The task, to me at least, seems simple enough. We want to continue the fight against pork barrel. We find it in our hearts to come together, no matter our politics, our religious beliefs, our social class.
The latter of course, as it turns out, is the worst division there is, mostly because it is not something we like—or know— to talk about. Anyone who even had her eyes wide open at the August 26 rally would know that the class distinction of that gathering was about as stark as the white that the middle and upper classes decided to wear. And it was fantastic of course, to see this social class come out of their homes and spend a holiday in a park all the way in Manila with family and friends.
The greatness of each and every instance when the usually apathetic or apolitical go out to the streets is a measure of collective anger and disgust yes; but also it is about faith in collective action.
But no rally happens in a vacuum, and certainly there is no reason to imagine one rally grander than the other, or one kind of protest “new” versus the “old.” We are but the protests that we have been part of, but even more so the ones we ignore. The ones that happen without our hand in it, the ones that are constant and consistent, because these are premised on fundamental issues that have to do with governance and our rights as a people. Those rallies where countless are hurt by police who do not know what maximum tolerance means, or those rallies that don’t get permits because these threaten the powers-that-be. There were the rallies violently dispersed during Martial Law, if not at that last State of the Nation Address.
And yes there was Edsa 1986, as there was Edsa Dos in 2001, and Edsa Tres that same year. We don’t know what to think about second one even as we might have been there; we are scared of that third one just because it wasn’t “us.”
My tendency is to believe that there is value in these rallies, in each and every one, no matter that it’s a motley crew of faculty members dancing in the middle of the State University or thousands of people at a million people march, no matter that it’s an Edsa Shrine filled with people at a prayer vigil or a stage in Luneta that promises a program that includes prayers and speeches, and a rock and rage concert after it.
What matters is how these actions function as signals to government that we are not backing down from this fight against the pork barrel system. What matters is that this time around, activists and militants are not the only one screaming against a systemic dysfunction – which is actually what the disbursement of those pork barrel funds to congressmen and senators is about.
The PDAF and the pork barrel system are one and the same if we consider how these both abet patronage politics and palakasan and kampihan. Because Malacañang’s proposed “new way” of disbursing pork barrel funds to congressmen and senators still allows the fund to be used as the Presidential bargaining chip so he might get his way in Congress and the Senate. This is what we should be discussing at this point, but social class seems to be getting in the way.
Because while we bring to the idea of a rally our class and ideological limitations, our reactions to another’s rally, our preconceived notions about another’s protest action, also reveal exactly the biases that render us disunited.
Edsa Tayo had everything going against it. It called for an Edsa gathering on September 11, a day that people apparently so hate because it is Ferdinand Marcos’s birthday. I honestly think we should just erase it from our calendars, proving as we have that we’d rather not even do anything on this day. And then it wanted to gather at Edsa, which is also apparently a no-no because there is “stigma” attached to the space. Nothing organizer Junep Ocampo says has changed people’s minds, and I have a feeling that it’s because the Edsa Tayo rally has done this anti-pork rally so differently from August 26.
That is, they are not speaking in English, and they are obviously not of the middle to upper class mold. They also decided to push through with the September 11 date, and it seems like this is enough proof for people to think that they are nothing but pro-Marcos destabilizers.
Except that they aren’t. Edsa Tayo – like the August 26 rally – has revised what it said in the beginning, about occupying Edsa and staying there until the pork barrel is scrapped. Edsa Tayo has become a prayer vigil that has the support of the Edsa Shrine’s Rector Fr. Nilo Mangusad who will lead the mass. Edsa Tayo is but a small group of individuals that made a call on Facebook that the next anti-pork protest action be on Edsa. They spoke in Filipino. And they have been wrongly judged. By the time this piece comes out, the people behind Edsa Tayo will have proved the world wrong.
But people on this side of the world aren’t ones to admit mistakes, especially when there is a social media echo chamber that allows us to believe that we are correct about everything, that what we say – as long as enough people agree with us – is the only truth. It becomes easy as such to spread suspicions and make these into truths; it becomes easy to put up a Facebook status or write an opinion column, never mind that it is absolutely misinformed, if not turns upon its own ignorance – or arrogance.
Meanwhile, we let ourselves be used by government in its task of dividing and conquering its critics. And while we like to imagine that this only proves we are diverse, I think that ultimately this proves our lack of faith in others. We have no faith in the possibility that another group, another set of people, another individual, another organization will take this cause on. We have no faith in collective action, the kind that unseats dictators, yes. But also the kind that can demand for change and see it through.
You want to be suspicious? Start with government and its maneuverings and its spins. You want to continue this fight against the pork barrel system? Have a little more faith.