Duterte “normalizing” hunger and hardship, terror and tyranny in so-called “New Normal”
For long-militarized Lumad and peasant communities in the North Central Mindanao region (NCMR), there is nothing new with Duterte’s “New Normal”. Duterte may have superficially “lifted” martial law in Mindanao, only to place the island under tighter military and police control under the guise of the Covid-19 crisis.
Even before the pandemic broke, Duterte’s National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC) had already identified NCMR as a priority target in the regime’s “all-out war” against the revolutionary movement and the people. Currently, there are 16 combat battalions of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and four battalions of the Philippine National Police (PNP) in the region; while at least 180 AFP detachments are scattered in all of its provinces, 163 of which are CAFGU and the rest are CSP and CMO mobile detachments.
Now, the Covid-19 crisis is being utilized by the Duterte regime as a convenient excuse to further militarize Lumad and peasant communities. Since the pandemic broke, the military had already established at least six new detachments in Brgy. Durian, Las Nieves, Agusan del Norte; Brgy. Balagnan, Esperanza, Agusan del Sur; Sitio Kipunay, Brgy. Eureka, Gingoog City, Misamis Oriental; Sitio Pangagpungan, Brgy. Kalabuan, Esperanza, Agusan del Sur; and, Sitio Mahayag, Brgy. Namnam, San Fernando, Bukidnon.
Lumad and peasant communities have long experienced “military lockdowns” characterized by increased presence of fascist troops that terrorize through intimidation and the staging of forced and fake surrenders, the installation of checkpoints, imposition of curfews and population control. Heightened militarization had forced them to flee their homes and farmlands.
Despite the Covid-19 crisis and adding insult to injury, Lumad folk and farmers are now being prohibited from spending sufficient hours to till their farmlands through the imposition of an irrational, impractical and unproductive three-hour work limit. Barred from traveling to market centers because of the pandemic, these families now have to make do with the meager amount of food produced from these limited work hours, if any.
Meanwhile, continued focused military operations and excessively destructive aerial bombings and artillery shelling continue to sow fear and terror, traumatize villagers, disrupt lives and livelihoods and destroy the environment. With Duterte’s continued militarist approach in addressing the Covid-19 health, economic and political crisis, we can only expect more blatant and unapologetic violations by the regime.
This is the “new normal” that Duterte wants the people to accept – in which hunger and hardship, terror and tyranny have become daily realities.
The new normal we want is a society that is free of Duterte’s tyranny, deception and fascist rule, far more deadly that the Covid-19 virus. What we want is a society where our communities are not perennially threatened, our culture respected, our ancestral lands protected from plunder and greed.
The revolutionary forces of Lumad and the Filipino people see no other recourse but to follow the path of the people’s democratic revolution to achieve national independence, democracy, social justice and economic development. ###