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Notes from Recent History

While surfing the Net, I came across this piece I wrote seven years ago as a newspaper reporter — and how strange it reads now, after the many strange realignments that have taken place in the Philippine political firmament since Mr. Estrada’s ouster and Mrs. Arroyo’s rise to power:

Edsa Freedom Walls target 11 pro-Estrada senators
by :Romel Bagares 1/26/01 Philippine Star

At the EDSA Shrine, public anger again boiled over the 11 senators who voted down at the impeachment trial, the plea to open the second envelope believed to contain more damning evidence against deposed President Joseph Estrada.

“This is symbolic because this is where we won the victory,” said lawyer Francis “Kiko” Pangilinan as he scribbled on one of the four “freedom walls” put up Wednesday by the Akbayan multi-sectoral party at the historic shrine.

His words, in black ink, expressed the sentiment of hundreds of thousands of people who flooded the Edsa Shrine to remove Mr. Estrada from office. “Isulong ang bagong politika (advance the new politics).”

The walls – white cloth stretched over two by three meter wooden frames – bear three to a frame, except for one, the names of the infamous 11 senators, namely, Senators Francisco “Kit” Tatad, Ramon Revilla, Robert Jaworski, Miriam Defensor-Santiago, Tessie Aquino-Oreta, Nikki Coseteng, John Osmeña, Juan Ponce Enrile, Blas Ople, Gringo Honasan and Vicente “Tito” Sotto III.

The Akbayan party printed in bold letters on top of each frame the words “Huwag nang iboto, taksil na senador (Don’t vote, traitor of a senator).”

Organizers couldn’t have chosen a better place to put up the freedom walls. Three woman employed at the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (POEA) just across the shrine, rushed to the frame reserved for the names of two senators, Santiago and Oreta.

“Ayan, kay Tessie, kay Tessie (Here’s Tessie’s, here’s Tessie’s),” one of them excitedly said. She wrote: “mag-ballroom dancing ka na lang (go ballroom dancing instead).”

As everyone knows now, the senator has been labeled by an angry public as the “dancing queen” for her antics that fateful Tuesday night.

One man, apparently an Ilonggo, wrote under Sen. Santiago’s name in Hiligaynon: Kahuluya ka gid! (You’re such a shame!)!”

In minutes, the walls filled up with words of anger and disgust:

“Magbasketball ka na lang (Go back to basketball)” (Sen. Jaworski).

“You’re a complete disgrace even to the gay community” (Sen. Osmeña)

“Paingles-ingles ka pa, wala ka namang sinabi (You speak in English but your words don’t mean anything)” (Sen. Sotto).

“Tulog ka lang ng tulog (You just slept through the whole thing)” (Sen. Ople).

“You’re the worst fashion trendsetter, (you have the) best suits for burial.” (Sen. Coseteng).

“Bicolanos against balingbings (turncoats)!” (Sen. Tatad).

“Sinira mo ang aming kinabukasan (You destroyed our future)” (Sen. Enrile).

“Pahiram ng anting-anting mo (Let me borrow your good luck charm)” (Sen. Revilla).

“Di ka na mananalo (You won’t win ever)” (Sen. Honasan).

“Promil overdose (Sen. Santiago).

“Mag-Japan ka na lang (Sen. Oreta).

Many of those who wrote on the walls even signed their names.

“This is a warning to traditional politicians that their days are numbered,” said Pangilinan, a convenor of the Kongreso ng Mamayang Pilipino (KOMPIL II), an alliance of civic groups which spearheaded Mr. Estrada’s ouster.

Vic Rodrigues, the 27-year-old barangay captain of Sacred Heart, Quezon City and an Akbayan party member, said organizers plan to put up more freedom walls in strategic places in the metropolis, such as malls, wet markets, and schools and universities.

“This time,” he said, “we will ask people to write their dreams and aspirations for the country.”

The party, began in 1995, was born out of a split in the Left in the early 1990s. It espouses popular and participatory democracy, and has won a party-list seat in Congress.

According to party organizers, they also intend to bring the campaign against traditional politics to major cities in the Visayas and Mindanao. At a meeting at the height of the four-day People Power II, KOMPIL II leaders vowed to discredit the 11 senators in the coming elections.

Many people stopped by the freedom walls to take a look. One young man in checkered short sleeves and jeans walked up to the third frame.

Above Sen. Tatad’s name, he scrawled an ancient Hebrew phrase familiar to generations of Bible readers: “Mene, Mene Tekel Up Arsin.” Roughly translated in English, it simply means, “You have been weighed, and you have been found wanting.”

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Written by Romel

June 29, 2008 at 6:07 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

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