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Method in its madness

By Luis V. Teodoro

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

(First published in BusinessWorld. Photo from PCOO)

Philippine TRAIN wreck

By Luis V. Teodoro

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

First published in BusinessWorld. Photo from PCOO.

Nato on trolls: ‘Let us not allow them to win’

Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (Bayan) secretary general Renato Reyes Jr. is pushing back hard against online bashers he believes are “Duterte-Marcos trolls,” adding he has already consulted lawyers for appropriate legal action.

“I decry the orchestrated online slander campaign instigated by Duterte-Marcos trolls against me and the broad United People’s SONA,” Reyes told Kodao.

Reyes cited lies and a death threat posted online by bashers who also accused him of profiting from protest actions he helped organize.

He said the trolls altered photos of the huge SONA rally against President Rodrigo Duterte’s planned Charter change to make it appear as a pro-Duterte rally.

“Then, several accounts posted false and slanderous accounts about me concerning alleged purchases that I never made,” he said.

The post’s originator, a certain Gabriel Ilano, claimed he was asked by Reyes to “mark up” the declared price of a projector machine.

Ilano’s Facebook account since been deactivated after Reyes reposted Ilano’s accusation on his own account.

“However, [Ilano’s] false claims continue to make the rounds of Duterte sites. As a result I have received an online death threat from one Carl Espiritu,” Reyes said.

“Nagmamalinis kang animal ka! Kawatan ka pa rin palang hinayupak ka! Dapat bala ibaon sa ulo mo!” Espiritu wrote. (You want people to believe you are upright when you are corrupt yourself. You deserve a bullet to the head!)

Espiritu’s wife has called Reyes to apologize and explain that her husband is suffering from depression.

“I have already informed my lawyers and they are studying the appropriate legal action against Ilano, Espiritu and others who are spreading false claims,” Reyes said.

The leader said that two others have already contacted him to apologize, including a 23-year old woman who falsely claimed she was Reyes’s high school classmate who dropped out of school as he was already earning from organizing rallies.

Reyes graduated from Lourdes School of Quezon City and was his class’s Citizen’s Army Training Corps Commander and student publication editor in his senior year. He went on to attend the University of the Philippines in Diliman where he was also a student leader.

Earlier this year, Reyes’ 10-year old son was also accused by bashers of crashing a sports car into an electrical post.

“The end goal of the trolls is to stop critical discussion by hijacking the discourse. Let us not allow them to win,” Reyes said. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

 

Women survivors talk about Martial Law

Four elderly women Martial Law victims in Central Luzon talk about the dictatorship and Senator Ferdinand Marcos’ run for the vice presidency.

CARMMA holds own sortie vs Marcos

Volunteers of the Campaign Against the Return of the Marcoses to Malacañang (CARMMA) held a caravan around Quezon City today to convince voters against voting for Senator Ferdinand Marcos Jr as vice president in Monday’s national elections.

The campaigners gathered at the Bantayog ng mga Bayani, the place dedicated to those who fought against the dictatorship of the Senator’s father Ferdinand Sr., early this morning and then motored to Barangay Commonwealth to distribute leaflets and post stickers.

Here is a video of CARMMA’s activity this morning.

Anti-Bongbong campaigners get helping hand from ‘Voltes V’

The Campaign Against the Return of the Marcoses in Malacañang (CARMMA) received a helping hand from popular 1970s mecha Voltes V.

At a gathering yesterday at the Araneta Center, “Voltes V” slashed and stabbed a photo of Senator and vice-presidential candidate Ferdinand Marcos dressed as the cartoon show’s evil Prince Zardoz.

CARMMA members distributed leaflets enumerating the Senator’s “sins” and culpability under the 30-year iron-fisted rule of Ferdinand Marcos Sr.

Here is a video of yesterday’s event.

“Voltes V” campaigns against Bongbong Marcos

Volunteers of the Campaign Against the Return of the Marcoses in Malacañang (CARMMA) sought the help of popular 70s mecha, or Japanese cartoon giant robot, Voltes V in convincing pedestrians not to vote for Senator Ferdinand Marcos Jr as vice president on Monday’s national elections.

CARMMA members distributed leaflets in Cubao, Quezon City this afternoon listing seven reasons why Marcos must not be elected to a higher office.

Security guards and Philippine National Police personnel tried to stop the event, saying Araneta Center in Cubao is a private property and that CARMMA did not have a permit to stage the public gathering.

The guards were convinced to give CARMMA a few minutes however, paving the way for “Voltes V” to make his appearance.

Voltes V was a popular cartoon show in 1978 that was banned by the Marcos dictatorship for being “too violent.” Anti-Marcos activists however said the late dictator just did not want the people emulate the fictional robot’s fight against the evil Bozanian Empire and rise up against the Marcos government.

Senator Marcos was represented as the cruel Prince Zardoz at this afternoon’s event.

(Text and photos by Raymund Villanueva)

ITANONG MO KAY PROF: On the possible return of the Marcoses in Malacañan

In this podcast, Martial Law survivor Jose Ma. Sison talks about the dark days of the Marcos dictatorship and the dangers of electing Senator Ferdinand Marcos as the next vice president of the Philippines.

Sison, who was heavily tortured and imprisoned in isolation for many years by the Marcos dictatorship, blames the two Aquino governments for their failure to prosecute the Marcoses for their crimes and allowing them to regain political power.

“Itanong Mo Kay Prof” is a special podcast that presents an alternative analysis of issues that affect the Filpino people.

EDSA 1 anniv: Militants still fighting BP 880 after 31 years

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The Philippine National Police’s  efforts to block progressive groups from holding a rally at the EDSA Shrine last February 25’s commemoration of People Power 1’s 30th anniversary smacks of Martial Law tactics.

This was the complaint aired by the newly-formed Campaign Against the Return of the Marcoses in Malacañang (CARMMA) as it led thousands of protesters in a march from the corner of Edsa and Connecticut Street in San Juan City as official celebrations led by President Benigno Aquino have finished.

“Nasaan ang diwa ng EDSA sa pagpigil sa atin? Bakit kailangan nating makipag-gitgitan sa mga pulis upang kamtin ang ating karapatan?” CARMMA convenor Bonifacio Ilagan asked during his speech. (Where is the spirit of EDSA in stopping us? Why must we push against the police to exercise our rights?)

CARMMA was joined by militant groups Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (BAYAN), Anakpawis, Gabriela, Kilusang Mayo Uno (KMU), and others as well as Martial Law-era activists and members.

The protest rally sought to remind Filipinos — especially so-called millenials (those born after the turn of the millennium) — of the horrors of Martial Law and how little substantial change happened under subsequent governments since 1986

They also vowed to derail Senator Ferdinand Marcos Jr.’s vice presidential bid, noting that his candidacy seems to be gaining currency among young voters.

The protesters clashed with the police which tried to block them at least three times.  At the fourth barrier at the corner of Edsa and Ortigas Avenue, the police brought to bear steel barriers and a truck forcing the militant to hold a program at the intersection.

The protesters questioned the police’s show of force against their ranks, calling it ironic and reminiscent of Martial Law.  They also questioned the presence of policemen, saying that there they had more important things to do than getting in the way of peaceful protests.

Marcosian law

The police for their part said the protesters failed to present a permit from authorities, citing dictator Ferdinand Marcos’ Batas Pambansa 880, also known as the Public Assembly Act of 1985.

“Kung meron silang permit na dala, ok sana.  walang problema sa amin. Pero ang utos sa’ amin is that iko-contain lang sila,” police ground commander Senior Superintendent Edwin de Ocampo was quoted by ABS-CBN said. (If they [protesters] had a permit with them, then it would’ve been fine with us. But our orders were to contain them.)

The police blockades were augmented by elements of the Philippine Army as well as fully armed Special Weapons and Tactics teams.

A firetruck from the Bureau of Fire Protection was also present behind the fourth and final police line.

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Unfazed

The police, army and firefighters’ combined presence failed to stop the militants, however.

The protesters pushed on with their program, with speakers recalling the importance of protest rallies in bringing down the Marcos dictatorship,

“Ipagtanggol po natin ang tunay na diwa ng pagbabago, at ito po ay hindi ang pagpapalit ng mukha ng nakapuwesto. Ito po ang pagpapalit ng power relations, ng political and social structures.” Ilagan said. (We must defend the true spirit of change. It is found not in the changing of whoever is in power; it is the changing of power relations and political and social structures.

“Ito po ay ang pagbibigay ng karapatan sa inyo, ang karaniwang mamamayan,” Ilagan added.  (It is the giving back of power to you, the ordinary masses.)

Youth leader and Anakbayan chairperson Vencer Crisostomo gave praise to the “brave souls who fought during Marcos’ regime, and continue to do so to this very day.”

Crisostomo also reminded the protesters that the spirit of EDSA is not about the street or shrine itself, but the people:

“Tuloy po ang rebolusyon. Huwag ninyong hanapin sa estatwa ang pagbabago. Wala sa EDSA ang rebolusyon,” Crisostomo said.  (The revolution goes on. Don’t look to a statue for change. You will not find the revolution in EDSA.)—by Abril Ayad Ayroso

 

Enraged protesters push back police at EDSA 30th anniv commemoration

Enraged by the unexplained decision to prevent them from commemorating the 30th anniversary of the People Power uprising, militant groups overpowered the Philippine National Police to reach the EDSA Shrine at the corner of the famous thoroughfare and Ortigas Avenue.

Waiting their turn after the official program led by President Benigno Aquino this morning, the protesters led by groups such as Bagong Alyansang Makabayan, Kilusang Mayo Uno and the Campaign Against the Return of the Marcoses in Malacañang (CARMMA) wanted to march all the way to the shrine but the police tried to block them.

During their own program, the groups took turns warning about the possible return of dictator Ferdinand Marcos’s family to Malacañan Palace with Ferdinand Jr.’s vice presidential bid in the coming national elections.

They also condemned the police actions as reminiscent of Martial Law policies.