“We shouldn’t be changing our leaders every now and then only to get more of the same,” he added.
Silva was an activist with the Samahan ng Demokratikong Kabataan (SDK or Association of Democratic Youth) shortly before Martial Law. He went to the U.S. during Martial Law, and returned to the Philippines shortly after the fall of Marcos.
He actively participated in the broad anti-Estrada campaigns that started in 2000 following Ilocos Sur Gov. Luis “Chavit” Singson’s revelation that the president then was receiving money from jueteng, an illegal numbers game.
What does he think about the political crisis presently surrounding the Macapagal-Arroyo presidency?
“GMA (Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo) unfortunately has been a disappointment on many fronts,” he says. “That she would now be mum on an issue that is serious only compounds her problem.”
Macapagal-Arroyo has kept silent on the issue generated by the Malacañang tapes, in spite of urgings by even her political allies like Senate President Franklin Drilon to speak out.
Silva prefers the constitutional manner of addressing the issue. But he has not closed his doors to the possibility of another Edsa. “Like many others, I would rather go through the constitutional process. If there is evidence of election fraud, then have her resign or impeached. The vice president takes over. If the process is not satisfactory, then we may need another uprising,” he explains.
Does he see the country as having to do several more Edsa-type uprisings?
“One is somber about the fact that Edsas may change something momentarily but may not sufficiently end the problem in the long run,” he said. “I don’t want to see several Edsas only because they regress a country’s economic growth. But the crooks in power seem so well entrenched that there may have to be Edsas again. A sort of cleansing until we are really rid of a culture of corruption and have upright civil officials.”
Santiago has a long history of nationalist and pro-social justice activism behind him. During the martial-law years he became one of the leaders of the Galian sa Arte at Tula (GAT or Celebration in Art and Poetry), a progressive poets’ organization. He started writing and composing songs during the late 1970s, and his pieces became hits in rallies and are still favorites among activists. He continues to be a regular figure at mass actions, aside from writing a column for the tabloid-sized Pinoy Weekly, an alternative newspaper.
The man was in both Edsa uprisings. What does he think of the possibility of another Edsa?
He politely begged off from being interviewed at length, but enthusiastically allowed the use of his song “Pagbabago?” (Change?) for the purposes of this article. He said he still thinks the way he did when the song was created.
Written and composed shortly after the Edsa 2 uprising, the song is among other things a reply to the rhetoric of some traditional politicians who claimed that real change would come upon the ouster of Estrada. It reminds us of the harsh lessons of both Edsa uprisings:
Maghapon-magdamag sa pabrika
Kayod-kalabaw sa bukirin
Ulani’t arawin tayo sa kalsada
Maisulong lamang ang adhikain
Hinarap na natin ang lahat ng hirap
Binalikat ang lahat ng pasanin
Ngunit ang bunga ng ating pagsisikap
Sinasarili lamang ng mga sakim
(Day and night we sweat in the factories
We toil like water buffaloes in the fields
Rain or shine we take to the streets
Just to push for our dreams
We have faced all hardships
We have shouldered all burdens
But the fruits of our labors
Are kept for themselves by the selfish)
The song ends by telling us that however many Edsa uprisings may happen, things will not change for us unless we learn.
Kahit mag-People Power tayo ang talo
Hangga’t hindi tayo natututo
(Even with People Power we would still be losers
So long as we haven’t learned)