I stand here today as a Filipino. I stand here today as a citizen of my nation with the right to express my opinions. I have the right to criticize the wrong things I see because I am in a country that is for the people and by people. In short, I am living in a democratic country, the Philippines.
But before anything else, let’s talk about history. Our noble heroes, Heneral Antonio Luna and Supremo Andres Bonifacio, who defended and gave glory to our country, were killed. Yes, it is not impossible to be slained in a war, but more horribly, they were killed by their allies, their fellow Filipinos. Based on Heneral Luna film, the general’s death was never given justice.
Isn’t it ironic that Filipinos killed their fellow countrymen? Just like before, does our present justice system still favor those in power?
Is history repeating itself? Will our hands bring again our nation’s demise? Are we going to be silenced by fear while our countrymen are suffering from poverty, neglect, and injustice?
Try to open your eyes and see what’s happening in our country. Be updated, be aware and be a responsible citizen for our countrymen. They say, no one is above the law. But do you think the law still applies to those who rule and in power?
How come that protesters who were asking for food in the midst of the pandemic were arrested due to DOH protocol violation while a COVID 19 positive senator who entered a hospital and endangered the lives of many people was given compassion?
How come that our law bans and discourages gatherings but a chief policeman who is supposed to strictly implement the law was seen with other policemen in his brithday party, completely ignoring the law?
Will you not get irate when moviegoers were arrested for not standing when our national anthem was sung inside the cinema while a Filipino congressman was ignored when seen writing notes and not singing and standing properly when our national anthem was sung during one cabinet hearing?
Recently, Republic Act no. 11479 or The Anti-Terrorism Act of 2020 has been signed by our president. According to NUSP, it was passed by the senate to “prevent and stop” terrorist attacks in the country by directly targeting individuals who are profiled members of terrorist groups or found performing such terrorist acts. According to Pia Randa, a multi-media journalist, the law’s definition of terrorism is “broad and vague”. Law experts say that it is extensive enough to include expressions of dissent or criticism against the government.
Due to the wide definition of the law, the anti-terrorism council has now the absolute power to define what constitutes terrorism, and who are considered terrorists. This was followed by various incidents of red tagging.
It is actually weaponizing the abuse of power and entitlements of those who are in the position.
Activists’ lives are in danger because they rally and they criticize. They are the ones who witness how poverty ruins the lives of many. They are the ones who give voices to the victims of discrimination and harassment. They scream for justice and hold placards and not guns. With the anti terrorism law, there is a great chance that they will be labeled as terrorists.
A red-tagged doctor, died after being shot.
Josephine Lapira, a UP Manila student, died after a clash between government troops and alleged members of the New People’s Army.
Actress Liza Soberano was recently redtagged after speaking to Gabriela group webinar where she encouraged every women to speak out for their rights. Addition to this is Catriona Gray and Angel Locsin were also redtagged.
If these famous and influential people became victims of redtagging, what will happen to the ordinary people whose voices are often unheard?
These happenings should never let us down. We should remain courageous to fight for our rights and become the voice of the oppressed even if the law or anyone in power is taking away our freedom of speech, invading our privacy or protecting the chosen few by ruining our justice system. They may want to silence every journalists, activists, advocates, and people who are against their side but we should reamin steadfast for what is right and just.
Everyone should wakeup. We can’t say that “Ganito ang Pilipinas mula pa noon”. No, that’s not the case. Have courage to speak up! It’s not a bad thing to criticize if our purpose is good. Criticism results to change. If we don’t criticize the wrong doing, nothing will happen, and we will still receive less than what we deserve. Not everything is beyond our control. We may have different political opinions, and different ways of showing nationalism, but still, we should not turn a blind eye on injustice, and never be afraid to speak up. We will never know how much impact we can give to those who needed justice and help. We just want a better life for our contrymen, a better Philippines. So, never be afraid to raise our voice for transparency, honesty, truthfulness, justice, and integrity. If Filipinos will do these, it would change our society dramatically.
Freedom of speech is a way for us to let the government hear our both criticism and suggestions for good governance, for development and success, for peace and order. Together, let our voices be heard! Let our voices become one voice of the oppressed and not the oppressor.