THE power balance is shifting. The previous advantaged position enjoyed by the popular Duterte regime is in peril.
The War on Drugs with its patent wanton disregard for due process has taken its toll on the public. Thousands, with some estimates having a running balance of 13,000, have been killed; nearly all of them poor and underprivileged. The slaughter of the innocents, which was highlighted by the celebrated murder of 17-year old Kian delos Santos, has put into question the “kill, kill, kill” pronouncements of Malacanang, along with its P6.85 million bounty, in 2016, for the police in pursuit of alleged pushers and users of illegal drugs.
More revolting is the gall and arrogance of Duterte’s rubber stamp in Batasan; for previously awarding a measly budget of P1,000 for the human rights commission before it backtracked, and has railroaded controversial anti-worker and anti-poor measures such as the excise taxes on petroleum products and sugar sweetened beverages, and is now toying with the impeachment of a co-equal branch of the state in the persona of Chief Justice Sereno.
The Martial Law in Mindanao is dangled like a sword over the entire archipelago, a not-so-veiled threat against legitimate dissent and human rights, even as the city of Marawi is smashed to smithereens not to crush a handful of terrorists but to provide the backdrop for a historic land grab by property development firms of oligarchs such as the Sys, the Gokongweis, the Ayalas, etc.
The oligarchy, which was subject to verbal attacks by the Duterte, was not alarmed. The neoliberal policies of liberalization, deregulation, privatization, and labor flexibilization – which reaped in billions of profits for them and concentrated social wealth in the hands of the richest 40 families – remains fully in force.
The oligarchs know that they would cash in from the “build, build, build” thrust of Duterte-nomics, not only through their construction firms but also with their private banks that would lend capital to the planned infrastructure projects. Furthermore, these urban landlords expect to profit from the rise of land values in sprawling megacities with the development of transport and communication networks.
Even though the previous Noynoy Aquino administration is constantly subject to presidential ridicule, the economic policies of the current regime have not changed. As such, global capital and transnational capital remain confident in the so-called “economic fundamentals”, followed to the letter by the Duterte government.
Despite the harsh anti-US rhetoric by Duterte, diplomatic ties with the American government are not severed. The military treaties that traditionally bind the country to the interests of the United States – the Mutual Defense Treaty of 1951, the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA), the 2002 Mutual Logistics Support Agreement (MLSA), the 2014 Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement – are untouched. In the continuing assault against the miniscule Maute group, American troops have even joined Filipino soldiers in the “War on Terror” in Malacanang.
These agreements inevitably pushes the country in the middle of the brewing conflict between the United States and China – the world’s fastest growing economy – for economic hegemony and global dominance.
Amidst the local and international turmoil, the Filipino people have spoken in the 2016 national elections. They want change. Lamentably, 16 million were fooled into believing that the warlord-thug who now sits in Malacanang is their champion. But they grasped an iota of truth in their wholesale rejection of the Yellow forces, whose dominance since Edsa 1986 has only led to a three-decade disappointment under the Liberal elite.
The imperative is to build an alternative that is not only different from the stalwarts of elite democracy but also dissimilar in programmatic content for meaningful and sweeping reforms to ultimately change society and the state.
Such alternative could only be proposed, with credibility and integrity, by the workers movement. The working class – more than any class in Philippine society – is most oppressed by the lack of democratic rights and by perpetual economic want. They form the majority in plantations, factories, offices, and workplaces. Yet, “majority rule” is non-existent. What prevails is the dictatorship of the owning few in the guise of “management prerogative”. It is the prevalence of property rights of the minority over the right to decent lives of the toiling majority.
The working class not only comprises the majority in Philippine society. They are also the most organized. Out of more than a hundred million Filipinos, almost 23 million are wage and salaried workers. They are dwarfed only by the millions of informal workers in a backward capitalist economy. But all in all, their collective toil form the assembly line and distribution network for the production and distribution of goods and services, linked with the global economy. Organized across Philippine society as a profit-making machine but whose collective will remain as a disorganized mass of individual dreams and aspirations.
Despite such formlessness, in terms of self-organization, the workers are among the most organized sectors in the country. The trade union movement is at almost 2 million, decimated by economic restructuring brought by globalization, but remaining as a formidable force, but only if the unionists would transcend craft and factory-level concerns by learning how to link these experiences with how society and the state are organized to favor the propertied few.
The time has come for the working class to awaken from its slumbers. Its combined strength that now moves the levers of the economy must become a self-conscious force to change society. The powerful only appear high and mighty when one is on its knees. Arise!
Let every Filipino – who truly desires genuine and meaningful change, particularly those who marched against the arrogant impunity of the powerful as they trample upon the human rights of the poor on this fateful anniversary of the declaration of Martial Law – take as duty and responsibility the critical task of awakening the potential of the working class. Go among the workers; go to the toilers! Expose as a false prophet this murderous thug who serves the capitalist class! Join them in the immediate struggles against contractual labor, low wages, high prices, new taxes, lack of social services, etc. Teach them the inextricable link of these gut issues to ‘politics’ and the ‘state question’, on which class controls the state apparatus.
In 1975, the deafening silence at the height of Martial Law was shattered by the La Tondena strike. It was soon followed not only by a strike wave in other factories but by a resurgent parliament of the streets. “Sobra na, tama na, welga na!” was the precursor of the “sobra na, tama na, palitan na”, which reverberated across the country during the revolutionary tide of 1983 to 1986.
Now, in the face of an aspiring dictator, the imperative is for a resistance movement of the working class – the embryo of a plebeian-led upheaval that should be the culmination of the failures of the elite-led Edsa revolts. ARM the Workers! #
National Executive Committee, Bukluran ng Manggagawang Pilipino (BMP)
September 21, 2017