Without systematic mass testing and contact tracing and a very slow vaccine rollout (primarily on account of Western vaccine monopoly), we are in a more vulnerable position amid new variants, such as the Delta variant that has already afflicted several people in different regions. The latest count is 16. But with poor testing and tracing capacity, containing the spread of this new variant is a big challenge. This administration has conveniently exploited a weak public healthcare system to impose repressive measures such as a militaristic response to the pandemic.
United States tax allocations to military aid as well as our government’s purchase of war weapons from the U.S. military industrial complex show that imperialists in the core and their comprador allies in the peripheries have neither time nor opportunity to waste. The US military industrial complex is thriving while people are dying. The Chinese government’s occupation of the West Philippine Sea and its thriving business deals with Duterte involving COVID-19 vaccines as well as real estate and infrastructural development built on indigenous farmlands have only turned us into a quasi-nation serving two masters.
Unthinkable as it seems, there is no better time than during a global pandemic for oligarchs to inflict the worst kind repression for profit accumulation.
Sociologists talk about the State’s transmission function. It is a process in which institutions acquire the ideological and repressive characteristics of central governance. For example, it is proffered that repressive practices and authoritarian beliefs tend to be normalized in schools, media, and families in times of dictatorship. The same institutions may, however, acquire an oppositional character depending on the strength and influence of organized anti-imperialist and anti-fascist movements. Furthermore, economic policies of governments tend to acquire actual and “agentic” outcomes. For example, the Philippine State’s labor export policy has long shaped the aspirations, professional choices and pain thresholds of Filipino families.
These examples are not digressions considering how this government uses the weakness of our healthcare system to create a quasi-medical discourse about human bodies. In the face of mounting fatalities, health and economic uncertainties what can we still afford to be or aspire to?
Duterte knew that this question will come up. His response? The Anti-Terror Law. For Duterte, the point was and still is to immobilize a whole population from massively mobilizing against government ineptness, corruption and abuse. There has been no let up in state-sponsored killings, illegal arrests and militarization of communities nationwide.
Despite this, progressive groups have managed to organize a strong campaign against Duterte’s crimes, pushing the International Criminal Court to investigate Duterte’s drug war. People’s lawyers have only been encouraging and optimistic about helping people’s organizations to mount a campaign that will also investigate the killings of farmers, workers, activists, indigenous peoples and peace consultants.
For a tyrannical regime, opposition can only be quelled. Thus, “legal measures” such as the terror designation is dropped like a bombshell warning each and everyone of us that the dispensation of the terrorist label is the state’s affair and has got nothing to do with who we really are and what we actually do as citizens.
Today’s news is about the Anti-Terrorism Council’s (ATC) designation of the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) as a terrorist organization. In December 2020, the ATC also tagged the CPP-NPA as terrorist organizations. This terrorist tag on the NDFP is a resolution that the ATC made last June 23. Signed by Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea, the ATC cites Article X of the 2016 CPP Constitution and concludes that the article “shows that the NDF a.k.a. NDFP is the core and most consolidated group that provides support to the armed and organizational expansion of the CPP/NPA.”
That the NDFP is the most consolidated group that enables the organizational expansion of the CPP/NPA, whether accurate or not, is an accusation that is actually to the credit of the organization in question. It only means that the anti-fascist and anti-imperialist struggle for land redistribution and national industrialization remains strong and enjoys greater support from the people despite counterinsurgency efforts.
However, the NDFP, like the CPP-NPA, is composed of sectoral underground entities to be distinguished from legal-traditional organizations of farmers, workers, women, indigenous peoples, Moro people, artists and workers, teachers, students, scientists church people, migrant workers, lawyers and health workers. The distinction is important as a matter of fact rather than politics. Not all citizens belonging to sectoral organizations or formations adhere to the principles of the CPP-NPA-NDF.
Being organized into a revolutionary organization is largely a matter of consent based personal decision and political choice. The Duterte regime’s staple propaganda about communist brainwashing is a necessary script to bolster and legitimize state mechanisms that make people’s lives punishable and disposable.
This latest terrorist designation on the NDFP is a fascistic act of casting the net so wide in order to tag the armed revolutionary group as a growing network. That it comes with the government’s inability to contain the probable spread of the much feared COVID-19 Delta variant is no longer a shocker.
This government’s consistent refusal to 1) build our healthcare system’s capacity through systematic testing and contact tracing side by side a rather slow vaccination program and 2) account for the billions allotted for what is supposed to be a pandemic response is inextricably connected with billions of pesos that goes into the budget of the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC). The Duterte regime creates, re-creates and expects nothing less than a Corona-threatened, politically repressed and economically dispossessed populace who, amid two major state-inflicted scenarios—counterinsurgency and an unabated health emergency—will only act with docility.
Sarah Raymundo is a full-time faculty at the University of the Philippines-Diliman Center for International Studies. She is engaged in activist work in BAYAN (The New Patriotic Alliance), the International League of Peoples’ Struggles, and Chair of the Philippines-Bolivarian Venezuela Friendship Association. She is a member of the Editorial Board of the Journal for Labor and Society (LANDS) and Interface: Journal of/and for Social Movements.