MANILA, Philippines — Communist rebels blasted President Rodrigo Duterte on Wednesday, October 18, saying his profanity-laden tirade against striking jeepney drivers the day before showed “ang tunay niyang kulay: galit sa mga gutom at mahirap (his true colors: angry at the hungry and the poor).”
On Tuesday, the second day of a nationwide transport strike spearheaded by the Pinagkaisang Samahan ng mga Tsuper at Operator Nationwide, or Piston, Duterte warned he would have jeepneys towed from the streets if they fail to comply with government’s public utility vehicle modernization program by January 1.
Then, addressing criticism from Piston and allied groups that the program was tilted against the poor, he said: “Mahirap kayo? Putang ina, magtiis kayo sa hirap at gutom, wala akong pakialam (You’re poor? Son of a bitch, you can suffer hardship and hunger, I don’t care).”
He also echoed claims that state security forces and past governments have regularly raised, accusing Piston and other leftist groups, including labor federation Kilusang Mayo Uno and human rights organization Karapatan, of being legal fronts of the Communist Party of the Philippines engaged in a “conspiracy” and “committing rebellion.”
Karapatan secretary general Cristina Palabay noted this in her separate reaction to Duterte’s rant, saying he was “barking like a mad dog again” and “replicating the same dangerous environment that makes human rights defenders vulnerable to all kinds of rights violations and fascist attacks imaginable.
The National Union of Peoples’ Lawyers also slammed Duterte’s “wild claims, calling these “ludicrous if it were not perilous.”
“The legitimate and valid exercise of peaceful collective action and freedom of speech and assembly cannot by any convoluted reading amount to any crime, much less rebellion,” the human rights lawyers’ group stressed.
In its statement, the Communist Party of the Philippines congratulated the jeepney drivers for their “victorious” two-day transport strike against what it called Duterte’s “anti-poor and pro-foreign” transport modernization program.
“Isa itong planong pag-agaw sa kabuhayan ng maliliit na opereytor at drayber ng jeep (This is a scheme to rob the small operators and jeep drivers of their livelihood),” the CPP said, claiming the modernization program was intended to favor capitalists, including big private transport firms, and foreign businesses.
The CPP also mocked Duterte as a “malaking hambog na peke (big blowhard and fraud).”
“Nagpupuputok ang butse mo sa ibinubugang usok ng mga jeep, pero tameme ka naman sa napakakapal na usok ng mga coal-fired power plant na lumalason sa kapaligiran sa buong bansa. Ang totoo, gusto mo lang patayin sa hirap at gutom ang mga drayber at maliliit na opereytor ng jeep, para lang mapagsilbihan mo ang tunay mong mga amo,” it said.
(You blow your top over the smoke emitted by jeepneys but are silent about the thick emissions of coal-fired power plants that poison our whole country. The truth is you want to kill the drivers and small operators through poverty and hunger to serve your true masters.)
Karapatan’s Palabay said Duterte’s accusations against activist groups “is not new” as she called him “a second-rate trying hard copycat of previous regimes,” a “sad, rambling, delusional and disappointing replica of past fascists and plunderers who all have bloody records of human rights violations.”
Noting that scores of human rights workers and activists had been murdered during the presidencies of his two predecessors, Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo and Benigno Aquino III, Palabay asked: “Are you warning us, Mr. President, of things to come?”
NUPL took a dig at their fellow lawyer Duterte, pointing out that “as early as first year of law school, we were present in class and read, memorized, analyzed, understood and recited rebellion as ‘rising and taking arms against the Government for the purpose of removing from the allegiance to said Government or its laws, the territory of the Republic of the Philippines or any part thereof, of any body of land, naval or other armed forces, or depriving the Chief Executive or the Legislature, wholly or partially, of any of their powers or prerogatives’ (Article 134, Revised Penal Code of the Philippines of 1930, as amended by Republic Act No. 6968 of 1990).”
“Even a perfunctory reading of the law by a layman would disclose that the elements of the crime do not exist at all. To belabor the obvious is to dignify a distorted and contorted legal inanity,” the group said.
The NUPL said Duterte was “unilaterally revising the law and reinterpreting it to suit one’s draconian fetishes” but also raised worries that labeling “legitimate and legal people’s actions is a foreboding of worse things to come.”