Extension, Expansion and Expedition

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Earlier today, the Joint-Session of Congress approved with utmost fervor the extension of Martial Law until the end of 2018 or December 31 of next year. Throughout the interpolation, the few representatives who voiced out opposition to the administration’s thrust questioned why the extension needed to go on for an entire year when the Armed Forces of the Philippines had declared the terrorist threat in Marawi decimated and scattered into insignificant portions throughout the whole of Mindanao last October 24. True enough, a year-long extension merits controversy especially when we talk about money matters.

Extending Martial Law is also an extension of war spending!

Martial Law in Mindanao is still in operation today, practically just six months since May 23, but has been estimated to have cost 6 billion pesos of government funds already. Meanwhile, assessments on post-war rehabilitation costs now amount to over 98 billion pesos as announced by the local government of Marawi without consideration to the damages caused to environmental resources and communities with public infrastructure such as schools elsewhere in Mindanao. These have all been imperiled by non-stop aerial bombings by the Philippine Air Force during the height of military rule. One can imagine the cost it would take to rebuild countless communities that will be the subject of a war government forces will be waging against communist insurgents in the coming months.

As government prepares to allocate a large sum of money for the impending bloodbath, only 2000 families displaced by the war in Marawi have been promised housing units in relocation sites while more than 400,000 evacuees have yet to return back to their home city. The rest of Mindanao are mired in deep poverty due to lack of basic social services and the billions derived from the environmental plunder of the vast mineral resources of the island have yet to benefit the southern regions of our country. As we take a closer look into the extension and its financial implications, we unravel the systematic injustice and criminal neglect of this administration over their constituents in Mindanao.

 

Expanded to include more than just terrorists

At first, when Duterte declared Martial Law in Mindanao his National Defense secretary let slip that the New People’s Army were part of the list of groups to be persecuted. This statement was made while the 4th Round of Peace talks with the National Democratic Front was underway, proving bad for the reputation of the Government panel. As part of their damage control effort, Malacanang repeatedly asserted that the New People’s Army was not part of those to be targeted under a state of Martial Law and that Maute rebels were the main focus of the military. But now that the peace talks has unilaterally been cancelled by the Duterte administration and proclamation 360 includes the New People’s Army as part of the long line of terrorist organizations in the Philippines, it has now become easier for the government to request congress for an extension in Martial Law while still maintaining the threat of terrorism as the primary justification.

In other words, Martial Law has not only been extended it has also been expanded to include a whole new group of people sharing no ideological, organizational or historic similarity with true-born terrorist groups. As an excuse not to attend to the democratic aspirations of a people in full revolt, the government compounds communist rebels with bandits and murderers in order to mitigate public dismay over the extension. Is Martial Law still a last resort against terrorism? Or is it now part of an elaborate counter-insurgency program? Then again, and when you put deep thought into it, the Maute group was never truly the state’s long-term enemy. The war in Marawi was a necessary step towards the grand war the AFP has always longed far. The war against the New People’s Army needed to be unfettered and widely supported by the infrastructure of Military rule in order for it to be successful. Everything unfolding today is part of that narrative. Thus, the expansion of scope.

Wild fishing expedition forthcoming!

Now that Congress in joint session has voted 240-27 in favor of the extension/expansion of Martial Law in Mindanao, all in a span of just 5 hours, the military has finally acquired their gate pass to massacre peasant communities they think are NPA controlled villages. In the cities, the military and police will be in a state of frenzy victimizing legal activists and community organizers with trumped up charges and outright cases of intimidation or even assault in order to suppress dissent and posture Mindanao as a bastion of peace in an era of military rule!

A fishing expedition will take place, where intelligence officers will undertake a massive psy war against the people of the south. People with vocal opinions against the state will be tailed and even private conversations among peers will be monitored, all as a function of Martial Law. Anything remotely sounding subversive will be branded terrorist-inclined and will be persecuted or even killed.

The War is coming

Make no mistake, the war is coming and although the staging ground is in Mindanao portions of it will be waged in all parts of the country. In Eastern Visayas, four more battalions are going to be deployed in the coming year to combat insurgency while thousands of evacuees are growing hungry and sick. Cases of harassment and the suppression of civil and political rights are popping up from different parts of the Philippines since November. Simply put, Duterte is no longer exclusively concerned with terrorists or communist rebels, he is now in a mission to quell the broad masses whom we claims to serve. The extension, expansion and the expedition to follow are all indicators revealing who Duterte truly serves and a wild guess tells us its not the people.

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BAYAN-EV convenes 5th Congress amid terror mark

Tacloban City- Militant groups from around the region gathered in the Cawaksi Training Center last December 10 to partake in the 5th Regional Congress of BAYAN Eastern Visayas.

Despite the ongoing threat of crackdown launched after Duterte’s proclamation 360 declaring communists as terrorists alongside suspected conspirators, the Congress went on undeterred and successfully convened 16 out of the 22 member-organizations in the region.

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In the gathering’s plenary session, the Congress passed 10 resolutions from different sectoral organizations and provincial delegations that were passed unanimously by the body. Specifically, the resolutions were the following:

  • Resolution calling for the abolition of contractualization and the passing of a national minimum wage by Kilusang Mayo Uno
  • Resolution for BAYAN-Eastern Visayas to join in the nationwide Bungkalan campaign of Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas by Sagupa Sinirangan Bisayas
  • Resolution for the formation of human rights teams in all provinces of Eastern Visayas by Sagupa Sinirangan Bisayas
  • Resolution for BAYAN-Eastern Visayas to launch a campaign against ongoing fascist attacks against the youth and the people by Anakbayan
  • Resolution for BAYAN-Eastern Visayas to condemn the criminal neglect of the Duterte administration towards the youth sector while strengthening its war against the people
  • Resolution calling on the withdrawal of the military from international zones of peace and the raising of basic salaries for teachers by Alliance of Concerned Teachers (Body resolved to split the document in two: one specifically calling for the withdrawal of the military and a second one calling on a salary-hike for teachers nationwide)
  • Resolution calling for an end to the looming Jeepney Modernization Program and the formation of a regionwide commuters’ alliance by Piston
  • Resolution enjoining BAYAN to be a convener to the Stand with Samar campaign of Northern Samar for the year 2018 by the Northern Samar delegation
  • Resolution condemning the ongoing privatization of the Leyte Metropolitan Water District by KADAMAY
  • Resolution urging the organizations under BAYAN-EV to demand for the delivery of basic social services in the urban poor communities of the Tacloban Northern Resettlement Sites.
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Anakbayan presents resolution before the 5th Congress
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Congress delegates raise their hands during the election proper of the plenary session

The Regional Executive Committee (REC) of the 4th Congress also turned over the ropes after the Congress elected the 5th REC with Gerardo Abalos of Kilusang Mayo Uno as the 5th Chairperson of BAYAN-EV while UCCP pastor and Promotion of Church People’s Response (PCPR) member Cesar Tumandao was elected as the regional vice-chairperson. Meanwhile, Joshua Sagdullas was elected head of the General Secretariat and former secretary general Rey Miranda takes on the role of Popular Struggles director. The youth sector also asserted a formidable presence in the new REC after League of Filipino Students chairperson Kurt Teraza was elected deputy secretary general, Anakbayan chairperson Mira Legion as the education committee head and Lyka Sembrero of Gabriela-Youth as head of campaigns. Atan Urmaneta, acting president of Alliance of Concerned Teachers was named Finance Officer while Piston’s Nita Namenor and Katigurangan’s Alberto Ada were elected auditors. Noted peasant leader and SAGUPA secretary general Jun Berino was likewise elected committee head of organization. The new officers will serve a term of three years until the 6th Regional Congress is convened in 2020.

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The new Regional Executive Committee being sworn into office by the 1st and 4th Chair of BAYAN-EV, Res Salvatierra and Flor Acbo respectively.
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The 5th Chairperson of BAYAN-EV, Jerry Abalos, giving a message to the Congress

In the duration of the program, several delegates were given the opportunity to voice out the desperation they face under the framework of neoliberal economic policies that result in state neglect and mounting militarization. Delegates from the province of Leyte revealed an ongoing food blockade against upland communities in Burauen. Northern Samar representatives talked of military-sponsored radio stations actively attacking human rights workers and peasant-activists in the region’s poorest province. Even youth members organizing in Tacloban City also recalled of many instances where their urban poor chapters were being monitored by unidentified personnel. Based on what the Congress referred to as a ‘de-facto Martial law’, the new REC enjoined the alliance to come together under BAYAN’s banner in the Human Rights day mobilization the following day which targeted the call to oust President Duterte.

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Baybay city delegate expressing frustration over the ongoing militarization in Southern Leyte

The body resolved to fight the looming dictatorship of President Rodrigo Duterte especially now under growing security threats thrown at legal activists in Eastern Visayas for vocally pointing out prevailing poverty born out of criminal negligence and an unprecedented rise of rights violations committed by the Armed Forces of the Philippines. Towards the end, the 5th Congress adjourned with the delegation shouting the 5-decade old adage: Makigbisog, ayaw kahadlok!

 

 

 

 

BAYAN-EV convenes 5th Congress amid terror mark

Tacloban City- Militant groups from around the region gathered in the Cawaksi Training Center last December 10 to partake in the 5th Regional Congress of BAYAN Eastern Visayas.

Despite the ongoing threat of crackdown launched after Duterte’s proclamation 360 declaring communists as terrorists alongside suspected conspirators, the Congress went on undeterred and successfully convened 16 out of the 22 member-organizations in the region.

 

In the gathering’s plenary session, the Congress passed 10 resolutions from different sectoral organizations and provincial delegations that were passed unanimously by the body. Specifically, the resolutions were the following:

  • Resolution calling for the abolition of contractualization and the passing of a national minimum wage by Kilusang Mayo Uno
  • Resolution for BAYAN-Eastern Visayas to join in the nationwide Bungkalan campaign of Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas by Sagupa Sinirangan Bisayas
  • Resolution for the formation of human rights teams in all provinces of Eastern Visayas by Sagupa Sinirangan Bisayas
  • Resolution for BAYAN-Eastern Visayas to launch a campaign against ongoing fascist attacks against the youth and the people by Anakbayan
  • Resolution for BAYAN-Eastern Visayas to condemn the criminal neglect of the Duterte administration towards the youth sector while strengthening its war against the people
  • Resolution calling on the withdrawal of the military from international zones of peace and the raising of basic salaries for teachers by Alliance of Concerned Teachers (Body resolved to split the document in two: one specifically calling for the withdrawal of the military and a second one calling on a salary-hike for teachers nationwide)
  • Resolution calling for an end to the looming Jeepney Modernization Program and the formation of a regionwide commuters’ alliance by Piston
  • Resolution enjoining BAYAN to be a convener to the Stand with Samar campaign of Northern Samar for the year 2018 by the Northern Samar delegation
  • Resolution condemning the ongoing privatization of the Leyte Metropolitan Water District by KADAMAY
  • Resolution urging the organizations under BAYAN-EV to demand for the delivery of basic social services in the urban poor communities of the Tacloban Northern Resettlement Sites.
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Anakbayan presents resolution on
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Congress delegates raise their hands during the election proper of the plenary session

The Regional Executive Committee (REC) of the 4th Congress also turned over the ropes after the Congress elected the 5th REC with Gerardo Abalos of Kilusang Mayo Uno as the 5th Chairperson of BAYAN-EV while UCCP pastor and Promotion of Church People’s Response (PCPR) member Cesar Tumandao was elected as the regional vice-chairperson. Meanwhile, Joshua Sagdullas was elected head of the General Secretariat and former secretary general Rey Miranda takes on the role of Popular Struggles director. The youth sector also asserted a formidable presence in the new REC after League of Filipino Students chairperson Kurt Teraza was elected deputy secretary general, Anakbayan chairperson Mira Legion as the education committee head and Lyka Sembrero of Gabriela-Youth as head of campaigns. Atan Urmaneta, acting president of Alliance of Concerned Teachers was named Finance Officer while Piston’s Nita Namenor and Katigurangan’s Alberto Ada were elected auditors. Noted peasant leader and SAGUPA secretary general Jun Berino was likewise elected committee head of organization. The new officers will serve a term of three years until the 6th Regional Congress is convened in 2020.

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The new Regional Executive Committee being sworn into office by the 1st and 4th Chair of BAYAN-EV, Res Salvatierra and Flor Acbo respectively.
IMG_6174
The 5th Chairperson of BAYAN-EV, Jerry Abalos, giving a message to the Congress

In the duration of the program, several delegates were given the opportunity to voice out the desperation they face under the framework of neoliberal economic policies that result in state neglect and mounting militarization. Delegates from the province of Leyte revealed an ongoing food blockade against upland communities in Burauen. Northern Samar representatives talked of military-sponsored radio stations actively attacking human rights workers and peasant-activists in the region’s poorest province. Even youth members organizing in Tacloban City also recalled of many instances where their urban poor chapters were being monitored by unidentified personnel. Based on what the Congress referred to as a ‘de-facto Martial law’, the new REC enjoined the alliance to come together under BAYAN’s banner in the Human Rights day mobilization the following day which targeted the call to oust President Duterte.

IMG_6103
Baybay city delegate expressing frustration over the ongoing militarization in Southern Leyte

The body resolved to fight the looming dictatorship of President Rodrigo Duterte especially now under growing security threats thrown at legal activists in Eastern Visayas for vocally pointing out prevailing poverty born out of criminal negligence and an unprecedented rise of rights violations committed by the Armed Forces of the Philippines. Towards the end, the 5th Congress adjourned with the delegation shouting the 5-decade old adage: Makigbisog, ayaw kahadlok!

Martial Law and the issue of checks and balances

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Today, both houses will meet in joint-session to rail road the extension of Martial Law. The recommendation made by the AFP came mid-November and an endorsement from the House speaker was publicized to smoothen its eventual approval. Its impossible to fathom what justification congressional leaders will think of this time now that the terrorist scourge of the Maute group has long been decimated alongside the heritage of the Philippine’s Islamic capital. The last time they extended Martial Law they did it for more than a hundred and fifty days. It’s frightening to think of how long Congress intends to prolong military rule in the southern Philippines now that the President calls on a year-long leeway to position more troops in Mindanao in lieu of proclamation 360, tagging Filipino communists as terrorists. Does Duterte intend to use Martial Law as his principle weapon against the left-led insurgency in the South? Obviously. And he intends to generate public support for Martial Law by running it by Congress as a sort of democratic fragrance to mask the inevitable atrocities that will be committed by his military there.

But why does Congress lend itself so easily to the President?

Times like these have proven that our system of checks and balances is not just limited but an outright expression of class interest, it operates at best in times when a fraction of the elite mobilize against another. The impeachment of Joseph Estrada for instance was a time of political turmoil for the ruling class because they were caught between joining the establishment or riding on the popular opinion against the administration, proving to be the more decisive consideration public opinion had tipped the scales of politics to prompt the impeachment proceedings to go full swing. The administration of Noynoy Aquino is also a good example, the numerous opposition groups against the Liberal block in both the lower and upper houses of Congress caused a lively debate on every single issue under the sun and when televised or listened to on air, such instances can be mistaken for democracy at work.

But what if the opposition is insignificant or virtually powerless? What if the resolutions they pass and the bills they author can be shelved and rescheduled for hearing some other time in the year until it eventually disappears in the vast records of Congress? What if any dissenting opinion, however brilliantly written, can be brushed off with an impeachment case? And what If the bulk of the ruling class is united under one fascist dictator?

We find it hard to believe that under these circumstances, checks and balances will still work. Under this political climate, the constitutional safeguards serve only as a mere formality. The extension of Martial Law can be made arbitrarily provided it has the go signal of the legislative, the factual basis of Martial Law can be questioned but so long as the Supreme Court upholds its factuality, it can and will be extended. Never mind the fact that congressional stalwarts are Duterte’s lapdogs, never mind the fact that the Supreme Court is hellbent on expelling their leader to vacate the position of chief justice for themselves. So long as procedure is followed, any decision resulting from procedural compliance is valid and has the full force of law.

But what about substance? Have we forgotten that the law is not rigid and hollow? That the substance of the law is itself, the common good? That it shouts of justice and defends against the unjust? Times like these make us understand that our leaders really don’t care about indigenous people dying or Muslims being wrongfully persecuted or harassed. They really don’t care about farmers being murdered and activists being abducted. All of these are mere details they find inconvenient to memorize just so they can say some words for the press or a constituency they’re scheduled to meet. What they do care about is their preservation. Thus, the law is created in the image and likeness of those who write it and for so long a time, it has been written almost exclusively by the ruling class.

All that being said, Martial Law will get its rubber stamp from Congress today as if to confirm that our legal system is destroying our democracy. Hope, however, has yet to be lost. Even in the most fragile of democracies or the most backward countries, people are always capable of overthrowing tyrants and disciplining abusive government officials. Our rich history of revolution can attest to the fact that the single greatest mechanism for checks and balances in the Philippines is a united people willing to act and fend off fascist dictatorship wherever it may creep or hope to thrive.

The Marcos dictatorship shares an eerie similarity with today’s situation. A connivance among the three branches of government was all but apparent and our system of checks and balances, down the drain. But what made the dictatorship collapse to the ground were the people hammering at the gates of Malacanang and stomping at every major thoroughfare in the country. In other words, we are taught of the final blow that must be dealt when our government fails us, our civil and political rights must be exercised in order to fulfill our responsibility of defending our people against the pretenders to illegitimate power.

Fighting against the extension of Martial Law in Mindanao is the genuine expression of our checks and balances!

A war on all fronts, a war he cannot win

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Months have passed since Duterte first made the proposition that there is a concerted effort being made against him by the mainstream Left, the Liberal Party, international governments and even terrorist organizations intended to destabilize his government to serve as a prelude for his eventual overthrow.

His administration’s response has been comprehensive. On top of operating a host of online warriors ready to curb online opinion in major social media sites, government agencies have also supported pro-Duterte coalitions like the Citizen’s National Guard which have received the patronage of the Department of Justice and the Public Attorney’s Office in terms of resources and machinery. According to DOJ Secretary Aguirre, one of the lead conveners of the CNG, destabilization is by definition dissent, indicating that any opinion or position that is contrary to that of the administration is essentially made to throw the presidency off balance.

He broke down the pillars of the Liberal Party in every province to ensure a hegemony of political power for PDP-Laban, the party to which he is the national chairman and demonized the old guards of the Liberal Party to prevent any possibility of a political comeback. In fact, his effort to absorb the LP’s members into one supermajority in government has been so effective that he’s even been able to get the Romualdez’ and the Petilla’s, mortal enemies in the Eastern Visayas political scene to jump ship from their past allegiances and into the PDP-Laban pool, something that the Arroyo and Aquino administrations have miserably failed in.

In terms of controlling the media, steps have been taken to prevent live coverage of his public speeches so that he can go on with his incoherent tirade and personal rants without any fear of being quoted and have his statements sensationalized the following day. For those major media outfits that do cover his blunders, he’s made sure to publicly shame and attack- playing down their credibility or downright accusing them of conspiracy to drive a dent into Malacanang’s popular image.

But among his greatest thrusts, owing largely to the fact that their capacity for on-ground mobilization is of considerable strength, is Duterte’s falling out with the underground leftist movement in the Philippines. The ongoing war against the longest running Maoist rebellion in the world  has resulted into a piling number of defeats for the Armed Forces- news of successful tactical offensives being waged by the New Peoples Army is surfacing everyday in almost every region of the country.  The mounting defeats of a demoralized army has perhaps prompted his military advisers to lobby for the termination of peace talks with the National Democratic Front, who has been investigating abuses committed by the military under the framework of international humanitarian law, as a member of the Joint Monitoring Committee of the NDF and the GRP.  The administration’s exodus from the talks means that the military can finally consider itself free from the bondage of agreements made such as the Comprehensive Agreement on Respect for Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law which has been used as a basis for alleging crimes by the military. Although technically the GRP is still compelled to abide by the Joint Agreement on Security and Immunity Guarantees (JASIG) which protects key persons involved in the talks, even after the formal termination itself, the military is not bound by any moral code to uphold agreements it already considers null and void despite its post-termination validity. For the commanders of the AFP, it is sufficient that the possibility of an alliance between rebels and the incumbent regime has been brought to a close.

Duterte’s branding of Maoist rebels as terrorists is an added bonus to the AFP. This declaration opens all sorts of opportunities for the military in their pursuit of communists, employing methods of killing and torture which otherwise would have been frowned upon had they been hunting down rebels with a legitimate cause. As it so happens, there is no uproar on the manner with which terrorists are dealt with even from the most vigilant of international human right groups and benevolent states. And although the military has never really payed that much consideration to the rules of war in the past, they may now act with significantly less trepidation and caution.

Enemies on all fronts

By destroying the yellow opposition, discrediting the media, mobilizing government agencies to fund administration support groups and declaring an all-out war against the Left Duterte thinks he can overcome the impending tremors to his regime. But the fact of the matter is, he has declared war with so many people and groups that he essentially faces enemies on all fronts.

Unfortunately for Duterte, amid successfully dismantling the national machinery of the Liberal Party the remainder of the Aquino-led faction in government is also composed of some of the richest and most powerful people in politics: The Cojuanco-Aquinos of Tarlac, Roxas of Negros, Drilon of Panay and a unique alliance with Antonio Trillanes who apparently is part of a small-yet influential- clique inside the Armed Forces which may be the reason why he isn’t being subjected the full wrath of the administration unlike in the case of Leila Delima who was arrested earlier this year on drug wraps. Their unholy alliance with pseudo-progressive groups like Akbayan makes an available running point for politicians who may consider leaving PDP-Laban in case the tide of popular opinion turns sour for Duterte.

Discrediting national media outlets may have helped water down a number of his senseless remarks as nothing more than ”irresponsible journalism”, but information is information and while his communications team can filter what the media can catch him say when he goes off topic in his speeches, he can’t stop them from documenting the failure of his policies or the lack of it.

As for the Left, well based on the history of our country, no one has ever won against them since the time of their re-founding in the 1960s.

In other words, if Duterte manages not to get ousted in the next five years he can expect charges being filed left and right, maybe even in the International Criminal Court for his brutal drug war which has already claimed tens of thousands of lives. Surveys have indicated that his popularity is steadily decreasing and by the time his term ends, if government doesn’t resolve broad issues like traffic woes, extrajudicial killings and mining concessions, PDP-Laban will just be another Liberal Party come elections in 2021.

So Duterte has to prepare and in fairness to him, he’s doing a good job at it too.

Cementing the support of the ruling class and the military

He’s maximized his ASEAN Chairmanship by winning the favor of economic giants like China, Japan and the United States to augment the national budget and fund his mega infrastructures to make major construction companies’ mouths water with excitement. His emphasis on the service sector by asking congress to remove constitutional barriers on foreign investment means an influx in foreign capital for all sorts of ventures that brings the upper strata of the business class to heel. He’s secured donations from the United States (101 million dollars to be exact) last week to fund military exercises, and counter-insurgency operations to impress the ruling faction of the AFP. House Speaker Alvarez and his other puppets in Congress have even drafted a bill bloating the starting salary of police officers and soldiers from a measly 14,834.00 pesos all the way up to 29,668.00 pesos and potentially that of special police officers and generals on top off promising thousands of free housing units as benefits to combatants.

Checks and Balances?

Securing alliances also means removing constitutional checks and balances. The Supreme Court has the power to strike down policies and laws incoherent with the constitution via judicial review. The Ombudsman can investigate cases of graft, plunder and corruption among government officials, ranking employees and other public servants. The Commission on Human Rights can look into abuses committed by state agencies like the military or the police against unsuspecting civilians and communities in conflict zones. These three agencies are some of the most important constitutional safeguards built in to supposedly protect the Filipino people from the excesses of government power. But how are they faring against the Duterte regime? Are they able to temper the whims of a would-be fascist dictatorship?

While  Duterte has a Supreme Court that arguably has the same political inclinations as he does, interpreting the law rigidly and without respect to who that law is for, there are some of its members who have been fond of issuing dissenting opinions against the majority. Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno who is one of the youngest magistrates in the Supreme Court has had a reputation for voting against Duterte’s support for the bail of Enrile, the factual basis for the declaration of martial law and even the legitimacy of the late dictator, Ferdinand Marcos’ burial in the Libingan ng mga Bayani, all of which have had a pivotal role in shaping the image of Duterte to the public. On top of voting against the aforementioned moves, the 57-year old chief justice still has more than a decade left before she is required to retire at the age of 70 which is problematic for a President so attuned to the idea of having no one question his decisions.

Today, the chief justice is on the process of being impeached by the House of Representatives. Looking into what we already know about the proceedings, its clear that the complainant Lorenzo Gadon has no personal knowledge with respect to the bases he cited for filing the case. However, with statements from the House Justice Committee threatening to order the arrest of the chief justice and the hand Malacanang plays in the charges themselves, its clear that the fishing expedition presently ongoing in the House committee is nothing but a plot to take down a powerful voice from inside the judiciary, a voice who has had also spoken out against President Duterte’s war on drugs.

In the middle of this year, Congress approved 1000.00 Php for the 2018 Budget of the Commission on Human Rights and Duterte himself called on Chair Chito Gascon to resign. Similar steps have also been taken on the Office of the Ombudsman after Ombudsman Conchita Carpio Morales ordered the investigation of Duterte’s alleged ill-gotten wealth in the past.

It is very clear now that Duterte is intent to bring  these constitutional bodies to heel for their opposition to his programs.

Doomed to Fail

Realizing he cannot raise approval ratings without stopping his war on drugs, and because he relies so much on the PNP for support because of the Trillanes-led divide in the AFP, he is forced to resort to a last ditch effort in saving himself and quite possibly his family. Whether it takes its form in a revolutionary government or the declaration of nationwide martial law is still unclear, but whatever the case, we can expect something of that nature is bound to come up and it will be the driving force which will be his own undoing. Unlike Ferdinand Marcos, who sustained nationwide martial law decades due to unrivaled support from the military, Duterte cannot claim he has the same level of control as the late dictator. Even the AFP backed Magdalo party has reservations with how Duterte runs the country. And Cory Aquino kept her revolutionary government long enough to preserve her a six year term because she just won the support of millions of Filipinos. Duterte must realize he doesn’t have either of those key elements, and unless he doesn’t find a way to attain such he isn’t staying in power for long.

In their quest to monopolize power, fascists end up only having themselves. Had Duterte realized the key in staying in power is when you receive the approval of the people, no amount of international pressure or no number of coup d’etats would succeed against him. Had he stayed true to his socialist path, he would have found himself surrounded by the people ready to defend him had the real destabilization plot taken place.

 

 

What would happen if the crackdown goes full swing?

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The moment President Duterte sets his crackdown against legal progressive organizations like BAYAN, he will have essentially declared an all-out war on unarmed civilians and innocent people working in good faith for fundamental economic reforms.

Behind the President is an unrepentant military resembling a rabid dog muzzled from a hunt, but with the kind of President we have under Rodrigo Duterte, who is unashamed to be referred to as a fascist and is public about his inclinations for dictatorship the higher echelons of the military will jump at the chance to set their battalions loose on a discontented people, beginning with militant and patriotic groups who have consistently been the greatest impediment to their abuses.

The people will not take this attack lightly. With the termination of peace talks between the GRP and the National Democratic Front and the way it was announced by Malacanang, all hope of restructuring our outdated and oppressive economic and political system is virtually gone. What will happen next if organizations who are practically the best at representing their sectors suddenly have their members abducted from their offices at night or arrested in broad daylight? What will happen if Gabriela, the vanguard to women’s rights and welfare in the country, were to suddenly be tagged as terrorists? Or if Piston, the only transport group in the country that has had any serious study of jeepney modernization programs, oil price hikes and other transport qualms, were to have members arrested in the middle of a national highway? What would the public then become?

In a word: Vulnerable.

The best way to prevent tyranny is organized resistance. In the absence of organized groups willing to fend off the military or call out its abuses, citizens will not be able to systematically resist or respond to cases like forced entries from the police into private homes, warrant-less searches, deregulation of public utilities like energy and water, demolitions of urban poor communities, land grabbing and the like. For a moment the public will be in complete disarray, countless human rights violations will take place without being documented and several people will die in the process. Many will fall silent in the hopes that the turmoil is nothing but a rough transition towards a better future. But things only get worse, more violations take place and more people testify the abuses they experience at the hands of state repression. As a matter of historical fact, the discontent will become so pervasive that Duterte himself will be fueling the revolutionary spirit of the Filipino people.

When that happens, the left-leaning organizations Duterte had thought he wiped out will suddenly resurface from the underground. They were never defeated in the first place. In fact, they’re numbers only grew at an unprecedented rate right under the military’s noses.  A political protest will take the national media by storm for its acute size and temerity. No longer will the people’s sentiment be passed along hushed tones, they will now be shouted at in front of the very gates of Malacanang and all the urban centers of the country. The international media will take note of these developments and openly, countries and democratic governments around the world will wave their flags in solidarity with ours as we call for an end to the dictatorship!

In the countrysides, Duterte’s presence will not be felt in the form of social services and government support. He will be represented there by his soldiers, the shining symbol of his iron-clad rule. But because criminal negligence and state sponsored violence make it easy for revolutionary workers to mobilize the peasantry, the military would have already been thinly spread out in the vastness of the countrysides making it impossible to secure any kind of foothold there. Successive protests overwhelm the police and the political unrest in the cities push the administration to recall the military back into prime districts and urban centers where they will quell protesters. By the time they arrive, the sight of armored vehicles, tanks and soldiers with long and high powered firearms will alert additional attention from the international media, the world now witnesses more rallies unfolding in the Philippines as they are covered wall to wall.

As more countries and world leaders frown on our government’s indifference to public clamor, the United States will begin to rethink its alliance with the Duterte regime. To preserve its image as a defender of democracy, the US government will begin issuing statements that call out specific policies from Duterte they disagree with until such a time where they are forced to condemn him and ask him to step down. The moment this happens, the military will lose confidence in their commander in chief. Splits will occur, those who read the political situation correctly begin to jump ship in order to win favor from progressive forces and the massive number of protesters. Those loyal to the administration will simply not be enough to discourage mounting opposition.

At this point, it is unclear what will happen next. There are two possibilities: Duterte can order a last ditch effort to silence his enemies by authorizing dispersals, more violent than before, which will leave dozens killed in order to shake off the less radical from the streets and back into the safety of their homes. Should this happen the number of protesters will be reduced but not at all significantly because by now so many people would have been hardened by their own experience of military intimidation, water cannoning and other innovations in the state’s fascist arsenal. The state is unsuccessful and as more people flood the streets, the gates of Malacanang are breached and the Duterte regime falls.

The second possibility is that the military split becomes so perilous to Duterte’s political stability that he is forced to resign before a full-blown coup detat can be mounted against him on top of fears that protesters tear down palace defenses and surround him with no room for escape. The fear is very real and with a cold sweat, he makes a televised announcement that he is peacefully stepping down from public office. He secretly makes his way into a presidential chopper with only his immediate family, staff and a thick force of his most trusted security personnel. He brings with him what he can and pre-arranges an exit plan to save him from persecution once the new government is established. Finally, the dictatorship crumbles.

In both circumstances, the people emerge victorious.

In a secluded house far away from the people’s immediate reach the Duterte family settles in. The fallen President watches the news. But he’s not really paying any attention to the commentaries or reports. He is in deep thought recounting what he could have done to avoid all that had happened.

He finds it hard to admit to himself that he was indeed his own downfall.

Communist Witch Hunt already happening in Eastern Visayas

Reports talk of statements from Malacanang showing a disgruntled Duterte lashing out, yet again, on Filipino leftists and those he alleges as involved in a major conspiracy to topple down his government. The difference from before is that today, he has essentially given marching orders for the Philippine National Police and the Armed Forces of the Philippines to arrest “communist fronts” in broad day light and launch a full-scale offensive against armed rebels of the New People’s Army (NPA) upon the finalization of an administrative order declaring the CPP’s armed wing as a terrorist organization.

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But these statements come as a no brainer for the people of Eastern Visayas, his announcement predicating the persecution of legal activists and community organizers are reminiscent of harassment cases in recent weeks. Youth activists from the League of Filipino Students-Metro Tacloban Chapter have raised notice of suspicious men suddenly frequenting the entry portals to the University of the Philippines Visayas Tacloban College particularly in times when they had activities held outside. Anakbayan officers also report of a man going about UP Tacloban grounds asking for their names and requesting some utility personnel to tip him off should they be holding meetings and where.

Last November 14 two men had broken in the office of People Surge, a national alliance for disaster survivors, in the middle of the night stealing a laptop, office documents and four flash drives. People Surge Secretary General, Marissa Cabaljao, has also seen a flurry of allegations hurled against her for her involvement in seditious and extortionist activities in Western Samar even if she’s been based in Tacloban City for the past four years. In November 13, Carlito James Badillo, a local peasant leader was illegally abducted by the 87th Infantry Battalion and tortured while detained.

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Carlito ”James” Badillo, local peasant leader from Tag-alag, Samar. Photo from Almond Del Rosario.

Even human right advocates from as far as Northern Samar are being openly defamed. Sargie Macallan, Katungod-Sinirangan Bisayas’ provincial chairperson based in Catarman, tells of a certain DJ Whisper operating a small-time radio show sponsored by the military who singled him out for being an accomplice to the New People’s Army a day after he led a dialogue between a peasant community and army officials in the province.

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Sargie Macallan, Katungod-Catarman chairperson talks of DJ Whisper and 20th IB sponsored radio program

In Eastern Visayas, all provincial chapters and member-organizations of BAYAN have raised a red flag indicating that several areas and communities are experiencing multiple cases of militarization and public red-baiting. Much of this has to do with the mounting inclination President Duterte has in suppressing public dissent, as seen true enough in his crackdown on progressive organizations nationwide. These harassment cases are being done with so much temerity and confidence that its almost as if they were intended to serve as a ‘’head start’’ for military elements before a major witch hunt finally comes into full swing like during the time of Major General Jovito Palparan when he was assigned to the region and in the dictatorship of Ferdinand Marcos three decades ago.

What can be asked of us is simple, the first step in overcoming tyranny is protecting the space we have in exposing it. These spaces include the streets, the alleyways of urban poor communities, footbridges, highways, schools and universities, parks, factories, the airwaves and social media. If these spaces are taken from us we have essentially lost the right to assemble against abuses and call-out government policies and officials. Right now, these spaces are being taken from us piece by piece: KADAMAY protesters in front of the National Housing Authority were brutally dispersed today, as if they did not pay for the streets they stood in protest with. Earlier, fishermen from Navotas and Cavite launching a fluvial parade were halted by the Philippine coast guard simply because “they’ve not allowed to rally”, even the open seas have been made unavailable to voice out our grievances. Everything we do, from the things we say to the people we meet, are all being monitored closely by the state to assess their stability instead of assessing their policies. If there is a time to act, now would be it.

It is immoral for us to allow the Philippines to descend back into a dictatorship, unapologetic of its dying people and unashamed of its atrocities against them. Together, let us resist the crackdown!