Aung San Suu Kyi and Manny Pacquiao

AT yesterday’s morning’s session in Jakarta,  Rasheeda from CAMPE in Bangladesh asked our assembly to adopt a resolution welcoming the release of Aung San Suu Kyi. We cheered and clapped unanimously.

When we bid good-bye to Kailash, GCE president, who was leaving for his flight, she added, “We are not limited to education issues. Education for All is a human rights issue. And we are a political movement.”

LIke the rest of the global reaction, our positive reaction to Aung San Suu Kyi’s release was tempered: “It’s an important step, but it’s only one step, toward democratization in Myanmar.” Hence the call to release the 2000-plus political prisoners in Myanmar.

I’m reminded of the first time I was released from prison in 1980, together with a few other political  prisoners. That was also when Ninoy Aquino was released from prison so he could fly to the USA to get treatment for his heart ailment.

As political activists, we described our release from prison as “moving out of a smaller prison into a larger prison.” There was greater political space available, but the space was still bounded by various walls.

Our reaction to the release of relatively more prominent prisoners always included a call to release all the other political prisoners. We welcomed the release of any prisoner, but we also worried that once better known political personalities were out of prison, those left behind would be forgotten, and public campaigning to free the “nameless” would not be as sustained or effective.

During the noon break, I went up to my hotel room to check if there was an ESPN coverage of Manny Pacquiao’s bout with Margarito. There was no live video streaming, but the blogger’s blow by blow account provided a ringside view of the action.

Unlike the fight with Oscar de la Hoya which I also followed through the ESPN blog, Manny dominated the fight with Margarito from the early rounds. I didn’t feel the ritual tension that I felt then at the start of the fight. It may have been due to the reputation of de la Hoya and the pre-fight hype about his being a bigger and more experienced fighter, with a knock out punch.

As I imagined the sights and sounds of the fight, a thought crossed my mind: Philippine solidarity activists could see Margarito as symbol of the Myanmar junta, and Aung San Suu Kyi as the victorious Manny Pacquiao, and shuttle between their feelings about the two events of the day. But on further thought, the comparison doesn’t really hold.

The struggle for democracy is not a one on one boxing match, though popular media tends to focus on the role of individual leaders on both side of the political combat.

It is not even a football or basketball match between two political teams, with the rest of the people watching as spectators, or cheering for their chosen side.

It’s closer to Augusto Boal’s idea of popular theater, where people are both spectators and actors, participants in an improvisational play with no fixed number of acts, and different possible endings. Ed dela Torres

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