The Filipino people are not laughing at GRP President Duterte’s supposed joke about forming or letting a military junta take over government after having appointed more ex-military generals to key posts in his cabinet.
Duterte’s joke must be severely criticized. It smacks of contempt of the hardships, oppression and military abuses which the Filipino people were subjected to under the 1972-1986 military dictatorship of Marcos and his military and police clique, as well as under the successive AFP oplan wars of suppression from Oplan Lambat Bitag up to the current Oplan Kapayapaan.
The recent appointment of Palparan-trained Gen. Eduardo Año, current Chief-of-Staff of the AFP, as secretary of the Department of Interior and Local Government is a shameless act against the thousands of victims of his reign of terror. By heading the DILG, he is set to further enrich himself through bureaucrat capitalist corruption, as he has done in the military.
Año’s appointment to the DILG comes at the heels of the appointment of another former AFP chief-of-staff Gen. Roy Cimatu (of the notorious “pabaon” scam) to the environment department. Cimatu was among the key implementors of Oplan Bantay Laya under the Arroyo regime and its spree of extra-judicial killings against activists. Among the most numerous victims of the Arroyo regime were those who stood against mining operations. Cimatu was among the pioneer implementors of the “investment defense force”, special units of the AFP that are being funded by mining companies.
There are now at least ten former military officers appointed to key positions under the Duterte regime. Indeed, the military clique is now among the biggest inside the Duterte government. These military officers are mostly fascist and pro-US zealots who have long defended the neo-colonial state. They are the strongest pillar of US domination within the Duterte regime.
The dominance of the military clique inside the Duterte cabinet casts a long shadow on the NDFP-GRP peace negotiations. Over the past months, it has been former military officials Delfin Lorenzana and Hermogenes Esperon, defense secretary and national security adviser respectively, who have been the most virulent against the peace negotiations. Lorenzana has gone to the extent of openly standing against the Duterte regime’s policy of peace talks. He has issued statements and threats against peace negotiations.
Lorenzana and his military ilk are US stooges who do not wish peace negotiations to progress towards agreements on substantive reforms which may go against US economic, political and military dominance.
The dominance of the military clique under the Duterte regime, combined with Duterte’s authoritarian rhetoric, raises the level of impunity of military forces in the conduct of their campaigns of suppression. With former military officers at the helm of the Duterte government, anticipate a new wave of attacks against activists, advocates of the interests of the toiling masses and defenders of the country’s environment and patrimony against foreign and big bourgeois plunder.
Over the past few months, there has been an all-out campaign of killings against peasant activists and aerial bombings of rural communities where people have actively struggled for genuine land reform and resisted landgrabbing by big landlords, mining companies and big plantations.
The military clique combines with the pro-imperialist advocates of neoliberal policies in the Duterte government in pushing for the removal of two cabinet members who come from the Left. They have already succeeded in shoving out maverick Gina Lopez who vigorously stood against plunderous mining operations which destroy the environment and harm the people’s livelihood.
They demand the removal of Ka Paeng from the Department of Agrarian Reform whose support for the installation of farm workers in the plantation operated by the Lorenzo’s Lapanday Food Corporation, is set to be a precedent against various anti-land reform and land grabbing schemes of haciendas and big plantations. While they may concede to letting DSWD Sec. Judy Taguiwalo retain her post, they are wary at the prospect of the military being prevented from usurping such civilian functions as delivery of relief in areas targetted for military counter-insurgency operations. If they could not afford to oppose Taguiwalo’s appointment, they will surely find a way to keep their fascist troops infringing on civilian functions.
The dominant position of the pro-US military clique will further ensure the protection and perpetuation of US policies as against Duterte’s declarations of an independent foreign policy. The problem with Duterte’s declaration of an independent foreign policy is that it has only opposed being bound by an exclusive military alliance with the US but has failed to assert the right of the country to be free from any dominant foreign military power.
His goodwill with China will, however, be tolerated only to the extent that it will allow the US military to continue building military bases and projecting its presence in the country and not give China the opportunity to build its military presence. Otherwise, with the dominance of the military clique he himself has installed, Duterte can easily be removed or compelled to play along with the wishes of the US imperialists.