There used to be an old 1970s-1980s term often used to describe the “politically passionate”. Cause-oriented groups or COGs as they were once called was the collective term used for activists and rabble-rousers alike. They had real “causes” at the time — many of which were focused on achieving “freedom”, because Filipinos were supposedly not “free” at the time.
Filipinos today are arguably “free”. Unfortunately they have evidently used that “freedom” to turn the Philippines into an even bigger joke — the bigger joke being that its true nature as a chronic basket case has become even more stark seeing that its dysfunction remained consistent despite what was purported to be a “revolution” achieved in 1986.
So what do COGs stand for today? There is no longer any “freedom” to fight for. There is “justice” to be sought, perhaps — for many crimes that have gone unpunished. Like the recent massacre of 44 police officers of the Philippine National Police’s (PNP’s) Special Action Force (SAF), the murder of 56 people in 2009 allegedly by Maguindanao warlord Andal Ampatuan had its 15 minutes of fame as the pre-eminent outrage fad of the time. Today it is but a footnote in articles such as this one you are reading.
It is likely that the “SAF44” butchery will, itself, be relegated to just another footnote in future outrage fad articles like this — just another garden-variety unsolved mass murder in the Philippines. If the SAF44 men are lucky, perhaps a monument will be built in their honour somewhere, to be remembered not much for their role in the killing of one of the FBI’s “most wanted” but more for exposing the delusion that is the Bangsamoro Basic Law.
But for their part, Like Andal Ampatuan who continues to thumb his nose at the Philippines’ justice “system”, MILF chair Murad Ebrahim and his mouthpiece Mohagher Iqbal will simply retreat back to their terrorist hideouts and wait for the next government to sucker into another round of “peace” negotiations.
Perhaps then, this is the “cause” that today’s “movements” need to take up — one that involves putting a stop to the now disturbingly-consistent cycle of bald deprivation of justice Philippine society seems to tolerate as a mere banality. Of course such a cause is a complex one and likely to be devilishly difficult to popularise. Unlike the hollow-headed “freedom” and “vigilance” movements that the Yellow rhetoric of the 1980s degenerated to over the last three decades, finding a rallying colour and cool hand gesture for a more intellectual cause such as breaking-the-cycle-of-injustice-in-Philippine-society may not be as easy.
This is the advantage the Aquino-Cojuangco feudal clan and its circle of minions enjoy today. They are still seen to be the “owners” of the country’s biggest partisan branding franchise — the Yellow “movement” and the “L”-gesture that remain potent rallying symbols. For the Opposition movements to crack this still-solid bloc of dysfunctional thinking that grips Philippine society, they will need to step up to the challenge of competing for a piece of the public imagination.
“Freedom” remains a strong rallying concept in the Philippines where victim mentalities continue to imprison ignorant minds. The notion that Filipinos have, in fact, been free enough to choose their leaders and that their leaders today are, in reality, the crooks they deserve to suffer by virtue of the idiotic way they exercised that very freedom has routinely escaped the sensibilities of the electorate. Modern activists need to recognise that the concepts they need to bring across to the public are a lot more complex in this regard.
It is no longer a matter of coming up with a new good-versus-evil narrative that appeals to juvenile minds. The story now revolves around accountability — a more grownup concept that requires a bit more modern thinking. As such, selling accountability to Filipino minds will be an enormous challenge given that this notion is all but an alien concept to a people long-accustomed to being assured they are “special” in God’s eyes. Today’s activists will need to be a lot more clever than the simpletons who have, to their credit, turned the Yellow ideology into the potently virulent socio-political cancer that it is today.
Interestingly enough the incumbent President Benigno Simeon ‘BS’ Aquino III presents an ironic opportunity that may yet galvanise and unify a credible Opposition in the Philippines. President BS Aquino, after all, is Lack-of-Accountability personified. Therefore, as the anti-thesis of accountability, BS Aquino has all but served himself on a silver platter to the Opposition to turn into the much-needed anti-symbol of everything that should define them and the future of sensible activism in the Philippines in the coming years.
The devil, as always, is in the execution.
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