UPON his recent return from an overseas trip to India, the President was reported to have issued marching orders anew for his armed forces to crush the New People’s Army. This is not the first time for the irrepressible Duterte to rant against his pet peeves that predictably include a set of agencies and institutions belonging to the liberal persuasion such as the United Nations, the European Union, and the local politicians of the Liberal Party. For him, this sector represents the previous self-serving interests that have victimized the common Filipino when they were in power and who are now meddling into his idiosyncratic style of governance.
There is another group comprised of misfits against which Duterte has trained the repressive arsenal of the State with the objective of elimination. Side-by-side with the petty drug addicts and pushers, communist rebels and those perceived to support them are now the target of a vilification and elimination campaign. This makes the national democratic left strange bedfellows in Duterte’s coterie of declared state enemies.
Since the collapse of the peace talks, scores of activists and local leaders of progressive groups have either been arrested or threatened with trumped up charges or assassinated by bonnet-wearing riding in tandem. With the terror tag about to be legally placed on these groups and their supporters, the campaign is sure to net even more victims.
This approach is actually justified by a kind of perspective that both yellow and blue political persuasions hold. They might be at loggerheads against each other right now with their patrons and supporters within biting distance but they actually have more in common with each other than their shared and consistent critic which is the Left.
According to their common logic, anyone who steps outside the bounds of the law should bear the brunt of its repressive powers. This argument present itself in many forms and shared by both Yellow and Duterte camps. Military apologists hiding behind social media aliases have been seen to profess their belief in the right of citizens for freedom of expression and to lodge complaints against the State in social media.
But revealing the paternal and phallic powers they assume, they also warn citizens of the limits of these rights. According to them, these rights are not absolute and once a citizen acts beyond what is allowed by their law, such as rebelling against the state, they are subject to its disciplinary and police powers.
These points are all fine and dandy if we are talking about an homogenous people who still submit themselves entirely to the legitimacy of these laws they cite. But what if such is not the case? What if these laws implemented by a particular state that are supposed to protect the weak and oppressed have actually done the opposite in practice? What if there actually is a category of people who, through long years of historical experience, have learned to distrust the state and have found redress and pockets of freedom through armed resistance?
The protection of the rule of law is often cited to preserve and promote the social order. The promulgations of the state are always interpreted as solid edicts that represent the foundations of a stable and strong society. But what if that society is bitterly divided in the first place? Under such a context, the semblance of social order then, in truth, is actually an imposed order of one group against the oppressed minority.
These historical nuances and complexities stemming from real experiences challenge such arguments about the uncritical regard to the rule of law and the assumed infallibility of the state. There are apparently sectors or groups who do not subscribe to the legitimacy of government for a host of reasons that have been proven to be valid grounds, if not now, then later on. No less than the third paragraph of the preamble to the United Nations Declaration on Human Rights allow for such flexibility by recognizing that resistance to tyranny justifies rebellion, as a counterpoint to the blind protection of the rule of law always.
It is the suspension of these assumptions about the a historical infallibility of the state that should be the frame in dealing with belligerent groups such as the Communist Party of the Philippines and the New People’s Army as well as the armed Moro groups like the Moro Islamic Liberation Front. Only through the prism of historical social justice and not the blunt force of the state as Duterte is wont to do will we be able to see the advent of lasting peace in our land.