Today will probably mark a different commemoration of September 21 from the previous regimes where protesters normally scratched old wounds inflicted by the Martial Law of old.
This time, President Rodrigo Duterte signed Proclamation No. 319 declaring this date as a “National Day of Protest,” suspending public school classes and government work to give way to street demonstrators to air their grievances against government and other institutions.
Indeed, there will be no stopping the nationwide protests planned for today by the opposition and activist groups to commemorate the 45th anniversary of the 1972 Martial Law, and to declare strong opposition to any plans by the incumbent regime to impose military rule nationwide.
But by a preemptive stroke of his pen signing the declaration of the National Day of Protest, along with a statement in jest he would also join the protest to complain about the “low salary” of those in government, including him, Duterte has initiated a conciliatory move toward the protesters from the opposite side.
In signing Proclamation 319, Duterte acknowledged the fear that may have been imprinted on the collective memory of the people from the promulgation of Proclamation 1081 in 1972. “This administration recognizes the fear and indignation of the people against a repetition and perpetuation of such human rights violations and all other failings of the government.”
With no less than this President moving an inch to reach out to the other side, perhaps the protesters would also do well to consider how to move forward and take a less futile step toward a more productive future than singing the same old tune of protests year after year regardless of who takes the helm of government. Harping repeatedly on the atrocities of the old martial law is like beating a dead horse, which may no longer have any cathartic effect. Moving on toward the future now requires focusing on fixing the present problems that ail our society.
Dissenters and street demonstrators, even newly appointed officials of government, all have frustrations over the state of things in this country to vent. The never-ending traffic chaos, the floods, the clogged street sewers that cause them, urban and rural poverty, homelessness, corruption in high and low places, the ever-present rebellion from the secessionists, not to mention the monstrosity of the drug menace and the killings – such are the horrors of our society that we have learned to live with but certainly can do without so we can collectively start breathing easy as normal people ought to in their own land.
Everyone has a stake in the future of this nation. If dissent through violent means taken to the streets has not worked effectively, perhaps working with new constructive courses of action would work better.
There are more urgent issues to deal with, such as the failure of the rule of law in the dismissal of the impeachment complaint against Comelec Chairman Andres Bautista.
The complaint accused Bautista of betrayal of public trust and culpable violation of the Constitution, for offenses such as hidden wealth and negligence.
“Hard evidence that could have been presented by [wife Patricia]Bautista showing the ill-gotten wealth of Andres Bautista would have unfolded had the House Justice Committee not dismissed the case against Bautista simply based on technicality, which the House just pulled from up its sleeves without any legal basis, contrary to established jurisprudence on the matter,” the anti-corruption advocacy group VACC said.
We agree with the VACC when it declared: “Today is the death of Democracy and the victory of the corrupt public officials.”
Here is the urgent call of the moment: We need an honest leader in Comelec to enable our voters to elect the right leaders for our nation as we seek a better future for the generation to come. That is a far more noble task for everyone on this Day of National Protest than beating a dead horse.