All authoritarian regimes rail against foreign intervention. But only when it’s against their interests. They welcome it when it serves their purposes, whether it be to line the pockets of its rulers, or to keep them in power. The Arroyo regime is no exception.
But hearing Raul Gonzalez denounce the United States government, specifically the US Senate, for “blackmailing” this country and for being “unfair” was as bizarre as Joker Arroyo’s declaring that “suddenly the United States and the leftist organizations it had called terrorists are one.”
Only a few months ago, the same Gonzalez had only been too willing–had indeed masterminded–the transfer of rapist Daniel Smith from the Makati City Jail to the US Embassy.
From the time the complaint for rape was filed against Smith and his fellow US Marines, Gonzalez had in fact tried everything within his power as “Secretary of Justice” to either prevent their being tried, or to make them face a lesser charge.
Gonzalez was far stricter with the driver of the van where the rape of “Nicole” occurred in the evening of November 1, 2005. He wanted the driver charged as an accomplice and Smith’s three companions only as accessories. If Gonzalez had had his way, the driver, who was after all only a Filipino, would have been charged with a worse offense than Smith’s friends. Being an accomplice in rape is penalized with 12 to 20 years’ imprisonment, while the “accessories” charge penalizes offenders with six to 12 years’ imprisonment.
Earlier he had declared that the Philippines could not demand custody over Smith and company because Philippine detention facilities did not have the amenities–such as air conditioning– US Marines are used to. Gonzalez also referred to those demanding Philippine custody of Smith et.al. as a “mob,” and admitted at one point that the DOJ was forced to prosecute the four US Marines only because of “mob pressure.”
When Smith was convicted and the United States suspended the Balikatan military exercises unless Smith was transferred to US custody, Gonzalez did not say it was blackmail. Neither did he say it was unfair. Instead, no doubt with the approval of Malacanang, he caused Smith to be spirited away under cover of darkness from the Makati City Jail to the US Embassy. Later Gonzalez would boast to the media that it was all his idea.
Last week Gonzalez condemned the suggestion, made during the US Senate’s Foreign Relations Subcommittee on Asia’s hearings on extra-judicial killings in the Philippines, that the US link military aid to the Arroyo regime’s human rights record.
That record is in the running for the title of the world’s worst. Should US aid indeed be conditioned on it, it would mean the loss of all those lovely dollars, some of which, the US itself has found out, often ends up in private bank accounts. Naturally Gonzalez was mad (in the sense of angry).
Gonzalez also had a few choice words against the Filipino witnesses the subcommittee had summoned. “These are the people who have been shouting anti-American slogans before. Now they are jumping like zombies to welcome the Americans here. They’re hypocrites.”
Senator Joker Arroyo, who was once a human rights lawyer, was apparently of the same mind as Gonzalez–and incidentally, so were the news editors of the Philippine Daily Inquirer. Arroyo described the Filipinos’ testifying before the US Senate as “a marriage of convenience,” while the Inquirer proclaimed on its front page that “Now, leftists welcome American ‘imperialists’ meddling.”
(In the first place, it was the Arroyo regime that welcomed US troops back to this country, and allowed them free run of the place. In the second place, Joker Arroyo himself is in a “marriage of convenience” with the Arroyo regime’s Team Unity by deciding not to switch parties. He decided to switch principles instead.)
It is true that leftists, as well as nationalists and practically everyone else who cares about this country, have been critical of US policies not only towards the Philippines but also towards much of the world. Their criticism is based on the fact that US policy–as implemented by a succession of US governments over the last 100 years–has not only been primarily in furtherance of its interests. It has also worked against the well-being and progress of this country and others.
US intervention has been a reality in this country since it seized the Philippines at the turn of the century. From 1946 onwards the US has supported candidates for public office, influenced policies, and seen to it that every Philippine government that ever came to power would serve and protect its interests. US influence and power has primarily found expression in the anti-people policies of such regimes in the Philippines as the current one.
Every Filipino committed to the welfare of this country–this excludes the current regime and practically the whole political class–has resisted US power and influence in the Philippines. For nearly a hundred years Filipino patriots have exposed and opposed US intervention in the Philippines for the misery and suffering it has caused. Any change in those policies that would make a difference no matter how small–in this case in the killing of political activists that has so obviously gone out of control–should be welcome.
Human rights violations are also crimes against humanity, human rights being the common legacy of all of humankind. They are the concern not only of individual countries but of all of humanity.
The Arroyo regime and its unreformed military apparatus is partly sustained by US aid. This makes the US complicit in the ongoing killings and other violations of human rights. Despite Senator Barbara Boxer’s wish, the US has had “blood on its hands” for the better part of 50 years in this country. It is in fact as much of a hypocrite as “justice secretaries” who preside over injustice and former human rights lawyers who can still see the trees but no longer the forest.