Fearing for consequences
Over years of writing for the Inquirer, I, like all other columnists, have found myself on the receiving end of taunts, personal threats, condescending lectures and unintelligible rants. More concerning were those messages which came from a place of genuine care and fear, from friends, family and total strangers who thought that I was putting myself in harm’s way by writing against powerful men or powerful families.
I have no lofty illusions that I have ever been on a hit list, and I don’t dare to compare myself to journalists and photographers who risk life and limb to tell the truth to their fellow Filipinos. To compare my own efforts to those of the mosquito press, for example — to compare these short essays with the reach and bravery of the opposition press who wrote against the Marcos dictatorship and fought for press freedom — is so unbelievable as to be laughable; but all the same, I have thought it my small duty to write according to the original assignment I was given as an Inquirer columnist, which is to write as a millennial, to explore in a slightly larger platform what my fellow millennials are thinking or feeling, to the best of my ability.
It is no secret that those who have been loudest and most annoying — most, perhaps, like mosquitoes — are the young who express themselves on the most readily available platforms in social media. This freedom to express has not made them invulnerable to attack, and I think that those who have escaped concrete retaliation have done so because of luck, or because their reach was thought to be insignificant, or because the powers that be have had bigger fish to fry. If I have escaped personal harm, it is for the same reasons, and my luck is still holding. However, it’s inescapable that I should sometimes think twice before clicking “send” on a column draft out of fear for my own safety. I labor under no illusions that my life is of any value to the government. People have disappeared and been murdered with little to no consequence for the entirety of this administration’s rule, and it would take a mere gunshot on the street to take out my small, mosquito-like voice. One less “brisk little somebody.”
I will then admit to some satisfaction that those who have expressed their views with impunity — those who have ridiculed those crying for human rights, those who have expressed smug and haughty support for extrajudicial killings or the detention of the innocent — might now fear in the same way I have feared for the consequences of expressing my views. The US Senate Resolution 142 has caused a stir locally as it might be the first concrete action by an external body which bears actual and undesirable consequences for those who have supported or been responsible for human rights violations and extrajudicial killings in the country, as well as harassment against the media and journalists. There is also some speculation that the most vocal and smug of the President’s supporters are “retiring” from political blogging out of fear for such consequences. I expect a cleanup of these prominent personalities’ social media timelines any day now, but if there’s anything that the internet is good at, it is keeping receipts, and these persons are right to be apprehensive.
Our fears are not comparable: I fear threats to personal safety which lie on a scale much graver than a canceled visa or suspended assets, but it is of some comfort to know that the “untouchability” of these personalities might no longer apply outside of our country. It wouldn’t do to be too optimistic, but a step is a step, and it is all too new and refreshing to see that those who have enjoyed impunity may now stop to think of the consequences of their actions.
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