It seems Malacanang has finally decided on a script, to explain the assassination of over a hundred left-wing leaders and members since 2001. The left is doing it; it is purging itself.
It cannot be a coincidence that the first high official to broach this idea is Interior Secretary Ronaldo Puno (the same person under whose watch the Department of the Interior and Local Government suddenly found itself "supporting" a so-called people’s initiative). The refrain, of course, has since been taken up by other officials. The Philippine National Police has even conducted a study, or so it says, that raises that very possibility.
I find all this extremely disturbing.
In November and December 2003, when we were putting together the pilot episode for InqTV, we worked on a potential agenda-setting story which in my opinion had not yet been sufficiently reported. (A story with legs, in news-speak.) The legal left had shown itself adept in party-list politics; in particular, Bayan Muna was preparing to "diversify." Our story picked up leads that confirmed that the new strategy was aimed at gaining at least six, maybe nine, more party-list seats for the national-democratic left in the May 2004 elections. Satur Ocampo said as much. That was why, for instance, Liza Maza left Bayan Muna; she was preparing to run under Gabriela.
It seemed to me, a political junkie, that this was the perfect political strategy. If you only need, say, a million votes to win three seats under one party-list group, it seemed a shame to win two million votes at the polls. The second million would have only gone to waste.
Even more important, it seemed to me that greater engagement by leftist groups in the so-called parliamentary struggle was something devoutly to be wished for; an even more pluralistic politics could only be a boon. I thought, and I still think, that this is a development even those of us who do not share the national-democratic reading of the political situation should welcome.
But even back then, the legal left’s very success had already rankled many officers in the AFP. Lt. Colonel Dan Lucero was very diplomatic, both on- and off-camera, but, to give just one of several examples, an article in an Army publication pushed familiar buttons when it warned that leftist party-list representatives were using their pork barrel funds to help the insurgency.
(A note: We also got analysts like Benjie Tolosa, chairman of the political science department at the Ateneo de Manila, to read the tea leaves for us.)
Thus, the story was about the national-democratic left’s political strategy for the 2004 elections, and the growing sense of unease among military men about the implications of that strategy.
In May 2004, of course, that strategy proved successful. From three Bayan Muna representatives in 2001, the national-democratic left now had six: three from Bayan Muna, two from Anakpawis, one from Gabriela. (The youth and Muslim affiliates did not do as well in the party-list polls.)
It must be mentioned, however, that in the 2001 elections, the expert consensus was clear: Gloria Arroyo’s People Power Coalition had entered into an agreement with Bayan Muna. As one commentator explained, Bayan Muna was GMA’s party-list group of choice in May 2001.
There isn’t any similar consensus as far as the 2004 elections are concerned, but, as we had occasion to discover in our follow-up stories, resignations in national-democratic organizations greeted some of the electoral choices their leaders had taken.
Fast forward to May 2006. Malacanang now deems it necessary to float the purge theory — which, it must be said, still remains a theory. It’s possible, of course, that of the hundred-plus victims, some were killed by once-friendly fire. But the pattern of killings does not lend itself to that simple theory. The critics of Maj. Gen. Jovito Palparan, who say his deadly coattails end up sweeping dead leftist activists wherever he is assigned, would be the first to object.
Palparan’s latest suggestion, in fact, seems designed to create even more victims. The Army has infiltrated the New Peoples Army? That may be true, although I am one of many who have grave doubts. But of course truth is not the point of such an assertion; doubt is.