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

-Centre for Humanitarian Dialogue. July 2011. Armed Violence in Mindanao: Militia and Private Armies. Geneva, Switzerland: Author.

-Chambers, P. 2012. “A Precarious Path: The Evolution of Civil-Military Relations in the Philippines.” Asian Security 8 (2): 138-163. Retrieved from https://library.xu.edu.phdoi.org/10.1080/14799855.2012.686254

-Defense Department – United States of America. 2010. Department of Defense Dictionary of Military and Associated Terms. Washington, DC: Author. Retrieved from https://www.dtic.mil/doctrine/new_pubs/jp1_02.pdf.

-Environmental Justice Atlas. 2012. “Illegal Gold Mining and Killing of Anti-Mining Indigenous Leader Jimmy Liguyon, Mindanao, Philippines.” EnvironmentalJusticeAtlas.org. Retrieved from https://ejatlas.org/conflict/illegal-gold-mining-and-killing-of-anti-mining-indigenous-leader-jimmy-liguyon-mindano-philippines

-Karapatan. 2014. Karapatan Year-End Report on the Human Rights Situation in the Philippines. Quezon City, Philippines: Author.

-Human Rights Watch. 23 September 2015. Philippines: Paramilitaries Attack Tribal Villages, Schools. Retrieved from https://www.hrw.org/news/2015/09/23/philippines-paramilitaries-attack-tribal-villages-schools

-Lopez, A.D. 21 May 2012. “Stopping a Hydroelectric Dam.” Davao Today. Retrieved from http://davaotoday.com/main/politics/stopping-a-hydroelectric-dam

-RMP-NMR. 2016. Peoples’ Rights in the Peripherals: Lumad Rights in the Last 18 Months of President Aquino III.Iligan City, Philippines: Rural Missionaries of the Philippines-Northern Mindanao Region. Retrieved from https://www.rmp-nmr.org.

-RMP-NMR. 2017. State of Unchange: Lumad Rights a Year into the Duterte Administration. Iligan City, Philippines: Rural Missionaries of the Philippines-Northern Mindanao Region. Retrieved from https://www.rmp-nmr.org.

-Saab, B.Y. & A.W. Taylor. 2012. “Criminality and Armed Groups: A Comparative Study of FARC and Paramilitary Groups in Colombia.” Studies in Conflict & Terrorism 32 (6): 455-475. Retrieved from https://library.xu.edu.phhttps://doi.org/10.1080/10576100902892570

-Spear, L. 15 September 2015. “A ‘Civil War’ Is Being Waged Against Indigenous Tribes in the Southern Philippines, Rights Group Says.” Time. Retrieved from http://time.com/4028811/philippines-lumad-mindanao-indigenous-military-war-killings

-UN Secretariat of the Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues. 2009. State of the World’s Indigenous Peoples. New York, NY: Author.

-Vaishnav, P. 2017. “Child Protection and UNICEF’s Communication and Media Strategy: A Conflict-related Study from Mindanao, Philippines.” In Andersen, R. & P.L. de Silva (editors), Routledge Companion to Media and Humanitarian Action. London, UK: Routledge.

-Velez, T. n.d. “Alamara, the Paramilitary Gripping Davao’s Lumad Communities.” Cagayan de Oro, Philippines: Mindanao Interfaith Institute on Lumad Studies. Retrieved from http://www.miils.org/type/reports/alamara-paramilitary-gripping-davaos-lumad-communities

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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.

Speak Truth to Power, Keep Power in Check

RODRIGO R. Duterte’s presidency has altered and controlled the public discourse so radically in its favor in ways rude and bold. One tragic result: it has restricted and narrowed the celebrated freedom of the Philippine press and the people’s cherished right to know.

In his first 22 months in power, Mr. Duterte has earned the dubious honor of logging 85 various cases of attacks and threats on these dual values that the Constitution upholds as inalienable rights of the citizens. The number far exceeds those recorded under four presidents before him.

Separately and together, these 85 cases have made the practice of journalism an even more dangerous endeavor under Duterte.

From June 30, 2016 to May 1, 2018, these cases include the killing of 9 journalists, 16 libel cases, 14 cases of online harassment, 11 death threats, 6 slay attempts, 6 cases of harassment, 5 cases of intimidation, 4 cases of website attack, revoked registration or denied franchise renewal, verbal abuse, strafing, and police surveillance of journalists and media agencies.

These cases project the force of presidential power dominating the political sphere, with zealous support from Duterte allies and appointees, and their sponsored misinformation army online and off. They have hurled at members of the press insults and unfair labels, and allegations of corruption and misconduct without firm basis in fact or in law.

These cases linger amid effete efforts at solution by state agencies, and in the context of the hostile and vicious discourse against the administration’s critics and the critical media.

The President, Cabinet members, and the House of Representatives have imposed and proposed unprecedented restrictions on journalist access to official news events. Congress and executive agencies have denied or delayed the corporate registration or franchises required for operation of media companies.

Some journalists and media groups have also reported police surveillance of their movement and their places of work.

Attacks on press freedom diminish not just the news media. These weaken the capacity of the news media to sustain the people’s unfettered exchange of ideas about public issues. Presidential intolerance of criticism is now a well established aspect of Duterte’s leadership. While he is not the only chief executive who has become sensitive to press criticism, Duterte has made sure that everyone understands that misfortunes could hound and befall his critics.

And yet Duterte had promised change; his government should thus tell the people when and where change has come to fruition, and whether it has triggered better or worse results. By keeping citizens and voters fully informed about what and how those they have raised to power are doing right or wrong, a free press sustains and strengthens democracy.

That is not quite the situation under Duterte as yet. Intimidated, restrained, and threatened with consequences, the news media have been significantly constrained to report well and fully on the war on drugs, the siege of Marawi, cases of alleged corruption in high office, questions about the wealth of the Duterte family, the public debate on Charter change and federalism, the shutdown of Boracay, and not the least significant, the incursions of China in the West Philippine Sea.

Rodrigo R. Duterte has brandished the power of fear. His threats and attacks bear the full weight of his office, the highest in the land. No need to test constitutional limits. All he seems to want to do is to make enough journalists understand that they should be very afraid.

But, like fear, courage could be contagious. And unlike fear that disempowers, courage built on the power of truth and the unity of all in media is a force that empowers.

To stand firm and to stand united for press freedom and democracy, to speak truth to power and to keep power in check — this much the press owes the people. And whoever is president, the paramount duty of a free press in a democracy is to defend and uphold the people’s right to know, with unqualified courage and unity. #

(This is a pooled editorial issued by the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP), the Center for Media Freedom and Responsibility, Philippine Press Institute, and the Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism on the occasion of World Press Freedom Day 2018 today.

Kodao is an NUJP chapter)

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. #

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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.)