Marcos-Duterte Hands Off Walden Bello

Readers recognize Walden Bello as a regular contributor to CounterPunch. On Monday, August 9, Bello was arrested by the Quezon City Police at his home. He was released on bail the following day. He has been charged with cyber libel against a former Davao City information officer who worked in the Sara Duterte administration when she was mayor of Davao City in Mindanao. The information officer resigned and was fired in November after it had been revealed that he had attended a party which was raided for illegal drugs. Sara Duterte is the current vice president of the Philippines and daughter of the previous president, Rodrigo Duterte.

The arrest of Bello is widely viewed as politically motivated. As a vice presidential candidate, Bello had criticized Sara Duterte’s failure to publicly debate. The former Davao City information officer filed his case in March 2022. Subsequently, Sara Duterte’s regional party labeled Walden Bello a “narco-politician.”

Having assumed office on June 30, 2022, the Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos, Jr./Sara Duterte administration is not wasting any time in continuing the de facto martial law regime of Rodrigo Duterte. Under Rodrigo Duterte, government forces have waged a war on the poor (in the guise of a war on drugs), a war on indigenous and Moro people, and red-tagging and extrajudicial killings of human rights, environmental, labor, and peasant activists. Some estimate that as many as 30,000 extrajudicial killings were perpetrated under the Duterte administration.

During the electoral campaign, the Marcos/Duterte tandem portrayed Martial Law (1972-1986) under Ferdinand Marcos, Sr. as a golden age of peace and prosperity. The intent was to erase the atrocities and plundering of the state by his regime. Widespread disinformation, intimidation, violence, and fraud proved to be successful election tactics.

Walden Bello is internationally known as a scholar and author of numerous books and articles examining the Philippines in the context of capitalism and U.S. imperialism. He is the co-chairperson of Focus on the Global South, a research and advocacy institute based in Bangkok, and an adjunct professor of sociology at the State University of New York Binghamton.

He was a staunch critic of the martial law regime of Ferdinand Marcos and was jailed for the occupation of the Philippine Consulate in San Francisco in 1978. He has served in the Philippine House of Representatives as a member of Akbayan (Citizens’ Action Party) and stood in the June 2022 election as a vice presidential candidate for the Partido Lakas ng Masa (Party of the Labouring Masses).

The US Congress should pass the Philippine Human Rights Act, which will limit military and police assistance to the Philippines until it investigates and prosecutes human rights violators, withdraws its military from policing activities, and protects the rights of journalists and activists. The arrest of Walden Bello on frivolous charges represents weaponization of the law for the purpose of stifling dissent. Advocates for human rights and academic freedom must oppose the harrassment, imprisonment, and extrajudicial killings of civil society activists.



Seiji Yamada, a native of Hiroshima, is a family physician practicing and teaching in Hawaii.