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[EDITORIAL] The Plot towards a Dictatorship

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President Duterte floated the idea of declaring a revolutionary government instead of martial law during a speech in Malacañang Palace on August 29, 2017. He said, declaring martial law would create controversies but with a declaration of a revolutionary government, “it’s a quick finish.”  He repeated his threats, however, to declare martial law in a dialogue with media in Camp Evangelista in Cagayan de Oro City on September 9, 2017.

Any of the two could happen, although the President claims to never want to do it and promised never to do it—unless the problem with drugs and political protests end up in street fighting, chaos or outright rebellion. He also stressed that he will use the full force of the state’s power to force oligarchs, who profit off the suffering of the poor, to their knees.

What are actually happening are the exact opposites of what most of Duterte promised to do or not to do. He promised he will not declare martial law anywhere in the Philippines; that he will end contractual labor and stop corruption. He also promised to solve the problem of drugs in six months otherwise he will resign. His latest statements, however, are no laughing matter.

Using these two options is logical for one with the ambition of becoming a dictator. It enables him to quickly get rid of opposition within and outside of government. A revolutionary government, however, can only happen when a revolt overthrows an old system and aims for change, similar to what happened in 1986.

Nevertheless, declaring a nationwide martial law will no longer be difficult for Duterte to do, especially because Congress acts as his rubber stamp and he has his own chest of intelligence information on the trouble that terrorist group ISIS and other rebel groups may create.

Whichever path he chooses, it will be towards establishing a new dictatorship, more than thirty years after people power ousted Ferdinand Marcos in 1986.

During the past few months his allies have taken appropriate steps to complement this agenda: an increased budget for the AFP and the PNP for materiel, additional troops and increased pay and benefits aside from the hundreds of retired police and military officers assigned to different agencies; impeachment complaints against the chief justice and the  COMELEC Chairman and a threat to file a case against the vice president to make them bow; postponement of the barangay elections and replacing the heads of barangays who are in the “verified narco list;”  organizing the MASA-MASID, the Kilusang Pagbabago, Sincere Warriors of Rodrigo Duterte (SWORD), as well as massive recruitment for the PDP-Laban, the President’s political party.

Undoubtedly the governance system in the Philippines is experiencing another convulsion despite the relief from isolation the EDSA revolt gave it during the Marcos dictatorship.

The 1987 Constitution provided protection for democratic space and civil liberties, placed Constitutional barriers against foreign military bases, secured control of businesses and natural resources to Philippine corporations at 60% Filipino ownership and 40% to big foreign capitalists. It also provided for checks and balances in the powers of the State and has clear provisions on transitions of power.

Nevertheless, this Constitution also opened the door to a wider conflict among local political patrons. In the multiparty system, dynasties flourished in the emergence of many political parties. Local political patrons also appropriated the party list system, which was supposed to be for marginalized sectors. And in the midst of deepening economic crises, their rivalry for power intensified.

The first spasm of the governance system borne by the EDSA revolt was at the time of Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, when she prosecuted and jailed her predecessor Joseph Estrada. She promulgated a “strong republic,” which caused concern about her intent to possibly extend her Presidency beyond what the Constitution provides.

This was the legacy bequeathed to Benigno Aquino III. With aid from the United States, Aquino started reforming the political system to restore people’s trust in the entire neocolonial system and make it serve more profitably the geopolitical interest of the United States.

The Philippines became attractive to foreign investments. It strengthened its position once again for U.S. interests. But despite Aquino’s achievements in improving the economic fundamentals, the benefits did not trickle down to the poor Filipinos. Corruption thrived despite the mechanisms put in place to stop it. Poverty deepened and along with it, social ills such as prostitution, crime and the illegal drug trade. The persistent issues behind the Moro rebellion likewise remained.

Duterte rode on these crises via a promise that “change is coming” and posturing as a decisive leader. The support of the Marcoses and local political patrons, though, were key to his victory.

A year into Duterte’s rule, horrifying nightmares are keeping the people awake: worse state of corruption, unreasonable taxation, militarization in the bureaucracy, more than 10,000 extra judicial killings in the war on drugs. Duterte’s change is not a march forward but into a dark hole of unimaginable depths.

In the middle of the Marawi conflict, Duterte lost all the toughness in his stance against the US. He accepted with gratitude all the support and participation of US troops and aircraft in the war.

More than the criticism the US Congress hurled against Duterte’s war on drugs, the US is keenly guarding its interests in the country. Let us not forget that the US supported the dictatorship of Ferdinand Marcos despite the global condemnation of its massive human rights violations. It supported previous presidents who upheld the Philippines’ role as a neocolonial state of the U.S.

It is imperative to derail all tyrants and dictators who trample upon fundamental human and sovereign rights of the people.

 

From KILUSAN (Official Publication of Kilusan para sa Pambansang Demokrasya) | Year 11 Release 3 |September 30, 2017

 

*Sketch on top: Alex Uy

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