Prints and Traces

Don J. Pagusara is a native of Mindanao, a multi-awarded author and a Palanca-awardee.

Today’s View: On the highway barricade

By
February 11 2013

There’s a Filipino saying, “Ang sakit sa kalingkingan ay sakit ng buong katawan” (What ails the little finger ails the whole body).  And this, I think, is what exactly lies behind the unfolding of a highway drama, the barricades in Montevista, Compostela Valley last January 15. 

By DON PAGUSARA
Davao Today

It takes a lot of courage to do something extraordinary — something that the public is stunned to have witnessed.  But it also takes a lot of sense to see things occurring as a phenomenon that emanates from something much deeper and bigger than what meets the eye.

There’s a Filipino saying, “Ang sakit sa kalingkingan ay sakit ng buong katawan” (What ails the little finger ails the whole body).  And this, I think, is what exactly lies behind the unfolding of a highway drama, the barricades in Montevista, Compostela Valley last January 15.

When over 5,000 Pablo victims occupied that national highway to raise their demands for an efficient and genuine help from the government and ultimately ask for environmental justice, a lot of questions came to mind.

What really ails the supposedly kalingkingan sector in Compostela Valley and Davao Oriental that they had to wage such mass action that caused the ire of the government sector of our society?  Is it an ailment that needs immediate attention and thus warrant such a drastic action?  Is it an ailment that affects the entire body politic of our society such that the concerned sector had to risk their life and limb to put up such collective act?  Is it a mere isolated case of negligence on the part of certain local officials?  Or is it a socio-political affliction of which the constant recurrence of its symptoms is something that calls for unrelenting vigilance by concerned elements of our society, hence, the need for extraordinary action?

The deplorable fact is that every so often we are confronted by paroxysms of corrupt practices in the government apparatus as what happened in the distribution of relief goods purportedly to ameliorate the calamity victims in identified areas in the provinces of ComVal and DavOr.

Billions worth of aid from the private sectors and foreign donors were poured to help the Pablo victims.  Yet, the latter had been asking, where’s the aid?  The government has been telling, yes, they extended assistance.  But the people on the ground are telling otherwise.  They said, help is scarce, help is wanting.

Corruption is the name of the virus that causes the socio-political disease.  And it exhibited its virulence to cause misery among the victims of the recent calamities in the said provinces.  And it has exhausted their silence, patience and forbearance to the boiling point of imperative action.

The involved elements in the government sector should not issue excuses.  The intolerable deeds of corruption are inexcusable.  And yet, as a consequence, the supposed leaders of the barricade action are now made to face charges of some legal offense!

I ask, what offense?  Isn’t it rather that the bureaucratic red tape and the government officialdom are the ones guilty of “great injustice” to the hapless victims?  Irony of ironies!

Little do the government people realize that the mass action conducted by the progressive sectors of Philippine society is an expression of a fundamental right of the people “to peaceably assemble and seek redress of grievances” — a right so fundamental it is enshrined in the Philippine Constitution’s Bill of Rights.

When a wrong is done to a part of a body politic (a kalingkingan), it is its basic right to exercise its constitutional freedom of assembly, if for no other reason than to vent their demand for deliverance from such wrong.  And the venue of such freedom is of no consequence: be it a plaza or a highway, or a Liwasang Bonifacio or an Edsa.

What difference does this highway barricade have to the revolutionary action at Edsa some 30 years back?  Did not such action obstruct passage of people and vehicles at Edsa?  Did not that people’s action impinge on the rights of some to go to their places of destination or wherever they wanted to go during those fateful days?  But we knew better.  We knew which is antecedent, which is fundamental.

In the same light, the Aquino government should put high premium on the rationale and significance of the highway barricade in Montevista and exert effort to right the wrong done so that the affliction at the kalingkingan will be cured to the wellbeing of the entire body politic.

Don Pagusara is a native of Mindanao, a multi-awarded author and a Palanca-awardee.

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