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August 22, 2014, 7:45 am

Disappearing interest in the Philippines’ victims

I received the call on a beautiful Sunday morning from a good friend.  What I expected to be a normal call turned into something else.  It turned out that this particular April day was the anniversary of the disappearance of a relative of my friend, a fact that she wanted to share with me.  It also turns out that such disappearances are far from unusual in the Philippines — from where my friend hails — where political opponents of the regime are regularly assassinated or abducted.

The relationship between the U.S. and the Philippines has been problematic since 1898 when the U.S. seized it from Spain in the Spanish-American War.  Short-circuiting the Filipino independence struggle (already underway), the U.S. turned this archipelago into a colony, but only after carrying out a racist, genocidal war against the populace.  The U.S. held the Philippines as a colony until 1946 at which time it became nominally independent, but actually became a U.S. neo-colony. Since that time, there have been two major insurgencies, including the current movement led by the Communist Party of the Philippines and its allies in the National Democratic Front of the Philippines.

Successive Philippine governments, raising the ‘cry’ of allegedly fighting communism and terrorism (such as the more recent examples of alleged Muslim terrorism on the island of Mindanao), have conducted repressive operations against opponents, among which are many progressive, democratic-minded individuals and groups.  Of course, these governments have received both political and material support from the U.S.

The repression being suffered in the Philippines, which rarely gains mainstream U.S. attention, includes the use of what are called “extra-judicial killings,” otherwise known as hits and death squads.  A Filipino labor union activist described to me five separate attempts on his life by military and pro-business para-military units. Yet in the U.S. there is silence concerning the Philippines with the impression offered that the Philippines is a legitimate democracy.

Listening to the voice of my friend the other day describing the disappearance of her relative made the point: There is little legitimate about the U.S.-backed regime.


Bill Fletcher, Jr. is a Senior Scholar at  the Institute for Policy Studies, the immediate past president of TransAfrica Forum, and the co-author of Solidarity Divided. He can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .