Sunday, August 9, 2009

Eulogies, Amnesia and Collective Action

The last five days is a big loss for the nation. Former President Aquino died. The whole nation went to grieve. But I confess, when I heard the news, I was indifferent. And today, I am so glad Emman was able to articulate my sentiments on his article published in PDI.

First, I could not really identify with EDSA I. It was not my generation's revolution. When my history teachers talk about EDSA, yellow colors, black and white pictures of nuns, priests and people from different sectors in human chain confronting the army are the images that conjured on my mind.

After Ninoy's assassination, she was asked by the opposition to run against the dictator. One million signatures (even more!) were gathered show the people's clamor for her give in and run during the snap election . A simple house wife that was catapulted to power by a peaceful revolution. Philippines became known and we added a new world's vocabulary- People Power.

It was a good start, a revolutionary government in transition for a better change. But instead of taking that chance to rebuild the nation, she made major mistakes.
1: She honored all debts incurred by Marcos up to the last centavo;
2. Mendiola Massacre; and
3. Luista Hacienda.

Due to her so called palabra de honor, she upheld onerous debts that Marcos incurred during his 20-year reign and made my generation until the next generation pay for it. And we have been spending billions of pesos with automatic debt servicing or payment of our debts from our yearly budget. Just this year, we have paid P14 Billion and it is just the interest!

I only witnessed EDSA I thru documentaries and accounts but Luisita Hacienda is another case. I remembered vividly the time we have a rally, signature campaign and raised funds for the farmers. Just when she could have initiated the land reform program, her family owned sugarland Hacienda Luisita was spared.
When she ran on 1986, she [promised the nation with this:

The two essential goals of land reform are greater productivity and equitable sharing of the benefits and ownership of the land. These two goals can conflict with each other. But together we will seek viable systems of land reform suited to the particular exigencies dictated not only by the quality of soil, the nature of the produce, and the agricultural inputs demanded, but above all by the needs of the small farmers, landless workers, and communities of tribal Filipinos whose lives and whose personal dignity depend on their just share in the abundance of the land.”

“You will probably ask me: Will I also apply it to my family’s Hacienda Luisita? My answer is yes, although sugarland is not covered by the land reform law, I shall sit down with my family and explore how the twin goals of maximum productivity and dispersal of ownership can be exemplified for the rest of the nation in Hacienda Luisita.

It was a premeditated action wherein loopholes of the law like the stock distribution Option (SDO)were added to ensure the ruling class' hold to land. Agrarian reform is a land distribution program but SDO is one dubious provision, a non-land transfer scheme for haciendas wherein shares of stocks are distributed instead of subdividing the hacienda and distributing the land to small farmers. Hacienda Luisita is a classic case of this bigotry.

The farmers as "part-owners" also keep on tilling the land, thinking in the end, collectively they will have a share on the produce of the land. But lo and behold, with all "managerial expenses", "losses", they only earn P15! The farmers formed union but was divided through buy-off and when they held a picket, they were dispersed violently.

This is in resonance of the Mendiola Massacre. The farmers who marched to Malacanang were dispersed and thirteen were killed.

These are the great errors of her time that should not be put into oblivion.

But when I saw the televised funeral march for her, I was amazed and awed. I would like to attribute it to media's glitz and people's collective memory loss. But when the common tao- drivers, security guards, manang labandera, middle class, waited patiently along side the road just to have a glimpse of her body amidst the unpredictable weather, I thought "SHE IS something!"

Then it dawned on me. The people are grieving of a loss of an icon of democracy. The people identified with her as the beacon who led the country and stop the dictator. She is also a person who did not cling to power unlike her predecessors (Ramos and GMA in particular)who wanted to change the Constitution Cory's administration drafted just to play with the president's term and change of government. She is not afraid to speak out her mind; she led the protests in GMA's corrupt government; she knows how to say sorry and be sincere about it. She is in a huge contrast to the next female president who was also catapulted to power by People Power.

Cory, is indeed a symbol of people's longing for change, for democracy and truth.Despite her weakness, she remains a political force to reckon with. Her funeral is not only about her death, it is the people's rage of the slow death of what the people hold dear-- democracy.

And as the nation collectively grieves, I do hope this time will also be used to reflect on our history,the unsung heroes and victims of the past and making the perpetrators accountable It is a time for renewal of aspirations for social change. This is the time to move on.

(I long for the time that we can proudly wave our flags again, to stood up and be proud as a nation.)

Photo credits to Rocky Chan.



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