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Ang inyong matatamis na ngiti

Ni Ibarra Banaag

 

Sana’y di nagkamali sa treno’ng inyong sinakyan.
Nakakaaliw man at nakakabingi ang hagikgikan.
Ang sumakay ay di libre bagkus ay babayaran.
Ng buwis at inutang sa kawatang dayuhan.

Sana ay may preno ito sa pag-arangkada.
At ng di rumagasa sa mga barong- barong.
Malimas, madambong, pilak, gas at ginto.
Habang pinapatag matatayog na bundok.

Hiling ko sa pasahero ng Train 1 at 2.
Dumungaw naman kayo sa bintana ng bagon.
Masdan ninyo ang pumipila sa palabigasan.
Habulin niyo ng tingin ang mga Inang luhaan.

Sana’y maalimpungatan sa liliw ng bangungot.
Hindi dilaw ang buhay at dugo na nangalalagas.
Hindi pula ang naghahangad ng pagkawasak
Kundi ang uring sumasaklot sa katarungan.

Sa tuloy tuloy na pagragasa ng inyong tren.
Hindi lang puno ang nabubuwal kundi buhay.
Hindi lang ilog ang natutuyo kundi lalamunan
Hind lang burol ang napapatag kundi komunidad.

Hindi kalaban sa politika ang nakukulong.
Ang nasa piitan ay demokrasya at kamangmangan.
Hindi katungali sa eleksyon ang nasa bilibid.
Kundi ang kalayaan sa isang makatarungan lipunan.

Ako sa inyo ay may isang panalangin.
Na ‘wag maunsyami ang inyong pagbubunyi.
Kung kayo na ang biktima ng panggigipit.
Tumimbwang at sabihin kayo’y nanlaban.

                  –Setyembre 26, 2018

It’s not just about Sereno

By Luis V. Teodoro

The unprecedented removal through quo warranto proceedings of Chief Justice Ma. Lourdes Sereno from her post isn’t only about her, or solely about the Supreme Court, the rule of law, the Constitution, or the Duterte regime and its autocratic pretensions. Even more crucially is it about the fate and future of the democratization process that at least twice in history has been interrupted at its most crucial stage, and, driven by the need to address political and economic underdevelopment, has had to twice start all over again in this country.

The democratization of Philippine society began with the reform movement of the late 19th century and reached its highest point during the Revolution of 1896, which was as much for independence, equality and social justice as it was against Spanish colonial rule. Through the worker-led Katipunan, the Revolution was on the verge of defeating the Spanish forces and had achieved de facto independence when a near-fatal combination of betrayal by the Magdalo faction of the rural gentry and foreign intervention prevented its fruition despite the First Republic, and left it unfinished.

United States recognition of Philippine independence in 1946 made the resumption of the democratization process and the completion of the Revolution possible. But thanks to the heirs of the principalia — the handful of families the US had trained in the fine arts of backroom politics and self-aggrandizement during its formal occupation of the Philippines — what instead ensued for two decades was a succession of administrations that prospered while presiding over the country and its people’s continuing poverty and underdevelopment, subservience to foreign interests, and political disempowerment.

Against these fundamental ills there had always been both armed and unarmed resistance even during the country’s captivity to US colonialism. But it was in the mid-1960s when the historic demands of the Philippine Revolution found their best expression in the movement for change initially led by workers and students which soon spread across the entire country and among various sectors. Its demand for the democratization of political power, for authentic independence, gender equality, agrarian revolution, and national industrialization resonated enough among the peasantry, progressive professionals, indigenous peoples, the enlightened religious, and liberated women to mobilize hundreds of thousands.

In the First Quarter Storm of 1970, the numbers of its adherents and the power of their demands were demonstrably enough for the second Marcos administration to use state violence to suppress the strikes, demonstrations and other mass actions that were almost daily challenging dynastic rule by demanding the end of feudalism, bureaucrat capitalism and imperialism. In response to these demands, and to keep himself in power beyond 1973, Marcos suspended the privilege of the writ of habeas corpus in 1971 and made good on his threat to declare martial law in 1972, when he placed the entire country under a dictatorship sustained by military bayonets on the pretext of saving the Republic and reforming society while actually doing the opposite.

Despite the worst repression, despite the arrests and detention, despite the torture, enforced disappearances and extrajudicial killing of thousands of the best and brightest sons and daughters of the people, it was in the resistance to the Marcos terror regime that democratization continued to find expression.

Many of those in the resistance refused to surrender it during the period of repression, but it took 14 years of armed and unarmed defiance before the Filipino people once more recovered the possibility of exercising the democratic right to shape their own future. However, despite its promise of far-reaching change with the overthrow of the Marcos dictatorship, over the last 32 years the 1986 civilian-military mutiny known as People Power or EDSA 1 has failed to deliver on that promise, thanks to the continuing monopoly over political power of the same dynasties that for over a century have prevented the realization of the changes Philippine society so desperately needs.

Over those three decades, people’s organizations and other democratic formations persisted in fighting for those changes. In 2001, outraged over the corruption and incompetence of a plunderous regime, they removed another president from power. While state repression in various forms, and with it such human rights violations as torture, enforced disappearances, abductions and extrajudicial killings continued, the reigns of three of the five presidents after Marcos that preceded Rodrigo Duterte’s have not been openly antagonistic to due process, the bill of rights, press freedom, and the system of checks and balances.

The Corazon Aquino, Fidel Ramos, and Benigno Aquino III administrations at least paid lip service to the desirability of peace and the rule of law. But one cannot say the same of the Joseph Estrada and Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo regimes. The former was mostly focused on the use of the presidency in amassing wealth, while the latter was intent on remaining in power, and did not hesitate to use state violence to suppress dissent and opposition in advancing and protecting the personal, family and class interests behind it.

But it is the Duterte regime, with the enthusiastic support of the Estrada and Arroyo cliques, that has most imperiled the realization of the legitimate demands for the democratization of political power and economic opportunity, true independence, and inclusive development. It has become increasingly clear that President Rodrigo Duterte has not bothered to craft any master plan to end or even reduce poverty, or even such of its manifestations as environmental degradation, limited employment opportunities and low agricultural productivity under an archaic tenancy system. But he does have a blueprint for the restoration of authoritarian rule through his accomplices’ and minions’ dominance in the executive, legislative and judicial branches of government.

The abridgment of press freedom, the attacks on human rights, the willful debasement of public discourse, the further erosion of the already erratic observance of the rule of law, and the subversion of the little that survives of the system of checks and balances through the orchestrated attacks on the ombudsman and Chief Justice Sereno are parts of the plot to undermine what little is left of democracy in these isles of uncertainty. By riding the crest of mass disaffection with government and the burgeoning demand for change and revolution to win the Presidency in 2016, Mr. Duterte has managed to hijack all three branches of government.

The ouster of Sereno as Chief Justice is not solely about Sereno. Neither is it about the Maleficent Six. It is about the imminent danger of dictatorship. This is the context in which, with the collaboration of his cohorts in Congress and the Supreme Court itself, Mr. Duterte is putting a stop to the democratization of Philippine society as Ferdinand Marcos did in 1972. For the third time since the late 19th and early 20th centuries, that process is once more in danger of interruption — and worse, its final liquidation.

In these circumstances only the people themselves can put a stop to the latest assault on their right to self-government and the realization of their aspirations for a society of peace, justice and equality. Because the leaders to whom they had previously delegated their sovereign authority had failed them, they exercised their right and duty to remove them in 1986, and again in 2001.

Some events in the political lives of nations can be the turning point in the resolution of the contradictions that afflict them. The Sereno “incident” could be that point.

(First published in BusinessWorld. Photo from the Supreme Court.)

Students hold Black Friday Protest a week after Sereno’s ouster

A week after Chief Justice Ma. Lourdes PA Sereno was ousted by majority of the associate justices of the Supreme Court, students from the University of the Philippines, Ateneo de Manila University and Miriam College and other groups held another Black Friday Protest along Katipunan Avenue.

Saying the Rodrigo Duterte regime’s looming control of all branches of government does not bode well for democracy in the country, the protesters added the people must be vigilant against the possible declaration of a nationwide martial law.

Sereno slams attacks against judicial independence

Beleaguered Supreme Court Chief Justice Ma. Lourdes Sereno slammed “bullying tactics” against her and the judiciary in a speech before civil libertarians last April 9 on the occasion of the Araw ng Kagitingan.

In this video, Sereno asked her audience to join her in the defense of judicial independence.

Election postponement erosion of democratic processes, poll workers say

Rank and file employees of the Commission on Election (Comelec) opposed moves at the House of Representatives to postpone the Barangay and Sangguniang Kabataan (SK, community youth councils) elections (BSKE) for the third time, saying the move is part of the chronic erosion of democratic processes in the country.

In a statement, the Comelec Employees Union (Comelec-EU) said their hearts bleed for voters whose right to elect the Barangay and SK leaders are again shelved if the May 14 BSKE elections are pushed back for possibly another five months.

“While we fully respect the prerogative of Congress to enact and amend laws, including those pertaining to elections; we as election workers – duty-bound to uphold and protect the right to suffrage of every Filipino voter – cannot simply turn a blind eye to the chronic erosion of our democratic processes resulting from the frequent postponement of election of leaders in the most basic unit of our society, the Barangay,” the association said.

Comelec-EU said elections in the country must be held in regular, periodic and predictable intervals while failure to do so denies voters the right to elect the village and youth leaders or exact accountability from incumbent village and youth officials by way of the ballot.

The group also said precious government resources that went into their preparations may go to waste if plans of administration legislators push through.

“We remind our esteemed legislators that the Comelec has already printed the official ballots, election paraphernalia and all the accountable forms relative to the BSKE; the verified and certified list of Barangay and SK voters are already completed and posted outside all COMELEC local offices nationwide. Should we again reduce these to mere scratch paper?” the group asked.

Meanwhile, ACT Teachers’ Party Representative Antonio Tinio said effort by some barangay executives to push for postponement is a way to extend their terms of office.

“With due respect, Attorney, you’re so thick-faced to say the proposal is not self-serving. Many of you are third-termers already who should have faced an election process a long time ago,” Tinio told Liga ng mga Barangay president Edmund Abesamis at a hearing at the House of Representatives Monday.

The people’s sentiments—whom we are not consulting here—is for the elections to push through,” Tinio added.

Caloocan Second District Representative Edgar Erice also accused administration legislators of wanting to postpone the elections to coincide with the planned plebiscite for charter change.

“The people waited for their chance to vote. We are now playing with it. Why? Because we want it to coincide with the plebiscite! And why do we want a plebiscite? To approve the constitutional change that will contain a provision that will extend our terms!” Erice said.

Despite their objections, however, the House of Representatives Suffrage Committee voted to move the BSKE elections to October 8. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)