The 26th day of August 2013 brought home a statement: Corruption has no place in a government that claims to embody productivity and integrity for its citizenry.
What was supposed to be an ordinary national holiday turned out to be a historic event for the whole nation to witness. What became known as the “Million People March” easily gathered thousands of Filipinos from different walks of life with a unified cry: Abolish the pork barrel system, punish the guilty, and rightfully give what is due us.
The Million People March was not only pursued by protesters; it has now been immortalized with the image of a pig – an iconic symbol that reminds all of us how the politicians we put in power can be as greedy and dirty as the untamed swine under our noses.
This image of a pig that represents our disgust toward a system of corruption and inefficiency became the fuel of the historic event. In this largely un-led protest, it is so easy to feel the agitation in a sea of angry people.
However, in the attempt to instill real changes in the system as stakeholders through protests, we must begin to realize how a historic event must go beyond the collective anger of people waiting to disperse.
No more silence
The Million People March has taught us that silence is never an option when evil acts are blatantly carried out behind our backs. For a country that claims to enjoy freedom, it would be shameful to not realize that the downfall of our own democratic values will not only be brought by the silent tyranny of corrupt politicians, but by the apathy of its own people as well.
My personal experience tells me that many Filipinos tend to condemn yet at the same time tolerate bad practices in government even as they justify corruption as a way of life. I think this is because many of us assume that the familiar feeling of hopelessness is a result of our apathy towards government. But beyond that, I believe it is also a result of conditioning ourselves to be skeptical.
The protest does not only serve as a historic testament to the country’s will to fight a culture of corruption and impunity in the government, but it also asks us to rethink our helplessness or our cynicism that forces us to not stand up for what we believe in.
The Million People March is an experience that reminds us that we are part of a system that we consider lawful yet corrupt, an often unheard citizenry that is tragically called democratic, and a culture of silence.
Now that the Million People March is over, we are faced with the challenge of pushing the enthusiasm to move forward.
The protest was indeed a good call and it was all about making a strong statement to government officials. However, what happens after a protest is important, for it determines whether the protest action itself was effective.
What we do afterwards will differentiate the protest as a mere emotional collective action from a conscious social movement that seeks to instill actual change.
As the real stakeholders in the pork barrel circus, where do we put ourselves afterwards? Keeping the issue alive — whether in social media or elsewhere — is just one way of letting everybody know that citizens are not giving up that easily. Beyond the banners that were waved and the words that were used, we must constantly find new ways to be inspired and new ideas to bring about change .
Like they all say, this is only the beginning. Protests may not change things overnight but I am thrilled to have at least witnessed how citizens are taking simple yet crucial steps to end their silence. – Rappler.com
John Patrick Allanegui is an MS candidate doing research in military sociology at the Ateneo de Manila University. He is currently the managing editor of Verstehen (verstehenonline.org).