“Those who profess to favor freedom and yet depreciate agitation, are people who want crops without ploughing the ground; they want rain without thunder and lightning; they want the ocean without the roar of its many waters. The struggle may be a moral one, or it may be a physical one, or it may be both. But it must be a struggle. Power concedes nothing without a demand. It never did and it never will.” – Frederick Douglass
By GERARDO LANUZA and SARAH RAYMUNDO
MANILA — A consensus that attempts at shaping public opinion on protest actions was publicized on September 19, 2014. Twenty three faculty (23) members of the UP School of Economics (SE) vilified the student activists of the Student Alliance for the Advancement of Democratic Rights in the University of the Philippines (STAND-UP) for holding a protest against Budget Secretary Florencio Abad who justified the Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP) in a forum that was held on September 17, 2014 at the PCED auditorium of the SE, University of the Philippines-Diliman.
Rulling class on a roll?
There is a clear homology in the political world views expressed by the statement of the SE faculty, the indictment issued by the Office of the President of the land, and the subsequent statement released by the UP President, and the public apology aired on national television by the UP Diliman Chancellor. They agree on many ideas. And we cannot help but conclude that Marx is right: “the ruling ideas of every epoch has always been the ideas of the ruling class.”
Lamentably, some of those who, in defiance of Martial Law, passionately burnt under the banner of anti-imperialist nationalism are now cynics who can very well tell how Philippine society is in a sordid state of crisis but would rather sound like Gandhian neophytes, vocally denigrating STAND UP’s brand of activism. For all their reckless condemnations, these cynics simply want to dictate what activism should be: work within the system by collaborating with a corrupt government, and live up to its prescribed space of the “matuwid na daan”.
From the incident, they have seized upon the opportunity to proclaim and pontificate on dubious moral high ground, their unresolved personal issues with the Left; and brandish the superiority of their so-called liberal brand of activism. Some of them still hypocritically claim to be Leftist, whatever that means.
How the arrogance of imaginary power misunderstands violence
These cynics must be reminded of the oft-repeated argument among radicals that one must distinguish between violence of the establishment, monopolized by the state and the “illegal” and “immoral” violence of the excluded and exploited. The violence of a protest will always be immoral and illegal from the point of view of the established moral order. Yet protests and armed revolutions are happening worldwide, as we speak. But this is a side-issue. Why, there was minimal, if not a total absence of violence perpetrated during the incident that agitated UP and Malacañang authorities.
They all claim that the student manhandled Abad but have no evidence, save for the video that our very own organization Congress of Teachers and Educators for Nationalism and Democracy (CONTEND) posted online wherein none of their frenzied claim to violence happens.
How about the violence of the layers upon layers of security guards who accosted the students to escort Abad? Doesn’t their mere presence as avatars of state violence provoke violence? Initially, Abad even admitted that the incident was not unusual. His academic defenders however, could not understand, for all their intelligence, why such incident was possible to have occurred in an academic setting.
These cynics and their masters from Malacañang must be gently reminded that universities have always been, and rightfully so in our view, spaces for protests against state violence. Abad was not even willing to dialogue with the activists. Was Abad even mugged and injured? If yes, then is not a medico legal or some such proof in order? In the absence of which won’t the student activists consider filing a law suit against these cynical authority figures in the University for moral defamation?
If the student activists were, indeed, hooligans, the forum would have been terminated from the start. A lightning rally could have been staged right at the moment when Sec. Abad was explaining how DAP was good for the motherland. What do you know, a fake bomb threat could have been sent out for people to evacuate the building. There are thousand and one ways to sabotage Abad, and none of which was ever executed. We can imagine a radical crop of anarchists carrying out a shocking disruption. The protesters, however, waited outside.
What these cynical and denigrators and self-righteous Ghandian neophytes fail to realize is the sociological truth that the flow and current of collective protests cannot be predicted. Most of the time, they create their own collective logic and movements beyond the will of individual participants.
These outbursts put the protesters on a defensive position face to face with the personalities they confront. In failing to grasp the nature of protests, these cynics and denigrators of STAND UP are no different from, say, someone who watches a football match (often associated with hooligans) and ridiculously shouts “Don’t get too physical, follow the rules!” It seems that these clueless authoritarians cannot spell the difference between a forum and the dynamics of protest actions. They want a protest without protest! They want to struggle without a fight; war without battles. Worse, they want to drag everyone in their misguided approach to oppositional politics.
Before we even accept a blanket condemnation of violence, guerrilla struggle, and what cynics label as “leftist dogmatism,” and “irrational activism,” it must be clarified how these thoughtless labeling have directed the issue away from the culpability of the government for violating the constitution in its wanton use of DAP, with Budget Secretary Abad being its architect and staunch defender. Pro-Aquino academics, those who are wont to defend the presidential pork barrel, are now using this incident to win points against their former comrades. And they do so with a distasteful and phony rhetoric: “I was once like that. But things have changed. We are no longer under Martial Law.” “Sec. Abad has a lot of explaining to do, but give him respect due him” is their more preposterous line of defence. Wasn’t DAP arbitrarily granted to Liberal Party legislators and local government allies to oil the election machineries in 2013?
The liberal is a fascist
The academe-based cynics even shamed the UP activists by calling them a “blot” in the long tradition of UP activism. Come to think of it, don’t these activists from STAND UP indeed figure as blots that expose the hypocrisy of the dominant version of academic freedom that underlies UP’s claim to liberal thinking? The philosophy and practice of liberalism espouses a politics that proffers to tolerate all political and philosophical treatises precisely by marginalizing the most radical of discourses.
As part of the progressive and militant bloc in the University, we do not and will never condone the violence of the powerful against the oppressed. We are not liberals who can go as far as tolerating lies for the sake of the empty promise of individual freedom. UP is very strong against plagiarism and intellectual dishonesty. It exacts grave penalties against violators.
Sec. Abad’s deception about DAP is an act of dishonesty. He is not an ordinary student or citizen. He is the Budget Secretary whom the liberal cynics of this University defends. And in doing so, they actually contradict themselves by proclaiming freedom while at the same time imposing their own values and worldviews on people who do not share them.
We are wary of such farcical tendencies. We stand by our critique of Philippine society and the principles that guide our vision for genuine agrarian reform and national industrialization. In so doing, we also make ourselves vulnerable to critique. We teach and write to transform and to be transformed.
We are outraged that student activists have been labelled “enemies of the university” by the 23 members of the SE faculty. This discursive move exposes the oft-forgotten truth about the relationship between liberalism and fascism. Liberalism has never been the antidote to fascism. They supplement each other.
In 2006, two UP student activists were disappeared and have been reported to have undergone severe torture in a military camp. General Jovito Palparan regarded activists like Sherlyn Cadapan and Karen Empeño as “enemies of the state.” Their comrades from STAND-UP have not wavered in condemning the government’s counterinsurgency programs— Macapagal-Arroyo’s Oplan Bantay Laya and BS Aquino’s Oplan Bayanihan—that have consistently functioned to quell dissent and opposition rather than resolve the problem of insurgency. The same activists from STAND-U.P. have been resolute in demanding justice for Karen and Sherlyn and all the desaparacidos, and victims of extra-judicial killings.
Are these SE professors too naive so as to fail to realize that with the climate of impunity in the country, the tag “enemies of the university” endangers the lives of these young people? Or is that precisely the intention? There goes fascism, liberalism’s obscene double. It is harsh and shocking, as much as it is naive.
Stand up, U.P.!
Debates are supposed to court truth. Whatever happened to truth in the hands of liberal cynics? We cannot tolerate lies. That this University produces highly talented and skilful citizens while our national budget is controlled by Sec. Abad is nothing short of tragic. A brand of education that denigrates the struggle for national liberation to endorse armchair activism is intolerable. Silence in the face of evil is evil itself. Those who bow down to exploitation, injustice, and repression in the name of individual freedom are actually against freedom.
The UP President’s call for an investigation of these students as demanded by the 23 SE professors; and for some members of the rank and file staff to have been questioned about their presence in the same protest and asked to identify the names of the students in a captured image is nothing short of a crackdown. We can only think of one decent response to such excessive display of power: The University is a contested terrain.
We understand that they might have their own ideas about how a university should be. But they need not punish and terrorize those who do not agree with them. We refuse to suffer the consequences of the politics of cooptation that they embrace; and for which they have apologized to and defended massive looters in government.
As members of the academic body, we have no problem with being represented by the Chancellor. However, we want to clarify that Chancellor Michael Tan’s public apology to Secretary Abad on national television by no means reflect our position on this particular issue. As for the violence on which these academic authorities have based all their brazen statements against student activists, we challenge them to prove it for the sake of their own integrity. And they better prove it before they even continue with such appalling practices of witchunting and labelling.
Meanwhile, we find strength and power in Frederick Douglass words: “Those who profess to favor freedom and yet depreciate agitation, are people who want crops without ploughing the ground; they want rain without thunder and lightning; they want the ocean without the roar of its many waters. The struggle may be a moral one, or it may be a physical one, or it may be both. But it must be a struggle. Power concedes nothing without a demand. It never did and it never will.”
You want freedom? Stand up and fight for it!
Gerardo Lanuza is the Chairperson of CONTEND and a faculty member of the Department of Sociology, UP Diliman. Sarah Raymundo is the convenor of UP-Kilos Na Multi-Sectoral Alliance and a faculty member of the U.P. Center for International Studies.