Release Filipino peace consultants Benito Tiamzon and Wilma Austria!

The Party for Socialism and Liberation (U.S.) joins with progressive and revolutionary forces around the world to condemn the illegal Philippine government arrest of Benito Tiamzon and Wilma Austria, consultants of the National Democratic Front of the Philippines. They should be immediately released.

Both Tiamzon and Austria have played significant roles in the peace negotiations between the NDFP and the government. As part of that process, meant to resolve the decade-long civil war, both sides came to a Joint Agreement on Safety and Immunity Guarantees, which explicitly allows for the “safe conduct and free passage” of key NDFP officials and negotiators. Austria (by name) and Tiamzon, by an alias, are covered by the JASIG.

The Aquino government’s provocative action — and refusal to release the two — tears the mask off of its claims to be pursuing peace. One does not need to be a legal expert to recognize that one cannot conduct peace talks under conditions where one side’s consultants and leaders are being arbitrarily arrested.

The intentions of the government are clearer still when one considers that the arrests follow government violations of the Comprehensive Agreement on Respect for Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law and the Hague Joint Declaration, which provide the foundation of the peace talks. Moreover, it has declared that the questions of land reform and national industrialization — key strategic aims of the NDFP and the New People’s Army — are too “ideologically charged” to be discussed as part of the negotiations. 

Philippine military leaders claim that the arrest of Tiamzon and Austria will doom the armed struggle and the Communist Party of Philippines. This, of course, is their true aim — while talking peace, they really desire the complete liquidation of the country’s revolutionary forces. As has been proven over decades of war in the Philippines, not to mention the entire experience of people’s struggle worldwide, this is a delusion. 

Revolutionary movements do not spring fundamentally from the ideas or charisma of individual leaders. They spring from the social conditions that necessitate struggle. A movement and an army that is genuinely rooted in the peasantry, workers and other oppressed sectors — consolidating influence and training new leaders from within the ranks over decades of pitched struggle — will not wither or disappear on account of the suppression of individuals.

If the Philippine government’s ruthless war of terror on the poor peasants, its torture and assassination of labor organizers, journalists, and other radicals have not destroyed the basis of the National Democratic movement nor demoralized the fighters of the NPA, what makes them think that the arrest of two revolutionaries, who both went to jail with fists raised high, would be any different?

Progressive and anti-imperialist organizations in the United States recognize our special responsibility to denounce the role of the U.S. government and military forces that back the Aquino government. It was U.S. imperialism that stole from the Filipino people their genuine independence in 1898, along with Cuba, Puerto Rico, Guam and others. It was U.S. imperialism that distorted and obstructed the economic and national development of the Philippines. It was U.S. imperialism that allowed the Marcos dictatorship to last as long as it did.

For decades, the U.S. military, operating primarily through Special Forces, have been the hidden actor in the Philippines civil war, supplying resources, personnel, technology and intelligence in an attempt to defeat the New People’s Army. This policy flows from their desire to dominate the Philippines, and also their intrinsic counter-revolutionary impulse to destroy all examples of socialist and people’s revolutions. They have learned well how the flames of revolution, once raging, are not easily contained by national borders. 

Likewise, U.S. imperialism today is undoubtedly fomenting militarism in the Philippines and all of East Asia. Its declared “Asia Pivot” — which puts all the peoples of the region in the crosshairs and crossfire of the Pentagon’s military machine — includes a special role for the Philippines to project U.S. force, especially in conflict with China. 

This “Asia Pivot” is an attempt by the world’s leading banks, corporations and militarists to re-stabilize an imperialist system mired in protracted economic crisis and its setbacks in the Middle East. Poor and working people in the United States, who have seen their living conditions plummet at the expense of Wall Street, have nothing to gain from this strategy. In fact, they have every interest in seeing it defeated, and joining hands with poor and working people across the globe, including in the Philippines, who are fighting for a new world. 

Release Benito Tiamzon and Wilma Austria!
U.S. imperialism out of the Philippines!

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