Thursday ∗ 03 Jul 2014

Downward spiral*

On doctor-ordered isolation (nothing infectious, just radioactive, long story) and totally missed the June 12 rallies. I would’ve gone as an individual, probably brought along my parents, reminiscent of how we had gone to too many-an-anti-Erap- and anti-GMA-rally in the last decade or so.

But maybe it was good to have been kept away this time around, to have watched it happening without knowing exactly what went into the planning and organizing. It allows for a sense, too, of how limited and limitless the efforts, how diverse and different the groups are, and how it all looks and sounds from the outside.

And how those slogans and soundbites work vis a vis this government’s that has –admit it or not – turned more and more defensive at every turn.Democracy and maximum tolerance
Using democracy and freedom for spin was no surprise. It was Presidential Spokesperson Edwin Lacierda who said: “They’re free to [protest]…. We have a vibrant democracy.”

And yet it didn’t take long for some good ol’ contradiction via Malacañang. Presidential Communications Operations Office Secretary Sonny Coloma soon enough spoke about the police abiding by the rules of restraint and tolerance, alongside the government-repeated notion that the police are at rallies in order to protect rallyists.

Of course, anyone who’s ever been at a rally during PNoy’s time would know how the reason for fear is in fact the presence of military and police forces armed with shields and truncheons. Yes, that is how they practice restraint and tolerance.

I, for one, always feel like I’m already being judged dangerous for going to a rally, with nary an organization behind me. And even with an organization, seriously? Why would standing alongside Sr. Mary John Mananzan and Satur Ocampo and Mae Paner make any of us dangerous?

It is spin, and it’s one that this government has been spewing every time plans for a big rally get into the news. This is a democracy so you have the right to rally, yes. Government holds our freedoms in such high regard, it will even protect you as your protest against it.

Only the naïve would think this a measure of a functional vibrant democracy. Oh, and let’s throw in the name of Pio Mijares, 19-year old Ateneo de Naga student, arrested and charged with disturbing public order for heckling PNoy’s independence day speech in Bicol.

Makes you wonder: who’s scared of protests, exactly?

The cause for unity
Coloma goes on to say – speaking for government of course – that it’s good to have free discussions on issues that face nation, latching onto the rally’s major issue that is the pork barrel scam. The good Secretary said: “If the issue is the fight against anomalies and irregularities and the wrong use of public funds, the government is one with that given daang matuwid and good governance.”

The government, we are being told, is united with us in this fight against corruption. And yet, none of what it has done so far tells us that they will be as strict with their own men, their own systems.

The President himself likes to talk about due process, that this is what he has asked for from his men and women, and that this is what they are operating on given the charges against Senators Juan Ponce Enrile, Jinggoy Estrada and Bong Revilla. Due process, of course, has meant these three senators (and their press people) being allowed to go to town with it, privilege speeches and all.

And yes, we might disagree with many things that the Enrile et al. have said, but it is difficult to disagree with the fact that it looks like their heads are on the chopping block because they are not Presidential allies. This, of course, does not mean they’re innocent. But it does put into question how this government has dealt with its own men, just as embroiled, it would seem, in the pork barrel scam as the three senators.

Read the Janet Napoles affidavits. Realize that the President’s men are on there, and he has yet to do anything about it.

Beyond taglines, soundbites
This is what this government would like us to forget. By spinning the rallies and using notions of democracy and freedom vis a vis its spiel of the righteous path, it works at making us forget about the President’s own men.

Now the rallies are not one to let us forget that, of course, and this is why the tagline “Lahat ng Sangkot Managot” of the Abolish Pork Movement might have been the more successful one to come out of the June 12 action. Because everything else does not speak of what it is we want at this point, already! 10 months since the first Million People March.

Ten months. That’s almost a year and all we’ve got to show for it are still these three names and a government that insists there is no more pork barrel because look! there’s the Disbursement Acceleration Program! We had that in August 2013, and it’s all still what we have now. It is what we have, because it’s all the President is willing to give us.

That of course tells us exactly how little he hears of our demands, yes? Because we knew 10 months ago that the President’s men, his Liberal Partymates, ex-congressmen turned Cabinet Secretaries, needed to be held up to the same light as the three Senators whose heads are on the chopping block. But here we are, almost a year since the Million People March and there’s barely any movement on even probing any of The President’s Men at all.

If anything, the President – and this government – continues to stand firm about doing things the way it has, evading important questions and getting its men some media mileage and plenty of spin, refusing to discuss any affidavit at all in the course of saying that too many affidavits are messing with our minds.

And it seems we are also losing steam, losing focus. “Ouch PiNoy” as the title of the June 12 rally was ill-conceived, unclear, and did not speak of exactly what this fight against the pork barrel is about. We’ve proven we’re in this for the long haul. It seems time to prove to this government that we’re in this to discuss issues better, and go deeper. It seems time to prove that we will not be ignored.

The government’s downward spiral into defensiveness and pettiness should not mean our own.

*Published in the RadikalChick Column with The Manila Times, June 15 2014.

Posted in: aktibismo, bayan, gobyerno, komentaryo, pulitika

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