An empowering Edsa
Tomorrow will mark not just the culmination of the annual Edsa celebrations, but also a face-off between two schools of thought, two contending forces debating how best to mark the occasion. If one side is to be believed, the event shouldn’t even be observed; indeed the official government-sanctioned celebration has “moving on” as its theme.
(So tell me, when we celebrate on June 12, will the Duterte forces likewise tell the Filipino people to “move on” from the concept of independence and perhaps replace it with dependence on China?)
President Duterte has himself said he will not be present at tomorrow’s drastically pared-down commemoration inside Camp Aguinaldo. But his followers promise a massive gathering at the Luneta, aimed, it is said, to “defend” the “change” that P-Duts has ushered in.
But those who decry precisely the sort of change that has taken place in the last few months—EJKs, “tokhang” for ransom, million-peso bribes, drug lord coddling, government taking the side of the most notorious criminals, press bashing, and sexist, misogynist attitudes—will not be at the Luneta. Instead, they will gather at the “People Power” monument on Edsa to celebrate, as they put it, “The Power of We.”
Where will “we” be? More important, where will YOU be? On what side of this historical divide will you stand?
For the women of Pilipina, a sisterhood of “perennials” and “millennials” who are “sworn to battle mailed fist and male tyranny,” their place in this confrontation and interpretation of history is clear. Here is the sisterhood’s statement on the occasion we observe tomorrow.
Soon we shall mark the 31st anniversary of the People Power uprising. Celebrate we will for the gains are many, not least the rebirth of democracy. In 1986, the dictatorship fell and civil society took on the challenge of social transformation via peaceful and parliamentary means.
But ponder and protest we also must, for democracy is at risk, the mailed fist is making a grand comeback, and male tyranny, always resilient, is now resurgent.
Note the use of seduction and specious logic by top bureaucrats to still our conscience: The country has suffered from too much democracy, therefore shortcuts are justified to save us from the perdition of drugs and related ills. Better thousands sent to slaughter than millions of would-be addicts become the living dead.
Springing from above is an onerous, dangerous bargain that many of our kin and compatriots have accepted: governance that delivers but brooks no dissent or criticism, hence a drug-free society served on a bloody platter. More blood will be spilled with the proposed return of the death penalty, and the proposed lowering of the age of criminal liability from 15 to nine. If passed, the latter means mere children can be charged, convicted and jailed; more alarming, it means they can also be executed.
The promise of law and order is effected through a war on the poor, unshod and unschooled, crowded in slums and shacks offering little protection from intruders masquerading as law enforcers.
It has also turned into a war against women, those leading the charge against arbitrary and violent rule, among them Sen. Leila de Lima who has fearlessly spoken out against extrajudicial killings, and Vice President Leni Robredo who valiantly champions human rights and the rule of law. The first is fighting to stay out of wrongful detention; the second is fighting to keep the vice presidency.
Women will not be silent in the face of state-sponsored violence and high-level electoral machinations.
As Pilipina celebrates Edsa, we call on Filipinas to claim freedom and democracy as part of our birthright as women. A democracy that does not uphold our dignity and affirm our rights is no democracy.
Let us denounce the targeting of the poor and women as scapegoats. Let us not be beguiled by bloodletting as a means to solve social ills. Let us celebrate an Edsa that empowers the poor and empowers women, an Edsa that says No to violence and dictatorial rule.
Mabuhay ang Kababaihan ng Edsa People Power! Kababaihan: Ipagtanggol ang Demokrasya at Karapatan!
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