Militarizing the Civilian Bureaucracy under Duterte

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Militarizing the civilian bureaucracy is integral to Duterte’s OPLAN Kapayapaan and the US Counter Insurgency Plan because in doing so, it fractures the ongoing effort to build the united front against criminal abuses committed by his regime.

We have witnessed it in 2017, when former AFP chief of staff and incumbent DENR secretary Roy Cimatu began work in arming Forrest Rangers and conducting joint forrest patrols with the Western Mindanao Command of the army.

Today, we see it once again in the ”military affiliation” memorandum released by the National Food Authority HR department compelling its employees to fill-up information sheets about themselves as part of the mandatory conscription process to the AFP.

Eastern Visayas is not new to these age-old plans to infiltrate public offices as part of its Integrated Territorial Defense System flooding universities, agencies and our streets with a comprehensive intelligence network. In the University of the Philippines Visayas Tacloban College, a local bulwark of activism and progressive alliances among students and academic staff, a military detachment is based that has had a record of monitoring the activities of activists based in the college. 

The Multi-Sectoral Quick Reaction Team in Samar is another example, where in times of calamity local government units are used as the principle front of the 8th Infantry Division in entering conflict zones where they are conventionally not allowed to tread as per international humanitarian law.

We view this as a gradual but outright attempt to debase the civilian control over public agencies, offices and institutions in preparation for the unfolding dictatorship of the President. We strongly condemn these advances by the military to undermine the civil and political rights of unions in government agencies that have connected their demand for higher wages and better working conditions with the broad mass movement against Duterte’s neoliberal tirade and affront on human rights. Now, of all times, our unity is paramount and our solidarity, priceless.

Expose the militarization of the civilian bureaucracy!

Resist the Crackdown!

Oust the US-Duterte regime!

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The road to an unrivaled Duterte

 

It is a wonder how the existing proposals filed in Congress detailing the amendments to the 1987 constitution could have ever been conceived. After all, the idea of the ruling class converging in mind and heart to surrender their control over government to a single man is nothing short of unthinkable. But that is precisely what the impending charter change promises: The dangerous possibility of Duterte becoming an unrivaled dictator for the next decade.

To be sure, there are two proposals that have with it an attached version of what the constitution would look like after the adjournment of the Constituent Assembly. The first is the Resolution of Both Houses no. 8 (RBH 8) and the PDP Laban Constitution. But either way, both are in support of or allows (1) excessive political centralization and encourages (2) all-out economic liberalization. It is frightening to imagine how these two things will translate into actual law and it will be the painstaking task of this article to elaborate.

Charter Change as a monstrosity

RBH 8 is the proposal at bar with the most scandalous and preposterous amendments. There is only one word to describe the impending charter change under the framework of RBH 8: Horrific. Horrific because the last time this kind of power was conferred to one person, more than 3000 people were killed while 34,000 were tortured. Today, the second person in history poised to receive this amount of power has already caused the death of more than 13,000 people and launched a massacre-campaign against activists nationwide even without said powers in the first place.

But what are these powers?

His word is law

Section 6, Article 18 of RBH 8 states that both the House of Representatives and the Senate will automatically be dissolved the moment the new constitution is ratified. Of course, RBH 8 also proposes in one of its articles the creation of a Federal Congress but up until that Congress is convened Duterte will have the power of legislation exclusively in the interim.

When the Federal Congress will be formed and the time targeted for its first session is a question we leave up to the speed of transition from one system of government to another. Still,  if the motivation behind section 6 is what we think it is then the Federal Congress will not be in a hurry to convene anytime soon.

To put it simply, Duterte is not only charged with implementing laws, under the new constitution he can now write them as well. Seems like a throwback to the time when Congress was abolished and Marcos had a presidential decree writing spree, but that’s precisely what it is- the return of Marcosian style legislation.

Setting the path for impunity

Not only does Duterte intend to abolish Congress (if only for the meantime), his cronies in congress are also giving him the power to reorganize if not completely overhaul the judiciary system.

Reorganization of courts means changing their jurisdiction. For example, if the present judiciary is reorganized then the jurisdiction of a division in the Court of Appeals could change from one set of regions to a smaller or larger set. In that respect especially when asserted by a President with both executive and legislative powers, reorganization will require the courtesy resignation of ALL members of the judiciary from the Supreme Court down to the lowest courts of the country.

The resignation of the entire judiciary is nothing short of giving Duterte the liberty to appoint all the new Justices of the Federal Supreme Court, the Regional Court of Appeals, the Sandiganbayan and the Regional Trial Courts. If this happens, there will be no sense in prosecuting Duterte once he steps down from power because he will be judged by his own appointees at all levels of the judiciary.

Pre-empting the United Front

The broadest united front against fascism and anti-people policies is the best step in scaring off a forthcoming dictatorship because it forces the weakest link among the ruling class to break off and side with the vast majority of people critical of the administration, fragmenting the unity Duterte needs among his allies as the single greatest requisite to get him what he wants. A divided ruling class makes it far more difficult to transition into full blown dictatorship.

But we cannot drive a dent into the ruling class’s unity if professionals and small businessmen don’t side with the basic masses against Duterte. That is why it has become the chief mission of the US-Duterte’s regime to make the formation of the united front impossible especially under RBH 8.

Because RBH 8 demands the reorganization of not only the courts but also of the constitutional commissions (The Commission on Elections, the Civil Service Commission and the Commission on Audit) and other government agencies duly abolished, the employees of these offices will also be displaced. RBH 8 however provides separate benefits for those employed under Congress and everyone else.

The employees of Congress affected by the abolition of the lower and upper houses are offered an enticing retirement package promising a regular government employee a separation fee in the amount of two and a half month’s salary multiplied by the years in government service on top of the usual benefits under the GSIS law.

Meanwhile non-Congressional employees affected by the reorganization process will only receive regular benefits. By doing so, the US-Duterte regime would have succeeded in dividing public opinion against the new constitution and would make it far more difficult for a massive uprising to mount against the gates of Malacanang.

Tearing down the Makabayan

The old electoral process provided a guaranteed number of seats (20 percent of the total) for party lists vying for a spot in the Lower House. This preferential treatment was intended to give marginalized sectors, represented by party lists, a better chance at being elected into Congress.

There is much debate about whether or not this is a good idea, after all the party list system of status quo has been the subject of much criticism from all sides. We believe the Movement Against Tyranny provides the best take on the matter:

“While it is true that the party list system has been hijacked by the rich and the powerful, the solution should have been to cleanse the party list system and strengthen it instead of abolishing it. Many of the people’s issues such as investigation of government corruption, abuse and violation of human rights, protesting against unjust electricity rate hike, high prices of fuel, water and other social services, and many other pro people’s issues have been carried by some progressive party list groups. They have remained credible, incorruptible and consistent in their pro people stand. These issues would not have come to the fore had there been no party list system.”

Essentially, without the preferential treatment our progressive and pro-people party lists will be forced to out-maneuver established and reactionary political groups representing nothing but their narrow class interest, possessing more resources and has favor with the US-Duterte regime.

Whats in it for the rest of the gang?

In the course of reading this article, readers are bound to detect the singular ultimate theme in the impending charter change- Give Duterte all the power. Not just more power, not just greater influence. All of it. Every last drop. That is perhaps the most intriguing element to this political move.

Why is Alvarez, Pimentel and the other stalwarts of PDP-Laban so excited to cede so much political capital and brute force to Duterte?

After all, it’s one thing to recognize that you’re leader is intolerant of dissent. It’s a completely different thing if you foresee yourself dissenting and making legal recommendations to mitigate that. We wonder whats running in the minds of our congressmen, the grandstanding and pompous members of the legislature, for agreeing to this model of government.

For one, we think its because of Congressional stalwarts’ repeated failure to amend the 1987 Constitution in order to remove the ”protectionist economic policies” preventing foreign ownership of land, preventing total foreign ownership of key industrial plants, corporations etc. and the barrier regulating foreign direct investments (FDIs). There were attempts during the time of BS Aquino and even more so in the time of Arroyo but they were unsuccessful. Even towards the end of 2017 Duterte called on Congress to fast track constitutional amendments allowing the unfettered influx of FDIs but to no avail.

One of things to consider is the historic fact that every attempt at Charter Change has always been met with massive public demonstrations from all parts of the country. Although they were organic and organized from the grass roots, the number of people participating in those campaigns since 1996 were used by a fraction of the political elite as a spring board for their political grandstanding against the administration.

We saw this when Corazon Aquino’s bet for her successor, Fidel Ramos, was met with thousands upon thousands of anti-cha cha protesters led by Aquino herself. Other notable attendees were then Vice-President Joseph Estrada and senator Gloria Arroyo.

Quite ironically, during the time of President Estrada, then vice-president Arroyo, and former president Corazon Aquino also joined forces against their past ally in his own attempt at charter change.

Then, the Liberal-clique of Mar Roxas positioned themselves well beside genuine anti-cha cha protesters when they launched their “No to Gloria-Forever Cha Cha”. It should be noted still that LP wasn’t strictly against Charter Change, in fact they drafted a resolution calling for one, but the idea of it happening under the administration they despised was unacceptable.

In other words, the country’s experience with charter change is riddled with small politically elite groups seizing the opportunity provided for by massive public outcry and organized dissent to forward their own agenda. The central government in effect becomes isolated, the most during the time of Arroyo, and becomes unable to push through with the amendments.

This collective and accumulated experience of the ruling class has taught them that in order to succeed, they must instead choose among themselves who they can cluster with and isolate the out layers. After the embarrassing electoral defeat of the Liberal Party as the de facto ruling party from 2010-2016, Duterte and the leaders of PDP-Laban has taken every effort to isolate them and what remains of their allies in the regions. Today, you will witness massive LP territories like in Iloilo and parts of greater Leyte being surrendered to PDP-Laban. The Presidency and its unmatched brutal reputation, its ill-regard for protocol and the rule of law was used as a general threat to the opposition as if to send a message: You are either with us or against us.

New converts were rewarded greatly. Budgetary allocations were promised, political favor and positions in government offered.

The ruling class is, in a sense, at its “best behavior” under the US-Duterte regime. But even if the political center is fond of issuing threats against their opposition, similar events in the past have shown great examples where these smaller factions in the ruling class fight back. But because by now they have realized that the gains of RBH 8 is of paramount importance, they tolerate the excessive centralization without realizing they are reducing their influencing and losing their grip over Philippine politics.

This is what we have to maximize

Now is the time to strike. As the ruling class unwittingly surrenders their strongholds and resources to a single person, the reactionary government gains strength at face value but loses its resilience against the full-force of the people’s democratic movement that is now encircling them from the margins. Unbeknownst to them, PDP-Laban has singled out Duterte as the main target when in the past there were countless. It is clear that we must isolate Duterte from all the rest and deface the iron mask to reveal the rotting and fragile man underneath.

We must dismantle Federalism as the facade for totalitarian rule and expose RBH 8 as the ultimate expression of neoliberalism and its inevitable twin, fascist dictatorship.

It is easy to enable the patriotic sensibilities of the middle class and their progressive tendencies in times where there are obvious threats against their civil liberties. If we widen public consciousness over the repercussions of a single man-government, we can unite them with the basic masses and we can effectively gather multitudes of people and mobilize them at an extraordinary rate to finally call for the ouster of the US-Duterte regime!

We cannot afford any more delays. We must crush the attempt to pass the new charter, we must nip it in the bud and prevent it from taking root. We must present our parallel to the proposed charter, the Comprehensive Agreement for Social and Economic Reforms. By now, the provisions and content of CASER would have already proven more superior compared to the provisions and content of the new charter in all aspects! We must propagate this fact that our program may take root in the hearts and minds of the toiling masses, to give them a sense of ownership over it, to identify its non-passage as a rejection of their democratic interest and to associate the ouster of Duterte and his ilk as concomitant to the rise of a new and better country.

No to Charter Change!

Oust the US-Duterte regime!

We need China? That’s the problem.

Have we reached a point where Malacanang is no longer compelled to posture itself as an instrument of national interest? Is the ruling class so confident in its endeavors, is it so certain of its estimated strength, that it can afford to bargain off our exclusive rights as a nation and openly declare the lack of sovereignty over our own waters?

Harry Roque announced yesterday that the official position of our government towards the incursion of Chinese research vessels in Benham Rise and quite possibly, other parts of our Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZs) is a simple thumbs up. The government leadership has given the go signal for all out territorial liberalization at an unprecedented scale, from signing the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement with the United States to announcing our incapacity to exploit our own resources after international bodies and neighboring countries have recognized our right to do so. It is extremely disappointing that we take another step back in asserting our patrimony after decades of unfettered subservience. The difference with the current administration is that it is unapologetic about its inclination towards the surrender of our rights. Duterte does not even have the decency to pretend that the ”mutual cooperation” he strives for is on ”equal terms”. Instead he explains himself by doing the exact opposite and exposing our country’s incapability to manage our own resources and make a stand against international bullies.

All of this, of course, is operating under the background of a multi-billion peso Chinese loan program that is soon to be accessed by the Presidency. The jewel to Duterte’s economic thrusts: His Build Build Build, is a rampage that will almost entirely be funded by the One Belt One Road initiative by China. Not only is Duterte preoccupied with clashing against the world’s biggest economy, he is also at the risk of losing his biggest funder if he so much as takes a step out of line.

The repercussions for speaking out against China? Very little for the Filipino people. The Chinese need the Philippine economy more than ever especially that it has experienced economic stagnation in recent years but is increasing production at an abnormally large rate. It needs an economy with a large market for consumer goods to pour in its surplus capital otherwise China will collapse as the United States has in its rich history of capitalist crisis. But for Duterte, the consequences are dire. Not only is he rapidly losing popular support for his anti-drug campaign, approval for his Martial Law in Mindanao and gaining flack for his tyrannical hunt against peasant-activists, indigenous people and human rights workers, his economic policies under the impetus of neoliberalism is also under wide criticism by the middle class, his leading class buffer. The infrastructure he promised to the public is his Marcos-styled strategy of presenting ”concrete” advances in our economy. His edifices will be his only chance at succeeding in the lie that we are making important strides under his rule. But without China all of this will be impossible.

Our desperation as a people for Chinese aid is synthetic, imagined and illusory. It is a strategy to present a dependency model with an Asian flavor, making it seemingly less foreign and making it easier to present an ”oriental solidarity” against Western Imperialism. Under these conditions we are tempted to forget; China is itself an Imperialist threat and it should not be the attitude of sovereign states to choose between Imperialist powers and who to consider as their official master on the basis of proximity and short-term gains.

But Duterte’s need for China is real. It is a specter that looms over his regime. A haunting image of a humongous hand hovering over him. And so, he packages the horror of Chinese capital and presents it to the country in an attempt at self-preservation. He asserts that Chinese aid is an utmost necessity to the regular Filipino like how a salesman would to a customer. But like any market transaction, when we are aware that consent is manufactured, we can spring the trap before it gets us and freely decline.

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.

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!