errorSunday, June 25, 2000
Interview with Reverend Cesar Taguba, Coordinator of Bagong Alyansang Makabatan (Bayan) International
- Europe, Philippines
interviewed by Michelle Sinigayan, Video by Redmond Entwistle, at The People of Color Against Imperialist
Globalization (PCAIG) - “Globalize Dignity, Solidarity, and the Struggle!” conference on June 23-25, 2000
East Los Angeles College
"The US presence in the Philippines began their imperialist actions beginning with the Treaty of 1898, us more
enforced in WWII, then in 1992 then evacuated their bases because of the Mt. Pinotobo eruption, now that there is
a new found resource of oil in Mindinao there is more the Philippines can offer the United States besides the iron-
link that they are trying to establish along the Pacific rim, Starting with the Philippines, to Japan to the US and to
New Zealand and Australia." - Michelle Sinigayan
MS What does your organization participate in actions, meetings?
CT Bayan in the Philippines is a campaign coordinating center, took initiative of doing mobilization on
the national level against and on political issues, and for the rights and welfare of the workers, peasantry
and other oppressor marginalized sectors. Currently Bayan is concentrating now in terms of mobilization
against the Visiting Forces Agreement, signed by the Philippines and us government. It is also doing
mobilization against the President Estrada regime to amend the constitution to allow for more foreign
corporations to have control of our resources. In the Bayan we also do mobilization work for the rights and
welfare of our more than seven million Filipino migrants.
MS Do you want to go ahead and talk about the Visiting Forces and your position on that and . . . ?
CT The Visiting Forces agreement allows us troops to conduct war exercise in the Philippines, to
bring in the war equipment. The visiting forces agreement came out as a result of the occo Philippine's
inmate, uh, not to extend the Philippines military, the Philippines and US bases agreement in 1992.
Because of the volcanic eruption which effected the Cubic Naval Bay.
MS Are you talking about Mt. Pinotobo?
CT Yes. The Americans hastily evacuated their troops from the Philippines and now there is a big
question obviously of all of the weapons, biological chemicals, nuclear weapons, and waste materials that
they left in Cubic Bay. There is a call that the united states should be morally and legally accountable to
clean up the bases that they evacuated from in the Philippines.
MS And also the relationships that they've had with Filipinos and Filipino women, there's been a lot of children
that come out of those relationships and there hasn't been any responsibility of us officers. As far as I
know, in ter
MS of responsibility for FilAm, (is what we call the Filipino American children), and not be so
sure if they made clear-cut commitment to accept them and to recognize them. So this could be two
issues about the rights of the FilAm and more importantly the cleaning up of the bases. And currently
there are military exercises going on in the Philippines, sea and naval. Exercises involving 1500 us troops.
And three months ago a bigger number came to the Philippines for military exercises.
MS And also does that coincide with the finding of oil in Mindinao?
CT The visiting forces agreement and the war exercises, I think is a part of discounting the integration
of the armed forces of the Philippines and the us do
CTrine . . . in Asia. Because we have visiting forces
agreements in various parts of Asia. But of course the real scheme is of course US/japan military
agreement. If you take a look at Asia, you could see a, well when the forces were pulled out of the
Philippines, you had the bases in Korea, japan. You had the visiting forces agreement in Singapore,
Philippines and of course military collaboration with new Zealand, Australia. You see a very significant US
military presence in the Philippines.
MS In a result of those agreements surrounding the Philippines and other countries of the pacific rim.
MS They are combining the forces of the pacific rim, is that mainly what the visiting forces agreement is trying
CT Yes, they are making an iron-link establishing in that area.
MS The US presence in the Philippines began with the Treaty of 1898, then presence was even more enforced
during WWII, then they evacuated the Philippines because of the eruption of Mt. Pinotobo in 1992, and now they
are trying to gain their forces again,
CT Yes, they are coming back.
MS They are coming back. And are the majority of Filipinos, Do they want them back? Or are they fighting
against them being there, What kind of conflict or controversy?
CT See the result of the determination of the Military Bases Agreement in 1992, was a history of a long
struggle of the Filipinos against the military bases. Unfortunately, there was some pro-Filipino in
Congress/Senate at that time, so the bout put a strong pressure on the people for the determination of the
military bases and for the number of us troops in the Philippines. The Visiting Forces Agreement at the
time of President Ramos, as he also tried to bring it in, there was an opposition. Now Estrada made US
office made so-called popularity run through the US Visiting Forces Agreement, and of course behind that
would be US maneuvering to ensure that the new regime would pass the Visiting Forces Agreement. Now,
in the Philippines, we do not have an external enemy. China is not an outside enemy. So what are these
military exercises for, we expect this is a way to try to prepare for the condition for US Intervention just in
case of the Civil Conflict going on right now in Mindinao or with the New People's Army.
MS Do you want to go ahead and touch base with that? With the Muslim and Christian conflict?
CT Yes, uh, it is a long historical question and we agree that the moros in the Philippines, numbering
something like 4-5 Billion are victims
of what we call Christian Chauvinism. They are Victims of National
Oppression. At the core of the struggle is the question of land. And when you talk of land in Mindinao, you
are talking about land owned and occupied by almost 18 that we have identified as Agni-business
transnational, multinational corporations. Dole, Pineapple, Palm Oil, and then it is now that US satellite
survey pinpointed that in central Mindinao, where the current fighting is going on between the Armed
Forces of the Philippines and the Moros Islamic Liberation Front there is a big reserve of oil in that area.
We suspect that it is of interest to the united states, US imperialism, the MIL to be weakened, on
that basis to be weakened militarily, it would be easier for the oil exploration and for more plantations to
open up in Mindinao.
MS It kind of parallels the Cold War and Desert Storm in the Middle East and the US needing a resource of oil,
there is a new surplus. The US is trying to mobilize into since there as a new resource. Since there is already good
relationship with the Philippines, during WWII and then after WWII. They feel like there is an ally or alliance there,
so they don't seem like, they find the
MSelves not as much of a threat.
CT Admittedly, some people would say when you talk of Philippine Culture you are talking of, uh,
MS A hybrid culture
CT A hybrid culture, the Spanish convent culture, the US Hollywood Culture, and is known for the fa
that an aspiration of the Filipino is to come the United States. The picture
was there of course from the
stories received of migrant workers coming here and the situation is different. The relationship is still
there and to the US and the mass media some people would identify the Philippine interest of one in the
same with US interests.
CT It is also linked to that, surprisingly, in one part of Mindinao and General Santos, the Americans
are building a sea port and airfield, it is not needed for the commercial and shipping that we have now, so
there's a suspicion that it is being spanned for possible use of military planes and ships.
MS It's a hidden thing. Is it in the papers?
CT It's not in the papers. So it would be good in the United States and look at the budget and what is
proposal and look at the projection
We always put it this way that our number one oppressor is the Armed Forces of the Philippines,
MS Is that the Philippines Government's Military?
CT Yes, the government's military. This Armed Forces of the Philippines is equipped and trained by
the US. Now next month, President Estrada will come to the United States, and this time he will drop by LA
and San Francisco and we have a strong suspicion that he will come here to ask for more military
assistance to put us through the war in Mindinao and against the New People's Army and at the same time
to beg for more economic assistance.
MS And you say beg. That's interesting that you used that word.
CT Definitely, it's the relationship of unequals.
MS And do you think that there is an economic threat with Japan and Hong Kong, and with the Philippines
trying to be a first world high economic power within that Hierarchy of Asia Powers. Is that the reason for the kind
CT It is more I think, one for political survival, because Estrada is known to be one president who at
the middle of his term, his popularity rating went below zero. In fact, one reason, he made attempts to
bring back the Marcos's and the Cronies. And secondly, he is already favoring his own crony in big
business and third the question of governance, there is no complete program of the government to bring
about elaboration of poverty in the Philippines, in spite of his running as a candidate of the poor, he coined
the term, "For the Poor", but the poor are getting disillusioned about the situation now. So the whole
popularity rate for the past, even last year, it started to go down. So there is also suspicion that the attack,
the war against the Moros Islamic Liberation Front was a way to divert attention from the crisis confronting
MS The attack started from the Armed Forces of the Philippines.
CT It did. In fact
the Moros Islamic Liberation Front and the Armed Forces of the Philippines, or the
Philippine government conducted negotiations and then a day after negotiations when they were supposed
to carry on peace talks, the Armed Forces of the Philippines, made an all out attack on the Moros Islamic
On phenomenon of our growing economic crisis in the Philippines is the women's group launched
a campaign against sex trafficking of women and children, but apart from woman being brought out of the
country, right in the Philippines, close to 20,000 are forced into prostitution. It's a matter of survival
MS The two choices of women are either domestic labor or prostitution, in the form of what I understand to be
are "Entertainment Visas".
CT Yes, uh huh
MS How much are "Entertainment Visas"?
CT We don't have, but there are complete documentation of how much the government collects from
all of these fees, in the first place the government, from the time of Marcos, made it an official policy to
export labor, to ease the social unrest at the same time it is a source of dollar earning, last year alone,
Philippines living and working outside of the country we made $5 Billion.
MS $5 Billion made by the export of women either through domestic labor or entertainment visas. And with
entertainment visas usually they are forced into prostitution. So, in a way the government is funding prostitution of
CT It does, uh huh, it is a way that the so-called "Entertainment Visas", in the first place the
government opened-up officially the tourist industry in the Philippines and it does say but part of the
tourist industry is offering of women, prostituted women.
MS I heard about that, when a Korean Business Company has a symposium or a big meeting in the
Philippines, they make sure that a whole bunch of women are there as a form of old comfort houses inside these
hotels for all of the businessmen to do whatever.
CT The government and travel agencies don't hide the
fact that one of the commons is that nice,
cheap, entertaining Filipino women.
MS But they are not cheap. It's is an a
fact of desperation from their poverty. So it's not the fact that the women
are cheap, it's just that they are desperate.
CT Yes, you are right. I stand corrected.
MS And Also with domestic workers there has been reports of rapes and murders.
CT Rapes, murders, physical abuse. There is one book. It is a study of women migrant workers,
especially in the United Kingdom, where most of them work as domestic helpers, a
CTually the title of the
book is, "MODERN SLAVES".
Now I think that it was President Ramos who said that honor the migrants because there are more
than heros, because of the remittances sent back and the remittance I think is one of the top dollar earners,
but the migrants themselves, "WE ARE MODERN HEROS, AND WE ARE MODERN SLAVES". And now
there is a video with a theme "modern heros, modern slaves".
MS So there is also a video now. Well, the irony of that is the major presence of the Catholics and the Islamic
religions. They have a big presence within the government and within the morals of the people. How can the
government is keep doing such an immoral thing of trafficking their women while at the same time they every
Sunday, every week , they pray to Mother Mary. There is an awful hypocrisy there.
CT You are quite right. Well let's put it this way, the institution alist church is with the status quo,
occasionally they raise questions only when their interests or situation is being questioned. But
undeniably within the church, there are also pastors and priest and nuns who are going for justice and who
are fighting for the rights and welfare for the oppressed classes in the Philippines, including migrants.
MS Well, that also bothers me too, well it does bother but poses the question on Aquino because from what I
have read Aquino was backed up by the Catholic Church because she was a symbol of Mary, a mother, caring.
What happened to Aquino's presence in the Philippines?
CT Well, Aquino...
MS Does she still have a pull there?
CT Well, I will put it this way, Aquino even Nanoy Aquino, who was killed when the airplane landed,
when martial law was imposed by Marcos, it was faction
of the ruling class that was in power, the faction
was kicked off. Now Aquino belongs to the other faction
wanting to come back to power but both factions
belong to the ruling class in the Philippines. Aquino represents the "Landlord Class" in the Philippines.
MS What is the "Landlord Class"?
CT The Landlord class owning big lands for agricultural, sugar or rice plantations. And true to his
CTer, belonging to the "Landlord Class", Aquino did not implement land reform that will benefit the
peasantry and that will liberate the peasantry to make them more productive
. She did not have a form of
land reform that seemed that her being the wife of the assassinated Presidential Candidate, it drew support
and admittedly at the time Marcos had already been isolated, more or less than the Americans thought of
Marcos was turning out more as a liability rather than an asset, as so they were looking for another asset, a
good puppet. And of course Aquino, Nancy Aquino was a good potential one.
MS So we touched on Aquino, what about Imelda? What is her presence now?
CT Well, precisely, one of the first
acts of Estrada, upon assuming the Presidency was to rehabilitate
the Marcos Family, he made a move to bury the late dictator in the burial ground for Philippine Heros.
MS With Jose Rizal. No, Jose Rizal is not buried there he's buried in..
CT No, he's buried in a monument in Luneta. But there is a heroes burial place, including soldiers,
and he just announced that we want Marcos's body and to bury him in the cemetery honoring the heroes.
There is a big opposition. He backed tracked. But you see the Marcos Family, they have hidden wealth
outside of the country, billions and billions
MS The Swiss bank account
CT But no serious attempts of the Philippine government to recall it. Imelda Marcos, I think, will have
a total of 34 Billion unpaid taxes, and no collection on that. Then, there is this case of the human rights
violation suggested by the Hawaiian Court, made a statement that indeed there is a basis to say that 10,000
Filipinos were vi
MS of their human right and the regime of the di
CTatorship and therefore, I think, 2
billion of the properties or the money should be rewarded to human rights vi
MS In Hawaii
CT No, in the Philippines, it was the declaration of the Hawaiian Court. But up to this time, the
Philippine government is not moving to implement that court's decision.
MS So they are not doing anything. They are not taking any responsibility or a
CTion. So, President Estrada is
going around trying to get money but he could just get from the,
MS From the Marcos Family and their actions,
CT We call it in the Philippines, "Their Il-gotten wealth!", or the money that Ramos's, oh excuse me,
that the Marcos' stole would, well, it was in billions. And up to this point, there are no indications of the
Philippines government to persist, that is seriously, a kind of settlement that is part of the whole loot will
be owned to the Marcos' and then a part will be given back to the government. Well, it's terribly immoral.
MS Is there any resolution that you think could be done with the situation of the Philippines? or is too
CT I think the resolutions from the PCAIG conference are fair enough. It address the most immediate
problem confronting our people, about the Visiting Forces Agreement, about the conflict in Mindinao,
about the need for the Philippine government to seriously negotiate with the underground liberationary
movement, to talk about the peace, or rather for the government to implement what they already agreed on
with the Liberationary Forces for the respectt of Human Rights, International Humanitarian Law. There had
been agreements on that, it should lead to the next agreement on how do we bring about socio-economic
reform that what Estrada did was to do away with what was already agreed with the National Democratic
Front. And adopt a policy of war against the revolutionary forces.
MS I think with the situations that we are talking about the conflicts and the controversy, they are all hidden
things, with the media, are they covering these issues and through your positions or your perspective? In a way
that the media is also helping and enforcing
CT Just like in the United States, the mainstream media in the Philippines is owned and controlled by
big corporations and now apart of the attempt to amend the constitution is to give foreign corporations
even right to own the media.
MS Oh, so they own the media, too. So the media, there is no independent media, I'm sure there is a set of
intellectuals that publish their own
CT Well, I will put it this way that there are heroic members of the mass media who agree do what we
call investigation journalism, and to come up with expose but the general run is from them to tow the line.
Well, admittedly there have been some members of the Philippine media that were killed or assassinated
simply because they would make an expose about the situation implicating the police and the military so
we have cases like that.
It's a quite a heroic greed or pride.
MS It's nice to analyze the whole situation in the Philippines as whole to see that there is always steps that led
up to all of these things, and most people are just thinking about what is happening now but with the Philippines
there is this long history that starts all the way with, what's his name, landed in the Philippines,
MS in 15
MS It started from there, there is this long history that leads up to the Philippine situation now.
Are there anymore comments that you want to make?
CT To put it this way, I used to say, "Name it, we have it in the Philippines, Name it in terms
suffering we go through and the complete consequences of suffering we have it in the Philippines. Name
consequences of imperialist control of the welfare organization, you will see it in the Philippines. On the
other hand, in the midst of this suffering and sometimes feelings of hopelessness, you find people
struggling and it is in the course of their struggle they can try to come up with a vision of what we can be
as a people. What we can be as a people we look at our history that we were the first country to declare a
republic in Asia.
As a result of victory against the Spanish Colonization, then came the US Colonial troops. And
Victory was the result of a long and victorious struggle, and Spain was taken up from us and even then
while we were under American control, we keep on dreaming for independence and freedom and it goes
until now. The only tragic thing is it is costing some much suffering and so much life that we feel that we
have to persevere and let the next generation enjoy perhaps the fruit of own struggle and we are aware that
we are confronted with the most dominate world power in the world, US Imperialism is what we call it,
that's what we have been saying in this conference. That we all have self-confidence in ourselves that
uniting our efforts and firming up our vision of what we can be and then the time will come and we will
achieve genuine independence and national serenity and on the basis of that we feel that it will put us in a
newer situation where we can develop a more fruitful and equal relationship with the American people and
other peoples of the world.
MS Thank you