The social crisis under the US-Duterte regime is deteriorating rapidly. Millions are ruined by worsening poverty and hunger in the face of rising prices, additional tax burdens and a sharp decline in wages and income. Duterte’s promised “change” is a sham. It is now clear that only by organizing and struggling can the people carry forward their cause.
Duterte blindly perpetuated the previous oppressive neoliberal socio-economic policy. The worst among these is the TRAIN law which imposed a number of burdensome taxes. Since its implementation in January, prices have shot up, especially of basic needs. Making things worse, prices of diesel and other petroleum products have risen by around 40%.
Wages of workers and ordinary employees are extremely inadequate to cope with skyrocketing prices. The meager minimum wage is not even half of the income needed by a typical family to live decently. Millions are scrambling daily to make ends meet amid rising costs of food, rent, water, electricity, fare, education, medical care and others. Millions are denied sufficient wages and benefits, as well as their right to job security. Almost nine million Filipinos are unemployed or underemployed, in addition to 27 million who are no longer counted in the labor force. Many are made to work in precarious conditions. They are additionally oppressed by contractual forms of employment which Duterte promised but failed to end.
Across the country, landgrabbing by big landlords and capitalists in real estate and agribusiness to pave the way for commercial crops, plantations, infrastructure and energy projects, timber and mines is rampant. Duterte has turned a deaf ear to the grievances of peasants for genuine land reform; and is more interested in agribusiness deals with foreigners, especially in his push to expand rubber and oil palm production.
The Filipino people are being compelled by the intense socio-economic crisis to struggle to defend and advance their welfare and interests. Struggles are breaking out. In the past few weeks, several strikes and protests have erupted successively to demand regularization of contractual workers and an increase in the minimum wage.
In the rural areas, peasant struggles continue to advance the demand for genuine land reform and assert their rights to the land they till. They launch collective occupation and cultivation of land. They are amplifying their call for an end to the CARP fake land reform program.
The struggles of teachers, government employees, students and other democratic sectors for higher salaries, free education, strengthening public services and others are also advancing.
Since Duterte has assumed power, no measure or policy has been carried out to redirect the local economy and draw it out from crisis. In the possible resumption of peace negotiations with Duterte, the agenda includes genuine land reform and national industrialization—key issues which the NDFP asserts as the most important measures to raise the toiling masses from their impoverished conditions and achieve lasting peace.
Over the past two years, Duterte has refused to listen to the pleas of the poor. Tyranny and terrorism have been the response of the fascist regime in its aim of suppressing resistance and, thus, impose his kind of peace—that desired by the exploiters and oppressors. Duterte uses the military and police to suppress. Cases of killings, arrests, detention and filing of trumped up charges are rampant.
But the rising up of the Filipino people is inexorable. They shatter the terror that Duterte imposes and strive to advance along the course of resistance. They could not remain silent and bear enslavement and oppression. They draw strength from their unity and steadily advance in the path of struggle. The sparks of resistance are bound to ignite a conflagration. Soon, the march of the indignant masses will thunder across the country and shake the ramparts of Duterte’s rule.
[Ang Bayan is the official news organ of the Communist Party of the