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That was 2022


The year 2022 is mostly ending on an economic and political note. The inflation rate is at an unprecedented 8%, the highest level since 2008, while the looming passage of the Maharlika Investment Fund bill in Congress is indicating how the legislative and executive branches of government, while supposedly separate and equal, are practically one and the same. Expect the Supreme Court, in which the majority are appointees of former President Rodrigo Duterte, to be as supportive of those two other branches as well, should there be any challenges to the laws they pass and implement.

This is not to say that previous years had not ended with political and economic issues and with their consequences unresolved. The Duterte administration’s last year in office also passed into history with its control over all three branches of government intact, and with unemployment and the prices of prime commodities, housing, and medical care at record highs.

The first is in violation of the republican principle of checks and balances, while the second is indicative of how little attention Mr. Duterte and company paid to easing the suffering many families have had to endure because of the COVID-19 pandemic and its impact on employment and on business. But what makes this year-end unique is that the same problems and worse are still facing this country and its people six months since almost the entire Marcos family returned to power on the promise of change, 36 years after the 1986 EDSA civilian-military mutiny forced them out of the country and into exile.

It is becoming exceedingly clear that rather than “moving on,” the results of the May 2022 elections are making only a repetition of the past possible — the exact opposite of the promise of change that beguiled many Filipinos. It was the Marcos restoration that made the year excruciatingly significant, and particularly troubling to those Filipinos aware of history. Political scientists, historians, and most of all the survivors of torture and illegal detention, and the kin of the disappeared and murdered during the martial law period, thought it impossible. But it has indeed come to pass for a number of quite obvious reasons.

The year 2022 practically began with the removal, courtesy of the supposedly independent Commission on Elections (Comelec), of the major challenge to Ferdinand Marcos, Jr.’s and his family’s decades-long drive for the Presidency. The Commission denied the petitions for his disqualification that argued that he cannot run for public office because of his alleged failure to file income tax returns from 1982 to 1985.

Mr. Marcos followed up that victory by wooing the military, assuring it of his support for a bigger budget come 2023 for its National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC). He was true to his word: his allies and kin in Congress — his cousin and his own son, among others — approved the increase in the NTF-ELCAC’s budget in the P5.268 trillion 2023 General Appropriations Act (GAA). He signed it into law, despite the Armed Forces of the Philippines’ (AFP) claim that the New People’s Army (NPA) is no longer as serious a threat to oligarchic rule as it once was.

But it does make sense for Mr. Marcos, since if there is anything he has learned from his late father’s rule, it is how crucial military support can be to the survival of any regime.

But what resonated most in the mass of the electorate was his campaign promise to make rice available at P20 a kilo. Rice — its availability and its cost — has always been an election and governance issue in this country, hence Mr. Marcos’ promise, which much of the electorate, especially those in the direst economic straits, believed he could achieve, together with the hope that he would distribute to the poorest at least part of the wealth that his family in some form or another amassed during the Marcos Sr. dictatorship.

But forgetting the past is what the family hopes will serve it best, and they made it clear during the year. As various groups and personalities assailed the martial law period as one of the darkest in Philippine history, the family condemned them for their “preoccupation with the past,” and urged everyone to “move on,” despite the imperative of remembering what happened in history as the only means of preventing its repetition.

Nevertheless, the family’s “forget the past” mantra did not stop the online troll farms, no doubt orchestrated by the usual broadcast and print media hacks and public relations mercenaries, from going back to the martial law era by painting the Marcos Sr. dictatorship as a “golden age” despite the gross human rights violations, the rice and energy crisis, the “world-class” corruption, the economic decline, the war in Mindanao, the savaging of Philippine culture, and the poverty of the millions under its boot heel that characterized it.

Media and election watch groups have correctly identified disinformation as the most crucial factor behind the Marcos restoration. Ours is supposed to be the Information Age, but truth tellers are demonized and under threat from the onslaught of the mercenaries of disinformation and the demagogues behind them. Thanks to the “golden age” myth and the fairy tale that he would distribute to the poor some of his family’s wealth that the trolls and their cohorts in broadcast and print propagated, Ferdinand Marcos, Jr. is arguably nearly as powerful as his father was, as a consequence of the electorate’s packing both the House of Representatives and the Senate with his kin and allies; the judicial system’s pliability to Executive pressure; and the police and military’s predictable partiality to the rule of another Marcos.

Apparently in deference to his presumed popularity, which the public opinion polls now say is at record highs, much of today’s supposedly free press seems to be content with merely following him around and reporting what he did or said on this or that occasion. Only the handful of independent journalists and media organizations that have survived years of threats, harassments, physical assaults, libel suits, and assassinations have dared point out that other than make such motherhood statements as that “we should raise production” or “improve” our so-called “industries,” Mr. Marcos has yet to specify exactly how he intends to achieve either, and, as critical as the public health situation and the country’s problems with food are, he has yet to name a full-time head of the Department of Health (DoH) and continues to be his own Secretary of Agriculture.

Instead of sustainable means and programs, still in place are the same short-term Duterte regime band-aid responses to public health problems, poverty, unemployment, the rocketing inflation rate, and climate change, such as limited financial aid (“ayuda”), and relief operations for this sector or that region despite the urgent need for long-term, strategic solutions to this country’s and its people’s monumental problems.

Volcanic eruptions, earthquakes, floods, or even the pandemic and other natural calamities are not so much the major causes of Filipino afflictions. Rather are they the doing of the uncaring and ineffectual dynasts the mass of disinformed voters habitually put in office who are obsessed with pelf and power, and whose misplaced, self-servingly lucrative priorities prevent their paying more attention to the plight of the very same long-suffering people to whom they owe the posts they think are theirs by right.

Like the many other years that have since passed, that was 2022.

Luis V. Teodoro is on Facebook and Twitter (@luisteodoro).

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