THE EDSA affair held at the people power monument last Saturday, February 25, dubbed as the “power of we,” hoped to become a massive protest against the return of authoritarianism.
But if there is one defining moment that went viral, it was when Jim Paredes led the bullying of a small group of pro-Duterte protesters. Caught on video, the incident became a powerful representation of the kind of people that keep hanging on to celebrate the grand memories of EDSA.
And the images are not that encouraging at all.
Jim Paredes embodied the anger and frustration of many in his cohort, wondering how it could have come to this. How EDSA, which they would like to paint as a revolution which snatched the Filipino people away from a dictatorship, and which they imagine as a moment where democracy was supposed to have been restored, could be treated like this.
Jim Paredes was perhaps enraged by the assault by the enemy, the pro-Duterte demonstrators, on their territory, on sacred, hallowed ground which they staked out to wage their continuing war against the Marcoses.
On one hand, the rally at the People Power Monument remained dominated by an anti-Marcos sentiment. Reliving the demons of Marcos was the prevalent theme in the placards, banners and streamers that were seen held and paraded by the participants. The theme of opposing a return to authoritarianism was targeting not only President Rodrigo Duterte, but also ex-senator Bongbong Marcos. For many people in the rally, the President was reduced to an instrument of this grand conspiracy to restore the Marcoses to power, and that he is nothing but an inhabitant of a Marcosian template—oppressive, authoritarian, a human rights violator.
On the other hand, there was the sense of entitlement. That this is their EDSA, and that this piece of ground was theirs to claim. Paredes saw the presence of the pro-Duterte demonstrators, armed with nothing except their clenched fists, as an assault on such entitlement.
For Paredes, the daring show of support to the President, whom they demonize as allied with the devil Marcos himself, was an unforgivable assault on the purity of their celebration. He forgot that days before, he posted in social media a shout-out insinuating that anyone regardless of political color would be welcome to join them,
But no one should be fooled. The EDSA of Paredes is an exclusive one. After all, it was all subliminally captured in the theme of the rally, “the power of we.” “We” which implies that there is a “you,” the “other,” a different being which in Paredes’ jaundiced lens are those who would see history differently from him, and would like to place their burdens and sufferings no longer in the hands of the political patrons of Paredes.
To Paredes, and the angry voices he whipped up from his ranks, pushing, shoving and shouting at the silently defiant, but brave and daring pro-Duterte supporters, the “power of we” would exclude many of us.
It is a privileged, elite, exclusive “we.” It is “we” as “kami” and not as “tayo.”
This type of “we” is the kind that led to divisions, and even oppression and human rights violations. It is a “we” that demeans those not included.
Jim Paredes and his “power of we” would like us to believe that they are at the forefront of fighting for democracy, and against the return to authoritarianism.
Yet they showed an utter disrespect towards democracy, and exhibited their authoritarian streak, when they denied voices of dissent a space to be articulated. They attacked and assaulted those voices.
Paredes and his “power of we” keeps on reminding us of the horrors of human rights abuses, of how Ferdinand Marcos Sr. trampled upon the human rights of those who dissented, and of how President Rodrigo Duterte turned Marcosian and unleashed the forces of the state to extra-judicially kill drug addicts and unlawfully imprison critics like Leila de Lima.
Yet they showed an inability to respect a fundamental human right, the right to speak and to peacefully assemble. Instead, they pushed, shoved and shouted at those who wanted to exercise that right.
In the end, Paredes and his band of bullies have damaged the cause they are fighting for. In their desperation, they became careless. They were angry and frustrated. Leila de Lima is in jail. Ferdinand Marcos is now buried at the Libingan ng mga Bayani, while the Supreme Court sitting as the Presidential Electoral Tribunal took cognizance of Bongbong’s electoral protest.
It is indeed painful to see that despite the demonization efforts that they waged against the President, all they could muster was a crowd of 2,000. This, even as the crowd at the Rizal Park in support of the President they label as a Marcos incarnate reached a peak of 215,000.
The power of we lost its power. And Jim Paredes made the loss even more painful.