Silence is a statement

Just sharing an article written by a young person on the current political crisis in the Philippines

By the way, there is a multisectoral demonstration today in Makati. The theme is anti-corruption and the call for truth, accountability and reforms.

 

Below is an article written by a 21 year old mass communications student

Youngblood
Silence is a statement
By Yya E. Aragon
Philippine Daily Inquirer
First Posted 22:37:00 02/25/2008

MANILA, Philippines — By some weird twist of fate, I met Mr. Jun Lozada and his prayer warriors. And I never felt more ashamed about being a youth in this country. Our meeting was accidental. My thesis partner and I had gone to the Senate on the first day of the hearing for a purpose that had nothing to do with the ZTE national broadband network deal. We wanted to interview a reporter for our thesis who was covering the hearing. When we got there, we learned that the media had been divided into three groups to meet with Lozada after his testimony. Before our interview with the reporter began, his group’s turn came.

My thesis partner and I were left alone. Having nothing better to do, we thought we could mingle with the media people, see Lozada in person, and maybe go home and tell everyone, “Hey, we saw that man in person!” Maybe a few snapshots taken from afar would do for evidence. However, this brilliant plan collapsed right at the entrance to the room when a guard stopped us and told us we were not representing any media organization — we were only students.

My partner was furious at the discrimination, but nothing could make the guard change his mind. “Goes to show what kind of government we have!” I blurted out in protest.

We went to another room to wait for our interviewee to finish, still fuming over the injustice of it all. But we did see Mr. Lozada in the end. The little raucous did not go unnoticed. A man wearing a big ID card promised to help us. Given this tiny ray of hope that we might be able to squeeze in a question, we prepared a single one.

When we went back to the room where Lozada was giving interviews, we were surprised that a different guard was willing to give us a chance to speak to him. The kind stranger with the big ID card must have done what he promised (thank you, sir). The guard told us to wait near the door, but of course, we could not wait. We followed him.

We saw a small crowd in front of Lozada, and I noted that many of them looked about our age. It made me wonder why this group of media people looked so young. I noticed that Lozada was still wearing his jacket, looking tired but more relaxed than he did on TV.

To our surprise, the kind guard went straight to Lozada and told him we were students at the University of the Philippines. And to our horror, Lozada greeted us and invited us to sit down in front of him so we could begin our interview. My partner was holding the camera, so I had to ask the questions. We found ourselves in the middle of everybody. Lozada was in front of us, the nuns and brothers who looked so welcoming to our side and what we took to be a young media group, who turned out to be his nieces and nephews, at the back. (Silly of me to think they were media; not one of them was holding a pen or a camera!) With all the training I got from prep school to college and not wanting to disgrace the good name of our university, I pulled myself together and did the interview with my equally stunned partner and we went home, still not believing our good fortune.

The truth about this article is that it begins when one of the nuns turned to me as I was about to have a heart attack and asked, “Before you interview him, I want to ask you: With everything that is happening, what do you think you, the youth, should do now?” (It was worded differently and I can’t even remember if she spoke in Filipino or English.) My blood pressure shot up. This was not an impromptu interview. This was an oral exam!

I told her what I believed at that moment. I said I did not believe in going to rallies. That the best thing the youth could do now was watch ourselves, watch who we become and after graduation, never let greed rule our actions. “I cannot do a Mr. Lozada,” I said, “but, with all due respect, I can never do a Mr. Abalos either. I’d rather do a Mr. Lozada than a Mr. Abalos.”

One of the La Salle brothers pointed out that Lozada at first didn’t think he could do what he did. And the question the nun asked has been like a gadfly to me ever since, bothering me without ceasing. The truth is I am ashamed of my answer. The embarrassment especially hit me when Lozada declared on TV that if the people do not act, then his sacrifice will be wasted. He is right: He has done his part; what happens next is up to the people.

I am one of the youth of this nation, the supposed bearer of idealism. I study in a university that teaches the importance of being active in society. And there I was saying that I had to graduate first before I could help bring about change, that the only change I can effect right now is on myself. While this may be true on some points, I feel uncomfortable about being passive and thinking, “Let others do the changing because I can only change myself.” At this stage in my life, I should have known that a fragile, battle-weary family man would be unable to carry the burden all by himself.

I am ashamed that all I wanted to do was sit down comfortably in front of the TV and watch a man risk his life, family and credibility. I am embarrassed that all I ever did was grumble and complain about greedy politicians and wait for our generation’s turn to run the government. The crusade for an honest nation cannot be carried by a single individual. It should be fought by the people who are mad at having their money stolen for the enrichment of a chosen few.

My silence is not anymore deafening, it is crushing. It has become a mute agreement. In essence I am saying that there is nothing that can be done about the situation. Silence is a statement, one that says corruption is unsolvable. And for me it is one that says I do not care what happens to this country.

I am a Filipino, and though I am a coward at heart, I want to protect it from crooks, not after graduation, not in the next 10 years, but now.

Those protest rallies are wake-up calls to those who need to be stung by gadflies. They are statements. And though they are a hundred times repeated and nothing seems to happen, they are reminders that the people remain awake and vigilant. They say we do not tolerate corruption, we are ashamed of what is happening right now, we are not afraid to speak the truth, and we cannot approve of $130 million or any amount being stolen from our pockets. The rallies are a demand for people running the government to come out into the sunlight, hiding nothing, getting nothing that is not theirs and doing their duties. If we keep fighting, maybe something will happen. Maybe not now, but surely it will happen some day.

This is not a call for everyone to join the rallies. All I want to say is that this is not the time to just listen to the radio or watch television. In whatever lawful way possible, let us voice out our protests. I am sorry for thinking I could only change myself. Change starts with oneself but it does not and should not end there.

Yya E. Aragon, 21, is a fourth-year Broadcast Communication student at the University of the Philippines in Diliman, Quezon City

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