Another interview with DLSU students, this time on events in the past 30 years and democracy

La Salle who recently requested an interview about the Glorietta blast have again sent me some questions to answer. Again, no formal request letter but since I’ve seen proof that they’re the real deal, I’m going to oblige. Told them I’ll post my answers to their questions here in my blog.

1. wat were the major political developments at the national and international arena for the last thirty years?

The two People Power uprisings of 1986 and 2001, the birth of the internet, introduction of mobile phones, the popularization of the Filipino language, OFWs, downfall of “fake socialism” (described as modern revisionism in the link) and apartheid, Harry Potter books, 9/11 and the ongoing United States-led war of terror, the rise of Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, the burst of the dotcom bubble, and the financial crisis of the mid-1990s.

2. why did u pick these events as major or significant?

These events affected both individuals and entire nations. In some cases, as in the US-led war of terror, the whole world. Most of these events changed the way we think and view the world and ourselves.


3. wat were their most significant direct political experiences/activities?

In the case of People Power 1 and 2, Filipinos acting as the supreme sovereign in the Philippines directly removed two sitting presidents. That’s real people power for you. Our people saw that the constitutional process wasn’t enough so they set the constitution aside and took matters in their own hands. Edsa 1 and 2 are milestones in direct democratic action locally and globally.

The internet led to an explosion of information. Political leaders usually limit information available to the people but that is no longer easy to do nowadays, notwithstanding the fact that there are still tyrants and petty tyrants all around especially near the banks of the Pasig River. The internet also led to the birth of citizen journalists who armed with computers, mobile phones, iPods and cameras, can now become journalists in their own right. That’s also direct political action, in a sense. While the networks, PC makers, advertisers and other corporate behemoths wanted the internet to just be a gigantic network to extract superprofits, the people themselves have made it a new arena for progressive purposes.

The war of terror is another political beast that has gone berserk. At present, I read that 750,000 names are in a watchlist maintained by the US government and the victims of this witch-hunt included a toddler who wasn’t born yet in 2001. Today, we have become innured to body searches and all the supposedly anti-terror tricks, while we see that the terrorists remain scot-free and in fact have succeeded in destroying the democratic way of life. To be a Muslim nowadays is to be a suspected terrorist. Locally, being an activist is like having a target on one’s head. Pwede kang barilin kahit kailan at kahit saan, and no one will be held accountable for it.

Gloria Macapagal Arroyo has occupied the presidency for the longest time, second only to Ferdinand Marcos. She is so hated by many people for: wasting the huge political capital of People Power 2; outclassing Joseph Estrada in corruption, bribery and other anomalous acts; for pardoning Estrada; for extrajudicial killings and human rights atrocities; impressing on the entire people that she’s God’s gift to the people; refusing to honor her word in 2003 that she won’t run in 2004; cheating and stealing the 2004 elections; presiding over a nation rocked by mysterious bombings and other crimes; refusing to resign; and using fascist means against people who want her to resign. Imagine, many kids know Arroyo as the only president all their young lives. What a terrible example.

4. how would u assess the current political situation is it orderly, democratic, are people able to participate more? do people influence government policies/action?

Democracy means the rule of the majority of people. Do we see the rule of workers, farmers, the professionals and small businessmen nowadays? No. Elite rule is being misportrayed as democracy. These are the same elite who, like Gloria, would like the nation to perpetually believe that they are serving us and we have no other choice. Notice that these wicked elitists preside over a government that is among the world’s most corrupt.

Democratic basics like organizations and unions are defamed and physically assaulted. More than 800 activists have been killed under Arroyo’s since 2001. Their crime was to exercise their democratic rights to organize themselves into groups, to express grievances, to peacably assemble, etc. Elections which are long believed as the key to citizen’s participation in governance are normally marred by guns, goons and gold by the cheats among the elite. The press is dominated by new and old barons, while journalists who do their job (of presenting the truth, of exposing official perfidy, of comforting the afflicted and afflicting the comfortable) are subjected to attacks that have made the Philippines the second most-dangerous beat for journalists — second only to Iraq.

For all intents and purposes, the Arroyo government is doing everything to suppress democratic actions. Ideological tools are used, like the catchphrase “let’s move on”. Punitive or coercive measures are also used: banning and attacking rallies, jailing and falsely accusing critics (as in the Batasan 6). And so on.

But the situation is not hopeless. One thing we learn from the past 30 years is that Filipinos care. Once we realize the true extent of the nation crisis, exercise our rights, and take matters in our own hands as a democratic people, we can make the next 30 years the golden age of democracy in the Philippines.

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