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.