No country in Asia supposedly has more experience with democracy than the Philippines. Yet, 123 years since establishing the first Philippine Republic in 1899 and over 36 years after our liberation from the Marcos dictatorship…here we are still…and here we go again.
Like many other Filipinos, I too have become deeply concerned by the direction our country has taken in recent years.
Majority of our people are still mired in poverty. Our government is still plagued by corruption. Our country is buried under a P13-trillion plus debt. Our activists and truth-tellers are still battling a culture of impunity. Our own West Philippine Sea is still being plundered by the Chinese.
Like them, I am deeply concerned because our Constitutional rights seem to depend on the whims of whoever is in power.
I am concerned because all our country’s so-called systems are barely functioning.
Our educational and healthcare systems are beset with serious problems—as this pandemic has exposed all too clearly.
You only have to look at people who were jailed without having even been convicted to know the justice system is screwed.
Our anticorruption agencies haven’t had much success fighting corruption—it is still more endemic than Omicron. Hundreds of billions are lost every year, lining the pockets of corrupt officials and their cohorts in the private sector.
The alarming number of murders and other crimes in the news all point to a breakdown of civility and the utter lack of respect for life and human rights.
Journalists and activists still find it dangerous in our supposedly democratic republic to express their views.
The concept of the common good has been inundated by hatred and greed.
Environmental degradation has passed the point of no return and still our forests are being cut down, our waters are still being polluted and our hills and mountains are still being carved out.
All the issues and problems are still the same. It is only the actors and players who change. Obviously, not even. Because some of these actors make major comebacks. And I mean MAJOR COMEBACKS.
We seem to be in a soap opera that is forever rerun.
Given all these, indeed, who doesn’t want to punch the “reset” button on the entire post Edsa-1986 democracy? Who doesn’t want another Edsa Revolution, one that would truly dismantle the forces of the status quo, releasing their death grip on our nation? Who doesn’t want another revolution to do what Edsa 1986 failed to accomplish?
I reckon Filipinos who feel they lack the power to change the overall situation in the country would want that. Perhaps Filipinos who feel like giving up on the political process would find another revolution appealing or worth considering.
This to me is a sad reflection of the dysfunctional democracy we have right now. Yet it is the democracy we have worked so hard to attain and for which thousands of Filipinos died for.
It makes me sad to see that we still need nothing less than a revolution to enable ordinary Filipinos to have a stake in this country. That we still need a revolution to bring honest and efficient public service to the millions of poor Filipinos who have already lost faith in the government’s ability to respond to their problems. That we still need a revolution in our education system, in our legal system, in our healthcare system, a revolution that will guarantee jobs for all who are willing to work and ensure a decent standard of living and a fair distribution of wealth and income for all Filipinos.
Such a revolution cannot happen overnight, or over a few days. It will not come by accident. We need to work for it. We must be willing to make sacrifices for it. It may take years still, perhaps even decades. Again.
This revolution also surely cannot and must not come at the expense of democracy.
The best way to do it actually is by using our votes every elections.
If there is no end to the parade of absurdities we have seen in our government, make no mistake, it is the government we deserve because it is the government a considerable number of our people have voted and still vote for.
This is democracy for better or worse.
Indeed, the right to vote is a two-edged sword, inasmuch as when things go wrong we have only ourselves to blame. In the end, we are responsible and accountable if the incompetent and the corrupt are elected into power.
If we fall for soundbites and for Tiktok, Facebook and YouTube videos rather than demanding substance, if we don’t take the time to understand the candidates’ political platforms or look into their track records, then we have no one but ourselves to blame.
We in the media too share responsibility and accountability. If we become complicit for allowing candidates and their parties to define the news and frame their stories, then we share the blame for misleading or at least not helping educate voters.
And if our schools graduate millions of students without them having the skills to choose a good leader, then they too are just as responsible and accountable.
There will be more of the same, government as usual, if we don’t vote more honest and competent men and women into office, if we ourselves don’t get involved and help solve the problems of our country, if we don’t help ensure a free and fair election.
Yes, we are doomed to get the government we deserve, that is, until we learn to vote better. ###