Democratic space in the Philippine context is a fallacy.
Despite President Benigno Simeon C. Aquino III’s pronouncement that we are his “boss,” the Aquino administration has continuously failed and disappointed his “bosses.”
Under the Aquino administration—from July 2010 to September 2012—there have been 114 extrajudicial killings, 12 enforced disappearances, 70 cases of torture, 224 cases of illegal arrest and detention, 200 victims of illegal search and seizure and 8,266 cases of forced eviction and demolition as reported by the Alliance for the Advancement of Human Rights (Karapatan).
Three years after the Ampatuan Massacre (23 November 2009)—the worst election-related violence in the history of the Philippines—the case has been dragging and it is alarming to note that relatives of the victims and witnesses are harassed and hunted down faster than government could arrest the suspects of the massacre.
Instead of addressing the continuing culture of impunity in the country, the President, through his lackeys in the Palace, insensitively dismissed the rising human rights violations under his administration as mere “leftist propaganda.”
Since PNoy’s “matuwid na daan” echoed throughout the nation, the street is still a rigid curve line to progress. It has remained as it has always been—an empty rhetoric. Instead of prioritizing the Freedom of Information Bill—which could have been the cornerstone of his campaign slogan—he signed into law the now controversial Cybercrime Prevention Act of 2012 (RA 10175) on September 12, 2012. This law is aimed to stifle our freedom of expression on the last remaining frontier of genuine democratic space—cyberspace.
Clearly, we are not his bosses.
Here, in Cagayan de Oro City, I want the next roster of public officials to teach national government how to put into practice President Aquino’s “matuwid na daan.” A government unit that is grounded on the principles of transparency, accountability and good governance.
And this would be made possible by democratizing the access to public information.
The democratic process is not present today, not here in our city but the whole country. With the people being able to access information, together with the government, they would arrive at an intelligent and informed decisions and would support the country’s “democratic structure.” If we achieve government transparency even just here in CDO, it would create a domino-effect throughout the Philippines until the government can be trusted again and be accountable to the people.
Here in CDO, the street is still not that straight. There are a lot of anomalies that have been occurring since Mayor Emano took over the city. In Mayor Emano’s Piso-piso housing program, the residents in the relocation area in Calaanan were promised to receive the title of the lot that was given to them but until now, none of them have actually received the title.1
Another thing was the permits of the those foreign organizations that have been mindlessly cultivating our resources through mining without even thinking about the environment and how it would affect the people. With the press asking for those permits if it really exists, to expose the truth out, the local government still did not release it to the press even though it is a public document. All these anomalies defines PNoy’s “matuwid na daan” to be hokum.
There are three (3) LGU’s in a city, the legislative, the judiciary and the executive unit. The legislative is the one formulating plans and considered as the mouthpiece of the people. It should be what the people need that the legislature should focus on but in the city, the legislative unit is weak. Even though it must be equal with the executive unit, it is under control by the Mayor. Ergo, the dissemination of public information is manipulated by the Mayor.
The cases in point, starting with the infrastructure projects of the city is “gradually improving.” Mayor Emano’s “majestic” fly over with its initial purpose to lessen the traffic problems of the crossroad of Velez street and the highway did not really help. Actually, for me, it is not a fly over, its merely a big ramp. Maybe if the funds used to build that “ramp” was focus into other problems of the city, it would have been very helpful and not just a wasteful decoration or just to brag about the city’s “development” that here, we have a fly over.
The respect of patrimony is not applied. Since, until now, mining barges are still operating in the city. Local environmentalists and reporters had found 6 mining barges operating in one of the upland barangays of this city while boarding two choppers of the Philippine Air Force’s Technical Operations Group, last September 21. Environmentalists and civil society groups, together with the Roman Catholic Church led by Archbishop Antonio Ledesma, agree that mining operations in the hinterland barangays of the city contributed much to the destruction wrought by tropical storm Sendong, late last year.2 Sendong was a wake up call for us to stop the abuse of nature and to take action for the heritage of our land.
This coming 2013 midterm elections, whatever the outcome may be, it will either make or break the republic.
Scrap Cybercrime Prevention Act of 2012!
Justice for the victims of the Ampatuan Massacre!
Pass the Freedom of Information Bill!
“…Simple truth that nothing is more important to a democracy than a well-informed electorate.” – Will McAvoy (character played by Jeff Daniels in A U.S. TV series “The Newsroom”)