NAFCON on the Duterte Administration’s First Year

For Immediate Release   

June 30, 2017                  

Reference: Terrence Valen, NAFCON President

Contact: president@nafconusa.org, 415-203-0696

NAFCON on the Duterte Administration’s First Year

A year ago, the National Alliance for Filipino Concerns (NAFCON) presented the Duterte administration with the Filipino Migrants’ Agenda for Empowerment, Sustainability, and Peace, which were concrete and meaningful changes that Filipinos in the United States wanted to see for the Filipino people.  Duterte’s promise of change on a national scale, including the prioritization of the interests of Filipino migrants and creating conditions so that Filipinos will not be forced to leave the Philippines, was welcomed by NAFCON.  On our end, we advanced the People’s Agenda through the Kababayan4Change platform, supporting the positive actions of the administration and criticizing those that do not serve the needs of the Filipino people.

Militarization trumps environmental and social justice

NAFCON supported the efforts of then-appointed Environment Secretary Gina Lopez to stop the environmental destruction caused by mining companies as she declared that “it is the constitutional right of every Filipino to a clean and healthy environment.” We also welcomed Duterte’s consistent pronouncement to end the Philippine-US military exercises and reconsider the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA) that essentially turns the countryside into military bases and war zones for U.S. interests and at the risk of further environmental degradation.

However, after the Congress decided not to confirm Lopez, Duterte appointed Roy Cimatu, a former Armed Forces Chief who led a bloody counter-insurgency program under President Arroyo that resulted in human rights violations, and who stands accused of corruption with other Army officials, accumulating ill-gotten wealth from military funds. It is with great disappoint and strong objection that NAFCON views Duterte’s appointment of a notorious human rights violator, who will further protect exploitative mining and logging interests, as Environment Secretary.

While NAFCON has been advocating for human rights and a just peace, the indiscriminate bombings in Marawi and Mindanao under Martial Law exemplify the more military-centered approach of the Duterte administration in violation of basic human rights. What is even more alarming is the direct US involvement in the conflict in the southern island through “technical assistance.” Though the AFP claims that the US has “no boots on the ground,” we have seen the control they have via intelligence operations and command like in the recent Mamasapano fiasco. US troops have meant not only rape and murder of our women and displacement of our people, but degradation of our environment and violation of our Philippine sovereignty.

Foreign interests trump Philippine economic sustainability and migrants’ concerns

The appointment of progressive people in the Department for Agrarian Reform (DAR) and Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) was unprecedented and welcomed by NAFCON. These are key departments that deal with landlessness and corruption, two long-standing problems that keep the Filipino people in poverty and force them to look for jobs abroad. However, landlords and traditional politicians, who benefit from blocking real land reform and much-needed social services, have unnecessarily delayed the Congressional confirmation of such progressive secretaries as Raphael “Ka Paeng” Mariano and Judy Taguiwalo. The people can not wait.  

Duterte not only has yet to fulfill his promise to end contractualization of jobs in the Philippines, but he also deeply disappointed Filipinos when he declared that he wouldn’t “lift a finger” to help those deported by the Trump administration. Bowing to Trump’s fascist agenda that threatens to deport millions of undocumented immigrants, Duterte turned his back on Filipinos in the US who continue to suffer immigration attacks, wage theft, and trafficking.  For Duterte to call on undocumented Filipinos in the U.S. to “just come home” shows his insensitivity to the fact that OFW’s flee to the U.S. and around the world and would “rather risk their lives and welfare because they know that no jobs await them in the Philippines,” according to Sarah Katrina Maramag of Migrante International.

The struggles and issues of OFW Filipinos in the US recently got some spotlight with the article “My Family’s Slave” highlighting the ongoing social and economic plight of the Filipino people. We continue to call on the Duterte administration to unequivocally state support for Filipinos in the US as they face intensifying scapegoating, discrimination, and repression from the Trump administration.

U.S. Filipinos shall continue to struggle for real change

The Duterte Administration must prioritize the Filipino people’s aspirations for just and lasting peace through the fulfillment of the people’s agenda and continuation of the formal negotiations between the Government of the Philippines and the National Democratic Front. It must address the root causes of the armed conflict in the Philippines, starting with fulfillment of past agreements such as the release of political prisoners, but also continuing with the progress on the Comprehensive Agreement on Social and Economic Reforms, which includes the agreement for free land distribution.

We reiterate our call for the lifting of Martial Law in Mindanao, which has displaced hundreds of thousands, bombed and killed innocent civilians, and destroyed communities through aerial attacks by the military.  We equally condemn the nationwide War on Drugs which has translated to a war on the poor, especially the urban poor, and has not led to the arrests and punishment of drug lords and their protectors in the Philippine government.

After his first year in office, we reiterate our challenge to Duterte: Listen to the Filipino people! Heed their aspirations for an independent, democratic, just and peaceful Philippines, where every Filipino migrant will truly aspire to return home.

But also, as from the beginning of Duterte’s administration, NAFCON will continue our campaigns for Environmental justice and the fight for immigrant rights. We will continue to organize and campaign to advance the People’s Agenda. We still stand for the People’s Platform and a Just Peace instead of a Drug War or Martial Law. We still #StandwithMarawi and #StandwithMindanao. With all Filipinos and peace and freedom loving communities, we will fearlessly raise our voices and heighten our struggle until we truly achieve a Philippines for Filipinos.  

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