Truth-telling in Duterte land

Duterte during the 121st anniversary of Jose Rizal’s martyrdom
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Almost every government official has the same message whenever the birth or death anniversaries of the country’s heroes are marked: it is to remember what they did for the country, and to emulate their patriotism and devotion to the welfare and betterment of the nation.

On the 121st death anniversary of Dr. Jose Rizal, for example, President Rodrigo Duterte told Filipinos to remember the national hero’s “ultimate sacrifice for the sake of our country,” and to “reflect on his patriotism as we strive to continue his work of building a more united, peaceful and prosperous Philippines.”

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Bad new times

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The year 2017 isn’t exactly auld lang syne, or good old times, and 2018 is not only likely to be a repeat of it. It could even be worse.

As 2016 ended a year ago, the new year of 2017 was welcomed with optimism by most Filipinos, in the probable belief that thinking so will make it so. The feng shui and other creatures spawned by the Philippine culture of confusion, who claim to have the power to foretell the future, weren’t helping any. Neither were the survey firms, which as usual regaled the citizenry with their cheery polls on the average man-on-the-street’s fact-defying optimism.

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Repeating history

Duterte with soldiers in Marawi on martial law anniversary
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There was hardly any question about it. The dominance of the Duterte “supermajority” in both houses of Congress made the one-year extension of martial law in Mindanao certain, and even the members of the political opposition in the House of Representatives and the Senate, who nevertheless voted against it, predicted congressional approval of President Rodrigo Duterte’s request.

Mr. Duterte’s Congressional allies had the numbers but apparently neither the welfare, peace of mind, safety or rights of the Mindanaoans and the country in mind, nor the legal justification on their side — or even a sense of history.

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Ending the information crisis

Let’s Organize for Democracy and Integrity
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The reformists and revolutionaries of the late 19th century; those who fought the Japanese invader so during World War II; and the professionals, workers and farmers who comprised the core of the resistance against the Marcos dictatorship understood only too well the role of information in exposing the injustice and racist assumptions of Spanish colonial rule, the brutality of Japanese militarism, and the illusory promises and barbarism of home-grown despotism.

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Terminal

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The Philippine crisis is reaching another acute stage 45 years after Ferdinand Marcos declared martial law in 1972. The country barely survived it then. But this time the affliction could very well be terminal.

Today as in 1972, authoritarian rule, whether through another declaration of martial law or the formation of a “revolutionary government,” is being falsely proffered as the solution to imaginary attempts to remove President Rodrigo Duterte from power (even the military has declared that there is no such plot), and even as a means of addressing the country’s many problems.

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The U.S. Trump card

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The United States has announced that President Donald Trump will take up human rights issues in the Philippines with President Rodrigo Duterte in their one-on-one meeting sometime during the 31st Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) Summit this November. It’s hardly likely that the meeting with Trump will result in any immediate change in the state of compliance with human rights standards of the Duterte regime. But Trump’s bringing them up now is a reminder that those issues can be used later when it suits US interests.

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A coup by any other name

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The Marcos terror regime may have been overthrown 31 years ago, the institutions of liberal democracy restored, and a new Constitution drafted. But the threat of dictatorship has never really passed.

The conditions that made the making of a tyrannical regime possible in 1972 are still in evidence. Among them are a lawless and self-aggrandizing political class afflicted with the authoritarian virus; an unreformed police and military establishment that is similarly impaired; and those sectors of the population impatient with the inefficiencies of what passes for democratic governance and who imagine one-man rule to be the cure-all for the country’s ills.

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