National days of anger

I don't know if it's just me and the people I follow, but for the past three days, there's been a lot of anger directed at Noynoy Aquino.

Well, sure, there have always been people who are angry at the president. There will always be people who are angry at the president, whoever it may be. And in the five years that Noynoy sat in Malaca├▒ang, these people vented their frustrations to no avail, whether because they were seen as eternal complainants with nothing constructive to offer, or those in power brushed them aside as an irrelevant minority.

The past three days, though, things feel different. This is, of course, about Noynoy's actions in the aftermath of the botched police operation in Mamasaparo, Maguindanao, that killed 44 people. This is about how he, during his televised address on Wednesday, evaded responsibility for the doomed mission. This is about how he did not show up at the Villamor Air Base when the bodies of the fallen arrived, yesterday, instead speaking at the opening of the new-ish assembly plant of Mitsubishi Motors in Laguna. (New-ish, because it's the facility that Ford recently vacated.) This is about how he was late at the necrological service at Camp Bagong Diwa this morning, forcing the event's postponement midway through until he arrived.

Again, I don't know if it's just me, but the interesting thing is that there's been a lot of anger, and not just from the usual people. Those who have quietly expressed their frustration at the government, but held back from shouting invectives for the most part, have suddenly gone ballistic. All that anger - it seems to come from a much bigger base, from those already angry, and those who have just snapped.

Now, there are many ways you can look at this. You can attribute this to the grisly details of the tragedy at Mamasapano, at how a mission apparently shrouded in so much secrecy and so little coordination led to the death of 44 of the national police's best, and may or may not have delivered the intended result - the death of the internationally-wanted terrorist Marwan. All those lives for nothing? That definitely tugs at the Filipino's predilection for the melodramatic, the tendency to polarize between heroes and villains. "Somebody has to pay," that mindset goes, and in this case, it has to be Noynoy Aquino, he who supposedly knew of the mission, and even tasked a disgraced (and suspended) police general slash ally to lead it.

The same leaning towards the dramatic may have colored the reading of Noynoy's actions in the aftermath of the encounter. He was defensive and evasive during Wednesday's address. He was nowhere during Thursday's arrival honors; the image of him looking at restored vintage cars, with a big grin on his face, was definitely pounced on by the meme-makers among the mob. On today's speech, he delivered a speech riddled with Noynoy clich├ęs - a retelling, more often than not, of the assassination of his father 31 years ago - and received with indifference at best. This is the kontrabida in action, kicking the protagonist when he (or she, in this case, to tie in with images of wives weeping for their late husbands) is down, and Filipinos won't have any of that. "What the hell is he doing?" many have asked. "Why does the commander-in-chief have to be this callous and insensitive?"

Regardless of how you look at it, there's no denying the fact that people are angry at Noynoy, and he cannot escape that outrage. In previous instances, no matter how many people threw adjectives starting with the letter I at him - irresponsible, incompetent, inutile, even - he was more successful at painting the target on someone else's back. He was accused of not doing enough during the Quirino Grandstand siege that killed eight Hong Kong citizens; in the end it was DILG undersecretary Rico Puno that took the fall. His flip-flopping defense of pork barrel during the peak of the revelations surrounding its misuse would've made him the antagonist, but his perceived integrity - compared to Senators Revilla, Enrile and Estrada - saved him from the worst.

I wonder, though: where will this anger lead us?

Will this outrage develop into a movement that could bring change that we waited five years for? I'm not necessarily thinking of change along the lines of Ferdinand Marcos and Joseph Estrada being kicked out of power in 1986 and 2001, respectively. The problem with outrage, of course, is that it could go anywhere, be very disorganized, and end with little to no forward movement. Will this anger, at least, lead to answers - not whitewashed ones - on how and why those 44 men were sent to their deaths?

Will this outrage foster a patriotism that the Philippines has been sorely lacking? We, as a nation, have always rallied behind personalities - usually those who have made a name for themselves abroad, no matter the percentage of lineage, or, in Noynoy's case, the hero-worship associated with his family, and the personality cult he's fostered. The Mamasaparo "misencounter" hit the trigger on a different kind of patriotism, one based on an idea - the idea of duty above everything else, of working for the common good. (This kind of patriotism has been eschewed in the past few years, thus our political parties being more about who's leading it than what they believe.) Could our current sentiment lead to the lasting culture change the Aquino administration spent all these years promising and proclaiming, despite a lack of results?

Or will all this be forgotten when the next big thing comes along? Again, our fondness for the dramatic, coupled with our cynicism, our unwillingness to devote ourselves to a cause, because we're tired, we're worn, and we'd rather make sure our immediate needs are met - would that take precedence instead, like many other times before?

And your responses...

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