Migrante International’s Critique on Duterte’s #SONA2018

Standing true to his notoriety as a bloodthirsty maniac, Duterte began his SONA touching on his deadly fake war on drugs which has now claimed more than 20 thousand lives. One of whom is 17-year old Kian delos Santos, the son of a Saudi-based OFW who was mercilessly shot by cops while begging for his life. Duterte’s fetish for his bloody campaign would never be complete without castigating human rights advocates and Church people for defending a just cause. Clearly, the misdirection lies with this tyrant regime that never hesitates to kill defenceless poor people on mere suspicion of drug involvement while disregarding the collateral loss of innocent lives.

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One need not wonder as to whose human lives Duterte is very much concerned about. It is of course the lives of big time drug lords and convicts like Kerwin Espinosa, Cayco and Duterte’s beloved kumpadre Peter Lim whose cases were dropped citing lack of evidence despite confessions and convictions. If it were not for the uproar from human rights’ advocates their cases could have not been revisited, albeit frivolously just a few days before Duterte was set to deliver his SONA.

Lest we also forget the diablo’s son Pulong who was the subject of a congressional inquiry on drug smuggling is still scot-free. This great liar and master of deception, Rodrigo Duterte, should discern that what agitates these protests is his regime’s benevolence to these big time drug lords and his sadist contempt and slaughter of the poor.

Rubbing salt on our national wounds, Duterte ravaged Mindanao by waging a war instigated by US imperialists keen on expanding their military presence and ODA involvement (Official Development Assistance) in the Bangsamoro region. After reducing Marawi to ashes and evicting half a million Maranaos, the people are now barred by the police from returning to their homes and ancestral estates which are now apportioned to the military and to big foreign business firms. An EDCA-compliant military base is about to rise up in Barangay Kapantaran while the rest of Marawi is now up for grabs to Chinese-led consortiums. There is no doubt that the imposition of Martial law and the regime’s war against the Bangsamoro people is a scripted calamity directed by US imperialists and big Chinese capitalists with the willful participation of their puppet Duterte and other local lackeys.

Mindanaoans are crying out from the devastation and inexorable suffering the US-Duterte regime has brought upon them. Unique among all the previous presidential crooks, Duterte will long be remembered as the only president who threatened to bomb Lumad schools. In February, he ordered Lumads to vacate their ancestral lands so Palm-Oil corporations can take over. Moros, Christians and Lumads can no longer expect peace and harmony in Mindanao under Duterte’s sway.

In terms of foreign relations, Duterte’s utterance of an independent foreign policy is contradicted by the swelling Chinese militarization of the West Philippine Sea and the expansion of US military presence in the country. In his buffoonery, Duterte offered to turn the Philippines into a province of China to the applause of Chinese businessmen and diplomats. In November last year, he also serenaded Trump with a love song that best reflects his regime’s puppetry and subservience to US imperialism.

On OFWS

 Consistent as a con-artist, Duterte once again exhibited his absence of direction in resolving the issues hounding overseas Filipino workers by yakking parenthood statements devoid of specificity. Instead of ending labour export, Duterte systematized and institutionalized it further through the creation of the Overseas Filipino Bank which is meant to salvage the Philippine Postal Savings Bank from bankruptcy and arrest the dwindling dollar reserves. The bank was an Arroyo-era project that took more than a decade in the making. It finally materialized through the signing of Duterte’s Executive Order No.44 in September 2017 as it also seeks to goad OFW families into receiving their money in US dollars; proof that the Duterte regime is using OFWs to shore up neoliberal dictates for the sake of US economic hegemony.

The TRAIN law has also aggravated OFWs and their families. Securing important documents like birth certificates, CENOMAR, marriage certificates and other clearances were not spared as they are covered by the hiked Documentary Stamp Tax. The skyrocketing increases in the cost of food, transportation and energy have shattered the dreams of OFWs to return to the Philippines. They now need to work more, make cutbacks and be perpetually doomed to modern-day slavery overseas so that their family back home can endure the onslaught of Duterte’s TRAIN.  No allocation from TRAIN shall be used to improve services to OFWs. In fact, the bulk will be used for debt-servicing and to fund Duterte’s pro-elite Build, Build, Build. Hence, Duterte is just hell bent on taxing the poor to subsidize private profit.

Aside from being wretched in subhuman working conditions, exploitation, abuse, serving jail sentences or languishing in death row like Mary Jane Veloso, OFWs have become the subjects of insults and scorn from the likes of Sondos Alqattan, a Kuwaiti social media celebrity who looks down on Filipino household workers with derision for simply having their rights to rest-days and safekeeping of their passports. Notwithstanding the brutal murder of Demafelis and the continuing maltreatment of OFWs overseas, there is no let-up in the Duterte regime’s peddling of Filipinos as cheap and docile laborers to foreign countries through its labor export program.

Never in Duterte’s term will we be able to witness the eradication of the roots of forced migration as long as the regime is stiff-necked in its refusal to introduce a national minimum wage, abolishing ENDO, pursuing national industrialization and instituting genuine agrarian reform through free land distribution to our struggling farmers.

By impairing the GRP-NDF peace process which could have paved the way for significant socio-economic reforms, Lorenzana and Duterte have obliged themselves to advance the “greatest good” of the ruling class and their imperialist masters for the “greatest number” of casualties among the poor.

Exploitation and tyranny

Under this wicked regime, workers’ rights are continually stamped out. Duterte exclaims that he is powerless to end ENDO for he cannot violate laws to achieve this purpose and that the endowment is dependent on congress. Yet, we have repeatedly seen how he gets what he wants by railroading the extension of Martial Law in Mindanao and the ouster of Chief Justice Sereno from the Supreme Court.

Salivating after a new source of corruptible cash, Duterte’s stooges in congress are adamant in withholding the farmers’ Coco Levy Fund through the creation of the Coco Farmers Trust Fund. Indeed, Duterte is good at breaking his promises and perpetuating corruption.

Duterte also bragged about the salary increase of uniformed personnel in AFP and PNP who have been unleashing the torments of hell, enforcing lawlessness among their ranks by sowing disorder and shedding innocent blood in poor communities through the fake war on drugs and the US-sponsored counter-insurgency. Once the amendments in the Human Security Act are enshrined, these armed elements of the Fascist regime will be licensed to commit grave human rights offenses against progressive groups who are standing up against Duterte’s tyranny.

Even in the absence of these amendments, we have already seen how Duterte has employed Fascist force to stamp out resistance. His bogus masquerade as an environmentalist is belied by the military’s forced eviction of Lumads from their ancestral lands at the pleasure of mining companies and the closure of Boracay to the delight of casino-gambling lords. With 48 eco-activists murdered in 2017, international watchdog Global Witness ranked the Philippines as Asia’s most dangerous country for environmental defenders.

TRAIN

Exuding falsehood, Duterte also claims that the TRAIN law has helped poor families cope with rising prices. The poor will never be deceived. In fact, Duterte’s TRAIN is the source of their agony. Duterte is presiding over the exacerbation of an economic crisis. The depreciation of the peso to its lowest in 6 years has increased the value of the country’s foreign debt and significantly decreased the currency’s purchasing power. It has also led to the devaluation of the meager salary of local Filipino workers who are peso earners.

A severe food crisis looms on the horizon since the TRAIN has contributed to the increase in the prices of fertilizers, agrochemicals and the cost of transport. Instead of improving local food production through free land distribution to poor farmers and funding post-harvest facilities, Duterte vowed to remove the remaining restrictions on rice importation.

Charter Change and Arroyo’s comeback

Duterte’s obsession to Charter Change has nothing to do with improving the economy. It is designed to extend his term, cancel next year’s elections and to binge an over-bloated bureaucracy. By establishing a constitutional dictatorship, it also intends to shield Duterte from criminal accountability once his reign of terror is over.

Terrified over his shrinking political capital, the regime is shaken by the growing rift among his pawns. Gloria Arroyo’s ascendance to the House speakership is a demonstration of the intertwining of evil forces. Duterte casts his hope on Gloria Arroyo to escape his impending doom as she vowed to push the regime’s agenda in the legislative branch.

The US-Duterte regime is the main culprit in the political rehabilitation of the Marcoses and Arroyo. For nearly a decade, the Arroyo regime which reeks of corruption and terror yielded more than a thousand cases of extrajudicial killings and hundreds of enforced disappearances including the abduction and torture of UP students Sherlyn Cadapan and Karen Empeno. Arroyo also faced plunder raps for the diversion of P530 Million worth of OWWA funds to PhilHealth to aid his re-election bid. Arroyo’s return to power is one of the biggest political earthquakes that stunned even Duterte’s allies in congress. Nevertheless, no amount of upheaval will move the unshakeable might of the people’s power.

United People’s SONA

Duterte’s counterfeit SONA delivered before the presence of his corrupt disciples in congress is just an enumeration of his lies, deceit and illusions. It was a cover-up for his monumental blunders and to justify his ruthlessness and unfathomable hatred against the downtrodden and the oppressed. The true state of the nation was delivered right there In the long stretch of Commonwealth Avenue by the urban poor, the peasants, workers, church people, students and the rest of the other sectors who gathered together to express their legitimate demands for justice and resistance to tyranny.

The convergence of different groups and the outpouring of support from various streams and different leanings to oppose Duterte’s emergent authoritarianism through the United People’s SONA is only just the beginning. Our unwavering hope rests in the broad unity of the masses towards attaining freedom, social justice and national democracy.

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