MANILA- Is the Philippines seeing another dictatorship unfolding?
Former Senator Rene Saguisag believes so, as he expressed alarm over what he called as "manifestations" of martial law in the country.
“I'm very concerned. I can see manifestations today reminiscent of what it was nung panahon ng kamay na bakal. Dapat siguro magising ang sambayanan. Those who do not remember the past are condemned to repeat it,” he said Thursday.
(I can see manifestations of what it was during the martial law era. The people should wake up.)
Among these alleged manifestations, according to Saguisag, are the prevailing military rule in Mindanao, the imprisonment of opposition Senator Leila de Lima, the ouster of Maria Lourdes Sereno as chief justice, and most recently--the withdrawal of the amnesty granted to Senator Antonio Trillanes IV.
Saguisag recalled how former Senators Jose "Pepe" Diokno and Ninoy Aquino were jailed during the time of late dictator Ferdinand Marcos.
A staunch Marcos critic, Saguisag claimed that there are indications dictatorship in President Rodrigo Duterte's administration, citing deaths related to his war on drugs.
"Where is the rule of law? That is another manifestation na ibinalik na ang walang habag na batas militar,” Saguisag said.
(That is another manifestation that the merciless military rule is back.)
“It is really time that we stand on our feet, better to live and die on our feet than live in shame on bended knees. Never again.” he added.
In February this year, Duterte admitted that he is a dictator but he said he had to be one to put the country in order.
“If you say dictator, I will be dictator. Because if I will not be a dictator, nothing will happen to this country,” Duterte said in Bisaya during a speech in front of former communist rebels in Malacañang.
“I had to. Besides you have chosen me as your President. Why won't you follow me when my dreams are all for you?”
The President, in previous speeches, however denied that he was turning into a dictator just like the late strongman Marcos.
Recent bombings in Mindanao could also lay the groundwork for an eventual return of dictatorship, Saguisag suspects.
“Sinisiyasat kuno, pero kamukha noong 1971-72 nagpapaputok noon mga sarhento, hindi natin malaman if that is again laying the basis for the return of martial law," he said.
(I am analyzing that just like in 1971-72, sergeants fired shots and we're not sure if that is again laying the basis for the return of martial law.)
The former lawmaker said the Philippines as a nation is "decaying" with the possible political comeback of the Marcos family.
The late dictator's son and namesake Ferdinand "Bongbong" Marcos Jr. can become the country's vice president if he succeeds in his poll protest against Vice President Leni Robredo.
His sister, Imee, meanwhile is set to run for senator next year.
“Sinasabi ng iba, time to move on na daw, eh moving downwards yan eh. I mean, we are decaying," Saguisag said.
(Other people are saying it's time to move on but we're moving downwards.)
Duterte allowed the late dictator's burial at the Libingan ng mga Bayani in November 2016 in hurried and secret rites.
His administration has also moved to abolish the Presidential Commission on Good Government, an agency tasked to recover the Marcos' ill-gotten wealth.
PIMENTEL: NO LOOMING DICTATORSHIP
But for former Senate President Aquilino “Nene” Pimentel Jr, another martial law is far from happening, saying the events of 1972 are very different from today.
“Yung mga examples na yun, hindi naman kailangan therefore na sabihin na diktador na itong si President Duterte. There are provisions sa Constitution na magagamit natin (against martial law) unlike before," he said.
(Those examples do not necessarily mean that President Duterte is a dictator. There are provisions in the Constitution that we can use against martial law unlike before.)
Pimentel, however, urged the public to speak out against injustices in the country.
“Samantalang meron pa tayong karapatan na magsigaw, magsigaw na tayo. To protest while we can protest because that is our right,” he said.
(While we have the right to speak out, let's speak out.)