Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Petty tyrant at QC Memorial Circle

This is my column today, September 30, 2014.


It’s been ages since I last visited the Quezon Memorial Circle.  Someone told me that the QMC, which is a national park and shrine, has become very commercialized although the person also hastened to warn me that it is not exactly the safest (or cleanest) place in the Metro, particularly at night.  But I remember once listening to Charito Planas, former Head of the QMC, talk about a plan to transform the area into a genuine people’s park, heard about the many restaurants that have opened and the many activities that are held in the area, and I read about Mayor Herbert Bautista’s plan to redevelop the QMC - so I thought the park must be on its way to becoming a showcase of what Quezon City aspires to become.
Well, apparently not.  A friend of mine, Romy dela Rosa, wrote a rather poignant letter about how parks in Quezon City have become so commercialized that it had become cheaper to go to an air-conditioned mall than to picnic at, say, the QMC.  To make matters worse, he wrote in to report an unfortunate incident involving a group of Mass Communications students who became victims of the petty tyranny often displayed by inefficient bureaucrats.  I am yielding the rest of this space today to dela Rosa’s account of the rather disturbing incident at QMC recently.
“On September 20, a group of Masscom students went to the QMC to shoot a short film armed with a borrowed handycam and the intent to act the characters of a screenplay they themselves crafted. The project was an academic requirement for one of their subjects. They selected the QMC as an ideal site for their film thinking that President Quezon’s spirit would be with them since the film they intended to make would be about the heroes who founded our nation. While they were preparing to shoot, their youthful enthusiasm and excitement were dashed by a security guard who accosted them and told them that they could not take videos around the park.  They were told to go to the administration office to get permission. Young and idealistic as they were, the students protested that they were just students that needed to make a film for academic purposes.  They were firmly and repeatedly refused.
And so they marched to the QMC Admin Office and got to talk to the secretary of the QMC Officer in Charge.  The students were told that they had to pay P500 to be permitted to take videos within the park. The conversation went this way:  
Students: Why do we need to pay P500? Isn’t the park a public property?
Secretary: For cleaning the park.
Students: But it’s dirty. Is the City government not providing funds for the maintenance of the park?
Secretary: Yes, but we need additional funds.
Students: Including a fee for those who would like to take simple videos and selfies? 
Secretary: Photos and selfies taken through cellphones are allowed. But no photos and videos from a handycam. We do not want videos of the park posted in the social network.
Students: Why not?
Secretary: The OIC does not want it.
Students: No exemption for students?
Secretary: You have to talk to the OIC.
Students: Can we talk to him?
Secretary: He is asleep. You have to wait for him to wake up.
The students begrudgingly pooled their allowances and handed P500 to the secretary on condition that they would appeal later to the OIC for exemption.  The students  came back just as the OIC woke up at around 4:30 PM.  They again asked for exemption from paying the P500 fee elaborating the same arguments they gave to the guard and the secretary.
The QMC OIC obviously did not like the audacity of the students or he must have woken up on the wrong side of his desk that he adamantly refused to accommodate them. The students reminded him that QMC brochure promoted the park as a shrine of a great president and repository of the country’s historical and cultural heritage and as such should be student-friendly, that the park’s website also described the park as a place for recreation and for a lot of fun things, and that the unabashed commercialization of the QMC administration has taken away the fun in going there. The students likewise reasoned that the concern for video footages being uploaded in the social media did not make sense unless they were trying to discourage more people from seeing the poor maintenance and filthy surroundings inside the park. 
The QMC OIC sorely lost the argument to the young students, got piqued, and walked out. When he heard a student comment that it was of rude of him to turn his back on them while they were still talking, walked back, and brusquely returned the P500 fee they collected and gave the impression that they could proceed to shoot in the park without paying.  But when the students tried to start shotting, the security guard again prevented them from doing so, reportedly upon the instruction of the same OIC. If this is not the height of depravity, who knows what is.   
President Quezon must be churning in his grave over the petty tyranny being committed in his final resting place.”

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