“Power tends to corrupt and absolute power corrupts absolutely.”
– Lord Acton
AT this time it is best for all Filipinos to start thinking about our present condition. Frankly, it is all of the same from one regime to another—whether it is Marcos, Cory Aquino, Ramos, Estrada, Benigno Aquino 3rd or Duterte. It is one and the same. It remains the rule of the rich and powerful for the rich and powerful. The continuing victims are the poor and the middle-class—whether it is election or policy implementation or justice. It appears to be the natural law of life in this country. In elections, you have to be rich and powerful to get elected to pivotal offices—mayor, governor, congressman, senators, vice president or president. In appointive important positions you have to have connections with the rich and powerful. In the justice system, the rich and powerful have the edge over the poor and middle-class despite the protective cover of provisions of the Constitution.
It is still a game of pretense and many of our people because of stupidity and ignorance, dictated by the dominant forces of the system, go along for the ride. It has been a ride that has brought to millions of our people untold pain and misery because of poverty and injustice. In elections, voters are bought and they allow themselves to be bought primarily because of poverty and an overwhelming desire to escape from the pangs of poverty even only for a day. It results to a day or days of pleasure compensated by years of misery.
Why one and the same?
In Congress, it’s the same old faces—creatures of the system, many of them authors of graft and corruption, which has dogged the legislature in all ages. Most are involved in graft and corruption—PDAP, DAP and other projects that go down to the lower levels of government. Even media is involved in graft and corruption—no graft money, no media coverage.
Is this not the same banana over and over again?
In the judiciary, there is no effort at changing the system. We have one of the most crooked judicial systems in this corner of our planet. Moneyed clients ask lawyers about their connections with judges and prosecutors before they engage them. Many lady lawyers use all forms of approaches to secure favorable decisions. Big law firms are reputed to have judges and prosecutors for retainers. Some decisions, we are informed, are for sale. No less than the President has said, not just once, that preliminary injunctions have been known to be granted for monetary considerations, and when he becomes President this has to end—but has it ended? This is interesting to watch.
It is the same old thing—nothing changes but the seasons!
With the executive, there are earthshaking changes but only in form and style—nothing by way of substance. The President is better-heard adlibbing than reading a speech. There is promise of due process but the poor get killed systematically without observing due process. There is promise of equal protection of the law but the rich and the powerful get different treatment. They have audiences with the President and the PNP chief while the poor and the powerless get killed in summary executions—not only do these acts violate the due-process clause, but also of the equal-protection clause of the Constitution.
So where do we go from here? As Vldimir Ilyich Lenin put it correctly in a title of one of his books, “What is to be done?”
For now, it has become quite clear, probably even to a simpleton who has undergone a modicum of basic education, that words that come from the adlibbing President runs counter to the fundamental rights of our people under the Constitution. As a lawyer, PDU30 should relearn his fundamentals of constitutional and criminal law. This is just a reminder from a fellow lawyer who has practiced law all these years, conscious of the duty of lawyers to hue very closely to the rule of law and the Constitution.
This is what democracy is all about—for citizens and public officials, especially the President who has his oath taken under the Constitution—“to preserve and defend the Constitution, execute its laws and do justice to everyman,” to follow religiously the rule of law and to know and know well that no man is above the law, whether he is President of the Philippines or the economic taipans like Henry Sy and Lucio Tan.
This is what I have learned all these years as a citizen of a presumptively democratic country.
To articulate well the collision course that the President has taken, some young kids barely out of their teens have started a campaign against cardboard justice. It is a campaign that emanated from summary killings of poor persons considered criminals by the present administration—tied hands and feet with covered faces and cardboards attached to their bodies saying, “Drug pusher ako, huwag mong tularan” (I am a drug pusher, don’t follow my example; or “Akyat bahay ako, huawag mong tularan”—I am a house thief, don’t follow my example). The killings are attributed to vigilantes by the government. This is a lot of nonsense; it is obvious that the killers are operatives of the police or this administration. It takes a fool to believe that this is vigilantism. It is designed to legitimize the killing spree of this administration.
The kids are correct in their articulation that today it is supposed to be poor illegal drug users and pushers—tomorrow it could be anyone else. Why? Regimes like this happened in Hitler’s Germany, Pol Pot’s Kampuchea, Idi Amin’s Uganda, and in many other countries.
The kids’ objection to cardboard justice should be supported by every intelligent Filipino who cares about this country. The current campaign by this government to eliminate illegal drug pushers and users should be resisted before it is too late. The government’s move to kill so-called criminals without due process violates the most fundamental democratic and moral value—the inviolable character of the human person. Once a life is lost, not even Saint Peter, the devil or PDU30 can return that life again. He is gone to the river of no return.
Since many of the men and women of the Duterte administration are Christians, they might as well be reminded of this poem by one of the greatest Roman Catholic poets, John Donne:
No man is an island,
Entire of itself,
Every man is a piece of the continent,
A part of the main.
If a clod be washed away by the sea,
Europe is the less.
As well as if a promontory were.
As well as if a manor of thy friend’s
Or of thine own were:
Any man’s death diminishes me,
Because I am involved in mankind,
And therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls;
It tolls for thee.
It is in this spirit that we appeal to government to change the killing of the poor and destitute simply because they are claimed to be illegal drug pushers and users. They are the victims of an unjust system. Since the victims are the products of the graft and corruption of criminal politicians, criminal businessmen, criminal public officials and employees, criminal oligarchs and the privileged elements in this country, including drug lords, if there is any killing to be done, then start with this list first! By doing just that, the country will be free of graft and corruption, illegal drugs and other high crimes!