Will Philippine history be made or unmade as we know it?
(Editor’s Note: As 2016 comes to a close, the Inquirer asks in its yearender series seven questions for the new year, considering key local and international events that shaped what many regard as one of the most turbulent years in modern times. This fifth part is about the making (or unmaking) of Philippine history. Read the rest of the series at http://inq.news/2016-news-highlights.)
The year 2016 has been nothing short of historic, if not tumultuous, for Filipinos and the country as a whole.
While past issues have yet to be resolved, like the release of billions of decades-old coconut levy funds and justice for the 58 victims of the Maguindanao massacre, three branches of government have been setting new precedents through their pronouncements.
The execution of Filipino drug mule Mary Jane Veloso has been suspended indefinitely in Indonesia following President Duterte’s state visit in September, but not after Indonesian President Joko Widodo reportedly said that the Philippine leader had given a go-ahead.
Malacañang later said that Duterte only meant that the Philippines would not interfere with Indonesian state laws, perhaps setting a precedent for this government’s future stand on Filipinos imprisoned overseas.
Speaking of setting precedents, peace talks between the government and National Democratic Front of the Philippines continue to progress after a successful second round of negotiations in Oslo, Norway, in October.
At the start of the formal talks, Communist Party of the Philippines founder Jose Maria Sison lauded the Duterte administration for its dedication to work through the negotiations.
“For the first time in the history of the Philippines, a President has emerged by denouncing the abuses of the oligarchy and the folly of servility to foreign powers and by using street language and methods of the mass movement,” he said.
Prior to this round of talks, peace talks between the government and communist rebels have gone on and off for three decades, with varying levels of success. Currently, both sides are working on common frameworks outlining socioeconomic, political and constitutional reforms and agendas.
The Duterte administration also renewed moves for charter change (cha-cha) in order to switch to a federal form of government.
The President has said he preferred a constituent assembly (con-ass) in changing the charter. On October 20, the House panel on constitutional amendments approved the request.
Talk of cha-cha is nothing new in the public sphere.
Recently, solons discussed amending the Constitution to ease economic provisions on foreign ownership of businesses.
The last time a constitutional change happened similar to the scale envisioned by Duterte was in 1986. It led to the creation of the 1987 Constitution in use today.
Which begs the question: Amid all these changes, will Philippine history be made or unmade as we know it?
From Arroyo to Marcos
There’s the case of former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, who was acquitted of plunder charges involving state lottery funds. The Supreme Court handed down the decision on July 21.
Arroyo was first jailed in 2011 for alleged fraud that led to her controversial victory in the 2007 presidential elections. She was kept in jail after she was again arrested on orders of the Sandiganbayan over the alleged misuse of Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Funds.
And on Nov. 8, the Supreme Court again made a controversial ruling that allowed the remains of former dictator Ferdinand Marcos to be buried at the Libingan ng mga Bayani.
The decision, penned by Justice Diosdado Peralta, was based on the legality that all former Presidents are considered to have served the country, and thus should be buried with honors.
“At bar, President Duterte, through the public respondents acted within the bounds of law and jurisprudence. Notwithstanding the call of human rights advocates, the Court must uphold what is legal and just and that is not to deny Marcos his rightful place at the LNMB,” he wrote.
The burial was first purportedly scheduled on Nov. 30, Bonifacio Day. However, to the surprise of many Filipinos, the late dictator was buried on the sly at the Libingan ng mga Bayani noon of Nov. 18.
Media and the public were barred from witnessing the private ceremony, which consisted of a 21-gun salute as customary for those buried with military honors.
The surprise burial and barred entrance to the cemetery sparked widespread protests across the country, drawing not only victims of martial law but millennials born after the 1986 Edsa People Power Revolution.
But regardless of whose side you’re on, it’s time for us to take a stand and walk the talk. What’s your take on these long-standing issues?
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