THE Supreme Court decision dismissing the petitions questioning the legality of President Rodrigo Duterte’s placing Mindanao under military rule no longer surprised me. Actually, nothing surprises me at all in this administration and in these times. The pendulum of social beliefs has shifted to the right and since it takes time to swing back at least to the center, everything goes for us.

The result of the voting wasn’t even close. That’s 11 justices favoring the junking of the three petitions as against three who wanted to limit martial law’s area of coverage and one who shared the petitioners’ views. I checked the name of the four who did not go with the majority and I would say they are among those in the High Court with progressive or liberal views.

But consider that this is the same Supreme Court that, in November, allowed the burial of former dictator Ferdinand Marcos at the Libingan ng mga Bayani. The vote then was 9-5. Now, go through the names of the nine justices and find out if they are also among the 11 who voted to uphold the martial law declaration. If there seems to be a consistency there, that’s because the SC can also be a microcosm of society at large where the right has gained the majority.

The journey to now has actually been long. I say the first government post-Marcos, that of then president Corazon Aquino, began as left of center. From there the pendulum shifted to the center and now to the right. That’s around three decades of movement. And for all his supposedly leftist posturing, I think President Duterte best represents the current rightist ascendancy in the country.

In her speech during the commencement exercises of the Ateneo de Manila University in May, Supreme Court Chief Justice Ma. Lourdes Sereno gave a succinct description of the times we are in.

“These are times,” she said, “when everything that can be shaken is being shaken, when institutions are being challenged to their very foundations, and basic ideas of decency and human dignity are being violated with great impunity.”

A few sentences later, she added:

“For today, people’s fundamental human rights and freedoms, the core of our democracy, face grave and blatant threats. The culture of impunity is on the rise. People are pressured to favor the easy choice over the right choice: expediency over due process; convenient labeling over fairness; the unlawful termination of human life over rehabilitation.”

What the chief magistrate is actually seeing is the outside manifestation of the right shaking the foundations of the progressive institutions and principles that were built or have become dominant after the toppling of the Marcos dictatorship, described by some social analysts as ultra-rightist, in 1986. This is apparent in the effort to demonize human rights and discredit human rights groups.

In this vein, worries of the country being pushed back to setup similar to what prevailed during the Marcos years are not without basis. We are feeling that mainly because we are now seeing the manifestations of the rightist shift in governance and in the dominant social viewpoint.

By the way, Sereno is not among those who upheld the martial law declaration.