MANILA, Philippines – “Just do it.”
This was the challenge posed to President Rodrigo Duterte by a youth activist group following the threat issued by the chief executive against landed oligarchs.
Last May 1, during his Labor Day speech at the People’s Park in Davao City, Duterte warned oligarchs who were not paying correct taxes that he would only give them three months to settle their tax deficiencies. Otherwise, he would ask Filipinos to occupy the public landholdings that these oligarchs control.
“Og dili ninyo iuli ang yuta sa gobyerno [If you don’t return the lands to the government], then I will ask the Filipino people to occupy the lands that are in your hands,” Duterte told the oligarchs.
“Sumobra na kayo eh sa totoo lang [Frankly, you have already become abusive]. You have enriched your families for generations…at the expense of the Filipino,” he added.
But Anakbayan said that instead of just issuing a warning, the President must “push through” with his call for Filipinos “to occupy the properties of landed oligarchs.”
“We challenge Duterte to just do it. Despotic landlords and big businessmen in cahoots with transnationals and scrupulous officials have victimized Filipinos for so long. It’s time government actually take action against the ruling oligarchy,” said Anakbayan national chairperson Vencer Crisostomo.
Anakbayan claimed that “more than failing to pay taxes, the oligarchic ruling classes have long squeezed the Filipino workers dry through low wages, contractual labor, and other exploitative schemes, land grabbed from farmers, and profited from corrupt public housing projects.”
“It is good that Duterte understands why urban poor occupied public housing units that have remained idle while thousands are homeless,” Crisostomo said, referring to Kadamay (Kalipunan ng Damayang Mahihirap)’s forcible occupation of almost 6,000 housing units in Pandi, Bulacan that were supposed to be for policemen and soldiers.
“Why not the occupation of big businesses owned by oligarchs paying workers a pittance and keeping them contractual while siphoning millions in profits?” said Crisostomo.
The youth group also called on the Duterte administration to “seriously push” genuine agrarian reform by freely distributing land to the farmers, which was agreed upon during the latest round of peace talks with the National Democratic Front of the Philippines.
“To break oligarch rule in the country, we need more than warnings and threats. Ultimately, this means Duterte himself breaking away from neoliberal economics that sustain the oligarchy and seriously implementing a program of genuine agrarian reform and national industrialization,” said Crisostomo.