A Landscape of Death

By: Reyshimar Arguelles

What have our farmers done to deserve such a brutal fate? Just last week, 14 farmers were killed in separate anti-crime operations conducted in three different places in Negros Oriental. This has been the bloodiest attack on farmers ever since nine sugarcane workers were gunned down in Sagay City, Negros Occidental last year. Has Negros Island become the most dangerous place to wield plows or scythes and live off the fruits of the earth?

Like any other similar event in the past, the government insisted that the operations were legal and that the authorities conducting them were following standard procedures. Of course, it’s a claim as vague as saying you’re the most honest person in hell. Taking into account the testimonies of several witnesses, we can already smell a whiff of BS coming from the leadership that sanctioned the operations.

Clearly, the “nanlaban” narrative has completely worn itself out, stripped of any real meaning and purpose except, of course, the fact that it affirms the state’s penchant for repression. It comes naturally to a machine that’s concerned only with its own survival and relevance, feeding off of its nagging paranoia rather than a more thorough understanding of the immense authority it harnesses.

Surely, there’s no better way for the state to keep everyone in line than through the use of violence. The 20th-century French philosopher Louis Althusser saw it as a regulating force in tandem with ideology. Both are essential to maintaining what Althusser described as a “superstructure.”

The ideological means are supplied through education and interaction with the norms, customs, and values that are transmitted through a culture defined and maintained by the state. The repressive means of control, on the other hand, depend on violence (physical and non-physical) to enforce its ideals and vision for the kind of society it’s building. The state does so through the courts, the police, and the armed forces. Anything it sees as inimical to the nation’s “way of life” should be treated with utmost disgust, which justifies the use of unjust means to weed out opponents or anyone woke enough to pinpoint what’s inherently wrong about the system itself.

Surely, the kind of utopia a fascist government envisions is not one that’s for the people. Instead, it’s a society that only serves the concept of Power. From there, all other concepts become mere functional by-products of a system that needs to exact fear, violence, and outright bullying for its self-validation. The concepts of national security and “keeping the peace” are reduced into mere excuses for the state to maintain the way things are. And no doubt, capital and the state have used the vestiges of peace and order to keep things within the parameters of Power.

This recent foray into violence blessed by the state is no different than the massacres that have happened since the fall of the Marcos regime. The Mendiola and Hacienda Luisita massacres and the killings in Kidapawan three years ago only prove the fact that we don’t need dictators in order to dominate people, especially those communities that hold little influence to prevent themselves from being targets of so-called “anti-crime” operations and direct violence by the state. Former President BS Aquino III, while he was deputy House speaker, even rewarded those involved in the massacre in his family’s lot to top-level positions in his administration,

The reactions of the Duterte administration isn’t too far off from doing the same vulgar move as it’s poised to defend the policemen in the killing of the NegOr 14. Interior Secretary Eduardo Año continues to deny any hint of whitewashing and insist on the murky defense that the members of the Special Action Force were just doing their jobs. As proof, authorities presented the stash of arms they recovered from the victims.

That could only be believable when they could do the same to drug lords. Then again, there’s nothing we could do if said drug lords have links with the government’s top brass. Let the machine of repression do what it can.