Thousands rally in the Philippines to warn of Duterte ‘dictatorship’

An activist shouts slogans during a protest against Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte in Manila on September 21, 2017. (AFP)
Updated 21 September 2017
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Thousands rally in the Philippines to warn of Duterte ‘dictatorship’

MANILA: Left-wing activists and political opponents of Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte held rallies on Thursday to warn against what they see as the emergence of a dictatorship under the no-nonsense but hugely popular leader.
Politicians, indigenous people, church leaders, businessmen, and leftists marched, staged rallies and attended masses to denounce Duterte, accusing him of abuses and authoritarianism similar to that of the late dictator Ferdinand Marcos.
The events were to mark the 45th anniversary of the declaration of martial law under Marcos, which lasted nine years and is remembered by many Filipinos as brutal and oppressive.
Vice President Leni Robredo appeared at a mass at the University of the Philippines, traditionally a hotbed of political activism, and was due to appear at a rally of the opposition Liberal Party she leads.
Robredo, who was not Duterte’s running mate, said Filipinos born after the Marcos era should not be complacent and should recognize signs of “rising tyranny”.
“If we do not remember the past, we are condemned to repeat it,” she said in a statement. “Sadly those who are deceived do not even know that they are walking a doomed path.”
Marcos declared martial law in 1972, a year ahead of elections in which he was ineligible to run, and held power for 14 years until his removal in a bloodless, army-backed “people’s power” uprising.
He abolished democratic institutions and was accused of killing, torturing and “disappearing” thousands of opponents.
Duterte has expressed admiration for Marcos several times and his fiercest critics are alarmed by the former mayor’s autocratic rhetoric and his disdain for those who oppose him.
However, many millions are drawn to Duterte’s down-to-earth style, his decisiveness and his imperfections, and see him as a champion of ordinary Filipinos and the country’s best hope for the long overdue change that presidents from the political elite failed to bring.
Duterte declared Thursday a holiday for government workers and schools to give them a chance to protest against him. Several thousand demonstrators took the opportunity to gather separately to show their support for him.
The anti-Duterte demonstrators were not rallying in the same place or around a single issue. Some denounced his ferocious war on drugs that has killed thousands of Filipinos, while others railed against what they see as his cozy relationship with the still-powerful Marcos family.
Others complained about his pro-China stance, his threats to impose martial law nationwide and destruction in southern Marawi City by air strikes targeting Islamist militants, using US military bombs and technical support.
“The people have not forgotten and will not allow a repeat of Marcosian rule,” said Renato Reyes, leader of the leftist Bayan (Nation) group.
Reyes decried widespread human rights violations under the government’s “fascist” war on drugs, and for letting the US military involvement in Philippine security issues.
Demonstrators also planned to burn an effigy of Duterte on a throne, modeled on the evil character “Night King” in the popular television series “Game of Thrones”.


South Africa inquiry into top-level state graft opens

Updated 29 min 22 sec ago
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South Africa inquiry into top-level state graft opens

JOHANNESBURG: A judicial inquiry into alleged corruption at the top of government in South Africa is scheduled to open on Monday when the first public hearings begin.
The hearings by a panel led by the country’s second highest judge, Deputy Chief Justice Raymond Zondo, will probe allegations of corruption and fraud in the public sector during former president Jacob Zuma’s tenure.
Although the panel does not have powers to arrest or prosecute, evidence it collects can be used in any future prosecution.
Zuma appointed the judicial inquiry into the alleged graft in January on the orders of a high court.
A month later, on February 14, he was forced to resign from office as criticism grew from within the ruling ANC party over multiple corruption scandals.
State corruption in post-apartheid South Africa was first exposed formally two years ago by the country’s former ombudswoman Thuli Madonsela, who issued a damning report and called for a judicial inquiry into Zuma’s relationship with a wealthy business family.
Zuma was accused of being in the sway of the Guptas — a wealthy family of Indian origin — allegedly granting them influence over government appointments, contracts and state-owned businesses.
Pravin Gordhan, a former finance minister, but now responsible for state companies, has estimated that around 100 billion rand ($6.8 billion) of state funds may have been looted through corrupt practices.
Justice Zondo has vowed that the investigation into the so-called “state capture,” will be carried out thoroughly regardless of who is being investigated.
“I will investigate anybody and everybody no matter who he or she is. This commission will do its job properly. We owe that to the people of South Africa.” he said earlier this year.
The first witnesses to appear before the commission include a former deputy finance minister Mcebisi Jonas, an ANC lawmaker Mabel Mentor and the former government spokesman Themba Maseko.
The local Sunday Times said Zuma has been “invited” to appear before the panel, but the commission’s spokesman declined to comment on the newspaper report.
Initially tasked to probe and conclude its findings within six months, the commission has asked for an extension of up to two years.
Zuma’s successor as president, Cyril Ramaphosa, has vowed to crack down on government corruption, which he has admitted was a serious problem.
“I would hope that the inquiry gets to the bottom of how the South African state was captured in the way it was and what can be done to prevent this from happening again,” David Lewis, the executive director of South Africa’s non-profit organization Corruption Watch, said.