The Casiguran Marchers, tired and disappointed but not defeated!
“Wala silang utang na loob sa iyo”! My Personal Reflection on the Dialogue between Mr. Noynoy Aquino and the Casiguran Marchers
by Jofti Villena Delizo
I am writing this under my name because what I am going to express in this reflection is not in any way sanctioned by my network, where I work as the project coordinator. Definitely, we are one with the Casiguran marchers in this advocacy against APECO.
I had to let several days pass by to think things through to be objective about what happened. However, even after a few days and after having watched the full coverage of the dialogue many times, my opinion remains the same about the Casiguran Marchers dialogue with Mr. Aquino. The actions of Mr. Aquino (I call him this because he’ll never be my President) have clearly proven how unbecoming of a President he is.
I am at a loss for words on how I felt when I saw how rude you can be, Mr. Aquino, to the 120 Casiguran Marchers who walked for 17 days under the scorching sun, heat, rain, and dust just to dialogue with you and register their complaints against the APECO project. These people came with very high hopes because as simple Juan/Juana dela Cruzes they know that they are right and that they have done so much to fight for what is rightfully theirs in the first place as citizens and contributors to our society. They believed that talking to the most appropriate person in this country, which is YOU, Mr. Aquino, is enough to change things in their rightful favor. They think so much highly of you Mr. Aquino! And they thought that you could provide them with a clear solution, but you turned out to be a very, very big disappointment to all of us (the Casiguran Marchers and their supporters).
1. YOU MR. AQUINO CAME IN LATE and made the Casiguran Marchers wait for half an hour to 45 minutes. Maybe you forgot that you were to meet your bosses that morning. I am not so forgiving here even if you explain to me that you no longer use the sirens of your presidential convoy to avoid the Metro Manila‘s usual traffic. Surely, there are other ways to arrive on time to meet with the Marchers who walked for 17 days. You are the President after all! If you will it, you can make it on time. That is, if you think highly of the Marchers and their welfare. In short, “mahiya ka dapat!” Then, you have the decency and the guts to tell to Fr. Joefran when he was still speaking that you have a 1:30 pm meeting. If you came on time in the first place, then there would be enough time for you to answer and not be irked at every question or comment thrown at you. Besides, you never APOLOGIZED for being late. I found the whole dialogue so wanting of HUMILITY on your part!
2. Worse, YOU came in so unprepared! Where was your PMS-prepared ‘complete staff work’? You met with your Cabinet for 25 minutes on the issue of APECO a day before you met with the Casiguran Marchers! This was a complete disservice to your bosses!
Maybe some of these marchers even voted for you in the last elections. But you gave a pittance to their valid and legitimate complaints against APECO. You already had the amendments to the earlier ASEZA lapse into law, then this! It’s already Saturday today (December 15). You promised us a one week preliminary result after the NEDA reviews APECO together with a representation “pa” coming from the Casiguran Marchers or at least their representatives in the review team. HAVE YOU ALREADY COMPLIED WITH THIS? In the first place, if you reviewed the amendments thoroughly and acted on it, maybe you could have done a better job. While it is true that ASEZA was not passed during your time as President, you still voted for it as a Senator and now, as the President, you allowed it to lapse into law (which made ASEZA become APECO). You cannot pass on obligations to others especially if you have no plans of changing anything. You and your cabinet are the representatives of government, duty-bearers who have the obligation to respect, protect and fulfill the rights of all our people. REMEMBER MR. AQUINO, you accepted this job the moment you agreed to become a presidential candidate in 2009 and when you’re cabinet secretaries accepted their respective appointments!
3. Your coming to meet with the Casiguran Marchers instead of making them march all the way to Malacanang is your obligation! Don’t make them feel like it is their “utang na loob sa’yo” that you came to them. In the first place, if they sent you word that they wanted to meet you while they were in Casiguran, would you have gone right away? I think we both know the answer to that. History shows that rights are always fought for and are never given on a silver platter by Malacanang! Thus, the need to march. The 340-km march they made was their right as citizens and their collective political expression to resist exploitation by APECO. There’s nothing wrong with what they did! Maybe there were some gains when you went to them instead of making them march to the Palace (i.e. the full coverage of ANC and other media exposure, etc.). Malacanang is your turf not theirs. However, the political expression and the opportunity to educate the public about this issue, especially on the streets, far outweighs the pros of you even coming to them. This is my opinion. Well, there’s still time for them to do just that.
4. Specifically on DENR Secretary Paje on making the Casiguran Marchers clap for giving them an extension of their stewardship contract as ordered by the President, is not their “utang na loob” to you guys at all. It is your obligation as duty-bearers (as the current representatives of this government) to effectively carry out the Philippine State’s obligations as a signatory to the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR). This is to ensure that the economic, social and cultural rights of our people are fully realized.
5. MR. AQUINO, your demeanor during the entire dialogue was SO DISGUSTING! YOU acted like a true TRAPO, bereft of any principled human values! “Pasalamat ka at magagalang ang mga taga-Casiguran. Tinatawag ka pang kagalang-galang at mahal na Presidente na kung tutuusin para sa ‘kin hindi ka naman karapat-dapat!” On several occasions you cut off Frs. Jovie (emcee) and Joefran (parish priest of Casiguran) while they were speaking. What was your grade “ba” in your GMRC? It looks like you did not take this subject too seriously!
In conclusion, I may have given you the benefit of the doubt, but after I saw your actions that day, it showed clearly how little you see and think of the Casiguran Marchers while in fact they were the most educated and learned on this issue than you and your entourage of cabinet buffoons. The demands were so simple yet it was so hard for you to see that the Philippine Government enacted conflicting laws. This was proven by your refusal to do anything about it apart from a review, which should have been done a very long time ago. Yes, there is a process and there’s the bureaucratic system to deal with but you are the President and you have the power to veto budgets and laws! “Hindi kami kasing tanga ng iniisip mo kahit hindi kami mga abogado!” It was not the Casiguran Marchers who were not open, but it was YOU, MR. AQUINO! You were not humbled by the fact that the people know more than you do. Instead, you stood there so proud like the rest of your kind! Again, your CLASS really failed the Casiguran Marchers big time and you once again exposed your true CLASS character and exploitative economic agenda!
I don’t know if a preliminary result of the NEDA review that may favor the Casiguran Marchers can even redeem you in the unwritten books of Philippine history!
P.S. The link to the ANC video coverage of the entire dialogue, the transcript alongside with all the facts, documentation, and infographics about this issue are provided for by the Laban Para Sa Casiguran FB page . Thus, I did not dwell on these anymore. I believe the facts can clearly explain why I support the struggle of the Casiguran Marchers.
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