He ate his ice cream with a bun while I had mine in a sugar cone, Ricky, a would-be law enforcer. While I agonized over the dilemma of a choice between langka or macapuno, he asked an innocuous question, “Anong meron?” I struggled over how best to explain what last Sunday’s silent protest was for, and as best I could explained what House Resolution 1109 was about. And while I certainly tried to leave the parliamentary jargon out of my explanation, he was quick to follow what, indeed, the silent protest was for.
Stripped of the technicalities, the way he re-explained the situation was crystal. Here you have an administration, led by a tenacious president, too long in power. Here you have allegations of misdeeds comparable only to the abuses of the yet longest self-serving President Marcos. Here you have a country that has yet to exhibit any meaningful indicators of ‘kaginhawahan,’ was his term. Why, indeed, should we suffer more of the same?
His yellowish eyes were wise beyond his age. He couldn’t have been older than me. His little nephew played near the sorbetero, cocooned in blissful ignorance of our conversation, RockEd’s silent protest, and the infamy of June 2. He said he understood what government was doing, all his life having dreamt of being a law-enforcer. He followed politics when he could. Here he was at an avenue in his life where he had to make a choice of a lifetime. He had just past the exam that made a police officer but could not yet quite make the leap.
I know it would change me, he said. I already have friends in the police force. Do you know they make the newbies collect bribe money? All my life I’ve dreamed of being a policeman, to keep order, to dispense justice. But I’m not stupid, I know what goes on in a precinct. If I refuse to join in the shenanigans, I might endanger my life. But if I do, what would be left of me?
I can’t remember all that he said, but I stood there listening to him recount a slice of his life story. I understood too the agony of wanting something better for the country he would serve, and the compromise of the reality of law enforcement and his ideals. Do you know that I studied by heart a book this thick on human rights, he said. Not every cop graduates a criminologist, do you know that? They don’t know that criminals should be treated fairly as the law provides. If I do choose to become a cop, I would do good by not whacking them over the head.
While we ate our ice cream he kept glancing behind me at the silent protesters. He said he understood what we were fighting for, but why were we so silent? I explained that we all understood what we were there for and so there was no need for speeches or programs. I mentioned the big rally on Wednesday and invited him to go. He said he wasn’t much of a rallyist but he would try. And if he couldn’t make it, he asked if I could go on his behalf.
Early afternoon last Wednesday my friend Luisa texted me to offer apologies for not being able to make it to our dinner date. Her tummy wasn’t feeling so good. I’d completely forgotten of course as I was already headed for the Makati rally. She said she would too if she weren’t so sick. I offered to go on her behalf, this friend of mine with whom I witnessed Edsa Dos all those years ago.
I parked my car in the Fort because I didn’t want to be stuck in the traffic re-routing might cause. I need not have bothered of course, because the roads when I arrived and left the Makati CBD were pretty free. I took a cab from Boni High Street and asked to be dropped off at the end of McKinley. Boy, the meter was running fast. Nearing my drop-off point I quizzed the cabbie about the Makati area, whether he got stuck in traffic because of the rally. He said the roads were clear earlier in the day and asked, what rally? I briefly explained that I was going to said rally and outlined the events of June 2. The mild-mannered cabbie then exploded in a rant liberally peppered with expletives. And while he railed about the injustice of the system, of the kurakot politicians, all the same, I noticed his meter slowed.
Under a scaffolding, I sat with friends, smoked some ciggies and listened to personalities speak on the stage. I didn’t care much what Cory Aquino or Danny Lim had to say. I didn’t care for the senators who were there courting the cameras and the crowd. I didn’t care for the congresspeople who came as well, save Risa Baraquel. I didn’t need them to tell me what I already knew anyway. And so I sat, and picked out which sounds I wanted to hear from the spectacle. Curiously it was someone singing a kundiman-type song I appreciated best. The rest was ambient noise.
As we prepared to leave I was told the Stop Con-Ass Facebook group had garnered twenty-three thousand members. I thought, good.