By: Comrade Redbeard
Redbeard: The Duterte regime has recently stepped up its violence against the masses and activists in the Philippines, carrying out a massacre of 9 people on March 7 alone. Can you tell us more about this?
Jay: Yeah. My name is Jay Jimenez, my pronouns are they/them, and I am the vice-chairperson for Anakbayan Long Beach. We are a youth and student organization based in Long Beach, California that fights for the rights of Filipinos nationally and also abroad. This event, very broadly called Bloody Sunday, was an event on March 7 that had nine activists killed and six arrested in the southern Tagalog region in the Philippines. The unfortunate part about this was that all of the people who were killed and arrested were people who were unarmed and were arrested mostly in their homes…To describe it more, the southern Tagalog region [is made up of] provinces like Cavite, Laguna, Batangas, and Rizal. They’re also known as the Calabarzon region. It’s kind of like a combo name [laughs.] Calabarzon is basically a combination of those provinces combined, name-wise.
One of the people who was killed was Emmanuel “Manny” Asuncion, the BAYAN-Cavite coordinator. BAYAN is an alliance [of national democratic organizations] in the Philippines and there’s also one in the US called BAYAN-USA. Manny was one of the people that were targeted during this massacre as well as two fisherfolk, Ana Marie and Ariel Evangelista, many of the poor urban activists in the mass organization Sikkad-K3, as well as two Indigenous activists in the Dumagat tribe, which is one of the indigenous groups in the Philippines. Many different people of all sectors of life were effected by this event, and it’s no wonder that many Filipinos have a lot to say about what happened. I think another significant part of this event was that the Philippines National Police admitted that the Conduct of the Simultaneous Implementation of Search Warrants (this is called COPLAN ASVAL for short). This was basically done in collaboration with the National Taskforce to End Local Communist Armed Conflict in the Philippines (NTF-ELCAC).
Redbeard: That’s quite a name.
Jay: Yeah! That’s a taskforce built in the Philippines government. Two days prior at a meeting of NTF-ELCAC, the president of the Philippines, Rodrigo Duterte, actually said of armed insurgents “If there’s an encounter and you see them armed, kill them. Don’t mind human rights. I’m willing to go to jail, that’s not a problem. I don’t have qualms.” It’s really unfortunate about all the things that are happening in the Philippines, especially since this is willingly pushed forward by the president himself. Basically, all of these things are meant to target activists, meant to kill them. These activists are just trying to serve the people around them. The regime is hellbent on crushing its strongest opposition.
Redbeard: Who carries out these massacres? Obviously in combat situations with the New People’s Army [the armed wing of the Communist Party of the Philippines] it would be the Filipino military, but when noncombatants were killed as they were on Bloody Sunday, is it usually the police?
Jay: Yeah, this was basically done by the Philippines National Police (the PNP).
Redbeard: These latest massacres and murders by the state in the Philippines, how do they relate to recent laws enacted by the regime like the Anti-Terror Law?
Jay: The Anti-Terror Law is very helpful in this sort of situation, for those who are in charge of these massacre operations or counterinsurgency operations. This is because the ATL makes it okay to not need a warrant when targeting someone in their home. It also makes it easy to nullify their right to court. There’s no need for them to go to court. It allows for the surveillance of people as well. Since many of these people were arrested in their home, that definitely means that they were surveilled by their government to find out where they live, to find out when they would be home. It allows many things that are a breach of privacy. This is all under the guise of the Philippines government trying to “protect its people” by removing terrorism.
Redbeard: And also by taking away their democratic legal rights.
Jay: Yes, exactly.
Redbeard: These particular activists that were killed recently by the police and other forces- how does the State justify these acts of repression? By just deeming them communists?
Redbeard: Whether or not that’s true is irrelevant.
Jay: Yeah, basically. According to the Anti-Terror Law, if you are assumed a communist or judged to be one…they have a right to target you for possible terrorism. This is really unfortunate especially because these targets were unarmed in all situations. But even if they were or aren’t communists, that still doesn’t mean it’s right for anyone to be targeted and arrested by the government.
Redbeard: That leads me to my next question. Can you tell us what red-tagging is, and how the Duterte regime and other reactionary, anti-democratic forces use it as a weapon?
Jay: Red-tagging is when someone, no matter who they are, is targeted and then framed or “doxxed” by being called a communist. The militarized groups in the Philippines use this as a weapon…because it effects the way they [the tagged person] even interact with the people around them. By being red-tagged, they are surveilled, constantly watched over. It pretty much puts a target on their back for the government. It allows them to feel like the government can do anything they want to them because they’re a terrorist. It doesn’t even account for the good or bad they have done for the people around them, but is solely based on assumption. This is why red-tagging in general is very dangerous for any activist. No matter someone’s political ideas, they should not be persecuted.
Redbeard: Is red-tagging a new initiative on the part of Duterte and his supporters, or does it have precursors in Filipino history?
Jay: This has happened throughout Filipino history for sure. When talking about communism in the Philippines, the discussion can last for hours. Throughout Filipino history, there have been counterinsurgency programs and taskforces assigned to target people who have been red-tagged. I think a very good example of this was in the 70s during the Marcos regime, when the mass organization Kabataang Makabayan -a youth organization that was publicly active in the 1970s- talked about its opposition to the Marcos regime. They were forced underground because many of the members were attacked, and even killed, because of their stance towards the regime. This has been going on since before many of us were alive.
Redbeard: So it’s nothing new? Same old terrorism from the state.
Jay: Yeah, basically.
Redbeard: I think it’s a testament to the strength, courage and the intelligence of the Filipino masses and the revolutionary forces that they’ve been subjected to this violence and repression for so many decades but they haven’t given up. In some ways, they’ve even grown in strength.
Jay: Yeah, it’s true. An example is that BAYAN and many of the national democratic organizations did not even expand past the Philippines until the 1990s. The creation of BAYAN-USA and the many Anakbayans in the US, and even in Europe, in Japan, and so many countries. It’s very heartwarming while at the same time sad. So many Filipinos abroad care about what’s going at home in the Philippines and it’s very eminent in how many people are willing to mobilize, how many people are willing to echo the demands of the people back in the Philippines, and how many people are also willing to fight bureaucratic capitalism, against imperialism, and against feudalism in the Philippines.
Redbeard: I’m hardly an expert on the history of the struggle in the Philippines, but I’ve been blown away by the commitment of those in the diaspora around the world. I come across solidarity events and organizing-whether it’s based in Europe, elsewhere in Asia, or the US-put together by Filipino people, from a whole range of organizations, and it’s wonderful. As sad and depressing as dealing with this stuff is, that side, that aspect, is also wonderful.
Jay: Yeah, thank you. It’s definitely something that even us, who are part of these Filipino national democratic organizations have to internalize that aspect of revolutionary hope. Many sad things are going on, of course, and we are allowed to mourn and we MUST. We also must fight for justice for these people, but it’s even more of a reason for us to continue to grow and fight for our movement. Because we know that the masses of workers, the peasants, the impoverished people that are fighting for land, livelihood and…the liberation of the Philippines, we know that they’re able to have that in their hands, the more people that we get to support the national democratic movement.
Redbeard: Since you’ve used this phrase a few times, I wanted to elaborate on this for the sake of those who don’t know. What is the national democratic movement?
Jay: The national democratic movement in the Philippines is basically describing what the people in the national democratic movement are fighting for. National meaning that it is for the national sovereignty of the Philippines. This [means] breaking any foreign dictates on the people and the products that the Philippines creates. No to imperialism! Democratic meaning that it serves the people and that it is reflective of what the people, the majority of the Filipino people desire and want for their country.
Redbeard: Perfect, thank you. What are Anakbayan and other progressive and revolutionary groups inside and outside of the Philippines doing to combat this fascist regime and its violence, and build up alternatives to it?
Jay: One thing that is very important for us as overseas chapters of organizations like Anakabayan is that it is really our task to make sure what’s going in the Philippines is known to the migrant Filipinos that are here…especially since we are in the Los Angeles area, in Southern California, which is known internationally as one of the largest congregations of migrant Filipinos around the world. It is really important for us to be able to make sure that people are aware of what’s going on, and find international support for the national democratic movement. It’s surprising how many people are unaware of what’s going on…It is common for a lot of Filipino Americans to feel disconnected from their homeland. Many who are our age, who have not lived in the Philippines, do not understand Filipino languages and have only learned English…. they don’t feel like they can understand their kababayan, their countrymen, even in language. We have to o make sure that the things that are going in politically in the Philippines are being consumed by the everyday migrant Filipino, no matter when they migrated or if they never lived in the Philippines in the first place. That’s one way that Filipino activists here make sure that the national democratic movement in the Philippines is strengthened.
RB: Great. So how can people who may or may not be Filipino best support the struggle for national democracy and revolution in the Philippines?
Jay: That’s a great question. One thing that people can do is help support…reintroducing and passing the Philippines Human Rights act in the US government. This is basically an act that calls for an end to all unequal military agreements with the Philippines, and cutting military aid to the Philippines.. An example of this would be the Visiting Forces Agreement. You can support this by calling your local representatives and other legislators. We have many people who supported this in the US government in the past, but because we are in a new presidency, it’s as if we have to do all the different outreach we did before all over again…you can sign on to the PHRA by going to tinyurl.com/endorsephra. You can endorse individually or have your organizations endorse the PHRA. You can also engage your legislators by going to tinyurl.com/stoptheattacksph. To help out, you can even make direct calls to the Philippines consulate-calls and emails-to let them know that they are putting this issue under the rug. The Filipino consulate is directly connected to the government in the Philippines. You can call and email them by going to tinyurl.com/bayandst. There’s a script that can help as well.
RB: Thank you. I meant to ask this earlier, but since we are based in the US, and you were just talking about appealing to the US government to end its support of the regime in the Philippines, could you briefly describe what the US’s imperial interests are in the Philippines? What would you say to someone who is opposed to changing the relationship? Why is it important that for US Americans or people who live in the US to fight for this cause?
Jay: I think that one thing that’s significant about the relationship between the US and the PH is that the US has been around the Philippines for a very long time. After Spain ended its colonization of 330 years, the United States came shortly after. The US continuous to send military aid, training military in the Philippines with US methods, and also asking for labor forces from the Philippines. One thing that the Filipinos are very familiar with is the idea that there is a need to migrate outside the Philippines for work. What the US often does is rely on countries like the Philippines for cheap labor. This comes in the form of getting migrant workers for the ports, or getting migrant folks to be caregivers, and even sending Filipino professionals to be…cheaper labor in the United States. That’s one way that the US continues to influence the Philippines. Economically, it [the US] continues to influence because the Philippine peso is based on the US dollar. The US seeks raw labor from the Filipino people and raw material from the lush, vast different parts of the Philippines. The Philippines is full of resources like copper, gold, fish, beautiful trees and fruits, and what US companies can do is that they can pay for all of those raw materials to be sent over to the US to be manufactured into other products. They don’t have that kind of land, that luscious land in the US.
RB: The environment is destroyed by capitalism in one place, capital goes to another place where it hasn’t been quite as destroyed, then it exploits that land.
Jay: Right. This even effects the peasants who are living in the Philippines as well as the Indigenous people.
RB: If I understand correctly, when it comes to labor exploitation, the exploitation and violence against Filipina women is a large part of that. Is that a correct assessment?
Jay: Yeah, it is for sure. Lots of women are in every labor sector. What the national democratic movement also fights for is the fair treatment of women. Many women are treated unfairly in many labor situations, and thus need special attention. Special attention meaning that women deserve a specific sort of understanding. The way that women have been treated historically is especially concerning, compared to how men have been treated. While this does not diminish any of what men experience, this is just a way to emphasize how much women are thought of as laborers for life.
RB: It’s historically specific oppression that requires historically specific solutions.
Jay: Right, exactly.
RB: Anymore then you can subsume the struggles of people who are colonized under class struggle, you can’t do the same with women. It’s all part of the same struggle. So that’s actually all the questions I have for now, but is there anything you’d like to add?
Jay: There is one part that I want to add, not necessarily to something new, but to something that people can do.
Jay: Another thing that people can do is donate to help the victims of human rights violations and political prisoners in the Philippines. One way to do this is through the Human Rights Defenders Fund. You can go to tinyurl.com/ichrpsundy.
RB: That money goes directly to the victims and their families and loved ones?
Jay: To victims of human rights violations in general and political prisoners. This is to ICHRP, which is the International Coalition for Human Rights in the Philippines.
RB: So we can donate there to support political prisoners and victims of human rights violations.
Jay: Correct. One more thing to support is that people can join organizations themselves. They can join and get involved in the Oust Duterte and the Resign Duterte campaigns. Look at BAYAN, look at Malaya [the Malaya Movement].
RB: Thank you so much Jay for taking the time to talk about all this today.
Jay: Thank you for inviting me. I really appreciate being able to talk about this issue, and really want the people to know that what’s going in the Philippines is not disconnected from what’s going on here.
RB: Absolutely. It’s all connected. For good and for bad.
Full list of Bloody Sunday victims, with organization affiliation:
Emmanuel Asuncion of BAYAN-Cavite
Michael Dasigao of Sikadd Montalban
Mark Lee Bascano of Sikkad Montalban
Ana Marie Evangelista of UMALPAS KA, Batangas
Ariel Evangelista of UMALPAS KA, Batangas
Puroy Dela Cruz, Dumagat leader, Tanay, Rizal
Randy Dela Cruz, Dumagat leader, Tanay, Rizal
Abner Esto, housing rights activist, SIKKAD-K3
Edward Esto, housing rights activist, SIKKAD-K3