The rampage has begun. Weeks after the enactment of the Anti- Terrorism Law, signed by President Duterte last July 3, a spate of killings has intensified. National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) Peace Consultant Randy Echanis was horrendously murdered in the wee hours of the night by assailants. He was stabbed more than 40 times, was battered, and to complete the insidious crime, the murderer delivered a final deep stabbed rapturing his aorta. The perpetrator executed a neighbour as well. To add pain, a squad of police removed his body for further forensic identification even when his family had already identified his mangled body. Echanis’ body was released to the family only after three days. A lawyer who tried to stop the police was detained and charged with obstruction.
A week later, on Aug. 17, Zarah Alvarez, another human rights advocate, was gunned down. Other killings are happening around the Philippines, countless too many.
The Anti-Terrorism Law fully enacted last July 19 in the middle of the pandemic has legitimized the once covert operation of the regime. All acts of suppression and murder are claimed to be for national security and safety. The rule of law applies only to the very scion of society, Duterte’s apologists and cohorts. The lowly, the advocates for peace and human rights are denied the rule of law. Not one assailant responsible is ever made to account, as impunity under the Duterte government abounds.
The Duterte government already knew about COVID-19 in January. While other nations scrambled to address the pandemic — closing international borders, lockdowns, and the mobilisation of health workers, and free mass testing — Duterte was adamant to pursue such actions and instead waited until he can no longer deny the severity of the pandemic.
Duterte, true to his nature, mocks the crisis as a mere ordinary illness. Instead of seriously mobilising the health sector, he mobilises his Philippine National Police and the Armed Forces of the Philippines. He took advantage of the pandemic to subvert a nation. He designated retired generals to essential civilian departmental posts – a precursor to a military junta.
The Philippine government has acquired loans (19+ trillions of pesos) from international bodies to supposedly combat the pandemic. The funds have since disappeared unaccountably. The whole nation is under military control in an undeclared martial law. Many health workers had succumbed to the virus and their heroic actions were not recognised. With many businesses closed, the large portion of society suffers from unemployment. Transportation was rare as jeepneys are not allowed to run. Drivers turned to beg on the street. The once-proud people have turned to mendicancy because this government’s rhetoric is just that — rhetoric. They profess to be pro-people but the action is anti-people. There was never a plan nor action to address the COVID-19 crisis and provide help to people whose lives are severely affected. But surely there is a plan for the ascension of another dynasty. The new oligarchs are in a panic, and they have taken advantage of the pandemic by enacting the draconian Anti-Terrorism Law.
Duterte has never desired for peace in the country. Come to think of it, he, the jester has played the room. The people were mesmerised by his astute display of inverting the people’s experience of past regimes. He played the people and made them believe that he can extricate them from the cesspool. He denounces a master but has kissed another and plays both masters for his own benefit. Duterte has abandoned the Philippines sovereign right to the West Philippine Sea. He recalculated the return of the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA).
The resumption of peace talk was another drama Duterte played, and this gave people false hope. He revealed the new NDFP consultants, some of them are being tagged, hunted down and killed — a testimony that the current Philippine govern- ment has no desire to solve the root cause of the armed conflict.
The current Philippine social crisis will only have one recourse, a freedom from bondage of a rotten system. All it takes is one spark.