Good riddance, 2016!

Marites Dañguilan Vitug

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Good riddance, 2016!
6 reasons to look forward to the end of the year

Like others, I can’t wait to say goodbye to 2016. Many awful things have happened and these are bearing down hard on our democratic values, striking at our long-held foundations, and even on our private spaces, our equanimity.

Our national conversation has crackled with threats and profanities, led by the angry voice of President Rodrigo Duterte. The polarization is so palpable on social media, where reason has given way to vitriolic emotions and lies have disguised as facts.

So, why should 2016 stay any second longer? Here’s my take on why this year has got to go:

1. Too many deaths!

And people continue to be killed – all in the altar of President Duterte’s war on drugs. For 5 months, from July 1 to Decmber 1, 5,662 killings have been recorded. Of this figure, 3,658 were victims of extrajudicial killings and 2,004 died in police operations. 

During the 14 years of martial law, the tally of extrajudicial killings was 3,257. Compare this to the 5-month record of Duterte: this should give us all a fright. 

2. A slide to Putinesque authoritarianism.

Behold the danger signs in the 3 branches of government: 

  • Congress is under the tight grip of the President. 
  • The Cabinet is a sealed echo chamber, where members do not dare give their boss unsolicited advice. 
  • Duterte will appoint 10 justices (out of 15) to the Supreme Court, starting with two retirements in December. As it is, a number of justices have already shown that they know where the political winds blow, supporting the President’s campaign promises: the burial of the late Ferdinand Marcos in the Heroes’ Cemetery and the acquittal of former President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo.

3. Fearmongering by the President. 

Let us count his threats:

4. Intimidating the opposition

Nowhere have we seen this so blatantly than in Exhibit A: Senator Leila de Lima. “She will rot in jail,” Duterte warned, already judging De Lima guilty of accepting bribes from drug lords.

With the President’s might behind the House of Representatives, there is no stopping them from publicly shaming her, going after her, hammer and tongs. Clearly, this is a message to those in the opposition: whoever crosses Duterte will suffer his wrath.

5. Burying our history.

It was really President Duterte’s project to have the remains of the dictator Ferdinand Marcos buried in the Libingan ng mga Bayani, an idea he announced during his campaign. He has shown deep fondness for the young Marcos, Ferdinand Jr or Bongbong, referring to him as a potential next vice president. Duterte’s decision is seen as a debt of gratitude to Imee for helping fund his campaign.

When Duterte won, he immediately set his promise into motion, getting the nod of the Supreme Court.

What Duterte may not have anticipated was the series of protests after the Marcoses stealthily buried the dictator. His act has touched off a torrent of anger and emotions for violating the collective historical memory, for honoring a man who has done the country violence, killing our democracy.

6. Disregarding facts, playing loose with the truth.

Duterte is our first post-truth president. He ushers in a kind of politics that is cavalier with facts or even oblivious of them. He has also set the tone for his followers who, enabled by technology and anonymity, desecrate facts or make up their own. 

Remember these?

  • There are 3 million drug addicts, Duterte said, then he later upped the figure to 4 million because the 3 million is dated. Where did he get the 1 million? Out of thin air. The President has completely ignored the findings of the Dangerous Drugs Board (DDB), which is under his office. The 2016 survey of the DDB showed that there are 1.8 million current drug users.
  • “There is no study nor movie” on President Marcos’ performance. This, from the lips of Duterte. Quick to respond, the Ateneo de Manila University listed journal articles and books on martial law.
  • Similarly, the Loyola Film Circle uploaded a list of films on this dark chapter of our history on its Facebook page.
  • Duterte was dismissive about the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA) between the Philippines and the US, saying it wasn’t even signed by President Aquino. Well, guess what? Aquino signed the “instrument of ratification” which confirms the articles in EDCA.
  • The first drug list of government officials made public by the President included dead people: an ex-mayor and a judge. In fact, the judge has been dead for 8 years.

The saddest and most worrying thought, however, is that all these may continue into the new year. It’s up to us, to a vigilant public, to arrest the erosion of our democracy in this post-truth age. –

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Marites Dañguilan Vitug

Marites is one of the Philippines’ most accomplished journalists and authors. For close to a decade, Vitug – a Nieman fellow – edited 'Newsbreak' magazine, a trailblazer in Philippine investigative journalism. Her recent book, 'Rock Solid: How the Philippines Won Its Maritime Case Against China,' has become a bestseller.