Is Democracy in the Philippines Really Dead?

The mere fact that the opposition and critics of the President and his administration can openly say that democracy is "dead" is proof that democracy is alive and well in this country.

In recent days, I have been reading several social media posts and articles calling Filipinos to speak about what is being claimed as the "death of democracy" in the country. This in light with the recent decision of the Supreme Court to grant the Quo Warranto petition that was lodged against the pretender Chief Justice, Maria Lourdes Sereno, who was found to have committed violations regarding her submission of Statements of Assets, Liabilitiles and Net Worth (SALN) and other requirements, from by Solicitor General Jose Calida. They have been saying the same thing since President Duterte won fair and square during the 2016 Presidential Elections up to the present, and when their desired political results did not go their way, such as the Supreme Court giving the go signal for the late President Ferdinand Marcos to be finally buried at the Libingan ng mga Bayani on the basis of him having served in the Armed Forces of the Philippines prior to practicing law and entering politics.

One would wonder though if their claim is true. If democracy in the Philippines has, indeed, "died" under what they call a "ruthless, fascist and dictatorial" leader in President Duterte, then how come they are having a field day in traditional media, the colleges and universities, halls of Congress, and social media accusing the President of being such and milking the air time and Internet space being allocated to them? If democracy in the Philippines is indeed "dead," then they, along with their Western enablers and supporters, should not even be saying anything about the President and his administration, and the entire country in any medium at all, with only pro-Duterte and pro-government propaganda dominating mainstream and social media outlets, and conservative academicians whose goal is to make Philippine educational institutions a partner in nation building through positive critical collaboration being the ones in cgarge of the likes of UP and Ateneo de Manila.

The most obvious barometer of democracy in the country is freedom of speech. According to the results of a survey done by the Social Welfare Stations (SWS) from March 25-28, 2017, 55 percent of the 1,200 adult respondents agreed that they can say anything they want openly and without fear even if it is against the government, with only 21 percent disagreeing and 24 percent saying that they were undecided. It resulted to a “strong” +34 net freedom of speech rating, which is higher than the “strong” +32 that was recorded in September 2016. If that is the case, then only the opposition, and critics of the President and his administration are saying that freedom of speech and other democratic freedoms are being threatened under the "tyrannical and dictatorial" President Duterte and not the rest of the country.

Aside from the results of the said SWS survey, the President also continues to enjoy high trust and approval ratings from the majority of Filipinos, with proof coming from research work conducted by both local pollsters SWS and Pulse Asia, and foreign entities such as the Pew Research Center. This is due to the fact that aside from most Filipinos being allowed to speak their minds, the government under the heavily maligned Duterte continues to live up to expectations, delivering to the people results such as streets free from crime and narcotics, infrastructure building program and other reform packages that can further increase economic growth and bring development to all corners of the country, agreements that protect the welfare and interests of Filipino expatriate workers such as the one signed with the Government of Kuwait recently, and clean up of Boracay and other areas that have long suffered from neglect and greed of the few. President Duterte and his administration are in tune with the aspirations of the common Filipinos, which is why the opposition and critics of the President, despite being backed up by the local Roman Catholic Church, and Western enablers and supporters, find difficult in asserting their position that democracy in the Philippines is "dead," and President Duterte is a "fascist and tyrannical" national politician.

If freedom of speech and other democratic freedoms are being threatened, and democracy per se in the country is "dead," then we should not be reading relentless attacks on the President and his administration, and those who support him from a variety of mediums, ranging from mainstream media outlets such as Rappler and the Philippine Daily Inquirer to student publications such as UP Diliman's Philippine Collegian, which sympathizes with the politics and causes of Jose Maria Sison and the rest of the Maoists, and Ateneo de Manila's The Guidon, which is an elitist, holier than thou medium that looks down on the majority of Filipinos, to the social media accounts of many members of the mainstream media and so-called "thought leaders" with either Maoist or socialist political ideology or biases. A “dead” democracy should not give them the medium to make claims that democracy in this country is “dead.” The manufactured noise coming from them only makes them contradict themselves.

The mere fact that the opposition and critics of the President and his administration can openly say that democracy is "dead" is proof that democracy is alive and well in this country. The mere fact that critical commentary and fake news reports can be published in the open despite having slanderous content is proof that democracy in the Philippines is not dead. The mere fact that those claiming that democracy in this country is dead look ridiculous in the eyes of many because an openly democractic space makes them contradict themselves and their statements proves that democracy here is alive and well.

About the Author
Benedict is an agricultural economist, academician and writer. He has gained experience and expertise in various fields of economics, business, political science and public relations after through professional ventures in the academe, and in the public and private sectors. He has authored or co-authored key publications on topics ranging from agriculture and food security to global affairs and politics.
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