CAGAYAN DE ORO CITY (MindaNews/22 April) — Once in a while, an incident happens in which two or more issues involving two or more forces collide and force us to confront a dilemma.
Such was the case recently, on the night of April 20 in Gingoog City, when what could have been an ambuscade or a routine encounter (depending on which side to believe) between government and rebels took place. The incident ended with two fatalities and several wounded including Mayor Ruthie Guingona of Gingoog City who, fortunately, survived gunshot wounds in her arm and leg.
Mayor Guingona of course is the wife of former senator and vice president Teofisto Guingona Jr. and mother of incumbent senator Teofisto III. She was on her way home from a fiesta in which she crowned the queen, in the course of which she also campaigned for her daughter Stella Marie to be crowned as the city’s next mayor when her third term expires in June. Such are the demands of dynasty-building!
Next day the rebel spokesperson, Jorge Madlos, was heard on radio saying that it wasn’t an ambush but a routine procedure gone bad at a checkpoint established to ensure that the “policies” of the revolutionary movement are respected and obeyed by all concerned.
Madlos went on to say they had only wanted to “hold” the convoy and talk to the Mayor, and also to disarm her bodyguards because they had no prior permission. Then he issued a warning to all politicians entering their “guerilla zone” not to do so without a permit and not to bring firearms in any case. They have carved out a zone of sovereignty for themselves! Such is reality in an irresolute society.
In any case, this incident brings to the fore two festering issues that bedevil our society, both in violation of the Constitution, both presenting us with the horns of a dilemma. One, what do we do about the government’s failure to dismantle armed groups, establish peace and order, and protect society? Two, what do we do about officials who blithely defy Article II, Section 26, of the Constitution which guarantees equal access to opportunities for public service, prohibiting political dynasties accordingly?
Both issues create tension and harm national solidarity. In the face of government failure to enforce either constitutional mandate, what can hapless citizens do—the very citizens in whom the republic’s sovereignty reside and from whom all government authority emanates—about such impunity?
Moreover, even as we are threatened by this armed group, the media actually encourages and emboldens them by being complicit in their propaganda. How else to interpret their practice of reaching out to enemy spokespersons for their views on events? When it comes to sensationalizing the news, anything goes!
It taxes credulity that the media, especially broadcast stations, do not know they are helping to destabilize society when they provide microphones to subversive propagandists free of charge. It costs a lot to do a broadcast if you’re a civilian or a candidate, you know. But for those that seek to undermine our government and destabilize our society, it costs nothing. And how does this square with the media’s avowed Code of Ethics?
On the other hand, what’s a citizen to do about defiant officials, putative public servants, that exploit the law’s infirmity by establishing political dynasties which the Constitution expressly prohibits?
We are caught between the horns of a dilemma.
One wonders where the Guingonas and other privileged families get their sense of entitlement to public office, a sense that leads them to defy the spirit of the Constitution by invoking the insufficiency of its letter. What is it that drives people to satisfy vanity or greed even at the cost of destabilizing or bastardizing a democratic order?
One also wonders how our society can promote or institutionalize the virtues of statesmanship in a democracy if leaders themselves defy and dishonor the ideal of equal access to opportunities for public service. Sad, no? (MindaViews is the opinion section of MindaNews. Manny Valdehuesa writes from Cagayan de Oro and is the president and national convenor of Gising Barangay Movement Inc. [firstname.lastname@example.org])