Duterte and the Davao Left
By Omar Bantayan – October 19, 2015
The Davao Left has a concrete united front framework in its relationship with Duterte — as far as I could recall.
When we talk about united front, these would come in the form of pointing out concerns that we could unite on and where we would struggle. And, since I have not been around for some time, call me out if I am wrong with my recollections.
First, there is an understanding that Duterte and the progressive organizations unite on the issue of foreign intervention.
This was clearly manifested in so many instances e. g. Michael Meiring incident; Duterte’s refusal of the US embassy’s request to hold Balikatan exercises; Duterte lambasting the US’ bigotry against Muslims in the presence of US Ambassador Kenney when he addressed an international tourism convention.
Second, on the issue of State-sponsored violence and peace talks.
This one has been well-documented. He kicked out of the city known anti-communist crusaders. He openly warned security forces not to harm activists. He accepted the invitation of Louie Jalandoni to become a consultant of the NDFP for the talks on Social and Economic Reforms. He brokered and played crucial roles everytime evacuations happen due to heavy militarization in the hinterlands.
Third, the Davao Left agreed to disagree with him on extrajudicial killings of those who were suspected of involvement in drug-related and other crimes.
The Left and Duterte agreed that they will go at each other openly. The Davao Left created alliances and campaign machineries to expose these killings and has incessantly called for the rule of law to be applied — Miranda doctrine etc. The Left did not, has not and will not back off on this one.
There were other issues where personalities of the left and Duterte locked horns. One which I could remember was when he was called out when he supported Arroyo’s Charter Change and both camps went back and forth for a while.
Now, all of these issues are not equal. There is a graduation.
I think, it is safe to assume that there is no need to spell it out. Again, the point of the united front efforts, is to struggle in order to unite and to struggle some more. The Davao and the rest of the Southern Mindanao movement are not blindly following Duterte. Duterte himself knows that he could not herd them like sheep.
Now, who amongst all of those politicians would call out the United States for its violent foreign policies? Who among them would tell the security forces that they will answer to him if an activist’s blood is spilled on his streets? Who among them openly endorsed a legislated wage increase?
The Left maintained its independence and its initiative and reserved and has exercised its right to criticize and campaign against Duterte’s positions which run counter to that of the Left’s, i.e. extrajudicial killings.
Hopefully, this will help paint the picture of the nuances of Davao City, the Left and its relationship with Duterte.