There is no separating the Armed Forces’ frenzied redbaiting game plan from President Rodrigo Duterte’s avowed desire to see the son of dictator Ferdinand Marcos as successor to his bloody rule.
There are no coincidences. That lie-filled, nationally aired chat between Marcos defense chief Juan Ponce Enrile and the dictator’s junior and losing vice presidential contender, the attacks by Armed Forces Chief of Staff Gen. Carlito Galvez on the broad Sept 21 protest against old and new reigns of tyranny, and the release of the Supreme Court decision upholding Imelda Marcos’ acquittal for economic crimes come under one arc.
Duterte himself has bared the goal. He will try everything to ensure that Marcos Jr. is seated as vice president. Rebuffed by Sen. Chiz Escudero (one of his two succession choices), Duterte said his oft-repeated vow to resign could happen if Marcos Jr. wins his electoral protest against Vice President Leni Robredo.
It was also Duterte who first aired that silly conspiracy theory of Sept 21 being a plot to oust him. Galvez followed by naming clearly legal organizations like the Coalition for Justice and the Movement Against Tyranny as part of orchestrated violence being hatched by communist, going as far as naming former lawmaker and columnist Satur Ocampo and peace advocate Rey Cassambre.
Galvez, of course, used his dangerous conspiracy theory as a springboard to praise Marcos’ martial law.
A few days later, when events gave lie to his delusions, Galvez took his attacks a step farther. The AFP now wants a special agency to focus on chasing after perceived communists and their allies. His reason thrashes all law, the Constitution included.
The government, Galvez says, must crackdown of the strong “parliamentary struggle” – a term covering all forms of legal dissent, including congressional opposition. Last I checked, they had not yet torn down the Constitution, which protects parliamentary struggle, including that of the parliament of the streets.
Worse, Galvez has given the green light for a crackdown on the youth, targetting schools. A police office in the Cordillera has also launched an Oplan focusing on the youth, riding on Duterte’s bloody drug war but also lumping all “illegal activities” into their program.
Galvez would have enjoyed bliss during Marcos’ reign of terror and is enthusiastic about starting a new one under his watch. The government, he said, must foil recruitment into student groups, even those recognized by schools.
His logic: giving way to legal dissent paves the way for greater militancy. In the same manner, he likens a united labor movement as a conspiracy, instead of a natural offshoot of rising hunger and poverty due to economic policies inimical to the working class. Thus, his desire to close all doors to parliamentary struggle.
The current theme is warning about a “Red October.” This throwback to Cold War tactics is suspicious, especially as Duterte floated it first.
Critics warn that Duterte, like Marcos, will use the capture of the judiciary, congress and the ham-fisted military to usher in emergency rule that would short-circuit the process of charter change.
Critics warn that the Supreme Court, how headed by a hand-picked Duterte supporter, could spring a surprise on the vice presidency electoral case.
The President has openly attacked Vice President Leni Robredo, claiming her kin were part of drug gangs. He cast aspersion of the abilities of Robredo, a lawyer, saying she “cannot hack it,” before describing Marcos Jr as “one of the brightest Filipinos” and welcoming the return of dictatorship to complete his drug war.
Protection of the Marcoses is now paramount to Malacanang and the AFP.
Duterte spokesman, Harry Roque, who likes to boast of his credentials as a sometime human rights lawyer, downplayed the array of Enrile lies as just a matter of freedom of expression.
Those lies were received with anger among Filipinos and especially in Muslim Mindanao, which endured massacres and bomb runs during the Marcos dictatorship.
“I personally heard the testimonies of witnesses in the Malisbong Massacre in Palembang, Sultan Kudarat,” said Fr. Eliseo Mercado, a known expert in the role of Islam in the Philippines.
“I heard all the gory details,” said Mercado, referring to the massacre of at least 1,500 Moro residents in September1974.
Strangely, the response from Moro Islamic Liberation Front and Moro National Liberation Front leaders are muted at best. They may now also be captured, in the sense of believing only shortcuts can give them the full autonomy withheld by the Bangsamoro Organic Law. Duterte himself assured them he would make sure a new Constitution allowing their dreams would be passed.
"Red October" is looming to be a crackdown in the manner of the Marcos years, to forestall protests in plan to culminate the Marcos comeback. An ailing Duterte is making sure the dues are paid.
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