Pugadlawin statement on the Manila Peninsula incident

A Renewed Call to Political Reflection, Formation and Action for Genuine Democracy
A Statement on the Manila Peninsula incident

Many questions remain unanswered about the cause and significance of the events that transpired at the Manila Peninsula Hotel on November 29. But they are a stark reminder that we are very much in the middle of a serious political crisis that remains unresolved. What happened on that day show how fragile our hard-won democratic rights and institutions are: from the armed takeover of the hotel by Sen.Antonio Trillanes IV, Brig. Gen. Danilo Lim and their supporters, to the government’s heavy-handed response and arrest of media personnel and unilateral imposition of a curfew. There are continuing and grave threats to our basic political freedoms and the constitutional order both from those who seek a forcible removal of the present government by provoking a military “withdrawal of support” and foisting a “transitional revolutionary government,” and those who in the name of defending the “rule of law,” violate it themselves in their equally militarist response and wanton disregard of civil liberties.

But if we believe in a non-violent and democratic resolution to the crisis, we cannot simply “move on” or stand idly by in a situation that can easily polarize. Instead, we are called to deeper political reflection, formation and action for genuine democracy.

We do not support the actions of Trillanes, Lim, et.al., despite their being couched in the language of idealism and reformism. We do not condone this latest display of arrogant and self-righteous military adventurism, even if it were a spontaneous act of self-sacrifice to call for the ouster of the present government. We reject it most especially if it were a calculated move to exploit legitimate grievances within the armed forces to provoke a rupture in the institution and a seizure of political power by a faction or factions within the military. We believe inviting a military solution to the present crisis will only increase the potential for violence, repression and authoritarianism. It will not also necessarily resolve the question of legitimacy and corruption that besets the Arroyo government.

We understand and share the frustration and anger of those who have denounced the moral bankruptcy of the Arroyo government. We had hoped that the sound rejection of a self-serving charter change in 2006 and the surge of citizen vigilance and volunteerism leading to largely credible elections this year would provide the degree of stability and political space that could pave the way for political and institutional reforms toward the 2010 presidential elections. Instead there are more signs of large-scale corruption, abuse of power, unprincipled transactional politics, lack of accountability and a culture of impunity, as seen in the unsolved extra-judicial killings, ZTE-NBN deal and bribery issue, Malacanang cash giveaways, Estrada pardon, and hints at renewed self-serving cha-cha.

We challenge the government and political leaders to respond to the crying need for justice, accountability, competence and integrity, including thorough-going reform in the armed forces, the Comelec and other government agencies which many sectors have sounded for sometime but have remained unheeded.

When Pugadlawin (Puwersa para sa Ganap na Demokrasya, Labang Wagas para sa Inang Bayan) was organized amidst the threat of both a military coup and martial law in February 2006, we said that in the face of looming political polarization, what was needed is a new force to reclaim and rebuild the political center. The challenge is to work for genuine democracy: to defend the hard-won victories over authoritarianism, and to deepen democracy beyond its often formal and elitist character towards greater popular participation and social justice. We reiterate this call today: 1) to oppose initiatives that cater to narrow interests, curtail participation and endanger democracy (e.g., coup attempts, government repression, self-serving cha-cha); 2) to build consensus around democratic processes and institutions as the way to resolve the political crisis and promote reform (e.g., elections); 3) to forge a sociopolitical agenda that would galvanize citizen involvement, linking social and political transformation, local and national development. Our aim is to build democratic institutions and foster hope in political action.

We believe that the response to the crisis of hopelessness and disempowerment, especially among the youth, is to provide a framework for long-term change, a program of political formation and concrete options for political engagement. In 2005, amidst crisis and division, the CBCP called on the people, “to come and pray together, reason, decide and act together always to the end that the will of God prevail in the political.” We renew this call for communal reflection, formation and action in the context of the continuing political impasse and threats to democracy. We encourage our various communities to organize venues for reflection, analysis and discussion, whether in classrooms, school activities, and places of residence, work and worship, toward forming a well-discerned and informed response to the situation.

As citizens based in a Catholic educational institution, we have a particular responsibility to work for reflection, formation and action for ethical leadership, justice and democratization. As Pope Benedict XVI has said in Deus Caritas Est, while “the Church cannot and must not take upon herself the political battle to bring about the most just society possible…at the same time she cannot and must not remain on the sidelines in the fight for justice. She has to play her part through rational argument … to reawaken the spiritual energy, without which justice, which always demands sacrifice, cannot prevail and prosper” (n. 28). Moreover, he points to the mission of the lay faithful to “take part in public life…to configure social life correctly, respecting its legitimate autonomy and cooperating with other citizens according to their respective competences and fulfilling their own responsibility” (n. 29).

We all need to be personally accountable for the immense and seemingly insurmountable problems plaguing our country, especially the huge problems of poverty, corruption and violence. Solving our national crisis demands that we transcend our frustrations, disillusionment and cynicism, and summon our inner strengths as a people to become politically engaged. We are putting our hope and trust in the deep reserve of human dignity, goodness, energy and wisdom in our society that will allow us, with God's grace, to reimagine and rebuild our national community.

Puwersa para sa Ganap na Demokrasya, Labang Wagas para sa Inang Bayan
Feast of St. Francis Xavier, 3 December 2007

Pugadlawin is a political advocacy group of youth and professionals based in but not limited to the Ateneo de Manila University. It is one of the prime movers of One Voice, Lente and VforCE. It is engaged in a program of political education and involvement anchored on a vision of political democracy and social justice. We welcome your feedback at pugad_lawin06@yahoo.com and pugad_lawin06.multiply.com.

This is not a University or Jesuit statement, although it comes from Ateneans.