Volume III, Number 3. 15 February 2021.

Perhaps a better question is, “Where are you, Duterte?” In the past months, President Rodrigo Duterte has rarely been seen in public, but instead appears in prerecorded video clips late Monday evenings.

But his regime persists and has become more brutal and oppressive than ever. It is now mostly under the control of high-ranking military and police officers, former military men and some civilian lackeys. Duterte appointed these men to powerful and lucrative posts, allowing them to plunder the country’s natural resources, steal away public funds and smuggle drugs and other contraband.

The unbridled military overspending and corruption at the expense of social services have deprived the people of mass testing, economic assistance, vaccination and other vital services and thus aggravated the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. They have allowed the expansion of destructive mining and logging operations, mostly encroaching on indigenous peoples’ ancestral domains. Expansion of export-oriented monocrop plantations and smuggling of imported food products continue to destroy local food production, even before the onslaught of typhoons and floods.

To curtail increasing protests and other forms of resistance from all sectors, Duterte’s military cabal have imposed a virtual martial law in the guise of its Anti-Terror Law. The CPP and NPA were promptly tagged as ‘terrorists’. Social activists, film and TV personalities, journalists, lawyers, opposition parliamentarians and virtually anyone they fancy are tagged as CPP-NPA members or sympathizers. Many among them have ended up being arrested or killed by state agents.

The Duterte government is practically under the authority of the so-called National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict, a military junta that threatens civilian government agencies at all levels to obey or else be red-tagged.

Increasing repression however is further fueling various forms of resistance, and the armed revolutionary forces continue to grow. The revolutionary movement’s regional spokespersons report of expanding areas of operations and formation of new guerilla fronts.

Duterte can take no comfort from the outside world either. The democratic and anti-imperialist struggles of the oppressed peoples are spreading throughout the world, even in the heartlands of monopoly capitalism. The pandemic has further exposed the anti-social and anti-environmental character of the global capitalist system and further aggravated its economic and political crises.

Peace-loving peoples around the world are exposing the Duterte regime’s tyranny and brutality. Sovereign states express dissatisfaction with the regime’s human rights record. The ICC prosecutor has set in motion crimes of humanity charges against Duterte. The new US administration is pressing Duterte to go against his erstwhile protector, China. Cracks are beginning to appear in the ruling clique. Duterte may be too weak physically or politically to last even until next year's election.

Quo vadis, Duterte?