For two years now, I’ve come out with this year-end list of what for me are the “Top 10 Mass Movement Moments” in recognition of the efforts of various sectors and groups in advancing the struggle for genuine freedom and democracy. It’s a personal list and I encourage folks to make their own so we can look back at the year with a positive vibe and look forward to the new year with great optimism and firmer resolve.
Here are some of the “mass movement moments” that made a huge impact on public consciousness, mobilized a great number of people and showed oustanding militancy by the struggling people.
- The fight to “Free the 43” is on top of my list. This campaign was a very broad fight, waged here and abroad, involving various sectors, groups, personalities, and political forces. It was a major human rights issue that tested the Aquino administration. The best part is that the campaign proved successful insofar as pressing the new government to withdraw charges against the 43. On December 17, 33 detainees were released. On December 29, two more detainees were freed. Three detainees remain in Bicutan while 5 have opted to stay with the military. This is one campaign that should be summed up because it offers a lot of lessons both political and legal.
- The struggle for land in Hacienda Luisita. This fight has been waged for two decades now but 2010 was another major high point in the struggle. For the first time, the HLI land dispute, which had the stock distribution option as the main issue, was set for oral arguments by the Supreme Court. It was also during this period that the HLI management sought to maneuver and undermine the court proceedings by issuing a bogus compromise deal. The sham compromise was immediately exposed by the farmers and their lawyers. Protests were held at the SC and in HLI. The case is yet to be resolved. The farmers have rejected the mediation being conducted by the SC.
- The militance of the North Triangle residents. This is one struggle where we saw the determination of the urban pooor in defending their right to housing. With no real relocation plans waiting for them, the residents of North Triangle QC relied on their own organized strength and militantly resisted the demolition teams, resulting in street battles along EDSA. The residents were able to get a reprieve and the demolition attempts appeared to have stopped for the meantime.
- The “kuliglig” drivers’ resistance. This is another display of militance by working people defending their right to livelihood. On the day they were to be banned form main roads, the kuliglig drivers assembled near Manila City Hall and blocked the main road with their vehicles. The protest on December 1 was violently dispersed by the police. Thirteen were arrested, many were injured. The economic crisis is so severe that people are ready to protest when their livelihood is threatened.
- The nationwide protests and strikes by students and teachers against budget cuts in education. The sustained protests against the budget cuts were able to mobilize thousands nationwide. The actions were laudible because aside from the numbers mobilized, the activities were broad, alliance-based actions. Students and teachers marched side by side with school administrators.
- Guarding the automated elections. The year 2010 was historic also because of the first automated nationwide polls. People were anxious about the reliability of the elections, especially when there is the fear of a failure of elections and a GMA-holdover. Various groups were organized, including AES Watch, Kontra Daya and the nationwide network of TFPW. There were also broad protest actions against any failure of elections and GMA’s holdover. The Jericho March at the Comelec united many groups opposed to GMA.
- Electoral victories – 2010 also saw gains in the electoral arena as progressive partylist groups gained more votes and a new progressive partylist entered Congress. The increase in votes however was undermined by the many bogus partylist groups that the Comelec accredited. The 2010 elections also provided valuable lessons in the conduct of a nationwide campaign for the Senate.
- GMA’s last days in office. Arroyo’s last days in office were marked with protest actions demanding accountability. On June 29, Bayan led protesters to a march in Mendiola. A giant mural as unveiled and dancers dressed in prison orange danced to the tune of Michael Jackson’s “Beat It” and Lady Gaga’s “Telephone”.
- Aquino’s first SONA. The SONA march was the signal fire in challenging and exposing the new Aquino regime. The challenge revolved around economic policies, human rights, justice and national sovereignty. Nearly 10,000 marched to Batasan on that day. The SONA speech fell short of many people’s expectations and showed the main weaknesses and lack of depth of the Aquino government.
- Fight against impunity. This year the fight against impunity continued. We marched to condemn the extrajudicial killings under the new administration. Despite Palace claims that 3 out of the 6 cases have been prosecuted, more killings emerged reaching a total of 20 as the year ended. This year also marked the first anniversary of the Maguindanao massacre, with journalists and social activists holding activities in Mendiola and Maguindanao.
The biggest challenge now is to arouse, mobilize and organize the Filipino people in their millions nationwide. The challenge is not without basis. The international and domestic crisis continues to worsen. The militant struggle of the residents of North Triangle and the kuliglig drivers is an indication of the readiness of the people to fight for their rights. As we take stock of our vcitories and shortcomings, we are evermore committed to the struggle for genuine freedom and democracy.
2010 has been a great year with its share of difficulties and trials. 2011 does not promise to be less difficult. However, in remaining steadfast in our principles and in continuing to rely on the strength of the masses, our future remains bright.
P.S. Special recognition is in order for the people behind DUKOT which won Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actor and Best Cinematography in the recently concluded FAMAS Awards. Congrats to Direk Joel Lamangan, Boni Ilagan, Alen Dizon and the producers. This may just be the beginning of a renaissance of socially-relevant films getting mainstream success.