Sunday, February 24, 2008

A people’s betrayal

(2/22/08) I’m in the frigid Ching Tan Room at the University. A few rows ahead sits one-time senatoriable Sonia Roco; somewhere in the back sits Dr. Fernando Zialcita of the Department of Sociology & Anthropology. My program boasts of a pixelized photograph of the EDSA shrine above the words describing this whole event: An Intellectual Discussion. Former Bukidnon representative Neric Acosta, who is currently a teacher of mine, would later joke that the very concept of an intellectual discussion might’ve scared off a lot of the students from attending. Indeed, as I look around the room, I notice I’m one of the youngest—in fact 1 of only a handful of students.

“Both EDSAs betrayed us,” says Dr. Acosta. He’s 1 of the 4 panelists who are to discuss whether People Power was a success or a failure. He’s the only politician of the lot, but few politicians have the kind of academic understanding that comes w/ a doctorate degree in Political Science. Even while waiting for his turn to speak, Dr. Acosta briskly takes down notes like a student before a presentation or a teacher before a lecture (depending on how you look at it). In front of him next to his leather-bound planner are loose sheets of papers & today’s Inquirer.

He speaks of institutions breaking down, how based on global standards and indexes for good governance the Philippines is a “regressing democracy.” He says, “We failed in memory.” Earlier this year both GMA & Erap said that we should forget about EDSA; w/ this, says Dr. Acosta, the 2 presidents essentially called for the end of the fight for reform & for a government that works. True enough, Martial Law lives on in spirit under the Arroyo administration. And according to the PCIJ, there are only 11 new family names in Congress.

Having been in his class over the past semester, I know Dr. Acosta feels strongly about trust, his current bible being Francis Fukuyama's book about it. Today, he declares that social trust has vanished in our country. Exemplifications aren’t hard to find: NGOs and government act now like rivals instead of working together. The government is messed up, say the NGOs. The NGOs don’t know what they’re talking about, says the government. Civil society then chooses sides, or just ignores everything altogether—nation-building relegated to mere abstraction. Survival of the fittest: the only law held dear.

“There’s something sad & almost surreal about singing Bayan Ko again.” Dr. Acosta is alluding to the mass for Jun Lozada in La Salle Green Hills last Sunday. There’s something to be said here about what he calls “immanent victories”—that we failed in attaining them after ’86. Echoing Rizal, Dr. Acosta warns that if we don’t flush out the residuals of the system we disapprove, all those things about it we despise will come back. There was no complete cleansing after ’86; the ills have returned. (Or did they even leave us?)

Someone taps my back; I turn to see Meynardo Mendoza from the Deparment of History, a former teacher of mine. “Nagsalita na ba si Fr. Intengan?” “Opo.” The Jesuit had spoken earlier, delivering a talk entitled “People Power 1: Great Expectations, Scanty Harvest,” preceding a talk w/ similar views by Dr. Zosimo Lee of UP, who used the criteria of justice in proving EDSA’s failures.

Fr. Luis David, also a Jesuit, took on another perspective & received a lot of attention & quite a few raised eyebrows. Unlike the other panelists, he didn't even bother to ask if he may begin; he jumped straight into reading his paper w/ his accented English & the kind of laid-back disposition that can only come from confidence (because well-written papers need no extemporaneous explanations), quoting the likes of TS Eliot along w/ a myriad of political & philosophical minds. He insisted on how contestations & dissent are integral in a democracy. “I’d much rather have a politicized armed forces than a passive 1 w/c blindly follows authority.” He used Trillianes’ successful senatorial bid as exemplification. Trillianes was not noted for necessarily being a man with much sense; “sometimes it seems like he can’t put 2 thoughts together,” but his victory speaks of a dissent Fr. David considers healthy for a democracy.

Dr. Acosta weighed in using his naturally deep voice, saying the rallying, masses, & noise barrages we see today are “encouraging realities” w/ regard to expressing disapproval. But he had also said earlier that “maybe it’s not about the streets or the streets of EDSAs” anymore. He expresses the importance of the youth & their involvement in new technologies—cyberspace being the new streets thru w/c we rally.

Still, Dr. Acosta asserts a need for a return to concrete benchmarks for success based on clearly defined standards similar to how other democracies are assessed. The question remains for Dr. Acosta: “Where are we now 22 years later?” He calls for a return to paying attention to strengthening our institutions. “It’s not a matter about housekeeping but what kind of house we have.”

It had been an insightful discussion, but, you see, I get a little wary when moderators open floors up to questions from the audience, knowing that more often than not my fellow Blue Eagles make manifest the perception of apathy that clouds over us. After all, we are a student populace who have now elected a student body president who campaigned independently, insisting on more outward social involvement w/out sharing how nor realizing that, w/ regard to national issues, forces centripetal in nature is what will truly enliven this carcass of a student body. Thankfully, this audience in the Ching Tan Room is mainly from the adult intelligentsia, leading to more interesting points.

Fr. Intengan is asked to explain the involvement of the Church in all of this. He says that the Church had failed in using symbolic power in EDSA. He says the Church fumbled the opportunity to contribute to nation-building considering its wide reach. The Church could’ve led in developing a civil code of ethics accepted by all faiths & w/c encouraged unity; it didn’t.

“Many clergy went into miracle mode,” says Fr. Intengan. The intellectual substance of EDSA was lost. EDSA was secular; still, we insist otherwise. “Institutions monopolized the event,” making it Catholic. There was a “poor deployment of symbols,” says the Jesuit. Even today in commemorative celebrations, Fr. Intengan cannot quite understand the persistence of English liturgy & middle-class taste in entertainment. “Many poor people were for Cory.”

On an even more secular note, Fr. Intengan criticizes how politics too quickly became too pragmatic—missing a sense of purpose. A “national ideology” was never developed; the Church failed in aiding with this. “I hope the Church becomes more insightful.”

Another interesting question brought the concept of EDSA into today’s pressing concerns: “Do you think GMA has learned enough from the past to suppress an EDSA uprising against her?"
Dr. Acosta says that such speculation has been confirmed informally. Consider the fact that now you need permits from 3 separate government agencies to rally. Dr. Acosta admits to feeling torn between 2 stands: giving GMA credit but also realizing that she essentially bungled something like the Lozada incident at the airport.

In answering the question as such, I think Dr. Acosta brought forth the kind of stance we should now have amid a nation on shaky ground: we must be wary of & give due consideration to the complexity of our problems, but we must also be vigilant & intelligently aggressive in holding people accountable, seeking justice, wanting change. After all, it is this lack of vigilance that has allowed for intellectual discussions to still be centered on an event 2 decades now into our past. It is this lack of vigilance w/c has allowed for the intellectualized dissection of what should’ve simply been kept a romantic victory; still, we ourselves have allowed it to become a concrete symbol of betrayal.

* * *

Birthdays: Julio Julongbayan celebrated his yesterday w/ Yellow Cab Pizza & sisig. My cousin Kathy is currently celebrating w/ Gin. A very Happy Birthday to both!

Some said they never saw it happening; maybe it's in the clothes. (Photo taken during Heights open mic last week.)


Post a Comment

<< Home