Building a movement for change
In the past year, more so in recent months, numerous “movements” have been sprouting, calling our attention to their views on the ills of Philippine society, their causes and proposed solutions. Most have raised the issues of corruption and malgovernance and prescribed the antidote of electing good leaders to public office. Some, including Supreme Court Chief Justice Puno, have called for a “moral force” to battle the forces of evil that have undermined the country’s political institutions and are tearing apart the social fabric.
The cynics may say this phenomenon only proves that election season is truly upon us. Local politicians’ streamers have been greeting their constituencies “Happy Valentine’s Day!” and graduating students “Congratulations!”; the more ambitious with an eye to national office spend huge sums on television infomercials on this or that cause.
It stands to reason that those seeking elective positions need to create a mass base (or the illusion of one) as part of drumbeating their candidacy, hoping to ratchet up their ranking in popularity surveys. The enterprising who seek to turn a profit on the electoral carnival want to have the grassroots base (or the illusion of one) that they can parlay to the candidates as a reliable base of support and an essential component of a formidable campaign machinery.
For our part, we see these movements as an expression of the people's general awareness, if not political consciousness, that they have to participate in an extra-electoral or meta-electoral way to make sure these elections don't turn out like all other previous elections. It indicates, more importantly, that people by and large realize that extraordinary action is needed to address the extraordinary situation or shall we say - deep rut - which we have become mired in.
Last week more than a hundred twenty people gathered in a former ancestral home turned museum in Manila and enthusiastically discussed the initiation of a “people’s movement for Change”. A significant number were social and political activists in their youth who continue to be concerned, committed and involved in one way of another, big or small. There were a few media personalities are in the front line of the Oust GMA campaign.
A sizeable number are middle class but there were those who would classify themselves as among the “poor, deprived and oppressed”. Many are active in their churches as bishops, pastors, religious and lay people; in education as teachers, professors and NGO workers in informal education, research and organizing; and in art, communications, law, health, science and technology.
Young people in their twenties were present though not yet in droves; there was a considerable number of thirty somethings.
Their concept of a “people’s movement for Change” (note the capital C) is founded on the view that the Filipino people yearn for genuine change. For one, they demand that the Arroyo regime be made accountable for its crimes against the people even after Mrs. Arroyo is removed from her illegal occupation of Malacañang.
But more than a change of leadership, the new group called for “a decisive break from the poverty-ridden, unjust and corrupt social system that grew worse even after EDSA I and EDSA II”. For this purpose an 11-point “People’s Agenda” was deliberated upon and adopted by the assembly covering economic, political and socio-cultural changes that the group considers vital.
Even though the group was highly critical of the post EDSA outcomes, it affirmed “people power” as an extraordinary yet democratic exercise of the people’s sovereign will, necessitated by an oppressive regime that blocks all peaceful avenues to redress of grievances and, more so, meaningful change. It called on the people to persevere in undertaking united, democratic, creative and peaceful protest actions to assert their rights and fight for substantial reforms in all spheres.
A pointed question came from a young student leader: How did the group distinguish itself from similar movements that had emerged and whether it aims to unite all the various groups into a single, cohesive movement.
The response from Organizing Committee members was well received. That is, the group does not see itself or claim to be THE movement above all movements; it is still too early to say how similar or different the group is from others striving to build a movement for change since most if not all groups are still evolving; and the ultimate measure of the correctness or success of any of these groups lies in how they carry out their self-defined tasks to achieve their goals rather than in mere rhetoric.
Furthermore, it was clarified that it is not the aim of the group to build a single organization or movement out of all the various movements clamoring for change or reform. There should be recognition and respect for diversity in specific goals and approaches, and a search for avenues of cooperation and unity, thus turning diversity into strength.
The fledgling group then acknowledged both the unusual opportunities as well as countervailing conditions for initiating change given the severity of the global and national economic downturn and the coming 2010 elections.
Rather than be deterred by the worsened economic dislocation and social turmoil that the global recession is wreaking on the people, the group saw the situation as a means to raise public awareness, galvanize people into action and organize at the grassroots.
In the coming 2010 national elections, the group asserted it would actively work to foster “new politics” referring to the “supervision of leadership by a politically-aware and empowered people; development and support for leaders with a track record of being pro-people, pro-Filipino, honest and morally upright; and a government that relies on the continuing consent and support of the governed rather than coercive means to maintain itself in power.”
But more than acting as an election watchdog and campaigning for candidates with a platform and track record consistent with the People’s Agenda, the group that has still to finalize its name, much more do the spade work needed to build a real people’s movement, vowed to be around for the long haul, long after the din and hoopla of the 2010 elections have faded away.
As more and more of our countrymen have come to realize, we all have to do a lot more than cast our ballots on election day, for real change to be achieved. #