Thirty-five years ago, we experienced what was perhaps one of the most glorious moments in our lifetime. The meaning of EDSA People Power and the return of democracy and our freedom never left us as we celebrate the 25th of February every year. But the journey since then has been one of ups and down or taking two steps forward and another two steps backward. And as the years went by, there were more backward than forward steps. And we soon discovered that we had squandered the gains we had made. Today, we find ourselves less united as the social and economic divides have grown wider, and as we again see ourselves waiting for a leader who can save us. Surrounded by deafening and confusing disinformation, many of our people find themselves gripped with fear and anxiety over the pandemic or an unexpected calamity.
Just a few days before the EDSA People Power anniversary celebration, the Wikipedia page was vandalized. And guess what and who perpetrated this action? Yes, it was the work of state-sponsored trolls and revisionists who edited the infobox of Ferdinand Marcos to “Ferdinand Marcos the Great President, then calling the revised entry “BETTERRR.” Fortunately, a group of volunteers spotted the edits right away. Experienced contributors usually monitor “vulnerable” pages such as those of Marcos and his family members. The late dictator’s page alone has had some 7,170 edits since 2002,
Analysts see this mobilization of trolls that go after dissenting voices as a primary factor which not only creates a “toxic online environment” but a threat likewise to the erosion of our already fragile democratic institutions. In fact, an analyst noted that the lack of sustained protests and against Duterte could be an indicator of normalization of authoritarian practices.
Those who have been monitoring our political scene have noted the gradual erosion of Philippine democracy, A scholar from the Australian National University, C. Urbanski describes the country as an example of “non-substantive democracy and asks how Asia’s first democratic republic has become so persistently undemocratic. He attributes this to the shrinking middle class, a phenomenon which has been the consequence of mass emigration. This is the exodus of many of our well-trained doctors, nurses, engineers, IT experts, scientists, and thousands of professionals to the United States, Europe, and various Asian countries. This has resulted in what has been described as the “parochialization of the Philippine electorate, with voters electing populist candidates or those along traditional patron-client lines.
This has been ongoing for sometime now, and one needing significant reforms such as how to provide incentives to encourage the return of overseas Filipinos and how to improve absentee voting mechanisms.
But there are a number of positive developments that give us hope. And these are happening not among our politicos in the national scene, but in local government. Mayor Vico Sotto is one of them. He was recently recognized by the US State Department as one of the world’s new anticorruption champions, saying he has become a “standard bearer for a new generation of Philippine politicians who prioritize anticorruption and transparency in their election campaigns and in office.” It will be remembered that Sotto put an end to the three decade-ruling of a political clan in Pasig. He created Freedom of Information kiosks to soliciting citizen-centered scorecards that monitor and assess local government’s delivery of public service, and practices inclusive governance by providing access to all sectors of society. There are other young and idealistic leaders like him who can provide as well the needed alternative to existing political dynasties.
We have a vibrant civil society which exercises vigilance over human rights and ensures citizen participation in vital areas of social, economic, and political life like voter’s education, women’s and children’s rights. A dynamic form of volunteerism exists which is important in a country continually besieged by calamities.
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