Human Rights, Political Crisis

Celebrating truthtellers

They were all over him, the employees, smothering him with hugs, even kisses. They were posing with him for snapshots that perhaps end up in their Friendster accounts. He willingly obliged. I think he’s getting used to it, which is not a bad thing. One can only imagine how difficult his life had become since that fateful day when he did not know if he would live or go the way of more than 170 activists missing to date. He was all smiles, and all ears, as students aim their phone cams on him and chat up with him.

He is Jun Lozada, and he looked as every bit relieved as any man who went through what he went through ought to be. Sure, the limelight can take its toll on even the most hardened celebrity. The circles around his eyes are testament to that. But he is relieved nevertheless. At least he lived long enough to be mobbed.

Days before, he went through just that, courtesy of students at the St. Scholastica’s College. Nothing as threatening as a pack of screaming colegialas calling your name like you were some artista. He was a rock star. A funny looking, middle-aged man who turned the country on its heels with his knowledge of scandalous government dealings and his wisecracking ways at the Senate.

That afternoon, he was even more jovial. He made the rounds of some universities, with the UP’s law building Maclolm Hall as his last stop. With security considerations forcing the speaking engagement to be moved from Quezon Hall to Malcolm (a not-so-ideal place to hold a rally, truth to tell), Lozada spoke to the throng through a balcony. It was a bit comical, even slightly ridiculous, and reminded me of Madonna’s Evita Peron singing “Don’t Cry for Me Argentina”.

But no matter. Whatever he said, the crowd of more than a thousand warmly responded. Lozada gave his now-all-too-familiar speech about the youth being at the forefront of social change. And when time came for the students to ask questions, he was amusingly glib. Repeatedly asked to comment on President Arroyo, Lozada was circumspect, apologizing for it by saying that he did not want to taint his newfound celebrity with partisan politics. Some student, an activist for sure, sought to correct him in his views about politics, saying that what he did in the Senate was by nature “political,” and that there’s nothing wrong with that. He was all quiet, but a few fellow students responded with faint catcalls. Understandably, they did not want to embarrass their guest. Nevertheless, the grim-and-determined student had a point, and Lozada knew it.

It was mostly fun. Lozada deserves all the support he gets from the students and the public. It is to his credit that the middle class who had been running out of heroes in their ranks have now began to show signs of political life. Good god, it’s about time. And though, I don’t see those same colegialas rooting this time for new whistleblower Dante Madriaga, we can safely assume that we will be seeing more of the middle class in the days to come.

That frenetic afternoon with Lozada, however, made me think about other things. It made me think about those missing activists who were not as lucky as him. It reminded me of Lourdes “Nanay Ude” Rubrico, an urban poor activist from Cavite who was abducted by state agents while in her sleep about a year ago. She was taken to PAF Field Station Fernando Air Base, Lipa City, Batangas where she was mentally tortured and threatened with physical harm for days. She escaped after eight days. The Court of Appeals has refused to grant her and her family the protection she needs, thus she continues to live in hiding, fearing for her and her children’s and grandchildren’s lives.

Nanay Ude, is a whistleblower like Lozada. And so are the Manalo brothers. And the others, who amidst tremendous threat to their lives, chose to speak the truth, about the unspeakable brutality that they had seen by their own eyes. They remain largely unknown. They are not celebrities.

I just wish one day, we can celebrate them the way we deservedly celebrate Jun Lozada.


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