Has Robredo succumbed to the AFP’s fascist tyranny?

This article is available in Pilipino

Yesterday, Vice President Leni Robredo turned 180 degrees from her previous statement calling for the abolition of the National Task Force (NTF)-Elcac after being given a “security briefing” by the top leadership of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP).

In the company of pro-US fascist generals, Robredo, presidential candidate of the Liberal Party, seems to have succumbed to the AFP’s fascist tyranny and US security dictates. She declared support for the “mandate” of the NTF-Elcac and called its Barangay Development Program (BDP) “the best part of everything.” She seems to have accepted the erroneous analysis of the roots of the armed conflict that the military is presenting to justify the billions upon billions of pesos of funds placed in the hands of corrupt military officers.

Contrary to the false picture being painted by the NTF-Elcac, it is not the lack of roads, school buildings or clinics that condemn the vast majority of people in the countryside to poverty; rather the lack of land to till, low farm wages, high costs of fertilizers, low farmgate prices, liberalized importation and smuggling of agricultural products.

The NTF-Elcac’s BDP is the generals’ version of “infrastructure building” that has been the hallmark of corruption of the Duterte tyrannical regime. It is being used by the NTF-Elcac as military pork barrel to enhance the political influence and power of the AFP. In exchange for their support, military generals, retired and active, are accumulating vast political and economic power.

By giving her full support to the NTF-Elcac, Robredo appears to ignore the widespread human rights violations that have accompanied the BDP and the AFP’s counterinsurgency. Drooling over the ₱20 million for each barangay, military commanders on the ground have ordered their men to go on a rampage in rural villages (in the guise of “community service”), hamletting communities and restricting people’s movements, intimidating civilians and murdering peasant leaders and activists, to force them to “surrender” as NPA members, blurring the line between combatant and civilians, in violation of their legal rights and without being charged in court.

Recall that Duterte formed the NTF-Elcac after terminating peace negotiations with the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP), just as draft agreements on socioeconomic reforms were set to be signed. Since it was formed, the NTF-Elcac has carried out counterinsurgency measures (red-tagging, forced “surrenders”, corruption, aerial bombing, artillery shelling, hamletting, extrajudicial killings and massacres) that run contrary to peace negotiations. By supporting the NTF-Elcac, Robredo herself is practically shutting the doors to peace negotiations.

By declaring support for the NTF-Elcac and the AFP’s counterinsurgency, is Robredo also endorsing the campaign of aerial bombardment, strafing and artillery shelling that has terrorized and endangered civilian communities, and destroyed their farms and forests which serve as source of their food, water and medicines?

Robredo’s sudden support for the NTF-Elcac went against the senate’s decision to slash the NTF-Elcac’s budget from ₱28 billion to ₱4 billion, after finding its proposed budget so indefensible and riddled with anomalies. Did not Robredo hear the widespread calls of various sectors, especially in the countryside “laylayan,” for the NTF-Elcac’s outright abolition?

Robredo is ignoring the fact that the NTF-ELCAC and the AFP have declared villages as “cleared of NPA” which in the first place had no NPA presence. Billions of pesos are being poured into AFP and the NTF-Elcac based on the mere word of the AFP and its generals who are notorious for lying and issuing false information.

She has also ignored the fact that the NTF-Elcac has listed school building projects where there are already schools, which the DepEd itself complained about, and that road projects are being listed twice. Did she ignore reports that money supposedly meant for barangays have been handed over in bulk to town mayors or provincial governors? It is no wonder that some local officials, especially the most corrupt, are supportive of the BDP since they can get their dirty hands on hundreds of millions of pesos.

Robredo must critically pose the question to herself: if the government was really serious in addressing the socioeconomic roots of the civil war, why is it that the military is taking lead? Her turnaround suggests that the military generals are the ones dictating policy, instead of the other way around? Through the NTF-Elcac, the AFP has been defining the priorities and programs of the entire bureaucracy. If the growing power of the military is not stemmed, it would not be surprising if the Philippines will go the way of Myanmar in a few years. And if Robredo wins in the elections, she might as well turn out to be an Aung San Suu Kyi, hostage to the dictates of the military.

Over the past few months, Robredo has served as one of the more credible of the anti-Duterte presidential candidates and has strengthened the people’s determination to fight Duterte’s fascist tyranny. Taking back her previous call for the NTF-Elcac’s abolition does not enhance such credibility and weakens her ability to unite all forces against Duterte’s tyranny.

Has Robredo succumbed to the AFP’s fascist tyranny?