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Editorial

Are you standing behind the right line?

Our heroes died fighting for our freedom. But Rodrigo Duterte kills our freedom by drowning out the critical voices of the media through its relentless attacks against the freedom of the press—and even going as far as weaponizing the law.

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Art by Jessica Lopez

Jose Rizal died fighting for our freedom. Andres Bonifacio died fighting for our freedom. Our heroes died fighting for our freedom. But Rodrigo Duterte kills our freedom by drowning out the critical voices of the media through its relentless attacks against the freedom of the press—and even going as far as weaponizing the law.

Ripping off from Marcos’ playbook, Duterte drowns the independent and critical voices who can destabilize his kingdom of bones and blood.

The online news site, Rappler, has been very critical of the administration, noting the brutal bloodshed in the name of  War on Drugs, the dominance of internet trolls, and his anti-poor projects such as the TRAIN Law to name of a few of his list of sins.

And just last week, an arrest warrant has been issued against Rappler’s CEO, Maria Ressa for cyber libel charges pertaining to an article they published way back in May 2012. The complainant, Wilfredo Keng, has been allegedly linked with the late Chief Justice Renato Corona who was undergoing an impeachment trial during that time. However, the cyber libel law was not yet in effect until October of that same year. And in addition to that, Keng had only filed the complaint on October 2017 which was five years too late. Yet despite the discrepancies of the case, an arrest warrant was given to Ressa, and was forced to post bail amounting to P100,000 the next day. At least eight charges has been filed against the online news site ever since last year, and was forced to bail for six times already.

With the State using the law to its advantage, they flaunt their powers to silence the critical. Their oppression trickled down to various university and college publications, who are now on the verge of shutdown due to censorship, and even alternative media who openly lambasts his bloody regime.

This is not just a battle between the warring factions of the DDS Army and the Dilawans, this is a battle under the banner of the three stars and the sun. The enemy does not lie with us, it sleeps inside the grand facade of the Palace. This regime knows that the people hold the true power—and it terrifies them greatly that they try to divide us by spreading distrust and false propaganda.

We are one in holding the line. And we will hold it until we taste the freedom our heroes have died for.

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Editorial

Repeating the bloody history

For the past three years, it is apparent that history is still repeating itself. Those who express criticism are forcefully silenced, sometimes through bloody measures. From farmers and members of the media being killed, critics being faced with trumped-up charges, progressives being red-tagged, and the plans of legislated policies to silence the people. 

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Photo by Jaime Taganas/TomasinoWeb

In the past months, we have seen how the current administration used its ultimate power to silence critics and defend its current control of the government. Behind its infrastructure projects and “world class” events lies issues which have long burdened the Filipino people. Its efforts to silence critics through crackdown and intimidation, and the continuing impunity and injustice in the country, we will be ending the year again in a state of ‘de facto,’ strongman rule. 

History proved that strongman rulers are not only opportunistic, but also feared collective movements and criticism. Post-WW1 Germany focused on foreign capital and investments — a clear indicator that the country was reliant on the schematics of the global economy to survive. When the Great Depression hit multiple economies around 1929, it was inevitable that Germany will share the same fate. With Communism which slowly took over the economically-crippled Germany, the late dictator Adolf Hitler saw these turn of events as an opportunity to take over the country.

Hitler rallied the German people towards his right-wing and nationalist beliefs. He then used the dominant anti-Semitic ideology to promote Aryan supremacy while demolishing the freedom of the press to fabricate the perfect Nazi propaganda. Although his expansionist campaign ended with his death in 1945, it was more than enough to send a message: tyrannical campaigns are short-lived. 74 years after the World War 2, a Hitler-esque strongman tightens his grasp in the Philippines through bloodshed and opportunism.

Ferdinand Marcos’ administration also took advantage of the country’s inclination on foreign investments to advance neoliberal policies. Behind his foreign policies and infrastructure programs, thousands of critics from the media and other individuals were either tortured or killed. After two decades, his rule concluded in the historic people power revolution.

For the past three years, it is apparent that history is still repeating itself. Those who express criticism are forcefully silenced, sometimes through bloody measures. From farmers and members of the media being killed, critics being faced with trumped-up charges, progressives being red-tagged, and the plans of legislated policies to silence the people. 

The move to amend the Human Security Act which will permit warrantless arrests and detention to up to 60 days of anyone suspected to be a terrorist. There is also a plan to revive the Anti-Subversion Law of the Marcos’ dictatorial rule is also underway which will illegalize any form of ‘subversive’ activities and any form of criticism or opposition might be among these. All of these among with the current approach of state authorities of red-tagging progressives will silence critics and progressives and further the ‘strongman’ rule of the current administration.

In the Congress, the Senator Bato Dela Rosa currently pushes for the implementation of the Senate Committee Report  No. 10 which will strengthen its “witch hunt” of progressive students in schools and universities. The aim to review the “Sotto-Enrile accord” is also underway which prohibits police and military from entering schools and universities will further the control and surveillance of the military and police in schools and threaten the safety of students and teachers alike in these “zones of peace.”

Through Executive Order No. 70, otherwise known as the “National Task Force To End Local Communist Armed Conflict”, Duterte aims to institutionalize a “de-facto” martial law through a horrendous crackdown against human rights workers and progressive groups. He revives the communist scare through red-tagging, which victimizes even the slightest dissent. Instead of addressing the root cause of armed conflict, he continues to rule with an iron fist. Martial law to consolidate need not to be declared to consolidate power for a legislated reign of terror is enough to show otherwise.

Through the implementation of extravagant projects and policies, Duterte is capable of shifting the discussion away from his atrocities. His “Build-Build-Build” infrastructure program is nothing short of neoliberalism and Chinese subservience — he aims to deliver us from poverty by gifting away our national sovereignty to foreign powers. The Kaliwa Dam project, one of the most controversial projects under his infrastructure plan is a proof that the current administration is more willing to displace local communities and destroy the country’s natural resources rather than protecting the nation it serves. 

No infrastructure can hide Duterte’s unwillingness to serve the people. The current political landscape is a spectacle for those who find glamor in his governance — his word is law and his orders are benevolent. Political critics are deemed as heretics waiting to be cast into the lake of fire. With a strong support of his cronies and large-scale troll armies, his cult is slowly turning the country into a mass grave of innocent Filipinos sacrificed for his will. Then again, nothing lasts in this world, and so is the current “de-facto” rule. Time is only waiting for the Filipinos to once again unite and fight for their country.

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Editorial

The mockery of Filipinos’ agony

Many actions and policies of the current administration not only fail to respond to the real needs and difficulties of Filipinos, but also reduces their daily agony to mere ‘challenges’ and experiments. 

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Photo by Miguel Yap/TomasinoWeb

The transport crisis in the Metro greatly showed its harsh realities in the past weeks. Aside from the horrendous traffic, the long lines in terminals, and the difficulty of hailing a spacious jeepney, the sudden malfunction of LRT-2 added up to the long list of problems and challenges many commuters have to endure. And yet, we can hear and see apathetic solutions from our leaders which are deemed to be ineffective and lacks the true intention of solving the country’s transit problems. Many actions and policies of the current administration not only fail to respond to the real needs and difficulties of Filipinos, but also reduces their daily agony to mere ‘challenges’ and experiments. 

Last Friday, we have seen Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo took a commute to his work from his home in Marikina to Malacañan. For him, this is to show those who challenged him that there really is no transport crisis. Hence, he said in his presscon that day that Filipinos only need to be creative in the traffic and commute problems in the Metro, and to “be creative” for we are known to be tough amidst difficulties. His creativity in his commute to the Palace took him almost four hours after three jeepney rides, an LRT ride, and a motorcycle ride, a struggle which could have been avoided if only there is a reliable public transport system in the Metro. 

Meanwhile, Senator Grace Poe also suggested having exclusive VIP MRT train coaches which will cost around P150-P200 per ride to ‘encourage’ especially upper class people to take public transport. The bill requiring government officials and leaders to take public transport every week has been filed again by Iligan Representative Frederick Siao in the Congress. Instead of providing legitimate solutions to address the transportation crisis, MMDA rides the publicity train by having its spokesperson Celine Pialago to steer the wheel, only to find her suing satirical social media pages instead of representing the struggles of daily Filipino commuters. 

To add to the burden, the current administration also seeks to respond to its traffic problems through neoliberalization of transport system in the country. Among this is the plan to phase out old, traditional jeepneys in 2020 as a response to its traffic problem with modern and eco-friendly ones. Although the proposition sounds good in theory, its effect on public transport and livelihood of jeepney drivers are worse than expected with costs that will surely bury many jeepney drivers and operators in huge debts and loans.

These actions and statements show that the big problem in the country’s transport system. The frequent denial and media publicity will never address these problems effectively but only shows the lack of empathy for the real needs of Filipinos, and mocks the burden they have to endure as a consequence of the selfish acts of many of our leaders.

Commuting from Manila to nearby provinces like Bulacan and Pampanga only takes around one to two hours. Meanwhile, commuting to Fairview in Quezon City, Las Piñas City, or to the nearby City of Antipolo takes a minimum of three hours especially during rush hours. To add to that, commuters have to endure long lines and poor facilities in trains and terminals, and the difficulty of hailing a jeepney or bus ride. As a consequence, many resort to bringing their own cars or using car hailing apps like Grab which only adds to the traffic on the road instead of its one to four passengers joining other commuters in jeepneys, buses or trains which can accommodate a minimum of 20 passengers. These scenarios only show that commuters and public transport is still not the top priority of our government despite other developed countries giving much of its attention to it.

Imagine also the burden of those who have no other option in their daily transport but to take public transport for it is more affordable than getting a taxi, a Grab booking or bringing and having their own car. Many of them are students and workers who experience the terrible transport crisis the most. This problem does not only tire them physically but also affects their performance in their schools and in their jobs, preventing them from reaching their full potential. They are also being deprived of having quality time with their families or with themselves or to manage other responsibilities and jobs they have. In fact, our leaders will not be required to take public transport through a law if only there is a quality, affordable and accessible mass public transport system in the country. Again, all these are the consequence of inefficient policies of our government which should be the one to provide those mentioned basic services and needs to the people it serves. 

Filipinos have long endured the long lines in terminals, hospitals and other governmental institutions. Their true welfare has long been sacrificed and neglected and our leaders seem to be unbothered of the fiasco burdening the country and its people. The government should divert its priority on the real needs of the people it serves and put an end to all its inefficient and elitist policies that only mocks and prolongs the agony of Filipinos.

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Editorial

Of Tragedies and Dictators

For unlike Oedipus and Sisyphus, the masses write the history—and dictators, no matter how often they change their masks, should be put into their place: into the dustbin of history.

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Artwork by Tricia Soto Jardin

Oedipus was said to have been destined to live an awful, tragic life. No matter how much change he makes in his choices, he is bound to do the exact, same routine: to fail, falter, suffer, weep and cry, and back again. The same is with Sisyphus, who is punished to roll a boulder up a hill, only to watch it fall down again but in joy, in Camusian rebellion, out of amor fati.

But the Greeks had it all wrong, slightly; for and however, tragedy is but a mere entertainment for Sophocles and his clique. Faced with recent events and far back, tragedy seemed to have been engraved in the Filipino disposition in the face of dictators and an inhumane structure—this time, not out of destiny, but an effect of a popular, ill-intentioned, and brutal governance.

In the last three years, and even beyond the Duterte administration, we have witnessed the implementation of unjust policies—all imprudently executed out of selfish interests, submissive military mindset, or even out of sheer ignorance of the bigger picture. The last three years is an aggravation, unsurprisingly, of crises endemic in a decadent society which fancies itself in turning values into currencies, people into objects.

The problems that have long burdened the marginalized sectors have now reached and poked the privileged bubbles of the middle-class. From the continuous extrajudicial killings, arbitrary arrests, the shameless rice tariffication law, and the lack of support for anti-discriminatory bill and an end to contractualization, it can be said that those in power are making the people more divided and powerless as a means for them to gain more power—all these done in broad daylight.

Forty-seven years ago, Martial Law was declared. When the “old ways” were not enough to quell the cries of an oppressed people, a strongman boasted with an iron fist, worsening even further a collective cry of justice. Forty- seven years later, as the “new democracy” numbed the Filipino until it shows its true colors, and a cheap dictator comes in in obnoxious cajolery, an echo is slowly shattering its shackles.

Undeniably, the cheap dictator Duterte is using the Marcosian playbook. With Martial Law still in effect in Mindanao, and the de facto Martial Law in effect nationwide through the illicit consolidation of power in the lower and upper houses of Congress, the tightening of grip on the Highest Court, and the junta-like appointments of officers of government departments are all slowly curtailing democracy and the freedom the Filipino People has, and continues to fight for.

Deceitful as it is, the current administration says that its key policies aims to support the Filipino people. But behind the press briefings and media exposures of those projects like the “Build-Build-Build”, those who are truly benefitting from the anti-poor clearing operations, displacement of communities, militarization in the grassroots are the big compradors and landlords who have long been exploiting the potential of the common Filipino. The ironic title of the recently implemented Tax Reform for Acceleration and Inclusion only made the burden for the poor families heavier while the upper class benefited more.

While many of the leaders and wealthy people wrestle for power, the government relentlessly kills the powerless like drug victims, and now, farmers. The administrationʼs Oplan Sauron—a Negros-exclusive version of Oplan Kapanatagan, AFPʼs whole-of-nation counterinsurgency program, is one of Duterteʼs tricks on his sleeves. With a civilian body count of more than 80 and numerous incidents of lawless violence and baseless arrests, what was once considered the “sugar bowl” of the country is now drenched in blood.

Despite the huge number of civilian deaths and the long stretch of kilometers travelled by displaced indigenous people, martial law in Mindanao is repeatedly extended in the guise of “quelling terrorist groups” such as the New Peopleʼs Army and the ISIS-sponsored groups. What Duterte and his cronies donʼt realize is that the Filipino people is not ignorant of the fact that places where injustice and impunity lingers, there goes his platoon of puppets; where the cry for genuine reform is raging, there is counter-resistance. Instead of addressing the root causes of armed conflict, the trigger-happy Duterte hides under the guise of counter- insurgency programs to silence dissidents and just causes.

There is a culture of death and silence in our country. From people spreading hate on the LGBTQIA+ and impeding their basic right in the Sexual Orientation Gender Identity and Expression bill, to many of us not even raising an eyebrow to the thousands of unjust deaths in just three years. We are moving again in a circular motion of tragedy.

Oedipus might not have had control over his fate, but we are not living in the guidance of mythological gods; Sisyphus might have had internalized the famous “resiliency” the Filipino is known for, but one thing is clear: we have a long history of oppression, but we have proven time and again, that dictators have no match against a people collectively fighting for their rights.

For unlike Oedipus and Sisyphus, the masses write the history—and dictators, no matter how often they change their masks, should be put into their place: into the dustbin of history.

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