Too hard to swallow
Remember the Marcos loyalist rallies shortly after we won back democracy on Edsa?
Another newspaper had the good—or bad—timing to come out with its first issue the day after a passerby, who happened to be wearing a yellow T-shirt, came within the vicinity of the Marcos supporters. He was set upon and mauled to death. The newspaper’s memorable inaugural headline: “Wear yellow and die.”
(Those Duterte Youth had better count themselves lucky they were confronted by no one more dangerous than Jim Paredes. Imagine the possibilities…)
Other scenes were just as memorable: loyalists holding up pigs’ heads on poles to symbolize what, I don’t know; and perhaps the same culprits hurling stones at police on Edsa, in front of the GMA7 headquarters. And how could we forget Arturo Tolentino, who was Marcos’ running mate during the 1986 polls, leading a rag-tag army into Manila Hotel to jump-start what he must have hoped would be a rebellion against the Cory administration. When nothing happened, the old man and his allies slumped away in shame.
We have been a divided nation not just since Edsa but centuries before that. The revolutions against Spain and the United States were corrupted from within by contending forces divided between accommodation and confrontation. That these forces also happened to be identified with elitist economic interests, on the one hand, and long-marginalized (and thus angry) masses, on the other, laid the basis for age-old and knee-jerk analysis of the national situation. Although, I believe, the social and economic basis for our “nat sit” are far more subtle and complex than is commonly thought.
On social media we see anguished posts from folks on both sides of the political divide, who can’t understand why their friends on the “other side” refuse to see the light or heed the signs.
Even within families, I hear, the political differences have turned so heated that a rule has had to be established forbidding discussions of issues like EJKs, “tokhang” or the drug war at the dinner table. And the divide isn’t even along generational or gender or economic or educational lines. I am often astonished at how folks I respect and know to be far from ignoramuses can hold such diametrically opposite views from mine—which are, of course, from my point of view, the right ones.
I’m not about to change my tune. Far from it. Based on current events, the sentiments I hold I expect to even harden through time. But I’ve had to work extra hard at ignoring the political views of some people I know and, yes, cherish, if only to keep the friendship and mutual esteem going. Although I will confess to sometimes wondering what happened to them, at what point on the road our views diverged.
Still, there are lines that shouldn’t be crossed. Killings, for one thing. The Church is right. Murder is murder, a crime is a crime. But at the rate poor people (mostly) are being shot on mere suspicion of being involved in drugs, the government and President Duterte are hardening our hearts, inuring us to minor matters like the magisterial rule of law or the increasingly trivialized issue of human rights.
Linked to this is the value being put on the testimonies of convicted—repeat, convicted—drug lords against Sen. Leila de Lima. Apparently, so trivial are the charges for which these convicts were sentenced that they have been dropped completely. But their accusations against De Lima are taken so seriously these have been used to arrest her and keep her behind bars.
Corruption, meanwhile, which the President promised to eliminate completely within his term, has roared back to life. The accused—including policemen who killed a South Korean inside the national police headquarters and then extorted money from his widow—are more often than not coddled by their superiors and shielded from punishment. Not to mention the release of prominent personalities linked to major corruption cases.
Much as one hopes to keep an open—or at least flexible—mind, some things are just too hard to swallow.
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