There’s a Facebook page that seems to be attached to Malacañang and therefore is maintained through the taxes of the Filipino people that labels the University of the Philippines a terrorist university for producing activists like Myles Albasin,* an alumna of the same university. She, together with five others were captured on March 3 and since then have been held as criminals by repressive apparatuses for allegedly engaging in terrorist activities.
The following is an effort to address the labeling of oppositional politics as terrorist activity by state propaganda.
This regime labels people who serve the very same people it deprives of life, living wage, and social services as “terrorist” without showing us the way to move the country forward. The term “reactionary state” is crystallized in this government’s perpetuation of violence –Martial Law, war on drugs, criminalization of dissent, neoliberal economic policies, and its active campaign for misogyny. It can only reproduce current conditions of existence by defending the violence it inflicts upon its citizens thereby shutting down all possibilities to govern for change.
We all know that the president and his allies such as the Marcoses use their guns, goons and gold each time they feel defensive. Their goons are none other than the Armed Forces of the Philippines and its paramilitary, the Philippine National Police, the Congress, and all those trolls who in their non-virtual state are also in control of official agencies for the governance of virtual trolling. Their gold is our taxes and resources from indigenous land. Their use of guns have claimed the lives of too many people, more than 16,000 in the war on drugs. Thousands of lives were destroyed in the crushing of what it labels as “communist territory.” These are actually self-supporting schools built by the Lumad with the assistance of religious organizations and other cause-oriented groups. Their bullets have also killed development workers who selflessly served their communities during their lifetime.
The DDS (duterte diehard supporters) flatters itself for its wide reach. I am astounded by the numbers because we do need warm bodies to be a force to contend with. Yet on Duterte’s first year in power, only a few DDS went out of their way to demonstrate their support to the regime. They were mostly elderly people clad in DDS shirts holding up sleek tarpaulins. Meanwhile, the Movement Against Tyranny (MAT) and BAYAN-affiliated organizations were able to mobilize thousands upon thousands nationwide.
The DDS is active propaganda-wise primarily because they have literally officialized their politics as seen in their control of particular public offices that maintain a well-oiled propaganda through our taxes. While it is rather unsightly, those who bother to follow necropolitics (a mode of governance where the state arbitrarily decides who lives and who dies) must listen to presidential spokesperson Harry Roque who churns out all sorts of disturbing statements. This is probably not the best way to show any sign of desire on the part of government to mitigate obscenities, which we are usually forced to chew from direct presidential addresses.
Yet this active officialized propaganda is no longer adding to its swarm of followers. This is easily observed in the way Duterte supporters conduct themselves in social media. Two words that immediately come to mind whenever I think of the Duterte propaganda team and its “mass base” are “sycophants” and “expletives.” They ridiculously paint Duterte as the champion of people’s causes and pro-people development. They do this amidst Martial Law, the war on drugs, and the anti-poor tax reform policy.
They threaten to kill you and throw expletives at you after they have detected your opposition to some government action. They have not changed their tack since day one. Clearly, those who are in support of this government are not humanized by the politics they have embraced. There is no consciousness-raising whatsoever on the part of the Duterte Diehard cadres among their people. For why would you engage in consciousness raising and care about the overall intellectual and political development of your supporters when you know full well that doing so will make them turn against the violence that this government tries so hard to maintain?
This is why the die-hard supporters of Duterte while they are many are not growing in terms of consciousness and will find it even harder at this point to grow in terms of numbers. Arguably, it is time to pay attention to an emerging trend. On the one hand, those who were previously disengaged in politics for various reasons are now within the range of being disturbed and enraged. On the other hand, those who have been active in progressive and radical mass work are building alliances and strengthening bases through continuous educational discussions, swapping of reading materials, production of songs, dances, plays, poetry. These two tendencies are by no means divergent.
In fact, the Movement Against Tyranny (MAT) has shown the mutual dependence of these two forces. We are looking at a movement that can easily distinguish itself from the violent and false propaganda disseminated by a reactionary political force that has found its way into the corrupt ways of elite governance. We are looking at an emergent and beautiful movement that blossoms from the ravages of a system that has long excluded the majority from enjoying the fruits of their labors. And they dare call us terrorist?
*Here is the letter I wrote to Myles with whom I’ve had spent one of the most meaningful fieldworks I have ever conducted in an indigenous community in now martial law-stricken Mindanao. I am grateful to comrades who made an effort to make sure this reaches her:
I am hoping that you will eventually read this after you have been released from military capture. Mori sent me a one-liner FB alert about it. I did a quick online search and found a statement from your organization when you were still in college.
You were being described by your captors as a member of an “extremely militant group.” What might it be? My hands and feet got cold when I recalled the President’s marching orders, instructing his men to shoot female rebels of the communist New People’s Army in their vaginas. It’s the regime that decides about a captured person’s identity. It has also killed thousands upon thousands of poor people. So it’s really difficult to take the president’s baleful statements lightly. His paid defenders argue that his misogynistic order targeting armed female revolutionaries is sarcasm. Those twats obviously missed some lessons on the elements of literature. And I do hate that my taxes go into the handsome salaries of these easily awed, obliging and unthinking creatures obsessed with face foundation. I know you would laugh at this.
In the few yet intense days that we spent in Bukidnon, decidedly my most challenging trips to Mindanao to date, you were the unassuming, gentle type yet a slave to uncontrollable laughter when rude but truthful jokes buzz around. Your professional handling of your huge point and shoot digital gadget intimidated me. But in a good way. The speeches you delivered in at least two occasions at Sitio Malungon were powerful. So powerful, you cease to be yourself as you transform into a beast. “Hala, sinasapian…” It took some time before I completely wrapped my head around all that agitation and indignation contained by your lithe figure and very kind face.
I like you a lot. I think all of us members of the UP Diliman contingent —that boisterous, ridiculous, giggly, excited, and queer bunch—liked the lone and lovely representative of UP Cebu, you. And didn’t you just fall in love with us? You looked like it. You took pictures of us a lot, and with a sweet smile on your face each time. At some point it felt like you were a proud mother following your babies as you take snapshots of our Ila-Ila Lumad (Knowing the Lumad) activities. It felt like you were an elderly, motherly person who enjoyed seeing her beloved children being with the Lumad children. Perhaps it was partly a dream coming true for you, perhaps you have acquired eyes for instances of deep solidarity. And I know that it’s the same kind of human relations that you worked hard to foster during your college days and beyond.
I’m sorry we have not heard from each other lately. Though I saw your graduation photos and clicked on the like button several times for each commencement scene. And I have this vague memory of us seeing each other again at UP-Diliman more recently, perhaps a few months before I left the country? I am not sure. Because it feels like places on earth are always filled with people like you. So I don’t miss you. I don’t miss any of the wonderful people of Ila-Ila Lumad as I feel their joyful intensity and endearing lightness in every comrade I meet wherever I go.
But today I think of you more than I can ever think of say the work that I have to do, work that makes me happy. But since I think of you wearily and with a sense of gravity that is not good for Mother Earth, I thought I’d do some work. I searched for photos of our time in Citio Malungon and downloaded a lot of Pau Villanueva’s wonderful shots, you are featured in two of them. You and Pau are not overwhelmingly present in the photos because you were busy taking ours.
I’ve found photos of myself and Edge Balangauan Uyanguren, and I am sure it was the mid-morning after our production work. In the same occasion, I learned something about myself, it was a rude awakening: I did not know how to use the sickle to plow the soil. And the Lumad and Shawie taught me how (well, Shawie was supportive and definitely knew better but she was no master. I just want to be very clear on that point). Can you find yourself laughing with your head bowed down in this one shot when I and Edge behaved like it was showtime? Do you really like free shows like that one?
I hope to see you again, Myles. And I love you. I was about to say “be safe” but I know no one is ever safe in the hands of the military. So I’ll end with our all-time favorite: dugang kadasig!
Sarah Raymundo teaches at the University of the Philippine Diliman-Center for International Studies. She is the Chairperson of the Philippines-Venezuela Bolivarian Friendship Association. She also chairs the International Committee of the Alliance of Concerned Teachers (ACT). She is also the External Vice Chair of the Philippine Anti-Imperialist Studies (PAIS) and a member of the Editorial Board of Interface: A Journal for Social Movements.