Accountability on human rights issues. No to red marking. Focus on human security rather than national security. An anti-drug campaign that respects the legal framework.
So far, the soundbites of the new administration on human rights issues have been reassuring.
It will be worth monitoring whether the policies and actions will match the words.
Ferdinand Marcos Jr. promised to be a better version of his father. And his camp said Junior should be judged on his own actions rather than those of his parents.
Thus, Bongbong Marcos’ commitment to a ‘high level of responsibility’ on human rights issues when he assumes power may prove to be more than an ‘aspiration’, unlike rice wish-niya -lang at 20 pesos per kilo.
He also reportedly pledged to lead the campaign against illegal drugs “within the law”.
The statements were delivered to the United Nations Resident Coordinator and Humanitarian Coordinator in the Philippines, Gustavo Gonzalez, who paid a courtesy visit to Marcos last Friday.
Having studied in the UK and visited many other countries, BBM must be fully aware of what he is getting into in front of a UN official.
The marital dictatorship had two key issues raised against it: systematic human rights abuses and corruption, so mass critics had to invent “kleptocracy” to describe it.
During the campaign, BBM was remarkably successful in distancing itself from the issue of wealth. But the incoming first family continues to push back against the state’s efforts to claw back more of their staggering wealth.
When it comes to human rights, BBM doesn’t have its predecessor’s obsession with rooting out drug suspects like vermin (campaign donors and exempt billionaire drug addicts).
He also doesn’t seem to have his father’s predilection for putting political enemies and media critics behind bars…until now. But he has shown a penchant for controlling information and seems to view a free press as an enemy. Problems are guaranteed to arise when those in power see honest criticism as obstructionist and anti-government.
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Some of the worst human rights abuses of the Marcos Senior regime were committed against communist rebels and their sympathizers, real or imagined.
Like the drug scourge that refused to go away despite the shock and awe approach under Tokhang and Double Barrel, the insurgency is still very much alive, thanks to persistent social injustice, poverty and underdevelopment. . It is unclear whether the insurgents are still pushing for communism.
Political scientist Clarita Carlos, the new national security adviser or NSA, says the focus should be on “human security” – tackling the roots of insurgencies, especially social injustice.
Carlos also stated that communism was outdated and that she did not believe in labeling any person or group as a communist. Since the NSA sits as the vice chairman of the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC), people have been expecting the end of red-tagging under Marcos 2.0.
The President of the NTF-ELCAC, however, is the President and Commander-in-Chief, although the current Executive Secretary has assumed this primary role. So if BBM thinks like President Duterte when it comes to dealing with the communist threat, the approach to the issue will remain the same.
The NSA in this country does not have the same weight as its American counterpart when it comes to establishing national security policy. Does anyone even remember who Noynoy Aquino’s NSA was?
Only one NSA has had a strong influence on shaping presidential policy: Jose Almonte, who served under Fidel Ramos. Cory Aquino reportedly found “JoeAl” scary.
Will Carlos, as outspoken as the late Miriam Defensor-Santiago, accept the national security policy she disagrees with?
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The NSA is a member of the Counterterrorism Council. In June last year, the ATC designated 10 members of Islamic extremist groups as terrorists, along with 19 individuals identified as members of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of the Philippines-New People’s Army (CPP-NPA) led by Jose Maria Sison. The National Democratic Front (NDF) described several of the 19 as peace consultants.
Last February, the ATC designated 16 groups it described as CPP-NPA underground organizations as terrorist groups, based on the official NDF website. The CPP-NPA is also listed as a terrorist organization by the European Union, Australia, Great Britain, Canada, New Zealand, the United Kingdom and the United States.
Will the new NSA, with its stance against red marking, eliminate these listings?
Carlos, a retired political science professor from the University of the Philippines who describes herself as Machiavellian (the guy is misunderstood, she says), reminded us last week on One News’ “The Chiefs” that the use of the terrorist label was a slippery slope. There is also the argument that one man’s terrorist is another man’s freedom fighter.
The counter-argument is that a freedom fighter has no right to blow up civilian targets in the name of any cause.
Hermogenes Esperon Jr., an NSA graduate, former military leader and Philippine Science High School alumnus, has a clear view of what includes terrorism and makes no apologies for the work of the NTF-ELCAC. In an interview earlier this year with The Chiefs, he reminded the nation of the security threats posed by the NPA and the rebels’ continued active recruitment, especially among young people.
The NTF-ELCAC sees the weakening of progressive groups in this year’s elections as a manifestation of the task force’s success and Duterte’s approach to communist armed conflict.
Representative Carlos Zarate of Bayan Muna, labeled by the government as a communist front organization, blamed Duterte’s tirades for the group’s first-ever defeat in the party slate race since 2001.
If Clarita Carlos’ favorite focus on human security is pursued, the fate of progressive groups and those designated as terrorists will be only one aspect of a broad-based national security policy.
The tactic will require involving other Cabinet members and executive agencies in a pan-national approach. Even though Carlos thinks it’s pointless to negotiate with Joma Sison and other rebels in exile, focusing on social justice is a softer, gentler approach to the issue of terrorism and insurgency.
This approach can only be carried out if it has the President’s full support and the defense military establishment accepts it.
Human rights accountability is good to hear. Marcos 2.0, however, will not be judged on words and aspirations, but on actions.