Bu-lat-lat (boo-lat-lat) verb: to search, probe, investigate, inquire; to unearth facts

Vol. V,    No. 20      June 26 - July 2, 2005      Quezon City, Philippines











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Copyright 2004 Bulatlat


The Oldest and the Youngest in the Day of Protest

Various forces and sectors, even strange bedfellows, came together this week for a unified cause – to force what they said was a bogus president to step down from power.


OLD AND YOUNG: Two generations meet in one historic unity march.


In a crowd of more than 10,000 gathered in front of the Sto. Domingo Church, Quezon City on June 24, Juanito Reyes took a breather under the pink and blue steel overpass along Quezon Avenue. At 86, the old man was one of the warm bodies who trooped to the streets that day for a unity march of various sectors and opposition forces demanding that President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo (GMA) step down from Malacañang.

The country’s chief executive has been in hot water the past weeks on allegations of fraud when tapes of her alleged wiretapped conversations with Commission on Election (Comelec) Commissioner Virgilio Garcillano surfaced June 6. The conversation allegedly occurred during the canvassing of votes in June last year with the president’s voice captured telling the election official to ensure her a one-million-vote lead over closest rival, Fernando Poe Jr., an actor-turned-politician, now deceased.

Ouster veterans

Matanda na ako, hindi na ako dapat naglalakad ng ganito” (I’m too old, I should not be marching like this) Manong (old man) Juanito said. “Pero kaya ko pa naman” (But I can still manage), he added as the march was about to start.

Manong Juanito was at the Sto. Domingo Church 12 noon and took a quick lunch in his grandson’s house in a nearby street. He went back to the crowd before Fr. Joe Dizon, initiator of the election watchdog Patriots, would lead an ecumenical mass atop of a 10-by-10 flat truck that served as the protest action’s mobile stage. Dizon, an activist-priest, started his involvement in the mass movement during martial law.

Wearing an old kurduroy hat, brown pants, rubber slippers and a white shirt printed with an almost faded face of Poe, Manong Juanito said this is his third time to join a campaign to oust a Philippine president. The first was in 1986 when a people’s uprising overthrew the Marcos dictatorship and the second was in 2001 when the people ousted Joseph Estrada from Malacañang on allegations of corruption and involvement in the illegal numbers game, jueteng.

A native of San Carlos, Pangasinan, he said he was a distant relative of Poe who hailed from the same town. Asked why Macapagal-Arroyo should heed the people’s call for her to step down, he said the president has done nothing to alleviate the poverty of the masses. “Lalo pa tayong naghihirap ngayon” (We’re getting more miserable these days), he said.

As the emcee signaled the start of the march to Liwasang Bonifacio (LB) in Manila – about 3 kms away - the now famous “Hello, Garci” mobile phone ring tones started to play over the giant sound systems. There were around nine versions of the tones played throughout the march, the most notable of which was that with a Michael Jackson song entitled “Smooth Criminal” as background music.

“Hanay lang tayo mga kasama, sampu-sampu!” (Let’s line up, comrades, 10 in a row). As the rally marshals instructed the crowd to close their ranks, Mang Juanito tried to find his companions and slowly melted into the crowd that has swelled to more than 20,000.

Among the veterans in the crowd were Margarita Seta, 83, and Juanita Sason, 76, both from a Bayan Muna (People First, a party-list group) community in Camarin, Novaliches. Shielding themselves from the heat of the sun with an umbrella, the two old women tried to run to keep pace with the march. Aling Nely, 49, a neighbor and Bayan Muna member, played nanny to the two. “Kelangan alalayan, baka sila madapa” (I should lend them a hand lest they fall on their knees), she said, to which Aling (old woman) Juanita replied, “Di bale, sanay naman. Nandun din kami nuon sa Edsa” (Never mind, we’re used to this. We were in Edsa) - referring to Epifanio delos Santos Avenue where the people gathered for the people’s uprising in 1986 and 2001.

While the crowd were amused by the two, a more serious and a bit younger Francisco Ybañez, 69, carried a placard posted on a bamboo stick that had the words “Oust Gloria Now!”

Basta hindi karapatdapat sa pwesto, dapat tanggalin” (Anybody not qualified for a position should be ousted), Mang Francisco said. “Tumanda na ako sa pakikipaglaban at handa akong makipag-rally hangga’t hindi napapatalsik si Gloria” (I’ve gotten old fighting and I’m all set to join a rally until Gloria is removed).

Mang Francisco lives in an urban poor community in Balara, Quezon City. He said he has been fighting to own the land where their house stands since the time of the late dictator Ferdinand Marcos. He has retired and now lives with financial support from his son who is an overseas Filipino worker (OFW) in Saudi Arabia. His son was actually set to come home that day but Mang Francisco begged off from fetching him from the airport. Their reunion would have to wait after the protest action, he said.

Next generation

It was also the first rally joined by 18-year old Girlie, a college student from Quezon City, who had not anticipated the long march from the Church to Welcome Rotunda, the boundary between Quezon City and Manila.

Tumataas lahat ng bilihin pero ang sweldo ng parents namin hindi kaya ang baon namin hindi rin (tumataas)” (Prices of basic commodities are shooting up but my parents’ pay is not increasing and so we get the same allowance), she said shyly.

She wipes her face that has become oily by then, but she doesn’t regret, she said, and promised to join the next protest action to oust the president.

A 16-year old student wearing a black Che Guevarra shirt, the latest fashion craze of the youth, and a green skirt which looked like her uniform, also joined the rally with some of her friends. She said she has been joining mobilizations since she was 11 but issues may not have been clear for the young lass from a group known as Kasama. “Weekend naman kasi bukas kaya okay lang” (Tomorrow is Saturday so it’s just okay to join the rally), she said when asked why she was present.

Another young man catches the crowd’s attention with his all-black outfit and the red print on his shirt that read: “Punks Not Dead.” He wore stainless chains on his wrist, earrings which resembled a safety pin, and his hair looked like that of a character from an anime cartoon.

He is Jaro, 20, a second year Computer Science student at the University of the East and a member of the youth group AnakBayan (nation’s youth). When the alleged wiretapped conversations between Macapagal-Arroyo and Garcillano surfaced, members of another youth group, the League of Filipino Students (LFS) went around universities in Quezon City and Manila to conduct room-to-room discussions on fraud as a tool of corrupt bureaucrats while popularizing the “Hello, Garci” tapes and ring tones to their fellow students.

Earlier this week, some of their members attended the congressional inquiry on the alleged wiretapped conversation and distributed compact disc copies of the alleged conversation to the members of the House.

The marathon congressional hearings started June 21 and went on for three days. The first day was spent by the members of the House debating on “ground rules” which young opposition congresswoman Darlene Custodio said in an interview with Bulatlat, had been agreed upon before the hearings could even start.

“It is obvious that our colleagues who are pro-GMA are just trying to delay the hearings,” said the congressman.  During the hearings, allies of the President would question the ground rules while the interpellations were ongoing.

Custodio admitted to getting irked by Press Secretary Ignacio Bunye who took the witness stand June 21 and 22. “Parang scripted lahat ng sagot nya” (All his replies sounded like a script) she said referring to Bunye’s repeated answers during the interpellations.

The hearings have been set following a privilege speech by another young congressman, Minority Floor leader Francisco “Chiz” Escudero from Bicol.


“We are joining the cry of the nation,” said Digna Bonin, 49, an election volunteer for Poe who was wearing a white shirt printed with the famous Sanrio character Hello Kitty talking on the phone. The dialogue box had the words “Hello, Garci”. The print at the back of the shirt was a man who resembles Garcillano with the words “Hello, Ma’am.”

A businesswoman who is into food and medical equipment, Digna has been with the National Coordinating of Volunteers (NCCV) during the May 2004 campaign. Their group, led by character actor Rez Cortez, supported Poe in the presidential race.

“GMA is not a legitimate president so she should just step down. She is not supposed to be there in the first place,” she said.

Digna also proposes that a transitional council where the different sectors of society would be represented should take over the administration. The council should then prepare for an election to determine who would next lead the country, she added.

Local officials from Metro Manila who are identified with opposition also attended the march that was met by a 500-strong dispersal team of the Philippine National Police (PNP) Region III at the Welcome Rotunda. A back up team of around 200 PNP men wearing camouflaged uniform and armed with high-powered rifles stood in front of the University of Sto. Tomas (UST) along España Avenue.

Pati nga ako ayaw padaanin,” said Manila Councilor Francisco Moreno who joined the rally together with their vice-mayor Danny Lacuña. He chided Manila Mayor Lito Atienza for not allowing the protest action to reach Manila. “Tuta kasi ni GMA yun e” (Atienza is a puppet of GMA), he said.

Moreno said he joined the rally because he believes that Macapagal-Arroyo cheated during the last elections. “They spent around P200 million to buy votes in Manila alone but that big amount did not defer Poe from winning in our area,” he said. Poe won in Manila by an 82,000-margin over her, the councilor said.

Makati Mayor Jejomar Binay, who arrived at the rally site with his security men at around 4 p.m. said, “Nagpapatunay ito na nagigising na ang humihingi ng katotohanan” (Those looking for the truth have stood up) referring to the big crowd that held the rally that day. This also proves, he said, that the opposition has now united to confront one common enemy – the Macapagal-Arroyo administration.

Although he was not privy to any military defections, Binay said he is certain that there are “many political defections” referring to a swelling number of local government officials like mayors and governors who have quietly joined the ranks of the opposition.

The opposition’s unity was shown in a press conference of the United Opposition (UNO) at the Club Filipino in Mandaluyong City June 23 where leaders of various groups faced the media for the first time for a unified call for the truth to prevail and to eventually oust the president.

Present were May 2004 presidential bet Sen. Panfilo “Ping” Lacson who, earlier that day launched his “Be Not Afraid Movement” which will put up centers that would distribute CD copies of the alleged GMA-Garcillano wiretapped conversation and former vice presidential candidate Loren Legarda who said she would continue her electoral protest against Vice President Noli de Castro. The former senator added that the alleged wiretapped conversation caught on tape by some Intelligence Service of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (Isafp) agents was a vindication of her protest. Bulatlat 




© 2004 Bulatlat  Alipato Publications

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