Duterte must break away from neoliberalism – Anakbayan

President Rodrigo Duterte’s tough talk against the oligarchy would come up empty if his administration does not implement genuine land reform, national industrialization, meaningful wage hikes, and other pro-people economic policies.

Duterte promised that change is coming. But this is only possible if he breaks away from neoliberal economics that have benefited the elite few at the expense of the poor majority.

These past days we have heard Duterte issuing strong statements against business tycoon Roberto Ongpin who he claims is one of his targets in his bid to “destroy the oligarchs that are embedded in government.”

We believe that the President’s anti-oligarch rhetoric will mean nothing if the neoliberal economic policies that favor landlord and big business remain in place. It will be all sound and fury, signifying no fundamental change for the majority.

If Duterte is really serious with his anti-oligarchy rhetoric, he should have no problem seriously implementing genuine land reform, including free land distribution to farmers, in order to break landlordism and pave the way for national industrialization.

This should mean making a strong stand against US intervention, respect for human rights and due process, raising workers’ wages, and ensuring free education, health and housing for the people.

The President’s rough language against some individual oligarchs gives an impression that radical changes are coming. But the push for constitutional amendments to remove foreign ownership restrictions, the opening of so-called “business islands” for transnational corporations, and subsidizing private profits with public funds under the public-private partnerships mean business as usual for oligarchs.

If these trends continue, whatever good intention Duterte may have will be overshadowed by the catastrophic effects of continuing neoliberal policies that prioritize big business and the foreign investors’ insatiable appetite for profits, even as sovereignty is compromised, thus stunting national development and leaving Filipinos poorer than ever.

We challenge the Duterte administration to push for policies that directly benefit millions of farmers, workers and poor Filipinos, rather than continue the neoliberal economics of the past 30 years which benefit only the moneyed oligarchy.

—VENCER CRISOSTOMO, national chair, Anakbayan, anakbayanphils@gmail.com

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