The nationwide protest actions mounted by jeepney drivers and operators and other transport workers last September 29 successfully manifested widespread opposition to the Duterte regime’s anti-poor plan of phasing-out jeepneys in the guise of “modernization.” Several days later, 5,000 public school teachers and government employees joined demonstrations to demand a salary increase to allow them to cope with the rising cost of living.
Earlier, several thousand people joined protest actions across the country to mark the 1972 declaration of martial law and protest Duterte’s fascist reign. A few weeks earlier, students in Metro Manila and other cities rallied in their thousands to protest against the red-tagging of student and youth activist organizations and plans to establish police and military presence inside school campuses. At the same time, workers in different factories have been mounting protest actions and strikes as they assert their rights to organize and demand regularization and wage increases.
These protest actions show that the broad masses have not been cowed nor silenced by the acts of tyranny and state terrorism under Duterte’s undeclared martial law rule. Over the past months, Duterte’s security and defense officials have relentlessly red-tagged the different democratic organizations to paralyze and clamp down on their activities. Using public funds, they have organized “pro-Duterte” fascist-type groups to misrepresent the interests of the broad masses. All these have failed to stop the democratic organizations from asserting the people’s rights and giving voice to the grievances and demands of their constituents.
The recent mass actions also show that the various democratic sectors are increasingly vocal and active in pushing for their rights and welfare. In the face of worsening social and economic conditions in the cities and in the countryside, the people are being compelled to unite and take collective action. More massive protest actions in the coming months are bound to be ignited by Duterte’s anti-people economic and social policies and programs.
In the countryside, millions of peasants are being pushed to rise up in the face of the grave consequences of the liberalization of rice imports on hundreds of thousands of palay farmers, and widespread dispossession and economic displacement resulting from relentless land-use conversion and land grabbing to pave the way for corruption-ridden infrastructure projects, plantations, mining operations and energy and tourism projects.
In the cities, the broad masses of workers, semiproletariat and pettybourgeoisie are reeling from massive joblessness, rising prices of food and basic commodities, more onerous tax burdens, lack of income and low wages, homelessness, breakdown of public transportation and decaying social infrastructure and services and other social ills.
Instead of putting into place measures to address the socio-economic crisis, the Duterte government implements old and discredited neoliberal economic policies which perpetuate economic backwardness and dependence on foreign loans and investments. These are accompanied by such anti-people measures as higher taxes, cuts in social subsidies, wage freezes, suppression of workers rights and so on. These are made worse by bureaucratic corruption and criminal collusion.
The broad masses demand jobs, regular work, higher wages, lower prices, improvements in public services, an end to full liberalization of rice imports, a stop to land-use conversion, an end to corruption and police drug killings and other social ills. They cannot forever be placated by Duterte’s false promises, palliatives and short-term measures which fail to resolve the deeply rooted social and economic crisis.
With the Duterte regime’s refusal to heed their demands and aspirations, rising up in collective action is the only democratic recourse of the broad masses.