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Sisyphus’ Lament

Will I turn into Jim Paredes?

Singapore—It was the greatest irony. Jim Paredes, a man literally etched onto Edsa Revolution history, told seven “Duterte Youth” to shut up last Feb. 25, the Edsa anniversary, in front of the Edsa Shrine.

His song “Handog ng Pilipino sa Mundo (Filipinos’ Gift to the World)” is inscribed on the Edsa Shrine’s wall, underneath hat giant bronze Virgin Mary with outstretched arms.

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When I hear that great anthem, I recall hearing it for the first time, childlike wonder intertwined with images of nuns and ordinary people standing before tanks.

Al Jazeera recorded Paredes walking from one Duterte youth to another. They stood silently in barong, fists raised, holding their banner. He challenged each to look him in the eye as he shouted rhetorical questions criticizing President Duterte.

Ralliers later surrounded the seven, shouting at them to leave.

On Twitter, Paredes recalled his “enjoyable confrontation” with those being “disrespectful and provocative” by standing there. “It is so satisfying to shut them up.”

It was the saddest irony of Edsa.

Young Filipinos saw a human embodiment of the Edsa spirit telling men, a third of his age, that they had no right to hold a banner on a public street—on Edsa anniversary, in front of the Edsa Shrine.

I lament how Edsa became an attack on youth, a charge for the impossible crime of forgetting events before many of today’s voters were born.

Last January, the New York Times published my reaction to their essay by respected novelist Miguel Syjuco, questioning why he implied that millennials were to blame for last year’s near-election of Ferdinand Marcos Jr. as vice president. Pre-election polls showed Marcos having the highest percentage vote among older, not younger, voters.

The youth hope to discuss continuing challenges after 1986, beyond glorifying Edsa as a standalone moment. Some consider this treason. My Edsa conversations with friends in their 50s and in their 20s are completely different.

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This year, no one wore yellow to Edsa anymore. The Inquirer, another great Edsa pillar, ran a banner story on red versus ellow crowds. Sarcastic memes labeled it historical evisionists versus political opportunists.

I had to play Paredes’ song to rekindle my childhood memories.

“Confrontation” to “shut them up” is now our poisonous political norm.

A respected former Presidential Commission on Good Government commissioner criticized last week’s column for “giving cover to a badly-framed set of charges by asking people to argue ‘about the law.’”

He concluded: “This is the problem with those whose sense of justice is shaped by an upbringing insulated by privilege and by the lack of experience in actually pursuing justice beyond courts, lawyering and legal analysis.”

My crime was to try to google “De Lima charges” and ask why, despite infinite debate, no one first explained what now detained Sen. Leila de Lima is specifically charged with.

Her convoluted Supreme Court petition, filed after last week’s column, argues that drug charges against her do not state the type and amount of drugs for even one sale. Further, charges of abuse of power by senior officials, such as ordering drug sales for protection money, are legally required to be filed with the Sandiganbayan, not the trial court that issued her warrant for arrest.

But allies and Human Rights Watch instead cited political persecution and the lack of credibility of inmates-turned-state’s witnesses. What is argued in courts and media are completely different.

If one truly demands rule of law, should one form an opinion on the actual charges—and the judge who signed the warrant—before the politcs?

Am I also “disrespectful and provocative”?

I hope that, in my confrontations, the students I taught human rights law and helped write and get published, remind me of my reaction to Paredes:

I pray that as I stand for my most strongly held convictions, I find the humility and inner strength to be the man who instead handed flowers to the Duterte Youth, on Edsa anniversary, in front of the Edsa Shrine.

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React: [email protected], Twitter @oscarfbtan, facebook.com/OscarFranklinTan.

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TAGS: Inquirer column, Inquirer columnist, Inquirer Opinion, Jim Paredes, Oscar Franklin Tan, People Power Revolution, Sisyphus’ Lament
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