Hear the tolls: Imperialism beyond the bells!

Bring back our bells! Respect our sovereignty! US, out now!

“Give us back those Balangiga bells,” Duterte mentioned in his second State of the Nation Address (SONA) last July 24, 2017. These bells acted as “trophies” seized by the US army to scar the infamous massacre that happened during the Philippine – American war where 50, 000 Filipinos were brutally slaughtered.

On the 116th year since the day of the Balangiga uprising against the imperialist US, progressive and patriotic groups underscored that the country should not just call for the return of the bells, but should continue forwarding the reason why the bells tolled that day – to revolt against the fascist US.

Why did the bells stop tolling?

In 1901, the bells were taken as war booty after the uprising of the Filipino guerillas where 48 US troopers died with 22 more other in Balangiga wounded during a raid in a US Army encampment. This prompted the US to send US Army General Jacob (Howling Jake) Smith to order a retaliation where he commanded the US troops to kill every male Filipino, 10 years of age and above, which led to the bloodbath of 50, 000 Filipinos.

The bells that symbolize our folks’ heroism are presently stored in US military bases, two are in a US Army base in Cheyenne while another is in the museum of a US military facility in South Korea to showcase their cruelness.

Long-time call answered with rhetoric

There has been a consistent effort of the Philippine congress to recover the bells. Bayan Muna Party list, in fact, is one of the firsts to submit a resolution calling for the recovery of bells, to recover the bells. This year, President Duterte himself “begs” US to bring back the bells to Balangiga.

US, however, gives this nation no single bell, but rhetorical statements we heard for years. Former US officials and US war veterans think that they should not return the bells as they consider it as a proof of their “bogus victory”. Not even an official statement recognizing their brutal act and apology was ever released. Worse, they’ve maintained their economic, political, military and cultural influence in the country through strong ties with the state and its ruling elite.

Rebelling puppet?

Duterte’s call for the return of Balangiga bells does not necessarily mean that he is either patriotic or anti-US. His “shallow militancy” to project a false rebellion against his bosses is plainly for his self-interests.

Let us be reminded that the administration continued the US-RP Mutual Defense Treaty along with the unequal military treaties just like Visiting Forces Agreement. In fact, the U.S., just this year, is trying to restore its military bases here in Eastern Visayas specifically in Guiuan and Ormoc, strategic places for naval skirmishes, as it continued its annual Balikatan exercises with the Philippine Army in these towns this year. As it happened, a fisher folk community was demolished for the construction of a US base in Ormoc according to official accounts.  These constructions will be free of cost and no rent will be collected from them. These actions only deflect the image the administration is portraying – that the Duterte administration is against the imperialist US.

Duterte, known for his profanity and comical statements usually addressed to Obama and China, occasionally challenges the U.S. to stay away from the Philippines during his early times. But after a year of submitting his self to US through initial pronouncements of suspending peace talks, promoting neoliberal economic policies, and waging a war against the farmers and his very own people, it could be drawn that Duterte is using the bells to toll his own demands for US – to fund his militarist vanity.

Beyond the bells is its tolls

While we call for the return of Balangiga bells and US’ admission to the crimes they perpetrated, we should also remember for whom those bells tolled – it was, above all, for the imperialist US. It was our heroes’ cue to their uprising against the US troops. And today, those bells continue tolling for US and their puppets – for Duterte and his cronies.

The call for the return of Balangiga bells speaks more than the bells. It also calls for a nation free from its top oppressor, a nation free from imperialist US. A Balangiga uprising yesterday is a nation rising today.

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Kwarenta y singko

Usa nga diktadur han pasista nga estado
Duha na nga parag-uma an ginpatay ha rehiyon otso
Tula nga gerra tumong an pagpuo
Upat nga bungto an may nagbakwit ha ira mga baryo
Lima pa katuig an iya ha aton pagmangulo
Unom nga sibilyan gindetina tungod han pulitikal nga pagtuo
Pito nga batalyon han militar dinhi ha aton nakatrangko
Walo, 8th ID peste ha mga parag-uma ngan tawo
Siyam ka bulan la, gintugutan na an langyaw nga magkampo
Napulo ngan sobra pa nga kaso hin panalapas
han katungod pantawo
 
Kwarenta y singko na ka tuig
ngan posible na liwat magdeklara
Sanglit yana, balikan ta.
 
Traynta y sais,
ka tuig tikang ginmasaker Sag-od nga baryo
 
Traynta y syete,
ubos na an pasensya nga ginhatag ta kan Rodrigo
 
Traynts y otso,
panahon na hi paggios, panahon na hin pag-ato
 
Traynta y noybe,
daw kuno namatay dinhi han gerra kontra droga
 
Kwarenta,
ikaw nga apektado, nakikit-an mo ba?
 
Kwarenta y uno,
tipaunan-o gintitiyupi kita hini nga bulok nga estado?
 
Kwarenta y dos,
waray ginpamati-an ungara han tawo
 
Kwarenta y tres,
ginhuhuthutan kita hini nga papet nga gobyerno
 
Kwarenta y kwatro,
diri na angay tugutan pa pamatay nga wala-tuo
 
Kwarenta y singko,
na yana nga tuig, pakusgon an pag-ato!
 
(Photo from Eastern Vista)

Pagbalik han kasisidman

Nababati-an ko an nagtitikahirani nga martsa

Adi, nagtitikang na liwat an paglubog han sapa

Puno hin kahadlok an ak dughan ngan mata

Kwarenta y singko ka tuig an naglabay, mabalik na liwat hira.

 

Waray na liwat kami makakadto ha umhanan

Gintamak-tamakan pa nira an amon kapinyahan

Pira ka adlaw nga gutom amon aantuson

Kahadlok ngan kabaraka, amon iilubon.

 

Ginlingi ko an akon mga pinaura

Nga waray makakasulod usa na ka semana

Ngan tigda la dumaop an usa ha ira

Humangkop ha akon ngan nagpakiyana

 

“Nanay, tubtob san-o pa ini?”

 

Waray kapugngi an pagturo han akon mga luha

Tigda ko nanumduman an akon mga gin-agian

An nakalabay nga nagsunit han akon dughan

An mga adlaw nga puno hin kasisidman.

 

“Diri ako maaram. Diri ako maaram, anak ko.”

 

Ginbaton ko an akon anak hini nga pamaagi

Sugad han pagbaton han akon nanay han hadi

Hiya nga waray kaluoy nga gin-awat an kinabuhi

Han kasundaluhan nga ha amon baryo nakaka-peste.

 

Nanumdom ako nga hadto nga mga takna

Ginguli-at ko nga ibubulos ko hiya

Ngan yana, naglalarab na liwat an akon kasubo

Naglalarang hin pag-ato hini nga mapaniyupi nga estado.

 

Kwarenta y singko ka tuig na an naglabay tikang hadto

Nagsurit na liwat hin kasina ini nga estado

Kwarenta y singko ka tuig an naglabay, kami na in mas mabaskog

Katawhan nga tiniyupi, yana makikigbisog.

Sagupa SB on Mariano’s rejection: “No lose for farmers nationwide”

Duterte’s appointment of Rafael “Ka Paeng” Mariano as Agrarian Reform Secretary a year ago is a manifestation of the iron-willed peasant movement in the country who, for a long time, fought against the puppets and puppeteers behind landlessness and land monopoly.

But today, members of the Commission on Appointments (CA) reached an appalling decision for the farmers in Eastern Visayas and in the whole country. In a voting decision of 13-5, Mariano was officially rejected by the CA as DAR Secretary. Nonetheless, is his rejection a declaration of a relatively weakening peasant movement? Or isn’t it telling us that the landlords and bureaucrat capitalists are once again threatened by the farmers’ uprising?

Mariano was known as one of the leftist cabinet members under the current administration – not because he was appointed by the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) themselves but because, just like them, he is for free land distribution and national industrialization. He, along with former DSWD Secretary Judy Taguiwalo and NAPC Lead Convenor Liza Maza, gave us a more vivid picture of what the media often tag as the “Philippine left”, that they promote a clean and just governance.

Unlike the past agrarian reform head officers, Mariano maximized his position in the bureaucracy to impose orders in favor of the farmers. To defend and assert farmers’ rights through the creation of three major task forces – National Land Acquisition and Distribution Team, National Task Force for Agrarian Reform Beneficiaries Installation and National Task Force Against Illegal and Premature Conversion of Agricultural Lands – was the thrust his office upheld.

It was under Mariano’s time when the land use conversion program was suspended. It was under his time when a part of the Hacienda Luisita has been finally awarded to the farmers. It was under his time when the agrarian reform office from the national up to municipal levels saw the importance of partnering with the local people’s organization. It was at his time that the government-ran agrarian reform office also supported and pushed for the passage of the bill that will implement free land distribution – House Bill 555 or the Genuine Agrarian Reform Bill. He sure has implemented a lot more orders which addressed farmers’ immediate needs and he could have implemented a hundred more.

But the rejection of his appointment as DAR Sec is not, and will never be, equal to the farmer movement’s downfall. No rejection of any demand or call will stop the farmers all over the country from surging the streets, occupying their land, breaking the land monopoly, and advancing their struggle.

Mariano’s rejection gives us an idea of how the 1% of the population in the country, the landlords, use their political power to maintain their economic power and vice versa. And now we get to connect the series of events: informal termination of peace talks just in time for the possible signing or agreement of free land distribution, intensifying fascism against the farmers and activists, and Taguiwalo and Mariano’s rejection. The wealthiest and most politically powerful individuals in the country, along with their masters in the US, will never favor the poor, the oppressed and the exploited.

While we strongly condemn the members of the CA for the farmer-leader’s rejection as DAR Sec, we also extend our warmest congratulations to Ka Paeng Mariano and the whole peasant movement in the country who didn’t fail to register their calls and demands to the public.

Ka Paeng’s service as Agrarian Reform Sec ends today, but the struggle for a genuine agrarian reform program continues. In the next days, he will still be with uonin the streets and picket lines – probably in front of his former office – rallying against the anti-farmers program. And stronger, even more determined and committed, we will remain.

Why is Duterte’s War on Drugs anti-farmers?

Even before Duterte took oath as the President of the Republic of the Philippines, he already strongly manifested his will to end the illegal drug trade in the country which actually gathered support even from the left. Months later, there seemed to be a change in course when progressive groups denounced Duterte’s bloody drug war. Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP), through its official website, claims that there have already been 13,000 drug-related killings. And the nation must have been shaken when the 17-year old Kian Delos Santos was reportedly killed by no less than the Philippine National Police.

Progressive groups, including farmers’ organizations, all over the country urge Duterte to end his war on drugs, also seeking justice for all the 13,000 victims of extrajudicial killings.

Alliance for the advancement of People’s Rights, Karapatan, reports that about 66 farmers were killed under the first year of the Duterte administration. But if we look into it, most of them, if not all, weren’t killed due to the drug war but because of political affiliations. Why then should progressive farmers’ groups such as Samahan han Gudti nga Parag-uma ha Sinirangan Bisayas and other Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas regional chapters nationwide condemn the brutal war on drugs? Does it have any direct effect towards the farmers? How is it related to their struggle against land monopoly?

War against the poor

It has long been established that Duterte’s drug war is anti-poor. Mr. President himself openly declares that it is the poor who are more engaged in drugs, saying that they are “ignorant and more likely to be hit”. His peculiar vulgarity as manifested in his speeches is, unfortunately, a testament of his anti-lower class policies.

Instead of targeting the big drug lords, the top individuals behind the proliferation of the illegal drug trade in the country, the Philippine National Police along with their vigilante groups are eyeing on the small drug users and dealers through “cleaning the streets”. Of the 13,000 victims of extrajudicial killings, we coulds only count on our fingers the number of relatively politically-epowered individuals who were also hit by government armed officials. The bigger fishes are still left protected through their political and military power.

If Duterte really has a clean intention to end the drug menace, he must have taken into consideration that the country’s drug problem is not detached from the whole socioeconomic problem in the country. A rehabilitative, instead of punitive, solution must have arisen. In fact, the towering number of people involved in illegal drugs is a reflection of the government’s failure to address the country’s problem of joblessness. Similarly, the continuation of the drug problem in the country is a testimony that Duterte’s economic policies fail to address the very reason why the poor engage themselves in illegal drug trade and this also manifests that Duterte’s war on drugs is nothing but a failure.

From “left” to right: Disregarding people’s issues

While the Duterte administration invests all the hype to end the drug menace through murderous means, the socioeconomic concerns of the basic sectors are still unaddressed. Contrary to his pro-people pronouncements, Duterte is now exposing his rightist tendencies: forwarding neoliberal economic policies, promoting fascism, and simply advertising anti-people programs. The characteristics Duterte once had that made him famous to the masses are all gone except one: his unnecessary straightforwardness which could be of help if only he uses it to advance people’s rights.

In May this year, the Government of the Republic of the Philippines (GRP) boycotted the fifth round of peace negotiations with the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP). Duterte, in his second State of the Nation Address (SONA), expressed his seriousness over the termination of talks for reasons both the NDFP and the CPP invalidated.

The “meat” of the talks was supposed to be discussed in the fifth round. The two panels were too close to finally signing a paper on free land distribution. We could only imagine solving the number one problem of the majority of the population in the country – landlessness. But dealing people’s issues must not be on Duterte’s top priorities. Consequently, 75% or more than 75 million people are still suffering from the exploitation of the few ruling elite.

While the issue of joblessness, landlessness, inaccessible education and basic social services remain unaddressed, the drug menace will not cease. Not to mention that the “filthy” bureaucracy takes a huge role in the proliferation of illegal drug trade.

Dividing classes

Duterte’s drug war gathered diverse opinions from the lower class up to the upper middle class. It promotes and strengthens the stereotyping of classes – that the poor are the ones who are more likely to commit “filthy works” while the rich are less likely to deal with it. The same is true when our rotten education system teaches us that farmers’ poverty is due to their indolence. This is a manifestation of an anti-people culture even more intensified by the present administration for the sole purpose of protecting his power.

But why does the Duterte administration or whoever is behind the war on drugs have to put a huge gap between the lower and the middle class?

The alliance of the basic sectors and the middle class have broadened under the Duterte administration, especially on the issue of just and lasting peace. The united front has become more vocal in advancing national democracy.

Aside from using political, economic and military power to maintain the control of feudal lords, capitalists, and imperialists, the cultural aspect is also crucial. The present administration appears to be maximizing these aspects.

The current administration’s drug war, however, is bound to fail if we continue to broaden our alliance against Duterte’s drug war and the looming tyranny. The rich history of our country teaches us well-enough to fight against a fascist dictatorship.