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 Manila Today

Epifanio delos Santos Avenue or EDSA is no ordinary road. It’s the site of two (or is it three) People Power uprisings; and it remains the principal and most important highway in Metro Manila (apologies to C-5 and Commonwealth Avenue). The growth centers of the country’s premier urban hub are all accessible via EDSA. Nearly anyone who has something to do in the capital, whether a tourist or terrorist, cannot fail to pass or travel along EDSA.

Yet our top survival tip to visiting friends and relatives from abroad is for them to avoid EDSA like a plague. Avoid it at all cost or pass at your own peril. It reflects the state of EDSA today: a busy road converted into a semi-parking lot because of traffic gridlock. The notorious carmageddon is proof of uneven development and bureaucratic inefficiency but some callous politicians had the gall to describe it as a sign of progress.

Who enjoys spending three to four hours to travel more than 10 kilometers of EDSA every day, anyway? No one. Not the few bikers risking their lives as they evade MMDA barriers in sidewalks or the dark fumes of colorum vehicles. Not even the bus drivers desperate to earn the money they will remit to their company bosses.

Because of traffic, EDSA has become another word for hardship. A surreal death march on wheels during rush hours. It seems there’s no other way to experience EDSA today other than to endure its apocalyptic lanes. It’s a unique equalizer: everybody suffers. Rich or poor are punished every time they get near that road. Of course, the working, alienated poor end up sacrificing more but the idle rich also lose their precious time and sanity in EDSA.

Alas, things were a little less awful in the past.

There was a time when EDSA represented something hopeful and even inspiring about our society. Mention the word EDSA and politicians will cower in fear. When people demanded change, it was in EDSA where great political events took place. Today, even pedestrians are barred from walking on EDSA. Nakamamatay daw. It is the MMDA and police that already dominate EDSA, the people’s highway.

A long, long time ago, EDSA was also a symbol of a changing but vibrant metropolis. It facilitated the spread of the urban beyond the old and congested Manila. It offered to give space to those who dreamed of a better life in the city.

This was wishful thinking on the part of our well-meaning urban planners. Because how can EDSA spur urban renewal when development in the neocolonial state was lopsided? Further, there was no master plan to balance the progress of cities and the countryside.

Still, the unfinished nation-building process was evident in EDSA. For example, EDSA Makati was the citadel of the elite. But in EDSA Mandaluyong, it was the home of a small industrial and commercial center. Meanwhile, EDSA Cubao was an entertainment complex. The rest of EDSA were open spaces, government centers, housing resettlement sites, and public markets. EDSA was anything but an exclusive playground of the haciendero rich and the nouveau riche. EDSA was both periphery and center of a modernizing Third World metropolis.

A generation ago, travelling by bus in EDSA was quite fast but passengers were still be able to see snippets of Metro life such as the walled enclaves of Forbes and Dasmariñas, the factories in Mandaluyong, the Ortigas lands, Camp Crame and Camp Aguinaldo, Cubao, the green spaces of Quezon City, the housing center and people’s park market in North Avenue, and the Balintawak north diversion road.

After 1986, several of EDSA’s open spaces became business centers and shopping malls. Pockets of urban poor communities were demolished. The North Triangle residential area was rezoned into a commercial center. Curiously, but not surprisingly, Forbes Park and other walled subdivisions remained residential villages despite the quick transformation of Makati into the country’s main financial center.

After the construction of MRT in 1999, bigger malls were developed. EDSA became too small for Henry Sy, which probably led him to support the extension of EDSA in Manila Bay. The Ayala Makati skyline was challenged by the booming development in Ortigas and Fort Bonifacio.

As the economy became more service-oriented in the past decade, which meant deploying more workers abroad or forcing them to accept the graveyard shift, EDSA underwent a new real estate facelift. Factories and decrepit government buildings were demolished to give way to high-rise condominiums. A new business center is rising in Quezon City. Call center offices are spreading. Public markets are threatened with eviction in favor of mixed-use buildings owned by presidential campaign donors.

The ubiquitous symbol of EDSA’s transformation is the high-risk but expensive giant billboards plastered in front and atop buildings along the highway. Colorful and bright ads that seduce the working class to buy products they don’t need in life. Gone are the hand painted movie billboards of Cubao; big tarps are in.

An MRT ride along EDSA is not only unpleasant and dehumanizing; it’s also boring. From one station to another, all MRT passengers will see are the same spectacles of dirt, bumper-to-bumper traffic, and false indicators of progress such as the mall, the condominium, and the call center complex.

The uniformity is excruciating to witness because it is being done at the expense of the poor. EDSA’s reterritorialization is presided by the rich which explains the fanatic and frenetic campaign to displace the poor from their homes, workplaces, and even on sidewalks.

Soon, people might totally fail to remember the proletarian legacy of EDSA. That it once provided shelter and hope to various sectors and classes in society. That it was a space where people from all walks of life gathered, mingled, and transacted business or politics. That it can be inclusive. That EDSA has a radical, subversive potential.

That Forbes Park in the south was atrociously elitist but at least it was balanced by the San Rogue community in the north. That megamall in Mandaluyong is enormous but it’s merely a modern counterpart of the bagsakan markets of Balintawak.

If EDSA’s corporate-led transformation will continue, people might readily accept the narrative that only the rich and properties classes have the right to dictate the future of this valuable stretch of road. That the poor have no choice but to vacate their so-called ‘eyesore’ homes and allow the corporate redevelopment of cities along EDSA. That a residential place can be rezoned into a commercial hub but not Forbes and Dasmariñas. That the state has to surrender its authority to neoliberal capitalists over what happens in EDSA except to regulate the traffic on the road. That the people are powerless to reclaim EDSA and change the paradigm of urban development.

But EDSA, our EDSA, is no ordinary road. It was and it should be reappropriated into a space where people impose their politics and collective will in order to reshape society.

Though it is still early days, what has been the impact of the Mindanao-wide martial law on these ongoing peace initiatives thus far?

Since the declaration of martial law, most of the headlines have been devoted to the Maute group and the ISIS threat in the Philippines, while very little has been discussed about its impact on the various peace processes involving armed groups in Mindanao, which Duterte had signaled as one of his administration’s top priorities upon assuming power. As the weeks progress, it will be interesting to see whether the administration uses martial law as part of a narrower anti-terror campaign, or whether it uses it as part of a broader political strategy to resolve the armed conflict that has been plaguing Mindanao for decades.

Read more at The Diplomat

Philippines: Duterte Ends Talks With Communist Rebels

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte has announced that he is canceling the peace talks which his government had initiated with the Communist Party of the Philippines.

This was his response after the communist-led New People’s Army (NPA) said it will end its unilateral ceasefire with the government effective February 10.

Read more at The Diplomat

*Summary of my contributed essay to the workshop organized by the Third World Studies Center of the University of the Philippines-Diliman and the Conflict Research Group of the Ghent University. The workshop’s theme is “Politics and Power in the Philippines: Towards a Contemporary Research Agenda”. Published by Bulatlat

Political forces vie for national dominance but it is in the grassroots where the significant battles take place.

The electoral machinery and political base of rival mainstream parties are established at the local level. Revolutionary movements build their influence in working-class communities.

The political party capable of mobilizing the support of the grassroots has the best chance of controlling not just the bureaucracy but also the initiative in setting the national agenda.

The traditional model of building support in the grassroots involves political patronage. In modern Philippine politics, this was notoriously exemplified by the government of Gloria Arroyo. It was during her term when the cash transfer program was introduced; she marshalled vast resources to sustain the loyalty of local politicians across the country; and she exercised to the maximum her presidential powers to coopt the bureaucracy.

This model of governance in the grassroots remains in place. However, two innovations in political organizing have become apparent in recent years.

First is the expanded role of civil society organizations in advancing the politics of the ruling party. It can be interpreted as a critical partnership to guarantee the delivery of goods and services in the grassroots on one hand; but it can also appear to be an unprincipled endorsement of political patronage on the other.

Second is the ubiquitous use of information tools in building a large army of political followers. Maximizing the social media for good governance has become a partisan mechanism to defend party ideology, increase the number of fiercely loyal members, and tilt (or even distort) public opinion against rival political parties and personalities.

Propagating political narratives is now an act of sustaining patronage in modern politics. In the age of Internet, this means rewarding followers who promote unity and greater divide at the same time. It is no longer enough to distribute the political largesse, members of a particular political community must be persuaded too that they are embracing a popular and winnable perspective. The ruling party expands its influence not just through pork projects but also by overwhelming the public with its weapons of mass (dis)information

President Rodrigo Duterte has already demonstrated that he is a cunning warrior in the information warfare. He is not only the chief executive responsible for the welfare of his loyal constituents, he is also the chief propagandist of his online army.

And while the propaganda war is succeeding in distracting the public, Duterte’s party is aggressively recruiting in the grassroots aimed at building a popular movement supportive of federalism. The state-directed organizing is taking place amid the bloody campaign to rid the country of the drug menace. Communities, however, are hostaged by the terror tactics of state forces.

Organized resistance should be the response against the creeping militarization in society. But the disempowering effect of political patronage, after decades of being the dominant practice in government, is now palpable in the grassroots.

The poor and unorganized were conditioned to cooperate with the bureaucracy even if it meant sacrificing some of their civil liberties like the right to privacy.

The idea of challenging the state is already alien to many who spent years if not decades assisting politicians in refocusing the energies of the people’s movement into a mere passive lobby force in the bureaucracy.

Political patronage has diluted and falsified the concept of grassroots political organizing. It promoted the erroneous idea that political action ceases when some reforms are implemented by the state. It exaggerated the impact of these reforms as if these have to be celebrated as a revolutionary moment. It is obsessed in demonizing activism as a disruptive, destructive, and even undemocratic alternative.

But it is through militant activism and collective action that we can hope to reenergize the fighting capabilities of the grassroots, in order to effectively counter impunity in society. The state is spreading fear through shock and awe extrajudicial actions; this should be challenged by radical acts of resistance by ordinary citizens.

The Left offers a programmatic approach in building this resistance. It features the solid, systematic, and swift organizing of basic sectors who are oppressed in society such as the peasants, workers, and other toiling masses. Sectoral struggles can be linked to place-specific campaigns until a powerful broad mass movement is developed.

The long-term goal is not just to encourage individual acts of courage and defiance but the collective empowerment of the grassroots.

Further, if the state is using the language of reform to justify the adoption of anti-people and anti-poor policies, then the organized grassroots should expose this deception by launching an all-out propaganda war about the justness of upholding the politics of resistance. Information tools should be used in aid of activism like the Facebook-initiated ‘Million People March’ against corruption, and not as a means to foment further fragmentation and hate in society.

A collective challenge to any rising threat to democracy is essential to defend the grassroots. A collective and militant movement, backed up by solid political organizing in the grassroots, has more potential to decisively influence the political program and priorities of any ruling party.

Concretely applied today, it means a strong citizen movement should retake the initiative in the grassroots and compel the government to rethink its political strategy. Duterte, the so-called Leftist, should not just mouth the slogans of the revolution. He should be made aware that revolution requires the constant mobilization of the grassroots to fight injustice, inequality, and other preventable miseries in society.

But grassroots organizers have to do some serious reflection about how they conduct their political work. They have to study the disturbing rise of populism vis-à-vis the uneven growth of progressive forces across the country. They have to ask why an increasing number of the alienated poor are enthusiastic in promoting the narratives of the elite. They have to be self-critical about their tactics and recalibrate the strategy to renew the vigor of the mass movement and make the language of the revolution more relevant than ever.

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte has a reputation of being a staunch critic of the United States government. However, it is probably more accurate to describe him as being critical of former U.S. President Barack Obama but not of current President Donald Trump.

A few months after becoming president in 2016, Duterte launched a series of tirades against Obama whose government expressed concern about the Philippines’ bloody war on drugs. Duterte insisted that the United States has no moral high ground to speak about human rights since it has yet to apologize for the crimes it committed during its colonial occupation of the Philippines.

Duterte was the first Filipino leader to speak so publicly and fiercely about the violence used by the U.S. government in subjugating the Filipino nation in 1899. Because of this, Duterte was praised by nationalists and his allies from the left.

Is Duterte pro-China or anti-America? What we learned in the past few months is that Duterte’s mindset cannot be ascertained by his rants but by his actions and the policies implemented by his subordinates.

Read more at The Diplomat

Is the Philippines’ Duterte Really a Leftist?

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte has repeatedly insisted that he is a leftist; a socialist but not a member of the Communist Party.

This is politically important, since no president in the country’s history has made a similar claim. Expressing support to leftist causes is quite controversial in a country where anti-communist propaganda is strong, but Duterte had no reservations in admitting his supposed leftist tendencies.

But how much truth is there to all this? Is Duterte really a leftist politician? Though scholars and activists might question Duterte’s political affiliation, what is clear is that he has close links to the Philippines’ leftist leaders and even rebel groups.

Duterte claims that his invitation to leftists to join his cabinet is a signal that his government is inclusive. In truth, his decision to open the tend to leftists has alienated some sections of the military and other conservative political forces. If the threat of destabilization coming from these groups becomes stronger in the future, that will make Duterte’s leftist claim even more difficult to sustain.

Read more at The Diplomat

Published by Bulatlat

Lahat ng rehimeng nagdaan ay nagtangkang buwagin at talunin ang New People’s Army (Bagong Hukbong Bayan). Lahat ay nagsabing sila’y magtatagumpay. Lahat sila’y nabigo. Ano ang nasa likod ng misteryong lakas ng NPA? Paano ito nagpunyagi sa nakalipas na limang dekada? Walang sikreto maliban sa puspusang pakikibaka habang sinusulong ang pulitika ng rebolusyon. Walang kakaibang doktrina maliban sa paglingkuran ang sambayanan hanggang magtagumpay ang pambansang demokratikong pakikibaka. Bakit hindi matatalo ang NPA? Narito ang ilang dahilan….

1. Dahil ang hukbong bayan ay kakampi ng mga magsasaka sa pagpapatupad ng tunay na reporma sa lupa. Sa minimum, binababa ang upa sa lupa at pinatataas ang kita ng magsasaka mula sa benta ng kanilang ani; at sa maksimum ay pamamahagi ng lupa. Kaya naman ang masa kinupkop ang NPA bilang kaibigan, kaanak, at kasama.

2. Dahil tagapagtanggol sila ng kalikasan. Kalaban ng mapanirang pagtotroso, malakihang pagmimina, at mga dayuhang korporasyong nagkakalat ng dumi sa kapaligiran. Kaya hindi nakapagtataka kung ang karaniwang tao ay sumasaludo sa malinis na rekord ng NPA.

3. Dahil ang NPA ay lubog sa pang araw-araw na buhay ng mamamayan sa kanayunan. Pwersang militar subalit mas abala sa pagtulong sa bukid, gawaing produksiyon, at pagtataguyod ng mga batayang serbisyo sa baryo tulad ng edukasyon, kalusugan, seguridad, at patubig.

4. Dahil bahagi ito ng pagbubuo ng gobyernong bayan; haligi ng pulang kapangyarihan sa mga pinalayang purok. Gobyernong may masaklaw na teritoryo, nagtatakda ng sariling batas, nagtatayo ng mga paaralang bayan at pagamutan. Pinagkakaisa ang hanay ng mamamayan upang wakasan ang pamumuno ng mga oligarkiya sa bansa.

5. Sumbungan ng bayan. Ang orihinal na 911 at 8888 sa kanayunan. Para sa mga problemang walang aksyon ang burukrasya, idinudulog sa NPA upang magkaroon ng mabilis na tugon at hustisya. Pwersang nagpaparusa sa mga despotikong panginoong maylupa, abusadong pulitiko, mabagsik na warlord, sundalong may utang na dugo, at mga kriminal tulad ng mga magnanakaw ng kalabaw. Nagpapatupad ng kaayusan, kapayapaan, at kumikilala sa pakikibakang masa sa kanayunan.

6. Bihira o halos walang NPA na kinamumuhian ng masa. Minsan ang tawag sa kanila ay ‘Nice People Around’. Bakit? Dahil may disiplinang gabay ang NPA na ang tawag ay tres-otso. Halimbawa, bawal magnakaw sa mga tinutuluyang pamayanan, isauli ang hiniram sa masa, igalang ang mga kababaihan at matatanda, magbayad ng tama sa bawat biniling produkto, at huwag manira ng pananim. At kapag may labis sa gawi at paglabag sa alituntuning pangdisiplina, malayang punahin ng masa ang NPA. At ang NPA marunong humingi ng paumanhin sa komunidad.

7. Dahil isa itong rebolusyonaryong grupo na may rebolusyonaryong tindig sa lahat ng usapin. Lagi itong may matalas na pagsusuri sa kalagayan ng bansa at pandaigdigang ekonomiya. Pinag-uusapan pa lang ang diborsyo at same sex marriage sa Kongreso samantalang matagal na itong pinapatuad sa hanay ng NPA. Tagapagpadaloy ng abanteng kultura at proletaryadong pananaw. Tagapagtaguyod ng pambansang wika, linangan ng katutubong kultura.

8. Dahil ang kalabang pwersa nito ay pinamumunuan ng mga kurakot at pulpol na heneral. Mismong opisyal ng estado ang nagbunyag na may ‘pabaon generals’, at kamakailan ay pinangalanan ang mga heneral na protektor ng mga drug lords. Pasista na nga, kurakot pa. Habang bulag na sumasamba sa teknolohiyang pandigma ng Estados Unidos at kakutsaba ng imperyalista sa pagmamaniobra sa pulitika ng bansa.

9. Dahil ang panlipunang krisis ay patuloy na lumulubha at walang hinahaing signipikanteng solusyon ang mga nagdaang rehimen upang tapusin na ang pananalasa ng imperyalismo, pyudalismo at burukrata-kapitalismo. Tumitindi ang kahirapan at pambubusabos, patuloy na tinataboy ang magsasaka sa kanyang lupang sinasaka, dinadahas ang mga katutubo, at laganap ang kagutuman samantalang iilan lamang ang gumiginhawa ang buhay at kumakamal ng yaman ng bansa. At kapag lumaban ang mamamayan, kamay na bakal ang sagot ng estado. Kahirapan at kawalan ng hustisya – ito ang di-nakikitang karahasan na nagbibigay matwid sa pambansang demokratikong rebolusyong binabandila ng NPA.

10. Dahil pulitika ng rebolusyon ang nangingibabaw na prinsipyo ng NPA. Dahil sinasabuhay nito ang diwa ng Katipunan. Dahil pinagpapatuloy nito ang laban nina Bonifacio. Dahil ginagabayan ito ng teoryang Marxismo-Leninismo-Maoismo. Hukbong nasa kolektibong pamumuno ng uring manggagawa. Mga gerilyang nakabase sa kanayunan; nagpapalawak ng hanay at lakas bago ang paglusob sa mga sentrong lungsod. Hukbong humamon sa diktaturyang Marcos, hukbong nanatiling pwersa ng rebolusyon sa kabila ng mabangis at sunud-sunod na militaristang atake ng estado, hukbong gerilya sa isang bansang binubuo ng maliliit na isla. Hukbong nagpapakahusay sa kasanayang militar habang nagpapakadalubhasa rin sa teorya’t praktika ng digmang bayan.

11. Dahil sa panahon ng ligalig at nawawalang pag-asa, nananatiling maningning na pwersa ng paglaban at pagbabago ang NPA. Hukbong bayan ng mga inaapi, kalaban ng mga nang-aapi, at kumikilos upang wakasan ang pang-aapi ng tao sa kapwa tao. Hukbong may kumprehensibong tanaw at plataporma para sa panlipunang pagbabago. Hukbong kasama natin sa pagpapalaya ng bayan. Hukbong pwersang nakikibaka upang baguhin ang lumang mundo.

Mention the name Rodrigo Duterte and what comes to mind is the bloody “war on drugs” that has claimed the lives of more than 7,000 Filipinos.

Amid the continuing spate of killings in the Philippines, it is almost impossible to discuss the social reform agenda of Duterte’s government, which came to power less than a year ago.

But for various NGOs in the grassroots, the rise of a maverick politician like Duterte is an opportunity to push for meaningful reforms in society. After all, Duterte had a good working relationship with progressive groups when he was mayor of Davao City for more than two decades.

Despite the embarrassing human rights situation in the country, which worsened when Duterte became president last June 30, the present government has been quite aggressive in implementing several new policies that are expected to make a huge social impact.

Duterte is currently facing an impeachment complaint. There are also proposals for the UN and other global institutions to make Duterte accountable for the deteriorating human rights situation in the country. All these could have been avoided if Duterte had only chosen to give top priority to his social reform agenda.

Read more at The Diplomat

How the Mine Industry is Polarizing the Philippines

Mining investment surged in the Philippines in the past two decades but reactions are mixed whether its impact has been beneficial or destructive to the country.

The passage of a mining law in 1995, which provided generous tax privileges to the mining sector, was greeted by local and foreign companies as a great incentive to do business in the Philippines. Hundreds of mining applications were approved by the government which led to a boom in mining operations across the country.

Both the government and the business sector claimed that the revitalized mining industry contributed to the local economy in terms of jobs created, tax revenues, infrastructure development, community assistance, and export earnings. As mining firms continued to grow, they also became influential players in local politics by providing hefty campaign funds to political parties and dynasties.

But due to the inherent pollutive feature of mining operations, an anti-mining constituency led by environment groups emerged and expanded over the years. They were supported by church groups, activists, and even some local governments which passed ordinances and resolutions imposing a moratorium on open pit mining and metallic mining in their jurisdictions.

In the past, Duterte accused big mining companies of acting like oligarchs who are collaborating with foreigners. Duterte’s statement could be a hint of his intention to promote resource nationalism, but recently he revealed his other reason for supporting the suspension of some mines in the country. He said that big mine owners are funding the destabilization plots against his government.

Whether or not Duterte is sincere in backing the mining audit of the DENR, environment groups have found a solid cause to support the reform agenda of the government with respect to mining. Duterte badly needs this support since his government is being pilloried both at home and abroad for the deteriorating human rights situation in the country.

But if Duterte’s accusation against mine owners is true, then it is further proof of how mining money is causing bitter divisions in the country.

Excerpt of my article for The Diplomat magazine edition

Published by Bulatlat

Mention the year 1968 and what comes to mind are the youth uprisings across the world. The year of student strikes, anti-war rallies, and Chinese Red Guards bombarding the headquarters. In the Philippines, the political landscape during that time was dominated by Marcos. But another political event was the reestablishment of the Communist Party (CPP).

When people discuss the anti-Marcos struggle, the popular view highlights the impact of Senator Ninoy Aquino’s assassination in 1983. Meanwhile, the alternative perspective rightfully underscores the substantial role of the First Quarter Storm (FQS) of 1970 and the growth of the Maoist-inspired New People’s Army (NPA).

Indeed, the CPP-NPA gained nationwide following during the Martial Law years. Analysts attribute this to the emergence of the Left as the most consistent and formidable political force opposing the Marcos dictatorship.

But the CPP-NPA continued the fight after 1986 when Martial Law was already defeated and a so-called democratic space was offered by post-Edsa regimes. Because of this, mainstream commentators previously sympathetic to the Left accused the CPP-NPA of being a recalcitrant and dogmatic movement, a political nuisance which refused to acknowledge that Edsa brought change in society.

Three decades later, the CPP-NPA is still thriving and even resurgent in many islands of the country. If the communist opposition movements in neighboring countries are either defunct or defeated, the CPP remains a relevant political force in the Philippines. This cannot be explained by merely accusing the CPP of being stubborn and doctrinaire. What is the secret to the longevity of the CPP?

To answer this question, we must go back to 1968. Marcos was not yet a dictator, the Philippines was a model democracy in the Asia-Pacific, and businesses (read: oligarchs and cronies) were booming.

The CPP was founded not simply because it wanted to oust Marcos; its principal political aim was the smashing of the semi-feudal and semi-colonial system. It named imperialism, feudalism, and bureaucrat capitalism as the three basic ills afflicting society. To get rid of these social evils, no less than a people’s revolution is required for a protracted period of time.

This is the radical legacy of the sixty-eighters, the pioneer generation of revolutionaries who defended and continues to defend the principles of the national democratic movement.

Through the sixty-eighters, we understood what it means to wage a revolution even at a time when the political situation seems stable. We grasped the urgency to expose the sham democracy and the systemic exploitation of the people even as the ruling elite insists and boasts that things are normal and progressing for everybody. We realized that revolutionaries should not hesitate in naming the political moment as ripe for seizing, and more importantly, they should be aggressive in organizing.

The sixty-eighters have the reputation of being grim and determined revolutionaries. This is a compliment, although some academicians think it is a vulgarity.

There were numerous Marxist groups before the sixty-eighters but many of them were intellectuals with little or no experience of organizing among the workers and peasants. In contrast, the sixty-eighters excelled in praxis, as they resumed the unfinished work of earlier Philippine revolutionaries.

The FQS was a massive broadcast of the revolutionary political line, and its program, strategy, and tactics were already defined in 1968. The NPA was a powerful resistance weapon against Martial Law and US imperialism but the necessity of conducting an armed revolution in an archipelagic country like the Philippines was already invoked in 1968.

The enduring legacy of the sixty-eighters is hope. The communist party was almost an obscure entity in the 1950s and early 1960s before the sixty-eighters launched a rectification movement which paved the way for the revival of the proletarian party. Before 1968, the people had no army, the oppressed had no party, and resistance was limited to holding scattered and sporadic rallies. The sixty-eighters changed the course of the country’s history by making revolution a practical reality.
Thus, the annual festive celebration of the CPP’s re-establishment. Both activists and CPP cadres use this occasion to review the status of the national democratic struggle, analyze the local and global political situation, and renew the fighting tasks of the revolution. This is the day when we are reminded about the historic decision of the sixty-eighters to lead the struggle for national liberation and socialist construction.

Joining the commemoration are the organized masses who recognize the political symbolism of 1968 and its subversive potential to change and create history. They know that 1968 is more than just a CPP anniversary; that it is a crucial moment in Philippine history, and that it links the anti-colonial revolt of the Katipunan and the modern proletarian revolution.

Thus, the state-led demonization of the CPP, the use of terror and fascist tactics to crush CPP-led dissent, and the formulaic attack against the politics of the CPP.

Contemporary Philippine politics may make us depressed and angry, but we have the militancy of the sixty-eighters as a constant source of inspiration.

And also of lessons: that even if despotic politicians reign supreme, there exists a group of revolutionaries who are fiercely committed to end injustice and inequality. That even if some prefer compromise to win instant reforms, the sixty-eighters have already succeeded in establishing the validity of militant collective action – and even armed struggle – as a viable revolutionary path. That political victory in the 21st century cannot be achieved by ignoring the legacy of 1968.

At a time when moderation is glorified in mainstream society, we should be more assertive in embracing the radicalness of the sixty-eighters.

News about Chinese ships surveying the waters of Benham Rise, located east of the northern part of the Philippines, has triggered a bit of panic in Manila’s political circles in the past few weeks.

Perhaps the renewed sense of nationalism over the issue of Benham Rise could embolden policymakers and economic planners to draft a masterplan on how to develop the provinces near the underwater plateau. How can Filipinos benefit from the mineral deposits contained in Benham Rise if there are no nearby adequate scientific facilities to start the exploration?

The Chinese motive in exploring Benham Rise may be unclear, but the Philippines should have a definite plan on how to efficiently secure, manage, and develop the areas surrounding the ridge. Otherwise, foreign powers like China will find it easy to invoke the underdevelopment in the area as a cover for offers of scientific assistance or economic exploration that could in fact further boost Beijing’s strategic objectives while undermining Philippine sovereignty.

Read more at The Diplomat

Remembering Deadly Typhoon Haiyan in the Philippines

While millions of people around the world actively followed the results of the U.S. presidential election on November 8, Filipinos quietly commemorated the third anniversary of Typhoon Haiyan (also known as Yolanda in the Philippines), which killed more than 6,000 people in the central part of the country.

Haiyan was the strongest tropical cyclone to make landfall in history. It caused a tsunami-like storm surge that devastated the islands of Samar and Leyte.

As typhoon victims struggle to rise, many survivors have also realized that it isn’t enough to beg for charity. What Haiyan taught Filipinos is that the most important component of disaster preparation involves the elimination of poverty, inequality, and other forms of economic injustice. To strengthen the capacities of communities, the government should prioritize the stimulation of domestic industries, especially the agricultural sector.

And lastly, the Haiyan anniversary should inspire the Duterte government to rethink the framework of its “war on drugs” by refocusing its strategy to address more urgent, lingering issues like chronic poverty and its causes.

Read more at The Diplomat

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