Jude Thaddeus L. Bautista
Democracy is hard to appreciate, let alone understand. I remember being in high school debating whether the People Power Revolution was good or bad for the country. We were in the Post EDSA years. I was on the side of then President ‘Tita’ Cory whom I argued brought democracy back. Arguing against me were two of my outspoken classmates who argued that our country was just as poor, if not had a worse economy not to mention the dire power situation.
I expected my counterparts and classmates to understand and appreciate the restoration of democracy by itself, but that wasn’t the case. They gave some valid points against it. I don’t even remember who won, (they may have). But as a young person I enjoyed the impassioned discussion, bringing up points. Both of them have become good friends of mine then even now.
Looking back at it the debate itself SHOULD have been the argument FOR democracy, where we were free to discuss openly, freely in way that we wanted to important matters of the day. In the same way, the presidential and vice presidential debates that we recently saw bared the capabilities and the weaknesses of the candidates.
Democracy is a lot of things. It’s not merely the right to vote or elect our chosen leaders; it’s a whole system of checks and balances. That is the thinking between the division of having the Executive, the Judiciary and the Legislative branches of government. One cannot have absolute power so one branch may check on the other.
We learned these things way back in our elementary and high school days. I remember having a very impassioned and active discussion with my brother Noel when I was that age what system of government was the ‘best’. He explained to me that while democracy has a lot of faults, it is STILL the best system that we have today. ‘We’ meaning not just for us Filipinos but humanity, history.
The time since my high school debate in the post EDSA years has proven my brother’s words. We found out the hard way that in spite of restoring democracy, our government is still riddled by corruption. We found out the majority isn’t always the most enlightened in electing the leaders in the case of Erap. Even at its worse though, democracy allows us to review, learn, discuss, yes debate and express ourselves.
The right to express one’s self freely is connected to and is just as important to freedom of the press. We can enumerate them, the freedom to assembly, freedom of religion, etc. Our own 1987 Constitution Bill of Rights was established immediately AFTER President Tita Cory’s ascension to power in 1986.
“Section 4. No law shall be passed abridging the freedom of speech, of expression, or of the press, or the right of the people peaceably to assemble and petition the government for redress of grievances.” This is among Tita Cory’s legacy that not a lot of our kababayan TO THIS DAY understand or appreciate. Although we showed our love for her as a nation when she passed away.
These rights are a cornerstone and hallmark of OUR democracy.
When you abridge this freedom, when you skip these rights, you kill democracy and bring our country to a very dark path we will not be able to ‘check’ or recover from.
THAT is what terrifies me with Rodrigo Duterte the most. AS scared as I am with his inappropriate rape jokes, his cussing Pope Francis and yes even his P200M bank account, it is his CLEAR intention to kill democracy that scares and terrifies me the most.
HIS platform of state sponsored murder CANNOT coexist with a free press, or allow open criticism, in public OR online. We’ve already seen what happened when a student was merely clarifying his position on HOW he is supposed to implement his allocation of budgets between the police and education. The student received death threats and had to retreat from his online activities.
We saw how Duterte reacted when confronted by Senator Trillanes with the threat of impeachment. He very clearly stated that he would shut down congress. Duterte has already become judge and juror by executing ‘criminals’, he has now stated that he would also shut down congress. He’s eliminated the two other branches of government that are supposed to check and balance the power of the executive branch – the President. You’re installing into power, as we’ve already seen, a monster who is out of control.
The press has to be controlled or eliminated as well because as the fourth estate it also functions as a check on government abuse. It already happened, the Davao Death Squads did not just target criminals but also journalists and activists. With all of these checks and balances gone who is going to question him? When he decides to perpetuate himself in power who and how will we stop him?
As flawed, as our current system is I sincerely believe that democracy is worth fighting for. Explaining this to a majority of our kababyan is difficult. Real heroes don’t come in the form of capes, masks and super abilities. They are in the humble, simple, self sacrificing efforts of people who stand up for what is right, even when a lot of people want something that is wrong, terribly, terribly wrong. We who understand, who know should make the effort to speak up for what’s right. A vote for Duterte will kill democracy.