Mong Palatino

blogging about the philippine left and southeast asian politics since 2004

About

@mongster is a filipino activist, former legislator, and blogger/analyst of southeast asian affairs. he lives in manila

Published by New Mandala

Could the Philippines President show the US President-elect how to reform?

In May, I wrote on New Mandala that while Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte and US President-elect Donald Trump are notorious for tasteless jokes against women and the LGBT community, their personal and political backgrounds are altogether different. Duterte is not part of the traditional elite, he has good ties with the Muslim community, and he is a self-declared Leftist. In other words, he is the opposite of what Trump represents in politics.

But when Trump won the 8 November presidential election in the US, Duterte greeted him as one president to another, and expressed his intention to work closely with Trump despite his previous pronouncements lambasting American intervention in Philippine politics.

Interestingly, Duterte also compared himself to Trump, noting that both of them have the tendency to curse in public. It was a different story in May when Duterte said Trump was a bigot while he was not. Duterte’s spokesman added that the Philippine President and Trump started their respective campaigns as underdogs who overcame numerous odds to win.

Indeed, Duterte and Trump achieved phenomenal electoral victories despite the initial projections that they would lose in the polls. They failed to impress several mainstream analysts but they directed their energies to convincing the electorate. They mobilised public support by tapping into the anger and frustration of ordinary voters.

Despite the seemingly similar populism of the two, it is still not entirely accurate to compare Trump and Duterte. After all, Duterte has been in public service for three decades already and he has carved a name for himself as city mayor for implementing tough but effective measures against crime and corruption. He talks loud, but he also gets things done. Meanwhile, Trump has yet to prove his worth as a public official.

But Duterte and Trump can learn from each other. For example, Duterte can become a better public speaker by listening to Trump. He should observe how some of Trump’s racist and xenophobic statements are causing much hate and division in the US If he wants to unify Filipinos, he should refrain from making similar hurtful remarks in public.

On the other hand, Trump should study how Duterte disproved his critics who expected him to underperform in his first few months in office. Duterte affirmed his image as a non-traditional politician who can quickly address the people’s demands. Unlike his predecessors, he succeeded in drafting and signing a “Freedom of Information” Executive Order; he suspended destructive large-scale mining operations; he pushed for the regularisation of temporary workers; he vowed to pursue an independent foreign policy which is enshrined in the 1987 Constitution; and he resumed peace talks with Communist and Muslim rebels. He even appointed Leftist radicals in his Cabinet.

Most importantly, Trump, who has indicated he will take a harder stance on drugs, should take caution to not replicate Duterte’s controversial ‘War on Drugs’. While Duterte claims it is succeeding, human rights groups are blaming it for the disturbing rise of extrajudicial killings in recent months. Although Duterte believes the ‘War on Drugs’ may be necessary, the world deems the accompanying human rights abuses unacceptable.

Duterte’s accomplishments as a peacemaker, patriot and defender of labour and environment are overshadowed by the human rights violations allegedly perpetrated by state forces. Unfortunately for Duterte, the mainstream global press is depicting him as a ‘punisher’ instead of his intention to be a reformer.

If Trump wants to make America great again, he must focus on achieving his objective without being distracted by a political platform that would only generate antagonism and hate in society. He should watch how Duterte is losing global support by desperately defending the ‘War on Drugs’ despite the obvious excesses made by his police.

Duterte’s presidency has been undermined by his bloody campaign against drugs and crime; nevertheless, he can still boast about his progressive agenda and success in other areas. It is this reformist element of Duterte that Trump should try to emulate when he becomes a public official for the very first time next January.

Published by Bulatlat

Like the sun that sustains life on this planet, it is Maoism that inspired the rise and spread of the National Democratic movement in the Philippines.

That political slogans such as ‘Serve the People’ and ‘Learn from the Masses’ are still openly advocated by Filipino progressives today reflect the enduring legacy of Maoist teachings in the country.

When anti-Left groups disparage the Natdem for being pro-China, they are perhaps alluding to the continuing fidelity of activists to Maoist doctrines.

But China’s ruling party is no longer Maoist in essence. Indeed, it embraces the name of Mao yet it is unabashedly anti-worker and anti-poor.

Filipino Leftists are among the most consistent in denouncing China’s remorseless revisionism.

Does this make the Filipino Maoists more Maoist than the Chinese? No. Filipino Maoists are simply pointing out that China’s politburo is dominated by corrupt capitalists. The most rabid anti-Mao ideologues are working in the central committee of the Chinese bureaucracy.

When Filipino Leftists defend Mao, they are referring to his basic teachings and not what the Chinese state is doing today.

Why Maoism? Because it applied Marxist-Leninist analysis in understanding the conditions of semi-feudal and semi-colonial societies like the Philippines. Because it provided a systematic program on how to mobilize the oppressed masses in the countryside.

Maoism produced a new generation of activists and intellectuals committed to battling modern revisionism on one hand, and launching the proletarian cultural revolution on the other.

But textbook Maoism can only work in China and China alone. It cannot be exported to other countries without modifying its basic tenets. It is unMarxist to copy Maoism and turn it into a terrifying dogma for a revolutionary program.

Curiously, the anti-Left in the Philippines is accusing the Natdem movement of being blind believers of Maoism. What they refuse to recognize is that activists have adopted the Maoist ideology as a guide to study the specific conditions of the Philippines.

The result is the Philippine National Democratic Revolution as we know it: Maoism with Philippine characteristics.

Joma Sison, founder of the Communist Party of the Philippines, has been emphatic in emphasizing the fundamental differences of the Natdem revolutions in China and the Philippines. That the geopolitical situation in the Philippines is vastly different from what China faced in the 1930s and 1940s. That the Philippines is an archipelago which means advancing the guerrilla warfare will not necessarily repeat the major stages of the Chinese revolution. That Filipino revolutionaries are guided by a different framework on how to implement land reform.

The Philippine revolution would not have endured for more than five decades already if its basic theoretical foundations are incompatible with the country’s concrete conditions.

In 2001, the Natdem movement decided to pursue electoral politics. It has consistently won partylist seats and some local positions which indicate that its electoral base is expanding. This year, some Natdem personalities were appointed in the Cabinet of the new government.

Some are asking, is the Natdem movement already abandoning the Maoist revolution?

In the past, the anti-Left ridiculed the Natdem for being too Maoist. Today, the anti-Left thinks the Natdem is betraying its Maoist principles. The Natdem is both dogmatic and opportunist in their eyes.

Perhaps the source of their long-term confusion and frustration is their unwillingness to accept the dynamics of the revolutionary movement. They have their own concept of an ideal Marxist party and they naively expect Filipino Leftists to subscribe to this paradigm. If they think a Maoist should remain in the guerrilla zone, then the Leftist who conducts political work in the bureaucracy is suspected of being part of the traitor class.

Not all pitiful laptop revolutionaries are as clueless as they are. Maybe their anti-communist bias is to blame for their political arrogance. Perhaps they believe in the insidious propaganda about the notorious inflexibility of Leftist activists.

Because any Marxist would easily understand the standpoint of a revolutionary movement borrowing from the rich theoretical tradition of the Left while integrating it with local praxis.

Because any Marxist would comprehend the political importance of pursuing an alliance with a faction of the bourgeois class if it is done to advance the aims of the revolution.

Because any Marxist would quickly denounce the unprincipled, collaborationist reformism of the Yellow Left. This is not the same kind of alliance we seek to establish in dealing with conservative institutions.

Natdem activists are aware that Chinese Maoists also joined forces with the reactionary ruling party to defeat a common enemy during World War II. Natdem activists are studying the Chinese experience. But they can only benefit from some general principles because China’s political situation is different.

That we have a president of the Republic advocating unity with the Left is unprecedented in our history. What should be the response of the Left? How can this alliance promote the welfare of Filipinos and the working poor?

Carrying the torch of Maoism will lead the movement to the revolutionary road. But it cannot dictate and predict every action that a revolutionary party has to make.

As Maoists, we stand firm in defending the goals of the revolution. As Maoists, too, we are constantly reviewing our tactics and strategies to win the people’s struggle. The ‘long march’ is far from over but we are determined to be victorious in the end.

The books I read in 2016

March 2nd, 2017

Published by Bulatlat

1. Open Secrets, Alice Munro. I think there is a Munro Effect: A reader is initially lulled into thinking that a storyline is dull but it is only when the short story is about to end that he finally begins to see how he is completely immersed in the Munronian world.

2. Discontent and Its Civilizations: Dispatches from Lahore, New York, and London. Mohsin Hamid. The novelist as essayist treats the readers with his fascinating views on literature, politics during the War on Terror, and the ‘discontents’ of globalization.

3. People On Our Side, Edgar Snow. Difficult to read because of the horrors it exposed during the war against Fascism. An important historical record of Soviet military victory and China’s political situation in the 1940s.

4. What is Philosophy? Martin Heidegger. Who better to introduce philosophical concepts like being and truth than the great philosopher himself?

5. Beethoven Was One-Sixteenth Black and Other Stories, Nadine Gordimer. The stories here reflect the lives of South Africans during the post-apartheid era; but also a poignant portrayal of the human condition.

6. Ill Fares the Land, Tony Judt. The historian explaining the roots of our economic uncertainties, a progressive critique of modern politics and the socialist alternative.

7. Interpreter of Maladies, Jhumpa Lahiri. Stories of migrant families, Indians inhabiting strange places, individuals connecting with fellow human beings.

8. Hateship, Friendship, Courtship, Loveship, Marriage: Stories, Alice Munro. Love for all ages, romantic relationships that defy stereotypes, stories that affirm the enduring power of humanity.

9. The Tao of Pooh, Benjamin Hoff. Eastern philosophy introduced to the general public in a creative and entertaining format

10. Death with Interruptions, Jose Saramago. Always impressed with the imagination of the author, his realistic depiction of the social condition, his belief in the strength of individuals.

11. Babae, Obrera, Unyonista: Ang Kababaihan sa Kilusang Paggawa sa Maynila (1901-1941), Judy Taguiwalo. The situation of women workers and the role of unionism during the first half of the 20th century.

12. The Book and the Brotherhood, Iris Murdoch. Less about the Marxist book in the novel but more about the ‘brotherhood’ of intellectuals, their middle-class/middle-age issues, and how they tried to overcome the crisis in their lives. Typical Murdochian.

13. Mrs. Dalloway, Virginia Woolf. First person narrative of what transpired on a single day in early 20th century London.

14. This Side of Paradise, F. Scott Fitzgerald. The world of a privileged young intellectual in pre-depression America.

15. Hidden From History: 300 Years of Women’s Oppression and the Fight Against It, Sheila Rowbotham. A short course on the early history of the women’s movement.

16. Displaying Filipinos: Photography and Colonialism in Early 20th Century Philippines, Benito M. Vergara Jr. An exposition of the colonial uses of various technological apparatuses.

17. The Best of A. Lipin, Jess Abrera. Philippine history in the past three decades through the political cartoons published by the country’s leading newspaper.

18. Philosophy Today #1, Jerry H. Gill. Bonus material here is an essay by philosopher Ludwig Wittgenstein.

19. Ang Hayop na Ito! Virgilio S. Almario. Not just for kids but also for everybody who wants to appreciate folk history and poetry.

20. The New Imperialism, David Harvey. Dissecting the militarism of the United States, the politics of empire building, and the global contradictions it engenders.

21. Love in the Time of Cholera, Gabriel García Márquez. The social history of a previous era through the perspective of a man determined to win the love of his life.

22. The Little Prince, Antoine de Saint-Exupéry. The touching story of a dreamer, an imaginative sketch of our world, a plea for hope.

23. Tales for Little Rebels: A Collection of Radical Children’s Literature, Julia L. Mickenberg. An overview of literature intended to educate a new generation of progressives. Interestingly, the previously ‘radical literature’ is now part of mainstream culture. An obvious legacy of radicalism in contemporary society.

24. Greenwash: The Reality Behind Corporate Environmentalism, Jed Greer. Beware of so-called green initiatives which mask the plunder and dirty activities committed by transnational companies and their local apologists.

25. Planet of Slums, Mike Davis. Unmasking the real impact of capitalism and blind worship of the free market in urban societies.

26. The Audacity of Hope: Thoughts on Reclaiming the American Dream, Barack Obama. Here is Senator Obama unveiling his liberalness, his confident belief that he is an agent of progressive change. An overview of American electoral politics.

27. Sebyo, Carlos Humberto. A proletarian novel elucidating the principles of the national democratic struggle amid the decay of Philippine society.

28. The Point is to Change it: An Introduction to Marxist Philosophy, John Molyneux. Suggested reading material for all those who want to learn more about Marxism, its basic tenets, historical legacy, and continuing relevance.

29. Chronicles of Interesting Times, Gregorio C. Brillantes. Creative non-fiction essays on Philippine history, literature, and politics.

30. In the People’s Republic: An American’s First-Hand View of Living and Working in China, Orville Schell. An American academic narrating his observations of China during the Cultural Revolution.

31. Amusing Ourselves to Death: Public Discourse in the Age of Show Business, Neil Postman. Written three decades ago but still applicable today as TV continues to deaden the minds of the future generation.

32. Republic or Empire: American Resistance to the Philippine War, Daniel B. Schirmer. Not all Americans supported the invasion of the Philippines. This book tells the story of the anti-imperialist movement which made a huge impact on American politics.

33. Recapturing Democracy: Neoliberalization and the Struggle for Alternative Urban Futures, Mark Purcell. Useful text to understand how neoliberal economics is destroying cities and how the grassroots can challenge the dominant pro-business paradigm.

34. Daughter of Fortune, Isabel Allende. The California Gold Rush made alive through the stories of migrants, adventurers, fortune-seekers, natives, people of color, lovers.

35. Undermining Patrimony: The Large-Scale Mining Plunder in Mindanao and the People’s Struggle and Resistance, Rural Missionaries of the Philippines. Unique for highlighting the struggles of the Lumad and the people of Mindanao against corporate mining. Unique because it featured testimonies from NPA leaders.

36. How to Write a Thesis, Umberto Eco. And also for those not writing a thesis but want to pursue research and other types of writing.

37. China and Socialism: Market Reforms and Class Struggle, Martin Hart-Landsberg. China is no longer adhering to socialist aims and more importantly, its market-driven reforms are destroying the lives of the poor not just in rural China but also in neighboring countries.

38. The Bell, Iris Murdoch. Individuals dealing with various psychological problems as they try to build a religious community. A novel, a semi-philosophical treatise, a Murdochian book.

39. The Name of the Rose, Umberto Eco. Historical novel about a murder in a medieval abbot. But the book is also a comment on modern scholarship.

40. The Old Man and the Sea, Ernest Hemingway. While reading the book, what I imagined were the childhood trips we took in a small fishing village in Unisan, Quezon

41. Sociology in the Age of the Internet, Allison Cavanagh. The author covers many topics that continue to engage academics about the sociological impact of the Internet in our world today.

42. The Pristine Culture of Capitalism: A Historical Essay on Old Regimes and Modern States, Ellen Meiksins Wood. An alternative reading of British capitalism, the formation of the capitalist state, and the rise of global capitalism.

43. The Zinn Reader: Writings on Disobedience and Democracy, Howard Zinn. Historian and activist exposing the myths of American propaganda, defending radicalism, and exhorting the people to continue the struggle for real democracy.

44. My Century, Günter Grass. A hundred years of German history from various witnesses.

45. Welcome to the Urban Revolution, Jeb Brugmann. An optimistic view of the urban revolution, a reminder for policymakers to balance the profit-motive with the need to co-develop societies with ordinary stakeholders.

46. Diego Rivera: A Revolutionary Spirit in Modern Art, Andrea Kettenmann. Portrait of an artist as an independence advocate, communist sympathizer, and communist cadre.

47. Einstein and Relativity, Paul Strathern. My problem is that before I read this brief profile about Einstein and his theories, I stumbled upon an article alleging that the scientific contributions of Einstein’s wife were ignored by mainstream scholarship.

The Philippine police has released some statistics confirming the extensive reach of the government’s “war on drugs.”

Dubbed as “Project Double Barrel Alpha,” the anti-drug campaign is a top priority of the administration of President Rodrigo Duterte, who assumed power last July 1.

Could this mean more deaths, arrests, police visits, and extrajudicial killings until 2022? Fighting illegal drugs and criminality deserves public support but how can the people approve the killing of innocent children? How can justice prevail if impunity involving state forces is elevated as a de facto doctrine of the government?

Read more at The Diplomat

Impunity and Death Under a Duterte Presidency

In less than six months after becoming president, the Philippines’ Rodrigo Duterte has gained global notoriety for launching a bloody ‘war on drugs’. But actually, and frighteningly for Filipinos, this is only one facet of Duterte’s blatant disregard for human rights.

But as things stand today, Duterte’s reformist outlook is overshadowed by his brutal rejection of human rights concerns under his administration. The specter of death has become an everyday reality for ordinary Filipinos targeted by the ill-conceived ‘war on drugs’. Many activists and rural villagers continue to be accused of being communist sympathizers, political prisoners are held hostage by a government that refuses to correct the injustices of the past, and the president himself threatens to undermine the civil liberties of the people in order to achieve total victory in the so-called ‘war on drugs’.

Excerpt of my contributed piece to the magazine edition of The Diplomat

Several governments and political parties in Southeast Asia have raised the issue of foreign intervention this year.

In Malaysia, the police are probing some non-governmental organizations (NGOs) for receiving funds from a foundation owned by American businessman George Soros allegedly in order to topple the ruling party which has been in power since the 1950s. Meanwhile, leaders of Cambodia, Thailand, and the Philippines have accused the European Union and the United States of hypocritically using human rights issues to justify foreign intervention. And in Myanmar, radical Buddhist monks denounced the role of the United Nations and former U.N. secretary-general Kofi Annan in addressing the Rohingya refugee crisis which they insist should remain a domestic matter.

In summary, while it is generally appropriate and relevant to repel the interventionist policy of global superpowers, it is equally rational to be critical every time corrupt and tyrannical leaders raise the specter of real and imagined foreign interventions in their countries.

Read more at The Diplomat

2016 is the year of the Mindanaon

February 10th, 2017

Published by Bulatlat

President Rodrigo Duterte is the man of the year; but this is not his year, this is the year of the Mindanaon.

Duterte is the Mindanaon who made history when he became president of the Philippines. This alone is enough to recognize Duterte’s enormous impact in the local political landscape.

But beyond the Duterte persona, it is more important to highlight the potentially radical symbolism of his victory. A Mindanaon politician disrupting the electoral plans of Manila-based political parties, an outsider dominating the political center, an elected president who flaunts his friendly ties with Muslim and communist rebels.

Lest we attribute Duterte’s victory to his frequent headline-grabbing outbursts, it is useful to understand how the so-called Davao’s ‘Dirty Harry’ came to embody the aspirations of ordinary Filipinos.

Duterte is part of Mindanao’s ruling elite but he was seen by many as a non-traditional leader who is determined to challenge the oppressive status quo. Duterte, the politician, articulated what people wanted to hear during the campaign period. But this could only become effective if there’s a popular resentment against the mainstream political system.

Duterte’s rise to power was made possible because the people overwhelmingly rejected the corruption, incompetence, and criminal rottenness of big political parties. Through Duterte, many voters felt they could finally beat the trapos and landlords in government.

But the people’s resistance didn’t end in the voting centers. Again, it was another Mindanaon who personified the struggle for meaningful change in society. This Mindanaon is the Lumad.

Displaced by development aggression, they chose to fight rather than surrender to the tyranny of transnational beasts and paramilitary thugs.

If the narrative of the Lumad campaign is familiar, it is because it reflects the history of Mindanao and the Mindanaon people. How the violence of a colonial army and the greed of corporations plaguing the land inspired the gallant resistance of the native population.

The Lumad today are rightfully acknowledged as the Mindanaons who are asserting their independence and defending their heritage.

For example, rather than passively waiting for Duterte’s goodwill, the Lumad embarked on a militant protest caravan (Lakbayan) from Mindanao to Manila in order to present their legitimate demands to the national government.

This defiant political stance has become a sterling example of the people’s heroic struggle for national democracy. If in the past, indigenous people are pitied because of their marginalization, today they are recognized as brave warriors resisting subjugation.

Supporting the Lumad struggle is the revolutionary New People’s Army. If news reports are accurate, it seems the NPA has a solid base in Mindanao. And this army composed mainly of landless peasants has thrived in recent months and in the past year despite the deployment of supersized battalions in several regions of Mindanao.

The NPA has a nationwide presence but it is in Mindanao where its strength is most apparent. In the eyes of the exploiting classes, this is a troubling indicator of political instability. But the oppressed appreciate the growing strength of the NPA because it means liberation is near. And while total victory is not yet imminent, at least an army exists whose raison d’être is the defense of the weak against plunderers, despotic landlords, and hired goons.

The spirit of resistance is alive in Mindanao. The historic struggle for lasting peace, genuine prosperity, and people empowerment continues in the hills and valleys of Mindanao.

What a rare historic moment and opportunity that while the liberation movement is gaining ground, a Mindanaon is at the helm of the Manila government.

Will Duterte deliver deadly blows to the corrupt system dominated by a few families and subservient to the dictates of foreigners? Will he honor the legacy of the Mindanaon, the fighting subaltern?

Sometimes we see glimpses of this outstanding Mindanaon. This is Duterte threatening large-scale miners, drug lord protectors in the military and police, and rapacious oligarchs. Like a true Mindanaon, Duterte understood the necessity of talking peace and initiating reforms as a basis to achieve peace based on justice. Perhaps as a Mindanaon, Duterte felt it is relevant to identify and correct historical injustices. This attitude is evident in his repeated assertion to pursue an independent foreign policy which he premised on the need to end the country’s unequal relationship with the United States.

But there is another side of Duterte which does not reflect the long-term interest of the Mindanaon. This is Duterte disregarding the plea of human rights groups to rethink the bloody ‘war on drugs’. The politician Duterte endorsed the hero’s burial of the late dictator Ferdinand Marcos. And despite his posturing as a socialist, he has not repudiated the anti-poor economic policies of his predecessors.

Will the Mindanaon president succumb to the seductive appeal of Imperial Manila? Or will he remember the progressive heritage of being a Mindanaon, the Mindanaon who battles colonizers and imperialists? Will he join forces with the Lumad in expelling the evil miners and foreign plantation owners? Will he make peace with the NPA by implementing land reform and addressing the socio-economic needs of the people?

Duterte made history this year by becoming president. But the future of Mindanao, the future of this country, will not be decided by him. It is the struggle of the people, the Lumad, and the revolutionary forces which illumines the way to a brighter future. Duterte, the Mindanaon, has to choose whether he wants to preserve the present which his politician friends prefer or he can side with the people in building a society where genuine freedom, democracy, and justice reign supreme.

Published by the official student publication of Isabela State University in 2015

Nasaan ba ang Mamasapano? Sa Maguindanao, pero saan yun sa mapa? Kaya ang unang gagawin sa smartphone o laptop, hanapin ang lugar ng engkwentro. Magsaliksik ukol sa Tukanalipao. Magbasa ng balita tungkol sa mga komunidad na apektado ng kaguluhan. May mga paaralan bang ginawang evacuation center? Ano ang nangyari sa mga barangay sa Mamasapano pagkatapos ng trahedya noong Enero 25?

At dahil impormasyon ang hanap natin, i-download ang ulat ng Board of Inquiry ng Philippine National Police at opisyal na rekomendasyon ng Senado. Isa-isahin ang mga kongklusyon ng dalawang ulat. Alamin kung bakit may mabigat na responsibilidad si Pangulong Noynoy Aquino.

Para balanse, balikan ang mga talumpati ng pangulo hinggil sa isyu. Ang teksto ng mga ito ay mababasa sa gov.ph. Huwag magtaka kung iba-iba ang sinasabi ng pangulo sa kanyang mga pahayag. Minsan si Purisima ang may sala, minsan si Napenas, pero kailanman hindi tinukoy ang sariling responsibilidad at maging papel ng mga sundalong Amerikano.

Higit na lalabo ang mga pangyayari kung isasama ang palitan ng text ni Aquino at Purisima. Ano ba talaga ang totoo? Ang hindi maikakaila, tuwirang nakipag-usap si Aquino kay Purisima, isang suspendidong heneral. Ilegal ito at malinaw na paglabag sa chain of command.

Bago tuluyang mawalan ng interes sa Mamasapano dahil hindi na masikmura ang mga kasinungalingan, maglaan ng panahon upang alamin ang kalagayan ng mga bakwit sa Maguindanao at iba pang lugar sa Mindanao. Kahit napatay na si Marwan, nagpapatuloy ang kaguluhan sa probinsiya. May de facto all-out war na pinasiklab ng pamahalaan. Ayon sa mga ulat, mahigit 120,000 residente ang lumikas na ng kanilang mga tahanan dahil sa gera.

Bakit ba may gera?

Kaugnay ng tanong na ito, bakit ba nag-aaklas ang mga Moro? Dakila ang kanilang pagtanggol ng kanilang lupain at kultura mula pa noong panahon ng mga dayuhang kolonyalista. At hindi natapos ang sigalot kahit lumaya na ang Pilipinas. Nagpatuloy ang kahirapan, kawalan ng katarungan, at pang-aapi sa Mindanao. Kung tutuusin, kahirapan at hindi ang kinakatawan ng mga tulad ni Marwan ang orihinal na terorismo sa isla. Para matapos ang gera, dapat mawala din ang sistematikong pang-aabuso sa mga Moro.

Sa isang banda ay tinutugunan na ito ng nagpapatuloy na usapang pangkapayapaan sa pagitan ng pamahalaan at Moro Islamic Liberation Front. Pero dapat ang kapayapaan ay nakabatay sa katarungang panlipunan. Kaya pagkatapos balikan ang kasaysayan ng Moro, isunod ang pagrebyu sa mga dokumento na may kinalaman sa ARMM at Bangsamoro Basic Law. Solusyon ba ng BBL o lilikha lamang ito ng panibagong kaguluhan?

Pag-isipang mabuti kung bakit interesado ang Amerika sa usapang pangkapayapaan. Pero huwag palampasin ang naging susing papel nito sa naganap na trahedya sa Mamasapano. Dapat maging kritikal na tayo sa lumalawak na pakikialam o panghihimasok ng Amerika sa mga usaping lokal. Nangyayari ito kasi may mga kasunduang nagpapahintulot nito tulad ng Visiting Forces Agreement at Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement. Kailangang ibasura na ang mga dokumentong ito o kaya sa minimum ay rebyuhin ng pamahalaan.

Sana hindi matapos sa indibidwal na pagbabasa ang pakikisangkot natin sa usaping ito. Pagkatapos matutunan ang mahabang pakikibaka ng Moro, at pagkatapos maunawaan ang sinapit ng mga nagdaan at kasalukuyang negosasyon para sa kapayapaan, sikaping ibahagi sa iba ang impormasyong nakalap natin. Mag-organisa ng mga talakayan, porum, debate, at mga aksiyong pangkampus bilang pagpapakita ng ating suporta sa adyendang pangkapayapaan.

Tunay at pangmatagalang kapayapaan

Idagdag natin ang ating boses sa panawagang ilabas ang katotohanan. Nasaan ang pananagutan? Katarungan? Dapat ituloy ang pagdinig sa Kongreso dahil may mga detalyeng kailangang isiwalat tulad ng naging papel ng Amerika sa operasyon.

Maghanap ng mga lider Moro sa loob at labas ng ating mga komunidad at sila’y kausapin hinggil sa kanilang pagtingin sa isyu. Kapag may pagkakataon, makipamuhay sa mga komunidad na Moro. Malakas ang kontra-Moro na kamalayan sa maraming Pilipino at mabisa itong mababasag kung personal nating uunawain ang buhay at kulturang Moro.

Makipag-ugnayan sa ibang paaralan, tumulay sa mga grupong kabataan tulad ng Youth Act Now, at sama-samang magplano kung paano ba palalawakin ang hanay ng mamamayang sumisigaw para sa kapayapaan, katotohanan, katarungan, at pananagutan.

Maraming paraan at pamamaraan kung paano ito itatambol sa ating rehiyon at maging sa pambansang lebel. Pwede sa tri-media, nariyan din ang Internet, pwede rin naman ipadaan sa tulong ng lokal na pamahalaan, at mga institusyong pangsimbahan. Kabigin ang suporta ng karaniwang mamamayan. Ipaliwanag sa kanila kung bakit ang trahedya sa Mamasapano ay pambansang usapin o kung ano ang kahulugan nito sa ating pagpapalakas ng demokrasya, kapayapaan, at katarungan sa bansa.

Kahit malayo ang Mamasapano, hindi mahirap intindihin ang maraming usaping nakadikit dito. Kahirapan? Kawalan ng lupa? Korupsiyon? Bagsak na kabuhayan? Militarisasyon? Hindi ba’t mga maiinit na usapin din ito sa Luzon? Kaya ngayong panahon ng tag-init, tumungo tayo sa mga komunidad at sumabak sa laban ng maralita, pesante, at karaniwang mamamayan.

Huwag na sanang maulit ang trahedya sa Mamasapano. At huwag na nating hintyain na pumutok ang bagong Mamasapano, sa Mindanao man o sa Luzon.

Paano isusulong ang kapayapaan sa bansa? Simulan natin sa ating mga komunidad. Ito ang ating munting ambag upang ang sakripisyo ng maraming Pilipinong nagbuwis ng buhay para sa kapayapaan at pagbabago, noon hanggang ngayon, ay hindi mawalan ng saysay.

Twenty-five years have passed since the signing of the Paris Peace Agreement, which ended the war in Cambodia and paved the way for the restoration of democratic institutions in the country. How has Cambodia fared so far?

Various groups, including some of the 18 parties that signed the agreement, commemorated the anniversary last October to highlight the most pressing political issues that continue to beleaguer the country.

There is consensus about the relevance of the agreement and its historic role in establishing the country’s constitution and the subsequent holding of elections in 1993. But critics bewail the failure of the Hun Sen government, which has been in power for three decades already, to implement the substantial provisions of the agreement, which would have strengthened democratic rule in the country.

Read more at The Diplomat

Thailand’s Draconian Cyber Law Sparks Rights Fears

Thailand’s parliament has unanimously approved the bill amending the 2007 Computer Crimes Act, raising fears that it will lead to greater censorship and an Internet crackdown.

The amended law was approved by a parliament whose members were appointed by the military, which grabbed power in a coup in May 2014.

Thailand’s government has argued in the past that revising the law is necessary to combat cyber crimes, but it dismissed the petition of human rights groups and the media sector to remove the law’s draconian provisions. The parliament unanimously passed the amendments despite the submission of an online petition with more than 370,000 signatures urging the government to consider the critique of various stakeholders about the proposed legislation.

Read more at The Diplomat

Published by Bulatlat

The untold first mission of many activists does not involve the smashing of the bourgeois state or the ‘bombarding of the headquarters’ of the repressive government; their first instinct is to go home and confess their political conversion to their parents or guardians.

It is a delicate and difficult duty. Delicate because parents could easily misunderstand the youthful idealism of their children as naivete. Difficult because activists do not want to be a burden to their families. How will the parents react?

The new recruit may feel confident about his early exposure to radical discourse but he knows it isn’t enough to win the support of his parents. Jargons won’t impress parents who fear for the safety of their children.

The activist has to speak like a child without sounding childish, he needs to assert his autonomy without alienating the family, he hopes to remain calm and rational as he passionately plead for understanding.

But can he deliver the right words without becoming preachy, arrogant, and dogmatic?

There are so many new exotic words to use or brag but are they effective? How best to argue that she is rebelling against society and not against her dear parents, that she is proud of her family, that she is grateful for her upbringing, and that she is happy.

Can she explain the contradiction in her decision to renounce the decadence of the status quo while preserving meaningful ties with her traditional family?

How lucky the few activists who get the opportunity to talk candidly about their peculiar life choices with their families. Because for many activists, they simply couldn’t speak properly and bravely in front of their parents, the original authority figures in their lives.

All these unexpressed sentiments could linger and haunt the family for years until it only becomes an unspoken hurt between the parent and child activist. How ironic and depressing that the articulate activist has many names for the old and new world yet he has little or nothing to say at all in front of his parents

Perhaps she is overwhelmed with guilt. She feels she has betrayed a sacred bond when she chose to prioritize the collective or commune over the family. After all, her parents have sacrificed their own dreams and endured numerous pains in life so that she can succeed in the world, yet she unequivocally speaks of changing it. She mentions the struggle to build a better society when all her parents wanted was for society to recognize their child.

How sudden and strange the transformation of the child who shouts slogans like ‘learn from the masses” (how about learning from mothers?) and ‘serve the people’ (did she forget how to serve the parents first?). The child they shielded from violence is calling for a revolutionary war. The mild-mannered teenager has become a street agitator.

But while the activist is dealing with and overthinking his guilt, his parents continued to behave and act as, well, parents. The much-desired consent was not explicitly given but who needs it when the parents never disavowed their prodigal son. They silently acknowledged his activism and made sure the family will stay intact.

After some time, the reluctant sympathizers of the mass movement would become staunch supporters of the Cause. Their home, a shelter for activists in trouble. Their resources are shared with the collective. They became instant parents and counselors to many progressives.

How does the child activist repay the kindness and generosity of her parents? By proving that the decision to pursue activism is also a tribute to all fathers and mothers who wanted only the best for their children.

Like their parents, activists work hard so that no children will suffer from preventable miseries. They devote the best years of their lives battling injustice and oppression. Isn’t this commitment similar to the heroic sacrifice of parents?

Activists become activists not because they feel resentment against their parents; on the contrary, they embraced activism also in honor of their parents.

Perhaps the activist sees his parents while in the company of farmers, workers, and the toiling masses in the grassroots. He seeks the empowerment of the oppressed in the same way he yearns to promote the welfare of his now aging parents.

Activists rarely mention their parents when they are engaged in political work. But it doesn’t mean they think less about them. Behind every grim and determined looking activist is most likely a child thankful that his parents have trusted him with the freedom to choose the activist way of life. An activist who evaluates his self not only in relation to his work as a full time political organizer and proletarian cadre but also whether he continues to live up to the expectations of his beloved parents.

Published by Fair Observer

How has Rodrigo Duterte fared as president of the Philippines 100 days after taking office?

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte is hitting headlines for all the wrong reasons. He has threatened to pull the Philippines out of the United Nations (UN); he has ridiculed diplomats; he is unapologetic for making rape jokes; and the most serious case against him is his alleged involvement in the spate of drug-related extrajudicial killings across the country.

Yet this seemingly madman on the loose is also the same statesman who has brokered a landmark peace initiative with communist rebels barely two months after assuming the presidency. In fact, Duterte has already achieved what his predecessors in the past 30 years have failed or refused to do: Draft an indefinite ceasefire agreement with the group behind Asia’s longest-running insurgency.

So, how do we make sense of Duterte’s contradictory priorities? Is he a ruthless killer of petty drug lords who is intent on hiding his misdeeds by presenting himself as a peacemaker? Or is he a sincere reformer whose commitment to upholding peace and prosperity for the benefit of all is overshadowed by the vicious “war on drugs”?

Dirty Harry from Davao

Duterte was mayor of Davao City for three decades before becoming a prominent national figure in 2015 when he ran for president. He claims to have made Davao a safer city for both residents and investors by fighting crime and corruption. His tough methods against criminal suspects earned him both praise and criticism. He was called “Dirty Harry” and “The Punisher” by the media, while some human rights advocates tagged him as the real brains behind the notorious vigilante group known as Davao Death Squad.

Due to his anti-crime advocacy, various groups in the capital Manila urged him to run for president. The clamor snowballed into a popular grassroots movement, which led to his electoral victory in May 2016.

Duterte’s win was phenomenal. The political and cultural significance of his rise to power is quite similar to the victory of US President Barack Obama in 2008.

The new leader of the Philippines defeated the administration candidate and other politicians with bigger political machineries and resources. Duterte became the first president from Mindanao, an impoverished island that symbolizes the oppression of Muslims and other minorities by the Manila-based elite.

During the campaign, Duterte condemned the oligarchs for perpetuating poverty, and he mocked the ineffective and corrupt leadership of traditional politicians.

His populist messaging worked because he was seen as an underdog candidate, an outsider challenging the status quo, a man of the masses, and a simple mayor from a city in the remote region of Mindanao. Other candidates also promised change, but Duterte’s nonconformist brand of leadership proved to be more popular and credible.

His principal campaign tactic was to focus on his crusade against organized crime—in particular, his plan to wipe out drug syndicates. Duterte vowed to accomplish this in three to six months. He warned that it would be a brutal war against the drug protectors, financiers and their well-entrenched operators on the ground.

There were those who thought Duterte was simply making a sensational remark to attract more votes. It may be true, but as things stand today, it seems the president is hell-bent on fulfilling his bloody promise.

Extrajudicial Killings

The killings started a few days after the May election. Suspected drug peddlers were found dead almost daily in the streets—their bodies covered with piece of cardboard containing a message that implored the public to reject illegal drugs. Some believe the killings were the handiwork of dirty cops who wanted to silence potential witnesses who might expose their links to drug cartels. Others think the police were sending a message of support to the incoming president’s plan to launch an all-out war on illegal drugs.

After Duterte became president on June 30, the killings intensified. Some of the killings were attributed to the police and vigilante groups. In other cases, the police reasoned that criminal gangs could be involved due to their attempts to liquidate rivals. But the majority of killings involved suspected drug mules and pushers who were killed after violently resisting arrest or while under police custody.

Duterte blamed drug lords for the rampant killings. He praised the police for the vigorous campaign to eliminate the scourge of illegal drugs in communities. He released a list of politicians, judges and police generals who have suspected ties to drug lords.

Only two months after the inauguration of the new government, almost 2,000 suspected drug operators had been were killed by the police. The number of dead bodies continues to rise every day. Disturbingly, the majority of dead drug pushers were from urban poor barangays (villages).

The human rights community was quick to denounce the extrajudicial killings, which have mainly victimized the poor and powerless. Lawyers pressed for the respect of due process. Some senators voiced alarm over the sudden rise of drug-related deaths. Activists reminded Duterte about the futility of the militarist approach in solving the drug menace if the people’s socioeconomic needs are not addressed.

But President Duterte and the police are relentless as they refuse to acknowledge the traumatic and terroristic impact of their violent anti-drug campaign in poor communities.

Duterte: The Trump of the Philippines

Aside from his uncompromising stance, Duterte has hit back at critics whom he maliciously accused of being supporters of drug lords and criminals. He has insulted opposition lawmakers and mocked the work of human rights groups, and he has threatened to declare martial law if the Supreme Court challenges his anti-drug campaign.

When UN agencies issued a statement of concern about the extrajudicial killings, Duterte retorted that the United Nations is “inutile” in solving conflicts across the world. He cursed at diplomats, telling them to stop interfering in Philippine affairs.

Duterte has been compared to US presidential candidate Donald Trump because of his politically incorrect and provocative remarks that undermine the international rule of law.

The comparison, which was detailed in an article at Fair Observer, is not apt and accurate. Duterte has been wrongly depicted as another crazy upstart Third World dictator who resembles the rise of Trump and Trump-like leaders in politics. The global media’s fascination over Duterte’s perceived similarities to Trump is a disservice to those who genuinely seek to persuade the Filipino leader to abandon his ill-conceived “war on drugs.”

Indeed, both Duterte and Trump use foul language to intimidate the public and their enemies, and both are guilty of offending women and the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community. But their personal and political backgrounds are totally different.

Duterte has served his country as a lawyer and civil servant for more than three decades. He is not a billionaire; he is not part of the mainstream elite; he has good relations with the Muslim community; and he claims to be a leftist and a socialist who intends to smash the rule of oligarchs.

Trump is merely a candidate who spreads fear by making nasty comments, while Duterte is already at the helm of the government. Trump is a recent spectacle, while Duterte has been displaying his uncouth manners as a well-seasoned politician—he could a better leader than Trump because of his consistently good record as a local chief executive.

Legacy of Peace

Duterte’s pledge to promote peace in the land, for example, has often been overlooked. While he continues to be pilloried in the press for the violent unfolding of his “war on drugs,” his government negotiators have quietly but successfully initiated a ceasefire agreement with the communist-led National Democratic Front (NDF)—so much so that Muslim separatists have been convinced to go back to the negotiating table.

Instead of launching a total war against rebels, he has placed more emphasis on peace negotiations. He released a number of political prisoners, which led to the resumption of stalled peace talks between the government and the NDF.

On August 26, the two sides agreed to “implement a unilateral ceasefire for an indefinite period.” Both parties say they are now drafting a comprehensive peace agreement, which they hope to sign and implement in the next 12 months. If the peace treaty is signed, it would be similar to the historic agreement between the Colombian government and FARC rebels.

The announcement of an indefinite ceasefire today is already a welcome development. If implemented properly, the ceasefire can provide immediate relief to militarized communities.

The Maoist-inspired New People’s Army, which has been fighting the Philippine government since 1969, operates in more than 70 provinces. A ceasefire in hostilities between the New People’s Army and government troops is a goodwill measure, which can instantly benefit residents in conflict areas. This is also a good opportunity to peacefully address the roots of the armed conflict such as landlessness, development aggression and systemic corruption.

That Duterte succeeded in negotiating a ceasefire is proof not only of his decisive leadership, but also his commitment to improve the lives of Filipinos. Unlike his predecessors who simply wanted to crush the rebels with military might, President Duterte understood that the insurgency can never be defeated as long as extreme poverty continues to stalk the land. That is why he opted to talk peace with the rebels, hoping that it would lead to the resolution of the armed conflict.

Duterte’s One True ‘War’

The peace talks are also a proper venue to discuss the necessary social and economic reforms that can uplift the lives of the poor.

Raising the quality of living in the Philippines, especially in rural regions, is the best alternative to the current framework of the government’s “war on drugs.” The best incentive for the poor to reject the quick money schemes offered by the illicit drug trade is to provide them with stable jobs, livelihood and adequate social services.

Duterte risks the loss of popular support to his government if the anti-drug campaign is not overhauled. His allies in the peace movement are, in fact, upset over the unabated extrajudicial killings. Communists have denounced the president’s war on drugs as anti-poor and anti-people. Activists are wary because the killings could be used as a precedent to stifle dissent in the future.

President Duterte’s laudable peace efforts will be meaningless if impunity is not ended and human rights abuses continue to worsen. He can fight drugs and lay the groundwork for peace at the same time without curtailing rights. If he can reason with rebels, he should also be more aggressive in mobilizing the public to his campaign against drug consumption and pushing.

The war against poverty is the true war that Duterte needs to prioritize in order to successfully combat illegal drugs in the Philippines. This is the best path to achieve a just and lasting peace.