9 dead amidst anti-communist purge in the Philippines

Japhy Barrera, is a member of the YCL’s Birmingham branch

At least 9 are dead in the Philippines after what many are calling ‘Bloody Sunday’. This comes just two days after President Rodrigo Duterte ordered government forces to kill any and all communist rebels in the country. Duterte said further to “forget about human rights. That’s my order. I’m willing to go to jail, that’s not a problem.” Many were deeply concerned about these remarks due to Duterte’s history of extrajudicial killings, with his now infamous ‘war on drugs’ taking the lives of up to 27,000 people. 

His comments specifically regarding the longstanding New People’s Army, a guerilla communist insurgency in the region, are nothing new either. Duterte has previously ordered that his army should shoot female rebels in the genitals to punish them for leaving their lifestyle of traditional housewives to join the NPA. This foul rhetoric is not out of the ordinary for the likes of Duterte, and its sentiment pervades all that he does.

The NPA, which has now been active for over 50 years, has declared the fascist Duterte an enemy of the people, with his downfall atop of its priorities.

In recent months, many dissidents of Duterte have been killed under mystifying circumstances, leading many to believe the president is initiating a purge in order to consolidate power. This purge has not only targeted the NPA but also anyone regarded as left-leaning accused of sympathizing with them in their anti-Duterte stance. Duterte is known for paying bounties worth 20,000 pesos to anyone who carries out an assassination of this kind.

What is taking place rings eerily familiar to the mass killings in Indonesia in the 1960s that are believed to have taken up to a million lives. Those killings were similarly justified with an ignorant anti-communism and were known to target anyone, proven guilty or not, of harbouring anti-government sentiment.

Another striking similarity of the actions of the Duterte regime to the Indonesian killings is its unwavering support and outright encouragement from the United States. U.S. support for the Filipino government is based on the large amounts of untapped natural resources available in the country. Reports have claimed that the Philippines may have up to a trillion dollars worth of potential mineral wealth yet to be unearthed.

Despite this potential discovery of wealth being a major incentive for the U.S. to back Duterte, there are also corporate interests in the region already. American companies Dole and Del Monte have aggressively laid claim to much of the land and cheap labour in the Philippines to supply their agricultural endeavours. Western corporations often evict indigenous people from ancestral land in order to build environmentally harmful and invasive infrastructure, Duterte supports them in doing so.

The NPA, many of whom are the same natives getting displaced, have made a mission out of protecting indigenous areas from corporate agricultural expansion. Their attacks on encroaching agribusiness entities are the only existing barrier from the ravaging of entire communities of indigenous people. The destruction of western production and equipment on indigenous soil by the NPA has acted as a major deterrent for foreign capital looking to plunder the region.

Pressure on Duterte to rid the Philippines of the NPA is for just this reason. They are the only obstacle to the potential profits lying under the feet of innocent natives, whom the communists protect. These killings are yet another example of the U.S. exporting its red scare worldwide, and with Duterte putting bounties on dissidents, who knows how many more lives that export will claim.

Japhy Barrera

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