I have agreed with quite a number of Star editorials, but yesterday’s was just plain wrong.
On a busy Friday, payday, traffic was again at a standstill in many parts of the city of Manila. Why? Because there was another anti-government rally in Mendiola. The usual people who surely hold no steady jobs and don’t go to school since they can afford to stage rallies daily were augmented by a small bunch of individuals suffering from acute lack of public attention.
The argument from inconvenience has been raised before; it does not acquire new force merely because the particular inconvenience in question happened on a "payday." Almost by definition, the use of the democratic space available to citizens may inconvenience others who live in that space. That is simply the price of democracy.
The closing off of certain streets in Manila to honor Filipinos who have brought honor not only to the city but to the country, such as Manny Pacquiao or Lara Quigaman, also caused some inconvenience. Should we allow this kind of inconvenience only because there are no water cannons or fundamental civil liberties involved?
To be sure, the main headline in yesterday’s issue was about the rally: the son of ex-Vice President Teofisto Guingona called the violent dispersal an act of tyranny and oppression. But that choice of story does not, at least in my view, redeem yesterday’s editorial, or the false dichotomy foisted on the reader by its last paragraph.
The protesters last Friday, however, were not just after expressing a message in their usual inarticulate, infantile way that leaves no room for intelligent debate. They wanted maximum disruption of other people’s lives. Was their dispersal state repression? Only if you think being a public nuisance is an inalienable right.