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SONA: A Year under President Duterte: Human Insecurity and Martial Law

Monday, 24 July 2017

Rodrigo Duterte’s first year as president, entrenched impunity with his “kill, kill,kill” rhetoric and this has netted more than 12,000 dead men, women and children to date.

His campaign against drugs is conducted akin to “waging war”, targeting the most vulnerable, marginalized section of the Philippine population—the least, last and lost- for extermination outside the bounds of the rule of law and democratic precepts.

He has undermined human rights principles towards demonizing human rights defenders and critics of his hardline approach, such as foreign governments and multilateral institutions. With his well-oiled social media machinery, critics and political foes alike become awash in vicious “political trolling”[1], like a school of piranhas eyeing another fish.

Democratic institutions were turned on its head, subjugating them to his will: a legislative supermajority willing to pass the Death Penalty, lower the age of criminal responsibility from 15 to nine years old, prioritize the revival of the repressive National Identification System and anti-people measures such as the Tax Reform Bill; a judiciary which has “gone with the flow” rather than assert that it is a co-equal branch of government – allowed Duterte’s political allies like Gloria Arroyo and Janet Napoles to go free, allowed the interment of a dictator and a plunderer at the Libingan ng mga Bayani (Heroes Cemetery) thereby revising history and white washing the horrors by Ferdinand Marcos’ Martial Law.

Today, by declaring (and extending) Martial Law over a third of the country along with the suspension of the privilege of the writ of Habeas Corpus, Duterte compounded the “shock and awe” effect of the “war on drugs” while the State of National Emergency due to lawless violence, declared as early as three months into his presidency on the basis of a single bombing incident in Davao, remains in effect. Despite the inconsistencies surrounding Proclamation 216, the Supreme Court overwhelmingly ruled to validate it.

The President has abandoned Philippine territorial waters to China despite the favorable ruling by the United Nations Arbitral Tribunal in the Hague affirming the Philippines’ sovereignty over the territory. This has heightened tensions in the area, and rendered ASEAN inutile in protecting its regional interests.

President Duterte continues to curry favor with China and Russia for political leverage against the US, and allies like the Marcos family continue to thrive. Promises to end contractual labor are still all talk but no dice. And his bid to continue the peace initiatives is falling into pieces.

The Philippines continues to sink deeper into poverty and insecurity. President Duterte cannot kill his way into progress. Exterminating the poor does not leave only the rich; rather it terrifies the whole populace and emasculates their capacity to protect their well-being in the face of threats.




[1] The act of using emotions, lies, false accusations and broken logic to undermine your opponent and win an argument in a political arena.