By his own public declarations and expressions of admiration for the fascist dictator Ferdinand E. Marcos, Philippine President Rodrigo R. Duterte has long been obsessed with his scheme to establish his own iron-fisted rule through martial law and extrajudicial killings by way of asserting “strong man” leadership and intimidating the opposition and the people under the pretext of solving not only the problem of illegal drugs but also far graver social, economic and political problems of the US-dominated ruling system of big compradors and landlords. At last, he has declared the end of peace negotiations with the NDFP. The revolutionary forces and people have no choice but to fight back and intensify the people’s war along the general line of people’s democratic revolution.
Duterte is not daunted by failures in his use of brute force. After 7000 to 12,000 extrajudicial killings of poor drug addicts and low level pushers, he has failed to solve the problem of illegal drugs within the first three to six months of being in office. He has also used up six months of extending his bloody campaign and has aroused suspicions that he has acted against certain drug lords only to favor those who keep the business thriving. He has directed the bombing of Marawi and victimized the people far more than the Maute and Abu Sayyaf groups could. But he wants to prolong the Mindanao-wide martial law proclamation up to the end of 2017. And he calculates that he can make martial rule nationwide by continuing to blame and target the revolutionary movement of the people as “terrorists”.
After pretending for a while to seek a negotiated peace between the Government of the Republic of the Philippines (GRP) and the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP, representing the Communist Party of the Philippines, New People’s Army and sixteen other revolutionary organizations), he is flagrantly hell-bent on making the armed revolutionary movement the scapegoat and pretext for the proclamation of martial law on the scale of the island of Mindanao and eventually nationwide. Since the time he assumed the presidency, Duterte has launched offensives against the New People’s Army (NPA) and has always threatened to scuttle the peace negotiations whenever the NPA takes defensive or counter-offensive actions even in the absence of a ceasefire.
He has obscured the barbarities being committed by the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP), the Philippine National Police (PNP) and paramilitary forces (including private security agencies and vigilante groups) that have been acting under his orders in the name of the extended Oplan Bayanihan, Oplan Kapayapaan and the all-out war policy signaled by Duterte’s termination of the peace negotiations on February 4 and spelled out by his defense secretary Delfin Lorenzana on February 7, 2017. The atrocities include aerial bombings and artillery fire, abductions, torture, destruction of lives and property, occupation of community buildings and forced evacuations and evictions. These are documented by human rights organizations and presented to the Joint Monitoring Committee of the GRP and NDFP.
Duterte has completely ignored the proposals of the NDFP to have an alliance for realizing national independence, democratic rights, economic development through national industrialization and genuine land reform, social justice, a patriotic and scientific culture and independent foreign policy and to accelerate the peace negotiations on the substantive issues on social, economic, political and constitutional reforms, to make a bilateral ceasefire agreement after approval of the Comprehensive Agreement on Social and Economic Reforms (CASER) and to co-found the Federal Republic of the Philippines on patriotic and democratic grounds defined by a the Comprehensive Agreement on Political and Constitutional Reforms (CASER).
That Duterte has been insincere and not really been interested in the progress and ultimate success of the peace negotiations between the GRP and the NDFP is well proven by false promises that he has never had the intention of fulfilling. Even before he assumed his presidential office, he promised on May 16, 2016 that he would amnesty and release all political prisoners in compliance with the Comprehensive Agreement on Respect for Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law (CARHRIHL). But he released on bail only 19 political consultants of NDFP, which also falls short of complying with the Joint Agreement on Safety and Immunity Guarantees (JASIG).
Despite the breach of promise, the NDFP continued to hope that all the political prisoners would be released in conjunction with the mutually agreed plan to accelerate the peace negotiations, to forge and approve the Comprehensive Agreement on Social and Economic Reforms (CASER) and make an interim bilateral ceasefire agreement. To stimulate the peace negotiations, the NDFP agreed with the GRP to issue reciprocal unilateral ceasefire declarations that lasted more than five months, from August 28, 2016 to February 10, 2017.
But Duterte himself kept on saying publicly that he never had any intention of releasing all the political prisoners but wished to keep them as his trump card until the successful end of the peace negotiations. Worse, despite the unilateral ceasefire declarations which lasted for more than five months, the GRP unleashed armed offensives against the revolutionary movement under the name of Aquino’s Oplan Bayanihan and then under that of Oplan Kapayapaan. Since February 4, Duterte has caused the declaration of the all-out war policy against the NPA and the people and has never withdrawn it before and after his Mindanao-wide martial law proclamation on May 23, 2017.
Every round of formal talks has been used by the GRP to cut down the hope for the release of the political prisoners in accordance with CARHRIHL and to put at the top of the agenda the GRP demand for bilateral ceasefire at the expense of negotiations on CASER, despite the repeated reminders of the NDFP to the GRP that substantive negotiations and agreements must come ahead of any protracted and indefinite kind of ceasefire. At one point, in back channel talks last March 11, the NDFP agreed with GRP to issue reciprocal and simultaneous unilateral ceasefire declarations. But the GRP backed out of agreement despite Duterte’s approval on March 11.
The Hague Joint Declaration and the Joint Agreement on the Sequence, Formation and Operationalization of the Reciprocal Working Committees have set forth the sequence of the items in the substantive agenda: respect for human rights and international humanitarian law (the subject of a comprehensive agreement approved by the GRP and NDFP principals since 1998), social and economic reforms, political and constitutional reforms and the end of hostilities and disposition of forces. The aim of sequencing properly the items is to address the roots of the armed conflict and lay the basis of a just and lasting peace.
For sincerely adhering to the agreements with the GRP and for refusing to surrender and pacify the revolutionary movement of the people under the guise of a premature prolonged and indefinite bilateral ceasefire, the NDFP is now being demagogically accused by the Duterte government of insincerity in the peace negotiations, being relentlessly blamed for the continuing revolutionary armed conflict, being targeted by propaganda aimed at preparing the public mind for the proclamation of martial law nationwide and using the CPP, NPA and the NDFP as scapegoat.
Coldbloodedly, Duterte intends to rule the Philippines with a combination of martial rule, the use of the mass murder methods of Oplans Tokhang and Double Barrel and the bombing and shelling of entire communities as already seen in Marawi and in the territory of the people’s democratic government and the NPA in the course of the extended Oplan Bayanihan, Oplan Kapayapaan and the all out war policy issued last February 5 against the revolutionary movement.
Even without the license of martial law, the Duterte regime has become culpable for at least 10,000 extrajudicial killings, already outstripping in one year the 3500 victims of murder under the 14-year Marcos fascist regime presented in the US court system. With the license of martial law, we can expect a far bigger catastrophe of extrajudicial killings and other atrocities from the AFP, PNP and paramilitary forces.
The Duterte regime has thoroughly exposed itself as an instrument of US imperialism, a creature of a certain overreaching group of big compradors and landlords and a bloody accomplice of pro-US military and police officers. Thus, the revolutionary movement has started to refer to the Duterte regime as a puppet of US imperialism. The chief objective of Duterte is to destroy the revolutionary movement of the people through deception and brute force and not to build national unity and peace on the basis of social, economic, political and constitutional reforms.
He daydreams about establishing a fascist dictatorship far stronger than that of Marcos. He is oblivious of the fact that his so-called high popularity rating has been bought by excessive amounts of money and has nowhere to go but down in the face of failures and promises proven false. The revolutionary forces and the people can avail of the strategy and tactics of the broad united front and armed struggle in order to pursue the people’s democratic revolution with a socialist perspective.
Prof. Jose Maria Sison is the Chief Political Consultant, National Democratic Front of the Philippines and the Founding Chairman, Communist Party of the Philippines.