We’re back to martial law – columnist
…and I agree!
MANILA, Philippines — Satur Ocampo is a congressman. Until his party is defeated in the elections — and there is little sign it will be; in fact there is every sign it will leave its rivals biting the dust — he remains an elected public official. He deserves at the very most the respect that goes with his title. He deserves at the very least not to be manhandled the way he was last Monday.
The footage on TV makes the blood boil. It would have been so even if he were not a member of Congress. The images come straight from martial law, when the authorities could do pretty much anything they pleased with suspects. Including move them about like chess pieces with the sole purpose of intimidating them or exposing them to harm. And on the basis of the most laughable charges, except that the victims are in no position to laugh. Nor indeed are the rest of us who have to grin and bear another atrocity by people drunk with power. This while the people guilty of the very thing they are accusing others of are free to laugh their heads off. No, more than that, this while the people guilty of far worse crimes are free to inflict this abuse on others.
Look at the people who connived to bring Ocampo to this pass — the two Gonzalezes, Esperon, Ermita and, of course, their boss in Malacañang. Any or all of them far more richly deserve to be haled in court for crimes ranging from the murder of people to the murder of democracy, whichever suffuses this land with a fouler stench. Any and all of them patently and richly deserve to be put behind bars and the key (to their cell) dropped to the bottom of the Pacific Ocean for crimes ranging from stealing the vote, corruption over and beyond the call of venality (how else could we have become the most corrupt country in Asia?) and the wholesale murder of journalists and political activists by command responsibility or active encouragement.
The judge in Leyte province had already told the police that Ocampo need not be delivered to Leyte. Manila’s Finest, a modifier that now deserves only the noun “Goons,” still insisted on giving him a tour of the Visayas without the usual “tourist-ic” amenities sang by Regine Velasquez at the top of her lungs. There’s absolutely no excuse for it, except mental incapacity, though why they are being made to protect and serve in that state, only their patrons know.
I don’t know why Congress isn’t protesting it. Well, in fact, I do: Congress is infested with Jose de Venecia, the two Bicolanos who led the murder of the impeachment bids, the two Prosperos and sundry clowns. For sheer contrast, you need only look at the way Congress reacted to the deportation of Mark Jimenez to the United States for electoral crimes and Romeo Jalosjos’ conviction for the un-Romeo-like molestation of minors, and to the arrest and continued detention of Ocampo.
In the first, they gathered around the criminals — I will not insult Solon by affixing his name on them — vowing undying love and fealty to their colleagues. Well, their undying loyalty died shortly later, but not after a fierce, and completely ridiculous, display of it, producing as they did the spectacle of lawmakers determined to thwart the law. Here with only a trumped-up charge against a colleague by the very people guilty of it, they will not lift a finger to help him. Well, he is not their peer, he is their better.
But, indeed, I don’t know why the candidates, particularly from the opposition, aren’t violently protesting it. It shows that elected officials can be removed anytime on one pretext or another—before elections, during elections, even after elections. The arrest and detention of Ocampo is all of a piece with the harassment and removal from office of elected public officials for crimes Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo and her mob are damnably guilty of.
I personally wouldn’t be surprised if they prevent several opposition figures from taking their seats in the Senate or House on grounds of cheating. Yes, cheating. This government is no longer capable of being embarrassed. Despite being unelected and corrupt, it has gone on to oust elected officials on grounds of corruption. Despite its culpability for the runaway killings, it has filed a murder charge against Ocampo. Despite being headed by someone who connived with Garci to steal the vote, it can — and if this pattern holds, probably will — rob opposition candidates of victory, for cheating.
But far more than its implications for the elections, the epic injustice done to Ocampo casts a dark and heavy shadow on the future of this country. One is tempted to say that unless we watch out, we’ll soon be back to martial law, or to a dictatorship with or without a declaration of martial law. But even that isn’t true. We are back to martial law even as we speak, or to a dictatorship without the declaration of martial law. The hallmarks of democracy are the freedom to elect one’s leaders, the freedom to speak and assemble, and, hell, the freedom to just exist.
We do not have the leaders we elected. We are holding elections under the auspices of iron-fisted rule which — as Ocampo’s case shows — has no rules other than what the rulers decree. Our freedom to assemble has been scuttled and, with the antiterrorism law, our freedom to speak may be scuttled as well. Meanwhile the journalists and political activists are dying like flies. They’re not just citizens too like you and me, they’re the best citizens we have.
History repeats itself, as they say, the first time as tragedy, the second time as farce. It’s true. Dictatorship has repeated itself in this country. The first time, courtesy of someone who would not give up power after having been elected twice; the second time, courtesy of someone who would not give up power after not having been elected at all.