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The gathering storm

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The gathering storm

The “Parliament of the Streets,” the series of protests, marches, organizing meetings, symposia, even fashion shows, concerts and comedy acts that marked the post-Ninoy Aquino assassination period, will always be remembered as the political “coming out” of the Filipino middle class.

From out of the proverbial woodwork, Filipino professionals and concerned citizens stepped out of their comfortable anonymity to speak up, speak out and act out their rising anger and dismay.

Among these groups were women, including alumnae and student organizations from different women’s colleges and from women’s organizations, who imbued the anti-Marcos protests not just with umbrage but also with lighthearted creativity and witty irony.

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Just consider the names they gave themselves: “Kulasa” for those from St. Scholastica’s College, “Katipunera” for those from Maryknoll/Miriam College which is found along Katipunan Road, and “Maria” for “Militant and Responsible Involvement of Assumption Alumnae.” Professional women and wives of businessmen gathered into Aware (Alliance of Women for Action toward Reform), while older women’s groups, such as Pilipina, Kalayaan and Gabriela brought their feminist orientation to the analysis and organization of women to the anti-dictatorship struggle.

These days, beginning with the outrage felt when the then-candidate Rodrigo Duterte joked that he should have been given first dibs at Australian missionary Jacqueline Hamill before she was killed, women are finding long-lost connections to one another to express their indignation and alarm at statements made and actuations carried out by Du30. Note that the gathering at Luneta, where hundreds showed up despite the rains, was led in large part by the same women prominent in the Parliament of the Streets.

Are we seeing the resurgence of these middle-class protests? One sign is the release of a “Statement by Concerned Filipino Women Leaders” addressed to President Duterte and signed by 23 women leaders from the academe, civil society, business groups in their individual capacities. The statement is still being circulated, so by the time you read this, there should be many more women who’ve added their voices to the growing outcry.  Let me just add that while their names and signatures may not be found among the signatories (just yet), I know of many other women, from all sectors and levels of society, who share the same beliefs and want to air them. When you alarm and anger women, be aware that you court not just their scorn, but also their organized power. Learn from the events that culminated with the Edsa Revolt.

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In the statement, an edited version of which appeared in this paper yesterday, the women signatories stressed that due process, in most democracies of the world, is a human right, basic in the pursuit of justice and accountability.

Thus, when President Duterte runs roughshod over the principle of due process as when he “voices no objection to the gunning down of suspected drug pushers whether by police or by vigilantes,” or when he publicly names prominent citizens as being involved in the drug world “without solid evidence being presented to back up public announcements,” such “naming and shaming descends into a trial by publicity.”

The signatories also objected to the particularly vicious targeting of Sen. Leila de Lima, whom the President accused of not just having links to drug lords, but also using her driver and rumored lover as a conduit to drug money to finance her campaign. That this public shaming—designed to open the woman senator to public ridicule and malicious speculation—came on the eve of a Senate investigation into the extrajudicial killings of drug suspects, is concerning, to say the least. The senator’s actions, the statement said, “are well within her mandate,” and the women said they find it “alarming that she is thus being called out and publicly humiliated for doing her job.”

Adding her voice to the other voices raised in protest, alarm, and indignation at the “EJK’s” is Dr. Carmen Lourdes Valdes, president of Assumption College in San Lorenzo Village.

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Decrying the spate of killings, Valdes emphasizes that “we cannot merely stand by and feel aggrieved. We need to speak. We are against controlling society with guns.”

While so many of us can only watch on and trust (and hope) that the police are doing their job, Valdes says that as teachers, there is something they can do about the situation. “The root of drug addiction is a lack of meaning in life. The answer to drug addiction is education. It is the nonviolent route but it is a slow process. It takes time and consistency so we sometimes become impatient. Still, it is the best solution.”

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Valdes also has words on the plan to allow the late dictator Ferdinand Marcos to be buried at the Libingan ng mga Bayani. Recalling the repression and oppression that characterized martial law, Valdes asks: “How can we hail him as a hero and ask the students to do the same when he sent tanks into the street in front of nuns, priests, women and children? How can he be a hero of the Filipino people when certain citizens with a dissenting voice were jailed and tortured while he and his cronies plundered the country?”

And perhaps reflecting her own charitable impulses as a former Assumption nun, Valdes makes a wish: “If only someone would step forward, in his name, and ask the Filipinos for forgiveness.”  The way forward, she adds, is for the Assumption community to continue carrying out its mission: “to help students discern what is right and stand up for truth against all odds; and to honor all those who died in the night defending our freedoms.”

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TAGS: middle class, protests, women’s organizations
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