Fear and anger

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Friday, August 1, 2014

THERE must be a reason why it is called the “state of the nation” apart from being a tradition borrowed from American democracy. I am not talking about the President’s speech before elected representatives of the citizenry but I am instead referring to events that took place around it. For all together, the various happenings within and outside the environs of the halls of Congress last Monday reveal how we are as a people in this single day event more than whatever PNoy may have muttered.

Inside Congress, are the scions of the landed and political elite with their wives in full formal regalia. The air must have been thick with the musty smell of entitlement and family pride that afternoon as they bussed each other on the red carpet. There was a lot of hand pressing, back patting, and secret winks, from both political foe and ally. That day, all of them were actually allies as the current leadership defended their common interest – political largesse handed down from the executive to the legislative which have always been the significant source of every politician's power base.

So the 87 instances of thunderous applause from the gallery were less about the eloquence and eruditeness of the president’s speech but more about expressions of relief that, for now the source of political patronage from the executive for congress will have a chance of remaining intact. Public funds for vote buying in the coming election will still be within reach. There would still be kickbacks from government contracts that they can spend to keep themselves in circles of power and influence within their own locales.


It was added bonus that there were theatrics throw in as well when the president choked up when he revealed the dangers and difficulties of his work. It must have been touching moment for them to witness their chief executive going emotional in defense of their shared interests.

But there was also an undeniable tinge of raw emotion that colored the whole exercise. And though I was not there, radiating from pixelized images on the screen, was that a palpable fear that I sense? That perhaps this section of the feudal elite has come to the recognition that their happy and reckless ways are over?

Meanwhile, outside on the streets is a nation of thousands upon thousands who staged their own state of the nation. In a multiplicity of voices, they shared to each other the stories of Kristel Tejada, Karen Empeño, and Sherly Cadapan, and Kim Gargar. They told of the well-founded fear of the Bangsamoro people that they might be taken for fools once again. They reported to each other the fate of the NXP union leaders dismissed in Laguna. They also told of the everyday struggle of the mothers and fathers and children in a regime of continuing landlessness, contractualization, and forced diaspora.

If inside Congress, there was the whiff of unmistakable fear among the coiffed set, outside there was indignant and righteous anger from the multitude. Spurred by an organized cue, the Makabayan congressmen walked out of Batasan just as hundreds of urban poor residents surrounding Congress appeared from their homes to the streets, effectively by-passing the barricades of container vans, concertina barbed wires, and thousands of police and military stationed on Commonwealth. They manage to symbolically breach the barricade and found themselves within earshot of the assembled political elite of the nation. For a moment, the establishment and its security forces were rattled.

It is this fear that the state forces let loose in a barrage of tinted liquid from their water canons later that afternoon when they attempted to disperse the thousands to no avail. It could also be the same fear that prompted the president to attack the Left in his speech as saboteurs of his elite-sponsored track towards reform.

This annual exercise of pomp and pageantry inside the Batasan, and the contrasting angry militant action outside do indeed tell us about the real state of the nation, one that has not changed for over centuries.

On the one hand, you have Congress within its halls the largest assembly of self-serving politicians who have time and time and again betrayed the public’s trust. Outside is the multitude who has never failed to courageously assert that this nation is theirs.

Betrayal, in this instance, begets fear within the halls of congress. While courage is the wellspring of this righteous and historical anger displayed on the streets.


(Arnold P. Alamon is an Assistant Professor IV, Sociology Department, Mindanao State University-Iligan Institute of Technology.)

Published in the Sun.Star Cagayan de Oro newspaper on August 01, 2014.


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