The government has isolated itself from the Filipino people. The gap between the exorbitant Php192.1B of the Department of National Defense and the minuscule Php1.4B of Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical, and Astronomical Services Administration (PAGASA) or the even tinier Php588.1M of the Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology (PHIVOLCS) in the General Appropriations Act is the same gulf between the interests of the Duterte regime and the interests of the Filipino people. It will arm its soldiers with imported guns and flimsy data from overpaid intel, but it will never arm its scientists with pay and tools that arm Filipino communities with what we need to live a safe and decent life–especially in the midst of a calamity.
The same incongruence is apparent in the state response to farmers in harm’s way of the Taal eruption: the Department of Agriculture has offered them no aid but an appallingly heartless loan of up to Php25k, even as Duterte himself promises a cash gift of Php50k each to birthday celebrants in the Marine Corps this week. Even in the pay rise allocated to government workers in the Salary Standardization Law, the same trend manifests: overworked public school teachers who double as children’s guardians in school get only an additional P6k spread across 4 years, even as police and military personnel including those who terrorize the peasantry and urban poor get as much as 100% more than their previous pay. It appears the president’s solution to growing poverty in a calamity-stricken agricultural country made up primarily of farmers is intensified militarization and heightened police brutality.
Government misuse of taxes to fund war, not services
Duterte’s 2020 budget is a war budget. He is allocating resources behind his “whole-of-nation approach” to “crushing the communist insurgency” put into motion by Executive Order 70. The counter-insurgency policy has not only populated the civilian bureaucracy with military personnel, bringing us closer to de-facto martial law; it has also legitimized and funded anti-communist witchhunts that begin with redtags and end with blood. The devastation Negros island suffered in the hands of the police and the military in 2019–three state-conducted massacres and sporadic killings by paramilitary personnel and death squads–is an indication of the seriousness with which the state carries out its assault on activists, protesters, and all manner of dissenters even among civilians. It makes no distinction between the armed revolutionaries of the New People’s Army under the Communist Party of the Philippines, with whom the reactionary state is officially at war, and the civilian farmers and workers the reactionary state has abducted, tortured, and killed for their principled stand for national democracy and against fascism.
What tends to be overlooked is who benefits from the fascism of the Duterte regime. But in a statement made in light of the United States’ aggression against Iran, presidential spokesperson Sal Panelo showed no hesitation in giving a response: should war break out, the Philippines would side with longtime ‘ally’ the United States of America. The pronouncement is perfectly in line with a long history of the US dragging Philippine armed forces into its wars of aggression–just as Filipino troops died in Vietnam in advance of US pseudo-democratic interests, so did Filipino troops die in Iraq for the same reactionary end.
US-Duterte alliance against the Filipino people
DND Secretary Delfin Lorenzana has sworn that Filipino troops being sent to the Middle East won’t participate in combat, but will only assist in repatriation efforts to bring home overseas Filipino workers for their safety in the event of escalation. But Panelo’s pronouncement not only contradicts Lorenzana’s position, it also puts the lives of OFWs at risk by identifying the military personnel they are with as armed representatives of a dedicated US ally. To begin with, why send soldiers in lieu of social workers, psychologists, and translators whose fields of expertise are more appropriate? Instead of quelling conflict by calling for peace and calling the US out for its provocation that violates international humanitarian law, Duterte has militarized repatriation and instrumentalized it to curry favor with the criminal war-monger President Donald Trump and openly declare the state’s alliance with an imperialist aggressor–the world’s biggest one at that.
That the Philippine reactionary government sides with the US is no old secret. Duterte may veil this alliance with invectives aimed at the history of violence inflicted on the Philippines by US colonialism, but the policies advanced by his regime cater to the recommendations of US-led financial insitutions like the World Bank and the World Trade Organization and the interests of US-based monopoly capitalists. The tax reform package, for instance, alleviates tax burdens on big corporations to the detriment of workers and peasants deprived of state facilities and services, while the rice liberalization law sabotages our domestic rice industry to give way to imported agricultural produce. Even the Duterte regime’s flagship project–Build, Build, Build–pushes for partnerships with the private sector that puts foreign monopoly capital in control of local infrastructure through compradors and bureaucrat capitalists, and will raze any farming, fishing, and indigenous community in the way of their foreign debt-funded constructions.
Struggle against imperialism, feudalism, and fascism
That the Philippines is the region’s biggest recipient of US military aid is no secret either. Local military operations are still made according to US militarist playbooks, and even EO70 is compatible with the US imperialist agenda of liquidating anti-imperialist and anti-capitalist movements such as the mass movement for national democracy with a socialist perspective burgeoning in the Philippines. These operations target organized peasants to keep the Philippines semi-feudal, maintaining the private ownership of vast tracts of productive land by big landlords and the comprador bourgeoisie. Semi-feudalism, which keeps 7 out of 10 Filipino farmers landless, is in the way of national industrialization with which we can build basic industries that develop our productive forces and our self-reliance. US imperialism is deeply invested in an import-dependent, export-oriented economy reproduced by oppressive landlord-peasant relations.
Clearly, it is US imperialism pulling the strings of the Duterte regime’s fascism, and it resorts to fascism legitimized through policy by bureaucrat capitalists to perpetuate feudalism. #FreeLandDistribution, first on the agenda of the peace talks between the Government of the Republic of the Philippines and the National Democratic Front, is a direct threat to the maintenance of feudalism which US monopoly capitalists cash in on, and concerns the regime enough to channel its US military funding into efforts that target the peasant movement advancing genuine agrarian reform.
In holding Duterte accountable for his fascism, Sama-samang Artista para sa Kilusang Agraryo joins peasant organizations struggling for national democracy in exposing the regime’s undeniable ties to imperialism and feudalism, and condemning its facilitation of and role in imperialist wars of aggression. Just as the Philippine reactionary state supports the US in its aggression on Iran, so does it support the US in suppressing anti-imperialist and anti-feudal movements through local armed force in the Philippines. As we witness its deafness to the demands of the peasantry–from its extension of loans to farmers afflicted by the Taal eruption or its perpetuation of anti-farmer policies and attacks–it becomes ever more urgent to organize and #OustDuterte.