Duterte’s ‘revolutionary government’ sparks thousands to both protest and show support in capital

By: Johanna Chisholm - Posted on: December 1, 2017 | Current Affairs

Duterte divided the country last month when he said he’d like to set-up a ‘revolutionary government’, leading some to worry he’s eyeing for dictatorship 

Filipino protestors scuffle with anti-riot police during an anti-Duterte protest in Manila, Philippines, 30 November 2017 Photo: Francis R Malasig/EPA

Thousands of anti-revolutionary and pro-revolutionary groups met in Manila on Thursday to both protest and support Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte’s suggestion last month of establishing a revolutionary government, a declaration that has fuelled the fears of some in the country to believe the leader is attempting to establish a dictatorship.

Last month, the president known internationally for his deadly policy on drug crime announced in a televised statement that he would feel obliged to establish a revolutionary government in order to fully crackdown on the “destabilizers”.

“I will not hesitate to declare a revolutionary government until the end of my term, and I will arrest all of you, and we can go to a full-scale war against the Reds,” Duterte said while on national television back in October.

On the same day that more than 1,000 anti-revolutionaries met to express their disdain for Duterte’s suggested power grab, there were separate demonstrations taking place just beside them as pro-revolutionary groups also gathered in front of the presidential palace in Manila in a show of support for the 72-year-old’s strict policies.

There were also pro-revolutionary demonstrations taking place across the country, as large groups gathered at the Veterans Rotunda in front of the Davao City Post Office in Davao, a city on the southern Philippine island of Mindanao.

News reports from the AFP estimate that each rally in Manila counted more than 2,000 protesters to be representing each side, all of whom were dressed in red, the traditional colour for revolutionary movements in the Philippines.

Demonstrators from both sides had strategically picked 30 November as a day to protest, as it is a national holiday that recognizes the 154th birth of the revolutionary hero Andres Bonifacio, the man who led the Philippines to independence from the colonial rule of Spain in the 1890s.

On the one side, pro-revolutionary groups waved banners that read, ‘We support revolutionary government’, while on the other, anti-revolutionary demonstrators carried signs that read ‘Fight the Duterte dictatorship’ and chanted ‘down with Duterte’ while burning an effigy of the Philippine leader.

When Duterte declared that he would like to assume full power of the government back in October in an attempt to strengthen his anti-drug campaign, it began to fuel the fears of left leaning groups in the country that he might be attempting to establish a dictatorship.

This reaction is not surprising, as in the description of what he would like to see done in this ‘revolutionary government’ would first be the consolidation of all authority in his hands, which would effectively dismantle the two hallmarks of the Philippines’ democracy: the government and the constitution.

Duterte was elected last year on the platform of ridding the country of its crime and drug problem. Since his controversial anti-drug campaign was set in motion in August of last year there has been an estimated 7,000 suspected drug users and drug dealers killed in what some international watchdogs have described as an extrajudicial killing campaign.

Though Duterte is still viewed as a widely popular leader in the Philippines, opposition strength is growing within the archipelago country due to the increased human rights abuses that have been carried out under his rule.