Downward spiral

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On doctor-ordered isolation (nothing infectious, just radioactive, a 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.

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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.

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2 Comments

  1. Your column is as usual to the point and bull’s eye!
    Corruption will dominate the main issue of the 2016 Presidential contest. I hope the massive pork barrel scam perpetrated by unbelievably huge proportion of Congressional membership becomes the electorate principal gauge to vote. People must now show its new image of supporting an honest and upright leader!

    Pnoy’s Policy of Two Paths (Straight and Crooked)!

    The much vaunted Pnoy’s slogan of “straight path” is not at all absolute and all-inclusive corruption policy. Its trajectory gets “crooked” when the path of corruption leads to and point to his allies (in the Liberal Party, like Senate President Frank Drilon) and the President’s men (DBM Sec.Abad and Sec. Alcala). Although his anti-corruption policy netted “big fish” worthwhile to hook like the “Three
    Raiders of the Pork Barrel” (Enrile, Estrada and Revilla), the test of its genuiness of objective is when Pnoy crosses the lines of inclusiveness and include these allies and his men denounced in the list
    of Napoles and Benhur Luy. There are 20 Senators and 120 Congressmen (past and present) who were implicated in the Pork Barrel anomalies exposed by Napoles and Luy in their respective lists. In order to claim a fair and broad corruption policy, Pnoy MUST prosecute these fraudsters and scammers on the lists based on the whistleblowers testimonies and records. Pnoy must not defend his allies and cabinet men that list is mere accusation and no evidence linking them to the scam and presumed innocent! The least he could do is “file” the case and ask them to take leave of absence until they proved themselves absolved from charges. If not done, Pnoy’s crusade is tainted with malice, dishonesty and pure “selective” justice. The corruption is a farce and merely launched as another weapon of political opposition destruction!

    Jun Adan
    New York City

  2. I would say dont worry to much about if this government does or does not deal with its own members in the same way, if they have let any of their own off who are actualy guilty then lets hope the next government can look into it & if its found pnoy let them off then they & he should be bought to justice & held to account. I wish i could also go on these rallies but i cant as im a foreigner & if im found protesting i would be kicked out of the country.
    Here is a question on pork barrel funds. If a senator doesnt use all his pork barrel does he have to hand it back to the goverment for use elsewhere. If yes then these senators who say their signatures were forged are guilty as if using forged signatures they stole any ammount of that pork then the senator should know its missing & inform the right people to find out where it went. If he didnt then he is guilty of stealing as he is responsible, & as i said many times ignorance is no excuse, its an easy way out or they think its an easy way out & it shouldnt be.