I protest

By: Jobers R. Bersales September 20,2017 - 11:01 PM


President Rodrigo Duterte has declared this day, September 21, as a National Day of Protest (NDP). Today, of course, is the 45th anniversary of the declaration of martial law by the late president Ferdinand Marcos. (If we go by the actual turn of events, Marcos signed the declaration on this day in 1972, but the actual announcement placing the entire Philippines under martial law was the following day).

In my years as a student activist in college, it was never the national government that would declare an NDP. Far from it, this was a role played by the Leftist groups led by the once-formidable Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (or Bayan). Every year, on this day, Bayan would call for massive national protests the likes of which we have not seen in the last decade or so.

In one of those protests, I think the one held in front of Camp Sergio Osmeña in 1984, I was bumped by a jeepney on the opposite side of Jones Avenue, as my fellow student activists and I ran for cover after Gen. Edgardo Abenina ordered the fire trucks inside the camp to move out and start spraying the protesters. I think it was the adrenaline (or maybe the jeepney was just moving very slow) but I never felt pain or even got wounded, no scars to show grand nephews and grand nieces to mark that event.

Of course we were protesting the lack of freedom and the continued “suspension” of civil rights despite the supposed lifting of martial law in 1981. We were protesting American imperialism and bureaucrat capitalism, two important enemies of the country’s development back then.

Now, some 30 or so years later, wizened and graying, many of us have lost our idealism, becoming conservatives in our outlook in life. Has America become too distant, more enmeshed in other wars to pay attention to the Philippines? Bureaucrat capitalism, or more popularly, government corruption, has not waned, not even with the booting out of the Marcoses. Worse, it continues to rear its ugly head regardless of who is sitting in Malacañang.

Given these realities, who would not but feel frustrated? Who would not agree that this country is indeed a changeless land, as one American writer so succinctly titled his book on the history of the Philippines?

Even a simple thing as controlling traffic at the intersection of Hernan Cortes and A.S. Fortuna, preventing counterflowing idiots from turning to MacDonald’s or that barbecue restaurant, cannot be done. So what can we expect will happen when we multiply such a traffic problem by the thousands happening all over the metropolitan areas of this country?

And that is just about traffic. We have not even talked about many more things that plague this country.

And then the biggest surprise of all is dropped like a bombshell: a sitting president of the republic, the very target of possible protests, has pulled the rug, as it were, on protesting groups by himself declaring today as a National Day of Protest, urging everyone to air their grievance today against government or its instrumentalities for as long as this is done peaceably.

These are very interesting times indeed. And it’s not just Filipinos going through such strange twists and turns in the life of the nation. Americans too are suddenly faced with a president that literally trumps all expectations of how the head of the most powerful nation in the world should behave.

And so on this day of national protest, say a prayer that this country will finally find one national reason not to protest any longer.

Surely we can build a better Philippines if only we too personally contribute to its betterment more than just merely protesting.

I urge all my former fellow activists to bring back their idealism, especially those now in government or those owning businesses that have turned the other way around when corruption is going on or worse, are in the thick of it. Remember the days when we fought to build a better Philippines. It is never too late to see our once-youthful dreams for this country finally come true.

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TAGS: Duterte, I protest, NDP, President, Rodrigo, September
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