By Menchu Aquino Sarmiento
It’s a fact that millions voted for the convicted tax evader scion of “the greediest political dynasty,” as a European broadsheet described the Marcoses. The political analyst Dr. Julio Teehankee points out: these election results are a clear repudiation of the EDSA People Power event. With a 14-year head start and thousands of mercenary celebrity influencers, as well as paid trolls, here and abroad, serving the dishonorable cause of historical revisionism, the Filipino salawikain: Daig ng maagap ang masipag is tragically true.
However, the seeds of the pink revolution have been sown, taken root and will thrive and grow. Even Dr. Teehankee admitted that the Kakampink volunteerism for TROPA was unprecedented. We may be late, being on Filipino time, but we’re here to stay. The failure to deliver on well-milled rice for only P20/kg, the pressures of rising fuel costs, inflation, supply chain disruptions and the P13 Trillion Debt burden from the outgoing administration, may finally open eyes blinded by promises of gold bars, give-aways of house and lot titles, pleasure trips to HKG with free hotel, meals and shopping money, hundreds of thousands of pesos transferred to online bank accounts. Millions are counting on the winning UniTeam as their lotto grand prize. Although they mock us now, we mustn’t stoop to their level and do likewise when they’re let down and disappointed again.
Given that millions of Filipinos have been deceived by such promises, conventional street protests may just heighten the rift. Small (under a thousand participants) pickets or rallies are ineffective, merely worsening traffic, and further alienating and annoying commuters and motorists. The masa launched the violent EDSA Tres in retaliation for the middleclass-initiated EDSA Dos which deposed Erap, the president who represented them. Rather than taking it to the streets, boycotting businesses run by the new old cronies and civilly calling out entertainers who served the other side, would be better.
The Harvard Kennedy School researcher Erica Chenoweth (Why Civil Resistance Works) found that truly effective protest movements require large numbers: at least 3.5% of the population. We have the longest running armed internal conflicts. Yet Chenoweth has found that non-violent movements which have reached that critical 3.5% of the population have twice the rate of success of conventional internecine warfare. Thus the success of EDSA One, with 2 million participants at its peak, or over 4% of our 1986 population of just 54.3 million. 36 years later, with a 110 million population, we need around 3.3 million active and committed Filipinos to sustain a movement. Chenoweth found that once that critical mass of supporters is reached, and granted that they keep it up together (no in-fighting or ningas cogon and splintering into rival factions), a movement has a real chance of surviving, coming to fruition and effecting lasting change.
An active change actor must continue to be seen and heard. As a sign that I still have hope in a better future for Filipinos, my pink parol and Philippine flag are staying up. Protect those beautiful murals on your wall. Kakampink restaurants and business establishments might periodically play (once every hour?) songs like Kulay Rosas, Liwanag sa Dilim, Tatsulok and the poignant Bayan Ko. When harder times come, respectfully engage with friendly strangers on what they believe to be the cause of our shared suffering. Many Filipinos do not understand that they have the right to demand good governance and accountability from our highest public servants.
Civil resistance movements need not be conventional street protests which risk becoming super spreader events in these pandemic times. Dr. Teehankee sees promise in the tao-sa-tao, puso-sa-puso engagements as practiced in the belated H2H (house-to-house) sorties. So stop it already with the contemptuous dismissal of half of our voting population as tabago and bobotante. We especially need to be truth-tellers in these times of fake news. Digital warriors must soldier on too. With Sara Duterte set to become the DepEd Secretary, expect more ruthless and appalling historical revisionism in the school versions of the Drug War, EJK, the PRRD administration’s COVID-19 response, and the further whitewashing of the Marcos Martial Law era. We ourselves must study and learn the truth, in order to share it kindly. We have to keep on making the effort to listen and to understand why our kapwa Pilipino believe and feel as they do. That is radical love too: truthful as well as true.
Menchu Aquino Sarmiento is an award-winning writer and a social concerns advocate. IRL (In Real Life) are short verbal pagmumuni-muni, the essay equivalent of fast fiction--but in real life. She really wants more Filipinos to care, and to do something legal and non-violent about it, preferably together, so that we act more like a civilized country, a mature democracy.