Method in its madness

By Luis V. Teodoro

Despite the bluster of President Rodrigo Duterte and his equally loud lieutenants, yes-men and accomplices in the Cabinet, the House of Representatives, the Senate, and the Supreme Court, his regime is in reality completely without anything that even approximates a rational and coherent platform of governance. It is making things up as it goes along, and patching together ad hoc attempts to make it seem as if it were addressing the urgent problems that haunt the nation, most of which are of its own making.

But there is some method in this seeming madness. Devising the right solutions to the country’s problems is not only beyond the regime’s capacity; it is also the last of its priorities. What it craves most is absolute power and political dominance, to achieve which it uses the most absurd and politically self-damaging means to silence and suppress its critics as well as anyone else opposed to — among its legions of offenses against this portion of humanity — its lawlessness and contempt for human rights, and the terrible cost in lives of its savage “war” on drugs.

To achieve that dominance it has demonized and threatened the independent press, and elevated as policy the use of coercion against dissenters including the manufacture of various forms of deception to imprison its perceived enemies.

Both are failing, however, and have become counterproductive. The threats on the press are uniting much of the media community behind the imperative of defending its constitutionally-protected freedom as well as free expression. Its latest attempt to jail another political opponent, Senator Antonio Trillanes IV, has instead enhanced Trillanes’ status as a leader of the political opposition by keeping him in the media limelight and providing him a forum from which to address the public and condemn the many failings of the regime that’s persecuting him.

In obvious recognition of how much its mindless attack on Trillanes has earned him near-unprecedented media mileage, the regime launched a media campaign that began with that misnamed September 11 “tête-à-tête” between Mr. Duterte and his legal counsel. In the public mind that event seemed so much like a conversation solely between Mr. Duterte and himself that few took seriously even his claim that there was a conspiracy afoot to oust him from power.

Its obvious and desperate attempts to preserve and enhance what it mistakenly believes should be permanent citizen approval of anything and everything it says or does, and its egregious failure to even begin to address the problems its own lack of vision and ineptitude created, have led some observers to conclude that it’s only a matter of time before the regime collapses from the dead-weight of its own blunders and ineptitude.

There is indeed that inviting possibility. But it would be a mistake to underestimate the regime capacity to inflict irreparable harm on this country and its people before it finally goes. For if at all it has any semblance of a plan, it is to transform the Duterte dynasty from a petty rural tyranny to a national dictatorship — a process that thanks to the perverse character of Philippine elections as a media and popularity contest began in 2016, when the electorate catapulted a provincial despot to national office. Only by putting the entire country under authoritarian rule can it protect and preserve the dynasty’s long-term interests.

A third of the Philippines is still under martial law 32 years after the fall of the Marcos terror regime in 1986, and despite the lessons from that dark period that every Filipino should have learned by now.

Because Mindanao is the laboratory in which the regime is testing the feasibility of placing the entire Philippines under one-man rule, martial law has twice been extended by a Congress and Supreme Court dominated by landlords, their hirelings, and by bureaucrats with neither a sense of history nor concern for the rights and liberties of the people. It is likely to be extended for the third time on the argument that it is needed to check the violence it has failed to prevent — and of which its military and police implementors are often the perpetrators.

As distressing as this may be, what is even more abhorrent is the growth of the myth that the Marcos version of martial law ushered in some kind of Golden Age in the troubled history of this Republic. There is also the growing popularity of the dangerous notion that the nationwide imposition of martial rule is a legitimate government option, and its acceptance by regime partisans as a supposed means of ending criminality and the drug problem that Duterte the candidate promised in 2016.

The by now conventional view is that these delusions are among the consequences of the failure of those who lived through the terrors of the Marcos dictatorship to pass on to succeeding generations what authoritarian rule meant to the hundreds of thousands who were its victims as well as its immediate and long-term impact on the present and future of this country and its people.

There is much that is true in that explanation. But those falsehoods are also the results of a campaign in which the Marcos, Arroyo and kindred dynasties are not only willing collaborators but also the driving forces, to prettify fascist rule and pass it off as the only means of bringing about the changes that have eluded the Filipino people for centuries.

This is the context in which the current President of the Philippines has been making his frequent promises to resign. Is the goal — and Mr. Duterte has hardly tried to conceal it — for him to relinquish the Presidency once Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos, Jr. is declared by the Supreme Court, while sitting as the Presidential Electoral Tribunal (PET), Vice President in place of Maria Leonor “Leni” Robredo?

If this is indeed the plan, Marcos, Jr. would be interim President until 2022, from the commanding heights of which he could then complete Mr. Duterte’s march to despotism, thus clearing his daughter Sara Duterte-Carpio’s path to the Presidency.

The catch in this seemingly clever scheme is that the Marcoses’ agenda is entirely different from that of the Dutertes. Marcos, Jr. as well as his mother Imelda, his sisters, and the rest of the Romualdez and Marcos clans have made it abundantly clear that they want “Bongbong” to be President to complete their return to the pinnacles of power, from where they can foist upon the people their version of what happened during the 21-year rule of their late patriarch.

Therein lies the fatal flaw in this conspiracy against the country, the Constitution and the Filipino people. There is every likelihood that as in times past, the alliances of convenience forged among the ruling cliques in this vale of uncertainty will come apart under the pressure of their unremitting greed for pelf and power.

Their differences can find expression in the armed confrontations and assassinations that still characterize much of local politics, and which have numerous times spilled into the national arena. The ensuing violence would then be part of the already bloody legacy the Duterte regime will leave behind once it passes into history.

(First published in BusinessWorld. Photo from PCOO)

On Duterte’s capibility for malicious mischief and social disaster

By Prof. Jose Ma. Sison

Duterte may be seriously sick physically and mentally. But he can still walk and give orders to his minions. While still alive, he is capable of doing a lot of malicious mischief and inflicting social disaster on the Filipino people.

For instance, he has created a caretaker committee headed by Inday Sara to rule the country, instead of letting his constitutional successor serve as caretaker, while he is out on one more expensive tour cum medical treatment in Israel.

He and his co-conspirators are still hell-bent on carrying out a discernibly four-stage plot of establishing a fascist dictatorship ala Marcos and imposing it on the people. Duterte himself has on various occasions volubly indicated these four stages:

Stage 1. Proclamation of martial law nationwide as a result of supposed bombing incidents ascribed to the Islamic State and NPA tactical offensives.

Stage 2. Duterte´s “revolutionary government,” which is actually a counter-revolutionary coup against the 1987 Constitution under the pretext of a counter-coup against an imaginary or real US CIA coup in favor of the opposition.

Stage 3. Due to stages 1 and 2 above, effective control of the results of the May 2019 elections to ensure charter change through the needed majority in both houses of Congress.

Stage 4. Charter change to federalism as façade for fascist dictatorship.

Duterte and his co-conspirators are clever and brutal enough to plot and carry out their evil plan. But time and circumstances are against them. Below are some of the major factors against them:

1. The rise and spread of the broad united front and mass movement against the Duterte tyranny, especially its practice of mass murder, corruption and rapid deterioration of the economy,

2, The growing bankruptcy of the reactionary government, the widening budgetary and trade deficits, the mounting tax burden and the soaring prices of basic goods and services, and

3. The effective resistance of the armed revolutionary movement based in the countryside.#

Philippine TRAIN wreck

By Luis V. Teodoro

Living in the Philippines has always been challenging and difficult for many Filipinos. But never since the Marcos dictatorship has it been more dangerous than today for Lumad, dissenters, women, human rights defenders and the poor.

In response to life’s daily perils, some 20 percent of the population — or roughly 20 million men and women of the over 100 million residents of these isles of uncertainty — want to leave. These numbers are in addition to the nearly 11 million Filipinos scattered all over the globe from Angola to Zanzibar, of whom 47 percent are permanent immigrants, and 43 percent Overseas FilipinoWorkers (OFWs), according to data from the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (POEA).

But it isn’t just construction workers, seamen, nannies, and domestics who’re heading for the nearest airport — and who were most likely among the thousands whose flights were canceled or delayed because of the 38-hour shutdown of the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) last weekend.

Engineers, doctors, nurses, teachers, even lawyers and other professionals are also among them. In the mid-1980s, the surge in the number of Filipinos leaving for alien shores alarmed those who saw in the exodus the irreparable loss not only of the brains but also of the brawn that are both crucial to the country’s development.

In the 1990s, the alarm turned into condemnation of those abandoning the country of their birth, accusing them of being unpatriotic and of being solely focused on earning as much as they could.

The critics ignored the fact that for many OFWs, working in another country had become, and still is, a matter of survival, there being hardly any job opportunities at home that would assure them and their families lives of dignity in a society that over the decades has become more and more impoverished.

As for professionals, some do leave in search of relative luxury abroad. But others are also in search of the certainty, order and predictability of life that are absent in the Philippines, which in their minds would assure their children brighter futures. The meritocracy that governs the professions and trades in developed countries — the system based on the principle that what you know rather than who you know should decide personal advancement — is also among the lures of emigration. Filipinos generally excel in other climes, thereby proving that it is the system they’re born into that hinders both their advancement and the realization of their potentials.

The long and the short of it is the common conviction that being elsewhere is preferable to being here. “Here” is the Philippines, where, despite its having been under fascist rule from 1972 to 1986 and being once again under a despotic regime, the trains still don’t run on time. (The trains’ supposedly being on time, the fascist government of Italy’s Benito Mussolini claimed during World War II, was symbolic of the efficiency of the dictatorship.)

The Philippines is instead rapidly turning into a total disaster, a metaphorical train wreck whose brutal reality is pushing even more and more Filipinos into leaving for whatever country will accept them as workers or immigrants — or at least enable them to evade being deported as undocumented aliens.

TRAIN, the Tax Reform Acceleration and Inclusion law and the unprecedented surge of inflation in its wake that has almost literally made prime commodities worth their weight in gold, are not the only components of that wreck. Above it all is the gross inefficiency, incompetence, corruption, violence, and sheer madness that’s endemic in what passes for governance today.

The monopoly of a handful of families since Commonwealth days, political power has been used to keep those few in pelf and privilege in the seven decades since their United States patron recognized Philippine independence in 1946. Every administration since then has been run by the dynasties earlier “trained in self- government” by the US colonial regime and later nurtured and protected by their US patrons. Every one of them has been committed to keeping the country the way it has always been for over a century: a backward agricultural country and a US economic, political, cultural and military dependency.

Rather than address the poverty and its attendant ills rooted in the semi-feudal and semi-colonial character of Philippine society, they use and have always used State violence and repression against the movements, individuals and groups that have tried to work for the changes that have eluded this country and its people for centuries. The rebellions, uprisings and revolutionary wars that have haunted Philippine society for over 300 years are the consequences of both the reality of poverty and injustice as well as of the repression the ruling cliques — whether Spanish, American or Filipino — have used in response to the demand for the democratization of political power.

Since its collapse, the Marcos terror regime (1965-1986) had seemed the worst expression of the dynasts’ limitless appetite for power and plunder. But at least two of its successor regimes have come close to challenging that dictatorship’s dubious distinction.

The Macapagal-Arroyo regime (2001-2010) tried, but despite its sordid human rights and scandal-ridden record, didn’t quite make it as a Marcos regime clone during the near-decade it was in power. Instead, it is the current regime that in the brief span of twenty-five months is well on the way to becoming a worse version of the Marcos kleptocracy.

Not only has his regime amassed a record of human rights violations way above that of Ferdinand Marcos’ 19-year occupancy of Malacanang. President Rodrigo Duterte is also presiding over the complete return to power of the Marcoses via the siblings “Imee” and “Bongbong” and their unrepentant kin and cronies. In patent violation of the Constitution, Mr. Duterte has gone as far as to express his preference for the latter rather than for Vice President Maria Leonor “Leni” Robredo to succeed him should he resign, and to even invite a military junta to seize State power to prevent a Constitutional succession.

But it’s far from surprising. The regime’s lawlessness and contempt for the Constitution are by now close to the stuff of legend. The Duterte police force, acting above the law and with total impunity, has slaughtered thousands including women and children in the course of the selective “war” on illegal drugs, and arrested and detained thousands more for such “offenses” as loitering, some of whom have been killed while in custody.

Should he survive the remaining four years of his term, Mr. Duterte is likely to be prosecuted before the International Criminal Court (ICC) for crimes against humanity. But before the advent of that moment of historical retribution, the regime war against the poor and the future is continuing to ravage entire communities.

The debasement of democratic discourse he has achieved through his rants, profanities, ravings and encouragement of hate speech and the use of State violence against dissenters and regime critics has made the reform of Philippine society through peaceful means impossible. Instead of the sustainable peace he promised the electorate in 2016, the country today has never been more divided and in peril of even worse conflicts since Ferdinand Marcos erected a dictatorship on the ruins of the Republic.

Only the willfully blind, the intellectually dishonest, and the mercenary will mistake for progress the ruin of Philippine society Mr. Duterte and company have completed. More and more Filipinos are thus leaving for foreign lands, compelled by need and concern for the future to look elsewhere in this planet for a refuge from the terrors of the man-made disaster the country has become.

First published in BusinessWorld. Photo from PCOO.

The ignorance that kills

By Luis V. Teodoro

Within months of his coming to power in 2016, President Rodrigo Duterte’s profanities, tirades, threats, outrageous remarks about women, human rights, heads of foreign states, and what he was actually doing, had called the attention of international media — in Japan, the United States and Europe — to what was happening in the Philippines.

As early as his first 100 days in office, and as the number of extrajudicial killings of suspected drug users and pushers including women and children from the poorest communities escalated, they called him “serial killer,” “the punisher,” and a human rights violator indictable before the International Criminal Court (ICC) for crimes against humanity. In his second year in power they called him a “populist dictator” and a tyrant (“strongman”) in the same company as Turkey’s Recep Tayyip Edrogan and Russia’s Vladimir Putin.

In almost every case, however, the journalists who were mostly reporting on the human rights crisis in the Philippines reminded readers that Mr. Duterte was “democratically-elected.” Some also pointed out that the 16 million votes he amassed in a field of five candidates for president (Manuel Roxas II, Miriam Defensor Santiago, Grace Poe, Jejomar Binay and Duterte), although less than 40 percent of the total votes cast, was practically a landslide.

Both why he won, despite his admitted links to the Davao Death Squad and his threat to kill 100,000 during the anti-illegal drug campaign he vowed to launch once in power, and his continuing popularity despite the police bloodbath he encouraged, were among the questions they tried to answer.

Among the answers they proffered, based on their interviews with Filipino sources and their own analysis, was that the voters were weary of the corruption and inefficiency of past administrations, and that the tough-talking Duterte appealed to the millions of Filipino poor who have long wanted change, particularly an end to the criminality that haunts both city and countryside, and who saw no other way to achieve it except by killing criminals without recourse to legal niceties.

To this day, 70 percent of adult Filipinos think that the “war” on drugs is Mr. Duterte’s crowning achievement despite its horrific cost in lives and its enshrinement of the use of State violence as the first and at times the only “solution” to the country’s problems. Although it has always been every regime’s weapon of choice against critics, protesters, human rights defenders, political and social activists, environmentalists, indigenous peoples defending their right to their ancestral domain, and anyone else committed to the democratization of Philippine governance and society, killing as State policy has never been as openly endorsed by any president and as widely supported by his partisans than today.

Both its adoption as State policy and the support for it are premised on the assumption that crime, the drug problem included, can be eliminated by simply doing away with suspected wrong doers. That those killed in anti-drug police operations were denied their right to due process and a fair trial has been dismissed so often and so loudly on the argument that they’re necessary it has endowed lawless violence with a cloak of legitimacy. The policy ignores the social and economic roots of criminal behavior, the persistence of the culture of impunity which too often penalizes the innocent and absolves the guilty, and in many cases, the demonstration effect of the wealthy and well-connected’s literally getting away with murder that encourages gangsterism and criminality.

Together with the promotion of killing as State policy, however, is mass indifference to, and even support for, the return of dictatorship, which Mr. Duterte himself has proposed as the quick-fix solution to the country’s complex problems.

No one can blame the foreign press and other observers for being deeply surprised at the seemingly wide support for the dictatorship option. After all, did not Filipinos overthrow the Marcos terror regime only 32 years ago? Didn’t that regime imprison 100,000 men and women and kill over 3,000 of the Filipino people’s best and brightest sons and daughters? Didn’t it bloat the foreign debt from less than a billion US dollars to 30 billion? Didn’t it so empower the military it made civilian supremacy over the country’s security forces a joke?

Filipinos did oust Marcos in 1986 — and the Marcos dictatorship did all that, and worse. But many Filipinos today think that the period from 1973 to 1986 was some sort of golden age.

Their ignorance of that time proceeds from a number of causes, among them the failure of the administrations after that of Marcos’ to make sure that succeeding generations will understand what really happened. The creation of a truth commission in the manner of similar bodies in South Africa after apartheid, or in Chile after the collapse of the Pinochet dictatorship, was ever contemplated by the fragile, coup-threatened Corazon Aquino administration. The administrations that succeeded hers were focused on remaining in power, hardly cared about the threat of dictatorship, and were in fact more than willing to welcome the Marcoses back after Ferdinand Marcos’ death in 1989.

The Marcoses’ return to power — in fact the possibility today that Ferdinand Marcos Jr. could be actually be president — is as difficult for foreign observers to fathom as many Filipinos’ support for a despotic president. Both are quite simply based, not solely on lack of information, but also on false information.

But that false and misleading information has become deeply rooted in the minds of many Filipinos isn’t due only to the failure of the generation that lived through the dictatorship to impart its lessons to the next. It’s also because of the unwillingness of the dynasties in control of the Philippine State to break from that sordid past, they being one and the same in economic and political interests as the Marcoses and their cronies, many of whom are back in power in both the national and local governments. Mr. Duterte’s pro-Marcos idolatry and declared preference for martial law and dictatorship have also contributed to his partisans’ clueless support for the Marcoses and for the return of authoritarian rule.

Quite openly and often accompanied by threats of physical harm against those who disagree with them, however, the apostles of “strong government” justify murder as a State prerogative in combatting crime, in the process intensifying the country’s descent into chaos and even worse violence.

Because support for what amounts to fascist rule is based on ignorance — of history, human rights, and democratic ideals — what is clearly needed is a campaign to educate the vast majority on such issues as what happened during the Marcos dictatorship, its economic, social, political and cultural costs, and the imperative of resisting any attempt to restore a rehashed version of it. What this country needs in these times of lies, hate speech, unreason and the unprecedented use of State violence is an information revolution.

Now the unashamed advocate of that foul period in history, government is so obviously unwilling and incapable of doing it. On the media, the churches, the schools, human rights defenders and on non-governmental, sectoral and people’s organizations has therefore fallen the task of combatting the ignorance that kills, and replacing it with the understanding of issues and events that can stop the ongoing slaughter of the poor, regime critics and protesters, and halt the rise of another homegrown tyranny.

First published in BusinessWorld. Photo from PCOO.

Theater of the absurd

By Luis V. Teodoro

A television comedy director was supposed to direct it, and did hold at least one rehearsal over the weekend. But the directorial prowess of Joyce Bernal wasn’t in much evidence except in President Rodrigo Duterte’s subdued though less than forthright State of the Nation Address (SONA) this year.

Together with the protest outside the House of Representatives by some 40,000 men and women of various political persuasions united in their opposition to his regime’s policies as well as to Mr. Duterte’s own misogyny, attacks on the Church and profanities and insults against journalists, the leaders of other countries and even God Himself, what went on inside the House before he delivered his SONA and the fantasy world of the actual address itself did more to accurately describe the true state of the nation.

Mr. Duterte’s address was delivered over an hour late this year because of the overthrow, timed for his appearance before the joint session of both Houses of Congress, by the House of Representatives majority of “no-el” (no elections) proponent Pantaleon Alvarez. The honorable gentlemen of the aptly named lower house replaced him with former President, now Pampanga Representative Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo as Speaker.

The culprits responsible advanced a number of seemingly sound reasons for it, but it basically meant nothing except to themselves. A petty tyrant and consummate guardian of his imagined entitlements, wealth and power was replaced, for God knows what considerations, by just another Duterte ally accused of plunder, corruption, election fraud and gross human rights violations during her problematic, nearly decade-long occupation of Malacanang. Tweedle-dum had merely been replaced by tweedle-dee. But Arroyo, it is widely assumed, is likely to occupy some exalted post like the Presidency once a federal form of government is rammed down the people’s throats, hence her sudden rise in the esteem of her fellow conspirators.

If the split among Mr. Duterte’s allies was of no significance to the long suffering Filipino millions, so was his address as meaningless. The only bright spot in his speech was the absence of the rants, the rambling and the profanities that have characterized his other public appearances.

Mr. Duterte didn’t depart from his prepared speech either, thus sparing the nation another display of bad manners. But he nevertheless began his 48-minute SONA with a threat to continue the “war” on illegal drugs that he began when he assumed the Presidency in 2016 — and which has so far cost the lives of some 20,000 men, women and even children suspected of being either petty drug dealers or users, and widowed and orphaned thousands more in its bloody wake.

He vowed to make that “war” even more “chilling,” meaning even more murderous than ever, but in almost the same breath claimed to be concerned with human lives, unlike, he said, the critics of his anti-poor campaign against the illegal drug trade who’re concerned “only” with human rights.

That expression of “concern” for life earned him the first of the surprisingly tentative rounds of applause that he got five times in the course of his third SONA. But what both he and his partisans missed was that human rights are precisely about human lives, the right to life being a fundamental human right. He nevertheless again justified the killings for which he’s likely to be indicted by the International Criminal Court (ICC) by echoing police claims that those killed “violently resist(ed) arrest.”

Mr. Duterte dwelt on the drug issue at length, and claimed that the critics of the way it was being addressed with a number of extrajudicial killings unprecedented in the history of the Republic were merely concerned with the present while he was himself worried over “the present and the future.” Again, however, he was obviously unaware that the killing of children, minors and young men is itself an assault on hope and the future, the young being, in the words of Rizal, “the hopes of the Fatherland.”

He went on to say that neither human rights advocates nor Church leaders have protested drug-dealing and “druglordism” as loudly as they have protested the well-established misdeeds of “errant law enforcers.” Although a lawyer, Mr. Duterte can’t appreciate the fact that it is State actors such as the police, rather than human rights groups and the Church, that are charged with law enforcement, and are also required to do so in compliance with the law of which they’re supposed to be the guardians.

Mr. Duterte also defended the misleadingly named Tax Reform for Acceleration and Inclusion (TRAIN) act despite protests that it is mostly responsible for the surge in the inflation that’s adding to the already vast miseries of the Filipino poor. He claimed that the revenues, mostly from the excise taxes on fuel that have led to increases in the cost of various commodities, are necessary for sustained growth. He did not mention that despite his claims that he’s for the poor, whatever economic growth TRAIN has generated has mostly benefited only the already wealthy.

But what about China’s occupation and militarization of the Philippines’ Exclusive Economic Zone? In his other public declarations, Mr. Duterte had limited Philippine options to either capitulation to imperialist China or war with it. This time he pledged to “defend” the West Philippine Sea, which is indisputably Philippine waters, but did not specify how he intends to do so. In the meantime, China not only controls the area; it also bars Filipino fisherfolk from their traditional fishing grounds, and its coast guard even steals the catch of those who manage to elude its vessels.

He did talk about the need to end corruption and crowed about his firing and forced resignations of officials whom he admitted were mostly his friends and supporters, but failed to address the fact that many of them have been reappointed to other, even higher posts. What’s even worse is how, over the last two years, billions of pesos of the people’s taxes have been squandered by, among other offices, the Department of Tourism (DOT) and the Presidential Communications Operations Office (PCOO).

With nary a word did he mention his regime’s rush to federalism and a new Constitution despite most Filipinos’ ignorance of what federalism is, and their opposition to amending, much more changing, the 1987 Constitution. Neither did he say anything about his scuttling of the government’s peace talks with the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) right at the point when both peace panels were about to discuss the social and economic reforms that if implemented could have led to the end of the 49-year civil war.

Conclusion: Mr. Duterte’s address was long in words but short in truth and reality, and was distinguished more by what it failed to say than for what it said.

If “Theater of the Absurd” playwright Samuel Beckett were alive today, what happened last Monday, July 23, 2018 — the ludicrous jockeying for power among the alleged representatives of the people, and the SONA that might as well have been describing another dimension — would have qualified as one of his more engaging productions for the light it threw on the real state of this oh-so-unfortunate nation. Instead of Beckett, however, only Joyce Bernal, a stranger to the theater, was available. And the most she could do was keep Mr. Duterte relatively sober and almost, though not quite, presidential.

First published in Businessworld. Photo from PCOO.

Why the Duterte regime is isolated and hated by the Filipino people

By Jose Maria Sison, NDFP Chief Political Consultant
July 14, 2018

After two years of broken electoral promises, mass murder, corruption, deterioration of the economy and sell-out of Philippine sovereign rights, the Duterte regime is isolated and extremely hated by the broad masses of the Filipino people, contrary to persistent pro-Duterte propaganda churned out by the reactionary bureaucracy and the military, mercenary poll survey firms, a major part of the mass media and troll armies deployed by Duterte and his allies.

In a futile attempt to deflect attention from the socio-economic, political and moral issues against him, Duterte has engaged for several weeks in tirades against the God and related religious beliefs of Catholics and Christians. He accused the Catholic and other Christan institutions and their leaders of conspiring with the broad united front of patriotic and progressive forces that seek his ouster. The anti-God and anti-Christian rants of Duterte have served to undermine his own dwindling following and to further outrage the people and isolate him.

PCOO photo.

  1. False Promise to Solve the Problems of Illegal Drugs, Criminality and Corruption

Duterte came to power mainly on the demagogic promise of wiping out the drug problem, criminality and corruption within three to six months after assuming the presidential office. After two years in power, all these problems have become worse and more rampant. He has paid the most attention to the drug problem in order to display an iron fist by unleashing his death squads against the poor people in urban slums. The blood of drug lords at the level of governors and generals has been spared.

There has been only a Mafia-style rearrangement of the crime families. Duterte has emerged as the supreme lord and protector of the illegal drug trade, with his own close relatives like Paolo Duterte and cronies like his compadre Peter Lim, as his direct agents in their respective turfs. They have ensured that drug smuggling and nationwide distribution of illegal drugs are unabated. Peter Lim and other drug lords who face charges on the basis of evidence have been absolved recently by Duterte through his department of justice secretary Vitaliano Aguirre.

Some mayors who operate as drug lords in independent turfs and who have been slow at submitting themselves to the supreme lord and his adjutant lords have been ruthlessly murdered in their own homes or even in prison by police teams brazenly designated by Duterte. The worst phenomenon in the so-called war on drugs has been the murder of more than 23,000 alleged users and pushers of illegal drugs in urban poor communities.

The perverse logic of Duterte in calling for the extrajudicial killing of the poor suspects is to destroy the demand or market for the drugs. He openly calls on the police to list down drug suspects and surrenderers and to frame up a number of them in order to fulfill kill quotas in exchange for rewards in cash and promotions in rank. He further assures the police of impunity and, in any rare case of indictment or conviction for extrajudicial killing, presidential pardon.

Criminality has become aggravated because Duterte himself has used many police and military officers for criminal purposes and corrupted them mainly with cash rewards from his confidential and intelligence funds. He has directed them to list down alleged drug addicts and pushers, suspected petty criminals of various types, even mere loafers or loiterers who linger in the streets for relief from their cramped and humid shacks and alleged members and supporters of the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) and the New People´s Army (NPA). The lists are subsequently used by the police and military for fulfilling kill quotas and getting rewards in cash and rank promotions.

An early sign that Duterte was not serious about his promise to wipe out corruption, especially at the highest level, was his refusal to arrest and prosecute those most liable for pork barrel plunder in the previous Aquino II regime as well as his efficient push on the Supreme Court (dominated by his and Arroyo appointees) to dismiss charges of plunder against former president Gloria Arroyo and other high officials. It has come to light that the biggest Luzon-based plunderers like the Marcoses, Arroyos and Estradas have been among the biggest electoral campaign financiers and supporters of Duterte.

Duterte´s office of the president now takes the lead in corruption with most of the confidential and intelligence funds amounting to 2.5 billion pesos for 2017 going mainly to the pockets of Duterte and his military and police trustees. Corruption is also involved in the bloating of other presidential expenses for travels, communications, equipment and the like. Cabinet members like Justice secretary Vitaliano Aguirre have scandalized the public by absolving Peter Lim and other drug lords, with the obvious approval of Duterte.

Corruption is business as usual in all departments at all levels of the reactionary government. Duterte has ignored discoveries of anomalies in high offices by the Commission on Audit. The more he has ignored complaints from the public against corrupt officials. In a few token cases, he has fired his own appointees on charges of corruption but after only a few months he reappoints them to other lucrative positions. He develops personal loyalty to him through complicity in criminality and corruption.

PCOO photo.

  1. Destruction of Marawi City, Lumad and Other Rural Communities in Mindanao and Nationwide

The indiscriminate bombing and destruction of Marawi City from May 23, 2017 onwards were done to show off the arrogance and iron fist capability of the Duterte regime with the help of imperialist powers. Duterte deliberately refused to avail of the offer of the Sultan and 15 leading families of Marawi City to negotiate with the Maute and Abu Sayyaf groups and ignored their repeated plea for the AFP to stop the bombardment.

He wanted simply to demonstrate his destructive power causing the devastation of the city, the death of thousands of residents and his own military and police personnel and the forced evacuation of 400,000 to 500,00O people within and around Marawi, and the plunder of their homes by marauding soldiers. Tens of thousands of families are now being prevented from recovering their home lots and are unsure of getting compensation for the destruction of lives and property. A big number of evacuees are stranded in the cramped homes of relatives and in miserable evacuation centers.

The cost of military operations to destroy Marawi City amounted to more than three billion pesos. More than 120 billion pesos are estimated for the reconstruction and rehabilitation of the city. Billions of US dollars of foreign assistance for the same purpose are unaccounted for. Like conquerors, the military cohorts of Duterte occupy and rule the city and many areas of the entire Mindanao, with the initial 60 days of martial law extended to the end of 2018 by the Supreme Court that is obsequious to Duterte.

Priority is being given to the construction of a big military camp on ten hectares where the Marawi city hall used to be located. This is in addition to the long standing Camp Ranao. A group of Chinese companies are favored by Duterte to build commercial stores and tourist facilities. Maranaws who used to applaud whenever he claimed to be descended form a Maranaw grandmother now call him Dutiti (meaning to say, poison in the Maranaw language).

The plan to destroy Marawi City was used to justify the declaration of martial law in the entirety of Mindanao and to justify the earlier military attacks on the Lumad and Bangsamoro communities under Duterte´s all-out war policy. Earlier than the bombardment of Marawi City, Duterte had ordered the bombing, invasion and occupation of the land and structures of Lumad communities that have been forced to evacuate. As early as January 2017, the AFP started to carry out Oplan Kapayapaan which combines psywar, intelligence and combat operations.

To terrorize the people, the military and paramilitary forces of the regime and mining companies have gone on a rampage, threatening and killing community leaders, teachers and activists. The schools for Lumad children at primary, elementary and high school levels that the Lumad communities have built in cooperation with religious and nongovernmental organizations have been closed. Food blockades and the fake listing of the people as NPA fighters and supporters have been undertaken. The atrocities were committed even during periods of ceasefire in connection with the GRP-NDFP peace negotiations.

Under the pretext of fighting the people´s army, Duterte has made it his characteristic act to bomb communities or rain artillery fire on them. Then the military, police and paramilitary forces proceed to commit further atrocities and compel people to evacuate. This is the modus operandi of the regime in the entirety of Mindanao and nationwide in order to deprive the people of their land and related resources and make these more available than ever before to the mining, logging and plantation companies owned by foreign and big comprador interests.

To realize his ambition of becoming a fascist dictator that is more efficient than Marcos in intimidating and controlling the people, Duterte is already undertaking a series of actions to lay the ground for the proclamation of nationwide martial law or a state of emergency which he dubs ¨revolutionary government¨. The ongoing martial rule in Mindanao is the dress rehearsal for its nationwide application. He has unleashed a series of operational plans for implementation in urban and rural areas for the listing of alleged drug addicts, criminals, loafers and terrorists and for the arrest and extrajudicial killing of those selected from the lists.

He is set to establish a national ID system for the purpose of systematic national surveillance and random checks on people. The Human Security Act (or Anti-Terrorism Act) is being amended by the Duterte-dominated Congress to widen the definition of terrorism as to include dissent, mass protests and strikes, increase the detention period of suspects from 3 to 30 days without charges, increase the penalty for terrorism so-called from 40 years to life imprisonment and to delete the fine of 500,000 pesos per day on the erring police officer for illegal detention. The amendments are meant to realize martial law even without proclaiming it.

People are being deceived to have themselves listed up in order to clear themselves and to receive supposed benefits. But the lists serve as basis for carrying out extrajudicial killings and causing mass intimidation. These have practically created a de facto situation of martial rule on a nationwide scale. There are also increasing cases of exemplary killings and harassments of local political oppositionists, religious leaders and social activists who are tagged by the military and police as NPA supporters for standing up for national freedom, democracy, social justice and environmental protection.

PCOO photo.

  1. Repeated Terminations of the GRP-NDFP Peace Negotiations by Duterte

Duterte was never interested in pursuing sincere and serious peace negotiations with the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP). He was merely play-acting when he said he would like to make peace with the people´s revolutionary movement and become the first Left and socialist president of the Philippines. He promised to the NDFP on May 16, 2016 to amnesty and release all the political prisoners even before the start of the peace negotiations.

After assuming presidential office, he withdrew his promise to amnesty and release all political prisoners. In violation of The Hague Joint Declaration of 1992, he kept on making preconditions amounting to the surrender of the revolutionary forces and the people and the liquidation of the people´s democratic government based in the countryside. At the outset of the talks, he ordered the widespread deployment and prepositioning of its troops in at least 500 barangays (villages) nationwide.

Failing to impose his preconditions, he fabricated reasons for terminating the negotiations several times. He declared the first termination on February 4, 2017, when he complained of an alleged incident which his negotiating panel could have presented appropriately to its counterpart and to the Joint Monitoring Committee under the Comprehensive Agreement on Respect for Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law (CARHRIHL). His defense secretary Lorenzana declared all-out war against the revolutionary forces and people.

Nevertheless, Duterte agreed to the holding of the 5th round of formal talks on May 27 to June 1. But he ordered the GRP Panel and OPAPP secretary Dureza not to participate in the formal talks, unless the CPP withdrew its order calling for the further intensification of people´s war against the declaration of martial law in Mindanao. There was no ceasefire agreement and there was no way the NDFP negotiating panel could report and make recommendations to NDFP National Council and the CPP within the span of 72 hours. Duterte suspended the formal peace talks and threatened the arrest of eleven NDFP consultants upon their return to the Philippines.

He sued for a resumption of formal peace talks sometime in July 2017 but again unilaterally canceled these on July 19 when he made the brazen lie that the NPA tried to ambush his presidential convoy in Arakan, Cotabato on July 18. In fact, he was not in any of the unmarked vehicles which were fired upon because they ran through an NPA checkpoint. There was no ceasefire agreement in place. And Duterte did not get any prior permission from the CPP and NPA through the NDFP to pass through the territory of the people´s democratic government.

The second time that Duterte terminated the peace negotiation was on November 23, 2017 when he made the false claim that the NDFP was demanding a coalition government led by the CPP. He issued Proclamation No. 360 terminating the peace negotiations. This would be followed on December 5, 2017 by Proclamation No. 374 designating the CPP and NPA as ¨terrorist¨ organizations. These two proclamations are aimed at putting up permanent walls against peace negotiations.

In any event, he instructed his negotiating panel to engage its NDFP counterpart in back channel talks through their respective teams of representatives from March to June 2018 in Utrecht. Several agreements were arrived at and initialed by the two panels, especially the so-called Interim Peace Agreement (IPA), wrapping up an agreement on coordinated unilateral ceasefires, a certified copy of Duterte´s proclamation to amnesty and release all political prisoners listed by the NDFP and the sections on Agrarian Reform and Rural Development and National Industrialization and Economic Development of the Comprehensive Agreement on Social and Economic Reforms (CASER).

The IPA was scheduled to be signed by the negotiating panels at the resumption of formal talks in Oslo from June 28 to 30, 2018. But Duterte arbitrarily canceled the resumption of formal talks on June 14, when the stand down agreement to promote the peace talks was supposed to start. And he subsequently announced that he wanted to review the peace process since 1992 and scrap all agreements since then and to require the negotiations to be held in the Philippines under his control, surveillance, manipulation and duress. He simply wants to put the NDFP negotiating panel and related personnel within the range of his gun sight.

He was never interested in complying with existing agreements since 1992 and moving forward in the making of comprehensive agreements on social, economic and political reforms to address the roots of the civil war. Together with the US-directed security cluster of his cabinet, Duterte has come to the conclusion since 2016 that patriotic and progressive agreements though bourgeois democratic in character are impermissibly socialist and communist and should be blocked, even if such agreements have been co-written by the GRP and NDFP negotiating panels.

Duterte and his security cluster in the cabinet are violently opposed to the aim of the peace negotiations, which is to address the roots of the armed conflict and lay the basis for a just and lasting peace, and the mutually acceptable principles of national sovereignty, democracy and social justice, as stipulated in The Hague Joint Declaration of 1992. Duterte and his militarist cohorts aim to mount a decisive military offensive especially in Mindanao and want nothing less than the outright surrender of the revolutionary forces and the people under the pretext of a protracted and indefinite ceasefire.

Duterte has repeatedly blocked the resumption of formal talks by imposing the precondition of a joint ceasefire as an “enabling environment” to advance the negotiations. But this scheme was clearly exposed as a mere excuse to prevent the discussion of basic social reforms, particularly agrarian reform and rural development and national industrialization and economic development when the GRP thrice unilaterally and without explanation backed out at the last minute from agreements for simultaneous stand down or ceasefires immediately preceding formal talks.

In the most recent cancellation of formal talks, Duterte and his militarist cabal have resorted to the old, worn out and discredited excuse of holding public consultations and peace talks at the local level first. These were the same excuses given by the Arroyo and Aquino regimes in suspending the formal talks to avoid discussion of land reform and national industrialization, never to return to the negotiating table for the rest of their term.

But even when a temporary kind of ceasefire was supposed to be in effect as in 2016 and 2017, the military and police forces of the regime were always engaged in all-out war and in the occupation of communities and civilian structures in the rural areas. People were being coerced to have themselves listed as surrenderers supposedly to clear themselves and receive doleouts. As earlier explained, the lists serve as basis of the military for fulfilling the quota for killing people on mere suspicion of being members and supporters of the CPP and NPA.

AFP field officers are coming up with myriad ways of fabricating their lists because they are after the promised funds that are being downloaded directly from Duterte’s confidential and intelligence funds. The AFP has publicly declared that close to 8,000 members of the NPA have surrendered although it claimed in January that there are just above 3,000 NPA fighters.

Duterte´s main interest in pretending to be for peace negotiations is to end these completely and blame the CPP and NPA for the continuance of the civil war so that he can issue proclamations and orders to make a de facto martial law even before the proclamation of martial law nationwide. Right now, a de facto martial rule exists, with the use of operational plans to arrest people without judicial warrants and to kill them without any judicial process. The consuming objective of Duterte is to impose a fascist dictatorship on the people under the pretext of charter change for federalism.

Despite the fact that Duterte has terminated the peace negotiations with his Proclamation No. 360 since November 23, 2016, he and other GRP officials make it appear that the NDFP is responsible for the termination and have demanded that the peace negotiations be resumed in Manila. The revolutionary forces and the people represented by the NDFP have sharply rejected this stupid demand and have expressed their determination to fight the US-Duterte regime.

The regime is now reduced to whimpering and going back to an old discredited trick: localized peace talks. These sham peace talks are little zarsuelas staged by peace and order councils and the military who arrange “peace” meetings and present military assets either as NPA representatives or surrenderers. Even the captive audience is photographed and publicized as surrenderers in the mass media. All these childish tricks of military psywar amount to nothing in the face of the steadily growing armed revolutionary movement and the advance of the revolutionary forces and the people´s democratic government.

PCOO photo.

  1. Duterte Scheme of Fascist Dictatorship under the Cover of Chacha for Federalism

Duterte is obsessed with establishing a fascist dictatorship ala Marcos, his political idol, whose extrajudicial killings of around 3,500 over 14 years of autocratic rule he has already surpassed several times in only two years. His objective in unleashing campaigns to arrest people without judicial warrants and kill a number of them without judicial process under the pretext of eliminating suspected drug addicts, criminals, street loafers and terrorists is to terrorize the people and establish a fascist dictatorship.

These campaigns are now being directed mainly against the CPP and NPA and the leaders and mass activists of legal democratic organizations in the anti-Duterte broad united front. They are coordinated with the railroading of the charter change for federalism. The draft of the new charter from the Puno consultative committee, the resolution of both houses and the drafts of PDP-LABAN contain provisions that allow Duterte to have legislative and judicial powers in addition to executive powers during the transition period to a federal system of government. And the grounds for proclaiming martial law have been increased and eased up.

The same trick Marcos used to make a coup against the 1935 constitution is being replayed in the Duterte coup against the 1987 constitution. The supermajority of Duterte in the House of Representatives assures him of concentrating all powers of government in his hand. In a futile effort to deceive the people, he has announced that he would step down as soon as the fascist type of federal constitution would be ratified. But the people do not believe that he would give to another person what he has long craved for. Even now, he has displayed unmistakable signs of hubris from the power, privilege and resources in the hands of a head of state which are incomparably vast to that of a mayor in a remote big city.

The main beneficiaries of charter change are foreign monopoly capitalists who expect 100 percent ownership of entire enterprises in all kinds of businesses and Duterte himself and the regional dynasties and warlords who will further enjoy opportunities for accumulating power and wealth at the expense of the people. In this regard, centrifugal forces are reinforced and emboldened to break up the Philippines ultimately. The reorganization and maintenance of the federal system will entail high costs and large increases of the tax burden at federal, regional and lower levels and will aggravate the financial bankruptcy of the GRP and the social and economic crisis.

In the course of the GRP-NDFP peace negotiations in 2016 to 2017, the NDFP commented that the change of government from unitary to federal does not necessarily mean change for the better but offered to negotiate with GRP a federal constitution that is more patriotic, democratic and socially just than the 1987 constitution and can serve as the basis for the NDFP to co-found the Federal Republic of the Philippines.

Obsessed with monopolizing political power, under his fascist dictatorship, Duterte has deliberately blocked the GRP-NDFP negotiations on political and constitutional reforms. He has also claimed mendaciously that NDFP is demanding from him a coalition government led by the CPP, without the determination of the relative weights of political parties through elections. It is good that the NDFP has nothing to do but to oppose the charter change intended to install a Duterte fascist dictatorship masquerading as a federal government.

The overwhelming majority of the people are vigorously opposed to charter change to put Duterte on a throne of absolute power. They have suffered more than enough the escalation of oppression and exploitation under Duterte. The revolutionary forces and the people are determined to fight the US-Duterte regime and those who persist in supporting the tyranny of Duterte, his gross and systematic violations of human rights, his mismanagement of the economy and all his other intolerable acts in oppressing and exploiting the people.

PCOO photo.

  1. Mismanagement of the Economy, Heavier Tax Burden and Soaring Prices of Basic Goods and Services

Duterte admits that he knows nothing about economics. But he has chosen as policy makers or economic managers economists who adhere to the neoliberal policy regime, who agree with him to continue the policy pursued by the Aquino II regime and who do not comprehend the changes that have occurred in the global and domestic economy even before said regime ended.

The financial meltdown of 2008 has resulted in a prolonged global economic depression, relieved now and then by heavy doses of credit at the level of central banks, corporations and households. The majority of countries have alarming levels of public debt due to budgetary and trade deficits. Only for a while did the Philippines enjoy the big inflow of portfolio investments to buoy up the economy. But these started to flow out at an increasing rate since 2014.

The decrease of income from the export of raw materials and semi-manufactures and less inflow of foreign loans and less direct investments have exposed the underdeveloped, pre-industrial and semifeudal character of the economy and resulted in widening budgetary and trade deficits. The remittances of overseas contract workers and incomes of BPO call agents have been used by the GRP to raise the level of import-dependent consumption. The balance of payments has deteriorated. With dollar reserves declining, the peso has depreciated at the exchange rate 53.6 pesos per US dollar.

The economists of Duterte know nothing beyond the neoliberal parameters of raising tax revenues, spending these for the operations of government and funding imports, servicing the previously accumulated debt and resorting to local public borrowing, foreign loans and investments. The growth rate of the Philippine public debt has tripled since 2016 and has increased by nearly 1 trillion. As of May 2018, the national government has outstanding debt of 6.83 trillion pesos while private loans outstanding for production and household consumption reached as much as 7.28 trillion pesos. Duterte’s budget for 2019 is 3.757 trillion pesos , of which 1.2 trillion pesos need to be borrowed,

The Duterte regime has found no solution to the fall of production in agriculture and industry. It is just too happy that the GDP growth rate rises (supposedly 6.7% last year to 6.8% first quarter of this year) as a result of the growth of consumption, government spending and anti-industrialization investments. It does not care about productive investments to develop a self-reliant industrial economy. In the meantime, the number of unemployed Filipino workers leaped from 7.2 million to 10.9 million from December 2017 to March 2018. As compounded, the unemployed, underemployed and others already discouraged from seeking employment number as high as 13 million out of the labor force of 42.7 million.

The Duterte notion of development is to plunge into an eight trillion peso program of infrastructure projects up to 2022 to be sustained largely with tax revenues in collaboration mainly with Chinese construction companies and suppliers of materials and equipment. The expenditures and foreign debt required will prevent real development through national industrialization and genuine land reform as proposed by the NDFP and will continue to favor the export of cheap raw materials and the import of foreign manufactures.

Under these circumstances, the regime has planned and implemented since January the Tax Reform for Acceleration and Inclusion (TRAIN). The tax burden is increased from phase to phase, with corporations and the wealthy people given tax cuts and the broad masses of consumers paying excise taxes embedded in the inflated prices of basic goods and services they pay. TRAIN takes away anywhere from 1,000-3,000 pesos from the poorest majority Filipinos while giving 50,000–100,000 to the few richest Filipinos. It is scheduled to take even more from the poor and give more to the rich in 2019 and 2020.

The regime is raising taxes from the general mass of consumers, consisting mostly of low-income impoverished working people, swamped by a huge mass of unemployed, in a stagnant and underdeveloped semifeudal economy. The purpose is not only to fund the build, build, build infrastructure program but in fact mostly to pay for the doubled salaries of the military and police and for the rising costs of their operations and equipment, to assure foreign creditors of payment for the outstanding debt service and to cover the ever widening budgetary and trade deficits.

Even at the understated inflation rate of 5.2 per cent, the rapidly rising prices of basic goods and services have caused the accelerated isolation and hatred of the Duterte regime by the people. As a result, the broad united front for the ouster of Duterte which was first motivated by outrage over Duterte´s gross and systematic violations of human rights in his campaign of mass murder and mass intimidation is now further motivated and inflamed by a more sweeping outrage that involves the daily economic needs and survival of the overwhelming majority of the people.

Duterte has expected that he would be able to rev up the Philippine economy and employ more people by going on a spree of building a Metro Manila subway system, railways, roads, bridges, airports and seaports all over the country with the use mainly of foreign loans, construction companies, labor, materials and equipment from China. But there are delays and discordances between Philippine and Chinese counterparts. And yet Duterte´s neoliberal economists are too eager to raise the tax burden in advance in obeisance to Chinese and other foreign creditors.

Wages in the Philippines have stagnated since 2001 and are now assailed by the highest inflation rate since 2009. In view of the soaring prices of basic goods and services, the workers have been pressed by their inadequate income to demand higher wages, job security and the end of short-term contractualization. In this regard, the struggle of 8000 workers dismissed by PLDT exposes the falsity of Duterte´s promise to end contractualization. The homeless urban poor also demand affordable social housing. They have occupied idle substandard government housing but are being subjected to harassment and violent attacks by the police.

In the rural areas, the peasant masses and indigenous peoples who have lost and continue to lose land to corporate and bureaucratic land grabbers are intensifying the struggle for land and cooperate with the people´s army in dismantling the mining, logging and plantation enterprises of the land grabbers who refuse to comply with the laws of the people´s democratic government and who damage domestic food production and the environment.

Land grabbing for real estate speculation and building tourist facilities is rampant. But in one glaring instance of unbridled personal greed, Duterte has used environmental cleanup and land reform as pretext for closing down Boracay island and depriving thousands of families of jobs and livelihood in order to make way for Chinese casino owners and his cronies to take over major parts of the island.

In another conspicuous instance of extreme greed of the Duterte ruling clique is the grant of monopoly to favored bus companies at the expense of the huge mass of poor drivers and small operators of jeepneys, without giving any fair and realistic recourse for them. Adding insult to the injury, Duterte viciously made an outburst that he did not care that his victims were poor and that they would become poorer.

The widespread and intense people´s detestation of the Duterte regime due to the rapidly rising prices of basic goods and services and the steep rise of the rates of unemployment and landlessness are inflaming the struggles of the toiling masses of workers and peasants for jobs, land and better living conditions and are also fueling the mass protests against the escalation of the human rights violations and against the railroading of the charter change for federalism as pretext for a fascist dictatorship.

PCOO photo.

  1. Duterte Is Opposed to Social, Economic and Political Reforms in Peace Negotiations

Duterte has deliberately sabotaged and terminated the GRP-NDFP peace negotiations because of his ultra-reactionary adherence to the status quo under the oligarchy of big compradors, landlords and corrupt bureaucrats like himself. He is diametrically opposed to the very aim of making the comprehensive agreements on social and economic reforms and on political and constitutional reforms, which are the way to address the roots of the armed conflict and thereby lay the basis for a just and lasting peace.

He follows Lorenzana in condemning the NDFP proposed Comprehensive Agreement on Social and Economic Reforms (CASER) as socialism and the comprehensive agreement on political and constitutional reforms (CAPCR) as communist-led coalition government. He wants to retain the underdeveloped and semifeudal status of the economy and to ensure that charter change to federalism results in the the imposition of his fascist dictatorship and the regional dynasties on the people.

Duterte exposes himself as a liar in previously making pronouncements that he is for national industrialization so that Filipinos would no longer become overseas contract workers separated from their family and motherland, that he is for the end of short-term contractualization of labor, that he is for minimum wage and higher wages to ensure a decent life for workers´ families, that he is for land reform and provision of services to the peasants, that the indigenous people have the right of self-determination and are entitled to their ancestral domain, and so on and so forth.

In terminating the GRP-NDFP peace negotiations, Duterte has called for the intensification of all-out war against the revolutionary forces, the people’s army and the people this year and thereafter. He leaves them with no choice but to fight back and take the initiative to launch offensives on a nationwide scale. The CPP, NPA, all allied forces of the NDFP and the people´s democratic government have declared that they are prepared to defend themselves and intensify people’s war through extensive and intensive guerrilla warfare on the basis of an ever widening and deepening mass base.

PCOO photo.

  1. False Independent Foreign Policy in Relations with US and China

In the first six months of the Duterte regime, US President Obama and members of the US Congress were alarmed by the extrajudicial killing of thousands of alleged drug addicts and pushers by Duterte´s police death squads. They threatened to cut down US military assistance in consideration of human rights violations. Duterte was riled and threatened to veer away from the US and towards China and Russia. He also claimed to be forging an independent foreign policy.

But he cozied up to US President Trump and was assured of unlimited US military assistance under Trump´s Operation Pacific Eagle-Philippines. Since then, he has fully exposed himself as not really being for an independent foreign policy. He is in fact traitorously keeping the Philippines under the domination of both the US and China and making deals at the expense of the Filipino people and for his own benefit together with his cronies.

Since assuming presidential office, he has retained all the treaties, agreements and arrangements that make the Philippines subservient to US imperialism economically, politically, culturally and militarily and which give US military forces extraterritorial rights in the country. He has aggravated US military dominance over the Philippines by accepting Trump´s Operation Pacific Eagle-Philippines by which he can receive unlimited US military assistance through the circumvention of US congressional oversight.

He has found an additional foreign master in China, a rising imperialist power. He has laid aside the final judgment of the Arbitral Tribunal of July 12, 2016 which recognized the sovereign rights of the Philippines over its exclusive economic zone and extended continental shelf in the West Philippine Sea and over the Panatag Shoal in accordance with the UN Convention on the Law of Sea. He has made no protest to China´s militarization of the Spratlys and has practically conceded to China the trillions of dollars worth of oil, gas and other natural resources in exchange for a few billions of dollars of high-interest Chinese loans for infrastructure projects.

These projects are extremely onerous. Chinese construction firms are in control of the projects. Sixty per cent of the labor force is Chinese. The interest rate on the loans is far higher than that on Japanese concessional loans. Worse, the projects are overpriced. Construction supplies and equipment are 100 percent Chinese. In case of payment defaults, the loans are subject to more onerous terms and to conversion to Chinese equity. Thus, the infrastructure projects face the prospect of becoming Chinese property as in Sri Lanka, Pakistan and elsewhere.

PCOO photo.

  1. Growing Resentment against Duterte among Military and Police Officers and Men

When he still had cordial relations with leaders of the revolutionary movement, he told them that, as GRP president, he had to demonstrate to the AFP and PNP that he was their commander-in-chief, he would pretend to carry out an ¨all-out war¨ not really to destroy the NPA but to overstretch and wear out the military and police brigades in futile search and destroy operations and so-called peace and development operations and ultimately to favor the armed revolution with more easy targets for guerrilla offensives.

But for all intents and purposes, he is deploying the AFP and PNP in a mad drive to really suppress the armed revolution and clear the way for establishing his fascist dictatorship. Nonetheless, he is actually overstretching, overstraining and wearing out his military and police forces. Since he became president, there has been no letup in the all-out war under Oplan Bayanihan up to the end of 2016 and under Oplan Kapayapaan from early 2017 onwards.

There has been no respite for the AFP and PNP maneuver units. The bulk of these has been deployed in Mindanao, undergoing the rigors of combat in Marawi City and also enforcing martial law in the rest of Mindanao, where they have to battle with the NPA and Bangsamoro armed groups. Of Duterte´s current total of 98 AFP battalions, he has deployed about 75 percent in Mindanao—50 percent against the NPA and 25 percent against the Bangsamoro group– and only about 25 percent in Luzon and the Visayas.

With this kind of deployment, the NPA can easily fight back and take initiatives in launching offensives. The total strength of AFP and PNP combat troops cannot effectively cover and control all the more than 40,000 barangays of the Philippines and all the areas of responsibility and guerrilla fronts of the NPA. On the average, there are not even two AFP soldiers per barangay. From their guerrilla base and zones, the NPA can move freely in more than 80 per cent of the barangays.

The NPA can use the national scale of the guerrilla fronts for fluid movement and flexible use of the tactics of concentration, shifting and dispersal, depending on circumstances, and the depth of the social and physical terrain of particular guerrilla fronts to lure in the enemy forces for annihilation. At the same time, it can deliver unexpected blows to certain vital but vulnerable parts of the enemy forces.

There is growing resentment among AFP and PNP officers and lower personnel against the Duterte regime despite the doubling of their salaries. Their grievances include the following: they are being overworked and being put in harm´s way too often, the less deserving among them get promoted, they are being used for extrajudicial killings and other criminal purposes and a big number of them are being corrupted with rewards in cash for carrying out unlawful orders that violate professional standards and service rules.

There is an increasing number of active and retired AFP officers who are in touch with the popular movement to oust Duterte. They wish to develop a movement of officers and enlisted personnel to coordinate with the growing mass protest movement and withdraw support from Duterte at the decisive moment. They emulate the examples of AFP officers who withdrew support from Marcos in 1986 and Estrada in 2001 and helped effect their ouster.

PCOO photo.

  1. Duterte´s Use of Abusive and Violent Language and Attacks on Catholics and Christians

While he was campaigning for the presidency, Duterte´s use of abusive, vulgar and violent language against his political rivals and those whom he accused of being involved in illegal drugs, criminality and corruption was entertaining to audiences in mass meetings and was even praised as a manifestation of an honest and frank character.

But since becoming president, Duterte´s use of the same gutter kind of language and content in rambling speeches have become repulsive not so much because of boring repetition but because of the attempt to deflect attention from unfulfilled promises, failures and aggravation of problems.

Duterte has increasingly used abusive, vulgar and violent language to rouse hatred among his political followers against his critics and opponents, to goad the military and police to engage in violent actions against the people and to express contempt for the working class and peasantry, the national minorities, women, the youth activists and other people.

The madness of Duterte in using his kind of language is not simply because he is crazed by Fentanyl and by power or that he is a psychopath and sociopath as professionally established by a court-approved psychiatrist and officially certified in his divorce case. It is easier to understand that he is driven to gain more power and wealth and it becomes necessary for him to intimidate people and rouse his political followers and his military and police subalterns to protect him.

The extremely violent character of his regime is defined by both his language and the actual escalation of exploitation and oppression. Even as he has failed to deliver on his promises to end contractualization, raise wages, carry out land reform, create industries and more jobs, the police under his inspiration have become more brutal in suppressing worker and peasant strikes.

Even as he has failed to deliver on his promise to give land to the landless tillers and to assure the indigenous people to keep their ancestral domain and whatever schools and cooperatives that they have established, he has been extremely vicious in ordering the bombing and military occupation of rural communities in order to make more land and more resources available for exploitation by foreign and big comprador mining, logging and plantation interests.

He has directed the military and police to target the youth activists for terrorist labeling and listing for the purpose of violent actions, including abduction, torture and murder. He has displayed with utmost arrogance the worst kind of misogyny, including his call on troops to rape women or shoot them in the vagina in order to make them useless. This exposes his view of women as mere sex objects.

There is no limit to the vileness and malice of Duterte. In a futile attempt to distract attention from the socioeconomic and political problems he has generated, he has gone so far as to use his presidential authority to attack the religious belief of Catholics and Christians and generate a climate for persecution and murder even of religious leaders. As if to proclaim his own stupidity, he has boasted of his own concept of God and attacked the God of the Catholics and Christians as stupid and lacking common sense, in gross disrespect and violation of the freedom of thought and belief.

As a result of his attacks on the God of the Catholics and Christians, a great number of his followers have left his camp and have put into question his sanity and competence to rule. He has become thoroughly isolated by a combination of factors which include state terrorism, mass murder, soaring prices of basic goods and services and high unemployment rate and his gross disrespect for Catholics and Christians.

PCOO photo.

  1. Growing Movement for the Ouster of the Duterte regime

In real fear of being ousted as well as in furtherance of his scheme to establish a fascist dictatorship by scapegoating the CPP and NPA, Duterte has taunted them as incapable of ousting him and his ruling clique.

But the process of ousting a president of the neocolonial republic has been successful in the cases of Marcos in 1986 and Estrada in 2001 without the NPA having to engage in battles in Metro Manila and the CPP having to take power here.

To oust a brutal and corrupt despot it is sufficient that a broad united front of legal patriotic and progressive forces engage in mass mobilization through marches and rallies, culminating in the withdrawal of support by his own military and police personnel.

Indeed, Duterte has more to fear from his own assumed instruments of terror than from the NPA. Reports are rife that a moderate group of military officers is poised to demand the resignation of Duterte. Another group is poised to take action in order to compel the ouster or resignation of Duterte.

The most important reason why Duterte is now in danger of being ousted from power is that he has grievously offended the working class, the peasantry, the middle strata of the bourgeoisie, the national minorities, the women, the youth and others. They have become aroused, organized and mobilized to oust Duterte from his arrogant perch because of his reign of greed and terror.#

 

Destroyer of worlds

In a far from modest and less than truthful description of itself, the Philippine government, said a Malacanang statement, is “headed by someone who has strong political will, decisive leadership, and compassion for his fellow men,” hence the “fruitful” first two years of the six-year Rodrigo Duterte presidency.

How “fruitful” have the past two years of the Duterte regime been? Presidential spokesman Harry Roque said in the same statement that the government is winning the “war” on drugs, as evidenced by, he said, the number of police anti-drug operations (91,704 from July 2016 to March 2018), the arrest of 123,648 suspected drug pushers and users, the dismantling of drug dens and laboratories, and the government’s seizure of billions of pesos worth of illegal drugs and laboratory equipment. There’s also the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency’s (PDEA) declaration of over 6,000 barangay as being “drug free.”

In addition are the “economic feats” — Roque’s words — of the administration and its “independent foreign policy.” The first includes the 6.7 percent growth of the country’s gross domestic product (GRP) in 2017, while the second has “resulted in billions worth of investments that are expected to create thousands of jobs for Filipinos.”

Those “feats,” however, are not of any consequence to the imperative of ending the poverty of nearly 25 percent of Filipinos to which Mr. Duterte said he was committed. Only one percent of the population benefit from economic growth, while the remaining 99 million Filipinos don’t because of the skewed system of wealth distribution that’s one of the worst in Asia. Rooted in the archaic land tenancy system that has defied abolition for centuries, that system has kept millions desperately poor.

But Roque’s statement was nevertheless echoed by former Senate President Aquilino Pimentel III, who said — without, however, specifying anything — that Mr. Duterte has made good on all his election promises except three. Special Assistant to the President Bong Go said basically the same thing, but was similarly short on the specifics.

None of these three regime worthies mentioned Mr. Duterte’s pre-election promise to enrich funeral parlor owners by killing 100,000 drug pushers and users, which, with four more years to go in his term, he can handily fulfill, 20,000 mostly poor Filipinos including women and children having been killed by the police and their surrogate assassins in only two years since 2016.

Roque’s celebration of his president’s “political will” and “decisive leadership” no doubt refers to his being true to that threat. It certainly doesn’t apply to his promise to pursue “an independent foreign policy,” despite the pledges of billions in investments and aid he has managed to extract from various countries, primarily China.

Those pledges — most are yet to materialize — hardly qualify as either proof or fruit of an independent anything. China’s promise of high interest loans are in fact a trap likely to condemn succeeding generations to indebtedness. Meanwhile, despite his early rants against American intervention and its sordid human rights record in the Philippines, his promise to end Philippine involvement in US war games, and his declaration of “separation” from the US, the country remains bound to US economic and strategic interests. The Mutual Defense Treaty is still in force, and so are the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) and the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA) despite Mr. Duterte’s control over the majority in Congress, which could have enabled him to have all three abrogated.

As glaring as that reality is, even more flagrantly obvious is Mr. Duterte’s downplaying, and at times even justifying, Chinese imperialism’s brazen violation of Philippine sovereignty in the West Philippine Sea, where it has built military bases on the artificial islands it has constructed within the the country’s Exclusive Economic Zone, barred Filipino fisherfolk from their traditional fishing grounds, and even seized the catch of those who had initially managed to evade its coast guard cutters.

Mr. Duterte’s “compassion for his fellow men” is as mythical as his “independent” foreign policy. It apparently doesn’t include the poor, the marginalized, women, priests, and the Lumad against whom his various other “wars” have been directed.

An Ateneo de Manila University, University of the Philippines and La Salle University study has documented and established the anti-poor character of the killings that have primarily characterized the misnamed “war” against drugs, which has spared drug lords while focusing on small-time drug pushers. Mr. Duterte has even promoted government officials suspected of involvement in the P6.4 billion drug smuggling scandal, while reappointing others he had fired for corruption or made to resign, demonstrating thereby how serious his pledge to end both the drug problem and government corruption has been.

Over the last two years, instead of making an alternative world possible through the initiation of the social and economic reforms the country so desperately needs, Mr. Duterte has laid waste the world — as insecure, problematic and terrifying as it already was — of the widows and orphans of the breadwinners murdered in the course of his selectively anti-poor campaign against illegal drugs. A humanitarian crisis created by those murders is developing, as thousands of wives and children are made even more destitute by the loss of their husbands and fathers.

His order to arrest “istambay” is similarly savaging entire communities. Potentially productive young men — those looking for work but who are unable to find it, as well as those between jobs — are being hauled off to prison together with ne’er-do-wells and petty thieves. Their families are in the process deprived of the help and support of their sons who, among the poor, are their best hopes for survival in a country where the loss or absence of a family member can mean the difference between having food on the table or starving.

As distressing as all of these are, what’s likely to be one of Mr. Duterte’s lasting impacts on Philippine society is his relentless assault on the Constitution and the system of checks and balances which has made authoritarian rule beguiling and democracy repugnant to the uninformed. There is as well his and his minions’ demonization of the media, of the Church, of dissenting and critical women, and of individual clergymen in his apparent belief that they’re potential or actual instruments in a conspiracy to remove him from the power he claims to disdain but in reality so desperately craved.

His rants, ravings, profanities and tirades against critics, human rights defenders, clerics, women and God Himself have further divided a society already fragmented by economic, social and political inequality, and have made rational and informed discourse the subject of scorn among those sectors of the population that need it most. Mr. Duterte’s enshrinement of abuse, impunity, violence, lawlessness, and intimidation as State policies and as substitutes for informed debate and discussion is creating a generation of cynical, ignorant, brutal and mindless citizens and civilian and military bureaucrats who even now venerate, propagate and uphold the very opposite of the values of respect for others and the truth, and the right to free expression necessary in the making of a society of equals in which no one need sleep in fear or under bridges. This is how “fruitful” his first two years in power have been. #

First published in BusinessWorld Photo from PCOO.

A matter of time

By Prof. Luis V. Teodoro

The killing of three priests over the last six months — of Fr. Marcelito Paez last December, 2017, Fr. Mark Ventura in April, and Fr. Richmond Nilo this June — has provoked both outrage as well as fears that it is part of the Duterte regime’s campaign to silence its critics.

Priests have been murdered in this country and in the rest of the world for years. Among dozens of others in Latin America, while saying mass in 1980, El Salvador’s Archbishop Oscar Romero was assassinated by a death squad for his opposition to dictatorship, injustice and torture. In the Philippines, 32 clergymen and church workers, 16 of whom were Catholic priests, have been killed since the Marcos regime (1965-1986).

The online news site MindaNews lists 13 priests killed from 1971, when Marcos was in his second term, to 2011 during the Benigno Aquino III administration.

Fr. Nelson Javellana was ambushed in Maguindanao in 1971, Fr. Godofredo Alingal killed in Bukidnon in 1981, and Fr. Tullio Favali in North Cotabato in 1985.

Anti-illegal logging activist Fr. Mario Estorba was killed in Agusan del Sur in 1988, followed by Fr. Dionisio Malalay who was slain in Zamboanga del Sur in1989, and Fr. Nerylito Satur in 1991. All three killings happened during the Corazon Aquino post-martial law administration.

Bishop Benjamin de Jesus was killed in 1997 during the Fidel Ramos term, and Fr. Rhoel Gallardo of Basilan and Fr. Benjamin Inocencio of Jolo in 2000 during the brief presidency of Joseph Estrada .

Two priests were killed during the nine years that Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo was president : Fr. Rufus Haley in 2001, and Fr. Reynaldo Roda in 2008. One priest, Fr. Fausto Tentorio, was killed in 2011 during the Benigno Aquino III administration.

These 13 plus the three killed during the present regime add up to 16 priests murdered in the last 47 years. Only the killers of Fr. Favali in 1985 have been punished: together with his men, the leader of the paramilitary group responsible was tried, convicted, and sentenced to life imprisonment, but was pardoned after 23 years in prison.

The Duterte regime can very well argue that the killing of priests is not a phenomenon unique to it, and that rather than part of a policy to intimidate the Church, the killings do not reveal any pattern but are likely to have been due to any number of motives .

But all the priests killed did have something in common: their being political and social activists, and their commitment to the defense of the poor and powerless. All were human rights defenders. Some were fighting for indigenous people’s rights, others for the environment, for a just and lasting peace, for equality and social justice, and against militarization and peasant and worker exploitation.

The killings suggest that they were carried out by those groups and forces hostile to those advocacies. The economic, social and political issues and problems the slain priests were addressing are still with us, and continue to demand the engagement of everyone, including the clergy, who sincerely care for this country and its people.

All post-Marcos administrations up to Benigno Aquino III’s at least paid lip service to the need for justice for the slain priests, and none of them ever suggested that the killings were justifiable. The Philippine National Police as of this writing has announced the arrest of a suspect in the killing of Fr. Nilo. But President Rodrigo Duterte’s most recent statements have laid the blame on the fatalities themselves, thereby suggesting that the killings can be blithely explained away, or even justified. And only Mr. Duterte’s subordinates have issued the usual assurances about going after the killers.

During the 2016 presidential campaign, Mr. Duterte blamed the journalists who have been killed in this country for their own murders because they were all supposedly corrupt. He is similarly blaming the slain today by claiming that despite their vows of celibacy, priests are no different from him in that they too have had affairs with women. He followed this up, prior to the murder of Fr. Nilo, with attacks on the Catholic Church and even on God Himself.

Neither corruption nor immorality justifies anyone’s being killed, whether judicially or extrajudicially. If they did, every other government official would deserve a lethal injection, or a bullet in the head from the usual police and motorcycle-riding assassins. But the current President of the Philippines seems to think that these failings, like the use of illegal drugs, are capital offenses.

His tirades and profanities against Catholic priests and the Church itself, just like his justifying the killing of journalists — like Benigno Aquino III’s own verbal attacks on the press and media during his term — are also likely to encourage more killings. But this is to assume that it would be merely incidental and unintentional, and there is no regime policy to do away with its critics in the clergy and other “troublesome” sectors like the independent press.

Such a policy would after all be in direct contradiction with the government responsibility of protecting its citizens. But the context in which the killing of progressive and activist priests is happening nevertheless invites the conclusion that such a policy does exist.

In apparent fear of being ousted from power–he has even announced that China will protect him if there are ever such attempts–Mr. Duterte has attacked independent journalists on the assumption that the truth-telling responsibility of a free press is likely to help remove him from office. He and his police and military bureaucrats may be entertaining the same thoughts about the activist clergy and even the Catholic Church itself.

He may not be entirely mistaken. The institutional Catholic Church has always been conservative. But there are nevertheless individuals within it who believe in seeking justice though the heavens fall– who defend human rights, who fight for social change, peace and independence, and who, in the process, have themselves become the targets of State repression.

Even prior to the EDSA 1 civilian-military mutiny, progressive clergymen and women were already in the broad resistance against the dictatorship, and helped commit the Catholic Church to the overthrow of the Marcos terror regime. The free press and media were similarly pivotal in that historic enterprise. The crucial roles of the press and the clergy in the political upheaval of 1986 may help explain the Duterte regime’s antipathy for both.

The irony is that Mr. Duterte’s attacks on the Catholic Church and priesthood are fueling the simmering outrage against his regime that he fears can lead to his overthrow, just as his assault on independent journalists and their organizations has convinced responsible practitioners of the need for critical attention to his regime’s acts and policies.

Neither all the clergy and the entire Church, nor all journalists and their organizations, have as yet forged the unity resistance to autocratic rule demands. But thanks to Mr. Duterte’s own doing, among them his enshrinement of killing and police and military impunity as State policy, today as in the months, weeks and days before EDSA 1, it may only be a matter of time before it is achieved together with the workers, farmers, students, academics, urban poor, women, and indigenous and Moro people who believe that an alternative to the reign of assassins is both necessary and possible.

First published in BusinessWorld. Photo from PCOO. / Prof. Teodoro is chairperson of the People’s Alternative Media Network

It’s not just about Sereno

By Luis V. Teodoro

The unprecedented removal through quo warranto proceedings of Chief Justice Ma. Lourdes Sereno from her post isn’t only about her, or solely about the Supreme Court, the rule of law, the Constitution, or the Duterte regime and its autocratic pretensions. Even more crucially is it about the fate and future of the democratization process that at least twice in history has been interrupted at its most crucial stage, and, driven by the need to address political and economic underdevelopment, has had to twice start all over again in this country.

The democratization of Philippine society began with the reform movement of the late 19th century and reached its highest point during the Revolution of 1896, which was as much for independence, equality and social justice as it was against Spanish colonial rule. Through the worker-led Katipunan, the Revolution was on the verge of defeating the Spanish forces and had achieved de facto independence when a near-fatal combination of betrayal by the Magdalo faction of the rural gentry and foreign intervention prevented its fruition despite the First Republic, and left it unfinished.

United States recognition of Philippine independence in 1946 made the resumption of the democratization process and the completion of the Revolution possible. But thanks to the heirs of the principalia — the handful of families the US had trained in the fine arts of backroom politics and self-aggrandizement during its formal occupation of the Philippines — what instead ensued for two decades was a succession of administrations that prospered while presiding over the country and its people’s continuing poverty and underdevelopment, subservience to foreign interests, and political disempowerment.

Against these fundamental ills there had always been both armed and unarmed resistance even during the country’s captivity to US colonialism. But it was in the mid-1960s when the historic demands of the Philippine Revolution found their best expression in the movement for change initially led by workers and students which soon spread across the entire country and among various sectors. Its demand for the democratization of political power, for authentic independence, gender equality, agrarian revolution, and national industrialization resonated enough among the peasantry, progressive professionals, indigenous peoples, the enlightened religious, and liberated women to mobilize hundreds of thousands.

In the First Quarter Storm of 1970, the numbers of its adherents and the power of their demands were demonstrably enough for the second Marcos administration to use state violence to suppress the strikes, demonstrations and other mass actions that were almost daily challenging dynastic rule by demanding the end of feudalism, bureaucrat capitalism and imperialism. In response to these demands, and to keep himself in power beyond 1973, Marcos suspended the privilege of the writ of habeas corpus in 1971 and made good on his threat to declare martial law in 1972, when he placed the entire country under a dictatorship sustained by military bayonets on the pretext of saving the Republic and reforming society while actually doing the opposite.

Despite the worst repression, despite the arrests and detention, despite the torture, enforced disappearances and extrajudicial killing of thousands of the best and brightest sons and daughters of the people, it was in the resistance to the Marcos terror regime that democratization continued to find expression.

Many of those in the resistance refused to surrender it during the period of repression, but it took 14 years of armed and unarmed defiance before the Filipino people once more recovered the possibility of exercising the democratic right to shape their own future. However, despite its promise of far-reaching change with the overthrow of the Marcos dictatorship, over the last 32 years the 1986 civilian-military mutiny known as People Power or EDSA 1 has failed to deliver on that promise, thanks to the continuing monopoly over political power of the same dynasties that for over a century have prevented the realization of the changes Philippine society so desperately needs.

Over those three decades, people’s organizations and other democratic formations persisted in fighting for those changes. In 2001, outraged over the corruption and incompetence of a plunderous regime, they removed another president from power. While state repression in various forms, and with it such human rights violations as torture, enforced disappearances, abductions and extrajudicial killings continued, the reigns of three of the five presidents after Marcos that preceded Rodrigo Duterte’s have not been openly antagonistic to due process, the bill of rights, press freedom, and the system of checks and balances.

The Corazon Aquino, Fidel Ramos, and Benigno Aquino III administrations at least paid lip service to the desirability of peace and the rule of law. But one cannot say the same of the Joseph Estrada and Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo regimes. The former was mostly focused on the use of the presidency in amassing wealth, while the latter was intent on remaining in power, and did not hesitate to use state violence to suppress dissent and opposition in advancing and protecting the personal, family and class interests behind it.

But it is the Duterte regime, with the enthusiastic support of the Estrada and Arroyo cliques, that has most imperiled the realization of the legitimate demands for the democratization of political power and economic opportunity, true independence, and inclusive development. It has become increasingly clear that President Rodrigo Duterte has not bothered to craft any master plan to end or even reduce poverty, or even such of its manifestations as environmental degradation, limited employment opportunities and low agricultural productivity under an archaic tenancy system. But he does have a blueprint for the restoration of authoritarian rule through his accomplices’ and minions’ dominance in the executive, legislative and judicial branches of government.

The abridgment of press freedom, the attacks on human rights, the willful debasement of public discourse, the further erosion of the already erratic observance of the rule of law, and the subversion of the little that survives of the system of checks and balances through the orchestrated attacks on the ombudsman and Chief Justice Sereno are parts of the plot to undermine what little is left of democracy in these isles of uncertainty. By riding the crest of mass disaffection with government and the burgeoning demand for change and revolution to win the Presidency in 2016, Mr. Duterte has managed to hijack all three branches of government.

The ouster of Sereno as Chief Justice is not solely about Sereno. Neither is it about the Maleficent Six. It is about the imminent danger of dictatorship. This is the context in which, with the collaboration of his cohorts in Congress and the Supreme Court itself, Mr. Duterte is putting a stop to the democratization of Philippine society as Ferdinand Marcos did in 1972. For the third time since the late 19th and early 20th centuries, that process is once more in danger of interruption — and worse, its final liquidation.

In these circumstances only the people themselves can put a stop to the latest assault on their right to self-government and the realization of their aspirations for a society of peace, justice and equality. Because the leaders to whom they had previously delegated their sovereign authority had failed them, they exercised their right and duty to remove them in 1986, and again in 2001.

Some events in the political lives of nations can be the turning point in the resolution of the contradictions that afflict them. The Sereno “incident” could be that point.

(First published in BusinessWorld. Photo from the Supreme Court.)

The paramilitary versus the Lumad: A history of state-sponsored oppression

On the term paramilitary, the US Defense Department defines it as “forces or groups distinct from the regular armed forces of any country, but resembling them in organization, equipment, training or mission” (US Defense Department, 2010). There are different types of militia groups in the Philippines and they are classified according to the involvement of the central government and the military. “CAFGUs for instance, are embedded in the military hierarchy. CVOs are an unarmed component of the local defense organization but when used as police force multipliers, the CVOs are being armed. The paramilitary groups (sometimes referred to as vigilante groups) are also employed by the government for counter-insurgency work against separatist and communist armed groups” (Centre for Humanitarian Dialogue, 2011).

Over several decades, the paramilitary groups in Mindanao have carried out torture, murder, extrajudicial killings, rape, looting of property, forced disappearances, and arson (Human Rights Watch, 2015; Karapatan, 2015; RMP-NMR, 2017). Yet a complete picture of atrocities remains elusive as many abuses go unreported as victims fear retaliation. In the second year of the AFP’s ‘Oplan Bayanihan’, there were 45 extrajudicial killings (EJKs), bringing the death toll to 129 under Aquino administration (RMP-NMR, 2016). Several attacks were directed at Lumad communities and their leaders who took a stand against the entry of large and destructive corporate entities with logging, mining, plantation, and energy interests in their ancestral domains. In a report by the Higala sa Lumad network, 7 out of 37 victims of EJKs are Lumad datus (RMP-NMR, 2016).

Lumad children suffer hardships during evacuations and demolitions, when they are driven from their homes (Vaishnav, 2017). In 2011 alone, 12 children were victims of extrajudicial killings, and at least 3, of frustrated killings—due to indiscriminate firing by soldiers, slay try on an adult companion, or at a violent demolition. Several children were also arrested during violent demolitions or accosted during military operations. At least four children and youths were tagged as “NPA child rebels,” while one was charged with violation to the Human Security. The same Lumad communities are forcibly evacuated in the countryside, as they sought shelter, either from bombings and aerial strikes, or from combat-geared “peace and development teams” and military-sanctioned paramilitary units that swoop down on their communities (Centre for Humanitarian Dialogue, 2011). Lumad schools, a target of violent rhetoric and red-tagging by President Duterte who calls these as training ground for NPAs, have also been bombed by both state military and paramilitary groups. That is on top of the murder of Emerito Samarca, executive director of ALCADEV, who was found lifeless in one of the classrooms, hogtied with his throat slit in 2015.

During the Aquino regime, the Philippines was also put to task at the Universal Periodic Review of the United Nations Human Rights Council, where at least 22 out of 69 countries called attention to the continuing cases of documented extrajudicial killings, disappearances and torture. Several countries called for the prosecution of former military officials and the dismantling of paramilitary groups. Some urged the Philippine government to act on the requests of UN Special Rapporteurs to visit the country, to which the government gave a tentative response, lamely citing lack of funds (Centre for Humanitarian Dialogue, 2011).

The perpetrators are identified military units, paramilitary groups formed by or closely linked to the military, and suspected death squads under the AFP’s command. Death squads—motorcycle-riding armed men, whether masked or barefaced—are still being employed to eliminate progressive personalities and suspected rebel supporters (Spear, 2015). Cases of Aquino’s executive order 79 served as marching orders to the Investment Defense Forces—the AFP, the CAFGU, and the paramilitary groups that are accredited as Special Civilian Armed Auxilliary (SCAA)—to clear the mining areas, and remove hindrances such as a resistant populace. In several instances, the military even tried to cover up by claiming that the civilian victims were NPA rebels killed in an encounter with soldiers.

The Murder of Lumad Datus

Over the years, Lumad leaders were recorded to have been killed by members of the Armed Forces of the Philippines and other state agents as a response to the unified campaign of Lumad communities against government atrocities.

On March 5, 2012, Jimmy Liguyon, 37, leader of the Matigsalog tribe and village chair of Dao, San Fernando, Bukidnon was shot in front of his house by Alde ‘Butchoy’ Salusad, leader of NIPAR (New Indigenous Peoples’ Army)a paramilitary group. Salusad, accompanied by his men, even declared that he killed Jimmy because he refused to sign a certification for SANMATRIDA, or the San Fernando Matigsalog, Tigwahanon, and Manobo Tribal Datu Association. NIPAR had been terrorizing residents in barangays Dao and Calagangan since the previous year. On August 16, Alde along with soldiers of the 8th IB and the CAFGU, set up four gold processing plants known locally as ‘Bolmellan’. They also cut indigenous trees as materials in constructing tunnels for their mining operation. Prior to that, on August 2, Alde’s father Benjamin ‘Nonong’ Salusad, a CAFGU member, came with 20 of his men and ransacked the tents of Matisalog gold panners in sitio Kiranggol, Dao, looking for gold dust and money. The gold panners returned home sitio Malungon, Calagangan village, but Benjamin Salusad also threatened to kill Datu Malapong Nayan, the tribal chief of the Matisalog in Calagangan, and municipal chair the Lumad group KASILO, which the gold panners belong to (Environmental Justice Atlas, 2012).

Alde Salusad and the NIPAR men had also accosted other residents, taking gold dust and money at gunpoint. They touted their guns around the residents, and even fired shots at children. This has pushed 62 families to leave their villages in late August that year. Some residents went to nearby communities, while others trekked to as far as Quezon, the next town. Those who had no relatives elsewhere went and hid in the forest (Albasin, n.d.). On August 29, the evacuees travelled from Quezon, Bukidnon to the provincial capitol in Malaybalay City where they stayed for a few months only to return again in the next years.

Another tribal leader, Margarito Cabal of Kibawe was shot three times in the chest and once in the back, and was dead on arrival at the hospital. He was known for his firm resistance against the establishment of Hydro-Electric Mega Dam – Pulangui V project of the First Bukidnon Electric Cooperative (FIBECO) which have eventually affected 22 barangays of Bukidnon and North Cotabato (Lopez, 2012). Ten barangays of Kibawe have been affected, including his home in Barangay Tumaras. He campaigned and organized residents of the affected barangays to oppose the construction of the said dam.

On the same year, several Lumad villages in Agusan del Sur refused to attend an assembly where an agreement that would allow entry of the plantation companies would be signed. The assembly was initiated by Ben Hur Mansulonay, a leader of an indigenous paramilitary group controlled by the AFP in San Luis. Since then, the community’s datu were under threat. Datus Lauron and Lapatis also actively campaigned against the entry of large-scale mining companies in Valencia, Bukidnon. Datu Lapatis also reported several incidents of harassments from NIPAR and the 8th IBPA (RMP-NMR, 2016).

In December 2014, village captain and traditional leader Datu Necasio ‘Angis’ Precioso, Sr. was killed by suspected members of a paramilitary group working with the 26th IBPA in San Luis, Agusan del Sur. Prior to his death, Datu Angis had been in an argument with M/Sgt. Andres Villaganas after the military called for members of the Banwaon community for interrogation. During the interrogation, Villaganas accused them of supporting the New People’s Army. In 2015, Manobo children and their families of Lianga, Surigao del Sur were forcibly taken out of their homes on September 1 by paramilitary group Bagani to witness the point-blank execution of tribal leader Dionel Campos and his cousin Aurelio Sinzo. Same perpetrators also bound Emerito Samarca or Tay Emok, ALCADEV’s executive director, by the neck and limbs in the faculty room, then stabbed him in the chest and slit his throat open (Capistrano, 2016).

In September 2016, gunmen who are suspected to be part of paramilitary group Alamara killed three tribal leaders in Lianga, Surigao del Sur (Velez, n.d.). The same group was implicated in numerous attacks during the same year, including nine killings in Cabanglasan, Bukidnon.

Paramilitary versus Lumad: Global Patterns

Colombia. The Katio and Chami peoples committed mass suicide between 2003 and 2004. The suicides took place at a time of extreme change, during which mining and logging companies depleted the jungles of animals that the indigenous peoples once hunted, forcing the once-nomadic Embera to form permanent communities. In this particular discussion of large-scale development projects, there was also reference to the impact of large dam projects upon indigenous communities in Colombia (Saab & Taylor, 2008).  Unfortunately, in this case, the human rights violations became so grave as to include forcible removal from homes and lands, destruction of property as well as assassinations and disappearances carried out by paramilitary forces (UNPFII, 2009).

Myanmar. Testimony of abuses by State-controlled military or paramilitary forces has also been repeatedly given. According to information received by the Special Rapporteur on the human rights and fundamental freedoms of indigenous people, members of the village of Tagu Seik, near Einme, were tortured and their community ransacked on the basis of purported communications with another armed opposition group (Centre for Humanitarian Dialogue, 2011).

Kenya, Guatemala, and Mexico. The general pattern that holds for indigenous women worldwide is their vulnerability to sexual violence. In areas of conflict, indigenous women often fall victims to abuse by members of the military and are subject to sexual enslavement, forced pregnancy, gang-rapes, sexual mutilation and killing. Historically, violence against women was used as a weapon in colonial conquests of indigenous lands, but as recently as the 1980s and 1990s, 1,400 indigenous Samburu women of Kenya were raped by British soldiers stationed on their lands. In the 1980s, indigenous women were targeted for rape as a weapon of war in Guatemala. In the 1990s, indigenous women in Chiapas, Mexico were subject to compulsory servitude in paramilitary camps (UNFPII, 2009).

The rest of Latin America. In 2003, more than 100 indigenous peoples and leaders were murdered and the indigenous community in Sierra Nevada de Santa Maria was forcibly displaced. In the last 15 years, as political violence has escalated, more than 2,660 cases of human rights violations have been reported. Reports confirm that indigenous peoples have been the victims of several massacres perpetrated by paramilitaries, the guerrillas and other armed groups. State-sponsored military activities have included aerial bombing of rural and indigenous communities. Thousands of indigenous peoples have been displaced, resulting in increasing populations of refugees in the neighbouring countries of Brazil, Ecuador, Panama, Peru and Venezuela. Refugees have also fled to urban areas within Colombia where malnutrition and deaths due to hunger have been reported. Throughout the country, forced disappearances of indigenous leaders and representatives have been documented, as have reports of mass arbitrary detentions carried out by the military (UNPFII, 2009). #

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SOURCES-

-Albasin, G.C. n.d. Flashback Wednesday: Alde Salusad’s Victims. Cagayan de Oro, Philippines: Mindanao Interfaith Institute on Lumad Studies. Retrieved from http://www.miils.org/type/reports/flashback-wednesday-alde-salusad%E2%80%99s-victims

-Capistrano, Z.I.M.C. 27 January 2016. “Paramilitary Groups to Lumad schools: ‘all teachers, students will be massacred.’ Davao Today. Retrieved from http://davaotoday.com/main/human-rights/paramilitary-group-to-lumad-schools-all-teachers-students-will-be-massacred

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This article was originally published by the Mindanao Interfaith Institute on Lumad Studies, a part of the Healing the Hurt Project of the Rural Missionaries of the Philippines-Northern Mindanao Region. This project is supported by the European Union.

Views expressed in this article are the sole responsibility of the RMP-NMR Inc and the “Healing the Hurt” Project partners and can in no way be taken to reflect the views of the European Union.