On Justice Guarina’s “Economic Nationalism: Voices from the Past”

The very well-written article “Economic Nationalism: Voices from the Past” (Commentary, Philippine Daily Inquirer, September 24, 2014) was for me quite refreshing, considering that it was surprisingly written by a former high court official, retired Court of Appeals Associate Justice Mario Guarina III.

The article itself is a rarity at this time of the profligacy and dominance of neoliberalism in policy, word and rule in the country.

Justice Guarina’s commentary was a very welcome respite in the face of current mantras of neoliberalism and its mouthpieces in the state and private establishments, trying to make it appear that Asia’s long-standing economic laggard in the Philippines has now become the region’s star economic performer.

Actually, the Philippines has been turning out to be, more and more, one of the region’s worst socio-economic performers, as it now has one of the lowest industrial – and even agricultural – capability, activity and development in the region. It also has one of the largest and most deploring rate of unemployment and poverty in the region.

All this, as a result of several decades of world imperialist-imposed neoliberal economic dominance, policies and programs, that have drastically crippled the country’s industrial and overall socio-economic development and have grossly impoverished the mass of the Filipino people.

More than half a century ago, the voices of a great many advocates of national independence, economic nationalism, industrial development and social progress – notably among them, Claro M. Recto and Lorenzo Tañada – were able to openly wield wide influence in the country and promote policies and programs for these causes.

During the time the “Filipino First” policy was officially adopted and being implemented in the country in an effort to promote national industrialization and socio-economic development, local industries then developed and proliferated in the country, as Justice Guarina recalled: “in a manner unprecedented in our history”, such that “we became the fastest growing Asian economy next only to Japan.”

But imperialist attacks against and dismantling of such, and the local neocolonial puppets’ overly submissive compliance to imperialist attacks, started to take place since the U.S. imperialist-imposed “decontrol” policy of the Diosdado Macapagal regime. This was followed much later by even more comprehensive and more systemically destructive anti-nationalist and anti-national industrialization measures via the global imperialism-imposed neoliberal policies, all under very tight dictation and close supervision by the imperialist-controlled International Monetary Fund and World Trade Organization, as well as by U.S. agencies.

Instead of becoming genuinely economically and industrially self-reliant, inclusive and developed, the Philippine economy has consequently become all the more dependent on foreign capital and foreign trade, non-inclusive and underdeveloped, with only external and actually false appearances of “progress”.

The Philippine economy has, in particular, falsely “developed” in recent decades as one of the world’s main cheap assemblers of electronic parts reexported to imperialist countries, providers of ancillary call center and other outsourced back-office business process operations, and suppliers of private household help and other cheap labor in imperialist and other more developed countries.

All these, not quite far from being looked down for being just “miners of gold and hewers of wood” for foreign masters for a long time since about a century ago, as we were overly dependent on traditional agricultural, mining and other raw material exports for survival, amidst rapid and solid industrial and socio-economic development in other countries not as submissive to the imperialist powers.

All these, not far from the Philippine economy now more and more just specializing on catering to the ancillary needs of imperialists and other more developed countries, and the people in the country becoming more and more dependent on such.

Bulk of the country’s income from such has mostly gone to consumption and the development of commerce, services and the related proliferation of commercial buildings and upscale condominiums, while industry and agriculture have fallen and continue to fall way behind.

Justice Guarina’s commentary quite competently touched on problems since the past – and actually up to the present – but did not yet proceed on what necessarily should be done to decisively solve such problems.

In regard to what is to be done, the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) and allied people’s revolutionary organizations in the country have long since submitted and continue to submit, not only direct to the people but also to the local reigning government (the Government of the Republic of the Philippines or GRP/GPH), the NDFP’s agenda for comprehensive and substantive solutions to the fundamental problems of the country and people. Among such has been the NDFP’s long since proposed Comprehensive Agenda for Socio-Economic Reforms or CASER.

As far back as February 2011, the NDFP and the GRP/GPH were supposed to immediately discuss the CASER in the resumption of their long-stalled peace talks.

But, just a few hours before the resumption of the peace talks, combined military and police forces of the GRP/GPH, with the direct go-signal of their higher ups, treacherously arrested and hauled into jail a long-standing peace consultant of the NDFP and also a regular member of the NDFP’s Committee on Socio-Economic Reforms. This, despite his and fellow peace consultants’ supposed protection from surveillance, arrest, detention, torture and other antagonistic acts that would deter their participation and work related to the peace process. This, actually, in vile effort to tie the hands of those sitting opposite to the GRP/GPH across the negotiation table.

The NDFP peace panel demanded from the GRP/GPH the immediate release of all detained peace consultants, including the then latest one arrested and jailed. The failure – actually, the refusal – of the GRP/GPH to do so resulted in the long stalling once again of the peace talks, including that on socio-economic reforms.

The NDFP continues, in principle and in practice, to press for the resumption of the formal peace talks to be able to comprehensively and substantively discuss with the GRP/GPH, and seek to resolve fundamental socio-economic and political-constitutional problems of the country and people, in the effort to achieve a just and lasting peace. The NDFP always remains open to meetings with the GRP/GPH, for as long as the latter reciprocally remains open and opportunities for serious talks and efforts to resolve standing issues and problems of the people and the country remain available.

In the meantime, the NDFP has kept on pressing the GRP/GPH for the soonest resumption of the long-stalled formal peace talks and, in particular, the start of the talks on CASER. The NDFP will continue to press on such with the outgoing present GRP/GPH regime or, if such is no longer feasible, with a successor regime seriously interested enough in the peace process and open to fundamental changes.

The NDFP is presently hopeful of the possibility of the current GRP/GPH regime’s opening up to the resumption of peace talks with the NDPF in the near future.

If the NDFP-GRP/GPH talks on CASER do pull through and turn out to be successful, then there may be a good opportunity to push for the revival – and actual advance – of real economic nationalism, national industrialization, and other socio-economic reforms that the NDFP sees eye-to-eye with Recto, Tañada, Guarina and other principled and determined advocates of these socio-economic causes in the interest of our country and people, who have already suffered too long from imperialist greed, exploitation and intentional suppression of our development as a country and people.

Alan Jazmines
NDFP peace consultant and
member of the NDFP Committee on Socio-Economic Reforms,
presently detained at the Special Intensive Care Area Jail
Camp Bagong Diwa, Bicutan, Taguig City

Even a lot worse this time inside Bicutan

Chelo Banal-Formoso’s September 25 Philippine Daily Inquirer article “Inside Bicutan in Time of Worse than Cholera” touched familiar cords in my memories of the time I was among the political prisoners in Camp Bagong Diwa during the Marcos martial law regime.

I was then twice confined here at Camp Bagong Diwa during that period – the first time sometime before her October 1978 visit to the detention center and the second time from 1982 up to the release of all political prisoners and the closing down of the detention center for political prisoners in Camp Bagong Diwa right after the February 1986 EDSA People Power.

About 30 years ago, the Marcos martial law regime was claiming to have supposedly already “normalized” the country’s situation, that accordingly necessitated the imposition of martial law in September 1972. In actual fact, the Marcos martial law regime was then still persisting with its fascist dictatorship.

The Marcos fascist dictatorship kept prating then that “there are no longer political prisoners in the country.” In actual fact, however, human rights organizations had then documented, with exact body count, the existence of some 750 political prisoners throughout the country.

About 75 of those 750 political prisoners were then confined at Camp Bagong Diwa. I was then among those 75.

Now, the Benigno S. Aquino III regime also keeps prating exactly the very same Marcos line that “there are no longer political prisoners in the country.” But, in actual fact, human rights organizations have been documenting the actual existence at present of about the same number (750) of political prisoners throughout the country.

One big difference now is that there are now some 450 of us, political prisoners,here in the same Camp Bagong Diwa, five times more than our number during the Marcos martial law regime.

Of these 450 political prisoners presently confined at Camp Bagong Diwa, are some 30 directly or indirectly related to the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) – including five of us, NDFP peace consultants – who have been arrested, tortured, swamped with trumped-up criminalized charges, and who continue to be detained, heavily repressed, restricted and deprived. All these, despite standing agreements with the Government of the Republic of the Philippines (GPH) for our protection from surveillance, arrest, torture, detention, trumped-up prosecution and other repressive acts that would deter our effective participation and work in the peace process.

There are also some 50 Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) officers and forces, who have long been detained here (many of them for about or even more than a decade already), also on the basis of trumped-up criminalized charges. This, despite a peace agreement (the Comprehensive Agreement on Bangsamoro) already signed by the GPH and MILF about six months ago, and the recent submission of the proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law for legislative approval.

And also brought to Camp Bagong Diwa in November last year, were about 260 additional Moro detainees arrested where the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF)-led stand-off in Zamboanga City took place in September last year. Many of them are, however, only innocent civilians, including a number of minors (below 18 years of age) and elderlies (past 70 years of age).

There are, furthermore, about 100 other Moro political prisoners – mostly innocent community folk arrested en masse in “all out war” operations launched against “terrorists” – to justify the collection of tens of millions of dollars of bounty claims from the U.S. Anti-Terrorist Aid.

And there are also a handful of U.S. rendition victims from another country (Indonesia), who have been transferred from previous imprisonment in a foreign country (Malaysia), forcibly (drugged, blindfolded and straightjacketted) smuggled into the country by Philippine police intelligence forces under the direction and supervision of the U.S. FBI. They were assigned fake Filipino identities, charged as Abu Sayyaf Group terrorists, swamped with “terrorism” charges filed against the fake identities assigned to them, and have been kept in Philippine imprisonment – Guantanamo style – for about a decade now. In June 2012, I was surreptitiously transferred here from Camp Crame detention because of my expose of all this and the constant intensive U.S. FBI intrusions into the cases of political prisoners there, especially the Moros.

The swamping of numerous trumped-up charges, given the very, very slow crawl of justice in the country’s courts, have been resulting in the intended practically indefinite detention of these political prisoners here in Camp Bagong Diwa and elsewhere in the country.

The fact that all political prisoners brought here to Camp Bagong Diwa are considered “high risk”, and thus specifically confined to “special intensive care” or “maximum security” jails here under extremely heavy restrictions, has made our quest for justice and freedom, and our very situation under detention all the more difficult.

There are furthermore the related difficulties, and many times the intentional failures, in bringing us to courts in our far-away localities, resulting in the further slowing down of our court cases; the problems even in the visits of our relatives and supporters from our far-away localities; and the excessively tight restrictions imposed upon us and our movements within our very cramp jails.

There are also the very, very stingy and very, very poor food rations that, in reality, amounts, at the most, to only 20% of our measly P50/day per inmate nominal food budget – the lowest, compared to that of jails in all cities in Metro Manila and other cities in the country, where the nominal food budget ranges from P80/day to P100/day per inmate.

And there are the fascist attacks time and again ordered by the top national leadership of the jail management, and viciously implemented by their “greyhound” (search) operatives. The ultimate in absurdities take place during these “greyhound” operations. Confiscations, soiling and wastage of our food, medicines, beddings, clothings and other personal belongings, and even outright thieveries take place right and left. They justify all these by insisting that what they have been confiscating are all “contrabands”. Such include transistor radios, ballpens, paper clips, blunt scissors, artwork and handicraft materials and products, sewing needles, shaving razors, small shaving mirrors, toothbrushes with long handles, nailcutters, belts, rice cookers, cooking stoves, lighters, branded vitamins, and even money. Practically all these have been essential necessities for our humane existence and daily needs as inmates.

What makes their confiscations and their justifications of the confiscations all the more absurd is that most of those items confiscated were brought in with the official permission of the local jail authorities. Many of these were actually bought from the local jail personnel’s cooperative store.

We, NDFP peace consultants and political prisoners, led in making complaints against the absurd and cruel confiscations and many other human rights violations committed by the “greyhound” operatives of the national jail authorities. In reprisal the latter ordered the confiscation of the typewriter that we used to type our complaints. The national director of the Bureau of Jail Management and Penology (BJMP) all the more absurdly tried to justify the confiscation of the typewriter, claiming that typewriters are also considered as “contrabands”.

In very stark contrast, in the more than seven years I was detained here at Camp Bagong Diwa, during the Marcos martial law regime, there were no issues at all here about the categorization of any of the belongings of political prisoners as “contrabands”. Unlike now, we were then, without any question and controversy, allowed radios, typewriters, all writing/artwork/handicraft equipment and materials, all cooking equipment and tools, all tools and materials for personal hygiene, and many others that national jail authorities and their “greyhound” operatives now one-track-mindedly, absurdly and in even more fascist mindset and manner keep categorizing and confiscating as “contrabands”.

Very ironically, as political prisoners here at Camp Bagong Diwa during the period of out-and-out fascist dictatorship, we then actually never went through such absurd and fascist “greyhound” operations and confiscations that the present national jail management and forces have every now and then been wielding against us and have been justifying, contrary to our political and human rights, and contrary even to ordinary sensibility.

To make us feel “at home” as “guests of the state”, the buildings we were confined in here during the Marcos martial law regime had no cells and iron bars, but only individual rooms made of wood, that were locked from inside. The main gate of the buildings we were confined in would, however, be locked from the outside only late in the night.

We were then also given more “freedom” within our jail area. We were allowed whole daytime access to wide grounds, where on our own we could have sunning, engage in sports, exercise, and other activities, and also tend to vegetable gardens and raise poultry within a wide-open five-hectare space around our jail buildings. Very much unlike now, when we are not at all given access to grounds outside our very cramp jail buildings, and are instead confined most of the time to a tight, narrow two-by-forty meters corridor of one wing of one floor of the jail buildings, where there are a series of control gates, that are padlocked practically the whole day. Only occasionally, at present, are we allowed access to the rooftop for sunning and exercise, and for only very limited schedules.

We were allocated entire floors of buildings for kitchen work, mess halls, television rooms, a library (with a free daily supply of fresh newspapers), and a couple of production areas (with machines and tools, like cutters, grinders and hammers, to make handicrafts and art work, and even shoe repairs, and the like). Given the mentality of the national leadership of today’s jail authorities, practically all of these would not be given way to.

We used to run our own cooperative store, where goods were sold without any markup at all. Unlike now, where the local jail personnel own and run their exclusive cooperative store, and charge us at more than double the market prices of goods.

So that we could ourselves determine what to make for our meals and control our own food budget and purchases, we were then given, in cash, a daily food budget of P12 per detainee, the present equivalent of which is more than P250 – more than five times our present already very stingy nominal daily food budget of P50, or more than 25 times the real worth of our present even more stingy actual daily food rations.

No different at all from the others, the present post-martial law government has only been putting on a democratic fascade, and in reality continues to hold a big and growing number of political prisoners – despite its repeated denials – and treats us all with persistent fascist mindsets, policies and rules, that, in terms of our experiences as political prisoners here at Camp Bagong Diwa, have ironically been even worse than during the “normalization” period of the Marcos martial law regime.

All these only reflect how fascism have in essence and in practice continued to rule over the county under pseudo-democratic regimes that have taken over after the fall of the relatively more openly fascist Marcos regime. All these only reveal that true democracy and real freedom still need to be fought for all out, in the interest of the entire oppressed people in the country.

Alan Jazmines
NDFP peace consultant
and political prisoner,
Special Intensive Care Area 1 Jail,
Camp Bagong Diwa