Extrajudicial killings? I don’t see no stinkin’ extrajudicial killings…

The US and the UN tell Gloria to stop “extrajudicial killings”….Right. It’s all so simple. It’s the evil right wing government allowing right wing hit squads to kill the peaceloving leftwing activists, including a lot of reporters. So Barbara Boxer will just say: Stop it, and voila, peace and harmony reigns…

Ah, those in the government ask, aren’t you worried about those killed by the NPA?

The NPA are not sweetness and light. There are mass graves full of those who “deserted” to make peace with the government. And a lot of the crime/kidnappings/murders are blamed on them: either as NPA hits or NPA guys just trying to make a buck while fighting for utopia.

And, if Barbara Boxer is upset about “extrajudicial killing”, what about the almost daily killing of mayors, businessmen and neighborhood captians by “unknown gunmen”? LINK2

Let’s all have a reality check. This is not Chicago, unless it’s the days of Al Capone. This is the Philippines, and outside of Manila here in the provinces, it resembles an oligarchy of rich families feuding a la Romeo and Juliet over who will win, and the people have little input except to vote for the candidates the powerful families chose to run. Of course, if the winner goes too far and makes people mad, well, then the NPA plays Al Capone (or if you prefer Robin Hood.).

The NPA is pretty vicious, and has been here since the war. They are one of several “insurgent” groups here.

I can’t say much about the Moros in Mindanao, except that the outside radicals tried to make it a new Afghanistan to train terrorists, and got whopped by the Pinoy Marines with a little help from US Special Forces.

But the war against the NPA is gradually losing ground due to land reform, and because unemployed youth have alternatives to rebellion: Why risk getting shot at home when you can go to Iraq as a truck driver and earn 20 000 dollars a year? The rural villages that twenty years ago were picturesque bamboo thatched huts now have concrete roads, TV antennas, electricity, cell phones, hand plows and diesel threshers, and (anti communist) protestant churches.

Also, in the last two years, one of the “side effects” of 9-11 is that the Philippine government is also moving against the old communist NPA. So now there are checkpoints on rural roads, and some poor people have been upset because soldiers drop by and ask for their tax receipts, figuring if they were NPA they wouldn’t pay taxes. The “extrajudicial killings” are partly an expression of this, or an expression of NPA revenge against those who leave the fold, or just simple revenge about a personal affront, or because of a relative murdered in the past and the family has never had justice.
For example, the big scandal in today’s paper is about a left wing politician running for office who was arrested for some old political murders done by his group in the 1980’s—and for some reason his campaign headquarters burned down by a Molotov cocktail thrown by “an unknown number of suspects”.
But the rough political culture goes back years, and every election year things get sticky. Our area is an “area at risk”. Well, that’s one way to put it. Here when a rival businessman or politician’s family is shot up by “NPA gunmen”, the suspicion is that this had more to do with the rival politician than with left versus right politics. As a naive American, I always wonder why bother to send such a message to win an election? The mayor, Barangay captain etc. pay is not that high.

Or shall I say their “official” salary is not that high. Again, think Chicago an Al Capone.

And so there are killings to warn someone not to run against someone else for office, and killings of someone who cheated someone, and killings of rival businesspeople, and killings of someone who cheated poor people. It’s not that Pinoys have a high murder rate, or that they are a violent people. It’s just that busines and political killing is one of the risks of working for the government, running for office, running a business or being a journalist.
Strategypage also notes a lot of killing is politicians killing their rivals, and the NPA killing politicians and business leaders who won’t bribe them.

So it is politics as usual in the Philippines, a high stake game.

But for the rest of us, we tend to be mere spectators.

But what we really worry about is the threats to the ordinary secretaries and teachers who count the vote. LINk 

Our family is not rich enough to be a politician, but after losing one family member in the cross fire of one of these “non political” killings, we don’t want his sister killed counting the ballots.


Nancy Reyes is the pen name of a retired physician living in the rural Philippines. Her webpage is FinestKindClinic and Fishmarket.

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