Learn how to cry!

January 20, 2015. After watching ‪Pope Francis‬’ speech in his encounter with the youth, I am even more amazed and inspired with his words and ideas. I hope the message is not trivialized or watered down because the message is actually a very strong criticism and challenge for many of us young students.

He did not speak simply of the love we are so used to. He was speaking of the love of Christ, through others, especially the poor. That is why he extolled that we have to “learn how to love and be loved”! Because we don’t! He even said it is the “most important subject we have to learn in a university” which is a strong criticism of how our universities are run. We are not being taught how to love others with true compassion. The focus has always been on becoming employable professionals for a ‘globalised’ future. We have lost our sense of community and compassion with society!

When he told us that we have to learn to cry, certainly hindi niya tayo sinasabihang maging iyakin. It is not an affirmation of young people’s propensity to cry when they are heartbroken. NO! It was his way of emphasizing his message of compassion, of feeling and suffering with the poor and the abused. We do not weep with the oppressed and the abused because we do not feel their suffering. That is what the Pope meant when we have to learn how to weep!

He actually criticized how many of us practice our brand of “compassion” through charity. The Pope said “It’s a compassion that makes us put our hands in our pockets and give something to the poor. But if Christ had had that kind of compassion he would have greeted a couple of people, given them something, and walked on. But it was only when he was able to cry that he understood something of our lives.” Hindi sapat na ‘tumutulong’ o nagbibigay lang tayo sa mga inaapi. We have to learn how to “cry” with them.

He actually criticized many young people with his words. He responded to “Ricky” after he narrated how he helped the poor with his project. Thank you Ricky, the Pope said, but he asked him “You give and give help but do you know how to receive?” The camera didn’t show it but Ricky probably answered yes to the Pope but the Pope gestured to Ricky not so say it but “answer in your heart.” Because the Pope knew that many young people today don’t know how to receive because we think we “need nothing” and that we are “self-sufficient”. He kept repeating these words throughout his speech.

Young students today are so used to occasional charity works and relief operations, which makes us feel good for helping others. But the Pope asked us, “Do you ask the poor to give you the wisdom they have?” The Pope emphasized this when he repeatedly told us the we “lack one thing” and that we have to “learn how to beg” and “become a beggar”. We keep giving and yet we do not “let ourselves be evangelized by those [we] serve”. It is so often that I see and hear to many young students with matapobre comments against the poor, na que sa tamad, na que sa puro bisyo, na que sa anak nang anak. But the Pope now challenged us, “Do you let yourselves be evangelized by those you serve? This is what helps you mature in your commitment to give to others. Learn how to open your hand from your very own poverty.”

Let us go to the ‘peripheries’! Let’s learn from the plight of the marginalized and the oppressed. “Let us open our eyes, hearts, and minds to the corruption, social inequality, and the evil reigning in our society — and let us collectively and actively struggle against the system that perpetuates this.”

So why do you wear jeans, use a laptop and a camera?

So, you believe in socialism, why do you use Facebook, your phone and laptop, why do you wear branded jeans or shoes or eat at fastfood chains, all “products of capitalism”?

This is a typical rhetoric, and a stupid one at that, I get many times from those who are just eager to try and discredit activists and leftists but refuse to engage in ideological tussle.

The first answer is, most often, necessity. So, what do you expect us to wear, loincloths? Second, just so they realize, “capitalism” did not manufacture those products. Industries and the labor of many workers in socialized production did in assembly lines across the globe. We do not owe our shoes, clothes, computers and cars to “capitalism.” Capital did not manufacture them, labor did. In fact, capitalists barely have any participation in production, it is simply by virtue of control and ownership that they appropriate the wealth created by production, and leave the rest scrounging for trickled down salaries and wages.

In a very basic sense, socialism is merely the rightful correction in the contradiction between socialized production and private appropriation of the wealth. Instead of the creation of the “wealth of the few through the labor of the many”, it should be the “wealth of all through the labor of all”. Since products are produced in socialized production, why shouldn’t the appropriation of the wealth be likewise? The struggle for socialism, in the economic sense, is the struggle for the people’s rightful share in the wealth they create.

Third, to demand that leftists reject all products of commercial enterprises when all consumer goods today are produced in private enterprises is nothing but a ploy corner leftists to capitulate their struggle. Which is preposterous, because the entire point of being a leftist and an activist is to continue engaging the status quo, exploit available technologies and everything they need, and change society, not recluse from it. In other words, you cannot demand leftists to live by socialism when it has not yet been won.

Lobbying through blogging

It was our simple “day-off” together. Some of my co-staff members and I, together with Congressman Mong, went to the opening day of the Cine Europa Film Festival in Shangri-la Mall. We caught the screening of Just Another Love Story, which contrary to its pleasant name, is actually dark and engaging Danish thriller film. Having watched it made me miss the days when almost all I did for school, as a film student in UP, was watch non-mainstream movies in class and write papers about them. After the movie, we just had some snacks at the food court before parting ways.

Later that afternoon, I met up with some students from UP Manila who requested for an interview with regard to my opinion on lobbying through blogging and online social networking. Airah was also there to help me answer the queries.

Our first answer was that, there’s no such thing as “lobbying through blogging.” At best, blogging is only a complement to a lobbying campaign in the largely traditional arena of Philippine politics. The primary force in the shaping of public policy is and should always be the mass movement. I conceded, however, that money and economic influence often contest this in the present style of politics that we have. But no matter how slick the grease is, once policy makers are confronted with “people power,” there’s little that can stop the tide of public pressure.

There’s also, of course, strategic alliance building, speaking directly to and persuading congressmen to support or oppose certain legislative measures, building alliances with like-minded groups or organizations with similar advocacies and stands.

Petitions, press releases, media and propaganda actions also work, but none solely by itself. Blogging and online social networking can only be effective if it translates into and aids in creating another form of action such as those previously mentioned, and if it ultimately leads to a concrete mass movement. I added, tens of thousands of pledges in Ako Mismo or in a Facebook Cause page will not win the support of the President or even a congressman. Thousands of warm bodies complemented by other forms of concrete actions, however, will.

Lastly, I believe there can be no effective lobbying through blogging and online social networking because the Filipino “blogosphere” or internet community does not reflect the true sentiment of the Filipino masses, majority of whom do not have regular, if any at all, access to the internet. It is at best, the voice of the privileged middle class, influential but not decisive.

For someone who’s been blogging for almost a decade, it might sound shameful of me to seem to be belittling the political power of the internet, but really, one has to recognize the limitations of the virtual medium in order to achieve the fulfillment of an advocacy or cause beyond virtual reality. By all means, blog about your cause, as I do too, but do not limit yourself to it.

Anyway, after the interview, I invited the students to visit us in Batasan one of these days and witness plenary sessions themselves. Actually, if you want to watch committee hearings or sessions just message us, and we’ll find time to show you around.

POST-SCRIPT: To clarify, I think there are some causes where online lobbying can be highly effective. These are causes that are specific to groups which are technology savvy, like private school students, and issues that are relevant to information technology and communication concerns. For example, an advocacy to scrap internet censorship bills can be coursed successfully with great part through online campaigns.

On internet activism and protests

You’re a famous blogger, and you frequently write about your advocacies in your blog and in social networking sites. Some people, particularly “moderates,” look at the Internet as their preferred mode of activism (sometimes only mode), and shun out street protests. Why do you continue to take to the streets despite already having other venues for protest?

The Internet is a potent and alternative tool for campaigns and advocacies, no doubt, especially among the youth.

We have to remember, however, that majority of Filipinos still do not have access to the world wide web. Ordinary minimum-wage earners, farmers, out-of-school youth, even many among the middle class are not Internet users. We cannot win any nationwide campaign or struggle without them.

Long-lasting social change is not possible without the fundamental and primary participation of the masses. The Internet is not the medium to engage them in, and whenever we try to achieve fundamental changes in government and society, we cannot rely on the Internet alone. It’s naivete to believe that changes can be won on the electronic front.

Street protests are among the most accommodating and reliable forms of protests. It does not exclude anyone from participating. It accommodates anyone regardless of computer literacy, economic or social stature.

History has also proven its potency in advancing the struggle of citizens for changes and reforms around the world. There’s nothing wrong when ordinary university students use the Internet as a venue of protest, and I personally don’t take that against anyone. But, we have to be conscious that it is not the only mode of expressing support for an advocacy or expressing dissent against government policies and actions. There are times, like today, when more is demanded from us, and we cannot afford to be complacent with the kinds of actions we are willing to take.

Tayo ang pagbabago

Someone from Ateneo de Manila’s Matanglawin (student publication) interviewed me this afternoon after my class. It was about my opinion on Ako Mismo. I simply reiterated what I had expressed in my blog entry about the campaign. I’m not, at all, against individual efforts for personal growth and development. I’m not, at all, against individuals obeying traffic rules, being proud to be Filipino, paying taxes or participating in the electoral process by registering and voting, or volunteering for non-government organizations. In fact, I do them too. But let us not foster the illusion that these convenient actions are enough to change Philippine society, suffering from a tragic status quo caused by a ruling order.

What I’m against is the mentality of blaming individuals alone, and just ourselves for the country’s social ills, totally absolving the government that causes such conditions–and worse, branding such acts of holding politicians and administrators accountable as mere pagrereklamo and mindless blaming and finger-pointing. As long as the government is robbing us blind and is tragically failing to deliver social services to the vast majority of Filipinos who need education, health care and economic support, among others, no amount of charity work and volunteerism will be enough to sustain a long-term solution for our people. Besides, you pay for these services with your taxes. We all do. We have the right and the duty to demand what is due us. You do not turn a blind eye when you pay for a donut and you get a munchkin–or worse, nothing at all, and worse, dinukutan ka pa.

Yes, true enough, nasa sarili nga ang pagbabago. I’m not taking that against anyone. Pero may mas malaking sistema tayong kailangang baguhin. Let me post an excerpt from Kabataan Rep. Mong Palatino‘s speech at the national convention of the College Editors’ Guild of the Philippines.

Tayo ang pagbabago

May iba’t ibang inisyatiba upang pukawin ang makabayang damdamin ng kabataan. Positibo ito. Napapansin ko lang na ang binibigyang diin ay may kinalaman sa mga indibidwal na pagkilos ng mga kabataan.

Hindi na ito bago. Noon pa man marami na ang nanawagan ng pagbabago batay sa inisyatiba ng bawat isa. Kahit ang Malakanyang, nananawagan na ang pagbabago ay dapat magsimula sa sarili. Ang mga nasa kapangyarihan ay nananawagan rin ng pagbabago — pagbabago sa gawi, sa puso’t isipan.

Lumang ideolohiya na ito. Sinisisi ko ang dominanteng ideolohiya kung bakit popular ang ganitong mensahe. Di ba ito ang turo sa atin — na basta’t maging mabuting tao ka o mamamayan ay sapat na upang guminhawa ang lipunan. Huwag nang makialam sa pulitika; asikasuhin na lamang ang sarili at pamilya. Huwag nang magrali; huwag nang labanan ang dambuhalang sistema. Magsimula sa sarili. Ako mismo. Magpayaman, mamigay ng limos, magvolunteer, magpintura ng mga bahay. Sapat na ang mga ito.

Samantala, sila mismo — silang mga buwaya na nasa gobyerno — ay patuloy na nangangmkam ng yaman ng lipunan. Habang abala tayo sa ating mga sarili, sila mismo ay patuloy na nagkakalat ng lagim dun mismo sa ating mga komunidad.

Kaya ang sagot ay hindi ako mismo kundi tayo mismo ang magpapalayas sa mga masasamang elemento ng lipunan. Tayo mismo, sa ating sama-samang pagkilos ang lilikha ng pagbabago sa bansa.

Hindi simple ang manawagan ng pagbabago. Hindi ito nadadaan sa pag-iimbento ng mga makukulay na palamuti sa katawan. May sakripisyong kailangang ibigay ang bawat isa kung nais natin ng tunay na pagbabago. May interes tayong babanggain kung seryoso tayong kikilos para sa pagbabago. Makapangyarihan ang interes na ito. Mabagsik silang kaaway. Mapanganib na laban. Kaya hindi uubra kung nag-iisa lang tayong sisigaw ng pagbabgo. Ikaw mismo ay mabibigo. Dapat kolektibo, dapat sama-samang manawagan ng pagbabago. Dapat pagtulungan natin sa ating mga organisasyon kung anong mga mainam na paraan upang isulong ang pulitika ng pag-asa, pagbabago at pakikibaka.

On “Ako Mismo”

Ako Mismo

I signed up for this, with all the buzz it has created this weekend. But I was quite disappointed by the things people have been committing themselves to doing. Sure, by all means, let us pay our taxes, register to vote, obey traffic rules, sweep the floor, pray, smile at others, be nice, be proud to be pinoy! Aba, dapat lang. Isn’t that what one is supposed to do regardless of any campaign for social change? Isn’t that what we are already doing? Let’s not stop doing it, fine. But please, it reeks of great naivete to think that doing things we are already doing will change Philippine society.

I don’t wish to offend anyone. I have friends from many advocacy campaigns of this type. But let me explain my reservations whenever I’m invited into these campaigns. My problem with “Ako Mismo” and the dozens of other “I” campaigns that have been initiated (and have flopped) these past years, is that it fosters an illusion that mundane individual efforts to do good, and nothing more, is enough to change society. These are well meaning campaigns, but I don’t think they actually call for positive action or call for change. These are calls for neutral action–to do things we’re supposed to be doing anyway.

What I think is dangerous about campaigning for this is that it neutralizes a person’s capacity to do more than what one is supposed to do in the first place. It’s like, fine, just pay your taxes, smile at people, sweep your backyard, do things within your comfort zone and that’s enough to change society. It’s not. Let us not justify the laziness or the inability of the middle class to get out of their comfort zone to change society.

These are the types of campaigns, believe it or not, that people in power or in government and big businesses employ to maintain the status quo, simply because doing ‘simple everyday good things’ do just that and nothing more. It effectively cloaks their part in the equation as to why we are where we sadly are. It makes you forget their role in sustaining the rotten order of society. It makes you think of questioning their policies or their authority as simple pagrereklamo. And worse, it demonizes those who do that. “Forget about the corruption and the repression we commit, just do your own little nice things!” And even worse, it blames the individual Filipino for all the problems he is experiencing!

If the campaign was “Tayo Mismo”, I would’ve considered it worthwhile. Pero hindi talaga, this is all about the individual, the me, the I, the ako. Notice how it’s become a trend these days–all these campaigns that begin with “I”. Its always about the individual. It’s never about the collective. It’s never the “We”. Collective action is too dangerous for the status quo. It’s all about pacifying the individual to be content with the things he already does and to buy a dog tag, a t-shirt, or a bracelet to show it off.

Millions of Filipinos are poor not because you don’t smile at others, or you don’t obey traffic rules. Millions of Filipino farmers don’t own the land they till not because you buy imported products. Millions of Filipinos are jobless not because they are lazy or they are not proud to be Pinoy. Millions of Filipinos are uneducated not because you refuse to become a teacher. It’s not about the individual you! Hence, you smiling, obeying traffic rules, buying Filipino, being proud to be Pinoy, though they are nice little actions, will not change the prevailing order maintained by the same people employing these “I am change” campaigns.

Really, there is no net effect if you commit to doing something you’ve already been doing, or you should be doing in the first place regardless of any social problem. It’s a neutral force. We stay where we are. Do something more. Do something out of your comfort zones. Social change is never comfortable. Do something collectively. Do something with other sectors of society. Social change is never about the individual doing things for personal growth and expecting the rest of the process to fall into place. Ang mali-mali lang talaga ng pagsisi sa problema ng bansa sa individual Filipino. We are not just challenging the individualistic problems of hopelessness or apathy. We are challenging a systemic order that maintains the sad state of affairs we all find ourselves in.

Collective action for social change

Those who profess the futility of collective action know nothing of their history. For the tide and ebb of world events are determined precisely by collective action. As one revolutionary put it, “The history of the world is the history of class struggle.”

Throughout the world, regimes and tyrants have been toppled down, and democracies established by the strength of collective action. The wheels of history from feudalism, capitalism to socialism, from monarchies to parliaments to peoples’ governments, were concrete conclusions of class struggle. Examples of which are the anti-colonization movement in Africa and Latin Amercia, the Liberation movement in Southeast Asia and Indo-China, the Religious Tolerance and Womem’s Rights Movement in most parts of the world, the anti-apartheid movement in Africa, and the establishment of the International League of People’s Struggle against Imperialism. And even individual heroes are propelled by the thousands of men and women who clamor, hand in hand, for a common aspiration.

History itself reveals that there is no stronger mark of popular sentiment than mass actions, making collective demonstrations indispensable in the realization of our common goals. In the Philippine setting, the stirrings of collective dissent began in the aftermath of the Spanish conquest. For instance, the Katipunan was borne out of the unity of the peasants and artisans against the colonizers. From the Spanish to the American regime, a common sentiment for national sovereignty fueled radical movements for freedom. Corrupt and authoritarian regimes were crushed when confronted by the ferocity of widespread mass demonstrations. In fact, the mere existence of repression attests to the potency of collective action — why suppress mass demonstrations if it does not instigate fear in the most hardened of dictators?

Thus, our stance remains — collective action is still our most potent weapon for social change. For only by participating in a coordinated action of thousands of people can individuals pursue both their personal and social liberties. As long as there are forces and establishments that conspire against the democratic rights of the people, individuals have to unite to register their shared will.

The sharpest position is to stand for collective action, which is comprised of all arenas of struggle, whether in the parliamentary or in the streets. Indeed, claiming that collective action is passé succeeds only in exposing the crass ignorance of the groups doing the claiming.

The history of UP alone is rich with instances that illustrate the potency of concerted action. During the 1950 witch hunts, when calls for nationalism were vilified as communism, our shared efforts were crucial in the struggle for academic and press freedom. In the 1970s, at the height of political repression during Martial Law, our united dissent contributed to the struggle for democracy, with hundreds of student leaders heeding the call of history, whether in cities or in the countryside. The social ferment generated by the Diliman Commune and the First Quarter Storm pierced the core of national affairs. Student institutions, publications, and formations were reestablished in the 1980s through adamant and tireless collective action. The list goes on, from the closure of US military bases in the country, the ouster of Erap in 2001, the retraction of the largest budget cut in 2000, and the removal of Provision 444 of the University Code, which unduly prohibits religious and provincial organizations.

Despite the machinations of the state and administration, the student movement persists because it has forged an inextricable link with all sectors in the call for social change. After all, the aims of collective action are collective victories — a gain enjoyed by the broadest and the most democratic.

At present, we are facing the blatant implementation of neoliberal policies, which direct the state to fully abandon state universities and colleges. The manifestations of commercialization are increasing, from corporatization to the endless proposals to increase tuition and other fees.

As students reject this overall scheme through protest actions and other peaceful activities, the state and administration have responded with crushing repression, through direct attacks against student formations and institutions. All over the nation, there is a systemic effort to entrench an education that is colonial, commercialized and fascist. Meanwhile, in the political arena, the state continues to commit grave sins against the people — intensified suppression and repression, political killings, the neglect of social services, high unemployment, lack of genuine land reform, increasing hunger, and continuing plunder — while aiming to extend its term through Cha-Cha. Now, more than ever, we need the force of collective action.

The fact of the matter is, those who say that collective action is “illusory” are themselves in delusion — they do not understand history nor do they know their place in history. The challenge for us, iskolars ng bayan, is to participate in the struggle for social change. We must fight for an education that is nationalist, scientific, and mass-oriented. Because we cannot spur change in isolation, we must therefore link arms with the broadest masses in our struggle for a better society, where there is genuine land reform, national industrialization, genuine freedom, and social justice. For the broadest collective is also the strongest. Ultimately, we must recognize that our collective is our people and our nation.

VOTE STRAIGHT STAND-UP!

Scrap all proposed fees! Rollback the tuition!
No to commercialization!
Struggle against state abandonment of UP education!
Fight for a nationalist, scientific, and mass-oriented education!
Strengthen our unity! Advance our struggle for greater victories!

THE LEAGUE OF FILIPINO STUDENTS-UP DILIMAN

Spies and government surveillance

A month or so ago, news broke of suspicious surveillance being conducted with a certain and specified van with plate number UDU 234 on students of UP Diliman, particularly on students of the College of Mass Communication. Various instances of the van’s suspicious activities (parking near informal student gatherings/assemblies, following or parking near locations of student activists) on different parts of the Diliman campus have been reported over the months. The CMC Student Council and a couple of organizations in Mass Comm went on to have a press conference condemning such surveillance in light of the fresh implementation of the Human Security Act.

Last Tuesday, we saw the particular van with dark-tinted windows, with plate number UDU 234 parked on the driveway of Vinzons Hall–the seat of the University Student Council, the Student Regent and a traditional tambayan of activists. Together with some of my colleagues and Shan Abdulwahid, present Chairperson of the University Student Council, we approached the van with the intention of confronting the persons inside.

While I took pictures of the van, my colleagues and Shan tried to peek into the heavily-tinted windows of the van, and tapped the vehicle for a couple of minutes to call the attention of whoever were inside.

We were being ignored for quite a while, which was weird. The typical reaction by innocent people to what we were doing was direct confrontation. Instead, we were being lead to frustration and into believing that no one was inside. We couldn’t be too sure, since the van was heavily tinted and we could barely see through the windows. After a few minutes, the front passenger window rolled down a few inches. A man then asked what was wrong. We asked the man to come down and talk with us. He refused. What’s even more suspicious was that he refused to be recognized by hanging a dark jacket between him and the window. When we jokingly asked him to show us his face, he ignored us. When he was asked what he was doing there, and why he was violating a verbal agreement not to roam around UP, he gave a lame excuse that he and his companions (who we never got to see) were picking up someone from the College of Law–which, by the way, was three blocks away. Without prolonging the confrontation too much, we allowed the man and the van to leave. From Vinzons Hill, we watched the van go towards the direction of the School of Economics. Contrary to his reasoning earlier, however, the van eventually went past the College of Law and went straight out of UP.

Surface Karen and Sherlyn!

Press Con on First Anniversary of the Abduction of Sherlyn Cadapan and Karen EmpenoThis day marks a year since UP students Karen Empeno and Sherlyn Cadapan were adbucted by alleged members of the military in Bulacan. I went to a press conference in Palma Hall regarding the anniversary this morning. Listening to the two students’ mothers can be heart-wrenching. A group of UP students and visiting students from different countries in Asia, together with Karen and Sherlyn’s mother, went to a military base in Balanga, Bataan the day before. When the military men were asked if the two UP students were at the base, they neither denied nor affirmed the accusation.

The mother of Sherlyn talked first. She expressed a slight hint of gratitude with reports of sightings of her daughter. Sherlyn was two months pregnant when she was abducted, and her mother believes that now, her grandchild is also held in detention. Karen’s mother was more in grief however, because there had been no reports of sightings, and she fears that her daughter is already dead. It was particularly tragic when she wept and said, “kahit katawan lang ng anak ko ilabas n’yo…” This commemoration of the two UP students disappearance prove to be more relevant in light of the incoming implementation of the “Human Security Act” in a few weeks.

Who was abducted?

Yesterday, I received more than a dozen forwarded text messages from friends in Mass Comm about a certain abduction that happened that morning within the college’s premises. The victim has not been identified, but witnesses have taken note of the car, which the abductors also seized, and its plate number. Throughout the day I’ve been receiving more than a dozen calls and text messages from friends who asked about my whereabouts or if I was okay. I highly appreciated the concern, though I sort of wondered why I was one of the first persons that came to their minds. Am I perceived to be that much of an “activist,”? Is it because I’m a frat member and the incident was probably frat-related? Or is it simply because they thought I drive the same car?

In any case, I’ve been scouring for more news and details about the said abduction, to no avail. Either way, I do hope it’s not another incident of political harrassment or fraternity violence.