It was as though the nation was not facing a grave political and moral crisis when Mrs. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo broke into song with two highly popular performing artists — one of them a foreigner who was invited to come in especially for the occasion.
The date was Feb. 14, 2008. Preparations for the next day’s big rally by various groups demanding truth and accountability from the Arroyo regime and the fictitious Presidentâ€™s resignation from office were all over the news.
The rally was the first of a series of broad and big protest actions against corruption that has been unfolding since Engr. Rodolfo “Jun” Lozada surfaced early last month to testify — and drop bombshells — in the Senate investigations on the Philippine government’s rigged and overpriced National Broadband Network (NBN) deal with Chinaâ€™s ZTE Corporation.
His revelations would tackle not only the NBN deal, but also other overpriced government contracts like the NorthRail and SouthRail projects, as well as the Cyber Education Project. An eye-opener, if not a rude shock for many, was his disclosure that it is “standard practice” to overprice government contracts by 20 percent.
All these had been stirring up things throughout the country, enraging even those who had long been accustomed to dismissing even big-time thievery as something that is “normal.”
And yet there they were, with the two singers “serenading” Arroyo, and Arroyo herself crooning a love ballad later in the event, as though all was well with the world.
It was a scene reminiscent of Ferdinand and Imelda Marcos, showing themselves on national TV either singing “Dahil sa Iyo” or dancing, every time the dictatorship was confronted with major challenges.
There was an apparent intent to steal the show from the various organizations that were preparing for the next day’s big protest action.
We, the Artists’ Response to the Call for Social Change and Transformation (Artists’ ARREST), shall not allow ourselves to be a party to this conscription of artists for the self-serving goals of a regime that has been weighed and found severely wanting.
We can expect that those in the Palace who live big-time off the hard-earned money of the people will cook up more of this as the crisis escalates. We in Artists’ ARREST shall not sit idly by as the fallacious and rapacious regime tries to enlist the artistic community in its project of pacifying the public by deceit.
The pens, the brushes, the cameras, the musical instruments are weapons we are wielding as we take part in the people’s fight for truth, accountability, and a government that does not squander the nationâ€™s future.