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Speech by Congressman John Osmeña

January 25, 2010

Published on the House of Representatives’ Congressional Record, Vol. 1, No. 2-5, January 27, 1970, p. 23, with minor changes like deletion of the usual, “Mr. Speaker” in reference to the presiding officer.

Yesterday two state-of-the-nation addresses were delivered before Congress — one recited by the President of the Philippines with his usual eloquent flourish of words in this august Hall;  the other written in anguish and blood by the youth of the land on the streets outside Congress.

Twenty thousand young Filipinos stood out there in the afternoon to call upon us, the nation’s leaders, to insure the election of nonpartisan delegates to the 1971 Constitutional Convention. A few hours later, as dusk fell and night came, they were dispersed by the swinging clubs of police power, their blood spilled on the streets. Hundreds were injured, some even close to death, and many others were unceremoniously dragged to jail.

I joined them in jail last night. As I talked to the injured and those waiting for the release of their arrested companions, I recalled that it was not very long ago that I left their ranks. Perhaps if this demonstration had taken place a few years ago, I would have been out there with them and not in here with you.

The words of the President we all understand. We are all politicians, some more experienced than the others. But early in politics we learn to interpret the rhetorical double talk of political speeches. It is sad to note that in the past the leaders of our country indicated an inclination to ignore the voice of the youth, assuming that they understood its directness.

I stand here tonight not as a Liberal or a Cebuano. I stand here as a young Filipino outraged by the brutality of the police and deeply concerned for the youth, the misunderstood youth. I am going to read a letter from a young man, one of the demonstrators. It is representative of their feelings. Only in this manner can we better understand the reason behind their restlessness.

“Dear Papa and Mama,

“By now you must have read in the newspapers or heard about our demonstration before the Halls of Congress yesterday. I am sure that you are concerned for me. Do not worry, I am all right. I suffered a slight wound in head, but otherwise I am well.

“I still remember your advice before I left home last Christmas. How you asked me not to take part of the student demonstrations and instead to concentrate on my studies. That is why I am writing you this letter. It is a plea for understanding.

“Every person has his own ambition, a goal in life, something for which he sacrifices and suffers privation. Papa had a goal. He always speaks of how he walked to school and worked as a muchacho in Manila to be able to earn a degree. He went through a lot of difficulties but he attained his ambition. It is easy to suffer in the pursuit of a goal if our ambition is obtainable. But, today, I am beginning to wonder what is in store for me. I wonder what life ahead will be like. Many of my friends have has graduated. They have passed the Board. They are professionals, but up to now jobless. Daily they go from office to office seeking employment. Is this the fate that awaits me? What, therefore, is the purpose of my studies?

“Prices are going higher and higher everyday and there seems to be no limit. Worse the streets have become unsafe. We read daily of people getting killed all over the country, not just ordinary people, even judges and government officials. The killers are never apprehended. If found at all, they are never tried because there are always politicians to protect them. If they are imprisoned, they are set free and used to terrorize the voters.

“Our economy is chaotic, mismanaged and abused by those who seek only their personal gain, by the rich and the powerful economic blocs and the privileged few who want more privileges. Politicians… ”

“Politicians are becoming more and more insincere. One never knows when they mean what they say. Corruption has permeated every level of government from the lowest clerk to the top. And our elders, in general, have lost all of their sense of values. There is an appalling breakdown of order in our society. Today, the rule is ‘to each his own.’ Twenty-four years of independence has brought us not progress but retrogression in all sectors of our society. What is in store for us, the youth? Your son shudders at the thought.

“As I sit with my friends and fellow students, we talk about the present situation, and have come to realize that salvation can come only from us, the youth, if we unite to stand for our rights in the streets, behind the barricades, pledging ourselves against the establishment even at the cost of our lives, if necessary. We realize that our only hope lies in a nonpartisan constitutional convention. There is a need for drastic changes in the system, which has failed its people, for a purge to cleanse our society.

“Yet, even this hope, this last chance, is uncertain. Dark clouds hang over it. The politicians have shown that they have mastered the art of manipulating the polls with the use of the massive resources of the Government and with terror when necessary. Thus they can elect not delegates of the people seeking a change for the better but a herd of subservient stooges willing to do their bidding and thereby frustrate what may very well be our last opportunity for a rebirth.

“This is why we stood there yesterday afternoon. Twenty thousand of us clamoring peacefully for a nonpartisan constitutional convention.

“At about six o’clock in the evening, as President Marcos came out, we started chanting, MARCOS PUPPET, MARCOS PUPPET. We were not really jeering President Marcos the man. We were jeering all that he stood for: the corruption in the Government, the economic chaos, the politicians and their insincerity, the deteriorating peace and order situation for which they are responsible, and the general breakdown of our society. We were also jeering the power blocs, both economic and political. We called him ‘puppet,’ not of America as the newspapers reported, but of the Establishment, the blocs and the politicians that surround him. President Marcos is the personification of everything that stands between us and our aspirations for the future.

“Suddenly, stones, sticks, placards, bottles were flying. We knew not where they came from, we did not hurl them. The police came charging, acting like bloodhounds unleashed by their elite masters against us, who were unarmed and defenseless. They were there with their nightsticks and rattan poles to prove their masters how efficient they were. I saw them gang up on a group of young people who were peacefully holding a streamer. They beat up this group and left them only after four lay unconscious on the ground covered by their torn streamer. Not far away was another group sitting on the concrete pavement, peacefully watching. This was also attacked by the police. Even pedestrians, who were obviously not involved in the demonstration but just happened to be there, were also beaten up.

“Some of my companions tried to leave the place, and they boarded a jeep to escape the pursuing police. The latter stopped the vehicle, dragged the students out and beat them up as they cowered behind the jeep…”

“The policemen were all without nameplates so that they could not be identified. They did their job in the interest of their master with brutality and sadistic pleasures.

“This is not going to be the last demonstration. There will be more to come. Our movement, the January 26th Movement, will flourish, for in the streets we have spilled our blood in the struggle for the future, for our country, for a right and chance to shape the future which belongs to us. We are the only hope of our country. The youth all over the world have played this role, and we the Filipino youth are committed to stand for our rights at the barricade and pledge our lives to strive for the rebirth of our nation.

“Please understand.

“Your loving son,

JUAN”

What the youth asked for in their anguish yesterday is within the powers of Congress to grant in the course of this session. It is my sincere hope that we shall not fail them.

We must make sure that the police brutality so ruthlessly unleashed on the demonstrators last night is not repeated.

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