Sr Pat Fox and her people

The Philippine government must have thought her subversive and wanted her punished.

Last April 16, Bureau of Immigration (BI) agents arrested and detained Sr Patricia Fox of the congregation Notre Dame de Sion. The arrest may have stemmed from her recent participation in a human rights fact-finding mission in Mindanao that so-rankled the military. Australian by birth, tall, white and blond, she was obviously a foreigner who they must have thought has no business participating in political activities, particularly those that point out the Rodrigo Duterte regime’s many human rights violations.

But the military and the BI could not be more wrong. Not only did Sr Pat make the Philippines her home for 27 years, she dedicated her mission to helping farmers in their agrarian reform struggles. A volunteer of the peasant group Unyon ng mga Manggagawa sa Agrikultura in Central Luzon and a human rights defender of long-standing, she has long been considered a compatriot by the farmers and the workers. For them, the kindly nun is more Filipino than most.

When news of her arrest broke out, lawyers and human rights workers rushed to the BI office in Manila to support her. Not long after, nuns and priests followed. Before the night was over, a bishop, Manila Auxiliary Bishop Broderick Pabillo, came.

Still, the BI refused to let her go. The agency wanted the elderly nun investigated for being an “undesirable alien.” Word went round that the government wanted her deported.

Sr Patricia Fox, NDS upon her release from detention. (SINAGBAYAN–Sining na Naglilingkod sa Bayan photo)

It only galvanized more support for the beleaguered nun. This morning, the rally in downtown Manila organized to defend judicial independence and to denounce US bombing in Syria made a detour to the BI to call for Sr Pat’s release. Before long, more nuns visited and yet another bishop, Caloocan Bishop Emeritus Deogracias Yniguez, came. Prominent activists and legislators also arrived. It must have been shocking to the BI to witness that their unassuming prisoner is well-loved by many, both prominent and humble, young and old.

Outside of BI, statements flew fast and thick. It did not only come from Manila or from Central Luzon where she does her Godly work. It came from as far sa Mindanao and abroad. Social media lit up with condemnations of her arrest and calls for her release. Photos of her remaining calm and even smiling were shared widely. Politicians who do not care about her work also condemned her arrest.

At three o’clock this afternoon, the BI had no choice but to let Sr Pat go. Still, they threatened her with more investigations. Sr Pat’s troubles with the Duterte regime is just beginning it seems.

Outside of BI’s gates, the nun was mobbed both by supporters and the media. Yet there she was, smiling and radiant. It must have been an ordeal for a 71-year old and frail-looking woman to be arrested and detained for more than 24 hours. This early, though, it is clear who is losing in this struggle. This early, it appears it is this tyrannical government and its highhandedness that is undesirable. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

How can Myles Albasin be a terrorist?

Maria Karlene Shawn I. Cabaraban

At 13, she wore a bright yellow shirt on her first day of high school. Inside the school’s covered courts, hundreds of new students like her wore the same expressions of nervous anticipation. She felt like a stranger among them, a girl from Malaybalay City who had gotten an academic scholarship in an Ateneo school. Eagerly, she listened to the various speakers who welcomed the new students. When they were given a tour of the campus, she could not quell her excitement and fired question after question to the student facilitator assigned to them: “How often do we use the science labs? Do we get to handle the microscope ourselves? What books do we read in our English classes?”

Later, she was ribbed no end for her enthusiasm. Also, what’s with her insistence on speaking in English?

At 14, she joined the school publication, writing news articles as her mother had taught her. She found out however that campus journalism at the time was more focused on the form rather than substance. News pitching consisted mostly of events in school. Who will write about the science month celebration? Can anyone cover the latest interschool math contest we won over Corpus? Let’s do an interview with newly hired faculty.

At 15, she ran for the Campus Student Government presidency under the Atenean League of Leaders (ALL), an opposition party which she just founded. The decision came with much hesitation though, as her grades already suffered from her many extra-curricular preoccupations. But the call was difficult ignore. The need to challenge the status quo is, after all, integral to the Ignatian principles that she had learned from their Christian Humanism classes. “How could one be a “man and woman for others” without minding the issues which sought to normalize itself in a system that opposes opposition? How could there be cura personalis if our compassion is confined within the four corners of the Ateneo?” Ignatius seemed to have asked Myles too many times in her moments of introspection.

She lost the race. But her passion for service, ignited by her first foray into politics, could no longer be dampened.

When she took up Mass Communications at the University of the Philippines-Cebu, she let go of an opportunity at a full scholarship to study Accountancy at both Xavier University and De La Salle University. In UP, she joined the Nagkahiusang Kusog sa Estudyante or NKE where her student activism developed.

This did not come without criticism from her friends: “What’s the point in baking yourself under the sun  and on the streets, holding anti-government placards and disturbing motorists? Are you paid to go to immersions in the slums and in the provinces? Don’t you get tired of shouting speeches in the streets instead of hanging out with us, your friends”

She was undeterred and did not tire of explaining. Activism did not mean opposing the government; it is challenging a system that claims to serve the people but only serves to push the poor farther into the margins of society, she said. Activism is not grounded on hate. On the contrary, it is rooted in the calling to be a man or woman for others, to “do more” for communities in need, and to actualize one’s love for the country through genuine service. Communitas ad dispersionem, Myles explained.

Today, as she languishes in jail, she is branded an “amazon” of the New People’s Army (NPA), a university graduate brainwashed by communist rebel groups, a beautiful twenty-something whose looks will fade away in jail. She has been accused of ransacking a barangay captain’s home in Negros Oriental, threatening farmers for money, and possessing high-powered firearms and explosives. A terrorist.

Internet trolls have reduced her to a meme, a poster-girl for what happens if one had bad parents, an all-too common consequence if you send your children to UP.

 “Sayang, gwapa ra ba unta.”

“Tsk. Crush man nako ni sa una oh”

I cannot agree with them, though. How can she be a terrorist when she held my hand when I came out of my “closet”? How can she be a terrorist when she stood by my side when the rest of the class came up on stage to receive their awards while I sat on the side silently loathing myself for failing to join them? How can someone who said the solution is “not in hating, but in educating” be a terrorist?

Myles is not a saint as she, like most humans, has committed mistakes. But to call her a terrorist is to lose sight of the systemic problem she riled against—a system that fails to uphold its mandate to enact change, a system where oppression and impunity is pervasive, a system that demonizes dissent.

She is Myles Albasin, and she is not a terrorist. #

= = = =

The author is Myle’s friend. This piece was originally written for The Crusader, Xavier University-Ateneo de Cagayan’s official student publication. It is republished with permission.

Myles Albasin was arrested along with five other fellow activists by the Armed Forces of the Philippines soldiers in Mabinay Negros Oriental last March 3 and charged with illegal possession of firearms. Paraffin tests conducted on them came out negative, however, belying military claims the six were New People’s Army fighters caught after a firefight.

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PH minerals benefit foreigners not Filipinos

By IBON.org

Majority of Philippine minerals are exported and mainly benefit foreign corporations, research group IBON said. While ensuring environmentally safe and responsible mining methods, the Duterte administration should also ban the exodus of the country’s raw minerals. These should instead be efficiently reserved for and utilized to support and develop the country’s key industries towards national industrialization, said the group. Read more

A global disgrace

By Luis V. Teodoro

President Rodrigo Duterte has expressed his displeasure over the continuing attention being paid by various groups and organizations such as Amnesty International and other human rights groups and the United Nations, to the extrajudicial killings (EJKs) in the country, particularly those identified with the regime’s murderous “war” on drugs.

Thirty-nine countries have also signed a declaration expressing concern over the human rights situation in the Philippines.The 39 — seven more than the 32 that had expressed the same concern last June — Include the country’s leading trade partners: the United States, Australia, and Canada. They described the state of human rights in the Philippines as “serious” and urged the Philippine government to stop the killing of suspected drug users and pushers as well as of journalists and human rights defenders, put an end to the culture of impunity (the exemption from punishment of murderers and other wrong doers) that the statement implied has become even more pronounced during the Duterte regime, and allow an independent investigation without conditions.

The regime response was to declare that it won’t be dictated upon, although, rather than telling the government what to do, the statement merely suggested that it look into the problem. But it is correct to assume that some of the 39 are likely to have an agenda other than the Philippines’ complying with international human rights standards as well as its own laws, because they do have interests — economic, political and military — to advance and protect.

The Duterte regime has responded to criticism of its human rights record in various other ways, among them by:

(1) questioning the critic’s right to do so, as it did through Mr. Duterte himself when former US President Barack Obama expressed his concern over the drug-related killings. Mr. Duterte responded by recalling the US’ own sordid human rights history during its war of conquest in the Philippines;

(2) denying the existence of impunity, and that the killings happened and are still happening, as Malacanang spokespersons as well as Philippine National Police Director-General Ronald de la Rosa have often insisted;

(3) saying that EJKs and impunity are problems that antedate the Duterte regime;

(4) rejecting suggested steps to help remedy the situation, as the regime has done in the case of the UN Human Rights Council’s (UNHRC) 105 recommendations;

(5) claiming that the war on drugs is a means of defending human rights, as Foreign Affairs Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano declared before the UNHRC; and

(6) exaggerating the extent of the drug problem, as Cayetano did when he told the UN that there are seven million (7,000,000) drug addicts in the Philippines.

Cayetano’s seven million nearly doubles the four million-plus figure that Mr. Duterte himself has declared is the number of drug addicts in the Philippines, and which is more than double the 1.8 million that in 2016 the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) said was the number of illegal drug users. (The PDEA figure has since conformed with that of Mr. Duterte’s after the latter fired its former head for disagreeing with him.)

The Cayetano figure, if accurate, would suggest that the anti-drug campaign is not only failing despite the high cost in lives that some human rights groups estimate at 13,000; it is also making the problem worse. Meanwhile, Mr. Cayetano’s claim that the drug war is meant to defend human rights is too bizarre for words, that war having exacted a tremendous price on the rights to life, due process and the presumption of innocence. (One can imagine the shock or amusement of those who heard Mr. Cayetano’s disingenuous statement, his audience of diplomats being neither gullible nor stupid.)

These absurdities aside, it is nevertheless true that impunity has been a fact of Filipino existence for some time and that EJKs have been going on in every administration since that of Marcos. But what cannot be denied is that the number of EJKs since July 2016, even if pegged at a low 3,800 during the first year of Mr. Duterte’s term, would equal the 14-year record of the Marcos dictatorship during which almost the same number were extrajudicially killed by regime security forces, with no one being tried and punished for those crimes. The Duterte record so far, if indeed only at 3,800 more or less, would be about three times the number of EJKs (1,200) recorded during the nine-year watch of Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo. None of those responsible for the killings during Year One of the Duterte regime have been punished. The victims include women, young adults, and minors as young as four years old.

The numbers — and the 13,000 figure cited by human rights groups is over three times 3,800 — are what have caught the attention of other countries, human rights organizations and the UN. Their concern is occurring in the context of the Philippines’ reputation as an alleged democracy with a Constitution that guarantees the protection of human rights.

The Philippines is also a signatory to international agreements and protocols affirming respect for the rights to life and to a fair trial, and the presumption of innocence — rights enshrined as well in the Constitution. It has also banned the death penalty, and what’s more is one of the original 48 countries that signed the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in 1948. Because of these, the Philippines from afar looks like a country that truly values human rights. But that perception is rapidly changing, thanks to Mr. Duterte and company.

It is true, as regime spokesmen complain, that international outrage was not as pronounced during the Aquino or Arroyo regimes. The reason for this is that neither Benigno Aquino III nor Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo openly dismissed human rights as of no concern, threatened human rights defenders, or publicly encouraged police extremism as Mr. Duterte has done. Both Aquino and Arroyo are on record as affirming the need for State respect for human rights, despite the EJKs and the killing of journalists that continued during their respective terms.

In short, the reason why so many countries, organizations and groups are concerned over what’s happening in the Philippines is that it is shocking and unprecedented, and as a result has become an international scandal and a global disgrace. But international attention may not end with the Philippines’ being merely regarded as a country whose foul deeds don’t match its Constitutional and international commitments.

Neither its growing reputation as a rogue regime nor that of the country as a killing field may matter to the Duterte administration. But if that is indeed the case, what should worry it is what the countries that look unfavorably at what’s happening will do in terms of trade restrictions and other economic measures that can adversely affect the country’s already faltering economy. What should also be of equal or even more urgent concern is that the country’s ill-repute can be used to pressure it, through threats of economic and political isolation, into granting foreign interests concessions likely to be to its disadvantage.

Neither has happened yet, but one or the other or both can transpire, resulting in the country’s further impoverishment and/or the worsening of its status as a neo-colony and a flunky of foreign interests. Despite the regime’s pretense at protecting Philippine sovereignty (“we won’t be dictated upon”), the surge in the number of EJKs and other atrocities and the hardening of the culture of impunity in the course of Mr. Duterte’s “war” on drugs has made the country even more vulnerable, should some of those countries supposedly concerned with the human rights crisis in the Philippines decide to do more than talk.

Erratum: A version of this column that appeared on BusinessWorld said that 3,800 EJKs would be a third of those that happened during the nine years of the Arroyo regime. It should have said 3,800 is THREE TIMES those committed during the Arroyo administration. My apologies.

First published in BusinessWorld. Photo from PCOO.

Duterte’s Scheme of Fascist Dictatorship

By Prof. Jose Ma. Sison/Telesur

By his pseudo-independent foreign policy, Duterte is trying to turn the Philippines into a condominium of the imperialist powers.

The Negotiating Panels of the Government of the Republic of the Philippines (GRP) and the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) were poised to hold the fifth round of formal peace talks in Oslo when GRP President Duterte went into a daily series of anti-communist rants from November 18, 2017 onwards and subsequently issued Proclamation 360 to terminate the peace negotiations with the NDFP and Proclamation 374 to designate the Communist of the Party of the Philippines (CPP), New People´s Army (NPA), their suspected supporters and financiers as “terrorist.”

Ironically, the two negotiating panels were about to make the biggest advance in the peace process by finalizing and initialing the drafts of the general amnesty to release all the political prisoners listed by the NDFP, Part I Agrarian Reform and Rural Development and Part II National Industrialization and Economic Development of the Comprehensive Agreement on Social and Economic Reforms (CASER) and the Coordinated Unilateral Ceasefires (as prelude to a bilateral ceasefire agreement).

The panels expected that within the first quarter of 2018 CASER would be ready for signing by the principals and the Comprehensive Agreement on Political and Constitutional Reforms (CAPCR) would be negotiated and forged in coordination with the processes of the GRP Congress in revising the 1987 Constitution and possibly arriving at a consensus of all major political forces on what ought to be a federal system of government. But obviously Duterte had all along wished to preempt and exclude the NDFP from what is now coming to light as his scheme of fascist dictatorship under the pretense of federalism.

Duterte had allowed his panel to engage the NDFP panel in back channel consultations in October 2017 in Utrecht and in subpanel bilateral meetings in Manila from September to November 2017 to complete the aforesaid drafts for panel-to-panel processing until he abruptly changed his mind and terminated the peace negotiations. The somersault followed his extended conversations with U.S. President Trump who supposedly assured him of political and military support for a plan to crack down on the CPP and NPA and finish them off before the end of 2018.

Termination of Peace Negotiations Necessary for Duterte Fascist Dictatorship

Although the plan is overambitious and quite impossible to achieve, it is necessary for Duterte to terminate the peace negotiations and slander the CPP and NPA by labeling them as ”terrorists” to pave the way for further extension of martial law in Mindanao for the whole year of 2018 and the eventual nationwide expansion of martial law directed against the CPP and NPA. This is in line with Duterte´s scheme of imposing his fascist dictatorship on the Philippines.

Even before the first extension of the proclamation of martial law in Mindanao could lapse at the end of 2017, Duterte boasted that he had defeated the Dawlah Islamiyah (Maute and Abu Sayyaf groups) in Marawi City and therefore he had basically no more need for martial law in Mindanao. But he found in the extension of the martial law proclamation a device for including the CPP and NPA as targets in a further extension to the whole of 2018 through the expediency of terminating the peace negotiations and accusing the CPP and NPA of escalating violence and endangering public safety.

Duterte was quite confident of getting the further extension of martial law in Mindanao because of his “supermajority” in his rubber-stamp Congress. He also has a steady majority of at least eight of the justices in the Supreme Court (four are his own recent appointees and five are appointees of Gloria Macapagal Arroyo) to uphold his martial law proclamation in the same way that they have been able to dismiss the plunder case against Arroyo and allow the burial of Marcos in the Libingan ng mga Bayani due to Duterte´s super-corrupt alliance with the Luzon-based dynasties of Marcos, Arroyo, Estrada and other notorious plunderers..

Duterte is hell-bent on realizing his scheme to reimpose a fascist dictatorship on the Filipino people by revising and in effect scrapping the 1987 Constitution under the pretext of adopting a federal system of government. The trick is similar to that of Marcos in pretending to opt for a parliamentary form of government in order to scrap the 1935 Constitution and install a fascist dictatorship under the cover of transitory provisions.

Federalism As Pretext for Imposing Duterte Fascist Dictatorship on the People

Duterte is not really keen on establishing a federal system of government but on actually installing a highly centralized unitary kind of a presidential dictatorship on top of regional governments run by dynasties, including warlords and the most corrupt bureaucrat capitalists like himself. The big comprador-landlord state servile to foreign monopoly capitalism will  remain intact under his scheme.

To satisfy his appetite for autocratic power, Duterte finds it absolutely necessary to use martial law nationwide in a hysterical and futile attempt to intimidate and suppress the armed revolutionary movement, dissent and opposition in general. The suspension of the writ of habeas corpus provides an effective cover and license for abducting, dispossessing, torturing and murdering  revolutionaries and all  people who oppose him. Even now, he cannot wait for a court to approve his designation of the CPP and NPA as “terrorists.” He has repeatedly called on his military minions to kill them upon sight.

The Bicameral Resolution No. 8 with the title “Constituting the Senate and the House of Representatives,” of the 17th Congress, into a “Constituent Assembly by Adopting a Federal Form of Government and for Other Purposes” is already on the rails and will be railroaded when congressional sessions resume in January 2018. Duterte and his cohorts will be the sole determinant of the content of the pseudo-federal charter. The charter is already slated for ratification during the May 18 barangay elections. The Kilusang Pagbabago, the Duterte troll army and the pro-Duterte hacks in print and electronic media are all arranged to rah-rah the ratification.

Even before Duterte is able to get a new constitution for his despotic purposes, the Filipino people have become familiar with his propensity for mass murder and deception in Oplan Tokhang. Combine this with the suspension of the writ of habeas corpus under martial law and you can expect a far bigger catastrophe than the Marcos fascist dictatorship in terms of of murder and mayhem.

In the absence of any revolutionary social transformation,  the country will be getting more of the same ruling families of big compradors, landlords and bureaucrat capitalists at  all levels of government. Corruption will continue to run rampant on top of excessive expenditures for establishing and elaborating on the regional level of government. The U.S. and other multinational firms will continue to plunder and ravage the human and natural resources of the Philippines.

To get the blessings of the U.S. and other imperialist powers, the new pseudo-federal constitution will get rid of the nationality requirements or restrictions on foreign investments in violation of economic sovereignty and national patrimony by simply inserting the phrase, “unless otherwise provided by law.”  Precious limited resources for economic development, at best through centralized and regional planning, will be dissipated by profit remittances and capital repatriation by foreign monopoly firms, bureaucratic corruption and rising bureaucratic and military and police personnel for the central and regional levels of government.

The ever worsening crisis of the semicolonial and semifeudal ruling system will continue to result in the divisiveness of the reactionary classes, the intensification of the anti-imperialist and class struggle, the further rise of the armed revolutionary  movement, dissatisfaction of indigenous peoples and national minorities and  stronger currents of separatism among the Bangsamoro.

 Surpassing Marcos as Best Recruiter and Supplier of the Armed Revolution

Duterte is bound to surpass Marcos as the best recruiter and supply officer of the armed revolution, as the unwitting wrecker of his own regime and ruling system and as provider of an ever more fertile ground for the growth of the people´s democratic revolution through people´s war. However, Duterte does not have as many years left as Marcos had when he imposed fascist dictatorship in 1972.  His aberrant speech and behavior reveal the state of his mental and physical health.

His propensity to monopolize political power and bureaucratic loot  and his ability to run the reactionary government Mafia style will eventually work against him due to his own personal and class infirmities and more importantly due to the systemic crisis and lethal blows from the revolutionary movement and the people. The adverse results of his broken promises will soon bear heavily upon him. The broad masses of the people are already taking him to task for failing to solve the problem of illegal drugs, for destroying the entire Marawi City and for terminating the peace negotiations with the NDFP.

By his pseudo-independent foreign policy, Duterte is trying to turn the Philippines into a condominium of the imperialist powers. He thinks as if he can freely get, without strings attached, military equipment from these powers and limitless loans for limitless infrastructure building to buoy up the economy and keep himself in power. He has in fact allowed China to trample on the sovereign rights of the Philippines over the West Philippine Sea under the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea.

He is aggravating the semicolonial status of the Philippines as well as the underdeveloped, agrarian and semifeudal character of the economy.
This kind of economy is ever dependent on the export of cheap raw materials, semimanufactures and cheap labor, on the import of foreign manufactures for consumption and on an ever desperate resort to increasing amounts of foreign loans and speculative capital and to higher taxation to cover trade and budgetary deficits.

The broad masses of the people are angered today by the recently railroaded Tax Reform for Acceleration and Inclusion (TRAIN). This further raises the prices of basic goods and services and generates inflation by increasing indirect taxes (excise, sales and value-added taxes) just to cover tax cuts and tax holidays for the upper classes and fund the counterproductive spending and debt servicing by the state. The rates of unemployment and inflation, though understated in official statistics, are actually causing more poverty and misery on a wider scale.

Contrary to the assurances of his neoliberal economic advisers, Duterte cannot be saved by any increase in the GDP growth rate. The higher the growth rate, the bigger the take of the multinational firms, the big compradors and bureaucrat capitalists and the more severe the conditions of underdevelopment, mass unemployment and poverty afflicting the broad masses of the people. In the final analysis, the big problem for the U.S.-directed Duterte regime is that the oppressed and exploited people have an armed revolutionary movement for undertaking meaningful change in terms of national and social liberation.

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Streetwise by Carol P Araullo: AUTHORITARIAN CREEP (pun intended)

When President Rodrigo Duterte says something really outrageous then it backfires or he is proven to be lying or at least dissembling, he uses several tricks to get away with it.

He or his apologists say he was just joking and because we are so gullible, we are asking for it. Or they say he just loves to use hyperbole to stress a point and his listeners should learn to discern when to take his word for it and when not to.

His damage-control crew says he was merely misunderstood and taken out of context. So Duterte modifies his previous statements with qualifiers to make what was patently unacceptable, even illegal and morally reprehensible, pass for a justifiable position or policy pronouncement.

He or his alter egos may simply say the exact opposite of what he previously said, without batting an eye, as if it were the most natural thing in the world for the highest official of the land to make contradictory statements. At one point, Duterte was forced to admit that he manufactured supposed foreign bank accounts of Senator Trillanes, an unmitigated lie that he lamely excused as a “bait” to catch his tormentor.

When all else fails, he and his henchmen resort to bullying, Duterte style.

The president and his copycat officials use abusive and insulting language and character assassination to brutalize their targets into fear and submission. This also works to distract people’s attention and muddle the issues.
He and his subalterns accuse those who point out his inconsistencies, factual errors and even outright falsehoods as being biased or just plain stupid.

Those who criticize Duterte’s “war on drugs” because of wanton human rights violations are either harebrained coddlers of illicit drug users and traffickers or perpetrators of such unsavory activities themselves deserving of the same deadly treatment.

Those wary of the Duterte regime’s use of strong-arm tactics to solve pockets of armed rebellion in Muslim Mindanao and the long-running communist-led armed struggle nationwide, as well as his open admiration for the dictator Ferdinand Marcos and complicity in the political rehabilitation of the Marcoses, are labelled either “reds” or “yellows” out to destabilize his regime and ultimately oust him from Malacañang.

Duterte taunted organizers of the huge protest demonstration held last September 21, on the occasion of the 45th anniversary of Marcos’ declaration of martial law, as either “yellows riding on reds” or “reds riding on yellows”. He then ended up declaring a “National Day of Protest” where he ludicrously claimed he was one with the protesters (against himself?).

Not only did Duterte cancel classes and close government offices to prevent any massing up of students and employees that could be mobilized for the protests that day, local government officials were told to hold a counter rally at Mendiola near Malacañang while rabid pro-Duterte groups held another one at Plaza Miranda. The government-organized rallies were small and anemic compared to the tens of thousands of impassioned demonstrators gathered at Luneta Park and many other cities all over the country.

Duterte’s creeping authoritarianism consisted first and foremost in ensuring the military’s canine loyalty by plying them with funds, perks and privileges, awards and personal visits. He keeps a tight rein on the police forces by a system of rewards and promotions and promised impunity for extrajudicial killings committed in the course of the “war on drugs”.

The overwhelming dominance of Duterte’s henchmen and lapdogs in Congress and in local government units was only a matter of Malacañang paying each opportunist politician’s price for their blind obedience and cooperation.
Duterte has also packed the civilian bureaucracy with retired generals and lower ranking former military men to the extent that he wryly quipped there was actually no need to declare martial law because the military was already very much in control of his government.

Now Duterte is after the remaining pillars of the remaining liberal democratic façade. His business cronies are extending their tentacles onto the mass media even as he threatens with closure those outlets he considers anti-Duterte. His supermajority in the Lower House attempted to emasculate the Commission on Human Rights (chaired by a known ally of former President B.S. Aquino and vocal critic of the “war on drugs”) by giving it a measly budget of 1000 pesos. This craven move was only defeated by a strong public outcry.

Two Supreme Court justices have been the objects of Duterte’s ire. One is Justice Carpio for his sharp criticism of Duterte’s policy of appeasing China by reneging on the assertion of Philippine sovereignty over disputed areas in the West Philippine Sea. Another is Chief Justice Sereno over her being perceived as another “yellow” loyalist what with her speeches critical of the Duterte regime’s lack of adherence to the rule of law. The latter is the subject of an impeachment move and Duterte is slyly utilizing contradictions within the Court to further pressure Sereno.

Most recently, Duterte renewed his verbal attacks against the Office of the Ombudsman, not only because Ombudsman Morales is another “yellow” appointee but her office has acted on the complaint of Senator Trillanes regarding the alleged ill-gotten wealth amassed by Duterte and his two children, Davao Mayor Sara Duterte and Vice Mayor Paolo Duterte.

Duterte has gone ballistic, threatening to set up a so-called “independent commission” that will investigate alleged corruption in the Ombudsman’s Office.

It now appears that Duterte is not just “onion-skinned” as some critics say, but highly vulnerable to charges of graft and corruption himself. He was able to skirt this issue during the presidential campaign. Now his carefully crafted image as a longtime mayor who was incorruptible and maintained his modest means may be blown apart if he is unable to stop the Ombudsman’s investigations. Even though Duterte may not be charged while in office, the political damage caused by these investigations could impact on the stability of his regime.

Such an outcome could be anybody’s guess but it will take more than Duterte’s bluster this time around to save his fast ebbing credibility. #

(Araullo’s STREETWISE is a regular opinion column in BusinessWorld)

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Streetwise by Carol Pagaduan Araullo: Clearing the air

On the eve of the September 21 protests against the Duterte regime, it has become necessary to clear the air of certain misconceptions as well as false judgments against the Left that stand in the way of forging a broad unity across the political spectrum.

To those who denigrate the Left, or more specifically, the national democratic movement, for having given Duterte the benefit of the doubt in his claim to being a Leftist and a socialist despite a checkered record as Davao City mayor, allow me to say this.

There was good reason to do so: Duterte’s solemn promise to release all political prisoners through amnesty; the resumption of peace talks; the appointment of four progressive, competent and upright individuals to the Cabinet; his stance on ending contractualization, upping SSS pension for seniors, land to the tiller, prioritizing public spending on education, health care, and other social services; his openness to dialogue with the Left on various issues; and his pronouncements to pursue an independent foreign policy.

On the other hand, there was also Duterte’s mailed-fist policy on crime and drugs; his sexism; the preponderance of crooks, militarists, neoliberals and pro-US imperialists in his Cabinet; more-of-the-same neoliberal economic policy frame, policies and programs; and not least of all, his alliance with the Marcoses and former President Gloria Arroyo.

The Left decided to gamble on Duterte, to give him time to deliver on his promises and to prove his Leftist leanings. But the leeway that the Left gave to Duterte did not preclude sharply criticizing and vigorously opposing his administration’s anti-people, anti-national policies and programs.

The open democratic mass movement was unrelenting in doing so in several venues — the parliament of the streets, the mass media, the courts and even in the Lower House of Congress where the Left has a miniscule number.

Restraint was shown only by distinguishing between Duterte and the ultrareactionaries in his Cabinet especially his economic managers and the triad of Lorenzana- Año-Esperon. For more than a year no effigies of Duterte were burned at demonstrations. Instead the Left met with him on several occasions to bring up the grievances of urban poor, the lumad of Mindanao, striking workers and land reform beneficiaries.

The armed revolutionaries under the CPP-NPA-NDFP continued to wage people’s war – armed struggle, agrarian revolution, and a shadow people’s government operating in the countryside. While initially expressing willingness to contribute to Duterte’s campaign against drug trafficking by interdicting drug lords, the CPP-NPA declared early on that they would not be a party to the kind of brutal war being waged against hapless drug addicts and small-time drug pushers.

In a short period of time, the true character of Duterte begun to reveal itself.

Duterte veered more and more to the Right: EJKs galore combined with impunity for the police and military perpetrators; all-out war against the CPP-NPA with bombardments and displacement of thousands of peasants and indigenous peoples; a militarist response to the Marawi crisis leading to the city’s destruction, civilian casualties, the exodus of the populace; the extension of martial law in Mindanao; political persecution of critics and oppositionists; attempts to neutralize government institutions that can act as a check to his tyrannical rule; the scuttling of peace talks; kowtowing to China and maintaining a modus vivendi with the US; a humongous budget going to the failed “war on drugs”, counterinsurgency, the president’s intelligence fund and building a grassroots spy network while gutting the budget of the Human Rights Commission; looming mind-boggling corrupt infrastructure deals with the “build,build,build” frenzy; coddling of pork barrel-hungry legislators; cover up of billions worth of smuggling of shabu involving his son and son-in-law; and the list goes on.

Things finally came to a head leading to the NPA’s intensification of armed tactical offensives against the military and police upon the declaration of martial law in Mindanao. This year’s State-of-the-Nation protests denounced the US-backed Duterte fascist regime. Duterte’s effigies are being burned without remorse in demonstration after demonstration.

The brazen summary execution by the police of several youths in urban poor communities sparked public outrage. Progressive church organizations and other national democratic mass organizations mounted mass protests, gave succor and sanctuary to victims, their families and witnesses.

The rejection of Social Welfare Secretary Judy Taguiwalo and Agrarian Reform Secretary Rafael Mariano by the Commission on Appointments (CA) manifested Duterte’s utter lack of support for them. He just let the CA do the dirty job of kicking them out.

This was the last straw that led to the decision of the Makabayan Coalition of progressive political parties to bolt from the Supermajority of Duterte allies in the House of Representatives. Nonetheless, even before this move, the Makabayan congresspersons had consistently stood their ground on contentious issues such as martial law, the death penalty, lowering the age of criminal accountability of minors, oppressive tax reform measures, and many, many more.

There are those who want to place the onus of a fully evolved corrupt, puppet and fascist Duterte on the Left. In doing so, they wish to put the Left on the defensive. The charge or innuendo that the Left “enabled” the Duterte regime is patently wrong even if it appears to be a backhanded compliment to the capability of the Left to shape a reactionary ruling regime.

There are those who honestly disagreed with giving Duterte the benefit of the doubt that he could or would go in a progressive direction. Yet they acknowledge the reasons for the Left doing so; recognize the Left’s sustained, principled position on issues; and their never giving up the fight for genuine change. They are not making puerile demands that the Left apologize for having been duped by Duterte and they welcome the Left’s earnest efforts to build a strong and broad opposition against the Duterte regime’s EJKS and rising tyranny.

To the former, we say good luck to your demolition job. To the latter, see you in Luneta on September 21, 4pm. Please wear black, bring an umbrella and your own scathing placards. #

(Streetwise is Dr Carol P Araullo’s regular column at Business World.)

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STREETWISE by Carol P Araullo: Justice for Kian, justice for all

The cold-blooded murder of 17-year-old senior high school student, Kian Loyd delos Santos, by Caloocan police, in what President Rodrigo Roa Duterte loudly proclaims as his administration’s unrelenting “war on drugs,” has unleashed a firestorm of protest.

No, Justice Secretary Aguirre, people are not buying your line that Kian’s killing is an “isolated case” that has been “overblown” by the mass media. Coming on the heels of a spate of killings (74 in just 3 days) in “one time, big time” police operations in the slum areas of Bulacan and Manila, Kian’s death is only unique in that CCTV footage and eyewitnesses point unerringly to his merciless beating and execution by policemen in plainclothes.

Neither are they buying the incredible story dished out by the police, without an iota of evidence except their say so, that Kian was a drug courier for his father and uncle. After the fact of his killing in the hands of the police, an alleged drug pusher who claims to have had dealings with Kian is trotted out together with allegations of nonspecific incriminating evidence police investigators discovered, again incredibly, in social media.

Authorities cannot even claim Kian to be the unfortunate but inevitable “collateral damage” of their determined efforts to stamp out the illicit drug trade. Unlike scores of other minors mowed down in Oplan Tokhang and its reinvigorated version, Oplan Double Barrel, who supposedly died in the cross fire, Kian was fatally shot twice in the head, at close range, while prostrate or kneeling, according to official forensic findings.

Yes, oh yes, President Duterte, this one is on you. You egged your police (actually, even your military, but they are too busy with counter-terrorism cum counter-insurgency operations) to “kill, kill, kill” as your administration kept missing your self-imposed deadline for eradicating the drug problem in three months, then six months, and now you admit, maybe not even till the end of your six-year term of office. (Was it just another foot-in-mouth gaffe or were you dead serious when you lauded the Bulacan police for killing 32 drug suspects in 24 hours and called for such a “fine” example to be emulated by the rest of your police forces.)

The more the police killed those who they claim to be in some “drug watch list,” Duterte could unabashedly claim progress, if not success, in his brutal “war on drugs.”

But in light of international criticism of the mounting body count, the police have whittled the official number of police kills down to around 2500, with a similar number being “deaths under investigation” (police speak for killings attributed to vigilantes and/or drug gang rivalry). Nonetheless, mass media and other independent tallies have the running total anywhere between 7000 to more than 10,000.

A system of quotas and rewards for eliminating small-time drug addicts and pushers apparently is in place thus the propensity for periodic raids on urban poor communities to flush them out or to out rightly kill suspects without affording them any kind of due process.

Duterte provided the perfect alibi: the police have the right to employ lethal force in self-defense should a suspect resist arrest or is armed and dangerous. The police picked up the cue from their Commander-in-Chief and so invariably, suspects are reportedly killed in a gun battle with the police, the former initiating the encounter by firing a gun. The police in turn are such sharpshooters no matter the lighting or spatial conditions that suspects always get fatally shot. Or if they are brought into custody alive, they invariably try to grab a police escort’s gun and end up getting killed.

Duterte then promised that with this role play of the police “merely doing their job,” he would protect them from legal prosecution and if convicted, he would pardon them. Such presidential cloak of impunity was proven in the case of Superintendent Marvin Marcos, head of the raiding team that killed alleged drug lord Mayor Rolando Espinosa while in jail. Marcos was reinstated upon Duterte’s direct order to PNP Chief Dela Rosa.

This impunity apparently is also operative in the case of the slaughter by police of the notorious Mayor Parojinog and 14 others, in a shadowy operation to serve a search warrant on a “narcopolitician.” There has been no serious investigation on this case and Chief Inspector Jovie Espenido who led the assault team will likely get a promotion in short order. (He already enjoyed being lionized in the media as someone who got some big fish in the anti-drug war.)

Duterte has been encouraged by the seeming general public approval, if not praise, for his actions. He hit on a nerve — society’s fear of heinous crimes being committed by shabu-crazed addicts or even just neighborhood addicts cum toughies lording it over their unpoliced communities. He had promised to end it swiftly, if brutally.

But only the bad guys were supposed to bear the full brunt of the Duterte regime’s “war on drugs” and maybe an acceptable number of “collateral damage.” And even if disturbing evidence of the extrajudicial killings were splashed on television screens, the front page of newspapers and the internet, the public was lulled into thinking that the victims were society’s dregs and were thus dispensable.

Until the killing of Kian Loyd delos Santos.

A teenager who had dreams of being a policeman someday. The eldest child of an OFW mother slaving away in Saudi Arabia to support her children and a father tending a small sari-sari store to make ends meet. A grade 11 student who begged the plainclothes policemen who were beating him up to please stop as he had an examination the following day. An ordinary fellow with no record and no reputation in the neighborhood of being involved with illegal drugs in any way. A right-handed person who supposedly shot at the police with his left hand. Whose ordeal was caught on CCTV and seen by several witnesses.

Thus he became Everyman — any poor but struggling parents’ son — minding his own business yet finding himself in the crosshairs of the Duterte regime’s “war on drugs.” This is exemplified in the social media post #IAmKian.

All of a sudden there is widespread outrage and dismay. Kian’s murder has unlocked the Pandora’s box of official deception about the effectiveness of the “war on drugs” and of the official cover-up of the horrible crimes being committed in its name.

The public outcry is simple and straightforward: Stop the killings! Justice for Kian, justice for all! To achieve these demands there is the urgent need to expose the mastermind and make him ultimately accountable. #

(Carol Pagaduan-Araullo is a medical doctor by training, social activist by choice, columnist by accident, happy partner to a liberated spouse and proud mother of two. This article was first published as an opinion piece by BusinessWorld: http://bworldonline.com/justice-kian-justice/)

[Photo by Danny de Guzman / Kodao Productions]

 

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STREETWISE by Carol Pagaduan Araullo: No love lost between Duterte and the Left

One need not be such a keen observer of Philippine politics to note the quite dramatic deterioration in the relationship between the Left and President Rodrigo Roa Duterte, self-styled “Leftist” and “socialist” president of the Philippines.

At the beginning, a de facto tactical alliance existed between the two. It was premised on Duterte’s promise that he would bring about a real change in government. For the Left, foremost was the release of all political prisoners, peace talks to arrive at fundamental socioeconomic and political reforms, and an independent foreign policy to reverse decades of US neocolonial domination.

A year later, Duterte has reneged on his promise to amnesty all political prisoners and has practically, if not formally, scuttled the GRP-NDFP peace negotiations. He is brandishing what he thinks is a more formidable “all-out war” against the CPP-NPA-NDFP topped by a martial law declaration in Mindanao, targeting what the AFP claims to be the movement’s strongest base of operations.

For the Left, Duterte has emerged as a full-blown reactionary president, a fascist defender of the exploitative and oppressive status quo, while still trying to deceive the people with token, populist measures and an image of being tough against corruption and criminality.

The signal fire, in retrospect, was when Duterte collapsed the 5th round of GRP-NDFP peace talks saying that he would not pursue negotiations unless the CPP-NPA-NDFP entered into an indefinite bilateral cease-fire. Echoing the hawkish line of his security officials, Duterte said talks can not go anywhere if the NPA continues to launch attacks against the AFP and engages in “criminal extortion” or what the CPP-NPA calls “revolutionary taxation.”

But what supposedly got Duterte’s ire was the directive of the CPP leadership to the NPA to intensify its tactical offensives against the military and police upon the declaration of martial law in Mindanao. Glossed over is the fact that no cease-fire was in effect at that time because the Duterte government failed to declare a unilateral cease-fire before the 4th round of talks even though the two sides had earlier agreed upon a simultaneous declaration of unilateral cease-fires.

The preconditioning of the peace talks to an open-ended cease-fire before any bilateral agreement on socioeconomic reforms had been reached not only violates previous agreements that the Duterte government affirmed when it revived talks with the NDFP, bottom line is that the GRP wants the revolutionary movement to agree to its voluntary pacification in exchange for nothing. In effect, to surrender on the negotiating table as a prelude to surrendering in the battle field without achieving any meaningful reforms through a supposedly negotiated political settlement.

It appears that the NDFP Negotiating Panel tried its best to salvage the situation by proposing ways of easing pressure on the Duterte government with the onset of the Marawi crisis.

Unfortunately, Duterte quickly swung rightward. He allowed the militarist troika of Lorenzana-Año-Esperon to lead the way, not only in dealing with the ISIS-inspired Maute rebellion in Lanao province by aerial and artillery bombardment leading to the destruction of Marawi City, but in pursuing the government’s counterinsurgency program against the CPP-NPA-NDFP, this time utilizing the vast powers of martial law in all of Mindanao to tamp down any opposition.

Flush with the imprimatur given by the Supreme Court to the imposition of martial law in Mindanao, Duterte railroaded its extension until yearend via a pliant Congress. Independent reporting on the continuing devastation of Marawi City and its after effects is virtually impossible with the military controlling all sources of information. Heightened human rights violations in other parts of Mindanao have been swept under the rug.

The direct involvement of the US Armed Forces in the military campaign against the Maute Group has been welcomed and justified by Duterte despite his posture that he is against US intervention in the country’s internal affairs. (Apparently he was only referring to US criticism of his bloody anti-illegal drugs campaign).

His anti-US tirades have softened of late and been replaced with friendly meetings with the US ambassador and US Secretary of State; echoing the US line against the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea; and reports of an agreement to allow armed US drones to strike at ISIS and other “terrorist” targets.

Clearly the ISIS “threat” is being overblown as an excuse to prolong martial law and possibly even expand it outside Mindanao. It is also providing the rational for expanding US military presence in the country and steadily growing US military involvement in armed conflicts labelled as “terrorist”.

Duterte’s attempt to appear conciliatory when he addressed the Left-led SONA protest failed to mollify the protesters who persistently chanted their calls for genuine reforms, an end to martial law, and the continuation of peace talks. Duterte was forced to end his pretense at openness and departed in a huff.

Duterte’s speeches have become consistently virulent against not just the revolutionary Left but also political and social activists who are leading the fight for reforms. He threatened to bomb lumad schools that he said were NPA schools. He said he would not hesitate to use violence against militant urban poor if they again tried to occupy abandoned public housing. He rained invectives on activists and said he would not heed their demands even if they resorted to nonstop protest in the streets.

In response, activists are stepping up their opposition to what they now call the “US-Duterte fascist regime.”

What is interesting is that Duterte has not fired three Leftist Cabinet members despite the downward spiral of relations with the Left. For one he has no basis to kick them out except that they are identified with the Left. For another, they are no threat to him; in fact, one might say they are objectively helping to deodorize his regime by just doing their jobs competently and consistent with their pro-people stand.

Neither have the three tendered their resignations to the wonderment of those who tend to think the Left one-track minded and monolithic. Perhaps this is all that remains of what once was a promising alliance between Duterte and the Left. A tenuous bridge for communications before all hell breaks loose.

(This article first appeared in an opinion column of the same title on BusinessWorld. http://bworldonline.com/no-love-lost-between-duterte-and-the-left/

Carol Pagaduan-Araullo is a medical doctor by training, social activist by choice, columnist by accident, happy partner to a liberated spouse and proud mother of two.)

carol_araullo@yahoo.com

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STREETWISE BY CAROL P. ARAULLO: Unmasking Duterte

These days, President Rodrigo Roa Duterte is turning out to be his own worst enemy.

He cannot keep himself from rambling on and on, revealing his bloodlust, megalomania, contempt for objectivity and truth, small-mindedness and bigotry, gullibility for the “intelligence” briefings by the AFP and the propensity for using strong-arm techniques to get his way.

A year ago, at the beginning of Duterte’s presidency, his crassness seemed to be just an idiosyncratic style born of his being an uncouth politician from the boondocks, used to the rough-and-tumble and straight-talking ways of those who are reared in the frontiers of Mindanao.

Many ordinary folk found him engaging, even refreshingly tactless, hence appearing to be honest and sincere.

What was important is that he promised to wipe out the illicit drugs trade in three to six months by means of a bloody “war on drugs”; zero tolerance for graft and corruption; a stop to the practice of “endo” (end-of-contract) that undermined workers’ security of tenure; easing the burden of taxation while spending more on social services for the poor; siding with landless peasants in their fight against the landed oligarchy; an end to the despoilment of the environment through large-scale mining; and to top it all, to release all political prisoners and bring about a negotiated, peaceful settlement of armed conflicts by engaging in peace talks. He also did the unexpected by appointing three avowed Leftists in his Cabinet.

High hopes abounded as well as serious misgivings. The revolutionary and progressive forces on the Left of the political spectrum decided to give Duterte a chance to prove his claims to being the first “Leftist” and “socialist” President.

While long-time mayor of Davao City, traces of his Leftist background surfaced in so far as 1) he acknowledged the CPP-NPA as a political entity born of endemic poverty and oppression; 2) he had a modus vivendi with the CPP-NPA with regard to their de facto existence as a shadow government, including their collection of revolutionary taxes and punitive actions against exploitative and oppressive businesses; 3) he did not consider “all-out war” as the correct or even viable solution to insurgency; 4) he maintained open lines of communication with the CPP-NPA 5) he upheld the human rights of rebels and political activists; 5) he asserted political independence versus US military intrusions in Davao City; 6) he welcomed peace negotiations as a means of resolving armed conflicts by addressing their root causes in unjust socioeconomic and political structures.

A short year later, Duterte is close to fully unfolding towards the Right. Whatever background of activism in his youth has become overwhelmed by the conservatism of his adult years as a politician in the mold of a bureaucrat capitalist until winning the presidency and becoming CEO of the reactionary state.

President Duterte has scuttled peace talks by insisting on an indefinite, bilateral cease-fire even before reaching a comprehensive agreement on socioeconomic reforms (CASER). Duterte not only failed to fulfill his promise to amnesty and release all political prisoners, he continued his regime’s brutal counterinsurgency program including the bombardment of civilian communities suspected to be supportive of the CPP-NPA and the targeted killings of unarmed activists.

He resorts to lies and ad hominem attacks on NDFP Chief Political Consultant and CPP Founding Chairperson Joma Sison to belittle, insult, and dismiss him as a revolutionary leader. He parrots the worn-out AFP line demonizing the CPP-NPA as terrorists and plain criminals extorting from the people and businesses.

Duterte is in over his head. His conceit is that his overrated stint in Davao City provides him the blueprint for dealing with the complexities of the country’s historical ills. He misrepresents authoritarianism for political will and resort to mass murder and bullying tactics for decisive leadership.

Duterte’s opportunistic alliances with the Marcoses and ex-President Gloria Arroyo, his over dependence on the pro-US, militarist troika of Lorenzana-Año-Esperon and pandering to the AFP and PNP to preempt a coup attempt by his rivals — all these reveal that he is indeed an ultra-reactionary contrary to his self-delusional pose as a “leftist.”

But as a Marcos wannabe, Duterte lacks sophistication. His expressed intention to bomb lumad schools as a counterinsurgency measure makes him vulnerable to charges of genocide and other war crimes. His demagoguery is repetitive and tiresome. His resort to martial law in Mindanao and the destruction of Marawi City to deal with the disastrous Mamasapano-like police operation against Isnilon Hapilon is a testament to his incompetence and brutality as a commander-in-chief.

Duterte’s “war on drugs” is an unmitigated failure. It’s outcome: an unending body count of alleged small-time drug users and dealers, victims of extrajudicial killing by police and touted vigilantes incited on their murderous killing spree by no less than President Duterte. Impunity reigns with Duterte shielding the police establishment that he once described as “rotten to the core” from investigation by the Commission on Human Rights and the Ombudsman. A police official, coincidentally surnamed Marcos, who stands accused of murdering a suspected drug lord while in jail has been reinstated and will soon be eligible for promotion upon the specific instruction of no less than President Duterte.

Duterte’s economic policies and programs have not departed from the failed policies of his predecessors in keeping the economy backward and the majority of the people eking out a precarious existence with no stable sources of livelihood or forced to take their chances working overseas. His resort to dole-outs, including one-time subsidies for higher education, is unsustainable. Social services like housing and health care remain unaffordable, of poor quality and inadequate. Whatever economic growth benefits foreign multinationals, their domestic business partners and corrupt politicians and bureaucrats.

Finally, Duterte has maintained his off-and-on diatribe against the US, citing its track record as a brutal colonizer of the Philippines and as an exponent of wars of aggression against sovereign countries in the Middle East and elsewhere. His tirades intensify as criticisms from US quarters of his regime’s bloody war on drugs intensifies and as the US government hedges on the delivery of armaments and other forms of military aid.

But as the US well knows, Duterte is not about to touch any of the lopsided military agreements such as EDCA and the VFA that allows US military presence on Philippine soil and power projection in the Asia Pacific region.

Meanwhile, Duterte’s courtship of China for loans and investments is leading us to debt peonage to a new master and abandonment of our sovereign rights over the West Philippine Sea.

The Duterte regime is headed towards complete unmasking and isolation as anti-people unless it drastically changes course. Unfortunately, there are few signs that this can or will happen. # (First published in BusinessWorld, 31 July 2017 / carol_araullo@yahoo.com)