About forty years ago, Ferdinand Marcos declared Martial Law. The republic died. Perhaps it was already dying, and the sounding of the knell of martial law was all that was needed to pronounce it dead. Democracy died like it always does. People agree to it. Just ask Hitler, and Germany. And so it was with the Philippines. Democracy died because people bowed their heads, and nodded.
The thing about democracy and society is that death like comic book story dead is never permanent. It comes back like a phoenix reborn with new life, and new purpose. And so the story goes– democracy was reborn in 1986 when a housewife took over the powers of a dictatorship. Corazon Aquino was, technically, a dictator for 18 months, and she transferred all that awesome power back to the people when a new constitution ushered in a new republic. Democracy reborn.
And so the story goes. Ramos became president, and built on the gains that the First Aquino Presidency built upon. When Joseph Estrada took office, the new chapter promised renewed hope for a people seeking the material gains of a democracy. So Popularism was on the rise. The abbreviated Estrada presidency and the rise of Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo ushered in a different era. Perhaps, it was not so surprising that that ascendancy of Gloria Arroyo coincided with an era that fear and anger seemed to spread all over the world. Perhaps, it could have been different, yet for whatever it was the nine years in office seemed to have compounded the problem for the Philippines, rather than alleviate it.
“Democracy is already in the recovery room as of May 2010,” Deputy Press Secretary Abigail Valte once remarked when former Chief Justice Renato Puno was all a raging about Charter Change. And it has. And it is. We can see the change all around us. It is not surprising that the Office of the President has received high marks on its anti-corruption campaign, and its campaign for Daan na Matuwid (The Straight Road). The nation has taken so many positive steps since May 2010. The economy is picking up. Changes in education, in healthcare and so many things are afoot. And yet, with the passage of the cybercrime law, how can we not be reminded that beneath all these changes lurks greater systemic damage?
For all the gains made in 2010, it isn’t surprising that the greater systemic problems remain. If the recent Cybercrime Law is any indication, we have a legislature that, for the most part, seem trapped in the habits of the past.
Make no mistake, there is a pressing need for a cybercrime law. Make no mistake that there is a need for a law that protect women and children from being exploited. Make no mistake that there should be safeguard to protect from fraud, identify theft. Make no mistake that there should be laws that govern hacking. Make no mistake that there should be mechanism for government to protect its cyberspace assets, and to retaliate when necessary. And our freedom to express, and our freedom to speak— these are not absolute freedoms, though these are freedoms we hold sacrosanct.
And yet, how the Congress has gone about protecting these freedoms and protecting us seem to be a bit awry. There seem to be a gulf of disconnect. Perhaps, it is a digital divide. Perhaps, it is much more systemic. Perhaps, it is liberal ideas that are in disconnect. After all, our Congress, and much of our society is still increasingly conservative, and largely provincial.
Heading towards 2013, we see the scrambling of the old guard to fight tooth and nail for Congress. And survey says, much of those who will sit in the halls of Congress remain largely the same. Political families. Political names, and what passes for conservatives in the Philippines. It wouldn’t be a problem of course, yet these are the same tired old ideas, rehashed.
We see no new people that could invigorate the political life blood. To raise the discourse of issues beyond the pettiness of the likes of the Enrile-Trillianes spat. It does not bode well for ideas like the Reproductive Health Bill, nor for the Freedom of Information Act.
On the horizon is the UNA train led by Vice President Jejomar Binay. The Vice President has surrounded himself with political experts and stalwarts. The old guard. It hardly gives inspiration. It hardly promises that what comes next is building a republic for the future. You know, for everyone.
We need politics to build on Aquino’s gains, not to bring us back to the tired old train of the past the likes of which are represented by Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, of Renato C. Corona, and for all their brilliance, yes, Johnny Enrile, and Miriam Santiago.
It is poignant to think our nation doesn’t see this. There is still this cynicism coursing through our veins. The gains of Daan na Matuwid is in danger. I hope people see that. Democracy dies when people hung their head in acceptance. And so it is with democracy’s gains too. The patient can easily slip back into intensive care when complications arise so it did long after Marcos left, and a new republic was reborn. Perhaps, Will McAvoy was right: “If liberals are so fuckin’ smart, how come they lose so GODDAM ALWAYS!