The military maintains “orders of battle,” in which individuals and organizations marked as targets of surveillance and possible “neutralization” are listed. The orders of battle include high-ranking officials of the CPP-NPA, but the reach of these extend to those within the networks of legal and progressive organizations – from the leaders to those who merely attend or support the activities of these groups.
Some of those previously reported to have become victims of enforced disappearances eventually surfaced or were found alive in the custody of the military. Many of them were heavily tortured.
Most torture cases have proven difficult to document because the victims fear reprisal from the perpetrators. A number of victims have courageously spoken out, however – among them Bulacan farmer Raymond Manalo, who has testified in court not only of his own torture but also that of missing University of the Philippines students Karen Empeño and Sherlyn Cadapan.
Repression under the Arroyo regime has also taken the form of political persecution against known progressive leaders, such as Bayan Muna (People First) Partylist Rep. Satur Ocampo. The likes of Ocampo have been frequently slapped with trumped-up criminal charges.
These gross and systematic violations of civil and political rights do not take place within a vacuum. They occur within the context of the gross and systematic violations of economic, social and cultural rights.
In a very real and very direct sense, the attacks on progressive forces and the people in general essentially serve the purpose of sustaining an unjust, exploitative and oppressive system.
Filipinos in their millions are chained to deep, widespread and worsening poverty by a backward, agrarian and pre-industrial economy. The Filipino people did not choose to be in this condition; it was imposed upon them by US imperialism, with the collaboration of domestic political and economic elites.
More Filipinos are poor and hungry today than at any other time in the country’s history. Out of almost 90 million Filipinos, there are over 65 million (or around 80 percent) who struggle to survive on less than $2 a day. Over 45 million Filipinos suffer from hunger, based on standard dietary requirements.
Under the Arroyo regime, joblessness and job scarcity have also reached record highs. Correspondingly, unprecedented numbers of Filipinos – about 3,000, based on Philippine government data – are forced to leave the Philippines every day to find work abroad, and at great social and personal cost, not the least of which is the dysfunction and breakup of many families.
Filipino peasants, fisherfolk, workers, urban poor (slum dwellers), women, children, and indigenous peoples each suffer specific forms of exploitation and oppression.
The Arroyo government has shunned genuine agrarian reform and has simply opted to extend the bogus Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program (CARP). Because of this, tens of millions of peasants and fisherfolk still subsist in oppressive feudal and semifeudal conditions. Rural land, credit, trading and marketing monopolies continue to hold sway in the vast countryside.
Filipino workers endure low wages, long working hours, strict output quotas and oppressive working conditions in order to produce the super-profits of large foreign corporations.
The urban poor, who number millions, face not only the lack of livelihood and social services but also the constant threat of demolitions of their homes, loss of property, and physical and economic displacement following forcible evictions.