in Manila mark the 45th anniversary of Martial Law on Sept 21, 2017.
Filipinos have to learn that in a properly functioning
democracy, there are no shortcuts, no quick and easy way of doing
things, no miracles—only hard work and constant vigilance. We said as much
in an early editorial and we want to stress that point again today in
light of the 45th anniversary of the declaration of martial law by the
late dictator Ferdinand Marcos.
seems that we Filipinos have learned nothing from the nearly 2 decades
of martial law. Marcos, a wily opportunist who managed to get himself
elected president, declared martial law on September 21, 1972 and
remained in power until he was forcibly removed by “People Power” in
late February, 1986.
Marcos’ achievements as president/dictator were miniscule compared to
the nearly irreparable damage he caused to Filipino society and values.
Even today, generations born long after Marcos was removed from power
are nevertheless still affected by those dictatorial years. And it may
take many decades for those martial law “wounds” to fully heal.
yet, in 2016 Filipinos once again elected another strongman who is only
too eager to “cut corners” and trample on his people’s human rights in
order to achieve his stated goals—no matter how irrational or
ill-conceived they may be. In his first year in office, President
Rodrigo Duterte has already caused significant damage to the Philippines
and its standing in the world. His crude vocabulary and thuggish
behavior are the least of global community’s worries. Instead, his
nearly complete disregard for the rule of law (in spite of his being a
lawyer) and his apparent condoning of the extra judicial killing of
those of those involved in illegal drugs, has shocked the civilized
world and made the Philippines a pariah state.
Checks and balances exist for a reason. They prevent any one entity or
individual from accumulating too much power. Checks and balances slow
any process down and the pursuit of justice can appear long and
complicated—however, righting wrongs outside the rule of law almost
always backfires. The thousands of alleged drug pushers and users found
dead on the streets have cheapened human life in the Philippines. And as
in most tyrannical states, the police is now seen as the villain, not
the public’s protector.
addition, Duterte has turned the Philippines’ stunning legal victory
into a defeat for all practical purposes. The unanimous decision by the
UN Arbitral Tribunal in favor of the Philippines with regards to China’s
ridiculous South China Sea claims should have been used by Duterte to
get China to comply and leave the Philippine shoals and reefs they now
occupy. Instead, Duterte has tried to appease the Chinese in the hope
that they would throw some “scraps” his way. A loser’s strategy—to say
the least— that did not work the way Duterte thought it would. In fact
Chinese President Xi Jinping told him to his face that China would go to
war if Filipinos tried to drill for oil or gas in an area that the UN
tribunal’s ruling said legally belonged to the Philippines.
Duterte meets President
Xi in Beijing. Photo: Simon Song/SCMP.com
unfortunate reality is that China appears to be playing Duterte like a
fiddle. On the one hand they are supplying him with loans and foreign
aid, and on the other hand their triads are flooding the country with
narcotics in order to destabilize it. And if the latest allegations of
Senator Antonio Trillanes are true, the Chinese would have most likely
involved members of his family in the illicit drug trade in order to use
that fact to blackmail Duterte should he ever try to stray from their
Sadly, Duterte appears destined to fail. He simply managed to hoodwink a
majority of gullible voters (some say with the help of covert foreign
assistance) into electing him president. He does not appear to have the smarts for the
job, uses crude language, and—more ominously—appears to have dictatorial
tendencies. He has so far achieved little and will likely end his term
without any significant achievement other than that of making himself
and his country an embarrassment to the entire world. Even worse, he
might plunge the country into an abyss that may take the Philippines
many generations to extricate itself from.