Sunday, August 01, 2021

Velez: Why protest still matters


A FEW months ago, a taxi driver drove pass a rally. He looked at the rallyists, their placards bearing messages of human rights and ending Martial Law. He then shared his thought to his passenger about the futility of rallies

"Wala tay mahimo ana, kay sila na man gyud nagbuot (There’s nothing we can do, because they make the rules)," he said.

He was surprised when the passenger told him to stop, and then stepped down to join the rally. His passenger was actually a Lumad school teacher, rallying to reopen the Lumad schools.

We see two sides in our society today. One that thinks it’s better to follow the rules. The other thinks we still have the right to differ, and to dissent.

It’s a unique situation, as a UP professor points out before: “Martial law and (democracy) is both alive and well”.

That taxi driver’s statement reflects a point raised by Alexandria Ocasio Cortez, the popular Democrat and representative of New York, who said: “I think there's a weapon of cynicism to say, 'Protest doesn't work. Organizing doesn't work. You know, it doesn't do anything.'”

It’s a weapon thrown by the government’s social media army and defenders, to label rallyists as destabilizers or a noisy few.

But her next statement defends why protest matter. “Because, frankly, it's said out of fear, because it (protest) is a potent force for political change.”

Cortez drives the point that protest, beyond the cynicism, is a dissatisfaction of the public on what is happening, and creates an action to call for change.

We saw these in the past few months. Workers rallied last Bonifacio Day to demand the end of contractualization. Teachers and ACT partylist observed World Teachers’ Day by demanding for the overdue salary increase. The Lumad continue to hold their bakwit schools and demand for an end to militarization. Partylists are hailing water utility corporations to court to stop water rate hikes.

We must note that issues raised were promised by this populist leader. But there’s disconnect. Despite his popularity, the economy is still bad. Unemployment. Hunger. Human rights neglected. The change happening is only with new rich families acquiring more ventures and cash.

No other sector has demanded for such change actively than these activist groups out on the streets. Democracy is the true weapon for change. Because when government fails to act and only listen to what they believe in, the people have the right to go out and make their voices heard.


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