By Tonyo Cruz
It may just be a matter of time before Rodrigo Duterte places the entire country under martial law. Let me tell you why and what could be next.
Duterte really wants to be a dictator, by hook or by crook. The signs are all there. His minions are clamoring for a so-called “revolutionary government.” Meanwhile, the pro-Duterte Congress is working hard on Charter Change to make him dictator.
The same Congress is also stabbing furiously at the Supreme Court, the Ombudsman and the Commission on Human Rights – institutions that hold the government accountable.
But perhaps the biggest proof of Duterte’s appetite for nationwide martial rule and dictatorship is the reason he cites for extending martial law in Mindanao: fighting the Communist Party of the Philippines and the New People’s Army, and misdeclaring them as terrorists.
It doesn’t take a genius to realize that Duterte made a self-fulfilling prophecy of nationwide martial law and a fascist tyranny. The CPP-NPA doesn’t just operate in Mindanao. It is a revolutionary movement that operates nationwide.
If under Duterte’s order, the Armed Forces of the Philippines, the Philippine National Police, and paramilitary groups jointly attack guerrilla fronts across Mindanao – not only would those CPP-NPA units in Mindanao fight back, it would oblige CPP-NPA units in Luzon and the Visayas to take advantage of the massive troop deployment down south. They could launch attacks against pro-Duterte Big Landlords and Oligarchs, raid armories, and harass military units thinned by Duterte’s stress placed on Mindanao. Maybe the CPP-NPA would summon anew its sparrow units to protect the urban poor from and punish Duterte’s death squads.
Duterte’s attempt to blame Communists for the poverty in the provinces is a shameless PR gimmick for Big Landlords, Oligarchs, foreign multinationals, and foreign military forces. The people in the provinces know the real causes of why their areas remain backward, agrarian, and pre-industrial. The people in the cities meanwhile would remember the demand of the CPP-NPA – repeatedly echoed through the National Democratic Front of the Philippines in the peace talks terminated by Duterte – for national industrialization and genuine agrarian reform.
And then what, if Duterte makes martial law a nationwide thing?
If Duterte escalates his war on the CPP-NPA, and it becomes messier than his war on drugs – expect death squads to commit perpetrate massacres and commit other violations of human rights and the laws of war. (The AFP is capable of committing such barbarities, as shown by their historical record in 1972-1986, and in the counterinsurgency operations eversince.)
Does Duterte expect citizens, enlightened elites, independent-minded government officials, patriotic military officials, and the world community to just watch idly? The growing anti-tyranny movement is growing and has shown a capability to mount protest actions. With Duterte aligning himself with shadiest characters like the Marcoses, Estrada, and Arroyo – he is only summoning a broader, more feisty opposition in the cities.
Filipino workers are bound not just to defy a Duterte dictatorship. They are going to protest his “tax reform” that principally favors the wealthy and burdens them with new and heavier indirect taxes and consequently high prices. The disparate labor movement can unite to mount industrial strikes, if Duterte’s martial law unleashes political and economic terror on unions and unionists, workers and the public.
Overseas Filipino workers have a stake in keeping the fragile peace in the country. They are too invested in us that many now realize that Marawi cannot be the prototype for “change” and how to attain it. They are not making many sacrifices for families only to see them ruined by Duterte’s drive to be a dictator.
The OFWs, youth and young professionals would resist a crackdown of the Philippine Internet. So would many Internet-dependent businesses. The main problems of PH Internet are not too much freedom – it is too much greed of a duopoly. Duterte may try to build a Great Firewall with the help of China Telecom, and get some surveillance tips from Turkey, Egypt, and – yes – the US. Duterte can only guess how we would respond to such dictatorial craziness.
In an essay published by Bulatlat and Telesur, Prof. Sarah Raymundo exposed the serious intellectual deficit and political complicity of an anti-Communist academic who looks down on Communists vis-a-vis their analysis and response to Duterte’s dictatorial ambitions. I’m with her. Leloy Claudio gleefully shares not only Duterte’s anti-Communism. They also have another thing in common: Their pseudo-democratic visions both cannot imagine Filipinos (Communist or otherwise) thinking and taking action independently of their self-centered conceptions of reality.
Duterte estimates we are all too craven as major DDS bloggers that we won’t see the truth. Claudio meanwhile thinks we are all too stupid that we won’t outwit a Fentanyl-addicted tyrant.
Duterte aims to unite anti-Communists to advance his martial law. That it would go nationwide is just a matter of time, considering that Communists operate nationally. Claudio and his ilk are dead-set on blaming Communists for “forcing” Duterte to impose a national tyranny.
There are other, more accurate and more liberating views. The political opposition, mass movements, classes, sectors, and the international community clearly see Duterte building a dictatorship as shown by the steps he takes to concentrate power in himself. The same nationwide communist movement Duterte targets could and would also be a nationwide resistance movement, as it had been in the past.
Only a matter of time. And as history teaches us, time has always been against dictators.
Follow me on Twitter @tonyocruz