Friday, September 23, 2016

A Day of Reckoning!


By Rolly de los Santos

September 21 will always mark a very important event in our lives - or so I thought. I am beginning to feel that I have been disillusioned by the promise of the events in February of 1986 when we were able to topple down the strongman that was Ferdinand E. Marcos.  I witnessed the jubilations in the streets and the world sharing our happiness as we worked hard to gain our freedom.  We saw how no less than Jane Fonda brandish the L sign on American TV during the coronation night of the Oscar’s or that famous group of Peter, Paul and Mary coming over to the country and give out a free concert at EDSA as a dedication to the Filipino people for a fight that was well fought.

During the early 70’s, then President Marcos had a very big problem. His term as President was about to end because the 1935 Constitution only allows the President to be re-elected once.  Marcos was at the end of his rope, so to speak.  But he craved for power. Who would not? Not only was he the most powerful man enjoying all the perks of a booming economy, he probably thinks he had not yet amassed all the wealth he could muster. 

Not only am I one of the only few in school who has experienced Martial Law in its entirety, I am also one of those who have experienced it being hatched and conceptualized.  I was a high school student when the First Quarter storm erupted in the streets.  Student leaders were being killed during demonstrations along Mendiola and Quiapo.  The University of the Philippines was practically a war zone. On the lighter side, the President was rumored to have a paramour in the person of an American actress named Dovie Beams. However, the news was getting worse. Ninoy and most of the Senators exposed that they were being bribed to enact a law favoring the extension of Marcos’ mandate.  The  Liberal Party rally at Plaza Miranda was bombed killing bystanders and injuring most of the candidates and many more.  There was an attempt on the life of then Secretary of the National Defense, Juan Ponce Enrile.

And then by the stroke of a pen, Martial Law was declared.  Everybody was ecstatic. Finally, order was coming.  This was the general sentiment as a result of the promise of a new order, the Bagong Lipunan and its battle cry of “Sa ikauunlad ng bayan, disiplina ang kailangan.”  (For National development, there should be discipline). The whole machinery was put into place. A new political party, the KBL, was installed with a new anthem in a song composed by Levi Celerio that bears the title, “Bagong Lipunan”.  Television shows would be a platform for propaganda and very popular shows or events like a Muhammad Ali fight, (a similar occurrence when Pacquiao slugs it out in the ring and everybody was glued to the TV) would be interrupted regularly by the president’s address to the nation, etc.  However, as Lord Achton once said, “Absolute power corrupts and it corrupts absolutely.” As history would show us, those who became very powerful became despots and dictators like Idi Amin, Pol Pot, Duvalier, and Muammar Gaddafi. And our Marcos was no exception.

  After several years, the atrocities of the new order were being revealed.  Marcos, in order to gain the Generals to his side, offered them wealth and fortune. Marcos’ Rolex 12 alluding to several of his advisers have been given Rolex watches to gain their support and allow him to have full authoritarian control of the country. He created his own Gestapo, the Metrocom, a spin-off from the military’s Philippine Constabulary and took over the jurisdiction of the police force, who are supposedly the ones to take care of law and order among the civilians.  Slowly, the military was politicized giving them the idea that they can have power and stage several coup d’etats during Cory’s presidency.  Extra judicial killings were happening here and there giving another meaning to the word “salvage”. I can go on and on with a litany of abuses and atrocities committed during this period in our life as a nation but that would only eat up too much space and time.  One of the best readings would have to be “The Conjugal Dictatorship” an opus by Primitivo Henares, who just vanished in thin air and has never been found ever since.

Why do I say that I am disheartened by recent events? It seems like we as a people have forgotten everything. We seem to have a very short memory.  The facebook generation seems to be slowly being brainwashed by disinformation and the young generation seem to be biting hook, line and sinker.  How many times have I seen these young ones being able to read a very short article on facebook and  swear that this is valid research. 

First a disclaimer.  I am not a “Yellowtard”. I have always been apolitical and never supported any candidate openly. My vote is mine and mine alone and I respect everyone’s choice whether or not it is the same as mine. 

On September 14, we were given a talk on Martial Law by no other than Atty. Diokno, the son of the illustrious, one of the most respected senators we ever had, Sen. Jose Diokno.  He advocated that accepting the spate of killings that is happening now is not only peculiar but has already been done before.  Whereas during Marcos’ time, the culprit was communism, today, the battle cry is against drugs.  And many would say that this is alright for after all only those who are guilty are being killed. That only the low life addicts and pushers are being slain so that we, the clean hearted, well-meaning citizens can live in peace.  But really? How would we know that only the guilty are being massacred? That what is happening now is some sort of a soul cleansing, if we are to equate that we as a people have a collective soul? We will never know for the victims are now dead and the police are using the principle of a dead man tells no tale. How I wish I can join the band wagon and admire Duterte just like the others, but I just can’t at this time.  

My only curse probably is that I know what the law is and the principles from where they are based - in a democratic country, at least, and that I still believe the logic.  It is the duty of every Filipino citizen to know what are his/her rights. These are provided in the 1987 Constitution in Art III, entitled Bill of Rights.  This article embodies our basic, inalienable rights for our protection.  Paramount among these rights are: the principle that everyone has a basic right that the State cannot take away such as the freedom of expression, choice, religious beliefs, etc… “presumption of innocence until proven guilty,” as provided for in sec. 14 #s 1 and 2.   This is rooted on the principle that the state would rather let the guilty go scot free than have an innocent man suffer for something (s)he did not do.  This is very important for a person should stand trial and be proven guilty beyond reasonable doubt just so we know that the person whom we are crucifying is truly guilty. There is nothing more sinister than having someone suffer for a crime (s)he did not commit.  What if (s)he has just been framed, with evidence planted on his/her person or a victim of lousy investigation? The spate of killings happening now has thrown this principle out and we will never know who are truly guilty.  My strongest fear against the absence of judicial process is that I have two sons. What if they encounter a rogue policeman and plant evidence on their person? They can easily be killed with the blessings of this government.  What if they come home after a well spent drinking spree with their friends and somehow irritates someone and reports them to the police as being a drug peddler? 

What about the right of the people against unreasonable searches and seizures (sec. 2) and the sanctity of ones abode? These rights must have gone down the drain for the present state seem to  deprive us of the right against a warrantless arrest.  As a matter of fact, it is possible that of the more than 1,000 death that occurred from day 1, there could have been instances where an arrest per se, whether valid or not, has been made at all.  All the police shall do is claim that the alleged offender fought it out with them and they even receive praises for their act. 

When Marcos was preparing the people with his plans of declaring martial law, one of the first steps that he did was to suspend the writ of habeas corpus. This means that the police force has no obligation to produce the body of an arrested person.  Hence, they are free to instill torture of physical and/or emotional pain without being checked, a violation of Sec. 19 of the Bill of Rights.  Fast forward to a few weeks earlier, we see one of the Senators, Dick Gordon, suggesting the suspension of the writ of habeas corpus as an added response to the emergency powers accorded to the President with regard to the recent bombing in Davao. 

I am not against the President.  As a matter of fact, I pray that he will succeed as the leader of this battered land. Somehow, I believe that he is well-meaning and incorruptible.  What I fear is that he does not have complete control of both the military and the police force, who at this time has not addressed the killings committed by vigilantes. For all we know, these vigilantes are employed by the same powers that be to silence what these people know.  It is very possible that Duterte may not have complete control of a police force that has not changed its ways of bribery, graft and corruption and other ill-doings these nincompoops do. Duterte has no way of checking these out.  It is still happening now.

If just for the fact that Duterte has started a new trend of Filipinos who are well-disciplined and principled as was the case during his campaign trail where people cleaned up after themselves to show that they are to begin a new era, then I am for it all the way.  If Duterte can provide the poliltical will we so need, then I shall support him with much vigor.  However, there seems to be a division happening now. The Duterte supporters seem to be very sensitive when their idol or his ways are being questioned.  They would easily cry foul and charge that the criticism is made by what they call as “yellowtards” referring to the Aquino government and the Liberal Party who , according to them,  is all out in getting the power back. There will never be a true reconciliation with this seemingly great divide.  There can never be a true exchange of ideas when one answers a criticism with a retort and character assassination.  This is why I resent what Trillanes has done to silence Sen. Cayetano.  Why declare hime out of order when he was about to get to the bottom.  It is not for me to pass judgment of the witness yet for I still have yet to hear him out. And hearing him out would mean that he has to stand the scrutiny of a rigorous interpolation. Let us move forward and let the truth be heard. 

Bayard Rustin said, “If we desire a society of peace, then we cannot achieve such a society through violence.” Are we ready to face the consequences of the violence brought about by the President’s war on drugs?  Does the end justify the means? Are we to consider the innocent who were killed in the crossfire as collateral damage?  Lastly, as Atifete Jahjaga said, Democracy must be built through open societies that share information. When there is information, there is enlightenment. When there is debate, there are solutions. When there is no sharing of power, no rule of law, no accountability, there is abuse, corruption, subjugation and indignation.For true democracy to work, there must be a free flow of ideas and when there is a free flow of ideas, there will always be a clash of ideas resulting in a healthy debate. When the populace can speak their minds at no cost of peril on their person, we get to see the right equation to solve our problems.  

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