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Saturday, July 13, 2024

No beacon of democracy

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Early in December, in the face of growing autocracy in the world, the United States hosted an online summit on democracy.

A think piece in Time Magazine at the time pointedly remarked: “Narendra Modi, Rodrigo Duterte and Jair Bolsonaro walk into a democracy summit. But this isn’t a joke.”

“Having recently abandoned Afghanistan to an Islamist autocracy and famine, and now finalizing a $650 million arms sale to Saudi Arabia, President Joe Biden thought it would be a fine idea to hold a two-day virtual gathering on democracy, where some of its worst offenders could pose as responsible upholders of freedom and dispense homilies on how to save the world from those like themselves.”

Sure enough, President Duterte took to the virtual podium and vowed to ensure peaceful and credible elections in May 2022.

“My administration will ensure an honest, peaceful, credible, and free elections in May. It will be my highest honor to turn over the reins of power to my successor knowing that in the exercise of my mandate I did my best to serve the Filipino nation,” said Duterte, who has clearly weaponized the justice system to jail or otherwise silence his political opponents.

Now, a month later, we cannot put too much stock in Mr. Duterte’s assurances, after his allies in the ruling PDP-Laban have filed a petition before the Commission on Elections (Comelec) that could well delay next year’s polls and keep Mr. Duterte in power.

Of course, the United States is no beacon of democracy either, having a long history of backing despots and dictators, including the one who imposed one-man rule in the Philippines in the 1970s.

Today, Jan. 6, in fact, marks the anniversary of the assault on the US Capitol by rightwing forces, whipped into a frenzy by former US President Donald Trump and his minions in the now discredited Republican Party. A special committee in the US House of Representatives has uncovered over the last few months damning evidence of the involvement of Mr. Trump and his allies in the violence that day—yet the US Justice Department has gone after only those who were at the Capitol that day, killing and maiming police officers, destroying public property and disrupting the certification of Mr. Biden as the next president of the United States.

As the world looks on in puzzlement, we cannot help but wonder: in a true, functioning democracy, would not the leaders of such a coup already be behind bars?

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