SAN FRANCISCO — October 8, marked Rodrigo Duterte’s 100th day as President of the Philippines, when over 100 Filipino activists and supporters from all over the Bay Area convened to discuss both positive and negative political developments under the new administration, which has definitively differentiated itself from previous administrations.
Terry Valen, President of the National Alliance for Filipino Concerns (NAFCON), called attendees to examine developments in the Philippines with a critical eye, beyond Duterte’s sensational rhetoric and media representation. Valen stated, “The purpose of today’s forum is not to decide whether or not we will endorse Duterte as a politician. Instead, we must focus on analyzing the substantive policies enacted and actions taken by his administration, and ensure that these align with the fundamental interests of the Filipino people and their demand for change.”
Valen and Princess Bustos of Migrante Northern California presented an overview assessment of the administration against the 15 Points of the People’s Agenda for Nationalist and Progressive Change (People’s Agenda), developed by hundreds of cause-oriented groups, institutions and individuals in the Philippines in June 2016, prior to Duterte’s inauguration.
Some community members expressed that the Duterte administration has positively exceeded expectations in his first 100 days. For example, Adnan Alonto of the Brotherhood for Duterte USA saw greater public safety and an improved business climate in the Philippines. He also lauded the resumption of peace talks with the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) and the Bangsamoro groups, as well as the Philippines’ “resoluteness in pursuing an independent foreign policy…for the first time in a long time.”
Similarly, Bustos stated, “In the peace talks with the NDFP, Duterte has already accomplished more in his first 100 days compared to Aquino’s entire six-year term. We hope the peace talks and the assertion of Philippine national sovereignty in light of ongoing U.S. military intervention pave the way for meaningful change, pro-people reforms and nationalist development in the Philippines.” In addition, she praised Duterte’s administration for the repatriation of hundreds of overseas Filipino workers stranded in Saudi Arabia and the suspension of at least 10 mining corporations notorious for their violations of environmental, land, and human rights policies.
Despite these and other cited reforms, attendees expressed serious concerns, highlighting intensifying contradictions within the government. For instance, Valen explained, “Although 1,500 indigenous Lumads who evacuated their ancestral lands due to military harassment have been able to return safely, the human rights organization KARAPATAN has also documented at least 16 political killings and 9 cases of illegal arrest and detention of activists. While Duterte has successfully exposed the enormity of the Philippine drug problem and its links to officials at various levels of government, we denounce the rapid rise in killings of suspected drug users and pushers, and Duterte’s public statements condoning and even encouraging these killings without respect for life or due process. The Philippine government can solve the drug problem only by comprehensively addressing the economic, political, and social issues of the people, especially the poor and marginalized.”
Following discussion and cultural performances, attendees planned local outreach, education, and organizing activities to garner support for #Kababayan4Change, an international platform to unite Filipinos on their collective demands to tangibly improve their lives and working conditions at home and abroad through the People’s Agenda.
AFCON, Migrante, the National Ecumenical Forum for Filipino Concerns (NEFFCON) and local organizations and individuals drafted several plans for follow-up activities.
Migrante Northern California Spokesperson Bernadette Herrera concluded, “Through the #Kababayan4Change platform, we must continue to build a global movement of Filipinos, especially given Filipinos’ demonstrated desire to break away from the corruption and inutility of previous administrations. Let us organize to ensure Filipinos chart our own path to just and lasting peace without foreign intervention. Ultimately, it is not up to the President or any one person, but the masses of the Filipino people united in purpose and action that will ensure genuine change for the better in our homeland.”