The US-Duterte regime, a reprise

Today marks the 72nd year of the Philippine client-state. More than seven decades after the US colonial regime granted nominal independence to the Philippines on July 4, 1946 and handed over the reins of government to its US-indoctrinated politicians and technocrats, the country remains under US neocolonial stranglehold. Burdened primarily by US semicolonial yoke, the Philippines remains economically dependent, politically subservient, culturally subjugated and militarily bound to the US.

Rodrigo Duterte is the current chief of this neocolonial state. Over the past two years, he has perpetuated US neocolonial rule in the country. Despite his anti-American histrionics, dramatic declarations of an “independent foreign policy,” and theatrics of “shifting to China and Russia” early in his term, he has proved himself no different from previous puppet presidents since 1946 who all have steadfastly defended US semicolonial rule.

The US-Duterte regime is the current expression of US neocolonial rule in the Philippines and of the subservience of the ruling political elite. His cabinet is composed of stalwarts of US hegemonism. His economic managers are IMF and World Bank-trained experts and champions of the neoliberal policy regime. His defense and security officials are pro-American zealots of US counter-insurgency doctrine.

In the economic sphere, Duterte preserved all the policies which prevent national economic development and aggravate the oppression and exploitation of the broad toiling masses of workers and peasants, as well as middle-income earners. His eight-point economic program is in line with the neoliberal policy proposals long-pushed for by the IMF-WB. He perpetuated the general policy against land reform in his drive to transform wide swathes of agricultural and ancestral land to commercial plantations and mining sites. He continued the policy of cheap labor as key incentive to attracting foreign investments. Labor rights are wantonly violated especially in so-called “economic zones.” Contractualization and various flexible employment schemes subject workers to ever worse conditions of oppression and exploitation. He implemented the TRAIN law taxes, specifically designed by American-funded lobby group Arangkada, which have caused the skyrocketting of prices of commodities and further deterioration of people’s living conditions.

Duterte’s subservience to the US imperialists is most starkly demonstrated by extending the extraterritorial rights granted to the US military in the Philippines under various one-sided treaties. He has refused to heed the Filipino people’s demand to abrogate the Mutual Defense Treaty of 1951, the Visiting Forces Agreement of 1998, the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement of 2014 and other unequal military treaties with the US. He also made no formal protestation against the presence of US military troops and advisers in the country. Balikatan war exercises, which epitomize US military command and control of the Armed Forces of the Philippines, have been held twice since Duterte proclaimed he no longer wants them. The most recent war exercises last April saw the participation of one of the biggest contingent of American troops and displayed their prowess in invasion maneuvers.

This year alone, several nuclear-capable aircraft carriers and warships have docked in Philippine waters, including the USS Carl Vinson and guided-missile destroyer USS Michael Murphy, amphibious assault ship USS Bonhomme Richard and the USS Ronald Reagan.

Due to the absence of economic and political sovereignty and lack of national dignity, the Duterte regime can only exercise a policy of passivity in relation to US and China saber-rattling and militarization of the South China Sea and parts of the Philippine maritime territory. This is in contrast to an active policy of peace which requires one to demand the imperialist powers to put an end to the policy of war and their race to establish their military might against one another.

Facing economic bankruptcy, Duterte seeks to attract Chinese investments by establishing bureaucrat capitalist deals with corrupt state officials and giving China full access and leeway in the South China Sea, including those within the maritime claims of the Philippines. Rising imperialist China has constructed airports and other military facilities to fortify its presence in the South China Sea in the face of the US “pivot to Asia” since 2011. Beguiled by Duterte’s dramatic anti-US tirades, China promised in October 2016 to extend around $20 billion in loans and aid. No substantial portion of these promises have yet to materialize, however, after it became apparent to the Chinese imperialists that Duterte was not about to turn his back against the US imperialists which he has declared an “indispensable partner” and which he thanked profusely for the military aid extended to his regime’s wars against the Filipino people.

The US foments Sinophobia in condemning China for building its military facilities in the area, when in fact, it has long been constructing its military facilities inside the Philippines itself, specifically inside AFP military bases in Tarlac, Pampanga, Nueva Ecija, Palawan, Cebu, Cagayan de Oro, Zamboanga, Marawi and other places. The US-controlled media is hypocritically whipping-up the hype of “China militarization” to obscure US militarization and power projection in the South China Sea through “freedom of navigation” operations, war exercises in the Philippines and other countries, building military facilities under EDCA, having access to Philippine seaports and airports under the VFA, and so on.
Duterte paved the way for intensified US military intervention in the nation’s affairs. In declaring martial law in Mindanao and mounting the war of destruction against Marawi City, he allowed large-scale US military intervention, where the US military combined with the AFP in relentless aerial bombardment. Duterte and the AFP adapted the tactics applied by the US against Raqqa in Syria and Mosul in Iraq. The US military is set to gain access to large areas of Marawi City where thousands of hectares of land are set to be converted by Duterte into a large military reservation. Through its agents, the US has pushed the Duterte regime to cancel peace talks with National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP). Under the “anti-terror” banner, it is actively inciting the ruling regime to wage all-out war and vigorously crackdown on the revolutionary forces.

On this day, we call on the Filipino people to expose and oppose the US-Duterte regime’s relentless machinations aimed at maintaining the status of the Philippines as a strong neocolonial foothold of US hegemonic power in the Asia-Pacific. The Filipino people and their revolutionary forces reaffirm their determination to advance the struggle for national and social liberation, seek the overthrow of US imperialism and the puppet Duterte regime and establish a fully independent people’s democratic state.

The US-Duterte regime, a reprise