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MY Wednesday column last week on “Creeping militarization” (The Manila Times, Nov. 14, 2018), elicited diverse responses from readers proffering interesting viewpoints. These reflect the deep-rooted concerns on what the country has undergone after two years of DU30’s watch and where we all are heading. And these are legitimate concerns, especially from the many of us citizens who may not have voted for the Deegong but are supporting him as the president of all Filipinos. There are of course dissenters, anti- and pro-Duterte, and sycophants in the mix that occupy the fringes and are beyond sensible discourse. This article is a take on current issues that will impact the body politic for the next few years or next few election cycles, whether they are pro- or anti-Duterte.

On one extreme are those exponents of a more drastic approach — a revolutionary government (revgov) who only see the emancipation of the Filipino by drastic means and looking towards the President as the lead actor. These people are unfortunately no longer open to arguments on the fallacies of one-man rule as exposed during the Marcos martial rule regime. They no longer see any hope too in the political, economic and cultural restructuring of Philippine society through the century-old, Western-influenced libertarian-democratic processes. Earlier in this regime, many advocated the revision of the 1987 Constitution to introduce basic reforms; specifically, the shift to a parliamentary-federal government with a liberalized economy. The obduracy of an elected Senate may have opened the proponents’ eyes and construed that this path to Pagbabago leads to nowhere. And they are dangerously interpreting the President’s actuations as a tacit endorsement of radical moves.

But others still cling to the democratic route of replacing the Senate through elections. Though many are skeptical of an election system that is rigged to the advantage of political dynasties and traditional politicians partnering with the oligarchy and the moneyed elite. We all are heading towards the midterm elections whose outcome may have already been pre-ordained by a system that is biased toward the latter group.

If one looks at the crop that have the best chances of winning, the branded names, celebrities and easily recognizable names will again make the cut. The system inculcated in the DNA of our type of democracy practically guarantees this. Which brings us to the futility of once again trying for systemic changes our country has been salivating for these countless election cycles since gaining independence seven decades ago.

I will quote excerpts from a social media re-posting from a Harvard classmate who summarized the issues facing the country these past decades. Col. Alex “Babes” Flores (Ret.) has this to say in bullet points.

“Change the system or the system changes you: We know we have broken systems (when)…

• Political system (is) controlled by dynasties.

• Economic system (is) dominated by a few oligarchs.

• Bureaucratic system, unchanged for decades, is very much prone to corruption. Who you know is more important than what you know.

• Education system that has been left behind by the rest of the world.

• Justice system that is not only corrupted but is the slowest in the world. Where the four pillars of justice are weak.

• Legislative system that protects the interest of those in power.”

Although, our presidential election is still four year’s out, he opines:

“Good or bust: Every six years we elect a president in whom we pin our hopes of taking the lead in fixing the broken systems; will he slay the ogre (change the system) or become the new ogre (he is changed by the system)? At the end of his term, do we say ‘Thank you, sir. Job well done,’ or another squandered opportunity, and we chorus, ‘Sayang’.”

And another related issue that is now hogging the headlines and burning social media is the treatment of a convicted felon, Imelda Marcos, the living icon of a repressive regime. She is perceived to be leniently treated “…because she’s already old (89) and she’s a woman…” claimed PNP Chief Oscar Albayalde. This certainly is one addle-brained argument except that Imelda’s conviction, after painfully envisaging this for three decades, perhaps will now allow closure to a lamented era and the decades of maneuverings that prevented her family from satisfying the longing of the suffering victims of martial law for justice. For some, especially those tortured and those who lost loved ones, it is the primordial cry for a demand for societal collective revenge.

Thane Rosenbaum, law professor at Fordham University and NYU Law School, both in New York City, argues: ”A call for justice is always a cry for revenge. By placing their faith in the law, those who justifiably wish to see wrongdoers punished are not disavowing vengeance. If anything, they are seeking to be avenged by the law. No matter what they say, victims aren’t choosing justice over vengeance; they are merely capitulating to a cultural taboo, knowing that the protocol in polite society is to repudiate revenge.”

And all these will not be achieved within the purview of what many of our citizens perceive to be a “sham democracy.” Thus, a contemplation for alternative approaches. But many of the readers of last week’s article on “creeping militarization” still hold on to a benign, non-violent change, repudiating any extra-legal approach.

Noel Pascual Lorenzana, a brother who has been living for years in the US and waiting for retirement so he can return to the Philippines, has this to say:

“Militarization as a means to curb corruption in government will not work because the military personnel will steal as well. People will just be afraid to talk about it, but it is already happening. This is not rocket science. It looks like DU30 has reached the end of the line. He’s running on empty. He doesn’t know what to do; unless he is hoping he can segue somehow into one-man rule. We’ve been there before and it didn’t work either. Quo vadis, Philippines? Quo vadis, DU30?

Why doesn’t he use the court system to go after these crooks and drug lords, including his own people? Strengthen the justice system. Set up a well-trained, motivated, well-paid and protected (untouchable) investigators, prosecutors and judges. Why not work with civil society, the church, upright members of the elite and oligarchy. These people are all there. Just waiting for a leader. Why go for these ineffective and self-defeating short cuts?”

Yes! Why not indeed.

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