An in-depth analysis of Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte’s recent State of the Nation speech, from World Socialist Website, an article that both provides a political assessment of the current climate and gives readers plenty of data and information about what is behind ongoing–some would say cascading–crises in the islands, a follow up from the Socialist Equality Party to two earlier installments this month, the first of which serves as a ‘warning to the working class’ about what is happening in the Archipelago, and the second of which details the increase in extrajudicial murders and the fascistic reaction that currently characterizes Manila’s realm, a triptych of materials that appears utterly congruent with a photo-essay from Narrative.Ly that communicates how those who complain of privation or predation in the Philippines are quite likely to face lethal violence on the part of the ‘constituted authorities,’ which is to say Washington’s henchman on the spot in the South China Sea, a trio that also totally parallels a historical and analytical overview of the region from Rizal Archive that develops the argument that America has honed its military muscle and plundering protocols there as much as, or more so than, it has done so anywhere else–explication of the present pass that stands in at least a little bit of a stark contrast to a new report from the erstwhile ‘liberal’ academics at The Conversation, that proffers a good deal of hope that Mr. Duterte knows what he is doing and will accomplish socially useful ends without monstrous instances of mass murder and other abuse but which expresses at least some pessimism about such prospects, the sum total of all of which might be punctuated aptly by a Foreign Policy in Focus news analysis about the arrogance and impunity that attended a mass kidnapping of residents of the island of Chagos, who lived close to the Diego Garcia logistical complex that now serves as a ‘no-sail-zone’ to everybody else on the planet, an object lesson in thievery and righteous venality that every scrappy scribe and stalwart citizen should attend closely, unless such worthy ones would welcome similar treatment at the hand of imperial agents:
On the economic front, Duterte assured investors that he would ‘continue and maintain current macroeconomic policies, and even do better.’ Former President Benigno Aquino’s economic policies over the past six years followed the dictates of international finance capital to the letter, and were marked by austerity measures and the privatization of education and other public services. Duterte stated that he would continue these policies, but would improve upon them by lowering ‘corporate income tax rates’ and relaxing ‘bank secrecy laws.’ The Philippines has some of the strictest bank secrecy laws in the world, a residue of the martial law regime of Ferdinand Marcos which set up the regulations to hide stolen assets.
These changes, Duterte claimed, would ‘attract investment’ that would generate ‘jobs that are suitable for the poor and less skilled members of the workforce’—that is to say, his administration was aiming to expand low wage and sweatshop labor employment. He doubled down on this point, saying that he would carry out ‘reforms to ensure competitiveness and promote ease of doing business’ to develop ‘labor-intensive industries.’ The influential Makati Business Club (MBC) enthusiastically hailed Duterte’s speech, (and) ‘welcomed the Duterte administration’s … stance against criminality, drugs, and graft and corruption.’
Since June 30, when Duterte took office, having issued repeated calls for the extra-judicial murder of alleged criminals, a bloody killing spree has been launched in the country. According to the Philippine Daily Inquirer, 364 people have been killed by police or vigilantes on allegations of being criminals or involved in the drug trade. An additional 54 people have been killed in the past 48 hours, averaging more than one state-sanctioned murder per hour. The overwhelming majority of those killed were deeply impoverished. Police have been responsible for more than half of the killings, while vigilante gangs—who bind their victims in duct tape before shooting them and leave cardboard signs on the corpses announcing that the victim was a ‘drug pusher’—have been responsible for the rest.
(The president scoffed at images and accounts of suffering families of butchered victims, mocking their pain and threatening worse to come). He told the audience, ‘I have to slaughter these idiots who are destroying my country’ and added ‘I told the military if you see any [criminal], shoot them. Even if they surrender with a white flag. That’s just for war, not criminals. Shoot them. Show no mercy to them.’ With his vulgar, bullying language and his policy declarations, Duterte is working to build a fascist movement among the petty bourgeoisie and lumpen proletariat. Isidro Lapeña, newly-appointed head of the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA), announced that the government would be funding the creation of a nationwide Alsa Masa against drugs.
Alsa Masa was a vicious anti-Communist death squad that emerged out of elements of the Communist Party in the mid-1980s when the CPP was carrying out a bloody internal purge. Alsa Masa terrorized the population by carrying out barbaric murders, torture, the mutilation of corpses and other unspeakable crimes. Ismael Sueño, head of Interior and Local Government, announced that the government would be creating a network of ‘village-based spy groups.'”—World Socialist Website
Negotiations with officials were unsuccessful. Then, on April 1, police and SWAT teams began a clearance operation. Despite the fact that it is expressly illegal for law enforcement to carry firearms or lethal weapons within one hundred meters of a protest site, the police teams were heavily armed, and reportedly used water cannons, stones and batons to disperse the crowd. When protesters resisted and began to fight back, police opened fire.
Two people were killed. As many as two hundred more were wounded, and over eighty people, reportedly including senior citizens and three pregnant women, were arrested and charged. Bail was reportedly set at 12,000 pesos per farmer, but later reduced to 6,000 pesos, or about $127. The average household income for farmers in the area is around $3 to $5 per day.”—Narrative.Ly
Filipinos thought at one point that the Americans were there to help them kick out the Spanish and end 400 years of oppression. After fruitless attempts to negotiate, and after the 1898 Paris Treaty became known, the reality of the US intention became clear. The Filipinos were forced to acknowledge that the Americans intended to replace the Spanish as the colonial rulers. In The Philippines Reader, Daniel Schirmer and Stephen Shalom provide first hand accounts of this period. ‘(On February 5, 1899 Philippine President Emilio Aguinaldo urged his people to fight in response to the) outbreak of hostilities between the Philippine forces and the American forces of occupation, (which were) unjustly and unexpectedly provoked by the latter…. The constant outrages and taunts, which have caused the misery of the people…and finally the useless conferences and contempt shown the Philippine government prove the premeditated transgression of justice and liberty.’
(N)ot surprising(ly) … white Americans brought with them their racist and white supremacist mindset into the Philippine arena. As Black soldier John W. Calloway, of the 24th Infantry, wrote to the Richmond Planet on November 16, 1899:
White American soldiers also instituted their racial ‘whites only’ infrastructure in restaurants and barber shops that began to proliferate during the American occupation. Filipinos were denigrated in the same way as American blacks.
(The purposes of these vicious and noisome social policies and mass murder were easy to discern; the goals were markets, profits, and cheaply attainable ‘resources.’ Commander of the Marine Corps Smedley Butler put these objectives in perspective as racketeering enterprises). A racket is best described, I believe, as something that is not what it seems to the majority of the people. Only a small ‘inside’ group knows what it is about. It is conducted for the benefit of the very few, at the expense of the very many. Out of war a few people make huge fortunes.’
(A more recent chronicler stated the case this way). The Philippines makes a decent representative example of the US’ first official exercise in colonial imperialism and formal empire, also referred to as ‘civilizational imperialism,’ (to which Major General Butler’s riposte is chillingly apt). ‘Lest this seem to be the bellicose pipedream of some dyspeptic desk soldier, let us remember that the military deal of our country has never been defensive warfare. Since the Revolution, only the United Kingdom has beaten our record for square miles of territory acquired by military conquest. Our exploits against the American Indian, against the Filipinos, the Mexicans, and against Spain are on a par with the campaigns of Genghis Khan, the Japanese in Manchuria and the African attack of Mussolini. No country has ever declared war on us before we first obliged them with that gesture.'”—Rizal Archive