The invasion of the US Capitol by thousands of Trump insurrectionists on the very day Joe Biden and Kamala Harris were to be certified by Congress as the winners of the presidential and vice presidential elections in November was horrifying to watch. The certification did go through later that same day.
The sight, the frenzied energy, brought back memories, although in reverse, righteous fashion, of our own liberation, by a bloodless popular revolt, from Ferdinand Marcos. Victorious and exuberant hordes stormed and trashed Malacañang to rid it of traces of the dictatorship. No matter how understandable that may be, some still feel it was a desecration of a monument—the presidential residence. But again others are quick to counter that the real desecration was perpetrated by Marcos himself when he declared martial law and killed our democracy.
Some commentators have called the attack on the US Capitol a failed coup instigated by Trump himself—it resulted in five deaths, not to mention injuries to many and destruction of government property. A side sight—that of Republican legislators, Trump party mates, while herded in confinement for their own protection, refusing to wear masks, thus causing some coronavirus transmissions—also inspires a comparison between the two presidents. Both are preoccupied with things other than the one life-threatening crisis plaguing their nations—the pandemic.
President Duterte’s concerns are not ruffling China’s feathers, doubling down on his war on drugs and communism and silencing his critics. At least we have the sense to wear masks, and face shields, too.
The other question in my Filipino mind is how an incumbent US president, who has the run of the entire official system, could cry electoral fraud with any credibility. Indeed, no evidence has turned up to support that claim.
It’s all part of Trump’s preoccupation with himself, another Duterte trait. The other similarity would be a desperate fascination with the presidential power of pardon. We have already seen Trump pardon a few controversial characters, and he is said to be considering pardoning himself and his family next. There are logical arguments against it, but no one appears positive either way.
For his part, Duterte, as some apparent assurance of protection, has assured his armed forces and police of presidential pardon if they are ever accused of wrongdoing, but the Constitution doesn’t allow him to pardon himself. We had learned some painful lessons from Marcos, so we extended the presidential term to six years without reelection.
I used to look up to America for living lessons in democracy, and now feel disappointed to see cracks in the example. Thanks to Republicans, some appointed by the sitting president, including members of the Supreme Court, who have risen to the occasion, and beyond party loyalty, to do their duty to country and constitution despite pressure from Trump.
Duterte party mates could learn a few things from that. We, the people ourselves, shouldn’t miss out on some important lessons, if democracy is to survive.
As fragile as it is, democracy remains the best form of government for the natural development, fulfillment and happiness of men and women who wish to flourish and rise to their highest potentials. Alas, freedom and every human right require fighting for.
Possibly amid the worst modern-day crisis, indeed, a confluence of crises, America is showing the free world how democracy can survive despite serious, deep wounds.
To be sure, I sometimes don’t recognize America anymore. I lived there for five years in the 1960s, definitely a very different era. I watched passionate and contentious electoral contest firsthand. Watching it this time virtually, locked up in quarantine, I saw how hard the Democrats had to fight to remove the incumbent despite his obvious destructive flaws.
Surely, we can, and should, learn lessons from that, if we want to continue to live in freedom. INQ