Broader protests against Duterte’s militaristic drift

President Duterte is turning more and more confrontational towards mounting criticisms and protest actions against his government’s bloody war on drugs, war against the Maute Group in Marawi, extended martial law declaration in Mindanao, “all-out war” against the New People’s Army, and his declared abandonment of the GRP-NDFP peace negotiations.

His remarks on alleged threats of coup d’etat and the floated call for his ouster, by an alleged group of disaffected members of the Armed Forces of the Philippines and the Philippine National Police, reek with cynicism. How shall we take his words, for instance, in this quote from him as reported in the media?

“A coup d’etat? That’s not necessary. All [AFP chief Gen. Eduardo] Año has to do, or the commanding generals of the Armed Forces, all they have to do is come here or tell me, ‘You step down.’ I will give (in). If the military wants to follow me, then follow. If not, then tell me. Maybe you can do better.”

My comment: Judging by the way the President has been pampering the military (both hierarchy and rank and file), they need not resort to a coup.

Since he assumed office, Duterte has been diligently visiting military camps, asking soldiers to tell him what they needed and he would provide it. Declaring full trust in Año as AFP chief, his key martial law implementer, he intends to name the latter (due to retire in October), as an undersecretary directly under the president’s office so that he could take charge over the DILG (including the PNP). Further, he has appointed to his cabinet and the bureaucracy so many retired military officers, including four former AFP chiefs.

Duterte has practically acceded to whatever the AFP recommended, such as the declaration of martial law and suspension of the privilege of the writ of habeas corpus in Mindanao and the use of daily aerial bombings plus ground artillery and mortar barrages to provide protection to the foot soldiers in Marawi. He has allowed his security advisers to sabotage the progressing GRP-NDFP peace talks by insisting on forging a prolonged bilateral ceasefire agreement ahead of the negotiations and signing of agreements of social and economic reforms (deemed as the “meat” of the peace talks).

Soldiers wounded in action have been personally visited, handed cash gifts and brand-new pistols, even offered leisure trips abroad. The president has committed to put up a P50-billion trust fund for the education of their children.

But here’s his more intriguing statement, addressed to those who shouted “himagsikan!” at a protest rally on EDSA condemning the police killing of 17-year-old student Kian de los Santos:

“Let’s have an upheaval. But since I am in government, we will really be enemies. But do it… You want to war against the government? Go ahead… I will be glad if you do it because actually the system here is rotten and government also.”

Here Duterte expresses two contradictory positions. On the one hand, he takes a reactionary stance: he threatens the people whom he coaxes to rise up in revolt that he will fight back to defend the government which he has inherited and now heads. On the other hand, he welcomes armed struggle against the state because it’s rotten; that’s a progressive position.

Where does Duterte really stand on this matter?

One can only wish that the second part of the statement was a slip of the tongue, reverting back to what he used to say when he was Davao City mayor: that the revolutionary armed struggle of the Left is a just cause because it aims to overthrow and change the rotten ruling system. As late as 2013, he urged Davao businessmen to pay the revolutionary tax to the New People’s Army. And he spoke at the wake of Leoncio Pitao, the highly-regarded NPA commander “Ka Parago,” and permitted his funeral parade through Davao City.

Also, didn’t Duterte moor his electoral campaign cry, “Change is coming!” on his expletive-replete condemnation of the rotten government and political system? Didn’t he vow to the people that he would shake up and change the government? But now that he’s the head of state, he claims proprietary right over it, brandishes his constitutional prerogative as commander-in-chief of all the armed forces, and tells his former friends in the NPA that he has become their enemy.

In the next few weeks we will find out how President Duterte will respond to various events having to do with the broadening protest movement against his government’s brutal wars and its drift towards militarism and tyranny.

Today, August 26, at the burial of Kian de los Santos, human rights defenders and families of victims of extrajudicial killings will march and raise the call, “Justice for Kian, Justice for All!” (This recalls the slogan chanted at Ninoy Aquino’s funeral parade in August 1981.)

On Monday, which is National Heroes’ Day (August 28), a broad alliance of groups and personalities opposed to the government’s “increasing use of fascist measures” will launch the Movement Against Tyranny in Quezon City. Among the convenors are Rene A.V. Saguisag, Neri J. Colmenares, Lorenzo “Erin” Tanada III, Jose Manuel Diokno, Sr. Mary John Mananzan, Michael L. Tan, and Vergel O. Santos.

At the end of the month, contingents from Mindanao, the Visayas, and Luzon of Lakbayan ng Pambansang Minorya Para sa Sariling Pagpapasya at Makatarungang Kapayapaan (National Minorities Long March for Self-Determination and Just Peace) will be welcomed by support organizations in the National Capital Region. The marchers will camp at the University of the Philippines-Diliman.

A sequel to last year’s activity organized by the Sandugo Movement of Moro and Indigenous Peoples for Self-Determination, Lakbayan 2017 opens a series of events from September 1 to 21. Its overarching call: “Labanan ang pasistang rehimeng US-Duterte! (Oppose the US-Duterte fascist regime!”).

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Published in The Philippine Star
Aug. 26, 2017

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