• Jo Chanco

The Filipino Hope


It is a mistake to think that the sovereign government of the Philippines is one that espouses ideals that are humane, liberating and purposed to serve the interest of the Filipino people. But it would be an even bigger mistake to assume that it has sovereignty at all.

It’s no secret how the Philippine government has always been subservient to foreign powers. More often than not, its inclination would be to do the biddings of other nations, particularly China and the United States, as it consistently did in the past. But generally it adopts this same colonial free-for-all kind of attitude with virtually all nations it comes to deal with. Sometimes, it becomes overly accommodating, freely granting privileges and permissions to foreign military units wishing to access our national territory.

Unannounced incursions into our waters by foreign fishing vessels are dealt on a case to case basis—if their boats are bigger, we overlook. If smaller, we apprehend and penalize with fines. But duly announced visiting air force and naval fleets are customarily received with heartwarming salutations and welcome ceremonies. Our own military will not even jump on alert or cock their guns, but even waive excitedly and chummy up with foreign soldiers to chat and exchange jokes. Who our soldiers are more wary of and constantly on the look out for are actually people like us…Filipinos.

Hostile to its own people

Our military, for a long time now, has had mostly Filipinos, and practically no other race, as their identified enemy targets, whether in long-drawn campaigns or single combat missions. In the past fifty years, our military, the AFP (Armed Forces of the Philippines), has killed tens of thousands of Filipinos in clashes with different rebel groups in various parts of the country, including the communist insurgents and Islamic extremists.

In addition, hundreds of non-combatants—tribal leaders, environmentalist, priests, social workers, teachers and student activists have, in recent years, been assassinated, allegedly by Philippine army soldiers. These murders are done with impunity, as charges against the soldiers involved rarely prosper. And since these assassinations are often done as part of the military’s counterinsurgency operations, the victims are simply tagged as communists even if they really are not.

A voluminous archive of legal reports across the country detail how soldiers form the Philippine army have notoriously committed a profusion of human rights violations, including extra-judicial killings, forced disappearances, abduction and unlawful detention, torture, harassment and damage to private property. These infractions were against civilians, Filipino citizens, who the Armed Forces of the Philippines are mandated by the Constitution to protect and rescue from such oppression.

The Philippine military has been committing these atrocities since the Marcos era, unbeknownst to many, and as a collateral outcome of a covert and unexplained militarization agenda. From one administration to the next, troops have continuously run such operations under wraps, terrorizing many rural areas. Frequently these operations run in a particular modus, along the line of a methodical decimation of entire settlements of tribal folk, forcibly driving natives away from their ancestral domains, after which a commercial plantation of local politician would suddenly rise, or sometimes a mining operation by a multinational corporation would commence. Dozens of tribal leaders from different ethnic minority groups across the country have already been assassinated by this very odd and treacherous campaign taken up by the Philippine army against the people of the Philippines.

The aftereffect of this on-going silent militarization of the countryside is the extensive sabotage of our environmental and cultural heritage. Whole tribes are displaced from their homes and livelihood, and yanked from the stability of a community support system. Those who resist are met with brutal military force. Those who survive the violent assaults are then forced to wander away as nomads shaken for the rest of their lives by the shock and stress of having their traditional ways of living so violently interrupted. At times, the military will emply a tactic called ‘indiscriminate strafing’, where a rifle bust will be discharged randomly into the shanties of terrified families. A lot of tribal children were orphaned this way and lived but encumbered by psychological trauma after witnessing their parents die nightmarishly gruesome deaths.

The aftermath for survivors unfolds as a long and painful process of constantly attempting to grasp what had happened but then never really get through the blurry thoughts. Some struggle to find lives in other provinces but with the lingering fear that the soldiers might come again. Some head to Metro Manila and end up in the slums or in the streets, forced to beg for their survival. While some of these survivors eventually heal, their minds stay somewhat hampered amid the grueling effort to cope and adapt to totally different lives. Many never truly recover, and just excruciatingly experience the actual disintegration of their culture within their defeated persons. Slowly, they witness the world they once knew as grand and God-given, crumble to mere speckles of memory, hidden behind their tears.

The indigenous people of the Philippines—the Lumad, Manobo, Badjao, Bagobo, Ifugao, Mangyan, Dumagati, T’boli, Tagbanua, and other tribes—are under siege by government troops who’ve gone on a warpath to claim tribal lands all over the country. So for what nation does the Philippine government stand for? And who does it really serve?

Illusory Democracy

It is not by mere coincidence that three decades after the establishment of the 1987 Philippine Constitution, many of the most basic concerns troubling the Filipino people still largely fester unresolved behind the false promises of our so-called leaders. The Philippines is still acting much like a neo-colony, with its leadership acting as brokers peddling the right to rape our natural wealth to a host of foreign powers and multi-national entities. Masses of our countrymen are forced to toil in foreign lands, enduring the most undignified lives, just to earn decent wages. Good governance remains a dream as scandal after scandal reflect even worsening corruption that's already come to impunitize the plunderers of the public coffers. Bankrupt institutions still fail to deliver basic public services to the rapidly growing population, submerged in enormous backlogs and dysfunction. We are still not an NIC (Newly Industrialized Country), and are drawing farther and farther from that goal. The truths important to our society, like the omitted details of the various controversies and scams in the past perpetrated by government officials, and about the conspiracies of well-entrenched kleptocrats, are still denied us. The Freedom of Information Act still has to be passed into law. Political dynasties still rule. Time and again, the Philippine government repeats its cruel tendency and apathetic recourse to neglect, silence or eradicate its marginalized citizens and forsake impoverished masses, instead of upholding their rights and promulgating equitability in policies that are supposed to address their concerns.

Most people attribute the numerous failings of our government to an underdeveloped democracy, but this is from an erring perception. We falter, not because our democracy is young and imperfect nor inadequate and defective, but because it is not a real one. The extensive dysfunction in our government is less the fault of incorrect policies or lack of resources, but more because of the reality that our government is fake, a sham extensively exploited by a treasonous elite ruling class.

Filipinos never really had the power that people in an authentic democracy possess. A true democracy reflects the will of the people, and manifests as a more humanizing government, not a callous one. What is happening is an endless cycle of ignored lamentations by mass society to a government that stubbornly chooses to be blind, deaf, and dumb about national concerns. The government is almost never on the side of the people. The array of governing institutions generally ignore the most crucial issues that constrain our society, and hardly take the significant steps needed towards the betterment of our nation. Again and again, an grossly inept and vastly irresponsible bureaucratic seem to only disappoint and betray the citizenry with a stubborn indifference, causing the discrepancy between the government and citizens to only worsen.

It is because this fake government that a corrupt leadership has managed to suppress our nation’s progress and prevent it from industrializing for several decades. It also explains why widespread corruption persists and why the government always seems to be more protective of the interests of foreign governments and big business capitalists rather than the Filipino public. And it is why, rather than seeing in criticisms as opportunities to satisfy the will of the majority and improve democracy, our government, as it has come to be defensive so that its sham would not be exposed, generally view criticisms as dissent and rebellion, and thus has come to be oppressive and vindictive to the public is supposed to represent and serve.

Treacherous Puppets

It is rational to presume that it is the corrupt brood of traitorous, deceptive, arrogant, self-serving, and incompetent Philippine leaders who are to be blamed for many of the myriad problems Filipinos face today. That Philippine leaders are generally traitors to their own people is not born of myth. Neither is it simply a wild misconception. This fact is absolutely evident everywhere and throughout the nation's history.

There has always been this penchant for creating and implementing policies that ensure the Filipino masses never get a fair break, no matter what administration and no matter who is in the leadership. Too many of the truly poor Filipinos are abandoned by the government to fend for themselves, against crime and natural disasters that are today even occurring in unprecedented magnitudes. Bun on top of such challenges, the Filipino masses are still cruelly dealt a caustic salve by sadistic government officials: false hope.

Political power has been cartelized by a few reprobate families, political dynasties that alternately take turns ruling and keep the privilege of governance exclusively among themselves. This results in an essential dysfunction in our democracy, which then allows plunderers in the leadership that bankrupt our institutions obliterated our chances to enjoy working public service programs. Idiots who have no business serving government posts have hindered the nation’s advance by doing nothing productive while in vital positions of governance. Public servants, so taken over by conceit, assume the likeness of monarchs and go about ruling over, instead of rendering patriotic service to, the people of this so-called democratic nation.

Our democracy has been hijacked by the elite ruling class that has pretty much come to run the country as they please, often to the disadvantage of the public. For the past half-century the majority of Filipinos, instead of being able to determine the nation’s fate, could only watch and experience the virtual dissolution of our nation, the disintegration of our culture, and the corruption of our very essence as a people. This has been the direction our nation has been going for the longest time. Instead of progressing, we've been spiraling down to perdition.

As we remain under the rule of a sham government, the negative consequences will become more visibly underlined, worsening and multiplying the conflicts our nation faces today. The rich and the poor; the capitalists and the proletariat; the military and the cultural minorities; the old and the young; urbanites and rural folks are simultaneously rising to a crescendo of violence and indifference, all seemingly at odds with each other. Exacerbating these will be the increasing corruption, lawlessness, injustice, and inequality as practically all our political institutions will become markedly dysfunctional, incongruent,, inadequate, inappropriate, and even obsolete.

Our nation’s only hope for salvation lies in our ability to change our situation—from a pseudo-democracy to a genuine one.

Hope in Change

Needless to say, the traditional corrupt politician is our greatest enemy. We can no longer afford to let avaricious and narrow-minded hypocrites waste our chances to be a better people and a better civilization, especially in these climacteric times when the whole world is relentlessly shaking amid a confluence of tipping points.

We have a chance to make this change in this coming 2016 presidential elections. The candidates, beyond the rabid mudslinging and indecent challenges to fistfights, are demonstrating their capabilities in leading this nature. We just have to discern who among them really has what it takes? Who among them will embody the Filipino hope?

The best candidate is the one who sees it as a fundamental requisite for our society to seek, uphold and promote the truth. We didn't really hold liars in the leadership accountable for deliberately fragmenting our nation with their lies and causing our society to flounder deeper in misinformation, confusion and chaos. Many Filipinos are now in the dark clinging to beliefs formed from an assortment of untruths. Our depreciation of truth in our society has been preventing justice from being served, allowing the hypocrites, the deceivers and the corrupt to go unpunished and even thrive so boldly.

We shouldn’t vote for another trapo (traditional politician) who jettison our democratic principles to adopt false sovereignty and subservience in a tyranny of plunder and corruption. But instead go for the one who understands how truth, justice, freedom and equality constitute genuine democracy, and therefore should be embodied and reflected in our policies and day to day governance.

The ideal leader would be one who understands that both survival and prosperity of the Filipino race can never be accomplished by the obliteration of those who belong to the marginalized social classes, the culturally deviant, or those who are aberrant in their faith. We need someone who realizes that our democracy can neither advance nor be genuine if government policies lean towards the stifling of protest and public clamor, or by subduing critics by silencing them or by charging them with rebellion and illegal dissent. He or she therefore must know how important it is to promote our democratic principles as universal ideals that transcend barriers of dialect and culture, and as essential elements to the Filipinos spirit, for which the lack or absence of can create imbalance and conflict. And because we are in an era that will increasingly demand revolutionary changes in the way we live, produce and consume things. We need someone who is intelligent enough to understand the times, someone who thinks out of the box, and is able to execute innovative solutions to practicability.

Glancing at the surveys among the presidential bets, it is refreshing to see Grace Poe enjoy a lead over the rest, despite the technical hurdles set up on her path. She might win or lose, but the fact that Filipinos see hope in her than in the trapos vying for the presidency, is perhaps hope enough.

*Published in print version (Voice of the South, Volume 12, No. 11)

#Opinion