“Duterte seems in large part progressive, and in part (hopefully just minor and small) compromising with classes different from the masses.” – Prof. Jose Maria Sison
By MARYA SALAMAT
MANILA – In an hour-long conversation with members of progressive peoples’ organizations over Skype on May 17, Professor Jose Maria Sison, chairman of the International League of People’s Struggle and founding chair of CPP (Communist Party of the Philippines), sometimes referred to the president-elect Mayor Rodrigo Duterte as “Ka Digong,” a reference commonly used as sign of respect and love to comrades in the progressive and revolutionary movement, and in Tagalog families, as sign of respect to elders.
If the seemingly developing alliance between the revolutionary forces and the incoming president is a source of surprise (and uncertainty) to some traditional politicians and elite, it is also something new and still a concept being tested to some members of the progressive movement. Based on their discussion, they agreed that the incoming Duterte administration is “a mixed bag” in terms of the people composing it and its stand on issues. But, they welcomed every opening it promises and actually gives for advancing the peoples’ democratic aspirations.
They agreed with Sison that among presidential candidates, Duterte was the one who succeeded in riding on the people’s disgust at the outgoing Aquino administration.
On campaign strategy, “tumama si Duterte,” (Duterte hit it right) with the masses, Sison said.
He added that Duterte’s opposition to what the Aquino administration stands for owed a lot to the consistent opposition and protests by the national democratic movement through the years.
Despite Duterte’s “mixed bag” of supporters and team, Sison highlighted Duterte’s proud regard for his friendship with the CPP-NPA and NDF, a first for an incoming president.
President-elect Duterte avoided identifying himself as a communist. Still, “It’s already a huge leap for an incoming president to describe himself as a socialist,” said Sison.
Engaging with the Left an intelligent move
The Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) is a bloc one cannot ignore nor belittle. As Sison reminded the gathered activists from progressive, legal organizations based in Philippine cities, the CPP is leading millions of people with its army (the New People’s Army) present in over 120-plus guerilla zones, in 71 provinces, to say the least.
“Even as the semi-colonial, semi-feudal “bourgeois power” is based in cities, the democratic government of the people is expanding and the day will come when they would surround and enter the cities to seize power from the government in Manila,” Sison said in Filipino in his talk with legal activists.
He said also in Filipino that president-elect Duterte is being astute in engaging the Left, and he urged the progressive activists, “Let’s see if he’s being sincere.”
Without letting go of the revolutionary and democratic principles, Sison urged all national democratic forces to remember the correct handling for a united front – the forging of unity in struggle, for example, and having a firm hold on independence and initiative.
Based on Duterte’s pronouncements and actions, so far, he said Duterte seems “in large part progressive, and in part (hopefully just minor and small) compromising with classes different from the masses.”
“You can’t be president without compromising,” said Sison, who also cited the “political fact of life” observed in Philippine politics that the president typically attracts the majority, and that he or she has to forge a coalition to push his or her proposed reforms.
The Manila government is facing a crisis, Sison noted. He recalled that in one of his talks with Duterte during the campaign, Sison had asked why the candidates were not debating about the economic crisis.
“It’s as if they have no inkling of the current global economic crisis,” said Sison.
Sison referred to the “kabalbalan ni Aquino” (shenanigans of Aquino), citing Aquino’s stupendous debt-bingeing, the repayment of which would be exacted from the country, thereby worsening the crisis even more.
He warned that because of that crisis, some hot money have been flowing out of the country since 2014.
As with past economic crunch, that crisis is expected to bite painfully especially the masses of people who are always forced to bear the brunt of every crisis (from lower wages to high prices).
“Duterte can get excellent advice via the peace negotiations”, Sison said. He added that with the policies on social and economic reforms the National Democratic Front of the Philippines had drafted, Duterte’ incoming administration would benefit from the research-based proposals on various ways the country could weather the crisis and still achieve development for the people.