Better lukewarm than absent | Inquirer Opinion
At Large

Better lukewarm than absent

For a while there, it looked like activists and political protesters were happy playing footsies with the police and military.

Where normally activists, many of them from the Left, would be the first to raise a howl at any violation of the human rights of individuals—be they lumad, students, urban poor, or landless farmers—these days the same groups have been strangely silent in the face of the extrajudicial killings of about 4,000 suspected drug pushers and users. It didn’t seem to matter that most of those killed in street encounters were poor. Always the first to raise skepticism about the charges raised by police and law enforcers against the victims, in the past few months the usual suspects kept their unusual silence. No massive rallies, no waving of red flags, no raised fists and denunciations of state abuse.


If any protests or denunciations took place, these were confined to the so-called “yellow” forces, denigrated for their lingering loyalty to the Aquino administration, or derided for their paltry numbers and lukewarm expressions of anger.

But better lukewarm than absent, right?


What happened to the once-fiery forces of the Left? Coopted by the Duterte administration, and lulled into cooperation by the onset of peace negotiations between the government and the NDF, as well as the appointment of a few leftists to the Cabinet. So cheaply are principles and ideologies traded for political convenience.

These days, leftists are once again frothing at the mouth over the violent dispersal of a rally staged in front of the gates of the US Embassy.

As some reports put it, the protesters were getting ready to disperse after putting up a token show of anger at the United States and its supposed recalcitrant attitude toward China and PDut, when a bellicose police major arrived on the scene and started berating the policemen who had been merely keeping the peace.

The officer reminded the ground forces that they weren’t there just to watch the show but rather to disperse the protest. At this, the driver of a police van parked in front of the embassy gate (supposedly to safeguard the embassy occupants) got his vehicle running and either crawled forward and backward or plowed into the placard-bearing protesters.

Police officials would later say that they were forced to move because the protesters had begun throwing rocks at the van and “threatened” the cops manning the gate. Video footage of the incident showed several activists falling  under the van’s wheels.

What provoked the officer to order the police to act even more aggressively toward the protesters? Was the action necessarily directed against the Duterte administration—or against the activists who were denouncing US interests, a target of the President’s ire?

In some ways, we should be grateful for the police officer for doing what he did—that is, to show up the activists for what they really are, sympathizers of any government that would provoke their old “enemy,” the United States, and supporters of the communist Chinese government and ideology, whatever form it takes now. Rumor has it, after all, that despite China’s renunciation of “imperialist” intentions, the state continues to funnel funds to the remaining communists in our midst.


Of course, we wish the peace talks now taking place in Norway a happy ending, or at least a satisfactory conclusion, one where the government does not end up giving up all the hard-won concessions it had bargained for through the decades of peace talks.

There is, after all, value in putting an end to killings, ambushes, revolutionary taxes, all of which have bedeviled the Filipino people for many decades.

But let’s not fool ourselves and pretend the “principled and passionate” activists of yore have no agenda other than peace. They’re after power, too, after all, which the present administration is using to thumb its nose at the Americans.

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TAGS: Lumad, rally dispersal, us embassy, Violence
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