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Lessons from America

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THERE ARE a number of insightful takeaways from the recently concluded elections in the United States that can make homegrown, dyed-in-the wool democrats weep or wish until they are blue (the color of the dye) in the face.

First and foremost is that democracy is not only alive and well but vigorously kicking in the butt those who think there is a better alternative called Trumpianism.

In a historically defining moment, American democrats hewed faithfully to the old-fashioned definition of democracy as the rule of the majority.

Over 75 million American voters denied the presidential preference of over 71 million countrymen who thought Donald Trump should continue going his maniacal way of tearing democracy to shreds, aided in part by Russia, China and Iran.                   

The second insight is that the judiciary is robust and rational in playing its role in the democratic process that is the ultimate emblem of citizenry in a free country.  Despite Trump’s incessant ranting about electoral frauds, the judiciary has remained calm, correct and  collected in dismissing the endless blabberings of a defeated authoritarian for lack of evidence.

In other words, the judiciary remains a countervailing force while an incumbent president tried hard to drag the best democracy in the world to the precipice.  This, despite Trump’s attempt to curry favor with the Supreme Court by packing it with  their  own conservative (Republican) constituents.

Another takeaway is that democracy is able to lend steel-like spine to  some of its leaders, whether elected or chosen by those in power. The former defense secretary of the United States was removed from office by Trump because  he chose to disobey an order to use the military against protesting civilians.

Shades of Philippine military generals  during the height of the EDSA Revolution against the marching civilians in the  now famous highway in Metro Manila.

There was also the pervading spirit of volunteerism to make every ballot counts despite various assaults from Trump  and company, impervious and untimidated by the certain risk to life and limb  they were facing.

Perhaps volunteerism was in the mind of Thomas Paine when he said that those who value freedom  must sacrifice fatigue to support it.

Last but not least was how each valued his or her vote as shown by the record number of early voters in view of the pandemic scare, and the apparent desire to showcase what democracy really means before the whole world, which is to cast one’s  vote for it to live another day.

And despite various accusations of fraud from Trump’s camp, it is to the Americans’ credit that no vote- buying or vote- selling was part of them, contrary to what usually happens these days in the other democracy across the Pacific 10,000 miles or so away.

Given these insights, what’s wrong with Philippine democracy?

It may have the form, not the substance.

Many voters are too poor and too willing to sell their votes, like Esau in the Bible exchanging his birthright to brother Jacob for a bowl of porridge. Many who know better choose the path of cynicism and slink away from the ultimate duty of a  citizen — to vote and vote rightly.

It’s not hard to say that the judiciary here is also admittedly “soft” if not compromised in the face of clear government threats to civil liberties. It’s been ages since various individuals and groups have filed their petitions  opposing the anti-terror law but the judiciary  has yet to come up with a ruling or a respectable response.

Another clear issue in this regard is that of detained Senator Leila De Lima who has been practically cleared of any guilt by the procecution witnesses of the charges against her.  The court seems to ignore the new testimonies as De Lima still remains in jail for over three years now.   Her colleagues in the  Senate, except for members of the opposition, are tight-lip about her fate, notwithstanding the new testimonies.

Even the Ombudsman has joined the bandwagon of if you cannot lick them, join them.  It just banned  using lifestyle check and the statement of assets and liabilities as democratic tools to uncover crooks in government.   For curious reason: many in the present administration have suddenly become richer because of suspected corrupt practices.

Our domestic democratic woes go on and on ad infinitum.

Nothing more emphatically illustrates them that Marcos remains are interred in the sacred ground for  heroes, his son keeps flexing his muscles, mostly political couched in legal terms,  in protesting a lost cause against Vice President Leni Robredo,  lawmakers,  most of them anyway, pay obeisance to Malacananang’s principal tenant like a saint or a king, and corruption goes on like nobody’s business from every nook and corner of the republic.

No doubt, we have a long, long way to go. As the Chinese proverb puts it, the journey of a thousand miles begin with a single step. Both the direction and purpose also matter a great deal.  Or  we will continue to be like Alice in Wonderland.

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