Showcase of democracy

Published January 14, 2021, 12:22 AM

by Gemma Cruz Araneta

LANDSCAPE

Gemma Cruz Araneta

Yes, that’s us, the Republic of the  Philippines, the “showcase of democracy.” It used to be the United States of America that was the light on the hill, the beacon of democracy. But, after that shockingly violent epiphany at their Capitol Hill, I dare say the USA is more of a “showcase of shattered democracy.” Undeniably, President Donald Trump himself incited his base, his constituents of white supremacists, the “deep state,” to march to the US Congress with orders to overturn the results of the elections. In the process, many lawmakers could have been held hostage, maimed, or killed. Trump’s insurrectionists were shouting, “Hang Mike Pence!” The vice president was barely saved from the gallows, hastily erected in front of the Capitol.

Historian Stanley Karnow said that the Philippines was made “In Our Image,” the title of one of his riveting books. We were made in their image and likeness, so are we more American than we think we are? Are Filipinos going to behave like that seditious mob? The thought crossed my mind as I viewed with horror the violence of President Trump’s attempted coup against the US government itself, that insurrection he and his son ignited last 6 January. Would a Filipino president resort to those seditious barbarous acts after losing an election?

When I was in high school in the 1950’s, we learned, almost by rote that the Philippines was the “show case of democracy” in Asia. It was the mantra of my generation. However, that was not because we Filipinos were the first to establish a constitutional government in this region. It was due to the fact that our elections were always “free and fair,” or had to look as if they were indeed. If not, the Philippines would have lost that distinction of being the “showcase of democracy.”

In the aughts of American colonization, elections were conducted at the municipal level as part of a “pacification” strategy. However, voters’ qualifications were so stringent, they have would have been deemed shamefully undemocratic today.  Unrefutably, the electoral process is the core and foundation of a stable democracy because it expresses the voice of the citizens of a country. “Protect the ballot, save the nation!” was another mantra that rang loud and clear every time there were elections. President Trump had dog whistles and the loudest and most dangerous was “Stop the steal.”  And they believed him.

In many Third World countries like the Philippines, the electoral process has often been twisted and distorted to stifle the voice of the people.  False accusations of electoral fraud and violence have been used to change the outcome of free and fair elections, whenever inconvenient to the USA. Ironically, that beacon of democracy that was supposed to have civilized us and taught us how to govern ourselves has exerted its influence to distort the electoral process.

During the 1946 elections here in the Philippines, when Sergio Osmeña was running against Manuel Roxas, six members of the Democratic Alliance party, from Pampanga, Tarlac, and Nueva Ecija,  won congressional seats. However, upon the instigation of the USA, they were ousted and prevented from taking office due to trumped-up charges of violence and fraud. In truth, they had to be expelled because the Parity Rights amendment had to be inserted in the Philippine Constitution of 1935. That was a requirement of the US Bell Trade Act which gave US citizens and corporations exactly the same rights as Filipinos in the exploitation of our natural resources. The Democratic Alliance would have certainly opposed Parity Rights. My father-in-law, J. Antonio Araneta, was a member of the Democratic Alliance, I am proud to say. That was not the last time the USA deprived us of fair and free elections, to suit their political and economic imperatives.

I am writing with tongue-in -cheek, the USA looks like a banana republic these days. It is doing unto itself what it has been doing unto others, unto Third World republics which would rather pull their own bootstraps without unsolicited outside interference.

([email protected]) gemmacruzaraneta.com

 
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