“He broke all his promises of change.”
By DEE AYROSO
MANILA – Their number was smaller, their mood less cheerful, and their speeches against the current administration now more scathing. Progressive groups marched to Mendiola near the Presidential Palace today, June 30, exactly a year since President Duterte took his oath of office. In stark contrast to last year’s high expectations and optimism, they expressed disappointment with Duterte’s failure to deliver on his promise of “change.”
Led by the Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (Bayan), progressive leaders spoke of policies and situation that remain unchanged, from Duterte’s predecessors to the present: labor contractualization, unemployment, landlessness, regressive taxes, stalled peace talks. The groups also warned of the “rising fascism,” with the declaration of martial law in Mindanao, worsening human rights violations and growing influence of militarists in Duterte’s Cabinet.
In the face of the President’s failures, the progressives hailed the successes made by sectoral organizations who stepped up their mass campaigns and struggles in the past year, which they said, goes to show how genuine change comes about through sama-samang pagkilos, the people’s united, collective action.
Now, progressive groups look ahead to a series of protest caravans and mobilizations in the coming months, starting with Duterte’s second State of the Nation Address (Sona) in July, when they vowed to mobilize by the thousands and make the President listen to the people.
“The Duterte regime is in danger of being no different from past regimes because of its neoliberal economic policy backtracking on its independent foreign policy, and adopting a fascist internal security policy,” said Renato Reyes Jr. Bayan secretary general.
Reyes said they hope to meet with Duterte before his second Sona.
“Harapin mo ang krisis ng bansa, tuparin mo ang mga pangako mo sa mamamayan – tunay na pagbabago, hindi pabagu-bago,” Reyes said.
A year of broken promises, rise of fascism
One definite change is that the Islamic City of Marawi now lies in ruins from military airstrikes and bombardment, a month after Duterte declared martial law in Mindanao, in response to the attacks by a local armed group in Marawi.
“Kami ay naniningil, dahil sinira niya lahat ng pangako ng pagbabago (We now take him to task, for he broke all his promises of change),” said Amirah Lidasan, vice chairperson of Suara Bangsamoro for the National Capital Region.
Lidasan recalled that last year, they launched yet another Manilakbayan – the campaign caravan of Mindanaoans – in time to deliver the People’s Agenda and express support to Duterte. “We were so happy that we finally have a president who hails from Mindanao,” she said.
She lamented that even as Duterte was the first President who claimed to have Maranao blood, and had received campaign funds and support from many Maranaos, he did not hesitate to declare martial law and order the destruction of the livelihood and homes of Maranaos in Marawi City.
“He destroyed the livelihood of many Maranaos, destroyed the hope for peace of Moros,” Lidasan said.
Bayan Muna Rep. Carlo Zarate said the martial law in the whole Mindanao is the biggest indication of rising fascism, in response to offensives by the Dawlah Islamiyah in Marawi. Activists are definitely not spared, as he cited the arrest of four Mindanaoan leaders in Davao City June 28, and the denial of entry into Marawi of the National Interfaith Humanitarian Mission (NIHM) on June 13.
Zarate said increasing repression shows how “militarists, imperialist lackeys and neoliberals” in the Duterte administration are getting the long end of the rope in the tug-of-war with other officials who are pushing for genuine, pro-people reforms. Duterte had so far appointed 57 former military and police officers in his government, including Lt. Gen. Eduardo Año, who led military units that were involved in widespread human rights violations, including the disappearance of peasant activist Jonas Burgos.
“State fascism is on the rise as seen in extra-judicial killings, militarization of the bureaucracy, proposed repressive laws, all-out war and imposition of martial law,” he said.
Will Duterte listen to the people?
During the rally, protesters carried “emojis” – the icons used in social media to express emotions – which were used in place of alpha-numeric grade on Duterte’s “report card.” Prominent on the report card were emojis that were “sad,” “very sad,” “very scared,” and “angry.”
In spite of its generally negative aspects, the groups hailed what remains to be a redeeming factor for the Duterte administration: the remaining progressive officials in the Cabinet, namely, Social Welfare Secretary Judy Taguiwalo, Agrarian Reform Secretary Rafael Mariano, National Anti-Poverty Commission chairperson Liza Maza, and Labor Undersecretary Joel Maglungsod.
The past year also saw the successful assertion of rights of urban poor and farm worker groups, which the President acknowledged and granted. These include the occupation of thousands of idle government housing units by Kadamay, the assertion by the Madaum Agrarian Reform Beneficiaries Association Inc. (Marbai) of their right to the land controlled by the Lapanday Foods Corporation in Tagum City, Davao del Norte. Groups affiliated with the Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas have also launched various collective cultivation campaigns of farm workers towards breaking land monopoly in Central and Southern Luzon, Negros island and Mindanao.
Progressive leaders said there is still hope to convince Duterte to side with the people, by intensifying grassroots struggle and achieving gains.
“The strength of the mass movement is the biggest impetus for Duterte to fulfill his promise of reform, and reject the neoliberal and fascist dictates of imperialist countries, particularly the United States and its lackeys. Genuine reforms for the people, just peace and democracy is still in the offing, and could be achieved by the people’s struggle,” said Zarate of Bayan Muna.