Marathon Run in the Mud

“Reinvent resistance at this turning point” is the last and final letter in the trilogy compiled by two of our preeminent and dedicated peace advocates, former Senator Wigberto “Bobby” Tañada and Edmundo “Ed” Garcia.

As in the first two letters, “Reinvent resistance at this turning point” is a call to fellow citizens to reinvent resistance in the face of recent political developments, foremost of which is the imminent passage of the anti-terror bill.

At the time the letter was written on 4 June 2020, the controversial anti-terror bill was about to be passed by Congress. The bill was signed into law, also known as the Anti-Terrorism Act of 2020, officially by President Rodrigo Duterte on July 3, 2020. It effectively replaced the Human Security Act of 2007 15 days later, or on July 18, 2020. Currently, the new anti-terrorism law is being challenged by numerous petitioners questioning the constitutionality of the law. Aside from domestic opposition, other international entities, like the United States Congress, the United Nations, and Amnesty International have called for its immediate repeal. Because of the toxic environment in the country, at least in terms of deteriorating human rights situation, The Washington Post called the bill’s enactment as “another nail in the coffin of the Philippines’ waning democracy.”

In the letter, Tañada and Garcia likened our people’s struggle for basic rights to a “marathon run in the mud.” They pointed out that from the period of martial law during the time of Marcos years until today which has been characterized by killings in our inner cities with impunity, we have stood together against repressive reality and rhetoric in our midst They warned that the Anti-Terrorism Bill once again exposes “the basic rights of our people to express ourselves, to dissent and to associate freely — all enshrined in the Bill of Rights of the 1987 Constitution. According to them, this legislative over-reach reinforces rather than addresses the long-standing politics of exclusion which have weighed heavily on the lives of the majority of our most vulnerable people who most desire to express their aspirations.

For Tanada and Garcia, the present dispensation is guilty of over-reach as demonstrated not only in the Anti-Terrorism Bill but also in House Bill 78 (allowing foreigners to fully own public utilities like transportation, communication, and power firms in the Philippines successfully hurdled the House of Representatives) which seriously undermine Filipino ownership of vital public utilities such as telecommunications companies. This illustrates the penchant of the Duterte government “to violate the letter and the spirit of the 1987 Constitution which “was forged in the aftermath of the people’s overthrow of dictatorship and later reaffirmed in the ousting of foreign military bases in our national territory.”

Moreover, they decried and reaffirmed their resolve to oppose the reckless remarks of President Duterte and other high ranking officials of the government as well as their cavalier attitude in setting aside provisions of the fundamental law of the land, undermining the respect for the rule of law. The reason for their posture, according to them, is the para-pandemic period where we face the combined and intertwined health, economic, climate crises that will be with us for some time to come.

They likened the moral meltdown in politics under this administration to the “social unrests spreading across the United State due to the racist virus that has been endemic in American society since its founding.” We recall that massive protests erupted in the United States in the wake of the brutal killing by police officers of African-American George Floyd. Unfortunately, President Donald Trump, by his pronouncements and actions, fanned the flames of dissent and outrage instead of dousing it. To date, the specter of racism in America continues to spook the American people and the embers of racial divide continue to simmer as the problem remains an open ended issue that will hound the nation for a long, long time.

Taking a more optimistic tone, Tañada and Garcia urged us to convert this breakdown into a breakthrough in our societies. In addressing their fellow citizens, the two call on each one of us to reinvent resistance. This can be done not through extraordinary deeds alone but even in a variety of ways. “In big and small ways, directly and indirectly as well as virtually, young and old alike, we need to rise up and be not afraid,” they said.

To accomplish this feat requires us to be brave and breathe freely together, the letter stated. This is a turning point, and there can be no turning back.

After all is said and done, I am one with Tañada and Garcia in saying that we have at hand a most unique opportunity, given the current dire political, social, health, and economic situations, to turn things around.

Carpe diem! Let us seize the moment and reinvent resistance!

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