[OPINION] If Duterte thinks 62 arrests can stop us, then he's wrong

Last October 31, Bacolod police used a search warrant from Quezon City to raid offices of Bayan Muna, Gabriela, Kilusang Mayo Uno, and the National Federation of Sugar Workers. At the same time, police raided the house of Gabriela leader Cora Agovida and her her husband Michael Bartolome in Manila. 62 arrests right on Halloween.

Rodrigo Duterte has dug himself a hole with his blatant use of tyranny and state fascism, and there is no other word for it – this is fascism. The Duterte administration has proven once more that it is willing to resort to any tactic to silence its critics, whether through misinformation, red-tagging, recycling of evidence, arrest, or straight up murder.

It’s clear that this administration is running on fumes. Duterte is using the same tactics as Marcos, Arroyo, and every other dictator before him to try and legitimize his rule. It doesn’t matter if you’re a student activist, a community organizer, or an NDF peace consultant – all critics get the bullet. Duterte is sowing a culture of fear and impunity to try and silence any and all forms of dissent.

In his 3 years of power, Duterte has employed classic tactics from the dictator’s playbook. He started with cultivating a populist image around himself to convince a vocal minority that he is what the country needs. He and his men grabbed hold of key institutions by pushing out oppositionists and replacing them with former generals and toadies. He secured the support of key economic powers – large landowners, business magnates, and foreign powers.

He then created an enemy. He used the classic bogeyman of “communism” to define what it meant to be an enemy of the state; for Duterte, anybody who isn’t with him is from the New People's Army (NPA). For Duterte, the NPA is both an inescapable menace and a punching bag on the verge of final death, depending on what suits him best.

The results only speak for themselves. All shades of the opposition are marginalized and treated as subversive. Organizations like Karapatan have become persona non grata in provinces like Quezon and Mindoro, and if he could not keep them out, then he will silence them – 30,000 extrajudicial killings, 340 political prisoners, and 8 desaparecidos in 3 years. 

Duterte’s culture of fear ultimately comes from his own fears. If Duterte wasn’t afraid then he should have no problem with dissent. A legitimate state will not resort to underhanded tactics to silence its critics, and a state that does so is not a state that the people need. (READ: Duterte likens NPA to ISIS: 'No ideology except to destroy and kill')

It’s quite ironic that these arrests happened on Halloween. His attempt at horror is bland and misguided, and only proves his own insecurities. If his goal was to scare everybody into submission, then he has forgotten that anger motivates far more than fear. 

It would do him well to look back at the same playbook he has taken his tactics from, and see that all dictators eventually fall. His plan to curb dissent through Oplan Kapanatagan and its related operations has only succeeded in giving more people a reason to rise up, resist, and fight. (READ: Martial law, the dark chapter in Philippine history)

He can go ahead and continue to try and scare us, but it will never work. If he thinks arresting 62 activists will be enough to stop the growing mass movement, then he’s wrong, and it’s only be a matter of time before he gets his due.  Rappler.com

Justin Umali is a writer and an activist from Laguna. He is a regular contributor for Esquire Philippines, and currently President of Kabataan Partylist Laguna.