On the 37th year of EDSA People Power Revolution, Pres. Ferdinand Marcos Jr. expressed his solidarity calling for reconciliation and unity in pursuit of peace and progress for Filipinos`. But civil society are wary of Pres. Marcos Jr.’s pronouncement as his recent positions and actions on critical issues contradicted his words.
His hard stance against the International Criminal Court’s (ICC) investigation of the killings under the Duterte regime amid calls for justice by families orphaned from the thousands killed under Duterte’s bloody war on drugs is indicative of his lack of empathy for the victims of grave injustice. It belies his statement of being committed to upholding and respecting human rights.
He claims the justice system is working yet there are only three convictions out of only 20 cases filed in war on drugs related killings and abuses, with at least 6,000 persons killed. Meanwhile, even as the current government’s anti-narcotics program is claimed to be more focused on rehabilitation, monitored cases show 175 drug-related killings from July 1 to December 31, 2022. This is– higher than the death toll during former President Duterte’s last six months in office.
He invokes sovereignty and calls an end to subservience to imperialist countries to conveniently justify his refusal for the conduct of the ICC’s investigation. Yet, he has allowed the United States of America (US) expanded access to the country’s military bases. He gave the US access to four more locations under an Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA) which allows the US to rotate its troops in nine bases throughout the country.
He has also been flying out of the country traveling to nine countries in his seven months in office selling the Philippines to foreign investors. Concessions from his trips abroad and general plans laid out since his first state of the nation address (SONA) espouses the same economic policies espoused by his predecessors. The Philippine Development Plan 2023-2028 is anchored on the same neoliberal economic policies that led to the chronic jobs crisis, and persistent poverty among millions of Filipinos. He also pushed for the ratification of China led Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) amid appeals by sectors to be adversely affected by the trade agreement.
Pres. Marcos Jr., also called for peace yet he continues the counterinsurgency program that attacks unarmed civilians and communities, vilifies activists, civil society organizations (CSOs) and communities asserting their rights to development and democratic participation in decision making and governance.
War in the countryside continues and is intensifying. Incessant bombings in areas suspected of being rebel grounds affected farming communities destroying livelihoods and led to forceful eviction of thousands of farmer households including indigenous peoples – leaving behind their properties, farms and livestock. Civilians killed by the military are declared as armed rebels – members of the New People’s Army (NPA).
Amid the people’s calls for dissolution of the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC) because of the various abuses it has committed i.e., putting people’s lives in danger because of baseless red tagging and vilification of activists and communities receiving humanitarian assistance from red tagged CSOs – Pres. Marcos even allowed the increase in the NTF-ELCAC’s budget and its continued operation. Communities asserting their rights against projects that threaten their livelihoods and evict them from their dwelling places are likewise tagged by state forces through the NTF-ELCAC as supporting or members of so-called communist terrorist groups.
Moreso, Pres. Marcos Jr., continues to claim innocence of his family from the grave human rights abuses committed during the two-decade dictatorial rule of his late father former Pres. Ferdinand Marcos Sr. He has continued to disregard the Supreme Court’s order for him to pay Php203 billion in unpaid estate taxes including penalties and surcharges. Marcos’ family also has yet to return a sizable portion of some US$ 5 billion-10 billion in ill-gotten wealth.
Genuine peace and unity can only be attained if the root causes of poverty and inequality are resolved with people-centered and human rights-based development policies and programs. Instead of wasting people’s taxes on counter-insurgency programs that only tend to fan the flames of discontent and fuel mistrust among communities, Pres. Marcos Jr. should seriously consider continuing the peace negotiations at the national level. He should prioritize the review of the Anti-terrorism Law that in reality attacks activists, development workers, groups and individuals critical of governments anti-people policies and projects; and, legislate the Human Rights and Environmental Defenders Bills and related bills in Congress. He must also finally admit the grave human rights abuses committed by his family, make moves to pay his family’s billions in unpaid taxes, return the billions of their ill-gotten wealth, and seriously implement the commitments made by the government with regards to the fourth cycle universal periodic review recommendations it accepted.#eof#