Duterte’s threats and shades of 1971

Diokno joins Caloocan march Oct 1971
DIOKNO IN CALOOCAN MARCH. Senator Jose W. Diokno marches with rain-drenched activists from Avenida Rizal to Monumento during a particular mass action in October 1971 to protest the violence of Mayor Asistio’s goons and still in line with the struggle for civil liberties against fascist attacks by the US-Marcos regime.

In case Duterte carries out his threat of suspending the privilege of the writ of habeas corpus, it will turn into a scenario that’s a near-parallel of 1971 under the presidency of his idol, then-President Ferdinand Marcos.

1. In 1970 and 1971, the US-Marcos regime began to show its fascist dictatorial fangs by threatening martial law, shooting and arresting activists, butchering peasants and indigenous communities suspected of supporting the NPA, and using its clout to bully and bribe the Constitutional Convention — all this in the face of renewed armed struggle by the CPP-NPA, a strong anti-imperialist and anti-fascist mass movement in the urban areas, and an increasingly bold anti-Marcos opposition.

2. Regular senatorial, congressional and local elections were slated for November 1971. Marcos’ Nacionalista Party pushed a most loyal senatorial slate that included the likes of Enrile, Ople and Maceda, while the Liberal Party came up with a solid anti-Marcos slate. The turning point was the bombing of the LP proclamation rally at Plaza Miranda in the evening of Aug 21, 1971. Many LP candidates who were on the stage suffered injuries, some of them near-fatal.

3. Marcos immediately blamed the CPP-NPA for the dastardly act, promptly suspended the privilege of the writ of habeas corpus, and implemented new draconian measures via Proclamation 889. On the other hand, the electoral opposition and the radical mass movements pointed to him as the mastermind of the Plaza Miranda bombing. Even the US intelligence folk ruled out the communists (Bonner 1987, 80). Instead, people were reminded of Hitler’s tactic of burning the Reichstag and blaming it on communists to justify his drive for more power. Thus the slogan “Marcos Hitler diktador tuta” which evolved around this time.

4. The people were not cowed by the writ suspension. They were increasingly suspicious of Marcos’ real motives of suppressing dissent while extending and expanding his hold on power and his commitments to his US masters. Rather, Proclamation 889 triggered the rapid expansion of the popular democratic and anti-fascist united front, which bound together leaders of the electoral opposition, democratic personalities, and the ND-oriented Movement for a Democratic Philippines under the much-broadened MCCCL and the moderate KLAP-889.

5. From August to October, sustained mass actions reverberated throughout Metro Manila and other urban areas. This was a time when opposition personalities such as senators Pepe Diokno and Lorenzo Tanada were marching in the rain and in the face of direct threats of gunfire, such as the march on Caloocan to defy Asistio’s goons. (The photo accompanying this note shows Diokno marching with rain-drenched activists from Avenida Rizal to Monumento during this particular mass action.) There was no week that there wasn’t a sizeable outdoor march or rally somewhere in the various districts of Metro Manila. Anti-fascist and ND slogans were plastered all over the city. From October 21 to 24, a Long March winded its way from nearby regions into Metro Manila, further attracting a mass of sympathizers.

6. To make this long story short, Marcos had to backtrack a bit through a “partial lifting” of the writ suspension. Too late, however, for the majority of his NP senatorial slate, which suffered a resounding defeat at the polls. The NP still controlled the Senate, but the message was clear: the people were in a fight-back mood. It would take the US-Marcos fascist regime another year of more careful planning and wily scheming before it could finally declare martial law.
Now, like I said, 1971 is a near parallel of 2019, but not a perfect parallel. I leave it to the reader to analyze where the elements remain in parallel, and where they diverge — or could still diverge. #

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