During the period of martial law, there were voices in the night that dared speak truth to power and thus inspired courage among many of us who strove to struggle against a formidable dictatorship. Among them were the people writing in the so-called “mosquito press” that was a term of endearment for those who braved to write for Malaya and Mr&Ms, which operated on a shoestring budget with the support of its fervent following.
As Rappler stands its ground, I believe that this will be a moment that we will long remember. In a sense, “We are Rapplers all!” We stand strong if we stand together. We will not be moved from the positions that we take on the basis of our conscience, our convictions and our commitment to truth. To do so in this time and place, we need courage to stay the course. And, this is the courage that Rappler inspires.
I am in a way a character witness to some of the people who write or who have written for Rappler, some of them for nearly four decades that stretch back to the martial law years. The people of Rappler have put themselves on the frontline to write on events and convey the news as these truly happened, to report the truth, and at times to express their opinions even though those in power may feel alluded to or offended. But, that is the nature of the craft: to tell it like it is, without fear or favor.
Sometime ago, I recall writing a brief piece, titled “They shoot journalists, don’t they?” In a sense, what those in high places have done through the ruling handed down by the Securities and Exchange Commission is to silence journalists by virtually shutting down Rappler; in so doing, they have also deprived citizen-writers and thinkers who wish to express their thoughts in Rappler’s online pages the kind of safe spaces to discuss openly and respectfully issues that matter most to deepen our democracy.
As one of the framers of the 1987 Constitution, I see the Bill of Rights as a critical bedrock of our democracy, particularly the right to free speech and the freedom of the press, accompanied by the right to due process. At a time when there is indecent haste on the part of the House of Representatives to ride a “bullet train” to Charter change, it is time we paused on the meaning of courage and of courageous citizenship that is reflective and engaged, that nurtures trust and respect for others, as well as tolerance for differences and diversity in our midst.
Citizens need to be brave in the midst of adversity, in the choices we have to make even if they go against the grain. At this juncture in our history, we are called once again, I believe, to exercise our moral courage as a people: to show brave behavior in the face of risks and threats, despite all the costs. It means the ability to do the right thing in the right way in the face of one’s fears.
There are times when we know that the odds are stacked heavily against us, that there seems to be unanimity that our chances are slim, even nil. Nevertheless, we go ahead and take a stand and take action because it is what our convictions and conscience tell us. This is what moral courage is all about.
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Ed Garcia taught at Ateneo and UP, worked at Amnesty International and International Alert in London, and now serves as consultant on the formation of scholar-athletes at FEU Diliman.