MANILA, Philippines – “Match your words with actual deeds.”
The Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) has joined calls for President Rodrigo Duterte to make true his promise of going after the country’s oligarchs as he had repeatedly said so even before the start of his term.
Duterte issued his latest tirade against oligarchs during Labor Day when he warned wealthy elites who were not paying correct taxes that he would only give them three months to settle their tax deficiencies. Otherwise, he would ask Filipinos to occupy public landholdings that these oligarchs control.
But while the CPP saw the President’s pronouncement “as a welcome endorsement of the mass actions of peasants and farm workers demanding genuine land reform,” the party said Duterte “must be more explicit and forthcoming.”
“The people demand that, beyond mere rhetoric, the GRP (Government of the Republic of the Philippines) president must back up with concrete action his denunciation of the oligarchy,” the CCP said in a statement issued Wednesday, May 3.
The party also urged Duterte to “put his weight” behind the struggle of peasants and farm workers to occupy their landholdings in Hacienda Luisita in Tarlac and in Davao del Norte, “which the oligarch Cojuangcos and Lorenzos insist on controlling” and other such landholdings illegally occupied by big landlords.
Who are these oligarchs? Which public landholdings?
The CPP likewise dared Duterte to identify the oligarchs whom he had accused of controlling public lands without paying taxes in billions of pesos.
“He must also identify the said public lands which he claims to be illegally occupied by these oligarchs,” the party said.
The CPP also reminded Duterte that the demand for genuine land reform was not limited to public lands.
“Land reform is a question of emancipating millions of peasants from the yoke of land monopolies by big haciendas and plantations devoted to export crops such as bananas and pineapples. Most of these lands are not public lands but feudal holdings and vast tracts of agricultural land forcibly taken from the peasant masses.”
But the Palace on Tuesday said Duterte’s statement about oligarchs should just be considered a “warning.”
“What he’s basically stressing is the seriousness of the matter that the property, government property needs to be returned. It is a warning, yes,” said presidential spokesperson Ernesto Abella.
In May 2016, Duterte, during a Skype conversation with Jose Maria Sison, told the CPP founder that, “Galit ako sa oligarchs, Sir… ah, they get the fat of the land at ‘yan ang problema d’yan sa ating gobyerno. And they allow it. They allow exemption sa taxation na bilyon-bilyon…”
[I despise the oligarchs, Sir… They get the fat of the land and that’s the problem in our government. And they allow it. They allow exemption in taxation that is worth billions…]
In August last year, Duterte promised that he would destroy “monster” oligarchs, including those involved in the mining business.
“I am fighting a monster. I am just two months old (into the presidency) but believe me, I will destroy their clutches sa ating bayan (in our country),” he said.
“’Yong mga mina, napupunta ‘yan sa mga oligarchs. Walang iba ‘yang ginawa kung hindi mag-influence peddling [Oligarchs benefit from mining. All they do is influence peddling],” he added.
In November, the President vowed to open up the economy to new players and told oligarchs, “I do not owe you anything, that’s precisely why I was avoiding you during the last election.”
“The only way for deliverance of this country is to remove it from the clutches of the few people who hold the power and money,” said Duterte.