Wednesday, February 28, 2007

The Fallacy of "Root Causes" Justifying Armed Struggle

Deaf and Blind (and might I add, "fallacious and disingenuous") is the self-describing title of this morning's Philippine Daily Inquirer editorial, though they wish to apply this description to the five point reaction of Malacanan to US Ambassador Kirstie Kenney's recent statements about human rights and extra-judicial killings in the country. (ABSCBN News reports)

"All five points are pointless, because they are cosmetic." PDI declares as it summarizes the recently announced steps whose "alacrity" it also denounces for having been induced by the US envoy's recent statements...
PDI: "[1] Chief Presidential Legal Counsel Sergio Apostol has been asked to monitor the effects of the President’s rhetoric on human rights. [2] Justice Secretary Raul Gonzalez has been instructed to make it easier for people to join his department’s Witness Protection Program. [3] The Commission on Human Rights, criticized in the past by the administration because it took its mandate too seriously, now has a big, fat bone to chew: the P25 million thrown at it by the President. [4] Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) Chief of Staff Gen. Hermogenes Esperon has been told to refine his Feb. 4 directive, urging adherence to the principle of command responsibility, though how remains to be seen, considering that Esperon himself criticized that principle before the Melo Commission. [5] Finally, Foreign Secretary Alberto Romulo has been told to beg the European Union for help in investigating the killings -- help the administration was disinclined to seek and accept in the past."
My caveats:

[1] Monitoring of the human rights situation by the Presidential Legal Adviser hardly seems cosmetic, unless of course one has been painting the entire government as one big abuser of human rights.

[2] A functioning Witness Protection Program is essential to the solution of many crimes, not just the alleged murders. Authorities have claimed, perhaps self-servingly, that witnesses to them are reluctant to testify or even give information. It seems that no matter how much one dislikes the admittedly exasperating Justice Secretary, that fighting for a good program in this area is not cosmetic but a substantial step in the right direction.

[3] I guess the newspaper considers 25 million pesos being given to the Commission on Human Rights "cosmetic," considering the large inflows of advertising money they are getting from the politicians this campaign season. Maybe they should have called 25 million pesos "peanuts" to them.

[4] At least the AFP can be made to answer for shirking "command responsibility" in at least some of these killings. Or one should try. But PDI never does that to their friends in the CPP-NPA, whose actions they often justify in terms of "root causes".

[5] Beg the European Union for help? Tell that to the Muslims of Bosnia.

"CPP the Brain, NPA the Brawn, NDF the Shield"

DONG PUNO was quoting Jose Maria Sison on his Viewpoints show Monday night (ABSCBN ANC) after showing a video clip taken of the CPP-NPA's aging leader in Brussels, Belgium, bragging about the millions of members in National Democratic Front (NDF) organizations like Bayan, Gabriela, Anakpawis and others. His guests Deputy National Security Adviser Ricardo Blancaflor, Bayan Muna party list representative Teddy Casino, and a rep from the radical League of Filipino Students (LFS).

The party list groups are not fooling anybody. Until they categorically and publicly renounce the violence of the CPP NPA, they can hardly expect sympathy from a disbelieving public who cannot accept their sophisticated and convoluted refusal to take such a simple and forthright stand. They can only expect more public apathy towards their alleged plight at the hands of the Military, which is after all, fighting a deadly communist insurgency that is also involved in all kinds of organized criminal activities like extortion, collection of revolutionary taxes, kidnapping, assassination and blackmail.

It is merely hypocrisy's consequence and an underestimation of the people's intelligence.
This was on bald display tonight on Dong Puno's show, when Teddy Casino admitted that the NPA is an illegal organization (i.e. it is a criminal organization) but he would not renounce their violent methods because he said this would "delegitimize" their struggle against "root causes."

But the means never justify the end. That is simple enough to understand. It is not the banality of evil that these folks are getting killed, but the wages of sin. Live by the gun, die by the gun. Even if you deny it.

Teddy Casino is however, just as exasperating and slippery as the Justice Secretary Raul Gonzales. The Bayan Muna spokesman refused to answer Dong Puno's point-blank offer to have the TV cameras record him stating categorically that the leftist organizations renounces violence as a means of achieving political change, and to call for the CPP-NPA to disarm like Sinn Fein as sign that they are joining the parliamentary struggle in all sincerity and earnestness. Instead Dong got the evasive line uniformly and suspiciously used by Satur Ocampo, Lisa Maza and even Neri Colmenares that the armed insurrection is being dealt with in "peace talks".

I've been chasing the "root causes" rabbit down a hole and finally cornered it over at MLQ3's blog recently:

It is “Philippine exceptionalism” that I am questioning — the claim that root conditions here are so bad, compared to other countries, that armed insurrection is tolerated, justified, or “understandable”. Our intellectuals, media, academics and “progressives” have been paralyzed into a kind of Cold War liberalism in which they don’t actually take sides because they believe that government is guilty of crimes against the people, thus justifying the existence and toleration of the NPA. By doing so, they feel they are doing their bit, or at least salving their consciences over society and government’s failures to deliver real progress for the country.

Take the case of these killings, which are surely a mixture of truth and lies, since that is what war and conflict often results in when people lose their lives on both sides. I think most people who really have no way of knowing what is true of false about the situation give the Leftists’ claims the benefit of the doubt, because they don’t want feel complicit in abetting the killings IF the claims were even partly true.

But the effect is based on an illusion created by a fallacy. Since NO ONE who is an “activist” or a “militant” publicly admits to being either a communist or openly espouses violence (not even the NPA!) they can all claim to be “peaceful leftists” just fighting for their conviction. Yet there are 8 to 12 thousand NPA regulars each of which needs a fairly sophisticated support network to supply and finance their “revolutionary activities”.

It is simply disingenuous and logically inconceivable that these “peaceful Leftists” are only espousing the cause of the armed wing but not its methods; only defends their existence because of root causes but not their deadly consequences. The insurrection is necessarily a combination of both violent and peaceful means.

I think that is why it is in the interest of the truly peaceful Leftists to disassociate themselves from and renounce the violence of those who are only pretending to be dedicated to peaceful means to attain their common end.


juned said...

I think the same way a new politician must renounce the acts of the old and corrupt politicians, the Leftists, socialists, and self-proclaimed nationalists should renounce the armed struggle and sever its umbilical cord to the CPP and the NPA. And the intensity of condemnation against the atrocities committed by the CPP-NPA should be equal to that leveled at Military Rightists. Unless they do so they will carry with them a dead albatross around their neck and will never rise above the level of party list representation.

Rizalist said...

"Murder is murder" as Amb. Kenney just declared, "no matter who is responsible."

I agree with that position, and yours, at least with respect to violent means, by anyone.

But fixing the "root conditions" cannot be made a condition for laying down arms. Certainly the Military must never lay down its arms, even if they must be punished for any unjust killing.

Yet inasmuch as there is an insurgency, national defense and security gives violent suppression of it by lawful authority the "presumption of regularity".

Still this is not excusing unlawful actions on their part.

Thanks for your comment.



Your comments are creating one helluva debate in Manolo's blog.

As far as I'm concerned - they should all lay down their arms, Ka Roger and Esperon.

They do mano a mano. Tapos!

K, K, we know that ain't possible.

So, here's a second proposition: quarantine the NPAs.

There's enough AFP, even led by shithead Esperon to do that.

Use Victor Corpus to outwit the guys.

Aw, shucks! Problem can't trust some of the AFP elements either though coz many of them are tulisans as well.

That is YOUR problem why AFP can't defeat 'em slipper donning fellow tulisan-NPA card bearing warrior.

fleeting_cloud said...

I do agree with your sentiments that only through peaceful means can the leftist group claim legitimacy to social justice. Yet, coming from a progressive paper during college, I see the point of those hapless and forever burdened members of the labor sector whom the government failed and is failing to protect from corrupt social structures like haciendas in the province and unjust working conditions in the cities. What else can they do? Having lost all possible means raising arms is but there last recourse. Unfortunately, the communist movement is using this to there advantage with a false promise of better life.