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Authoritarianism checklist

A massive march took place at the Liwasang Bonifacio area on Tuesday, Araw ng Kalayaan, participated in by social media women’s movement #BabaeAko and many other human rights, faith-based, and sectoral groups.

Lightning protests were also held at Kawit, Cavite, where protesters heckled President Rodrigo Duterte.

What were the marchers and protesters complaining about? Clearly a sizable number of Filipinos are dissatisfied, even angry, with the way this administration is running the country. Among the flashpoint issues are the President’s manifested misogyny, extrajudicial killings without due process, the unwarranted closeness to the Chinese government despite its encroachment into the West Philippine Sea, and many others. 

Yet it seems that for all the rallies and criticism lobbed against this administration, there are few changes for the better. The MRT is still functioning below par, drugs are still entering the country, and galloping inflation and the TRAIN law have further burdened wage earners. Is this administration listening to the people—or only some of the people, meaning its supporters? 

The other night, a chapter of the League of Filipino Students tweeted that martial law or a state of emergency might be declared yesterday. They and other groups staged a rally at Mendiola to bring awareness to the possibility. For many, this government’s actions are too close to a dictatorship for comfort.

How can we tell if we are under authoritarian rule?

An informative short video is going around social media. Produced by act.tv, it’s entitled, “How to defeat authoritarianism.” Here are highlights from the video.

“Their ultimate goal is to consolidate power, and they always use the same time-tested techniques. First, they start by attacking the free press. This is just a way to weaken the media’s ability to hold the ruler accountable…” Umm, Rappler, Philippine Daily Inquirer, banning certain reporters from the Palace and other government events.

“Next, they will usually try to blame the country’s problems on minorities or use other other vulnerable populations as scapegoats… in order to validate people’s concerns while redirecting their anger towards a specific group or groups.” Well, there are the ‘dilawans’ or political opposition and poor drug users (notice no big-fish drug lords have been jailed?).

“If people start protesting or revolting, they will blame the dissent on foreigners or ‘paid protesters’…” Many comments on pieces critical to this government lambast the writer as ‘dilawan’ or ‘bayaran’ (paid). 

“Next, they’ll try to weaken judicial checks on power…[by] working to remove people from powerful positions [who] are not loyal to the regime or its ruler…” There’s the ousting of Lourdes Sereno as Supreme Court chief justice and the jailing of Senator Leila de Lima on trumped-up drug charges.

“Authoritarians will always reward loyalty over competence, because they fear a system that holds them to same ethical and legal standard as everyone else. This is why you usually start to see very unqualified people running departments that they shouldn’t be running. Under an authoritarian system, their loyalty is more valuable than their knowledge or skill.” This is why we have the indestructible Mocha Uson firmly entrenched as a communications official, as well as “recycled” officials and others of the same ilk.

The video also tells how authoritarianism can be overcome.

“The good news is that humanity has had plenty of practice defeating authoritarian leaders. The one thing that works surprisingly well is nonviolent resistance. In fact, studies between 1900 to 2006 show that nonviolent civil resistance campaigns were twice as successful as violent campaigns in defeating authoritarian leaders around the world.”

Futher, “nonviolent resistance movements are especially effective because they make it harder for the regime to justify using violence on its own people.”

“The same studies also show that no government can withstand a challenge of 3.5 percent of its population. 

“Authoritarians thrive on popular fear and collective resignation. The most powerful thing you can do is simply participate in resistance campaigns that are peaceful and nonviolent… Democracy is more fragile than you think.”

If the items on this checklist seem familiar to you, and look like a reflection of what is happening in our society, then you know what to do. Engage in peaceful, civic resistance, and help protect and defend the democracy, independence, and sovereignty that many Filipinos fought and died for. 

 Dr. Ortuoste is a writer and communication consultant. FB and Twitter: @DrJennyO

Topics: Rodrigo Duterte , West Philippine Sea , China , Authoritarianism
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