The Fight for our Children’s Future

Sta. Ana coordinates for Action for Economic Reforms. This article was published in the Opinion Section, Yellow Pad Column of BusinessWorld, February 18,2008 edition, pages S1/4 – S1/5.

The fight against the Gloria Arroyo (GMA) administration is a fight for the future. It is everyone’s fight, with a lot of tasks that cry out to be done.

GMA has damaged our institutions.  This damage has long-term effects.

She has sabotaged our basic rights and freedoms.  Her military has resorted to extra-judicial killings.  Her military faction does not hesitate to abduct, torture, and forcibly detain activists.  The police and military conduct illegal searches, plant evidence, and file baseless criminal charges against people they wish to destroy. They trump up charges to jail individuals for their political beliefs (alleged communists, Moro secessionists, or plain protesters).

Against whistleblowers (Jun Lozada and others) and monitors (the Senate majority and the Makati Business Club, for example), she will not hesitate to use the whole government apparatus to demolish them.  She unleashes the military, the police, the Bureau of Internal Revenue, the government media, the puppet House of Representatives, the spineless local government officials, and the paid hacks in an attempt to crush them.

GMA has restricted the freedom of the press, of free speech, and of free expression.  Her administration has threatened, arrested, and imprisoned journalists.  Her husband and minions like Benjamin Abalos resort to filing libel charges against critical journalists and whistleblowers. Under her administration, the military or hired goons have killed scores of media people.

She has denied the people’s right to information, and she has time and again banned protest actions or has violently dispersed anti-administration demonstrators.

She has impaired the system of checks and balances.  She has used the government budget to buy the support of the Lower House.  And she has deliberately weakened the Senate by withholding information and disallowing Cabinet officials, whenever it suits her, from testifying in hearings.

In short, GMA has violated the Constitution’s Bill of Rights and other Articles.  She has battered the country’s basic institutions.

The task of everyone is to rebuild the institutions. Each and every task is meaningful—from demanding GMA’s resignation and participating in collective actions to educating the youth and linking with the poor.

Everyone has a role to play. Take the Lims I know—and there are many Pinoys named Lim.  Fides Lim, an activist since her high school days, has used the pen as her sword  to fight for her principles. She now focuses on human rights at the same time that she tries to secure the safety of her husband Vic Ladlad, who is being hunted by the military although the trial court had already dropped the false charges against him.

Another Lim is Danny Lim, the anti-GMA, gun-shy military rebel. I related with him during the early 1990s in the campaign for fraudulent debt cancellation and the opposition to constricting economic policies.   I describe him as a modest, reticent, and studious person; the model of the officer and gentleman. I am sad for him that his attempted “withdrawals of support” to facilitate GMA’s downfall failed. But like Fides, he is resolute in fighting for a just cause.

Bertie Lim, the executive director of Makati Business Club (MBC), was among the brave businessmen who openly resisted the Marcos dictatorship.   Before joining the MBC, Bertie was involved in environmental protection, tourism promotion, and regulatory reforms in the aeronautics industry.  Accommodating vested interests just before the 2004 elections, GMA removed the independent Bertie from the Civil Aeronautics Board.  GMA is again targeting the MBC and Bertie in light of their condemnation of the series of scandals and their call for Cabinet secretaries Romy Neri and Lito Atienza  to resign.

No less committed is Bertie’s sister, Nina Lim Yuson.  She isn’t as highly visible as brother Bertie or her namesake, Danny Lim.  But the work she does, apart from joining the protest actions, contributes to the long-term goal of strengthening institutions.  Nina is an educator and civic worker.  She is a volunteer and officer of ATD, a global non-governmental organization that works with the poor so they can live in dignity.  She is also a volunteer for Synergeia, a network committed to basic education reforms.

Her many civil society engagements do not distract from and in fact complement her work in the Museo Pambata.  Nina is the Museo Pambata’s president. Her work is not simply about managing the museum.  It has been her mission to improve children’s welfare and safeguard their rights.

Even as she carves out time to attend protest activities (she joined our pocket-size contingent in the Ayala rally on 15 February 2008), Nina is busy organizing the first Asian Children’s Museum Conference, which will take place on 23-26 February 2008 at the Manila Hotel. Amidst the mounting protests against GMA, one may wonder about the timing of this conference. In truth, the conference is very relevant; its theme is “Children’s Museums as Bridges of Peace.”

Among the themes to be discussed in the conference are:

  • “Helping children deal constructively with questions on peace,
  • “The Asian child: Views and hopes for peace,
  • “How books help children understand peace.”

Nina believes in a “hands-on” approach to children’s learning.  In the Museo Pambata, the children see, touch, hear and smell things, supplementing their learning in schools.

The real world is the child’s best teacher. Says Nina, “children learn best when they use all their senses.” For Nina, participating in collective actions is similarly a “hands-on experience.”  She recalls the times she brought her youngest child Zak, then a toddler, to the anti-Marcos rallies.  It was part of how she nurtured and raised Zak, who has become a socially aware citizen.

The all-round education of children to make them politically active and train them to become rules-abiding, accountable citizens is a crucial element to rebuild the Philippine institutions.  This is the relevance of the forthcoming first Asian children’s museum conference.  And so, as the other Lims relentlessly pursue the immediate political task of changing Philippine society by unseating GMA, Nina proceeds on a long-term course for our children’s future.

To inquire into or register in  the first Asian Children’s Museum Conference on 23-26 February, call 02 5231797 or email info@museopmbata.org.

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