SONAkakasindak 2017

imagine. the president who disappeared on us twice last june (including on Independence Day) for several days at a time due to undisclosed health issues — nagpahinga lang daw — delivered a two-hour speech in congress, then went outside the batasan and berated the leftist rallyists for some fifteen minutes, and then went back in for an hour-long press conference.  all this with nary a hint or whine of weariness.  awesome performance for a 72-year old.  i wondered what he was on, some upper, surely?  or maybe he was just still super high from the overwhelming support of the house and the senate that had recently okayed the extension of martial law in mindanao for another 5 months?

whatever.  the speech was vintage duterte.  belligerent, brusque, bellicose.  unrelenting on the drug war.  no apparent change in strategy: first, kill the demand, that is, kill the addicts.  second, stop the supply, that is, the drug lords, and so he continues to seek the death penalty.  meanwhile, or should i say, otherwise, nakita naman natin ang nangyari kay espinosa the druglord at kay marcos the policeman.  yung una na-rub-out while in jail, yung huli nasuspend sandali tapos naibalik rin sa puwesto at tila mapo-promote pa in 6 months.  ika nga ni duterte sa minamahal niyang mga pulis at sundalo, yang mga human-rights-human-rights, wala yan! I.HAVE.YOUR.BACKS!  ang sweet, di ba.

but i must say, he pushed the right buttons a few times — calling out the mining industry that pollute farms and seasides  and, even, calling for industrialization, wow!  calling out the supreme court for the RH TRO, and, even, america for refusing to return the bells of balangiga — quite effectively confounding critics, raising hopes anew, even if only a little.  cheap thrills.

the bad news — though good news to many — is that the president seems to be gearing up to call off the peace talks with the Left.  i suspect that if there had not been that ambush on his PSG the week before the SONA (No ceasefire, no prior notice: Joma explains attack on PSG convoy.  read also satur ocampo’s Gov’t ceasefire demand snags peace talks anew) the president’s men would have come up with some other reason anyway.  sa joint session of congress pa lang nuong july 22, when it convened to vote for the extension of martial law in mindanao, maya’t maya ang ungkat sa CCP-NPA, almost in the same breath as the maute and abu sayyaf and other terrorist groups.

but the peace talks, the CASER (Comprehensive Agreement on Social and Economic Reforms) round, especially, is our only hope for a truly “comfortable life for all.”  without it, duterte’s campaign promise of a new economic model that will lift the masses from poverty will remain just that, a promise.  balik na naman tayo sa trickle-down eklat and dole-outs just because the president’s economists are loathe to give up the goose that lays their ilk (and only their ilk) the golden eggs, pardon the cliche.

nakakasindak sa lahat, of course, is that the mayor who called for a stop to lumad killings in 2015 is now the president who threatens to bomb lumads and their schools to extinction for being allied with the Left.  if the president follows through on this, it might be the straw that breaks the camel’s back.  again, pardon the cliche. (we have become a nation of cliches.)

i guess, like erap, the president made campaign promises vis a vis corruption and the economy that he didn’t realize were undoable until he was himself in the driver’s seat?  i guess it was too good to last, the president’s accommodation of the Left that is, was? unprecendented in recent history.  and then, again, Can DU30 afford a break with the Left?   read marlen v. ronquillo:

A year ago, in his SONA, Mr. Duterte promised a “peace for the living“ with a peace pact with the Left and the Muslim secessionist groups in mind. His accommodation of the Left is unprecedented in recent history. Through a series of tactical moves—naming Leftists to his official family, convening a serious peace panel that promptly opened up peace talks with the leaders of the Left, and supporting that peace process wholeheartedly—his strategic goal was to make history by going the way of Colombia in dealing with the FARC.

As mayor of Davao City, Duterte dealt with the Left. He left the Left alone and the Left left him alone to pursue his Davao agenda. But that was a smaller, more manageable setting.

Now, all of these grand initiatives on a national scale are in jeopardy.

Question: Can DU30 afford a break with the Left, the one sector that he wants on his side and did a lot of political accommodation to win it?

The Left is often dismissed as a “sunset group” but the application of that is limited. As a rebel group with an agenda of seizing state power to put in place a government of central planning guided by Marx, Lenin and Mao, that is deemed as next to impossible. Its chosen road to state power, that of encircling the seat of power from the countryside and peasant hordes overwhelming the reactionary forces of the state, is now a failed approach. As far back as the 1970s, a group of heretics led by the late Popoy Lagman wanted to change strategy from the Maoist version to the Nicaraguan model.

… While the Left has a very narrow path to seizing state power, it remains the most potent enemy of the established order. It is the only group with an above-ground force, an army of ideologues that can argue from the mainstream, a cadre of Marxist intellectuals that can speak from a perch of high moral ascendancy. There is nothing more morally right than preaching from a perch of liberating the poor, the huddled masses.

The Left is spread out and almost omnipresent. It has leaders and advocates from the academe, the small businesses, organized labor, the peasantry, the Church and almost every institution that matters.

There are uninvolved people who nonetheless believe in the rightness of economic parity, social justice and egalitarian causes, which makes them sympathetic – and closer to the left-wing beliefs – than any other belief system, including the flawed liberal democracy. I know of many good and decent people under this category.

And when the Left opposes a particular government, it is with fire in the belly and the rage is not dictated by focus groups and survey results. The mainstream oppositionists would not oppose a President as popular as Mr. Duterte. The Left will fight and fight to the death the most popular President on the planet.

Mr. Duterte knows this. Deep in his heart, he does not want an enemy as relentless and as committed as the Left.

What the strategists of Mr. Duterte fear most is a tactical coalition between the Left and the mainstream groups. Once this happens, the opposition to Mr. Duterte will not be of the timid, calibrated kind. But the type and kind of protests that embody the fury of the Left – go for broke and without heed of the consequences.

At this point, the last thing Mr. Duterte needs is the Left protesting on the streets with fury in the eyes and fire in the belly.