By Milwida M. Guevara
Many of us were encouraged when President Trump revoked the policy of separating children from their migrant parents while crossing the US-Mexico border illegally. The enormous pressure created by street protests, and advocacies through various forms of media was strong enough to push him back. Indeed, public opinion and collective action are powerful weapons of last resort.
This bolsters our belief that citizens can influence government’s policies, and programs, particularly those that are repugnant, unfair, and are not well-thought of. Citizens need to have courage, go out of their comfort zones, reawaken their sense of dignity, and, patriotism.
We applaud the Iloilo residents who responded to the President’s criticisms of the church, and, his vulgar jokes with civility. They showed us how we should respond to a speech that is offensive to our sense of decency. This is a form of censure and an effective push back. One cartoon portrays a flustered President who was unable to understand what just happened, “Anyare” he asks? He was used to an audience who laughs at his jokes. Such positive reception must have made him believe that his tirades and the way he delivered them were acceptable and correct.
We applaud business groups, organizations, and individuals who have publicly aired their disagreements with the proposed Charter Change and federalism. They know that disagreements with government can have unfavorable results. There are a hundred and one ways by which government may make their lives uncomfortable. But their principles are larger than their fears. Their tipping point has been reached when their conscience says ”Enough,”
Push back initiatives in the country may be small and fragmented. But they are happening, and by serendipity, accompanied by tolling of bells. They have taken various forms. A group of women friends wear white every Monday to show their protest against the detention of Senator De Lima. Prof. Monsod encourages her readers to send letters via email to Justices and government officials to express their disgust over their decisions and behaviour. Our town residents had a procession carrying the Virgin of Salambao from Rizal Park to the Supreme Court in protest of the conversion of hectares of our rivers to a landfill. Bishops issue pastoral letters to “stop the verbal persecution of the Catholic church.” I heard that Indie films have been made that portray the evils of EJKs. There are hashtags dedicated to observe how posters of politicians like Mr. Bong Go are plastered all over the country way ahead of the campaign period. The traditional ones are protests, marches and public assemblies.
I am beholden to the courage of American celebrities who express their censure of government. Movie icons like Robert de Niro and Meryl Streep take advantage of their stature and national events to express their critique of political leaders. Satires such are “Saturday Live” are astutely produced to mock government policies and outrageous behavior. I miss a similar Filipino satire in the 80s, “Abangan ang Susunod na Kabanata” which portrayed corruption and inefficiencies in government in a hilarious but critical way. We hope that there will be more Tessie Tomas, Noel Trinidad, Jon Lapuz, and Willie Nepomuceno. Their craft is not only ingenious. Their messages are stinging and sharp.
I hear that many are waiting for a leader who will inspire and lead. But we cannot keep on waiting. Everybody has the power of one. We can always do something to push back policies, and pronouncements that disregard the rule of law, disrespect rights and dignity of persons, and violate our sense of decency. There are petitions, meetings, and campaigns to join. There are messages to write and deliver. There are “trapos” and sycophants to ostracize. There are remarks that are offensive and far from what is true that we must correct. There are peers, family members, and our friends whom we can influence. Let us claim our right to be informed, to be heard, and to push back.