Aug 17, 2009

Paranoia, Philippine Politics, and the Arroyo Presidency

By Atty. Lance D. Collins
Imulat Ang Isipan, Fil-Am Observer August 2009 Issue
Opinion Section, Page 6

PERHAPS the Senate and House have finally run out of celebrity scandals to distract them from their work. But over the last month or two, the daily newspapers around the country have been filled with the fears of Senate and House members convinced either President Macapagal-Arroyo is planning to declare martial law ahead of the May 2010 elections or her supporters in the House will push through a constituent assembly.

Paranoia is defined by Merriam-Webster's dictionary as "1. a psychosis characterized by systematized delusions of persecution or grandeur usually without hallucinations 2. a tendency on the part of an individual or group toward excessive or irrational suspiciousness and distrustfulness to others."

There is really nothing in President Macapagal-Arroyo's actions or her administration's statement that would reasonably support the belief that martial law is going to be delacred. But even she were to daclare martial law for political ends, the 1987 constitution included the added power of Congress or the Supreme Court to review and void a declaration of martial law.

In addition, unlike the 1935 Constitution that provided the basis for President Marcos to declare martial law in 1972, the act of declaring martial law does not suspend the constitution, suspend the civil court system and does not suspend the writ of habeas corpus for people accused of crimes other than rebellion or assisting in inavasion.

Yet, when the celebrity scandals that seem to plague and distract the House and Senate get old and there is nothing left to avoid but the underlying systematized delusions or persecution and or grandeur- the paranoia.

Why do our politicians have systematized delusions of persecution under/or grandeur? I would like to suggest that the pattern of collaboration without consequences that appeared first in the American period but more recently in the Japanese occupation and subsequently during the Martial Law period provides some kind of a historic context.

After the Japanese occupation, many collaborators never were held responsible for their actions of collaborations. Some were even rewarded. It is true that guerilla activities are difficult to prove after the fact, but the question of the collaboration was never fully resolved.

This post-war period was followed by the declaration of martial law on September 21, 1972. Because of the extended nature of the Martial Law period and the legitimacy extended it internationally, collaboration was much more systematic and open. Yet when the time came for Marcos to leave, almost no one other than the Marcos family has been held responsible for the abuses of the period.

Recently, there has also been talk of dismatling the Presidential Good Government Commission and giving hundreds of millions of pesos and millions of dollars of jewelry of ill-gotten wealth back to Imelda Marcos. Even previously some of the "mainstream" opposition to paying victims of the martial law period is consistent with this attitude.

The ghosts of collaboration in the Japanese occupation and Martial Law period now haunt the leaders of our country and fill them with delusions of persecution [and grandeur]. Because there are no consequences for any actions, these ghosts terrorize every politicians that does not have a strong sense of ethics. In Germany, Nazi party members were probihited from holding office thereafter.

On the hand, the idea that President Macapagal-Arroyo would declare martial law and the country end up in the same situation of President Marcos in 1972 is totally absurd that it is also possible that some opposed to President Macapagal-Arroyo secretly want her to continue in office beyond her term. Given the fact that they have provided nothing in terms of a civil or political program to help develop the Philippines, it is possible that they secretly harbor a wish that the President continue in office.

Fundamentally, the irrational and unfounded fear that President Macapagal-Arroyo will find some illegal way to stay in power after May 2010 points to a significant and serious ethical problem of the politicians who dream up the ideas and then command the attention of the media. They do not know right from wrong beacuse of the repeated failure to address collaboration.

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