MANILA, Philippines — (UPDATE 2 – 2:34 p.m.) It was a break-up waiting to happen.
Following “one disappointment happening after another,” the seven lawmakers of the Makabayan bloc finally bolted the majority in the House of Representatives “to intensify our opposition to the Duterte administration that has now fully unraveled as a fascist, pro-imperialist and anti-people regime.”
In a statement, Representatives Antonio Tinio and France Castro of ACT Teachers, Emmie de Jesus and Arlene Brosas of Gabriela Women’s, Carlos Isagan Zarate of Bayan Muna, Ariel Casilao of Anakpawis and Sarah Elago of Kabataan said they would constitute an “independent bloc” to “pursue meaningful reforms and oppose measures that harm our nation and people.”
They said they would “build alliances based on issues that truly matter to our people and their demand for change” and “fight the fascist US-Duterte regime and hold it accountable for gross violations of human rights and the further oppression and impoverishment of our people.”
Sought for a reaction, to react, Majority Leader Rodolfo Fariñas said they accepted the decision “with a heavy heart,” adding he hopes to maintain good relations with the seven activist lawmakers.
The leftist lawmakers explained that their decision to join the majority at the opening of the 17th Congress last year was “consistent with our stand to support the promise of change” of President Rodrigo Duterte, among these the resumption of peace talks with communist rebels, professions of an independent foreign policy, and “his unprecedented decision to appoint leftists and activists to crucial cabinet posts.”
THE MAKABAYAN LAWMAKERS CHANT AFTER ANNOUNCING THEIR DEPARTURE FROM THE HOUSE MAJORITY (video courtesy of Obet de Castro):
The Makabayan bloc also got committee chairmanships — Zarate of natural resources, Tinio of public information and De Jesus of poverty alleviation — only to lose these for voting against the restoration of the death penalty.
At the same time, they said joining the majority “was premised on the condition that we would oppose and challenge, as we have done, the administration on issues where we fundamentally disagree with President Duterte — his neo-liberal economic policies, his disdain for human rights especially in his war on drugs, anti-crime and counterinsurgency campaigns, his rehabilitation of the former dictator (Ferdinand) Marcos, and his propensity for strongman rule.”
Subsequently, however, they said Duterte had turned his back on his promises. Nevertheless, they decided to stay in the majority “in the hope that some socio-economic and political reforms could be achieved, if not through Congress, then through the GGRP-NDFP peace talks.”
It turned out a futile hope, with peace talk practically terminated, martial law declared in Mindanao and Marawi bombed to the ground, Duterte’s independent foreign policy “a farce,” his promises of social reform “reduced to populist posturing” and “worst of all, his ‘war on drugs’ has turned into a campaign of mass murder of the poor, for which he shows no signs of turning back.”
“As representatives of the poor and marginalized sectors in Congress and as nationalist and progressive legislators, it would be a violation of our duties and principles to remain with a majority that enables and defends the fascist, pro-imperialist and anti-people policies of the Duterte regime,” they said.
They also vowed to “intensify efforts to defeat the emergence of a new dictatorship,” accusing Duterte and his allies of “embarking on efforts to undermine the very institutions that serve as a check on his executive powers,” including revived threats to declare martial law nationwide and impose a “revolutionary government.”
READ THE FULL DECLARATION OF THE MAKABAYAN LAWMAKERS:
WATCH NEWS5’S VIDEO REPORT: