Recent Interveiw with Prof. Jose Maria Sison on the Duterte Regime and Its Current Course

By Dr. Rainer Werning
Sison´s German biographer
The German text was earlier posted here.

  1. A year ago you and Digong exchanged niceties via skype & expectations of a political change were extremely high. How was Digong faring as a student under your tutelage at the Lyceum of the Philippines?

Jose Maria Sison (JMS): When I had a skype conference with Duterte on April 25, 2016 before the presidential election, he declared that he wanted to become the first Left president of the Philippines and that he was a socialist although not a communist.

One week after he was elected president, I sent Fidel Agcaoili to confer with him and he promised to release all political prisoners listed by the NDFP. Soon thereafter, he offered to appoint to his cabinet four CPP representatives to be in charge of the departments of labor and employment, agrarian reform, environment and natural resources and social welfare and development.

But I told him that he could appoint on their own merits individuals who were patriotic and progressive, highly competent and diligent. I advised him that the NDFP, including the CPP, must first engage in peace negotiations successfully with GRP. CPP representatives in his cabinet would appear as sell-out if appointed before the success of the peace negotiations.

Duterte did not have high academic grades. But he showed a high level of natural intelligence. He did not get high marks because he was not reading the text book promptly. I think that he was fond of playing billiards or some other game. He was my student in political science.

  1. There seemed to be much of euphoria surrounding the four rounds of talks between the gov’t in manila and the ndfp. What were the main reasons why the 5th round of talks finally failed?

JMS: The first four rounds of formal talks were indeed successful, even as the GRP dragged its feet in delaying the amnesty and release of the political prisoners in compliance with CARHRIHL as well as with Duterte’s own promise and also even as the militarists in the GRP bugged the NDFP with the demand for a prolonged and indefinite bilateral ceasefire ahead of CASER.

The GRP withdrew from what should have been the fifth round of formal talks because the NDFP refused to put the protracted and indefinite bilateral ceasefire ahead of the release of the political prisoners and the signing of CASER.

The aim of the militarists (DND secretary Lorenzana, national security adviser Esperon and AFP chief of staff Ano) is to effect the surrender of the NDFP and put aside the substantive negotiations on social, economic and political reforms.

  1. Do you anticipate an extension of martial law nationwide?

JMS: Duterte himself has threatened several times to extend martial rule nationwide. He has said that the NPA is the next nationwide target after Marawi. The NPA has been a target of the Mindanao-wide martial rule since May 23. If you combine martial law with the Oplan Tokhang methods of mass murder, you can expect a far bigger catastrophe than the Marcos martial rule.

In Oplan Tokhang, Duterte has already effected the extrajudicial killing of 10,000 to 12,000 suspected illegal drug users and pushers in urban slum areas in his first year of office. Compare this with the Marcos record of 3,500 extrajudicial killings of political opponents in 14 years of fascist dictatorship,

  1. Some medical doctors in the Philippines describe(d) Digong alternatively as a “sociopath” or “psychopath”. who is that man after all in your personal view and what explains his still high popularity ratings?

JMS: Duterte is indeed a nut case. He is both a sociopath and psychopath. His addiction to the opioid Fentanyl has made him crazy. His drug addiction combines with his love for killing as an exercise of political power. He has turned the police and military into death squads with the use of money and promotions. Without any inhibition whatsoever, he has publicly called on them to kill the poor drug users and low-level pushers.

The so-called popularity of Digong is the result of his alliance with the anti-Aquino big politicians like the Marcoses and the former presidents Arroyo and Estrada and the big businessmen who gave him campaign money. Now that he is president, he can use the government propaganda facilities and he has more money to commission poll survey firms, expand his troll army in the social media and bribe key print journalists, columnists and broadcasters.

But such fake popularity is eroding fast because crisis conditions in the Philippines are worsening. He cannot fulfill many of his big electoral campaign promises and he cannot solve the social problems because he sticks to a neoliberal economic policy and a brutal security policy directed by pro-US military officers.

5: If you were urged to take a look into the crystal ball, what will the Philippines look like at the end of the president’s term?

JMS: In five more years of Duterte rule, the Philippines will become more underdeveloped, impoverished and devastated by his policies which are servile to US imperialism and the big compradors and landlords. But can he finish his term in view of his physical and mental health problems, the growing discontent of the broad masses of the people and the possibility of a broad united front to remove him from his office?

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