By Tonyo Cruz
President Rodrigo Duterte apparently ate his words for breakfast, lunch, and dinner in Russia.
And he ate a whole lot of them as he signed Proclamation No. 216 placing the entire island of Mindanao under martial law and suspending the privilege of the writ of habeas corpus in that part of the country.
Only last December, Duterte declared before local officials of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao: “Martial law? Kalokohan yan. Nung nag-martial law tayo, ano nangyari? Gumaling ba ang buhay natin? Hanggang ngayon, wala.”
That was Duterte’s breakfast.
In the same speech, Duterte said: “Martial law for what? Killing people? I would rather empower every mayor. Just don’t use it for other things. Soldiers would never accede to any illegal order. Ask them to escort the delivery of drugs and I will ask them to shoot you. You shoot your master yourself.”
Was Duterte referring to the Moro war for national self-determination? No. Or to the Communist war for national liberation? No.
As another paper reported, “Duterte said people from Manila thought he would declare martial law because of the recent activities of Maute militants who occupied parts of Butig in Lanao del Sur” a week earlier.
That was Duterte’s lunch.
As early as that December speech, Duterte already said that the Maute has links to international terrorist group Islamic State (IS).
But Duterte said “killing more people would not solve the problems besetting the country.”
“You don’t build a nation over dead bones of Moros and Christians,” he said.
“I don’t allow oppression in this country. I’ll never do it,” Duterte declared.
That was Duterte’s dinner.
Clearly, this is not a case of taking Duterte’s words out of context. This week, he reneged on his promise not to declare martial law.
Lest we forget, Duterte is not at all powerless against the Maute Group that supposedly infests the Islamic City of Marawi this week, and terrorized Butig, Lanao del Sur, late last year, and Bohol weeks ago.
Not only does he possess powers as President and Commander-in-Chief, but Duterte had already obtained extraordinary powers last September by signing Proclamation No. 55.
In response to a blast in Davao that killed 14 and injured dozens, the proclamation placed the entire country under a state of emergency.
It called on the Armed Forces of the Philippines and the police to suppress “any and all forms of lawless violence in Mindanao” and prevent lawless violence from spreading in other parts of the country.
Apparently the extraordinary powers he obtained under the state of emergency were not enough.
Eating the words he spoke last December, Duterte’s appetite led to martial law to be declared and the privilege of the writ of habeas corpus to be suspended in Mindanao.
He said he won’t hesitate expanding martial law to Visayas and to the entire Philippines. Again, more power.
Right now, ardent supporters are covering up or ignoring this lust for power by selling Duterte’s martial law as some sort of wonder drug that could solve all the ills of Mindanao. It is no different from how Marcos’ martial law was sold in 1972.
Prof. Jose Maria Sison, the founder of the Communist Party of the Philippines and chief political consultant of the National Democratic Front, said Duterte is “playing with fire.”
Marcos and Marcos supporters once brandished martial law as the “final solution” to the Communist insurgency and Moro separatism, only to discover that dictatorship only fanned the flames of popular resistance.
What happened between December and now that could explain this change in Duterte’s mind?
Aside from the military failing to contain and crush the Maute, the “utak-pulbura” cliché has gained an upperhand in Duterte’s inner circle as we see in the appointment of many generals to top posts.
Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana has transparently tried to sabotage the peace talks with the NDF and calls for a total war against the NPA at every instance. (This same group and like-minded persons demand that the NPA enter into a permanent truce, ahead of any agreement on socio-economic and political reforms addressing the roots of the armed conflict. They apparently just want peace talks to hoodwink the NPAs to surrender and to capitulate, and nothing more.)
Together with the militarists, the pro-Duterte oligarchs in the cabinet also grew stronger.
The neoliberalization-addicted oligarchs delayed and diminished Duterte’s promise to end labor contractualization. They now push a most deceptive “tax reform” program that reduces income taxes for the upper and middle class, but increases existing taxes and introduces new ones that apply to all, rich or poor. Proceeds will go to the massive Build Build Build infrastructure program that — not unlike the MRT — would involve public funding and public profit-taking. Also: Free tuition no more, as the neoliberals want it to be like UP’s scammy STS. It is a scheme that led to tuition to now reach P1,500/unit.
Meanwhile, Environment Sec. Gina Lopez, who bravely exposed and fought the oligarchs in the mining industry, was deposed by Duterte’s own allies in Congress. Duterte replaced her with another retired general.
Those same Duterte allies have sat on the appointments of Agrarian Reform Sec. Rafael Mariano and Social Welfare Sec. Judy Taguiwalo. They are two of the three outstanding and popular cabinet nominees from the NDF. (As convenor of the President’s anti-poverty commission, Sec. Liza Maza isn’t required to be confirmed.)
To be fair, the public has given Duterte all the support and trust he needed in his first 11 months. But for the most part, he has brought only death to thousands of innocents, surrounded himself with generals and oligarchs, obtained extraordinary powers, gave token reforms and bold gestures.
No, I didn’t forget and we all shouldn’t. Duterte has also honored Marcos as a hero, much to our dismay. This week, Duterte honored him again with his own martial law.
Surprise! Change has come. To Duterte.
Follow me on Twitter @tonyocruz
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