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What (else) can we expect in the 2022 elections?

in Mainstream

Just like how Christmas carols would start playing in the Philippines as soon as the “ber”-months begin, signs also abound everywhere when the national elections is coming.

Among others:

  • Electioneering gets more blatant, for example, multiple ads for “Run, _A_A, Run”; mushrooming “troll farms” in business to hoodwink public opinion;
  • The national budget gets bigger (Php 5 trillion proposed for 2022) and loaded with more pork and hotly disputed insertions;
  • Rivalries of politicians get louder and sharper, threatening and/or causing realignments and/or shattered “alliances” among and between factions of the ruling elite; and
  • The current president cooking up ways to save himself by holding on to power, including a possible run for vice-presidency;

Anyone can see that as the scheduled national elections approaches, the lame duck president Rodrigo Duterte has consistently shown his intention to maintain or grab power. Among others, “His overriding concern is to prevent the election of a new president that would allow his arrest and trial by the International Trial Court (ICC) for the grave human rights violations that he has committed,” said Jose Maria Sison, chief political consultant of the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NFP) peace panel.

Duterte is aping his idol, the deposed dictator Ferdinand Marcos, who executed a power grab through martial law and charter change. The latter mode is now blatantly being pushed by Duterte’s minions in Congress. Toward declaring martial law, Duterte plans to carry out false-flag operations to scapegoat the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) and New People’s Army (NPA) and order mass arrest and mass murder of critics, oppositionists, and activists, said Sison, based on information shared by sources close to the national security cluster of the Duterte cabinet. He added that under Martial Law conditions or not, “Duterte also keeps in reserve the option of holding and rigging the 2022 elections to install a stooge as president and himself as vice-president.”

The carnival of Ph elections

Like a parody of Christmas, the Philippine elections also feature lots of jingles, posters, and messianic promises from candidates. For the festive atmosphere and hopeful promises the elections generate, it is highly anticipated. As such it is historically in campaigns for elections that reactionary candidates outdo each other promising populist oaths, singing and dancing, and engaging in dazzling gimmicks, and taking advantage of the culture of feudal patronage.

But in a neocolonial and semifeudal Philippine society, it has historically functioned more as a contest dishing out illusions of democracy by misrepresenting people’s interests. Here the contestants exclusively come from different factions of the ruling elite.

Elections in the Philippines is a venue for the ruling elite to settle peacefully their rivalries for political dominance and their share of spoils from a bankrupt economy.

To win, they must come out as the most “popular” enough to get the votes. Or, they must at least make it seem credible that they supposedly got the votes.

The coming 2022 elections is a continuation of that thread. But because the semifeudal, semicolonial crisis has gotten worse over time, even the illusions of democracy the election is supposed to generate are being torn and exposed by the contestants themselves. Engaged in a fierce conflict for the topmost posts, they make mistakes and fail to cover up their epic failures in meeting the demands and needs of the masses. Unable to placate the masses, they resort to deception (e.g., disinformation) and terror to quell people’s protests and opposition. Meanwhile, the fierce rivalry between competing factions hastens to expose each others’ corruption and wrongdoings.

The few candidates, who genuinely had programs for the people, certainly cut into the interests of landlords, compradors, and their imperialist masters and had to put up with being maneuvered out of their positions and popularity.

It had been so since the time six representatives of the Left-led Democratic Alliance in 1949 blocked the Bell Trade Act (a law granting parity rights to US capitalists to exploit and plunder Philippine resources). The said reps were charged with “electoral terrorism” and ousted from their posts.

Fast forward to present, the progressive partylist groups, other patriotic candidates, and even local politicians exhibiting sincere attitude toward the masses were targeted by each reactionary regime, especially during the Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo and the Duterte regimes. Party list groups have also been used by the reactionaries as another venue to perpetuate their dynasties and misrepresent the poor majority.

Elections and dynasties

Every election, political dynasties come out in full force to fight for government positions. The same families exchange seats in government every election and bring up more members to higher posts. Despite the many times the voters expressed disgust at these dynas0ties and voted for those who promised to eradicate them, the political dynasties remain untouched.

Political dynasties were the logical offshoots of bureaucrat capitalism. Dynastic bureaucrat capitalists served as agents of local oligarchs and big bourgeois compradors. They aggrandized themselves by using their positions to corner the biggest loot and bribes and cuts from government contracts. They used their political capital to promote their family businesses or those of their relatives, friends, and allies as well as to gain favors from contractors, loan agencies, and foreign capitalists and banks.

The dominance of political dynasties in the electoral landscape showed how rotten the ruling political and economic system in the Philippines is. “It clearly reflects how those in power, big landlords, big bourgeois compradors and bureaucrat capitalists, perpetuate their dynasties through corruption, nepotism, and patronage,” said the CPP in a statement after Duterte’s SONA in 2020. Duterte continued to evade the calls to pass an Anti-Dynasty Bill. For years, the bill languished at the committee level in Congress.

Indeed, Duterte will not outlaw the political dynasties as he is the leader of his family’s dynasty. Although Duterte has allied with the Marcoses and the Arroyos, he has definitely advanced his dynasty. Duterte’s major streams of bureaucrat capitalist accumulation included his bogus war on drugs (which he used to eliminate or subdue rival drug syndicates); the emergency powers invoked for the Covid-19 pandemic which allowed him nearly P3 trillion of public funds spent without transparency and accounting; and, the billions of pesos in “intelligence” and “confidential” funds at his behest. These are on top of the usual bureaucrat capitalist loot from his position as president. He has accumulated wealth from bribes (secretly stashed in accounts of his cronies and reportedly in Chinese banks) using the national budget to consolidate his supermajority control of Congress.

From 3Gs to 5Gs?

Guns, goons, and gold or the 3Gs have always been decisive factors in the outcome of reactionary elections in the Philippines. Politicians were known to maintain private armed groups who, aside from keeping their bosses safe from rival private armies, were also used to terrorize rivals and voters.

In his Philstar column dated July 2, 2021, Jarius Bondoc wrote that there are almost 4,000 private armies and more than a million loose firearms scattered all over the country. “The number of loose firearms could have risen to 2.1 million in 2020, International Alert-Philippines monitored,” he noted. These included assault rifles, machine pistols, and high-caliber handguns.

For his part, Duterte used “the military and police to intimidate, silence, and undermine support for his rivals and critics. Before and during the campaign, his clique has successively perpetrated the killing of numerous rival politicians. He openly used the courts, agencies, and local governments to brand progressive candidates and parties as “terrorists” in line with the “whole-of-nation” approach against “insurgency.” He spent billions of pesos of people’s money to flood the media with pro-administration lies and drown the voices of the opposition,” the CPP said after the results of the 2019 elections came out.

Money talks in the Philippines elections. Thus, the political dynasties with the deepest war chest from present and previous loots win.

Duterte’s 2016 presidential bid was backed by his now favoured oligarchs—the Floirendos and the Alcantaras of Davao, and Dennis Uy, among others. Based on his statement of contributions and expenditures (SOCE) submitted to the Commission on Elections (Comelec), Duterte spent more than Php 371 million.

Based on the record of expenditures, the 12 senatorial winners in the 2016 elections spent an average of Php 107 million.

The expenses reported through the SOCE do not include money spent for campaigning earlier than the prescribed period by the COMELEC. The Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism (PCIJ) bared then senatorial candidate Bong Go spent more than Php 422 million for TV airtime alone from January 2018 to January 2019. During the same period, Imee Marcos spent a total of P413 million on ads.

Now, with advances in technology, one can say the 3Gs have “upgraded” to add vicious (troll) “games” and (electronic) “glitches” too. The explosion of “new media” and internet usage provided additional platforms for political dynasties to unleash their gimmickry and manufacture an image that voters ideally want to support.
In the past, it was buying out the media and using guns and goons to silence the rivals and the masses. Now, there are troll farms, artificial intelligence, and big data analysis that cater to people’s wishes. The current regime can now paralyze and attack websites and vilify and red-tag those who belie their claims.

Nowadays, they turn the same problems of the Filipino masses into something like computer games with predictable heroes and anti-heroes. They present the candidates as the “heroes” spouting what the masses want to hear while cussing out or abusing their rivals and enemies. Rodrigo Duterte enjoyed such treatment from his troll farms that in the 2016 campaign, his image was severely dusted and made up. According to news reports, Duterte spent U$200,000 or around Php 10 million for his troll farms in the 2016 presidential elections.

“Can you imagine a president elected by trolls?” Bayan Muna Rep. Carlos Zarate asked. Bayan Muna filed a resolution in June 2021 to investigate some ranking government officials who use public funds to establish internet troll farms all over the country for the 2022 elections. He warned that the next president could get elected through these troll farms by spreading misinformation, fake news, and outright lies on social media.

Starting in 2010, the Philippine elections’ vote-reading and vote-counting began to be automated. The country’s “automated” poll system was every IT experts’ frustration as nearly every safeguard they tried to propose and incorporate into the system was removed, sabotaged, or hidden and kept out of their observation. The process of vote reading and counting has lost whatever transparency remained.

In the days of manual counting, the candidates and the voters could at least check if the names read out corresponded to what’s written on the ballots and if the votes were accurately counted and tallied. Under the automated polls, it has become a big “mystery.” The control is in the hands of a private and foreign-controlled firm, the officials of the Comelec, and the candidates with most 5Gs. Hence, the illusions of democracy the elections are supposed to distribute to the populace are torn asunder by the participating candidates themselves.

Duterte used the Comelec in the 2019 elections to “carry out massive cheating by hacking the results of the automated vote counting and tallying system. On Election Day, around 1,000 vote-counting machines malfunctioned and counting was delayed for seven hours. Voting for overseas Filipinos was also problematic. According to experts, the recent elections was the most unsuccessful so far, and the most dangerous in history.”

Foreign interference

US imperialism instituted reactionary elections in the Philippines to legitimize its continued dominance over the political, economic, and socio-cultural affairs of the country. Through the years, elections ensured the joint class dictatorship of its most avid allies—the landlords and the comprador bourgeoisie. For the US, it is historically not so much as simply interfering. The Philippine electoral process is itself a by-product of American occupation. The US “tutelage in the democratic way of life” entrenched leaders loyal to US imperialism.

It is expected that the US will, as usual, take an active stance “interfering” in the national elections. The Philippines remains the most loyal ally of the US in Asia. And the US will not slack off in lending support to its most favored puppets, in the name of “upholding the rule of law,” various paeans to “democracy” and long-time alliance, and countering “terrorism.” Recently, the US approved the sale and dispatch of war materiel to the Philippines despite protests from human rights advocates.

But US hegemony is threatened. The Philippines as the US’ neocolony is also being encroached upon by China, its biggest rival. Duterte has served both the US imperialist and China, with the US still the most decisive given the military aid and economic treaties the US has with the Philippines. But until now, Duterte could not parry accusations that China helped him win the 2016 presidential elections.

Meaningful and substantial change

Historically, reactionary elections proved to be mere exercises where the masses got the chance to choose among the factions of the ruling class will oppress and exploit them. And even this chance has, through the years, been trampled upon by the most blatant of competing factions. There used to be ballot switching; now there is automated cheating and electronic “glitches.”

The revolutionary forces firmly believe the masses can only achieve genuine change through the national democratic revolution.

All over the country, revolutionary mass organizations and organs of political power have been established. They are the masses’ expression of unity and their real source of power and strength to achieve a just and progressive society, truly representative of their interests.

As a matter of principle, the revolutionary movement does not participate in the reactionary elections. It remains active however during this time as it acquires gains for the masses and the revolution. As contradictions between the different factions of the ruling classes exacerbate, the revolutionary movement is able to broaden the reach of the national democratic revolution.

In an interview, Jose Maria Sison explained, “It is a given fact that the revolutionary forces (CPP, NPA and NDFP) are prohibited from participating in the elections staged by the ruling system. But they can clarify and disseminate to the people why it is wrong to vote for the parties and candidates that support the tyrannical, treasonous, mass murdering, plundering and swindling crimes of the Duterte regime.”

For the 2022 elections, Prof. Sison reiterated the need for all patriotic and progressive forces to unite to fight and frustrate “whatever scheme Duterte chooses to implement in order to prolong himself in power” and to end his “traitorous, tyrannical, terrorist, genocidal, plundering and mendacious” regime.###

NPA and masses continue to build and strengthen the revolutionary mass base

in Mainstream

The new national democratic revolution has been going on for over half a century. It has been targeted by tyrants who attempted to crush it through billions of arms procured from US imperialist and with no small amount of lies and vilification.

Bombs, cannons, and drones however “hi-tech” these are—for as long as they are used by the reactionary army against the masses and the people’s army—can neither shock nor awe the people’s will to fight for a better society, defend the victories, and make their aspiration become a reality for the whole country. 
To borrow and tweak the lyrics of an old song: The hills are alive with songs of revolution. It is the sound of empowered voices of the masses and the New People’s Army (NPA) resolutely craving revolutionary change.

The #hashtag di matalo-talo (undeafeatable) referring to the Philippine revolutionary movement is an apt slogan because even during the pandemic, and despite intensified military operations of the Armed Forces of the Philippines and Philippine National Police (AFP-PNP), the red fighters of the NPA and the masses successfully implemented health measures to protect the guerrilla bases from Covid-19 and ensured a steady food supply for every household.

Under the guidance of the Communist Party of the Philippines, the NPA is tasked not only to engage in armed struggle but also to conduct agrarian revolution and to continuously build, consolidate, and expand the mass base of the revolutionary forces in the countryside. These are three-pronged tasks that complement each other and guarantee the victory of the people’s war.

Amid the pandemic and intensified focused military operations against the revolutionary and democratic forces, the people’s army carried out these tasks. Notably, those who persisted where in regions and provinces considered as priority areas of the regime’s “counterinsurgency” program. To these guerrilla fronts the reactionary government deployed the most number of battalions of the AFP and PNP.

Considering all obstacles, revolutionary work in the countryside continued. Contrary to military claims that the revolutionary NPA has weakened, it continues to operate in 110 guerrilla fronts all over the country. Here are some of the activities carried out by the people’s army, the revolutionary mass organizations, the organs of political power in the guerrilla zones as collated from articles of Ang Bayan, the official publication of the CPP.

Expansion and recovery work

Currently, some 22 battalions are deployed in Southern Luzon—a combination of forces from the AFP, PNP and its paramilitary group Citizen Armed Forces Geographical Unit (CAFGU). If the NPA had already been defeated, why are there 22 enemy battalions in Southern Tagalog (ST) region, asked Patnubay de Guia, regional spokesperson of the National Democratic Front of the Philippines. 

Still, recovery of areas with previous revolutionary work was conducted. The region was cited by the CPP Central Committee in 2020 as among those who had “outstanding” experience in the expansion of the guerrilla mass base. One of these areas was in Maro which used to be the “wellspring of members of revolutionary mass organizations, as well as Red fighters and commanders.”

For almost 10 years, Maro bore the heavy presence of paramilitary and vigilante groups of the AFP. The people’s unity, built through years of revolutionary work, was overwhelmed by military terror. A CAFGU detachment and vigilante groups in the area were set-up. As a result the NPA units in the area were forced to temporarily pull out and stayed in the periphery. 

But with the help of the masses, the NPA returned to Maro in 2020. Holding on to the revolutionary tradition of the area, they reached out to the masses who warmly welcomed them and told them of their continuing hardships—primarily, the same landlessness and unequal sharing scheme with the landlords.

The Fortunato Camus Command of the NPA in Cagayan Valley also has this experience. In a statement, its political officer, Elias Almazan, declared the enemy forces’ failure to “foil the expansion and consolidation of the revolutionary mass base in the region” even as battalion- and brigade-sized military operations were launched against the red fighters in the region. He commended the people’s army for the expansion and recovery of territories in barrios and towns resulting in the increase of mass base by several thousands in 2020. Also, NPA platoons were able to touch base with residents in the plains, near highways, and in coastal areas. Meanwhile, smaller NPA units were deployed in villages where there are military operations to reach out to the masses and strengthen the mass base.

“It is to the advantage of the people’s army that revolutionary ideas have for decades been sown and taken root among the masses. Its territories are expanding and more and more revolutionary mass organizations and organs of poli­tical power are established in villa­ges and clusters of barrios,” said Almazan.

Education and training, conferences  

In April 2021, a guerrilla front in Samar successfully concluded the study of the Basic Party Course among farmers in a barrio. The course is required of new recruits to the Party. 

It also held Level-2 medical training among 10 medical staff of the NPA. Some 28 residents joined the discussion as part of their consolidation activities. (Level-2 or the intermediate course on health is part of the three-tiered health training of the NPA jointly developed with the members of MASAPA, an allied organization of the NDFP, whose members are doctors, nurses and health workers, and medical students.  Included in Level-2 course are the “study of anatomy, child birthing, herbal medicine production, and special procedures that include tooth extraction, simple surgery, trauma and mental health care. A number of communities now produce their own capsules and ointments from plants and herbs.”

Also in Samar, 50 members of the people’s militia finished the basic political-military training. They were representatives from five barrios in a guerrilla zone and 32 new regular members of the NPA. The revolutionary youth organization Kabataan Makabayan provided the technical and logistical support for the training. According to the trainers, the number of people’s militia who joined was an indication of the people’s determination to advance the people’s war. Many of the trainees showed potentials to be military cadres.  The training was part of the overall plan of the NPA regional command to intensify guerrilla warfare and conduct more tactical offensives against state forces that continue to batter the region in its “counterinsurgency” operations.  

A year ago, in June 2020, some 40 members of the revolutionary youth organization Kabataang Makabayan (KM) from various communities, towns, and cities in Bukidnon province held a conference in one of the guerrilla zones in the province. The KM members discussed the role of the youth in the issues affecting the country, including the Covid-19 pandemic. The immediate need to reach out to unorganized youth and draw them in to respond to the needs brought about by the pandemic and the regime’s sustained attacks against the people were among the actions put forward by the conference. The conference happened when there were at least four AFP battalions deployed in the province. 

Cultural activities

Cultural activities and celebrations have always figured significantly in revolutionary life in the countryside. Founding anniversaries, weddings, end of trainings and conferences, were among the most celebrated events.

The celebration of the 48th founding anniversary of the NDFP in April 24, took different forms. In Northern Samar, the peasant masses and the people’s army in Northern Samar held an activity to commemorate the NDFP’s event in the face of intense military operations that have been going on for six months already.

Led by the PKM, the revolutionary organization of peasants, residents of six barrios and their allies used the occasion to strengthen their unity against the onslaught of military offensives. They pledged anew their commitment to the revolution as the only solution to the day-to-day dire situation they live in. Also, during the program, policies of the revolutionary government in the villages were explained and reiterated.

Love could move mountains, as the saying goes. Even the presence of four AFP battalions could “not deter the couples’ long-time dream of walking under the ‘arms gate,’ the customary passage of wedded couples under crossed rifles,” said a red commander.
In June 2020, some 200 villagers from different communities witnessed the wedding ceremony of several couples held somewhere in Bukidnon province. The wedding was officiated by members of the local revolutionary government; and, as in any community endeavor in guerrilla fronts, the village folk and members of the revolutionary mass organizations, prepared the food, the stage, and cultural numbers. The members of the red army performed a dance number.

Before the flag of the CPP, the couples pledged their commitment to love each other, “a love that was forged in the middle of the people’s war,” said the article. “Marriage in the revolution encompasses not only the romantic love towards a comrade, but also the genuine love and service to the masses.”

Indeed, love and service to the people and the burning desire for a better tomorrow move mountains better than tyranny and terror. That’s the way things go in the guerrilla zones where people’s revolutionary organizations and organs of political power continue to multiply and advance. ###

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