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Farmers question budget cuts on irrigation and rice program equipment

Marcos bailiwicks to get more road projects in 2023, KMP reveals

The Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP) questioned proposed fund cuts for irrigation and equipment procurement for the country’s national rice program in next year’s proposed national budget.

The farmers’ group reported that the Department of Agriculture proposes a P211 million cut in the budget for the Irrigation Network Service from the current P932 million to P721 million in 2023.

The KMP added that the agency, led by President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. himself, proposes a 64% budget slash from the current P1.9 billion to P700 million for the Provision of Agricultural Equipment and Facilities of the ongoing National Rice Program.

Likewise, the Extension Support, Education, and Training Services budget for the National Livestock Program will be slashed by P82 million from P611 million to P529 million, the KMP said.

“These are crucial projects, activities, and programs related to the recovery of the slumped rice and livestock sectors. Why impose these budget cuts?” former agrarian reform secretary and KMP’s long-time leader Rafael Mariano asked.

Agri budget for counter-insurgency

In a statement, Mariano also said that the agency must explain why the DA’s proposed 2023 budget seem to prioritize programs that are being used for the government’s counter-insurgency project.

Among these include the budget for the Special Area for Agricultural Development (SAAD) program proposed to enjoy a P251 million budget increase from P923 million to P1.1 billion next year.

SAAD, however, is not a generic DA project but was created by former President Rodrigo Duterte’s Executive Order 70 that also created the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict.

“Technically, this budget for SAAD is a budget for counterinsurgency under the guise of social and economic interventions such as social preparation, production and livelihood, marketing assistance and enterprise development. We want to know, how in reality, SAAD aids in poverty alleviation of farmers and fishers when the most basic issues in rural communities are not being addressed,” Mariano said.

More agri budget for Marcos’ home regions

KMP also noted that the DA’s proposed 2023 budget seems to favor Marcos’ home regions, Ilocos and Eastern Visayas. The president’s father, Ferdinand Sr. was from Ilocos Norte while his mother is from Leyte.

“[The KMP finds] it dubious that the DA gave funding preference for the construction, repair and rehabilitation of farm-to-market roads (FMR) in key production areas in known ‘Marcos territories’ like in Regions 1 and 8,” the group said.

From P7.5 billion, the farm-to-market roads budget will increase to P13.1 billion, of which some P1.86 billion will go to Region 1 and P1.41 billion for Region 8, the group reported.

KMP said it identified more than 100 FMR projects in Ilocos Norte and Leyte provinces alone, mostly concreting of barangay roads. Each FMR project ranges from P12 million to P30 million.

KMP added that farm-to-market road projects easily become budget for “farm-to-pockets” operations.

“Sana, hindi tatambakan lang ng graba (gravel) ang isang kilometro ng kalsada tapos tatawagin nang farm-to-market road. Kailangan busisiin ang mga badyet para sa farm-to-market roads dahil dito laging may mga kumukubra,” Mariano said.

(We wish they will not just dump gravel on short stretches and already call them farm-to-market roads. There is a need to investigate the budget because corruption is rife in such projects.)

“Huge amounts are spent on roads that are repaired or rebuilt over and over, resulting in favored contractors and duplication of projects. Corruption is also a given in these projects,” the farmer-leader added. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

FULL COVERAGE: Protest action of progressive groups at Plaza Miranda, calling for #MarcosItakwil

Kodao’s full coverage of the protest action of progressive groups, calling for #MarcosItakwil, at Plaza Miranda last June 30, the same day as the inauguration of President Bongbong Marcos (PBBM), son of the late dictator, Ferdinand Marcos.

Various sectors expressed their displeasure about the return of another Marcos to Malacañang as the human rights violations and different cases, such as theft and tax evasion, of the Marcos family, including the president himself, are still in need of justice and liability from them.

PBBM was also challenge by the groups that instead of revising the history, which his family’s been doing for the past years, revise the sloppy works of the past Duterte administration.

Joma, CPP deny advising Robredo

‘Journal report  is fake news designed to help Marcos Jr.’

National Democratic Front of the Philippines chief political consultant Jose Maria Sison condemned as fake news a news report alleging he is a key contributor and an adviser to Vice President Leni Robredo and her spokesperson Atty. Barry Gutierrez.

In a statement, Sison denies the allegations in the article written for Journal News Online by Lee Ann P. Ducusin.

“I have not been advising Leni Robredo although I think that she is a far more qualified candidate for president than Ferdinand Jr. who has no qualification but to campaign with too much money from the bureaucratic loot of the late unlamented fascist dictator, Ferdinand Sr.,” Sison said.

He also denied consulting with Gutierrez.

The article, published by the Journal Group’s online version last Thursday claimed Sison admitted advising Robredo.

The article claimed Sison, through the Communist Party of the Philippines’ (CPP) official organ Ang Bayan, “encouraged all partisans to persevere and be steadfast in supporting Leni, who vowed to stand with the people in the fight against an oppressive system.”

The article further claimed that Sison and Gutierrez were engaged in “several phone conversations…where he laid down several pointers on how to initiate a media attack on other presidential candidates, particularly Isko Moreno and Ferdinand ‘Bongbong’ Marcos Jr.”

Sison revealed that he has never been approached or interviewed by Ducusin.

CPP’s chief information officer Marco Valbuena has since denied the CPP had ever published a statement related to what Ducusin and the Journal claimed.

“This is obviously fake news concocted by Marcos in the hope of lending credibility to claims of a ‘coalition’ between the Robredo camp and the CPP in the hope of consolidating the support of the anti-communist military and police officers for Marcos,” Valbuena said.

Gutierrez also denied the report’s allegations.

“Absolute lie. Nabaliw na yata ‘yung writer. (The writer must have turned crazy.) Desperate much?” Gutierrez said on Twitter.

The Romualdez family-owned Journal group of publications is known for its anti-Robredo articles.

The powerful clan from Leyte, headed by Representative Martin Romualdez, is closely related to Marcos Jr. through his mother Imelda who was born a Romualdez. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

If BBM wins, ‘the right of the Filipino people to recover P203 billion in estate tax will be gone forever’

In an online media forum last January 13 by 1Sambayan about the ill-gotten wealth of the Marcos family, former Supreme Court (SC) Senior Associate Justice Antonio Carpio said that if Bongbong Marcos (BBM) wins the presidential elections 2022, the recovery of more than P328 billion worth of the ill-gotten wealth and unpaid taxes of his family may go in vain.

The ill-gotten wealth also includes more than P125 billion worth of assets of the Marcoses.

“That’s really the problem because if Bongbong Marcos becomes president, I do not expect the P125 billion to be recovered, anymore. The first thing he’ll do, he’ll probably abolish the [Presidential Commission on Good Government] PCGG,” Carpio stated.

The PCGG was created by the Executive Order No. 1, which primary task is to recover the ill-gotten wealth of the Marcos family.

Carpio also added a “bigger problem” if BBM wins the elections, concerning his unsettled estate tax of P203 billion.

“He’s the administrator of the estate; he has been ordered by the court to pay; he refuses to pay up to now, and nobody seems to hold him to account for that,” Carpio explained.

Carpio concluded his speech by saying that the issue of the ill-gotten wealth and unpaid taxes of BBM and his family is just one of many reasons why BBM should not be elected as president of the country.

“There’s a bigger problem: he (Bongbong Marcos) owes the government P203 billion for the estate tax. If he becomes president, goodbye na ‘yan. If you do not collect that within five years—you do not send even a demand letter that prescribes—hindi mo na makolekta ‘yan. So he has six years. Hindi s’ya magpapadala ng collection letter against himself. So [the] right of the Filipino people to recover P203 billion in estate tax will be gone forever.”Hon. Antonio Carpio, Retired Supreme Court Senior Associate Justice

Decision allowing Marcos Jr’s candidacy ‘disrespects truth and justice’

Dismayed petitioners to file appeal on Monday

Opponents of the return of the Marcoses to Malacanang said they are dismayed at the decision dismissing their petition to disqualify Ferdinand Marcos Jr. as presidential candidate and vowed to file a motion for reconsideration with the Commission on Elections (Comelec).

In an online press conference Friday morning, Atty. Howard Calleja said the decision as penned by Commissioner Aimee Ferolino puts doubt on the process and the entire Comelec.

Calleja said he disagrees with the division’s decision saying there are laws against tax evasion, a charge Marcos Jr. was judged guilty by the Court of Appeals.

“We know there are laws on that. We need to respect the decision but we are ready to file our motion for reconsideration (with the Comele en banc) on Monday or Tuesday at the latest,” Calleja said.

“At this point, we will continue to exhaust all legal remedies to bring out the truth, to attain justice and to bring the case to the proper legal conclusion it deserves,” he added.

Campaign Against the Return of the Marcoses and Martial Law (CARMML) convenor and petitioner against Marcos Jr.’s candidacy Bonifacio Ilagan said the decision disrespects truth, the facts themselves and justice.

“Because the respondent is a candidate for the presidency, how can he be worthy of the office he is seeking if he does not follow the law on filing taxes?” Ilagan asked.

Co-petitioner Dr. Erlinda Senturias likewise expressed dismay over the decision, saying “Paying taxes is the lifeblood of the nation. Not paying taxes is an act of moral turpitude because it is contrary to honesty, modesty and good morals.”

“The issue of evading paying taxes is a big thing for ordinary citizens like us who pay taxes. We expect those who seek to lead us as president are really honest and follow the really simple and basic tasks such as paying taxes for the government to have funds to implement projects,” she explained.

CARMML members are co-petitioners against Marcos Jr.’s candidacy.

Controversial decision

The Comelec finally released the long-awaited decision wrote by Ferolino Thursday night, February 10, two weeks after retired Commissioner Rowena Guanzon said it was due.

Guanzon alleged Ferolino deliberately delayed the promulgation for after her retirement last February 2 to render her decision moot to grant the petition and disqualify Marcos Jr from the presidential race.

Guanzon released her separate opinion a day before her retirement, saying Marcos Jr. is guilty of moral turpitude for failing to pay taxes as Ilocos Norte vice governor and governor for four years in 1982 to 1986.

In the Comelec First Division decision penned by Ferolino and affirmed by Commissioner Marlon Casquejo, the petition to disqualify Marcos Jr. was junked.

His conviction of failure to file income tax returns did not violate Section 12 of the Omnibus Election Code, the decision says.

It states that a candidate is disqualified if he has been declared insane or incompetent, convicted of an offense with a penalty of more than 18 months’ imprisonment, and convicted of a crime involving moral turpitude.

If not moral turpitude, what is?

Other progressive organizations dismissed the decision’s justification however and alleged that the Comelec First Division favored a tax evader.

“According to the decision, non-payment of taxes for four years is a small matter. The First Division also dismissed the fact that Marcos Jr. did not pay penalties for his tax evasion for more than two decades. The First Division really paves the way for tax evaders like Marcos to make a run for the presidency,” Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (Bayan) said in a statement.

“The decision insults regular citizens who pay taxes religiously,” Bayan added.

Peasant group Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP) for its part described the decision as an utter disappointment and deserving of public  outrage and condemnation, adding the ruling was deliberately delayed to exclude the opinion of former Commissioner Rowena Guanzon favoring the disqualification of Marcos Jr.

“The Comelec’s decision is a disservice to the electorate and the Filipino people. Ang mga magsasaka nga’ng hindi nakakapagpabayad ng buwis, pinapalayas sa lupa, tapos si Marcos Jr. na ilang ulit hindi nagbayad wala lang?” KMP National Chairperson Danilo Ramos said. (Farmers who fail to pay taxes are driven off. But when Marcos Jr. repeatedly fails to pay, it’s alright?)

“It’s incredible how far Commissioner Aimee Ferolino is willing to bend over and twist the law in favor of a convicted tax evader,” Ramos said. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

‘Who is this politician trying to influence the Comelec?’

Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (BAYAN) welcomed Commission on Elections (Comelec) Commissioner Rowena Guanzon’s stand to disqualify Bongbong Marcos from running as president.

“We welcome the position taken by Comelec Commissioner Rowena Guanzon in the matter of disqualification of Bongbong Marcos on the grounds of moral turpitude,” BAYAN said.

The group also raised concerns over the claim of Guanzon about a politician trying to delay the issuance of Comelec’s decision after knowing her stand on the issue.

“Who is this politician trying to influence the Comelec? Shouldn’t there be an investigation by the en banc and shouldn’t this politician be cited for contempt?” BAYAN asked.

“She is correct in citing Marcos Jr’s repeated failure to pay taxes and the corresponding fines as her basis to disqualify him from the presidential race. We raise concern over Guanzon’s claim that a certain politician was trying to delay the issuance of a decision by the Comelec First Division after learning of her vote to disqualify Marcos. Who is this politician trying to influence the Comelec?”Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (BAYAN)

Araneta guards fire guns at farmers in SJDM

Farmers group to Bongbong Marcos: ‘Kausapin mo ang bayaw mo!’

Armed security personnel employed by the powerful Araneta family fired guns at a group of farmers and supporters conducting a fact-finding mission in San Jose del Monte City, Bulacan on Friday morning.

In a statement, the Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP) said several guards armed with high-powered rifles fired at a team of eight paralegals and 20 farmers conducting an investigation on the reported illegal demolition of four houses last January 26.

The group reportedly included seven minors.

The shooting lasted for at least 10 minutes, injuring two, KMP said.

The KMP added that mobile phones, bags, wallets as well as relief goods were forcibly taken by the guards from the victims.

The January 26 demolition was the third within a year, following similar incidents in 2021.

Araneta’s guards have also closed farm roads in the area, further constricting the farmers’ livelihood, the KMP said.

Some of the armed guards who reportedly shot at the farmers and their supporters on Friday in San Jose del Monte City, Bulacan. (Supplied photo by the Unyon ng mga Manggagawa sa Agrikultura)

Araneta Properties, Inc., a company owned by Gregorio Araneta III and brother-in-law to presidential aspirant Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr., has been evicting farmers in Barangay Tungkong Mangga since 2013.

The site is being earmarked for the construction of a train station, a train depot and residential and commercial establishments similar to the family’s sprawling Araneta Center in Cubao, Quezon City.

The area however has been farmed and planted with many fruit and vegetable crops for at least three decades by hundreds peasant families who are land reform beneficiaries of the government.

“Grabeng kahayupan ng mga Araneta. Wala silang kinikilalang batas, puro pandarahas!” KMP national chairperson Danilo Ramos said. (The Aranetas are very cruel. They do not respect laws; they only know violence.)

“We challenge 2022 candidates who have constantly pronounced themselves as pro-farmers to speak and act. Especially Marcos Jr. – kausapin mo ang bayaw mo (Talk to your brother-in-law)!” Ramos added.

The Unyon ng mga Mangggawa sa Agrikultura (UMA), a group along with the KMP and its provincial chapter Alyansa ng Magbubukid sa Bulacan that was conducting the fact-finding mission, called on local government officials to intervene.

Tinatawagan namin ang atensyon ng lokal na pamahalaan at pulisya ng CSJDM na aksyunan ang kaganapang ito dahil ito ay lantarang paglabag sa [Commission on Elections] gun ban,” UMA said. (We call the attention of the local government and the police to take action on this incident because this is a brazen violation of COMELEC’s gun ban.) # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

Martial law survivors urge COMELEC to cancel ‘tax evader’ Marcos Jr’s candidacy

Martial law survivors called on the Commission on Elections (COMELEC) to disqualify Ferdinand Marcos Jr. as the poll body hears petitions to cancel the former senator’s certificate of candidacy for the presidency in next year’s national elections.

The Campaign Against the Return of the Marcoses and Martial Law (CARMMA) said Marcos Jr. should never be allowed to hold or run for public office because he is a convicted tax evader.

“A thief, a liar, a convicted tax evader, and the unrepentant son of an ousted dictator should never be allowed to hold or run for public office — much more the highest and most powerful position in the land,” CARMMA said in a statement.

CARMMA is a group of Ferdinand Marcos Sr.’s martial law rule in the 1970s to 1980s.

The group said that to allow the presidential aspirant to again run for office is not only a blatant mockery but a shameless bastardization of the country’s democracy and electoral exercise.

CARMMA and other human rights groups earlier filed petitions against Marcos Jr. citing his 1995 tax evasion charges conviction by the Quezon City Regional Trial Court (QC-RTC) and subsequent upholding of the decision by the Court of Appeals (CA) in 1997.

The government said the former senator had tax deficiencies amounting to P8,504 while he was Ilocos Norte vice governor and governor from 1982 to 1985.

During trial, Marcos Jr. blamed his staff for the crime, saying he always thought that his employees took care of filing his income tax returns.

The QC-RTC imposed a four year cumulative imprisonment sentence and a cumulative fine of P42,000 against Marcos Jr.

In upholding the QC-RTC decision, however, the CA removed the prison sentence and reduced the fine to P36,000, saying Marcos was not given due notice when the tax assessments were made.

The CA also acquitted Marcos Jr of the charge of not paying his income taxes.

CARMMA however said the late dictator’s son is still convicted of failing to file his income tax returns and should be perpetually disqualified from holding any government post in accordance with the Omnibus Election Code.

The Code’s Section 12 states that a person shall be disqualified from running for public office if he had been sentenced by final judgment “for subversion, insurrection, rebellion or for any offense for which he has been sentenced to a penalty of more than eighteen months or for a crime involving moral turpitude.”

The petitioners said that Marcos Jr.’s failure to pay his income taxes for four consecutive years while in power as a high government official constitutes moral turpitude.

“Having tasted unlimited powers, the Marcoses are now paving their return to Malacañang with Marcos Jr.’s bid for the presidency and their historical distortions and whitewashing of their atrocities funded by the millions they have stolen from the people,” CARMMA said.

The group said it is Comelec’s duty to settle the petitions to safeguard and defend democracy that were restored when the Marcoses were ousted in 1986.

“We must never again allow despots, tyrants, criminals, and liars to lord it over our land,” CARMMA said. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

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.