Don’t downplay protests, Palace warned
The Aquino administration should not downplay global protests against capitalism because these could catch fire in the Philippines if progressive groups could relate the global movement with local issues and form a united front with other groups, a former Bureau of Treasury head said Monday.
“The government should be aware of it … and the business sector should be aware of it,” Leonor Briones, who teaches at the University of the Philippines’ National College of Public Administration and Governance, said in an interview.
Briones, also a convenor of Social Watch in the Philippines, said the “movements have some good and harmful effects.”
Besides, she pointed out that the global movement was led by youngsters who were targeting capitalists, banks and governments, and that local protesters were also composed of students who were prepared to do anything.
“They will give up everything,” Briones said, recalling that the movement against the Vietnam War in the 1960s was started by the youth in the United States and Europe.
Militants from Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (Bayan) massed on Sunday at Plaza Ferguson across the street from the US Embassy in Manila in coordination with the global protests.
Briones did not rule out the possibility that the protests sweeping the United States and Europe could escalate in the Philippines if progressive groups were able to relate the global cause with local social issues such as poverty, the gap between the rich and the poor, and budget cuts for state universities and colleges.
“Will it spread to the Philippines? It depends on the awareness of the Filipino progressive groups, and I assume they are aware,” she said.
“If the various groups will identify and link the problems of the Philippines with the global campaign which is against the capitalists, then it will probably escalate. On top of that, they should be able to pull the masses,” she added.
“If they’re able to establish connection between what’s happening in the US and our own problems, and the general public makes that connection, the possibility becomes stronger.”
Briones said that some people, including herself, had opposed the government’s approach to poverty reduction through conditional cash transfer, and students had protested the Malacañang’s reduction in the budget for state universities and colleges.
Another factor that could lead to a possible escalation of the protests in the country would be the success of the progressive groups in forming a united front with other groups.
“Everybody has to get together. Can they get together with their closest rivals and form a united front?” she said of the progressive groups divided by ideological differences.
“The connection has to be there … You need unity, or a semblance of unity,” she added.
But then again, the possibility that the global movement would not catch fire in the Philippines was also there, Briones said, pointing out that there were factors that could also slow it down.
Mobilizing not easy
Unlike in the 1960s, when progressive groups had some unity and managed to mobilize hundreds of thousands for rallies every day, mobilizing people now may not be that easy because there are progressive groups “valiantly supporting” President Aquino, and youngsters who adore him, she said.
“It’s more complicated now because the young people see other opportunities, the professionals see other opportunities,” she said.
Briones said it would be better for Filipinos to identify with the global movement, but added they should come up with a “Filipino version.”
“Should we be aware of the connection? Yes. But as to what we should do, the Filipinos have to think of ways, and consider the costs,” she said.
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