March 17, 2006 Friday
Walk Out - Teach In
Climate of Fear
Even though Proclamation 1017 (P1017) has been lifted by President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo (GMA), unwarranted arrests, intimidation, suppression of freedom and basic human rights and harassment continue without abatement. People and organizations with opposing views from the president are labeled dissidents and rebels...and therefore, subject to arrest. The entire country is under a blanket of fear.
Martial Law but Not
While the current constitution provided checks and balances to ensure that any president cannot unilaterally declare martial law, GMA has been so crafty in utilizing gray areas within the law (and decreeing self-serving laws herself) to enforce a state of martial law without going through the scrutiny of the Senate and Congress...because technically, it's not martial law. She has done this twice in the past and got away with it.
In protest of all this, the University of the Philippines (UP), faculty, students and staff, held a walk-out from classes to attend a teach-in with speakers Prof. Randy David and 3 esteemed members of the College of Law. They discussed broad issues about the status of their legal claim to the Supreme Court about P1017's unconstitutionality. According to Prof. David, the lawyers' argument were so compelling, it forced Supreme Court justice Benipayo to resign.
Prof. Randy David was keen in pointing out the dangers of government intimidation. People, consciously or not, tend to censor themselves. With that restrain, freedom of expression dies...the life force within us consequently dies as well. We become enslaved by our own fears.
No Worthy Successor?
The most pressing issue about ousting GMA is the lack of successor. That's the main reason a lot of people are sitting on the fence. Noli de Castro does not come close. Senate president F. Drillon does not enjoy popular mandate. Ping Lacson is perceived as a cold-blooded killer.
One of the lawyers, Marvic Leonen, pointed out that this should not stop us from ousting GMA. Looking back into history, no revolution has ever succeeded with a detailed plan of government - EDSA 1 and 2 didn't have any. Even the Bolshevik revolution didn't have any. Why should this now stop us from unseating a corrupt tyrant who stole the election to win the presidency?
Furthermore, he added that the current administration keeps feeding us those same names as possible replacements, knowing fully well that none is acceptable. This reinforces their argument that GMA, though unpopular, is still the best person for the job. Simply put, it's a subtle persuasion for the people to settle for less. Marvic asked everyone to take a step back and see a bigger picture. We are not limited to just a few unacceptable names. The country has over 80 million people. Surely, there must be at least one out there who can do a better job than GMA.
When Marcos was still in power during martial law, he purposely kept the opposition weak and small to avoid the threat of a presidential timber. Like GMA now, it was widely perceived then that there was no suitable replacement for him. This common thinking was partially responsible for keeping him in office. However, given the People Power uprising, an iron-fisted dictator was ousted and replaced by a widow with no political experience. Sure, it wasn't perfect but at least the people had a voice again. It proved that a determined people can put a ruthless dictator out of office.
Now, it's commonplace to hear people say they're sick and tired of people power...that it brought them the same crowd of old-school politicians who did nothing but milk the public anyway. I get this through email, e-groups and forums. Some letters are very well written, it's compelling. I even suspect those crafty ones are seeded by the administration. Think about it - it's a brilliant ploy to stick to the status quo.
Such sentiments are not false - but utterly misplaced. People Power does not guarantee a benevolent leader. What it does is empower the people to topple down any publicly elected official who no longer serves the people's interest. People Power is not a one-shot deal but a vigilant and continuing struggle if we are to sustain our inalienable rights. To throw our hands in the air out of resignation for getting an incompetent replacement is to strip ourselves of that empowerment.
During the Marcos days, I witnessed what it's like to have a citizenry living out of fear, of not having a voice and of being fair game to arbitrary abuses committed by the administration. To give up our empowerment while the administration unrelentingly cracks down on opposition is to succumb to that fate one more time. People Power must go on!
Comments? Email firstname.lastname@example.org
(22 Mar 2006) i am glad that you are immersing yourself in the actions within the university. unfortunately, i was unable to join the teach-in that friday. continue writing. i am happy digesting all your thoughts, the packaging is just so palatable. be safe always.
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