The sum of our “fears”: Defending pork by attacking the Left

Posted: October 6, 2013 in Economy, Socio-Political, Uncategorized
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The dictionary defines the word “hijack” to mean to take control of a moving vehicle such as a plane. I have been hearing  the word quite often in reference to rallies against the pork barrel system. Every time there is a rally, there seems to be the unfounded fear that the Left would “hijack” the event. I have come across such accusations on social media, on Twitter and Facebook. Some questions are well meaning, while others are just plain malicious with no other intention but to see the mass action fail.

I have tried my best to answer the well-meaning questions on Twitter and FB. I appreciate the efforts of  other netizens who try to put some sense into the discussions, not because they are leftists or anything but because they have enough common sense to know that we need a united front.

I say that the fear is often unfounded because this is hardly ever substantiated by anything other than one’s bias, or by an insidious motive to divide the broad front against pork corruption. One version of this is that the Left will hijack the rally and use it as a platform to attack Aquino. The anti-pork rally will become an anti-Aquino rally.

There are some issues we must answer here. Can the Left indeed hijack a rally such as the one in Luneta or Ayala? So how does one hijack a rally?  And what’s wrong in directing the protest at Aquino?

Yesterday, someone posted that a group of about 500 people at Ayala were hijacking the event by unfurling placards calling for the ouster of Aquino. I personally did not see this group that was being referred to so I doubt its accuracy. But assuming the report was true, I seriously doubt that a group of 500 people can hijack an event, not when there is an organizing committee that takes charge of the program and the conduct of the rally. The Left is part of that organizing committee as it works among the various groups and individuals helping out the event. The program committee is also supported by professional artists. We had an excellent director and various support staff. The program line up was more or less fixed. Unless the so-called 500 people got a bigger stage a, louder sound system and a bigger mobilization than the one that was already in Ayala, they couldn’t really do much in terms of hijacking the event.

Photo Val Rodriguez, Phil Star

The same fear was also raised in Luneta last August 26, that the Leftists with their streamers and placards and loud sound system, would hijack the rally. Well, there wasn’t much to “hijack” during the first Luneta rally since for the most part, there wasn’t even a centralized program as rally organizers did not want to have one. People could basically just do their own thing and find their own spot in the park. Unless you had a crowd and sound system as big as an El Shaddai Sunday gathering, hijacking Luneta would not be possible.

Rallies have organizing committees that prepare the program and conduct of the event. Groups discuss how the rally will take place. The Left is often part of the organizing committee. And the Left has always been upfront with its intentions. For example during the first Luneta rally, we informed other organizers early on that we would be marching to Mendoza after Luneta. We wanted to address our demands straight to the President.

I’ve seen a lot of ridiculous reactions in the run up to rallies, often coming as attempts to divide or scare people.

For example before the first Luneta rally, I got asked regarding the burning of an effigy. Apparently some folks saw a media report on a “pork” effigy which would be brought to Luneta. Some folks started raising the alarm that an effigy would be burned. They made a big deal out of it. When I checked what they were referring to, it turned out to be a papier mache’ of a small pig and it was not meant to be burned. (Some questions were well-meaning but others were just far-out).

Pero may mas OA pang reaksyon.

At the command tent in Luenta, as we were preparing for the rally, one person exclaimed, “Oh no, they’re burning an effigy!” When we looked, it turned out to be a group using incense for a morning prayer. OA di ba? Pero buti sana kung simpleng OA lang ang problema. Making a big deal out of these issues is a calculated attempt to scare and confuse people, a move that would serve the interests of Malacanang and the pork defenders.

A  day before the August 26 Luneta rally, a malicious and anonymous “Ibagsak and rehimeng  US-Aquino”  SMS  started circulating. The text said that the uprising was to start in Luneta and end in Mendiola. The text message was obviously a scare tactic. Bayan had no problem denouncing the SMS since it was never ours to begin with. Other netizens reposted our disclaimer. A similar SMS circulated a day before the Ayala rally, again designed to make it appear that the text came from the Left. Some netizens quickly exposed the scare tactic even before we even had to. (Meanwhile, a tweet by one Leah Navarro, staunch supporter of Aquino, said that that SMS was proof that the rally had already been hijacked. So gets nyo na sino nakikinabang sa mga ganung text?)

Our group has always been upfront with our position on the Aquino regime. We never hid the fact that we are opposed to this regime on many issues such as land reform, human rights, sovereignty, economic development and so on. We hold protests during Aquino’s State of the Nation Address, and that’s no secret. So expect that the participation of the Left in these broad anti-pork rallies will also include a sharper critique of and a more direct message addressed to the President.

And why not? The pork barrel issue clearly calls for it.

Aquino is THE biggest hindrance to the removal of the pork barrel system. We have enumerated the reasons in our previous public statements.

  1. Aquino refuses to scrap the pork barrel system, both the congressional pork and the much bigger presidential pork. In the 2014 budget, while PDAF is no longer there, the funds were merely transferred to other line agencies while lawmakers retained the “right” to nominate their pet projects which will appear as line items in the budget. That’s still pork, no matter how you cook it.
  2. Aquino has asked the Supreme Court to lift the TRO on the release of the remaining 2012 PDAF and the Malamapaya funds.
  3. Aquino has given special treatment to Janet Napoles, threatening to undermine the investigation and prosecution of those involved in the scam. This may lead to selective prosecution.
  4. Aquino has been caught red-handed in disbursing so-called government “savings” as a form of pork and incentive for politicians. Many have pointed out the unconstitutionality of the Disbursement Acceleration Program, yet the Palace is sticking to its defense. Aquino wants to preserve the system of lump sum discretionary funds and the corrupt system of patronage that pork makes possible.

Which brings us to the next point. Why shouldn’t the rally be critical of Aquino? What’s wrong if groups carry placards that say Aquino is the Pork Barrel King? What’s wrong with directing the demand to abolish pork squarely at Malacanang?

(Of course the event itself has a common theme and all participating groups and individuals agree to that. However, the common theme is just that. It’s a common theme but it is not the ONLY call nor is it the maximum demand that some groups  can push. The common theme or call is not a ceiling or a cap. It is the minimum basis of unity for holding the event. )

Now, the usual modus of the die-hard Aquino supporter is this: they spread on social media that the protest against pork will be turned into a venue to attack Aquino. They believe that since Aquino is SO popular, portraying an event as ANTI-Aquino will make the event flop. It will turn off people. Grabe din ang arrogance no?

Now some folks easily fall for this trap for one reason or another. They will make the unnecessary disclaimer that this is NOT an anti-Aquino rally in order to pacify the die-hard pro-Aquino intrigeros on social media who keep saying that an anti-Aquino call would prevent others from joining. They sometimes fail to see that the intention of the intrigue is to force the organizers to say that the rally is NOT anti-Aquino, NOT oppositional to Aquino, in order to blunt the message. So that later on, the President can say that he and the protesters are on the same side. The rally is in fact in support of the Daang Matuwid and the President. The President’s officials are even willing to meet with the rally organizers so they can sit down and discuss alternatives. We’re all in this together. Damay-damay na etc etc. .

Galing di ba? So who’s  hijacking the rally now?

What I also find bothersome and insulting is that in the attempt to appease these so-called “pro-Aquino yet anti-pork netizens”, some protest organizers, wittingly or unwittingly, reinforce the unfounded allegations and biases against the Left.

So what if some groups carry anti-Aquino calls, isn’t that within their right to express themselves? That doesn’t negate the character of the Ayala event as an anti-pork rally. So why make a disclaimer that can be turned and used against the rally organizers? Why make a disclaimer that can be used to attack one of the participants of the rally, particularly the Left?

I saw one accusation, though no direct reference was made, that the Left was “nakikisakay at nanggagamit” and that they are no different from politicians. If indeed it was the left that was being referred to, I would want that person to know what the Left did for the Ayala rally so that the person could be disabused of the notion that the Left was “nakikisakay at nanggagamit”.

The Left brought in people early to the Ayala rally, occupying a huge space that was there when the program was about to start and the Makati employees had not arrived. Kumakalog ang Paseo nung simula dahil wala pang tao. The Left also brought in other allies and anti-pork groups and personalities, some of whom were hesitant to join the Ayala rally because they thought that the message was too soft on Malacanang. (Yes there are those types too.) We mobilized artists, support staff, speakers as well as resources. It was the Bayan forces who stayed throughout the program at Ayala, even when the heavy rains started pouring. They stayed up to the end of the rally. Hindi sila bumitiw.

For those not familiar with organizing rallies, mobilizing people is difficult work. You prepare transportation, food, marshals, placards and stuff. It’s not as easy as writing a press release or making a Facebook meme. And these groups, the workers, the farmers, urban poor, professionals; they all made their own sacrifices to make the event a success by mobilizing their members from the communities and workplaces that were relatively far from Makati.

Contrast the efforts of the workers and farmers say to one Jim Paredes who is noisy on social media but admitted in one of the meetings for the first Million People March in Luneta that he was NOT for the abolition of PDAF (because it can be used for good) but was only supportive of prosecuting Napoles.

Contrast the efforts of the students and urban poor groups mobilizing to folks such as those in the Black and White Movement who during the anti-Arroyo protests only mobilized enough people to fill a van, yet they get to be interviewed all over the place as if they mobilized the entire rally in Ayala. (Ask any of the groups active in the anti-GMA movement and they’ll tell you the same).

The good thing though with these protests is that those actively involved have “leveled-up” so to speak. Hats off to the commitment displayed by netizens, bloggers, artists such as Juana Change and many others, who really worked to make the rally successful. Sila yung totoong nagtatrabaho. Hindi tulad nung nagte-text o retweet lang ng kung anu-anung kabalbalan, kunwari concerned sa kalalabasan ng rally pero sa totoo lang wala naman silang intensyong dumalo ng rally, at ang gusto lang ay manggulo at manghati.

Our understanding of the issue has also developed. The first Luneta rally was expectedly focused on Napoles and PDAF. The succeeding rallies tried to raise the discussion to lump sum discretionary spending. In Ayala, we’ve seen how participants of the rally gained the understanding that pork is not just PDAF. It also includes DAP and other forms of discretionary spending. The call to abolish ALL pork became clearer.

This movement is progressing. This cannot be prevented. The defenders of pork can only hope to divide the movement by attacking the Left, or by arousing some irrational fear of an evil opposition take-over.

The defenders of pork have grown desperate. They will ultimately fail.

Photo Philippine Daily Inquirer

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