BAYAN USA to Duterte: Actions Speak Louder than Words, Continue Your Pro-People Stand in Practice

Reference: Berna Ellorin, BAYAN USA, chair@bayanusa.org

BAYAN USA congratulates President-Elect Rodrigo Duterte in his landslide presidential win last May 9. We welcome Duterte’s pronouncements to fight corruption and criminality, as well as continue with his track record of recognizing and respecting the armed revolutionary movement in the country by resuming peace talks with the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP). We also recognize and appreciate that Duterte’s win was not only a major upset for the US-backed Liberal Party, Duterte’s win continues to leave US imperialism and foreign corporate investors in the Philippines insecure and uncertain as he was not the usual handpicked neoliberal candidate of the US like his predecessors.

Most of all, we see the winning vote for Duterte as a concrete manifestation of the Filipino people’s resolve in voting for change, as a rejection to the status quo of traditional (neoliberal) Philippine politics that has left the country in deep record impoverishment, debt, landlessness, joblessness, and in complete subordination to foreign dictates.

In this regard, we join the Filipino people in staunchly challenging Duterte to put his words into action, and to answer the cries of the poor majority in the country. We call on Duterte to immediately free the over 300 political prisoners in the country and resume peace talks with the National Democratic Front of the Philippines, specifically resuming talks on fundamental social and economic reforms which are at the root of the armed conflict to begin with. Key to these are genuine land redistribution and national industrialization.

We call on Duterte to stand for Philippine sovereignty and territorial integrity by scrapping the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA), the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA), and neoliberal policies such as the 1995 Philippine Mining Act.

We call on Duterte to withstand the Western media’s non-stop bashing of his character as it is a relentless tool to isolate and bully him into caving to US dictates and enacting neoliberal concessions.

While quick to bash, western media also ignores Duterte’s history as mayor of Davao City in the southern Philippines, which includes taking a critical stand against US intervention in the country, such as Balikatan military exercises and covert CIA operations that undermine Philippine sovereignty. He has long been a tactical ally of the broader Filipino people’s movement against US intervention. He has also assisted in negotiating for the release of NPA captives of the Philippine military, given the ongoing reality of the 47-year civil war.

Reactionary violence and state repression are standard in US neocolonies like the Philippines. In fact, all presidents before Duterte have enacted US-designed counterinsurgency programs that produced armed death squads and allowed state forces to target civilians critical of government policies. With Gloria Macapagal Arroyo and Benigno Simeon Aquino III combined there are more than 1,500 extra-judicial killings. Yet the western media selectively ignores the human rights crisis in the country created by Duterte’s predecessors who played the puppet role the US desires in order to continue its neoliberal economic and military domination.

While we also do not condone Duterte’s tendency for misogynistic and backwards comments in public, we believe we must place these in the proper socio-economic context. In a semi-feudal, semi-colonial country like the Philippines, structural patriarchy runs rampant and chronic poverty and hunger are at the root of gangsterism and warlordism. Eradicating this will require a deeper and longer process to completely change society, at the root of which is the fact that the majority of the population are landless peasants and farmers beholden to a government of landlords.  This is why there is an ongoing armed revolution for change.

In the end, BAYAN USA holds no illusion that the electoral process can be a tool for creating change. Duterte must prove his worth in practice, and we must hold him accountable every step of the way. Ultimately, it is the Filipino people, united in collective action, that will be decisive in positively changing society, not any one president or individual politician. Let us continue to hold Duterte and all the other newly-elected officials accountable to their promises. Let us continue to build a broad and united people’s movement for genuine freedom and democracy.