Drift toward a dictatorship?

by Benjie Oliveros

What is the impact of practically dissolving or immobilizing the Commission on Human Rights (CHR) when the House of Representatives gave it a preposterously meager budget of P1, 000?

What are the implications of moving for the impeachment of another Supreme Court Chief Justice, this time around it’s Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno, an appointee of President Duterte’s predecessor Benigno Aquino III?

What are the implications of the impeachment moves against Vice President Leni Robredo?

Without delving into the fairness and probity of CHR Chairman Chito Gascon or Chief Justice Sereno or Vice President Robredo, what are the implications of such moves by the Duterte administration and its allies on the political situation and the institutions these officials represent?

A lot.

The attack on the CHR reinforces the prevailing impunity in killings whether in the anti-drug war or in counterinsurgency or counter terror operations. And impunity hits most the innocent, defenseless, and the poor. Impunity hurts the most those who do not have the means to protect themselves with arms or with expensive legal teams.

This writer has a policeman friend who once confided that it would only cost P5, 000 to have someone killed by a policeman. Now, the situation is even worse: being in the wrong place on the wrong time could get one killed or a simple gossip that one is an addict or has tried drugs could cost one his or her life.

Life has become too cheap in the Philippines.

The impeachment of Chief Justice Sereno, on the other hand, is practically an attack on what is left of the independence of the judiciary. To be fair, the Duterte administration is not the first government that undermined the Supreme Court. President Aquino started it when he publicly ordered the impeachment of Chief Justice Renato Corona. The late Chief Justice Corona might not be the paragon of integrity, fairness and probity, (as all justices are appointed by the president and has a tendency to be beholden to the one who appointed them) but when he was impeached, and Aquino appointed Sereno, what would happen if Sereno is impeached, and Duterte appoints a new Chief Justice, will he or she be impeached by the next administration? This could go on and on.

Third, in this country, the office of the vice president is powerless. The vice president is regarded merely as a spare tire. All the vice president could do is to express her or his views on what is happening in the country. If for merely articulating a view critical of the policies of the administration, a vice president could be impeached then what is left of the office of the vice presidency?

When a country has a president, and an executive branch for that matter, who does not listen to reason, and disregards due process and human rights; is aided by a complicit Congress; unchecked by a weakened or suppressed judiciary; where any government official who does not tow the line is removed; and impunity reigns; how could we describe the political situation? A dictatorship.

There is only one element left for a dictatorship to reassert itself in this country: the people’s silence or indifference.

Hope lies in the fact that more and more people are speaking up to rage against the dying of the light.

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