Saturday, August 26, 2006

Is Palparan the Modern-day Col. Valeriano?

The killings of political activists have been going on for several years now and the death toll has been estimated to run into the hundreds. General Jovito Palparan has been accused by Bayan Muna Congressman Satur Ocampo of masterminding the systematic slaughter of left-leaning political activists all over the country. Palparan, of course, denies the accusations and claims that the slain activists were either killed by the NPA or were in fact NPA rebels themselves. Filipinos in general are apathetic and some say already “de-sensitized” by these political killings. And not so many people today know it but the assassinations of leftist activists today have its parallel in the Huk rebel killings perpetuated by the so-called “Nenita Death Squads” of CIA spook Edward Landsdale and PC Colonel Napoleon Valeriano during the 1950s.

Colonel Valeriano and Edward Landsdale both were interesting characters. Valeriano was a distinguished World War II veteran who managed to escape from a Japanese internment camp and hook up with General MacArthur’s forces in Australia while Landsdale was a noted PR/advertising executive in Wall Street before joining the OSS/CIA. He is said to be Graham Greene’s inspiration for his 1955 novel “The Quiet American” and the model for the 1958 novel “Ugly American” by William Lederer and Eugene Burdick. After the Second World War, the two found themselves working together to defeat the Hukbalahap ("Huk") rebellion in the Philippines. Landsdale was then the resident CIA spook in Manila while Valeriano was a promising, young colonel in the Philippine Constabulary. Under the auspices of JUSMAG (Joint U.S. Military Advisory Group), Landsdale created the “Nenita Death Squads” and named Valeriano as his chief "enforcer."

Landsdale practically invented the term “psychological warfare” (psywar) which today has become a necessary component of guerilla and counter-insurgency warfare. And long before the word “salvage” earned its sinister meaning in the Filipino-English lexicon, the Landsdale-Valeriano death squads were already salvaging selected communist cadres in Central Luzon as part of their psywar tactics. And their death squads did not simply kill communist peasants; their murders where imaginatively calculated to sow terror in the hearts of people and demoralize the ranks of Huk rebels. For example, they would play upon the “aswang” myth by snatching a communist rebel at night and draining his body of blood and putting "bite marks" on his neck. The following day, barrio folk would find the body by the roadside and talk would naturally circulate among superstitious people of "aswangs" victimizing people in their town. These “calibrated killings” perpetuated by the Nenita Death Squads were so effective in terrorizing the people and demoralizing the ranks of the communist rebels that then-Defense Secretary Ramon Magsaysay was able to neutralize the Huk-led insurgency in a short period. This “assassination-for-effect” of selected communist rebels and their symphatizers was the first element of the two-pronged strategy of the Magsaysay-Landsdale-Valeriano triumvate designed to defeat the nationalists/communists in a few years.

“The other prong was image-building. The CIA was determined to ensure that the 1951 elections would not be a repeat of 1949, which had been widely seen as a complete travesty of the democratic process. This led to the importing of an early version of a professional spin-doctor in the person of a New York lawyer and PR man named Gabe Kaplan. Under the cover of such CIA fronts as the Asia Foundation, and aided by a team of young Filipino CIA recruits, Kaplan went around the nation’s Rotary Clubs preaching the absolute necessity for free and fair elections. Like Landsdale, he was a character straight out of a novel: a likely model for one of those Sixties’ Ross Thomas heroes like Clinton Shartelle in The Seersucker Whipsaw who were always being sent off by ‘Langley’ to some steamy country to ‘pull a shitty’ in the presidential election. (Thomas had served in the Philippines during the war and retained a keen interest in the country, as his later novel Out on the Rim showed.) Certainly Kaplan was good at his job, and with the middle-class support he was building up all over the Philippines Landsdale and the CIA set up NAMFREL (National Movement for Free Elections), the organization that was to play sich a vital role in the snap election of 1986 and the ousting of the Marcoses. Colonel Valeriano himself was in command of one of the NAMFREL detachments sent to watch the polling in 1951. The outcome was, as intended, a masterpiece of democratic fair play and was prominently billed as such by the US press. The whole election with its appearance of scrupulousness had the equally calculated effect of winning over people of centrist and middle-class politics who had recently been wavering leftwards in sympathy for the Huks and peasants on the receiving end of Nenita tactics.

By 1953 the CIA-Magsaysay alliance was such that the outcome of the November presidential election was guaranteed. The Magsaysay-for-President Movement had been bolstered by the traditional official US blessing of laudatory artcles in Time, Collier’s Magazine and Reader’s Digest about the one man who could maintain American-style democracy in the Philippines. Raul Manglapus (who went on to become Magsaysay’s foreign secretary and, more than three decades later, Cory Aquino’s too) composed a hugely popular ‘Magsaysay Mambo’ to whose catchy beat voters might dance to the polls. The CIA meanwhile had a fallback position in case Quirino’s Liberals resorted to their 1949 tactics of murder and mayhem. They arranged for military compounds and radio stations throughout the country to be occupied by teams of Landsdale’s Filipinos. In addition, a few days before polling began some US destroyers and a small aircraft carrier casually hove up over the horizon and dropped anchor in Manila Bay as a reminder of what might happen unless things went the way Landsdale had organized. It was pure Ross Thomas. Magsaysay won in a landslide.”
(“America’s Boy: The Marcoses of the Philippines” by James Hamilton-Paterson, pages 176-178)

After his successful anti-insurgency campaign in the Philippines, Landsdale returned to America a hero within U.S. intelligence circles and “psywar” became all the rage in Washington D.C. He was later assigned by CIA headquarters to Vietnam and Cuba, which were also beleaguered by insurgents at that time. Using the successful Philippine counterinsurgency campaign as his template, Landsdale proceeded to form death squads to selectively neutralize insurgent leaders while at the same time propping up the image of their local allies through PR and media projection. It is noteworthy to mention that in all his subsequent postings, Landsdale brought with him his trusted Filipino sidekick, Colonel Napoleon Valeriano. Valeriano became the “Luca Brasi” to Landsdale’s “Vito Corleone” and there was a “division of labor” between the two: Landsdale concentrated more on the “glamorous” job of generating support from political leaders and ensuring favorable media coverage while Valeriano carried out the more “nasty” aspects of the mission. In fact, it was Valeriano who trained the group of émigrés who invaded Cuba in what is now known as the “Bay of Pigs” disaster. Who knows what else Valeriano had done for the CIA during his stint there.

To know more about man and the mind of Colonel Valeriano, please read his speech at the Counter-Guerrilla Seminar held in Fort Bragg last 15 June 1961 where he details how the Philippine Constabulary, aided by the Scout Rangers, defeated the Huk insurgency in Central Luzon.

Noting my love for history books, my late boss Senator Raul Roco (who was a wide reader) once told me that: “If you read history long enough, you will find out that everything that is happening today has happened in the past.” And who was it who said: “a people who do not know their history is doomed to repeat the mistakes of the past?”

9 comments:

Anonymous said...

Or people who know their history is bound to repeat for it's glorious past and even though mistake were made along the way.

Anonymous said...

Meaning; murdering people to achieve an end??

Iloilo City Boy said...

Not only that (using murder as an instrument of government policy) but how the whole system works.. how people like GMA always seem to win and decent people like Roco lose or how criminals here never get punished. If our people know their history, they should be rioting in the streets by now (like in the U.S., may binugbog lang na egoy nag riot na sila dun so their police now are more conscious of human rights). But they don't, so we are doomed to repeat the past.

Am said...

Thank you Iloilo City Boy for your historical and enlightening research! This gives much understanding to the present political killings. I am happy that there are those who remain intellectaully pathetic to this inhuman situation in our country. Unless a friend, relative, family member is "salvaged" by these aswangs, many Filipinos remains a-pathetic.

Let us always be vigilant be in our neighborhoods and come forward together to defend life physicall when it is immediately required in situations or - in the courts! Keep going!

Anonymous said...

Filipinos have short memory but this is not unique only to Filipinos it's also a natural occurence in other countries, even in the U.S.. We also have to remember that during those times people are deviod of such critical information.Let us also not forget that people had risen up before to a tyrant.We are better off today because the media is free and is not afraid to present the truth.However the people had not reached to a point of revolting.It took two decades for them to oust Marcos.We have shown improvement in our response time when we ousted Estrada.Arroyo and her court are just clever enough to outwit their opponents.We did not have a united opposition this time.They don't have a leader for which the people can look upon.The situation probably would be different if Fernando Poe was still alive when the crisis broke out.Decent people can win of course, Rocco managed to reach the Senate, he simply didn't have the capacity to win a Presidential race, He knew this from the beggining, yet he galantly fought to become president.No disrespect to him, I think he's great but he could have planned other things to help the country, He didn't engaged himself on issues that would propel his popularity to a broad range of voters.He had limited himself to intellectual and youth votes.He could have established some alliances when he was still senator in order to broaden his base.Winning an election is not just sticking to your guns, you can use other peoples' guns too.Noli de Castro whom I believe has the advantage to become the next president over other aspirants.I say this, because he's making some moves which are suttle but crucial in the coming Presidential election.He is using the power and resources of his office to beef up his stature.He may be tainted for Supporting Arroyo but he's not that so dirty after all.Right now he's making all the right moves and no aspirants come close to him,if he will become President he may be a good one or still the same so-so but at least he'd proven that he can game the system.This is what was lacking with Rocco he did not game the system.Nobody will become president just on the merit of decency alone.Anyway, people don't look at you as decent as you would want them to be if you're elected already.People always think that you will do or you have done something not so decent.In politics in order to win you have to make compromises and not be an idealist.How good are these ideas and intentions if you cannot convert them into tangible results?, you can only do this goodwill with such great effectivity if you hold the reign of an elective office.

vic said...

Sometimes one can do more good to his country without attaining any high elective political position, especially that of the top one. We always equate ones accomplishments and how he or she made it in the political field. There were times that talents and intellegence were wasted because somebody has to wait to get there before doing something.

Such is not the case of Tommy Douglas. A church minister (pastor) turned
Socialist Politician, he was sucessfull in Local politics, but being a socialist he had no chance of getting to the Federal scene. But that didn't discourage Mr. Douglas at all. He has a vision for Canada and he was determined to turn that into reality, whether as a pastor, a father or a politician. And everyone saw that vision in him. Appointed by the Government of the Day, to lead a commission to study and recommend a Health Care system for the country, he came up with a Universal Health Care system; a sytem that accessible to all citizens equally irregardless of their stature in life. That may overshadowed the many other of his accomplishments, but that alone stand and deserving him named the Greatest Canadian of all Time by Canadians themselves.

Tommy Douglas is the Grandfather of Keifer Sutherland, a son of dauther Shirley Douglas and Donald Sutherland.

for some of T.C. Douglas quote check this site;

http://www.tommydouglas.ca/tommy/quotations

Anonymous said...

luca brazzi was a thug and a gangster in the godfather movie. he was loyal to vito corleone, who was also gangster and head of one of the 5 families in new york. how can you compare valeriano and lansdale with those two? let me tell you something oliver, valeriano was recommended for the silver star DURING WW2 for his actions against the japs which went above and beyond the call of duty. valeriano came from a long and distinguished line of warriors, who like his father, was an academy grad but unlike his father, was not sold to the idea of conventional warfare, which later on proved to be effective in the huk campaign. this was the late 30's, well before he met lansdale. contrary to your semi-plagerized article, valeriano was already psywar capable and commanded his unit without lansdale's direction. lansdale provided the logistics and had other things to worry about than run a ground operation. besides, he did not have the training nor the skills for it, he was a salesman by trade and was later on recruited by the oss. lansdale dealt with the top brass and the rich and famous. lansdale and valeriano coordinated regularly but valeriano ran the ops. also, valeriano moved to the US in the late fifties due to personal reasons, something which made the headlines back then. lansdale had nothing to do with it. valeriano was sought out by the eisenhower american administration because of his excellent combat record which to this day has not been broken. eisenhower knew valeriano's father as well. have you met valeriano? lansdale? their widows? families? what about the nenita boys? nenita herself?? have you ever served in the armed forces? law enforcement? you need to do your homework boy !! do not compare these men who donned the uniform for most of their adult lives to fictional thugs whose sole mission has nothing to do with national security nor the destiny of the free world. i recommend you seek enlightenment from people who lived during that era and know valeriano personally. if you read his report in 1961 which is in your pathetic attempt to be called a writer or wannabe journalist, then maybe you would have some idea as to how this man operated given the situation he had to contend with. valeriano engaged battle hardened huks who were better equipped and knew the terrain better than his men. at the end of the day, after the dust settled, he beat them in their own game. that was the kind of warrior he was. i'm sure palparan is faced with similar issues but it would be GROSSLY UNFAIR unfair to pass judgement, accuse him of crimes or compare him with another officer. you have no idea what war is like and reading your bovine scathology article, i seriously doubt you ever will. i recommend you stay in iloilo where your sorry visayan ass is safe. i worry about the family you will raise, i hope you are an excellent pr man or something, because you have no future as a journalist, historian or anything of the sort.

Anonymous said...

After reading this article, it is easy to see that Landsdale had all the resources and no doubt assembled the team to kill Kennedy, it is too bad more americans don't know he was behind it, by design I guess,what a shame, Landsdale was a genius, all to waste...

Peter McGuire said...

After reading this article, it is easy to see that Landsdale had all the resources and no doubt assembled the team to kill Kennedy, it is too bad more americans don't know he was behind it, by design I guess,what a shame, Landsdale was a genius, all to waste...