TindigNation (Inquirer Editorial)

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This is the clever—and appropriate—moniker conceived by Jim Paredes for today’s nationwide protests. It encapsulates the combination of taking a stand, expressing indignation, and manifesting the spirit of national solidarity of a citizenry that knows full well a ruling party can never be The People.

The House of Representatives claims they were elected to represent the people, and therefore, what they do carries the implied consent of their constituents, who are The People. But they were not elected to commit crimes; and their constituents certainly have the right to make it known, loud and clear, when their representatives have been faithless.

Fr. Joaquin Bernas, SJ says what the House has done is to resolve to commit a crime. What unfolded in the House with the passage of HR 1109 was not Charter change, it was the raising of the standard of war, a proclamation of intent to embark on a path leading straight to a constitutional crisis.

Some would prefer to lie back and enjoy it, until that crisis actually comes to pass. The Arroyo administration is doing everything it can to encourage this mentality. It is also leaving nothing to chance, warning of saboteurs and provocateurs infiltrating today’s peaceful protests to justify the interdiction of buses from the provinces and its campaign to intimidate the public.

All efforts to intimidate the citizens in the pursuit of their constitutionally ordained right to petition government for the redress of grievances should always be met with resistance. And if our lawmakers have proclaimed their intention to commit a crime, it is our duty as citizens to stop our representatives in their tracks and to warn them that there’s such a thing as citizens’ arrest, which is what People Power essentially is.

We acknowledge that there are citizens who are no fans of the present dispensation, who are as outraged over what’s going on as the rest, but who question whether rallies are worth it. What of the economic dislocation, the traffic, and the discomfort rallies cause, they ask?

We do not know of any functioning democratic country—whether the United States, the United Kingdom, France or South Korea or even Japan—where the exercise of fundamental freedoms is questioned instead of the officialdom that has provoked public protest. Protests must be peaceful, but they are not a picnic. Nor should they be, for they are meant to serve notice to our rulers that an issue has so captured the public imagination that it cannot be ignored.

What’s more, in this particular case, the country must be called upon to reflect on the price it will pay, if it sets aside protest today on the pretext that it’s not worth it to be inconvenienced. Consider the supposed irritation a well-publicized, peaceful rally could possibly cause compared to the non-stop inconveniences an emergency situation arising from a constitutional crisis will create.

Today is the beginning of a public appeal. That appeal will manifest itself in weekly actions throughout the country, culminating in a nationwide noise barrage on the weekend before President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo delivers what should be her final State of the Nation Address.

The young, in particular, will be taking center stage today, which is as it should be. Their idealism still untarnished, and their spirit still uncorrupted by the avarice, cynicism, and blasé mercenary calculations of their elders in the House, they will do as Pippin the Hobbit did in that famous scene from “The Return of King.” After Pippin bravely climbs a cliff to light one of the seven signal-beacons between Gondor and Rohan, Gandalf exclaims, “Hope is kindled!”

And so should it be tomorrow, as hope is rekindled by means of the protests in the cities of Makati, Quezon, Bacolod, Iloilo and Davao, and in Bohol. A series of signal-beacons will warn the public that the forces of darkness are gearing up to march. We can only hope that The People will thunder a response as determined as King Théoden’s, when he saw the signal-beacons aflame. “And Rohan,” he said, summoning the riders of his kingdom, “will answer!”