Strike the Duterte tyranny from all sides

This article is available in PilipinoEnglishHiligaynon

The fascist tyrant Rodrigo Duterte has been making more frequent prerecorded television appearances recently where he rambles and issues endless tirades and threats amid his government’s gross failures to respond to the pandemic, a deepening economic crisis, exposés of corruption and worsening cases of state terrorism and abuses.

Despite projecting himself a strongman, the tyrant and terrorist Duterte is, in fact, a monster cornered, screeching and scratching, hitting in all directions, regarding everyone as sworn enemies. In doing so, he is making himself more vulnerable to attacks and inviting and inspiriting more and more people to strike blows to end his tyrannical regime. Indeed, he is now being hit from all sides as he confronts a brewing political crisis which threatens to blow up in the coming few weeks.

His schemes to perpetuate himself in Malacañang beyond 2022 and further monopolize power through the electoral route is hitting snags as his political alliances start to crumble due to his increasing inability to accommodate everyone at the power center. The mutual distrust within the Duterte alliance is clearly emerging. Contrary to his declared intention of strengthening his position, his announcement of plans to run as vice president with his daughter or minion running as president in the same or different party is causing the further isolation of the ruling clique. Wary of being laid aside, the Marcoses, Arroyos and other allies are pushing initiatives to prevent all power going to the Dutertes.

The Dutertes’ scheme to grab even more power has caused the breakup of the ruling political party PDP-Laban and dissension from his once closest political supporters. The PDP-Laban’s National Council under the Pimentel-Pacquiao faction, which boasts of broader mass-based support, recently ousted Duterte from his position as chairman, weeks after Duterte’s faction selected him as its vice presidential candidate together with his underling Bong Go as presidential candidate.

The Duterte ruling clique is now more isolated than ever. Cases of large-scale corruption involving Duterte himself and closest officials are being exposed in quick succession. Ordinary Filipinos are outraged by reports of the Commission on Audit which revealed anomalies in almost all the biggest agencies of government under Duterte. They are seething with anger over how bureaucrats and military officers grew fatter by wasting, plundering and squandering hundreds of billions of pesos during the pandemic while majority of the Filipino people suffered from joblessness, poverty and hunger.

Filipinos are acutely incensed over how Duterte’s health secretary, budget officers and other minions were involved in an anomalous ₱8-billion contract to purchase overpriced face masks and face shields, personal protective equipment (PPE) and other medical needs from a shady Chinese company that had Duterte’s backing. Duterte’s links where exposed in a recent hearing of the Senate Blue Ribbon Committee where a video showed Duterte meeting with officers of Pharmally Corporation in 2017 whose Chinese officers are wanted for criminal embezzlement in Taiwan.

More and more threads of corruption leading to Duterte are set to be untangled in further hearings set to be conducted by senators. Despite Duterte’s vituperative speech against them, these senators are standing their ground and have declared that they will not bow to demands to stop their investigations. Their hearings are being anxiously awaited by the people who demand the truth hidden behind Duterte’s facade and bombast.

Duterte reeks of corruption and crime. He is the top-most bureaucrat capitalist and is in league with big business operators out to make a killing from government contracts and other deals. He also uses his power to protect and collect bribe money from big drug syndicates whose illegal trafficking of shabu and other drugs have thrived since 2017. Given the scale of the corruption and criminal activities of the ruling Duterte clique, their malfeasance cannot forever be kept hidden.

The gargantuan dimensions of Duterte’s corruption are magnified by the fact that people are suffering from a worsening health crisis brought about by Duterte’s failure of governance to respond to the Covid-19 pandemic. Daily cases continue to hit record highs as Covid-19 infections run uncontrolled, overwhelming hospitals and health facilities, and overstretching health workers.

The real number of cases are likely three or four times more than the reported numbers since Covid-19 testing is grossly lacking with positive cases comprising almost 30% of the daily tests (as against the positivity rate standard of 5% set by the World Health Organization). Daily Covid-19 testing stands at more or less 60,000 when it should already be at least 400,000 to 450,000 a day.

The Covid-19 health crisis in the Philippines is set to turn for the worse after the Duterte regime practically surrendered to the virus when it announced that their lockdowns are no longer effective in curbing the spread of the infections. Facing grave economic losses as a result of year-long lockdowns, Duterte’s officials declared they will just implement “granular lockdowns.” However, given the gross inadequacy of mass testing and contact tracing which renders health officials blind to the speed and direction of the spread of infections, the government is too late and utterly incapable of effectively identifying areas where local lockdowns should be imposed. In the face of the continued rapid spread of the virus, and failure to prioritize the strengthening of the health system, it is only a matter of time that the regime will again resort to large-scale lockdowns in different parts of the country or face overwhelming numbers of infections.

Duterte continues to ignore demands to increase the country’s capacity at mass testing, contact tracing and to expand the capacity of public hospitals and health facilities. It has utterly failed to address the welfare of nurses and health care providers who are suffering from oppressive working conditions, low salaries and lack of compensation. The regime is one-sidedly relying on vaccines as solution to the pandemic, yet has not allotted enough money for the purchase of vaccines and relies heavily on donations and foreign borrowing. The vaccination drive is also impaired by political favoritism, especially with the run up to the 2022 elections. In the end, relying solely on vaccines as solution to the pandemic will prove insufficient in the absence of a comprehensive public health response, and worse, will be used to justify discriminatory policies that will trample on people’s basic rights. There are no funds allocated to expand the capacity or set up new laboratories, nor are there plans to set up an effective system of contact tracing. The planned 2022 Covid-19 budget of the DOH was cut by 73%.

The entire population of Filipinos has been severely affected by the Covid-19 pandemic because of the epic failure of governance of Duterte and his officials to put into place the necessary correct measures. His attempt to downplay the deaths of 30,000 Filipinos as being “comparatively small” is utterly callous and shows his deep-seated contempt for the sufferings of the Filipino people.

The regime’s failure of governance amid the pandemic has also deepened and worsened the economic crisis. This is made worse by the drive to further liberalize imports causing widespread losses in the agricultural sector. Several million people lost their jobs and source of income in the past year, both in the cities and rural areas. The global slowdown of production due to capitalist oversupply and pandemic lockdowns has weighed down on the Philippine economy with investments drying up. To draw in foreign investors, Duterte implemented tax incentives to allow foreign capitalists to operate tax free, after imposing heavier taxes on ordinary Filipinos.

Duterte has bankrupted his government with large-scale corruption and squandering of resources for its costly counterinsurgency war. He has resorted to relentless foreign borrowing which pushed public debt to record levels. He has raised the level of public debt to ₱11.6 trillion, almost twice the level of ₱5.9 trillion when he assumed he became president in 2016. It is expected that public debt will further rise to more than ₱13 trillion by Duterte’s end of term in 2022. Debt repayments are sucking in almost half of the state’s resources which are passed on to the people in the form of additional tax burdens.

Over the past year, the socioeconomic conditions of the people deteriorated at unprecedented rates due to the repeated and prolonged imposition of military and police lockdowns without the necessary public health measures. The sharp rise in the prices of food, petroleum prices, medicine and other basic commodities and the sharp fall in the people’s purchasing power have resulted in massive numbers of people suffering from poverty and hunger. Long queues in mutual aid community pantries are an indictment of the regime’s failed response to the crisis.

Despite the desperate straits which millions of people were forced into by Duterte’s failures, he has ignored the widespread demand for substantial amounts of economic subsidies to allow the downtrodden masses to tide over the crisis. Worse, the paltry amount distributed was subjected to corruption by Duterte’s agencies and private companies. The public health insurance system under PhilHealth is failing massively due to corruption and is threatening to cause losses and bankruptcies among private health facilities.

Even as millions of Filipino families suffer from poverty and hunger, Duterte continues to pour hundreds of billions of pesos into the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and Philippine National Police (PNP) and intensify its brutal war against the Filipino people. It squanders billions of pesos into costly use of helicopters and jet fighters, dropping 500-pound bombs and indiscriminate artillery shelling and strafing in the countryside which endanger and terrorize civilian populations and cause damage to the environment and natural sources of people’s livelihood. The Duterte-directed military and police campaign of mass murder, arrests, abductions, torture, occupation of communities, forced “surrender” and other brutal forms of suppression is unabated.

The broad masses of the Filipino people are being subjected to worse forms of oppression and exploitation amid the pandemic. They are left with no other choice but to express their outrage and fight the corrupt, oppressive and tyrannical regime. Mass protests are breaking out and are bound to gain strength as the Duterte regime continues to display utter callousness to the plight of the impoverished and oppressed masses. The recent mass protest actions of nurses and healthcare providers starkly expose the Duterte regime’s failure to govern amid the pandemic and crisis. More protests and coordinated mass actions are bound to erupt in the coming weeks as the pandemic continues to worsen, as corruption is exposed and as people’s sufferings due to the Duterte crisis intensify and become intolerable.

The people are confronted with a health, economic and political emergency which can only be addressed by the urgent and immediate action to end Rodrigo Duterte’s inept, corrupt, treacherous, tyrannical and terrorist regime. To fight back is the only viable course of action for the Filipino people to survive the current crisis. Over the next few weeks, the broad masses of the Filipino people must strike at the monster Duterte from all sides.

As the anti-people and tyrannical Duterte regime is rocked by an intensifying political crisis, all Party-led revolutionary forces must step up their efforts to rouse the people and guide them to action. They must serve as the solid core of the broad people’s mass protests in both the cities and countryside.

They must undertake untiring efforts to rouse the people in great numbers. They must carry out widespread education and propaganda efforts to raise the people’s political consciousness and militance. Mass organizations must be continually built, expanded and strengthened to unite the people in their millions and mobilize them in collective action.

Every sector suffering from worsening conditions must carry out organized action to raise their voices and put forward their demands. Streams of community meetings, factory and office assemblies and online fora can merge into street demonstrations in the coming few weeks drawn by the people’s collective outrage and demand to end the reign of the monster Duterte.

The upcoming senate hearings on large-scale corruption involving Duterte and his most trusted underlings are eagerly being awaited by the broad masses. They can organize around these hearings. They can support these with mass actions to amplify their demand for those involved to be made accountable and punished for their unforgivable crimes.

The conditions favor the bold expansion and strengthening of the united front of all anti-Duterte forces. The broad-based mass movement of democratic and patriotic forces, the political opposition and other progressive-minded sectors and organizations must firmly unite to take action in the face of the brewing political crisis and take advantage of the factors to further weaken, isolate and oust the Duterte regime at the soonest possible time.

In the guerrilla zones, all units of the New People’s Army must exert all efforts to mount big and small tactical offensives in the coming few weeks to strike blows against the Duterte regime and punish its fascist armed thugs for their crimes against the people. Let the victories of the NPA reverberate across the country to embolden the people to stand and wage their difficult fight against the tyrannical regime.

Strike the Duterte tyranny from all sides