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DUTERTE’S REAL LEGACY: Criminal Neglect at Facing Epidemics and Disasters

in Countercurrent

Pee on Taal volcano, eat ash fall, and slap the (novel corona) virus—these were Pres. Duterte’s responses to the current disasters that Filipinos confront today.
The Taal volcano eruption and the novel corona virus epidemic highlight the ineptness and indifference of the Duterte regime at serving the needs and interests of the Filipino people. His regime is accountable for its negligence and ill-preparedness, the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) said in a statement on February 2020.

The Duterte government is aware that calamities and epidemics regularly visit the Philippines.

These would not have automatically turned to disasters if the government took steps to prepare for, and mitigate, disasters; and if the government has been addressing the people’s vulnerabilities to calamities and health emergencies such as the problem of overcrowded urban poor communities, malnutrition, lack of access to clean water and sanitation, and lack of access to free or affordable health care.

Disasters exacerbate the poor people’s insecurities that stem from these vulnerabilities.

Instead, the Philippine government has mostly been doing the opposite. The Duterte regime is INTENTIONALLY inept and indifferent to the possible disastrous impacts of calamities and health emergencies to ordinary Filipinos. It is not due to lack of foresight. It is a predictable outcome of its conscious decisions. It opts to excel more in bowing to its US and Chinese imperialist masters, for its bureaucrat capitalist gains, at the expense of the Filipino people’s lives.

It is plain to see in the series of decisions they have taken in the face of the latest health emergency and disaster to hit our shores.

“Afraid of China’s admonition, Duterte has opted to secure his selfish interests over the people’s welfare,” the CPP said. Duterte acceded to a travel ban from the virus’ country of origin only after widespread condemnation of his inaction, after the World Health Organization declared a Public Health Emergency and various governments have already taken drastic measures to limit the spread of the virus.

SLASHED BUDGET, WEAK HEALTH CARE SYSTEM FOR THE POOR

Aggravating the people’s vulnerability to epidemics is the dismal state of public health in the country. “Having decreased the health budget year upon year since taking power, the Duterte regime failed to fund enough medical experts and equipment to determine and treat highly contagious diseases,” the CPP said.

The Duterte regime has continued the neoliberal reforms turning health care into a for-profit operation.

The poor majority are increasingly deprived of free public health services but, looking at the shiny private or public hospitals boosted by Philhealth, the Health Secretary claimed we are “not a country with a weak health care system.”

Despite the dismal state of public health, he also said we’re not among the “really poor” countries the World Health Organization worried about in coping with the global health emergency.

Such illusionary denial is easily shattered by facts. The country’s latest doctor-to-patient ratio remains too low at 0.3 per 10,000. Research thinktank Ibon said this is far below the World Health Organization’s (WHO) recommended ratio of 1-1.5 doctors per 1,000 population.

In the Philippines, the most vulnerable from the corona virus are the urban poor communities and rural areas under-served or not being reached by health services, and are also scarcely informed about the virus, said the Malayang Kilusan ng Bagong Kababaihan-Bikol (MAKIBAKA, an allied organization of the National Democratic Front of the Philippines) said in a statement. In Bicol, as it is in other regions, there are too few public hospitals and most of it are in the cities, the underground women’s group said. “Often, these hospitals lack equipment or the clinics in the barrio lack personnel and don’t open everyday.”

The Duterte government’s conscious indifference to peoples’ welfare shows most starkly in the national budget.

Duterte means business in waging war against the people, conducting surveillance and deploying committees to gag critics and establish military control of civilian agencies. It allocated billions of funds for these.

It has put the people’s money where its war-mongering mouth is. It has done the opposite toward social services.

While plonking billions for military rampages that victimized mostly peasants and indigenous peoples, it has been excising funds direly needed for health emergencies and disaster preparedness.

It slashed by more than half (56 percent) the Department of Health’s (DOH) budget for epidemiology and disease surveillance program, allocating it just P115.5 million compared to P263 million last year. Its health emergency program is at 830 million pesos, or just PhP8 for every Filipino.

If the Duterte government had pursued effective emergency plans and crisis strategies, our scientists and facilities are “more than capable of performing procedures for faster and more sustainable dealing with health emergencies,” the patriotic scientists’ group Agham said in a statement.

Filipino diagnostic capabilities have a lot of room for improvement but it’s severely hampered by the all-time-low budget given the Department of Science and Technology’s (DOST). Bayan Muna Rep. Ferdie Gaite said the low DOST budget means little to no funding for potential research in genomics that could have helped improve our diagnostic capabilities.

The decreasing share for health in the national government budget shows the low priority given to this, said research group IBON. Even the crucial program meant to ensure we would have a wide range of human health resources including doctors, nurses, midwives, dentists, allied health professions, community health workers, social health workers and other health care providers and management and support personnel has been losing funding. IBON noted that the budget for the health department’s Health Systems Strengthening Program was cut by Php6.6 billion from Php25.9 billion to Php19.3 billion.

How would an underfunded, undermanned and ill-equipped workforce address public health challenges such as the Coronavirus Disease (COVID-19)?

The same criminal neglect in past and future natural and man-made disaster has been repeatedly pointed out in the national budget. A puppet government intent to survive or prolong his or her term while amassing bureaucrat loot from projects with imperialists just can’t seem to be bothered to correct this historical trend.

SLASHED BUDGET, ILL-PREPARED FOR DISASTERS

The Philippines is disaster-prone. It is in the Pacific Ring of Fire. It has active volcanoes. It has long been ripe for the Big One temblor. It regularly gets visited by typhoons. Portions of the archipelago are at risk of sinking from the predicted higher searise. In response, defying logic and this annual tally of worsening calamities, the Duterte government has been slashing the budget for disaster risk management. The Taal volcanic eruption illustrates the disastrous bent of puppet governments such as Duterte’s.

As hundreds of thousands of Filipinos reel with little to no rehabilitation yet in sight following the Taal Volcano eruption last January 12, and before that, the earthquakes and typhoons late last year, the Duterte regime’s lack of genuine concern for the Filipino people is starkly revealed.

Never mind the photo ops of government soldiers handing out relief packs (donated by the private sector) or forcing people to vacate their endangered homes (a core strength of the state troops lies in driving people out of their homes). Never mind the DILG Secretary and former Armed Forces Chief Eduardo Año asking for donations. Filipinos voluntarily give that and have in fact been doing that even without Año asking for it. The questions that reverberated following his calls for donations (“Why can’t the government take care of that when the Filipinos have been taxed to death?,” “Why do you spend so much for this and that but allocate a pittance for disasters?”), and the “shocked” responses by some lawmakers at “revelations” that they themselves slashed P4-billion from the already whittled down calamity fund for 2020. All these point to a government that shamelessly institutionalizes criminal neglect of its citizens’ needs.

That it has been caught flat-footed with meager budget for new calamities only shows it has not in the first place really thought of the people’s welfare.

Of the reduced P16 billion budget for calamity funds in 2020, only P7.5 billion can go to new disasters. The rest were already earmarked for relief and rehab of victims of earthquakes and typhoons from late last year and the still unimplemented Marawi rehabilitation. Even traditional politicians note that P7.5 billion is not enough for the more than 200,000 people deprived of livelihood and homes because of Taal’s eruption—this is just one calamity, and 2020 has just started.

BUT THERE’S MONEY IN DISASTERS

Worse than negligence and ineptness, the government is using the disaster to advance business interests and remove the people opposing the scheme. There is a threat, aired by the DILG, that in the guise of ‘rehabilitation,’ they might permanently drive away the people who used to live around the Taal Lake.

“Batangueños must be vigilant to not allow this rehabilitation effort to turn into a profiteering scheme—the 2017-2022 CALABARZON Regional Development Plan has initially proposed that Taal Lake can serve as an ecotourism and leisure zone to maximize its tourism potentials and stimulate the development of new scenic lakeside communities,” Bagong Alyansang Makabayan in Southern Tagalog said.

Against the DILG’s proposed permanent ban of human settlement in Taal Volcano’s 14-km radius danger zone, the group calls on the public and scientific community to conduct first a comprehensive investigation and environmental impact assessment.

Duterte’s promised “aid” involves P25,000 loans, an “uncalled for” offer at this time, said Agham. Batangas’ economy is mostly driven by agriculture.

Rather than offer loans to the disaster victims, the government must fully support the farmers and the fisherfolk affected by the calamity, Agham reasoned.

The National Democratic Front in Southern Tagalog (NDFP-ST) urges the people to also be on guard against “corrupt politicians and officials of the reactionary government who will take advantage of the calamity to pocket millions of calamity funds earmarked for the people.”

OUSTING DUTERTE A PATRIOTIC DUTY, BUILDING THE PEOPLE’S DEMOCRATIC GOVERNMENT A NECESSITY

Today the Duterte regime not only has to answer for its neglect of the country’s health programs and disaster risk preparation and mitigation, it must account for its continuing attacks on the people. Even under calamities, the Duterte regime continues to malign progressive peoples’ organizations as they take it upon themselves to mobilize for the disaster survivors’ relief and rehabilitation.

The youth group Anakbayan’s Tulong Kabataan for instance has successfully mobilized the youth for relief and rehabilitation efforts. But last January 20, they flagged the Duterte’s P36-billion funded National Task Force-End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC) whose Facebook and Twitter pages red-tagged Anakbayan. The youth group said it’s a “desperate and pathetic move to attack our organization and to distract the people from Duterte’s criminal negligence over the Taal eruption.”

Right from the first days of volcanic eruption the NDFP has mobilized people to send help. It provided immediate aid and relief and muscle in the organized move to safer locations.

While praising the Filipinos’ warmhearted and fast bayanihan, the NDF called on the people to demand greater funds for relief and rehabilitation for those affected by Taal’s eruption.

“Even more so now, there is the pressing need for the people in the regions visited by calamities to unite, mobilize and struggle for calls such as long-term moratorium in farmers’ paying of land rent to their landlord, or their yearly payment for certificate of land ownership (CLOA) under the bogus agrarian reform of the fascist US-Duterte regime, and moratorium also in paying back the high-interest loans from finance institutions and cooperatives,” the NDF-ST said in early January.

Increasing the people’s capacities to prepare for disasters and health emergencies necessitate improving their livelihoods—and this could only start with implementing genuine agrarian reform.

Orienting the government to genuine public service necessitates changing that government.

It has been decades of a corrupt, inefficient, insensitive and criminally negligent puppet governments in the Philippines.

With the corona virus and Taal volcano eruption, Filipinos see again the rottenness of their government. As the regime dawdled, the call for Duterte’s ouster trended on social media.

The Filipino people has a strong, solid basis for demanding Duterte’s ouster. He has tried to forestall it through faked theories and wild accusations. Now, however, with his left and right crimes against the people, he begs to be ousted.

As events unfold, it is clear that while the likes of Duterte is in power, the Filipino people will only get bludgeoned deeper into poverty, suffering bitter oppression, as the NDF-ST concluded in a statement early February. It added that, it is a must to oust the likes of the Duterte regime, and replace it with a leadership that has genuine concern for the people’s welfare, and ready to defend the national sovereignty and territorial integrity of the country from imperialist intervention and neoliberal impositions. ###

PHOTOS FROM: Aljazeera / CNN Ph / Gulf News / Rappler

#OustDuterte

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Marawi, A Year After: People’s Right to Self-Determination Violated

in Countercurrent
by Iliya Makalipay
 
It was heartbreaking and enraging to witness how the Armed Forces of the Philippines and the Philippine National Police, wielding their shields, pushed back and shoved the Maranao people to prevent them from going back to Marawi City. It was as if they were the invaders in their own ancestral land and territory.

More than a year after the siege, the Maranaos attempted to go back home—to see what remain of their abodes and properties, and their places of worship. It was painful and surreal to see how they bellowed and begged to be allowed to go back home.

Two years in a row, they had to observe the Ramadhan in evacuation centers or in the homes of relatives and friends, away from their Mosques and the Lanao Lake, both integral to their worship. Despite government press releases saying that Marawi has been cleared of terrorists and is ready to be rebuilt, what we see are still the displaced Maranaos and the rubble that is the Islamic City of Marawi.

“We were displaced because of the siege and the airstrikes; we continue to be displaced because of the rehabilitation project,” one of the evacuees lamented in a broadcast interview.

TRADITIONAL SYSTEMS, PROCESSES, CULTURE, AND RELIGIOUS BELIEF ALL DISRESPECTED

Less than a month after the May 23, 2017 siege, about 50 traditional and religious leaders in Marawi City requested the AFP Brigade commander to allow them to negotiate with the members of the Daulah Islamiyah (DI). It was an attempt to end the hostilities and avoid further loss of lives and destruction of properties. But the commanding officer refused, saying Malacanang had already opted for a military solution.

“We were not given the opportunity to exercise our traditional means of settling disputes and our right to self-governance,” commented Marawi Sultan Abdul Hamidullah T. Atar, in an emailed interview with Liberation. Marawi, he pointed out, is the only place in the country with a homogenous Muslim population of mostly Maranao, the “people of the lake”.

“We have relatives and clan members in the Daulah Islamiyah. In a way, we are all related, by blood or by affinity, and our leaders could have talked to them,” he explained, adding: “It could have been less disastrous and damaging had these traditional processes were alowed to function.” The Duterte regime, however, had closed all avenues for negotiations.

The consequences of the government’s option: the daily airstrikes, bombings and mortar shellings along with ground assaults wiped out the only Islamic city in the country; it also economically and physically dislocated the Maranao people. The exact number of evacuees, which remains undetermined up to now, ranged from 200,000 to 300,000.

Of the more than 11,000 houses destroyed, at least 37 prayer Mosques were ruined along with several treasured traditional houses. To the non-Muslims, these are equivalent to the destruction of churches, cathedrals, and heritage houses. These were not mere structures; they had been the expressions of the faith, religion, politics, and culture of the Maranao people—their very identity.

“The government said the airstrikes were resorted to out of necessity. But the same government now says it cannot support the rebuilding of our Mosques because of the separation of Church and State,” lamented Sultan Atar.

VIOLATIONS OF HUMAN RIGHTS AND INTERNATIONAL HUMANITARIAN LAW

“Kung sinira ng Maute ang kusina namin, winasak naman ng AFP ang buong bahay namin” (The Maute group may have destroyed our kitchen but the AFP destroyed our whole house),” deplored Sultan Atar.

Sultan Atar decried the excessive use of firepower against the 300 members of the DI, with 8,000-10,000 foot soldiers deployed against them in 24 of the 96 barangays in Marawi City. Various testimonies from the residents attested to this fact. Despite the AFP’s limiting their access to the battle areas, journalists and photojournalists have amply documented for the public how Marawi City was reduced to rubble because of the aerial bombings and artillery strikes. An estimated 12,000 families or 60,000 individuals used to occupy the “main battleground”, later referred to as “ground zero”.

Much like the number of evacuees, the number of deaths during the five-month siege is inconclusive, especially on the side of the “militant” fighters and civilians. Like many of the residents’ testimonies, Sultan Atar is unconvinced that 918 “militants” were killed. “How many of them were children and elderly?” he asked.

News reports teemed with accounts detailing how, after the aerial bombings and howitzer strikes began, the evacuees left the elderly members of their families because they could not walk for long hours. “We didn’t think it would last this long,” explained the Sultan.

Thus, when Marawi was “cleared of terrorists,” those outside of “ground zero” who were able to return home were appalled, but not surprised, to find the skeletons of their dead relatives. Up to now, no one knows the exact number of skeletons found. The situation has become more deplorable as it broke the Muslim practice of burying their dead within 24 hours.

Where skeletons were found, valuables were missing or destroyed.

Sultan Atar himself lost the engines of his vehicles but he refused to believe the claim of the military that it was the “extremists” who did these. Another Sultan, Saramay, saw his house only partially burned in October, the first time he was allowed inside Marawi. But when he went back in November, he found his whole house already razed to the ground.

The AFP asked the residents who had complained to present evidence to prove that soldiers were responsible for looting their destroyed houses. “That’s crazy. Were we in the area? Hinahanapan kami ng evidence ng violations, ng looting, ayaw nga kaming papasukin (They want us to provide evidence of the violations, of the looting when they won’t even allow us [in Marawi],” remarked Sultan Atar.

There are about 2,000 documented cases of violations of human rights and international law. “Pero ayaw muna i-public ng mga evacuees (The evacuees are hesitant to make these documents public) because they may be subjected to further harassments or for fear that they might be kicked out from the shelter,” he added.

EVACUATION, DISCRIMINATION

Wanting to set the record straight, Sultan Atar claimed the evacuees in government centers in Iligan City comprise only 20 percent of the total number of displaced Maranao. About 80 percent are home-based—those living in their relatives’ houses. “Our families and clans have been supporting us more than the government does,” he said.

The CNN-Philippines recently reported that the Commission on Audit (COA) has already flagged the Marawi City local government for its failure to disburse 74 percent or almost Php 30 Million (of the Php39M local donation) for aid, relief and services for the evacuees in 2017.

Groups involved in relief operations noted how women and children suffer most in evacuation centers as the centers are not gender and culture-sensitive. Women complained about the lack of privacy for bathing and changing clothes. It was also most difficult for pregnant women, who gave birth during the evacuation, to care for the newly born in over-crowded centers.

The daily worship and the observance of Ramadhan, for two years now, were disrupted. Muslims pray five times a day and follow the ritual of ablution before handling the Qur’an. That partly explains why most of the Mosques in Marawi were built around Lanao Lake. But they have been away from the lake for too long and there’s scarce supply of water in the evacuation centers.

One other thing appalled Sultan Atar: those among the displaced who sought to rent apartments in Iligan City were turned down by renters allegedly because “we came from Marawi and there’s the stigma of everyone being a terrorist.” The Marawi siege has definitely raised the level of discrimination against the Moro people by attaching to them the “ISIS” tag.

The question, however, is where will the evacuees go? The residents want to go back to Marawi now and reclaim their lands and their lives. All they ask from the government is to restore the supply of water and electricity and to rehabilitate the roads and drainage system. Sadly, there are no concrete plans for them. Based on the government’s rehabilitation plan, the evacuees will not be allowed back into their own homes, at least, until 2020.
Rehabilitation without the people

The government’s grandiose plan to “rehabilitate” Marawi is focused primarily on raising the necessary funds. This is no different from its “concern” on how to get more support for arms and ammunition to pulverize the members of the Daulah Islamiya,” wryly commented Sultan Atar.

Indeed, President Duterte has issued Administrative Order No. 3 creating the Task Force Bangon Marawi (TFBM), composed of various state line agencies, to manage the rehabilitation and rebuilding of Marawi City. Yet until now, neither the amount of the rehabilitation budget nor the source of funds has been settled.

From the initial Php 17-20 billion for two-three years, the proposed funding has now gone up to Php 62-72 billion, based on the recent budget submitted to Malacanang by Eduardo del Rosario, head of the Housing and Urban Development Coordinating Council, who chairs the Task Force. The Php 55B increase is supposed to cover the 76 other barangays outside “ground zero”.

In 2018, Php 10B has been allocated from the General Appropriations Act (GAA). Locally, some Php 3.5B will be drawn from the 2019 proposed budget of the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Fund (NDRRMF).

The Department of Finance (DoF) is now considering to float Php 40 billion worth of “Marawi bonds” for the period of five years, the target completion of the rehabilitation program. Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez III has also talked about a pledging session among interested countries, with a special invitation to China.

Companies from China comprise the majority, along with four Filipino companies, in the Bangon Marawi Consortium, which is supposed to build the infrastructure. However, the start of construction has been delayed several times because none of the Chinese companies was able to raise the required capitalization.

Already, there is widespread fear among the Maranao people that they will never be able to set foot on their ancestral territory given the government’s unresolved scheme of acquiring funds for the rehabilitation.
While fundraising has been going on, the residents complained that there are no concrete plans for land use in the city, only proposals “to flatten the debris,” remarked Sultan Atar.

The construction of another military camp in the city likewise threatens the Maranao as well as the idea of building an export processing zone.

Residents through groups like Tindeg Ranao and the Ranao multi-sectoral groups have raised their opposition to the construction of the 10-hectare military camp. The construction is worth Php 400 million and is expected to be finished by 2020. Also Php 1.3B in the 2019 GAA will be allocated to the 55th Engineering Brigade of the Philippine Army, for rehabilitation and rebuilding its facilities in the city.

The Maranao people resent the Duterte government’s priority of building military camps and mass housing for policemen and soldiers. They also resent that during Duterte’s visits in Marawi he has never sought out the evacuees and has not even talked about their displacement, about the families who suffered casualties and deaths.

“The government failed to heed the people’s grievances. It failed to realize that Marawi is beyond the issue of rehabilitation, it is about healing and social justice,” emphasized Sultan Atar. His sentiments echo those of the majority of the Maranao who criticize the government for not considering their needs, not only in terms of housing, but their overall needs as a people, as Maranao.

“The major flaw in the plan to rehabilitate and rebuild Marawi is not simply because there is no people’s participation but more importantly because it is pursued without the people in the picture,” said Sultan Atar. “We grew old thinking that we can pass on our lands to our children. I didn’t know that one day, I’ll wake up and it is no longer ours,” he bemoaned.

HISTORICAL INJUSTICE

Resentment is widespread among the Maranao people as days, months, and years pass by without any clear indication of when and how they could regain and restart their lives.

With martial law in place and as “terrorist” tagging has become the norm, victims are generally silenced. The politicians, fearing reprisal and political backlash, have become passive. It didn’t help either that in all these, the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) chose not to say a word about Marawi and the Maranao, their fate could have been logically become part of the negotiation with the government.

“We have to break the silence so that those silenced by the martial law could speak up,” said Sultan Atar. And it would help if the majority of the Filipinos echo the sentiments of the Maranaw people. “Habang walang kumikibo sa karamihan sa atin, di magkakalakas loob na magsalita ang mga victims (Our voice would encourage the rest of the victims to speak up).”

But, Duterte’s derisive statements have ignited the sentiments of the Moro youth. Most of them feel hatred for the government. Maratabat, the Maranao pride, honor has been offended. It pains them that they—who have become victims, have been displaced and discriminated against—are now accused by the government of being terrorist coddlers, if not being terrorists themselves. It is a known fact that when maratabat is offended, revenge could not be far away.

When the airstrikes started, Moro leaders, including those in the local government, warned that the daily bombing was not the solution and it could only push the Maranao, especially the youth, to Islamist extremism. The same stands true to this day.

“Pag di ito na-address (when this is not addressed) and there is no accountability, no hope and no chance for justice, we will see a worsening of the situation,” warned Sultan Atar. But he would not also be surprised, he said, if a new group arises, one that is more legitimate than the MILF or the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF).

For now, Sultan Atar could only hope for an end to martial law and for the government to allow an independent investigation on the real motives behind the siege, the extent of the human rights violations, the deaths, the damage, and destruction.

By now, it is clear that the Duterte regime’s solutions—from the siege to the evacuation on to the rehabilitation—is bereft of respect for the Maranao people’s religion and culture and of the recognition of their rights to self-determination and to their territories. It is a response that is far from Duterte’s vow to correct historical injustice. It is a case when solutions actually led to destruction and violations of the Maranao people’s rights.

Marawi Siege: Duterte and the US

in Mainstream
by Vida Gracias

Given the copious bloodshed and massive destruction, the Marawi siege has more than amply shown that President Rodrigo Dutere has no compunction about running this country with an iron-fist.

No sooner had the Daulah Islamiyah (formed by the Maute group, Abu Sayyaf, Khalifa Philippines) staged its violent attack in Marawi on May 23 than President Duterte declared martial law and suspended the writ of habeas corpus not just in Marawi but in the entire island of Mindanao.  Sixty days were deemed not enough to contain the “invasion or rebellion”. With the concurrence of Congress in joint session, he extended martial law for another 150 days to last until the end of this year.  There’s a lurking fear that martial law would be extended nationwide.

But hark, the martial law declaration has also targetted “other armed groups” in Mindanao apart from the Maute and Abu Sayyaf groups. “Dismantling” of the New People’s Army has specifically been added.  The military first denied this, but later events proved that the NPA is indeed its main target not just in Mindanao but in the other parts of the country.

Cries to lift martial law because of baseless claims — “Acts of terrorism are not necessarily equivalent to actual rebellion,” averred Congressman Edcel Lagman in his petition to the Supreme Court; “[Martial law] is unwarranted, unjustified and wholly out of proportion to the threat posed by the Maute and Abu Sayyaf groups,” stated the Makabayan solons in another petition—fell on deaf ears.

Neither have the heart-rending appeals by over four hundred thousand evacuees—Stop the daily airstrikes (which have cost hundreds of lives and vast properties leveled to the ground)! Allow us to return home! — could move the military to accede to their demand.

President Duterte has repeatedly said that he would rely on the military in deciding to lift or extend martial law.  Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana, once a Scout Ranger battalion commander and counterinsurgency expert, admitted recommending to the President the martial law declaration and its extension.  However, Duterte was quick to add: “I and I alone am responsible.”

 

Enter the US

Duterte’s dread of “terrorism” engulfing Mindanao made him completely dependent on the military and, consequently, on the United States. Increasingly his anti-US stance has seemed to melt down whenever he finds common ground on the “war on terror” with the American imperialists—much to the latter’s delight.

On many occasions, he dropped his blusters and acidic rhetoric against the US. He found himself saying “thank you” for the US advisers’ support in the aerial bombings and intelligence guidance for ground troop assaults against Daulah Islamiyah. Not raising hell, he acknowledged that the military proceeded to invite the Americans without his knowledge. He was also grateful that the US had lifted its ban to sell weapons and munitions to the AFP-PNP, and donated two surveillance planes to boost the government’s counter-terrorism efforts. He was silent when the US Embassy boasted that since 2004 it has delivered and programmed more than P7.4 billion worth of military equipment to enhance the AFP’s capabilities.

As matters stand, the war on terror is turning the President not only into an imperialist lackey but also into a fascist. His complete reliance on the military makes him putty in the hands of the US. Where the military gains control the US is not far behind.

Far from being nationalist or patriotic, the Philippine military has for long been incorrigibly pro-American. Duterte himseld has publicly affirmed this.  AFP courses and training are patterned after those of the US military, particularly its counterinsurgency programs.  Top guns of the AFP/PNP  get elite tutelage from US military schools. American advisers oversee combat and  non-combat training of Philippine troops.  The notorious Central Intelligence Agency or CIA also directly recruits agents from among Philippine military and civilian forces.

 

US and terrorism

The US has prided itself for leading the coalition of nations in the fight against terrorism, specially against militant Islam since 9/11.  But rather than put terrorism to rout, its war has fanned the flames of radical Islam into many corners of the globe. By enlarging the war, the US has made billions of profit in war materiel, oil concessions, and infrastructure contracts in such war ravaged countries as Afghanistan, Iraq, and Libya.

The US has a history of backing terrorist groups, including those in the Philippines’.  The website Global Research points to  Al Qaeda and ISIS  as “made-in-the-USA, an instrument of terror designed to divide and conquer the oil-rich Middle East and to counter Iran’s growing influence in the region.”  Likewise the  CIA gave birth to Osama Bin Laden as mujahedin in Afghanistan and allowed his organization to grow  during the 1980’s, extending even to far-away shores as in the Philippines.

In his book The War on Truth: 9/11, Disinformation and the Anatomy of Terrorism, Nafeez Mosaddeq Ahmed wrote lengthily about the US-sponsored AFP-Abu Sayyaf-Al Qaeda nexus.  As early as 2000, even then Senator Aquilino Pimentel Jr. disclosed, in a speech in the Senate, the joint US-Philippine government role in the emergence and activities of Abu Sayyaf. Yet no investigation was made.  He said: “My information is that the Abu Sayyaf partisans were given military intelligence services, IDs, safe-houses, safe-conduct passes, firearms, cell phones and various sorts of financial support.”  He also said that Philippine military officers involved held very high posts.

As mayor of Davao City, Duterte himself had claimed that the killing of suspected-terrorist Marwan was a CIA operation that led to the killing of 44 Special Action Forces, including MILF fighters too, in Mamasapano.

No fact has yet been established but the botched operation to bag Isnilon Hapilon, a senior leader of the Abu Sayyaf, that led to the Marawi siege and the declaration of martial law could be a secret plan hatched by the Americans.  Hapilon, like Marwan, has a $5 million bounty offered by the US government.

A purely military solution to the Marawi crisis, and to the country’s Left and Moro insurgencies, certainly gives the US the upperhand in deciding the course of the Duterte presidency. The “war on terror” has become a convenient excuse for the US to intervene in the internal affairs of countries and, in this case, gain further military and economic foothold in the Philippines.

Illustration from PRWC Info
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