“In his attempt to centralize power, remove the opposition, this proclamation of terrorism will be used against everybody including dissenters.”
By MARYA SALAMAT
MANILA – The umbrella group Bagong Alyansang Makabayan or Bayan is taking seriously President Duterte’s “latest moves to suppress civil liberties.” This is what the proclamation Duterte signed last December 5 really amounted to, a move to suppress liberties, said the progressives. They warned that the threat hangs not only over the Left but over the heads of nearly everyone who might catch the ire of the ruling clique.
President Duterte is heading toward one-man rule, using force and threats, and he has to be stopped, the progressives said.
Duterte’s proclamation came on the heels of the Philippine visit of US President Donald Trump. Prior to Trump’s visit, President Duterte had signified interest at initialing a draft peace agreement by yearend with the panel representing the revolutionary groups Communist Party of the Philippines-New People’s Army-National Democratic Front of the Philippines (CPP-NPA-NDF). The draft agreement comprises a part of the comprehensive agreement on social and economic reforms being negotiated by panels of the Government of the Republic of the Philippines (GRP) and the NDFP.
After hosting the ASEAN meeting and US President Trump, Duterte turned “unwilling to talk peace.” Despite past agreements between the Philippine government and the NDF that the ceasefire would only come after the signing and implementation of socio-economic reforms, Duterte lashed out at the revolutionaries who continued to defend what the military suspected as their bases.
Aside from turning his back on the peace process and deploying more troops, contrary to his promises of peace, Duterte is trying to lump among the state troops’ targets the unarmed and non-combatant progressive groups. The groups he had been heard to brand as ‘legal fronts’ of the CPP so far include Bayan, Karapatan, KMU, Gabriela and Piston.
But in a press conference in Quezon City on Thursday December 7, Carol Pagaduan-Araullo, national chairperson of Bayan, cited the progressive groups’ decades of track record in fighting for the rights and welfare of the majority in the Philippines. Through the years, she said, the progressives have represented the “principled, uncowed, and persistent opposition in this country working for social, economic and political reforms.”
“If that’s terrorism, then okay, Mr. President, let’s see you prove it,” Araullo told Duterte.
She said tons of media reports detail the activities of the legal, democratic progressive groups such as Bayan, Kilusang Mayo Uno, Piston, Gabriela, Karapatan, to name just a few of the progressive organizations.
Araullo and the rest of Bayan-led organizations viewed Duterte’s proclamation and looming “fascist dictatorship” as one way the elite is attempting to constrict the country’s democratic space, limited that it already is, to continue its exploitative practices and muzzle the democratic opposition. But the progressive groups vowed they would continue with their activities and campaign.
On December 10, they would mark the International Human Rights Day with protests all over the country. In Manila, they will gather at the Bonifacio Shrine near the Manila City Hall from 3 p.m. and will march around 5 p.m. to Mendiola (Chino Roces) Bridge near Malacañang. They invite the public to join the different activities in defense of human rights and against a returning one-man rule.