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COMMENTARY

Grassroots Awakening

12:04 AM December 24, 2016

The move in Congress to reimpose the death penalty is one issue that requires mobilization to reach out to the grassroots where poverty thrives. The death penalty and the “shoot to kill” directive in the war on drugs are loaded against the poor. Poverty and crime are connected. Poverty has to be addressed in order to confront crime. Killing and the death penalty will never do the job.

A fundamental flaw in justifying the death penalty is treating the criminal as less than a human being. Admittedly, criminals treat their victims inhumanely. But that is no justification for anyone else or the state to do likewise. Being human is a continuing challenge for every human being. The state must do no less.

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One comical argument for the death penalty reported in the news goes: “If you see in the criminal Satan himself, will you not want to give him death?” But who can kill Satan? Evil will always continue as long as humans desist from being human, as long as they feign having power over other human beings and consider the latter less human than they. The Bible says:  “…[W]ho is sinless among you cast the first stone” (Jn 8:7). In the end, hypocrisy can be the greater crime.

The poor must become aware that it is imperative for the government to have absolute respect for human life. That is the most important value they possess. The unabated killings in the war on drugs and the potential reimposition of the death penalty are antipoor policies.

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In May 2009, Pagbabago: People’s Movement for Change was launched with an 11-point agenda focusing on propoor initiatives under good, competent, principled and just governance. Where is this movement today?

Recently, Cabinet Secretary Leoncio Evasco Jr. launched the Kilusang Pagbabago (KP), aimed at backing the Duterte administration’s war on drugs and crime, corruption in government, the oligarchy, and foreign intervention. It is reported that an executive order will be issued creating the Office of Participatory Governance, with the KP expected to be working with it. Together with the National Anti-Poverty Commission, the proposed office working with KP can be a powerful outreach tool to the grassroots and a counter movement.

It can begin with the principle of absolute respect for life as its core. The crusade must transcend politics. Fundamental values are involved, and life-and-death issues are on the table. The need to stamp out the drug menace and fight crime is recognized, but there can be basic differences in how they may be addressed, particularly with respect to killings.

The counter movement will have to be anchored on a prolife agenda. Prolife is not antichoice. It is prochoice, too, and life is the rational choice.  A grassroots-based movement can evolve from this prolife, prochoice, propoor agenda.

Movements have come and gone but the masses continue to wallow in poverty amid unprecedented wealth generation in the country. Ferdinand Marcos’ Kilusang Bagong Lipunan was his failed promise to build a “New Society.”  Cory Aquino’s “Yellow Revolution” was a movement of sorts that was running on empty by the 2016 elections. FVR’s “Kaya Natin Ito” was an attempt to make the country a tiger economy. “Jeep ni Erap” for the 2000 presidential campaign and the Partido ng Masang Pilipino were meant to mobilize the grassroots for Joseph Estrada’s win, then to hurdle the poverty bar. GMA had the Kabalikat ng Mamamayang Pilipino that subsequently merged with Lakas-CMD.

P-Noy had “Yellow Revolution Part II.” Yet the grassroots are wanting.

Kilusang Pagbabago is Du30’s likely vehicle to push his governance agenda. The state machinery will be a resource for this movement, and the nationwide barangay network nationwide a ready venue for pushing the initiative. If Charter change moves forward and a new constitution is presented for ratification, Kilusang Pagbabago will be an effective vehicle to get it done.

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This movement can be very powerful to project the popular support Du30 needs to push his agenda. If he effectively keeps Congress and the armed forces in check, a virtual one-man rule can be operative. Will he be able to serve the poor and bring them finally to prosperity? Must democracy with the rights enshrined in the 1987 Freedom Constitution be put at stake for the country he would like to make of the Philippines?

The challenge to launch an authentic grassroots-based non-government initiative now rests on the youth. They have to seize the moment and harness their idealism to reach out to the poor and offer a real alternative to what the administration will provide when its approach runs counter to the prolife, prochoice, propoor agenda. This is the “opposition” that seeks the leadership of Vice President Leni Robredo now that she is out of the Cabinet. The Liberal Party is not a real opposition party at this time, with its politics outdated and overwhelmed by the Du30 juggernaut. It has not served the grassroots.

The millennials must mobilize. A real alternative movement must get organized. Grassroots awakening can happen when the youth respond to the challenges in their milieu. They can go beyond politics as usual.

Danilo S. Venida ([email protected]) is a former president of the Philippine Daily Inquirer and now a business consultant.

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TAGS: congress, crime, criminal, death penalty, opinion, Poor, Poverty
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