Protesters branded Aquino as a US lackey who sold out the country’s sovereignty worse than his puppet predecessors because he welcomed de-facto military bases through the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement or EDCA, a lying leader who boasts of economic growth that only the few landlords and capitalists enjoy, a corrupt leader who corners gargantuan pork and patronage, and a killer for having unleashed the brutal Oplan Bayanihan counter-insurgency combat operations.
By MARYA SALAMAT
MANILA – Honoring a Filipino hero’s birthday often involves brief wreath-laying ceremonies followed by some equally brief reminder about heroism of the past. In the case of honoring Gat Andres Bonifacio though, founder of Katipunan and leader of the first successful, nationwide armed revolution that ended the 333-year Spanish colonialism of the country in 1898, the ‘throwback’ to history is always concluded in the present and future tense, and the commemoration is always held longer and more widespread by members of left-leaning progressive organizations.
In this year’s commemoration, current President Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino III did not just suffer greatly from comparison to Andres Bonifacio; Aquino was raised (or brought down) to the likes of Emilio Aguinaldo and other ‘traitors’ of the revolt for genuine freedom.
In speeches during the commemoration of Bonifacio’s 151st birthday, various leaders and personalities blasted President Aquino. They called President Aquino a haciendero president “thoroughly insensitive to the plight of the poor working masses,” as Archbishop Emeritus Oscar Cruz clearly alluded to him. They branded Aquino as a US lackey who sold out the country’s sovereignty worse than his puppet predecessors because he welcomed de-facto military bases through the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement or EDCA, a lying leader who boasts of economic growth that only the few landlords and capitalists enjoy, a corrupt leader who corners gargantuan pork and patronage, and a killer for having unleashed the brutal Oplan Bayanihan counter-insurgency combat operations.
At the start of the main program in Liwasang Bonifacio, cultural workers in Katipunero clothing were joined by actor Robin Padilla who read the Kartilya of the Katipunan, the guidebook for behavior and attitude of members of revolutionary armed group Katipunan. Padilla reminded the rallyists that it was written by Emilio Jacinto who was only 18 years old when he became a revolutionary.
Himself in Katipunero attire, Padilla greeted the “new Katipuneros” and read the Kartilla, which prescribed dedicating one’s life to the struggle for freedom, to keeping close to reason, equality and fairness, honor, selflessness, discipline, respect of women, among others.
Not second term but ouster for Aquino
Next to Padilla’s much-cheered about reading of the Kartilya, Archbishop Emeritus Oscar Cruz introduced himself as neither Pnoy nor Penoy but Pepino.
“I’m an aristocrat — I don’t know about poverty, low wages, homelessness, people sleeping in sidewalks, living under the bridge. I don’t care, I’m an aristocrat,” Bishop Cruz, speaking as Pepino, said at Liwasang Bonifacio.
He said that as Pepino he has a hacienda, the Hacienda Luisito, which measures 4,000-plus hectares.
“Peasants held rallies in Mendiola, I had them killed… They tried to hold a rally in Hacienda Luisito, I had them killed, too. A Supreme Court Justice tried to tinker with distributing Hacienda lands- he was removed,” Pepino said.
“Now I want a second term. You want me to have another term, yes?” Pepino asked the crowd.
Protesters shouted “No. It’s ouster for you.”
On that note Archbishop Emeritus Oscar Cruz bid the protesters thank you and left the stage.
A century and a half since Bonifacio was born, residents of these islands called Philippines remain poor, landless, exploited and oppressed by a few with the help of their government who maintains such a system in exchange for his or her family’s increase in wealth and political power.
Using government position to enrich one’s family, perpetuate its political power and further enrich themselves in a vicious cycle, that is bureaucrat capitalism, said Bayan chairperson Carol Araullo. She said in her speech at Liwasang Bonifacio that the search for meaningful change in our people’s lives goes beyond changing the leader in Malacañang. She explained why the progressive groups are asking for Noynoy’s ouster, even if he only has less than two years left in power.
Campaigning for Aquino’s ouster, whether it succeeds or not before his term ends, would serve as a reminder against his excesses as the prime bureaucrat capitalist in position today, said Dr. Araullo.
Even if we can’t oust Aquino, we’re raising the issue to bureaucrat capitalism, Araullo added. She said that this struggle for change is a long struggle and it will go on until the desired change is achieved.
What is the desired change, exactly? As Juana Change (Mae Paner) exclaimed in a speech at Liwasang Bonifacio peppered with cuss words, real change is when the people are no longer going hungry. Juana Change expressed a growing frustration with the lack of real change because for her, she has done so many things and still she fails to see changes happening in the government.
Majority of the population are poor landless peasants, said Rafael Mariano of Kilusang magbubukid ng Pilipinas. Three in every four in the labor force are contractual workers with low pay and little to no benefits, according to KMU chairman Bong Labog. Everyday, more than 5,000 people go abroad for jobs that are unavailable here.
At Mendiola after the protesters marched from Liwasang Bonifacio, Renato Reyes Jr., secretary general of Bagong Alyansang Makabayan, praised all those who took part in remembering Bonifacio – from the Manilakbayan contingent to farmers, workers, teachers, health workers, students and youth, migrant workers, the religious sector, indigenous peoples.
He urged everyone to continue developing their resilience for the tasks of continuing Bonifacio’s unfinished revolution, and achieving what this revolution had set out to do from the start — freedom from local and foreign repression.
Reyes pointed to the president holding office behind the closed and guarded gates of Mendiola Bridge.
He answered the oft-repeated question of who to replace Noynoy with if he’s to be ousted. “We’re not in this struggle just to put in place another trapo – we want an alternative, a transition government – we do not want the same old system,” Reyes said.
He outlined what he calls a transition government, one that, unlike the present government, would give the people real power. He blasted the current government leaders led by Aquino and how the people cannot expect anything good from them.
“They hold hearings in the Senate, but only on corruption cases of their political rivals. Did they conduct hearings about the plight of people in Mindanao? About the EDCA and VFA? About wages of workers and teachers? When it comes to peoples’ problems, the Aquino government is silent,” Reyes said at Mendiola.
Reyes said President Aquino will likely be consigned to the dustbins of history. “In the end, the people can only rely on their collective action and the power it gives them,” he added. Reyes asked the participants to keep their faith in real people power as manifested in Manilakbayan, in the struggle of Hacienda Luisita farmers, unionizing workers, youth and students joining the likes of Kabataang Makabayan, the “new Katipuneros” fighting in the countryside and building a new government.