[Newspoint] In Christmas denial
Nothing gets in the way of a Filipino Christmas, not even the season's otherwise most provocative issues. And there are a number.
The hero's burial for the dictator Ferdinand Marcos, which has sent protesters out on the streets in numbers and fervor unseen for some time, is shelved for the season. You’d have thought the issue would rankle, especially as insult has been added to injury with the firing of Leni Robredo from President Duterte's Cabinet as housing secretary.
The firing has been an all-too-unsubtle attempt to clear the way for Ferdinand Jr., who lost to Robredo in the vice-presidential race in May, but claims to have been cheated. He has filed an electoral protest, doubtless inspired by reassurances from Duterte, who idolizes Ferdinand Sr. and now says he would hand down power to Junior. As dreadful as such a prospect may be, it is raised without much of a credible basis, probably the precise reason it is set aside.
A longer-burning issue that has been sidelined for Christmas is a grave moral issue: Duterte's ruthless war on drugs. In just six months, it has more than 6,000 dealers and users dead – deaths clouded by suspicions of summary executions ("extrajudicial killings", or EJK, in the more popular usage). (READ: Duterte's war on drugs: The first 6 months)
Apparently forgotten even before Christmastime set in is the president's authoritarian tendency. The nation – if it needed any reminding – has been in a state of lawlessness since September 2, and is yet under threat of losing the privilege of the writ of habeas corpus. The first emergency gave the president the power to deploy both army and police anywhere in the country; the second allows for arrests without warrants, and comes to within a breath of full authoritarianism.
Anyway, for Christmas, that, too, can wait.
An issue too abstract and complex for prosaic minds, thus avoided, Christmas or no Christmas, is the switch to a federal form of government that the president and his cabinet and the legislative majority advocate. In fact, it’s an issue pregnant with far-ranging political and economic implications.
If anything, the debate has been academic and theoretical, thus making the debate interminable and the issue even more ungraspable. To be sure, federalism at this stage remains a skeletal proposal, bereft of the flesh and blood that will give it a more or less distinguishable form: How many states will constitute the federal union? How will the dismemberment be determined? How will power, resources, and revenue be allocated?
In fact, the most basic question would seem, Is federalism suitable at all in a society that operates on a culture of patronage such as ours?
The debate may well begin and end on that point – a point premised on decentralization being achieved by devolving feudal, not populist, power, thus only further entrenching local poltical dynasties and oligarchies.
At any rate, with most of the usual countervailing forces co-opted into, or somewhat intimidated by, Duterte's regime, not to mention the high popular approval of his presidential performance, little open-minded discourse on the issue would seem possible. Duterte has put together the broadest-based and most unlikely coalition in perhaps all of the nation’s democratic history: he commands a strong majority in both houses of congress; he is backed, of course, by the Marcoses and their booty from the plundering regime of their patriarch; and he has, in a coup of coups, managed to enlist the Left.
Meanwhile, the Church, a swing force in past political crises, notably in the Marcos ouster, has been too timid to be able to provide the leadership and inspiration civil society looks to it for.
In any case, the nation saw the last earnest challenge to Duterte from the streets more than two weeks ago: on November 30 protesters coming individually or in various groups gathered in the thousands on streets around the shrine to the people-power revolt of 1986, against Marcos, to demand his exhumation from the heroes’ cemetery, thus invalidating the honors given him, and to denounce Duterte’s “lapdog” attitude toward the Marcoses. Pockets of protest were also mounted in some provincial cities.
On December 10, at Liwasang Bonifacio, another storied protest site in Manila, demonstrators converged, but on a more general occasion, one observed across the Free World: International Human Rights Day.
The streets have been quiet since – although Christmastime was yet to be ushered in officially by the first of nine dawn masses on the 16th – and should remain so until January 6, the Day of the Magi.
But then, again, time must be made for rest and re-energizing; Christmas, for all its fun, can be exhausting, such that, by the time our lives are cleared of it, it’s Valentine’s. – Rappler.com