IT is easy to dismiss them as just there because of the money, and to reduce them to opportunistic, lazy people who would make extra effort to travel long distances if it means having an easy and quick P10,000 monthly reward.
But if that is the case, then you have over 100,000 greedy and opportunistic Filipinos, men and women, who even brought with them their children, who rode rented vans, jeeps and buses and turned the whole campus of UP Los Baños into akin to a gold rush destination.
And coming on the heels of several political rallies held in various places in Metro Manila last September 21 during the commemoration of the declaration of Martial Law, one has to take a deep breath and rethink dismissing this phenomenal crowd that descended on the UPLB campus groundstwo days after last Saturday, September 23.
Official crowd estimates by the police placed the crowd in the anti-Duterte rallies in Luneta at 8,000 and in the UP area at 1,000. The crowd that attended the pro-Duterte rally in Plaza Miranda was estimated at 16,000. There were also rallies conducted in Mendiola by both sides, with the antis estimated at 5,000 and the prosat 3,000. Assuming that we can count the Mendiola crowd as a separate crowd, even if there is a high probability that many of them later went to the Luneta for the antis, and Plaza Miranda for the pros, it is safe to assume that we have about 14,000 who protested against the President in three various locations, and around 19,000 who rallied in support of him in two locations, for a grand total of 33,000 people.
This is no match to the over 112,000 people that descended on UP Los Baños in one swoop, all taken in by the promise that they will be able to partake of the gold bullions of the late President Ferdinand Marcos.
I personally saw them crowd out the early-morning joggers like me. I had to make a detour from my usual route because the sidewalks surrounding the jogging ovalwere simply teeming with people. I saw them by the jeeploads and busloads arriving, turning what used to be a usually idyllic Saturday for Los Baños citizens into a day of mayhem of traffic jams and choked roads. All three major entrances into the UPLB Campus were clogged.
I have lived more than half of my entire life in Los Baños, and I can say that this is the first time we had a crowd of this magnitude, that it even surpassed the usual throng that we have during the annual commencement exercises.
The inquisitive social scientist in me began to conduct a rapid social investigation, asking people why they were there. Some were clueless, saying that they only joined neighbors. Others were pretty much clearer on the reason. They were there because they were told by organizers in their barangays that they would get part of the gold bullions of the Marcoses, and that the event was for them to enlist. Some were carrying what looked like pamphlets bearing the face of the late strongman Ferdinand Marcos.
It appeared to be an organized gathering, albeit appearing chaotic simply due to the sheer number of attendees. But there were portable toilets installed, with tents housing tables for organizers. I found out that even those who worked for the organizers were not as certain about why they were there. Whnen I asked about cash from the Marcos gold, and how they would be given out, I was told that I had to talk to leaders of the One Social Family Credit Cooperative, for which they could not give me a name.
As it turned out, this so-called Credit Coop is not even registered with the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC). In fact, the SEC issueda warning advising people not to transact business with it as early as Mayof this year.
The Marcoses, through ex-senator Bongbong Marcos, quickly issued a statement denying their involvement, and calling the event a scam, claiming their family name was being used by unscrupulous individuals.
It is easy for some people to put a political spin into the gathering with the mere mention of the Marcos name further made easier by the presence of pamphlets with the face of Ferdinand Marcos. In fact, one TV network even quickly labeled the crowd as a gathering of Marcos Loyalists, and local student activists tweeted hashtags saying that the Marcoses were not welcome at UPLB.
But a closer inspection of the crowd beyond the immediately visible optics reveals that this was not a political gathering. It wasin fact an attempt to scam innocent, gullible people, and the use of the Marcos name was not to attract political loyalties, but to add some credibility to the claim that there will be a source of funds to make people believe that indeed cash waits for them after hours oftravel and a day of inconvenience.
And it is here where we, regardless of our political affiliation, whether we are pro-Duterte or anti, red-, black-, yellow- or white-wearing, should all be concerned whether our political mantras are enough to match the desire of people about what is relevant in their lives. As we bicker, demean, insult and diminish each other in a vitriolic exchange of ad hominem attacks, we have to really ask ourselves if we are indeed getting the point.
Are we really listening to the people?
For a scammer promising gold to be able to hoodwink 112,000, while all of us with our so-called higher causes can only produce barely a third of that, is an indictment not only of the people we can easily dismiss as greedy, but is also a sign that we may not be listening to them.