National sovereignty. Political, economic and cultural independence. Freedom. We as a nation proclaim to exercise these concepts. They are enshrined in our laws, celebrated in our national holidays, preached in our classrooms. We are a sovereign nation, our leaders declare. We are free.
Or are we, really?
Events of past decades, as well as recent developments, have called into question this narrative of national independence. We have witnessed how, time and again, forces external to us have wielded influence in our politics, economy and culture.
In the economic sphere, administration after administration has embraced policies of neoliberal globalization. This has made our economy dependent on foreign investments that partake of our rich natural resources and take advantage of our cheap labor, killing domestic industries and agriculture. This year, local oil prices have skyrocketed, calling attention to the government’s inability to control prices because of its submission to an essentially foreign oil monopoly.
Politically, our government is dependent on foreign, particularly US, support and patronage. It has consistently acted as an American stooge, allowing the permanent presence of US troops in the country. Recently, the government has been increasingly subservient to US interests, meeting with top US officials and hosting military exercises with the US and its allies in support of the US defense plan to refocus its might to the Asia Pacific region. It is thus unsurprising that the Philippine military has adopted the fascist methods of its American counterpart, adopting the latter’s counterinsurgency manuals to suppress legitimate dissent.
It is in the cultural sphere that our lack of independence is most felt by many Filipinos. Hollywood movies and other products churned out by the corporate media promote individualistic and conservative values, and preempt critical thinking. In our schools, the government has been pushing for changes in curricula that fail to rouse nationalist sentiments, and is instead preoccupied with producing docile workers that the global capitalist system can exploit here and abroad.
In many ways and many aspects, we are not free. The promise of our forebears—that of freedom, independence and national sovereignty—remain unfulfilled. Now, it is up to us, this generation and the succeeding ones, to fulfill this promise.