Monday, December 03, 2007


I don't know if I was being engulfed by political apathy, or was I simply suffering from hang-over that day the Magdalo walked out of the Makati RTC, marched on the streets of Makati and sieged the Peninsula Hotel. They called for change, vowed no retreat no surrender as they holed up in the posh hotel.

As I sleepily lay on the couch, tv on, Eat Bulaga airing, GMA-7's breaking news got me on my feet to turn the tv's volume up. GMA-7 doesn't just interrupt a high-rating program if it weren't of national interest. It started with intermittent breaking news until finally Eat Bulaga was completely cut off the air and a full coverage of the Makati incident was on.

The spectacle that was to be known later as the 'Makati Pen Siege' was reminiscent both of Oakwood Mutiny 2 (?) years ago and the coup d' etat some 20 years back. Instead of the high-maintenance yuppies treading the streets of Makati, soldiers wearing camouflage uniforms dominated the scene. Flashy cars were conspicuously out of sight, instead there were military trucks and anti-personnel tanks parked in Makati and Ayala Avenues. The difference between the 1997 coup d’ etat and the Oakwood Mutiny was that the former was teeming with curious civilian onlookers, known then as uzis. Makati Pen Siege was more like Oakwood, there were no bystanders ducking at every shot of a rifle and immediately sticking their noses up even before the smoke coming from the guns died out.

The siege was over in less than 12 hours. Magdalo soldiers surrendered so as not to risk the lives of their civilian supporters (including an 81 year old catholic bishop and the 70 year old former vice president) and media people trapped in one of the hotel's function rooms at the second floor, after a number of tear gas bombs were detonated.

As I watched the news, drifting on and off to sleep I anticipated text messages calling for the Filipino people to mass up and express support for the Magdalo soldiers. There was none. I realized later in the evening that network coverage was erratic. (a.m. messages started pouring in late in the evening which made me miss a lot of important work-related texts).

I remember when Justice Davide, in 2001 (?) uttered the historic “the no votes have it” cellphones started beeping telling everyone to gather at the EDSA shrine. That triggered the spontaneous and instantaneous rally that ousted yet another president. I was then itching to take the first public vehicle to bring me to EDSA. But I was immobilized by the throbbing pain in my breast as I had just been under the knife a day earlier.

This time there was no text message. The only thing I got were two almost identical messages after the soldiers, their supporters and media people were hauled to the buses that would take them to Bicutan. The essence of the two texts was a call to “Free Bishop Labayen.” one said “GMA RESIGN” at the end of the text. The second text had the same message but omitted the call for the president’s resignation. That was it. The text messages didn’t say what actions should be taken to free Bishop Labayen.

I had wondered earlier on if the staged walk-out could be the kind of action that would trigger the Filipino people to march up to the streets again and call for the long overdue political upheaval. But even then I knew I was not going to be part of that mass action should there be one. The most I planned to do was to forward whatever text I might receive that day to anyone who might be interested and then proceed to the scheduled swimming lesson the following day.

The curfew imposed that night had a chilling effect on me, though. That night, my sister was out and was not expected to be home till 2 am, while my son had a foundation ball and the curfew would definitely cut short the fun. With the dramatic action at the Makati over, I went back to sleep.

I am no political junkie, but neither am I an uninterested bystander of this country. I did get to join the People Power 2. I expressed immense interest during the People Power 1 but was too young to be allowed to go out, aside from the fact that I came from a family of Marcos loyalists. And I remember tagging along my older cousins to join a noise barrage in support of Ninoy Aquino further back in 1978.

This time around though I wondered to myself why I didn’t have the energy and the passion to go out and join mass actions. I did receive several text messages the following day, from cellphone numbers unlisted in my phonebook, summoning concerned individuals to gather at EDSA and express dissent. Dissent for what? I wasn’t sure.

I definitely want to see this country progress. I want better national leaders. I want a stop to every act of corruption and I want accountability for the sufferings of the majority of Filipinos. But there was something in that Makati Pen Siege that pushed me to some sort of indifference.

During the rest of that (un)fateful day I was wondering what was the siege about. Why did they walk-out of the court? I remember that the very first word I heard from the breaking news was “junta”, then there was the ‘caretaker government’. I heard Trillanes say “we have a plan” after being asked who they had in mind to oversee the caretaker government.

Trillanes’ voice reverberated in my thoughts and even followed me to dreamville. Who will take over the leadership of this country is one question that I have heard many people say a determining factor of their action or inaction. That has never been my question. I personally believe that the country is not lacking in genuinely sincere and decent leaders. And I also personally believe that whoever is there to lead the Filipino people is good enough, so long as he or she is legitimately and duly elected or catapulted to the seat by the people.

The Makati Pen Siege was one chance that could have mobilized Filipino people to finally take a stand for the umpteenth time against a government that abandoned its supreme duty to serve the people. But I wondered where the people were. Where was the vocal opposition? Where were the perennial protest action organizers? Where was the Catholic Church? Where was everyone? I was pretty sure they were monitoring the developments of the siege. I was certain they were not being apathetic like me. But why weren’t they there?

I know why I was not there. It is not entirely apathy that has engulfed me that day. It was uncertainty. It was fear. To hear the word “junta” at a time when bloody crackdown of pro-democracy marches in Burma remains lucid in our memories could bring chills to one’s veins. I don’t like our government now. But I don’t like a military junta either (albeit, I wonder if what we have now isn’t a junta in disguise). My inaction was not an act of choosing the lesser evil.

I do understand that there is a need for change, a change that should have occured long before the discovery of the "Hello Garci" tape. But this one siege is something I didn't understand. All indications showed that it was planned. What happened in between is something incomprehensible to me. My inaction was not apathy, but a lack of understanding of what was truly happening that day.

This could have been one chance for change that ended in vain. I don't know if others would regret one day that the day was not seized, but surely they have their reason. I have mine.



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