Oops, stampede is ‘stampede,’ not ‘People Surge’
May we clarify the use of the term “People Surge”—the name of the alliance of Super Typhoon “Yolanda” (international name: Haiyan) survivors—by various churches, media and military personalities. Ever since the papal visit organizers announced Pope Francis’ itinerary in the Philippines, the phrase “people surge” has been used to refer to a stampede that they fear could occur while the Holy Father walks the streets.
Similar incidents in the past, like those that occurred during the Black Nazarene processions or the “Wowowee” anniversary at the Ultra stadium, have been consistently referred to as “stampedes.” Why the sudden shift in terminology for the papal visit?
The misuse of “People Surge” has real and terrible implications for us Yolanda survivors. We can see how the police and military have used this as basis for intensifying the militarization of the Pope’s visit—aside from the announced 7,000-augmented police force in Leyte, insiders share that there will likely be a combined police and military force of 20,000. Armed Forces of the Philippines chief Gen. Gregorio Catapang Jr. said last Jan. 7 that the 37,000-strong security detail will be the largest contingent deployed for a visiting head of state.
They have been sweeping all roadside homes and buildings, and have been profiling residents—one of them described how the police have been asking around if there were Muslims who recently settled in their neighborhood. They have been making unreasonable traffic and security impositions, including closing the San Juanico Bridge starting Jan. 15, allegedly to prevent our contingents from Samar from welcoming the Holy Father. Their rerouting scheme in Tacloban City is affecting thousands of commuting students. This sacrifice would be in vain if the police and military’s rough measures would create a divide between us and the Pope.
We Yolanda survivors do not present any threat whatsoever to the Pope. We know of the papal visit organizers’ concerns about the impediments to the Pope’s travel and have even offered to coordinate with them to avoid undue delay.
The chance to express our heartfelt support for the Pope’s social teachings and advocacies should not be denied us disaster survivors, especially the young among us, who have been practicing what Pope Francis preaches in our quest for justice. We hope that together with refraining from misusing “people surge,” we People Surge advocates be given space to express and share our solidarity with Pope Francis, the same way he shares ours.
—ARIANNE KRIS VILLEGAS, spokesperson, People Surge Youth, [email protected]
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