*Statement of the National Union of People’s Lawyers on President Rodrigo Duterte’s second State of the Nation Address, July 24, 2017
Two years after President Rodrigo Duterte wheedled his way into the presidency with his much touted promise of change, strongman fantasies and semantic tricks, his once nascent fascism has finally reared its ugly head.
The hero’s burial that the President allowed for his idol, the tyrant Ferdinand Marcos, at the Libingan ng mga Bayani heralded the seeming return of iron-fist rule in the nation. Thereafter, he deliberately began creating his own Marcosian “junta” by appointing a cabal of military officers in his bureaucracy, including notorious human rights violators Eduardo Año, Delfin Lorenzana and Hermogenes Esperon who seem to be the the chief errand boys of the ruling elite if not the real powers behind the throne.
True to form, Duterte placed the entire island of Mindanao under martial law even without sufficient factual basis or credible justification therefor, and even recently extended the same until the end of the year. To our trepidation, such declarations mark an open season for unarmed activists and civilians who have been the targets of military abuses even without martial law or express orders to “flatten the hills”.
It is therefore no surprise that President Duterte reneged on his pledge to release political prisoners and detainees, scuttled the peace talks with the National Democratic Front of the Philippines, and declared an all-out war against the revolutionary movement, all after failing to smuggle a premature and indefinite bilateral ceasefire ahead of tackling the substantive agenda for reforms of the peace negotiations.
The Duterte regime thus exposed its warped approach and adherence to the same old strategy of demanding capitulation instead of addressing the roots of the armed conflict. Were the militarist solution really the correct line, would we still have this lingering resistance in our midst?
In poor communities, the equally corrupt and brutal police force are given license to wantonly kill thousands of suspected petty drug addicts and small-time pushers, or blatantly disregard the Bill of Rights, constantly and publicly assured as they are of impunity by the President himself who cynically invoke the law only when it suits his whim.
None of this country’s fundamental social and economic problems has of course been solved by such draconian and deranged measures. In fact, the Duterte regime has largely and seamlessly continued the anti-poor policies of its predecessors which has further impoverished immense legions of landless farmers and peasants, dispossessed minorities, and exploited workers.
It is thus with profound discontent and indignation that we, the National Union of Peoples’ Lawyers, join the Filipino people in denouncing the Duterte regime for its failed promises, bourgeoning tyranny, and oppressive disdain for the people’s lives and human rights.
As we march today with more fire in our bellies and present the People’s State of the Nation Address, we would like to remind the President and his supercillious henchmen that their power is only transient and borrowed. The Filipino people in whom this power resides can see through all the hubris, knowing in truth that it is their righteous wrath that will cascade the arrogant pretenders into infamy and retribution.
As history has time and again shown, the people will ultimately prevail over any abuse of their power by any one in any guise and in any name.