• On which side of history do you stand? Which is your team?



    First word
    A CHARACTER in the fine film, “Sideways,” has written a novel, which he has entitled, The Day After Yesterday, meaning, of course, today.

    Today, September 21, 2017, the 45th anniversary of the declaration of martial law by President Ferdinand Marcos on September 21 (or 23), 1972, has been dubbed “A national day of protest” by President Duterte. To allow for participation in protest actions against the government, and to show his seriousness, he declared it a no-work and no-class day across the archipelago.

    To explain what this means and to calm down nervous businessmen, Presidential Spokesman Ernesto Abella announced that work in government offices and classes in public schools and universities are suspended today. Abella stressed that it is not a special non-working holiday. Suspensions in private companies and private schools are up to the discretion of their respective management.

    This, he said, is the government’s response to “Tindig Pilipinas.”, the newly formed coalition of Duterte opponents and critics who plan to speak up on pressing issues and denounce the government’s alleged ‘anti-people policies.’

    For his part, former Senator Juan Ponce Enrile said that September 21 is the day that Filipinos should be thankful to the late Ferdinand Marcos because it was then, in 1972, that he successfully stopped the threatened communist takeover of the country.

    A nation of many teams
    Thinking about what will happen today, I mused that after today Filipinos will divide into several teams, like a sports league:

    • one team led by President Rodrigo Duterte and PDP-Laban;

    • another team led by the Liberals and wearing the color yellow (with no clear indication of who is their leader);

    • the team of the militant left and the CPP-NPA who are always ready to march and raise placards whenever there is an occasion to protest;

    • the team of President Ferdinand E. Marcos which automatically gets a seeding because September 21 is really Marcos’ day;

    • the team of the Catholic Church which will surely march in numbers, with bishops, prelates and nuns in the lead;

    • the team of civilian society which is never without something to say.

    To them, add a crowd of onlookers, which this country never lacks of; in the midst of deadly coup attempts in memory, Filipinos turned out in droves to ogle what was happening blow by blow, out of curiosity.

    I hope my alma mater, Ateneo, does not decide to field its own team for this day of protest. That would be taking its foolish title of “crony school” during Aquino‘s presidency to absurd limits.

    Will DU30 out-clever Marcos?
    I think Duterte’s idea of turning this day into a “national day of protest” was inspired and calculated to disarm his opponents and make them lower their guard.

    A friend who remembers 1972 says that DU 30 is as crafty as Marcos. On the day FM finally lowered the sword, his political opponents were caught totally off-guard, even though they, mostly Liberal Party politicians also, had talked themselves hoarse warning about martial law.

    I hope DU30 will not try to out-clever Marcos, and venture to proclaim martial law today. If he does, he will be throwing away the many positive things, and negative things, that his leadership has brought to the country.

    I would then have to revise completely my initial published assessment that Duterte’s would be “a watershed presidency”. Instead, it would become a “cul-de-sac presidency”—a deadend.

    Changing brands
    I think the political opposition, with their legions of supporters and allies, has been as sporting as DU30. By calling themselves “Tindig Pilipinas,” they have a fresher and better brand than “Liberal Party,” “yellow Cult,” or “Tuwid na Daan”(straight path).

    Harder to change are the wooden profiles and leadership of acting LP president Kiko Pangilinan, Senate minority leader Franklin Drilon, and pretend-LP chairman Leni Robredo. Former President Aquino is still noynoying.

    At its launch at Club Filipino last Monday (September 18), Tindig Pilipinas tried out some soundbites on the media.

    It called itself a ‘coalition of coalitions’ in order to convey some magnitude. It will not call for President Duterte’s ouster, but it asks Filipinos to stand up against his government’s abusive policies

    It called for an end to a “nightmare”.

    Said in its coalition statement:
    “We see a nation being led down a dark path filled with violence, contempt for law, and hate; where honest debate is not only shouted down, but every attempt at sobriety in public discourse is dismissed with threat.”

    “If we want this nightmare to end, we must find the courage to wake up and come together,” it concluded.

    The “coalition of coalitions,” as Karina Constantino-David called the alliance, includes at least 50 different groups, opposition politicians from the House of Representatives and the Senate, and other prominent personalities.

    The coalition denounced deaths linked to Duterte’s war on drugs: “We call upon him to measure the success of his campaign not on the number of lives killed, but on the number of lives redeemed.”

    It asked the Philippine National Police (PNP) to “end the murderous Oplan Double Barrel, to pursue and prosecute the drug lords with the full might of the law, and uphold the rule of law and the constitutional guarantees accorded to each and every citizen of the Republic.”

    Amid the threat of an impeachment complaint against Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno, the group urged Duterte to “stop weakening, if not destroying, democratic institutions, to observe institutional check-and-balance, and respect the independence of the judiciary.”

    David explained that Tindig was formed in about a month’s time: “This statement of unity is the beginning. We are also looking for other groups [that]believe in the unity statement so we expand further.”

    Although the convenors, guests, and main personalities were dressed in white, the media saw the color yellow in the assembled crowd. Several members of the groups are known supporters or allies of former President Benigno Aquino 3rd and the once-ruling Liberal Party.

    Picking a team
    Can Tindig marshal the numbers to challenge President Duterte?

    Will it temper the sometimes berserk partisanship of Duterte’s supporters?

    I will say this: Calling the movement “Tindig” is good and evocative. It might induce some Filipinos to stand up and march with them.

    I have a book on social and political activism, entitled “The Impossible Will Take a Little While,” edited by Paul Rogat Loeb (Basic Books, New York, 2004).

    One piece is about the work of the African American singer, Sonya Vetras Tinsley, entitled ‘You have to pick your team.”

    As a sports enthusiast, I like this characterization of social and political action. Sonya writes: “It seems to me that there are two teams in this world. And that you can find evidence to support both.

    “The trademark of one team is cynicism. They will tell you why what you’re doing doesn’t matter, why nothing is going to change.

    ”Then there’s another group of people who admit that they don’t know how things will turn out, but have decided to work for change. I see Martin Luther King on that team.”

    “We’ll never know who’s really going to prevail. So, I just have to decide which team seems happier, which side I’d rather be on.

    “And for me that means choosing the side of faith. Because on the side of cynicism, even if they’re right, who wants to win that argument anyway?”



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