The other day I was watching the movie ‘The Dictator’ starring Sacha Baron Cohen as Hafaz Aladeen, a ruthless dictator from the fictional nation of Wadiya. Although the movie was mostly hilarious, some scenes from this movie made me think about the current situation of my country and how much freedom do we really have and how properly we use it. In Aladeen’s speech in front of the United Nations, he let out an incredibly witty satire about dictatorship. He asked them why are they so anti-dictatorship when in this type of government,you could wire tap phones and use the media to scare the public into supporting policies that are against their interests. You could help your rich friends get richer by cutting their taxes and bailing them out when they gamble and lose. You could have rigged elections. You could ignore the needs of the poor for health care and education. Your media would appear free, but would secretly be controlled by one person and his family and many other horrible things. As I hear those words I realized, hey, that’s exactly what’s happening in our country right now but wait, that’s not right. The Philippines is not under a dictatorship, we’re a democracy.
We’re a democracy, right?
To find the answers to my questions, I did a little research about what a real democracy is and what does it looks like. By definition, Democracy is a form of government in which all eligible citizens participate equally—either directly or indirectly through elected representatives—in the proposal, development, and creation of laws. Given, the Filipino people elect the leaders of their government but there are always accusations of cheating and vote buying. And sometimes, they weren’t just accusations; they were proven to be true but only after those politicians have served their terms and plundered enough money to fund the construction of their summer homes and mansions. The Elections here are always bloody to the point that even those who run for Baranggay Captains and Kagawads get gunned down. Journalists get killed here and there to prevent the truth from coming out.Where’s the democracy in that?
It is also said that in a democracy, everyone is treated equally and has equal rights. We can all agree that is not happening here since many women and children still get abused and sold into prostitution and slavery dens. Our native brothers get kicked out of their tribe’s home land to make way for military exercises and corporate buildings like hotels and other things; thus losing their age old culture. The needs of the poor get ignored and no matter how many times they say and announce on TV that the Philippine economy is Asia’s next miracle, not one poor Filipino believes it or feels it for that matter.Our government does not protect our freedom and living, they are only protecting the freedom of the rich and anyone who gives them money. Where’s the democracy in that?
In an article by Bjorn Dressel, a senior lecturer in the Australian National University entitled “The Philippines: How much real democracy”, he explained that Philippine democracy is a paradox. Yes, we are known as the first Asian country to topple an authoritarian rule and demanded democracy during the People Power. In the first few years after that peaceful revolution, we had a vibrant experience of democracy but after that, what happened? “…the flaws in the democratic process are also extensive: elite dominance, institutional weakness, and widespread abuse of public office, which suggest true representation is largely illusory.” Dressel wrote. Our freedom is an illusion, made colorful by these rich families and politicians who only care to protect their interests and their money. They are giving us blindfolds and we’re willingly covering our eyes with it.
This coming 2016, we are once again going to enjoy our rights to suffrage. How many more failed presidents, how many crooked mayors, how many stealing congressmen and senators do we have to vote for until we realize that unless we do something to fight back this kind of oppression, nothing is ever going to change. Unless we actually use our minds to think and carefully pick the rightful candidate to lead the country, the same cycle of poverty and suffering will just repeat itself. The Philippines will remain a third world country despite our very rich natural resources. We will continue to be used because we let them.
We shouldn’t let them. Democracy gives power to the people to rule and decide the fate of their country. Let’s work together to divert that power where it actually belongs: to the Filipino people. We must bring back real democracy and this time, let’s make it permanent. If we’re going to ask for real democracy, we’re going to have to look for it ourselves and make it happen.