[OPINION | NEWSPOINT] A virus with emergency powers
It is said repeatedly that this is wartime and that it calls for emergency leadership. In fact, it’s our luck that we’ve had an emergency President since well before this deadly coronavirus struck and brought upon us and the rest of the world a pandemic of such enormity as never seen in our time.
Only, this emergency President is nothing like a Churchill or a Roosevelt; he’s more like a Hitler. In fact, he is a professed Hitler admirer. In other words, he is himself an emergency.
Imagine a malign emergency with emergency powers – a coronavirus acting willfully!
Upon his accession, he made no secret of his intent to rule, not just affect to rule, as an emergency President, not just a virtual or de facto but a full-fledged emergency President – like Ferdinand Marcos, martial law president in 1972-1986, another idol of his.
He once did in fact get Congress to give him martial law powers, if only over a limited jurisdiction. But, again, not so limited. The emergency covered all of the second largest of the 3 main islands of the archipelago – Mindanao. And what did he need those powers for? To deal with a small, oddly mixed band – by his account, terrorists and separatists sidelining as drug dealers and brigands or, anyway, in league with them – holed up in a mere part of one city.
He came down on them with everything, including bombs dropped from planes. Five months later he declared the enemy annihilated. But he got martial law extended for two years, supposedly to allow for an uninterrupted rehabilitation of the once thriving community. It has remained a wasteland.
This President does seem to possess the Midas touch – in reverse. He mounted his own war on drugs. Before he became President, the count of drug suppliers, dealers, runners, and addicts had been 1.8 million, a number validated by institutional monitors. No, it was three million, he said. No, 4 million, he very soon corrected himself. At any rate, in the first year alone, more than 20,000 ended up dead in his war, nearly all small fry – addicts and street sellers, not counting mistaken, clean victims just as helpless. With that rate of kills, it is doubtful the rule of law was wholly observed.
On the other hand, he proclaims to be able to divine wars he cannot win and thus able to avoid them. The one against China has been proving the costliest to avoid. Not only did he surrender even before the first bellicose word, never mind the first shot, could be fired, he has not stopped kowtowing to his presumed war maker.
Indeed, he goes beyond kowtowing, treasonously. He has ceded to China strategic and resource-rich territorial waters. Now, Filipino fishermen are barred by the Chinese military from those waters, off which they have always made their modest living, while he grants special favors to Chinese immigrants, who have been coming in hordes. He also swallows onerous Chinese loans.
Itself originating from China, the virus has inspired all manner of conspiracy theories, but surely it’s irresponsible to presume it part of any deal or plot. In any case, the President seizes upon it to justify taking emergency powers. But, again, what need does he have for them? What difference will they make? He certainly does not need them to ensure social distancing, home confinement, and quarantine are observed. His police and troops need only do their normal duty of keeping order, itself proving little more than routine with help coming from other, more useful sectors.
Local leaders have stepped up with such imagination as only crisis can inspire. They have been able to keep their citizens homebound and supplied with sustenance, especially the suddenly income-deprived daily wagers among them. Religious and civic groups respond fervidly with their own charity. Philanthropy abounds. And, not to ever, ever forget, doctors, nurses, and other health care workers hold the frontlines at the sacrifice of their own lives.
Meanwhile, high officials, politicians, and other influential people are jumping the line for the precious, limited coronavirus testing for themselves and their families, not necessarily because they have any symptoms or feel likely infected; they simply wish to satisfy their selfish and cowardly wish for a guarantee that they will live. And, since the guarantee is only good for the moment, they could be back for another test, and another.
Our President and his families have been among the first to get their tests. To be sure, the virus has not distracted him from his aberrant obsession – emergency powers – and he finally gets them.
The Senate may have watered down the grant to stop him taking over private business, but he has got enough – billions of pesos to dispense. That is on top of allotments already made from the regular budget: P16 billion for disasters and P13 billion for other contingencies, not to mention his own P2.5 billion and his executive department’s P4.5 billion for intelligence, an aspect of operation made even more irrelevant than usually it is by the virus.
It would be reassuring if all those billions were put in pure hands, but that is hardly the case. An epidemic of corruption plagues the regime. It is in fact the main reason for the brisk turnover of officials.
It’s a state of affairs that only inspires more misgivings about these emergency powers than reassurance. – Rappler.com