WHEN Dictator Ferdinand Marcos, his family and cronies were finally driven out of the country in 1986 and the democratic institutions restored in 1987, “Never again” became a mantra for those who suffered under the 20 years of despotic rule by one family with insatiable greed and unparalleled hypocrisy.
But after 45 years since the dark years in Philippine history dawned when Martial Law was declared, an emerging tyrannical rule that throws away due process, spreads lies and encourages force against the weak is once again rearing its ugly head.
Propped up by high popularity ratings and an army of social media trolls promoting disinformation and misinformation to justify and rationalize acts and pronouncements that tend to ram the democratic ideals regained after the Marcos dictatorship, President Duterte is recklessly confident he could declare Martial Law in the entire country should he perceived chaos in the streets during mass demonstrations.
In some ways, Mr. Duterte’s populist strategy and posturings work to his advantage in a situation where majority of the Filipinos are satisfied with the peripheral issues in the communities rather than the root causes and structures that keep this country below par with other democracies.
An ordinary citizen would rather appreciate the way the Duterte administration implements the ‘no smoking’ policy than, say, abhor his disrespect for women. But while this administration is giving the oligarch who owns the Mighty cigarettes a chance to settle its tax problem at P25B, an ordinary citizen may not care to analyze why big-time law transgressors are not immediately sent to the gallows.
While small-time drug peddlers and users are easily eliminated which results to seeming tranquility in the community, big-time suspected drug lords enjoy due process whenever exposed as the drug trade continues to proliferate amidst the much-vaunted war on drugs by Mr. Duterte.
But the situation now is more confusing because even without martial rule, a culture of impunity seems to be the norm and extra-judicial killings no longer accountable, all in the name of war against drugs. With President Duterte believing that the Philippines is a narco-state, the enemies of the state are the drug lords, peddlers and users. Forty-five years ago, the primary threat considered by Marcos as the basis of his Martial Law declaration was the communists. And now, using the context of the war against drugs, communists and ordinary citizens can be summarily tagged as the present enemies of the state that need to be annihilated.
Mr. Duterte’s declaration of Martial Law in Mindanao can be used as an argument to henceforth declare it nationwide. It remains to be seen how many of the Filipinos would disagree if Mr. Duterte argues that the declaration of Martial Law nationwide will be like in Mindanao where civil government remains supreme over the military. Like how Marcos packaged his Martial Law as a humane solution by calling it the New Society, the worst has yet to come when Mr. Duterte finally declares a nationwide Martial Rule. Let’s not forget the old adage that says that “power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely.”
Never again. When history repeats itself, it means we never learn from the lessons of the past. Let us unite to preserve the democratic ideals and institutions that we lost 45 years ago. The one thing a man can do to let evil reign is to do nothing, so a wise man says. To succeed in this goal and prevent the declaration of Martial Law, let us build a united front against tyranny and abuses and anything that tramples our rights as citizens of a democratic and just society.
Ironically, after 15 months under the Duterte administration, nothing had been accomplished of the campaign promises, especially the eradication of the drug problem. What we have earned are dead bodies and unsolved extra-judicial killings that we have not seen outside of Martial Law. Equally worse are the plunderers getting bailed out from the prisons one by one that turns our world upside down where the prisoners will become the guards to lock us up and deprive us of our freedom.