Ral l i es not just about number
PROTEST actions were once again held nationwide yesterday, Bonifacio Day (Nov. 30), by those condemning the burial of the former dictator Ferdinand Marcos at the Libingan ng mga Bayani. I wrote this article early in the afternoon so I don’t know how successful the event was. But that doesn’t matter. That the street marches and rallies were held is already a success in itself. These activities show the spirit of the 1986 Edsa people power uprising is still with us.
These protest actions have their roots in the campaign for the May polls when it became apparent that the effort by the Marcoses to revise the narrative of Marcos’s misrule was seen to have gained ground with the rise in the surveys of then vice presidential candidate Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. “Never again!” soon became the rallying cry especially in social media. Concerned individuals then put up websites and formed groups advancing the cry.
Marcos almost won the vice presidency, losing by just a hairline to now Vice President Leni Robredo. But former mayor Rodrigo Duterte, who campaigned on the promise of allowing the burial of the former dictator’s remains at the Libingan, won. He made good his vow early in his presidency, ordering the military, which runs the Libingan, to prepare for the burial.
That prompted the opposers to go to the Supreme Court, which eventually ruled that no law was violated by the President’s decision. As a result, bigger protest actions were planned nationwide to pressure the Supreme Court and Duterte to scuttle the burial. But even before those protest actions could materialize, the Marcoses, like a “thief in the night” went ahead with it. Spontaneous protest actions erupted.
That also saw the birth of a new anti-Marcos movement decades after the first one triumphed with the ouster of the Marcoses from Malacañang. What should be inspiring in this movement is that millennials who were not born yet when the Marcoses ruled the land are going out in the streets and linking up with the “Old Guards.” A new narrative of struggle is being written as the Marcoses and their supporters and fans attempt to revise the country’s history.
Now, critics are downplaying the rise of the movement and the launching of the protest actions. Most of them are playing the numbers game.
First, there is this saying that “a journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.” In the late seventies and early ‘80s, only a few daring souls in Cebu joined the rallies against the Marcos dictatorship. That didn’t mean the protesters advanced the wrong cause or that their cause lacked popular support. It was just that the many were either afraid or were not yet awakened. Those street marches and demonstrations would grow in the mid-’80s.
Second, it would be wrong to consider the people as one homogeneous mix considering that their levels of social awareness differs. They can be classified as the few advanced, the not-so-few middle and the bigger backward elements. In most protest actions, the few with the highest level of social awareness constitute their backbone. But that is not static because as the social awareness of more people rise, so too the number of protesters.
Third is the rule: every action sparks an equal and opposite reaction. Edsa 1 was generally seen as the people’s reaction to the assassination of former senator Benigno Aquino Jr. in 1983. In the current protest actions, the burial of Marcos at the Libingan is the trigger. Another issue or controversy in the future could spark a bigger participation in protest actions.