Mong Palatino

blogging about the philippine left and southeast asian politics since 2004


@mongster is a manila-based activist, former philippine legislator, and blogger/analyst of asia-pacific affairs.

For the third time since 2016, the Philippine government has relaunched the controversial anti-drug campaign, known locally as Oplan Tokhang, amid continuing concern that the police-led operations have led to massive human rights abuses.

Tokhang has long been a top priority of President Rodrigo Duterte, who vowed to eradicate illegal drugs in three to six months after his rise to power in 2016.

But soon after it began, Tokhang was unsurprisingly blamed for the spate of extrajudicial killings in urban poor communities, with the police claiming that they were only forced to retaliate because suspected drug operators and peddlers were resisting arrests.

But the relaunch of Tokhang, despite its notorious record, could be less about enhancing the image of the police than a political tool intended to revive panic among the poor and discourage the rest of the population to challenge the president who has already stated his intention to amend the 1987 Constitution this year, a divisive move that could spark a political crisis as the ruling party attempts to further consolidate its power.

Read more at The Diplomat

What’s Next for the Philippines as Duterte Ends Communist Peace Talks?

This week, Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte signed a proclamation terminating the peace process with the communist-led National Democratic Front (NDF). Though it is still too early to determine exactly what this means for one of Asia’s longest insurgencies, the development bears careful watching in the context of the Duterte administration’s evolving governance of the Philippines.

Though there have been previous pronouncements which have simply suspended peace talks, Duterte’s proclamation signed on November 23 is different because it formally closes the door for now to the resumption of negotiations. In that sense, it represents an end to the peace process for the first time since 1999, when former President Joseph Estrada issued a similar directive and launched an all-out war campaign against communist rebels belonging to the New People’s Army (NPA).

Beyond all this, what really worries many people in the Philippines is the repeated pronouncements of Duterte and his rabid supporters about the establishment of a so-called revolutionary government to solve the country’s problems. Some believe it is being peddled to implement Duterte’s vision of turning the Philippines into a federal state. But there is also the highly probable scenario of Duterte establishing a dictatorship similar to what Marcos did in the past. Seen from this perspective, the conflict with the NPA is something that any authoritarian leader would want to escalate to push the country nearer to a total war scenario and compel the use of extralegal powers of the state.

Read more at The Diplomat

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