In the aftermath of the Quirino Grandstand hostage crisis which left in its wake eight civilians dead, the international spotlight is once more trained on the Philippines. Most regrettably but quite understandably, many Chinese people are angry at the country, and some have taken to bashing not only it, but its citizens.
They’d be right to abhor the incumbent government led by Noynoy Aquino (the man was most likely dozing when the hours dwindled to minutes and then seconds for the eight killed inside the bus); and it would shocking to say the least if they didn’t feel a almost blinding and deafening anger against the PNP and its members’ utter lack of skill and genuine courage and determination to save human lives; but what is terribly sad (but again, unfortunately, understandable) is that the rage is also being directed against all Filipinos in general.
The PNP and the Aquino government failed their mandate to ensure the safety of foreign visitors to the country (unsurprising, really – they fail to protect this country’s own citizens, but we’ll let that go for now) and now Filipinos living in China and Hong Kong are under threat to lose not so much as face but their employment, and the damage is multiplied a thousandfold because of their families who rely on their monthly remittances. Many others in the Philippines’ tourism areas also stand to lose income and livelihood as tourists from China and HK erase the country from their vacation itineraries.
These are the least of the problems still, however: racism can hurt in many, many ways and the effects are long lasting and sometimes mortal. All that can be done to ease the enmity must be done; it will take a long time, and the Aquino government should swallow what bitterness comes afterward (and inevitably, stand responsible for all blame).
How one wishes that in the aftermath of this specific tragedy, people of other nationalities and more importantly, Filipinos themselves, would see how tragedy is actually a way of life in this country. Recognize this and maybe, just maybe, grow so incensed and appalled that they would take action to overhaul things.
It’s ironic that many Filipinos were themselves outraged at what happened that day that crept into night at the Quirino grandstand, but couldn’t be expected to even mutter one expression of shock at the greater (but not to reduce or dismiss the gravity of the brutal killing of the 8 Chinese citizens at the hands of a former policeman) horrors that unfold on a daily basis in the Philippines.
The injustice that takes place day in and day out in the Philippines takes various shapes and forms. Some come as slow-moving or inevitably unjust or long-delayed resolutions to legal cases and are monsters that devour entire lives such as those of farmers and workers as they defend their rights to land and decent employment. Recall the strikes of workers of the Light Rail Transit (LRT), Nestle, Philippine Airlines. Then there’s the injustice that comes as the non-implementation of genuine land reform, or the militarization of land disputes think of Hacienda Luisita in 2004; or Palo, Leyte in 2005. This kind of injustice bring with it monsters that rent and tear and destroy.
(On Nov. 21, 2005 a platoon from the Philippine Army’s 19th Infantry Battalion attacked a group of farmers as they gathered to begin cultivating the land awarded them by the Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR). They were members of the DAR-accredited ed San Agustin Farmers-Beneficiaries Cooperative, Alang-alang Small Farmers Association (ASFA) and Bayan Muna. The soldiers arrived and without warning strafed the gathering and when the smoke cleared, nine people were dead including a pregnant woman and her unborn child.)
These monsters also dare show their fangs (not their faces) in broad daylight and with guns, grenades, knives and blindfolds steal away mothers and fathers, sisters and brothers; often their bodies are found afterward, bloodied and stripped of dignity, the marks of mindless viciousness on their broken limbs; but sometimes and more cruelly, their bodies seemingly disappear, and they families and friends weep into endless days and nights of searching.
The list of the disappeared is long, and continues to grow. The number of those killed as they pursued ideals of a more humane and compassionate society also increases. In the meantime, there are also those who are neither killed nor disappeared, but are denied their rights and freedom and accused of the most improbable and unlikely crimes: the Morong 43, the health workers who sought to continue giving communities much needed health services, have been unjustly detained since March. It is now August.
There are also the relatively smaller injustices, but these too maintain the sharpest, most poisonous teeth that bite deeply into what should feed, house, clothe, teach, entertain, cure, delight, sustain, provide for the poor majority — corruption is inherent in all levels of government, and the fight against it is neverending and seldom winning.
The effects are inescapable: public hospitals are forced to turn away patients with no money. Public schools are forced to teach students 50, 60 to a class.The social security funds for private sector workers and government employees end up buying luxury cars and mansions for those tasked to manage them.
Because of corruption, there’s barely money to build or improve hospitals and schools; and there’s no money at all to develop and utilize alternative sources of electricity and fuel,much less a genuinely efficient and reliable disaster preparedness, relief and rescue program of national scale. We curse as we pay for electricity and water we did not consume. Our children cannot read, write or comprehend. We try to swim in the floods, and many drown.
Because of corruption, the roads are killing fields. Bus companies that continue to operate despite their accident-prone vehicles, people suddenly meet their deaths on bottom of ravines or in the middle of highways, their life bleeding away, their bones crushed, their spines severed. The DOTC and the LTFRB are unable to inspect all public utility vehicles and allow even the transport companies with notorious records of accidents to continue operations for a fee, some of it given under the table. The DPWH cannot pave all roads or erect street lamps where needed.
These are injustices committed against the Filipino people, and they are also tragedies because they take place under a so-called democracy. The failure of the PNP to save the hostages in that ill-fated bus is but a byproduct of a society where injustice reigns. The PNP has never been a force meant to truly protect the public good: policemen are better trained at manhandling and beating up activists and labor unionists than upholding public peace and fighting crime.
The utter lack of ethics of the broadcast media of ABS-CBN an GMA-7and how they prioritized sensational coverage above responsible journalism and concern for human life is also part and parcel of the backwardness of this society and its twisted nature. For the most part, many media institutions fall short of their duty to educate, inform and empower; they focus more on providing silly distractions, mindless entertainment, hollow and useless advocacies. All these, it should be said, to rake in billions in profit from advertisers.
As we rant and rage against what happened at the Quirino Grandstand, let’s all take a look around us and notice that all of us, our children and the next generation of Filipinos, are also being held hostage and the gun is always pointed , sometimes at our heads, sometimes at our hearts, often at our stomachs. The Philippines is one big bus, and whether we like it our not, we are its passengers, some of us are just seated at the back and out of the immediate line of fire.
So passengers at the back, listen: the injustice suffered by the poor and the working people is more than enough reason to cry foul and demand change. Their poverty and want, the way they are denied their human rights and dignity, if we allow all this to continue, makes us accomplices to the hostage-takers. Let us react and take action, and not settle to be outraged bystanders.
WHAT NOW, MR. PRESIDENT?
When Noynoy Aquino first ran for president, he made promises to turn the country around, lead it down the straight path. So far he has taken stands on the following: (1)banning sirens for the vehicles of government officials; (2) more airtime for original Filipino music on all FM radio stations; and (3) threatening litterbugs from throwing trash into the Pasig river and in all public places. In the meantime, he has vowed to increase the EVAT from 12% to 15%, to continue the implementation of Oplan-Bantay Laya, and to remain hands-off on the issue of land distribution to the long-suffering farmworkers of his family’s Hacienda Luisita.