I feel, first of all, very privileged that these people think enough of me that they made me commissioner. And it’s almost like, as Yogi Berra said, ‘déjà vu all over again’.
— Canadian ice hockey player Bobby Hull
WE have to admit that the state of the Philippines as it prepares for general elections in May next year is rather disturbing. It’s not pretty as we think and the electorate should be wondering how we could suffer more with the way things are going—unless we accept we are fools.
And why Malacañang would take continuity for its theme and, through its candidates, are actually pushing for more of the same for the next six years?
It’s a fact that the Philippines is deep in indebtedness. Our foreign debt has ballooned to more than three billion dollars per World Bank (WB) figures. For the fiscal year (July 2020 to June 2021), we were the global lender’s top borrower, thanks to the economic slump, corruption, and the coronavirus pandemic. I put the pandemic last because the economic problems and corruption in government lead to our list of woes.
And here’s another concern, most Filipinos have been effectively muzzled and they are fearful of speaking openly against President Rodrigo Duterte and his administration. Even the media has been disabled from its freedom of expression and speech because it deems unsafe for media people to say, whether in print or on-air, anything critical of the government and the bureaucracy.
It appears that the vaunted Philippine Fourth Estate has been impacted by Malacañang’s moves on such news outlets as Rappler and ABS-CBN. For most people, it is dangerous for media people to be critical of the administration. Columnist Mahar Mangahas wrote last week about this and he cited results of surveys undertaken by Social Weather Stations which highlighted that most of the citizenry is actually saying the same view.
The truth is that in the past two years, our countrymen have not been seeing press freedom.
And yet another thing, our standing in the global Rule of Law Index has continued its precipitous plunge into decay, wallowing to its worst at Number 102 among 139 countries, falling three more notches from its ranking last year—since 2010, when the country was first included in the evaluative survey conducted by the World Justice Project.
Despite this, justice secretary Menardo Guevarra has maintained that “our law enforcement, prosecutorial, and judicial institutions, while not perfect like all other human institutions, are nevertheless functioning as they should.” But do certain bereaved families believe it is so? Are they not still awaiting the results of the Department of Justice’s review of extrajudicial killings (EJKs) under Mr. Duterte’s brutal ‘war on drugs’? We are sure they will not readily agree with the good secretary in spite of his pronouncements that the third pillar of government is functioning as it should. Maybe it’s about time that he realizes that “justice delayed is still justice denied.”
On several occasions now since the filing of certificates of candidacy (CoCs) started, the president has been pitching for his administration’s candidates and he has assured them that the necessary aid and comfort—meaning money and machinery—would be delivered to their doorstep. And more than that, Mr. Duterte reiterated an earlier promise of hefty funds for their campaign. We’re just not sure if this will be a reality or simply another joke blurted out by the former Davao City mayor.
All in all, nothing has actually changed since the widow of the late senator Benigno ‘Ninoy’ Aquino Jr. came to power after the much-applauded People’s Power Revolution. Foreign debts are still there and getting bigger, censorship has been entrenched with repressive and oppressive government t policies, and finally, a culture of impunity has taken hold of the country.
And now we foresee déjà vu, as the French call it.