Reinventing Resistance in the COVID era

“Reinvent Resistance!” is a compilation of three letters authored by Wigberto “Bobby” Tañada and Edmundo “Ed” Garcia, two street parliamentarians who stood up against the Marcos dictatorship. In the next few columns, I quote from these letters. I always dedicate my writings in August and September to remember the fight against the Marcos dictatorship. Last August 1, we commemorate the death anniversary of Cory Aquino, first post-Marcos president of the country. On August 21, we will recall the assassination of Ninoy Aquino 37 years ago. September 23, 1972 is when Ferdinand Marcos imposed martial law on our islands, ushering a period of authoritarianism in the country. Fourteen years of what became known as the US-Marcos dictatorship (the United States supported Marcos and gave him legitimacy for many years before pulling out their support in 1986) caused a lot of suffering in the country, including many deaths.

Today, even as we are battling an insidious virus, authoritarian rule is being imposed again in our land. This makes resistance imperative. The Tañada and Garcia letters are instructive.

Bobby Tañada is the son of the late Senator Lorenzo Tañada, referred to as the “Grand Old Man of Philippine Politics,” an iconic nationalist, human rights lawyer who staunchly opposed the martial law regime of Marcos. A true son of his father, Bobby Tañada also became a senator of the Republic, advocating nationalist causes in the Senate. He is one of the so-called “Magnificent 12” senators who voted to oust the US military bases in 1991, the symbol of Philippine subservience to its former colonial master, ending decades of foreign military presence in the Philippine soil. He also called for the rejection of the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA).

Ed Garcia wears many hats – mostly as a peace advocate, human rights activist, educator and writer. Garcia was one of the framers of the 1987 Philippine Constitution and true to the causes closest to his heart, he fought for the inclusion of human rights and social justice provisions in the charter. Early on, he co-founded the militant youth political movement Lakasdiwa (Lakas ng Diwang Kayumanggi), a social democrat offering a non-violent alternative towards social change.

Ed is a personal friend while Bobby, whose sons I know well, is someone I have always looked up to as much as I admired his father.

It is no coincidence that the two kindred spirits started their friendship in the parliament of the streets, forged as it is by their shared love for country and generous and ardent desire to promote the welfare of their countrymen. In 1984, their friendship grew stronger when they participated in the 1984 Lakbayan (the 7-day march from San Pablo City to Metro Manila) that took place in the days of struggle against the US-Marcos dictatorship.

Incidentally, their fathers, Senator Tañada and Dr. Paulino Garcia who served as secretary of health under four administrations, co-founded the Civil Liberties Union of the Philippines.

In the prologue, the authors reveal their inspiration for this brief compilation of letters: “Today, we believe that the present situation constitutes an opportune moment to re-dedicate our resolve to bring about a country better than in the past. The challenges we confront in this time of the coronavirus contagion indeed present both perils and opportunities. In a time like no other, we have a chance to seize this moment and turn the page. It can indeed be a turning point.”

With this in mind, Tañada and Garcia decided to publish these joint letters addressed to fellow citizens, primarily to the Filipino youth who are facing not only a rampaging pandemic but also “the moral meltdown and the breakdown in our socio-economic and political lives – both here at home, and abroad beyond our shores – our avowed goal in sharing our thoughts through these letters is to encourage our young to re-apply themselves with greater resolve, to reimagine the pursuit of a just peace in our country and to reinvent resistance against the powers ranged against the forces of citizens dedicated to profound social change.”

The compilation consists of three letters: (1) End Armed Hostilities in the Midst of the Pandemic; (2) Reimagine the Pursuit of Peace; and, (3) Reinvent Resistance at this Turning Point.

All three letters, the content of which I will write in future columns, provide insights on how to respond to the challenges that the Filipinos are now facing as the government takes a course of action in response to the global health crisis. This course of action, however, tend to undermine the exercise of basic rights.

These letters are must-reading for all patriotic Filipinos of good will who believe in a country ruled by democracy, human rights, and social justice.

Visit this website to access the article.

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