IT is regrettable that the commemoration of what united most Filipinos 31 years ago has become a time to show the world how politically divided the Philippines is.
The thousands of people, mostly what we now label as millennials, who massed at the historic EDSA People Power Monument in Quezon City consider themselves pro-democracy and anti-dictatorship.
But that should not make the larger number of herded crowd at the more spacious Quirino Grandstand at Rizal Park (Luneta) in Manila anti-democracy and pro-dictatorship.
One thing is clear though—those at EDSA were critics of President Rodrigo Duterte while those at the Rizal Park were his supporters.
The Manila gathering, touted as a simple celebration timed with the EDSA People Power anniversary, was called precisely to show “undivided” support for the advocacies of President Duterte, specifically on “illegal drugs, corruption, criminality, and poverty.
The EDSA crowd may have been much thinner than those who turned up at the pro-Duterte gathering in Manila. But is it just the numbers that matter?
No question that the President needs support for his programs and advocacies. Those four are the country’s worst problems, not only today but even before today’s millennials were born.
What was disturbing about the mobilization for a show of numbers at the Rizal Park was the use of taxpayers’ money and other government resources for something that doesn’t contribute to finding effective solutions to our problems. On the contrary, it may have even involved corruption. Were cash incentives offered and given to those who showed up? Were state resources abused and misused?
Days before February 25, social media networks, particularly Facebook, were swamped with status updates and memes insinuating that those turning up at the EDSA anniversary rites were promised as much as P1,000 “allowance.”
But the separate gatherings should not distract us from what the EDSA revolt means. Let not the personalities present in both gatherings further divide the country by calling them names or pitting them against one another.
The exchange of accusations, name-calling, and spreading “alternative truths” and fake news is unhealthy and divisive. These would only divert us farther away from the ideals of the 1986 EDSA revolt.
After joining the EDSA crowd on Saturday, former President Benigno Aquino III said, according to news reports, that this year’s commemoration of the 1986 revolt has become more meaningful because it was not simply a celebration but also a reminder that “we need to do more than just remember the revolution.”
“Siguro paalala sa atin na hindi pa tapos ang paglaban, tuloy pa rin ang paglaban,” he was quoted as saying. The former President has been keeping a low profile since he returned to his life as a private citizen in July.
Well, the fight for democracy, for people empowerment, for economic freedom don’t really have an end. The fight becomes even more intense as challenges become fiercer. And the challenges are bigger now given the climate of fear amidst the extra-judicial killings and threats of authoritarianism.
It would take a more difficult challenge for President Duterte if he were to unite the country in support of his advocacies.
I hope it is not too late to behave like a statesman and avoid incendiary remarks that only earns him more critics and enemies.
But with the way some of his Cabinet members are behaving, the President doesn’t need detractors from the other side of the political fence. He has already recruited into his Cabinet some of the best in the field of self-destruction, and they’re doing it quite quickly.
Among them are no less than Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre, Communications Secretary Martin Andanar, Chief Legal Counsel Salvador Panelo, and Foreign Secretary Perfecto Yasay. I will not further belabor my point by enumerating their inadequacies in less than eight months that they’ve been in office.
To win support and respect from among the 30-plus million voters who did not cast their votes for him, the first and probably most important step that President Duterte should take is to remove the incompetents in his Cabinet, those who keep on talking before thinking of the consequences of what they say.
The DOJ, DFA, Communications Office, and the legal counsel’s office are critical pillars of the government bureaucracy. If only the heads of these offices could conduct themselves properly and perform effectively and competently to translate the President’s sincerity—granting that he is as he has repeatedly committed in his public speeches—perhaps the pro-Duterte trolls would have something more productive to take up in social media, and the antis will no longer be feasting on their incompetence.
Indeed, the fight for genuine change, good governance, and responsible citizenship never ends. But each one of the 100 million or so Filipinos will have to give his/her share of good deeds and sacrifices in the name of peace and prosperity.
We don’t need yet another EDSA to unite for the country. The fight goes on!