AS the New Year unfolds, the world is confronted with an old flashpoint rekindled: Iran. No thanks to the current President of the United States who has been impeached by the House of Representatives and who will be facing re-election 10 months from now. Am I implying that the assassination of the highest ranking Iranian military officer, on orders of POTUS#45, was an act “in aid of re-election”? Well, yes. And it is also an act in fulfillment of a Trumpian tweet against Barack Obama, POTUS#44, whom #45 (when he was still a private citizen) claimed was preparing to go to war against Iran in aid of re-election!
The problem when superpowers act is that consequences of such actions threaten to engulf more than just the actors. In our case, of course, we have countless citizens working legally (mostly) in the different kingdoms and sultanates in the Persian Gulf region and conflagration can have serious consequences for their health and safety.
And if these kababayans of ours face threats to their source of livelihood then that in turn has serious consequences for our own country’s economic health.
So yes, the world is on edge. Iran has powerful allies in the region, but powerful enemies in the neighborhood too (Saudi Arabia and Israel, for example). It’s not an exaggeration to say that the level of tension in the region is critical and any little spark – a friend has made reference to the assassination of ArchDuke that sparked the First World War – could provoke a string of responses ending in a conflagration that could make the Australian brushfires look like mere “kaingin” practices in our countryside.
But the Iran situation, that’s only the beginning, and the US presidential elections that is somehow related to it is only one more reason that makes 2020 a year of consequence. Here too there are a number of potential issues that will make or break peoples’ futures – individuals and the country’s.
For all intents and purposes PRRD is entering his lame-duck stage, and perhaps that’s why his allies in Congress are said to be hell-bent on pushing for Charter change. Since Ferdinand Marcos tinkered with the 1935 Constitution in 1971 to forestall the need to step down from office, two out of five of his successors have at one time or another toyed around with the idea of doing a Marcos. Ramos did. GMA did. Only Corazon and Benigno Aquino (who served full terms), and Joseph Estrada (who served only a year and a half before being ousted) didn’t try to go down this route. If PRRD’s boys make a serious effort to do so that would mean that half of all Presidents after Marcos are cut from the same cloth.
It means that half of our presidents since Marcos are of a firm belief that they are God’s gift to the Philippines and that belief is so strong that they are willing to cut up the Constitution and remake it to their own liking – couched of course in language intended to make us believe it is we who will ultimately benefit.
Iran aside, there is enough going around us in the Philippines that should make each one of us alert and open-minded, if not necessarily on edge. Before the year is over we will go through a considerable amount of challenges that will make us at times wonder whether it is even wise to care about people outside our smallest circles of trust. We will hear song and dance routines that will try to sell to us this or that course of action, if not this or that individual, as a lead-up to the transition that will happen In 2022. And yes, we need to take them all in. And think before we react.
But surely there should be some clear lines drawn in the sand. Some fundamentals that are not open to debate. Principles, for example, that do not come with a price tag. You and I will need to explore what these are, as they are very individual matters.
And then we must draw the lines in the sand as we prepare for this new year of consequence.