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Wednesday, January 25, 2006


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The episode, two Thursdays ago, of “Debate with Mare and Pare” hosted by Winnie Monsod and Oscar “Oca” Orbos aired over GMA-7 was the most fiery of all the episodes I had watched, as panelist Bayan Muna partylist Rep. Satur Ocampo and lawyer Ric Abcede of the Philippine Commission on Good Government engaged in a shouting match, calling each other names with a spate of expletives, over the issue on the curtailment of human rights when protestors including Senator Jamby Madrigal and former Vice President Teofisto Guingona were hosed down by water cannons while they were on their way to Mendiola bracing arms with progressive groups.

Controversial Sandra Cam, another panelist, joined in the trading of barbs, while Vidal Querol, director general of police of the National Capital Region, explained on the procedure carried out in what was labelled calibrated preemptive response that Mareng Winnie tagged "knee-jerk panic."

Only two of the panelists, Maria Teresa Lopez, a concerned citizen, and Pastor Bobby Livocco of the Baptist church shared in Querol’s diplomacy by lending ears to running priest Robert Reyes who did a rebuttal on his alleged trivialization of prayer, the Holy Mass and the church and on the encroachment of dogma on governance.

With the way the debate registered on national television, it painted the capital as a city stinking with the smell of death and decay with discussions on the helplessness of the masses, economic slump and political turmoil when what has really died is love of country, statesmanship, and the real definition of empowerment.

Demise of the substance of empowerment

I’m no alien to street parliamentarianism. Back in the mid-80s, I marched as young Yellow Lady for peaceful transition of government when the Marcos dictatorship tottered after posed with the challenge of a snap election.

When the tandem of Marcos and the late Arturo Tolentino was proclaimed winners, the scenario led to the eventual walkout of ballot canvassers at the Batasang Pambansa who went openly against orders of vote rigging. Events then gave birth to People Power.

Activism for me that time found a voice on the streets (read: on the streets only!) because the media became a barker for the Nationalista party, justice was not only blindfolded but also gagged, and the police wore the collars of the dictatorship. Those who screamed their sentiments out into the streets were not only hosed down and teargased, but also beaten up, slain, their whereabouts unknown until today as in the case of Redemptorist father Rudy Romano. That only means that the street became an alternative venue for redress of grievances at such a time when a regime subjected those who went against its “iron hand” to bite on dust.

Right now, street activists create a scene of martial rule creeping in our midst. And the talons of the competing media networks are playing up on it, like predators rejoicing over the carcass. Most news stories on television are exaggerations that offer trash to an audience hoping for social responsibility to be given substance by writers and producers of such.

Why would these stories emphasize on the presence of repression indeed, when everyone can go to the media to air his side in an atmosphere of virile democracy. Even those who complained of "overkill" when they were hosed down were able to file cases before the Commission on Human Rights. Come to think of it, was the procedure allowed during the martial rule? Wasn't it that the terrain for social movements was altered? We witnessed that dark past subject to repression progressive groups, while those individuals the regime felt to have gone against its way were either eliminated or arrested by the military. And we all know that attempts at community organizing ground to a halt during the martial rule. Back then, were those on the streets given the chance to speak and argue with authorities, or peppered with bullets instead?

Demise of nationalism

The capital city is a picture of messy, poor, disorderly Filipinos – a group of people who keeps on calling the kettle black when they are nothing but pots.

The episode, two Thursdays ago, of “Debate with Mare and Pare” had its airtime shortened to cool down swellheads. But it left an indelible mark with the way the issue was given its synthesis after the ceremonial giving of "parting words or messages": Our cry to move on as a people is unrealistic. We are fragmented, broken, divided.

In these times where unity is very difficult to achieve, we need to redefine activism and empowerment. The streets cannot solve poverty. Poverty is a by-product of the demise of our social responsibility. We scream for human rights to be upheld, but we fail to commit to be of service to society. We open palms in demand for what the government owes us, but refuse to ask ourselves how we can be of service to our country.

Where is love of country? To borrow Black-Eyed Pea's line from a song: “Where is the love, the love, the love?”

Demise of statesmen

Gone are the days when senatorship is an honorable task. When it was more of a commitment than a high rank in governance. Today senators can always throw documents up in the air, in a public “tantrumic” display of their disgust and disappointment for every bit of policies discussed in Congress, for allegations of massive cheating and vote padding during the last polls. Wordwar freaks do not only star in animés nowadays, but also saunter their ways in the once respectable halls of the House.

Most of those who found seats in the House have already forgotten that what we really need to know about how to live and what to do and how to be and how to lead we already learned in grade one. Says Robert Fulghum, “wisdom was not at the top of the graduate mountain, but there in the sandbox at first level of grade school.”

These are the things these senators and congressmen should have learned: Share everything. Play fair. Don’t hit people. Put things back where they were first found. Clean up own mess. No taking of things that aren’t theirs. Saying sorry when able to hurt somebody. The washing of hands before eating. Warm cookies and cold milk are good for the brain. Live a balanced life. Learn some and think some and draw and paint and sing and dance and play and work every day some.

Our leaders have already forgotten that when going out into the world, we were taught to watch for traffic, to hold hands and stick together. To be aware of wonder. To remember the little seed in the plastic cup. The roots go down and the plant goes up and nobody really knows how or why, but that we are all like that. Goldfish and hamsters and white mice and even the little seed in the plastic cup – they all die. SO DO WE!

Had our leaders only remembered the book about Dick and Jane and the first word they learned, the biggest word of all: LOOK. Fulghum says everything we need to know is in there somewhere - the Golden Rule and love and basic sanitation. Ecology and politics and sane living.

Fulghum is right! Think of what a better world it would be if we – the whole nation – had cookies and milk about every 3pm. Or if we had a basic policy in our nation to always put things back where we found them and clean up our own messes.

And that it will still hold true that no matter how old we are, when we go out into the world, and when we start to demand for the upliftment of our communal lives, observance of our human rights, and delivery to us of basis services, it is best to hold hands and stick and work together for a positive cause.

For your comments, reactions, suggestions and contributions, crank up my email addy: pinay_mangatkatay@yahoo.com. Or text me @ 09215323616. Death can only be considered the next sweetest adventure when you've already fulfilled your purpose here. Todos los santos y muertos, hombres y mujeres!