There’s the Rub



That was a fascinating story we had the other day about the Facebook face, or mouth, that launched a million feet. Or, as our story itself put it, about the “loudmouth” that sparked a rally. That Facebook face, or mouth, or loudmouth, is Peachy Rallonza-Bretaña, an advertising person and mother of three, who proposed the “Million People March” a couple of weeks ago. And which a multitude, if not exactly a million people, responded to with alacrity.

As Bretaña tells it, she herself didn’t start the fire, to borrow Billy Joel’s phrase, or the idea of a rally, in the social media; she merely suggested the date for it, Aug. 26, which was National Heroes’ Day. Which, not quite incidentally, highlights the importance of dates for protest actions, and why Sept. 11 sucks. The people who actually started the fire were several musicians, notably Ito Rapadas and Monet Sylvestre, who were fed up with paying taxes—specifically being forced to buy new receipts by the BIR while still retaining a good deal of unused old receipts—while public officials merely pocketed them or threw them away. They were the ones who made the call to arms.

The success of the march awed them themselves. Bretaña marveled at its significance: “It’s not beyond us to be leaders in our little group. It’s not beyond us to speak in one voice. It’s not beyond us to respect each other’s differences. It’s not beyond us to act so amazingly great.”

Her conclusion is not far off the mark. None of them is an activist or has participated resolutely in political actions before, let alone organized one. The only march Bretaña had attended was the funeral of Ninoy Aquino way back in 1983. “Loudmouth” is her brothers’ term of endearment for her, owing to her penchant for unburdening herself of her oppressions before the world, particularly in the social media. And the wanton waste of people’s money was one oppression she took personally.

It’s a good reminder of what the “Million People March,” or the furor in the social and mainstream media that sparked it, has been all about. It’s People Power in the most elemental sense. It’s ordinary folk acting from their deepest needs and instincts. It’s ordinary folk initiating an action themselves, spontaneously, voluntarily, needing only an articulator and not a leader, needing only a shared outrage and not a demagogue. It’s ordinary folk driven by an extraordinary iniquity to do the extraordinary thing.

Of course individuals and groups with agendas of their own will try to exploit a power like this for their own ends. Of course individuals and groups with interests of their own will attempt to wield a weapon like this for their own ends. It is far too tempting not to. Organized groups in particular have the means to inundate the social media with all sorts of materials pressing their causes. Long before the fury against pork broke out, the Marcoses had been trying to do that in YouTube, painting a rosy, if not glorious, picture of martial law with its apparent stability, discipline, and relative prosperity. They are certainly not going to stop now that they espy an opening with which to barge through. Nor will the Arroyo camp.

It’s something to dwell on in current discussions about “What next?” The nascent phenomenon is not a vacuum that will wait till the people who shepherded it all the way to Luneta are able to answer their own question; it is a battlefield that will see various groups mobilizing forces to occupy the terrain, to determine the outcome of the battles, if not the war. The march on Wednesday already looks suspiciously like such a move.

The new People Power is a battleground specifically for hearts and minds, and a critical one given the extent to which it has captured the public imagination.

None of this means it should be feared, distrusted, or, heaven forbid, given up because it is the easiest thing in the world to subvert. All of it simply means that the justifiably angry and completely reasonable voices that launched it into the world may not see their work as done. Of course they themselves have repeatedly said that the “Million People March” was just the beginning, but that is so in far more ways than that that march was just the first of many. That is so in that they need to defend the purity and integrity of the vision in cyber and other spaces with vigilance and brilliance. That is so in that they need to define and refine the vision, which today still remains inchoate and instinctive, before the usual suspects do it for them. That is so in that they need to make the new People Power the hardest thing in the world to subvert.

There’s much wisdom in the Persian saying “You have saved my life, now you are responsible for it.”

It’s an urgent task. The new People Power is an exciting thing, a wonderful thing, a precious thing. It’s an immense contribution to democracy. In countries that can boast of being truly democratic, or of being so in practice and not just in ritual, the people are always there. Even in representative democracies. The people are there in culture, in public opinion, in their weighing in on things in daily life. They are there in everything from writing to congressmen to venting their ire in the media making sure the reviled do not win public office again, or continue to cling to it.

This is the closest thing we’ve come to something like this. It has at least the potential to become so with no small help from the reasonable voices in the community, the ones that made themselves heard a stone’s throw from Jose Rizal’s monument a couple of weeks ago. Which is to say, from us. We all need to come together to defend it, to make it rule, to make it rock.

We all need to become loudmouths, too.

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  • buninay1

    the shy-to-take-the- last -piece syndrome strikes again.

    The one I have been discussing about the phenomena peculiar to Filipinos has apparently struck again. No one has suggested increasing the salaries or giving subsidies to defray the prohibitive cost of running for elective positions for fear of being roundly criticized by the public. Some financial aid for the candidates should be institutionalized considering the rising cost of running for office and yet the no one among the shy and demure lawmakers will not cast the first stone, so to speak, to tackle this real staring them in the face problem.

    Now as with taking leadership role in the social media movement against corruption, the syndrome can be felt in all its manifestation again. The social media activists are too shy and demure to lead that is why the recent One Million March was practically leaderless. Cynicism and paranoia have seized their hearts that they forbade anyone take the stage and speak. The result was a picnic-sort of gathering where islands of people are scattered across the park, uncoordinated, isolated, divided and unable to gain critical mass.

    The shy to take the last piece syndrome has apparently worked negatively against the country. First it acts as dam for the collective desires of the lawmakers to recover what they spent to run for their posts and what they are spending for the upkeep of their respective constituencies, When this dam got breached, the lawmakers were like starving dogs unleashed to ravage their pork allocations to the bones. Secondly, and more perniciously, it acts as a dam for the collective desires of the activists social-media born or otherwise, to channel their grievances through someone who can articulate their outrage with the force of eloquence and vision. This dam has not been breached yet because the loudmouths are prim and proper and will not allow others to be otherwise. Worse, if someone would be bold enough to take the stage and hector the people, he is the wrong person like Corona and Atienza and the leftists who got invariably booed out or persuaded to quiet down.

    This syndrome should not go on unchecked for long. Otherwise, the social media activism will die a natural death on account of lack of leadership and organization. The shy to take the last piece syndrome complements Filipinos talangka or crab mentality. Only that this syndrome is a more subtler, more prudish social control, in fact too prudish for comfort to escalate into a sustained and forceful mass movement that will make the govt to take notice and consider whatever its demands may be.

  • kyouraku shunsui

    happy that people begin to be angry that their tax money is being pocketed. sad that it has to take PHP10B for us to get angry. we are still very far from seeing wrong in the way government over spends our taxes. we should be disgusted with over spending, kickbacks and outrageous salaries and allowances. What’s next? start the RECALL so we can send the message clear that we do not just gather to be a throng of loudmouths, but we will take action against them and will not wait for their elective terms to end.

  • batukan

    anger was shown not by ordinary people but more of the middle class, the tax paying sector of this population who felt more than what they should have spent for their needs, whether for their basic needs or luxury. the count should not be more than a million people but more than a billion pesos in taxes. why is it not written in the bill of rights than when the taxpayers money are proven to be used uselessly and have gone to the pockets of corruption, the tax paying public will not be penalized if they stop paying taxes. . . . .

  • syano

    You forget the people and all this will come back a few years from now. Our history has shown that our elites, intelligentsia, our middle class, our educated and now the netizens have always forgotten the ordinary men and women on the street as if the latter are presumed to just follow and should be thankful that they will benefit from the current angst of society’s enlightened leaders. That is why the tendency is to have today’s revolutionaries as tomorrow’s tyrants because power is concentrated on just a number of persons.
    The challenge is not to get a million people to mass anywhere but to organize and educate the people in such a way that they will feel empowered to act without the prompting of anyone, making them leaders themselves. When that happens, the pork in any form will be a thing of the past.

  • cross my heart


    The above question seems to be the answer to your question “What Next?”

    “What’s Wrong With Us?” was the essence of an editorial written by Louis Seltzer of Cleveland Press in 1952, and excerpted below:

    “What’s wrong with us? It is in the air we breathe. The things we do. The things we say…The way we behave…The values we fix.

    “We have everything…that makes us comfortable. Yet something is not there that
    should be…

    “Are we our own worst enemies? …No one seems to know to do to meet it. But everybody worries.”

    Phone calls and letters flooded afterward Seltzer’s office. Strangers stopped him on the street to wring his hand. Forty-one publications throughout the US reprinted the editorial that obviously had put a finger on the US gravest crisis in 1952. Four decades later, Time Magazine seemed to have distilled the editorial’s diagnosis as a Faustian bargain with its front cover: “The Generation That Forgot God.”

    Looking back, right after EDSA, a controversial article put on the wire our own “damaged culture.” Perhaps, it’s time to ask ourselves the same question: “What’s wrong with us?”

    For a starter discussion, here’s an interesting insight from Rabbi Michael Lerner
    who wrote the following in his book “The Left Hand of God.”

    “By addressing the real spiritual and moral crisis…a movement with a progressive spiritual vision would provide solution to both the intolerant and militarist politics of
    the Right and the current misguided, visionless, and often spiritually-empty politics of the Left.

    “We live in a world in which a technocratic rationality has replaced an awareness
    of spirit…this process has reached its fullest development in the form of a bottom line mentality that judges every activity, every institution, every social practice as rational, productive, or efficient only to the extent that it produces money or power.

    “This way of organizing our society promotes selfishness, materialism, and
    disconnection. We are encouraged to live on the surface of things, to deal with
    other human beings as though they were mere material objects to be manipulated
    for the sake of our own self-interest, and to relate to the physical universe as though it is nothing more than a resource to satisfy our personal needs. Nature becomes another commodity to be bought and sold. Human relationship becomes increasingly instrumental, utilitarian, and manipulative, as people learn to see each other through the frame of ‘How can other people be of use to me to serve my needs?’

    “Most of us have learned to accommodate to a world that has been flattened, made one dimensional, disenchanted, despiritualized. And yet, we feel an abiding hunger because human beings are theotropic – they turn toward the sacred – and that dimension in us cannot be fully extinguished.”

    • The_Squiller

      But of course, atheists in our midst will pretend that this is not what they want. They are simply pragmatic and would only subscribe to things that can be “proved scientifically” as if science is infallible. E.g., (1) asbestos was once hailed as a “miracle material” somewhat akin to penicillin’s impact on medicine. Turns out, asbestos can cause cancer, (2) science hasn’t found nor arrived at clear evidence on how the universe began but accepts the existence of the “God particle” in reference to an unknown particle that manifested itself in the Large Hadron Collider, (3) science still cannot prove with certainty when life begins in a mother’s womb, ad infinitum.

      All this atheistic braggadocio has only one objective: to influence many to turn away from God and then in the ensuing confusion, try to force the hand of God to intervene as if to mimic the devil in the desert when it tempted Jesus to jump over the cliff and see if He will be saved by heaven’s angels.

      Believers know and understand the response of our Lord in that moment.

      Atheists will never get it.

  • The_Squiller

    Once again, a non-affiliate has moved the nation’s conscience.

    Ms. Peachy Rallonza-Bretana, along with other like-minded techies, made an innocent but powerfully indignant call in the net for our people to mass at Luneta last August 26. And the people responded with an equally powerful rage of indignation. The rally was a success yet she had no other agenda but to expose the routine thievery of congress.

    Cory Aquino, a very apolitical and frail-looking housewife, also made a call for the people to reject Marcos and his kleptocracy. She amazingly succeeded in kicking out the dictator in barely three years what the NPA has failed to do in a generation.

    Ramon Magsaysay, perhaps in league with Cory in his humility and charisma with the people, brought Malacanang closer to the people and was perhaps the pioneer of the word transparency.

    Whatever their legacies may or might be, it is clear that schemes of leftists, communists, militant groups, Marcos loyalists backed by this religious sect, Ramboys and other rightwing loonies, or any other nosewax of history were not, are not, and will never be the solutions to our nation’s ills.

    They are only fit as nit-picking saboteurs.


    Could be that it’s the oligarch’s way of putting a fresh face over oligarchic propaganda.
    Netizens cohesively joined together because of the “crusade for the truth”.
    But now that it has the face…I already starting to doubt the credibility…

    The way the OLIGARCHS honed/groomed Ninoy to be a LOUDMOUTH, that Ninoy, himself, thought he’s a SUPERSTAR along the process… Let’s not fall into the same trap, again. Netizens voice are faceless. IT take’s form only on the substance of the cause and that’s the TRUTH.

  • Mayu04

    I’m a loudmouth … but not interested in joining September 11 … sa lahat naman ng pipiliing petsa … bday pa ng dating diktador … EDSA 1 / People Power happened … to oust the dictator … tapos mag tatawag ng PEOPLE POWER on the same day of the dictator’s bday?! sana nga coincidence lang … baka mabuhay si tita Cory, pagkukurutin kayo sa “sin git ” hehe

    • beatmanny

      huh, wala naman karapatan si cory mangurot dahil wala naman sya noong edsa.

      • Mayu04

        patawa naman ito

      • Guest

        ptangna mo tanga! hahahaha

      • Guest

        ptangina bobo mo! hahahaha

  • Volks

    Proud to be a LoudMouth! Let’s keep the flame burning or they will do it again to us and to our children, and to our kids’ children and grandchildren.

    I’m sure CDQ does not mind being the sounding board but it would be nice to have a forum where our voices can be heard louder.

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