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The Concerned Citizens Movement

The Concerned Citizens Movement
Ronald Roy   June 11, 2008

            Josie Lichauco and Bettina Legarda couldn’t quite agree on what day and how they got to know each other after President Joseph “Erap” Estrada was unconstitutionally ousted from office.  But memory comes to sharper focus when first meetings such as theirs occur under looming parlous conditions.

For, at that time, the Garcillano scandal had just rocked the nation, and Filipino citizens were concerned that Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, the new “president” of the Republic, was not going to govern with a mandate, but with the same artifices of lying, cheating and stealing that enabled her to grab the seat of executive power two times, first at Erap’s expense in 2001 (albeit she later admitted that, as his vice president in 2000, she had already organized a group to topple him), then at the expense of opposition presidential candidate Ronnie Poe in 2004.

            Like most other people, Bettina and Josie shared another fear: that GMA was a ruthless despot who would perpetuate herself in power and, to achieve that, would control the three branches of government through her appointing authority, through a system of bribes and dossiers, and through a program of eliminating militant forces and muzzling uncooperative media.

            “Our country was in disarray, Ronnie, you know that.” Josie said. “The first time Bet and I met, we wore the same faces of outrage and fear, and we agreed it was not enough to be simply concerned without taking a plan of action.” Bet butted in, “That’s right, Ron, because concern without action is nothing more than apathy.  Like Josie earlier said, a bullied society would capitulate fast to a tyrant unless its leaders roused their followers from lethargy and motivated them to reach paroxysms of outrage over the tyrant’s cruel debasement of TRUTH and RIGHTEOUSNESS, their most cherished values.”

            Then, a voice from behind me: “Sorry for arriving late, guys.” It was Marily Orosa. All three lady convenors of the Concerned Citizens Movement (CCM), just recently re-styled from the Concerned Citizens Group, were now present for the interview I had requested. Laying down her things, she sidled up to Josie then said, “What Josie and Bet were saying was right. In addition, we saw a need for holding occasional meetings where two or three guest speakers would expound on current issues, then interact with their audience during open forums.  Our idea has always been to attract leaders to these fora so that they, in turn, would disseminate information for their groups  info on which they could map out their respective plans of action, like protest marches, noise barrages, petitions such as for laborers, farmers, environmentalists, OFWs, and now electricity users, etc.

            “We’ve always tried to foster a patriotic and spiritual climate in our sessions. For instance, you remember that at our forum last week, we had Jesus Is Lord’s Bro. Eddie Villanueva for a powerful and inspirational invocation. Then, guest speaker Sen. Ping Lacson gave us a run-down on the administration’s record of criminal symphonies conducted under the baton of the tyrant. The other guest speaker, Sen. Alan Peter Cayetano, also gave us the current state of senate investigations.  Both then ended their presentations with authoritative responses to questions from the floor.  So, Ron, we’re not doing so bad, are we?  The group is now a movement because it needs to expand to stay attuned to more and bigger issues, such as these exogenous problems about food and crude oil shortages that go beyond GMA’s control – problems that throw a prayer for God’s intervention.” I think I heard Josie and Bet say Amen to that.

            But the movement will have to do its part, I thought, and not leave to God’s hands the matter of our survival.  Last week’s Manila Polo Club forum in Makati hit a record high in attendance of close to four hundred, an expected huge turnout, given the almost anarchic energy and food crisis, a worsening peace and order situation, and the sense of an approaching political turmoil with the year 2010 just lying around the corner.

            It’s not easy to relax and plan for survival when reasons for panic escalate.  But, you’d better believe that it’s not impossible to love God with all our mind, heart, soul and spirit, and to love others as we love ourselves.  These are the greatest two loves in the universe, and may the CCM be infused with them.  When people help one another, there is no problem a family, a community and even the entire nation cannot surmount.  This, to my mind, is the action we all need to take — a collective response to God’s commandment that we love others as we love ourselves.

            A few weeks ago, I wrote that a rescue was forthcoming, all in God’s time and all by His grace. Now, I am certain the rescue will not come just as it didn’t in Noah’s time, unless we buckle down to caring for one another.  The divine lesson is so simple it escapes us often: there is strength, nay, salvation, in unity. And He enjoins each of us one to contribute,  by whatever means possible, to that synergy. I didn’t share these thoughts with Bet, Josie and Marily, the three convenors of the CCM, but I think I know them well enough to be confident they will steer the movement along the avenues of these precepts.  Oh, the fourth and last though not the least convenor, is a UP professor, Harry Roque, the indefatigable international lawyer who was absent.

            Bettina Kahn-Legarda, an Assumptionista, is an AB degree holder with a major in History.  A culinary arts specialist, she maintained a very low profile as an erstwhile CCG convenor. But this has practically changed because Marily and Josie have tapped her as the new CCM spokesperson, apart from staying as a convenor herself. Marily Ysip-Orosa, on the other hand, is a product of Maryknoll who holds an AB degree in Communication Arts – an academic background that accounts for her reputation as a multi-award winning publisher.

            And who has not met or heard of Josefina Trinidad vda. de Lichauco, a lady of considerable BEAUTY, intellectual BRILLIANCE, and activist BRINKMANSHIP? A rare Triple B, I’d say! Heiress to her late father Don Anselmo Trinidad of stockbroking fame, she entered college at the age of 14, proceeded to earn a Master of Laws degree from Yale University, and was married to Eddie Lichauco at rites marked as “the wedding of the year.”  I knew Eddie, a dashing Ateneo basketball star and Harvard graduate who made many a heart throb in his salad days.  All these years, Josie has kept unmarried, preferring to pursue the CCM vision of winning back her country’s freedoms.

            Josie was President Ramos’ Secretary of Transportation and Communications, and remains a popular columnist of the Philippine Star.  Known for her oppositionist bend of mind, Josie will not be forgotten for her fearless Senate testimony that exposed violations of laws and the Constitution in connection with the infamous ZTE-NBN project.

            I consider it a privilege to have interviewed these ladies. It matters not if they have come from the affluent past, or still bask in the relative opulence of the present. What matters is that they have come together to lead a movement determined to make a difference.  The movement has no place for elitist hypocrites, such as a former pop singer who said at the interfaith rally on Ayala Avenue last month that Erap’s presence thereat just went against her “moral fiber.” Wow!! I advise this woman to read the biblical account of Saul the Christian-murderer whom Jesus converted, renamed Paul and made one of his greatest saints.  She should also recall the story of Dimas the thief, who became the first saint canonized by Christ Himself!

            Carry on, Josie, Bettina and Marily! See you at the next forum!

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