OPINION | I’m tired of living through historical times
M y generation has probably shared way too much trauma this early on in our lives. I haven’t even reached my twenties yet, and I’ve already experienced the shift to K-12, a global pandemic which caused the transition to online learning, and the 2022 Philippine elections. In the past few months alone, I’ve witnessed many historic events both locally and internationally and experienced different emotions with the Omicron surge, looming threat of a world war due to imperialist aggression of world superpowers, and campaign season which induced pre-election anxiety and post-election depression.
The other day, Bongbong Marcos, son of late dictator Ferdinand Marcos Sr, was officially proclaimed as the 17th President of the Philippines. After decades of historical distortion, the Marcos family has successfully reclaimed the presidency. Not for service, not for good governance, not for the Filipino people, but to “clarify their family name,” as stated by BBM’s older sister Sen. Imee Marcos on the day BBM was proclaimed as President.
As one family celebrates the opportunity to clear their name, I fearfully hide mine now. With an impending Marcos administration in the next few days, I am alarmed at how this will negatively affect my life in numerous ways, and I know I’m not the only one.
For many years, UP students have been red tagged left and right by the state, troll armies, even our own families, and it is imminent that it will only get worse as students are attacked for speaking and activists are stripped of their constitutional rights. Marcos’s term hasn’t even started yet, but recently, UPD student athletes were stopped by the police on there way back to campus, campus journalists have been arrested, and a UPM faculty member posted about bombing people at rallies.
Under the rule of BBM’s father Marcos Sr., numerous attacks against press freedom occurred especially during Martial Law. Liliosa Hilao, 23 years old, became the first Martial Law detainee to be killed. She was an associate editor of their school publication where she wrote essays about the death of democracy. One day in 1973, she was abducted from her home by drunken soldiers who were looking for her brother. After she asked for a search warrant, she was taken and tortured. Come the next day, she was proclaimed dead.
It was also during the Marcos regime that media giant ABS-CBN was first shut down along with other major media outlets such as Channel 4 (DZXL-TV), GMA Network (formerly RBS), RPN (formerly KBS), and IBC when these were seized by the government. This Marcos order insisted that ABS-CBN and ABC (now TV5) played significant roles in communist and anti-government activities. It took 14 long years for ABS-CBN to be resurrected after it was returned to the ownership of the Lopez family, only for it to be shut down for the second time under the incumbent administration in May 2020 after their franchise renewal requests were rejected due to Duterte’s personal reasons, such as his allegations that they failed to air one of his paid campaign ads during his 2016 campaign and that they spread “fake news” about him.
Aside from threatening ABS-CBN with its shutdown, Duterte also accused the media company Rappler of violating the Constitution with foreign ownership despite their denials. In February 2019, Rappler CEO and Duterte critic Maria Ressa was arrested for cyber libel because of an article she wrote in 2012, despite the cyber libel law only coming to effect in 2014.
Coming from the Duterte administration and bracing for the rule of the son of Marcos Sr., there is much to fear regarding how the state may control and further attack the media. Earlier this year before the campaign season began, BBM declined an interview with GMA broadcaster Jessica Soho because she was accused of being biased against the Marcoses. A day after he was proclaimed as President, he held a press conference limited only to GMA 7, SMNI, and Net25. Not only were the rest of the media outlets that had been covering BBM since his campaign not invited, they were even informed by BBM’s campaign headquarters the previous night that its media center would be closed on that day. It is notable that the operators of two out of three networks, SMNI and Net25, supported BBM and his running mate Sara Duterte during their campaign.
As both a UP student and a campus journalist, what future do I see for myself under a Marcos administration? Especially as a student who hasn’t experienced campus life yet, my student and journalist rights are in peril as the authorities continuously take away our freedom.
As a health sciences student, I worry about my job security after graduation considering the current state of healthcare workers (HCWs) and how it may worsen under leaders who prioritize private interests over public health.
During Marcos Sr.’s term in the 1970’s, the state developed a comprehensive range of policies that not only regulated the export of contract labor from the country, but even systematically encouraged it to address the country’s problems like unemployment by increasing foreign earnings. In 2017, data from Philippine Overseas Employment Agency showed that around 19,000 nurses were exported from the Philippines every year, with 92,277 nurses leaving from 2012 to 2017. Some of the main reasons nurses leave include low wages, contractualization, and the lack of employee benefits and security of tenure. In fact, among the OFWs, HCWs earn the most with an average monthly salary of P111,620, while monthly salaries in private hospitals here in the domestic arena only averages at P9,757.
Aside from job security, working conditions that can deteriorate health and even threaten lives are also a significant problem for HCWs here in the country. Hospitals around the Philippines were already understaffed before the COVID-19 pandemic, but this issue has worsened as HCWs contracted COVID-19 or resigned due to exhaustion and burnout. As of September 2021, there were 75,000 nurses working in public and private hospitals, but around 109,000 more were needed. From the Department of Health, 24,284 HCWs had contracted COVID-19 while 104 died from it. According to the Private Hospitals Association of the Philippines, around 40% of private hospital nurses had resigned since the start of the pandemic.
Not only that, but violence and impunity have also become greater problems for HCWs since the start of the Duterte administration in 2016. Since 2017, at least 10 doctors have been violently killed around the country. One of which was Mary Rose Sancelan, a city health officer in Negros Oriental and the only doctor working on COVID-19 response in the province, was shot dead with her husband after previously being red tagged by a local anti-communist vigilante group Kagubak. Just this year, Dr. Natividad Castro, a community health and human rights advocate who worked in Mindanao, was arrested with trumped-up charges. She was also red tagged, with Caraga regional police chief Brig. Gen. Romeo Caramat Jr. alleging that Dr. Castro was the head of the national health bureau of the Communist Party of the Philippines.
I don’t know how to feel about working in the health sciences when the state continuously disregards the pleas of HCWs and goes so far as threatening their safety. Community health workers in rural areas who stay despite numerous struggles are unjustly arrested and killed. With a president who had no concrete plans on pandemic response and healthcare during his campaign, how can we ensure that existing problems for HCWs such as inadequate and delayed wages, lack of benefits and tenure, and violence and red tagging will be resolved?
My generation has already witnessed so many historic events, and I’m worried about the long-lasting psychological impact these will leave on us, especially since it is imminent that more will come under another Marcos presidency. But we cannot lose hope, as now may be the most important time in our lives to organize, immerse ourselves in communities, and speak up as we must reject a Marcos-Duterte administration.
In the past seven months, we have seen the power of the Filipino people when we come together as shown by the numerous initiatives that supporters of Vice President Leni Robredo have accomplished from the filing of candidacy until election day. Whether it be house-to-house campaigns, medical missions, free services from performances to artwork to legal aid, donation drives, tutoring for students, and much more. If Filipinos were able to give their time and energy to stand for good governance during the campaign, there is more that we can do when we stand together against the Marcoses and Dutertes.
I am certain I am not alone in my fears, so we must join forces and turn our anxiety and dismay into revolutionary courage to change things for the better. Generations before us have already overthrown a Marcos in the past, so it is now our time to do the same.