A FRIEND asked for my take on the Ateneo students’ call for nationwide academic strike against the Duterte government. He was glad but confused that they would demonstrate for reasons other than the country’s burning social problems.
I was also glad that Ateneo students finally spoke up. But my glee died as quickly as it came when I realized they were going about it the partisan way. They were picking on an instance of government “criminal neglect” (slow response and lack of funds for typhoon victims) just like the political opposition has been doing.
Hence, my impression was they were joining the partisan oust-Duterte-movement of the opposition, but not starting a non-partisan (beyond politics and beyond party) movement to remove the structural causes of the country’s deep-seated social problems. I cannot question their motives, but I am disappointed that their call just skims the surface of troubled Philippine waters.
They do not seem to see that if Duterte is ousted, the replacement, under the existing political system, will be a proxy of another faction of the oligarchy who will govern as any oligarch would, with the usual elitist neglect of people’s basic needs.
Unless we have a new Constitution that effectively bans political dynasties, drastically reforms the electoral system (of vote-buying and voter-intimidation), and gives all social sectors proportionate representation in all branches of government, criminal neglect will continue to rule the day no matter which faction of the oligarchy is in power.
A broad-based non-partisan coalition of middle forces (moderate political left and right) is needed to advocate for a new Constitution that would effectively stop different factions of the oligarchy from taking exclusive turns at running the country. There’s the rub.
Leftist students from UP are mobilizing not just to oust Duterte but to replace democracy with communism. Rightist (?) Ateneo students are mobilizing simply to oust Duterte and replace him with another oligarchic political proxy. The former will destroy our democracy for better or for worse, most probably for worse. The latter will maintain our elitist democracy by ousting Duterte in the naïve and irrational hope that his replacement will do better.
Without structural change we will be governed by oligarchs in much the same way they have always governed us, with criminal neglect of people’s basic needs. As long as the marginalized sectors have no effective representation in government, the country’s burning social problems will just burn more intensely.
The bottom line is we need a strictly non-partisan mass movement to push for political restructure, a new Constitution. Nothing partisan helps.