Good Question

First posted in my Facebook account on March 25, 2009.

A few minutes ago, I was texting everyone in my phonebook and inviting them to join an indignation rally in front of the NICA (Natl Intelligence Coordinating Agency) Office tomorrow to protest the latest victim of extra-judicial killings under GMA (992 to be precise).

To my surprise, someone unexpected replied. He asked why we had to protest and get hurt, referring to the series of rallies near the U.S Embassy. Good question. Why do some people risk life-and-limb to get a political message across?

Obviously, its not a case of sado-masochism, where people get their high out of getting hurt.

It’s a case of symbols. Or to be more precise, a war of symbols.

The U.S Embassy, the Visiting Forces Agreement, Lance Corporal Smith, and Nicole, are all symbols.

Smith, as a member of the U.S Armed Forces, is a symbol of the military and political might of the United States. He is a symbol of the might that invaded Iraq to give the U.S control over much of the world’s oil production, the might that blockades the tiny nation of Cuba into starvation, and the might that regularly holds military exercises in the Philippines so that they can be just a few hours away from attacking perceived threats to U.S domination such as China and North Korea.

The VFA is a symbol of how U.S military and political might has imposed itself on the Philippines. While Gloria Arroyo and her minions insist it is a “treaty”, the U.S government clearly treats it as an “executive agreement”. The former holds it in high regard, the latter holds it only as long as it needs it.

And Nicole is a symbol of how the U.S military and political might has imposed itself on us: with the help of the local Administration. Let’s be clear about this: Nicole did not “take us for a ride”. Few rape victims had their court cases drag on for three years. And even fewer had political pressure from the U.S government against them. Her mother was clear about it: For three years, they heard NIL from the Government that was supposed to help her. It was all Atty. Evelyn Ursua, and cause-oriented groups such as Gabriela.

Not only did the Arroyo Administration demoralize Nicole through its inaction, it is also evidently guilty of directly forcing her to make that “recantation” of hers. The timing is suspicious: After weeks of protest rallies against the VFA growing in both participation and boldness, Obama suddenly calls GMA regarding the VFA. Then, Nicole issues her affidavit and Arroyo’s lackeys insist the Subic rape case should not be tied-up with the VFA. Arroyo (mis)calculated that it would make the anti-VFA clamor die down.

And the U.S Embassy is the symbol of the continuing imposition of U.S political power upon our country, of the unequal relations between our two countries. As Claro M. Recto said, its not one between two friends, its one between slave and master. Or as Rage Against the Machine, they say “jump!” and we say “how high?”.

So why do we protest there?

Because it is also a symbol. Like the defiance of Cuba against America’s half-century blockade of their country, like the opposition of Venezuela and other Latin American countries to U.S policies, like the Intifada of the Palestinians against the U.S-backed Israeli Regime, like the guerilla war being waged by the Iraqis against the U.S occupation, our rallies indicate that we are not taking this sitting down.

But more than just a sign, it is hopefully, a call to arms. It is call to every bystander on the streets near the Embassy, everyone who reads about it in the newspapers, hears about it on the radio, or watches it on TV, to participate. It is a call to everyone that the Arroyo Administration is using its armed might against unarmed civilians, in defense of another country’s interests. It is a call to everyone that only our collective action can overcome such a twisted state of affairs that we all used to think existed only in Alice’s Wonderland.

So, why should I see you there next time?

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