Choosing my rallies
I woke up with a dull headache, even after having taken a Decolgen Forte at bedtime to abort a cold. I didn’t feel fit for Black Friday, the day of protest at Luneta. I had gone to bed before 11 o’clock, hoping to conk out before midnight, but it was past 1 when I finally fell asleep. I awoke feeling a sense of malaise bordering on the flu.
It is easy enough to blame the asthma-inducing weather, but then again, there’s a whole lot of things going on in the country for me to feel lousy about. How can anything be worse than the extra-judicial killings that go on upon the implicit orders of the president himself; or the relentless persecution in the most tasteless and disgusting fashion of Sen. Leila de Lima, who, as chair of the Commission on Human Rights, happened to have investigated the President when he was still mayor of Davao City on similar suspicions—summary justice?
To be sure, as secretary of justice, De Lima made other dangerous enemies, putting some of them in jail; most of them are now free or back in positions of power, thanks to their friendly Supreme Court. At any rate, with Duterte, they must have found common ground for vengeance.
“He’s like a Rottweiler: when he bites, he won’t let go,” someone in the clergy described Duterte’s obsession with De Lima.
But despite his enormous political power, his captive witnesses, an obedient justice secretary, a police force of his own, and a rabid army of trolls, he hasn’t succeeded in any of his hot pursuits, has he? Well, unless you consider the burial of Ferdinand Marcos among heroes.
By allowing the burial, he has reopened old wounds. What was supposed to be secret, thanks to Imee’s Facebook bragging, was shown on nationwide television. There, back in their old glory, were the unrepentant Marcoses gloating in yet another victory—against the Filipino people.
It couldn’t have happened without the connivance of the President, who, in fairness to him, has never denied his sentimental links, and campaign-fund indebtedness, to the Marcos family. Perhaps to distance himself from the scene, he timed it so he would be conveniently in far Peru, but his fingerprints were all over the place.
Until the burial, militant friend Cleo had observed that civil society was being pulled in different directions by so many issues, and might have at some point suffered protest fatigue. Ironically, it’s the Marcos issue again that has consolidated civil-society force, and it seems to have acquired a life of its own, with new, young champions— students and other millennials.
The Black Friday (Nov. 25) protests were impressive, energizing and hope-raising. They were not confined to Luneta or the metropolis. Provincial cities mounted their own, among them, in fact, Duterte’s own native Davao; at the forefront in their case were, as usual—God bless them—the religious.
Watching from the comfort of our living room those young faces marching in the light rain, I was left teary-eyed, but beaming with grandparental pride. Indeed, it is their fight now. Many of them may have even preferred us to stay home, out of harm’s way. Despite the rain, at any rate, there was no discouraging your typical lolo and lola wearing protest black from going.
This one kills
It was an afternoon rally that could go on until dark, and, to be honest, I was not without fear. Those of us at Edsa are well aware these are different times. As Betina, a fellow Edsa veteran, warned, “Este mata”—this one kills.
An editor, on the young side of senior, shook her head over lunch the other day and declared with a firm resolve, “I’m not working in a controlled press ever again!”
And there on TV was finally FVR, our now 88-year-old ex-president, who had allowed the Marcoses back on the condition Marcos be buried in his hometown of Batac, Ilocos Norte, expressing his own outrage at the tyrant’s improper burial.
Conchita Carpio Morales, our feisty but classy Ombudsman, would never have been fooled. When she speaks out, which is not often, it is with wit and wisdom, timed for the best effect, and always memorable. This time she gave “you know who” a cautious warning, “Not because you can [bury him in that way], you should.”
But it’s now too late: Duterte has opened a can of worms, and the youth are indignant. A young doctor with four grade-school kids, a son of a friend who was abroad, texted me, “Where is the rally, Tita? I want to go. ”
A mother of one-year-old twins also texted, “Scary times, Tita. Saan ang rally, sasama na yata ako.”
Indeed, I’m proudest of the children—young mothers and fathers and students who have come out in force to be seen and heard, making me feel assured we have raised them well; the least we can do is to stand by them, where we can, when we can.
I may have to choose my rallies now, but a rally is an exercise of freedom, an imperative even for us seniors to undertake while we still can. Freedom, like everything else, is something that, if we don’t use, we lose.
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