No sympathy protest rally in PH
George Floyd, a black American with a record of five imprisonments, is killed by a white police officer in Minneapolis. The black population of the city rises in protest the following day.
One placard rails, “We’ve had enough!” Another declares, “It’s about time.”They have had enough of racism and police brutality, and it is about time they did something about it. And so, now joined by sympathetic white Americans, they are marching toward police headquarters to show their indignation.
The protest has drawn sympathy demonstrations in many cities across the United States, and support across the globe. Protests have taken place in North America, South America, Europe, Africa, the Middle East, and the Asia Pacific.
Not in the Philippines, though.
Thousands of poor Filipinos linked to drugs, many falsely, are killed by Filipino policemen and their cohorts. The Filipino people cower in silence and resignation.
Some innocent children have been hit in shootouts. Their mothers could only grieve. As former chief of police and now senator Ronald dela Rosa remarked, “Shit happens.” The Filipino people are not wont to join the worldwide cry for justice for a black man killed in faraway Minneapolis.
According to the report of the Commission on Human Rights of the United Nations released last June 4, human rights violations in the Philippines—killings and arbitrary detentions as well as the vilification of dissent—are committed with impunity. The UN Human Rights Office (UNHRO) has also documented that between 2015 and 2019, at least 248 human rights defenders, legal professionals, journalists, and trade unionists have been killed in relation to their work.
“The underpinning focus on national security threats—real and inflated—has led to serious human rights violations, reinforced by harmful rhetoric from high-level officials,” the report stated. Also, “witnesses, family members, journalists, and lawyers interviewed by UNHRO expressed fears over their safety and a sense of powerlessness in the search for justice, resulting in a situation where ‘the practical obstacles to accessing justice within the country are almost insurmountable.’” They don’t dare assemble in public and call for justice.
The proposed anti-terrorism law would make sure no protest rallies would be mounted against President Duterte and his policies, programs, edicts, and rulings, no matter if they are in violation of the Constitution or discriminatory against the Filipino people and favorable to Chinese nationals.
UP Cebu students were peacefully holding a rally inside their campus when police entered the campus, broke up the rally, and carried away some students. Ironically, the students were merely expressing quietly their opposition to the anti-terrorism bill. Bureaucrat Mocha Uson called student rallyists who also gathered in UP Diliman “terrorists.” Who will now believe the assurance of the bill’s authors and sponsors that the proposed law will not be used against critics and detractors of the administration?
The messages “We’ve had enough!” and “It’s about time” in the placards of the Minneapolis protesters bring to mind the time when the Filipino people voiced the same message in their own language. “Tama na, sobra na,” they shouted in indignation at the abuses of an authoritarian government. The call reverberated all over the archipelago, leading to the fall of the Marcos regime. Obviously, that generation of intrepid Filipinos has passed away.
The present “selfie” generation seems to be more focused on individual needs rather than on societal needs. It does not believe in the value of political engagement. It is convinced that the President can solve the country’s major problems: poverty, unemployment, income inequality, health care inadequacy, environmental degradation, civil unrest, and foreign aggression. It submits to the doctrine “The law is the law, it is the president’s.”
Oscar P. Lagman, Jr. is a retired corporate executive, business consultant, and management professor. He has been a keen observer of Philippine politics since his college days in the 1950s.
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