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.

Published by Bayan Metro Manila

We are asking utility companies to waive the collection of bills from customers whose lives have been disrupted by the COVID-19 pandemic.

The enhanced community quarantine has prevented many from going out to work and earn a living. The hardest hit are those who belong to the informal sector. Minimum wage workers either lost their jobs or forced to work with reduced hours and income opportunities. Small and micro businesses have been gravely affected as well.

We welcome the announcement of some utility companies to extend the deadline for the payment of bills. But it does little to ease the financial woes of consumers since they still have to pay despite losing their jobs and means of earning a living.

Instead of merely postponing the due date for bills, we ask utility companies not to charge their customers for the month of March.
Instead of granting a mere grace period for the settlement of bills, we ask that the collection be waived altogether.

We are living in a state of calamity whose end is uncertain. We are under a public health emergency which has forced millions to stay at home, use their meager savings to survive, and avail of the government’s limited assistance.

A zero bill from telcos, power, and water firms will greatly reduce the financial burden of consumers. They can use the money to rebuild their livelihoods, find new work, and attend to the health and welfare of their families.
Cancelling the bill will not lead to waste and errant lifestyle since the ‘free service’ has been consumed already.

The COVID-19 outbreak was an unexpected crisis that demanded sacrifice from everybody. We were told to stay at home and comply with other restrictions as part of our civic duty to protect the health and safety of the community. We ask utility companies to do their share by adjusting their profit targets for the year. Waive the collection of bills as their corporate social responsibility pledge. An act of ‘human compassion’ during a difficult time in our lives.

We ask the government to fulfill its promise of lending support to the public by offering incentives to utility companies which will heed our appeal for the non-collection of bills.
We can’t beat COVID-19 together if many are left behind in communities under lockdown struggling to eke a living to pay debts, bills, and other living expenses.

Our appeal to utility companies: Let’s heal together by fighting as one. Lend a helping hand to consumers by charging zero this month.

Written for The Diplomat

When the Philippine government’s solicitor general filed a petition asking the Supreme Court to forfeit the franchise of ABS-CBN, the country’s leading broadcaster, the development attracted international headlines. As it should: While Duterte’s efforts to undermine press freedom are longstanding, this is the most serious threat to press freedom since he took up the presidency in 2016.

If the Duterte government succeeds in closing down ABS-CBN, there are fears that it could set a dangerous precedent that can be applied against other critical media networks. Duterte could also threaten smaller media networks to toe the line or else suffer the same fate as the seemingly invincible TV giant.

Duterte’s supporters are trying to link the ABS-CBN case with the president’s earlier statement denouncing the greed of oligarchs. ABS-CBN is owned by a family with extensive business holdings. While Lopez family members do not directly engage in electoral politics, many of their businesses depend on government contracts.

But that should not detract from the fact that the attempt to intimidate or silence ABS-CBN is clearly a partisan ploy to bully the press into submission. There may be valid issues that ABS-CBN needs to address, like its dispute with contractual workers, but it cannot be denied that the government is exploiting the franchise expiration for political reasons.

Most of all, Duterte should not forget that the role of the media is intertwined with the Philippines’ history of popular protest, and that an effort to undermine it may dent his popularity and eventually even lead to his demise. For instance, the massive protests against the very popular former President Joseph Estrada were triggered by his order to remove government ads to a major newspaper in 1999, with the order decried as an attack on the press and civil liberties. History may not repeat itself exactly this time under Duterte, but the president and his administration must understand that they are playing with fire.

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The Fall of the Estradas in the Philippines

Written for The Diplomat

The topline takeaway from the Philippine midterm elections in May was that the coalition endorsed by Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte dominated the Senate race and the local elections. But there were also allies of the president who lost badly in the polls. Perhaps the most prominent political family that surprisingly failed to get an elected position this year is the Estradas of Manila and San Juan. Their electoral defeat was a notable development within the legacy of Philippine dynastic politics.

Most prominently, Manila Mayor and former President Joseph Estrada lost in his re-election bid despite wide name recognition and demonstrated staying power in Philippine politics. In addition, his two sons were unable to clinch their own Senate seats. Estrada’s granddaughter was defeated in San Juan, which marked the first time that the Estrada clan has lost control of the city since 1967.

At this juncture, the Estrada family needs to reflect on its legacy in power. Mayor Estrada promised to revive the glory of Manila in 2013 but he didn’t abandon his traditional concept of governance, which disappointed many of his constituents. His two sons ran for senate seats at the same time, which divided their base and prevented either from getting enough votes. They allowed an inexperienced member of their family to face an old rival in San Juan, which cost them their longtime political base.

Whether or not Duterte’s camp engaged in a power play to slay the mass appeal of the Estradas, the consequence of the electoral loss of the latter is the boosting of the influence and dominance of the Dutertes in local and national politics. In just three years, the Davao-based Dutertes have quickly gained a foothold in the erstwhile fiefdoms of well-entrenched Manila dynasties.

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Are we there yet, kasama?

July 6th, 2020

Published by Bulatlat

Not today. But within our lifetime.

Malacañang Palace is still in the hands of corrupt tyrants but organs of political power are being established in guerrilla zones across the country.

Landlords and big business tycoons continue to hoard more wealth and influence but farmers and workers are not giving up the fight.

Our precious resources and heritage are being plundered but the indigenous peoples, our climate warriors, are not only resilient but also resolute in continuing the resistance.

The struggle has persisted for so long and this has demoralized even some of those who braved the frontlines in the past. But the protracted war has also hardened the resolve not only of its combatants but also those who support the liberation of our country.

Some may look back into the past half-century as a period of defeats and blunders but what we saw was the re-emergence of a political movement capable of continuing the unfinished tasks of the Philippine revolution.

The Left has been replenishing its ranks as it continues to re-energize its fighting capacity. Summing-up meetings, rectification campaigns, leadership in various local movements, working with grassroots formations, and the justness of what it represents are what make the Left not only relevant but even unbeatable.

Only defenders of the status quo will dismiss the future of the national democratic struggle. They are joined by those who denigrate the political legacy of the NatDem Left while misrepresenting themselves in the academe and international socialist formations as democratic forces with popular and organic links in various communities.

This is a movement that survived the fascist Marcos dictatorship. It thrived even during the debacle of the Soviet bloc. It fought revisionism at home and abroad. It carried forward the struggle for true democracy even after it was painfully divided in the 1990s. It kept its ground while advancing the cause through its participation in the reactionary elections, negotiating peace with successive governments, and even sending some of its leaders in the Duterte Cabinet.

But it refused to surrender its revolutionary vision; and its decision to uphold, reaffirm, and defend the basic principles of the NatDem struggle has provoked the most brutal attacks from reactionary forces.

Indeed, it is an imperfect movement. But what political force can live up to our high standards of ethical and moral purity? At least the NatDem movement has institutionalized a rectification process to evaluate its political trajectory and make amends for its excesses. It is unfortunate that some of those who accuse the movement of being less democratic have no qualms in offering their selves to the perfectly democratic bourgeois order.

The Left is ridiculed for its failure to grab power and at the same time its assumed obsession to take over the state. It is criticized for its supposed dogmatic methods, obsolete narratives, and violent politics.

Yet, despite these ‘failings’, the NatDem Left remains the most formidable political force offering a real alternative to a system that produced the likes of Marcos, Arroyo, and Duterte.

And some of those who constantly criticize the Left have deliberately refused to acknowledge that other Leftist factions with alleged superior aims and means to win the revolution could only offer uncritical collaboration with the government, token bureaucratic lobbying for reforms, and grant-dependent labor organizing after many years if not decades of disparaging the NatDem struggle. Perhaps for them, this is already the viable model for the political Left. But as long as the NatDem alternative exists, their politics appears less than revolutionary. They could gloss this over by redirecting academic focus and public attention over the supposed ‘failures’ of the NatDem struggle.

While most political forces are already preparing for the 2022 elections, the NatDem Left is leading the all-out resistance against the tyrannical Duterte government. It is taking the hardest blows inflicted by fascist troops even as it is determined to build a united front that will mobilize the broadest number of people against the corrupt and murderous Duterte presidency.

The announcement of the revolutionary Left that it is increasing the number of younger cadres in positions of leadership signals its positive outlook for the future and the long road ahead. It is also an exemplary initiative that other political formations can adopt. It is a reminder of the demographic dynamics in the Left and the counterproductive rejection of an entire movement based solely on the reductionist thinking that the history of the Left ended during the boycott error in 1986.

Duterte chides the Left, ‘do you want to fight for another 50 years?’ He pokes fun at the Left’s failure to occupy barangays and threatens to wipe out all communists and their sympathizers. But he should know better that he has no hegemony in the Philippine archipelago and this is because belligerent forces like the armed Left are exercising political clout in remote parts of the country. The fact that the military has intensified operations in areas where guerrillas have a formidable presence betrays the government propaganda that the armed Left is no longer getting any public support.

If Duterte’s rhetoric is familiar, it is because it is often used by those who mock the decades-long struggle for national democracy. It appeals to the political citizen who wants instant results, immediate reforms, and measurable successes even if these do not lead to genuine social transformation. It panders to the impatient individual who is eager to take an exalted place in history rather than work diligently and even anonymously with the rest of the oppressed.

Duterte clones claim there is already protest fatigue. This is not only self-serving to the party in power, but it is also false because the exploited have nothing to lose if they keep on struggling for a different future. The Left’s primary source of support and inspiration is the fighting masses. Their conditions reflect the failure of the current system to end poverty, hunger, landlessness, and inequality which vindicate the need for a revolutionary struggle.

At a time when global neoliberalism is rousing more people to fight back and reconsider the socialist alternative, the undefeated and resilient Philippine struggle is offered as a pillar of hope. It has a clear understanding of what modern revisionism has done in the Soviet Union and post-Mao China. It can benefit from the experience of other national liberation movements which succeeded in asserting political independence but remained hostage to capitalist interest and corrupt party leadership. It has useful lessons to share with other progressive movements about how it maintained its political relevance, revolutionary credibility, organizational discipline, and fighting will after five decades of waging struggle in an archipelagic terrain.

The pioneers of the NatDem struggle have already passed the torch to their younger comrades. But some of them are still actively pursuing the political dream that fired up their commitment during their younger, hippie years. They have given us a working template on how to continue the struggle, and we are fortunate to inherit this legacy. This is the real triumph of the Philippine revolution: Continuing the unfinished struggle of 1896, reviving the national democratic movement in the 1960s, and making revolution work in the 21st century. Spreading hope and winning the fight from the countryside to the cities, from the barrios to the eskinitas, and even in the digital realm.

Are we there yet, kasama? Maybe not today. But definitely in this lifetime.

August 2019: News blackout and rising repression in Kashmir and West Papua. Read more

September 2019: September strikes: Climate actions, student protests, and landmark court rulings. Read more

October 2019: Protests condemn communications blackout, police violence, and government secrecy laws. Read more.

Published by Bayan Metro Manila

Bayan Metro Manila calls for the urgent release of political prisoners as a humane response to save lives and contain the spread of COVID-19.

The country’s jails are notorious for being congested which makes social and physical distancing difficult to implement.

The conditions in city jails have deteriorated over the years especially after the government intensified its ‘war on drugs’.

Many drug suspects and users, who are mostly from urban poor communities deprived of legal aid, are detained in overcrowded cells awaiting the disposition of their cases.

A virus outbreak in prisons could strain the resources of the government which is already scrambling to address the impact of COVID-19.

It is a health crisis waiting to explode if no immediate action is enforced.

There are specific proposals that the government can consider such as the mass release of prisoners who are elderly, sick, and pregnant; the early release of those who have almost served their prison sentences; and the release of political prisoners – also known as ‘prisoners of conscience’ or those who are incarcerated because of their political beliefs.

The United Nations has made a similar appeal to governments across the world. Some countries were even ahead of the UN in allowing the mass release of prisoners. Global human rights groups have appealed for the freedom of journalists and activists facing trumped up cases.

The Philippines have 602 political prisoners, 209 of them were arrested under the government of President Rodrigo Duterte. We call for their collective release not only because of the COVID-19 threat but also because of the unjust basis of their continuing detention.

We ask for the immediate release of Reina Nasino and Cora Agovida on humanitarian grounds. Both are currently detained at the female dorm of the Manila City Jail. Nasino is five months pregnant while Cora is a breastfeeding mother. Ina is a member of Kadamay Manila and Cora is the spokesperson of Gabriela Metro Manila – both are chapters of Bayan Metro Manila.

Cora and her husband, Michael Tan Bartolome, was arrested in front of their children on 31 October 2019 inside their home in Manila during a raid conducted by the CIDG. Michael is a Kadamay organizer. Both are facing illegal possession of firearms and expolosives charges, which are clearly based on fabricated evidence. Like many political prisoners, they were arrested for their activism. In the case of Cora and Michael, they were targeted because of their political organizing in Manila communities saturated by Tokhang operations. Cora was also active in opposing the reclamation of Manila Bay. In fact, she was planning a protest action with environmentalists a day before her arrest.

Ina and her two other companions – Alma Moran of Manila Workers Unity and Ram Carlo Bautista, campaign director of Bayan Manila – were arrested on 5 November during another early morning CIDG operation. Ina was a student activist before becoming an organizer of workers and urban poor communities in the Manila port area. Ina was arrested when the Bayan Manila office was raided by the police although her name is not included in the warrant of arrest presented by the arresting officer. During that time, Ina was not yet aware about her pregnancy.

The early release of Cora and Ina is not only just, it is humane. Cora has not seen her two children aged 10 and 2 after her arrest. After the cancellation of visiting privileges in response to COVID-19, Ina’s family and friends could not properly monitor her health and the status of her pregnancy.

Bayan Metro Manila also joins other peace advocates in calling for the release of National Democratic peace consultants. The declaration of unilateral ceasefire by the Duterte government and the NDF has revived the prospect of resuming the peace process. We ask both sides to continue the negotiation, fight COVID-19, and address the roots of the armed conflict and the poor state of the country’s healthcare system. Releasing political prisoners is an important step in building a peaceful future.

Published by Bulatlat

Inspired by the success of the broad people’s movement that ousted the corrupt presidency of Joseph Estrada in January 2001, many activists became more determined to campaign for the congressional bid of Bayan Muna partylist. Everybody was excited to volunteer and make history by sending three Leftist leaders to Congress. It may appear easy but there was no certainty during that time. The last time the Left fielded candidates in mainstream elections was in 1987, campaign resources were limited, and Rightist elements were maliciously campaigning against BM and its nominees. Despite the odds, BM topped the partylist race.

During the campaign period, we helped the BM national headquarters in reaching out to young voters by conducting various public education activities. My term as UP student council president has already ended and I was preparing to become a full-time activist as a leader of the National Union of Students of the Philippines.

Campaigning for BM provided us with direct knowledge and experience about managing a national election machinery. This was crucial in our decision to establish a youth partylist after the elections. More importantly, it taught us how to turn a progressive vision of politics into an electoral agenda without rejecting militant activism and compromising our basic principles.

As BM-Youth campaigners, we saw the election as an effective platform to broadcast our programs, organize young voters, and expand our presence in schools and communities. We formed new alliances, learned some of the intricacies of electoral tactics, and improved our way of communicating our messages to different types of voters.

This was before the arrival of fast internet and the ubiquitous use of social media. The only virtual type of mass campaigning was through the blasting of free SMS to friends, relatives, and acquaintances.

To be candid, we were not really sure whether we were going to succeed in converting our campaign activities into actual votes.

Years later, I discovered that I still have a copy of my political diary about our election campaign activities in 2001. Reviewing my notes rekindled fond memories of our road trip from Manila to Bicol with the legendary Ka Bel as our driver and tour guide. I am sharing this now so that readers can get a glimpse of the political landscape in 2001 and also our way of campaigning through the tried and tested tactic of directly engaging the most number of voters.

March 6 – Polytechnic University of the Philippines organized an assembly in support of alumnus Ka Satur Ocampo, the number one nominee of BM.

March 8 – Philippine Daily Inquirer published our letter to the editor about the situation of young people under the new government of President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo.

March 9 – I joined Crispin ‘Ka Bel’ Beltran, the chairman of Kilusang Mayo Uno, in Albay for a province-wide campaign caravan. We met barangay and municipal officials at his hometown in Bacacay. We attended a dinner meeting with Legazpi City officials.

March 10 – We went to Tabaco before meeting several LGU leaders of nearby municipalities. We had a lunch meeting with the mayor and other officials of Tiwi.

March 11 – Motorcade around Legazpi City. I delivered a solidarity message during the BM-Albay convention at St. Aquinas University.

March 15 – Picket in front of the Supreme Court asking for a special registration for first-time voters. BM filed a petition led by Atty. Neri Colmenares. We proceeded to Comelec where we joined workers who were also campaigning on the same issue.

March 17 – Press conference at Kapihan sa Cypress also on the issue of special registration for voters.

March 19 – We attended a meeting by the House of Representatives subcommittee on elections for the special registration of voters. BM-Youth held a picket protest outside the gates of Batasan.

March 20 – Senate picket by BM-Youth on the issue of special registration.

March 21 – Another senate picket on the same issue.

March 22 – After an interview on the issue of special registration at Talk TV, I joined the panel on voters’ education at St. Camillus Seminary in Marikina.

March 24 – We launched the BM-Youth at Plaza Miranda with Ka Bel as main speaker. We marched from Quiapo area to Plaza Sta. Cruz. There was also a press conference at Kapihan sa Cypress on the prison escape of convicted murderer Norberto Manero.

March 25 – BM launching in Meycauayan, Bulacan.

March 31 – Youth summit in Caloocan.

April 2 – BM-Youth convention at YMCA building

April 3 – Talk TV guesting on the state of Philippine education.

April 5 – I represented BM at the ‘Kalbaryo ng Mamamayan’ rally in Mendiola.

April 7 – Our letter to the editor about youth participation in elections was published by the Philippine Daily Inquirer.

April 8 – ANC MOPC guesting on the role of the youth in elections. I also attended a community assembly organized by BM-Sta Mesa in Guadalcanal.

April 10 – Supreme Court picket on the disqualification of bogus partylist groups. I was also a guest of 100.3 FM The Hive Pinoyexchange program and talked about the partylist system.

April 11 – Cavite sortie: Bayan leaders press conference at 9 a.m. Then we conducted a house-to-house campaign in Dasmariñas from 12 to 3 p.m. Kalbaryo march from St. Angelus, Bacoor to a plaza near the coastal road from 4 to 6 p.m. Misang Bayan was our final program for the day.

April 14 – Delivered a tribute during the wake of a partylist volunteer in Sapang Palay, San Jose del Monte, Bulacan

April 15 – BM-Youth organized an ‘Easter Egg Hunt’ protest at Plaza Miranda by featuring the rotten eggheads of ‘trapo’ politicians.

April 16 – Supreme Court picket protest calling for the disqualification of fake partylist groups.

April 18 – Attended the Solidarity Peace Conference at Westin Philippine Plaza. We also talked about Estrada’s arrest at the Isyu 101 TV program.

April 19 – I was emcee during the BM endorsement of senatorial candidates.

April 20 – Speaker at the Baguio chapter convention of BM-Youth.

April 23 – Fluvial parade protest organized by Pamalakaya from Laguna Lake to Pasig River. We started from Binangonan, Rizal and sailed towards Napindan Dam in Pasig. Fisherfolk blamed the dam for the deterioration of the lake which negatively affected their livelihood.

April 24-25 – National convention of the College Editors Guild in Bohol where I facilitated a workshop about the peace talks aside from giving voters’ education.

April 27 – Picket protest and noise barrage in Cubao against the maneuvering of the Estrada camp to reclaim power.

April 28 – Motorcade with senatorial candidate Perfecto Yasay from Lagro to San Jose del Monte, Bulacan. We also attended a community assembly in Area B of Sapang Palay.

April 30 – Press conference of Edsa Dos groups in San Beda in response to the political mobilization of the pro-Estrada camp.

May 1 – Labor Day rally at Liwasang Bonifacio, then caravan from Manila to Ortigas, EDSA.

May 3 – I was emcee during the BM press conference against the attempt of the Estrada faction to regain the presidency.

May 4 – I represented BM at the ABS-CBN news online chat program. I also talked about political dynasties in the DZRJ radio program of Ruth Cervantes and Sonia Capio.

May 6 – BM motorcade in Camanava area.

May 10 – I represented BM-Youth at the BM miting de avance.

May 11 – BM press conference denouncing the state-sponsored attacks against our partylist campaigners.

May 12 – Voters’ education in Sta. Quiteria, Caloocan sponsored by the Parish Pastoral Council

May 15 – I talked about the role of young people in the polls at the Eleksyon 2001 live coverage of GMA-7.

May 17 – Supreme Court picket protest demanding action on the BM petition for the disqualification of fake partylist groups.

Published by Bayan Metro Manila

Bayan Metro Manila deplores the passage of Republic Act 11469 which gives additional special powers to President Rodrigo Duterte in handling the COVID-19 pandemic.

We reiterate that granting more powers to the president is unnecessary. What we urgently need today is a comprehensive emergency action by the government and not delegating more powers to a president who has consistently demonstrated his lack of respect for human rights and due process.

The government is deceiving the public when it claims that the new law will now enable various agencies to expedite COVID-19 measures to ease the suffering of millions who are now living under quarantine. It is liable for its stubborn refusal to conduct mass testing, the fast delivery of aid, immediate protection for frontliners, and lifting of repressive lockdown restrictions – all of which can be enforced by the president even without the special powers which he now possess.

In addition to what we have already stated in our critique of the bill, we condemn the insertion of a dangerous provision which seeks to criminalize the spreading of ‘fake news’. This can be easily abused and misapplied by authorities to target critics of the government.

Section 6 of the law penalizes “individuals or groups creating, perpetrating, or spreading false information regarding the COVID-19 crisis on social media and other platforms, such information having no valid or beneficial effect on the population, and are clearly geared to promote chaos, panic, anarchy, fear, or confusion…”

The section also penalizes those who create online content for phishing operations and the sending of fraudulent emails. But this is already covered under existing laws against cyber crimes.

Who will define if a content is fake news? DDS bloggers?

Who will determine if a post about COVID-19 promotes chaos and anarchy? The Presidential Communications Group which labels critics and activists as dilawans, rebels, terrorists, and traitors?

This provision can be invoked by authorities to sow fear and prevent people from expressing what they feel and think about the COVID-19 measures of the government.

There are daily reports and social media posts of residents exposing the impact of the lockdown, the deteriorating situation of frontliners, and the slow and inadequate delivery of government assistance – will authorities flag this type of content as ‘false information’?

When some hospitals raised the shortage of medical protective equipment, the House Speaker told media that the report is ‘fake news’. When the #ProtestFromHome trended on Twitter, the police responded by accusing people’s organizations which initiated the online campaign of being anti-Filipino.

The real ‘fake news’ peddlers are state-backed trolls who are polluting the cyberspace with their nasty comments and lies.

But unlike the government which intends to criminalize free speech, our response to ‘fake news’ is to counter it with verified information, educating the public about COVID-19, engaging social media platforms to improve their fact-checking process, and reporting state actors who are deliberately spewing out lies and hate speech.

Undermining the independence of LGUs

The same section also penalizes LGU officials “disobeying national government policies or directives in imposing quarantines.” It provides for an additional penalty of “perpetual, temporary absolute disqualification from office.”

While we understand the importance of a unified response in dealing with COVID-19, we also recognize that LGUs must be allowed to modify their plan of action to better address the needs of their constituents according to their evidence-based crisis assessment.

This principle is important to uphold especially if the national government standards are not applicable for implementation in some LGUs. This also becomes an imperative doctrine if the national government is delayed in conducting essential solutions like mass testing in communities and deployment of protective measures for frontliners.

Obeying the national government makes sense if it is implementing a comprehensive action plan to fight COVID-19. Disobeying it is a patriotic and humane act if based on a rational review that its purported measures are actually misguided and ineffective.

Published by Manila Today

Speech of Bayan Metro Manila Chairperson Mong Palatino during the Malaya Mixer event at Precious Blood Catholic Church in Los Angeles, California in May 2018. Mong is part of the ‘Stop the Killings’ speaking tour organized by the International Coalition for Human Rights in the Philippines – United States chapter.

It has been a very memorable, uplifting, and enlightening speaking tour and we’d like to acknowledge Malaya and ICHRP-US chapter for organizing this caravan.

Most probably you already heard or read what I have to say because this is the last leg of the tour. Please visit ICHRP-US page on Facebook to access our videos.

Instead of giving my usual presentation, I’d like to digress because I want to give tribute to all mothers in this room. Happy Mother’s Day!

It’s quite difficult to explain the real impact of the deteriorating human rights situation in the Philippines. How to convey in a few words the devastating effect of President Rodrigo Duterte’s killing machinery on families and communities? I used maps and gave historical overview in my presentations, Ka Bong Labog of Kilusang Mayo Uno highlighted the attacks on labor, and Junance Fritzi Magbanua of Save Our Schools gave testimony about the displacement of Lumad villages. Overall, I believe we were able to deliver our message about the urgency of ending the killings in the Philippines.

But it will also be helpful if we think of our mothers when we refer to the victims of human rights abuses. Let us pause and think of all the mothers whose children were killed in the so-called ‘war on drugs’, think of the mothers of Marawi whose families are still prevented from returning to their homes, think of the mothers of Lumad children whose schools are terrorized by state troops, think of the mothers of political prisoners, think of mothers who are unjustly detained and facing political persecution.

Think of the mothers of all victims of extrajudicial killings. They have no time to properly grieve for their children because their lives too are in danger. They need our empathy, sympathy, and solidarity. But all they got from Duterte and his minions was smug indifference. These callous, cruel, and unrepentant politicians who continue to arrogantly defend the government’s repressive wars against the poor. Inhuman is the only word I can think of to describe their behavior.

Throughout the duration of the tour, we repeatedly demanded to stop the killings of farmers, the Lumad, church leaders, environment defenders, and human rights activists. But in light of the unimaginable and deeply troubling events in the Philippines yesterday, when the incumbent Chief Justice was removed from her position, we have to add that the government should stop killing our democracy. Because this is precisely what Duterte is doing to our democracy: killing of checks and balance, killing of due process, killing of the integrity and independence of the bureaucracy.

Lumuluha ang ating Inang Bayan sa nangyayari sa ating pamahalaan.

This government wants to kill our future, our sense of hope, and our belief in the power of humanity.

But Duterte is wrong if he thinks the people will not resist.

What is our source of inspiration in defying this deadly regime?

Indeed, Mother’s Day is appropriated by Big Business and its commercialization undermines its noble meaning. But this Sunday, let Mother’s Day rekindle our sense of hope and our commitment in the struggle for a better future. Mothers are resilient and strong, and a mother’s love for her child is pure.

Remember the mothers of the Katipunan, the mothers who fought during the Philippine-American War, the mothers who joined the Huk during World War II, the mothers who defeated the Marcos dictatorship, the mothers who supported the People Power. Let us remember the mother of Duterte who opposed Martial Law.

We thank the mothers of activists who opened the comfort of their homes to the children of the revolution. I have one mother but I have hundreds, thousands of mothers in the people’s movement. Long live the mothers of the resistance!

Long live the people’s struggle for the liberation of the Motherland!

To protest from our homes is justified amid the glaring negligence of the government in dealing with the COVID-19 crisis.

The leadership of the Philippine National Police should listen to the valid demands of residents who are suffering under the enhanced community quarantine. It should respect the people’s right to express grievance over the slow response and inadequate assistance by the national government.

On 22 March 2020, Kadamay Metro Manila and other people’s organizations in Metro Manila organized a #ProtestFromHome campaign to press their urgent demands such as free mass testing, food assistance, and the lifting of repressive lockdown restrictions. The campaign gathered popular support and the hashtag became the top trending topic on Twitter.

Instead of acknowledging the daily hardships that inspired many to join the virtual rally, a PNP Facebook page chose to malign Kadamay by accusing the urban poor group of being unpatriotic, violent, and divisive.

The PNP was wrong to condemn Kadamay members who merely exercised their constitutionally guaranteed right to free expression. It was a peaceful and creative show of dissent organized inside houses which rallied the public to share their own frustration over the government’s failure to stop the spread of COVID-19.

Social media users merely voiced out their conditions under lockdown but the police responded by demonizing the online action. It depicted Kadamay as a criminal group aiming to sow disruption and it even illegally posted photos of social media users who used the protest hashtag.

The irresponsible Facebook post of PNP reveals its intolerance and diabolical intent to silence critics of the Duterte government. It joins the president’s other apologists in trying to evade blame for the COVID-19 crisis by pointing an accusing finger at activists and those who are exposing the incompetence of authorities.

It confirms our earlier assertion that the decision to rely on the police and the military in enforcing measures aimed at containing the virus was really intended to prevent people from showing defiance.

It makes the recent passage of the law giving extra powers to the president a terrifying development. If an online protest organized inside houses quickly provoked the PNP to sow hatred against activists, we fear that the police will be more aggressive in attacking critics by charging the latter of spreading ‘false information’ under the new law.

The PNP is wrong if it thinks its terror and trolling tactics will scare us and discourage us from speaking truth to power. On the contrary, we are set to join another online protest this Wednesday, 25 March, as we continue to push for mass testing, food aid, and a comprehensive response to the COVID-19 crisis.

We advise the PNP to redirect its rage to VIP politicians who immediately got tested for COVID-19 at the expense of genuine frontliners instead of harassing internet users and activist groups.

We ask all freedom-loving Filipinos to resist the PNP’s muzzling of free speech. We call on all those who are angered by the government’s incompetence to join the Kalampagan by posting their specific demands on social media. The fight against COVID-19 will succeed if we will push for better governance. There is hope if we will fight as one.

Published by Bayan Metro Manila

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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