The demonstrations last September 21 are significant in terms of the large size of the Mendiola and Luneta rallies which condemned Duterte’s tyrannical rule and emerging fascist dictatorship; as well as the small size of the pro-Duterte hakot-crowd simultaneously held near the Malacañang palace.
Despite using government resources, Duterte and his minions could only manage to bus in a crowd of a few thousand. They adopted Marcosian “hakot” tactics, making use of public money to generate a crowd, feed them lugaw and pay for entertainers. No significant Duterte crowd assembled besides that in Manila.
The smallness of the pro-Duterte crowd shows in very clear terms the waning support for the Duterte regime. No “public opinion survey” by paid agencies can obfuscate or downplay this fact. In just over a year, Duterte’s much bragged about 16 million votes has become politically inconsequential. The Duterte hakot crowd is a mere shadow of the 2016 election droves then roused by his promises of change.
Declaring his own “day of protest,” Duterte had wanted to organize a much bigger crowd to slap the face of the Left which he has repeatedly insulted for not having broad support. He failed miserably and succeeded only in further alienating himself from the people. He continues to underestimate the rising opposition to his rule.
On the other hand, despite threats of armed suppression, muddling, fake news campaign and attempt to subvert the Luneta venue, the wide range of forces opposed to Duterte’s fascism, tyranny, corruption and imperialist subservience were able to muster a large demonstration of around 30,000 people.
A large contingent of Moro and other national minority groups joined the demonstration. They are among the biggest victims of Duterte’s triple war of death and destruction. The families and friends of victims of Duterte’s campaign of extrajudicial killings also came to express their indignation against the mass murder regime. Thousands of students from various Metro Manila universities were able to assemble and join despite the fact that classes were cancelled by Duterte.
The Mendiola and Luneta rallyists saw the national democratic mass-based organizations of workers and peasants, urban poor, minority peoples, students, teachers, women, health professionals, church people, human rights advocates and other democratic sectors serve as the large core of the anti-tyranny and anti-Martial Law demonstration. They condemned fascism and bureaucrat capitalism under the Duterte regime. They raised the issue of Duterte’s subservience to US imperialism and its interventionism and fascist security doctrines.
The Luneta demonstration further swelled with the participation of a wide array of social and political forces opposed to the return of martial law under the Duterte regime and its campaign of killings. They have demonstrated courage in the face of Duterte’s threats to use armed suppression against the rallies. They have resolved to shatter their silence by collectively expressing their outcry against Duterte and his martial law machinations and absolute power ambitions. Although political parties and anti-Left forces allied with the previous reactionary regime did not join the Luneta rally, they also held activities to protest political persecution and human rights violations under the Duterte regime.
Anti-tyranny demonstrations last September 21 were also held across the country, from North Luzon to Bicol, in the Visayas islands as well as in cities around Mindanao.
The Duterte regime is acutely aware of the long-term significance of the September 21 demonstrations. Behind the bravado, Duterte trembles at his growing political isolation and the rapid rise of the protest movement against its fascist tyranny, corruption and foreign subservience.
Expect Duterte to go double-time in efforts to divide the ranks of the broad united front. He will seek to confuse the Left by pretending to want to resume peace negotiations with the NDFP. He wants to soon claim victory against the Maute group to justify his Mindanao martial law. He is growing impatient over the AFP’s failure to quickly end its siege of Marawi.
In the face of mounting people’s resistance and Duterte’s heightening desperation to quell the protest movement, declaring martial law remains one of Duterte’s trump card in his gamble to cling to power and perpetuate his tyranny. Doing so, however, will definitely boomerang on him as this will sooner than later incite ever bigger protest actions. Moreover, considering the fractiousness of the AFP and PNP, a declaration of martial law is sure to provoke his rival reactionaries inside and outside the military and police to mount a coup.
Whatever option Duterte chooses, the national democratic forces must continue to broaden and intensify the people’s struggle against the fascist tyranny of the Duterte regime. In the coming weeks and months, they must continue to wage various forms of struggle against Duterte’s triple war of death and destruction. They must continue to raise their voices and protest the relentless campaign of mass murder and extrajudicial killings, aerial bombings, killings of peasant activists, threats against Lumad schools, illegal arrests and political detention.
They can also unleash protest actions against the National ID system which will surely have terrible consequences in the hands of the Duterte tyrannical regime. They must vigorously oppose charter change to pave the way for an extension of Duterte’s term to 2025 under the pretext of shifting to a new form of government.
At the same time, they must fight with all-out energy the Duterte regime’s anti-people and pro-imperialist economic policies, especially the plan to impose additional tax burdens against the people; the plan to allow foreign capitalists to operate domestic public utilities and other policies for all-out liberalization; the anti-worker Compressed Work Week scheme to lengthen the workday to 12 hours; the debt-driven infrastructure projects which are set to displace hundreds of thousands of families of urban poor, peasant and minority people; the proposal to pave the way for the expansion of export-oriented and foreign-owned or -operated plantations; and so on.
Schools, urban poor communities, parishes and other places can serve as centers of political education and organizing to sustain and strengthen the anti-tyranny protest movement. Assemblies can be mounted regularly inside campus colleges and communities in order to draw in the biggest number of people. They can fill ampitheaters and coliseums with large numbers and generate the capacity to hold street demonstrations much larger than September 21 in the coming months.
The national democratic forces must continue to serve as the determined core in the anti-tyranny movement against the Duterte regime. While exposing Duterte’s tyranny, corruption and subervience to US imperialism, they must also exert all out effort to carry out propaganda and education activities to raise the people’s social and historical consciousness, their understanding of the oppressive and exploitative semicolonial and semifeudal system and the need to achieve national and social liberation.
The mass-based organizations are bound to expand by leaps and bounds as large numbers of people seek ways to get involved in the national democratic struggle.
The New People’s Army (NPA) must continue to intensify and advance the people’s war across the country. Duterte’s tyranny and relentless wars are driving the Filipino people to the path of revolutionary armed struggle. Like Marcos with his martial law regime, Duterte is fast becoming the No. 1 recruiter for the NPA. The ranks of NPA Red fighters will continue to swell under the Duterte regime.