Monday, February 27, 2006

Pinoys no longer afraid of martial rule

Pinoys no longer afraid of martial rule
First posted 04:45am (Mla time) Feb 27, 2006
By Neal H. Cruz

WASN'T IT SAD AND IRONIC THAT ON THE very day that we were commemorating the 20th anniversary of Edsa I, that shining moment in our history when we broke the chains of a dictator, another dictator would emerge and put us back in chain, virtually bringing us again into those dark days of martial law? What is happening in our poor country today is proving the saying that "history repeats itself."

What is happening is eerily a repeat of the early days of martial law. It is as if we are dreaming of the bad old days, only to wake up and find out that the dream is for real, after all.

In 1972, Ferdinand Marcos faked an ambush, where the car of then Defense Minister Juan Ponce Enrile (without Enrile in it) was peppered with bullets. The "incident" was used as an excuse to declare martial law. On the same night, soldiers swooped down on the offices of all the newspapers and closed them; they also rounded scores of the administration critics. Years later, the same Enrile, with the help of People Power, would lead a coup to successfully oust Marcos from MalacaƱang.

It was that shining moment that we were celebrating when Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo (GMA) did a Marcos and proclaimed a "state of emergency." But judging from the draconian measures that she imposed, the proclamation is almost a declaration of martial law. (Proclamation 1017 is only a number different from Proclamation 1081, the instrument with which Marcos declared martial law. And 1017's first "Whereas" is almost a word-for-word reproduction from 108l.)

Soon after, soldiers swooped down on the offices of The Daily Tribune and closed it. In other places, selected personalities were arrested. Yesterday, the Philippine National Police warned that other media outlets would be closed, too, if they don't toe the government line. Shades of Marcos!

It is said that all living organisms learn from their mistakes and adjust to their environment, from the tiny virus that mutates to protect itself, to the giant trees that learn to adjust the size and forms of their leaves to better use sun and rain. GMA is among that group of smart organisms who have learned from the mistakes of others. She has learned from the mistakes of Marcos and Erap.

Marcos' mistake in Edsa I was that he vacillated and allowed the crowd at Edsa to grow big. By the time his tanks rolled out, it was too late. The tanks couldn't get through the crowds and Marcos wouldn't let them run over or fire their cannons at people and at Camp Crame where the rebels were holed up.

GMA learned from that mistake. That is why she unleashed her police to disperse the rallies at Edsa before they could get any bigger. That is why she cancelled all rally permits. That is why she is denigrating People Power. Although she herself benefited from it, she wants it to go out of fashion before she herself becomes another of its victims.

And as fear is the ally of tyranny, she is now sowing fear with the arrest of selected personalities. As the media are expected to resist another dark age, they are being terrorized with raids and stern warnings for them "to behave or else." Real, full-blown terrorism is upon us and it is not coming from al-Qaeda, the NPA or the MILF, but from our own government, the AFP and police, the very agencies that are tasked to protect all the people, not the President alone.

But the people have learned, too. Having survived 14 years of Marcos' dictatorship, they are no longer afraid of another martial regime. They are no longer afraid of being arrested and imprisoned. Being arrested now for political offenses is a badge of honor. Indeed, many of the people that Marcos had clamped in jail were later elected by the people to the Senate, to the House of Representatives, to local government units. Some of them even became Cabinet members. Many of our present leaders now, pro- and anti-administration, were former Marcos detainees.

So being arrested and jailed is no longer something to fear. People now feel honored if they are singled out for arrest and feel insulted if they are ignored.

Filipinos love rebels. This is so because of our history of being abused by colonizers and tyrants. All our great heroes were rebels- from Dagohoy to Bonifacio and Rizal to Macario Sakay to Ninoy Aquino-who fought against foreign invaders and home-grown tyrants.

During the Spanish and American colonial regimes, the Filipinos kept waging separate pocket revolts. They were beaten back by the far superior colonizers but they kept trying and finally succeeded. During the Japanese Occupation, practically all the young men became guerrillas, and in the NPA and Muslim rebellions, bright young men and women from the best universities have gone to the hills to join the rebels.

No, arrest and detention don't scare Filipinos anymore. Neither does the closure of media outlets scare journalists. Like viruses that mutate, media will find ways to provide the people with information, especially now that we have the Internet, the "Xerox" machines and the cell phones. Underground newspapers will come out, in mimeographed or "Xeroxed" copies. Paradoxically, the more you try to suppress them the more people will become curious to read them.

The best thing that has happened to the Tribune was the police raid on its offices and facilities. Before, it had a very small circulation; hardly anybody paid it any attention. Now suddenly, because of the raid, people are curiously talking about it, and it would surely be sold out when it resumes publication, clandestinely or not.

Ironically, the Arroyo administration just made the Tribune, its staunchest critic, a sensational success. GMA's regime has shot itself in the foot.

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