After the rallies, what next?
The actor Pen Medina delivered a scorching speech at the Sept. 21 rally in Luneta; he was right to hold to account the so-called “dilawan” for their role in creating an elitist system, but he was wrong to gloss over the militant Left’s participation in the current elite. The truth is: The excessive form of Dutertismo is an attack on our democratic project, on our fundamental Filipino values of fairness and generosity and truth-telling, on our deeply religious culture’s reverence for life — and the Left’s silence on official misogyny, its hypocrisy on the Marcos burial and its failure to fight extrajudicial killings from the start also make it complicit.
But who comes with clean hands to the table of unity? Not even our greatest heroes were free of stain. The people must come together to stop these continuing attacks on life, liberty and the truth that finally sets us free. The objective of this unified action (I wish to be clear) is not ouster; it is to undo the culture of violence, to arrest the drift toward strongman rule, to extract accountability for all the lies, all of which threaten to redefine the Filipino.
In my own view, the most urgent need of the moment is to end the killings. Full stop. We are not, we are better than, a nation of killers.
How do ordinary citizens and conscience-stricken public officers alike resist the violence, the authoritarian tendencies, the lying? Here, the work-in-progress of continuing consultations, is a four-part framework which I find useful, and which I think of by its acronym, SENT.
One. “Strengthen one’s own people.” I borrow the first idea from Gene Sharp, the principal theorist of nonviolent resistance. We must strengthen our capacity to resist these attacks. This means, among other initiatives, reaching out to those in the frontline and assuring them of our support. Visit with Sen. Leila de Lima, the obvious victim of a political vendetta. Stand with Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno, the obvious target of a political scheme. But beyond these and many other intrepid individuals, we must strengthen our institutions, immature, or enfeebled as they may be. The collective angst and action over the P1,000 budget for the Commission on Human Rights is an example of what it means to mobilize to defend a necessary democratic institution.
Two. Engage with potential allies (administration senators and police generals included). The now-famous Montgomery bus memo cowritten by Martin Luther King offers this piece of advice: “Not all white people are opposed to integrated buses. Accept goodwill on the part of many.” There are more of us than the vote tallies or the surveys suggest; the unofficial anthem from the Luneta rally, “Di N’yo Ba Naririnig,” intuits the truth about the public’s rising anger. We should reach out to others; form circles of support, endorse the art or the statement or the meme that speaks the truth about our historical moment.
Three. Neutralize the ideas of the opposing side. In “Stride toward Freedom,” King wrote: “the attack is directed against forces of evil rather than against persons who happen to be doing the evil.” We should not criticize Mocha Uson for her past (that is self-indulgent and unhelpful); rather, we should take her to task for spreading lies. Counter “fake news” with facts, statistics—and good clean prose. Tell the stories about the many victims.
And four. Test the limits of the system. Sharp suggests two tiers of action: “First are the symbolic weapons, relatively weak ones, of nonviolent persuasion and protest.” (He means public speeches, mass petitions, displaying portraits of national leaders, and so on.) Then there is “noncooperation, the withdrawal or withholding of one’s cooperation from the opponent and the system that one opposes.” We aren’t at the stage of civil disobedience yet; it seems to me that at this point Sen. Antonio Trillanes IV is on the right track. His filing of cases against Uson will test the system’s capacity to render justice. Others may consider filing a series of lawsuits to stop the federalism express train from leaving the station. Still others may want to file a disbarment case against the President, the Speaker of the House, or other lawyers in high government office who have either admitted to planting evidence or the public display of immorality. These tests would serve as focus of public action.
On Twitter: @jnery_newsstand
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