Philippine Electoral Democracy: Legitimizing Populist Dictatorship In A U.S. Neocolony

Co-Written by Delia D. Aguilar & E, San Juan, Jr.


Manipulating the mid-term May 13, 2019 elections, Philippine strong-man Rodrigo Duterte has finally seized full control of the State apparatus. He captured the last institution, the Senate, to guarantee absolute power (after removing an independent chief justice of the Supreme Court), with the election of his candidates to confirm his diktat over a nation of 106 milion people. Because of perennial lack of jobs and extreme poverty, over 12 million citizens are working abroad as “Overseas Filipino Workers.” Their annual remittance of over $30 billion keeps the economy afloat, enabling the privileged minority of oligarchs to enjoy obscene luxury.

Over a century of U.S. colonial and neocolonial rule has kept the economy backward, dependent on IMF-World Bank conditionalities. Today China is lending billions with onerous fees. During the Marcos dictatorship (1972-1986), Washington and the Pentagon supported the brutal Philippine National Police (PNP) and the corruption-ridden Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) to maintain elite rule.

The Trump administration is now their avid patron, with China’s party-boss following behind. Millions of U.S. tax-dollars in foreign aid have contributed to the jailing, torture, and extra-judicial killing of thousands of Filipinos critical of the regime. Hundreds of U.S. “Special Forces” have participated in counterinsurgency drives (the latest in fighting Moro rebels in the devasted Marawi City), enabled by various executive agreements (VFA, EDCA) to intervene in the affairs of a “sovereign” country.

The conduct and outcome of the recent Philippine midterm election is only the latest symptom of a society in deep trouble. The Commission of Elections (COMELEC), controlled by Duterte, ignored widespread protests of fraud, electronic rigging (vote shaving/padding) and other forms of cheating. It has proclaimed the entire process a “success.” NAMFREL, Kontra-Daya, and other civic organizations reported widespread anomalies. Among them are:

1) the failure of at least 961 machines machines for Voter Registration Verification and Counting Machines, affecting 600,000-800,000 votes;

2) at least 1,665 SD cards were defective, suffering glitches;

3) pre-shading of ballots, thus voters who rejected plunderers found in their receipts the names of Marcos, Revilla and other convicted felons;

4) rampant vote buying, with PNP forces deployed to spread black propaganda against opposition candidates, with threats of violence;

5) the Mindanao region with its decisive 12 milion votes is under strict martial law, leading to widespread voter disenfranchisement.

Unsupervised handling of the Smartamatic computers led to systematic cheating. Still unexplained is the suspension of transparency servers (electronic recording of votes cast) for seven hours, enough to allow tampering of the results to favor Duterte’s minions. Dennis Uy, a wealthy Duterte ally, owns the company that manages or administers the machines used by COMELEC in the election.

What is flagrantly unconscionable is the immense public and private spending of Duterte’s candidates. As a result, hugely popular candidates like lawyers Colmenares and Diokno–did not make it, while those with records as convicted plunderers, including Imee Marcos, dictator Marcos’ daughter, won.

What does Duterte gain from this election? Almost everything. The electoral defeat of the democratic opposition means that Duterte will have the backing of the Senate to introduce a new constitution to establish a federalist system. This will virtually insure Duterte’s permanent rule. He will continue to promote the PNP’s extra-judicial killings in the notorious “drug war” that has curtailed neither drug use nor profit from drug trafficking. Over 30,000 victims of “tokhang” (extra-judicial killings) have outraged the public as well as the international community. Duterte has ordered the banning of officials from the International Criminal Court and the United Nations.

In line with a retrograde agenda, Duterte will be free to reinstate the death penalty, lower criminal liability from age 15 to 12, and allow foreign corporations 100% ownership of the nation’s patrimony. This will surpass Marcos’ worst abuses while allowing drug lords (linked to Chinese syndicates) to intensify their influence beyond the corruption of ordinary policemen and petty bureaucrats.

All this is a frightening prospect for everyone who believes in democratic principles and the exercise of civic liberties and universal human rights. MAKABAYAN and other people’s organizations continue to oppose Duterte’s declared electoral “victory” by exposing the “dirty tricks” of this sham election. Washington DC-based Kamalayan, Bayan USA, and other groups are mobilizing their communities to demand the halting of U.S. military aid to fund the PNP and the AFP. Under Duterte’s open encouragement, these agencies have heightened their violation of human rights, as substantiated by Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, and the UN Commission of Human Rights. We urge our legislators to halt all aid until investigations of Duterte’s crimes against his people are fully investigated and exposed.

Delia D. Aguilar, formerly Irwin Chair, Women’s Studies, Hamilton College, New York

E. San Juan, Jr., emeritus professor of English &Comparative Literature, University of Connecticut; formerly chair of Dept of Comparative American Cultures, Washington State University


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