It seems important to tell this story: I have been to enough rallies in my life, mostly as student in the State U, and then as a teacher in AdMU. I would join – as my politics would dictate – the rallies of the militant left throughout the Ramos, Erap, and GMA administrations, from State of the Nation Addresses (SONAs) to anti-Erap rallies, EDSA Dos to GMA’s Declaration of a State of National Emergency via Proclamation 1017.
During PNoy’s presidency, I went to organizational meetings for that huge anti-pork barrel rally at the Luneta. I went as an individual, representing no one but myself. At that point I was already an independent writer, maintaining this column and my blog, and there I was, with people who were only Facebook contacts, and whose politics would otherwise clash with mine.
But with the issue of the pork barrel, we were mostly united – save for one or two who were ready to forgive government the moment they declared the pork barrel abolished, which they announced some days before the scheduled rally. It was a clear that it sought to weaken the united front that was a broad coalition of groups – left, right, center.
That combination was of course replete with many-a-stereotyping (mostly of the militant Left organizations which were generally baseless and unfair), and a whole lot of negotiations about what could, should, would be done. Regardless, a majority believed the announce pork barrel abolition was nothing but government strategy. The rally pushed through as planned.
It seems important to tell this story because over the weekend and throughout this week, we have seen the different faces of the same strategy trying to wreak havoc on the unities we have forged, putting into question the rallies we have attended, against the Marcoses and against President Duterte’s decision to pay a debt of gratitude to the late dictator’s family.
At the heart of the strategy is a simple concept: divide and conquer. And in the age of social media noise, troll discourse, and Like-conscious commentary, it is easy to get lost in the ruckus.
Strategy #1: categorizing by color, party
Realize that those who divide us come from any group at all. The easier ones to spot are those from the fandom of President Duterte or the loyalists of the Marcoses. Others are a little more difficult to recognize because these come from the groups we actually went to a rally with, or someone who holds an amount of credibility on the premise of objectivity.
The strategies are easier to spot than the people who use it.
Strategy #1: Dismiss the anti-Marcos protests to be merely about colors and political parties.
While true that there are colors and political parties here, realize that there is no one color or political party that is in control of your decision to come out to the streets to register your rage against the President’s decision to bury Marcos the dictator at the heroes’ cemetery.
That you go to any and every rally against the Marcos burial does not make you any color that you are not. Neither does it mean you are loyal to the party or politicos who might hold the program at the rally. It only means that regardless of color or party, you are with this fight against the Marcoses and their control over our politics and government, via their tried and tested loyalists, such as President Duterte.
We protest to call out President Duterte on his blind loyalty to the Marcoses, and his dismissal of what has already been historically written and proven to have been a dark dark time for nation and our freedoms. That stand is beyond colors and political parties. It is just you, as individual citizen, fighting for what is right.
Strategy #2: divisiveness
Where the previous strategy actually comes from those who are clearly out to discredit the rallies, i.e., Mocha and many Duterte devotees, this next strategy comes from those who are with us in the anti-Marcos fight, but who insist that only one group is the legitimate anti-Marcos group. This was revealed by the Leah Navarro text message that circulated Nov 21; more messages like this were made known Nov 22.
What these messages spread is the idea that there is only one “valid” or “legitimate” anti-Marcos rally. It spreads rumors about the militant Left organizations that have organized the November 25 rally by saying that they are in fact pro-Duterte and anti-PNoy, and that the rally will turn out violent.
None of this is true. In fact, none of it makes sense. If the rally is pro-Duterte, why would it end with violence? And if it’s anti-PNoy, why would organizers already highlight that tomorrow’s Black Friday rally at Luneta won’t only be a National Day of Unity and Rage against the Marcos burial, but also against President Duterte’s alliance with the Marcoses?
Here’s the thing with rumors: they just add to the noise. And right now, getting lost in the noise and being fooled into believing all this divisive talk, just weakens us and stands in the way of building on the issues that unite us.
Sure, you can stick to the groups that you are comfortable with, but even that would be to feed the divide that President Duterte and the Marcoses are banking on. The more warm bodies there are, the better. The more consistently we protest, the more they are forced to contend with our rage against this state of Marcosian affairs.
I say join a rally as often as you can. Remain critical of the groups that organize these rallies, call them out on slogans, chants you do not agree with. But be there. Engage. It’s the only way we might understand better the breadth, scope, depth of Marcosian politics that we face.
If there’s one criticism I agree with, it’s that this is also our fault for having let the Marcoses get away with murder the past 30 years since EDSA 1986. But admitting that mistake does not erase the value of protest at this point in time. We can continue to read, study, analyze what it is we have done wrong, even as we must see that we are in fact doing something right, and we are doing it right now: the fact that we are being divided is telling of how a united citizenry is reason for fear.
Unite. Protest. Rage. The time is now.
Published in The Manila Times, November 24 2016.