By ATTY. MEL STA. MARIA
It is the onset of 2019. What are some expectations of many Filipinos?
First, that Congress will not waste time and taxpayers’ money deliberating on the replacement of the 1987 Constitution. It is not the remedy for our multifarious problems, such as high prices, traffic congestion, environmental degradation, high crime rate, housing for the poor, poverty, extra-judicial killings, graft and corruption, and the Philippines’ reputation as an area of global concern for mass killing resulting from the government’s drug war.
Second, that the executive department will effectively exert efforts to regain respectability locally and internationally by asserting the country’s clear rights in the West Philippine Sea. The present Duterte administration has failed to use, whether by design or omission, the Hague decision to lead countries in the building up of a strong international political aggrupation to pressure China to abide by the comprehensive ruling. To many, the executive department’s timorous approach is worse than appeasement. It is cowardice.
Third, that our foreign policy will discontinue exhibiting its obsessive “love” for China. Reported loans and other contracts favoring China — about 29 of them — will be entered, if not already perfected. Many are apprehensive that, because of the present leadership’s predilection to please China, these agreements may contain stipulations — such as in matters of interest rates and the exploitation of our own natural resources — which are onerous against our economic interest and/or unconstitutional undermining our national prerogatives. Significantly, about 3,000,000 chinese have already been allowed entry into the Philippines since 2016 — and still increasing — posing a threat of displacing our own Filipino work-force.
Fourth, that the judiciary will be genuinely independent.While the appointees may feel grateful to the President, they must check his powers every time they are exercised detrimentally against the interest of our democratic system. Allegiance and fidelity not to the President but to the Constitution should be the unbending guidepost. Moreover, they must adjudicate in a way that decisionsare not seen as only for the rich and powerful, avoiding the perception that “there are just some among us who are elite” and “who are powerful and networked to enjoy privileges not shared by all” as pointed out by Supreme Court Associate Justice Leonen in his dissent in the Supreme Court’s grant of bail favoring former Senator Enrile.
Fifth, that our constitutional rights are respected and protected no matter how adverse and scathing the criticisms, opinions, beliefs. and advocacies against the government may be. The freedom of expression and the press must be honored at all times not by cheap lip-service but by actions. Our national hero Jose Rizal — while exiled in Dapitan — wrote in his November, 1892, letter to Fr. Pablo Pastells, SJ: “In order that politics may be discussed luminously and may produce results, it needs, in my opinion, large spheres of freedom.” Rizal’s opinion resonates in our time especially when these “large spheres of freedom” seem to be in danger. What many regard as targeted political persecution — cases of Senators De Lima and Trillanes — and press-intimidation — cases of Rappler and Maria Ressa — initiated from or by whatever sources must stop.
Sixth, that Philippine Communist leaders enjoying themselves in the Netherlands will realize that their ideology cannot thrive in the Philippines, a predominantly God-believing country. That “religion is the opium of the people” — one of communism’s basic tenets — is incipiently repugnant to the vast majority of Filipino Muslims, Christians, Jews, and those belonging to other religions. They will not believe or cannot be persuaded that the basis of their freedoms emanate from or can be replaced by the ideas espoused by Marx, Lenin, Stalin, Mao, Kim Il Sung, and Pol Pot, all fallible human beings whose governance included the deaths of millions of their own people. Filipino atheists are not even shoo-ins for communism. They are more skeptical and critical. The dictatorships in North Korea and Cuba — the remaining countries steeped in this ideology — are not at all exemplars of progress and prosperity.
Seventh, that the May, 2019, elections will result in a peaceful revolution by not putting into position public officials who — either by subservience or ignorance, laziness or stupidity, ambivalence or political self-preservation — have no interest, desire, initiative, or patriotism to fight for government decency, constitutional stability, and the country’s dignity, territorial and political integrity, and international respectability.
Hoping that 2019 willbe meaningful for the Filipino nation.