There is more than abundant reason for this newspaper and the nation to be concerned that a reported paper by former Ambassador to the Philippines Philip Goldberg on how to deal with the Duterte government in the next 18 months has now provided President Rodrigo Duterte and his Leftist colleagues in the Cabinet not only a convenient excuse to intensify their political attacks against the United States, which remains a friendly government, but more than that, a smokescreen to cover concrete and dangerous moves to fast-track the intended communization of the six-month-old government.
We take very seriously the observations made in his Friday column by Times columnist Francisco S. Tatad, a former senator and Cabinet minister, who has identified Cabinet Secretary Leoncio Evasco Jr. as the moving force behind this extremely dangerous project. Evasco is an ex-priest, ex-rebel and ex-mayor (of Maribojoc, Bohol), who served as Duterte’s campaign manager in the last election, and ended as Cabinet Secretary after the position of Executive Secretary went to a lawyer-friend from San Beda College of Law, Salvador Medialdea.
The position of Cabinet Secretary is in principle an innocuous one. And for a while Evasco looked perfectly powerless, harmless and purely ornamental in that position. But in one dramatic move, Duterte put him in charge of the “supervision” of 12 strategic agencies, with access to billions of pesos in operational funds and a direct constituency of millions of people, notably the poor. These included the Cooperative Development Authority, the Housing and Urban Development Coordinating Council, the National Anti-Poverty Commission, the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples, the National Commission on Muslim Filipinos, the National Food Authority, the National Youth Commission, the Presidential Action Center, Office of the President, the Philippine Commission on Women, the Philippine Coconut Authority, the Philippine Commission on the Urban Poor, the Technical Education Skills Development Authority.
These agencies used to function directly under the President, who, under the Constitution, exercises “control of all the executive departments, bureaus, and offices.” By putting Evasco on top of these critical agencies, including the HUDCC, which was headed by Vice President Maria Leonor Robredo until she was sacked from the Cabinet, Duterte made him more powerful than any Cabinet member—-more powerful than the Vice President. This did not necessarily make him a dangerous man. What made him a dangerous man——in fact the most dangerous man in the administration——is his command and control of the communist cluster within the government, and his unimpeded effort to make this group the dominant force in government.
In the beginning, the public was made to believe only four communists or communist recommendees had been appointed to the Cabinet, without the benefit of a peace agreement with the CPP/NPA/NDF. These included Evasco, Rafael Mariano of the Department of Agrarian Reform, Judy Taguiwalo of the Department of Social Welfare and Development, and Silvestre Bello of the Department of Labor. Tatad’s subsequent expose revealed that even the Executive Secretary Medialdea was also a full CPP member, and several undersecretaries and heads of agencies, like Delfin “Dale” Cabrera, were also CPP members. Tatad’s latest expose has revealed that all of the regional coordinators of Evasco’s Kilusang Pagbabago (Movement for Change), which has begun its open organizational activities nationwide, are also CPP members.
There is nothing clandestine about any of these. Evasco’s organizing activity is out in the open. Government funds and facilties are being used to support the KP’s nationwide activities. Duterte has openly proclaimed his preference for a revolutionary government and the methods he has used in his war on drugs are fully in accord with his preferred government. A communist coup by Evasco is a declared objective. All these must be clear to us at this stage.
Because of the collapse of Soviet communism in 1991, and China’s shift to market economics even before that, most people, including Filipinos, no longer seem to think the communist danger still exists. But the recent parade by some 2,000 armed communist warriors in Davao to celebrate the 48th anniversary of the Communist Party of the Philippines, plus the demand for the release of communist prisoners by the government, tells us we cannot take anything for granted. Evasco himself has begun sending to his friends photos of himself sporting a Soviet cap with a red star in front, with all the implied message.
Unless and until Duterte deals accordingly with Evasco and his activities, we have no choice but to hold him responsible for their consequences.