The first one hundred days of the administration of the new Philippine president Rodrigo Roa Duterte has now passed. By and large, I’m giving his administration a passing mark of C in recognition of a series of laudable achievements in the resumption of the peace negotiation between the government of the Philippines (GPH) and the National Democratic Front/Communist Party of the Philippines/New People’s Army (NDF/CPP/NPA). Duterte’s keen interest and willingness to reopen this long-stalled peace negotiation is indeed praiseworthy. Its magnitude of importance is highly crucial and paramount considering that the communist insurgency in the country has been going on for almost half a century. I’m immensely optimistic that the negotiation flow will finally get to the desired end result.
However, I think the new government has been unsuccessful to give solutions to many other very significant concerns. The war on illegal drugs doesn’t seem to be heading to its most ballyhooed objectives because of a totally wrong trajectory. In this connection, a series of assassinations have occurred as leaders of big-time drug syndicates have embarked on a no-holds-barred “program” to silence their own people whom they have deemed to have the tendency to spill out the beans when caught by authorities. And most (if not all) of these big-time syndicates have connections with the shady variety of the so-called authorities among the high-ranking police and military officers. These are the people involved in EJKs which I think are not directly ordered from the legitimate commands but rather decisions made by these officers themselves to remove all the possible obstacles that could implicate them in the big-time illegal drug syndicates and thus in the end destroy their careers.
Moreover, nothing has remarkably and dramatically changed at all as far as the crime situation of the country is concerned.* It’s all the same old story, so to speak. Holduppers, snatchers, pickpockets, etc. still proliferate here and there especially in major cities particulary Manila. And it’s dismally disappointing to know that extortion and bribery are still considered normal in certain government offices.
Duterte made a lot of promises while on the campaign trail among which are the issues of ending contractualization and raising the salaries of public servants like the public school teachers, the police, and the soldiers. These promises are yet to see the light of day, so to speak.
One specific issue that is highly critical in the new government’s negligence is its inability to transform the Philippine National Police (PNP) and the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) into professional institutions committed to defend the people’s interest.** Up til this point in time, the fascistic mindframe of PNP’s and AFP’s leadership effected in violent, destructive and murderous operations continues to wreak havoc in the lives of the poor–more particularly the indigenous minorities called lumads–in the countryside. In this regard, a herculean effort to radically change such a mindframe is of the essence but the new government hasn’t seriously taken even a single initiatory step to change such nefarious culture in the military.
Another equally critical issue is found in the area of local political state of affairs: Warlordism is still generally well-entrenched and formidable in Philippine provincial and municipal government units. This matter is of course inseparable from the issue of patronage politics which is still very much around and expected to continue on. Many instances may be cited in this regard like in Cavite, the Remullas are still the province’s indisputable power-wielders. Another case in point is Chavit Singson in Ilocos Sur where he is still considered as the uncontested warlord. I’m sure this situation is likewise true in most Philippine provinces. And besides warlordism, nepotism is very much alive, active and kicking.
In the final analysis, an AFP and a PNP controlled by high-ranking officers with unyielding fascist conditioning and disposition and the continued existence of certain local government units dominated by warlordism and nepotism are stark factors that hinder the growth and maturity of a nation towards a more democratic way of life. Yet, it is not well apparent if this new government has the clear insight to frame a more reasonable trajectory in dealing with these matters of utmost national importance.
(c) Ruel F. Pepa, 12 October 2016