Monday, January 25, 2010

Of Januaries

First of three parts

For most people, Januaries are off to a slow start which can be attributed to the lingering scent of Christmas in the cold amihan. There are also enterprising individuals, mostly politicians, use this general public lethargy to slip in resolutions and what have that would have reaped loud protestations if done in ordinary times. Still there are also explosive Januaries in our recent history.

By explosive Januaries, I mean circumstances that have gained a prominent space in our history. I can recall only three, though there can be many others, the first quarter storm in the 1970’s, the mendiola massacre in the 1980’s and the Edsa 2 in 2001. Of the three, I can give a personal account only about Edsa 2, of which I am a part of. For the other two, I have only read and heard about it.


On January 26 1970, more than 50,000 demonstrators converged in Congress. This was after Marcos delivered his “State of the Nation Address” which was found wanting by the people. The 50,000 throng, composed mainly of students, is a fitting rebuff to Marcos’ SONA and US Vice President Agnew. Of course, just like EDSA 1 and 2, a demonstration this big did not happen overnight.

For years militants have clamored for social justice and reforms that consistently fall on deaf ears and lying mouths. The Laurel-Langley Agreement which is essentially the same as the Bell Trade Act is scheduled to be terminated come 1974. It was renewed and the trade policies heavily favoring US cntinued to be implemented. The Marcos’ regime has already approved the Investment Incentives Act ang the Magna Carta of Social Justice and Economic Freedom which is deliberately cloaked with “nationalist” propaganda but which grant US monopolies all the legal phrases they can use to impose their economic and political domination. Marcos, having begun his Bagong Lipunan vision, has already incurred extremely huge budgetary deficit and foreign debt.

That day, 7,000 policemen and troops were unleashed on the demonstrators. These state forces used brutal “anti-riot” methods against the protesters. They were trained by the AID Public Safety Division and by special “counterinsurgency”agents of the JUSMAG. The mass of students retaliated in self-defense.

It was clear as day that the January 26 protest of 50,000 people is merely the pening salvo of a bigger struggle.

True enough, a bigger mass protest which was participated in by more than 76 universities, colleges and highschools in and around Manila, was held on January 30 until the wee hours of January 31. This time, the protesters converged in fron of Malacanang, the seat of power, albeit local, itself.

The militant students commandeered a firetruck to break through Malacanang’s main gate. They also commandeered a bus to break the line of Metrocom men. Army and police vehicles did not escape their tit of tat response to the police’s brutal dispersal tactics.

All the while, the patriotic demonstrators shouted slogans condemining the brutality of the state and called on the workers, peasants, students ang progressive intellectuals to unite against US imperialism among others.

Many wounded demonstrators were taken in and treated by the residents in the area who sympathized and were inspired by the courageous upheaval of the students.

The protests didn’t die down when January ended. On the contrary, it continued well into February and March. As the protests grew in number and zeroed in on the its chief targets, the Malacanang and the US Embassy, so did the police ranks which consequently meant a rise in human rights violations not only against the protesters but against innocent bystanders and residents. In the course of this fiery actions, five students have given their lives, countless others have sustained heavy beating and other wounds.

The First Quarter Storm went down in history as proof of what our national hero, Jose Rizal, said about the youth being the hope of the nation, as it was led mostly by students. Militants however are careful to claim that the students are the key to genuine social change. The FQS, although composed mainly of students, saw the participation of a significant number of workers and peasants. The humble origins of the FQS participants belie the depth of their understanding and rage against US imperialism which is ultimately the root of all evil.

Eman Lacaba’s Days of Disquiet, Nights of Rage details this fateful event. If your are interested in knowing more about this, you can ask about it from your Tibak friends, scour the Popular Bookstore at Tomas Morato, or your friendly mainstream bookstore might just carry it. I think it has been reprinted, meaning it gained more following, so it might be a little pricier now.

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