Kalipunan calls for a defense of the commons

General Santos City

Quezon City — At the 4th State of the Nation Address of President Rodrigo Duterte, Kalipunan ng Kilusang Masa (Kalipunan) assemble with other organizations at Commonwealth Avenue to protest against President Duterte’s sell out of Filipinos’ rights and his willful patronage to the Chinese Communist Party led by Xi Jinping. In response, Kalipunan calls for a defense of the commons.

Social movements of the Kalipunan ng mga Kilusang Masa, a coalition hailing from the basic sectors of Philippine society, have issued a statement in anticipation of President Duterte’s fourth SONA, condemning three years of the Duterte regime that has led to the exploitation of the nation’s resources and people by large corporations, both local and transnational, as well as by foreign governments, especially that of China, which is currently occupying islands in the disputed West Philippine Sea.

Coalition representatives described the current trajectory of Philippine governance as threatening our collective right to the commons as evidenced by the upcoming Kaliwa Dam project targeting rural and indigenous communities, efforts to deny the urban poor’s right to the city through demolitions and forced displacement without ample government support and compensation, as well as blatant land grabbing in the countryside to pave the way for commercialized spaces and exclusive subdivisions.

Furthermore, the continued militarization of the disputed territories in the West Philippine Sea and the unwillingness of the Duterte government to resist foreign encroachment also attack our right to the commons. Countless fishing communities denied access to waters that they have tended of and relied upon for generations. Duterte’s openness to violent means to address aggressions by the Chinese government by citing the Philippines and United States’ Mutual Defense Treaty will only further entrench Filipinos’ inaccess to the seas and its resources.

Despite the Philippine’s hard-won victory granting it exclusive rights to the West Philippine Sea (WPS) accorded by the UNCLOS, the legal victory, one of the most promising non-violent solutions to the ongoing territorial dispute, has never been asserted by President Duterte. His non-assertion has cost the country 20% of our seafood sources from the WPS, and compromised the safety of Filipino fisherfolk.

Kalipunan reiterates that Duterte is not just compromising the national patrimony. Duterte and his lieutenants have sold the people’s right to determine our future to large corporations and to foreign governments such as China and the United States.

Josua Mata, convenor of Kalipunan said, “Defending sovereignty and democracy is about defending the right of all people to a good life. This includes the right to be involved in issues that affect us, such as water access, land and home ownership, gender equality, and dignified employment. No one person, group or entity should have all the power to exploit a nation’s resources and dictate what happens to everyone else. It’s about defending the public good against greedy private interests.”

Aside from the dangers to our collective commons and the people’s sovereignty, the Duterte administration is also relentless in further eroding democratic institutions, undermining the rule of law, silencing dissent through violence and murder as well as entrenching a culture of sexism and misogyny. The war on drugs continues unabated, with over 28,000 people killed and counting, their voices and right to due process denied by state security forces and vigilante murderers. In responding to vocal female critics, Duterte has resorted to slut-shaming as well as to making inappropriate sexual jokes in public speeches and various fora that encourage sexist views in the highly conservative country.

Similarly, lawyers, paralegals, and other human rights defenders are being silenced and persecuted for standing up against abuse and injustice. Trade unionists and labor activists are being actively repressed, with the recent murder of a labor organizer in Cavite, a butchered Security of Tenure Bill, and the prevalence of contractualization confirming the ITUC report that the Philippines is among the top countries dangerous for workers and unionists. Budit Carlos of iDefend said, “President Duterte, head of the state, himself has led the mockery of Filipinos’ human rights. We cannot expect development from a leader who sees himself as above the commons, who thinks he surpasses [universal] human rights and even the country’s constitution.”

Complementing this all-out assault on the country’s fledgling democratic institutions are the political maneuverings of Duterte and his allies to consolidate their power, most prominent of which is the call for an elite-led charter change or Cha-Cha towards federalism. Alyansa Tigil Mina’s National Coordinator, Jaybee Garganera said, “Amending the 1987 Constitution will possibly delete the provision on the people’s right to a safe ad balanced ecology, and will open up foreign exploitation of our environment and natural resources with destructive and dirty projects such as mining, large dams, reclamation and monoculture plantations”

Kalipunan ng Kilusang Masa is a coalition of mass movement organizations that represent indigenous peoples, women, workers, PWDs, LGBT, farmers, youth, fisherfolk, and urban poor.

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