On the day he won the presidency, Rodrigo Duterte promised change for the country despite his lack of a comprehensive vision for the country’s development. Like a paper boat in a river race, he went along the tide picking up what might possibly be good, from his own perspective and experience as a mayor, along the way. And thus, he vowed to end the decades-old armed struggle of CPP-NPA-NDF rebels against the state, promised to assert the historic international ruling that the Philippines has won against China by jet skiing into our sovereign waters, ensuring the passage of the proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) by involving both the MILF and MNLF, promised to end labor contractualization and strongly pledged to curb illegal drugs, criminality and corruption in the country in six (6) months.
Two years hence, indeed change has come, but in its darkest forms.
Instead, there were widespread killings, human rights abuse and attacks on the poor and ordinary people, but not excluding mayors, vice mayors, journalists, church leaders, and children. Truth is, it is not the campaign against illegal drugs per se that killed more than 23,000 poor people, claimed the life of 12 local government officials, three (3) priests, the children and youth who have become “collateral damage” in his drug war as well as the unnamed victims from IP and farmer communities, but his public exhortation to subdue and/or kill the lowlifes, dissenters, rebels, and his critics which led to the Philippines to become a killing field.
Likewise, our democratic institutions are demuscled and eviscerated. Most lawmakers have been co-opted. Critics are dispirited. Police and military, true to its form, have become overt pawns and tools to perpetuate violence and fear. Even our judges and public lawyers have done nothing to bring the culprits to court and give justice to the victims. The highest court of the land even committed a monumental mistake of ousting their Chief through a quo warranto because the President wanted her out too.
The peace talks with the CPP-NPA-NDF with its many twists and turns have become just like a game and strategy to lure and demobilize the Left from challenging his anti-people policies. While the passage of the BBL is being dangled, the looming outcome is a non-compliant CAB for our Bangsamoro kins.
The economic difficulties of the poor have increased manifold brought about by the TRAIN law. Cost of basic commodities have soared while wages remain low. 5.2% inflation rate, P6.9 trillion national debts, 2,000 fisherfolk displaced at West Philippine Sea, 2 million contractual workers, and the list goes on and on.
This government, however, does not trample upon the rights of people and human beings alone. Until now, no real actions to protect the environment has been done. President Duterte’s rant against mining industries and its destructive actions are all lip service and hollow positions. His DENR chief continues to be cordial and friendly to mining companies and coal businessmen and has no comprehensive program to protect the environment. The proposed National Land Use Act (NLUA), Alternative Minerals Management Bill (AMMB), and Forest Resource Bills that intend to manage and protect the country’s remaining resources have not moved in the Congress. In the proposed federal government, interest groups are even proposing 100% business ownership by foreigners which would involve extractive industries. Isn’t this another selling out of our sovereignty as a people the way we are acceding to China’s claims?
And while a few concessions were given — partial increase in soldier and police salaries and provisions, increase in senior citizen’s retirement benefits, the longer validity of passports and licenses, quick actions on small corrupt practices – but, the bigger problems, the root causes, have not been addressed.
This situation is pathetic and a result of this government’s lack of comprehensive and holistic vision of development, thus, his economic and political policies are based on the whims and caprices of this President alone and with the support of equally blinded lawmakers and civil servants.
No doubt that curse words, misogynistic remarks, vindictiveness and violent language are his answers to the many criticisms and questions posed on him. Revoltingly though, this sets the tone and gives rise to a culture of impunity, lack of respect for the rule of law and due processes within our democratic institutions. When you can’t give clear answers, you can’t help but defend in anger. When you proudly think that you are the smartest person in the world, so you can judge others as inefficient, “bobo” or nincompoops. When you feel you are superior compared to all the rest in the world, you can trample upon their rights and dignity.
President Duterte’s 2nd year in office is the darkest moment in the history of the Filipino people even unparalleled if not at par with Marcos dictatorship era. Nowhere in the history of the Philippines, in so short a time, that this high number of death and continuing spate of extrajudicial killings in the war on drugs and crime, the strangling of democratic institutions, the maneuvers to perpetuate himself in power and his public encouragement of an inhumane butchering of children, mothers, women, church leaders, activists, journalists have led and created conditions for people to feel unsafe, and to cower in fear and silence while the rest continue to justify it. Where in the recesses of one’s soul can a justification for these realities come?
This cannot continue. We are a people with dignity. We are a people believing in a loving and compassionate God. And even as we pray from the depth of our hearts that they repent and mend their ways and open ourselves for a just forgiveness for their sins, we should hold accountable President Duterte for the cycle of violence happening in the country. We should challenge him for his unfulfilled promises of change. We should make the entire security sector responsible for their alleged involvement in this cycle of violence and their non-action to put the killers behind bars and bring justice to the victims and their families. We should decry elite-dominated political system and the slow, ineffective, and equally crooked judicial system.
We can’t be silent anymore. We have to express our dissent and outrage over this attack on human dignity and the environment that should reach the doors of Congress and Malacanang, the seat of the Duterte regime and his crooked and vile minions. Lest we renege our duties as believers and as a citizen of this nation.
We encourage the Filipino people to go out and join the United People’s SONA today Monday and all other actions hence, together with the families of victims of extrajudicial killings, environment and human rights defenders, contractual workers, indigenous peoples, farmers, fisherfolk, religious groups, artists, journalists, and victims of Martial Law from Mindanao.
TOGETHER WE SAY: STOP THE KILLINGS OF PEOPLE AND ENVIRONMENT.
NO TO A DICTATORSHIP. UPHOLD THE RULE OF LAW. UPHOLD AND PROTECT HUMAN DIGNITY.