By Marivir R. Montebon
New York – There’s no quick fix to the long-standing economic, political and cultural problems of the Philippines. And for veteran journalist and Human Rights Watch researcher Carlos Conde, things will get worse before they get better in the Philippines.
Conde dissected Phlippine politics before us, Filipinos here, and the conversation was heavy, because it painted a bleak picture of political come-backs of the corrupt and abusive political dynasties and the continued poverty of the majority of Filipinos.
Conde said that the upcoming local elections in May in the Philippines is crucial for the entrenchment of President Duterte into national politics, who is steward to the return of the Marcoses and Gloria Arroyo into power, and whose daughter Mayor Sarah Duterte of Davao, may run for president. This as China continues to strengthen its grip over the Philippines, as well.
“I am concerned, there is actually no clear opposition in the Philippines and we are back in the old times of Marcos were you are labeled a communist when you are critical of the government. To be hopeful, I’d say, it will get worse before it gets better in the Philippines,” Conde said during the forum organized by the Filipino American Press Club of New York on February 28, 2018 at the Asian American Writers Workshop. Noel Pangilinan, editor of AAWW, moderated the Kapihan which was attended by about 40 guests.
The first Kapihan series of the FAPCNY tackled on the current political and media affairs in the Philippines.
The Killings Continue
Duterte continues to enjoy popularity, despite a steadily plunging Philippine peso against the dollar and the continued extra-judicial killings as a result of the drug war.
The Human Rights Watch, said Conde, is finding it hard to get the real numbers of the killings which may be state-sponsored or done by loose criminals, because police records are difficult to obtain. “But whether that record is that 5000 were killed as a result of the drug menace, or 27,000, they are mostly poor, and judicial system is broken and the police is corrupt. We need to see institutional reforms, but there is none happening. I am concerned.”
When Institutions Fail, Rouge Style Applies
A veteran journalist who wrote for the New York Times, Conde observed that local politicians are actually following Duterte’s rouge style of public administration. On one hand, he goes about doing mercenary stunts on his political opponents and criminals and on the other, he does socio-economic projects, described Conde.
“Duterte has taken cognizance of the failure of our institutions and used this to his political advantage. He does things like a dictator, and many local politicians are following his style,” he said.
Currently, there is no formidable opposition to speak of, Conde said, as most of the elected officials have shifted allegiance to Duterte. With the two-year-old administration, it is the season for political expediency.
Conde cited that only the media and some segments of the Catholic Church have remained vocal and watchful of the administration. He however believes that Rappler will continue to exist despite the suppression experienced by its CEO Maria Ressa and other journalists.
For what it was worth, Conde said that the EDSA uprising in 1986, restored press freedom in the Philippines. Journalists must continue to be vigilant to defend it, he said, whilst the Philippine institutions remain marred in corruption and patronage politics.
Meanwhile, Duterte continues to woo China for investments and has allowed its continued encroachment of the islands of the West Philippine Sea.