I would like to be optimistic about the new year. But I cannot, since 2018 appears to be the year when our constitutional democracy is replaced with constitutional authoritarianism, a throwback to 1972 when Ferdinand Marcos legitimized dictatorship in the Philippines through a new constitution.
Apparently this is the same path now being taken by Duterte and his Congress as they lay the groundwork for charter change. Duterte seems bent on keeping himself and his allies in power indefinitely, beyond the present constitutional limits.
Several anti-democratic actions comprise part of the groundwork for this authoritarian project. These include the current impeachment proceedings against the Chief Justice and the planned impeachment of the Ombudsman. The weakening of the independent institutions of our system of checks and balance always precedes the coming of a dictatorship.
Mindanao is being experimented upon with the extension of martial law, despite the defeat of the ISIS-Maute forces in Marawi. This might eventually be used as a precedent for a nationwide martial law despite the absence of invasion or rebellion.
At the same time, despite martial law and the constitutional authoritarianism project, revolutionary government continues to be floated as an option, and an open invitation remains for the military to support Duterte as the absolute power in this so-called revolution. Obviously, this is just another sophomoric forgery of Marcos’s “revolution from the center”. After all, Duterte has never been known for originality, except in the methods of murder and manipulation.
On the media front, pressure is consistently applied on the remaining free and critical press, with the President personally attacking ABS-CBN, Inquirer, and Rappler. Social media continues to be bombarded with Duterte propaganda lavishly laced with fake news and political poison. The Filipino consciousness has never been exposed to such an assault of lies and deception until Duterte’s propaganda machine.
Impunity prevails not only in the mass murder of poor citizens, but in other government actions as well, like the re-appointment of discredited allies linked to shabu smuggling, such as former Customs Chief Nicanor Faeldon, or the appointment of shady characters with links to the jueteng and gambling underworld, such as the indefatigable Sandra Cam.
All these indicate the regime’s bravura that it will never be held accountable because it intends to be in power forever. To assure this, Duterte and his lackeys are preparing to replace our democratic system with an authoritarian one.
We are living in perilous times. Philippine society has never been so polarized. Our democracy is dying.
On a personal level, I am now resigned to the fact that for as long as this vindictive President remains in power, freedom from this most unjust detention is an impossibility.
I hope and pray that I am wrong, but we must do more than hope and pray. We must act. It is only then that we can make a “Happy New Year” a reality, and not merely a desperate wish.
Let us all move and act to make this year a happy new year, and a sad year for the forces of evil that still rule over our land. ###