THE wounds inflicted by martial law run too deep and burying the late dictator on hallowed ground earmarked for heroes only added insult to injury.
The wounds are beyond healing obviously, as the younger generations are carrying on the fight for justice for victims of martial law atrocities and against continuing oppression by the regimes that came after.
While street protests are freedoms guaranteed under the Constitution, the protesters’ cries seem to be falling on deaf ears as people in power just ignore them. And in the age of the internet, the outrage is noisier on the social media than on the streets.
Lest I be misunderstood, I am not undermining the impact of street protests. A few incidents in the past have proven that the so-called parliament of the streets brought about dramatic changes such as the 1986 “people power revolution” that drove the Marcoses out and the 2000 protests against then President Joseph Estrada who was forced to step down in January 2001 on charges of massive corruption.
But then, after seven years of costly litigation in the Sandiganbayan, Estrada was set free courtesy of a presidential pardon by then President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo who, in turn, was also detained on corruption charges under the administration that succeeded hers, but was freed after the charges were dismissed under the president that followed.
The Marcoses have been back in power since shortly after they returned from exile in the early 1990s during the presidency of Fidel Ramos. The late dictator’s namesake, Ferdinand ‘Bongbong’ Marcos Jr., nearly became vice president in the last national election. President Duterte has said Marcos Jr. may soon be our vice president, a hint perhaps that he would win his election protest case against Vice President Leni Robredo.
Former first lady Imelda Romualdez-Marcos is a congresswoman of Ilocos Norte, Imee is on her third term as governor of the same province. Imee once served as congresswoman of Ilocos Norte while Imelda represented Leyte. Imelda ran for president in 1992 but lost to Ramos. Bongbong had served as governor, congressman, and senator.
They may have their bailiwicks in the Ilocos region and the Eastern Visayas, but they got substantial votes as well in other regions. The anti-Marcos campaign anchored on corruption and human rights abuses under martial law obviously did not resonate with the voters.
We have kept in power corrupt politicians and even given their families extended political control by making public office a lucrative business enterprise for them. They have prostituted the word “public service” by offering to serve for the welfare of the public but ended up enriching themselves and deepening their political influence at the expense of the constituents they promised to serve.
Something is seriously wrong in the country’s political structure and the electoral system. The Philippines is in deep shit because we are highly politicized. We don’t have a truly independent judiciary from whom people can expect justice. Our legislature is so corrupt with most of its members being blinded by ‘pork’ entitlements.
The bigger problem is that we have an electorate that is corrupted by corrupt politicians. Many of us would rather take a vacation or stay home instead of casting our vote on Election Day. That is, if they even took time to register and ensured that they are eligible to vote.
It has been said that bad politicians are the ones elected by good citizens who do not vote.
In the May 2016 synchronized elections, the Commission on Elections (Comelec) reported a record turnout of 81.62 percent, meaning about 40 million out of the 54.4 million registered voters cast their votes.
President Duterte’s 16.6 million votes do not constitute a majority, but he got the highest number of votes so he was declared the winner. The 14.4 million who did not vote, and probably millions of others who did not bother to register could have made a big difference in the elections.
Voters don’t seem to recognize and appreciate their power and obligation to vote. We cannot just keep on whining and protesting when our leaders make wrong and unacceptable decisions. We have the obligation to vote and vote for responsible candidates, not those who can only sing, dance, make jokes, win boxing bouts, and distribute dole-outs.
Even if all the 16.6 million Filipinos who voted for Duterte see no problem in burying Marcos at the Libingan ng mga Bayani, it still was not the sentiment of the majority of the more than 100 million Philippine population. Proceeding with it, and in such a surreptitious manner, smacks of disrespect for the nation.
While burying Marcos at the heroes’ cemetery was a campaign promise, doing so at this early stage of his presidency is certainly not consistent with Duterte’s other campaign promise of healing the wounds of political divisiveness. It rubbed salt on the political wounds inflicted by martial law.
Truly, the need for electoral reforms has become more urgent following the events of the past few days, particularly when people occupying positions in the legislature like Senators Tito Sotto and Manny Pacquiao don’t see any violation of the law when the chief law enforcer accepts a present of an all-expenses-paid travel to the United States.
The problems require not only legislative solutions but also a serious review of the Constitution, including the provisions on the minimum qualification for candidates to public office.
But first, we have to elect candidates who are credible, responsible and truly public-service oriented. Ultimately, the power is in the hands of voters.