Strong women
DEMAND AND SUPPLY - Boo Chanco (The Philippine Star) - October 26, 2020 - 12:00am

“You know you need a better strategy to win hearts and minds when you’re afraid your enemies just recruited Miss Universe, Darna and the people’s Angel. Try standing up for social justice, sovereignty, women’s rights, and the marginalized in Marawi, maybe that might work...”

That tweet of Prof Ronald U. Mendoza of the Ateneo School of Government sums up my feelings about a military general’s uncalled-for threat unleashed on Liza Soberano. The popular young actress, to the general’s mind, made the mistake of speaking on women’s rights before the left leaning Gabriela.

I was so surprised, too, that our Miss Universe and the people’s Angel have also been red-tagged. Their common mistake is speaking up for the rights of women and human rights in general.

Maybe the general is just venting because he got an impossible assignment to head the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict. He knows he will fail because the insurgents are feeding on the sufferings of people at the grassroots that have remained unattended through the years.

The NPA problem has been with us for over 50 years now, the longest running communist insurgency in the world. All our presidents depended on the military approach. One would have thought if something wasn’t working for 50 years, something else should be tried.

The solution demands social justice, not weapons of war. And social justice will be unattainable unless there is a change in our politics.

Our political system had been electing politicians whose only objective is to enrich themselves, their families and their friends at the expense of the people. They are the real subversives the general should go after.

Hunger and poverty keep the rebellion alive. It also inspires our idealistic youth to take their cause and the tragedy of death continues through generations.

“Nowadays,” Pope Francis observed, “words like democracy, freedom, justice or unity have been bent and shaped to serve as tools for domination, as meaningless tags that can be used to justify any action.” Would the general red-tag the Pope too?

The irony of it all is that those same rebels, once they take power, would be as ruthless and corrupt as the government they are trying to dislodge. They mercilessly killed their own comrades in power struggles and they were not even in power yet.

The government’s approach to the long festering insurgency needs fresh ideas. I think Pope Francis can help. His latest encyclical, Fratelli Tutti, outlines what governments must do to promote social justice. The National Defense College should conduct a seminar on the Pope’s latest encyclical.

It is heavy reading, so I am not done. But a summary from the Vatican news provides enough ideas.

“In the first of eight chapters, which is entitled ‘Dark Clouds over a Closed World’, the document reflects on the many distortions of the contemporary era: the manipulation and deformation of concepts such as democracy, freedom, justice; the loss of the meaning of the social community and history; selfishness and indifference toward the common good; the prevalence of a market logic based on profit and the culture of waste; unemployment, racism, poverty; the disparity of rights and its aberrations such as slavery, trafficking, women subjugated…”

Depressing as Chapter 1 is about the sad state of the world, the Pope offers hope: “Difficulties that seem overwhelming are opportunities for growth, not excuses for a glum resignation that can only lead to acquiescence.”

I believe our strong women celebrities are really doing exactly what the Pope thinks we should do. They are not ready to just accept things as they are. But they surprised that macho army officer who didn’t expect them to speak strongly on anything meaningful outside of showbiz.

The change Liza, Catriona and Angel seem to be fighting for can still be achieved through the existing political system. I do not believe they are ready to go to the hills.

What they want is “a better kind of politics”, which is Chapter Five of Pope Francis’ encyclical. This kind of politics, the Pope said, represents one of the most valuable forms of charity because it is placed at the service of the common good.

The populism indicated by Pope Francis counters the “populism” of strongmen leaders like Duterte and Trump, which uses consensus to exploit people and foment selfishness to increase their popularity. The Pope’s “populism” emphasizes the common good.

The Pope prioritizes the more urgent. For instance, he makes an emphatic appeal to definitively eliminate hunger, which is “criminal” because food is “an inalienable right”.

In this regard, we have much work to do. SWS reports the proportion of families experiencing involuntary hunger – hunger due to lack of food to eat – at least once in the past three months reached a new record-high of 30.7 percent, or an estimated 7.6 million households.

Hunger underscores social inequality and breeds NPAs. Is the General’s task force planning to feed the people? Could it be more effective than bullets.

I think our strong women are also animated by hope as defined by Pope Francis:

“Hope speaks to us of a thirst, an aspiration, a longing for a life of fulfillment, a desire to achieve great things, things that fill our heart and lift our spirit to lofty realities like truth, goodness and beauty, justice and love… Hope is bold; it can look beyond personal convenience, the petty securities and compensations which limit our horizon, and it can open us up to grand ideals that make life more beautiful and worthwhile”.

These strong women should use their influence over millions of fans to urge our people to stage a rebellion at the ballot box and elect better officials.

Educate the people to reject the domination of political and economic oligarchies that have kept them poor. Between the three of them, they have the power of numbers to make change happen.

Finally, challenge those macho police and military officers to attend and bring their wives to a seminar led by lawyer Kat Legarda on women’s rights. Let the macho officers understand women’s rights and let the wives know their rights. That may bring about the change their wives have probably been praying for.



Boo Chanco’s e-mail address is Follow him on Twitter @boochanco

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