When the US and Philippines Compete for Worst Crime Against Democracy

by Emil Guillermo

Who would have thought we’d see the day when the United States and the Philippines would actually be vying for number one in the category of “crimes against democracy?”

Would it be the former colonizer or the former colonized? What’s worse? A president lying about stealing an election, or a president lying about human rights?

The Philippines would seem to be the worst, just judging from the story you may have seen buried in American papers, The New York Times took note with this headline: “A Philippine Drug Raid Leaves 13 Dead.”

For people following the Duterte government from afar, it’s all people need to know. The numbers keep growing—almost 8,000 now have been killed in Duterte’s war on drugs the last five years.

The latest deaths in Sultan Kudarat, Maguindanao, RP, involved a former village chief suspected of involvement in the drug trade. You know the dance from there.

The police show up, perhaps to serve a warrant, but the suspects begin a shoot out, and police respond in self-defense. Instead of a simple arrest with the suspects facing the justice system, the Philippines is turned into the American Wild West. It’s a shootout of instantaneous justice especially if the bad guys die. But what if the good guys are really the bad guys, as would be the case in a democracy that is supposed to honor the rule of law. It’s the extrajudicial part of these actions, a fraction of the 8,000 deaths alleged to have occurred under the Duterte government.

Last month, the International Criminal Court in the Hague said there was reason to believe Philippines security forces have acted as the bad guys in the deaths thus far. The court will decide whether an investigation is warranted. The Philippines has withdrawn from the treaty establishing the court and thinks it’s in the clear. No need to find out the truth? Of course, not.

But truth and justice are hard to come by these days even in the US.

In the PR, 8,000 dead is bad. But in America, we’re talking about stealing an election from 350 million, then pillaging the Capitol.

The former Colonizer has not been a good role model for the Philippines.

Double Impeachment Attempt
The House of Representatives has gone forward with the double impeachment of Donald J. Trump, but now there appears to be a snag. Some Republicans in both the House and the Senate are of the belief that if the president was a lame duck in the first part of January and then leaves office, what good does it do to pluck his feathers and have him for supper?

The Republicans are all for unity! Just not accountability.

Me, I’m a vegan. I want to see justice done.

I say go over the videos of Jan. 6 when a right-wing mob of insurrectionists stormed the U.S. Capitol, ransacked offices, and looked to lynch the vice president and the speaker of the house. The mob was incited by Trump at a rally minutes before the riot.

We saw it all on television. We were witnesses to the crime that left five people dead. We saw it in real time. But Republicans have learned from Trump. They are denying the truth.

Sarah Sanders, the former press secretary to Trump, has announced she’s running for governor of Arkansas, as Trumpy a state as it gets. She just wants to remind everyone that the Democrats are about socialism (they’re not), and cancel culture (if they were, they forgot to cancel Sanders). 

She wants to ignore Jan. 6 and go after the good guys because the Democrats are ruled by left-wing radicals who must be stopped!

Trumpism is the last line of defense, she believes. Wrongly.

These are the rhetorical lines that you will hear in the coming days as Republicans attempt to fight the move to convict the impeached president. Republicans are willing to throw away the truth (that Trump was the worst president in modern history) in order to fight their real nemesis — Democrats in power who actually want to do things to heal the country.

To convict the impeached Trump, Democrats will need 17 Republican votes in the Senate. That may be hard the further we get from Jan. 6 and Sanders’ kind of rhetoric only gets louder. Add to that new Trump surrogates, QAnon Republicans like Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene continues to blather about conspiracy theories and includes the idea that the election was stolen from Trump. And now, you see the difficulty democracy has in the nation that birthed it.

But we were all witnesses to a crime against the country on Jan. 6.

We shouldn’t let politics spoil the truth.

The Light of the Inaugural
A month hasn’t even passed and already the hope generated from the inaugural is dimming. It shouldn’t. There’s still at least one big take away. The historical part. On Inaugural Day, Kamala Harris was the best Asian American among us. All day. Hooray.

As an Asian American of Filipino descent with a sense of history, I couldn’t keep my eyes off her as she graced my screen adorned in purple, or was that royal blue? It all depended on the light. It was enough to drive me crazy, until I realized that’s how it is in America these days.

We can all look at the same thing and perceive it all so differently. We just need more light.

It was great just to see the TV commentators struggle to identify Kamala: Black, South Asian, Asian American, From Oakland, California, Howard alum (no love for UC Hastings Law?), mother is an Indian immigrant, father from Jamaica. Oh, and let’s not forget, woman. She is the first woman to rise to veepness. Get all those in eloquently in first reference.

People had practice during the campaign. And admittedly, Kamala has always been a bit coy, taking a page from Obama, by not making things about race. Unless she has to, and then she’s always ready to smash all assumptions.

Like when vice presidential candidate Kamala staggered Joe Biden on busing in an early debate with the line, “That little girl was me.”But now she is his vice president–a snapshot of our diversity, the argument for the broadest coalition of forces that includes Asian roots near the top. And with a blended family? White husband, two stepchildren? Are you kidding me?

I’ve always believed the answer to all our racial problems would come when we embraced diversity fully and showed a real love interest in one another.

Disagree with Kamala as a politician all you want. She succeeds just by being. She’s the American metaphor as we strive for the more perfect union. Because let’s face it: in a 21st century America, a sea of all white men does not connote inclusion and unity.

Yes, but my friends on the Left still wonder how the heck did we end up with this retread Biden? And Harris? Was she really a reformer as California’s attorney general?

My friends on the Right who watch Fox News sent me a headline that said, “Joe Biden has been president for nine hours and 400,000 Americans are dead.”That’s slightly unreasonable, considering they were casualties of the Trump Administration.

It doesn’t take hours to notice how Biden and Harris are the antidotes to our post-Trumpatic-stress. In Biden’s first executive orders we saw an end to the Muslim travel ban; a strengthened DACA; a pause in deportations; the end of funding to that border wall nonsense; and the affirmation that all people count in the Census, even non-citizens. It’s we the people. All of us, remember?

There are more good signs to come. A pathway to citizenship for 11 million people? The Statue of Liberty is dancing again. The sigh of relief from the millions of people of color impacted by it all could’ve been an inaugural hurricane.

As the flag flies, the winds are blowing our way again. We needed the inaugural pomp to offset the anxiety of Jan. 6; 25,000 troops don’t get put into place because all is well in our democracy.

And it worked. The forces of insurrection realized the shame of their racist, exclusionary, white supremacist ideas and mostly stayed hidden, festering somewhere. Mar-A-Lago? Many have already been arrested and charged.

It’s hard to believe they desecrated the same halls that we saw on TV. I recalled walking those same halls and that stepped platform when I covered previous inaugurals. It was practically back to normal.

And that’s a problem people outside of Washington can’t understand.

The Ugly Truth of Politics
This is the very thing people hate and detest about our political class. We hear them fight. But then we see them get along? They are even friends. That’s not the way it is in pro wrestling.

There was Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-CA), who the previous week opposed certifying the election results. After Biden’s swearing-in, McCarthy was smiling and cordial, offering the new president and vice president gifts that didn’t include a dagger to the back.

But that’s because democracy isn’t a Marvel comic book with heroes and villains. It’s real people acting with maturity and civility fitting of leaders.

We haven’t had much of that in some time.

It’s the reason people say politics is “show business for ugly people.” They see the layer of fake wonky glam that covers up real intentions and declare it all duplicitous. And then beyond hair and makeup, we’ve had the last four years of lies. Two-facedness? How about more than 30,000 lies by one man alone?

Trump didn’t like wearing a mask—not for Covid—but maybe to him, his 30,000 lies were mask enough.

It’s the reason Biden is the best leader for these times. He’s been hated and loved through the decades. But he’s also changed and evolved, mostly for the good. When I was a talk host in Washington, DC, during the Clarence Thomas/Anita Hill hearings, Biden was considered a villain.

Not a Ted Cruz villain, mind you. Caught on camera lurking on the platform, Cruz is the man who led the charge in the Senate to block certification of the election. His was the “soft coup” that failed. He is the insurrectionists’ man. What should be his fate?

Biden, a Catholic who started Inaugural day attending Mass, knows the virtue of loving one’s enemy. Maybe it takes the maturity of a 78-year-old. It’s not easy. But it’s the only way you get to that goal of love. That’s still the true object of politics, not the division and rancor of a zero-sum landscape of winners and losers.

Biden’s speech tried to make the point with lines like: “We must end this uncivil war that pits red against blue.” Let’s also not forget that Biden is like the creamy white filling of a unique political cookie, the flip side of both Obama and now Harris.

If our country is in a political abyss, Biden knows the way out, and at least is tilting forward. But he’s in a bind when the right wants to restore Trumpism, and the left, hardly a socialist mob, is wary of Biden for being too centrist. It makes getting to the truth near impossible when we can’t even convict the man who incited a crime against his own government. Repeat after me: An insurrection is an insurrection. And doubly-impeachable. If the U.S. can’t get there, it’s hardly a model for the Philippines, let alone any part of the free world.

EMIL GUILLERMO is an award-winning journalist and commentator. In Hawaii, his column appeared in the Star-Bulletin. He was also an editorial board member of the Advertiser. A former NPR host, he has reported on national and international issues from Washington, DC.

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