Photo by Sofia Abrogar

A perfect storm is brewing to expel the dictator from Malacañang. Enough is enough. We call to oust Duterte now. 

Not tomorrow, when conditions may appear slightly less grim. Not in weeks’ time, when the floods have receded and his administration has downplayed their negligence towards crisis-weary Filipinos. Not next month, when another journalist is murdered in broad daylight. Not next year, when typhoon victims have merely become buried memories and bodies. 

Four years of incompetence, human rights violations and subservience to imperialist nations has forced the people’s hand towards calling for his ouster. This multiplied a hundred-fold in recent months after the government brushed off the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic, the education and climate crisis towards the people.

The struggles forcibly endured by students in the past months are enough proof that distance learning in the middle of an uncontrolled pandemic is nothing more than a failed experiment — sacrificing students’ wellbeing. 

What’s worse is that the seemingly uncontrollable variables, typhoons Rolly and Ulysses, have been exploited by Duterte and his cronies to further discredit and attack critics who have focused on relief operations these past few days. All the while Duterte uses flooded areas as backdrops to spread propaganda for his own self-interest.

Thus students have decided to hold a strike, to halt submitting academic requirements and attending classes until Duterte is ousted and held accountable for his criminal negligence in responding to the typhoons and the pandemic. 

Despite cynics downplaying the effect of student strikes, Duterte struggled to hide his fear of the growing dissent by red-tagging students during his spout of tantrums on television Tuesday. 

At a time when the country is dealing with the one-two punch of crisis after crisis, the president chooses to waste people’s time with lies and misogynist remarks. And as a one-trick pony, he did what he knew best — he threatened to deprive people of their rights. 

The eruption of student strikes across different universities is an opportune moment to go beyond calling for academic ease.  Now more than ever, the youth must strengthen their commitment with different sectors in society by calling for the president’s ouster. 

Students must reinforce alliances with workers, peasants, the urban poor and other sectoral groups forged during the ‘days of disquiet and nights of rage’ of the First Quarter Storm, during the monumental Diliman Commune where protesters barricaded the university, and during countless of other strikes and mobilizations where the combined numbers of a multisectoral alliance shook the core of wannabe dictators. 

Debating the semantics of how to refer to the government’s criminal negligence means nothing to those who have already been murdered by the tyrannical government. As long as Duterte and his anointed loyalists hold power, no amount of pleading for compassion will get them to stop the series of killings — whether by the bullet, by the virus or by the climate crisis. 

As campus journalists, we must confront the situation not as bystanders or mere chroniclers of history. At the crux of our mandate to deliver the truth, we are duty-bound to consider the social and political context that form much of the cruelty and the injustice that we write about. 

In fact, much of this extends to the issues of media workers today, whose poor working conditions are exacerbated by fear and censorship. 

Everyday under the Duterte administration, journalists are cornered into self-censorship due to threats from the government themselves. Red-tagged, insulted, harassed — until eventually even the most ‘balanced’ news reporter will find themselves falling off the tightrope. 

Neutrality, during this time of consecutive crises, simply has no place among our ranks. 

It was the Filipino press born out of the need of the times which has gone above and beyond in advocating for freedom, in assuming the responsibility that journalism was expected of in the first place. It was this ‘alternative tradition’ that bared all odds in overpowering the subservient dominant press in its propaganda war against the lies of the Marcos regime.

And historically, it was during times of crisis similar to the present — how dictators like Duterte have stained their hands with blood from the masses — that the press reaffirms its critical and progressive roots. 

To call to #OustDuterte is to believe that journalists deserve to deliver the truth while their readers, especially the marginalized, are still alive. To write in-depth issues about the plight of the oppressed, journalists must believe that the peasants and the workers are the first to slip through the cracks in the current administration’s crackdown on dissent. 

The student movement must not second-guess its power in removing fascists from office. Academic compliance has rarely found its way into the hallowed halls of history, especially when present conditions call for solidarity with the people. To strike is not just to step out of our bubble of privilege — but to question why it was ever there in the first place. 

It is time that we are reminded of the need to bolster the safeguards of democracy and guard whatever is left of it. It is time we put our foot down and start calling out blatant lies. It is time that we oust a dictator. 

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