Descent to utter ridiculousness

11 March 2006



Barely into 2006 and once again Filipino Fiesta Mentality had once again exhibited itself in all its glory. Filipinos spent most of the latter half of February and early March in the usual political intrigue-mongering and hollow-headed street activities, and garden variety (by Pinoy standards) military coup d'etats and petty insubordination. All of this coincided with the 20th anniversary of the 1986 Edsa Revolution -- the Fiesta Revolution that started it all.

In the background of all this Fiesta Instability was the aftermath of the latest of deadly mudslides. The tragedy is of such mind-numbing magnitude -- at last count, at least 1,300 Filipinos (including an entire elementary school full of school kids) unaccounted for and presumably dead. It would have paralysed an entire population with grief. But this is the Philippines. The Filipino's talent for wearing a silly smile through even the most averse of circumstances shone through at a national scale this February.

Anyway, let us get back to our favourite topic -- fiesta politics (we're all Filipinos here, right?).

The core point of contention around which the festivities were organised is President Gloria Arroyo's Proclamation 1017 -- the implementation of emergency powers for a "State of Emergency" brought about by a coup rumour on 24 February 2006. As expected, there was another arms race of public "statements" from various "concerned groups" expresssing outrage at what was perceived to be a reversion of the nation back to the dark Marcosian days of the 1970's. Among the leaders of the pack was the Philippine Press Institute which crowed in its "statement" that:

The Philippine press has a long tradition of resistance to tyranny. We refuse to be cowed. The press should not yield an inch of ground.

Beyond being a high-nosed response to the Government's exercise of its new emergency powers when it raided the offices of a major Manila newspaper, it is ironic in its pompousness considering how much the Philippine Press can be held accountable for its own blatant violation of basic Constitional rights as "benign0" commented on this PCIJ Blog article. Specifically, and among others:

  • Disrespect for the deceased and their families. Uncovered corpses are a regular feature on the pages of many Philippine publications.
  • Publication of biased news features as part of paid services rendered to politicians' publicists.
  • Public humiliation of crime suspects pre-trial. This is common fare in the Philipine press and goes against the basic human right of presumed innocence until proven guilty.

Then there is the voice of the Law; or rather the chattering voices of the thousands of Filipino lawyers who infest Philippine society. According to these honourable professionals (embodied in a statement released by the UP College of Law faculty in late February):

Our civil liberties, particularly the freedom of speech and public assembly are indispensable to our democracy. We cannot allow them to be arbitrarily suppressed.

Yet in none of their "statements" have they ever owned up to the routine perversion of The Law perpetrated by their "products". The relentless stretching of interpretation and exploitation of every loophole of The Law under the premise of "practicing" their noble profession in the service of their clients and their personal agendas accounts largely for the convoluted governance and snail-paced judicial system that hobbles progress today.

These are just examples (there are many more) of the institutionalised hypocrisy of Philippine society. Soldiers who call for ordinary Filpinos to "protect" them in the wake of their mutinous activities under the guise of a "bloodless show of protest" (weren't soldier's first and foremost trained to use deadly force in the service of the state?). Street mobs presuming to "withdraw" their "consent to be governed" (since when has the Filipino considered himself governed?). Exhibiting "outrage" over the "gross injustice" seemingly evident in street mobs being hosed and beaten down by the police while conveniently forgetting the less newsworthy plight of victims of mudslides and sinking passenger ferries.

Raul Pangalangan wrote in a 23 Feb 2006 INQ7.net essay:

Haven't you wondered: When we Filipinos march on Edsa, we embody our loftiest civic selves dreaming of a better life for all. Yet the moment we drive on Edsa, it's dog-eat-dog all over again!

The list goes on. And on. And on.

And so does the tragic descent to utter ridiculousness of Philippine society.

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