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Editorial

Of Tragedies and Dictators

For unlike Oedipus and Sisyphus, the masses write the history—and dictators, no matter how often they change their masks, should be put into their place: into the dustbin of history.

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Artwork by Tricia Soto Jardin

Oedipus was said to have been destined to live an awful, tragic life. No matter how much change he makes in his choices, he is bound to do the exact, same routine: to fail, falter, suffer, weep and cry, and back again. The same is with Sisyphus, who is punished to roll a boulder up a hill, only to watch it fall down again but in joy, in Camusian rebellion, out of amor fati.

But the Greeks had it all wrong, slightly; for and however, tragedy is but a mere entertainment for Sophocles and his clique. Faced with recent events and far back, tragedy seemed to have been engraved in the Filipino disposition in the face of dictators and an inhumane structure—this time, not out of destiny, but an effect of a popular, ill-intentioned, and brutal governance.

In the last three years, and even beyond the Duterte administration, we have witnessed the implementation of unjust policies—all imprudently executed out of selfish interests, submissive military mindset, or even out of sheer ignorance of the bigger picture. The last three years is an aggravation, unsurprisingly, of crises endemic in a decadent society which fancies itself in turning values into currencies, people into objects.

The problems that have long burdened the marginalized sectors have now reached and poked the privileged bubbles of the middle-class. From the continuous extrajudicial killings, arbitrary arrests, the shameless rice tariffication law, and the lack of support for anti-discriminatory bill and an end to contractualization, it can be said that those in power are making the people more divided and powerless as a means for them to gain more power—all these done in broad daylight.

Forty-seven years ago, Martial Law was declared. When the “old ways” were not enough to quell the cries of an oppressed people, a strongman boasted with an iron fist, worsening even further a collective cry of justice. Forty- seven years later, as the “new democracy” numbed the Filipino until it shows its true colors, and a cheap dictator comes in in obnoxious cajolery, an echo is slowly shattering its shackles.

Undeniably, the cheap dictator Duterte is using the Marcosian playbook. With Martial Law still in effect in Mindanao, and the de facto Martial Law in effect nationwide through the illicit consolidation of power in the lower and upper houses of Congress, the tightening of grip on the Highest Court, and the junta-like appointments of officers of government departments are all slowly curtailing democracy and the freedom the Filipino People has, and continues to fight for.

Deceitful as it is, the current administration says that its key policies aims to support the Filipino people. But behind the press briefings and media exposures of those projects like the “Build-Build-Build”, those who are truly benefitting from the anti-poor clearing operations, displacement of communities, militarization in the grassroots are the big compradors and landlords who have long been exploiting the potential of the common Filipino. The ironic title of the recently implemented Tax Reform for Acceleration and Inclusion only made the burden for the poor families heavier while the upper class benefited more.

While many of the leaders and wealthy people wrestle for power, the government relentlessly kills the powerless like drug victims, and now, farmers. The administrationʼs Oplan Sauron—a Negros-exclusive version of Oplan Kapanatagan, AFPʼs whole-of-nation counterinsurgency program, is one of Duterteʼs tricks on his sleeves. With a civilian body count of more than 80 and numerous incidents of lawless violence and baseless arrests, what was once considered the “sugar bowl” of the country is now drenched in blood.

Despite the huge number of civilian deaths and the long stretch of kilometers travelled by displaced indigenous people, martial law in Mindanao is repeatedly extended in the guise of “quelling terrorist groups” such as the New Peopleʼs Army and the ISIS-sponsored groups. What Duterte and his cronies donʼt realize is that the Filipino people is not ignorant of the fact that places where injustice and impunity lingers, there goes his platoon of puppets; where the cry for genuine reform is raging, there is counter-resistance. Instead of addressing the root causes of armed conflict, the trigger-happy Duterte hides under the guise of counter- insurgency programs to silence dissidents and just causes.

There is a culture of death and silence in our country. From people spreading hate on the LGBTQIA+ and impeding their basic right in the Sexual Orientation Gender Identity and Expression bill, to many of us not even raising an eyebrow to the thousands of unjust deaths in just three years. We are moving again in a circular motion of tragedy.

Oedipus might not have had control over his fate, but we are not living in the guidance of mythological gods; Sisyphus might have had internalized the famous “resiliency” the Filipino is known for, but one thing is clear: we have a long history of oppression, but we have proven time and again, that dictators have no match against a people collectively fighting for their rights.

For unlike Oedipus and Sisyphus, the masses write the history—and dictators, no matter how often they change their masks, should be put into their place: into the dustbin of history.

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Editorial

Tales of disturbing cacophonies

This kind of performance can be considered world-class quality: a world-class embarrassment.

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Christine Annmarie Tapawan/TomasinoWeb

 The world is still at a time where society still allows men to hold power and make decisions that subconsciously programs the people they lead to fail. These men (or so-called leaders) are in their grand offices in historical buildings that have witnessed the downfall and triumph of the people they lead, the land they harvest, the water they sail on, and the words they have spoken among those territories to make the impossible possible. 

In this pandemic, no one can deny that the world has been tumbled upside down. It brought peace and disturbance at the same time. This crisis knows no man. It inflicts who it wants and it takes all it can get. For the first time in ages, these men feared something. They chickened out like roosters in the middle of a cockfight with a rival bigger than they are.

Nothing good has ever come out since the spread of the pandemic. The events that took place in the country resulted into a giant cacophony of complete disarray and disturbance. The fragility of the systems the Philippines upholds has been unduly exposed. Within that disarray, there lies the juggled safety of Filipinos, the prolonged crisis of the country, and the ever-loyal service of the administration to the people it wants to serve – the elitists.

An example of this disarray is the neglect and fear of this administration towards mass testing. As of April 14, there was supposed to be a progressive mass testing to determine the number of cases in the Philippines. It promised the country that it will have conducted “8,000 tests per day” as it plans to extend its coverage on the country’s population. The health department wanted to conduct at least 4,400 to 9,800 tests daily and even hoped to reach 13,000 to 20,000 tests by April 27. 

These seem promising and fulfilling however, where did these tests go? Last May 21, health secretary Francisco Duque III admitted that no mass testing was conducted despite the prevalence of the outbreak. As of present time, there are about 17,974 active cases, most of which cannot be exactly verified as there are suspicions that the health department hides the real numbers because of the peculiar increase and the apparent backlog that it has.

One should not shy away from the reality that this pandemic not only disparages those who have become victims of the virus but most especially those who belong in the slums and other underdeveloped parts of the country.

This is also to take in the fact that the country’s poor communities once more became a living death bed of the corruption and injustice that halted the Filipinos’ right to be treated as a human as he is. Instead, there are more and more deaths not only taking place in hospitals but in innocent streets where children used to play. Now, the streets have become a manchild’s fantasy playground where they are allowed to finish off lives as if those were just nothing. 

Millions of lives are affected and almost lost because of the lack of support from the government, the education system which was supposedly an empathetic system found to be elitist and forceful, the militarization of the a supposedly healthcare problem, and businesses uncovering every inch of its filth just to serve those who own it.

This kind of performance can be considered world-class quality: a world-class embarrassment. The problems that the country faces right now are not issues that can be set aside in the state’s current agenda. There is no escape from here but death not for this country but because of these so-called leaders. 

The administration embarrassingly failed to show face and to be resilient: a trait this country is known for. It is aggravating to bear the administration’s lapdog loyalty to the Asian giant, the disregard for the safety of the working class, and the blatant disrespect for human rights. It all comes down to people in the high chair – those who we must hold accountable for those selfish and insurmountable crimes and most especially, the dictator himself, Rodrigo Roa Duterte.

It seems like Duterte and his cronies have forgotten that Filipinos ousted leaders like him who prey on the freedom of the country. The crimes this administration has committed are nothing but cowardly, treacherous, and aggravating. The people of this Philippines will rise again, with or without his permission. Most importantly, with or without that bill

But yet again, let us work on this goal we have first: to rise from the coronavirus. Then, we shall conquer, like the children we are of the heroes who fought for this country.

There’s nothing else that these men shall fear but their rightful doom.

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Editorial

Heading back to our “glory days”

EDSA I proved that the Marcosian utopia, the illusions created by the Martial Law with its atrocities behind it will not last. Media plays a big role in exposing the scandals and injustices and has proven this in the two EDSAs the country has gone through.

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A protest art being burned by protesters during the 34th anniversary commemoration of the EDSA People Power 1 on Feb. 25, 2020 | Carmina Beatriz Dizon/TomasinoWeb

Last week, a film critical of President Rodrigo Duterte and his administration titled “Walang Kasarian ang Digmaang Bayan” has been disqualified from the five official entries in Sinag Maynila Film Festival 2020. The reason for this, according to the Executive Committee of Sinag Maynila, is the film’s “deviation from the submitted and approved script and that the Film is no longer a faithful representation of the approved screenplay.” It was negated by its director Jay Altejeros and called out one of the film festival’s founder Brillante Mendoza asking him if the country is now under Martial Law.

Many of us may have been asking the same question since President Duterte’s assumption to his office. 

During the Martial Law, state-run news and shows on TV were used mostly for Marcos propaganda and were used to create an atmosphere that will suit the pretext of Martial Law. Extreme censorship was imposed even on books and religious publications. Today, Filipinos were accustomed to comedic, romantic shows and movies. In fact, many were actually surprised, or maybe disappointed when the 2016 Metro Manila Film Festival featured mostly indie films that have deeper, more serious plotlines. It was reverted back to its usual line-up of comedy, magical and action films which caters more to the masses.

The commemoration of the 34th anniversary of the EDSA People Power Revolution is a good time to look back again on how the media played a big role in the Filipinos’ quest for freedom and democracy in 1986, or maybe in the colonial times as well. 

Revolutionaries during the Spanish colonization period used a number of newspapers to criticize the Spanish rule and urge Filipinos to join the revolution against Spain. Spanish friars and leaders that time targeted publications like La Solidaridad. Jose Rizal’s writings like Noli Me Tangere and El Filibusterismo were not safe from these attacks, and have later caused his execution. 

Moving on to Ferdinand Marcos’ rule, his cronies took over the ABS-CBN a day after the declaration of Martial Law for they know the power of the media and that it may be a great barrier in their total control of the country.

During the height of the People Power Revolution, Filipinos converged along EDSA after the call of the late Jaime Cardinal Sin via the Catholic Church’s Radio Veritas, one of the few remaining media that time. Their transmitter was later knocked down by government troops but have managed to broadcast through different, hidden transmitters in the next days until the return of the free media after Marcos’ removal from office. In EDSA II, the media proved again its power as people used their cellular phones to disseminate information, and how Erap’s televised impeachment trial has changed the course of history that time.

Last year, Rappler CEO Maria Ressa also faced the same harassment after being arrested twice in a span of less than two months. And this year, the Duterte administration kicked-off the year with its strong urge to withhold the franchise renewal of ABS-CBN by using the Office of the Solicitor-General to issue quo warranto and gag order petitions to formally stop ABS-CBN’s operations. It is the same tactic used by the same office to remove former Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno from her office.

These recent attacks on the media prove how powerful it is—that it could actually threaten fascist governments and remove dictators from office. Film and music are not only there to entertain but also depict the reality around us. A news outlet not only informs but also shapes the mindset of the people. An informed citizenry is a great threat to fascist rulers and the media serves this purpose, making it unsurprising that they have been a target of oppressive rulers since its beginnings.

President Duterte using his lapdogs and every government agency  could control to silence critics and impose threats on media like Rappler and ABS-CBN. It is a clear sign that the democracy and freedom fought for by Filipinos 34 years ago in EDSA is again in great danger. Last year’s EO 70 or the Oplan Kapanatagan which was used to silence and harass activists and farmers, the attacks on Church groups like the Rural Missionary of the Philippines, and the continuing impunity in the country proves that we are again heading back to the dark days of Martial Law.

EDSA I proved that the Marcosian utopia, the illusions created by the Martial Law with its atrocities behind it will not last. Media plays a big role in exposing the scandals and injustices and has proven this in the two EDSAs the country has gone through.

Filipinos have long waited every day in MRT lines and traffic along EDSA, and so is their wait for genuine progress which caters to all. Blood, sweat, and tears have dropped not only on train platforms but across the soil, waters, and the skies of this country. It has been a debate whether EDSA I actually brought freedom to the country, or only served as leeway for greater oppression and inequality. But one thing is clear today: the frailties of EDSA I have never been this perceptible, and it should be a reminder for us of the dark days we have been, and a challenge to protect the liberties we have today.

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Editorial

Repeating the bloody history

For the past three years, it is apparent that history is still repeating itself. Those who express criticism are forcefully silenced, sometimes through bloody measures. From farmers and members of the media being killed, critics being faced with trumped-up charges, progressives being red-tagged, and the plans of legislated policies to silence the people. 

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Photo by Jaime Taganas/TomasinoWeb

In the past months, we have seen how the current administration used its ultimate power to silence critics and defend its current control of the government. Behind its infrastructure projects and “world class” events lies issues which have long burdened the Filipino people. Its efforts to silence critics through crackdown and intimidation, and the continuing impunity and injustice in the country, we will be ending the year again in a state of ‘de facto,’ strongman rule. 

History proved that strongman rulers are not only opportunistic, but also feared collective movements and criticism. Post-WW1 Germany focused on foreign capital and investments — a clear indicator that the country was reliant on the schematics of the global economy to survive. When the Great Depression hit multiple economies around 1929, it was inevitable that Germany will share the same fate. With Communism which slowly took over the economically-crippled Germany, the late dictator Adolf Hitler saw these turn of events as an opportunity to take over the country.

Hitler rallied the German people towards his right-wing and nationalist beliefs. He then used the dominant anti-Semitic ideology to promote Aryan supremacy while demolishing the freedom of the press to fabricate the perfect Nazi propaganda. Although his expansionist campaign ended with his death in 1945, it was more than enough to send a message: tyrannical campaigns are short-lived. 74 years after the World War 2, a Hitler-esque strongman tightens his grasp in the Philippines through bloodshed and opportunism.

Ferdinand Marcos’ administration also took advantage of the country’s inclination on foreign investments to advance neoliberal policies. Behind his foreign policies and infrastructure programs, thousands of critics from the media and other individuals were either tortured or killed. After two decades, his rule concluded in the historic people power revolution.

For the past three years, it is apparent that history is still repeating itself. Those who express criticism are forcefully silenced, sometimes through bloody measures. From farmers and members of the media being killed, critics being faced with trumped-up charges, progressives being red-tagged, and the plans of legislated policies to silence the people. 

The move to amend the Human Security Act which will permit warrantless arrests and detention to up to 60 days of anyone suspected to be a terrorist. There is also a plan to revive the Anti-Subversion Law of the Marcos’ dictatorial rule is also underway which will illegalize any form of ‘subversive’ activities and any form of criticism or opposition might be among these. All of these among with the current approach of state authorities of red-tagging progressives will silence critics and progressives and further the ‘strongman’ rule of the current administration.

In the Congress, the Senator Bato Dela Rosa currently pushes for the implementation of the Senate Committee Report  No. 10 which will strengthen its “witch hunt” of progressive students in schools and universities. The aim to review the “Sotto-Enrile accord” is also underway which prohibits police and military from entering schools and universities will further the control and surveillance of the military and police in schools and threaten the safety of students and teachers alike in these “zones of peace.”

Through Executive Order No. 70, otherwise known as the “National Task Force To End Local Communist Armed Conflict”, Duterte aims to institutionalize a “de-facto” martial law through a horrendous crackdown against human rights workers and progressive groups. He revives the communist scare through red-tagging, which victimizes even the slightest dissent. Instead of addressing the root cause of armed conflict, he continues to rule with an iron fist. Martial law to consolidate need not to be declared to consolidate power for a legislated reign of terror is enough to show otherwise.

Through the implementation of extravagant projects and policies, Duterte is capable of shifting the discussion away from his atrocities. His “Build-Build-Build” infrastructure program is nothing short of neoliberalism and Chinese subservience — he aims to deliver us from poverty by gifting away our national sovereignty to foreign powers. The Kaliwa Dam project, one of the most controversial projects under his infrastructure plan is a proof that the current administration is more willing to displace local communities and destroy the country’s natural resources rather than protecting the nation it serves. 

No infrastructure can hide Duterte’s unwillingness to serve the people. The current political landscape is a spectacle for those who find glamor in his governance — his word is law and his orders are benevolent. Political critics are deemed as heretics waiting to be cast into the lake of fire. With a strong support of his cronies and large-scale troll armies, his cult is slowly turning the country into a mass grave of innocent Filipinos sacrificed for his will. Then again, nothing lasts in this world, and so is the current “de-facto” rule. Time is only waiting for the Filipinos to once again unite and fight for their country.

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