MANILA, Philippines — Vice President Leni Robredo said Thursday she still draws strength from President Rodrigo Duterte’s assurance that he would not heed some of his supporters’ call for a revolutionary government, but nonetheless expressed concern over reports that some barangay chairmen were being plied with political concessions in order to support a possible nationwide petition.
Robredo spoke to reporters after gracing the rites for the 154th birth anniversary of Andres Bonifacio, founder of the Katipunan who led the 1896 revolt that ended over three centuries of Spanish colonization.
Bonifacio’s birth anniversary had been used to mount rallies by proponents of a “revolutionary government,” which Duterte claimed he does not support at all, but which has prompted his critics to warn of a possible template for authoritarian rule, and for activists to set rallies also on Bonifacio Day to counter it.
Robredo said she believed — as she had stated a few days ago — Duterte’s disowning the revolutionary government initiative — but added it was important to be vigilant against moves meant to push it.
Initial reports reaching her office said some barangay chairmen were being lured with supposed promises they would be named “OIC chairmen” if they sign a planned petition supporting “revgov.” That means they need not go through the trouble of seeking election in the 2018 scheduled village polls.
PROS, ANTIS MOUNT RALLIES
As Robredo was gracing the rites in Quezon City, pro- and anti-Duterte groups faced off near Mendiola area around Malacañan Palace, but there was no untoward incident.
The “antis” decided to leave the area – the pros had planned a rally at Mendiola – in order to avery any confrontation, and proceed to P. Casal and the streets near the main office of the Department of Budget and Management (DBM), according to radio reports.
‘WORSE THAN MARTIAL LAW’
Meanwhile, various groups issued statements of concern and a call for vigilance, with some saying a revolutionary government “could be worse than martial law.”
Human rights group Artikulo Trese said there was need to distinguish between the 1896 Philippine Revolution led by Bonifacio and the persistent calls for Duterte to form a revolutionary government.
“Bonifacio led a revolution of the poor against tyranny. He would have been the first president of the republic. Duterte on the other hand is already president, and the war against drugs he is waging has claimed the lives of countless poor,” Bishop Deogracias Iñiguez, convenor of Artikulo Trese said.
Artikulo Trese decried moves to form a revolutionary government, saying it’s just Martial Law in disguise and potentially worse.
“In the absence of an actual revolution—peaceful or otherwise—we find it odd for the President to declare a revolutionary government,” said the Bishop who leads the new network of religious groups, workers, farmers, teachers, youth, women and urban poor that promotes social justice and human rights.”
Artikulo Trese is in reference to Article 13 of the Philippine Constitution that spells out social justice and human rights.
“President Duterte cannot overthrow himself as he is in power. Who then will be eased out in the process?” asked Iñiguez, Bishop Emeritus of the Diocese of Caloocan.
He thinks Duterte seems bent on consolidating power. He pointed out indications of such:
–He has consolidated both chambers of Congress
–He has long stripped the Vice President of a cabinet position and has cut her from official functions such as the ASEAN
–He has ordered the impeachment or called for the resignation of the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court and the Ombudsman, our last hope in providing checks and balances in government
“The chief of the Philippine National Police and the Justice Secretary have been mentioning destabilization. I think they are conditioning the minds of the citizens in order to justify a declaration of a revolutionary government,” Iñiguez said.
“The term revolutionary government is not found in the Constitution. Thus, any shift to a revolutionary government would be unconstitutional and undemocratic,” he added.
Artikulo Trese says the President has the whole bureaucracy at his disposal. “He promised to fire any official with a tint of corruption. The problem is this has been applied selectively—limiting it to the political opposition and small fish,” said the outspoken Bishop.
GABRIELA, FFW PROTESTS
Women’s group Gabriela – named after the courageous woman revolutionary leader Gabriela Silang – mounted its own protest against the calls for a “revgov.”
According to Gabriela, the “revgov” floated by Duterte supporters will wipe out the democratic space and impose a regime under martial law.
Among the first targets of a crackdown, said Gabriela will be critics of “neoliberal” policies espoused by the administration, including tax reform and liberalization of the economy by allowing 100 per cent foreign ownership in vital industries.
Labor group Federation of Free Workers (FFW), meanwhile, warned of a return to dictatorship should a revolutionary government be declared.
“We laud President Rodrigo Duterte for his earlier pronouncement that he is not inclined to declare a revolutionary government as some of his supporters are flaunting in the media,” said FFW president Atty. Sonny Matula.
Matula is co-convenor for labor of Artikulo Trese, a network that promotes social justice and human rights.
“If President Duterte will declare a revolutionary government, the country and its people will be engulfed by a man-made disaster with greater impact and intensity than Yolanda,” added Matula.
Duterte expressed his desire to form a revolutionary government only to backtrack on the same a few days after. As in the past, his supporters are “pushing for” the shift, which is reflective of his original position.
“He will be losing his electoral mandate as he will be disregarding the fundamental law. Without the constitution, there will be chaos and anarchy in the streets as there will be no rule of law,” said Matula.
“President Duterte may arrogate unto himself all powers, which will make him a dictator with absolute power,” Matula warned.
‘BONIFACIO TURNING IN HIS GRAVE’
The socialist labor group Bukluran ng Manggagawang Pilipino (BMP) criticized pro-Duterte groups who planned to mobilize today, November 30 to call for a “revolutionary government” that would change the Constitution in favor of federalism and open up the local economy to complete foreign ownership.
BMP president Leody de Guzman said, “It is the height of poetic injustice that pro-Duterte groups would commemorate Bonifacio Day by going against ideals that the plebeian hero fought and died for. He would be turning in his grave for such antics that would ultimately serve the interests of foreign monopolies, warlords and political dynasties, and the lust for wealth and power of the pro-Duterte clique of the ruling elite”.
De Guzman also warned against the federalism being pushed by Duterte and his supporters.
“Pro-duterte rev-group adherents say that by decentralizing the national government into federal states, taxes and public funds collected from the countryside would be benefit the rural poor.”
“This argument is a sham. We know all too well that each province and region are controlled by warlords and political dynasties that rule over their territories with iron gloves without an iota of respect for due processes of law.”
Federalism means “a decentralized Philippines under warlords and political dynasties,” he added.
NOT IN DEFENSE OF 1987 CONSTITUTION
Meanwhile, the BMP clarified that its position against the pro-Duterte Rev-Gov is not tantamount to a mere defense of the 1987 Constitution. “There are groups that call for the defense of the 1987 Constitution but want to create an Edsa Dos scenario with Robredo assuming the presidency via constitutional succession.
“The existing charter is not only teeming with defects. It is inherently defective. It fosters the illusion of equal rights of separate individuals. It does not hold the primacy of the rights and interests of the whole over individuals, of the right to decent lives over property rights, the welfare of the toiling majority over the privileged elite,” the group said.
“It is the unity and struggle of the Filipino people, led by the working class, not the elitist “RevGov” – that will change the Charter in accordance to the democratic and just ideals of Andres Bonifacio,” BMP added.
For its part, the youth group, Samahan ng Progresibong Kabataan, said that while the 1987 Charter merited changing because “the current democracy is, at its core, elite democracy,” the “revgov” floated by pro-Duterte camps “is not the change” that will “put an end to contractualization, lack of jobs and basic social services such as housing, education and health.”
“It is not truly revolutionary in the sense that it does not directly empower the masses and address the systemic ills encouraged by the corporations and imperialist superpowers Duterte’s regime serves.”
“A personal desire to set up a revolutionary government by a government run by elites can never be considered a revolution. It is dictatorship, plain and simple,” stated Kalipunan ng mga Kilusang Masa or Kalipunan, an assembly of social movements representing workers, peasants, IPs, urban poor, women and youth in the country during their march-rally commemorating the 154th anniversary of working class hero, Andres Bonifacio.
Kalipunan said the plan must be opposed as any dictatorship will never be for the interest of the basic sectors.
“Thirty years of Edsa may have ushered flawed, elite democracy but 20 years of Marcos dictatorship was never better,” added Kalipunan