January 26: Two Moods

February 19, 2010

By Renato Constantino

First published in his column, Viewpoint, in the Graphic, February 11, 1970, p. 12-13


I WISH that the police would be given the chance to demonstrate and to rally against student brutality. Our loyal men in uniform (with or without nameplates) have been grossly maligned during the last demonstrations and their real role in saving our democracy has been overlooked. Their services to the country have been minimized and now they are the pitiful victims of slanderous attacks by the very forces that threaten the rule of decency and honesty in this peaceful and prosperous land.

The police should be protected from brutal students who, in their unreasoning desire for change, have been mercilessly attacking these poor defenseless cops so inadequately protected by their truncheons, guns, tear gas and steel helmets. At this point, I must enjoin all Filipinos to acknowledge their tremendous debt of gratitude to the US Military Aid Program for only their American equipment prevented our noble soldiers of democracy from being massacred.

The young are so ungrateful. They refuse to consider the sacrifice these policemen must undergo just to protect them every time they decide to take to the streets. Just imagine, during a demonstration these police officers must be relieved for hours of their traffic duties and other lucrative posts because a few thousand tough young men and women decide to ventilate their grievances or to propose a non-partisan Constitutional Convention. How many of these faithful pillars of the law expose their lives whenever there are rallies; how many of them face the danger of being mauled and beaten up by these aggressive, scrawny young men and women dangerously armed with placards and songs and epithets.

Surely, these poorly paid agents of the law who have to scrounge for themselves to keep body and soul together (plus maybe two or three wives) should not be exposed to such hazardous tasks. Keeping our traffic orderly, fraternizing with hoodlums in the interest of good public relations, assuring that gambling and prostitution do not flourish unprotected by the law, are already man-sized jobs.

In the interest of police welfare, and in furtherance of the efforts of Mayor Villegas and UP President S. P. Lopez to forge a set of ground rules for demonstrations, I respectfully offer the following suggestions:

For the protection of the police, student demonstrators should be required to wear nameplates.

Every demonstrator must ask for a personal permit to join a demonstration and must be searched for stones and other deadly weapons.

Leaders of demonstrations must be required to post bonds so that if any policeman gets hurt, these bonds can be confiscated to provide for the hospital expenses of each policeman as well as daily compensation equivalent to his regular stipend plus the contributions of jeepney and taxi drivers, sidewalk vendors and other grateful citizens.

Demonstrations must be allowed only in places where the streets are paved and there are no stones to pick.

Preferably, they should be held at Rizal Park with stiff fines slapped on any demonstrator caught stepping on the grass.

In deference to the national hero, the National Anthem should be played at five-minute intervals. This will instill patriotism in the hearts of the misguided youth, and the periodic, enforced immobility will facilitate the job of arresting every tenth demonstrator.

Each demonstrator must carry a placard with his name and address and a slogan of his choice, but the placard must not be larger than a postcard. In addition, each placard must contain a passport photo of the bearer and his thumb print.

Slogans must be couched in refined language so as not to offend the delicate sensibilities of our mid-Victorian policemen. Absolutely no words above third grade level will be allowed so as not to overtax the police mind.

Demonstrators must be between the ages of one and 12. Anyone above 12 will be arrested as a “non-student agitator infiltrating the ranks of legitimate and licensed demonstrators.”

Finally, ex-student leader Ferdinand e. Marcos should demand from the US government as the last installment of his Philcag fee the following indispensable items:

1)    One chastity belt for each anti-riot policeman as a protective device against young girls who take advantage of demonstration melees to mash innocent, shy, and decorous policemen as a way of expressing their love of country and fellowmen.

2)    Baby tanks from US military surplus to modernize anti-riot equipment.

3)    A police air force to provide air cover and to drown out the loudspeakers of the demonstrators. These planes must be fully equipped for eventual chemical and bacteriological warfare.




THE DEMONSTRATION has become for our time a new democratic institution of protest which dramatically exposes the inadequacy of our traditional democratic institutions to cope with increasingly intolerable social conditions. However, this form of mass action is essentially an intense response of short duration triggered off by a particular event or situation. There have been a series of such responses to particular events and situations in the recent past. No doubt each response has constituted for its participants a learning situation of great immediacy and dramatic impact.

In the teach-ins and intensive discussions that often follow each particular experience, new lessons are learned and some errors are corrected. It is certain that in the near future such learning situations will occur not only with greater frequency but perhaps with greater violence emanating from police agencies of the state.

Continuity and Unity

The Philippine state and the forces, local and foreign, that support or direct it are also learning from these demonstrations so that they may in future counter with greater efficiency those who, in their view, threaten their power and position with demands for basic change. Furthermore, recent developments reveal that certain sectors of the Establishment, sensing the potency of the demonstration as a democratic mass force, are endeavoring to preempt its leadership.

It is vitally important, therefore, that the majority of these involved in these demonstrations extract from these learning situations more than just particular and incidental insights , more than just emotional attitudes, however deeply felt.

All these events and conditions that have sparked demonstrations contain a continuity and unity because they are merely particular manifestations of a continuing and unified social situation. Therefore, they must be viewed as inherent and predictable parts of the total situation. Only by approaching the particular as subsumed within the general, and the general understood in and through the particular, can the correct lessons be learned, the errors rectified. Only through such an approach can the physical experience of the demonstrators be utilized to raise their intellectual grasp of the nature of our society to a level worthy of the historic mission that they have instinctively embarked on and which should be transformed into a conscious goal.

Brutality of the State

That is why demonstrations and the subsequent and teach-ins and discussions, though absolutely necessary and highly commendable, are still inadequate from the point of view of the whole situation. These mass actions should form only a part of a broader and continuing series of learning situations which the involved labor, peasant, and student leaders can utilize to crystallize their own concepts of Philippine society and increase the number of those truly involved by deepening the social and political consciousness of the larger mass of Filipinos.

If this is not done, the impact of each demonstration will be dissipated and a valuable opportunity will have been wasted. What is worse is that if the events or situations that prompted mass action are not placed within their proper social context, reaction to them may be not only ineffectual but even erroneous.

The latest student demonstrations have dramatized the brutality of the police. It is proper that these degenerate activities of the police be exposed and attacked, but we must never lose sight of the fact that police brutality is not and cannot be the main issue. Seen in correct perspective, police brutality is merely a manifestation of the intensifying brutality of the state that is endeavoring to stop the forces of change.

The denunciation of police brutality cannot have as its aim merely the elimination of this brutality for it must be borne in mind that the threatened representatives of the status quo will inevitably use force to prevent changes unacceptable to them. Therefore, dialogues with the police, the promulgation of so-called rules for demonstrators, and even countermeasures for the protection of demonstrators can only be of incidental concern. The important thing is to study more deeply the nature of this society that has bred this type of police action as a guide to the struggle for change.

Extra-acadmic Classes

The fact that those students who participated in the demonstration and especially those who were the victims of police brutality have taken the trouble to bring their cause before their respective student populations is further proof of their patriotism and dedication. This means that they know that no amount of heroism on their part can prevail unless they can enlist wider involvement.

The interest and sympathy demonstrated by the student population and the general public in turn is proof of a latent capacity for patriotic action. This emotional support must be transformed on both sides into a mature concern that can be sustained beyond the emotional reaction of the moment. Perhaps one of the best ways of sustaining the present rapport between the student activists and hitherto uninvolved students is the setting up by the students themselves of extra-academic classes with professors of their own choice on subjects relevant to present problems. Such voluntary classes will supplement and in many cases perhaps supplant regular university courses on similar topics handled by Establishment-oriented mentors.

If this latest exhibition of police brutality spurs the creation of sustained study courses on Philippine society and the Philippine state, then for once police brutality will have served a useful purpose and the broken bones, bloodied faces, and cracked skulls of their victims will not have been suffered in vain.

Dedication and Understanding

The frequency of demonstrations and the wider involvement of many sectors of our population in united action is a salutary development. This same frequency poses the danger on the one hand of a dissipation of energies in mass efforts with fragmentary or even selfish sectoral goals and on the other of public reaction against such movements if they are not motivated by important, nationalist objectives with which the general population can identify.

This problem points up once more the need for a continuing and ever widening educational program. Organizations committed to nationalist change must demonstrate creativity in devising informal learning situations and serious study programs for their members and those of the general public whom they can reach. These continuing studies can serve to link the high points of mass action so that a higher level of understanding may lead to more effective, better directed, more varied forms of mass action, while physical involvement in the mass action generates more dedication to study the society that must be changed and to devise the means to change it.

The police forces of the state are well equipped to handle and control mobs. They will be powerless if confronted by a dedicated citizenry with a high degree of political consciousness. #


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