21 July 2017
Reference: Kaleb Lloyd, CHRP Secretary, +447482990557, email@example.com
21 July 2017 marks one year since Rodriguo Duterte was elected president of the Philippines on a tide of populism which sought a break with a corrupt political system. But hopes for a new kind of government are fast disappearing under the reality of an increasingly dictatorial and murderous regime.
Many ordinary Filipinos have hoped that the new government would introduce economic and social change and challenge the gross exploitation and corruption practised by traditional wealthy families and international business which have held the country in such a state of poverty.
Instead the Duterte government has focussed its anti-crime campaign on its “war on drugs”. In one year it is estimated that 10-18,000 extra-judicial killings have taken place by police and unofficial death squads. These have taken place overwhelmingly in urban slum areas in what many Filipino commentators say amounts to a “war on the poor”. In addition the climate of impunity has led to more political activists and community leaders being murdered or “disappeared”.
The president is also pressing for the restoration of the death penalty. According to Human Rights Watch, Duterte has said he plans to execute six people a day.
On May 23 this year, following an attack by an Islamist group, Duterte placed the entire province of Mindanao with its population of more than 20 million people under martial law. The military, which has a growing influence in the government, has been allowed to launch air strikes against villages. Community leaders have been summarily executed in public. Thousands have been displaced in forced evacuations. Anyone who criticises martial law is liable to arrest. The president gave a speech to the military in which he signalled that no soldier is likely to be prosecuted for rape while martial law lasts.
Duterte has threatened to extend martial law to the rest of the country. He has publicly declared himself an admirer of Ferdinand Marcos whose dictatorship lasted from 1972 – 1986. Last November, despite mass protests from victims of the dictatorship, Marcos’ body was re-interred with state honours in the Hero’s Cemetery in Metro Manila.
While Duterte’s election campaign contained many promises to favour the poor, these have yet to be borne out in reality. The president emphasised the urgent need to establish peace in the country, and entered talks with the largest resistance group, the National Democratic Fund (NDF) and the New People’s Army. However these were broken off at the point when discussions were due to focus on progressive economic reform.
The government’s economic policy so far continues that of previous administrations in subordinating everything to free markets and achieving “global competitiveness”. The emphasis is on technology and productivity rather than the need to address the issues of lack of labour rights, low wages and how profits are distributed. It pledges to be business-friendly and to adhere to a neo-liberal system which has constantly widened the gulf between rich and poor. It seeks to invest more in infrastructure but by paying for it through tax measures which fall far more heavily on the poor than the rich.
Trade unions in the Philippines to whom Duterte promised an end to grossly exploitative forms of contractualisation have seen little progress on this, nor on the promised introduction of a national living wage. Instead they have seen trade union leaders arrested on trumped up charges and the increasing use of the military and police against trade union actions.
After one year in which the new government has failed to act on its promises to introduce policies in favour the poor, while it has launched the worst attacks on human rights and democratic freedoms since the Marcos era, CHRP joins progressive organisations in the Philippines with an urgent call for President Duterte to:
- Stop the extrajudicial killings
- End Martial law in Mindanao
- Drop the restoration of capital punishment
- End impunity and restore human rights
- Resume peace talks
- Implement a radical economic programme based on economic and social justice
Join us today for our protest at the Philippine Embassy London UK at 4:30pm. Facebook event page: