Monday, December 3, 2007

Trillanes revolts are warnings to gov’t

By Neal Cruz

The Arroyo administration is strutting like a peacock because the Trillanes revolt has been crushed. But it should take that as a warning. Groups of people resort to armed uprising when all avenues for peaceful reforms have been closed to them. This administration needs many reforms and people have been trying to accomplish them through legal means— through Congress, through the courts, through peaceful marches and demonstrations—but the administration is deaf and refuses to reform.

In the words of Brig. Gen. Danilo Lim, “We have individually and collectively tried all means to resolve this legitimacy issue [of President Macapagal-Arroyo] through the normal electoral, judicial and congressional processes.

“But Mrs. Arroyo used naked power through the issuance of EO 464 and other executive proclamations, and the sheer weight of numbers to paralyze the impeachment process … to frustrate us at every turn.

“After all these had failed, our people tried to air their grievances in peaceful street assemblies. They thought they were exercising a combination of constitutional rights … But they were stopped and dispersed violently with water cannons … and truncheons.

“The abuses of her government continue. The deliberate refusal of the dubious leaders to investigate and prosecute the people responsible for the scandalous ‘Hello Garci’ electoral cheating, the Joc-Joc Bolante multimillion-peso fertilizer scam, the Impsa bribery scandal, the Jose Pidal and the jueteng scandals, the NBN scandal, wholesale bribery of congressmen and governors in Malacañang, as well as the unabated and unresolved extrajudicial killings of citizens … are clear proof of failure of good and decent governance.”

Is General Lim telling the truth or not?

With all the avenues closed, what are we to do? By preventing the people to use peaceful, legal means, the government is actually forcing the people to use violence. By preventing the people to air their grievances through peaceful street marches and demonstrations, it is denying the people an outlet for their resentment and anger. And if it does that, this anger is bound to explode like a volcano.

The government may have crushed the Oakwood mutiny, the Trillanes revolt and another such attempts, but that will not stop the people’s desire for reforms and justice. There will be other “revolts” until one succeeds. Just look at our history.

The journey of the Filipino people to nationhood is replete with many revolts, from Dagohoy and Diego Silang and other pocket revolts until Bonifacio’s 1896 Revolution succeeded, only to be squelched by the Americans. Still, the pocket revolts continued in the Sakdalista, the Hukbalahap and even the Medrano uprisings, and now the NPA and the Muslim revolts.

Our history is littered with the bodies of numerous heroes. Maybe history will later list Lim and Trillanes among them. Today, the Arroyo government, the victor, lists them as villains but decades later, with the benefit of hindsight, history will reverse their roles. During the Spanish colonization, the Spaniards looked at the Filipinos who opposed them as “insurrectos” and “bandidos,” but today they are our heroes.

* * *

I would like to add my voice and that of Plaridel, the association of journalists, to the numerous denunciations of the arrest of journalists during the Peninsula standoff. Why were they arrested and taken to Camp Bagong Diwa in the first place? What law did they violate? They were just doing their jobs. That’s what NCR Police Chief Geary Barias said when he tried to serve the arrest warrant on Trillanes and Lim: “I am just doing my job.” So why did his policemen arrest journalists who were just doing their jobs?

The PNP said it was “to process” them (whatever that means). It said some of the Magdalo officers may have posed as members of media, so they wanted to identify each and every journalist before releasing them. I understand that, but some of them are well-known journalists, like Ces Drilon and Pinky Webb of ABS-CBN, and Ellen Tordesillas, columnist and Malacañang reporter of Malaya. Even policemen must have recognized them, so what was the necessity of hauling them off to Camp Bagong Diwa to be identified?

The real reason, as I see it, is not really “identification” but “intimidation.” The administration wanted to show to the media people that “we can do this to you, so you better behave.” It was intimidation, pure and simple. Except that it made a mistake: journalists are not that easily intimidated.

It reminds me of a similar incident during the Marcos martial law regime when a curfew was also in place. The Philippine Navy invited journalists to a party after deadline on board one of its ships. The journalists thought that the ship would remain docked at the Navy basin on Roxas Boulevard and that they would be able to leave before curfew.

But the ship set sail as soon as they were on board and anchored in the middle of Manila Bay. And stayed there until morning. There was no way we could contact our offices or homes. There were no cell phones then.

Our respective wives and families were frantic when we failed to get home. They didn’t know where we were. They called our offices who told them that we had already left hours ago. So where were we? They called the hospitals, police precincts, even funeral parlors. Nothing. We had disappeared like Jonas Burgos.

What was that caper for? It was intimidation. The military was sending us the message: We can make you disappear without anybody knowing. We can do this to you.

That was the same message the military was sending the journalists in the Makati incident.

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