Filipinos’ aspirations
Jose C. Sison (The Philippine Star) - January 12, 2018 - 12:00am

Noteworthy indeed is the nationwide trust and approval ratings of President Duterte that remained high in the last quarter of 2017 with a score of 82 percent and 80 percent respectively. Going into his third year in office, the ratings are quite impressive indeed compared to the ratings of the past presidents. Doubts however still linger as to whether these ratings accurately reflect the over-all sentiments of our people especially because said figures were obtained only through the face to face interviews of 1200 adults, 18 years old and above. Is it really accurate to say that 82 percent of the people, 18 years and above trust him? Or that 80 percent approve of his performance as President?

These questions keep on surfacing especially among those who cannot understand and accept how 1200 adult Filipinos could reflect the sentiments of a population numbering over 100 million people. And even granting that this method is really scientific enough as to accurately show the peoples’ high trust and approval of PRRD, anxiety and uncertainty still prevails among most Filipinos regarding the future of our country.

Filipinos are still anxious and unsure particularly on the possibility that the 2019 elections will not take place. This possibility has been repeatedly floating supposedly because of a Charter change (“Cha-cha”) converting our unitary and presidential form of government with a bicameral Congress, into a federal government with a unicameral legislature. The scenario being floated right now is that Congress will constitute itself into a constituent assembly for purposes of amending our Constitution that will pass said changes. So it is possible that come 2019 which is the scheduled election for local officials and members of Congress, no election will take place because the process of changing our Constitution may not be finished yet. Or even if the Cha-cha is already done by 2019, holding an election under a new form of government by that time may already be too late.

Obviously, No-El is the best way to railroad the Cha-cha” because members of Congress will definitely prefer an extension of their terms which under the present Constitution are six years for Senators and three years for Congressmen (Sections 4 and 7, Article VI) that will expire in 2019 for some Senators and for all Congressmen. The peoples’ anxiety was aroused here because for almost two years, Congress has not taken any steps to constitute itself into a constituent assembly for the purpose of converting our government into federalism despite the fact that this is one of Duterte’s campaign platforms that clinched his victory in the 2016 election. So it would appear that no-el and the term extension has been really planned and manipulated.

And this anxiety is heightened even more because of Duterte’s ambivalence and double talk on some issues specifically on his term of office. Several times he has threatened to resign under certain conditions. But he has not made good such threats even if the conditions appear to have occurred. Then he has repeatedly vowed to step down upon the expiration of his term and even considers it as an “ultimate nightmare.” Yet he has not stopped his henchmen in floating the idea that if the federal system will be adopted, he may continue to serve as our leader under such system.

More dangerous to our democracy at this stage is the possibility of a return to a Marcos style of authoritarianism that eventually ended up in over 20 years of dictatorial regime under martial law. This possibility cannot be totally discounted because of some developments and movements somehow indicating that we are headed toward that direction.

First of all, is the extension of martial law in Mindanao for one more year even if Duterte himself has declared that Marawi City has been liberated and that the invasion and rebellion of the Abu Sayyaf-Maute terrorists group have been suppressed. Apparently the reason for declaring martial law in that part of the country and even in Marawi City pursuant to our Constitution has ceased to exist. So extending martial law in Mindanao appears to be questionable. In fact some groups have even filed a petition in the Supreme Court questioning such extension and the SC has given due course to said petitions. This extension of martial law in Mindanao has somehow aroused fears among Filipinos that said extension may not only involve the term but also the territory so as to eventually the entire country will be placed under martial law.

Secondly, there is apparently a creeping militarization of our government which nobody or only a few has noticed. In fact, no one has raised it yet, but it is quite obvious that this administration has been filling up positions in our civilian government with military men whether retired or still in service who are asked to retire earlier. This is a move which can be interpreted as steps to win the support of the military so that in the event martial law is declared, the military will fully cooperate. Indeed the militarization of our government is an indication that martial law already exists in our country, in fact if not in law.

Even then, Filipinos still have strong faith and high hope that these scenarios are not true, and that this administration is really sincere and will help in fulfilling the aspirations of all Filipinos set forth in the Preamble of our Constitution, to “promote the common good, conserve and develop our patrimony and secure to ourselves and to our posterity the blessings of independence and democracy under the rule of law and a regime of truth, justice, freedom, love, equality and peace.”

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