Over the past week, President Duterte and the Armed Forces of the Philippines, with puerile collaboration by the Philippine National Police, have tried to drum up as “real” their conjured plot to oust him next month, which they tagged as “Red October.” However, they haven’t presented to the public any credible evidence to back up their allegation.
AFP chief Gen. Carlito Galvez and his deputy chief for operations, Brig. Gen. Antonio Parlade, allege that Communist Party of the Philippines founding chair Jose Ma. Sison and the CPP central committee are “spearheading” the plot. And they try to implicate Rey Casambre and me without providing any proof whatsoever. Which, to say the least, is unfair.
(Rey Casambre is the executive director of the Philippine Peace Center. He’s a political consultant to the peace panel of National Democratic Front of the Philippines in the GRP-NDFP peace talks that Duterte “terminated” in November 2017. Upon invitation by the NDFP panel, I acted as an independent cooperator in the peace talks, wherein Sison is the NDFP panel’s chief political consultant.)
There’s even confusion on the provenance of the alleged ouster plot.
Upon returning from his official visits to Israel and Jordan, Duterte disclosed that he had in his possession a document about the supposed ouster plan, which he said was provided by a foreign government he didn’t name. But on Sept. 26 a PhilSTAR report quoted Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana as claiming the alleged plot was uncovered in February 2017 in an encounter between AFP troops and the New People’s Army in Bukidnon.
“It was hatched by the CPP-NPA in October 2016, even before the President cancelled the peace talks,” Lorenzana said. “Their plan was to get as many civil organizations as possible to join their mass actions led by the progressive fronts. It is supposed to culminate this October,” he added.
Yet Parlade earlier (Sept. 24, PhilSTAR) had insisted that the previously reported plan of a broad alliance to oust Duterte last Sept. 21 was real but unsuccessful, citing unspecified “recovered documents” as source. Still, he claimed the plan would go on next month.
Parlade even claimed credit for supposedly having induced the anti-Left Tindig Pilipinas (which includes Liberal Party leaders and Sen. Antonio Trillanes and his Magdalo colleague, Rep. Gary Alejano) to opt out of the broad alliance “on Sept. 19 or 20.” The fact is Tindig Pilipinas, which had joined the “United People’s SONA” in July together with other groups protesting against the government on varied issues, had decided much earlier not to join the Sept. 21 United People’s Action rally in Luneta.
Still, some personalities that had earlier joined Tindig Pilipinas activities spoke at the Luneta rally, whose rallying cry was to oppose a looming Duterte dictatorship. They included Liberal Party internal vice president, former Rep. Lorenzo “Erin” Tanada III, and Sen. Antonio Trillanes’ lawyer, former solicitor general Florin Hilbay. Quo-warranto-ousted Supreme Court Chief Justice Ma. Lourdes Sereno, whom Tindig Pilipinas had supported, also spoke at the rally and was roundly applauded.
Yet again, Lorenzana, reacting to Sison’s remark that Duterte would not last in office until the middle of 2019, ventured a speculation. “Maybe they have moved their goals,” he conjectured, as he jeered at what he considered a “lackluster performance of their so-called massed rallies last martial law anniversary. We are closely monitoring them, including other groups.”
But take note of what AFP spokesperson Col. Edgard Arevalo has told the media. The information that the AFP supposedly holds regarding “Red October,” he said, would be used in presenting a draft executive order to President Duterte that would form a National Task Force to End Communist Insurgency. The proposed EO, he explained, would “integrate and harmonize all efforts of government agencies to solve the lingering issues that drive armed conflict.”
In this regard, AFP chief Galvez is pushing the inclusion of “parliamentary struggle” as an anti-insurgency target along with a clampdown on the growing progressive youth movement to “stop recruitment” in schools allegedly into the underground revolutionary movement.
The Movement Against Tyranny (MAT) quickly condemned what it described as Galvez’s “chilling worldview: [that] no legal dissent can be allowed because this will lead to more militant struggle.” In a September 24 press statement, MAT warned the Duterte government: “Filipinos will not draw back from the challenge of tyranny. We will fight and we will overcome.”
The proposed executive order seeks to target, among other legitimate activities, the open mass movement and the party-list system in the electoral arena. While these same activities became targets of the brutal and bloody AFP counterinsurgency program, Oplan Bantay Laya (versions I and II) under the Gloria M. Arroyo regime, their targetting today are planned to be given legal authorization under the proposed executive order to be signed by President Duterte.
Recall that the Arroyo government repeatedly sought to prevent the progressive partylist Bayan Muna and its allied parties, Anak Pawis and Gabriela Women’s Party, from winning in the 2001 and 2004 elections. Failing in that scheme, it then attempted in 2005-2007 to oust the six progressive partylist representatives from Congress, by filing in court a ludicrous rebellion charge against them and two trumped-up murder charges in Nueva Ecija; allegedly, the partylist representatives – the “Batasan 6” – had conspired with rebel government soldiers to oust Arroyo.
All the cases have been dismissed by the courts – the last one was resolved only after 11 years, early this month.
Yet now, as Speaker of the House of Representatives, Arroyo is asking the people to believe that there’s really a “Red October” plot. Invoking her experience as chief executive, she avers that the president has access to information not available to all. “So if the President believes that there is a threat, he is working from good information. So we should believe whatever he [Duterte] says,” she urges.
If Arroyo had believed the information she used for charging the Batasan 6 with rebellion was “good,” can we trust her judgment on the “Red October” canard?
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Published in Philippine Star
Sept. 29, 2018