It didn’t even come close to a million, and somewhere, possibly in hiding in their proverbial bathtubs, a few corrupted souls are taking whatever small solace they can in that fact. News reports have the numbers at a mere hundred thousands, though this estimate will increase if one includes the simultaneous rallies in other parts of the Philippines, as well as the smaller yet equally relevant protests of Filipinos in other countries.
I’m not a political analyst. I’m not an economist, and neither am I a sociologist. I’ve been eligible to vote for two elections. I have registered to vote exactly once, but the only time I came to the polls was when I was seven or eight, when my father’s sister brought me with her and allowed me to choose barangay officials at random. When most people my age started working, I was in medical school. I have spent most of the past year in a cultural exchange program in Japan, so the burden of taxation and the injustice of its misappropriation is still a somewhat abstract concept for me. I’m as apolitical as a clam. To be technical about it, I have no actual right to complain or to go around protesting when I didn’t even exercise my right to suffrage. Yes, I had my reasons, and while their validity may or may not hold water with you, is not the point. The point is, bastions of corruption, I now care.
These were some of the children I came across while I was walking with my family to and from Luneta Park for the #MillionPeopleMarch protesting the rampant misuse of the PDAF. These are children who do not have consistent access to decent food, housing, health care, and education. On Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, they probably have the weakest of footholds on the first three levels, and the faintest shadows of chance at reaching the fourth and fifth. If things continue as they are, these children will be denied the opportunity to better themselves. All other things held equal, a transparent, accountable, and morally ascendant government will at least give them a chance.
Let’s not even dwell on poverty porn. These seemingly inappropriately happy but truly internally aggravated people, also known as my family, are your average, tax-paying members of the electorate. We do not have everything we want, but for the most part, we have everything we need. However, questions about financial security still hound us. Enrollment is still a cause for financial concern, and full ownership of their own homes remains a dream to some. Vacations are possible, but they have to be carefully planned and saved for. In first world countries, studying abroad is a very real possibility even for children from middle-class families. The Japanese government secures housing for the unemployed, retired, and even single-parent households. I won’t claim to understand the intricate mechanisms of government and the taxation machinery, but what I saw from Japan is that their taxes were working for them. That is what my family wants — an assurance that the taxes that they pay are going where they should. The thought itself is not novel, and is, when you consider it, a very fair expectation. Yet, here we are in a world that is not quite for the taking, but rather, one where the select keep on taking from the world.
It didn’t come close to a million, but don’t become too comfortable. There is a method of analysis in Physics, the Huygens’ principle, which states that any point on a wave front may be the source of secondary waves. Consider this your primary wave front. Ferdinand Marcos, and quite a few heads of state after him, know too well and painfully the power that rises from peaceful protests. In his second inaugural address, Marcos said: ‘I do not demand of you more than I shall demand of myself and of government. So seek not from government what cannot find in yourself.’ Though these appear to empty words in light of history, the second statement still holds a grain of validity.
Though he is far from being the hero that people hoped he would be, I actually believe that the current president is trying. People have to have realistic expectations of what one person can do. We have to balance our expectations and demands. We are not asked to accept excuses, but we should be open to logic and reason.
Seek not from the government what you cannot find in yourself.
As a singular point on the wave front, these are the commitments I make. I commit to care. I commit to registering for the next elections and maximizing my right to vote by carefully and intelligently selecting the people I want to lead this country. I realize that people are corruptible, and that pristine moral ascendancy rests in the realm of the theoretical. Still, I will choose leaders who are, at their core, good people. I commit to becoming part of the solution, in the ways that I know how, and restraining myself from participating in the manufacture of unnecessary chaos. (I believe this protest was necessary, and it was relatively unchaotic.) Though I don’t expect the national situation to change in my lifetime, I dream of it.
The protest is the primary wavefront. These are your salarymen and women, your clergy, your doctors, your students, your housewives, your children, and your indigenous people clamouring for transparency and palpable change. These hundred thousand Filipinos are saying to the good people in government: Here it is. We are standing up for ourselves. How about you stand up for us as well?