EDITORIAL | Our Protest

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With apologies to our leaders whom we burden with expectations to stand for truth, follow the law, respect our rights, fight for justice, and even suffer through the same realities us common folk endure.

But it has gotten to the point that there is pride in entitlement and braggadocio in lying. Filipinos are mocked and demonized for fighting for human rights, for demanding accountability and transparency in government, while those who deny and twist the words of the Constitution fist-bump you on Facebook after embarrassing their own staff and alma mater.

For the record, again: There are two alternative facts currently at play not because they have not been debunked, but simply because the government playbook calls for just ignoring all expectations for decency and reason.

The first lie: The Philippines is already a narco-state.

The second: Due process, rule of law, and human rights are optional if we are to fight the imagined state under Lie No. 1.

A war on drugs – justified, justifiable, and inarguably necessary – has lost moral ascendancy because it is needlessly propped up by exaggerated figures. No less than the head of the Dangerous Drugs Board had politely pointed this out. The President’s response? Just fire the guy with the data. You fool: The exaggeration is not there to strengthen the drug war, but to rationalize a lazy and reckless insistence to exempt police from the shackles of rules and professionalism. There is a six-month deadline that has already lapsed, after all.

Meanwhile, as evidence mounts that police have indeed abused all assurance of pardon, politicians have ganged up on the Commission on Human Rights and the very notion of human rights. Both are foreign concepts, apparently, impositions on our sovereign right to make a mess of our own laws. Get rid of them, and we will be free to shoot first and ask questions later – and destroy all opposition while we are it.

We are hitting new lows. President Duterte takes his cue from a troll army led by officials on taxpayers’ account, and now proudly admits to having peddled fake news to slander an enemy. (How is this not abuse of office?) The President behaves as if he is immune from all accountability from slander for as long as he admits everything and will not apologize for anything anyway.

Today Filipinos have been brought to exhaustion not by debate, but a deliberate, thick-faced attitude to just ignore all good reason. President Duterte said: By all means, make September 21 a National Day of Protest. Just don’t expect anyone to listen. Government offers no pillar to lean on, just a wall you can talk to.

And still, of course, we oblige. Regrettably, we protest. Not because we want to. The truth is, on this day and every day, true citizens would rather be supporting the arts, celebrating each others’ pride and triumphs, extolling heroes and heroism. Honestly: We would rather be planting trees, cleaning up our shorelines, teaching our children, improving our schools, growing our businesses, eliminating red tape, generating jobs. Helping government. Fighting crime, even. Let us help to fight crime. Peksman, we would rather join the war against drugs.

We’d like to help build bridges, bike lanes, sidewalks, improve mobility for ourselves and for our congressmen. And yet here we are, reduced to whining about human rights, forced to just implore our leaders to please, please respect the rule of law.

How grotesque is that?

But speaking of traffic…

It can now take anywhere from two to four hours to traverse any 10-kilometer stretch on EDSA or C5. It can take Filipino workers one to two hours just to enter an MRT station. Rain or shine, millions of Filipinos are funneled onto non-existent sidewalks, non-existent roofs shielding them from the very real elements, running risk of falling into open manholes, or getting side-swiped by buses and trucks pushed hard by overworked drivers who were themselves hours late in getting out of bursting ports, and who will be hours late to the markets and establishments that will be raising prices for commodities for the dinners running cold or in fact going unserved in homes all over our cities. Their children will have to fend for themselves – maybe call for delivery that now offers no guaranteed times – to refuel for their own 5 a.m. wakeup the next day, for their own trudgery that daily inches along to more of the same, while crawling a gauntlet defined by crime on the left and tokhang on the right.

It is from all this shit that Majority Leader Rep. Rudy Farinas demands exemption. Speaking on behalf of a Congress that, on top of everything and everyone they have failed, would strip of us of every guarantee and protection for our rights, Farinas said traffic enforcers should simply get out of congressmen’s way whenever Congress is in session. That’s a VIP pass – nine months in a year – to wang-wang on the wrong lane, or, indeed, run over the already beat up road users overflowing onto the roads that road-user taxes somehow never improve. Let the Speaker surrender erring legislators to the police over after the session, Farinas said, but before then, their work is too crucial to bother even with a kababayan spread-eagled and potentially paralyzed – but alive! – on the street.

This is not just arrogant entitlement. It is privilege that has the gall to portray itself as a necessary evil – the privileged having the temerity to cast themselves as fellow victims. When our leaders’ police escorts run you off the road, it is because they are burdened to rush to vote to, say, cut the budget of the Commission on Human Rights to P1,000, because, wouldn’t you know it, it is our misinformed valuing of our rights that is actually holding us back. Imagine how much our police can accomplish, how many contracts we can clear, how much we can spend on bridges and roads and services, if we would let go of the propaganda we had bought into, that for all of these we have the right to demand for transparency, accountability, and equal access to justice.

We are living in a narco state. Human rights is a foreign imposition. No, it is not guaranteed in our Constitution. Only pedophiles will say such a thing. And only the treasonous would demand transparency and accountability.

Misinformation is one thing. Disinformation is another. One can be a mistake, an honest one at that. The other is almost always a crime. You can theorize the first for whatever people believe, but clearly our leaders are guilty of the second.

Jon Snow said: “When enough people make false promises words stop meaning anything, and then there are no more answers – only better and better lies.” Filipinos aren’t even contending with better lies, because our leaders don’t even see the need to mask their intentions.

Where truth is an inconvenience and human rights outright declared an enemy, lies are no longer even the weapon of choice. By now a thick face is all our politicians need, because really, what will exhausted Filipinos have the strength to still do?