Monday, October 24, 2016

Philippine Communist Party (PKP-1939) - Assessment of the first 100 days of the Duterte administration

We publish an interesting assessment by the Philippine Communist Party (PKP-1939) regarding the bourgeois government of Rodrigo Duterte in the Philippines.

Rodrigo “Digong” Duterte's presidential electoral campaign focused on the need to weed out the illegal drugs trade, calling it the prime menace to the people and the root of heinous crimes and even of corruption. He promised a bloody campaign which will fill Manila Bay with the cadavers of drug pushers and criminals, and called on the people to apprehend known drug pushers everywhere, and even to use lethal force against the armed resistance of drug pushers.
It was practically a call to nationwide vigilantism, for which Davao City under Duterte's 22-year reign as mayor and dynasty-builder won both praise and infamy among the people (around 1,400 drug and other crime suspects were killed by “vigilantes” in Davao City during that period). Upon his proclamation as president-elect, and even before his inauguration, the murder of mostly poor and small-time pushers and users started. Hundreds died in June 2016, with the outgoing Aquino administration unable to control the “buy-bust” operations conducted by police which invariably ended with the killing of suspects in alleged “shoot-outs”, as well as the “vigilante” killings blamed on police and other drug pushers who were out to clean up their trails by eliminating their distributors and clients who may rat on them.

As a former state prosecutor, Duterte knew the travails of an anti-drug campaign which would strictly follow “due process” in a corrupt bureaucracy –- particularly the gathering of strong evidence by law enforcers to show probable cause for the issuance by courts of search and arrest warrants. Shortly after his inauguration, Duterte invented a bold and extra-legal shortcut which drew the people's applause --- a name-and-shame campaign which exposed top police and local officials, and even judges, who were on an intelligence list of alleged drug lords and their protectors. The list was not perfect, as some of those named were long dead or retired. But banking on his immunity from suit, Duterte ordered those named by him to report to police headquarters and explain themselves, or face arrest and even shoot-to-kill operations.

Legal presumptions of innocence were thrown aside, and only a few of those named were actually charged, but the fear of Duterte as an uncontrollable strongman had already been instilled. A protest by the supreme court against his shame drive on judges was met with a threat to impose martial law, although Duterte later backed down and apologized to the chief justice. After naming and shaming hundreds in two “narco-lists”, Duterte was to later say that he has a more extensive “narco-list” of around 4,000 barangay (village) heads and around 6,000 police and military personnel. While promising the doubling of salaries of police and military personnel, he also promised a bounty of P2-Million for information that will pin down each “ninja-cop” (policeman dealing in illegal drugs). Duterte's relentless anti-drugs war After exposing ranking officials linked to the illegal drugs trade, a nationwide police campaign to arrest drug pushers and users, and to kill “violently resisting” ones, was pushed under “Oplan Double Barrel”. Deadly “buy-bust” operations and vigilante killings became daily occurrence, with rising body counts. “Cardboard justice” became a fashion, with the cadavers of poor victims being dumped on sidewalks with scribbled cardboard signs claiming that these victims were either pushers or users who have been engaged in other crimes. A climate of impunity was sown, with Duterte promising executive clemency to policemen who may be found guilty of human rights violations while in the “performance of duty”.

Duterte's Davao city system of Operation “Tokhang” (knock and persuade) became a model for nationwide implementation, with policemen knocking on the shanties of reported or suspected drug dealers and users to persuade or order them to report to police stations. Of course, exclusive villages of the rich were spared, or were only visited to distribute police leaflets on the menace of illegal drugs. In 3-months' time, around 2 million houses, mostly in poor communities, were visited under Operation “Tokhang”. Operation “Tokhang” is another Duterte “due-process” shortcut, with the suspects usually threatened to surrender or face dire consequences. At police stations, in the absence of legal counsel, these mostly poor suspects are made to fill- in forms admitting that they are drug pushers and/or users, and promising to mend their ways. They are then “interviewed” (interrogated) –- again without the benefit of legal counsel –- to get the names and personal data of their suppliers or customers, as well as those of other persons who are known to them to be drug pushers and users. 

As expected, a number of those who pointed to policemen as their suppliers have turned up dead in vigilante slays (officially dubbed as “deaths under investigation” or DUIs). In the first 3 months of the Duterte reign, around 700,000 have surrendered under Operation “Tokhang”, with around ten percent of them detained as suspected or self-confessed pushers. Duterte and his national police chief have vowed that this operation will continue until all of the estimated 3-million addicts have turned themselves in and have given extra-judicial confessions. Also in the first 3 months of the Duterte reign, “Oplan Double Barrel” resulted in around 1,600 pushers and users killed in alleged shoot-outs with police operatives (with 13 policemen getting killed in the shoot-outs), and around 60,000 suspects arrested. However, at least another 1,600 cadavers turned up as products of summary executions by “vigilantes”. Only a very few of the families of those killed have filed complaints, and fewer still have sought the assistance of the Commission of Human Rights whose chairman was publicly called an “idiot” by Duterte.
Duterte claims that while users of illegal drugs processed from natural plants (such as the higher-priced cocaine or opium derivatives) may still be rehabilitated, users of “shabu” (methampethamine hydrochloride), a synthetic drug that he also claims to be mostly coming from mainland China, become brain-damaged permanently and are prone to committing heinous crimes. Thus his outrageous remark that he would be happy to slaughter the estimated 3 million “shabu” addicts in our country, in the same way that Hitler massacred the Jews. This remark earned international condemnation for trivializing the Jewish holocaust, in the same way that his earlier remarks about the gang-rape of an Australian preacher at a Davao penal colony riot was also widely condemned for trivializing rape. Duterte's anti-drugs war drew grave concern among human rights advocates, as minor children of poor and powerless suspects became “collateral damage” in alleged shoot-outs, and as a number of victims of vigilante killings turned out to be related to drug suppliers (or “recyclers” of confiscated drugs) within the largely unpurged and unreformed police force. At the end of the first 100 days of the Duterte administration, a regional leader of an anti-crime group monitoring the illegal drugs trade in Oriental Mindoro province was assassinated by 2 gunmen riding a motorcycle in tandem. Wounded in an exchange of fire with responding policemen, the gunmen turned out to be a municipal police chief and a higher provincial police inspector.

Officials of the UN, the USA and the EU have expressed alarm at the more than 3,200 deaths so far in Duterte's anti-drugs war, which is already almost equal to the 3,257 reported extrajudicial killings under Ferdinand Marcos starting from his 1972 martial law declaration and up to his 1986 ouster. However, Duterte's stock reactionwas to tell all of them to go to hell, and to say that the deaths were either results of legitimate police operations, or products of vigilante killings for which he should not be blamed. He threatened, preposterously, to pull the Philippines out of the UN if Ban Ki-Moon would continue raising an alarm over human rights violations in his anti- drugs war.
He heaped scorn at Obama's expression of concern over human rights violations in the Philippines, pointing out that Obama has been unable to stop the killings of unarmed black Americans by white-supremacist US policemen. Before boarding his flight to the ASEAN Summit meeting in Vientiane last September, he threatened to curse and kick Obama in front of everyone if Obama would publicly criticize his anti-drugs war or lecture to him on human rights. Luckily, there never was a chance for this to happen, as upon his return from the summit, Duterte bragged that he snubbed the ASEAN-USA summit meeting where he could have met with Obama. Duterte is extremely sensitive to criticism, expecially about human rights violations in his anti-drugs war, and publicly curses his critics. He considers as his best friends those leaders of other countries who express support for his anti-drugs war. If the USA, for example, would assist his anti-drugs war in the same way that the USA is extending military assistance for the anti-drugs campaigns in Colombia and Brazil, there is a chance that the USA and its leaders may yet become Duterte's friends again. While surveys have shown that Duterte's bloody war against drugs continues to have the overwhelming support of the Filipino people, human rights violations in this war remains an issue that will hound Duterte not only for the rest of his presidential term, but even beyond.

Duterte's foreign policy shift, away from the USA.

So far, the most positive change initiated by Duterte is the shifting of Philippine foreign policy away from subservience and mendicacy towards the USA. At the Vientiane ASEAN Summit, Duterte raised the historical issue of the USA's gross violation of human rights during the “pacification campaign” at the turn of the 20th century. Saying that he is no fan of the USA, Duterte said during his September 10 speech upon arrival from Jakarta that he will set an independent foreign policy. In another speech two days later, he gave public notice that US forces must leave Mindanao, as they are “high-value targets” of the terrorist Abu Sayyaf kidnap-for- ransom group.
Later, he said that there can be no peace in Mindanao while US forces are there, without mentioning examples such as the US support for the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), or the US hand in the Mamasapano fiasco which led to the massacre of 44 members of the PNP's Special Action Force.
Apparently, Duterte has a very keen grasp of international developments, as he earlier said before a Muslim gathering in Davao City last July 8, on the occasion of hariraya puasa (Eid al-Fitr celebration marking the end of Ramadan), that the USA is sowing terrorism in many parts of the world, and is behind the turmoil and bombings in Arab and other islamic countries.
As Davao city mayor, Duterte experienced US-sponsored terrorism, with a number of bombings rocking his city and other parts of Mindanao in 2002. A CIA supplier for the terrorists, Michael Meiring, somehow got badly wounded while tinkering with a bomb inside a Davao hotel room, but was whisked out to Manila and then to the USA by US embassy personnel before then Mayor Duterte could get him under his custody. Duterte's present tirades against US terrorism and the CIA apparently stem from his personal experience with the Meiring case.
Last October 4, in a speech at the Department of Interior and Local Government, Duterte said that this month's joint war games of US and Philippine forces would be the last, and that he intends to end the Estrada-era Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) and the Noynoy Aquino-era Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA). He also belittled the military assistance being provided by the USA, pointing out that the USA only sold to the Philippines 2 mothballed Coast Guard cutters after taking off their main armaments, and that the Philippines still has to secure US authorization before it can purchase armaments for the few second-hand US-made jet fighters that the Philippines bought from South Korea. However, for all his fulminations, Duterte has yet to follow through with formal proposals to the Senate for the abrogation of the VFA, EDCA and the Quirino-era Mutual Defense Treaty (MDT).

As part of his foreign policy shift, Duterte stressed that the Philippines will not participate in US naval patrols in the West Philippine Sea, as this is a waste of scarce Philippine resources, and will only further anger China. Indeed, any Philippine participation in these patrols will only highlight a subservient role for our puny US- supplied naval vessels. During the Noynoy Aquino period, Filipino soldiers taken aboard US warships for joint “war games” were issued toy rifles in an absurd display of “inter-operability” and blatant distrust for “alliance partners”. And when it comes to war games on land, Filipino troopers only serve as a captive audience as US troopers let loose with all their shocking firepower in destroying the natural environment in the wargame sites.
Duterte said that the Philippines will not be part of the USA's anti-China alliance, and that Philippine-China relations will be strengthened even while the Philippines will continue peaceful negotiations for the realization of its entitlements over its Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) as mandated in the award of the Arbitral Tribunal at The Hague which heard our case against China's absurd “9-dash-line” claim.
During the electoral campaign period, Duterte started to personally attack the US ambassador, Philip Goldberg, for harping on Duterte's sexist comment regarding a beautiful Australian preacher who was gang-raped and killed during a Davao prison riot, which comment seemed to trivialize rape. A nationalist supporter of Duterte, Hilarion Henares, revealed in a letter to the editor of a leading newspaper that Duterte was incensed at Goldberg's electoral interference, particularly his attempt to draw the electoral support of the Iglesia ni Cristo away from Duterte. The recent comments of Goldberg regarding the extra-judicial executions in the anti-drugs war drew the most colorful language from Duterte, who called him a gay son-of-a-whore. In his latest public speeches, Duterte routinely tells Goldberg and Obama to go to hell, rails against unspecified US plans to remove him from office, and challenges the CIA to oust him. He warned that the USA will “lose” the Philippines, and that the
Philippines under him will have better relations with China and Russia. Considering that China and Russia are now both imperialist countries which are competing with the USA and other western powers in recarving and exploiting the world, Duterte's plan may be beneficial to the Philippines but only in the immediate short term.
Other laudable initiatives.

The first 100 days of the Duterte administration also saw many laudable initiatives, based on his electoral campaign promises. He ordered a halt to the conversion of agricultural lands, which gives hope to the campaign for a rational land- use policy needed to safeguard food security and push agrarian reform. He suspended the payment of irrigation fees, even while Congress is deliberating on the budget of the National Irrigation Administration which would do away with irrigation fees from farmers. He issued an Executive Order on freedom of information (FOI) covering the executive branch, even while Congress is still trying to craft a more encompassing FOI law.
Duterte withdrew support from the US-crafted Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) draft, which was sponsored by the past Noynoy Aquino regime. Saying that amendments were necessary to jibe with his federalism proposal, he stressed that such a law should be favorable not only to the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), but to all groups and tribes in Mindanao. While earlier refusing to call the Abu Sayyaf kidnap-for-ransom group as a terrorist group (saying that this group had only been “pushed to the wall”), Duterte finally ordered an all-out war against this terrorist group which “gifted” him with the beheading of a number of their hostages. While saying that he will never agree to a “coalition government” with the MILF, the maoist CPP-NPA-NDF and other insurgent groups, Duterte appointed some legal cadres of the maoist movement as members of his cabinet (even though the maoists supported a former US citizen as their presidential candidate during the last election).
He also ordered the release from prison or detention of 21 top maoist leaders, to jumpstart negotiations in Oslo, Norway, aimed at ending the maoist insurgency. He kept at bay the maoists' demand for the release of over 500 of their imprisoned and detained members, saying that such wholesale release should only come with a long-term ceasefire agreement and with a clear prospect of ending the maoist insurgency. For Duterte, peace negotiations should logically aim at ending the maoist armed struggle. However, this is something that the maoists cannot promise because this would remove their power to threaten the masses in the conflict areas, and their capacity to extort “revolutionary taxes” from businesses and “election campaign fees” from politicians.
Calling himself a “socialist”, Duterte expressed admiration for the Cuban health and social welfare system. Towards the end of August, he sent a delegation of the Department of Health (headed by the DOH secretary) to make a short study of the Cuban community health system. He also plans to send other delegations to study other aspects of the Cuban social system. He stood up to the haughty moralizing stance of the catholic church which claims to have around 80% of Filipinos as its members. He recalled winning the presidency, allegedly by the grace of god, despite the church campaign against him. He called this church as a very hypocritical institution, and defended the government's reproductive health and family planning programs which are being attacked by this church. He even revealed that he was sexually abused by an American Jesuit priest when he was in grade school at a catholic university in Davao City.

After being criticized by the former bishop of Davao about summary executions in his anti-drugs war, he shot back that just like himself (Duterte prides himself as a great womanizer), the bishop also had several girlfriends or paramours, although unlike him, bishops and priests do not admit to such indiscretions. Duterte's bold attacks against the catholic church and its leaders are giving much needed momentum to enlightened legislative efforts to forge laws which would allow divorce, the recognition of foreign divorce, and even the giving of immediate effect to annulments granted by the church itself.

Duterte also threatened to expose corrupt media practitioners, called the “boycott” bluff of corporate media, and strengthened government media capability. However, his comment that media people are also legitimate targets of assassination if they are “sons-of-bitches” (i.e., corrupt) sent a chilling effect on the media. Areas for improvement, and danger areas. During the electoral campaign, Duterte promised to end labor contractualization, particularly the “endo” system where labor contracts are ended before the workers can reach the threshold of regularization. But up to now, the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) still has to strictly define contractualization categories and impose bans on “endo”. Duterte also failed to give the example by banning contractualization (casual and “job-order” employment) in the government service. Also unrealized up to now is Duterte's campaign promise to give back to coconut farmers the coconut levy funds amassed by the Marcos cronies.

Describing Marcos as the best president the Philippines ever had, Duterte allowed the burial of Marcos at the Libingan ng mga Bayani, in an apparent payback for the electoral support he received from the Marcos family. This led to a controversy that divides our people, and which has reached the supreme court for final decision. This controversy should have been avoided, if only Duterte had stuck to the previous government's agreement with the Marcos family that the former dictator would be buried in his hometown. Despite all the accomplishments of the Marcos period, his dismal human rights record makes him undeserving of being buried at this cemetery, even if this is not truly a cemetery for heroes.

The Duterte plan of amending the constitution through a constituent assembly is another controversial move, considering that aside from his plan to change the unitary system to a federal system (a plan favored by all the local political dynasties), the amendments would also do away with the few progressive economic provisions of the constitution. Main targets for demolition are the limitations on foreign ownership of land, limitations on business areas open to foreign investment, and limitations on foreign capitalization in local businesses.

Duterte also wants to remove the constitutional provisions on the partylist system, for the reason that this system has been used and abused by rich interests, and no longer represents the marginal sectors as envisioned by the framers of this constitution. However, what is needed is to clean up this system, primarily by confronting the supreme court which allowed the entry of non-marginalized parties and their representatives. The partylist system has to be restored to its original purpose of having representatives from the truly marginalized sectors. Until the end of this year, Duterte's real color and mettle will be tested, given the controversial proposals of his cabinet, primarily by his economic managers led by Finance Secretary Sonny Dominguez. Among the controversial proposals are the tax reform package which will lower corporate taxes while removing the VAT exemption of senior citizens ; Philippine entry to the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) scheme of US imperialism ; Philippine entry to the China-led Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) ; privatization of the business operations of the National Food Authority and the National Irrigation Administration ; and the continuation of the Public-Private Partnership Program (PPPP) which would ensure further control by the oligarchy over public infrastructures.

While claiming to be a “socialist”, it is notable that Duterte never said a word against the exploitative control by the oligarchy over water and electric utilities, telecommunications, expressways and other basic services. The only “oligarch” he ever attacked was Roberto Ongpin (former finance minister of the Marcos era), who is being shaken out of his control over “e-games” (on-line gambling). No real socialist would agree to the privatization of state institutions and assets –- especially those imbued with strategic interests –- or to the further control by the oligarchy over additional public infrastructures.

Unfortunately, the “socialist” Duterte and his neo-liberal economic managers have no plan at all at building a state sector of the economy, or at re-nationalizing the public utilities and infrastructures which are vital to our people's interests. They even have no plan of conducting a thorough audit of all foreign loans secured by past regimes, with the aim of repudiating the onerous debts which benefitted only the partnership of foreign banksters and local kleptocracies.

The Duterte administration continues to pay, out of public funds, all onerous foreign debts covered with sovereign guarantees, instead of going after the corrupt debtor businessmen here and the corrupt lenders abroad who conspired to make loan arrangements for which the Philippine government and the Filipino people were ultimately made to pay. Duterte himself promised during his inaugural speech that his government will honor the sanctity of contracts, without taking exception to contractual obligations arising from onerous debts and other corrupt deals.

The need for vigilance.

Despite his obscene language, and his brash statements on foreign policy, much of the people's continuing support for Duterte comes from a realization that his anti-drugs war has led to a reduction in street crimes, and particularly in the number of heinous crimes committed under the influence of illegal drugs. He is perceived to be exerting every effort to rid the government bureaucracy of red tape, to control contractualization and gambling, and to remove or reduce personal taxes imposed on low-income workers. Many people even enjoy a new sense of national dignity and pride with Duterte's mentioning of highlights of historical injustice committed against our country by our former colonial masters, and with his unprecedented attacks against US, EU and UN leaders, as well as against local catholic church and even Vatican leaders.

Anti-Duterte forces will of course harp on his human rights record, extending back to his more than 2 decades as “punisher” of criminals in Davao City, as revealed before a senate inquiry by a self-confessed former member of the “Davao Death Squad”. His alleged use of the “Alsa Masa” (“masses arise”) vigilantes to end maoist terrorism in Davao City, and his alleged use of bombers against mosques to end jihadist bombings on churches in the city, are being cited. However, these unconventional methods in fighting terrorism have ensured wide support for Duterte's reign over Davao City for more than 2 decades.

Pro-imperialist forces are also trying a new approach –- that of frightening people regarding financial and economic dislocations that can be caused by western capital angry at Duterte's fulminations against US, EU and UN leaders. Unfortunately, the “colonial mentality”, and the dream of migrating to the USA, is still prevalent among a big segment of our population. Also still prevalent is the fear of China, which is being presented by Duterte himself as his new ally against the USA. Some US officials have remarked recently that a predominant pro-US sentiment is the foundation of “people power” in the Philippines. This remark is in fact a veiled threat that the USA has the power to again manipulate “people power” in order to remove Duterte from office, in the same extra-constitutional way that the USA had earlier caused the ouster of Marcos and Estrada from Malacanang.

Duterte's unprecedented attacks against Obama and US interests, and his unpredictable shift towards China, is leading to concerns about probable US plots to oust him. In the face of this danger, it is necessary to support Duterte's patriotic positions, even while putting pressure against his anti-people plans (the further opening of our economy to foreign capital through constitutional changes, the further privatization of state assets and functions, the further surrender to the oligarchy of basic infrastructure projects, etc.).

Despite all his faults, Duterte is the first president to ever call for an end to the US military presence in our country, for an end to US war games in our territory, for an end to our military alliance with (and dependence upon) the USA, and for an end to our mendicant foreign policy. He is the only president to ever expose and attack the historical injustice committed against our people by US imperialism, and the only president to ever expose and attack the hypocrisy of the catholic church and its leaders.

If US imperialism succeeds in ousting or assassinating Duterte, only the ultra-right will gain, the peace processes would be derailed (as the ultra-left would be justified in resuming their “protracted war”, and islamist forces may relaunch their secessionist struggles), and the civil liberties of the people –- as well as the political space enjoyed by the wider progressive movement –- may be endangered.

Secretariat of the Central Committee.
(PKP-1930, the Philippine Communist Party).

October 20, 2016.