BY TONYO CRUZ
If you’re a member of the Alliance of Concerned Teachers, or the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines, be proud.
If you’re a bishop, minister, or member of the Iglesia Filipina Independiente, the United Church of Christ in the Philippines, or the Catholic Church, be proud.
If you’re an editor or staffer of Rappler and ABS-CBN, and the alternative press like Kodao, Bulatlat, and PinoyWeekly, be proud.
If you’re a lawmaker or former lawmaker arrested, detained, and charged with trumped-up cases, or whose amnesty had been illegally revoked, be proud.
If you’re a chief justice illegally removed from office on orders of the president and in the entire way and beyond stood solidly for the rule of law, be proud.
If you’re a former member of the Cabinet and because you stayed true to introducing reforms and making government work for the people yet you were removed from office, be proud.
If you’re a leader or a member of Anakbayan or Anakpawis, KMP or KMU, Kadamay or even the defunct Kadena, be proud.
If you’re a student or faculty member in one of the 18 Metro Manila colleges and universities, be proud.
If you’re a filmmaker whose films were thought to be threats to revisionism and disinformation, be proud.
If you’re a peace negotiator shamed, scorned, arrested, detained, threatened with death, be proud.
If you’re a target of trolls who threatened you and your family with rape or murder, called you names, and belittled your rights, be proud.
Yes, be proud. Be proud because the president himself and his minions have identified you as enemies, worthy of their attentions and fabrications. At this time, let me assure you: It is a badge of honor to be a foe of tyranny. 20 or 30 years from now, you’d proudly tell kids how you courageously stood, spoke, and took action against tyranny and for democracy. You belong to an amazing united front and movement against tyranny.
The company of the tyrant is not exactly the Partners for Change many people thought the president would enlist. The Marcoses and Arroyo, the worst traditional politicians, warlords, big compradors and big landlords, China, the US, and even druglords. They profit from and help maintain the rotten status quo. It is a stretch to describe or, worse, profess that Hugpong para sa Pagbabago is true to its name. It is the party for feudalism, bureaucrat capitalism, and imperialism.
The coming elections is an opportunity for the united front and movement against tyranny to lay bare the problematic composition of the ruling party. The way forward cannot be through shaming the so-called 16 million. The way forward could start by pointing out to the 104 million the silver lining to the Duterte regime: It is its own worst enemy.
Whether it is about the political allies and friends Duterte has chosen, the classes he has been loyal to, the foreign interests he has surrendered to: The diehard influencers, now discredited, have congratulated him for those choices. They cannot argue now against his “successes”.
Yes, elections are supposed to be the partisan and divisive. It is the time the house is divided. But it is also an opportunity to unite the country around the basics: human rights, due process, rule of law, and reforms urgently needed by the working people and their families like wage hikes, price control, more accessible social services and social safety net, and better mass transportation and even faster internet. These issues cut across the political divide.
At first look, the results of the latest senatorial preference survey would frustrate many. But the same results should inspire and embolden us to expose the character of this regime as represented by its slate of candidates.
I don’t believe the so-called 16 million is still solidly behind Duterte. Three years is a long time. Maybe the influencers and apologists remain loyal, but only while they get as much business from Duterte. For the majority of those 16 million, they share the situation as the rest of us. They ought to be viewed as part of our constituency for authentic change.
And this is where progressive activists should find their distinct role. With Duterte proving to be no different from previous presidents, if not much worse, the activists should seize the moment to articulate the program for national democracy. It remains a most reliable yardstick by which the people could measure up pretenders who claim they are for change.
Activists should promote the program’s contents that articulate the real aspirations of the majority of our people: genuine agrarian reform, national industrialization, comprehensive social policy, progressive education and culture, independent foreign policy, respect for and full participation of women in national affairs, the right to self-determination for national minorities, and a government that’s as patriotic and pro-democracy as our people.
There are many actions we could take. For instance: In the face of massive spending and electoral cheating by way of premature campaigning, citizens could begin to crowdfund candidates against tyranny and for democracy. As we expose and denounce the epal trapo candidates funded by druglords and oligarchs, we should support candidates that offer to fight for us.
As we enter the new year and approach the elections, those of us so honored by earning Duterte’s ire and his apologists’ hate must be more creative, more courageous, more daring, more united. The tyrant and his corrupt Hugpong are waiting to be exposed, with the help of our people who are waiting to be led. And if you’ve earned that badge of honor as an enemy of tyranny, we must not despair or be ashamed. Our people are waiting to be inspired and to fight.
Our badge of honor should compel us to give our people a call to action.