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COMMENT: Election 2016 as We See It

GENERAL SANTOS CITY (MindaNews / 6 May) – We have observed Philippine elections since the 1930s. While blest with the most modern facilities, the 2016 election is old tale retold, the dirtiest and most enigmatic.

As Inquirer’s Ma. Ceres P. Doyo wrote last May 3, the Philippine Catholic Church sees the same: “Desperately seeking divine intervention, Catholic Church parishes, religious congregations and various groups are turning to prayer and fasting in the run-up to the national elections on May 9.

“Given the muck, mud, slime and scum being thrown about during the election campaign, given the quality of candidates lording it over at the hustings and regaling crowds with pies in the sky and inappropriate jokes, these are desperate times indeed.

“On May 1, the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) president, Socrates Villegas, issued a “pastoral appeal” titled “Prophets of Truth, Servants of Unity” that urged voters to “discern (their) choices.” Other bishops have issued pastoral letters making the same appeal. (Philippine Daily Inquirer, May 3, 2016: Nuns all over PH pray for divine intervention) The two cardinals – the Archbishops of Manila and of Cotabato – have separately issued their own exhortations.

What will happen after May 9? We have faith there will be Divine intervention. But as the great Russian novelist Leon Tolstoy said: “God sees the truth but waits.”

God has given the Filipinos the faculty to discern, the conscience for discernment and the free will to follow their conscience. He will not stop the Filipino voters from electing their president according to their conscience, discernment and free will. But, later, if they realize their mistake, God will intervene. Is that not the story of EDSA 1986? When the Filipinos realized through martial law their mistake in electing and re-electing Ferdinand E. Marcos as their president, He intervened.

EDSA Miracle

What happened at EDSA (Epifanio de los Santos Avenue) was difficult to comprehend. How can it be explained?

Their plot uncovered on February 22, coup plotters to unseat President Marcos, led by Defense Minister Juan Ponce Enrile and PC Chief Lt. Gen. Fidel V. Ramos, barricaded themselves at Camp Crame. Manila Archbishop Jaime Cardinal Sin mobilized more than a million of Cory (Corazon C. Aquino) supporters, armed only with rosaries, prayers and flowers. They stopped tanks at EDSA. No blood spilled. Armed forces loyal to Ramos and Enrile defected. The US intervened. Marcos and family fled via USAF helicopter on February 25.

[NOTE: EDSA is where the Philippine Army and Philippine Constabulary national headquarters, Camp Aguinaldo and Camp Crame, respectively, are located.]

That two top dogs of martial law regime and the victims of martial law would unite in a bloodless revolution to topple the dictator Marcos was a miracle. God had long seen the suffering of the Filipinos. But He waited for Filipinos within and outside of the regime to rebel and intervened to end the regime peacefully. Again, He saw the truth but waited for the Filipinos to determine how to unite to rebuild their nation.

Ironic 30 Years

The 30 years since 1986 is a period of irony. Every year, Filipinos celebrate EDSA to glorify people power and the democracy it had restored – oblivious of the fallacy of that power now, the hypocrisy behind that democracy, and the monopoly of powers following the fall of dictatorship.

All looked well with the revolutionary government instantly set up. Cory, presumptive winner of the February 7 snap presidential election, was president; Salvador H. Laurel, her running mate and a veteran politician, vice president; Enrile, defense minister; and Ramos, AFP chief of staff.

According to Homobono Adaza, a leading member of the opposition bloc in the Marcos Batasang Pambansa, the original plan was a government with President Cory Aquino as head of state and Vice President Laurel, considering his expertise in politics, as prime minister and head of government. The plan fell apart and the loose alliance started unraveling before the inauguration. The political bloc led by Cory’s brother Jose “Peping” Cojuangco preempted the plan.

That explained the nine coup attempts against Cory led by Col. Gregorio “Gringo” Honasan, Enrile’s protégé. They, too, had a plan. Eventually, Enrile resigned from the cabinet. Ramos stuck with Cory as defense secretary.

The 30 years saw frustrations not success in truly empowering the people and in truly establishing a democratic government in peace and progress under the genuine reign of social justice, human rights and rule of law.

  • The Presidential Commission on Good Government was created to recover the ill-gotten wealth of Marcos and his cronies. The Marcoses and their cronies, their vast influence undiminished, have used the “rule of law” to frustrate full recovery.
  • The Cory revolutionary government honored the unjust and onerous foreign loans incurred by Marcos to burden future governments and unborn generations.
  • Right in the first congressional election under Cory in 1989, the Marcos loyalists started their comeback. Not long after, most were back in power under different parties and aggrupation. Now, the Marcoses are fully back with Sen. Ferdinand R. Marcos Jr. leading in the voters’ preference surveys for vice president.
  • The Cory and the Marcos loyalists were really of one mind – no sincere intent to empower the people. In the Congress, they blocked the anti-dynasty law that the 1989 Constitutions has mandated but they enacted enabling laws for the multi-party, party-list and term-limit provisions to perpetuate themselves in power and propagate political dynasties instead of eradicating them.
  • Corruption of people’s money, power and national integrity did not die at EDSA. They only lay low evolving into new forms or avenues including the legal – from President Aquino, the mother, to President Aquino, the son.
  • Every administration boasted of robust economy but admitted the gains had yet to trickle down to the poor. Economic progress has been for investors, the business elite and those close to the powers in government.
  • Justice, rule of law and human rights are held supreme but least for the ordinary Filipinos – the lowly-paid workers, poor litigants, slain journalists, etc. The wealthy and influential among law breakers manipulate the rule of law and invoke human rights to evade, if not to mock, justice – the evasion of taxes included.
  • The Moro and Communist problems, among the principal reasons of Marcos in declaring martial law, have remained unsolved with no solution in sight.

Old Tale Retold

The issues in this 2016 presidential election were problems Marcos had vowed to solve with martial but failed; instead, they worsened. They were the same problems, the post-martial law governments, from Aquino the mother to Aquino the son, have pledged to solve but have eluded solution.

They, in fact, pre-dated Marcos. Corruption took root right after World War II; the Moro and Communist problems, bred by social and historical injustices, started menacing peace and order in the 1950s. Other issues, new or related, emerged later, their solutions – like their older cousins – forming part of promises every election. Candidates won or lost votes depending on how voters perceived the sincerity of their promises.

In this 2016 election, the presidential candidates tout their personal qualifications – their education, integrity, experience, commitment to good governance, champion of the poor, etcetera, etcetera. They promise to create more jobs; provide local governments more funds; stop corruption, criminality, drug menace, etcetera, etcetera. Recall past elections and ask: “What’s new?”

They present programs to improve the economy, to improve governance, to improve the life of the poor – programs that envision “change for the better”. Recall past elections. Had similar promises then been fulfilled, the Philippines would have stood out, by now, as the “Paradise in Asia”. But those programs for change only re-entrenched the status quo”. Will the well-crafted programs in this 2016 election be different?

What do we mean by program for change re-entrenching the status quo? Take a very close look into President Benigno Simeon C. Aquino III’s “Daang Matuwid”, the core of his 2010 election campaign. He has acclaimed it as a resounding success. He wants this continued and is the platform of Manuel A. Roxas II, standard bearer of the Liberal Party. To President Aquino, the 2016 election is a referendum for “Daang Matuwid”; for the Filipinos to reject it would be tragic to the nation.

Common sense question: If “Daang Matuwid” is a resounding success, why are poverty and corruption the leading issues in the 2016 election? The slogan for “Daang Matuwid” is “Kung walang korap, walang mahirap!” In English, “If there is no corruption, there is no poverty!” Poverty is rampant; ergo, corruption is rampant.

“Daang Matuwid” is controversial. This merits full discussion elsewhere, some time.

Suffice it to see: the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund, and the business communities of the country attest to economic development; but Aquino admits the gains have not trickled down to the poor. In his State of the Nation Address, he denounced smuggling at the Customs; but he rejected the resignation of the Customs commissioner, his ally. Government records show the tripling of smuggling incidence at the Customs under Aquino compared to that under President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.

Presidential candidate Miriam Defensor-Santiago (INQUIRER.net, May 5, 2016: Miriam Santiago: …) said “Daang Matuwid” has “turned out to be the ultimate frustration of the Filipino people. … The administration has failed to implement many reforms to curb corruption. These include the Freedom of Information Bill or Law, which I strongly supported in the Senate, and the Anti-Premature Campaigning Law.”

Are the well-crafted programs of presidential candidates in this 2016 election better than “Daang Matuwid” or are they just its close catchy variations like “Galing at Puso” of Grace Poe or “GP”, her initials?

To borrow from the comic character “Popeye”, this 2016 election is “disgustipating”.

(To be concluded tomorrow.)

(“Comment” is Mr. Patricio P. Diaz’ column for MindaViews, the opinion section of MindaNews. Mr. Diaz is the recipient of a “Lifetime Achievement Award” from the Titus Brandsma for his “commitment to education and public information to Mindanawons as Journalist, Educator and Peace Advocate. You may e-mail your comments to patpdiazgsc@yahoo.com.)

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