Triumph of the will
It was in August this year when I last joined a protest rally. Back in college, joining a rally or “mob” (short for mobilization) as we called it, was part of our regular schedule being student activists. It was already more than a decade since the People Power Revolution ended the dictatorship. But there remained important issues that need to be brought to the parliament of the streets. Or important dates that need to be remembered. Our calendars were marked with the historical events that need to be commemorated in the usual rituals of agit-prop. Among them was September 21, the day when Martial Law was declared.
I have not since been attending protest rallies, unless they were really of grave significance to the nation: like the huge mobs here in Cebu during EDSA 2, the local demonstrations against Gloria Arroyo, and the multi-sectoral rally held in Plaza Independencia against the pork barrel fund scam.
So one Sunday morning in August this year, just a few days away from the commemoration of the declaration of Martial Law, I went back to Plaza Independencia to respond to calls on Facebook for people to gather and protest President Rodrigo Duterte’s announcement that he will allow the burial of the dictator Ferdinand Marcos in the Libingan ng mga Bayani. He even confessed later that he idolizes Marcos and even plans to resurrect some programs of his administration.
I was appalled by the lack of outrage of the public that was then still high in the euphoria of the assumption of the phenomenal DU30 and his promise of “change”. Duterte’s war on drugs has started to rage with deaths that led to thousands, many of them extrajudicial killings. People were happy at the death toll as proof that cleansing, similar to what was done in Davao, had finally begun for the whole country.
It was enough distraction for people to notice yet another controversial statement coming from the mouth of the President who is fond of shock value. The rise of another nationalist Strong Leader made the retelling of history ripe. People were ready to accept another dictator if that meant public order, a fast-growing economy and more welfare programs.
According to the same revised history, the period of Martial Law actually saw that happened as the Strongman Marcos led the nation into the New Society when Filipinos demonstrated discipline under a state that enforces its laws with iron hand. People saw a parallel narrative in the rise of Duterte and his promise of radical change.
Even former comrades in the left who now strangely support the self-proclaimed socialist President despite his fascist tendencies, tried to defend Duterte’s desire to bury the former dictator with all sorts of ridiculous arguments.
So, I went to that rally in Plaza Independencia last August and met a few of my other former comrades, those who did not buy Duterte’s posturing of himself as some kind of Hugo Chavez. All of us were shocked and dismayed to see that only few came to express indignation. There were only about a hundred of us who came that day. We expected to see some old friends there.
It was ominous. No red banners and other usual props of activist theater. Duterte’s supporters mocked that rally the next day. The lack of public outrage, the President’s apologists said, is proof that the nation has moved on. In fact, they have some of the militant left on their side now and they too were mostly mum on the President’s announcement. One of the leftist Cabinet members said recently that she could not comment on the Supreme Court’s recent decision allowing the burial of Marcos in the Libingan since they are now officially the President’s alter-ego.
So when I heard that the Marcos family, assisted by the authorities, sneaked the dictator’s corpse into the Libingan ng mga Bayani and hurriedly gave him a hero’s burial, complete with a 21-gun salute and air force choppers dropping flowers, I was not surprised at all. I saw it all coming since that overcast Sunday morning in August. Evil was bound to win this time.
Yes, because some of those who witnessed or fought that evil have now preferred to be silent about it, seeing it as an expediency in the light of their tactical alliance with the President who desired this burial in the first place as part of “national healing” (although, clearly it is payment for debt of gratitude for the Marcos family who supported and helped fund his campaign). Friday marks the triumph of his political will.
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