Archive for February, 2014

Support Statement for PNU’s The Torch: Kung ayaw niyong matulog, kayo ay magpatulog; kung wala na kayong makain, magpoprotesta rin kayo

Here goes again the status quo, menacing those who seek to usher in an alternative order of things. Always this resort to desperate measures, always this resort to desperate measures.

The Torch, the official publication of the Philippine Normal University-Manila is currently under the attack of an individual supposedly part of one political organization in PNU, the Student Union and Leadership Onwards (SULO). The most glaring of this individual’s accusations on The Torch is that the student publication “uses the funds of the students to propagate the ideologies of their communist-led party-list groups.”

The Torch, a student publication that recently marked its 100th year of existence, already provided a substantive response to these accusations by Nadora.

There are other issues though that this event has opened up. Even prior this event, a lot of other progressive organizations, campus publications included, has been red-tagged (read: labeled as ‘communists’) systematically under the Oplan Bayanihan policy of Pnoy which works to repress critical elements in the society since being tagged as a ‘communist,’ as an ‘enemy of the state’ makes an individual or organization a justified target of various forms of human rights violations, the most extreme form of which is political killing. This policy embodies a bloodier version of how Zizek described the response of the powers-that-be to the people’s ‘hysterical’ cries, if not recurring complaints: “Say it in my terms or shut up!” What is at work in Oplan Bayanihan is less accommodating, less pretentious: “Do not say anything against me or I will execute you!” Such is the evil of Oplan Bayanihan. You can only relish democracy if you are in agreement with the status quo. If you are critical, democracy cannot be for you.

Going back to the case of The Torch, what is interesting here is that instead of the government using a more systematic approach, we have here an individual, a representative of a certain political organization red-tagging by her lonesome a student publication that has been existing for over a century, a publication whose enduring existence must be enough to speak for its credibility and relevance. At this point, we should ask, what could be the motive of this individual in making such accusations? While the government’s Oplan Bayanihan exhibits their intolerance of contrary elements in their beloved status quo, what then is this individual trying to accomplish in her tirade?

In their position paper regarding this matter, The Torch Publication made a suggestion already:  “But never has it been aggressively brought in the middle of a political arena to be a subject of vilification and defamatory statements.” To contextualized, it is during the heat of the Student Council Elections in PNU when Nadora blurted out her concerns about The Torch. Moreover, as abovementioned, Nadora is part of the SULO Party, one of the political parties vying for seats in the PNU Student Council. But this is not all. In her Facebook, Nadora calls on Akbayan personality Risa Hontiveros “kasama,” and hence, making clear the political affiliation of the former.

How then should we approach this matter: Red-tagging being committed not by the government but some other elements. Notably, UP Baguio Outcrop, another student publication also experienced such red-tagging. During their exhibit during the Human Rights celebration last December where they featured stills from the Stanley Kubrick’s Full Metal Jacket to express their opposition to the ROTC program revived in UP Baguio, they set up a feedback area where students can pitch in their comments and reactions. One comment in the feedback tagged the Outcrop as “commies,” a cuter term for ‘communists.’ The speculation is that this comment was made by one of the ROTC people.

This is where we can bring in the idea of class analysis, one of the esteemed interpretive lenses provided by Marxist criticism. The “class” in this class analysis is not only constituted by one’s role in the economic production of a society, it is also determined, and this one is often overlooked, by one’s position with regards to the status quo: that is, if one is in favor of or against it.

Coming from this, things can have more lucid sense: The SULO party to which Nadora belongs seems to be affiliated with the Akbayan partylist, one of the more obvious underlings of the Pnoy regime. It is therefore hypocritical to accuse one of “propagating the ideologies” of certain partylists when one is also involved in such act. And as if there is someone or something outside ideology today. From the food we eat, the movies we watch, the things we do in our lives are all in a way, influenced by ideology. Having enjoyed a certain political advantage because of their relationship to the current regime, the SULO Party and the bigger Akbayan bloc to which it is part of can be said to be reactionary; that is, preservative, if not protective of the status quo.

In the case of UP Baguio Outcrop, the accusations are supposedly hurled upon them by members of the ROTC people which as such expectedly carries with them the ideology of the status quo. Their interest, as ‘reserves’ of the Philippines Army is to protect the government by monitoring the activities of the ‘enemy,’ if not outwardly suppressing such activities.

These two parties – the SULO Party representative of the Akbayan bloc and the ROTC people – are banking on the dominant conception of “communism,” “being red” in flinging these “negative” attributes to the student publications they attack. In the current scheme of things, these ideas have resonated in a bad light precisely because these are ideas that threaten the status quo. Again, this only confirms that both the SULO Party and the ROTC people are in favor of the status quo.

But there is nothing wrong to believe in communism, we say. There is nothing wrong to believe in, and more vitally, to work for a state of things different from the current one – an alternative state of things where there is equality and justice for everyone, where everyone can go to school, where everyone can get proper medication when they are ill, and where everyone can have an occupation to feed herself and her family and more importantly, to harness and hone her talents and skills.

Before the gay rights movement, the homosexuals cowered in calling themselves out, in asserting their (homosexual) identity. They were being derogated as “queer.” But then they started to appropriate this very term used to denigrate them and collectively, they huddled under this term, queer, and used it as a counterattack, a statement of pride and ownership. By doing that, they only proved that there is nothing wrong with being queer, with being homosexual. This is also the challenge for those who fight against the current, oppressive system. They must “struggle over the sign,” as Bakhtin puts it. They must embrace these terms thrown at them: “activist,” “enemy of the state,” “leftist” and infuse them with a new meaning, change them from demonizing to proactive ones.

Lastly, if one thinks this is youthful idealism talking once again, we say: what is wrong with such idealism? In “The Affirmative Character of Culture,” Marcuse invokes Hegel’s protest against the “degradation of the idea” against “playing officiously with the mind as though it were an object that has nothing to do with human history.” Hegel protests against this severing of the idea from material existence, for such move eliminates the potential to think beyond the system, to think and imagine an alternative better than the current one. But certainly to imagine a better alternative is easier than actually working to birth that alternative. Maybe this is why there is this infectious repulsion on “going against the system.” Raymond Williams says it well, an alternative will not be simpler than the current one, “imagine daily life and the organization of a society wherein human beings are fully in control of their own destinies, makes demands on the mind which are forbiddingly difficulty for subjects of the present ‘administered world’.”

Maybe the current system has become too comforting to most of us and so it is hard to imagine “a better one.” But as in the idea behind “Kung ayaw niyong matulog, kayo ay magpatulog,” nothing can stop the activists, the leftists, the ‘enemies of the state,’ especially not those who refuse to join them in their cause, from crying foul over a system that continues to impoverish and oppress the Filipino people. The same way as “Kapag inantok kayo, matutulog rin kayo,” we say here: “Kapag nagugutom na kayo at ang pamilya niyo at hindi nyo na mapagkasya ang kakarampot niyong sweldo sa pag-ko-call center o kung anuman sa pag-aasam nyo ng mga latest na gadgets, magpoprotesta rin kayo sa sistemang ito.”


Outside Kafka dwells the collective resistance of the people: a statement against the harassment of student leaders and campus press freedom violations

One day in Franz Kafka’s The Trial, Joseph K. woke up just to find out that he was under arrest for a crime he – and even his arresters! – could not identify. Outside the Kafkaesque world where the bizarre is rational and the rational unusual, violations of rights are being committed but accusing fingers are being vehemently directed and names are being explicitly called. Just as the rights violators are direct in taking charge of the “criminals;” the “criminals,” unlike Kafka’s Joseph K. are unflinching in condemning such malicious accusations from their tormentors.

It was January 18 when Marben Panlasigui, Governor of the Student Council School of Humanities (SoH), was harassed by SoH Dean Lilian Gandeza. As reported in this statement by Anakbayan Cordillera, Gandeza accused Panlasigui of commanding the underground movement Kabataang Makabayan. Gandeza also questioned Panlasigui’s effectiveness as a leader and warned him to beware for the SLU Administration can trace his activities. Notably, Panlasigui is a member of the youth organization Anakbayan, an organization known for its consistent campaign not just for the rights and welfare of student but also of the greater people. By conducting activities that raise the awareness of the community to issues like Tuition and Other Fees Increase, Anti-Student Policies, Oil Price and other basic commodities’ hikes among others, Anakbayan continually achieves its objectives of educating and mobilizing the people in relation to the issues that affect them.

In the incident involving Governor Panlasigui and Dean Gandeza, we can see the clash of interests which underlies Gandeza’s assault on Panlasigui. It is the classic and recurring tale of the powerful and privileged playing on their subordinates. This is only symptomatic of a larger scheme of things which manifests itself in a lot of venues in a lot of ways. In schools, the press freedom of campus publications is being violated. The former Editor-in-Chief of UP Baguio Outcrop is still facing a libel case filed by a Professor in the University for a lampoon article. This is almost Kafkaesque, but Kafkaesque does not exactly mean utterly ridiculous, if not foolish. The Loquitur of the King’s College of the Philippines is still chained to an Administration-appointed adviser who meddles with the internal affairs of the publication. The operations of school and college-based publications in SLU and BSU are hampered by inadequate facilities. In the society at large, the Aquino administration sanctions the Oplan Bayanihan which is merely a sanitized name for the ‘legal’ silencing, prosecution, if not extirpation, of anyone who questions or criticizes the government. Even media practitioners whose job is to tell the truth about the things happenings in the community are not spared of this self-serving program by Aquino. As of November last year, at least 24 journalists have been killed in Aquino’s term. When he banked on the rhetoric of the “tuwid na daan,” Aquino did not reveal all; he did not tell us the “tuwid na daan” is a road filled with blood.

This scheme of things – where a progressive student leader like Panlasigui is being harassed by a school official, supposedly its ally in protecting the rights of students — is in effect because the powerful does not want anyone to have the proper venues to voice out its concerns, criticisms and recommendations.

This scheme of things – where campus journalists, supposedly the mouthpiece of the students, are being charged with libel cases and not being provided with the necessary equipment for their operation — is taking effect because the powerful does not want to mold critical, curious, proactive and independently thinking individuals.

This scheme of things – where the government itself not only condones but initiates the massacre, be it physical or spiritual, of its people – is in effect because the privileged and the powerful will try in all its might to keep the status quo where they rule and benefit at the expense of the larger people.

At the end of Joseph K.’s “trial”—a truly befuddling, if not senseless, or maybe philosophical one, Joseph K. was left musing about everything that just occurred to him.  Until the end, he did not know what he has done for his tormentors to do what they did just do to him. Good thing we are not in Kafka’s universe. For while the powers-that-be are trying us, trying how far our being vigilant, our being critical, our being revolutionary can go, we have the benefit of understanding the systemic origin of this “trial.” We shall not find ourselves merely musing about this hopeless fate at the end. This is not a hopeless situation we are in, after all. This is not the pages of Kafka. With our collective strength and efforts, we can put an end to this system where the powerful few are exploiting and tormenting the greater populace.

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