The ghost of Sukarno

By: Raymund Fernandez April 05,2016 - 10:23 PM


One has to be slow with making judgements about the Kidapawan incident where one protestor was reportedly killed and several injured in the clash between police and protestors on the national highway. Several narratives are coming out to interpret the tragic event. Most of them seem intentionally incendiary.

Even before the blood of the killed and wounded dried on the grounds at Kidapawan there were some who were already calling it the “Kidapawan” massacre, which name is a technical misnomer. But the use of this terminology is telling of the urge to use this incident as capital to further certain political ends. The idea is to blame and to blame quickly. Since the first inklings of an incident is often interpreted as “news” by people who mistake inherent bias for truth, people who seldom ever go to any depth to find out what is really happening. These sorts of readings are easy to identify.

One immediate narrative was that the police shot indiscriminately at people who were there only to beg for rice. They were there to beg for rice because they were starving as a result of the ongoing drought. It seems an easy narrative to believe in. Certain cultural symbolisms come into play. Among the Manobos, the worst crime that can be committed is to deny a neighbor who comes to borrow rice. But for this narrative to be true, the premise must be that police are so indiscriminately evil they would shoot people who are only asking for rice. If one believes this, then the rest of the narrative becomes easier to swallow. The police and their political backers must therefore also be evil and we would be right to get angry, very angry.

But it seems highly unlikely that people would go and travel from their homes for rice unless someone had already informed them that rice was going to be distributed somewhere in Kidapawan. One need only find out who told them this.

Thankfully, there are video footages of the incident. One must be careful with video. One of the fundamental theories having to do with the truth and the camera is that the camera is a selective instrument. It selects which “truths” to focus on. One camera perspective may show another truth entirely compared with another camera perspective. And so one must see at least three or even more video clips to decide what truly happened. At least two of the video clips show the protestors pushing into the barricades before the fire trucks opened their water cannons. The policemen did not immediately attack even as some protesters pummeled them with stones. This obviously belies the claim that the policemen were indiscriminately violent, except that one of them may have fired his weapon at one protester and killed him. But who? There would be forensic evidence to identify this man.

It was a dangerous situation as all picket clashes are always dangerous to start with. And I have been through some dangerous picket clashes myself as a student in the time of martial law. Once upon a time, I went marching in a protest rally at the police headquarters at Jones Avenue, with our small collective of UP Cebu students. Most of the members of this collective were women and quite pretty, which was half the reason why I was an activist. At the beginning, we were positioned at the lead of the march until we were stopped by a line of policemen in full riot gear.

Quite all of a sudden, hands pulled us away from the front lines and we were replaced by more aggressive members of the march who, armed with sticks and placards, rushed past us into the police line. Rocks started flying. Shots were fired. We ran away as fast as we could. We learned later how this was always the way this particular “revolution” was fought. Was it Mao Tse Tung who said you can’t make an omelette without breaking some eggs?

I do not digress by recalling this aspect of my youth. One of the most bothersome interpretations of the Kidapawan incident was voiced by Carlos Celdran, whose performance, “Living la vida..” I saw last week. He raised via his Facebook feed the opinion this incident was a setup from the very beginning.

It is pertinent to point out here that dissent and violence were the precursors of Ferdinand Marcos’ martial law. The Kidapawan incident seems to us clear evidence of how easy it is to create among us a general atmosphere of fear and violence that would contribute to the political aspirations of certain candidates who have already shown a predilection for these things: fear and violence. You would have to google “Sukarno” to find out why I am reminded of the late Indonesian dictator now.

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