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.

Despite the landslide victory of Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte’s party in the 2019 midterm elections, he still faces several serious challenges that could potentially undermine his government in 2020. The Southeast Asian country next holds general elections in 2022.

Duterte’s strong showing in midterm elections last year, following the presidential election victory that propelled him to power in 2016, reinforced the reality that he remains popular in the Philippines. But those victories also may have obscured the challenges he faces and will likely continue to face in his remaining years in office.

Leading those challenges are allegations of corruption and human rights abuses. For instance, most prominently, Duterte stands accused of abetting crimes against humanity through his aggressive “war against drugs,” which has killed more than 5,000 drug suspects. Human rights groups say Duterte’s security forces made arbitrary arrests and engaged in extrajudicial killings that primarily targeted the poor.

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Has Duterte Really Played His Last Peace Card With the Communist Rebels?

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte contradicted himself again by declaring that he is open to resuming peace talks with communist rebels.

After assuming power in 2016, Duterte started talks with the National Democratic Front (NDF), which has been waging Asia’s longest-running communist insurgency. But he terminated the talks in 2017, ordered the arrest of NDF peace negotiators, and launched an all-out war against rebels.

His Martial Law declaration in Mindanao was aimed at defeating communist-led armed groups on the island. He declared a state of lawlessness in several regions such as Negros, Samar, and Bicol which led to the deployment of more government troops in an apparent mission to liquidate insurgency hotspots.

Duterte formed a national task force to end the local armed conflict. He mobilized the bureaucracy and local government units to reject communists and their sympathizers. He was joined by the military in redtagging groups accused of directly and indirectly supporting communists. He asked foreign institutions to include the Communist Party in the list of terrorist groups.

Duterte may have his own partisan reasons for restarting the talks but peace advocates must not lose focus in advancing their own demands. These include the easing of military operations in communities, the release of activists accused of being communist rebels, and pursuing accountability for the human rights abuses committed by state forces in the past three years. This is also the right time to remind both the NDF and the government to address the roots of the armed conflict and come out with a real blueprint in bringing just peace and progress in all the regions of the country

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