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MANILA, Philippines – A new progressive opposition coalition called “Laban ng Masa” is calling for the end of elite democracy and authoritarianism under President Rodrigo Duterte.
The coalition is chaired by ex-legislator Walden Bello, who said they are aiming for a “clear vision and program against elite democracy and pursue a system marked by real participatory democracy and real economic equality.”
“It’s not just an opposition group. It’s also a coalition formed for what is needed in the Philippines, which is system change,” said Bello in a press conference on Friday, October 27.
The coalition is against Duterte’s bloody drug war, which has led to thousands of drug suspects dead.
Laban ng Masa is also criticizing the President for failing to fulfill his promise to eliminate contractualization, return the coco levy fund to farmers, pursue agrarian reform, stop protecting the interest of miners, and address corruption.
Bello said they are also “worried” that Duterte is “destabilizing different institutions” by promoting the impeachment of Supreme Court Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno and threatening Ombudsman Conchita Carpio Morales as she investigates the alleged unexplained wealth of the President and his family. (READ: Duterte to Morales, Sereno: Let’s resign, let AFP probe us)
“So we have a whole range of issues – both sins of commission like EJKs and sins of omission, like the lack and absence of social reform. So Laban ng Masa is, in fact, united around both opposition to the government’s sins of commission and also very critical of its sins of omission, or lack of social reform,” said Bello.
He clarified, however, that Laban ng Masa is not calling for Duterte’s ouster. He doubts any group at this point is out to overthrow the government, despite suspicions by the President and his allies.
“Laban ng Masa is not engaged in any ouster campaign, is not engaged in destabilization plots. And that whatever happens to President Duterte, it is the Filipino people who will decide that,” said Bello. (READ: Bello to Duterte: ‘Reverse course’ or Filipinos may ‘throw you out’)
The coalition was formed on September 21 during the 45th anniversary of the Martial Law declaration. Laban ng Masa will be having its first general assembly on October 29 at the University of the Philippines Bahay ng Alumni.
Duterte a ‘false socialist’
On Friday, Bello and Laban ng Masa national coordinator Rasti Delizo said Duterte merely used the promise of socialism to win the 2016 polls. (READ: Rodrigo Duterte: A fascist original)
“Nung sinabi ni President Duterte na socialist siya, ang daming nag-clap kasi ang sense nila (When President Duterte said he was a socialist, many clapped because their sense) is that socialism is good – it is needed for a chance for transformation. The problem is that Duterte is a false socialist,” said Bello.
“He said something in order to win an election, but has not moved one iota towards real transformation,” he added.
Delizo also took a swipe at Duterte’s war against drugs.
“A true socialist does not kill millions of poor people – in this case, it’s thousands, but these are mainly poor people. A real socialist will clearly uphold the interest and the welfare of the working class,” said Delizo.
“Thirdly, a real socialist will not connive with US imperialist interests. A socialist will always take the side of all the oppressed, the exploited working class masses in their social majority, in their millions,” he added.
Distancing from Makabayan, Tindig Pilipinas
Laban ng Masa distanced itself from the House Makabayan bloc and Tindig Pilipinas, the opposition coalition that counts among its members politicians part of the once-ruling Liberal Party.
“We know there are groups saying they are the main opposition, but how can that happen when only yesterday, you were part of the government?” Bello asked in Filipino.
The Makabayan bloc was allied with Duterte’s Partido Demokratiko Pilipino-Lakas ng Bayan until they bolted the alliance on September 14.
“There are also those saying they are progressive, but they are associated with the former administration that did nothing in terms of promoting equality and real democracy,” said Bello.
In 2015, Bello resigned as Akbayan representative due to Aquino’s failure to address corruption and bring about social reform, and the ex-president’s insistence that he had a limited role as commander-in-chief in the botched Mamasapano operation. – Rappler.com