[OPINION] Revolutionary government, yes, Duterte-style, no
Under normal circumstances, I would be the first to welcome the establishment of a revolutionary government. After all, the existing economic and political system really needs not just a reboot but an overhaul. To do this, what better way than through a government with broad and sweeping powers for reform?
But listening to President Duterte’s threat to impose a “revolutionary government” in order to thwart a “yellow-red conspiracy” against him is a totally different thing.
A history of revolution
The Philippines has a long history of revolution. The mother of all revolutions was the 1896 revolution against Spain led by Andres Bonifacio and the Katipunan. When independence was won in 1898 but immediately revoked when the United States decided to take over Spain’s role as colonial master, remnants of the revolutionary government pursued the nationalist revolution until their death, arrest, or surrender to American or Philippine Constabulary troops.
It was the communists and the socialists who revived the fight in the 1930s, with the twin goals of defeating American imperialism and overthrowing the reactionary state of local ruling elites. When the Japanese invaded the Philippines in 1941, the merged communist and socialist parties under the Partido Komunista ng Pilipinas (PKP) established the Hukbong Bayan Laban sa Hapon (Hukbalahap), which launched an effective guerrilla war against the Japanese invaders.
After the Japanese liberation and the nominal grant of independence by the US in 1946, the leftist Democratic Alliance won 6 seats in Congress. However, they were denied their seats in order for the Roxas administration to railroad the parity amendment giving equal rights to US citizens and corporations over our economy and natural resources.
By 1948, seeing the futility of the parliamentary struggle, the PKP took up arms against the government, transforming the Hukbalahap into the Hukbong Mapagpalaya ng Bayan (HMB). The aim of that revolution was to fight US imperialism, overthrow the ruling system, and establish a socialist state. Hobbled by successive errors in its line, strategy, and tactics, the PKP-HMB became a spent force by the mid-60s.
It was the young turks led by Jose Maria Sison who re-established the PKP under the line of Maoism in 1968. A year later, he touched base with what was left of the HMB led by Dante Buscayno, and formed the New People’s Army (NPA). The new revolution had the triad goals of defeating US imperialism, ending domestic feudalism and bureaucrat capitalism.
Proof of the revolutionary movement’s phenomenal growth was the establishment of the National Democratic Front in 1973. It is the CPP-NPA-NDFP that continues to espouse the cause of national liberation and social revolution to this day, with some of its breakaway groups advocating the same in one form or the other.
In other revolutions, former president Ferdinand Marcos imposed martial law in 1972 and launched his own “revolution from the center,” which aimed to build a “New Society” built on discipline and traditional Filipino values. We all know how that went. By 1986, the US-backed Marcos dictatorship’s widescale corruption, systemic plunder, and massive human rights atrocities had brought the country to its knees.
The People Power uprising in 1986 ushered in a US-backed revolutionary government under Cory Aquino, who left the CPP-NPA-NDF out in the cold despite its crucial role in fighting the US-Marcos dictatorship. Peace talks were initiated by Aquino but collapsed by early 1987, triggered by the Mendiola Massacre.
In 2001, then president Joseph Estrada was ousted in another people power-type uprising. This time, his successor Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo took the constitutional route and shied away from revolution, opting instead to hold on to power and amass wealth for the next 9 years. It was business as usual for the politicians, the oligarchs, and foreign interests at the expense of the people.
By 2016, the country was ready for another upheaval in the form of Rodrigo Duterte, who staged the most dramatic come-from-behind presidential victories in Philippine history.
To have a revolutionary government, you first need a revolution.
To be sure, Duterte aired his intention to form a revolutionary government as early as the 2016 presidential campaign, threatening to close down Congress and introduce reforms through extraconstitutional means. Knowing how sick the people had become of traditional politics, he became the anti-thesis of the mild-mannered, decent, elitist politician. He cursed in his speeches, flaunted his womanizing in public, threatened to kill people, wore lousy clothes, claimed to be poor, and repeatedly vowed to be the country’s first elected leftist and socialist president.
Upon winning, Duterte immediately resumed the peace talks with the CPP-NPA-NDFP, appointed 3 leftist leaders to his Cabinet, released key communist leaders from detention, denounced the US, and vowed to pursue an independent foreign policy. Thus, despite its reactionary character, the revolutionary movement led by the CPP-NPA-NDFP decided to constructively engage with the Duterte government. But it was a short-lived partnership.
At the heart of the collapse of President Duterte’s working relationship with the revolutionary movement was his failure to break free from his own reactionary politics and mindset. Any pretension of being a leftist and socialist quickly went out the door once he became President. What remained was the shrewd and cunning politico, the swashbuckling strongman from Davao, the corrupt and double-dealing public official.
Policy-wise, in came Oplan Tokhang and his failed war on drugs, Oplan Kapayapaan and its US-designed counterinsurgency program, martial law in Mindanao, his flip-flopping foreign policy, his free-trade neoliberal economic program, and the rise of the Davao Group. Out went the peace process, the progressives in the Cabinet, as well as the promises to end labor contractualization, reduce taxes, improve health care, crack down on corruption, and so on.
Under Duterte’s leadership, there is clearly no revolution. It’s actually more of the same, only worse.
What Duterte ushered in was a rightist counter-revolution.
Today, when faced with growing criticism and resistance to his failed policies, Duterte resorts to imagining multi-colored conspiracies and calling off work and school to counter massive protests. He and his allies are desperately trying to undermine the system of checks and balances by attacking the Supreme Court, the Office of the Ombudsman, the Commission on Human Rights, as well as the political opposition, the critical press, and social media.
Having failed to suppress or dampen public dissent, Duterte is now threatening to throw everything away and establish a military-backed revolutionary government. The immediate aim is to concentrate all power in Duterte for him to address the threats to his presidency.
But after that, what?
Let me take a guess: Oplan Double Barrel Reloaded Part III. The granting of big government contracts to Duterte’s own set of oligarchs and cronies. The takeover of syndicated corruption and criminal operations by the Davao Group. The total sellout of our economy and national patrimony via the removal of constitutional limits on foreign ownership of lands and businesses. Greater Chinese activity in the West Philippine Sea. The granting of more basing rights for American troops in the fight against ISIS and the communists. A federal system favorable to warlords and political dynasties.
So yes, we need a revolution. A revolution against a fascist government like Duterte’s. – Rappler.com