Authoritarian trend on the rise in PH, US, other countries: analyst

Kat Domingo, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Aug 08 2017 11:28 AM

The Philippines is among the countries experiencing a "decline in democracy" in recent years, an analyst said recently.

"The whole spectrum of regimes in the world is moving in the wrong direction... Countries that are democracies like the Philippines are at very serious risk of sliding back to authoritarian rule," Larry Diamond, co-founder of the Journal of Democracy, said in an interview on US' National Public Radio.

Diamond said rising authoritarianism observed in the United States, the Philippines, Poland, Hungary, and Russia had an evident theme in common: the gradual elimination of opposition.

"It's really a progressive, step-by-step elimination of countervailing forces in the political system. If you start by suppressing judicial independence, packing the courts and proceed to intimidating, controlling the media, pretty soon there's no opposition left," Diamond said.

In the Philippines, President Rodrigo Duterte's political allies jailed Senator Leila de Lima, one of the government's most vocal critics, for drug charges. 

Supreme Court Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno also faces impeachment complaints for supposed culpable violation of the Constitution, betrayal of public trust, corruption, other high crimes, and betrayal of public trust.

Duterte, US president Donald Trump, and other authoritarian leaders have also accused mainstream media for alleged unfair reporting about the government.

"You don't do it all at once. It's like the frog on boiling water where the frog doesn't jump out at once. Civil society doesn't rise up, the international community doesn't sufficiently complain," Diamond said.

The analyst said the subtle push for populist ideas has placed pressure on democratic regimes to become "less liberal and less tolerant."

Diamond said the US and the European Union's capability to impose "consequences" that may affect aid and diplomatic relations with governments committing violations also became loose the past years.

"This did not start with Trump. There was a perceivable drawback in the later years of the Obama administration," Diamond said.

"Now, they (authoritarians) increasingly perceive that they can do whatever they want. They can repress and arrest and even murder whoever they want, and they can rule however nastily as they want," he added.

Duterte had said he had no plans to become a dictator even as his bloody war on drugs left hundreds killed and raised international alarm.

The 71-year-old leader said he was merely doing his duty and the Philippines would be a "failed country" if the drug scourge was not stopped.