Mong Palatino

blogging about the philippine left and southeast asian politics since 2004


@mongster is a manila-based activist, former philippine legislator, and blogger/analyst of asia-pacific affairs.

Malacanang Palace, supposedly the palace of the people, is now the fortress of a paranoid president. It is already reinforced with defenses that prevent ordinary Filipinos and foreign tourists alike from visiting or even taking a glimpse of the official residence of the most important public official of the land. Gate 7 of the palace is permanently closed, container vans are placed near the Mendiola gate to ward off protesters; and if these structures fail to deter the mob, the palace is still protected by electric fences. Big Brother can instantly detect any suspicious activity in the vicinity because of the CCTV cameras placed around the palace, especially in Recto and Mendiola.

But for the present occupant of Malacanang, these steel barricades and surveillance instruments are not enough to guarantee the safety of the First Family. Another iron gate is being constructed at the foot of Mendiola which would immediately block protesters from advancing beyond the historic Don Chino Roces Bridge. Not only would it deny citizens the opportunity to air their sentiments in front of the palace, which is essential in a democratic society, it is also named most inappropriately as Mendiola Peace Arch.

Building the so-called peace arch is a violent gesture on the part of the government and naïve acquiescence on the part of Mendiola school owners who approved the design of the structure. The new gate reflects the thinking of palace ideologues who interpret peace as the absence of dissent or contrary opinion to government propaganda. The aim of the palace is not to celebrate peace but to enforce it by depriving critics of any space to challenge the official lies peddled by government apologists. Perhaps palace subordinates still cling to the archaic belief that only the president has the right to speak in behalf of the people and they do not want to recognize the legitimate claim of the grassroots to address and represent the public as well.

The peace arch is worse than the barbed wire barricade in Mendiola Bridge because the gate is a permanent structure while the latter can still be removed by determined protesters. It symbolizes a dangerous version of peace because it actually names the place as an abode of stability when in fact it is a contested territory between the dominant and emerging political forces in society. It is obvious that the government is hell bent in reclaiming Mendiola as its exclusive domain.

The gate or peace arch is a repressive structure which was erected by the state to warn opposition groups that the existence of peace in the area is conditional – that is if the protesters will behave and submit to the wisdom of the steel structures in Mendiola. Dare to cross the gate and the protesters will receive a proper water and truncheon treatment courtesy of Malacanang’s resident firemen and anti-dispersal unit of the police.

Mendiola is the holy ground of the parliament of the streets. It is through this junction where student protesters stormed the presidential palace in 1970. Landless farmers were massacred here in 1987. Through the same road, Malacanang was attacked by Edsa Dos and Edsa Tres forces in 2001. In the past 40 years, many Filipinos fighting for an egalitarian ideal lost their lives in the altar of Mendiola. The Mendiola Peace Arch is an insult to the heroism of countless Filipinos who defied the Marcos dictatorship and those who continue to dream of a more just and humane society. The palace is wrong if it thinks the peace arch will make the Filipinos forget the traumatic and violent episodes which took place in Mendiola. You cannot heal the wounds of the past by building vulgar structures.

The construction of the peace arch is one of the last inglorious acts of President Gloria Arroyo. The Malacanang fortress testifies to the political isolation of Arroyo. Maybe her desperation to survive in the wake of numerous political scandals hounding her government had forced her to create a steel blockade around the palace. The economist who had advocated the removal of free trade barriers is the same pitiful politician who constructed steel barriers around the palace to protect her weak presidency.

The new president must not only choose his bachelor pad; he must also dismantle the real and symbolic fences erected by his predecessor. He must decide whether he wants to continue living in an elegant garrison or he can start the journey towards the promised land by first opening the palace grounds to the poor. The new president should be reminded that the ordinary poor cannot access the just path (daang matuwid) towards Malacanang because it is enhanced with several roadblocks.

But the new president is also a traditional politician who probably possesses the same political instincts that made Arroyo infamous. Maybe the new president will keep the gates of the palace and the peace arch closed so that protesters will be discouraged from holding rallies in Mendiola. If the president will do nothing about these structures, he should be prepared for battle. That peace arch, that repulsive thing will embolden the militants to stage bigger and more aggressive political actions in Mendiola. Rallyists will find other creative ways to reach Malacanang Palace. No metal roadblock, even barricades made from wolverine claws, can stop the advance of the people’s movement for genuine change. The overkill security set-up around Malacanang betrays the true sentiment of the party in power – it is afraid of the people. The gates are built to delay the victory of the people. But the poor, the fighting poor, will smash these oppressive structures which perpetuate the old order.

Related articles:

Who owns Mendiola?
Real and symbolic fences
Recto: Fake capital
Open the gates of Forbes Park

2 Responses to “No to another Mendiola gate”

  1. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by mong palatino, Chaz Gamao. Chaz Gamao said: RT @mongster: new blogpost – No to another Mendiola gate : […]

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  2. […] identified the place as Quiapo DVD. Protest actions are often conducted in the busy intersection of Legarda-Mendiola. But this is because police forces are preventing the militant groups from staging a rally in front […]

    Mong Palatino » Blog Archive » Philippine Realities in Google Maps

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