Is Duterte truly popular?

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By Jose Maria Sison, NDFP Chief Political Consultant

There are are those who either naively or slavishly say or mechanically echo the line that the Duterte is “popular” and that there is nothing you can do to topple him from his pedestal. Instead of calling him a demagogue, vulgar ruffian or even a fascist, preying on the uninformed biases of the politically backward section of the masses and characteristically doing the opposite of what he says, some academics and journalists call him a “populist”, an ameliorative term.

There must be an explanation why Duterte supposedly maintains a high “popularity” rating by the poll survey firms despite the blatant failures and gross crimes of his regime and the general historical pattern of presidents’ rating steeply declining after their mid-term and their support for an anointed successor being a kiss of political death. In seeking an explanation, the following facts should be considered:

1. Duterte was elected by a 39 per cent minority of the electorate. Since he was acclaimed as the winner, he has neither fulfilled his electoral promises nor performed in any significant positive way to increase the mass following signified by his electoral vote of 16 million. He has decimated the conservative opposition in Congress merely by giving it full opportunity in sharing in pork barrel and other forms of corruption in accordance with traditional practice in the ruling system.

2. Since the beginning of his presidency, Duterte has projected the image of a strong man who can at will kill or imprison any opponent and has created a climate of fear for the purpose of mass intimidation, first by using the bogus war on drugs to murder thousands of poor people and then applying the methods of Oplan Tokhang to Oplans Kapayapaan and Kapanatagan in campaigns of suppression against the revolutionary movement of the people.

Duterte’s first year in office

3. He has issued Executive Order No. 70 to create the National Task Force-ELCAC in order to use anti-communism as the pretext for militarizing and making fascist the reactionary government and society and systematically red tag, vilify, detain or kill any opponent or critic of the de facto fascist dictatorship. As in the time of the Marcos fascist dictatorship, it is fine that the democratic forces and armed revolutionary movement of the people are fighting back.

4. Duterte has monopolized the use of the opinion poll survey firms, Social Weather Station and Pulse Asia, whose method is merely to ask a few people polled only questions that focus on satisfaction and trustworthiness in general and avoid sharp questions that make him responsible for grave violations of national sovereignty and human rights. The climate of fear and the traditional diffidence to high authority are major factors in the poll results favorable to Duterte.

5. The poll surveys avoid holding Duterte accountable for extrajudicial killings, drug smuggling, corruption, soaring prices of basic commodities, fall of incomes and rise of unemployment, red tagging and threats to the life of critics and social activists, the dismissal of the biggest plunder cases, subservience to foreign powers, bombing of rural communities for the purpose of grabbing and natural resources and other acts that make the people suffer and detest him.

6. The opposition, including the progressive forces, has defaulted in letting Duterte monopolize the use of poll surveys in his favor and has failed even only to expose and oppose with sufficient persistence and effectiveness the slanted use of the opinion poll surveys. It is amazing that no one in the opposition has been able to organize poll surveys to counter the poll surveyors obviously paid by Duterte and his propaganda agents.

7. Since the electoral campaign of 2016, Duterte has also nearly monopolized the use of troll armies in the social media to glorify himself and to put down his opponents and critics with personal insults, threats and punitive actions, including extrajudicial killings. His troll armies are in alliance with those of the Marcos family which specializes in glorifying the late fascist dictator Marcos and seeking to revise history about him.

8. The legal democratic forces can effectively counter the Duterte and Marcos troll armies. But so far their full potential of mobilizing counter-troll teams per chapter per mass organization has not yet been realized. The Duterte propaganda machinery succeeds to a large extent by a failure or inadequacy to counter it on a daily basis.

9. The legal democratic forces and even the dominant Church, which have been so often offended by the Duterte regime have also failed to mobilize mass actions comparable to the those in the First Quarter Storm of 1970 and the anti-fascist mass actions of 1983-86 with the use of noise barrages, pre-rally meetings and converging marches from many assembly points. Duterte himself has so far failed to hold gigantic rallies of his own in the style of Hitlerite fascism but he benefits from no more than small and anemic mass protests against him and his criminal policies and acts.

10. It is a matter of course that the Duterte regime uses the propaganda machinery of the reactionary government and military to engage in campaign of vilification every day. Moreover, Duterte has paid radio and TV broadcasters to glorify him, keep quiet about his crimes and attack his opponents and critics on a daily basis. Even in the print media, the fascist regime overshadows the opposition by the high frequency of issuing press releases, holding press conferences and circulating fake news or disinformation.

11. Duterte has gained complete control of the Comelec by virtue of his political power and his crony Dennis Uy’s ownership of TIM since 2018, the Filipino counterpart firm of Smartmatic. Thus, Duterte has been able to rig the May 2019 mid-term elections in favor of his candidates, especially at the national level, and to “confirm” his “popularity” manufactured by the poll survey firms. The legal democratic forces and the opposition in general have seemed to overlook how Duterte rigged the 2019 elections.

12. With his presidential power over Comelec and use of the Dennis Uy electronic firm, Duterte can win any vote count either in a referendum to change the constitution or in elections to elect his successor or stand-in. The conservative opposition cannot expect to use the elections to disempower Duterte. As in the overthrow of Marcos, only the combination of gigantic mass protests, the intensified tactical offensives of armed revolution and a split within the reactionary armed forces can overthrow the Duterte regime.

13. So far the key conservative oppositionists seem to be daydreaming that the US will junk Duterte because of his human rights violations and pro-China posturing and compel him to abstain from rigging the elections. They completely ignore the fact that Duterte, like Marcos in past, is always striving to keep the support of the US with his pledge to destroy the revolutionary movement and to remove national restrictions on foreign ownership of land, natural resources and all types of businesses.

14. Duterte connives with the pork-barrel fed members of Congress to get the funds for plunder by his family and cronies, to increase the military budget and bribe the military and police officers and to feed bureaucratic and military corruption. The budget of the reactionary government has been more lopsided then ever before in favor of the military, intelligence and discretionary funds and graft-laden infrastructure projects at the expense of social services and economic development.

15. Duterte has appointed judges who are incompetent and corrupt but are loyal to him at all levels of the judiciary, especially the Supreme Court. The corruption of the Supreme Court is most manifested in the dismissal of the plunder cases against the Marcoses, Arroyos, Estradas and other political crooks that financed and supported Duterte with bailiwick votes in the 2016 elections. The use of the courts and “lawfare” to legitimize and deodorize the criminal acts of the Duterte regime is no longer effective in deceiving the people.

16. The Duterte regime can persist in power to the extent that the opposition forces is not strong enough to cause a split within the reactionary armed forces and is hesitant on building a broad united front for launching gigantic mass protest actions similar to those of 1983 to 1986, which overthrew the Marcos fascist dictatorship. The split in the reactionary armed forces, the gigantic mass actions and the tactical offensives launched by the armed revolutionary movement combined to isolate the Marcos regime and persuaded Reagan that the US-dominated Philippine ruling system was endangered by the persistence of Marcos in power.

17. No matter how long he wishes to stay in power, Duterte will ultimately fall because of the rapidly worsening crisis of the semicolonial and semifeudal system and the world capitalist system. The longer Duterte stays in power, the wider the latitude for the armed revolutionary movement to gain strength and become the most important factor in his overthrow. The more he seeks to overstretch his rule, the harder he and his clique of crooks and butchers will fall. He guarantees his own hard fall with his traitorous, tyrannical, genocidal, corrupt and mendacious policies and acts.###

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