Turning out badly: On Duterte and political prisoners

bu-op-icons-sarah-2By SARAH RAYMUNDO

President Duterte claims that he has conceded too much to the Left on the issue of political prisoners. This is not defensible. His current stand on the matter is unacceptable, lamentable, and unbecoming of a president who recently had nice things to say about peace talks with the communist forces and independence from US imperialist control.

Duterte’s hijack

The peace process is about addressing the roots of the armed conflict. To turn it into a venue for capitulation is a dangerous shortcut. The release of political prisoners is a confidence building measure to be implemented by the Duterte government in order to prove its sincerity in pursuing peace by seriously considering socio-economic, political, and constitutional alternatives advanced by one of the longest-running and strongest revolutionary movement in the world.

These alternatives have been tried and tested, with varying degrees of success and difficulty based on the revolutionary movement’s practice of agrarian revolution, mass base building, and alliance work. For Filipinos to witness organs of democratic political power plan and implement some of the most successful land redistributions, farming systems, cooperatives, community schools, and fair trade markets enabled, among others, on a wider scale other than the strongholds of the CPP-NPA-NDFP will be a major breakthrough and surely a learning experience of national significance.

But this cannot be done by turning the peace talks into a hostage drama. It cannot be done by distorting its enabling conditions such as the release of political prisoners. The president distorts this confidence building measure by making it appear like it can only be a result of a “modified behavior” on the part of the Left.

The logical conclusion of the president’s demand for a long term bilateral ceasefire prior to the release of all political prisoners, agreements on socio-economic, constitutional, and political reforms have been made and implemented courts capitulation. Furthermore, the president’s formula wrongly paints a bilateral ceasefire agreement as a doctrine of containment that will suspend if not repress dissent and opposition to the status quo.

Does the president really want to look like a hijacker? What gives?

Political Prisoners, not guilty

Oplan Bayanihan and the counterinsurgency programs before it came out of a counterinsurgency model in contexts where the US has presence and control overseas. Thus all counterinsurgency programs implemented by the Philippine state are all pattered after US COIN (counterinsurgency), which approaches protest and political dissent as warfare. Europe imports these technologies and practices. These are particularly innovated in Britain and Israel and flow back to the US, and back to its neocolonies.*

Global entanglements generated by counterinsurgencies are also sources of shared experience and international solidarity of freedom fighters worldwide. Since political dissent is treated as warfare by the fascist logic of counterinsurgency, governments are then legitimized to approach any form of political opposition or dissent as terrorism.

This legitimization takes the form of precisely criminalizing dissent by filing trumped-up charges against those who assert an alternative to the system. What is otherwise political is registered as criminal and is subsequently contained within the realm of Law. Governments use law as a way to depoliticize systemic issues.

Ericson Acosta, poet, playwright, and peasant organizer was captured, tortured, and detained for two years for illegal possession of explosives. The case against him was dismissed by the DOJ and he was proclaimed innocent of the charges against him after taking two years away from his work and family. Acosta’s case is only one among many. Most cases move too slow and evidences provided by state forces are downright ridiculous.

Clearly, governments controlled by US imperialism use the law to criminalize political beliefs that counter that of the ruling elite who control governments. It is crucial for those who rule to do this while still making a claim on democracy.

The oligarchs’ ever-dependable formula: There is nothing wrong with the system. Alternatives should be shut down while maintaining a semblance of democratic space. This can only be done by silencing alternatives through the imprisonment of political activists.

The president may have spoken so well for the anti-imperialist struggle. But he himself must purge the poison shoved into the stomachs of Filipino presidents by US imperialism for the longest time. If he truly wants peace then why must he snack on and swallow the US imperialist recipe for criminalizing political dissent? And this is why going on solidarity fasting and hunger strike to free all political prisoners are in order.

Free all political prisoners!
Amnesty Now!


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