By Raïssa Robles
First they decided to change the venue. now they’ve decided to call the whole thing off.
I’ve just received official word that the traditional February 25 People Power commemoration, which was supposed to have been relocated from Edsa to inside Malacañang, has been canceled. As in, forget it, folks, Don’t bother showing up. Ain’t gonna happen.
There will be no official People Power Celebration this year in Metro Manila.
According to the announcement, President Benigno Aquino III, son of the original icon of democracy Corazon Aquino who was propelled to the presidency by Edsa 1986, will instead “lead celebrations” in the disaster-stricken provinces.
Aquino will hold a “pulong bayan” (town hall meeting) in the provinces as a way of “bringing Edsa to the people,” the press release said.
Wait a minute, correct me if I’m wrong in thinking this: Edsa IS the people. It is not Malacañang Palace, neither is it the Aquino family. So the phrase – “bring Edsa to the people” – is meaningless.
Actually, the whole thing started a few days back when Presidential Communications Secretary Sonny Coloma announced that the traditional February 25 rites this year would be moved from the Edsa People Power monument to the Palace grounds “to give consideration to commuters who use the said thoroughfare where various government infrastructure projects have already been initiated.”
If traffic is the reason for scrapping the commemoration, why not also cancel celebrating Christmas? After all, it’s the biggest cause of traffic jams in Manila. Why, even previous senior diplomats of the US Embassy made fun of the Christmas gridlock. You can listen to the song they sang during one Foreign Correspondent Association of the Philippines Christmas party:
Of course, by now many people might no longer care about celebrating Edsa. And perhaps this administration has finally joined the ranks of those who think so.
Instead, though nobody in government wants to say it out loud – the reason this administration is cramming 15 road works projects is so that Aquino – when he steps down from office in 2016 – can point to all of them as his “legacy projects.”
I guess every president of the Philippines gets smitten by some sort of edifice complex sometime in his term.
Aquino wants to be remembered in history.
The man who had never accomplished much in his lifetime now wants to be remembered for 15 road projects.
I find that sad.
To me, as a student of history and politics, PNoy will be remembered as the first president who ever told Filipinos – “Kayo ang boss ko.”
He doesn’t seem to know it yet, but that is his biggest legacy.
That turns a century of Philippine politics and oppression on its head.
At times, even PNoy needs reminding of his own phrase, especially now with the introduction of criminal Internet libel in the nation’s statutes.
He recently justified his backing for online libel by saying –
“Kayo bilang mga responsableng mamamahayag, may mga karapatan kayo, meron din namang hangganan ang karapatan ng lahat ‘di ba? Ang turo sa atin noong tayo ay nag-aaral, your rights end where they impinge on the rights of others.”
I have made inquiries and learned that President Aquino is not at all familiar with Facebook, much less Twitter. So he is under the mistaken notion that the Internet is mainly used by journalists. So he talks about the rights and responsibilities of journalists.
But what about his “bosses” – the people.
He appears to tell them – “Ang turo sa atin noong tayo ay nag-aaral (We were taught in school), your rights end where they impinge on the rights of others.”
PNoy is aware that in the Philippines a powerful and rich few have more rights than the vast majority.
Now along comes this technological wonder called the Internet. It gives more rights to the ordinary person. Not just to the journalist but to anybody who can access the Internet. Today, that includes even taxi drivers, restaurant waiters and other blue collar workers.
Remember the fable about the Prince who wanted to know what was really happening in the Kingdom? One night,he slipped out of the Palace in disguise and went to a tavern to drink. There he heard straight from the mouth of his subjects how they regarded his father the King, the Prince himself and how the Kingdom was run.
Today, political leaders can get first hand information on how ordinary voters really feel about their governance by going to Facebook and Twitter. Of course, they would have to be discerning but they will get a good idea.
This is the world that Internet libel wishes to control and reduce.
So when PNoy said, “your rights end where they impinge on the rights of others,” this really has to be placed in context of Philippine reality: The rich and the powerful have more rights. True, ordinary people on the Internet impinge on the rights of the rich and the powerful, but it is because they want to equalize the rights.
And isn’t that in our social contract – the 1987 Constitution?
Article XIII, Section 1 of the Constitution states that “The Congress shall give the highest priority to the enactment of measures that protect and enhance the right of all the people to human dignity, reduce social, economic and political inequalities, and remove cultural inequities by equitably diffusing wealth and political power for the common good.”
Internet Libel – the way it is currently worded – does the exact opposite of reducing social, economic and political inequalities.
Internet libel mocks the 1986 Edsa people power and its promise to equalize opportunities.