Sen. Grace Poe and the INC vote
EVERY NOW and then, someone would ask me what is the meaning of “reveille,” the title of my column. It dawned on me that unless you were raised in a military family or perhaps, grew up with the Boy Scouts, you would not be familiar with the term.
“Reveille” is a French word meaning “wake up.” It goes back all the way to the 16th century when a bugle call sometimes accompanied by drums was a signal for military personnel in a camp to wake up at sunrise.
For four years as a cadet at the Philippine Military Academy in Baguio City, I would wake up to the sound of bugles and drums and immediately get out of a warm and comfortable bed to confront a cold Baguio morning. After changing into a uniform and joining company formation at exactly 10 minutes before the hour of six in the morning, I and the rest of the Cadet Corps would salute the national emblem as it was raised at the flagpole of Fort Gregorio del Pilar in front of Melchor Hall.
For the past few months, I have made it a point to take a brisk walk at 5:30 in the morning at the Camp Aguinaldo parade ground. For one thing, there is less pollution inside the camp and no vehicular traffic to contend with. I am not alone. On some days, the parade ground is full of military and civilian personnel engaging in mass calisthenics and ending up with a run around the camp. For those who wish to merely enjoy a brisk walk, there is a “walkers lane” courtesy of Gen. Alexander B. Yano, former AFP chief of staff who put up a “running path” that goes around the parade ground, a symbol of his commitment to “the health and physical wellbeing of the men and women of the Armed Forces.”
Just before 6 a.m., a bugler at the Camp Aguinaldo flagpole calls everyone to attention. This is followed a few minutes later, by the sound of “reveille.” As I join in saluting the flag, my thoughts go back to more than 50 years ago when, as a young boy, this same ritual signaled the start of a new day. I have come to realize the significance of the whole ceremony. In its simplicity, it is not just a wake-up call; it symbolizes love of country, love of people. Others may line up for immigrant visas to faraway lands with greener pastures; but warts and all, this is my country, this is my home.
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For some time now, Sen. Grace Poe has been the flavor of the month among many Filipinos. Her firm stand in handling former PNP chief Alan Purisima, who defied Senate summons to appear before her committee that was then tackling the subject of PNP modernization; her determination and clarity of purpose in pursuing the replacement of Purisima who was and still is a close friend and confidant of President Aquino; her low-key MRT ride in order to learn first-hand the difficulties and woes of commuters; her chairing of the Mamasapano probe by the Senate that elicited favorable comments and praise from her colleagues as well as the general public—all these contributed to her growing popularity as reflected by increasingly high ratings in poll surveys.
In her role as defender of the public interest, Senator Poe put to shame allies of the administration. A freshman senator whose actions were not compromised by politically correct positions, she was our knight in shining armor.
But something happened last week.
Iglesia ni Cristo demonstrations first along Padre Faura, and later at key intersections along Essa, effectively slowed down traffic, creating havoc on the lives of daily travelers. My daughter left our home in Cubao at 6:30 p.m. Sunday, and arrived in Makati at around 11 in the evening, almost the time one would spend going up to Baguio.
What were the demonstrations all about?
If one were to go by the placards being held up by people at the rally, the gathering was staged calling for the observance of the principle of the “separation of church and state.” Some placards demanded an end to “selective justice.”
Apparently, an expelled church minister, Isaias Samson Jr., had filed criminal charges for harassment, illegal detention, threats and coercion, against some members of the church hierarchy. The INC claimed that Justice Secretary Leila de Lima personally attended to the complaint while taking her time on the Mamasapano massacre.
Frankly speaking, I would be at a loss for words to intelligently discuss the principle of separation of church and state. I also believe that when people cry out for help because they are being detained against their will for any reason, it is the duty of government at the very least to find out what is happening.
As the crisis continued, politicians of all stripes made their views known regarding the demonstrations. Not surprisingly, most were concerned about upholding the right of INC members to demonstrate in defense of their faith and against state interference in what one senator described as a “purely family quarrel.” No one expressed concern for the inconvenience and sufferings of thousands of commuters who were affected by the actions of the INC protesters. Instead of directing the demonstrators to open areas like the Luneta, government authorities allowed them to occupy sections of a vital thoroughfare resulting in a horrendous traffic situation.
For traditional politicians like Vice President Jejomar Binay and Sen. Francis Escudero, given their ambitions and considering the clout and influence of an organization that can deliver a million-plus votes in any election, their positions on the crisis were predictable and true to form.
Considering her earlier actions, one expected something different from Senator Poe. But after showing much concern for the traveling public, she decided that votes were more important than the general welfare of the community.
Perhaps the kindest thing that can be said on her behalf is that she is, after all, a human being. How could she possibly place in jeopardy a sure million-plus votes as against the uncertain support of a fickle public at large? Have no doubts! The lady is running for the presidency in May 2016.
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