The Lonely Road Towards Dictatorship
Where does the country’s current political status lead us?
“It is not simply against future conspiracies of evil men which we have to guard ourselves but it is against ourselves, against weaknesses and faults in our own social order, in our own ways of living against which we have to be on continual guard” — Ewen Cameron (google him).
Political events are like set of codes that can be studied, deciphered and analyzed. With this I attempted to encapsulate the highlights of the country’s political life for the past 20 years.
In my own opinion, the past two decades, which saw four presidents, can be summarized into three stages or ages. My own version of history coincides with the title of the bestselling book of Sidney Sheldon “Morning, Noon and Night”. To give you an idea, Sheldon’s book centers on the three elements innate to man – greed, deceit, and death.
To me, the country went through three stages – morning, noon and night— before reaching this present age. We have come to a point where darkness has slowly consumed this country, although the night I’m referring to here is the one that is still young.
For the first time in 21 years, this country first saw a ray of hope in 1986 when people power triumphed over Marcos dictatorship. Some people say morning symbolizes hope. Indeed, with the installation of former Pres. Corazon Aquino as President, this country and its people returned to what we call democracy (although in my own opinion, this term is still vague and undetermined.) But morning breeze does not only bring hope to man, it also brings opportunities (both good or bad.)
Apart from that, time also adds to our forgetfulness. Most of the time, when we wake up in the morning, we have the tendency to ignore or forget what had transpired the past day.
That’s what happened to us during those fateful days in 1986. Fresh from regaining freedom after Edsa I, the Filipino people was inflicted with short memory loss or even amnesia. The people had easily forgiven those who hanged out with late dictator Ferdinand Marcos during his years in power.
Perhaps they should read Miguel De Carvantes, who defined world in his classic book “Man of La Mancha”, as “a world where evil brings profit and virtue none at all… where fraud and deceit are mingled with truth and sincerity.”
I see post-Edsa I as nothing but a mere morning party joined by both the true Edsa-movers and the political opportunists, by both the spectators and the Marcosian-beneficiaries.
Political opportunity glowed like morning sun after the revolution that toppled the two-decade rule of a conjugal dictatorship.
Confusion struck me the very first time I came to understand that part of Philippine history. Why did the people chant the names of Juan Ponce Enrile and Fidel V. Ramos, who were both staunch supporters of Marcos? Why were they regarded as heroes? This reminded me of the reaction of some Iraqi people who chanted anti-Saddam slogans after the downfall of the Iraqi despot. Reports said that those who cheered the American troops’ invasion of Baghdad were the former staunch supporters of the fallen leader. Why the sudden turnaround?
Instead of punishing those who helped maintain the dictatorship, the Filipino people rewarded them with power.
That scenario only confirms Cervantes’ description of the world “where fraud and deceit are mingled with truth and sincerity.”
Forgiveness, this word should have no space in politics, simply because the world of politics is full of deceit and insincerity, of shenanigans and charlatans, of zombies and half-dead. Most politicians are psychopaths in that they are incapable of feeling remorse and shame.
On that very day of political liberation Juan de la Cruz was successfully conned right before the eyes of world. This politics of forgiveness is the reason why we have one of the worst political records in Asia, perhaps next to Myanmar.
If this country was able to get rid of the claws of a dictator, it failed to escape the deceitful hands of political opportunists. Literally and continuously the levers of power slid back to the lap of the old-rich, and the constitution, which was represented by all sectors, failed to outwit the advanced and wicked minds of the demagogues and political oligarchs.
The term of President Aquino, who weathered a number of coup attempts, was regarded as a transition period. Although the period saw the return of the elite, and the regime didn’t have the much needed political will and determination to settle the crisis that confronted the poor and the landless – the issue of land reform.
Ramos came to power via the support of Aquino. The former aspired to institute his dream program— privatization. Again issues of corruption surfaced and challenged the presidency of the former military man and supporter of Marcos. The issue of the Expo-Filipino rocked Ramos regime, but it had no sufficient strength to topple the president.
The heavens became murkier during the time of former President Joseph Estrada whose presidency only lasted for two years. Estrada, who did not finish college, was battered by corruption charges that sprang, among others, from Jueteng scandal, multi-million houses for his mistresses, Boracay mansion, midnight cabinet pals, gambling, and cronyism.
Edsa II, which was participated by both the middle class and the upper class, drew criticisms from a number of legal experts who warned that the installation of Mrs. Arroyo as president was unconstitutional. They claimed that the extralegal ouster of Estrada might ignite constitutional crisis. By way of succession, President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo assumed the remaining four years of Erap.
During those days in 2001, the unsuspecting people never realized that the ‘dark was rising’. Two-thousand-and-four was the year when day surrendered to night. Obscurity reigned in that particular period as the elements of darkness and the bodyguard of lies managed to pursue their evil intent. Again, the authority of the constitution was challenged by the rampant election-related irregularities in 2004.
Faced with Hello, Garci, jueteng scandals and corruption, the President issued her controversial edicts. First, she issued the “calibrated preemptive response” which gave the police authorities the right the treat the protesters with maximum tolerance. Then she gagged her men from speaking anything about her and her secrets via Executive Order 464. Her most contentious order was her Presidential Decree No. 1017, which put the entire country under state of emergency. What followed was the wholesale arrest of the Batasan 5, including people critical of the Arroyo administration. Rebellion charges were also filed against some leftist lawmakers and private individuals for an alleged attempt to grab power over two decades ago.
How did the President manage to cling to power?
through her orders which contain provisions contrary to law;
through deft appointments, by appointing mostly generals in key governmental position, and those who are willing to lick her ass;
through maintaining loyal and paid allies in the House of Representatives;
through the staunch support of House Speaker Jose De Venecia (who later became cold to her due to the NBN deal);
by coddling the military;
by suppressing political and intellectual dissents, plus media crackdown;
through the use of public funds for alleged bribery, payoffs and kickbacks.
Do these circumstances and political occurrences prove that dictatorship really exists under the Arroyo regime? After 20 years of post-Edsa revolution, are we sliding back to the evil realm of dictatorship?
One of the indicators of this despotic design is the ongoing collectivist trend in the country. What is manifest is the continued crackdown on the left and people critical of the Arroyo administration. Although there was a strong denial on the part of the government, the spate of killings of progressive leftists and hard-hitting journalist somehow confirms that there exists a goal of those in power to neutralize Arroyo regime’s enemies.
The enactment of the Human Security Act is the most significant law passed under the current regime against the so-called “enemy of the state”. One of the objectives of the law is to identify and classify the enemies of the state.
Another trend is the formation of a strong protective squadron, similar to Nazi’s Schutzstaffel (SS), in and around the Arroyo government. As I see it, this squadron is composed of three pillars, namely, the political sphere, the military, and the corporate elites.
Political sphere refers to the nucleus body of the regime, those who run the political affairs in the country. The objective is to make the nuts and bolts of political power intact, by maintaining a safe number in both the executive branch and legislative branch. Today, the only hindrance to the administration’s goals is the now fragmented Senate and the independent Supreme Court. Mrs. Arroyo still enjoys the allegiance of most legislators in the House, although this remains to be seen. Just recently, some local executive officers and congressmen admitted to have received paper bags stuffed with cash amounting to between P200,000 and P500,000. As usual, most our our crooked and shameless politicians chose to keep the money and their mouth shut, and refused to do a heroic act simply by saying “yes, we were bribed.”
Perhaps they don’t realize how easy it is to become a hero in these parts. By simply saying “I received money from the President” or “Yes, I was ordered to rig the ballots…” one can be a superhero. This was the rare opportunity missed by highly educated Romulo Neri when he was summoned to spill the “NBN deal” beans in public. If not for his obvious faintheartedness, Neri could have entered a good account for himself in history. Here, the most ordinary act becomes the hardest thing to do…
The military, on the other hand, plays a very crucial role in protecting a repressive regime. If the politicians serve as bodyguards of lies, the military plays the role of bodyguard of despotism. Now, I saw a system where the military, which is supposed to be the protector of the people, was reduced to a mere blind aid of one person.
Meanwhile, the corporate elite, one of them is the so-called king of big containers in the country, assumed the role of parasites and supporters. They become most useful during elections. If politicians are considered “looters”, these oligarchs deserve to be called “moochers” for they draw a big influence on the former in designing laws which would serve their interests.
FYI, this tiny dot on the globe is now being run by looters and moochers.
If we continue to go this way, there is no tinge of doubt that the “Pearl of the Orient Seas” would fall into dictatorship.