CALLING it ironic would be an understatement.
On the day of the EDSA Revolution Anniversary, the President talked about democracy and freedom, compassion and love.
That same day, rallyists who had taken the time to get permits and were told by a certain General Valeroso that they would not need permits to do their activities for the EDSA 1986 Anniversary —rallyists who have the right to organize on the streets regardless of permits in fact—were met by the police. Later fire trucks arrived. It effectively closed down EDSA to traffic, when the rallyists had meant only to take up one lane of the highway, forming a human link from Camp Crame to the EDSA Shrine.
Public order and safety
Interviewed on live radio, the police chief in charge said that when they saw the number of rallyists gathering in Santolan, it signaled the need for more police troops to control “the situation.” Because they couldn’t have the growing crowd disrupt “public order” and risk “public safety.”
But it’s common sense, isn’t it, that a group of people who had planned on forming a human link must first gather in one spot, especially since the police themselves had cordoned off EDSA for the Palace’s commemoration activities? Public order would not have been disrupted at all had the police just let the rallyists pass through as planned, to go about their own commemoration of the EDSA Revolution’s 29th Anniversary.
And this is really the thing: Why was this public not allowed to celebrate as they wanted? Why must the commemoration be limited to the President and his Cabinet? Ideally the government’s commemoration of EDSA 1986, and any historical event for that matter, is the celebration of nation, too. But in this case, not only was the public forbidden from joining in the celebration – it was not declared a national holiday – but the government itself inconvenienced the thousands of Filipinos who had work that day by closing down EDSA from midnight to 4:00PM.
If anyone disrupted public order that day and risked the public’s safety, it was government itself, forcing traffic into smaller side roads and streets that are not built to handle the traffic that would be on a highway like EDSA on a regular day. It was Malacañang that pushed so many to walk instead of use public transport, or risk getting on a dangerous MRT ride, just to get to work. It’s the Palace that forced so many to miss work that day, or arrive late for it, which means less pay.
It was all quite unthinking, also unkind. Not surprising for this government, but what a way to commemorate EDSA 1986.
Compassion and love And for what?
For a speech that spoke about the President, though this time around he—and his speech writers!—might be forgiven. After all, it was the murder of his father in 1983 and his mother’s daring to run against Marcos in 1986 that were critical to the people’s revolt that would come to be called the EDSA Revolution.
But also he talked about how angry he was as the only son of Ninoy, for the way his father was killed. He wanted revenge, but found that compassion is the response to anger, and the best weapon is love.
Sounds like the youngest Presidential sister, doesn’t it? But he lost a father, so we forgive.
We wished though that he could put into action what he says, that these words were not mere lines in a speech, but actually how he operates as President, how his men and women operate as members of the Cabinet.
Because we know it is this compassion that is lacking here, and it is in every failure that we equate with this President and his government. In 2013, it was a lack of compassion for the people of Leyte and Samar right after Typhoon Haiyan hit; last year, it was a lack of compassion for the survivors of the typhoon at a time of rebuilding. Recently, it has been a lack of compassion for the families of the SAF44 as revealed by the President’s absence during the welcome honors for the bodies of the 44 police troopers, and as revealed in his exchanges with the family members who recently asked the President about what truly went wrong in Mamasapano.
It’s really that the President is on a different plane as far as compassion and love are concerned. He does not do it the way we expect a leader to, and he seems to be marching to the beat of his own drum. Which would be great if we were talking about running nation differently from the leaders before him; but we’re talking about moments when we expect a leader to display common traits of compassion and caring and love.
And we just don’t get it.
Trust and freedom
The President spoke about having wanted to seek revenge for his father’s death in that EDSA Anniversary speech, and then spoke of how much more powerful trust and compassion, love and freedom are than anger. He was of course speaking about the aftermath of the Mamasapano tragedy as well.
But a day after the EDSA 1986 Anniversary, what we’ve heard from the Palace is the threat of charges of inciting to sedition and conspiracy to commit rebellion against those who are calling for the President’s resignation. They must know this is the last thing the public needs to hear from this government, yes? They must know that this will get people all riled up—shades of GMA, if not of Marcos right there. They must know that this will just gather more people against this President, even those who might not have cared for the resignation call? Because it’s the last thing we want to hear from any government, least of all one that declares itself on the matuwid na daan.
They must know that this is the last thing we expect from a President who won on a platform and color that was about the freedom and democracy that his parents stood for. And if the Palace can’t handle criticism in this space of freedom, if it cannot handle rallies and ouster calls better than the governments of the past, then that spells doom.
For whom? We wait and see.