Wednesday, March 01, 2006

The Blogosphere and Presidential Proclamation 1017

President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo can shut down all the newspapers, radio stations and TV networks, but she'll definitely find it very difficult to shut up and shut down bloggers all over the Philippines.

I am writing this Blog from Balic-Balic, Sampaloc in Manila less than 4 kilometers away from Malacanang. It is a poor district within the country's capital, probably just a little better off than Tondo. However, at almost every single corner in my neighborhood is a small internet shop and for about Php 20.00 (about US $0.40) an hour, people can avail themselves of highspeed internet access. Among the children and teens playing all sorts of video games, there are people like myself who blog about the current state of affairs in the Philippine political strata in internet shops.

These people are well read, highly educated, and possess internet savvy despite being just a step above being called poor. Most of them are either teachers, government employees, freelance writers, students, and retirees who have kept themselves abreast with current events.

As it is a small neighborhood, we sometimes get to talking.

One particular morning, particularly on Friday February 24, almost every TV set and AM radio in my neighborhood was tuned in to ongoing broadcast coverage of what they had then suspected to be the beginnings of an attempt to overthrow the Macapagal-Arroyo Administration. Excitement was in the air. People stood entranced by what was unravelling before their eyes.

There were people who, for some reason or another, hated Gloria like the latest super antagonist in their favorite melodrama and wished she would be dragged out of Malacanang by her hair. There were people, on the other hand, that wanted things to return to some semblance of normalcy (whatever that is and they can't agree what that is). And in between the two ends of this spectrum of opinions, there are casual observers who don't seem to feel strongly about anything but are quite curious as to how everything will turn out.

But what really got my goat that morning was when the neighborhood trash lady (who is my Aunt) asked me whether Willy Revillame of the Wowowee stampede fame would find himself exonorated from charges if and when a military coup d'etat overthrows Gloria. I told her that Willy would most probably end up as a Senator or President under a new regime -- given the way things were going, one absurdity might as well follow the current absurdity.

Things appear absurd if you don't account for the fact that what is happening is not a fight between good and evil. Things are not as simple as that. Moreover, this betrays the sort of thinking molded by years of watching soap operas and game shows and inability to read through the lead of a newspaper article without moving their lips.

What is happening is a political struggle between those who are in power and those who are not in power. The people in power (Gloria et al) are not necessarily evil though some may look the part. The people who are not in power (but are far from being powerless) are not necessarily good either though some may have played the part of the good guy convincingly. Neither side is necessarily interested in serving the interests of people beyond their immediate circle of allies or in other words, their real constituencies.

One opinion regarding the whole Coup Panic Attack and one that sounded quite agreeable came from one of the oldest ladies in the neighborhood. She said that if the goal of either side (the administration and the opposition) was to better the lives of the people around them, they should go the way of Mother Theresa or St. Francis of Asisi. They did good quietly, hardly kept anything for themselves so they could give more to those who had absolutely nothing, and did not fight with anyone but gently persuaded others to support their cause.

In other words, it was clear to this senile and frail old lady that politicians were not Saints.

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