PH reaffirms commitment to democracy in US summit

Published December 11, 2021, 12:05 AM

by Manila Bulletin


The Philippines was among 89 countries that accepted US President Joseph Biden’s invitation to a summit convened to boost commitment to democracy amid concerns on rising authoritarianism that he said was the “defining challenge” of the current era.

While he did not specifically mention China and Russia, the two countries’ absence from the summit facilitated the delivery of President Biden’s call to the participants to have “vision and courage to once more lead the march of human progress and human freedom forward.”

Critical observers have noted the continuing partisan strife in the United States following the election of President Biden last year and the storming of the US Capitol before his inauguration by elements identified with his predecessor Donald Trump. The Biden administration asserts that it remains firmly committed to safeguard US democracy through legislation that would regulate the use of presidential pardons and prevent interference in foreign elections.

The White House expects the convening of an in-person summit in 2022 to review commitments made to strengthen democracy. Meanwhile, the US is rallying support for global initiatives to enhance privacy and circumvent censorship through the use of technology. The US Treasury Secretary also cited efforts to curb money laundering, illicit finance and tax evasion that were cited as impediments to free and fair government.

The Brookings Institution characterized the Philippines as an “invited US ally” but raised concern that the country “has the third lowest index rank of 15 countries in the East Asia and Pacific region, just above Myanmar” in the World Justice Project’s Rule of Law Index.

The country has apparently passed muster – despite previous criticism against the administration’s human rights record, especially in light of alleged extrajudicial killings arising from its anti-drug abuse campaign.

Ahead of President Duterte’s statement, the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) said that the country’s participation in the summit demonstrates the country’s abiding commitment to democracy as manifested by Filipinos in their “hearts, minds and actions.” The Philippines holds the distinction of having become an independent republic ahead of peer nations in the region.

Notwithstanding the imposition of martial rule by then President Ferdinand Marcos, the country’s resurgence as a democracy following the EDSA People Power uprising in 1986 inspired similar scenarios on the return or reemergence of democracy in other countries all over the world.

Except for the ousting of then President Joseph Ejercito Estrada through a similar People Power exercise, there have been four transitions of power brought about by peaceful and orderly elections: from Corazon Aquino to Fidel Ramos in1992; from Ramos to Estrada in 1998; from Gloria Macapagal Arroyo to Benigno Aquino III in 2010; and from Aquino III to Rodrigo Duterte in 2016.

With an eye towards posterity, President Duterte’s reaffirmation of the country’s commitment to democracy bodes well for the conduct of fair and orderly elections next year — and the possibility that his successor would also endeavor to ensure that the country’s democratic institutions are strengthened.