Politics and Accountability

Over the past few weeks, the country has been enthralled in spectacles of public debate: One involving the highest magistrate of the land and his alleged violations of the Constitution; and another involving a local executive who failed to mitigate the possible effects of a weather phenomenon in Northern Mindanao. Both cases involve failure fo satisfy certain standards expected by the people. Both cases challenge long-held notions of power. And both cases are flashpoints for transparency.

In the Capital, news about the impeachment trial of Renato Corona, the controversial Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, hogged the headlines over the past few weeks. And during the same period, the accussed has never failed to paint himself as the supposed defender of the rule of law and democracy as opposed to the “dictatorial” Aquino administration which he alleges is behind his impeachment.

But many seem to have already forgotten that the same officer of the law was inducted into office under dubious circumstances. And his disputable appoinment has been a cause for debate between those who support him and those who believe that he should have foregone his ambition to be at the helm of the highest court.

And that is why I find it peculiar, to the point of being humorous, that the same accussed declaims on television, that his fight against the accusations leveled against him, is a fight to preserve the integrity of the Constitution and the freedom of the people.

Freedom of the people, yeah, big words. But that is aslo something debatable since the impeached chief magistrate was actually appointed by a select group of people. It is the members of House of Representatives who filed the cases against him and those Senators who will judge him, who were elected by the people, therefore representing and defending their interests.

Which people then is Corona talking about?

Down south in Cagayan de Oro, the city has also been busy since the flood and destruction brought by Typhoon Washi/Sendong last month. The massive cost in lives and property has not only brought aid and relief workers from a host of international organizations (Oxfam, ACF, Save the Children, UNICEF, MSF, etc.), but it also also cast a bright and warm light on the actions of the local government before, during and after the flood.

In the aftermath of the intense criticism of Mayor Vicente Emano and his cohorts, city locals, as well as Kagay-anons abroad, formed several organizations which both work to extend aid and goods to the victims of the flood, as well as check on the actions of the city government.

The city govenment’s reaction to these organizations has been adversarial. And over the past few days, the local officials have gone to the extent of spying against the members of these groups. This despite Emano downplaying the supposed clout of the growing movement which is advocating for his recall as city mayor. And he claims that the movement is composed of “elitists” who are sponsored by his political enemies. He also claims that these organizations do not represent the masses whom he supposedly represents

The masses – the same people he placed on settlements which were washed away by the floodwaters. Do you think they still love him now?

What makes our democracy unusual is that unlike those with which it was patterned after – those of the Greeks, the Romans and the Americans, ours does not give emphasis on accountability. It does not empower the people to have courage to check on the actions of the officials in government. And it does not imbibe in our officials the concept of responsibility towards the people from whom their powers supposedly are derived.

Yes, there are provisions in our Constitution which provide for transparency, accountability and the promotion of democratic freedoms. But what happens to any person who calls for these standards to be satisfied, promoted and protected? That person is ridiculed, harrassed and at times, killed. Yes, that is the kind of democracy we have. And it will stay that way until we own up to the rights with which the founding fathers of this country have given their lives and limbs to.

Often times, people who write stuff such as this are accussed of politicking. Of sowing confusion, discord and under some interpretations, promoting subversion. But does not the very nature of democracy supposedly promote freedom of thought and speech? Does not democracy require its citizens to exercise vigilance and protect their interests against those of private corporations, ambitious public servants and entrenched political dynasties? If our democracy does not allow such freedoms and require such actions from its citizens, then ours is not a democracy.

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