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Power of politics, politics of power

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Tonyo Cruz

Tonyo Cruz

 

By Tonyo Cruz

 

I often cringe when I see friends hurl insults at political leaders and opponents: “bobo,” “idiots,” “uneducated.”

On the other end of the spectrum is smart-shaming, which grates the sensibilities and pride of the educated. “Ikaw na ang matalino,” “ang dami mong alam,” “ikaw na lang ang magpresidente.”

To be honest, both could have valid reasons for saying what they say. On one hand, some of our educated friends are shocked that politicians apparently don’t use reason and science in discussing, enacting or implementing policy.

On the other hand, there’s a mass of our people who are disappointed by what the educated has been advising government, and by the fact that the educated has in fact monopolized politics in the country from the very beginning and even in the worst of times.

Politics, however, is not about intelligence. Politics is about power. This fact is what’s missing in the unending debate between the critics of the fabled “bobotante” and “bobong gobyerno” and the “smart-shaming” crowd.

Politics is about who controls the wealth and thus have what’s needed to dominate elections. Politics is about pedigree — in other words, the rule of political dynasties who claim a permanent franchise to our votes. Politics is about laws, beliefs, structures and institutions that discriminate against the poor, and which perpetuate marginalization. Politics is about privilege — the right surname, the right skin color, the right university, and so on; everyone else is a proletarian, a “social climber,” a squatter, a moocher.

And then, we have been told and taught that political power in the country is shared by the president, Congress, and the courts. They have specific roles and limitations under the law, and they check on each other according to this fantastic story contained in the Constitution. There are supposed to be safeguards against abuse and excess: impeachment, recall, laws on plunder and corruption, judicial review, and bodies such as the Sandiganbayan, Ombudsman, the Commission on Human Rights.

Somewhere, somehow, the ball was dropped. Many times. Repeatedly. Unapologetically. With impunity. By those who hold and share power.

Because Congress has chosen to cede its power in a corrupt coalition with the Executive, the President saw it fit to decide on his own to close an entire island — a decision that’s supposedly better left to the legislature, and not to the whim of one man. The massive deployment of troops and cops on the island is aimed at terrorizing the population against taking steps to challenge the abuse of presidential power. They have been forced to scamper to the court for relief, the same court now under siege from its own members. No intelligence or education required; only abuse of power.

Because the House has failed to transmit the articles of impeachment to the Senate, and the Senate has not spoken as a body to defend its exclusive right and obligation to try impeachable officials, the vacuum has been filled by the Quo Warranto proceeding described by nearly all law deans, lawyers’ groups,  and former justices as patently unconstitutional. No intelligence or education required; only corruption and abuse of power.

On the matter of Sr. Pat Fox, the immigration bureau has absolutely nothing – no evidence and no legal basis. But because the president wanted her out, they do everything to please him. Both houses of Congress don’t care, don’t speak out, don’t denounce it. And so presidential abuse of power continues unabated.

Perhaps there is no clearer proof about the logic of power than the policy of exterminating drug pushers and addicts. And so we have killings as the principal policy on curbing drugs. No research needed. Numbers could be doctored. The only thing that matters is that the president has the power, and the other branches have not moved to curb its abuse as the Constitution supposedly commands them to do.

The charge that excess or lack of intelligence is supposedly what ails politics cannot sufficiently and correctly diagnose what’s wrong in our country. Neither could both sides propose a solution. In fact, we must also remember that the powerful also have their own brain trust to “justify” policy. Case in point: Neoliberal economists from the ranks of the oligarchy are behind the new and higher taxes under TRAIN. They supplied the justification for how the Congress majorities were commanded to vote.

The worse thing that could happen about this battle between smart-shamers and haters of kabobohan is that they would both be prevented from realizing the fact that they are both victims of abusive and deceptive use of political power. Their perpetual division benefits only the powerful, because we deny ourselves of the unity needed to confront, curb, and curtail political power.

Politics is about power. We may view politicians as too smart or too stupid, but their excess or lack of intelligence is not what matters. What really matters is that they have power, and they misuse and abuse it — often only to benefit themselves and to prolong or expand their power. What really matters is the collapse of institutions and structures that the Constitution guaranteed would be there to protect the public.

And then, we realize: We are furious because we as a people have no power.

May that fury embolden us to set aside differences in order to seize back the power that rightfully belongs to us.

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