I have never, like Sor Tessie, a distant aunt, stood in front of a army tank on EDSA more than 20 years ago. I have not experienced a night on the picket lines like my old friend Nina, who ran the risk of giving birth on the sidewalk rather than give up the fight for a group of laborers on strike. I have never attended a prayer rally or walked with uplifted fists in the streets with any group of protesters. A group of co-workers and I became one with the flood of humanity on EDSA once, in 2001, and as we walked past the Richmond Hotel a convoy of black Pajeros stopped in the hotel driveway and let out a diminutive lady in a yellow dress. She turned to us and waved. It was Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.
I find it embarrassing to think that the first and only time I decided to speak up for my country resulted in the coming into power of probably the most devious politican ever to sit as President of the Philippines. GMA, through her prowess as an economist has manipulated the face of capitalism so that it has become the opium of the middle class. Through the remittances of the country’s #1 export—Engr. Juan and Caregiver Juana, our OFWs—she has managed to gloat over a strong economy, lulling the income-earning pinoy into complacency. Add to that the income from the country’s #2 export—its minerals which are now being extracted with a vengeance by numerous foreign mining companies, and you get a mall-going, midnight-sale hunting, gimmick-going Johnny and Jhona. It is this complacency, when disrupted by heavy traffic on a working day, that keeps the middle-class pinoy from ever doing another EDSA.
GMA allows us the simplest freedom: we can complain. People in the media can rant against the corruption of her government, blogs can rant and rage against any public official with no fear of Marcos Martial Law style retaliation. She knows that as long as people are allowed to complain that is all we will ever do. There will be no marches that will cross the line at Mendiola, the man in the street will not walk with the Magdalo along the avenues of Makati, and he will not link arms with anyone else at the lobby of the Manila Peninsula to stand for what Senator Trillanes and General Danny Lim were trying to say last Thursday Nov. 29.
And what were they trying to say? They were telling us to look beyond the nips and tucks that GMA has made on the face of the Philippines and see the gangrenous flesh underneath. The diseased flesh must be excised to keep the healthy parts of the body from getting sick.
But I suppose we were too busy complaining about the traffic to hear them.