MANILA, Philippines — (UPDATE – 11:08 a.m.) Communist rebels on Friday minced no words in rating President Rodrigo Duterte’s first year in office, describing it as one of “worsening crisis, death and destruction” with his administration “proving … to be fundamentally no different from previous regimes.”
At the same time, the Communist Party of the Philippines said the New People’s Army “must continue to seize the initiative and carry out more and more tactical offensives nationwide in order to derail and blunt” what it called the “Duterte regime’s all-out war,” which gave the rebels “no other choice but to intensify tactical offensives nationwide.”
Activist groups were also critical of Duterte’s first year in office even as they urged him to fulfill the pledges of reforms and social justice he made when he campaigned for the presidency.
With government still struggling to retake Marawi City from extremist gunmen more than a month since fighting broke out there on May 23, the CPP warned that “the Duterte regime cannot afford to fight all at the same time the nationwide revolutionary armed forces led by the CPP and the various Bangsamoro armed movements in several fronts in Mindanao.”
The CPP noted that since February, when it ordered the NPA “to carry out widespread tactical offensives nationwide,” the rebels had seized “at least 250 firearms, enough for a new battalion of NPA Red fighters.”
It instructed the NPA to “do everything to rapidly build new platoons and companies of regular guerrilla forces and local guerrilla units to enable the people the opportunity to rise up with arms against their exploiters and oppressors” and called on “the Moro people and other national minorities, especially their youth,” to join the rebel army and “wage resistance against all their oppressors and defend their right for self-determination.”
On the other hand, the National Union of Peoples’ Lawyers, while generally critical of the past year under Duterte, was apparently not giving up on him, urging him to “walk the talk, Mr. President.”
“We need more than rambling narratives and confusing signals, no matter how amusing. We need real change. The nation needs a new birth,” the human rights lawyers’ group said.
It said “there was so much to look forward to when Duterte came to power on the crest of popularity, novelty and cruelty” but, a year since, “the promise that change is coming under the new President seems to have come and gone.”
“We need to be treated with respect as a people. We need justice as we need food. We need liberation as we need land. We need peace as we need progress,” the NUPL said.
“It is unfortunate how the promises that became the basis for optimism at the start of Duterte’s term have now been replaced by excuses and lies by the police and military to justify blatant violations of people’s rights,” Cristina Palabay, secretary general of the human rights group Karapatan said. “The series of policies that Duterte is implementing has substantiated claims that he is veering towards a rightist direction — a path laden with militarist and repressive policies.”
Groups like the urban poor Kadamay and the overseas Filipinos advocate Migrante also voiced disappointment in Duterte’s perceived turnaround from his promises of social reforms.
“The Duterte administration’s decisions and policies in the past year have generally gone in the opposite direction of the change many had hoped to see, especially the poor,” Kadamay said.
Migrante described the past year as full of “big talk, Band-Aid (solutions) and business-as-usual” for overseas Filipino workers and their families, noting the government’s failure to end contractualization, the “continuing bankruptcy of the Philippines’ labor export policy” and the “overall attitude and policy” of Duterte himself that the group said he bared when he declared he “will not lift a finger” to help any Filipinos who might be affected by US President Donald Trump’s tough stance against immigrants.
Anakpawis party-list Representative Ariel Casilao, who like Duterte hails from Davao City, called the fulfillment of the President’s promises “like a dot-sized figure on a long road” as he hoped that it dod not “totally disappear.”
Meanwhile, the Sentro ng mga Nagkakaisa at Progresibong Manggagawa, Partido Manggagawa, Federation of Free Workers, National Federation of Labor Unions and Philippine Airlines Employees Association called Duterte’s first year “Isang B(D)igong Taon,” or a year of disappointment.