On February 8, candidates running in Philippine elections from the local to national level officially launched their campaigns. In the midst of an unprecedented health and economic crisis, and with the children of dictators—Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. and Sara Duterte-Carpio—running for the highest positions in government, the stakes couldn’t be any higher. And yet, the Filipino people have been confronted with dictatorship before, and won.
Drawing from our fierce legacy of resistance against tyranny, BAYAN USA calls on the Filipino people and our allies to prepare for the battle today and the battles ahead. Faced with the threat of a Marcos restoration and Duterte extension of power, we must build the strongest and widest unity to defeat this fascist tandem. But beyond the elections, we must organize ourselves as a mass movement to win even more than the people power movements of the past have achieved: genuine national and social liberation.
#Halalan2022: What is at stake for Filipinos at home and abroad?
It is a common saying that whoever holds the most guns, goons, and gold wins the elections. This is because wealthy and landed political dynasties have dominated Philippine politics ever since the first national elections was held in 1907 under American colonialism. The rule of big landlords and big capitalists continued even after the U.S. granted “independence” to the Philippines in 1946.
On the receiving end of the infighting among the ruling class are the vast majority of people impacted by the violence, corruption, and blatant disregard for people’s rights that reaches a peak during elections season. With the pandemic, poverty, and political repression worsening by the day, the lives of the Filipino masses are on the line.
At the beginning of the year, the Philippines was hit with the worst COVID surge yet. Daily new confirmed cases surpassed 39,000, and almost half of everyone getting tested received positive results. Despite having enough vaccine doses to cover the entire population, inefficient and unsystematized distribution and access have limited vaccination rates to only 53 percent.
The pandemic has worsened the poverty already faced by the masses. High inflation coupled with little growth in minimum wage levels mean that Filipinos are poorer now than at the beginning of Duterte’s term. By the fourth quarter of 2021, upwards of 17 million Filipinos were unemployed or underemployed. Meanwhile, the richest 1 percent owned 40 percent of the country’s total wealth.
In response to these conditions, the masses have rightfully protested in both the parliament and the streets. The Duterte regime met these actions with violence and repression, including terror-tagging, harassment, arrest, and murder. Fascist policies were further upheld and institutionalized, such as the Supreme Court’s decision to uphold the Anti-Terror Law, and Congress’ decision to give over 17 billion pesos ($332 million) to the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC).
Filipinos in the U.S. are directly impacted by the crisis in our homeland. Hundreds of workers and professionals—across the caregiving, nursing, and teaching industries—continue to be trafficked into the country. Seafarers on container and cruise ships and workers on J-1 visas in hotels and restaurants across the country were left stranded. In response, the Philippine government, through its embassy and consulates, offered little to no help to those in need. Instead, many consulates closed their doors during the pandemic, set up inefficient appointment systems for consular services, and even privatized certain services at increased costs to the people, such as for passport processing.
Many in our community have also felt the pain of losing loved ones in the Philippines due to COVID. The Philippine government’s inadequate response to the pandemic cannot be understated as a major factor in so many preventable deaths. On top of this, our families are also experiencing more economic pressure to remit money back to the Philippines to pay for hospital bills, make up for lost income, and other financial strains, given the privatized healthcare system and lack of adequate economic aid. This means our families are working longer hours here in the U.S., many times in unsafe working conditions, just to send more back home.
And when Filipinos in the U.S. have voiced their discontent with the current status quo, we, too, have been subject to red-tagging by the NTF-ELCAC itself and their paid agents. The upholding of the Anti-Terror Law, which applies to Filipinos and allies overseas, is cause enough for us to be invested in the politics of our homeland.
Pandemic response, economic recovery, upholding human rights, the welfare of Filipinos overseas—all these are issues at stake in the upcoming election. And while the platforms and programs of candidates to address these mass issues vary widely, one thing is clear: Bongbong Marcos and Sara Duterte will not be the answer to the people’s problems.
Marcos and Duterte’s crimes against the people
As children of dictators, both Bong Bong Marcos Jr. and Sara Duterte-Carpio have shown that they follow in their fathers’ footsteps of rampant corruption and violent political repression against the people. Ferdinand Marcos Sr. became infamous worldwide for his regime’s unprecedented level of corruption, wherein he took over businesses of political rivals, public utilities, and key industries, all to make profit for himself and his cronies. Not only did Marcos Sr. plunder the wealth of the Philippines, he did so unapologeticaly and with impunity. Similarly, Bong Bong Marcos Jr. showed his utter disregard of the law when he failed to file his income tax returns for multiple consecutive years during his time as Vice Governor and later Governor of Ilocos Norte.
Just as the Marcoses used their position of power to amass enormous amounts of wealth, so has the Duterte family. Ongoing senate investigations show President Duterte was linked to the biggest corruption scandal of his administration, in which Pharmally Pharmaceutical Corporation received a bloated amount of P10 billion for the production of personal protective equipment. Additionally, the wealth of the Duterte family inexplicably rose and Sara Duterte-Carpio’s own wealth increased six fold between 2007 to 2017—a period when she was already a public official. Even though the 1987 Philippine Constitution requires transparency of public officials in matters such as finances, Sara Duterte refused to answer any questions about how her wealth increased. Both Bong Bong and Sara come from the ruling elite, where they have been able to use bribery, cheating, stealing and armed goons to live above the law. Their actions show that they have no intention of giving up the privileges they’ve grown up with, nor can we expect them to be public servant as President and Vice President.
In addition to political corruption, we can expect Bong Bong Marcos and Sara Duterte to continue the reign of terror that their dictator fathers brought down upon the Philippines. During his 21 years as President, Ferdinand Marcos Sr. killed at least 3,240, tortured 34,000, and imprisoned hundreds during martial law. Although he had a shorter term of six years, Rodrigo Duterte’s human rights violations have already surpassed that of Dictator Marcos. Since taking office, Duterte’s regime has killed over 30,000 people in his ‘anti-drug war,’ imprisoned over 1,138 people, and terrorized 372,749 people by bombing their communities. Both Marcos Sr. and Rodrigo Duterte terrorized the people through intense political persecution, terror-tagging critics, harassment, detention, enforced disappearance, and extrajudicial killings.
If Bong Bong Marcos and Sara Duterte seize power, we can expect to see more militarization and violent political repression. In a TV interview, Bong Bong Marcos whitewashed the atrocities committed by his dictator father and called into question the validity of human rights reports from the Martial Law period. Additionally, he gave his unqualified support for the NTF-ELCAC and promised, if elected, that he would increase its current P17-billion budget. Sara Duterte announced that she plans to make military conscription mandatory for people 18 years old and over, which would force millions of Filipinos to fight in unjust wars or participate in violent repression against the people committed by the Philippine military.
The election of the Bong Bong Marcos Jr. and Sara Duterte tandem would only mean more tyranny and violence for Filipinos, considering their track records of corruption and militarism. We must gather all our strength as a people to stand for democracy and freedom, and to frustrate the return of the Marcoses and the extension of the Duterte administration.
Mobilize the masses for change this elections
With so much at stake, and faced with the threat of six more years of tyranny under the children of dictators, the Filipino people are currently engaged in politics on an unprecedented scale. Through the elections, the masses are seeing more and more their active role in making change. Now is the prime time to organize the people, both through the electoral process and beyond it.
In the electoral arena, there is a clear goal that should unite the Filipino people: to defeat the Marcos-Duterte tandem. In this regard, we gladly welcome the Makabayan Coaltion’s endorsement of the Leni-Kiko campaign, and 1SAMBAYAN’s inclusion of Neri Colmenares in its senatorial slate. These are two big leaps forward in solidifying the anti-Marcos & anti-Duterte united front. We must continue to build on these unities, and work together to prevent a Marcos restoration and Duterte extension.
At the same time, we must continue to hold those running for elected office accountable to the people. We carry The People’s Demands for Change issued by BAYAN as a 20-point agenda of the most crucial issues to tackle by the new administration. As Filipinos overseas, we are also united with the Overseas Filipino Agenda, which voices crucial demands for aid during the health and economic crisis, better services for Filipinos abroad, an end to red-tagging, and a stop to the systemic export of our own people as labor. We will continue to push the Leni-Kiko camp and others to clarify their positions on these issues, and adopt the masses’ demands in their programs.
Among Congressional hopefuls, those endorsed by the Makabayan Coalition already have a proven track record of fighting for the people: Neri Colmenares, Elmer Labog, and the candidates running under progressive partylists, like Bayan Muna. We must put our full support behind them, especially knowing that they are fighting against candidates backed by the vast resources of the ruling elite. We should help convince those supporting Leni-Kiko to also vote for Makabayan’s candidates as a way to directly bring the people’s voice to Congress.
Beyond elections: Struggle for the national democratic alternative
But not everything can be won through the upcoming elections alone. Because of the semi-colonial and semi-feudal character of the Philippines, we know that the electoral arena is principally a playground for the ruling class, where progressive candidates are in the vast minority. Their presence in Congress is the result of the militant mass movement that continues to overcome the obstacles the ruling class places in front of the people.
Given these limitations, we must continue struggling for genuine change by building our mass movement on the ground. The people’s full aspirations—for free land to the tillers; an end to forced migration and family separation; a healthcare system that puts people over profit; genuine sovereignty; and a socialist future where the masses hold power—will never be voted into law. So as we engage the masses in fighting for the reforms that are possible through elections, we must be steadfast in showing people the root causes and real solutions found outside of the elections. We must strengthen our mass organizations and widen our united front so that no matter the results of the elections, the national democratic movement is in a stronger position to continue the fight beyond.
The millions of Filipinos, in both the Philippines and abroad, who flooded the streets to topple the Marcos dictatorship in 1986 understood the crucial role of people power in creating genuine and lasting change. We are the inheritors of their struggle. It is time for us to defeat Marcos once again, to prevent the extension of Duterte’s tyranny, and march forward to a Philippines that is truly democratic and free.
Ensure a clean and honest election!
Support The People’s Demands for Change and the Overseas Filipino Agenda!
Vote Makabayan! Support Neri Colmenares, Elmer Labog, and Bayan Muna Partylist in Congress!
Never again to Marcos! Never again to Duterte!
Struggle for national democracy with a socialist perspective!