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Are we our own worst enemy?

It’s beginning to look that way.

Demographic stats from the 2016 presidential and the recent senatorial elections have shown that Baby Boomers, whom one expected to take on an antiauthoritarian stance given their experience of martial law, voted for Rodrigo Duterte in 2016 and his Hugpong ng Pagbabago slate of senatorial candidates in May this year.

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Of course, one can raise the issue of the seven-hour glitch in the Commission on Elections count, but it seems even that has been swept under the rug of convenient collective amnesia.

As Susan Quimpo, coauthor of “Subversive Lives” (Anvil Publishing), disclosed at the recent Philippine Readers and Writers Festival at the Raffles Makati in a panel discussion on “Rise, Resist: Martial Law Then and Now,” the majority of these Boomers were clueless about the human rights abuses and large-scale corruption committed by dictator Marcos during the martial law period.

Although three broadsheet newspapers existed, they were all crony papers; self-censorship of the news was the norm then. Thus do we have the phenomenon
of Boomer voters almost electing Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. to the
vice presidency.

Only the committed activists took the trouble of publishing underground newspapers and photocopying these for sharing with their above-ground sympathizers.

Quimpo, who comes from a family of activists some of whose members were jailed, tortured, killed or went on political exile abroad, also said that though she has reached the age when her knees were painful and weak, thus ruling out joining rallies, she still participated in a politically engaged, do-or-die campaign for the oppositionist Otso Diretso.

Because the senatorial candidates from that group could only be heard in all their eloquence and brilliance in social media, Quimpo joined sorties in public markets, distributing campaign leaflets. When the vendors would tell her that they weren’t aware of such names as Diokno and Tañada, she painstakingly sat with them and explained who these personages were.

Admitting to not favoring an armed revolution anymore, she said this person-to-person dialogue is one way to raise the political awareness of those who seem to be withdrawn from what’s happening in an increasingly violent society.

Fictionist and recently retired academic Butch Dalisay, who suffered political imprisonment in the early martial law years, observed how indifferent many Filipinos are to what this bloodthirsty administration is doing in the guise of fighting the drug menace. He warned that we must not wait until violence hits home, or one of our friends or relatives is killed or injured, before we start raising our voices in protest.

An apt quote comes to mind, and it is from civil rights activist Martin Luther King Jr.: “In the end, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends.”

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There is a powerful Facebook (FB) meme going around, adapted from a poem written by pastor Martin Niemöller who fought Hitler’s Nazi rule:

“First they came for suspected pushers and even for mere drug users, and I did not speak out because I was not a drug pusher or user.

“Then they came for the leftists and human rights lawyers, and I did not speak out because I was not one of them.

“Then they came for the lumads, the farmers and the workers, and I did not speak out because I was not any of them.

“Then they came to jail a senator, expel the Chief Justice, and deport a nun, and I did not speak out because I was neither of the three.

“Then they came for the yellow leaders and the outspoken priests and bishops, and I did not speak out because I was not yellow or clergy.

“Then they came for me, and then there was no one left to speak out for me.”

Filipinos have a long, proud history of being patriots and freedom lovers. Are we working ourselves to a slow boil before moving toward what I hope and pray will be an Edsa Tres? If FB memes and posts are what we have to go by, the ridiculous acts of the President would have been enough to get him laughed, yes, laughed out of office with his tail between his legs.

For now, as Quimpo and Dalisay reminded their primarily young audience, what shrinking democratic space can be found must be used to push back despotic rule. Otherwise, the millennials will go down as the generation that sold out
their country.

Elizabeth Lolarga is a grandmother of one who does freelance writing from her home in Baguio. She also paints as a hobby.

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TAGS: baby boomers, Ferdinand `bongbong’ marcos jr., Otso Diretso
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