2020: The year of living dangerously
No, this is not about the 1982 film that starred Mel Gibson and Sigourney Weaver. Set in Indonesia (although shot mostly in the Philippines), the movie “The Year of Living Dangerously” was actually a love story between two foreigners (an Australian journalist, played by Gibson, and a British Embassy official, played by Weaver). It was in 1965, during the coup to overthrow then Indonesian President Sukarno.
For many Filipinos, 2020 will long be remembered as the year of living in dangerous times: With COVID-19 cases continually rising unabated, and a government that has remained in the doldrums due to its inept management of this health crisis. Our lives are in danger as long as COVID-19 infections are on the rise in almost all parts of the country, rendering our already weak health emergency systems even more debilitated. Many hospitals can no longer attend to the multifarious needs of COVID-19 and non-COVID-19 patients alike: There is so much to do, with too few hands to do these, and too little time to save those on the brink of death. Even thousands of medical practitioners have died of COVID-19 infections. Indeed, all of us have every reason to be scared inordinately to the point of being paranoid.
What exacerbates the collective danger we all face is the national leadership’s lukewarm attitude toward the reported cases of massive corruption of funds originally designed to support the health needs of the poor in this pandemic. When President Duterte’s closest allies are implicated in the misuse of government funds to the tune of billions, he just lamely resorts to affirmations of his loyalty to these people, by continually asserting that he trusts them. Yet, in many of his pronouncements, he always stresses that he cannot tolerate even a “whiff” of corruption in his administration.
In contrast, when people bring their legitimate grievances to the attention of the national government through protest rallies, Mr. Duterte has always resorted to name-calling and blaming them. Thousands have died as a result of his relentless “all-out war” on illegal drugs, and these have pushed human rights groups to stage various forms of mass mobilization to bring to national attention this state-sponsored carnage. Children and senior citizens have not been spared in this bloody “war” — they are among the victims of “Operation Tokhang” in its various iterations, aimed at eradicating the illicit drug trade. Yet, on its fourth year, such drastic approach is nowhere near solving this modern-day scourge. Instead, it has succeeded in snuffing out the lives of thousands of alleged drug peddlers and only a few so-called high-value drug personalities.
On social media, I read a lot of posts of some friends wanting to divest their citizenship as Filipinos. I certainly do not begrudge them this desire of giving up on being Filipino, for fear of being associated with a government that is leading its people to the dogs. (I think that this is not a fair metaphor to use, especially to compare an abysmal rule to a world dominated by canines. I think canines have a better life than what we have now under this presidency.)
Last Saturday, Aug. 22, a group of 300 obviously diehard Duterte supporters, gathered at Clark Freeport, in San Fernando, Pampanga, to urge the President to form a “revolutionary” government that will change our Constitution. The group refers to themselves as the Mayor Rodrigo Roa Duterte-National Executive Coordinating Committee (MRRD-NECC), and claimed that they are scheduled for a “long march to Malacañang for a people’s declaration of a revolutionary government.”
This initiative reeks of sedition — and of megalomaniac ambitions — maybe not of Mr. Duterte himself, but of people close to him, especially a few of them who desperately want to become the next president.
If our security authorities, who are mostly presidential allies, will do nothing to castigate this group for inciting to sedition, then we should be bracing ourselves for the most dangerous time of our lives.
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