THIS February the Philippines celebrates — if that indeed is the word — the 27th anniversary of the overthrow of the Marcos dictatorship. Although the institutions of liberal democracy, among them elections, have since been restored, the promises of EDSA 1986 have not been fulfilled, and are quite probably doomed to join the vast collection of lost Filipino hopes and opportunities that is so much a part of this country’s history.
Philippine elections themselves have been far from the democratic exercises that in 1986 the progressive forces of the anti-dictatorship resistance hoped would emerge from the martial law experience. They expected the flowering of authentic democracy with the political ascendancy of workers and farmers — the most marginalized sectors in Philippine history — for the sake of the just and equitable society that for three hundred years and despite the Revolution of 1896 had eluded the Filipino nation.
THE resignation of Joseph Ratzinger from the Papacy won’t please the ultra-conservatives dominant in the Catholic Church in the Philippines. Unless someone like-minded becomes Pope, it will be, for them, one of the most distressing events of all since Pope John XXIII sat on the throne of Peter from 1958 to 1963 and introduced a wave of reforms that among other consequences encouraged the rise of liberation theology and the involvement of nuns and priests in social movements. (Not incidentally was Ratzinger particularly hostile to this part of John XXIII’s legacy.)
The ultra-conservatives recently demonstrated their influence over such secular entities as the country’s courts and its laws (they succeeded in getting tour guide Carlos Celdran convicted of “offending religious feelings” for holding up a placard with the word “Damaso” on it during a church gathering in Manila). They’ve also threatened to campaign against those candidates for the Senate and the House of Representatives who supported, or worse, were among the sponsors of Republic Act No. 10354, or the Responsible Parenthood and Reproductive Health Act of 2012.
NO, the Commission on Elections (Comelec) wasn’t describing the one activity many Filipinos think makes this country a democracy. It wasn’t mocking the elections over which it has oversight — although maybe it should have been.
What the Comelec did was conduct a trial run of the entire ballot-casting process, from the initialization of the Precinct Count Optical Scan (PCOS) machines to the transmission of votes from the precinct level to the municipal canvassing centers, then to the provincial canvassing centers, and finally, to the national Comelec computer server.
“THIS BILL should make us realize that never again should we allow the atrocities of the Marcos regime to happen in this country.”
The “bill” Senator Francis Escudero was referring to is the Human Rights Victims Reparation and Recognition Act of 2013, which both houses of Congress had ratified as of last Monday. Some 10,000 complainants in a class action suit filed in Hawaii, USA against the Marcoses will be compensated for the illegal arrest, detention and torture they suffered during the martial law period.