Editorial: Rival prayer rallies-A A +A
Wednesday, January 9, 2013
RELIGION plays such a large role in this country’s political life that it’s no surprise for God to get dragged into most discussions. Today, this tendency will be pronounced.
Supporters of Cebu Gov. Gwendolyn Garcia and Acting Gov. Agnes Magpale will gather separately this afternoon—one at the Fuente Osmeña rotunda and the other, at an unspecified church—for prayer rallies.
Which way the heavens will lean is impossible to divine. We can only hope both sides will sincerely pray—and help realize—a peaceful and just resolution to the events that have gripped the Capitol these last three weeks.
The police have promised to exercise “super maximum tolerance” during the assemblies.
Their ability to secure public spaces and yet uphold the people’s right to a non-violent assembly will be tested, for the second time in 11 days.
A PNP handbook on human rights-based policing recommends that police officials meet before protests or assemblies with the civilian groups’ leaders, in order to set ground rules for the prevention of violence. But the fact that today’s events are supposed to be prayer rallies, and not just partisan shows of force, should work in the PNP’s favor.
One of the challenges for police crowd control (or “civil disturbance management”) teams will be to keep the two groups separate and to contain rabble-rousers. That the streets were largely empty of vehicular traffic last Dec. 30 was one of the reasons the prayer rally in favor of the Garcia camp proceeded peacefully. Another is that the groups that took to the streets all supported one camp.
Today, different variables will be at play, including heavy midweek traffic and the charged emotions of supporters from rival camps. Tempers may get short, taunts might be flung. It may be easy to forget that all participants have a stake in Cebu’s image as a peaceful, forward-thinking community, beyond this temporary crisis at the helm of the Provincial Government.
The timing is also critical, for tomorrow, the Court of Appeals will begin to hear arguments for and against the suspension of Governor Garcia. No one, at least no one who truly has Cebu’s best interests at heart, has anything to gain from causing any trouble in today’s prayer rallies.
Published in the Sun.Star Cebu newspaper on January 09, 2013.