He is a populist and a murderer. We speak of the president of the Philippines, Rodrigo Duterte. This president has started his own War on Drugs, by killing drugs-dealers on the streets. His death squadrons open fire on anybody who is called a ”dealer”, they show no remorse in killing them. Duterte won the 2016 presidential elections for the Philippine Democratic Party-People’s Power. This populist party plays on some leftist ideals, but is in fact a party around the personality of Duterte. Around 1.800 people have been murdered by vigilante groups, since the president started his War on Drugs. Human rights groups criticize Duterte, but he rejects any criticism and claims that his government will continue the killing of suspected drug dealers!
Rodrigo Duterte is supported by some elements of the Philippine left-wing, because of his ”leftist” populism. Also the (banned) Communist Party of the Philippines has agreed on working with the government against drug lords. Revolutionary Socialist Media can understand that drug-dealers are a problem. But the solution is not mass murder. 1.800 people have been shot and killed in only two months. How many more will die at the hands of death squadrons in the coming years?
Duterte himself is not a force for socialism. He is a populist, bombastic and ruthless in ordering his police and army to shoot at suspected drug dealers. Many who deal in drugs do so because of mass poverty in the Philippines. It is true that the lords of drug cartels are wealthy people, but the boys who work for them on the streets are not rich nor make a lot money. Yet, these boys are the ones who are getting killed. Rodrigo Duterte choose the easy road, a road of mass murder which is unacceptable and criminal. He claims that his critics do not have the right to judge his presidency, but this is exactly what freedom of speech means, the freedom to criticize a government!
The president has already threaten to use martial law. This reminds us of the Ferdinand Marcos regime, a brutal nepotist government that was overthrown in 1986. Although the people removed the corrupt Marcos, his family remained a political force. Rodrigo Duterte has allied himself with some family members of the former dictator. This is why revolutionary socialists fully reject him and his Philippine Democratic Party-People’s Power. But Duterte claims that he is the first ”socialist president” and calls on leftist parties to support his presidency. Let us make one thing clear: Rodrigo Duterte is not a socialist, but a bourgeois populist who is skilled in manipulating the Philippine left-wing!
Ferdinand Marcos ruled the Philippines for almost 21 years. In December 1965, he was elected into the presidency at the height of the Cold War. At that time the national debt of the nation was about two billion U.S dollars. Twenty years later, the debt had increased to thirty billion U.S dollars. Marcos and his elitist family robbed the nation of its wealth. He was also a dogmatic anticommunist, who used the armed forces to hunt down trade unionists, socialists and leftists. This led to the formation of the New People’s Army in 1969. The rebel group was inspired by the Cuban revolution and claimed to struggle for a socialist nation. At home, the elitist family of the president were living a life of royalty. Ferdinand ‘s wife; Imelda demanded, the lifestyle of a queen and got it. Her villa’s were filled with luxurious items no average Philippine woman could buy. Imelda’s favorite activity was shopping in expensive shops around Europe and America. She was the typical wife of a capitalist dictator!
In February 1986, the people rose up against their dictator. The United Nationalist Democratic Organization was the main alliance of anti-Marcos political parties. They were supported by rebel elements in the army, navy and air force known as the ”Reform the Armed Forces Movement”. The People Power Revolution lasted only three days, because the ruling class decided to dump the anticommunist dictator. Ferdinand Marcos fled the Philippines to the American state of Hawaii. His corrupt family was evacuated by planes of the U.S Air Force. They left behind their villa’s and wealth. Corazon Aquino became the first female president and tried to reform the nation. She failed in her efforts, because Aquino’s economic program favored the capitalist class, not the working class!
After five years in exile on Hawaii, president Aquino allowed the Marcos family to return home. This angered many victims as the children of Ferdinand Marcos, decided to participate in (right-wing) politics. The dictator’s family became part of the political elite once again. Daughter; Imee Marcos, is governor of the Ilocos Norte province since 2010. She was a member of her father’s New Society Movement, but choose to switch party and now belongs to the conservative-populist: Nacionalista Party. Bongbong Marcos (the eldest son of the former dictator) was a senator for six years. Like his sister he is a member of the right-wing: Nacionalista. Imelda Marcos (the queen bitch) also entered politics and is now a member of the Philippine House of Representatives, from Ilocos Norte’s Second District. She joined her children as a conservative right-wing politician, in service of the capitalist class!
With his bombastic speeches and populist rhetoric, Rodrigo Duterte walks a fine line between democracy and dictatorship. As a populist president, Duterte is a difficult personality to put on the political spectrum. Sometimes he plays a leftist card to please workers and peasants, but behind their backs he can be a very right-wing president. The man knows how to sail between the demands of the ordinary working class and the class who controls the government and the economy. Ultimately Duterte will not be able to resolve the problems of the Philippines. Like Donald Trump, he is a charismatic personality who’s only strength is to make grandiose speeches. When it comes to capitalist exploitation by both the Philippine ruling class and foreign capitalists, the president will change nothing!
There are over 18 billionaires in the nation. These greedy capitalists own together 56 billion U.S dollars in personal wealth. Think that the average income for a Philippine worker is only 289 U.S dollars a month. Will the populist president do something about the huge gap between these 18 billionaires and 98 million workers, peasants and poor? Revolutionary socialists think not. We fight for a socialist revolution and therefore we call for the formation of a workers party. The Communist Party of the Philippines remains committed to the principals of the National Democratic Revolution. Their political front the National Democracy Movement, calls for a New Democracy in the Maoist tradition. Revolutionary socialists disagree, we struggle for a socialist republic to be build under democratic control of workers councils!
Human rights organizations are right when they attack the president for allowing vigilante groups to assault (and even murder) suspecting drug-dealers. 1.800 have already been killed in only two months by these groups. How much more blood on the streets does Rodrigo Duterte wishes to see? Does he really think that he can defeat drug lords with the fear of mass murder? These boys who deal are expandable and the drug lords will replace a death dealer with a fresh dealer. Because of the fact that 1/3 of the Philippine population lives in poverty, drug dealing is for many a way to generate a stable income. This does not mean that it is right to deal in drugs, but you have to understand why boys (and even girls) from poor families start dealing in them. Before the rise of Duterte, the police reported that 40% of all arrested children, were caught dealing drugs. Homeless children are even more at risk of ending up working for drug lords. Yet it is these kids who are now a target for vigilante groups!
But there is a good reason why the people choose Duterte as president. Many workers, peasants and poor have rejected the traditional anticommunist parties. For the working class the People Power Revolution of 1986, failed to change the corrupt capitalist nature of the Philippines. This is because there is no mass workers party on a socialist program. The Philippine Democratic Party-People’s Power (PDP–Laban) claims to be the only ”leftist” party, big enough to win seats in the parliament. Their claim to be ‘leftist” is pure propaganda. Like most political parties in the Philippines, the PDP–Laban is based on the personality of their chairman (Rodrigo Duterte). Because of their (sometimes leftist) populism, they are seen as something different to the traditional capitalist parties likes like the Liberal Party, the Nacionalista Party and the Nationalist People’s Coalition. Still it does not hide the fact, that many top officials have decided to switch their allegiance to the party of Duterte!
The ”Donald Trump of the Philippines” is a authoritarian president, while claiming to be a ”socialist”. Some idiots on the Philippine left-wing have sided with this populist who has no problems with killing people. His rhetoric is different from the previous presidents, who were silent puppets of capitalism. Because many on the left have sided with Rodrigo Duterte, it is now clear that an independent party for working class people needs to be build. Maoists, social democrats and progressive liberals have joined with Duterte. Therefore we cannot trust them in build a socialist alternative. Right now many are still hoping for positive changes, but the killing of suspecting drug-dealers only shows the inability of the Philippine government, to address the social problems of the nation!
Workers and poor peasants cannot trust a man, who uses his death squadrons to target people based on suspicions. Even if a drug dealer is identified you cannot just shoot him. This ”American” mentality of shoot first and think later, clearly shows how little Rodrigo Duterte cares about human life. True socialists, trade unionists and progressives must reject him and his authoritarian presidency. No to the mass killings, no to martial law and no to his deals with corrupt capitalist families like the Marcos!