Makabayan bloc formally breaks away from House Majority

By Reynard Magtoto

Makabayan bloc formally declares today their separation from the Majority Coalition in the House of Representatives to intensify their opposition to the Duterte administration.

Representatives from ACT Teachers, Gabriela Women’s Party, Bayan Muna, Anakpawis and Kabataan Partylist agreed that Duterte government has now fully unraveled as a fascist, pro-imperialist and anti-people regime.

According to their joint statement, it would be a violation of their duties and principles to remain with a Majority that enables and defends Duterte regime as representatives of the poor and marginalized sectors in Congress and as nationalist and progressive legislators.

The joint statement was signed by Rep. Antonio Tinio and Rep. France Castro of ACT Teachers; Rep. Emmi de Jesus and Rep. Arlene Brosas of Gabriela Women’s Party; Rep. Carlos Isagani Zarate of Bayan Muna; Rep. Ariel Casilao of Anakpawis and Rep. Sarah Elago of Kabataan.

At the opening of the 17th Congress last year, Makabayan joined the Majority consistent with their stand to support the promise of change of President Rodrigo Duterte.

Back then, they were encouraged by Duterte’s reformist and populist actions and pronouncements on a range of issues, including: resuming the peace talks with the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP), releasing political prisoners, ending neocolonial ties with the US and pursuing an independent foreign policy, addressing the roots of the Moro rebellion, ending labor contractualization, increasing government support to farmers, putting a stop to destructive mining practices, reducing income taxes of rank and file employees, and increasing social pensions, and prioritizing basic social services over infrastructure.

“Our decision to join the Majority was premised on the condition that we would oppose and challenge, as we have done, the Administration on issues where we fundamentally disagreed with Pres. Duterte – his neoliberal economic policies, his disdain for human rights especially in his war on drugs, anti-crime and counterinsurgency campaigns, his rehabilitation of the former dictator Marcos, and his propensity for strongman rule,” joint statement stated.

For them, unprecedented decision of Duterte to appoint leftists and activists to crucial cabinet posts – Judy Taguiwalo at the DSWD, Gina Lopez at the DENR, Liza Maza at the NAPC, and Rafael Mariano at the DAR – provided openings for pursuing such reforms.

According to them, they persisted in the Majority in the hope that some socioeconomic and political reforms could be achieved, if not through Congress, then through the GRP-NDFP peace talks.

Failed promises

But, the peace negotiations with the NDFP have been practically terminated due to Duterte’s insistence of a bilateral ceasefire agreement prior to any talks.

“With Marawi being bombed to the ground and its resulting humanitarian crisis, the Moro peace process is spiraling downward. Under these circumstances, martial law threatens to turn Mindanao into an even more violent land of strife and lost promises,” they stated.

They added that Duterte has turned back on his promise to “separate” from the US, even as he has allowed China to continue occupying the West Philippine Sea.

“He is now as dependent as ever on the US for national security and has practically abandoned our valid and internationally-recognized claims of sovereignty and territory in the West Philippine Sea in exchange for China’s promises of aid and investments,” they stated.

“Pres. Duterte’s little concessions to farmers, workers, and the urban poor have been reduced to populist posturing in the face of his overwhelmingly neoliberal economic policies that favor the oligarchs and foreign powers he claims to disdain,” their statement added. “Worst of all, his “war on drugs” has turned into a campaign of mass murder of the poor, for which he shows no signs of turning back.”

In the 17th Congress, they consistently opposed the Duterte administration’s pro-business and pro-war budget; its efforts to rehabilitate the Marcoses; the reimposition of the death penalty; its use of extrajudicial killings against poor, suspected criminals and rebels; defunding of the Commission on Human Rights; its anti-poor tax reform package; its modified public-private partnership scheme; the national ID system; the privatization of health services; redefinition of public utilities to allow foreign ownership; and other anti-people policies and measures.

As an independent bloc in Congress, Makabayan said they will continue to pursue meaningful reforms and oppose measures that harm the nation and people.

They will also intensify efforts to defeat the emergence of a new dictatorship and shall fight the fascist US-Duterte regime and hold it accountable for its gross violations of human rights and the further oppression and impoverishment of the people. (BaretangBikolnon.com)

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