Interview with Prof. Jose MariaSison on the Anti-Terror bill of Duterte

1. Why did the Duterte regime railroad the passage of this new anti-terror bill? What urgency does it see in the passage of this bill?

JMS: Following the Duterte regime‘s certification of the so-called anti-terrorism bill as urgent, the Lower House has approved it like the Senate has already done. The regime is railroading the passage of the draconian bill in order to reinforce and aggravate state terrorism. Duterte intends to use the projected law to suppress the broadest range of social activists, critics and opponents of the regime. It is a key element in his scheme to impose a full-scale fascist dictatorship on the people.

2. What does this so-called anti-terrorism bill mean to the ordinary people? How will this affect their lives?

JMS: Any ordinary person who makes any legitimate demand or criticism of those in power is liable to be red-tagged, put on surveillance and framed up, accused by the police and military of engaging in acts of terrorism, arrested without any judicial warrant and detained without any charge for as long as 24 days. Under these conditions, abductions, torture, confiscation of property and murders will be done by those in power and their armed minions. The broad masses of the people will be deprived of the basic democratic rights of free speech and assembly. They need to exercise their rights, especially because of the worsening economic and political crisis and the escalating conditions of oppression and exploitation.

3. Who are the real targets of this bill?

JMS: The rising legal opposition forces, the critics, the human rights defenders, opponents of treason and corruption and other social activists are the most accessible and easiest targets of the draconian law. Duterte is merely using the anti-communist and anti-terrorist rhetoric in order to give him the license to use state terrorism against any organization or person deemed as opposed to his scheme to perpetuate himself and his dynasty in power. In effect, the broad masses of the people are the target of Duterte for mass intimidation. He is practically saying that anyone who complains about his acts of treason, brutality and plunder will be immediately arrested and killed.

4. Many are saying that this is a move similar to the emergency powers of Marcos prior to the declaration of martial law. Do you see it that way, entrenching himself and his followers in the Senate and Congress in power?

JMS: Duterte has always arrogantly presented himself as a Marcos wannabe. He is using the Marcos play book in grabbing more emergency powers, like suspending the writ of habeas corpus in 1971, in order to prepare for the formal declaration of martial in 1972. Like Marcos, Duterte has gained full control over the Comelec and the TIM counterpart of Smartmatic in order to fake the count in any voting exercise, as he did in the mid-term election of 2019 in order to have full control of both the Senate and the Lower House.

It is the common view of all defenders of human rights that the so-called anti-terrorism bill is the key to the complete realization of his scheme of state terrorism and fascist dictatorship even without having to declare martial law formally. In that sense, he is worse than Marcos, more greedy and more brutal although less intelligent and very short-sighted,

5. By its very definition, for instance of causing death and destruction, of a terrorist act, it can apply to anyone including state forces. The bill does not make a clear definition on which side the supposed terrorist acts are coming from. What do you make of this?

JMS: The vague and arbitrary provisions of Duterte’s terrorist law will certainly apply to anyone opposed to him or critical of his regime. But the police and military officers loyal to him will be the ones abducting, torturing, robbing and murdering the victims who are misrepresented as terrorists. There will be no need to use Duterte’s terrorist law against him and his bloody agents, except as evidence of their gross criminality and butchery, when the time comes to prosecute, try and punish them for their heinous crimes.

6. Possession and use of weapons of mass destruction, for instance, as spelled out in the bill, is a terrorist act, but it is the Duterte regime, and those governments that supply, manufacture, possess and use these WMDs. Can you comment?

JMS: It is absurd and perverse for Duterte and his gangmates to presume that weapons of mass destruction are in the hands of the legal opposition, social activists and even those engaged in armed revolution who get their weapons from the field units of the AFP and PNP. The stockpiles of WMDs are in major camps under the control and supervision of US military forces under the terms of the Visiting Forces Agreement and Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement in violation of the provisions of the 1987 Constitution against foreign military bases and troops and WMDs. The US monopoly capitalists are the manufacturers and users of WMDs.

7. Some observers have said and believe that without a formal declaration of martial rule, the country is now being ruled by a junta. Would you concur, and who might be in this junta, with Duterte at the helm?

JMS: Duterte has fully created his military junta in the form of the National Task Force to Eliminate the Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC) under Executive Order No. 70, with him as the chairman and the national security adviser as vice chairman. The task force is dominated by retired and active military and police officers. It has 21 members belonging to the Duterte cabinet, with the exception of representatives of the private sector. It has gained more power and resources as a result of the Covid-19 crisis through the Inter-Agency Task Force which is practically a replication of the NTF-ELCAC.

8. A fascist dictator can only rule effectively for a certain period if that rule is also supported by a firm economic and financial infrastructure. Marcos initially had the economic and financial resources to prop up his regime, but when those resources dried up, the Marcos regime began to deteriorate. Considering that the Duterte regime is far more indebted and the economy is facing a serious crisis unprecedented since the Marcos regime, would the Duterte junta be able to sustain its terrorist rule?

JMS: It is true that even if there is a relatively stable economic and financial structure, a fascist dictator can rule effectively only for a certain period because the people wish to enjoy their democratic rights, allow martial rule only for a certain period and thereafter have better economic and social conditions. But as proven in the past, the Marcos regime wasted tax revenues and foreign loans through unbridled corruption. 

As of now, the Duterte tyrannical regime has already wasted resources through plunder and soaring costs of military expenditures. The regime is bankrupt and has brought about a serious economic and political crisis of the ruling system. The people are already fed up with the escalating conditions of oppression and exploitation. They are outraged and wish to oust the Duterte regime. The perfect storm is rapidly gathering in the Philippines.

9. Do you know about the sentiment of patriotic soldiers in the AFP, in the midst of the pandemic and Duterte’s move for open fascist rule?

JMS: I have relatives, fellow Ilocanos and friends among officers and enlisted men in the AFP. I have learned from them that an increasing number of AFP officers and men are disgusted with the favoritism of Duterte for the so-called Davao clique of AFP and PNP officers and their own gangmates, with the criminality and corruption conceded to them by Duterte in order to keep their loyalty and with the veritable conversion of the AFP and PNP into his private army. They are outraged by Duterte’s drive for fascist dictatorship amidst the Covid-19 crisis.

10. What about the sentiment of the international community? After the fall of many US-supported fascist dictators, it doesn’t seem to be the norm to support or extend support to a wannabe fascist dictator like Duterte. Can you comment?

JMS: The peoples of the world are strongly against authoritarian figures like Trump, Bolsonaro, Erdogan, Modi and Duterte who turn out to be scums floated by the rule of unbridled greed under liberalism and by the currents of state terrorism and fascism. The huge mass protests that emerged last year on a world scale are certain to resurge this year because of the much worsened economic and political crisis of the world capitalist system as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic, the plunge of economic activity and the exposure of the anti-social, corrupt and brutal character of the authoritarian regimes. 

Look at what is happening in the US against the Trump regime and the US ruling system. This is a signal for the resurgence of various forms of resistance at a new and higher level on a world scale.

11. What can the people do to defend themselves from the terrorism bill?
JMS: It is fine that the national democratic and the broad united front are growing in strength. The people must become well-informed about the terror bill of Duterte. And they must organize and mobilize themselves to speak out and act to oppose the bill. They must fight ever more resolutely and militantly against the unjust and anti-democratic law that proceeds from it. They must go to the full extent of causing the ouster of the tyrant Duterte from power. Concerning the forces of the armed revolution, I do not have to urge them to fulfil their task of fighting the tyrannical regime.

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