The fictional ‘Red October’

LAST year, a whole slew of activists, academics, economists, political scientists and revolutionists marked the centennial of the Great October Socialist Revolution that gave birth to the world’s first socialist state. Events were held worldwide, as many people seek for answers to questions that liberalism and illiberalism (read: fascism) fail or refuse to answer.

As part of the commemorative activities, not a few enterprising ones came out and sold all sorts of merchandise like t-shirts emblazoned with the hammer-and-sickle symbol of the worker-peasant alliance, and the words “Red October”.

This column is not about that socialist revolution 101 years ago, but the not-so-funny use by the military of the phrase “Red October” as a branding for a supposed plot to oust President Duterte.

If we are to believe the military’s “intelligence” reports, the “Red October” plot has a specific date of action, with identified actors and motives.

Liberal Party President and Senator Kiko Pangilinan has rightly poked fun at the reports, although his party’s allies in Magdalo Partylist refused to totally reject the military’s fairy tale. The Magdalo, unfortunately, remains firmly united with Duterte and the military in strident anti-communism — whether that unity is based on facts or not. He may not know it, but Senator Antonio Trillanes saddles his antidictatorship stand by rejecting the fact that whether he likes it or not, the communists are an active part of the broad anti-Duterte united front.

The regime and the military are obviously not entirely serious about this “Red October” plot. It has not called for a meeting of the National Security Council to inform them of the seriousness of the supposed threat. Neither has both houses of Congress been informed of it.

All the regime and the military have done are pretty much “standard” fare: hysterical anti-communist statements, concocted documents, fantastic stories, and political persecution of Trillanes (despite his vehement anti-communism) and of the likes of Kadamay chair Bea Arellano and UP student regent Ivy Joy Taroma who the police tried to “invite” for questioning.

If we look closely, the so-called “Red October” plot is nothing more than slander and a threat against the broad united front critical of Duterte.

The regime has used the military to target its main actors: the Movement Against Tyranny, Coalition for Justice, Bagong Alyansang Makabayan, Tindig Pilipinas, Magdalo, Liberal Party, and the Communist Party of the Philippines-New People’s Army-National Democratic Front of the Philippines. According to their public pronouncements and even military “intelligence,” these actors have not met or linked up formally. They may not all talk directly with each other, but blame it on Duterte that they have found themselves in the same broad united front against his tyranny and dictatorship.

Leaders of MAT, CFJ, Bayan, LP and the CPP-NPA-NDFP have separately issued statements questioning and assailing the yarn about “Red October” — and rightly so. Tindig Pilipinas and Magdalo meanwhile enable the regime and weaken the broad united front through their silence or, worse, acquiescence to anti-communism.

Level-headed members of Congress should look into the claims of the regime and the military, whose motive appear less about national security but more about the president’s heightened sense of insecurity. Representatives and senators should summon military officials to shed light on the supposed plot, and expose it for what it is: a desperate attempt of the president to demonize the growing opposition to his regime.

On the opposite end of the political spectrum, there’s no intelligence report needed to see an unholy alliance involving Duterte, the Marcoses and former president-turned-House Speaker Gloria Macapagal Arroyo. They are the three power centers defining the regime, and its policies on politics and economics.

Backing them up are the corrupt generals of the police and the military, who wish to evade their responsibilities for the disastrous anti-drug and anti-terrorist wars. The main beneficiaries of Duterte’s TRAIN Law and other neoliberal economic policies — Big Businesses and foreign multinationals — are largely quiet on inflation and killings because they expect a windfall from “Build Build Build” and tax cuts from the next editions of Duterte’s TRAIN. Both China and the US are pleased with Duterte’s defense of Chinese occupation of parts of the West Philippine Sea, and his upholding of the onerous treaties with Washington that ensure US military presence especially in resource-rich Mindanao.

“Red October” is nothing more than a fantastic attempt by the regime to misredirect public anger from the very regime that frustrates, humiliates, divides and oppresses them, towards the broad united front fighting for freedom and democracy. The broad united front can easily defeat this yarn, if it unites in doing so.

The public cannot be fooled by this “drama.” Duterte’s popularity and trust ratings have gone down by double-digits — in the exact same period between the mammoth United People’s SONA last July and the United People’s Action last Sept. 21. Duterte knows that the broad united front is advancing and getting bigger and bolder, and more capable of challenging his misrule and frustrating his dictatorial ambitions under a Duterte-Arroyo-Marcos alliance.

Meanwhile, the conscientious and patriotic members of the police and the military continue to question the extrajudicial killings and are humiliated by Duterte’s surrender to China, the US, Russia and other foreign powers. The president can control and bribe the generals, but he cannot be sure about the rest of the younger members of the armed forces and the police.

Thus, the need for this so-called “Red October” to confuse the public, corrupt our politics even further and to crush all legitimate dissent and opposition. And in this case, no t-shirts or real “intelligence” reports are needed.

(First published in the September 29, 2018 issue of the Manila Bulletin.)