A Cebu of Indifference

The pro-Arroyo tag is overrated. It has deceived several people- that includes the president, of course- into thinking that Cebuanos fail, or refuse, to see the excesses of the current administration. The wide margin of votes that President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo got over her most bitter rival in the 2004 elections is overrated just the same. “How could they bring me down?” she asked rhetorically as if her victory in Cebu has made her indispensable, and the people who voted for her, apologists. I am compelled to think that the mandate Cebu has accorded her has been prostituted.

 

While the streets of Metro Manila- in the heights of Jun Lozada’s testimonies- had been flooded with warm bodies protesting the above-said excesses, Cebu seemed to have remained unstirred, with very-little-to-no political noise. And so it has been dubbed, from the words of Lozada, himself, an Archdiocese of Malacañang.

 

I think that some intricacies have to be considered or we wallow in the superficial manifestations of the people’s sentiments like rallies or demonstrations. That is not to say that the demonstrations that have sparked in the last four months are not substantial. In this age of moral bankruptcy, it is imperative that the people get heard and we can hardly be emphatic, nowadays, without taking our grievances to the streets given that the government corrupts every institution that serves as a venue for demanding accountability.

 

Public dissent in Cebu, however, does not manifest in every means that of Metro Manila does. Rallies are very unpopular here. What is apparent to an observer who is not in Cebu is the disposition of its top politicians, the church- or the head of the church- and the media. They try to speak, and act, in behalf of the people but often, they fail- deliberately or not.

 

I am convinced that the general sentiment of the Cebuano people over the NBN-ZTE scandal, for example, is disgust. Our politicians, however, continue to proclaim allegiance to the president but I don’t think that it is because the people who voted for Arroyo do not call for accountability and do not see her culpability. I think that we are highly misrepresented.

 

The cab I was riding on my way to work some time last month was tuned into a local AM radio program, and I was fascinated with the comments sent, thru SMS, by the listeners on the issue of household rice hoarding which they conscientiously lambasted as a big stupidity. This government, they suggested, and I agree, is as thick-faced as to blame the people for the current crisis. One of these days, they said, the same government will accuse us of corruption- of stealing our own, taxpayers’ money. I think that the message of its sarcasm borders on the truth that anything is possible with the government that we have- anyone, and anything, is a potential scapegoat. That explains why the Lozada noise was suppressed by the rice crisis, and why Meralco takeover is cooking. I understand that these two issues deserve the people’s attention but see how nice and dirty the administration plays?

 

Very little has been said about Cebuanos who feel and think the same way that I do. This is not to claim that I think differently. My point is that I get dismayed with the lack and oftentimes, the absence of mobilisation in the local media. The perceived indifference is one, a failure of the media to get into the bottom of the people’s sentiment and rouse the people from stupor even as necessary; two, a failure of the local government to liberate itself from the shadow of the President and three, the obsession of some Cebuanos to be called “different,” specifically, being different from Metro Manila. I noticed how some people would deliberately ignore issues that call for collective action- Northern Imperialism is overrated.      

 

I am glad that the third factor I proposed invited some friends to speak out. I was told by one that it’s a matter of efficacy- what can a rally in Cebu do to oust Arroyo? Pretty much nothing- just a potential investor who changes his mind about putting up his business in the city. Another friend told me over coffee that, yes, we are naturally regionalistic but that it is just a matter of preserving the momentum our economy has gained in the last five years- are we willing to sacrifice all these?

 

Being in the BPO industry, I can come from a call center boom perspective. Honestly, I think that outsourcing will still be with us in the next ten years regardless of whose administration we have. I want to think that the economic growth in the past months is not a cancer but a cure. When I come to juxtapose the value of the peso and the pinch of inflation, I start to think again. The abuses of the administration is a very expensive price to pay so I wonder if we can ever concretise what it is that we are sacrificing our moral imperatives for. I gloat, and gleefully, at that, when I scan the paper and see the peso plunging from 40 to 41 or 41 to 42. No, that I have dollars to exchange for pesos but that I see the foreign exchange as the administration’s talisman- like nothing can touch it as long as the peso is strong.

 

I still beg to disagree, with all due respect, that another People Power revolution is the next bold step to make. I was in Fuente Circle along with the hundreds of students who protested against the suppression of truth in not opening the “second envelope” in the height of former President Joseph Estrada’s impeachment. I was there and I cheered (aged 19 and oblivious to the dangers of the game) as the names of the generals withdrawing support from the government were being announced. How far have we gone after that? Ours is a vicious cycle- the president we install after the revolution owes the military (and only the military) the debt of gratitude. The same president would only want to keep the military to stay in office. Much has been said about the excesses of the military in Arroyo’s presidency, I am tired of it- a president surely knows whose loyalty he should keep.

 

This article is not an attempt to justify the perceived indifference.  This is an attempt to give voice to the Cebuanos who have given Arroyo a chance but have been disillusioned– the taxi driver who tells me he has always tuned into the NBN-ZTE hearings and believes the truth Neri is hiding is right under our nose, the newspaper vendor who insists it is the president’s husband who is screwing up her office and the officemate who can’t explain how the prices of even non-petroleum products and less-processed foods rocket– I am one of them. 

Manuel Quezon III proposed in his column some time last month a viable option which I think, too, will be a more effective way of organizing a collective thought and action. Perhaps, I can only speak for myself; but, perhaps, I speak for many as–like Ani difranco–I stand up and shout “impeachment.”

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