Continuing killings and intensifying war

After threatening to resign last week in an outburst of exasperation and claiming to be tired, he now says, “No, I will not resign!”

Yes, he acknowledges that he wouldn’t be able to fulfill his campaign promises to end the long-festering problems of illegal drugs, criminality, and corruption even beyond his six-year term. He has also abandoned another promise: to forge a comprehensive peace agreement, through high-level formal negotiations with the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) to resolve the nearly 50 years of armed conflict with the Left revolutionary movement by addressing historical injustices.

And yes, despite his many physical ailments and condition of being “in perpetual pain,” President Duterte vows to stay in office till the end of his term in June 2022.

But mind you, going by his own pronouncements, Duterte’s remaining time in power will mean continuing (extrajudicial) killings in his brutal “war on drugs” and a bloodier, mercilessly intensifying counterinsurgency war that has increasingly been victimizing civilians. Pretty soon the adverse impact of these wars will hit the Duterte regime hard.

In his third state-of-the-nation address, Duterte vowed to pursue a harsher and more chilling war against illegal drugs. Of late he has focused on going after “ninja cops” or police officers involved in the narcotics trade, offering millions of pesos in bounty for such errant policemen presented to him dead.

Addressing the League of Municipalities of the Philippines Visayas Island Cluster Conference in Cebu City recently, he declared:

“Your policemen here in Cebu are addicts. Almost all, including their officials, are into drugs. Your Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) here as well, even those holding high positions, even act as distributors of illegal drugs.”Directly addressing those whom he accuses of such involvement, Duterte warned: “You can enjoy a luxurious life and buy things you never had when you were young, things you couldn’t afford before. Enjoy it. If you get killed, you deserve it.”

“Tomorrow, there will be people who will die,” he went on, raising the ante of his threat and reiterating what he had been saying countless times. “Human rights advocates say I’m killing people. My God, I will not allow my country to go to the dogs. You will never succeed as long as I am the President. I will get all of you,” he said.

Claiming he wasn’t scared of going to prison, Duterte again taunted the Commission on Human Rights, the Catholic Church, and the International Criminal Court (ICC) in The Hague, bragging that these institutions “could not stop me from going after those involved in the illegal drug trade.” Specifically, he told the ICC, which has initiated an informal investigation into the killings: “You cannot acquire jurisdiction over my person [in] the next one million years.”

Thus far, one complaint has been filed before the ICC against Duterte, mainly pertaining to the alleged extrajudicial killings in Davao City when he was the mayor there. Another complaint, broadly focusing on the drug-related and other extrajudicial killings under his watch, is said to be in preparation for filing soon before the ICC.

As regards the intensified counterinsurgency campaign under Oplan Kapayapaan, the President – who in February 2017 had ordered aerial bombing to “level the hills” as part of the “all-out war” against the CPP-NPA and sometime later, threatened to bomb the schools of the indigenous people in Mindanao – recently threatened anew to bomb the camps of the New People’s Army.

“I’m warning you rebels, I have a lot of weapons. You do some fighting there, I will freely use all the jets to bomb you,” he said, immediately adding: “And if I hurt civilians, then it’s part of the territory.”

Duterte was apparently flaunting the AFP’s recent acquisition of jet bombers from South Korea,while showing his utter disregard for the rights, welfare and safety of the civilian population in the areas of operations by the AFP and PNP.

Not letting up on his threat, he told the NPA: “If you start a large-scale war, I will not hesitate to bomb you. Let’s not prolong this. Let’s end this during my time.”

Apparently, Duterte is aware that after almost 50 years of fighting, in more than 100 guerrilla areas across the archipelago, the NPA has the capacity to mount tactical offensives against the state security forces at the time and place of their choice.Although he threatens to use aerial bombings against the NPA, he ought to know that the AFP cannot undertake bombing operations simultaneously in all areas of combat nationwide.

Duterte and his military cohorts ought to rethink such an impractical and highly expensive mode of warfare – and learn from the negative experiences of the US military in its failed war in Vietnam and its unending wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.

One thing is sure: discontent is fast spreading among the population over large-scale human rights violations, soaring prices of prime commodities and record inflation rise partly induced by the TRAIN law’s excise taxes, the worsening mass poverty and income inequality, among other problems, including the increasing role of the Marcos heirs in a coalition being formed to backstop Duterte.

By obdurately pursuing these two bloody wars – against drug addiction and the insurgency – the Duterte regime is unwittingly but effectively fueling the growing broad opposition to it. The regime ought to take notice of the unprecedented show of unity against its rising tyranny and worsening abuses of power in what was dubbed as the “United People’s Sona” peacefully carried out along Commonwealth Avenue last month.

There is now a new-found and sustained sense of open cooperation and camaraderie among various political formations, notably between progressive people’s organizations and other independent groups on a broad range of public issues. Watch the next protest actions of this broad united front against the Duterte regime in the coming months.

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Published in Philippine Star
Aug. 25, 2018

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