I’m terribly antsy about this call for a gathering at the Edsa Shrine this Wednesday. I don’t know the people who are calling for it. They haven’t exactly made the banners under which they are flying it known. All they’re saying is that this is a protest against corruption in general and pork in particular, with hints that this is picking up where the near-spontaneous rally at the Luneta left off. Several things are alarmingly off-key about it however.
One is that the organizers of the Million People March have distanced themselves from it. They have absolutely nothing to do with it, they say. The most salient feature of this prospective action in fact is its secrecy, or utter lack of transparency. The Million People March of course also had no definite leaders other than a few informal spokespersons, and a shapelessness characteristic of things spontaneous. But it had a clarity of purpose. It was the public at large expostulating about corruption, fed up with paying their taxes only to see them turned into swill and fed to the pigs. By contrast, the proposed action on Wednesday is as clear as mud.
And mud may be its origin, mud may be its purpose.
To begin with, there’s something ominous about the chosen date. Sept. 11, for the generation that still remembers it, is Ferdinand Marcos’ birthday. During martial law, Filipinos were forced to mark it with much fanfare, not unlike the way they were forced to celebrate the birthday of Emperor Hirohito during the Japanese occupation. This was preparatory to Sept. 21, which would come 10 days later, and which Filipinos would be forced to celebrate even more as “Thanksgiving Day.” Sept. 21 of course was the anniversary of martial law, and it was part of the sadistic humor of its architects to compel their subjects to greet it with abject gratefulness.
Add to this that the faceless organizers of the Sept. 11 gathering at Edsa Shrine are encouraging joiners to come in red, white and blue, and your suspicions grow by leaps and bounds. Red, white and blue are of course the colors of the Philippine flag, red being the more prominent when the country is at war. And you can’t have a longer and more bitter war in this country than the war against corruption. But red, white and blue are also the colors of the Kilusang Bagong Lipunan, prominently displayed to the heroic strains of Vangelis’ “Chariots of Fire” as Marcos battled Cory to cling to power during the snap elections of 1986.
Add still to this that the social media are being inundated by ululations that things were so much better during Marcos’ time, the country had more discipline, the country had more peace and order, and government was a lot more stable, public officials did not behave anarchically—and the alarm bells start ringing furiously.
I loved the Million People March, I thought it was brilliant, and I do hope there’s more of it to come in the next weeks or months or years. Preferably called for by the same people who have proven themselves possessed of vision and integrity. That’s the reason I greatly mind the rally this Wednesday which has all the earmarks of opportunistic piggybacking by the usual suspects—the Marcos people, the Arroyo people, and their allies. The fact that they have chosen the Edsa Shrine to mount it partakes of the same sadistic humor with which the architects of martial law forced the citizens to toast the fact that Marcos was born.
Easy to see why the organizers of Wednesday’s rally should want to shroud it in secrecy. The last time they tried conscripting the public into their cause, which was when Renato Corona emerged from the pit of the Manila Hotel, where huddled or slithered and hissed the creatures from the Arroyo and Marcos camps, they were rustled out. Corona got roundly booed and had to beat a hasty retreat. Who knows? Maybe his fellows persuaded or shoved him out to test the water first, if he had been received warmly they would have tumbled out full force. Alas—for them—it didn’t happen.
Which made one thing exceedingly clear, if it wasn’t so from the start. The people are mad about pork, they are mad about corruption. They are so mad about them they don’t need anyone to push them out of their homes, or cajole them out of their hearths, to protest them. They’re perfectly willing, and eager, to do it themselves. Some of them are mad simply about the corruption per se as an institutional bane. Some are mad about Napoles and/or the senators and congressmen. And some are mad about P-Noy not because they blame him for it, but because they see him as not doing anything about it.
Those are the various permutations. But one thing it is not. It is not about regime change. It is not about toppling government. It is not about changing government. Certainly it is not about toppling government, overthrowing the regime, removing P-Noy for Marcos and Arroyo.
That was the Million People March, you can’t say the same thing about the proposed rally this Wednesday. You don’t really know what it is. Certainly, you don’t know what it is for, even if it rails loudly about what it is against. Have a care. In an effort to exorcise the presence of pigs in your midst, you might very well find yourself right in the company of wolves. It’s a revolting prospect, being revolted at the scale of corruption that pork represents only to embrace willy-nilly the scale of corruption that Marcos and Arroyo represent. Those two are corruption personified, or the first invented it and the second reinvented it.
The spontaneous outrage against corruption is a wonderful thing, a thing to nurture and grow. To those who think they can hijack it for their ends, we have only one message:
No, you don’t.