President Rodrigo Duterte of the Republic of the Philippines is now emboldened by the Supreme Court decision last July 4, 2017, upholding his authority and discretion to proclaim martial law and suspend the writ of habeas corpus not only in Mindanao but nationwide and providing no caveats or safeguards whatsoever to protect human rights and the fundamental freedoms. As a result, he is repeatedly threatening to impose martial law on the entire Philippines and to carry it out in the same brutal manner that dictator Ferdinand E. Marcos did from 1972 to 1986.
To proclaim martial law nationwide and endorse it for an indefinite period of time, he will have to target the revolutionary forces and people represented by the National Democratic Front of the Philippines as his enemy and depend on the Armed Forces of the Philippines and the Philippine National Police, which he himself describes as pro-U.S. Certainly, that martial rule will serve the vilest interests of the U.S. and the local oligarchy of big compradors, landlords and corrupt government officials.
It cannot be the other way around, despite previous fears of certain pro-U.S. reactionary groups that Duterte was seeking a truce and an alliance with the revolutionary movement represented by the NDFP in order to obtain solid support for his use of martial law as commander-in-chief. His first year in the presidential office has passed. Most major indications are that he will stay rightist and pro-U.S. He follows in the main U.S. economic and security policies and has no abiding interest in adopting socio-economic and political reforms through the GRP-NDFP peace negotiations. Worst of all, he is preparing to impose a fascist dictatorship on the Filipino people.
The military rule over the whole country will serve to nullify and destroy the GRP-NDFP peace negotiations instantly and completely. It will incite the broad masses of the people to rise up and wage people’s war as they did against the Marcos proclamation of martial law in 1972. The revolutionary forces and the people will have no choice but to wage the people’s democratic revolution through people’s war.
The GRP-NDFP peace negotiations are already in the process of being scuttled by the GRP because they have already been prejudiced by the following:
1. The failure of the Duterte regime to release all 400 political prisoners in compliance with the Hernandez political offense doctrine, Comprehensive Agreement on Respect of Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law and Duterte’s own promise of general amnesty;
2. In violation of the Hague Joint Declaration, which sets the framework for GRP-NDFP peace negotiations, the constant demand of the GRP for the surrender of the NDFP under the guise of a protracted and indefinite bilateral cease-fire agreement before any substantive agreement on socio-economic and political reforms;
3. The continuing all-out war policy of the Duterte regime since Feb. 5, 2017, against the New People’s Army and other revolutionary forces and people represented by the NDFP;
4. The Mindanao-wide martial law proclamation which targets not only the Bangsamoro armed groups, like Islamic Group-related Maute and Abu Sayyaf groups and the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters but also the NPA which exists and operates in most parts of Mindanao; and
5. The media campaign of the GRP and big business interests to end the peace negotiations and demand the surrender of the revolutionary forces and the people.
Military rule under the U.S.-designed Oplan Kapayapaan will be combined with the mass murder methods of Oplan Tokhang and Oplan Double Barrel and will surely make a far bigger catastrophe than the martial law regime under Marcos in terms of abductions, torture, extrajudicial killings, seizures of property and forced mass evacuations of many people through military, police and vigilante operations with impunity.
The Communist Party of the Philippines, the NPA and the NDFP are the main target of the planned nationwide martial law regime. But their personnel and units are mostly unexposed to their enemy. They were battle-tested during the Marcos martial law regime for 14 years and by people’s war for nearly 50 years. Duterte would have to engage in a wanton bloodbath, murdering far more innocent people than a small part of the revolutionary underground. He cannot repeat the massacre of suspected communists and sympathizers in Indonesia in 1965-66, without being stopped in his tracks by the broad united front and armed resistance.
The so-called high popularity rating of Duterte by the opinion poll survey firms, Social Weather Station and Pulse Asia, is based on a few thousands of respondents. It is a flimsy basis for Duterte to try his luck at Marcos-style authoritarianism. Remember that Estrada enjoyed a plurality win in the 1998 elections and a high opinion poll rating up to the early part of 2000. He attacked the Camp Abubakar of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front and then he started to mimic his own generals and strut like Rambo in special forces uniform. By early 2001, he was driven out of office by the mass movement.
It takes a crazy guy with a really sick mind to think martial rule combined with the Tokhang methods of mass murder can finish off the armed revolutionary movement and solve all the basic long-standing problems of the Philippines. Oplan Tokhang has failed to eradicate even the problem of illegal drugs. This problem continues to thrive, together with the big drug lords and their protectors in the reactionary government, even at the cost of 8,000 to 12,000 lives of poor drug addicts and low-level pushers who are outside of the territory of the favored drug lords.
The people’s democratic revolution through protracted people’s war will continue to advance because the broad masses of the people detest the evil forces of foreign monopoly capitalism, domestic feudalism and bureaucrat capitalism. The ever worsening economic and financial crisis of the semi-colonial and semi-feudal ruling system and of the global capitalist system are wreaking havoc on the Philippine economy and inflicting gross and acute suffering on the Filipino people. The looming nationwide military rule under Duterte will surely goad and incite the people to wage people’s war and win victories at an accelerated rate.
The only conceivable way by which a nationwide martial law proclamation is acceptable and justifiable to the people is to uphold and defend the national sovereignty and territorial integrity of the Philippines against the violent actions of the U.S. and pro-U.S. reactionary forces. But before that possibility becomes a reality, Duterte must first engage the NDFP in serious peace negotiations, make the comprehensive agreements on socio-economic and political reforms, inculcate a patriotic and democratic orientation among his military and police forces and bring about the benefits of the reforms for the people in accordance with their national and democratic needs, demands and aspirations.
Jose Maria Sison is Chief Political Consultants for the National Democratic Front of the Philippines and Founding Chairman of the Communist Party of the Philippines.