IN THE wake of the Supreme Court decision on the burial of Ferdinand E. Marcos at the Libingan ng mga Bayani (LNB) and, as of this writing, the victory of Donald Trump as president of the United States of America, many have taken to social media bewailing the “death of democracy.”
Oh spare me, please. Democracy is not dead. It’s exactly the reason why we are in the rut we’re in right now. It’s democracy in action, and if it shows anything it just shows that all these years we’ve been remiss in nurturing and caring for it that it finally bit us in the ass.
After the LNB decision I took to my Facebook page to air my view:
Ok, the Supreme Court is the final arbiter in the interpretation of law. And basically, at least from what I have read (no official texts of the full decision and dissenting opinions have been released) the majority decision said that there is NO LAW barring the president from having Marcos buried in LNB, and no legal process has officially declared Marcos a despot and a fake hero but rather it is legal fact that he was a former president, senator, defense secretary and soldier.
Hmmmm… I can respect that.
It’s now D30’s decision to go through with the burial since, according to law, the decision is purely on him. Thus I call on D30 not to go through with it, because the reasons stated in the SC petitions are compelling, not for a law-bound forum, but for a compassionate leader.
I call to task all those politicians, especially in the legislature, for leaving this matter open when clearly they could have done something all these years to quit the political horse-trading with the Marcoses and their allies.
Ultimately, it’s on us. We let it ride all these years. We kept electing these fools into government. And we waited until the last few days to bring it up to the SC, a forum that decides purely on matters of law.
But it’s never too late for change. Especially within us.
The fact is in our democratic processes the SC is bound by law and oath to limit itself to settling questions and matters of law, and if the majority – nine votes versus five (and one abstention) – decide a certain way then we just have to accept it. Basically, it said that the burial permit was a political one and not a legal one, so there.
Further insinuations that the justices did not do their jobs, were inept or, worse, paid off in the most corrupt manner are pure hogwash. They did their job – both who voted for and against the petition, as dictated by the process. And as to corruption, it is easy to rant on social media but unless there is absolute proof of it the charges are no different to Mocha Uson’s blog posts and fake news sites. And like it or not, all those are part of this democratic space, so Facebook, Twitter and the rest of Social Media being blamed for the death of democracy is, again, hogwash. Tune out, why don’t you?
Now as to President Duterte giving in to appeals today not to push through with the burial, well that is also our democratic right. But remember – and this should manage everybody’s expectations – Duterte has been vocal about this even BEFORE he got elected president. Will he change his mind now? Who knows? But as the SC says, it’s for him and him alone, much like the previous presidents before him decided against it in their terms.
To those who will rant again that Duterte just got voted by 16 million Filipinos – not the 50 percent plus one majority of voters or even majority of the population as some insist – our democracy calls for a plurality. This means the highest number of votes a single candidate can get. Even if only one person votes in the election, whoever that person votes for will be president. That is our democracy. That is the democracy laid out in the 1987 constitution which was set forth by the constitutional commission which Corazon C. Aquino tasked to draft and ratified by Filipinos in an election.
It is the same democracy that champions the free press’ existence and practice, no matter how biased some may feel it is. It covers ABS-CBN’s decision to have Teddyboy Locsin do his Teditorial on ANC, The Philippine Daily Inquirer to redesign its look, the Philippine Star’s decision to give space to Mocha Uson as opinion columnist…
I mean, where else but in a democracy can you see Imee Marcos with her gargantuan smile post LNB decision on the front page of Manila Bulletin with the caption that she’s celebrating with “rabid” Marcos loyalists?
Rabid? Yes, rabid. They could have done away with the word in the caption, but, hey, that’s press freedom for you. That’s democracy.
Singapore’s Lee Kwan Yew once said that we had an “exuberance of democracy [that] leads to undisciplined and disorderly conditions… inimical to development.” This made me recall another statement, one made by the rabid yellow Lorna Verano Yap (well she was a Yap then) during a television interview immediately after Marcos was booted out and Cory came into power. Asked what thought should be done to the remaining Marcos loyalist holdouts and those who served his government, she declared emphatically: “Line them up against the wall and shoot them.”
Well, that was distasteful in the newfound democracy then as it is now. Just as distasteful as then Justice Secretary Leila De Lima’s refusal to follow a Supreme Court order to allow Gloria Arroyo to travel abroad for medical treatment and now Secretary Leila De Lima to use a legitimate issue such as Extra Judicial Killings for her personal political agenda. But that’s democracy.
So back to the Marcos burial and democracy being alive and kicking, newspaper columnist Boo Chanco points out that perhaps we can turn around a negative to a positive:
[H]aving his [Marcos’] corpse or a wax facsimile of it at the LNB will serve as a reminder of the failure of the post EDSA administrations to live up to the ideals of those glorious days when we threw out the dictator. Governance was as bad if not worse and there was failure to even teach in our schools why the Marcos dictatorship was a bad time in our history. Let us not blame the loyalists. Let us blame those of us who were so self righteous in the post EDSA era but delivered nothing that differentiates us from the dictatorship.
In the early 2000s a group of like-minded Filipinos got together and formed pagbabago@pilipinas. In its charter – or kartilya as it proudly bannered then – it committed to finish what it called the “unfinished revolutions” of our country. Here’s the preamble of that movement, elegantly put in final form by member Rina Jimenez-David, Inquirer columnist:
Ours is a history of unfinished revolutions. Countless Filipinos, including the flower of each generation, have sacrificed themselves in historic struggles for kalayaan, karapatang pantao, lubos na kasarinlan, katarungan, and kaginhawahang pangkalahatan. Each generation has in turn been defeated, diverted, betrayed, corrupted or dissipated.
After innumerable victims, martyrs, heroes and heroines, four foreign colonizers, several constitutions, thirteen presidents including one dictator, ongoing insurgencies and conspiracies, we now confront a nation in despair at the meager results we have secured thus far for so terrible a sacrifice by our forbears and peers.
Social inequity is entrenched and widening. Economic development is anemic and erratic. Injustice, oppression and violation of human rights occur with unacceptable frequency. Illegal drugs and violence are widespread. Our rich cultural heritage has not found any meaningful role in the central concerns of the nation. Our political life lurches from crisis to crisis as we seek salvation from personality to personality only to be caught up in ceaseless churn without achieving social progress. Our natural resources are dissipating rapidly and the environmental prospects for our fragile archipelago are frightening. And many Filipinos are in the depths of despair. The country is ill-prepared for the challenges and opportunities that globalization brings with increasing force.
Key institutions are under-performing. Our school system is not preparing our children for a world making new intellectual and technical demands. Most of our churches are failing to build the moral foundations of our shared collective life. The media focus on the sensational and the bizarre prevents the citizenry from understanding the complexities of issues and actions. There is failure on the part of all to facilitate unified constructive action prior to crisis. The three branches of government govern without wisdom and officials are prone to corruption. Failing to protect the powerless, the uniformed services do not earn trust. Business is not working fast enough to incorporate ecological and social concerns in their operations.
The key levers of social change are in a gridlock produced by hardened mindsets, accumulated grievances and irresolvable conflicts. The Filipinos whose interests and welfare are most at risk – the young, newly formed families, those starting out in a business or career, working folks and others who want to work, those not dependent on patronage or corruption, those capable of seeing something better beyond the daily morass – are not connected to viable channels for action. The discredited ways are in place at the top; the energies for positive change on the ground are imprisoned by despair and powerlessness.
Migration is not an answer. The Filipino can take himself or herself out of the Philippines but the Philippines will always be in the Filipino. Nor is passivity the answer. Resignation only contributes to the destruction and violence around us. Doing our best as individuals in society is only a partial answer. The failures of the whole society can obliterate the successes of individuals. Acting collectively only in the face of crisis is not satisfactory as we note with alarm how little we have done to prevent the next crisis from emerging.
We must confront the inevitable coming of the next crisis. Compromises today will breed corruption tomorrow. Unresolved conflicts today will lead to bitter strife tomorrow. Popular despair today will turn into mass anger tomorrow and to chaos thereafter.
Unfortunately, the group never got to the next part, its commitment for change as a group. Some went on to do great things for the country, on their own or in some cluster of the original members, like Bart Guingona and the Media Nation annual conferences, and Vincent Lazatin and the Transparency and Accountability Network. Others went forward with their own agendas, serving the Gloria Arroyo government and those in opposition eventually serving the Noynoy Aquino government. Others, like Mario Taguiwalo who served as the group’s “spirit guide” passed away, leaving a big gap in the group.
In my case – yes I was a member, I believe even a trustee of the foundation that was supposedly formed later – the invites and notices for activities just ceased. The once active (and even overactive) e-group just fell silent.
As for the recent US elections, they too have just had their democracy at work. And it, too, just bit them in the ass.