ANY hope that the second half of 2016, which coincided with President Rodrigo Duterte’s first six months in office, would wash away the ills of the Aquino regime, turned out to be a grievous mistake. A mirage. As the year ended on Saturday, the annus horribilis of the previous year turned out to be much more livable than that which followed it. It was the exact opposite of what most Filipinos had expected.
Before DU30’s watch began on July 1, when most people were saying they had seen the worst, I asked a group of enthusiastic partisans rather irreverently, what happens if Aquino’s watch turned out to be better than the next? It seemed hardly conceivable then that a thoroughly unprepared and abnormal President, who was inclined to spend more time with his nephew at the PlayStation than at his official duties, would be succeeded by someone with more distressing qualities.
The seemingly inconceivable, however, appears to have happened.
What to expect this year
In 2017, we will have a “still popular” President waging a “popular” war on drugs that will continue to kill mere suspects while supposedly resisting arrest. Condemnation of the extra-judicial killings will grow, even as citizens, participating in opinion poll “surveys” express support for the regime they have come to fear or despise. More and more people will realize that beyond the gruesome killings, which now include minors, pregnant women and lawyers doing their legitimate jobs for their clients, the police and the state had become killing machines which can no longer be restored to their original state, or the status quo ante.
Although a Senate inquiry, initiated by the presidentially indicted Sen. Leila de Lima, had failed to pin down DU30 on the alleged Davao Death Squad killings when he was still mayor of Davao City, the current nationwide killings may have actually created a National Death Squad under PNP Chief Bato de la Rosa. Conscience-stricken policemen, who could no longer stomach the killings, could prove the first major problem for the NDS. This is probably where DU30’s “Philippine Constabulary” could come in. Meant to include former members of the NPA, MILF and “vigilantes,” and to function as the equivalent of the “Republican Guard” of some fallen despots, this could become the umbrella for the NDS.
A more active Church
As in the years of martial law, the Church and religious sector will become more active in denouncing the atrocities. An increasing number of believers and churchgoers, convinced that the battle is no longer against mere flesh and blood but against powers and principalities, will be praying daily to St. Michael the Archangel and storming the heavens for a grand exorcism to rid the nation of the dark presence that seems to have come to possess the powers that be.
But DU30’s principal preoccupation will be how to survive “plots,” real or imaginary, to remove him from the presidency. An alleged “blueprint” for his ouster, attributed to the former US ambassador to the Philippines Philip Goldberg, but denied by the State Department, is supposed to have given him a maximum of 18 months to remain in office. This fear will be heightened, rather than moderated, as he pursues his declared “pivot” to China and Russia, and they express strong support for his policies. DU30 will tend to assume that the alleged US plot to remove him will intensify as he moves closer to Beijing and Moscow.
Regardless of what the US will do or not do in response to DU30’s foreign policy initiatives, closer ties with the two US rivals will embolden DU30’s communist partners to fast-track their proposed communist takeover of the government. This could be done by declaring a revolutionary government, which abolishes the Constitution and the existing government, and puts DU30’s communist partners in charge.
This would free him from any constitutional successor, who could be installed in his place in case he dies or is constitutionally removed. Instead of an elected Vice President taking over in case of removal or death, it would be his communist-in-chief, Cabinet Secretary Leoncio Evasco Jr., taking his place.
Most powerful, potentially dangerous
Evasco is the rebel ex-priest who managed DU30’s presidential campaign, and is now in charge of 12 critical government agencies that used to be directly responsible to the President. Together with an array of selected full members of the CPP/NPA/NDF, he leads the Kilusang Pagbabago (Movement for Change), an embryonic political party supported with government funds and facilities that seeks full control of the entire government through the Office of the President. He is not only in charge of the powerful Presidential Action Center, he has also created under the KP, the equally powerful Office of Participatory Governance in the Office of the President, with two undersecretaries.
Evasco, rather than PNP Chief Bato de la Rosa, is said to be DU30’s real “co-president.” He has become the most powerful and potentially the most dangerous man in the DU30 Cabinet. While DU30 curses his way to the headlines and unsettles the US and its allies with his un-nuanced foreign policy statements, Evasco does all the quiet work for the eventual communization of the Philippine government.
Fairly or unfairly, he is described by some as the real source of the controversial and constitutionally questionable PNP Command Memo Circular 16-2016 of July 1, 2016, which proclaims “the neutralization of all illegal drug personalities” as the principal objective of Operation Double-Barrel, the main program in the drug war. The circular was signed by the PNP Chief.
Evasco is proud to call himself a communist, while DU30 merely calls himself a “socialist.” Initially described as a “rejectionist”—meaning one who rejects the leadership of Jose Maria Sison, the founding chairman of the Communist Party of the Philippines, as distinguished from “reaffirmist,” one who affirms Sison’s leadership—he is seen by some students of the communist Left to navigate a wider stream.
Smarter than Joma?
Where Joma Sison broke from the old communist party, the Partido Komunista ng Pilipinas (PKP) to found the CPP, on Dec. 26, 1968, and, with the reported intervention of the late former Senator Benigno Aquino Jr., form a partnership with Commander Dante of the New People’s Army, Evasco is said to be more inclined to form a new communist party within the government and various elements of the CPP/NPA/NDF.
Because he is able to project this activity as enjoying DU30’s full support, he is able to neutralize the opposition that should canonically and naturally come from the Armed Forces of the Philippines and the security and defense establishment. Thus, aside from Evasco, Agrarian Reform Secretary Rafael Mariano, Social Welfare Secretary Judy Taguiwalo, Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello III, and Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea, plus a number of communist undersecretaries and heads of agencies being appointed without the benefit of an enabling peace agreement, contacts between DU30’s communist partners and outside communist parties have been facilitated by the government itself.
During DU30’s participation in the ASEAN Vientiane summit, Evasco and company were reported to have met with communist party members from Laos, Cambodia and Myanmar. On the 48th anniversary of the CPP founding in Paquibato district in Davao on Dec. 26, Interior Secretary Ismael Sueno was joined by Bello, Mariano, Secretary Liza Maza of the National Anti-Poverty Commission, labor undersecretary Joel Maglungsod, social welfare undersecretary Ma Fe Temple, Bayan Muna party-list Rep. Carlos Zarate and Anak Pawis party-list Rep. Ariel Casilao. At least six NPA armed platoons were reported to have marched on this occasion to shouts of “Love live the CPP and the NPA.” At least 2,000 others displayed high-powered weapons during the celebration, according to reports.
Unprecedented and unbelievable
A former AFP Chief of Staff and Secretary of National Defense has asked me to point out that nothing like this has ever happened before. Evasco looks so confident of success that as I mentioned in my last column he has started sending out to his friends photos of himself wearing a head gear with a big red star in front. I described it as a Mao-type cap in my column; on closer inspection, it looks more Russian than Chinese, which has reportedly become part of the KP leadership dress code. My apologies to the Russians and the Chinese.
I was in the Cabinet during the Vietnam war, and did not question the domino theory that was popular at the time. I saw communism as a serious philosophical, theological, political and social error, but I was never personally particularly anti-communist. I had friends who were communist or thought they were communist, and I have Marxist “friends” until now. But communism has failed—as we saw in China, the Soviet Union, Cuba, Vietnam and even Nepal. I do not wish to see its ideologyor methodology inflicted by any group upon the Philippines. This, however, is the danger we face right now.
After the end of the Cold War, and the collapse of the Soviet Union, which a recent Emmy award-winning documentary attributes largely to the efforts of St. Pope John Paul II, it became totally out of fashion to talk of communism as a serious threat to any government or nation. The Maoists in Nepal were the last to opt for peace and a parliamentary government. But Evasco’s plan appears to have won the support of a number of communist parties abroad, from Germany, India, North Korea, Laos, Myanmar, Cambodia, Malaysia, Indonesia, and Australia, all of which seem to believe they could recreate a resurgent communist state in the Philippines.
North Korea is said to be the recommended model, with DU30 as the new Kim Jong-un.
Support from China
Logistical and financial support from China, possibly coursed through North Korea, cannot be discounted, especially if it could change the power balance in favor of Beijing in the South China Sea. Qualified analysts believe that arms landings similar to the MV Karagatan episode in Digoyo Point in 1972 could soon be repeated in Mindanao, to support Evasco’s plans. China’s support for the CPP/NPA was cut off after Marcos accepted the One China policy during the normalization of relations between Manila and Beijing in 1975.
There could be a change of policy after DU30’s visit to China, when he said he would like to separate militarily and economically from the US, and align himself with China and Russia “against the world.” In Marcos’ time, the CPP/NPA wanted to take over government from outside; today, Evasco would like to take over the government from within.
DU30 will continue to play a pivotal role in this effort for as long as he is needed. But in the days ahead, when he continues to repeat his familiar vulgarities and begins to lose his shock and entertainment value, the KP will emerge as the real power to reckon with. This will reach its high point if and when DU30 proclaims his revolutionary government, as expected, and puts the KP in charge. He then becomes completely expendable, as he himself has prophesied, and Evasco could dismiss him as a vulgar son of the bourgeoisie.
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People who know I am from Catanduanes, which was battered by the last typhoon, wanted to know if they could send relief assistance to the victims through this space. Thank you. The best way to do this would be to send everything to Bishop Manolo de los Santos of Virac, who has organized the diocese and all the parishes for this purpose. Shelter materials are most needed.