By Raïssa Robles
It is very surreal, saddening and enraging that on the eve of the 32nd commemoration of the 1986 Edsa People Power we are once again being threatened by a Philippine President with a nationwide imposition of martial law.
Already, a third of the nation is under military rule.
Thousands have died in a bloody crackdown ostensibly against illegal drugs. Although their deaths are supposedly under investigation, the results of any such investigations have rarely been shared with the public.
Members of the press are threatened with violence and continuously harassed online. The organizations they write for are harshly condemned for publishing stories that question the President’s policies.
Congressmen, doing the bidding of the would-be dictator, are frenziedly drafting a new Constitution that will reduce civil and political rights and turn Asia’s fledgling democracy back to authoritarian rule.
In short, we seem to be going back in time.
Thirty-two years after booting out dictator Ferdinand Marcos, someone else is closely copying what the late tyrant did. And that person is a self-confessed Marcos lover.
How did we come to this?
And what will we do about it?
Duterte himself has given us the answer. In his message to the Filipino nation on the eve of Edsa people power, he said that “a people’s courage and resolve can alter the course of our nation’s history.”
According to Duterte, “The People Power Revolution has become the enduring symbol of our determination to fight for what is right and – during our country’s most crucial and trying times – to defend and uphold our cherished democratic values.”
Duterte urged, “Let us further enrich our democracy by empowering our citizenry, defending their rights and strengthening the institutions that safeguard their freedom.”
You can read the Philippine News Agency article on Duterte’s message by clicking here.
Frankly, Duterte’s message sounds like it did not come from him. Unless he had a lobotomy recently which made the two halves of his brain operate independently.
I’m saying this because this doesn’t sound like the same murder maddened leader who constantly delivers the same “kill” message; threatens to bomb schools that are communist-infiltrated and destroy the private property of jeepney owners; and airily dismisses children killed during drug operations as “collateral damage”.
This freedom-loving Duterte is not the same Duterte who, on the night after his inauguration as president, motored to Manila’s poorest district of Tondo and told residents there to “kill” the children of their neighbors who are drug addicts because their own parents would be loath to do it.
Interestingly, Duterte did not deliver his Edsa message in person by appearing in Edsa. He is skipping Sunday’s Edsa rites.
Perhaps he does not really want to celebrate Edsa People Power, because it is all about the power of the people.
Edsa’s People Power message is clear and constant – leaders are accountable to the people and the people have the power over their leaders.
As my Twitter friend Kristoffer Pasion @indiohistorian put it, quoting the title of a book on the Arab Spring written by Internet activist Wael Ghonim: “The power of the people is greater than the people in power.”
When people wake up.