Time to rise! This was what my editor shouted through the speaker phone when I took his call at six last night. I’m glad I did, for otherwise I would not be able to tell you this story.
I arrived at the scene, near the mall just before Commonwealth springs a tooth on the right to the UP campus, about two minutes before six, to find the area nearly deserted except for an unusual deployment of anti-riot police in full battle gear. I quickly learned they were to block a throng of marchers planning to lay siege to the House of Representatives on Halloween. After a while, an officer with a bullhorn was shouting “Stop!” Bystanders were confused for they could not see whoever it was he was addressing. I wasn’t, and that was precisely why I got the assignment. I could see. About 3,000 thousand dead men and women, heads bowed, with nothing on, taking half steps until the leaders were toe to toe with the officer with the horn, who looked crazy shouting at no one. “Stop!” he said again. And they did. One of them whispered into the officer’s ear:What’s the problem? We’re not obstructing anything are we? You have no permit, and that’s against the law and we will disperse you within the hour, the officer replied. The standoff was resolved four hours after Speaker Jose de Venecia arrived, having interrupted his holiday just to help untangle the traffic mess which had built up since I arrived.
This is what really happened. The dead, for the first time in our country’s history, had organized themselves to exercise their constitutional right to seek redress of grievances. It seems they had suffered all the injustices (dilapidated cemeteries, unauthorized use of their names in elections, frequent misquotations by the living) in silence. But what broke the silence in the cemeteries was the news that Joseph Estrada had been pardoned and that his civil and political rights (except to be elected) had been restored.
What about us? They asked. In the barangay elections we were accused of being flying voters. We can fly but we are no longer registered, they protested. Yet, what part of the national and local budgets are allocated for us to rest in peace? Nada! And we have not even asked for research funds to help retrieve is from limbo.
I must say that like the living, the dead have their own political biases or predispositions, and even party loyalties. The marchers came from the five most heavily populated cemeteries in Metro Manila. Yet they came together to have their voices heard. To name a few of the organizations with their conflicting advocacies:
- fDc or free us from death coalition was the most militant, along with
- NSD or never say die; and
- RIP self-explanatory
- Move.On.Na (extremely moderate)
Yet these four organizations were one in their demands to JdV, who confronted them pale-faced and deadpan. What choices were he really left with at the time? I will not judge him, but it in the spirit of Halloween I will give you this list:
- On resources for the dead. He would press for allocation of 0.0001 per cent of budget to clean cemeteries, including installing biodigesters to produce methane for energy;
- On bio research, P1 B for bio-engineering in case dead want to be alive again. (safe and morally ambiguous program for pro-life and pro-choice) For living who want to be (mentally) dead, JdV said, he would support their election to Congress).
- On political participation, JdV agreed that the dead are the largest constituency that has not had a party list party. He would support this with seed funds and the suggested name Kumpetai.
- On the anomalies in the village elections, JdV said he would lead the purging of voters lists by eliminating illegally registered dead voters.
Finally, the Speaker urged the dead to withhold judgment on the living. After all, he said, he and Gloria were still alive. (Shame on you, he whispered to me ,in his usual deniable monotone).
Ai-ai Sy Yu is a certfied paranormal investigative reporter for TPO, but we do not guarantee her reports as we have never met her. But we stand by her account.