Virtually unchecked and unchallenged, the Congress passed Charter Change resolutions that allow the following:
- Term extension for all incumbent officials
- No term limits for elected officials from LGUs to Senate
- No prohibition on political dynasties
- Greenlights pork barrel system
- Allows foreign ownership of public utilities, educational institutions, and media entities
- Allows foreign ownership of land and natural resources
- Unlimited Martial Law powers for the President
And these barely scratch the surface.
Tuesday afternoon, a joint session of Senators and Congressional Representatives voted to extend Martial Law in Mindanao. Last week, Bong Revilla, a former senator, was acquitted of plunder charges (but was asked to return an exorbitant amount of money. Boggles the mind, huh?). One opposition senator who is overtly critical of President Duterte had to post bail for libel while the son of the President was defended along the lines of freedom of speech after disclosing some names behind this supposed ouster movement of the President sans evidence.
I am not sure how long our country can take this. We live in a society so polarized that we are unable to communicate in a civilized manner without one camp calling the other names. We cannot discuss issues on an intellectual level since intellectualism is dismissed as elitism. So we go the barbaric way: expletive-laden language that reek of ad hominems, illogical biases, and violence. We all lose in this kind of political climate and if things do not change, we will stay stuck here, unable to mature together as a Filipino people.
I am not sure about the right way moving forward. It is as if each time we find a way to progress, we decide to self-sabotage and retreat to our old, destructive ways. We still allow our votes to be bought. We still remain beholden to the powers that be. We still fear to stand up for what we believe in, for the principles we hold dear. If we, as citizens of a democratic state, cannot take our government officials to task, who will? If we do not have any viable system of checks and balances in place, who will protect us from abuses and the sickening effects of corruption?
Maybe that is the concern. Have we become too jaded, too cynical, too apathetic to care? Has collective resignation driven us to protect our own fences without regard for others? Have we become so callous that we continuously put our own interests first, principles be damned?
I am not sure how to answer these nagging questions and really, I have never been this uncertain about the future of our country. For now, I continue to teach my students by example to think critically and to live with integrity and I know I am not alone. I believe that in the midst of such nebulous uncertainty, there are still so many who try to make a difference little by little, brick by brick. But we all have to come together. If we want change, sustainable, progressive change that is, we all have to pitch in. It does not take much. Vote wisely. Be involved. Share. Be honest. Remain vigilant. Speak up. As famous American anthropologist Margaret Mead said, “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed it’s the only thing that ever has.”