Monday, April 17, 2006


Pandayan para sa Sosyalistang Pilipinas (PANDAYAN)
Room 207, Center for Community Services Building,
Social Development Complex, Ateneo de Manila University,
Loyola Heights, Quezon City
Tel. 4265657, 09278775810, 09209066618
Contact: Jose Maria Dimaandal, Elaine Teope
17 April 2006

Pandayan condemns the murder of one of our members in Negros Occidental, Rico Adeva who was killed in front of his wife. It is unfortunate that Rico, an organizer of the Task Force Mapalad, became another statistic in the on-going campaign of summary executions against activists around the country.

It is no secret that violence related to agrarian reform has been happening in rural communities in Negros and around the country. Rico’s death looks like another incident of muzzling the efforts of agrarian reform advocates to distribute land to the powerless and hungry Filipino farmers. This demonstrates the failure of the government to act decisively on the issue of agrarian reform. It is a testament to its pathetic implementation of the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program.

Moreover, this cowardly act of killing a defenseless NGO worker and agrarian reform activist also highlights the inefficiency of the Arroyo government to deal with people instigating these attacks against progressive elements of our society. It shows that her administration is really no different from Marcos’ repressive and brutal regime. It is getting to be really difficult for NGO workers and activists to continue their work under this climate of fear.

We ask the president: is the practice of murder now a public policy? If President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo truly values the sanctity of human life she should now put the brakes to these senseless killings. The culture of impunity must stop now.

Pandayan calls on the Filipino people and the international community to break their silence on the Arroyo administration’s grotesque human rights record. We must act now before it is too late. Public apathy will only encourages more killings.

Finally, Pandayan salutes Rico Adeva. We will continue his work in upholding the rights of the millions of Filipino peasants nationwide. We pledge to continue to pursue the ideals of freedom, democracy and justice.###

Monday, April 10, 2006

Summer Intensive Peace Building & Reconciliation Training Program, May 3 to 14, 2006

Applicatn Deadlne Extnded
1st Annual Peacebuilding & Reconciliation Program (APRP) Launched!

A summer intensive peacebuilding and reconciliation training program has been set for May 3 to 14 this year. It will be held at the cool and quite surroundings of the La Salette Shrine in Silang, which is 20 minutes before reaching Tagaytay on Aguinaldo highway. Funded mainly by the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) - Conflict Prevention and Peacebuilding Program and the German International Capacity-building organization (InWEnt), known international and local co-trainers and resource persons will conduct simultaneous 5-day modules on various aspects of peace work, alternative dispute resolution, mediation, negotiation, active nonviolence, forgiveness, and reconciliation.

Hildegard Goss-Mayr, the Austrian President Emeritus of the International Fellowship of Reconciliation (IFOR) leads one of the modules. She, together with her late husband Jean Goss, was a catalyst to the 1986 Nonviolent People Power Revolution, and she may be returning here for the last time. Other distinguished trainers include Archbishop Antonio Ledesma, SJ, DD, Bishop Edgardo Juanich, DD, Wendy Kroeker and Jonathan Rudy of the Mennonite Central Committee, Susan May Granada of the Nonviolent Peaceforce – Sri Lanka Field Team, Pete Hämmerle of the Austrian Fellowship of Reconciliation (FOR), Alim Elias Macarandas of the Bishop-Ulama Conference, Annabelle Abaya of the GRP Peace Panel for talks with the CNN, Marites Guingona-Africa of the United Religions Initiative and Peacemakers’ Circle, Cesar Villanueva of Pax Christi Pilipinas, Rebecca Capulong of the Siliman University Peace Resource Center, Mike Alar of PIDO-OPAPP, Marides Virola-Gardiola and Maria Lourdes Aseneta, both of whom are private consultants and members of Brahma Kumaris.

A consultation process to gather the experiences and best practices in peacebuilding, conflict transformation and reconciliation was a deliberate effort to make the concept of an Annual Peacebuilding and Reconciliation Program (APRP) well attuned to the needs of peacebuilders who participated in the process. Enhanced by the encouragement of mentors from the Mindanao Peacebuilding Institute (MPI) and the Catholic Relief Services (CRS) in conducting annual intensive training programs, this program called the 1st APRP this May 2006 has become a reality.

While conflict transformation and peacebuilding efforts have achieved significant strides in Mindanao, it is apparent that the same efforts must be taken to address the issues of the sixty-year armed insurgency elsewhere in the Philippines. The Mindanao peace efforts have succeeded in keeping armed hostilities in check in major fronts through the nurturing of a strong grassroots constituency for peacebuilding while there is much to be desired elsewhere. It has become evident that addressing the complexity of violent social change (insurgency) armed conflict is crucial in order to spur positive, transformative and constructive efforts that could bring just and lasting peace, human security and sustainable development in our communities and for the entire nation.

Transforming armed conflict and unceasingly encouraging conflicting parties never to resort to arms, assassinations, illegal arrest & detention, dispersals and other forms of violence is only half the goal of this initiative. We must believe that lasting solutions can only be achieved through serious negotiations, one careful step at a time and protracted over a number of years. We continue to explore nonviolent alternatives to achieve what is for the common good in the spirit of conciliation and openness to acknowledge the goodness in every human being. In the end, we continue to hope that we learn to respect and appreciate the many different perspectives of one reality and discover how we can work together each step of the way.

For more information, please write to or Deadline for applications is extended to April 18, 2006.

Chito Generoso
APRP Program Co-Director
Ellis Luciano
Institute of Reconciliation
APRP Program Office
1180 C. Roces Ave., SAV, Makati City 1202 Philippines

Fr. Jose Nacu, MS
APRP Co-Director
Institute of Reconciliation

Purificacion Obra
APRP Co-director
Asso. Dean
Graduate School,
University of La Salette

Saturday, April 08, 2006

Military Radicalism in Venezuela: Lessons for the Philippines

By Walden Bello*

In the light of the obvious turmoil and discontent within the Philippine Armed Forces, many questions and concerns have been circulating. One very important issue is: would military rebels merely serve as an instrument to get rid of the corrupt and illegitimate Arroyo regime, or would they be capable of doing something more, that is, lead or be part of a coalition for progressive social transformation?

To get a grip on this question, it might be useful to look at the prime example of military radicalism today, the Venezuelan Army, and try to make some comparisons between its experience and that of the Philippine military.

"An Army of the People"

That something interesting and unusual is taking place in Venezuela first really struck me when, in response to a sarcastic comment about an anti-war meeting of the 2006 World Social Forum taking place in an Air Force base, a member of the audience rose and, in the best pedagogical manner, told us foreigners, "Look, what we have here in Venezuela is not a regular army but an army of the people."

Venezuela is undergoing, if not a revolution, a process of radical change, and the military is right in the center of it. How could this been happening, many skeptics ask, when the military, especially in Latin America, is usually an agent of the status quo? Others, less skeptical, ask: Is Venezuela the exception, or is it the wave of the future?

Many explanations have been advanced for the behavior of Venezuela's military. Edgardo Lander, a noted Venezuelan political scientist, says that one reason could be that compared to other Latin American armies, there is a much higher proportion of "people of humble origins in the Venezuelan officer corps. "Unlike in many other Latin American countries, he contends, "the upper Classes have really looked at a military career with scorn here."

Richard Gott, one of the leading authorities on the American left, adds another factor, the mingling of officers with civilians in the country's educational system. "Beginning in the seventies, under a government program called the Andres Bello program, officers were sent to the universities in significant numbers, and there they rubbed elbows with other students
studying, say, economics or political science."

This "immersion" in civilian life had fateful consequences. One, the officers were exposed to progressive ideas at a time that "the left dominated the universities." Two, it resulted in a deeper integration of the officer corps with civilian society than in most other countries in Latin America.

Probably also critical, says Gott was that, for some reason, Venezuela appears to have sent far fewer officers than many other Latin American countries to the US Army-run School of the Americas in Fort Benning, Georgia, which is the main conduit of counterinsurgency training to the western hemisphere's military forces.

Now, these conditions may have contributed to making the Venezuelan Army less reactionary than others in Latin America, but they do not explain why it would be one of the spearheads of what is today the most radical social transformation taking place in the hemisphere. Gott, Lander, and other Venezuela specialists concur in one thing: the absolutely central role of Hugo Chavez.

The Chavez Factor

Chavez is many things: a charismatic figure, a great orator, a man who plays local, regional, and global politics with skill and verve. He is also a man of the army, one who reveres the military as the institution that, under Simon Bolivar, liberated Venezuela and much of Latin America from Spain, and who has acted on the belief that it is destined to play a decisive role in Venezuela's social transformation.

Chavez, according to his own account, joined the military because it would be a springboard for him to play professional baseball. But whatever his initial motivations, he came into the army at a time of great institutional flux. The army in the 1970's was engaged in counter-guerrilla operations at the same time that its officers were being exposed to progressive ideas through the Andres Bello program at the university and many were being recruited by leftist groups into clandestine discussion groups.

Instead of becoming a baseball star, Chavez became a popular lecturer in history at Venezuela's War College, while moving up the chain of command. When not performing his official duties, he was engaged in building a clandestine grouping of young, like-minded, idealistic officers called the "Bolivarian Revolutionary Movement." Disillusioned with what they perceived to be a dysfunctional democratic system dominated by corrupt parties—Accion Democratica and Copei-- that alternated in power, these Young Turks evolved From a study circle to a conspiracy that hatched ideas for a coup that would, in their view, inaugurate a period of national renewal.

As Richard Gott writes in his authoritative book Hugo Chavez and the Bolivarian Revolution, Chavez' preparations were overtaken by the "Caracazo" of 1989, a social cataclysm triggered by a sharp rise in transportation prices owing to pressure from the International Monetary Fund. For about three days, thousands of urban poor from the ranchos or shantytowns on the mountainsides surrounding Caracas, descended on the city center and affluent neighborhoods to loot and riot in what was ill-disguised class warfare. The Caracazo seared itself in the minds of many young officers. Not only did it reveal to them how the vast majority of the population had become thoroughly disenchanted with the liberal democratic system. It also made many bitter that they were placed in the position of having to give orders to shoot hundreds of poor people to defend that system.

When Chavez was given command of a parachute regiment nearly three years later, he and his co-conspirators felt that the moment was ripe for their long-planned coup. The attempt failed, but it catapulted Chavez to fame in the eyes of many Venezuelans…and to notoriety in the eyes of the elite. Chavez appeared on national television to ask participating units to lay down their arms, and, according to Gott, that "one minute of air time, at a moment of personal disaster, converted him into someone perceived as the country's potential savior." Chavez took full responsibility for the failure of the coup but electrified the nation when he declared that "new possibilities will arise again."

Chavez was imprisoned, and almost immediately after his release, began campaigning for the presidency. What he could not get by a coup, he was now determined to pursue by constitutional means. No longer in the military, he nevertheless kept in close touch with his fellow officers and with enlisted men, among whom he was tremendously popular. When he finally won the presidency by a large margin in 1998, it was not surprising that he recruited brother officers to head up or staff key government agencies. More important, Chavez gradually brought in the military to serve as a key institutional instrument for the change he was unleashing in the country. The massive disaster brought about by torrential rains in 1999 provided an opportunity for Chavez to deploy the military in its new role, with the army units mobilized to set up and man soup kitchens and build housing for thousands of refugees on army land. Then military civic action and engineering units were deployed to the new government's program to set up "sustainable agro-industrial settlements" in different parts of the country. Military hospitals were also made available for the poor.

Transforming the Military: Problems and Opportunities

The involvement of the military in a program of radical change was not, however, regarded positively in all quarters of the army. Indeed, many generals resented the populist ex-colonel and, when the process accelerated, as Chavez moved to implement land reform and take direct control of the oil industry, these elements began to conspire with the newspaper owners, the elite, and the middle class to oust him by force.

After a series of violent confrontations between the Opposition and Chavistas in the streets of Caracas, a coup put into motion by a number of high ranking generals, including the head of the armed forces, the chief of the staff of the armed forces, and the commander of the army, succeeded in toppling Chavez on April 11, 2002. However, most of the officers with field commands And most junior officers either stayed loyal to Chavez or remained neutral, and when thousands of urban poor descended on Caracas to demand Chavez' release, the loyalists launched a counter-coup, arrested the conspirators, and restored Chavez to power.

The coup attempt was a blessing in at least one way: it gave Chavez the opportunity to complete the transformation of the military. About 100 top generals and officers were cashiered for treason, with the key posts in the high command going to people loyal to Chavez and the Bolivarian Revolution. The purge probably deprived the US, which had supported the coup, of its key supporters within the Venezuelan military.

Chavez' project, which he has now defined as a movement toward "socialism," rests on the tremendous support he has among the urban and rural poor. However, the military is the only reliable organized institution he can count on to move things. The press is hostile to him. So is the Church hierarchy. The bureaucracy is slow and riddled with corruption. Political parties are discredited, with Chavez himself leading the attack against them and preferring to keep his supporters organized as a loose mass movement.

Given the centrality of the military as a reforming institution, Chavez has created an army of urban military auxiliaries or reservists to support the regular armed forces. Originally known as "Bolivarian Circles," this reserve force, which is projected to eventually number one million, is becoming instrumental in the organization and delivery of social programs in the shantytowns. These auxiliaries also now participate, alongside the National Guard, in the expropriation of private land for the accelerated agrarian reform program.

Skepticism in Some Quarters

With its central role in the Bolivarian Revolution, many observers are asking the question: is the military up to it?

For Chavez, according to political analyst Lander, the military is reliable because it is not corrupt and is more efficient than other institutions in delivering results. Lander questions this. "I don't think there is anything inherent in the military that somehow makes it less susceptible to corruption than other institutions." As for military efficiency, this is, he says, a half-truth: "Yes, the military may be effective when deployed to solve immediate problems like building schoolhouses or clinics staffed by Cuban doctors. But it is not a long-term solution. You need to institutionalize these solutions, and that's where this revolution is weak. You have a proliferation of ad hoc solutions that remain ad hoc."

Yet there is no doubt that among Chavez and his generation of officers, there is a reforming zeal that will fuel the revolution for some time to come. It is a zeal borne out of a tremendous sense of frustration, one which Chavez expressed to Gott in an interview a few years ago: "Over many years the Venezuelan military were eunuchs: we were not allowed to speak; we had to look on in silence while we watched the disaster caused by corrupt and incompetent governments. Our senior officers were stealing, our troops were eating almost nothing, and we had to remain under tight discipline. But what kind of discipline is that? We were made complicit with the disaster."

The Venezuelan and Philippine Militaries: Points of Comparison

The sentiments expressed by Chavez in the preceding paragraph would probably resonate with many junior officers in the Philippine military. Which brings us to the question: What are the lessons of the Venezuelan experience for the Philippines? More specifically, are there possibilities for a similar left-leaning socially progressive military to emerge in this country?

If the Venezuelan experience is any guide, the odds are against it.

First of all, unlike the Venezuelan military, the Philippine military does not have a revolutionary nationalist heritage. It is not a direct descendant of the Katipuneros and the Army of the Philippine Revolution. It was formed by the US, initially to act an auxiliary force to support US occupation troops, then to maintain public order during the colonial period, and finally to back up US forces fighting the Japanese during the Second World War. Since the granting of independence in 1946, the Philippine Armed Forces have maintained very close links to the US military via aid and training programs.

Second, the Philippine military has not had the equivalent of an Andres Bello program, where officers were systematically immersed in the civilian educational system and consistently exposed not only to the latest technical and managerial concepts but also to progressive ideas and movements. But even if such a program existed, the ideological hegemony of neoliberal economics in Philippine universities from the nineties till today would probably have nullified the positive effects of immersion.

Third, in Venezuela, officers had an ambivalent relationship with the political left, on the one hand, fighting them as guerrillas, on the other hand, absorbing their ideas and proposals for change. In the Philippines, in contrast, the military sees the New People's Army, with which it has been struggling for nearly 30 years, as its enemy unto death, both institutionally and ideologically. Not surprisingly, while groups like the Reform the Armed Force Movement (RAM) or Magdalo have periodically emerged, their programs have had little social and national content, their agenda being merely to seize power and put the military in command of society in order to purge civilian politics of corruption. Class analysis, imperialism, land reform—these are concepts that most officers see as belonging to the paradigm of a rival military force.

Finally, if there is a military that is so thoroughly permeated by the dominant social relationships of civilian society, it is the Philippine military. From top to bottom, the military is enmeshed in patron-client relationships with local and national elites. Competing civilian elites have cultivated and manipulated their factions within the military. Even military reform groups have often ended up in unhealthy relationships of dependency with traditional politicians and economic elites. The godfather relationship between the traditional politician Juan Ponce Enrile and the military rebel Gringo Honasan, for instance, was probably the key factor that stood in the way of RAM becoming a truly autonomous and progressive force.

But history is anything if not open. The Philippine military may still be capable of yielding surprises. After all, an observer of the Venezuelan military circa the late eighties would probably have wagered that with its cadre of corrupt senior officers tied to the US military, that institution would remain a faithful instrument of the status quo in the coming years.


*Walden Bello is professor of sociology at the University of the
Philippines (Diliman) and executive director of the research and advocacy institute Focus on the Global South based in Bangkok. He recently visited Venezuela.

source: From Business World, Feb. 28, 2006 and, Feb. 28, 2006

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