Wenceslao: That ‘Walk for Life’

I CAME across an interesting article in yesterday’s issue of the Philippine Daily Inquirer. It was an interview by entertainment writer Ruben V. Nepales of Hollywood actress Shailene Woodley titled, “How Shailene Woodley Transformed Into an Activist.” Woodley, star of the “Divergent” series, was among those arrested in October last year for protesting the Dakota Access Pipeline project that would have affected tribal people in North Dakota.

When asked how she is surviving “these days” of US President Donald Trump, she answered:

“I am surviving because many of us are doing it together. If people weren’t showing up at LAX (to protest the travel ban order), if people weren’t showing up on the streets, if these marches weren’t going on, if you didn’t have people like Rachel Maddow (TV talk show host), if you didn’t have people littered across our country—whether famous or not—saying we need to start having conversations to fix things, I would be pretty scared.”

What Woodley said is a paraphrasing of the saying about there being no tyrants if there are no slaves.

Even before Trump assumed his post early this year, a big chunk of the US population already served notice to him that his policies would be monitored and if considered illegal or unjust, would be opposed. It was a vigilance that vanished since the middle of last year in our country when Rodrigo Duterte assumed the presidency.

But there is hope. After enduring insults from the President, the Catholic Church hierarchy came up last Saturday at the Quirino grandstand in Manila with a “Walk for Life” to protest the spate of extrajudicial killings linked to the war against the illegal drugs trade and the plan to re-impose the death penalty. It wasn’t huge by Edsa 1 standards but it showcased again the capacity of the Church to mobilize people.

Joining the activity were Manila Archbishop Luis Antonio Cardinal Tagle and Lingayen-Dagupan Archbishop Socrates Villegas, head of the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines. I understand that smaller “walks for life” were held in a few other dioceses throughout the country.

The Catholic Church, though, is still factionalized because a chunk of it supported the Duterte candidacy last year. But that also happened when the Church hierarchy joined the struggle against the excesses of the dictatorship of Ferdinand Marcos in the ‘70s and ‘80s.

Incidentally, the mobilization was held a few days before the anniversary of the 1986 Edsa people power uprising, one of whose heroes was the late Manila archbishop Jaime Cardinal Sin. Among the enduring scenes of that uprising was that of nuns with their holy rosaries praying in front of a tank.

It is easy for politicians to underestimate the power of the Catholic Church considering that it has been unable to make much of a dent in the electoral process, But the Edsa experience shows that when push comes to shove, the Church can be capable of sparking political change.
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