The two main news stories these days are Covid-19 and the 2022 elections. In a utopian world, the former must show how politically and logistically competent the government is in mobilizing its resources to suppress the outbreak of the pandemic. The elections on the other hand should be able to arouse hope that there is a better and more democratic way of running the affairs of the public, including the way of life of the minorities.
These ideal thoughts, as we know by now, are far from what we see and hear around us.
What the pandemic reveals is an ill-equipped system of governance caught in the middle of “we are all in this together” narrative that is proven patronizing and unjust, on par with how we have been taught to be “resilient” amid environmental disasters only to excuse accountability from the powers that be. In other words, we are hardly all in this together if the tested positive cases of Covid-19 are spiking up as high as 26,000 daily while the medical frontliners are deprived of elemental financial aid from the health department which, thanks to its hierarchy, is facing allegations of fiscal incompetency.
When it comes to the elections, it is quite puzzling, although not surprising, to witness traditional politicians finally stating the obvious that Mr. Duterte is unfit to lead a country already grappling with a health crisis and countless human rights violations. It takes half a decade for some to call out the militarized approach of the administration to the so-called war on drugs which slaughtered between 6,000 to 30,000 mostly urban poor. It is one thing to hear presidential, vie-presidential, and senatorial wannabes claiming no interest in a national post, yet it is another thing to instantly see their faces and messages of “Change is Coming” on YouTube, Facebook, and even billboards in the metro. One only need to be reminded of the deliberate flip-flopping rhetoric of Mr. Duterte prior to the 2016 elections to realize how strategic, not accidental, politics is in the republic.
There is a lot going on amid the pandemic that should define the trajectory of the upcoming elections.
Corruption is one old trick that puts the public coffers and public moral at risk. It is alarming enough to hear the political acclamations of Mr. Duterte for like-minded autocrats, more so his highly questionable preferences for foreign businessmen who apparently have pending warrants of arrest abroad.
Human rights violations are part of the gloomy picture that should inspire democratic resistance in the coming elections. The routinized killings of alleged drug users, a more hostile red-tagging of political dissidents, and the rhetorical tirades against the Lumad unpack the double marginalization – both in economic and political terms – of critical voices advancing human rights. In this area, there is arguably a sense of “good news” considering how the families and relatives of victims of the drug war were able to demonstrate before an international high tribunal the need to proceed with its investigation into the systemic killings in Duterte’s Philippines.
Vicious trolling is another issue that is worth keeping an eye on as it can conveniently propagate, even normalize, the digital narratives of the ones in power. It helps peddle false information by further confusing the consensus and sentiments of the digital public and by directing hate against the perceived “enemies of the state.”
The pandemic shows the worse of what we have, but it also makes us reflect on some issues that can help us turn the tide.
P.S. September 21, 2021 marks the 49th year since the late dictator Ferdinand Marcos imposed a nationwide Martial Law – an era of widespread human rights violations, corruption, and red-tagging. #NeverAgain #MarcosNoHero