COTANGENT – By Daphne Cardillo
If I’m not so keen on the politics here in Tacloban, it is simply because I find the place very conservative. The activists might even define the political set-up here as reactionary. Nothing gets to be resolved, or so it seems, for no one seems to want to negotiate. Each party, especially those in power, stiffens its neck and tightens its belt.
There appears to be a wide gap between the government and the governed. For the last three decades, airing of grievances thru rallies or other mass actions ended up only as noise, for they were not accommodated by the powers concerned, be it a school or an office or the city government. There was even a period when protesters were simply fired with water using the firemen’s water hose. So, no resolution of a case or an issue was accomplished, building an atmosphere of inertia.
Unlike in Cebu where politics is dynamic. There is negotiation between the government and the populace, between management and labor, between school and students. I had the chance as a student then to observe a labor strike where workers laid down on the street fronting their company’s gate ready to be bulldozed, where management availed of temporary workers from outside and bargained with a few strikers, while the case was being deliberated at the National Labor Relations Commission. Both parties went thru the process of dealing with an issue, in this case a labor problem.
I guess I was just exposed to the strong public opinion in Cebu and to think that there was only one newspaper at that time, the Freeman. There is a lot of democratic space and a labor leader is not gunned down or a company closed just to avoid confrontation. Even the warring political clans would negotiate when the call is what is good for the city, the province, or the majority. There is resolution of a problem or an issue.
Tacloban is such a small place and for such a small place ought to be easily managed and united. But the city and provincial governments are making their demarcation lines within the city’s borders. And the few radio stations here play up with politics thus polarizing the people between city hall and provincial hall. And look at how many local newspapers do we have here – a plenty – when majority of the locals don’t read them.
A few years ago, a barangay in Southern Leyte celebrated two fiestas simply because the parish priest and the barangay captain could not meet eye to eye. It was grotesque, for a small place with a few residential blocks and only two main streets having the same fiesta held at two different dates. It ran for a short while until the parish priest was assigned to another place. But that was the way it was, with the world of the wild: tribal.
Tacloban may yet make a significant step towards creating a bigger democratic space for its citizenry. That space might erase old prejudices such as “the old politicos are like this and the Chinese are like that” and so on. It would minimize corruption and the abuse of power by those who cannot seem to be nudged. It would reduce dissenters from going to the hills out of desperation and hopelessness. And really, even for us who merely observe, it might lessen our feeling of apathy and cynicism.