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The Ghost of Ferdinand Marcos

Sun 23 Oct 2016 In: Comment View at Wayback View at NDHA

Is the current president of the Philippines' 'war on drugs' a harbinger of the days before the peaceful overthrow of the Ferdinand Marcos regime in 1986? And what does it presage for LGBT Filipinos? Over the last thirty years, the South East Asian archipelago has ridden a fractious path to full democratic institutions, and meaningful civil liberties and human rights. During the eighties, it was hampered by uneven economic growth, political instability and first post-Marcos President Corazon Aquinos' privatisation of water and electricity utilities, as well as a series of attempted military coups. The Mount Pinatubo eruption and closure of US military bases in the early nineties also had their effect on the national economy. The second post-Marcos Filipino President, Fidel Ramos, appointed a National Reconciliation Commission and held peace talks with the insurgent Communist Party of the Philippines, which had been illegal under the Marcos regime. Peace was also signed with representatives of the Mindanao National Liberation Front, a revolutionary Islamist group, but the privatisation of oil and growing regional tensions with China over disputed South China Sea territory were also sources of difficulty during that era, most of the nineties. Joseph Estrada's tenure was characterised by growing hostility to the Moro Islamic Liberation Front and was cut short by his impeachment due to financial corruption and mismanagement in 2001. Gloria Macpagal-Arroyo's rule was initially upset by a military mutiny (2003) but was overall seen as a time of stability and reduction of government corruption for much of the ensuing decade. Unfortunately, her successor, Benigno Aquino, faced a series of armed criminal and military massacres such as those in Manila (2010), in which nine hostages died, and the death of forty four Phillipines army personnel in the Mamasapano massacre (2015). There were also 6300 Filipino casualties from the impact of Typhoon Haiyan, one of the worst storms to strike the archipelago. In 2016, Rodrigo Duterte succeeded to the office. Duterte was previously a long-term judge and mayor of Davos City on the island of Mindanao after the anti-Marcos revolution of the mid-eighties. Controversially, he favours the extrajudicial killing of drug pushers and criminals, and over the course of the last thirty years, one thousand four hundred people are said to have perished on Mindanao due to his encouragement of vigilante violence against such figures. Nevertheless, the Philippines Commission on Human Rights and Office of the Ombudsman has stated that there is no substance to allegations that Duterte was involved with the Davao Death Squad, which carried out the executions. Amnesty International and the United Nations Human Rights Commission questioned this, leading Duterte to threaten to leave the organisation. Unlike comparable 'social cleansing' paramilitary groups in Latin America, the Davao Death Squad does not seem to have targeted local transgender community members or sex workers, although it has attacked street kids. That said, Duterte also presided over the recognition of Muslim civil rights and representation in Davos and Mindanao, and built a drug rehabilitation facility to improve the treatment options for drug abusers on the island. He also improved the standard of emergency response services in Davao. Despite his hardline 'law and order' policy, crime rose in Davos during his terms of office, and tragedy struck in Davos when it was subjected to a terrorist attack in September 2016 which killed fourteen people in its business district. As for the extrajudicial killing of alleged drug dealers, thePhillipine Daily Inquirerand Opposition politicians have joined Amnesty International in questioning the Duterte administration's practice. Insofar as foreign affairs are concerned, relations with both China and the United States have cooled over questions of territorial allocation in the South China Sea and US appeasement of the Marcos regime until the mid-eighties and Duterte has also been a stark critic of Bush and Obama administration policies in the Middle East. However, he also seems to support liberalised contraceptive provision and LGBT rights, although he has also made misogynist remarks about rape. Other criticisms of Duterte focus on foreign investment, employment opportunities and the cost of living. As for the history of LGBT Filipinos, the end of martial law brought an influx of returning LGBT exiles to the archipelago, with links to US LGBT liberationist politics at the end of the eighties. The nineties saw an upsurge of LGBT activism related to the establishment of Pride marches (from 1994) and the formation of branches of the inclusive Metropolitan Community Church and LGBT groups at the University of the Philippines, as well as the first publication of LGBT literature about the Philippines. The Lesbian and Gay Legislative Action Network was founded in 1999 and began lobbying for national antidiscrimination laws at the same time. Although an antidiscrimination bill was introduced into the Philippines national legislature in 2013, it has not significantly progressed over the last three years. The Family Code of the Philippines restricts marriage to straight couples only. The Akabayan and Communist Parties both support LGBT rights. Military service discrimination ended in 2009 and coparent adoption is legal. Despite one antigay outburst, Duterte seems to support the idea of antidiscrimination reform, although it should also be said that he is not advancing the progress of the aformentioned private members legislation at present. Having been sexually abused by a Catholic priest as a child, he is also understandably cool to the antigay and antifeminist agenda of the Philippines Conference of Catholic Bishops, however. Nor does Duterte seem to favour the escalation of extrajudicial violence beyond the killing of alleged drug dealers, however. In many ways, the bluntly spoken Philippines strongperson remains an enigma. Whether or not he will become another despot like Ferdinand Marcos is too early to tell. Recommended: Wikipedia/Rodrigo Duterte: Rodrigo_Duterte Wikipedia/LGBT rights in the Philippines: LGBT_rights_in_the_Philippines Wikipedia/Davao Death Squad: Davao_Death_Squad Gerald Sullivan and Philip Jackson:Gay and Lesbian Asia: Culture, Identity, Community: New York: Haworth University Press: 2001 Nelson Augustin:True Colours: A Spectrum of Filipino gay and lesbian online writing:Vancouver: Helios: 2008. Fran Martin (ed)AsiaPacificQueer: Rethinking Genders and Sexualities:Urbana: University of Illinois: 2008. International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission:Violence: Through the Lens of Lesbians, Bisexual Women and Transpeople in Asia:New York: International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission: 2014. Craig Young - 23rd October 2016    

Credit: Craig Young

First published: Sunday, 23rd October 2016 - 12:56pm

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