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EDITORIAL: Erosion of democracy

CREEPING silently in our society is the gradual erosion of our democratic principles propped up ironically by the growing popularity of the present administration’s populist notions and posturings. Our basic belief on justice, freedom, equality and right of suffrage is blurring while the leaders of this nation continue to push the envelope further -- serving the agenda of a president whose authoritarian strain is even appreciated than criticized as shown by his consistent high popularity rating, the latest of which was pegged at 82 percent of the respondents surveyed, a rating any leader in the world will drool over. For instance, what does it mean to us when we laugh and applaud the president when he says he will kill thousands in the war against drugs and throw their bodies in Manila Bay to fatten the fishes there? What is the meaning of our silence with regards to President Duterte’s admission that he had killed people when he was still a mayor? Or our delight in listening to his unprecedented obsession to throw expletives whenever he opens his mouth? Of course, Mr. Duterte is expressing himself freely, throwing out of the window the common ethical standards most public officials and leaders are decent enough to observe. Mr. Duterte happens to be the President, the highest post in the land, and whatever display of his character and deportment, his constituency – especially the unschooled ones -- will deem to be the norm and hence there will be no problem cursing and cussing like what the president does. In the second State of the Nation Address (SONA), Mr. Duterte threatened to bomb alternative learning centers (ALCs) in Mindanao that give educational instructions to Lumad children in the absence of schools the national government failed to provide. On the pretext that these indigenous institutions erected in the hinterlands are illegal and teach subversive and rebellious ideas against the established government, Mr. Duterte did not mince words to blast away these ALCs without even addressing the problem of the lack of access to education of the indigenous people in Mindanao. These ALCs that Mr. Duterte wanted to pulverize are located in mineral-rich areas where the Lumads are in constant conflict with mining companies being secured by armed government forces who are also engaging the communist rebels in their counterinsurgency campaign. In 1999, the first resolution on children and armed conflict adopted by the United Nations Security Council placed the issue of children affected by war on the Council’s agenda. The resolution also identified and condemned six grave violations affecting children the most in times of war and asked the Secretary-General to report on the issue. One of these grave violations is the attack against schools and hospitals. Other grave violations are killing and maiming children; recruitment or use of children as soldiers; sexual violence against children; and denial of humanitarian access for children. Gone are the days when human rights and due process are as sacred as the belief that God exists and prayers are answered. These days, a great number of Filipinos actually condone transgression of the basic human rights and due process either by doing nothing or applauding a president whose main idea of making this nation peaceful is to annihilate all the suspected drug lords, drug peddlers and users, and the scums of the earth altogether. Using as handle, Mr. Duterte also capitalizes on his drug war to do away with the barangay elections, claiming without proving that 40 percent of the village chiefs are involved in illegal drug business. At least, the present organization of the village chiefs in the country opposes the appointment scheme Mr. Duterte pushes. But with the time constraint in terms of preparation, the appointment of village chiefs seems to be imminent. With the people doing nothing but to accept the alternative concepts of the democratic ideals in our society through the pronouncements and actions of Mr. Duterte, it is not long that democracy will cave in to give way to a totalitarian government that the civilized world condemns. At the end of the day, we all deserve the government that we have for doing nothing.

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