“Martial law was imposed amid the worsening poverty of workers, peasants and the people.”
By RUTH LUMIBAO
DAVAO CITY — The youth is in full gear to fight what they called as President Rodrigo Duterte’s “fascist dictatorship.”
On January 7, 2018, the National Youth Summit Against Dictatorship was held at the University of the Philippines Mindanao. Hundreds of student leaders and representatives of campus publications, present for the General Assembly of Student Councils (GASC), pledged unity and support against the “worsening condition of human rights in the Philippines under the Duterte regime.”
Invited guest speakers were Kabataan Partylist Representative Sarah Elago, Toni Salumbre of the Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas – Southern Mindanao Region (KMP-SMR), Kenji Muramatsu of the National Union of Students of the Philippines (NUSP), Radyo ni Juan anchor and journalist Kathyrine Cortez, Carlo Olalo of Kilusang Mayo Uno (KMU) – SMR, and Christian Espinosa of the Mindanaoans for Civil Liberties.
A fascist on the loose
“No doubt, President Duterte is already paving the way for fascism. Patuloy ang kanyang kontrol, pambubusabos, at pagpapahirap gamit ang kanyang mga ekonomikong programa laban sa mga mamamayang Pilipino. Unti-unti niya tayong pinapatay sa mga polisiya na humuhuthot ng pera, (His administration is continuing its economic program that controls and oppresses the Filipino people and buries them deeper into poverty. He is slowly killing us with economic policies that extract the hard-earned money of the people.) ” Muramatsu explained.
Among the issues raised were what the participants deem as “bogus reform programs” such as the recently passed Tax Reform for Acceleration and Inclusion (TRAIN), which, they said, has resulted in the sudden and exponential increase of prices of commodities and basic services, and the Implementing Rules and Regulations (IRR) of the Universal Access to Quality Tertiary Education Act (Republic Act No. 10931), as well as the “gross human rights violations perpetrated by the Duterte administration.”
“As a radio broadcaster, I have received death threats. The press in the Philippines has been considered the freest in Asia but in the first 16 months of Duterte administration, it has been shaken down by trolls who can’t tolerate critical reports and coverage,” Cortez said.
Cortez has been reporting about human rights violations and harassments on lumad communities in her radio segment. She began receiving death threats after criticizing the grand and controversial photo-shoot in Malacañang of Isabelle Duterte, the presidential granddaughter.
“Journalists who cover drug trafficking or corruption face defamation cases and online backlash. Supporters attack press outright in social media, demanding the take down of content,” she added.
Salumbre explained how the peasant sector has been the top target of the Duterte administration’s counterinsurgency program. More or less 50 percent of the victims of politically-related killings in the Sothern Mindanao Region (SMR) are peasants.
“The Southern Mindanao region is a large region. It is enveloped in many issues: the proliferation of multinational corporations, plantations of banana, oil palm, and mining companies, intensified military operations, which continue up to this day. Indigenous peoples and the lumad are forced to evacuate from their homes and ancestral lands,” he explained in Filipino.
Olalo emphasized, “Ipinataw ang martial law sa gitna ng papatinding kahirapan na nararanasan ng manggagawa’t mamamayan. (Martial law was imposed amid the worsening poverty of workers, peasants and the people.)”
Broad support, unity
“As youth leaders, your responsibility is to serve the youth, close ranks with all oppressed sectors in society and join the struggle for the rights of the majority,” former Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) Secretary Judy Taguiwalo said in her statement of support.
GASC delegates supported the clamor for a united front against Duterte’s fascist dictatorship. In a symbolic action, leaders from different units of the UP system stepped out of the session hall and conducted a short protest along with the guest speakers.
“Tugunan natin ‘yung ating motto na ‘honor and excellence’ at ‘serve the people.’ Tumungo tayo sa kanayunan at full-time na maglingkod sa sambayanan, (Let us respond to our motto of honor and excellence and serve the people. Let as go to the countryside to dedicate our lives in serving the people.)” College of Arts and Sciences Student Council (CASSC) Chairperson Jandeil Roperos of UP Visayas said.
Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno and other personalities also sent statements of support for the youth summit.
“Kaya naman kasabay ng hindi mapigilang pagusad ng oras kaalinsabay ng kaliwa’t kanang hamon sa ating demokrasya, dapat kasing sugid ang ating pagmamatyag upang hindi mapahamak ang ating bayan, (Along with the passage of time amid the left and right challenges to our democracy, we should remain vigilant so as not to put the country and its democracy in danger.)” Sereno said.
“Sa paghahangad natin sa pagbabago at sa pag-angat sa antas ekonomiya, huwag nating talikdan ang mga pinaglaban ng maraming henerasyon upang matamo natin ang kalayaang tinatamasa natin ngayon. Sa bandang huli, konsesya’t kasaysayan ang uusig kung paano tayo nanindigan sa oras ng lubos na pangangailangan ng ating bayan, (As we aspire for change and improvements in our economy, let us not turn our backs on the freedoms that several generations have fought for and which we still enjoy now. In the final analysis, our conscience and history would ask from us what we stood up for in times of need of our country.)” the Chief Justice concluded.