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NTF-ELCAC

A ‘Prop’ to Kill

in Countercurrent
by Pinky Ang and Priscilla Guzman

Because it does not, cannot, and may never speak the truth, the Duterte regime is engaged in a losing “propaganda war” against the revolutionary forces, the progressives, and other government critics. It cannot win against the revolutionaries because revolutionaries speak of a shared belief and common aspirations with the masses—the twin source of every revolutionary’s truth.

The NTF-ELCAC (National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict) and the Armed Forces of the Philippines don’t mind that their “propagandists” wrote 52TH instead of 52nd on anti-CPP tarpaulins posted in strategic locations all over Metro Manila; or “babe” instead of  babae (women) in a hastily produced supposed poster of Gabriela Women’s Party they planted among the things they allegedly found in the possession of arrested “members of the New People’s Army;” or, if those photos of NPA “surrenderers” float like ghosts as these were transported from place to place through Photoshop.

That’s the least of their concern. All they want is to prepare the ground—through lies, disinformation, and red-tagging—for the “final kill” of their targeted victims.

This despicable act is a futile attempt to hit two birds with one stone: demonize the revolutionaries and progressives and get away with their crimes, topped by murder.

Neither the people’s concerns over its bungled pandemic response, nor the ballooning debt it has incurred in their name disturb the regime. It doesn’t care about China or the US trampling on our sovereignty; or the peasants’ continuing landlessness; or the workers losing their jobs or earning a non-living daily wage. The regime will never take serious attention to the people’s basic interests and rights. Its prime concern is how to prop up the crumbling semicolonial and semifeudal system and safeguard the lot and loot of the ruling elite.   

Much has been said about the NTF-ELCAC and the AFP—the Duterte regime’s vaunted “prop war” instruments. About how vainly they have tried to discredit and demonize the revolutionaries and other concerned Filipinos who perseveringly have served the people and amplified their voices of protest and life-struggle. To the NTF-ELCAC top echelon and its cabal of “spokespersons” anyone who serves the people and questions those who do the people harm is deemed an “enemy of the state”—and worse, a “terrorist”.   

And they call this practice as “propaganda” to justify their multi-billion peso budget for fabricating and spreading lies in an “all-out war” against the revolutionary movement and the Filipino people.

“Ignorant twaddle,” that’s how Mao Tse Tung would have dismissed such practice.

“No social investigation, no right to speak”—Mao Tse Tung

To the revolutionaries, a basic tenet of propaganda is that it should be based on facts, or what objectively exists. But it doesn’t stop there. One seeks truth from facts—where the interrelation of events is established by a thorough investigation of the actual conditions and movements in society, within the country and elsewhere.   

“We should find the internal relations of the events occurring around us,” Mao Tse Tung advised. “And in order to do that we must rely not on subjective imagination, not on momentary enthusiasm, not on lifeless books, but on facts that exist objectively; we must appropriate the material in detail and, guided by the general principles of Marxism-Leninism, draw correct conclusions from it.”

For Mao, anything not based on thorough investigation is nothing but ignorant twaddle.

Admittedly, this is an extremely difficult task for the lazybones in Duterte’s NTF-ELCAC. After all, their only concern is to red-tag those whom they consider as “enemies of the state,” oftentimes using twisted logic and visualized through crass and sloppy memes and posters. It’s an easy way out of the crimes they committed; no need to study to substantiate their arguments.

Unlike the reactionary government, the revolutionaries have no huge budget for intelligence work, for personnel and production, and a rare space in the corporate mass media. But it is in every revolutionary and activist’s heart to propagate the people’s struggle and their dreams to have food on their tables, to send their children to school, to be treated by a doctor when ill, a house to live in, a farm to till, a job with a decent wage, and a government that would ensure that these interests are fostered and protected.

What comes out from the mouth of every revolutionary reflects the poor people’s actual situation—their struggles and triumphs and their aspirations for a better life. Propaganda comes from a never-ending study of the Marxist-Leninist-Maoist theories applied in the realities of the country and through integration with, and learning from, the masses. From this, the revolutionary movement continues to study Philippine society—the classes and their interests—and advance the theory and practice of the national democratic revolution towards its socialist future.

Every revolutionary speaks of the people’s interests and aspirations, their struggles and their triumphs and how they are empowered and charting their own course through their collectives, their revolutionary mass organizations, and through the organs of political power established in the villages.

However, every reactionary regime and its “propagandists” hate to admit there exist two governments in the country today—the rotten reactionary government which they try to deodorize, on the one hand, and the revolutionary government that steadily spreads in most parts of the country, on the other.  

Ignorant twaddle

The ruling class(es)’[big landlords, big comprador bourgeoisie] “propaganda war” is based on lies hatched and propagated mostly by a billion-peso funded task force, namely the NTF-ELCAC, (including the PCOO and the troll farms). It scanned the revolutionary propaganda materials but, after it declared a “propaganda” war, instead of directly countering the truths of the revolutionary messaging—as one would reasonably expect—its “strategic communication thrust” has prioritized attacking the messengers of the revolutionary and progressive propaganda.

Lorraine Badoy
Spokesperson NTF-ELCAC

Yes, the “prop” war launched by the reactionaries lacks courage to face head-on the meatiest issues of the new national democratic revolution. For example, it has not responded to the revolutionary or even to the legal, unarmed progressive movement’s calls for land reform.

As everyone knows, the agricultural Philippines’ most pressing problem that’s also at the root of restiveness remains the extreme deprivation of its hardworking yet landless farmers. Most agree there must be a genuine land reform program. The New People’s Army has been gaining fighters and mass support because of its land reform program, among others.

In contrast, the AFP—in the service of the big landlords and bourgeois compradors expanding mining concessions, plantations, and land-use conversion projects—has been bombing and strafing the farming communities demanding land reform or defending their ancestral lands. Meanwhile, the NTF-ELCAC has been fart-bombing the same farming communities with red-tagging and brutal censorship. It has resorted to threats and intimidation and its money-making venture of staging fake surrenders of supposed revolutionaries and supporters.

The AFP and the NTF-ELCAC have plagued even unarmed community members and supporters resisting semifeudal exploitation with all sort of baseless accusations to justify its attacks against said communities.

Note that all reactionary stock “propaganda” spiels revolve around attacking the messengers (the revolutionaries and their unarmed activists and supporters) rather than the revolutionary or progressive analyses and demands they articulate. Hence, it appears the reactionary “prop” centerpiece is its noisy red-tagging and baseless “terrorist”-labeling.

However, the AFP and the NTF-ELCAC’s joint efforts to mislabel and demonize the revolutionaries, the open progressive mass movement, and critical members of society, have no factual grounding. No new offering or promised illusion of development or peace; and on top of that, it’s even costing the public a lot of money. This “propaganda” war runs counter to the Filipino people’s demand for genuine solutions to their unending crises.

The role of US imperialism  

Demonizing groups without factual basis, and worse, proceeding with it even when the manufactured “bases” have repeatedly been proven and exposed as false, are the hallmarks of the US-led borderless “war on terror.” It demonizes as “rouge states” and enemies those who would resist the US global hegemony. 

It is no surprise that the AFP, which was organized, ideologically trained, armed, and even funded to this day by the US, kills and maims our people in line with the US global “war on terror.” Since 1946, the US has maintained the Philippines as its neocolony, with the Philippine government functioning as the imperialist’s puppet and agent. The more the local puppet government adheres to US imperialist dictates to advance the latter’s interests here and in the region, the more it enriched its dynasty and cliques, and the more it holds on to power.

In the end

Although the reactionary “propaganda” war led by militarist clowns or spokespersons may seem loud and all over the place, ultimately it can’t help but turn off the masses rather than win their hearts and minds. Cowardly evading the issues propelling protests and civil war is one glaring weakness of the reactionary “propaganda” war.  Thus, Filipinos would typically dismiss it as “puro kwento, walang kwenta, (all talk no substance),” or judge it as “malayo ang tapal sa sugat” (the solution is way off the problem).

Another characteristic of the reactionary “propaganda” war is traitorous deceit. It aggrandizes its terror-tagging drive as “propaganda;” covers up its hawkish stance with affectation for seeking peaceful means. Yet, it’s nothing but provocation and justification for armed brutality against the Left.

Every baseless terror-tagging and provocation sets up the targets for censorship, killing, illegal arrest, arbitrary freezing of bank accounts, and other state bullying and acts of violence.

This “propaganda” war directed by NTF-ELCAC and its “whole-of-nation approach” against the revolutionaries is cruder and more bankrupt than their “propaganda” in the past. Back then, they cobbled some pseudo-theories for change or development myths in a vain attempt to counter the revolutionary calls for social, political and economic changes. This time there is neither new land reform program nor push for industrialization that the ruling classes could use to counter the popular programs for social and economic reforms that the national democratic revolutionaries are implementing in the guerrilla zones.

Even so, Antonio Parlade Jr, Lorraine Badoy and their ilk of “spokespersons” and their “propaganda” war of “terrorist” mislabeling must be exposed—and frustrated—for its utter lies and dogged pursuit of a dirty war against the broad masses of the people.

After all, the reactionary “propaganda” is nothing but the ruling class(es) flinching over being described (with tons of evidences) as butchers, landgrabbers, exploiters, oppressors, puppets of foreign imperialists, corrupt, inutile (in the face of disasters, epidemics, people’s needs), human rights violators, among other heinous crimes. All these accurately describe what the ruling class(es) actually do. Not only the revolutionaries and supporters in urban areas and countryside say so, the criticisms reverberate even in other countries and international agencies. ###

RIDING THE PROWLING CHINESE DRAGON: China’s Economic Hold in the Philippines

in Countercurrent

“This is the Chinese Coast guard. This is under the jurisdiction of the Chinese government,” blared a Chinese officer who tried to bar a cargo ship from sailing through Panatag/Scarborough Shoal, a part of the Philippine territory off Zambales province in the South China Sea. His action has sparked an outcry, but as of this writing, the Duterte administration continues to avoid offending China.

Its officials—from Malacañang to the Foreign Secretary to the Philippine Coast Guard— have all refused to call out China’s infraction on Philippine sovereignty and on freedom of navigation. Meanwhile, at a Senate hearing around the same period, Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana stirred patriotic outrage when he downplayed the Chinese ships’ firing of flares as Philippine ships navigated the West Philippine Sea.

These are just two incidents in a series of cases of Chinese incursions into Philippine territory, all unchallenged, being dismissed, and at times even justified by the Duterte regime. Why would a tough-talking and cursing president, who advertises his stance as “charting an independent foreign policy,” court the people’s ire with blatant subservience? Perhaps, this question should begin with “How much…?”

An imperialist puppet’s gamble for bureaucratic loot

The first time President Rodrigo Duterte visited China three years ago, the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) already enumerated ways in which the Filipino people may benefit from ties with China. This would start ONLY IF Duterte strives to build diplomatic relations with China on the basis of equality, mutual respect, and mutual benefits, the CPP said at the time.

But Duterte did not listen. Instead he has shown that he is not at all capable of building diplomatic relations with China on the basis of equality, mutual respect, and mutual benefits. He has persistently desisted from asserting the country’s victory at the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague, claiming China would wage war against the Philippines if he did so (which has no basis in fact). Thus, he has let pass China’s repeated incursions into our country’s extended economic zones (under the United Nations’ Convention on the Law of the Sea or UNCLOS) and bully Filipino fishers at Panatag Shoal.

Probably believing that in the prevailing system, presidents like him couldn’t be anything other than the worst imperialist puppets and bureaucrat capitalists of the day, Duterte is angling for whatever gains he could get from deals with the imperialists. His administration calls China an “integral partner” in their P4.23-trillion infrastructure buildup.

By now it is clear the only change that has come with Duterte is that besides serving US imperialist interests (while feigning to be distancing from it), his administration is moonlighting with another imperialist power, letting it latch on to wherever it can partake of the country’s riches and potentials.

The country’s foremost bureaucrat capitalist finds in China a promising huge pot of bureaucratic loot as former sources have dried up due to the economic slowdown, or are compelled by their citizens to raise questions on and denounce continuing extrajudicial killings and other human rights violations under his increasingly tyrannical rule. On this issue the Duterte administration is allergic to what he deems as foreign intervention.

“Duterte is in a hurry and desperate to secure his kickbacks from foreign loans and contracts from China,” the CPP said in a statement when Duterte still had three years in power. Duterte’s list of projects, flagship or otherwise, has since continued to evolve or get revised.

After three years in power, only nine of Duterte’s 75 listed “Build, Build, Build” projects begun construction. By November 2019, Duterte dropped the projects considered too long or unfeasible. It ‘overhauled’ the list such that only 30-plus of the original projects remained, and added another 68 to the “evolving” list. Half or 50 of Duterte’s flagship infrastructure projects will be funded by Overseas Development Assistance (ODA) or foreign loans, 23 are to be fully funded by the Philippine government, 24 by public-private funding, and only two will be privately financed.

Duterte’s panic over delayed delivery of the loot is palpable. Past midway in his six-year term, the amount supplied so far by China in loans and grants is still far short of the US$9 billion promised by President Xi Jinping during their first meeting in October 2016. Having already signed numerous deals with the Chinese government, his administration wants to proceed with implementing the projects ASAP so the funds could start pouring in. That can happen, of course, only if his administration can overcome the public criticisms and protests over the lopsided provisions of the deals that have been made public, criticisms for the lack of transparency on deals that have yet to be disclosed, and delays in completing the technical and legal requirements that include feasibility studies, environmental clearances, and the freely given consent of communities that would be adversely affected.

A sample of what the Duterte administration can do to push its deals with China: in time for the visit of Chinese vice-premier Hu Chunhua in October 2019, it railroaded the release of environmental compliance certificate and threatened to use police power against public protests on the Kaliwa Dam project in Sierra Madre. Yet, the protests were such that as of February 2020, his economic manager confirmed they have barely started construction in Kaliwa.

Protests against the China-funded projects hinder its implementation. Past debacles with China-funded projects such as the ZTE and Northrail also cast its shadow, slowing down Duterte’s hope for inflows of ODA from China. Until December 2019, the Chinese government wanted meetings with the Duterte government “to thresh out issues involving the Duterte regime’s big-ticket infrastructure and development projects that are being implemented with funding support from China.”

To push through with the projects Duterte needs to remove all constraints including protests. His government has busied itself imposing a de facto martial law since establishing the National Task Force to End Local Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC) in December 2018, ordering to place civilian bureaucracies and local governments under the task force.

But Duterte cannot trample on the people’s rights and welfare on the way to collecting his loot and still maintain his dubious popularity. To deceive supporters, he is passing off his “China pivot” as “independent foreign policy.” He is also using it as leverage for demanding more support and funds from the Philippines’ long-time neocolonial master, without really upsetting the established “special relationship” with US imperialist overlords.

In fact, as a US puppet, Duterte is providing exemplary services to his master. He sets the stage for the Pentagon and the Department of National Defense-Armed Forces of the Philippines to use the China card to both increase and extend US military presence in the country. The US has been allowed to have another military facility, this time within a Philippine Air Force base in Palawan. Under Duterte, the US military and the AFP have also conducted an increasing number of war exercises designed to counter China’s military build-up in the South China Sea.

“The aim of these exercises is to ensure that the US will remain militarily dominant in order to protect its economic interests in the Philippines and across the region,” the CPP said in a statement during the Kamandag US military exercises in October 2019.

As president and “public servant,” Duterte continues to expose himself as a total scam. And so, to block protests and increasing calls for his ouster while he strives to make his puppetry to US and China more profitable for himself and his clique, he continues to militarize the bureaucracy and the entire government.

In 2019 his government allowed a military rampage nationwide on the basis of their ‘whole of nation approach’, a harsh and more insidious martial law than that carried out for 14 years by the ousted fascist dictator Ferdinand Marcos (whom he has politically rehabilitated by allowing his preserved corpse buried at the Libingan ng mga Bayani in 2017).

Enter the dragon: World’s No. 2 power develops its own stranglehold in PH

The Duterte regime has looked the other way as China finished reclaiming and installing military installations over three reefs within Philippine territorial waters. Duterte has all but given the green light to China’s staking claim and proceeding with plans to construct more installations at the Panatag Shoal. He is all but allowing also what amounts to China’s military encirclement of the seas around Luzon, sans any written treaty.

Commercially, China is also gaining humongous ground with the lopsided “joint” deal it signed with Duterte to explore and drill for oil in the resource-rich West Philippine Sea. Officials from the Duterte regime and China are meeting regarding the “joint” oil exploration.

The increased Chinese presence in Philippine coastal areas, islands and waters has placed fisherfolk and urban communities at a grave disadvantage. China’s aggressive grab of Filipinos’ traditional commercial fishing grounds has worsened the fisherfolk’s lot.

Not just in Philippine reefs and seas, China is also boldly entering vital Philippine industries and staking claim over rich natural resources in ancestral territories of indigenous peoples through opaque or lopsided deals with Duterte. As earlier stated, China’s actual fund release in Duterte’s big-ticket “Build, Build, Build” infrastructure projects is so far negligible. But the projects where it is bound to come in, per the deals already signed, and where other private and state-controlled Chinese firms are coming in are many times bigger and more dangerous than the NBN-ZTE deal for which Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo got burned late in her disputably prolonged nine-year term.

Some of the strategic industries where China loans or investments have come in or are in the pipeline include energy (China already owns as much as 40% stake in the National Grid of the Philippines), telecommunications (Dennis Uy’s Mislatel/Dito Telecommunity), water, heavy railways, and various infrastructure projects such as bridges and highways, real estate development including economic zones and islands to be devoted more or less exclusively for Chinese business and gambling operations.

These businesses being opened to China may be par for the course for any imperialist puppet, but Duterte is adding more, “industries” and “trading” such as gambling and drugs. Given Duterte’s red carpet for China, the Philippines has been putting up dens for gambling operations for mostly Chinese operators. Duterte, who has been publicly known as friendly to Chinese drug lords, has also repeatedly been implicated in the illegal drugs trade. The CPP describes him as the overlord of illegal drugs trade in the country.

For now, Duterte has already shown how he has been selling out the country and committing high treason. While Duterte is not the first Philippine puppet president to have entered into lopsided deals with China, his regime surely leads in ramping it up. ###

In between Duterte’s late night show, who’s on the stage?

in Countercurrent

A series of tragicomedy—and deadly—policies and actions by the Duterte regime have plagued the country and the Filipino people alongside the Corona virus pandemic. On the surface, the regime’s response to the pandemic looked absurd and obviously plucked out from an alternate reality. People call it mema—me-magawa or me-masabi (a popular slang term meaning to look like one is doing or saying something meaningful or relevant). But the mema is actually a consequence of the government’s lack of direction and plan on how to deal with the pandemic and its impact on the country’s already neglected health system and a failing economy. Apparently, the Philippines has become Southeast Asia’s Covid-19 hotspot while the economy has now plunged into recession, the worst in eight decades. Both demonstrate how the regime has gone to rack and ruin. More than six months into the lockdown, the people are more convinced that the criminally negligent regime is deadlier than the COVID-19.

At the onset, health measures such as mass testing, contact tracing, isolation and treatment, and the overall strengthening of the healthcare system (weighed down by the yearly budget cuts even before the pandemic) were sidelined in the battle against COVID-19. With former generals Delfin Lorenzana, Eduardo Año, and Carlito Galvez calling the shots, military and police deployment, lockdown and quarantine, and orders to arrest, jail, and kill the “quarantine violators” were top priority. The measures were largely punitive rather than facilitative, especially in delivering the much-needed services and assistance to the homeless and jobless.

The fascist measures taken by the regime reflect the military’s dominance in the Inter-Agency Task Force against Covid-19 (IATF Covid-19); and the absence of health experts and scientists. Since Day 1 the regime has stubbornly stuck to a failed and irrelevant militarist approach despite the continuous rise in the number of COVID-19 cases, slow recovery rate, and the many deaths among health practitioners and those who were infected by the virus. The people, sick with the mishandling of the pandemic embraced and popularized the slogan/hashtag #SolusyongMedikalHindiMilitar. Recently, the slogan has ceased to be just a social media hashtag as calls for the resignation of health secretary Duque and the revamp of the military-dominated task force mounted.

The Inter-Agency Task Force against COVID-19: A militarized response to the pandemic

The actual operations of the IATF Covid-19 follows the command operation of a military organization with the big three generals—Delfin Lorenzana, Eduardo Año and Carlito Galvez—at the top. National defense chief Lorenzana heads the IATF Covid-19 command center, which oversees the implementation of the National Action Plan (NAP) of the “Bayanihan We Heal as One” Law; while DILG secretary Año sits as vice-chairperson. Third in command is presidential peace adviser Galvez Jr, the “chief implementer” of the NAP. He heads the National Incident Command (NIC) for its daily operations. Later, when Covid-19 cases rose to dangerous level in Cebu City, Duterte chose former AFP chief of staff and environment secretary Roy Cimatu as deputy chief implementer for the Visayas. Cimatu immediately deployed soldiers and tanks to Cebu, a move that was heavily ridiculed by the people.

The IATF dished out policies, oftentimes problematic and in conflict with those in the local government units and the health sector and other frontline workers, and to the detriment of the working class.

How the IATF Covid-19 works with the existing Task Force for Emerging Infectious Disease (a body created during the term of Pres. Aquino III), the several Czars appointed for quick fix, and the several other task groups is a tangled web. It has neither a beginning nor an end. What is obvious from the public’s view is that the retired generals and the Philippine National Police (PNP) are obviously running the show. DOH’s Duque who was visible in the first few weeks of the pandemic slowly faded from the scene only to reappear later when public demanded for a clear health solution to the pandemic rather than a militarist one. This however did not pacify the people as Duque is largely perceived as corrupt and equally inefficient in handling the pandemic.

Expectedly, the embattled regime shielded its militarist approach and criminal negligence by red-tagging its critics and propagating the pasaway (stubborn, disobedient) narrative against the people, especially the poor. Propped up by the Presidential Communications Operations Office (PCOO), thousands of trolls, and aided by a number of reporters in the corporate media, the regime blamed anyone and everyone in an effort to get away from its accountability. Only a month after the lockdown, the PNP recorded in April 2020 some 93,000 people accosted for “quarantine violations” while about 24,000 were arrested and slapped with charges. They are mostly workers and urban poor dwellers who were forced to earn a living in the absence, or lack, of government assistance.

In an interview, Prof. Jose Maria Sison aptly described the IATF Covid-19 a “coordinate of the NTF-ELCAC” (National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict) as both task forces are controlled by the same ex-military generals. The IATF Covid-19, Prof. Sison said is, “practically (NTF-ELCAC’s) replication.”

The National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC): A militarized response to social injustice and poverty

Joining Lorenzana, Año, and Galvez at the helm of the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC) is national security adviser Hermones Esperon, also a retired general. Esperon is the president’s vice-chair in this task force of 20 cabinet members and two unnamed sectoral representatives.

Created through Executive Order no. 70 in 2018, the NTF-ELCAC embodies Duterte’s rehashed version of the “whole-of-nation” approach started by the Noynoy Aquino regime. It aims to mobilize the whole civilian bureaucracy to end the more than 50 year-old revolutionary movement led by the Communist Party of the Philippines, the New People’s Army, and the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (CPP-NPA-NDFP). Essentially, the NTF-ELCAC has militarised the government and establish a fascist state. Lorenzana, Año, Galvez, and Esperon are among the more than 80 ex-military officers and men who dominate the civilian bureaucracy of the Duterte regime. According to Prof. Sison, the NTF-ELCAC fully created Duterte’s military junta.

The NTF-ELCAC, with the regime’s disinformation/misinformation arm and fake news mill, the PCOO and regional headquarters of the AFP and PNP have been notorious in using public funds to spread lies in the country and in the international community. These are specifically directed against the revolutionary movement, the open and legal people’s organizations, leaders of people’s organizations, human rights institutions, and the regime’s critics. Although oftentimes ridiculous and beyond belief, red tagging has already become a death sentence to many activists. During the lockdown, at least five known leaders—including NDFP Peace consultant Randy Echanis and human rights activist Zara Alvares—and hundreds of activists who were red tagged, vilified as terrorists were murdered.

The NTF is also engaged in a big-time racket through fake surrender of “rebels”—most often civilians who were lured or coerced and later presented as rebel surrenderers. Each “surrenderer” is supposedly given at least Php 65,000 cash assistance. In 2018, at least Php 520 million up to Php 715 million were supposedly spent by the government for this program, mostly ending up in the pockets of military officers and their minions since there has never been many real surrenderees.

Dubbed as the generals’ pork, the 2021 NTF-ELCAC proposed budget of Php 16.44 billion through National Security Adviser Hermogenes Esperon Jr is almost 3000 percent bigger from the 2020 budget. Año justified the budget saying the fund will be used for the construction of farm-to-market roads, barangay health centers, school buildings, obviously a duplication of the functions and budget of existing agencies. The proposed Php 16.44 billion budget excludes the budget in support of the anti-communist campaign spread in various government agencies e.g., the AFP and PNP. The NTF-ELCAC’s budget is three times higher than the budget allocation to combat Covid-19 like purchases of personal protective equipment (PPE) and other COVID-19 interventions.

Through the IATF-Covid-19, the NTF-ELCAC “has gained more power and resources as a result of the Covid-19 crisis.” Both task forces are used by Duterte “to undertake a de facto martial law regime in the name of fighting the corona virus and to prepare the way for the formal declaration of martial law and the full imposition of a Marcos-type fascist dictatorship.”

While the country was in lockdown, helicopters were used to drop not relief goods but “counterinsurgency” flyers on the remote villages of Sagada and Besao in Mountain Province and in Surigao in Mindanao. Ang Bayan, the official publication of the CPP reported “extensive combat operations” and 14 indiscriminate bombing, strafing, and artillery shelling incidents in Lumad villages in the borders of Agusan del Sur, Bukidnon, and Davao del Norte from March 24 to April 1. Further, Ang Bayan recorded military attacks in at least 625 barangays of 247 towns in 54 provinces while the country was battling the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic. The highest number of cases of human rights violations was recorded in 149 barangays in Southern Tagalog, 106 in Eastern Visayas, and 101 in Bicol. Meanwhile, 26 incidents of aerial surveillance were also recorded.

The regime’s intense ‘counterinsurgency’ operations happened at the time when CPP-NPA-NDFP’s unilateral ceasefire was in effect from March 26 to April 15. The CPP ceasefire was extended to April 30 when Pres. Duterte lengthened the lockdown; but, the military operations continued. The CPP declaration of a ceasefire was a response to the call of United Nations Secretary General Antonio Guterres for a global ceasefire during the pandemic.

Simultaneously, in urban and rural centers, humanitarian missions and community kitchens were red-tagged, blocked, and prevented from delivering relief goods to many communities neglected by the government. Worse, those who participated, including a former house representative of the Anakpawis partylist, were arrested, jailed, and charged with made-up charges.

The whole bureaucracy has enabled the NTF-ELCAC to pursue its nefarious activities, aided by the majority of the members of the legislative and judiciary branches of government, which have become Malacanang’s rubberstamps since the beginning of his term. They have enabled the junta to gain traction by providing legal shield to its criminal acts against the people and the revolutionary movement.

It came as no surprise that just as the people fought hard for their lives, livelihood, and their rights amid the regime’s messed up response to Covid-19, measures to suppress further the shrinking “democratic” space such as the ABS-CBN shutdown and the approval of the Terror Law took effect.

The Anti-Terrorism Council (ATC) of Duterte’s terror law: State terrorism against the fight for freedom and democracy

Dubbed as the generals’ pet bill, the terror law was approved hastily by the Lower House and signed into law by the president on July 3, ahead of any concrete plan to protect the people from the impact of the pandemic.

In a statement the CPP said Duterte’s Terror Law “tears away whatever is left of the ruling state’s trappings of democracy. With a rubberstamp Congress, a compliant Supreme Court, a puppet Comelec/Smartmatic, and now with extraordinary power, Duterte has now placed the entire reactionary government under his virtually unquestioned authority and limitless power.”

To date, there are now almost 40 petitions filed at the Supreme Court against Duterte’s terror law representing the views and arguments of various groups and sectors basically because Duterte’s terror law violates even its own reactionary Constitution. One of the extremely treacherous provisions of the terror law is the creation of an Anti-Terrorism Council (ATC), tasked determine who are terrorists and who are not. Dangerously, the ATC it has the powers of both the executive and the judiciary that can issue orders of surveillance, arrest, and detention.

Aside from determining who the “terrorists” are, authorize state forces to arrest people without warrants of arrest, detain without charges for up to 24 days, these presidential appointees act as the sole arbiter under the ATA. The immense power and broad function of the ATC obviously poses risk to people’s rights.

Prof. Sison described the ATC as a “compact board of inquisition and state terrorism.”

The law defined the ATC’s composition as follows: the president’s executive secretary, national security adviser, department secretaries of defense, interior and local government, justice, finance, information and communications technology, foreign affairs, and the executive director of the Anti-Money Laundering Council (AMLC) secretariat. The National Intelligence Coordinating Agency (NICA) acts as the council’s secretariat.

Concretely, under the Duterte regime, those in the ATC are: ES Salvador Medialdea (Chairperson), security adviser Esperon (Vice Chairperson), and heads of departments Lorenzana (defense), Año (local government) Medardo Guevarra (justice), Carlos Dominguez (finance), Gregorio Honasan (information and communications technology), Teddy Locsin (foreign affairs), and Mel Georgie Racela (AMLC).

Again, the same anti-communist fascist generals who dominate the NTF Covid-19 and the NTF-ELCAC are in the ATC, namely Esperon, Lorenzana, and Año,

As soon as the president signed the bill into a law, Esperon fired the signal shot by saying they’re making a list of “terrorist” that would, expectedly, include the open, legal, and unarmed people’s organizations and progressive groups constantly tagged by the regime as front organizations of the CPP and supporters of the NPA. After the signal fire, Esperon immediately sniped at the critics of the terror law saying they must be supporters of “terrorists”.

Pres. Duterte often referred to the military and the police as “my soldiers” and the “backbone of (my) administration”. Under the Duterte regime, it has not only become the norm to rely on the military for civilian functions but also to mollycoddle the officers, active or retired, and use them to threaten the people and his critics of a military junta.

A military junta has been among Duterte’s options to remain in power beyond his term in 2022—aside from ensuring reliable successor preferably from his own family. “The current political value for Duterte in having a military junta in prospect is to flatter the military and whet its loyalty to him and at the same time threaten the opposition and the people with the prospect of military junta ruling the country in case of his death or total disability at any time or the failure of his dynastic successor to take over his position,” said Prof. Sison.

The dominance of the military in the Duterte regime means an escalation of its offensives against the revolutionary movement led by the CPP, the NPA, and the NDFP and all the democratic forces in the society even as he face the wrath of the Filipino people and widespread condemnation even in the international community. At the end of the day, he will face the people who will hold him accountable for all his crimes against humanity, for treason, murder, and plunder. ###

7 DAHILAN NA INSECURE SI DUTERTE Human Security Act: Sagot sa insecurity ni Duterte

in Countercurrent

He talks like a strongman. His generals claim they are winning the war against the people and their revolutionary vanguard, the CPP. Yet, the Duterte regime reveals its deep insecurity as it now seeks more draconian measures. Why add new fangs to the “Human Security Act” if indeed they are strong and winning? Why add more violations of international humanitarian laws to their record? Why court further international and local condemnation in legalizing their terror acts against the people?

The Duterte government’s populist press releases contradict its actions. Knowing it can no longer hide its constant betrayal of the people’s interests, it quakes in fear of the people’s mounting anger. To preempt ouster moves and revolutionary upheavals, it wants to blanket the country under a more severe “Human Security Act” or “Anti-Terror Law.”

It wants to criminalize the mere thinking, supporting or linking of moves for truth-telling, helping one another and taking positive steps for reforms and revolutionary change. It seeks to give more power to state forces that already stink of hulidap, ‘nanlaban’ overkill, kotong, fake drug bust, fake surrenders, fake encounters, and fake victories.

The US-Duterte regime’s ‘popularity’ and ‘supermajority’ are toxic bubbles puffed up by fake news, election rigging, corruption, and state coercion. The more this regime feels insecure, the more it resorts to tyranny. But the more tyrannical it gets, the more it reveals that it is weakening. In the face of this government’s intensifying cruelty, the people must persevere in seeking and supporting revolutionary change.

The following are some of the inescapable reasons why the US-Duterte regime is getting more insecure and weak:

1. FAILING DE-FACTO MARTIAL LAW (AKA ‘WHOLE-OF-NATION’ APPROACH)

The Duterte regime promised but failed to deliver peace talks and peace agreements with meaningful social and economic reforms. Instead, it unleashed a de-facto martial law by way of the National Task Force to End Local Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC). It is spending public funds profligately but earning the people’s ire with its abuses, faked results, forced cooperation of communities, local governments, and government agencies.

2. HATED FOR TOKHANG, EXTRA-JUDICIAL KILLINGS

As Duterte fondly likes to say, his regime excels in ‘kill, kill, kill’ victimizing mostly poor and innocent people.

3. ‘CHANGE IS COMING’ NOT AT ALL

Duterte is reprising, with worse updates, Marcos’ and Macapagal-Arroyo’s debt-driven, corrupt, crony-infested, blatantly favorable to foreign investors economic policies.

4. DUBIOUS POPULARITY AND DIMINISHING SUPPORT BASE

The Duterte regime’s popularity is slipping fast because of his treasonous, plunderous policies. Duterte’s minority votes (39%) are rapidly getting disenchanted by his unfulfilled promises. No substantial wage hike. No end to contractualization. No independent foreign policy. No peace.

5. ‘SUPERMAJORITY’ BASED ON CHEATING, CORRUPTION

The US-Duterte regime excels at freeing plunderers, enacting laws that are bad for the people and the environment. The reason: Thanks to electronically rigged results, the most corrupt and mendacious of politicians can get ‘elected.’ They are expensive to maintain, however. They face the people’s fury, and that of their rival politicians.

6. BY DESIGN, CRIMINALLY NEGLIGENT OF THE PEOPLE

Natural and human-made disasters are showing up the Duterte regime’s criminal prioritization of pork and the military over the people’s welfare and social services.

7. DUAL PUPPETRY

By now it’s obvious Duterte’s “independent foreign policy” is his catch-all lie for taking puppetry to a higher level. He is puppet to not just one but two (US and China) imperialists, making deals with both at the expense of the Filipino people, patrimony, and sovereignty.

The US-Duterte regime’s insecurities won’t be resolved by its push to legalize and enhance its brute cruelty through the Anti-Terror Law. The Filipino people will always thirst for actual social and economic reforms. In collective defense of our people’s enduring aspirations for revolutionary change, we must unite and work to end the US-Duterte regime. Let us put an end to all its useless, bloody schemes to cling to power. ###

#PHstateterror
#JunkTerrorBill

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