control — pity the poor civilians who happen to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. This is a serious, basic issue of security and protection, not only in my home city, but all over the country.

Why did our police and military, despite the millions of pesos for their intelligence operations, again fail to protect us? Their admission that they had at least previous knowledge about the plot to bomb several areas of the country does not mitigate their failure. It was precisely because they had “previous knowledge” that their failure became the more unjustifiable. How can ordinary citizens now rely on them for security and protection?

Worst of all, they are not made accountable for their failure. Unless the police and the military are made to answer for their failure to protect us, security and protection will remain a dream, no, a nightmare for most Filipinos.


Police and military should be made to answer for bombings

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Filed under Letter to the editor, Military, Police