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Martial Law

On Culture and Fascism under the Duterte Regime

in Arts & Literature/Countercurrent
by Alejo Nicolas

President Rodrigo Duterte’s regime can now appropriately be described as a looming fascist dictatorship: one wherein mechanisms, operations, and systems are being put in place towards a full-blown resurrection of the Marcos authoritarian rule, which in 1986 was ousted by the people’s collective action.

The term “fascism”, first used to denote ultranationalist and right-wing governments in Europe, is understood in the Philippine context as rooted in bureaucrat capitalism. In Philippine Society and Revolution, Amado Guerrero discusses how the country’s political landscape changed from direct colonial occupation under Spain, Japan, and the United States to a neocolonial republic ruled by a succession of Filipino puppet regimes since 1946.

Led by bureaucrat capitalists, these regimes continue to protect imperialist and feudal interests by maintaining a deceptive bourgeois democracy supported by the entire state machinery of the military, police, courts, penal system and cultural institutions. However, such a regime can revert to outright authoritarian rule when the people’s resistance threatens the existing order, as shown by Ferdinand Marcos’s imposition of Martial Law in 1972.

Fascism and Philippine culture

The past two-and-a-half years under President Duterte were marked by the regime’s increasing use of deception, threat/intimidation, coercion, and armed violence against the people.

Its campaign, through police brutality and reckless killings, against the proliferation of illegal drugs and its counterinsurgency plan of deception and “all-out war” against the advance of revolutionary and progressive forces have left tens of thousands dead or displaced. The breakdown in the peace negotiations with the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) was followed by crackdowns: illegal arrests, enforced disappearances, and false charges against hundreds of civilians. Martial Law in Mindanao was declared in May 2017 during the armed conflict in Marawi. It has been extended three times until the end of December 2019.

In October 2018, the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) fanned the false alarm of a “Red October” destabilization plot as a pretext for expanding such repression to the rest of the country. Although the faked destabilization plot has been thoroughly exposed, the security forces have continued to sustain it as a reference point for its expanded counterinsurgency operations.

The Philippines is witnessing the turn towards fascism across different fronts. It is crucial to consider this rising state of tyranny not only in the military and political spheres, but also in the field of culture which is part of the arena of class struggle. Culture encompasses all spheres of social behavior while art distills, reflects, and refracts human and social experience. How is state violence reinforced, reflected, diffused or deployed by cultural institutions? How does it appear across everyday discourse, popular culture, mass and social media, the visual arts, film, literature, architecture, and more? And lastly, how is the people’s anti-fascist struggle conveyed across culture and the arts?

Signs of tyranny

Fascist rule in the Philippines is reinforced in the way the state wields culture and art to, first, openly suppress and demonize the people’s struggle through censorship and harassment. On the other hand, it also selectively patronizes and supports initiatives that whitewash and sanitize the repression of the regime. Over the past two and a half years, the following developments can be noted:

2015: The President as populist but anti-people personality. Since the start of the presidential electoral campaign in 2016, Duterte’s outrageous conduct, language, and gestures have generated controversy and aghast. His years in power, however, have been marked by more vile, sexist, misogynistic, anti-religious, and anti-people statements.

Since assuming office, he has threatened and began to slaughter suspected drug addicts, to bomb Lumad schools. He told a United Nations rapporteur on human rights to go to hell, denigrated the International Criminal Court prosecutor for being black, and ordered troops to shoot woman rebels in the vagina. Recently, he urged street idlers to rob and even to kill bishops critical of his war on drugs and EJKs, and described rape against overseas Filipino workers—whom he referred to as those “working as slaves [overseas]”—as “com(ing) with the territory, ‘kasali sa kultura (it’s part of the culture).”

These can not be dismissed as simple rhetoric, as they reflect and symbolically justify actual states of violence happening everyday. As a key political figure—the head of state no less— Duterte’s every word and action is covered and amplified by mass and social media, reaching and influencing millions of people inside and outside the Philippines and enabling public acceptance of fascist rule.

A succession of spokespersons for the regime’s propaganda machinery, each worse than the previous one, adds to the circus of disinformation and lies. These messages, many of which express the disregard for human rights, feed a populist cult of personality which breeds blind obedience to the President, fueled by a paid social media army of trolls.

2016: Memorializing a tyrant and reinstating fascist figures. Among the first nationally-condemned acts of Duterte as President was to enable the family of the fascist dictator Ferdinand Marcos to bury his remains with military honors at the Libingan ng mga Bayani in September 2016, with the backing of the Supreme Court. The occasion also gave the Marcoses air time to sanitize and whitewash their family’s history of bloody fascist rule.

Allowing the dictator’s remains to rest in the country’s supposed memorial cemetery for heroes sends a strong symbolic message to the Filipino people: that a deposed and dead dictator can be valorized, honored, and restored to state power. It is an insult and assault to past and present generations who resisted Martial Rule.

This enabling and restoring of proven fascist figures was again unabashedly shown in July 2018, when former President Glora Macapagal-Arroyo, questionably acquitted of plunder by the state courts in 2016, crawled back into the halls of power and installed herself as the Speaker of the House of Representatives. She has since engineered the passage by the House of a joint resolution of both legislative chambers calling for changes in the 1987 constitution that, among others, removes the ban on political dynasties and term limits to all elective officials, and insidiously aims to cancel the May mid-term elections to prolong her and other incumbent officials’ terms until 2022.

2017: Rising state impunity and EJKs. The “war” on illegal drugs was a campaign platform of Duterte. Tokhang operations, surveillance, and extrajudicial killings (EJKs) of suspected drug addicts started in mid-2016 and he has vowed to continue the drive till the end of his term—without assurance of winning the “war”. The number of estimated drug suspects killed since July 2016 ranges from 4,251 to over 20,000 people.

The government continues to deny that a culture of impunity exists and to downplay the gravity of the deaths. Outside of official reports, however, the frequency, undeniability and brutality of the EJKs in the drug war is documented by media workers and reflected in the many artistic works or initiatives that represent the drug war as a theme, setting, or reference.

Examples from Philippine films of 2017, for instance, include Bubog, EJK, Neomanila, Respeto, The Right to Kill, Madilim Ang Gabi, Adik, Double Barrel, Durugin Ang Droga, Kamandag Ng Droga and Si Tokhang At Ang Tropang Buang. Some films support an anti-drug stance that does not deviate from the government’s own discourse, while others more critically reflect how the drug war has affected lives, for worse, across urban to rural communities.

Government propaganda campaigns aiming to justify this state of impunity have intensified. The Philippine National Police (PNP), for instance, stepped up initiatives such as the 1st PNP Anti-Illegal Drugs Festival in July 2017. And resigned PCOO Undersecretary Mocha Uson attempted to parade fake Lumad leaders in hopes of discrediting genuine community leaders.

2018: Heightened attacks and counter-insurgency. The ever-increasing influence of the AFP is reflected in the militarization of the Duterte Cabinet and the sabotage of the peace process towards an all out war against Philippine revolutionary forces led by the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP), the New People’s Army (NPA) and the NDFP. By December 2017, issuances such as Proclamation 374 declaring the CPP-NPA as a terrorist group set the stage for heightened assaults against both revolutionary forces and civilians critical of the regime. Since entering the second half 2018, the AFP has been fanning the flame of imagined destabilization plots and has been similarly extending the timeline of these to the end of the year.

This counter-revolutionary war against “terror” led by the AFP in the countryside continues to target and displace the broad masses from countless communities. There is nothing more fascist than the current killing spree of activists, civilians and progressives across the country. The EJKs, massacres, harassments, and arrests of activists and members of progressive organizations have risen sharply since 2017, mostly targetting farmers, lawyers, indigenous peoples, health and Church workers, media workers, union leaders, and environmentalists.

The counter-insurgency drive is also expressed in forms of harassment, such as the circulation of black propaganda and red-tagging of civilians and attacks against institutions of mass media, which attempt to paint all dissenters to the regime as “destabilizers” who must be neutralized. Individuals, schools, universities and institutions or organizations holding cultural, media or educational activities critical of the regime are now being openly red-tagged.

Art and culture for the anti-fascist struggle

The culture of impunity and fascism unleashed during the past two and a half years under Duterte underscores the looming danger to all revolutionary and progressive forces. On the other hand, it also points to the regime’s increasing desperation over the rising popular unrest fuelled by worsening socio-economic crisis in semi-feudal and semi-colonial Philippines. The lingering discontent over high inflation rates, rising prices, dislocation of communities due to neoliberalization, and lack of employment and substantive development in urban and rural areas only gives rise to more expressions of collective dissent.

“This rise of fascism is not a sign of strength but in essence is show of despair and weakness,” Guerrero noted in Philippine Society and Revolution during the pre-Martial law era, adding:

“Fascism is on the rise precisely because the revolutionary mass movement is surging forward and the split among reactionaries is becoming more violent…the exposé of the violent character of the reactionaries will only teach the masses to defend themselves and assert their own power.”

These words ring as true then as in the present time. When words and gestures fail to deceive the Filipino people into submission, the state apparatus of force and repression kicks into high gear. The worsening culture of impunity, terror and fascism that has defined the Duterte regime so far reflects how the reactionary state now resorts to desperate measures. The proliferation of trolls, paid hacks, fake news, disinformation and black propaganda only emphasize how the reactionary regime is quickly mobilizing resources to discredit the recent gains of revolutionary and militant struggle by the people.

On the other hand, the threats under a fascist dictatorship have done little to deter and prevent Filipino artists, cultural and media workers, organizations and communities from expressing the anti-fascist struggle through creative and collective means. If there is anything that history and the past years under Pres. Duterte have emphasized in the field of culture, it is how art that has resisted fascism possesses great potential to mobilize and agitate diverse sectors of Philippine society to collectively act against the threat of tyranny and dictatorship.

The Filipino people’s cultural resistance against fascist rule has, across time, yielded compelling forms and practices that exposed the depravity of the state’s counter-revolutionary campaigns and the extent of human rights violations against the people.

Through such efforts, the Duterte regime, for instance, has been mocked and unmasked early on as another iron-fisted and essentially anti-people fascist puppet regime. It has been exposed as a railroader of socio-economic policies that reinforce neoliberal and feudal class interests and drag the Filipino toiling masses into more poverty and hardship.

Lastly, the people’s cultural resistance has also documented, made vivid and advanced the growth of the mass movement and the revolutionary armed struggle in the countryside. As the Party observed its fifth decade of advancing the Philippine revolution, these efforts help show and testify to how struggle and optimism continues to grow amid heightened counter-insurgency by another puppet regime.

THE TYRANT DENIES THE PEOPLE’S RIGHT TO JUST AND LASTING PEACE

in Countercurrent

 

by Leon Castro

Government of the Republic of the Philippines (GRP) President Rodrigo Duterte announced last August 14 that he has terminated the peace process with the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP). It came weeks after he, his spokesperson, and his peace adviser separately declared again suspending the peace negotiations. There was a need, the GRP said, to review the achievements of the GRP-NDFP peace talks, including all agreements between both parties since 1992 when The Hagu e Joint Declaration was signed.

“I have terminated the talks with the Reds—with the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP), with Sison—because in the series of agreements before, even [during] the time of [GRP President Benigno] Aquino, they entered into so many things that they scattered the privileges and power which they wanted,” Duterte said in his usual rambling way. We summed it all and it would really appear that it was a coalition government [they wanted] and I said, “I cannot give you an inch of that even. I cannot give you what is not mine,” Duterte added.

Duterte went on to declare yet again that his government would instead resume the fight against the revolutionary movement. “We have suffered and—in numbers. And I think it would not be good [to continue with the peace process]. We will just have to continue fighting,” he added.

Duterte’s latest announcement of the termination of the peace process is actually nonnews, NDFP Chief Political Consultant Prof. Jose Maria Sison said. Sison explained it was not the first time Duterte terminated the GRP-NDFP peace negotiations. The first time was actually in February 2017, as he again did on November 2017 with his Proclamation 360 that he followed with Proclamation 374 accusing the CPP and the New People’s Army (NPA) as “terrorist” organizations. Sison said Duterte’s proclamations had the malicious intent of making doubly sure that he had killed the peace negotiations.

Either Duterte was lying or ignorant of what he was saying. There had only been one formal round of talks throughout the Aquino regime and the agreements signed in The Oslo Joint Statement of February 2011 the reactionary government tried to abrogate with full malevolent intent. In addition, Prof. Sison had repeatedly denied the NDFP asked or wanted a coalition government with Duterte’s own murderous regime.

But beyond Duterte’s unfounded accusations that the NPA—and not his bloodthirsty military and police—is on a rampage in both rural and urban areas, the question of why is he bent on throwing away the substantial gains achieved by the peace negotiations with the NDFP begs to be asked. If he claims his regime is suffering from the attacks by the NPA, why would he think that to continue fighting with the revolutionary army is the best and only solution? If he still claims he is for peace and development, why can he not admit that agrarian reform and national industrialization—prospective agreements of which are already submitted to him by his own peace negotiators for approval—are tangible efforts to addressing the roots of the armed conflict?

TYRANT AND DICTATOR

GRP President Duterte has completely unmasked himself and his regime as a tyrant and dictator in the mold of Ferdinand Marcos and Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo. Duterte made a complete turnaround from proclaiming himself as the country’s first “leftist” president to being the chief executive of a cabal that rules through terror, tyranny, and corruption. His Senate is presided by, like him, a misogynist. His Speaker of the House of Representatives—manouvered into place by his daughter and Davao City Mayor Sara Duterte—is herself a tyrant, cheat, plunderer and human rights violator of the worst kind. He has replaced the Supreme Court Chief Justice with one who has voted to bury Marcos at the Libingan ng mga Bayani. Members of his own personal and official families are involved in smuggling, graft and corruption, and influence-peddling. They have lifestyles that could rival Imelda Marcos’s. Recently, investigative reports have shown that Christopher “Bong” Go has profited billions in government contracts as his most trusted assistant and operator.

The number of extrajudicial killing victims of Duterte’s drug war, mostly poor, has breached 20,000. The reign of terror remains unabated despite increasing opposition and condemnation in the Philippines and abroad. Despite all these deaths, Duterte’s so-called war has only succeeded in allowing tons of illegal drugs into the country while bigtime drug lords, including presidential son and Davao City Vice Mayor Paolo Duterte, remain at large or are being exonerated publicly by no less that Duterte himself.

Like his idols Marcos and Arroyo, Duterte is succeeding in running the country’s economy to the ground. From the get-go, Duterte’s anti-people Tax Reform for Acceleration and Inclusion (TRAIN) measure caused inflation rates that overtook so-called growth rates and hit 6.4 percent last August. While the Philippine Peso lingers at around P53 to P54 to the US dollar, hot money from the speculative market is leaving the country, making the Philippines one of the worst performing economies in the world. The country’s foreign debt has also increased dramatically under Duterte and has gone beyond P7 trillion. As a result of all these, oil prices and prices of basic commodities have drastically gone up and continued to do so, angering more and more Filipinos. Duterte’s approval rating has also consistently taken a dive since the start of the year, one that could no longer be fixed by his totally discredited propaganda machine.

Meanwhile, poverty alleviation measures promised by Duterte the presidential candidate and Duterte the newly-installed president were exposed to be nothing but hot air and lies. Labor contractualization remains the main mode of employment for workers while genuine agrarian reform is still a dream under his regime.

But are these developments really surprising, more so that no one among the NDFP-nominated progressives remained in Duterte’s Cabinet while the most reactionary disciples of neo-liberalization are still well-entrenched? Barely a year after progressives were rejected by the Commission on Appointments, corrupt practices have returned with a vengeance at the Department of Social Work and Development at the behest of corrupt politicians across the street at the House of Representatives. At the Department of Agrarian Reform, more and more agricultural lands are being handed to landlords and land grabbers. And more than a year after the National Anti-Poverty Commission has published a progressive anti-poverty roadmap, not a single recommendation is being implemented.

In the absence of honest to goodness pro-people policies and programs by the Duterte government, the NDFP-GRP peace process was among the very few avenues for genuine social change. Alas, Duterte is determined to deny the people their right to just and lasting peace.

NATIONAL INDUSTRIALIZATION AND AGRARIAN REFORM

Last June 16, the NDFP released backchannel documents it crafted with the GRP Negotiating Panel. The documents represented weeks of hard work not just by the NDFP and its consultants and resource persons but the GRP Negotiating Panel, advisers and staff, not to mention the Third Party Facilitator, The Royal Norwegian Government. These consisted of The Stand-Down Agreement; Guidelines and Procedures towards an Interim Peace Agreement, and the Resumption of Talks, with an attached timetable; The Initialled Interim Peace Agreement; and, The NDFP Proposed Draft of the Amnesty Proclamation, which was given to the GRP and the Third Party Facilitator. These documents were all ready for approval by both panels on the fifth round of formal talks last June 28. Four rounds of informal talks throughout April to June 2018 preceded the scheduled formal in June.

The “Stand Down Agreement”—a temporary cessation of hostilities—between the NDFP and the GRP, was in fact signed and approved by the chairpersons of the negotiating panels and witnessed by the Third Party Facilitator. It was due for announcement and implementation on June 21, a week before the formal talks.

The GRP-NDFP peace negotiation has been postponed, canceled, and terminated by Duterte several times. Duterte thinks nothing of the hard work by everyone involved in crafting agreements already hailed as real solutions to the worst evils of Philippine society: poverty, corruption, and subservience to foreign interests. Instead of signing the initialed drafts of agrarian reform and rural development, as well as national industrialization and economic development agreements, he listened to militarists in his regime—especially defense secretary Delfin Lorenzana, national security adviser Hermogenes Esperon, and interior and local government and interior secretary Eduardo Año—who were all bred during the last years of Ferdinand Marcos’ martial law and wantonly let loose upon the people during Gloria Arroyo’s own reign of terror. With bloodthirsty officials like these three as his most trusted hatchet men, is it surprising that Duterte’s way of addressing the roots of the armed conflict in this country is heightened fascism and terrorism?

The NDFP and all its allied revolutionary organizations, led by the CPP and the NPA, on the other hand, said they condemn how Duterte waylaid the peace process. While they are not intimidated by Duterte’s bluster and threats and are ready to continue defending the Filipino people, they have expressed willingness to resume peace negotiations with any reactionary government serious in negotiating basic reforms that address the roots of the armed conflict. The NDFP said it is hopeful that a genuine peace negotiation shall contribute to the liberation of the Filipino people from the bondage of poverty, neglect and plunder by foreign and local ruling elite.

Perhaps Duterte is not ready to admit the NDFP’s seriousness and sincerity in negotiating peace. Perhaps he was surprised when he was shown by his own negotiating panel that the NDFP has initialed national industrialization and economic development as well as agrarian reform and rural development draft agreements. Perhaps he himself was not ready to implement peace even when the NDFP publicly announced it is ready to sign a stand down agreement between the NPA and the AFP and PNP, even an interim peace agreement deal. Perhaps Duterte was not really sincere when he promised he would release all political prisoners. Whatever the case may be, his repeated pronouncements to terminate the negotiations defy logic if he really wanted peace.

The question begs to be asked and asked loudly, “Why is Duterte afraid of peace?”

But, then again, is peace possible with a tyrant?

ON THE CPP “PUSHING” DUTERTE TO DECLARE NATIONWIDE MARTIAL LAW

in Statements
Communist Party of the Philippines
02 October 2018

Duterte and his minions in the AFP have gone completely cuckoo in claiming that the CPP is “pushing” Duterte to declare martial law nationwide through its wildly concocted “Red October” ouster plot. AFP Chief-of-Staff Gen. Carlito Galvez made the idiotic statement in the senate budget hearings this Tuesday, after red-tagging 10 Metro Manila universities supposedly involved in the plot.

Again, there is no Red October plot orchestrated by the CPP. The more Duterte and the AFP are trying to prove this so-called plot, the more they sound incredulous. To now claim that the CPP will “create chaos,” supposedly “like in Plaza Miranda” to “force” Duterte to fulfill his most ardent wish, is at best, lazy and clumsy. The claim simply defies logic. Why should the CPP “push” for martial law nationwide when it has repeatedly condemned and called for the lifting of martial law in Mindanao? Why should it “push” for something which has relentlessly inflicted atrocious crimes on the people? At worst, the claim demonstrates the AFP’s willingness to perpetuate and even repeat the myth of the Plaza Miranda bombings which Marcos used to justify imposing martial law nationwide in 1972.

Furtheron, to tag people’s protests as part of a so-called plot is a threat against legitimate people’s organizations mounting these democratic mass actions. To misrepresent the broad coalition against tyranny as a mere conspiracy is to make its members open to suppression through state terrorism. Duterte and his ilk are even planning militarize state agencies against these organizations in the guise of creating an inter-agency task force to “end the communist insurgency.” The AFP and Duterte are determined to silence and suppress the widespread social grievances of the people.

It is no secret that the CPP is calling on the people to unite and struggle to overthrow the Duterte regime. Statements issued by the CPP to this effect are publicly available in its website and in social media.

But as the CPP has also repeatedly pointed out, it will be the confluence of various democratic forces that will ultimately bring down Duterte. Given the increasingly difficult economic conditions of the people and rising internal political conflicts within the Duterte regime, the Party anticipates protests to continue to mount in the coming months.###

STATEMENT ON THE CURRENT DRIVE OF DUTERTE TO REALIZE A FASCIST DICTATORSHIP A LA MARCOS

in Statements
by Prof. Jose Maria Sison
NDFP Chief Political Consultant

September 24, 2018

 

Duterte and his military minions and propagandists are now frenziedly carrying out a psywar campaign to glorify the Marcos fascist dictatorship and to fabricate conspiracies to justify the eventual declaration of martial law nationwide and further realize Duterte’s scheme of fascist dictatorship.

There is no conspiracy between the CPP-NPA-NDFP and Liberal Party for the purposes claimed by Duterte and the military. Duterte and the military keep on insisting that there is such a conspiracy, a September plot to kill Duterte and a Red October plan to oust him.

Not satisfied with the atrocities that they are already inflicting on the civilian population in the urban poor areas and countryside, they wish to suppress the broad united front and political struggle of patriotic and progressive forces and the broad masses of the people. They are misrepresenting the broad coalition against tyranny as a mere conspiracy for them to suppress with state terrorism.

They are poised to do a series of antidemocratic actions like militarizing civil agencies of the government under an inter-agency task force, making Bongbong Marcos the Vice President and declaring martial law or state of emergency nationwide. These are the actions that will precisely ignite a people’s uprising to oust Duterte.

The military will be wasting their personnel by trying to command civilian agencies and will be sucking up the tax revenues of the government by trying to increase military personnel and so-called military-civilian operations.

Duterte is really crazy by trying hard to bring the country to perdition or hell. Peace negotiations would have been a more economical effort of the Duterte regime were it not for its mania for fascist dictatorship.

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