Let a hundred rallies bloom

By Katrina Stuart Santiago

The aftermath of the August 26 rally has been radio silence, at least if what we were waiting for from its organizers was a plan, a vision, if not at the very least a bigger picture against which we could plot a continued fight against the pork barrel system.

Granted that the Million People March liked to call itself leaderless, and was made up of the “not organized” or the “not affiliated” individuals such as myself, I think now that this was meant to only last about as long as its Facebook event page. That is, it expires the moment the event’s done, never to be seen again.

I think that the August 26 Scrap Pork rally, is the August 26 Scrap Pork rally. It is over. It was over the moment we realized that the people who were part of it had nothing planned really, for August 27.

And the truth is it’s okay, because August 26 will always be historic, will always be valuable, for having gotten people out on the streets again to take a stand against the state of governance in this country. August 26 might not have gathered a million people, but it gathered enough of us, volunteers with disparate views included, to show this government and the rest of nation that we cannot stand for this kind of corruption anymore.

But instead August 26 is being tainted with its own class biases. And no, this is not even just a matter of it being called a middle class rally, which it most certainly was. This is about the kind of discourse that has come out since then, because no it is not silence that we have gotten.

Instead it has become this seeming superiority complex, where one having done the August 26 rally, one might now speak of what is a good and proper gathering, and what isn’t. Instead it has been about careless queries about who people are connected to and how, and suspicions-on-overdrive about who’s affiliated with which politician and since when? Why on EDSA? That is too disruptive, it is being said. Why on a weekend? Is this legal?

At the heart of all this of course is the question of motives. And yet one wonders: what are we afraid of? There is no messing with the value of the August 26 Million People March, and at this point supporting actions against the pork barrel is really the only way to go.

Yes, there is the call to now refocus energies on the 100-day investigation. But that shouldn’t mean just waiting it out until its December 6 deadline. That’s a good three months at least of nothing but waiting. That’s a good three months that we are allowing government to live peacefully and quietly, thinking that we have compromised—or that the people ever will—because they can be silenced by the surrender of someone like Janet Napoles, and those televised budget hearings in the Senate.

That’s three months of going back to social media activism—which is really barely activism at all when you think about it. It’s like taking a million steps back, after proving on August 26 that there is value in moving from Facebook to Luneta, from social media to the streets. To go back to the confines of these virtual spaces fails to consider the value of sitting with others, hopefully strangers, and learning something new about the pork barrel there and then. To go back to doing Facebook and going all crazy on our statuses, fails to consider how many need a better conversation about the pork barrel, and how that conversation needs to happen right now.

Because if we don’t engage in that conversation, then it is government that will continue to peddle the notion that it has scrapped the pork barrel because it has scrapped PDAF. If we don’t have these conversations now, then we lose the opportunity to continue to engage the ones who know they have much to learn, and want information right now. If we don’t do this now, then we lose whatever it was that August 26 had going for it.

Which was what exactly? A sense of democracy. The idea that if we all agree on the abolition of the pork barrel, then that is enough to unite us. The belief that if we go from that issue to others then those are individual perspectives and causes that need not be taken on by the rest of those who are only on that line of scrapping pork. The conviction that all we need is to unite on scrapping all pork, because that is the only way we can actually prove our numbers, and even more so our anger as a people and demand change.

It seems strange to have to state it here. But when you think about it, the fact that the August 26 Million People March was handled the way it was, and was fueled by this kind if discourse, just might have pushed for the various rallies and activities from the less expected organizers (i.e., not organized groups). And in which case, shouldn’t it take pride in what it has achieved? In having pushed individuals to take the cause on?

I have gone as an individual to more meetings for scrap pork rallies than I have ever gone for anything else. I have had the best conversations about it with people who are planning these rallies. There are more to come, I’d like to tell PNoy, but also I’d like to tell the rest of you who went to Luneta on August 26. This is not about going to one gathering and thinking your task done; neither is this the time to go all cliquish or elitist about rallies. If there’s anything August 26 taught us all, it’s that we can co-exist in the same space, and I bet you, even on the same stage if we dare do a program.

Multifarious perspectives were accepted at the Million People March, as long as these commonly believed in scrapping all pork. Now all we need to prove is that we believe in its notions of democracy and unity.

Let a hundred rallies bloom. Let the conversations continue. It’s the only way.


  1. Very important message here. The questions cut like a razor. Leaderless, a virtue, has turned into leaderless, a vacuum. No group seems to have the charter or popular standing to advocate on behalf of the people. A leader is important to get to action, to define what that action should be and represent a megaphone in the ear of the President and the Legislators. The main megaphone now is Miriam Santiago, an occasional nemesis to we ‘mericans, but more power to her on this. Where is Harry Roque when you need him most? Or the Civil Liberties Union? Or Concerned Representatives Against Pork . . . never never use the acronym.

    Does ANY public group of stature have a charter that deals with tax reform? That’s where it falls, I think.

  2. andrew lim

    Dont despair, Katrina. We had a similar situation in the 80s, post Ninoy murder. Various groups sprang out and needed some sorting out. Only this time, we are not out to topple a govt, despite the wishes of the remnants of the Arroyo regime and other right wing elements like Mr Kritz and Robles.

    My suggestion is your group in EDSA Tayo get together with the organizers of the Luneta rally, along with church, civil society and other groups, including the left leaning ones.

    Try forming a “united front” and forge an agreement on what the calls should be. For starters, I think the ff would suffice:

    1. Abolition of congressional pork
    2. Speedy prosecution of those involved

    Other issues are either peripheral and are introduced by nefarious elements to confuse and spread the blame or too contentious to get a clear consensus on.

    Groups can bring their banners and flags to preserve their identity but their slogans should be limited to the above.

    The only group I can think of which should never be represented would be the remnants of the Arroyo administration, for obvious reasons.

    The screws are getting tighter by the day for those involved esp. Enrile, Estrada, Revilla, et al. Initiatives are being made, some are voluntarily giving up pork.

    But we need to keep up the pressure on Congress.

  3. Wala nang middle class sa Filipinas…lahat ay mahirap isang kahig isang tuka. Paano maiintindihan ng Filipino ang pag kakaisa kung ang salita at hangarin ay hindi makarating? palagay nila ang lahat ay pag kukunwari tulad rin ng mga magnanakaw sa gobyerno. Wala na silang tiwala. Gamitin natin ang sariling wika para sa lahat…Hindi iyon english na ay malalim pa parang riddle.