To say that peaceful protests are artistic may be a debatable opinion, but it is hard to deny that these effigies, speeches, and placards do not constitute even the tiniest bit of artistry and creativity. More than artistry and due to the sociopolitical climate in the country, it is important to point out that protests, in general, are lawful and constitutional, as mandated by our Bill of Rights. Yet, protesting is still received negatively.
But the public’s perception of protesting has always been rooted in one’s own political stances and preferences. One cannot show such defiance or clamor for social change if, for a person, there’s nothing to change in the first place—that there’s nothing wrong.
Despite the country’s strong democratic roots and the historical impact of events such as the EDSA People Power Revolution, the response to activists and protesters has gone downhill. It is as if protesting is something that was birthed only in recent years. Under the Duterte administration, the infamous Anti-Terror Bill has tagged peaceful protesters and independent fact-checkers as terrorists.
But how could holding placards, burning effigies, and mobbing the streets be acts of terror when they are done without violence?
The answer is simple: because peace is subjective. For one, peace may mean a world without inconvenience. If we were to go by that definition, then protests are indeed meant to break the peace, because a protest was never designed to work in a setting where people are comfortable. Protests break into spheres of privilege to send a message that “peace” is just a concept that distances one from the world’s bitter realities. These bubbles either protect people from or shroud the reality that their peers live through—realities that they do not bother changing. People only acknowledge the need to protest if a matter affects them. People are indifferent yet too concerned about the disruption of “peace”.
Even those who hold positions of power in the country—from the Commander in Chief down to his soldiers—have antagonized dissenters. The systematic disinformation drive against protesters has successfully shifted the public to believe that any form of opposition against the government is enough to brand one as a terrorist. With this demonization in place, it has become easy to silence dissent.
Unfortunately, what once was glorified as our right is now washed in red and seen as a threat to safety and security. Protesting was once the main way to make noise for a cause and be heard by those we deem unreachable, but others have now covered their ears to block out the noise.
We must unearth the truths that many have been attempting to bury. It is time that we give birth to a new era of protest, one that is not just a battle for peace and rights, but also a battle for truth. We must free ourselves from disinformation as it threatens the strongholds that democracy has kept for our country. We must learn how to reclaim the narratives of our history so that they would not be forgotten.
To do that, we must begin with governance that values comprehensive and holistic education, one that goes beyond books, dates, and bits of information that could have been taught completely and contextually. Information must be accessible and well-embedded in our school curricula because it is those missing parts that become the entry points for disinformation. In this nation, it is not polarizing opinions that set us apart but the different versions of the truth that make us look at history from varying viewpoints.
While we echo a similar sentiment of peace and unity, our distorted and fragmented truths have placed us on different sides of history. As we commemorate the 36th EDSA People Power Revolution, it should be our goal to relearn the lessons our history has taught us—and continues to teach us.
It is time for us to double our efforts in restoring truths. We must become united and liberated from the whims of disinformation, for we will never find “people power” in people pitted against each other.