17:29 GMT16 January 2021
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    The ever-controversial populist president of the Philippines, Rodrigo Duterte, has publicly threatened to install an emergency authoritarian government if his oligarch and drug lord enemies don’t fall in line with his policies.

    "Once your destabilization is already creating chaos, I will not hesitate to declare a revolutionary government until the end of my term," Duterte recently said, adding that he may suspend the country's constitution so he and his supporters can reform the government without fetters.

    This revolutionary government would reform the federal system, ratify a new constitution, slash corruption, improve and modernize security and put an end to the grip of the cartels. All this can be yours, Filipinos, if you just give the president absolute power.

    Duterte ran on a platform that claimed that wealthy elites and drug syndicates were working in lockstep for their mutual profit at the expense of the common people of the Philippines. Shortly after taking office, he declared war against drug use, encouraging police to use lethal force against drug users and peddlers.

    The Philippine Catholic Church claims that more than 13,000 people have been killed in Duterte's drug war since June 2016. Brutal as Duterte's measures have been, Philippine National Police say they are effective: crime has decreased 32 percent and Filipinos report feeling safer as a result of the violent policy.

    Duterte also declared martial law on Mindanao island, which was the site of bloody fighting between the Philippine military and the Maute and Abu Sayyaf jihadist groups, who had pledged allegiance to Daesh, across the city of Marawi. Over 1,000 people were killed and a million displaced in the five months of fighting and the entire island remains under military control even after Daesh's defeat.

    Even before that crisis, the archipelago had been stuck in an intermittent and seemingly endless war with communist guerrillas for almost half a century, a frequent cause of tension and strife on the archipelago. Peace talks were underway with the guerrillas, but negotiations broke down in November and hostilities have resumed.

    Left-wing critics of Duterte have criticized both the drug war and the martial law as excessive, and there have been past concerns that he could declare a national state of emergency and martial law across the entire archipelago.

    Suspending the constitution has been bandied about, too. On November 30, Duterte supporters demonstrated in the streets of Manila, calling on the president to declare a revolutionary government to install "extraordinary measures" to fix a "failed system." This included a proposal to expand government powers to crack down on enemies of the state.

    The move had significant symbolism, as it fell during the celebration of the birthday of Filipino national hero Andres Bonifacio. Bonifacio was one of the leaders of the successful Philippine Revolution against Imperial Spain — and then he helped form the revolutionary government of the short-lived Philippine Republic, which was in turn crushed by American forces as the archipelago was turned into an American colony at the dawn of the 20th century.

    The ever-controversial president has also invoked the much-beloved former President Corazon Aquino, who ended the regime of infamously corrupt president and dictator Ferdinand Marcos. Aquino oversaw the ratification of a new constitution in 1987 and the reinstitution of democracy in the archipelago, but in interim she, too, briefly held dictatorial powers as the leader of a revolutionary government. She used this power to provide a "guarantee of civil, political, human, social, economic and cultural rights and freedoms of the Filipino people."

    The rally inspired a left-wing counter-rally where Duterte's opponents protested what they saw as a shift towards authoritarianism. "The use of revolutionary government branding in order to support his own coup is a mockery of the revolution itself," declared Kabataan Partylist, a left-wing coalition that opposes Duterte, in a statement.

    Duterte faces a much larger challenge than simply his left-wing political opponents if he wants to increase the power of the presidency: the military. Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana and Chief of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) Rey Leonardo Guerrero have both publicly opposed the notion of a new revolutionary government.

    "Both [Lorenzana and Guerrero] assured us in no uncertain terms that they would not support a revolutionary government and any other threat to the constitution," said Vice President Leni Robredo in November. "[W]e were assured — and the assurance was strong — that they would not support such a plan."


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    emergency powers, authoritarianiasm, Philippine Drug War, Kabataan Partylist, Philippine National Police (PNP), Rey Leonardo Guerrero, Delfin Lorenzana, Leni Robredo, Andres Bonifacio, Corazon Aquino, Rodrigo Duterte, Manila, Marawi, Mindanao, Philippines
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