Show Us Edsa
On July 2 last year, the Jose W. Diokno Foundation called on Mrs.
Gloria Macapagal Arroyo to step down from office. Today, on the 84th
birth anniversary of Pepe, we no longer address Mrs. Arroyo, who heeds
no one but herself and her coterie of advisers, and needs Proclamation
1017 to prop up her flagging government. We prefer to address our
people, whom Pepe so loved and with whom he struggled for a better
On the matter of leadership, we say: Out of 80 million Filipinos, Mrs.
Arroyo is not the best we can produce. She does not even come close to
the best. But Mrs. Arroyo's display of arrogance is not what disturbs
us, though I must admit it is irksome. It is, rather, the implicit
assertion that we deserve her kind of leadership�for our people do
not�and that there is no alternative to her, when there are. Remember
that martial law lasted as long as it did in part because some
accepted the notion of a so-called 'lesser evil'.
We who have asked Mrs. Arroyo to resign from office are often
criticized for being disunited. So let us examine the sources of our
disunity. Clearly there is an element of distrust, that some in the
political opposition are out for their own ends just as some among
organized groups are perceived to have their own agenda. Suppose we
accept this to be a fact of our present political life. Is it
nonetheless possible for us to come together on the basis of certain
principles? I believe it is.
For example, we all want our elections cleansed of corrupt election
officials, cheating and other corrupt practices. We desire an
electoral process and system that will bring out new, good leaders who
have a fair chance of winning.
We do not want the constitution changed at any and all cost, in the
manner that Mrs. Arroyo and Speaker de Venecia know best. They make no
effort at subtlety in their attempt to subvert elections and remain in
power in the name of constitutional change.
Most of all, we reject the social inequity that our political system
feeds on. Using the poverty of the people against the people is the
worst, most painful crime of all.
So what is to be done? First and most immediate, we must not surrender
our civil liberties. Sometimes I think that martial law was effective
because it didn't hurt enough people; the dictatorship selected its
targets skillfully and then isolated these targets from the public
view. A false sense of comfort thus resulted. Let us not allow
ourselves to be fooled again. One act of suppression, if unopposed,
makes possible other acts of suppression.
Second, let us seriously work out the bases of our unity and agree
that we cannot have all that we want now. This is a difficult task�I
know how hard Pepe worked to bring the opposition together during
martial law. But try and try again we must.
In all this I ask that we think of our youth and consciously cultivate
young leaders. We widows and veterans of martial law have reached the
pre-departure area; our knees do not allow us to line the streets and
march in protest. This is not just a world we are about to leave, but
one we will bequeath to our children, grandchildren and, in my case,
great grandchildren. Listen to 17-year old Jose Miguel Bermudez, a
freshman studying in Las Pinas, who wrote in the Inquirer's 'Young
Blood' column. "Everyday of my life," he says, "my teachers and my
parents admonish me to shape up. I think it is now my generation's
turn to tell my parents and those who run this country that it is time
for them to shape up. They are being selfish and myopic when they
complain about the inconvenience and disruption caused by people
protesting against lying, cheating and stealing. They would rather go
about their regular business even if that means leaving many
fundamental and moral issues unresolved." Talking about how these
issues will haunt the next generation, Jose Miguel asks: "Guess who
will be left to deal with this ghost when it returns? Guess who will
be left to deal with the ugly litter of an irresponsible and apathetic
generation that would trade their children's future for short-term
convenience?" (7 February 2006)
My own grandson, Jose Lorenzo�we call him Pepe for short, who was born
a little over a year after Edsa, wrote in yesterday's Inquirer: "We
relegate Edsa to these four days, we remember Edsa only when we feel
the need to and we kill Edsa�. It makes me angry that the revolution
to most of us has become a set of dates and actions that little
children memorize for Sibika. And I'm angry that most of what we've
read so far is about the events that transpired, and the generals and
politicians 'who made Edsa happen'. Edsa is not about them. Edsa is
also more than the people who were there. It's even more than the
leaders it ousted." My other Pepe ends with a request: "I'd like to
ask a favor from you who were lucky enough to have felt the joy of
revolution. Don't tell us about it. Show us Edsa. A lot of us don't
even know what it looks like."
So we who know, must show Edsa. But in this process of showing, I
advise our youth: do not be passive onlookers. Your job, like that of
my generation that is about to pass, is to constantly improve upon
what is shown and to never give up. This was Pepe's dream of a nation
truly for our children, and it remains ours.
Carmen I. Diokno
La Salle Greenhills
26 February 2006