The National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP) is understandably alarmed. A military Power Point presentation entitled “Know Your Enemy” includes NUJP in its list of groups that supposedly comprise the “legal machinery” of the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP). Besides NUJP, the presentation also puts the Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism (PCIJ) in the same category.

NUJP says it heard about the presentation last December from someone who sat through it, but its officers saw an actual copy only last week. Journalists who somehow managed to sit through the briefing say it was meant for field intelligence officers, and that the source seems to be ISAFP (Intelligence Service of the Armed Forces of the Philippines).

Apparently, however, the intelligence boys, as usual, have been sloppy in keeping secrets. Not only did some journalists manage to see the presentation, the militant fisherfolk organization Pamalakaya seems to have gotten hold of a copy too.

Pamalakaya has confirmed that both NUJP and PCIJ are indeed identified as NUJP said, but also revealed that the same briefing lists as part of the CPP “legal machinery” the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines (CBCP), the Association of Major Religious Superiors of the Philippines (AMRSP), as well as an alphabet soup of political, sectoral, student, farmers’, teachers’, women’s and party-list groups.

NUJP says its inclusion in the AFP “state enemies” list would be laughable if journalists were not being killed like flies, and if some suspected killers of journalists were not from state security forces.

NUJP has issued a statement demanding an explanation from President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo and the AFP Chief of Staff. NUJP wants to know if “Knowing Your Enemy” represents official policy. If not, it says, the President and the AFP should issue a categorical statement to that effect, “investigate the authors…, order a stop to the smear campaign, and educate them (the authors) on the basic concepts of democracy.”

I’m afraid NUJP is asking for the impossible by demanding that the military educate its ranks on the basics of democracy. The inalienable right to dissent as a democratic necessity is at the core of the idea of press freedom. But it is a concept totally alien to the security forces (the police and the military primarily) of this country.

These institutions were created during the early US colonial period as instruments for the suppression of the remnant forces of the 1986 Revolution and of the social unrest bred by an unjust society. Their members were steeped in the defense of the US colonial order for 50 years, and of neo-colonial Philippines in the succeeding 50.

The police and the military leadership can no more conceive of dissent as a democratic right than it can imagine a world in which generals with P30,000 monthly salaries can’t afford a condo in New York, or a P20 million Corinthian Gardens mansion.

What, for example, could be the reason for NUJP and PCIJ’s being so listed? I suspect that it’s plainly and simply because NUJP members include journalists critical of the government. But there’s also NUJP’s outrage over the government’s failure to solve (in the sense of punishing the guilty) any of the killings of journalists since 1986, most specially the 28 (out of 66) killed since 2001, when the Arroyo government began. In PCIJ’s case it could be its continuing campaign against corruption, which has targeted high government officials whether civilian or military.

In short, both groups have ended up in the AFP list because, in keeping with the journalistic commitment to truth-telling, they refuse to swallow the illusion that all’s well in the land of our nightmares. Dissent and critical thought equals rebellion/subversion.

One can see the same twisted logic behind the inclusion in the AFP enemies’ list of the CBCP and the AMRSP, both religious groups that at various times have protested Philippine support for the US attack on Iraq, and lately, the killing of political activists in Tarlac by the military. What’s laughable is that while there may be progressive nuns, priests and bishops in both groups’ ranks, there is no doubt that they’re overwhelmingly composed of conservative and anti-communist church people.

No such nuancing, it may be argued, is possible in the case of the political and sectoral groups that supposedly comprise the “legal machinery” of the CPP. But it is also true that the groups so named are all legal organizations. The briefing itself accuses them of being part of the “legal machinery” of the CPP.

The CPP itself, government officials from Mrs. Arroyo to military and police spokespersons have been reminding us, is a legal organization, there being no law that bans it, and its being in rebellion an issue no court has yet resolved. To emphasize this point, Malacanang only last week urged the CPP-led New People’s Army to lay down its arms, and for the CPP to fight for its programs in the legal sphere.

But not only is there this campaign to demonize various groups as CPP fronts and to justify the use of violence against them, there are also all those killings of political activists who’re members of the same legal organizations named in the AFP briefing. Apparently a group can be legal, but at the same time fair game for demonization and assassination, a fact that makes legality meaningless.

In the Philippines, however, the worst scoundrels are heroes, white is black, good bad, right wrong, legal illegal– and those who pretend to be fighting the enemies of the state are democracy’s own worst foes.

What does legal mean, then, in this mad setting? Like dissent, democracy, due process, free elections, honest governance, and human rights, has the term also lost all meaning in the vocabulary of this country’s government and its law enforcement agencies?

(Manila Standard Today)

Prof. Luis V. Teodoro is a former dean of the University of the Philippines College of Mass Communication, where he used to teach journalism. He writes political commentary for BusinessWorld.

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