Pressure point

May 30, 2022

by Xandra Liza C. Bisenio

When the president- and vice-president- elect were about to be proclaimed, I was coincidentally nauseous and feeling too sick to react. When the Senate President and House Speaker were raising the hands of the late dictator’s son Marcos Jr, surrounded by his mother, siblings, cousin and immediate family, I couldn’t look. In my mind I still saw that picture of them during Marcos Sr’s fake proclamation in Malacañang on the eve of the 1986 EDSA revolution.

The morning after, I woke up shaking my head saying OMG, Marcos Jr has been proclaimed indeed. It was, still is, awkward to come to terms with that.

At the monitoring centers, complaints on machine failure and lack of replacement, long queues, tampered ballots, and disenfranchisement were still being processed at 8pm of May 9; many citizens chose to stand their ground and waited for machine problems to be resolved, some even until up to the wee hours. But that same evening the nationwide results all-too-swiftly came close to a hundred percent.

IBON has been saying that a Marcos-Duterte win would be catastrophic for the Philippine economy that hasn’t even gotten out of the pandemic crisis yet. They had only motherhoods on making Filipinos’ lives better. Their track record and lack of a strategic platform on socio-economic reforms has shown their lack of interest to comprehensively address the country’s chronic problems and change the economy into one that works for the many.

As erstwhile mayor, Sara Duterte is proud to say that Davao City became debt-free and among the richest under her watch, that the local government unit received awards in terms of police and public services, and that insurgency in the city has been wiped out. However, unemployment spiked in Davao City from 4.5% in 2018 to 14.4% in 2020, the worst in the region according to latest available data. Poverty incidence in the Davao region, which dropped from 17% to 14.4% in the same period, was based on a very low regional poverty threshold of Php11,103 per family per month or Php74 per person per day. It was also during her mayorship when IBON noted the growth of public construction spending as big business projects involving Senator Bong Go and oligarch/family friend Dennis Uy boomed.

As expected, Duterte vows that she will continue her father’s programs when she assumes the vice presidency. These have of course been discredited for making Filipinos suffer even before the pandemic’s worst health and economic crisis. All while prioritizing big business, bowing to foreign powers and overly pampering security forces into robotic crushers of critics.

In his latest stint as senator from 2010 to 2016 bills mostly co-authored by Marcos Jr that became laws included the Expanded Senior Citizens Act of 2010, Anti-Drunk and Drugged Driving Act, Cybercrime Prevention Act, Expanded Anti-Trafficking in Persons Act, and the National Health Insurance Act. Apparently, what he promised the electorate during his campaign for the presidency – industrialization, stronger local agriculture, cheaper rice and electricity, and more hospitals, for instance – were not yet in his orbit when he was in the actual business of crafting the laws of the land?

What we are sure of though is how Marcos Jr does not admit Martial Law era atrocities and economic decline. He dodged public debates that would put him on the spot about Marcos Sr’s failures, but is vocal about picking up from the late dictator’s agriculture, health, and energy programs. Marcos Jr is also all praises for pro-big-business Build Build Build and the vile and controversial National Task Force to End Local Communism and Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC).

The government’s trademark has been to obscure the truth, peddle its own version of reality, and go on ahead with its most-often carefully thought-out programs that make the local and foreign super-rich happy. And, of course, arming its police and military and civilian auxiliaries to the teeth as the guardians of the status quo who would lie, harass, illegally arrest, bomb, and kill for it. The newly-proclaimed leaders of the land made it clear that they’re not changing that, primarily by glorifying and vowing to revive or continue what their neoliberal and authoritarian fathers did.

It has been reported how especially Marcos’ 2022 campaign was anchored on monetarily boosting systematic disinformation, especially historical revisionism. Come to think of it, this fortified how – for perhaps as long as some from my generation might remember and corroborate – most of the newspapers and magazines, radio and TV shows, textbooks and journals said nothing much about the Martial Law era and its economic, social and cultural issues and excesses. Complementing that was how the lame duck Duterte administration consistently hyped the success of its Build Build Build, tax reform and rice tariffication programs to divert attention from the jobs crisis, poverty, environmental destruction, inequality and bondage that its neoliberalism perpetrated and worsened.

And so they won. I mean, how much more nauseating can nauseating get.

The day after the proclamation, with nausea going away but being replaced by a mounting headache, a book on economics and the plight of the Filipino people just reminded me that those in economic power in this age of neoliberal globalization will have the tendency to keep doing what they do for gold. And the newly proclaimed winners will most probably take on further spins to make it look like they are on the side of change. They might also even claim the people’s aspirations such as land reform and progress in the countryside, a Filipino-fueled manufacturing industry, a robust environment, and progressive tax laws as their own to diffuse growing dissent.

But they will have to face and engage with a people who are trudging through prevailing injustices. I take the amazing swelling of volunteerism and support for the alternative candidates – people’s unities further forged to challenge Marcos Jr and Duterte – as unmistakable streams of hope. Whenever linked to the relentless, undying grassroots-anchored struggle for a more genuinely humane society, more and more matches are lit and cannot just be put out.

I had much of the above in mind when I wrote a song for women journalists at the height of the campaign period which ended this way: They made machines to turn the truth into lies/ Stand with all your might to hold the line/ They’re turning the world into a graveyard/ Find the light together, shine the light together/ Keep up the fight.

And voila, the headache’s gone.