WritingsArticles & SpeechesDissecting the Marcos and Duterte regimes

Dissecting the Marcos and Duterte regimes


By Jose Maria Sison
Chairman Emeritus
International League of Peoples’ Struggle
September 20, 2020

Dear Fellow Activists,

Let me congratulate the Youth Movement Against Tyranny-Metro Manila for having arisen as an alliance of student councils, student publications, and youth formations in Metro Manila that aim to unite all freedom-loving Filipinos to fight tyranny and fascism, exemplified by the Marcos fascist dictatorship and now recurrent under the Duterte tyrannical regime.

Thank you for having invited me to be one of the speakers for the event, “Martial Law Noon at Ngayon: Dissecting the Marcos and Duterte Regimes”. I appreciate Paaralang Joma Sison, YMAT Metro Manila, and UPM USC for spearheading this event, which is a major part of Kontra Agos: Sa Paglaban at Paglaya, the week-long commemoration of the 48th anniversary of the Marcos Martial Law declaration.

This is a time to remember the extreme suffering of the Filipino people under the Marcos fascist dictatorship and the heroic resistance of the people and their patriotic and democratic forces aboveground as well as the armed revolutionary movement in the underground and in the guerrilla fronts in the countryside. We must be inspired by the people’s resistance that ultimately overthrew the Marcos fascist dictatorship. We can be highly confident that the Duterte scheme of fascist dictatorship will have a short life span.

Our commemoration is highly significant and purposive because today the people are again being confronted and subjected to an undeclared but real fascist dictatorship under Duterte. The open rule of terror has been a creeping reality in the Philippines since Duterte became the president in 2016 and has become full-blown, even without the formal declaration of martial law, since the enactment of Duterte’s law of state terrorism.

We must understand why the fascist dictatorship occurred in the time of Marcos and is now recurrent in the time of Duterte. I propose to discuss the common ground of counterrevolution and revolution in the Philippines, the essential similarities and circumstantial differences between the fascist dictatorship of Marcos and Duterte and the prospects of the people’s resistance.

The Common Ground for Counterrevolution and Revolution

The semicolonial and semifeudal society is the common ground for counterrevolution and revolution in the Philippines. It is a society in chronic crisis because the broad masses of the people are subjected to extreme forms of oppression and exploitation by the foreign monopoly capitalism of the US and its imperialist allies as well as by the local exploiting classes of the comprador big bourgeois, landlords and bureaucrat capitalists.

These oppressors and exploiters are collectively responsible for keeping the Philippines underdeveloped and impoverished and for profiting most from an economy that is a cheap source of mineral ores, export crops and labor in exchange for manufactures from abroad in the form of some depreciable capital goods and consumer goods. The chronic trade deficits as well as budgetary deficits keep the Philippines always in need of local and foreign loans.

In their rise to power, the political representatives of the comprador big bourgeosie and landlord class, acquire the distinctive character of being bureaucrat capitalists by having the opportunity to use their public offices for personal enrichment through corrupt practices. These bureaucrat capitalists may priorly belong to big comprador and landlord classes or they acquire the character of these classes if they are bright boys and girls from the middle class.

The chronic economic crisis of the semicolonial and semifeudal ruling system tends to generate political crisis as it intensifies the contradictions among political parties or groups representing factions of the exploiting classes. Under conditions of worsening economic and political crisis, the president or chief bureaucrat capitalist can be tempted to take advantage of the crisis and use executive powers, especially martial law powers, in order to take over the entirety of the reactionary government and use this in a bid to break into the topmost level of the comprador big bourgeoisie.

You must recall that Marcos took advantage of the chronic economic and political crisis by orating that the social volcano was about to erupt in the country, that extraordinary measures would have to be adopted and that he would be the savior to make the Philippines great again. When he declared martial law on September 21, 1972, he said that he was saving the republic and building a new society and demanded that the people submit themselves to the discipline of his fascist dictatorship. He invoked anti-communism and exagerrated the number of the Red fighters of the New People’s Army to rationalize his fascist rule.

What was the real objective of Marcos in becoming a fascist dictator? It was to rob the people of USD 10 to 15 billion and stash this away in various banks and investment houses abroad, to get bribes from overpriced infrastructure projects and onerous foreign loans guaranteed by the Philippine state, to take over well-established big compradors firms like San Miguel Brewery Corporation, PLDT, Meralco and other corporations, to close down ABS-CBN and put up his own KBN and to buy expensive properties abroad.

What did Marcos do to serve notice that he can do anything to anyone who opposed his despotism and plunder of the country’s national patrimony and social wealth? He caused the arrest and detention of at least 70,000 people and the torture of at least 35,000. Nearly 10,000 victims of human rights violations won their case against Marcos in the US after his overthrow. At least 3,257 activists, critics and political opponents were documented as disappeared, tortured and murdered.

Millions of people, especially workers and poor peasants, indigenous people and Moro people, were forced out of their land and homes. According to the International Committee of the Red Cross, three million people were displaced in Mindanao, especially among the Moro people. All over the country, properties and businesses were confiscated to enrich the Marcos family, his business cronies, his political and military agents.

Duterte brazenly praises and emulates Marcos as his hero and idol. He is cruder than Marcos in openly admitting the mass murder of people and boasting of presidential protection and immunity for his armed minions who carry out the grave and systematic human rights violations. Like Marcos, his real objective in ruling with mailed fists is also to enrich himself from overpriced infrastructure projects and onerous loans., from other kinds of programs and projects that channel public funds to himself and his cronies and even from the smuggling of drugs and other contraband and casino operations of Chinese criminal syndicates.

While such political monsters of the ruling system as Marcos and Duterte can take advantage of the chronic crisis of the ruling system and abuse their presidential powers to engage in graft and corruption and wage counterrevolution, the same chronic crisis is aggravated by their crimes of plunder and mass murder and their escalation of the conditions of oppression and exploitation and drive the broad masses of the people to wage various forms of resistance.

The highest form of resistance, the people’s war along the general line of people’s democratic revolution, has grown in strength and advanced precisely because of the tyranny and fascism of rulers like Marcos and Duterte. The recurrence of the open rule of terror, despite thirty years of pseudo-democratic regimes from Aquino the mother to Aquino the son, shows that the chronic crisis has kept on worsening and that the ruling class cannot rule in a way to deceive the people effectively. The ruling system is completely rotten and the people’s revolutionary struggle against one regime after another result in the accumulation of the people’s strength against the entire ruling system.

The same semicolonial and semifeudal conditions and chronic crisis that breed despotic regimes, such as those of Marcos and Duterte, also provide the objective conditions for the development of the subjective forces of the revolution. The proletariat as class leader of the Philippine revolution can find the peasantry in the countryside as its most numerous and most reliable ally. In the countryside and among the peasants, the Communist Party of the Philippines, the New People’s Army, the revolutionary mass organjizations and the people’s democratic government have grown from small and weak to big and strong nationwide.

Comparison of Marcos and Duterte as Traitors and Tyrants

Before he became president, Marcos hired so-called nationalist speech writers like Blas Ople and the like, spread the word that he was supportive of the Supreme Court decisions restricting the privileges of foreign investors and actually spoke against the sending of Filipino troops to Vietnam to join the US war of aggression against the Vietnamese people. But secretly he was soliciting campaign funds from the US corporations and assuring them of charter change for their benefit.

As soon as he became president, he did not make any significant move to change the semicolonial relationship of the Philippines with US imperialism, except to plead for the reduction of the 99-year lease of military bases under US Military Bases Agreement to 25 years. Early on in 1965 the Kabataang Makabayan and other patriotic and democratic forces launched demonstrations to demand the abrogration of all treaties, agreements and arrangements binding the Philippines as a semicolony to the US economically, politically, culturally and militarily.

Contrary to his pre-election position against sending the Philcag to Vietnam, he agreed with US President Johnson to send the Filipino troops to Vietnam. And the puppet Marcos was happy that Johnson called him his right hand man in Asia. When Johnson held his Manila Summit to round up support from his Asian puppets for the US war of aggression in Vietnam, Marcos used the police and military to arrest leaders of Kabataang Makabayan on October 23, 1966 (including myself as the KM chairman) and brutally disperse the demonstration of thousands of students at the Manila Hotel on October 24, 1966.

The brutal attack became the stimulus for the launching of the October 24th Movement to arouse, organize and mobilize the student youth for social investigation and integration with the youth and masses in factory sites, urban poor communities and peasant communities in the Central Luzon and Southern Tagalog regions. The protest mass actions and the campaigns of integration with the urban and rural poor raised the membership of Kabataang Makabayan from a few scores at its founding in 1964 to a few thousands in its first two years of existence.

Prior to his election as president, Duterte took the same demagogic path of Marcos, pretending to be a sympathizer and ally of the patriotic and democratic forces and even of the revolutionary movement even as he became increasingly notorious for engaging in the extrajudicial killing of suspected common criminals and drug users and pushers. He stood out in honoring the late Ka Parago, facilitating the release of prisoners of war captured by the NPA and promising to amnesty and release all political prisoners and to engage in serious peace negotiations with the NDFP.

Soon after becoming president, Duterte began his all-out war against the revolutionary movement under the pretext of letting his military continue Aquino’s Oplan Bayanihan. It soon became clear that he was reneging on his promise to amnesty and release all political prisoners and that his objective in peace negotiations was merely to seek the capitulation of the revolutionary forces through a protracted ceasefire agreement. Even then, it was necessary for all patriotic and democratic forces, the peace advocates of various types and the NDFP to make just demands and propagate these, test Duterte and let him unfold his own character.

Within the period of June 2016 to June 2017, it became absolutely clear to the public that the Duterte regime was traitorous in trying to serve two imperialist masters, the US and China, for his personal gain; tyrannical and genocidal with a penchant for the mass murder of poor people and his opponents; plundering the public coffers and the economy in league with the big plunderers of previous regimes who had supported his electoral campaign; and swindling for personal and dynastic benefit. The peace negotiations could not go beyond the fourth round in April 2017. Then in May 2017 Duterte declared martial law in Mindanao not only against the jihadist groups in Mindanao but also against the CPP and NPA in the larger parts of Mindanao.

It has become absolutely clear that Duterte has been like Marcos, obsessed with gaining absolute power through brute force in order to enrich himself and his family. His mass murder of 30,000 people who have been arbitrarily listed as drug users and drug peddlars has been for the purpose of mass intimidation, corrupting the police with rewards and giving the message to everyone that he is capable of killing anyone opposed to his rule.

In escalating his military campaign of suppression against the people and the revolutionary movement, Duterte is applying the same methods that he applied in Oplan Tokhang. He turns into his criminal accomplices his loyal military officers by ordering them to murder suspected revolutionaries and feeding them money for every suspect killed as well as for fake surrenders and imaginary community development projects.

But Duterte cannot stay in power as a fascist dictator for as long as Marcos did, who totalled 14 years of fascist dictatorship. Duterte came to the presidency much older than Marcos and sickly with multiple serious ailments. He has bankrupted his own government and tne entire Philippine economy through unbridled corruption and extreme overspending for the military and police, especially during the last six months of the COVID-19 pandemic.

He is liable to be squeezed out or squashed by trying to serve two conflicting imperialist powers, the US and China. The bureaucrats and military officers surrounding Duterte know that he cannot stay long in power and they are now engaged in an unprecedented plunder of public funds and the economy. The majority of military officers and personnel are disgusted with Duterte as a puppet of China. They frown at the corruption of the retired and active military officers close to Duterte and are sick and tired of military operations that are futile against the NPA but extremely abusive of the people.

The movement against tyranny or the broad united front against tyranny which took shape in the second half of 2017 has gained further strength and the capability of carrying out large protest mass actions. And it is appreciative of the readiness of the vice president to succeed the president upon his incapacitation or resignation. The collossal crimes of the Duterte regime are bound to cause its ignominious downfall if it uses fascist dictatroship to rule the people beyond 2022.

Having signed into law his license for unlimited state terrorism, Duterte is poised to make a series of moves to arrest and kill en masse his critics and opponents and push the ratification of a fascist constitution that pretends to shift the country to federalism and parliamentarism. Remember that Marcos made his decisive moves for formally declaring martial law and imposing fascist dictaorship on the people in 1972, the year before his second four-year term ended in 1973. So be ready for probable surprise moves that Duterte will be making within the next year or so.

Prospects of the People’s Resistance Against the Duterte Fascist Regime

The legal democratic forces as well as the revolutionary forces of the Filipino people are far stronger and are more experienced and tested than they were when Marcos planned and carried out his scheme of fascist dictatoreship from 1969 to 1972. For Duterte to impose a fascist dictatorship on the Filipino within the next year or so is practically lifting a big rock only to let it fall on his feet.

It is instructive to review the years of 1969 to 1972. As early as as 1969 to 1970, when the legal democratic forces were small and the revolutionary forces were even far smaller, it became clear that Marcos was determined to impose a fascist dictatorship on the people because of his pronouncements about the social volcano on the brink of eruption and his role as savior and also because of the off-the-record boasting of the propagandists and military loyalists of Marcos that he was serious with his plan to save the republic and build a new society.

What did the legal democratic forces do? They hastened their work of arousing, organizing and mobilizing the people. Militant mass actions arose not only in Metro Manila but also in various parts of the counry. The First Quarter Storm of 1970 erupted and further mass actions occurred up to 1972. At the same time, the most advanced mass activists were already mentally prepared to go underground and have their own firearms in case of crackdown.

Thus, when the suspension of the writ of habeas corpus occurred in 1971, hundreds of mass activists went underground and thousands were prepared to do likewise if martial law would be declared. When martial law was declared on September 21, 1972, thousands of mass activists went underground. By 1974, they were deployed nationwide to strengthen the revolutionary forces in the countryside.

Parallel to the readiness of the legal demodcratic forces to go underground in case of crackdown, without giving up the legal and defensive political struggle in the urban areas, the revolutionary forces of the people carried out in earnest their ideological, political and organizational work in the countryside. The Communist Party of the Philippines had the foresight to reestablish itself on December 26, 1968 under the guidance of Marxism-Leninism-Mao Zedong Thought and proceeded to found the New People’s Army on March 29, 1969.

The CPP and all other revolutionary forces pursued the genertal line of people’s democratic revolution through protracted people’s war. The experienced guerrilla fighters from the old revolutionary movement were combined with the mass activists from the urban areas, who came from the ranks of trade unionists and educated youth. They learned to integrate the revolutionary armed struggle, land reform and mass-base building. They further built and strengthened the CPP, NPA, the revolutionary mass organizations, the alliances and the local organs political power that constitute the people’s democratic government.

From one regime to another, these revolutionary forces have overcome all counterrevolutionary campaigns of suppression and have grown in strength througn revolutionary struggle. The CPP has now tens of thousands of members. The NPA has thousands of Red fighters plus tens of thousands of members in the people’s militia and hundreds of thousands in self-defense units of the revolutionary mass organizations. The members of the revolutionary mass organizations are in the millions. And so many more people are governed by the local organs of political power.

According to revolutionary strategists, the nationwide base of the revolutionary forces in 110 guerrilla fronts in 73 out of the 81 Philippine provinces is an ample launching base for tactical offensives for destroying and disintegrating the reactionary military, police and paramilitary forces and accumulating the armed strength to knock out the concentrations of armed power of the state in areas close to or inside the major cities in the future strategic offensive against the semicolonial and semifeudal ruling system.

The NPA is steadily engaged in bringing about the maturation of the strategic defensive from the middle phase to the advanced phase with the rapid multiplication of squads and platoons as combat units that can be easily combined as companies upon need. The stage of strategic stalemate will be characterised by frequent company-size and battallion-size operations and will be much shorter in time than the stage of the strategic defensive. The strategic offensive will be facilitated by the ever worsening crisis of both domestic ruling system and the world capitalist system. Such crisis is discernible even now.

According to Ang Bayan, the reactionary Armed Forces of the Philippines has only 140 maneuver battalions, of which, 35 are deployed in Luzon; 19 in the Visayas; and 83 in Mindanao (19 battalions in Moro areas, and 64 in NPA areas). Thus, close to 85% or 118 battalions are deployed against the NPA. Close to 55% of AFP units deployed against the NPA are in Mindanao, mainly in the eastern regions. Combined AFP and PNP troop deployment is highest in Southern Mindanao, followed by Southern Tagalog, Eastern Visayas, North Central Mindanao, Far South Mindanao and Negros.

The balance of strength between the revolutionary side and the enemy side is now far more favorable to the revolutionary side than during the time of Marcos dictatorship. The enemy side is still militarily superior but is on the losing side because it fights for US imperialism and the local exploiting classes, eats up a lot of public money and commits atrocities against the people. Even if it is still superior to the NPA in purely military terms, it is blind and deaf in its search and destroy operations because it lacks the support of the people and it is extremely vulerable to the strategy and tactics of guerrilla warfare.

Based on the publications of the CPP, NPA and NDFP that I have read, the armed revolutionary movement of the people is determined and expects to inflict more casualties on the enemy side and seize more arms from it. The morale of the enemy side is running low because it is fighting for US imperialism and the local exploiting classes and for a regime that is notorious for treason, tyranny, mass murder plunder and swindling and is getting fatigued by too many fruitless operations and being exposed to the tactical offensives of the NPA.

It is a matter of historical truth that before a certain exploitative ruling system is overthrown, it does its worst in armed counterrevolution because it does not volunteer to surrender its power and wealth to the oppressed and exploited toiling masses of workers and peasants. But it is precisely because of extreme brutality and greed that the ruling system becomes more rotten and compels the people to wage armed revolution until they win total victory.

Mabuhay ang Youth Movement Against Tyranny-Metro Manila!
Patalsikin ang taksil, tirano, berdugo, mandarambong at manggagantsong rehimen ni Duterte!
Isulong ang kilusang pambansa demokratikong kilusan!
Mabuhay ang sambayanang Pilipino!


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