SARSUELA: Do we have such short memories?

by Crispin Fernandez, MD

Severino Reyes’s Walang Sugat Sarsuela staged by Tanghalang Ateneo | Screengrab from YouTube

Misquoted. On Sunday, the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) spokesperson said it is validating reports of efforts to “upset” the Marcos Jr. administration. Still, no plot is in place to destabilize the government. Col. Medel Aguilar, an AFP spokesperson, was clarifying the statement of AFP chief Romeo Brawner, Jr regarding alleged destabilization efforts against the government that he later retracted, saying he was “misquoted.”

During a speech at a ceremony, Brawner urged the active personnel of the AFP not to join the alleged movement led by retired officials as there have been efforts to recruit from among their ranks. The top AFP official also said he had discussed this issue with the retired officials.

National Security Adviser Eduardo Año denied that these retired military officials were hatching a destabilization plot, but he noted that some of them were expressing criticisms against the Marcos government.

The prologue of the SARSUELA. Please read from the notes of the great architect himself as archived in the official Philippine Gazette.

A Molotov bomb was thrown at the NAIA 3 parking lot, and subsequent bomb threats disrupted airports all over the country. Motive yet to be ascertained:

The massive borrowing embedded in the 2024 national budget and likely through 2028 exposes the Philippines to the same economic problems brought about by suffocating debt during the 1980s.

The early part of the administration 40 years ago continued the rising growth rate that characterized the previous administrations of the Third Philippine Republic, peaking at nearly 9 percent in 1973 and 1976. However, later years saw the worst recession in Philippine history, with the economy contracting by 7.3% in 1984 and again in 1985. The dramatic rise and fall of the Philippine economy during this period is attributed to the heavy dependence on foreign loans (debt-driven as opposed to productivity-driven growth), its policy of establishing monopolies under cronies, which resulted in significant income inequality, corruption by government officials, and the capital flight which has historically been attributed to economic plunder.

The preceding is history. And yet, after four decades, the events appear to resemble the present day. When the top political campaign contributor acquires the country’s only offshore oil exploration platform, is this not cronyism?

There is no desire to unduly alarm here, merely a desire to shine a light at what appear to be disjointed, unrelated circumstances. Awareness can help avoid the same outcomes. Let us not dismiss these events as nothing because they are something – they are happening – there is no conjecture, just facts.”

The seemingly unconnected events, the Molotov bombing, issued airport bomb threats, and talk of “efforts” (not a plot) to overthrow the current government, appear to be a rehash from 40 years ago. These ghosts from the past want to make a return – back to the future?

There is no desire to unduly alarm here, merely a desire to shine a light at what appear to be disjointed, unrelated circumstances. Awareness can help avoid the same outcomes. Let us not dismiss these events as nothing because they are something – they are happening – there is no conjecture, just facts. There may be some who might argue returning to the so-called golden age of the 1980s is what we need because we are so fortunate to presently have such outstanding leadership that elections and the democratic process be damned. A doubling of the national debt yet again over the next few years is no source for worry; maybe it is just a proven recipe to induce a financial crisis and the resulting chaos that would justify authoritarian rule again? To some, authoritarian rule is the best thing since the invention of sliced bread – that we rely on the benevolence of those who shall wield those powers.

2025 is around the corner. The Filipino people will be allowed to prevent or support a return to the 1980s. If Filipinos choose wisely, they may yet determine and write their own future. Pack the Congress of the Philippines, the Senate, and the House of Representatives with the right or wrong candidates, and Filipinos will have no one else to thank or blame but themselves. This plea is premised on Filipinos attaining the requisite political maturity and basic understanding of the choices that confront them – a fiscalizing and independent Congress or a rubber stamp that does not represent them but the whims of those they elect.

This writer would be remiss without prayer and plea for every overseas Filipino to (a) register to vote, (b) acquire dual citizenship, if naturalized, then register to vote, and (c) vote on Election Day. What becomes of the Philippines is not up to the politicians but to each Filipino. When the vote fails, so does the country. However, it’s been said that Filipino migrants fled to another nation because they’d rather run than stay. Every Filipino can make a stand, even from overseas, by voting or influencing family and friends back in the motherland to vote and vote wisely.

Let us not live through another SARSUELA – the Philippines may never survive the next one without losing its soul. To those who would perpetrate authoritarian rule in the guise of stability, peace and order, and economic bliss, reexamine and reflect on the true motives. Allow our democracy the opportunity to age gracefully. Trust the future leaders who don’t bear the same last names. How much wealth is enough? How long must power be wielded to be convinced of the futility of a blinded vision for self-aggrandizement and historical revisionism? Must our country pay the price too great and offer itself at the feet of those who fail to recognize the tyranny of such selfish beliefs? Let the patriotic sons and daughters of our motherland set the course and, in a final act of contrition, lift the shroud of pride and prejudice to let our country finally be truly free.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Dr. Crispin Fernandez advocates for overseas Filipinos, public health, transformative political change, and patriotic economics. He is also a community organizer, leader, and freelance writer.

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