President Rodrigo Duterte thinks that he can usurp more power by using the machineries of death and destruction. In 2017, this fascist approach led to greater disorder as Duterte completely exposed himself as a rabid human rights violator, corrupt trapo [traditional politician], protector of oligarchs, and puppet of imperialist powers.
But while Duterte was on a self-destruct mode, the people faced this madness with various acts of resistance. Instead of cowering in silence, the people confronted the fentanyl-addicted dictator by mounting protests from Mendiola to Davao.
2017 was not merely about Duterte’s ramblings, his inane and deadly ways of governance, and his unfunny flip-flopping on social welfare issues. It was also the year when more people embarked on the path of resistance by joining the Lakbayan, Kampuhan, and Occupy protests.
Kadamay’s daring ‘occupy’ protest exposed the bankruptcy of the government’s mass housing program. It heralded the rise of the radical urban poor in the margins of the expanding metropolis.
A grassroots-led action that terrified the ruling class; but more importantly, it demonstrated how the masses can effectively assert their rights and reclaim power through collective struggles.
Like Kadamay’s ‘occupy’, the peasant-led land occupations in various haciendas and plantations reflected the uniqueness of Philippine-style ‘occupy’ actions. The marginalized poor taking direct action against government neglect and landlord despotism. From bungkalan in Central Luzon to tiklos (collective farming) in Eastern Visayas, ‘occupy’ highlighted the call for genuine land reform and the validity of winning the national democratic struggle from the countryside to the cities.
Despite Duterte’s Marcosian scare tactics, tens of thousands joined the people’s Sona in front of the Batasan to assert the country’s real situation and deplore the failure of the country’s first ‘socialist president’ to reverse the anti-poor policies of the government. Perhaps it was the massive gathering that led Duterte to address the protesters. He tried to please and bully the crowd at the same time and maybe he thought he could score some PR points for his stunt. He ‘misunderestimated’ his activist audience because the chanting of the people’s agenda was louder than his cursing.
In less than a year, more than 10,000 suspected drug peddlers and operators were killed under the notorious Tokhang operation of the police. Aside from the drug-related extrajudicial killings, Tokhang also terrorized urban poor communities because of overkill police deployment and arbitrary use of invasive surveillance techniques. Not surprisingly, Tokhang led many victims to rise up by organizing funeral marches (most notably in Manila and Caloocan). The Catholic Church led a ‘walk for life’ procession at the Quirino Grandstand. The mysterious killing of teenagers while under police custody generated widespread public outrage which forced Duterte to suspend Tokhang and ‘remove’ the police from the anti-drug campaign.
The September 21 Luneta gathering was not just an event to commemorate the horrors of Martial Law, but also to denounce the political restoration of the Marcoses, the scourge of Tokhang, the undermining of checks and balances in government, the intensified militarization of Lumad communities, and the continuing political persecution of activists. In other words, MAT assembled a broad array of political forces to proclaim the people’s vigilance for the defense of human rights and democracy.
Almost 3,000 indigenous peoples from across the archipelago participated in the Sandugo Lakbayan to protest the state-backed wanton plunder of natural resources, the displacement of villagers in lands targeted by the extractive industry, and the use of fascist methods to suppress grassroots resistance. The Sitio Sandugo in Diliman became a learning hub about IP heritage, the fight to defend the ancestral domains of the Lumad, and the role of solidarity in linking the struggles of the rural and urban. Also noteworthy to mention is the Lakbayan in the Visayas which united IP groups and farmers in the Visayan islands.
As of this writing, the homeless camp of Floodway residents and members of Balikwas Kadamay is still standing in Mendiola near the presidential palace. After the brutal demolition of their homes in Pasig, Floodway residents established the homeless camp to emphasize the injustice of destroying their homes in a piece of land which was already awarded to them by past administrations. The camp became a staging ground of protests during the East Asia Summit which was meaningful because the obscene legacy of foreign investments (development aggression) in the era of neoliberalism is poverty, hunger, land displacement, and homelessness.
Piston led the nationwide transport protest to oppose the planned phase out of jeepneys and tri-wheels. Piston succeeded because it grasped and unmasked the sinister motive of bureaucrats which is to hand over the public transport system to oligarchs and campaign donors. The group also insisted that the modernization plan is deceptive since it is merely a money-making scheme that would destroy the livelihoods of drivers and small operators.
Duterte fared no better than his predecessor in hosting an international event. Metro life was put at a standstill because of the VIP-driven preparations. But what was truly contemptible was the selling out of our resources and the country’s future to the highest foreign bidder. Naturally, the people protested in defense of our dignity and sovereignty. Despite the police barriers, protesters managed to hold activities in various parts of Metro Manila to declare the people’s rejection of the treacherous agreements signed by the government with foreign plunderers and arms dealers. United States president Donald Trump was met with militant protests during his state visit. Filipino activists also gained global admiration for building a fascist spinner effigy of Trump.
Thousands joined the street marches across the country during the International Human Rights Day. This needs to be emphasized because it was the same week when Duterte terminated the peace process with communists and ordered the extension of Martial Law in Mindanao. Duterte also threatened the massive arrest of communist sympathizers and a crackdown of so-called legal fronts of the New People’s Army. Despite Duterte’s fascist rants, thousands took to the streets to celebrate and defend human rights. The people’s response was clear: Vigilance and resistance will prevail over tyranny.