Pity this nation

The Commission on Elections is the guardian of the sovereign will of the people. —PNA PHOTO

Ours is a country of failed institutions. Let us cite two of many—Congress and the Commission on Elections (Comelec).

Congress is responsible for producing legislation to ensure that the spirit of the Philippine Constitution is upheld. Yet, 36 years after the ratification of the Constitution, there is yet no enabling law prohibiting political dynasties. The provision states: “The State shall…prohibit political dynasties, as may be defined by law.” It does not require rocket science to interpret this provision to mean (1) it is the State’s policy to prohibit political dynasties, and (2) Congress is vested only to define, to specify the elements and circumstances of that policy. 

Still, people say nothing, are quiet and submissive. The condition “as may be provided by law” appears 18 times in the Constitution, and “as may be defined by law” just twice. Congress has acted on all but one.

Politics driven by corruption is possibly the biggest bane in our life as a nation and the most pernicious obstacle to our achievement of full human development. Yet, despite incontrovertible realities and prodding from the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas, the National Economic and Development Authority, and local and international financial communities, Congress trains a blind eye on the need to amend our bank secrecy law by installing anticorruption mechanisms in the operation of banks and other financial institutions. The amendment is envisioned to promote transparency in governance. Yet again, people are silent, oblivious.

Doubts involving the integrity of the automated election system used in the 2022 elections now abound. The House of Representatives was urged through House Resolution No. 1239 to investigate, in aid of legislation, the use of a single private network in the 2022 elections and its implications on the automated electoral system. No such related resolution has been filed in the Senate. The Article on Suffrage in the Constitution provides in part: “The Congress shall provide a system for securing the secrecy and sanctity of the ballot.” Yet, people appear to be resigned to defeatism, seemingly believing that any call for an official inquiry will be ignored: “Hindi papasa ‘yan. Hindi lulusot ‘yan.”    

The Comelec is the guardian of the sovereign will of the people and is mandated to enforce and administer all laws and regulations relative to the conduct of credible elections. Yet, a petition to “review the qualifications of Smartmatic Philippines Inc. as a prospective bidder in view of its failure in the 2022 elections to comply with certain minimum system capabilities that resulted in serious and grave irregularities in the transmission and receipt of election returns and, if warranted, to disqualify Smartmatic from participating in the bidding for the 2025 automated election system” (EM Case No. 23-003) has been pending in the Comelec since June of this year. This is despite the bidding for the 2025 automated election system commencing very soon, in which Smartmatic could well be the favored bidder, and the recent news on a bribery case filed in the United States against a former Comelec chair and Smartmatic. Some groups’ cry for votes transmission information in order to bring out the truth is plainly being ignored: “Magsasawa rin ‘yan. Mapapagod din ‘yan.”

It was in 2007 when American poet, painter and social activist Lawrence Ferlinghetti wrote the poem “Pity the Nation,” inspired by Kahlil Gibran’s poem of the same title first published in 1933. The poem hits me. It should also hit you.

Pity the nation whose people are sheep
And whose shepherds mislead them
 Pity the nation whose leaders are liars
 Whose sages are silenced
 And whose bigots haunt the airwaves
 Pity the nation that raises not its voice
 Except to praise conquerors
 And acclaim the bully as hero
 And aims to rule the world
  By force and by torture
  Pity the nation that knows
  No other language but its own
  And no other culture but its own
 Pity the nation whose breath is money
 And sleeps the sleep of the too well fed
 Pity the nation oh pity the people
  who allow their rights to erode
   and their freedoms to be washed away
 My country, tears of thee
 Sweet land of liberty!

See: Philippines prepares for 3 elections in next two years; 10 urgent tasks for Comelec, voters

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