I was going to take a photo with the Philippine flag in New York, but I put down my flag and hid it in my bag.
No, the flag doesn’t wave proudly when its country has been raped, and raped yet again, of its democracy.
The ouster of Maria Lourdes Sereno as chief justice is the most blatant injustice to our justice system, but what’s wrong is that this isn’t the first. We have seen how our very Constitution was mangled since Day One of this tyranny.
The number of murdered Filipinos is increasing by the thousands, and with no justice for the poor and slain. We surrendered our integrity by not protecting our territory, and, moreover, encouraging its being given away.
We locked up Sen. Leila de Lima with no logical basis, and she is still in her cell. We made sure the world knows we value profanity and misogyny more than human rights and dignity.
We continue thriving with falsified information and laughing emojis, the very negative of truth, and the epitome of ridicule. We bargain Band-Aid victories for long-term debts.
And now, we witness the ouster of a chief justice with a quo warranto, ignoring the due process of law, which calls for impeachment.
We continue to violate the supremacy of our Constitution, and with Sereno’s removal, violate the judicial power and independence when these are supposed to be the check and balance of “abuse and discretion amounting to lack and excess of jurisdiction on the part of any branch and instrumentality of the Government.”
How many events of injustice can we still stand for? How long until the breaking point? How long can we keep silent and sit comfortably at home when our very democracy, fought for and died for by so many in our history, is bastardized and desecrated before our very eyes?
We are letting this happen. Yes, “we” — one nation, one Filipino people — we are letting the injustice continue.
“We” are also what is wrong with all of this.
Hannah Arendt pointed out that totalitarianism isn’t about who’s in power, but about people who cannot distinguish right from wrong, truth from fiction.
Thomas Jefferson said that tyranny isn’t just about the power-hungry dictator, but more about the people with good consciences remaining silent.
Jose Rizal said, “There can be no tyrants where there are no slaves.”
You, me — are we still slaves? Slaves that allow the lack of education or stubbornness of our fellow Filipinos to create more slaves? Slaves who remain silent to protect relatives and friends who are lawyers, who should know better? Slaves who agree with their families and partners who still believe in this tyranny, or who harvest and benefit from it? Slaves who will let go of our democratic fundamentality? Slaves who will worship the persona more than his duties to the state?
Are we frightened slaves?
We’ve been there, we’ve done that. Whether through history books or our grandparents and parents or the illegitimate children of martial law or the colonial legacy imprinted on our very names, religion, and culture — we should have, by now, learned the lesson of standing up together to oppressors.
Fellow Filipino … no. Brother, sister, wake up. Here’s another chapter in the story. And as authors, we’re portraying ourselves as slaves to another oppression. We’re creating ourselves as the characters who enjoy being puppets.
How ironic this can be, when we, as citizens, hold the right to freedom, and the highest responsibility to respect the law.
This fight for Sereno isn’t just about our branches of government taking sides or the political colors or the dynasties on the pedestals and thrones.
This fight for Sereno is a fight of every Filipino who seeks justice — the farmer who cannot own his land, the woman who was raped, the impoverished who have no food, the jailed without trial, and the children who are abused.
This fight is about protecting our freedom, and protecting our country from those who put power and ambition before their sworn oaths. This fight is going to be for the coming generation, and the next ones after it.
This fight is going to continue because tyranny doesn’t stop, Hitler influenced millions and didn’t stop seizing power despite his illness.
Stalin didn’t stop the persecutions even after postwar USSR. Marcos didn’t flee until we ourselves used the strength of People Power.
This tyranny won’t stop with the ouster of Sereno. No, not when they’ve announced the Con-ass for the constitutional amendments, and the plan to unseat the Vice President or anyone who provides critique. Not when they’re now saying quo warranto is enough to remove other impeachable officers. Shall we continue to see these falling into place?
Democracy dies when we fail to make it work, because we stay silent. The power of the people is what defines democracy. It’s our role to hold our government and the justices accountable to their agreement or dissent.
It’s our role to force the Solicitor General to truly defend the republic, not put it in crisis. It’s our role to take action, to clamor for them to answer to the illegality and the injustice committed. It’s our role to ensure how our own brothers and sisters will continue to be free people.
Sereno herself said it: We need the millions in our country to stand up for what is right. This democracy, this country — this isn’t a game. This isn’t about rallies becoming popular now and then or a trending hashtag they deride. This isn’t a new movie about how your leading man snaps his fingers to magically solve our country’s problems.
This democracy will always be about the freedom of Filipinos. So, will it be tyranny or liberty? Continued freedom, or a fractious, politicized country with endless wrongdoing? (I cannot express enough my disgust for the indifferent.)
For all its worth, there is one quote I think of when I’m required to raise our flag in a foreign country, where I stand now. Learning here in the United States taught me more about democracy, and I dwell on it now more than ever. Benjamin Franklin once said, as embossed on his seal: “Rebellion against tyrants is obedience to God.”
It’s our choice, and I dissent.
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Ragene Andrea L. Palma, 27, is in the United States as one of 10 Filipinos in the Young Southeast Asian Leaders Initiative Professional Fellowship Program (Spring 2018 Cohort), and “restless to fight for democracy back home.”
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