An Open Letter to Bertrand Rodriguez Jr who wrote an open letter to Thomas van Beersum who wrote an open letter to Joselito Sevilla
I applaud you for your patriotism. I can see that, even if geographically you are no longer in the Philippines, there is genuine concern on your part towards the welfare of your countrymen. Your passion for the nation is admirable, as even people living in the country can become apathetic towards politics. But I seriously doubt that your brand of nationalism is what our country needs right now.
I understand why you are calling out Mr. van Beersum; it is, after all, a little bit peculiar why we have foreigners actively involved in political activity. Yet foreign powers meddling in local politics does happen, but it happens on a macro-political level. Our foreign policies, our political leanings, and even our decision to move to K-12, was highly influenced by foreign power. In other words, if another country meddles, it’s diplomacy; if an individual meddles, it’s a deportation case.
I am in a similar situation as you are. I didn’t grow up rich, and now I live in a foreign country. Just like you, I have witnessed coup attempts, eight elections, and, yes, countless mass demonstrations. As a boy from Bicol, I “rose above” poverty and was fortunate enough to study in my dream university in Manila. In college, I worked two jobs, barely scraping by, to afford my education and livelihood in my alma matter.
But this is where our similarities end. When you started to talk about martial law and activism, I see where you are coming from; I can read through the suffering and injustice you have experienced. I understand that and I feel for you. But I would not be the first to villify the radical movement, when in fact it is exactly that movement that you should be part of as it has brought us to where we are now.
When your grandfather had been arrested during martial law for being a dissident journalist, your family waited patiently for his release. Thankfully, he survived the ordeal, and even put up your zarzuela school. Wouldn’t you think, however, that he was just fortunate he survived? Countless people have been brutally tortured and murdered during this time; your grandfather wasn’t special — he was lucky.
How would you have felt if, after his arrest, you never knew where he was brought to, or if he even were alive? How would you have felt if they just found his body riddled with bullets by the mountains? How would you have felt if the military involved your parents, his children, in the arrest? All of these despicable actions done for the ego of the royal Marcos family.
And this kind of force arrest did not stop with the Marcos regime. Forced kidnapping of journalists happens until today. The Aquino administration has promised to resurface them. Up to now, there has been no word of Sheryl, of Karen, of Jonas. If they were your family members, what would you do?
You talk about how rallies through the years have not achieved anything as the poor remain poor. In which case, shouldn’t you be asking if we are rallying hard enough? Maybe, we should rally harder, faster, and wetter. You and I are one in condemning the Marcos regime, yet this regime was toppled by initiatives from the people, initiatives that can only be described as activism. The rallies you loathe for being “unproductive” are the rallies that have freed your grandfather.
You see, Marcos was succeeded by, respectively, a land-owner, a general, an actor, Gloria, and now another land-owner. Where is genuine representation for the people? Where are the people like you and like me who understand and empathize with the plight of the poor instead of the problems of the towering skyscrapers of Makati? Every six years, we are promised change, yet we are dragged into a position worse from the beginning. It becomes mind-numbingly frustrating, seeing the situations repeat themselves in worse patterns than before.
You talk about the rule of law as if it were the gospel truth (though not even THAT is infallible). You argue that these people are in violation of the law, but in Neoliberal Philippines, the law violates you. There is, of course, nothing wrong with being prim and proper and making sure you are 100% within the boundaries of what is legal; but social protest is not illegal. Social protest is mandatory in a democracy.
When candidates are elected, the assumption is they have the mandate of the majority (or at least are friends with the COMELEC Commisioner). But what if they don’t? What if their interests are for their own gain? What if their policies are beneficial only for a selected 100 families? What do we do? We need to let them know. But our senators are not enough. Our congressmen are not enough. WE, in our communal unity, arm in arm, are barely enough to be heard — and it is within our civil liberties to express our concerns in a radical way.
Men Under the Uniform
As for the policemen, we recognize them as human beings, as but pawns in the larger scheme. When they put on their anti-riot gear, use their shields and batons to fight people, or spray the masses with water, they put on the uniform of the state. I do not condemn the individual actions of the police; instead, I condemn the way the government uses these policemen as personal guards. I condemn the barricades that separate the “civil” from the “unruly.” I condemn the use of force, the use of violence, of any kind, from any side, directed to anyone.
By all means, the men behind the shields are free to strip off their uniforms and join us. Like us, they are victims of a society that has condoned a personal military.
It sounds so good to hear, that all the poor need to “escape” poverty is more and more training. That they are poor because they are “hopeless”, “ignorant”, “gullible”, “emotional”, and “uneducated”.
For every one success story romanticized on telenovelas, you have 1,000 starving families wanting the same thing. Who wants to be poor? These people have jobs. These people work in the fields. Under the heat of sun, they plant, they drive padyaks, they sweep cigarette butts, they wash clothes, they construct buildings. A lot of them, if not all, actually are hardworking citizens. Don’t you think they have dreams? Ambitions? Aspirations?
But they’re still poor. Isn’t that the biggest irony of them all? Given that we have established that they work, who do you think is to blame for the poverty?
It was in 2013 that they ran and lost. In 2010, Ang Ladlad was barred by the COMELEC for reasons of immorality. Oh, and they gave a partylist to Palparan for Marcos loyalty.
Glimmer of Hope
You wanted to end your piece talking about how we should be more positive in our government.
For the life of me, I do not know why I should be.
I could be reading the news wrong, of course, but as of today, our president has yet to comment on abducted activists and journalists. Our previous president, who by all means has so much to answer for, is now a congressman. The president before that, convicted of plunder, is now mayor of the capital city. The wife of the man who declared martial law is governor of Ilocos. One of the cities down south is notorious for having a mayor with his own death squad. In Bicol, one of the governors should be, by aesthetic merits, appearing in Indie films and not be wearing barongs.
We are ripped by war, by dogma, by imperialism. Everyday, people starve. People die due to bad or expensive health care. Tuitions in public universities are skyrocketing. We maltreat our elderly, our street children, our disabled. Gay men are being discrimated. Up to today, we cannot even have a sane debate on the RH Law without invoking the almighty. I can go on and on and on and I could still make that list longer.
The gap between rich and poor, the powerful and the powerless, the loud and the silent, has never been more apparent than today.
I ask you now, with all of these things in question, what do YOU do? Where do YOU stand?
Because I refuse to do nothing.
St Augustine said, “An unjust law in no law at all.’ Which means I have a right, even a duty to resist. With violence or civil disobedience. You should pray I choose the latter.
-The Great Debaters
- Open letter to Thomas van Beersum who made the cop cry (rappler.com)
- In Praise of Thomas Van Beersum’s Internationalism (karlomongaya.wordpress.com)
- Open Letter to Crying Cop (naomispenny.blogspot.com)
- The crying cop and the white guy (the two sides of the story) (fromscraptoscratch.wordpress.com)
Thank you for putting my sentiments about his article into words. 🙂