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 Bulatlat

A week before the global celebration of Human Rights Day in 2016, various people’s organizations in the Philippines conducted a solidarity fasting campaign to press for the release of 400 political prisoners.

In response, a government peace negotiator described the action as counterproductive and that it is putting undue pressure to President Rodrigo Duterte.

Never mind the irony of a supposedly peace advocate belittling the right of the people to campaign for freedom and justice on Human Rights Week. Anyway, the campaign was successfully held and it helped promote awareness about the continuing detention of activists charged with trumped-up cases.

But the reaction of the Palace official merits greater discussion and it should be outrightly denounced. If it sounded familiar, it is because this line of reasoning is the typical rejoinder of politicians and others who wield bureaucratic power when the grassroots demand something from the state.

They often dismiss the validity of collective actions, which they demonize as mob democracy, preferring instead to deal only with what they call as lawful citizen initiatives.

Some even profess support for specific causes but they insist that these should be advocated in a peaceful, legal, and respectful manner.

This means students may call for free education but they should not barricade campuses, workers may petition for a wage increase but they should refrain from staging an industrial strike, farmers may negotiate for a higher share during harvest season but they should not intimidate landlords, migrants may seek better welfare policies but they should not rush policymakers, the poor may assert their housing right but they should not provoke and attack the demolition team, activists may call for the urgent freedom of political detainees but they should not hold militant actions near the presidential palace.

It is as if bureaucrats can be easily persuaded to act favorably on a particular political demand, but they can also instantly retract their decision if they perceive citizen groups as being too persuasive, agitated, and unruly.

From the point of view of those who control the state apparatuses, legitimate advocacies become less legitimate if the advocates do not know how to respect the power of authorities.

In many instances, they draw attention to the excesses allegedly committed by activists to justify the slow and even non-action of the government. They redirect the blame away from non-performing bureaucrats by accusing activists of being unreasonable and violent.

They endorse a moderate type of activism instead of the radical activism practiced by so-called professional ‘temperamental brats’. It is as if the great aim of politics is to appear respectful and virtuous in the eyes of the state.

Moderate activism is acknowledged by many politicians as responsible and intelligent activism. It means citizens are free to engage public officials but they should learn to be polite and meek especially when the state rejects their demands.

Some practitioners of moderate activism become unwitting apologists of the state when they join politicians in denouncing the militancy of radical activists. Worse, they spread the insidious propaganda that the radical brand of activism is obsolete, ineffective, and destructive. That reforms cannot be won through aggressive actions. That politicians are ready to listen but only if the people will disavow the disruptive tactics of ‘rah-rah’ activists.

This kind of moderate activism degenerates into a sophisticated drive for less activism.

It is wrong and dangerous assumption that militant activism poses a real threat to politics. Only politicians and their cheerleaders are afraid of seeing citizens linking arms and marching in the streets. They exaggerate and focus on the petty inconveniences caused by collective actions while misnaming this activism as an excessive and evil kind of politics.

They use vast amount of resources and their influence in promoting this perspective in mainstream society that’s why activists today are often forced to be on the defensive when espousing something in public.

But what should be clarified is that radical activism is not a terrifying alternative despite what its detractors are claiming. The real threat to society is less activism.

The problem is not that a large number of people are shouting for peace and justice in the streets, but the fact that few are doing it.

What is troubling in a democracy is not that citizens are forceful in engaging their leaders but the sad reality that majority are blindly following the order of authorities most of the time.

That activists may be aggressive during rallies but ignoring what is fundamentally wrong in society contributes to greater violence and evil.

The problem is not the noise of street actions but the deliberate silence of our apathies.

We saw the historic legacy of radical activism through the 1896 revolution and the anti-dictatorship struggle. Aside from continuing this legacy, we need greater doses of this activism to end inequality, foreign plunder, bad governance, and feudal exploitation. Less activism would only prolong the suffering of our people by preserving the power of oppressors in society.

What is the worst that could happen if many of our people suddenly decide to become activists? This was probably the same dilemma faced by our national heroes during the last years of Spanish rule. What if most Filipinos were to embrace the politics of the Katipunan? Oh nothing much happened aside from us gaining our independence!

Will it be a problem if most Filipinos were to embrace the principles of activism? Politicians will probably answer in the affirmative while their ideological minions are expected to provide the intellectual basis like the need to uphold stability, rule of law, and modernity. But what is there to affirm other than what we have at the moment: A society ruled by oligarchs, dynasties, and foreign plunderers while majority of the people endure preventable miseries and subhuman conditions. A sociopolitical disorder propped up by the suffering of the poor, the wealth of the land hoarded in foreign shores, and a tiny rapacious elite using legal violence to silence the dissidents. Ah the situation requires no less than a revolution to subvert the rule of the minority over the majority. Any talk of less activism is a shameful defense of the unequal and unjust present.

For two straight weekends, thousands have gathered in the streets of Manila to condemn the deterioration of the human rights situation in the Philippines.

On February 18, the Catholic Church mobilized an estimated 20,000 people to participate in a “Walk for Life” as a form of protest against the rising “culture of violence” in the country.

A week later, more than 5,000 people commemorated the 31st anniversary of the Edsa uprising, which toppled the Marcos dictatorship. But the event also became a venue to criticize the “authoritarian” tendencies of President Rodrigo Duterte.

The Duterte government should not be complacent because it succeeded in drawing a large supportive crowd last weekend. On the contrary, it should inspire the president to work for better transparency, better governance, and hopefully, better record in protecting human rights.

Read more at The Diplomat

Why Duterte Should Fear the Marcos Burial Protest

Despite the fierce opposition of human rights groups, former Philippine President Ferdinand Marcos was buried at the Libingan ng mga Bayani (Heroes’ Cemetery) on November 18. This triggered widespread protests across the country, with thousands of young people denouncing incumbent President Rodrigo Duterte for endorsing a hero’s burial for the controversial leader.

Duterte’s political base remains formidable. But the street protests in the nation’s capital also showed that the “punisher” is unable to deter many people from publicly and strongly expressing their sentiments.

The Marcos burial issue has opened the space for groups that seek to engage the Duterte government on other critical issues such as human rights, foreign policy, peace process, and climate change. Could this lead to bigger protests in the next few months?

Read more at The Diplomat

Considering that there are, by some estimates, around 300,000 Filipinos living as undocumented migrants in the United States, the question for many here is whether President Donald Trump will be true to his campaign promise of being tough on illegal immigration.

As for the about 3.5 million Filipinos living in the United States, they join other Americans in hoping that the Trump presidency will deliver stable jobs, better health care, and safer communities.

Like other Southeast Asian countries, the Philippines wants to know whether Trump will continue to endorse the rebalancing of American forces toward the Asia-Pacific region. More specifically, Filipinos have two other questions on defense: What will Trump’s policy be regarding the maritime dispute in the South China Sea involving China and its smaller neighbors? Will he uphold the mutual defense pact between the Philippines and the United States?

Read more at CNN

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 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.