After our forum in UP yesterday on the Duterte administration, Maria Ressa of Rappler asked if I was an optimist in relation to the administration. I said I was more of a realist, and that I am keenly aware of the issues and problems confronting the Left’s relationship with Duterte.
When the Duterte regime started out, our attitude of unity and struggle was made known to all. We would be supporting progressive and pro-people policies while struggling against anti-people and reactionary policies. We had no illusion that the relationship would be smooth sailing. We knew that there would be conflicts along the way on different issues, which is common in any alliance, especially one that involves a regime in power. Given this, there would be, to quote Mao, “struggle on just grounds, with restraint, and to our advantage”.
The Left’s support for Duterte included his independent foreign policy, assertion of sovereignty, the resumption of the peace talks, the release of political prisoners, the appointment of progressives in his cabinet, and implementation of measures beneficial to the people such a land reform, social services and so on. We welcomed his openness to discuss issues with the Left.
Meanwhile, differences with Duterte included his stand on the Marcos burial, the conduct of the war on drugs and the neoliberal economic policies being carried over from the previous regime. We have made known our stand on these issues early on.
The past few days saw increasing criticism of Duterte over the Marcos burial, and rightly so. We fully recognize the role of Duterte in the granting of formal honors and hero’s burial for the late dictator. However, the blame is not Duterte’s alone as previous post-Marcos regimes, including two Aquino regimes, created the conditions for the return and rehabilitation of the Marcos family through political accommodation and by upholding a rotten system of bureaucrat capitalism. As a tragic consequence of a bankrupt political system, the burial is also a reminder of the need for thoroughgoing change.
Does the Marcos burial have an effect on the Left’s alliance with Duterte? Of course it has. There is no denying that. The most recent events are testing the progressive alliance, in the same way as the drug-related killings, the failure to release political prisoners and the continuing militarization of the countryside are testing the alliance. Hindi sikreto, galit ang mga Marcos victims at mga kasama sa nangyayari.
How do we view Duterte’s alliance with the Marcoses? We oppose it because it aids in whitewashing the crimes of the dictator and helps in the Marcoses return to power in Malacanang.
What will happen now? The Left will launch protest actions against the Marcos burial and will hold Duterte to account. There will be a continuing education campaign on the Marcos dictatorship so that future generations will never forget. Beyond that, we should continue to call for the overhaul of the rotten system that gives rise to tyrants and rewards plunderers and right violators.
The progressives’ alliance with Duterte will still go through the process of unity and struggle and will likely be tested again. The Left will maintain its independence and initiative in relation to struggles on various peoples issues. We continue to confront issues such as the matter of US troops in the Philippines, the substantive agenda of the peace talks, the struggle for land reform, a stop to militarization in the countryside and many more. The drug-related killings and the apparent climate of impunity have become very alarming and unacceptable.
We know our friends have been asking how the Left will navigate its complicated relationship with the Duterte regime. Rest assured we have not lost sight of the long-term goals of the struggle and we have not turned our backs on our principles. We remain in the streets, carrying out protest actions almost every week. Organizers and mass members remain in the line of fire, especially in rural areas. Progressives in the cabinet are committed to upholding the interests of the people and continue to face opposition from the conservative and reactionary sections of the regime. More importantly, we are aware that the revolutionary movement continues to carry out its work even during the period of a unilateral ceasefire.
In short, we are very far from the positions of comfort occupied by Akbayan during their alliance with the Aquino regime.
To well-meaning friends who think we have not done enough, we can only hope to do better. Let our past and future actions be the real measure.
We can expect more protests as the people demand from the Duterte government genuine change and a concrete response to their national and democratic aspirations.
Teka, hindi pa ba kayo kakalas sa alliance kay Duterte? Only time, and the maturing and resolution of contradictions, will tell us what will become of the alliance with Duterte. The aforementioned issues will be crucial indicators. For example, Duterte can still make true his commitment of pursuing serious peace talks with the revolutionary movement and address poverty and injustice. Duterte can also choose to use the peace talks as a mere tool for pacification, without really addressing the roots of the armed conflict. We will know in the coming months.
Right now, amid the intensifying economic and political crisis, we continue to struggle — on just grounds and for the benefit of the people.