The Manila Standard-Today crows about the thin crowd and gives the lowest estimate at 15,000 (also echoed by the Philippine Star and the Inquirer and Newsbreak). Other reports suggest the Palace has regained its confidence because of the poor attendance (it had barricaded itself behind container vans on Sunday). Another Newsbreak report indicates the President may have been done a favor by the Speaker self-destructing; the initial advice of her advisors -for a Constitutional Convention to be elected, which they can pack- may be winning out.
The Manila Times estimate was 30,000. The Daily Tribune and the Business Mirror also put it at between 30 to 50,000 (30-40,000 was the police estimate, 50,000 the Church estimate). Malaya reports, but does not claim as true, still another claim that the crowd reached 100,000.
My personal view is that the crowd, during the Mass, numbered about 40,000 based on my circling around and asking people who should know (organizers of mobilizations). The crowd, first of all, was divided into two groups, because of a fence erected where the lawn ends and the concrete road facing the Quirino Grandstand begins. One organizer told me the student contingent numbered about 3,000. The crowd in front of the Grandstand compressed but was mainly huddled in the center. When I went beyond the fence, the lawn up to the Macapagal (Diosdado, that is) era carabaos that frame the entrance to this section of the park, was filled near the front but sparsely populated towards Rizal Monument. The El Shaddai contingent was closest to the railing in the lawn area, civil society groups were behind them sprawled on the grass, and isolated families that didn’t belong to any groups hung around the sides.
Last Friday, 20,000 Negrenses rallied: 10,000 in Bacolod City, 3,000 in Kabankalan City, 1,000 in San Carlos City, 2,000 in Cadiz City, 1,500 in Escalante City, 2,000 in Guihulngan town.
Now 40,000 is a highly respectable number for any kind of gathering; and even the lowest estimate equals the first flexing of renewed People Power in December 2000. Yesterday’s gathering, I think, is best understood in those terms: having been absent from the public arena, the Church is as much on probation as any other group, but still mustered a decent turnout without arm-twisting or other inducements. It’s muscles have atrophied and need some exercise. Had it been held on Friday, attendance would surely have been larger. But despite the imminent threat dissipating, and the threats from the Palace sinking in (I encountered quite a few people, when I talked to various people who attended, who said they came despite warnings from friends and family about their safety), people still went. A veteran journalist I encountered said what he found remarkable was that the people hanging out in the periphery were obviously people who’d turned up on their own: he described a surgeon, some businessmen, and some families he personally knew, who had never taken any kind of stand at all in the past. Those people, giving up a holiday season Sunday to make a personal statement, he said, are an encouraging sign.
On the other hand, [email protected] says the public’s voted with its feet: and rejected everyone and everything. My only problem with this is it ignores similar things said about similar efforts as far back as I can remember. After every rally in the 70s and 80s and so forth, I’d hear exactly the same conclusions. I even heard it in 1997, after the anti Cha-Cha rally at the Grandstand; I heard it after the Edsa shrine rally; and over the past year. Identical assumptions were wrong, then. But only time will tell. Amando Doronila says it’s much simpler: the government eliminated what had been the motivation for the rally, and if the public remains divided up to now on the legitimacy issue, then it wouldn’t excite anyone beyond the usual suspects (like yours truly, but definitely not others); most of all, the rally lacked a definable objective. People lose the incentive to rally if the target of their ire curls up and dies, like the Constituent Assembly plan.
Anyway, you would think that by now, estimating crowds would have reached some level of scientific certainty, never mind what organizers or participants claim. In this case the police estimates seem to match the more sober estimates of the crowds from experienced organizers, so maybe the police are more objective than we normally assume.
The problem to my mind, is that a crowd is dynamic, it’s constantly changing; and that your estimate of the crowd depends not only on your method for counting people, but what time you do the counting. For example, had you counted the crowd at any time between 2 to 3 pm, the low estimate would have been valid; had you estimated the crowd during the Mass itself, you would most likely have gotten the 30,000 to 40,000 figure. If you counted the crowd, again, after the Mass but before El Shaddai got its momentum going, you might have been down to 20,000 but in about half an hour (as the sun set) the crowed suddenly mushroomed and definitely you could have counted 50,000 or more (the crowd thickened so that it reached the Macapagal carabaos and there was precious little standing room left).
MindanNews reports a Mindanao congressman’s views that his colleagues received no inducements for supporting amendments, but apologizes to his constituency for supporting the amendments effort. Newsbreak takes a look at the Commission on Elections, which will be the focus of attention after the New Year. My impression was that the most-applauded portion of Cardinal Rosales’ homily was his call for a revamp of the Comelec.
The President issues a national appeal for moral transformation.
My column for today is Parameters. Why are groups that formerly adopted a consensus for charter change, now bitterly divided? The reason is the President.
Bong Austero presents a useful analysis (and this serves as a reminder, I think, that one shouldn’t assume he’s an Arroyo loyalist; I’m all the more convinced that he is the voice of the undecided):
A line has been crossed in the last three weeks. And, unless more concrete steps are taken to assuage people’s fears and doubts, unless very definitive assurance is made that similar sinister conspiracies will never ever be resorted to again, I am afraid that the resentment will continue to snowball.
It is very easy to dismiss the prayer rally spearheaded by the Catholic Church yesterday simply as a warning salvo to the powers-that-be. I don’t share that belief. The organizers may have tried to downplay the political overtones of the event by insisting that it was simply a religious affair. But the truth of the matter is that most of the people who went to Luneta yesterday did not go there to pray. Everyone knows we can pray anywhere. People went because of political reasons. People went because they felt violated. People went because, quite frankly, their patience was wearing thin….
…Serves the administration right, I think. It has been given more than enough opportunities to redeem itself but it has only squandered these. If there is something that can be said of this administration, it is that it has done a great job at self-destruction. Instead of focusing on building a great legacy that will counterbalance the series of scandals that have rocked it from its inception, it has wasted its energy on counterproductive actions that have only alienated more and more people, including those who have been initially supportive – whether sincerely or grudgingly.
Is everything lost, then? I don’t know. Right now, I can’t see through my personal resentment at the way my intelligence has been insulted by this administration over that stupid move to ram that constituent assembly. Proposal down my throat. It is just sheer luck that all this mess is happening during the Christmas season when people are in a more forgiving and hopeful mood. But this self-destruction has got to stop. It simply has got to stop. Enough. Please.
Ellen Tordesillas was there and points out what was significant about it. I think we can get a good sense of where things are by approaching things from Ellen’s and Bong’s different points of view.
Jarius Bondoc is skeptical about calls for electoral reform, and mentions the Davide report, which is interesting. That report was prepared ages ago but never released to the public by the President.
Pictures (actually, Ellen Tordesillas has better ones):
Inq7.net photo. If you look at the center of the picture, you can see me!
Archbishop Lagdameo speaks.
A happy, jiggly choir at the Grandstand (behind the scaffolding)
Students from La Salle.
Civil Society matrons: Vicky Garchitorena, Winnie Monsod. Serge Osmeña’s head.
Beginning of the Mass.
Periphery of Grandstand. Where the people are sitting on the sidewalk was the location of the fence separating lawn from asphalt. El Shaddai and Civil Society groups were behind the fence, in the lawn area.
Parish delegations going home after Mass.
Manila Bay sunset.
Students going home after Mass.
In the blogosphere,
Check out [email protected] for food and other reviews.