Airbrushing the Left out of Edsa 2 and the body politic

Manolo Quezon remembered Edsa Dos in this blog entry, joining many bloggers who responded to the Blog Action Week.

Reading it though gave me the impression that Manolo harbors some thoughts about the Left’s role in Edsa 2 which, unfortunately, have no factual basis.

Manolo writes:

A tacit agreement seems to have been reached with the Left, during Edsa Dos, where the Left worked more or less discreetly with the other players (for example, during the “sleepy” periods during those protest days, the Left ensured there would be people at Edsa in the morning and lunchtime).

The Left was at Edsa 2 and all over the country — not just during madaling araw and morning. If we go by eyewitness and reporters’ accounts, especially those of the Inquirer, it was a verified fact that the Left mobilized hundreds of thousands of its forces on a nationwide scale on a 24-hour basis. It was the Left — through the Kilusang Mayo Uno — which formally urged workers and employees to stop going to work and join the barricades at Edsa and in urban centers across the country.

That was hardly discreet, I think. There are more:

Manolo seems to have forgotten about Teddy Casino and Satur Ocampo who spoke for the Left openly and with confidence. As the Left’s chief spokespersons at the time, Casino and Ocampo were everywhere and much sought after by the media not just because they were protest leaders but were representing a sizable and reliable portion of the anti-Estrada united front.

Who can also forget Nanay Mameng, the sickly-looking and elderly urban poor leader whose speeches always electrified the big rallies in Makati, Liwasang Bonifacio and at Edsa?

A huge peasant caravan — led by the Left — which saw barefoot peasants from provinces south and north of Manila marching down Ayala Avenue inspired the elite and yuppies to hold “people power” lunch with them.

While most of the elite and the burgis were awed by Erap’s humongous electoral mandate, twas groups like Gabriela and the Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas who first raised the call for Estrada’s removal. Many thought they were crazy, but we all know what happened some time later.

Manolo also mentions something about revisionism but trying to make the public forget, wittingly or unwittingly, the Left’s high-profile role — the same role credited as the main factor for Bayan Muna’s electoral success in 2001 — in Edsa 2, is what is revisionist through and through.

While Arroyo’s fans were already preparing for her swearing in even while Estrada was still in Malacanang trying to dig in — the Left announced a march to Mendiola in the early morning of Jan. 20. The pro-Arroyo portion of the united front rejected the Left’s call. That was hardly discreet — the controversy was flashed on television: Cardinal Sin and other church leader, including Fr. Robert Reyes were publicly debating with Casino, Ocampo and Fr. Joe Dizon. but when they saw that Bayan had successfully convinced the multitudes at Edsa to march to Mendiola to drive away the hated leader, some of their leaders joined the march anyway. The debate happened right there on Edsa Shrine, with Mareng Winnie trying vainly to warn people of impending violence once the march reaches Mendiola where a few pro-Estrada diehards were holding fort.

We know what happened, Manolo. The Left led a fantastic and historic march to Mendiola. According to media accounts, the march was crucial in ensuring and hastening Estrada’s physical departure from the Palace. That march ended the revolt by ensuring that the enemy was indeed deposed (and unfortunately led to Arroyo’s ascension to power).

When Arroyo became president, other political formations folded up or were absorbed into the administration. They threw out their placards and flags. Bayan, Bayan Muna, and the Estrada Resign Movement formed Plunder Watch to compel the former president’s prosecution for plunder.

I wish Manolo goes to the Inquirer archives and check what happened and what the Left did. Of course, the Left doesn’t want to hog the limelight. What the Left wants is not just some space, but due recognition for being able to organize the people under its flag, and mobilizing them when the country needs it most — as in People Power 2 and in the ongoing efforts to punish the current President.

Manolo also writes:

Since 2001, however, the Left has found itself unable to really find a place for itself in legitimate politics. From 2005, in particular, while committed and disciplined, the Left had to contend with the usual problems of its dogmatism alienating other political players, and its cause proving itself less than attractive to the broader public (for many reasons: ideological, and also, their past alliances).

I hope Manolo elaborates these points because as far as I know, the Left had been welcomed by the public in the 2001, 2004 and 2007 elections. In fact, Bayan Muna led the 2001 and 2004 partylist elections — to the surprise of both the social democrats in power and people like Manolo. In 2007, despite the massacre of its officers, the imprisonment of Ocampo and the use of terror against it — Bayan Muna returned to Congress with a strong and very respectable second place finish.

Between 2001 and 2007, the Left spearheaded or joined projects with its allies. They are too many to mention but let me put some of them here: the broad coalition to sue Estrada before the Ombudsman and the Sandiganbayan, the coalition against the US-led war on terror, the two impeachment cases, etc. But indeed, there are no perfect alliances. There remain differences and biases among friends. But to say that the Left was lagging behind or was problematic in forging alliances is going a bit too far. Or was it really the Left’s problem? Or were there alliance partners who were too small and too inconsequential but belonged to the elite and so must be given the spotlight and the bigger voice and recognition? Or are some Filipinos just too infected with a psychotic level of anti-Left biases? I don’t know. What I know is that the Left also has a sense of self-respect as to choose its own friends, and choose which alliances to join or help spearhead.

And what is this creature called dogmatism which Manalo refers to? I am curious about it. I want to stamp it like a disease — but if the word is just carelessly thrown without basis, then that is too sad an occasion.

Had the Left been dogmatic all along, it would have rendered itself irrelevant immediately after Edsa 2. But that is clearly not the case.

The Left has sustained so many casualties in the ongoing struggle for its causes, including the removal of Arroyo, and has incurred the total might of this hated regime. The Left has also made so many friends at the same time, and have elevated it in the public’s consciousness as a political force willing to offer the supreme sacrifice for pro-people causes. These are hardly the hallmarks of a dogmatic movement that scares away and isolates itself from the public.

Of course, we could just say Manolo is allergic to the Left. But allergy cannot be a basis for helpful punditry, di ba?

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