The youth and the unpopular President

July 18, 2008. It was probably the largest anti-Arroyo youth mobilization I’ve been to. Thousands of students from dozens of high schools, colleges and universities in Metro Manila, including several hundreds from UP Diliman, converged at Plaza Miranda and marched together towards Mendiola to air the youth’s collective and justified grievances against the Arroyo administration.

My day started mildly with an interview together with Airah at the Office of Student Affairs as a requirement for recognition of STAND-UP. Then we went back to Math Building to speak with students who have themselves walked out, and invited them to join the protest at Palma Hall and at Mendiola.

Before noon, dozens of students marched from the Math Building and the National Institute of Geological Sciences Building to join the hundreds of other students at Palma Hall lobby for a brief program before we all boarded jeepneys to Espana, Manila.

From Espana, the UP Diliman contingent were joined by hundreds of students from nearby high schools and colleges, and students from the University of Santo Tomas (UST) and the Polytechnic University of the Philippines (PUP). Together, we marched along Quezon Boulevard, amidst some cheers and confetti from pedestrians and residents along the road, all the way to Plaza Miranda where the main program of the protest was held.

For around two hours we all chanted and listened to impassioned speeches from representatives of schools and universities, even from the largely affluent Ateneo de Manila, to sectoral representatives from Bayan Muna, Kabataang Pinoy Party and other mass organizations.

At half past four, we all started to march in thousands to Mendiola.

By the time we all got to Morayta in front of Far Eastern University (FEU), the police unleashed their fire truck water canons and tried to disperse the thousands-strong warm bodies by pushing us back. It was agitating. It was the first time I volunteered to to join the front-liners to break through the police barricade. I’ve never felt so angry and agitated in a rally before.

As we were linking arms, pushing and shoving against the policemen who were pushing us back, I wanted to burst and scream. All we had were our unarmed selves, our principles and our justified calls. And to that, the Arroyo administration answers back, not with long-term and genuine pro-people solutions, but intensified forms of repression and military intelligence operations against the youth in campuses across the country. I’ve never felt more resolved in my involvement in the youth movement. (Fine, to appease those who fear I might default on my studies, I’ve never been more resolved in pursuing law studies having realized how this administration has continually used the legal system and its technicalities to oppress and repress dissent, and maintain its hold on to power. I’ve never been more resolved realizing that the high cost of law studies, even in UP, has made it even more exclusive to those who can afford it, and are fortunate enough to have connections, to the detriment of people who need legal education the most).

Agitated as we were, we decided to march back towards Espana and held a noise barrage amidst cheers from motorists and pedestrians. We were joined by contingents from COURAGE and MIGRANTE. This President is a dead duck after 2010. If you still believe she will willfully hand over the administration to the next leader, you better think again. To survive beyond 2010 and all the cases that will definitely come her way, this President will simply not step down, unless it is certain the next administration will protect her. Such she knows we will not allow either in the next elections, (if there will be a national election two years from now).

Pinning our hopes on genuine change in 2010 is almost plain naivete. And while she and her family spends our money, amassing billions of pesos from her family’s monopoly on government contracts and other such kickbacks, millions of Filipinos continue to fall below the poverty line amidst a worsening economic crises that has affected and has cut through all classes and sectors in society (except her family and cohorts, of course). Kabataan, hindi na tayo pag-asa ng bayan. Inaasahan na tayo ng sambayanan. [Pictures from Jonna Baldres]

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