Another Independence Day? | Inquirer Opinion

Another Independence Day?

/ 04:35 AM June 12, 2023

Exactly 125 years ago today, Filipino revolutionaries declared the country’s independence from Spain after more than 300 years of oppressive colonial rule. It was a long, painful struggle ripened by sporadic rebellions and uprisings against the colonizers’ harsh religious, political, and economic edicts, and the brutal execution of prominent nationalists, among them Filipino priests Mariano Gomez, Jose Burgos, and Jacinto Zamora. The simmering defiance among the locals finally erupted into the Philippine revolution in 1896 with the untimely discovery of the Katipunan, a secret society led by warehouse clerk Andres Bonifacio that was plotting to overthrow the Spanish regime.

The declaration of Philippine independence was short-lived, however, with the country becoming war booty in the 1898 Spanish-American War, and enduring American rule until the United States proclaimed Philippine independence on July 4, 1946. In 1962, President Diosdado Macapagal issued Proclamation No. 28, effectively moving back our Independence Day to June 12, with the original date described as “the culmination of many acts of patriotism and nationalism.” It was also, Macapagal said, “the birthday not just of [our] sovereign nation but also the world, since it was our Filipino patriots and leaders … who led the nations of Asia in breaking the chains of colonialism that [we] may breathe the fresh air of individual liberty and national dignity.”

Alas, such soaring sentiments have largely been lost in celebrations since, with recent ceremonial wreath-laying becoming peremptory, and the once grand parade assuming a rote character. What’s the point, the more apathetic might ask: There are no more colonizers, no more foreign rule. Why commemorate what may have become irrelevant?

This year’s theme: “Freedom, Future, History,” however resonates with timely significance, if not irony.


Freedom of navigation, for one, remains more of an aspiration, with a bullying neighbor threatening our Coast Guard and supply ships, and blocking our fishermen from their traditional fishing grounds with its powerful lasers and heavily built maritime vessels. Given how hundreds of diplomatic protests over China’s military ships swarming the West Philippine Sea have been ignored, how far can diplomacy go?

Just as elusive is freedom from hunger, as the price of basic goods slip out of reach of most consumers, the supposed lower inflation rate of 6.1 percent as of May barely cushioning the runaway costs — and potential shortage — of sugar, rice, and even onions. A Social Weather Stations survey released last month confirms that while the number of families who went hungry dipped from 11.8 percent in December 2022, to 9.8 percent in the first quarter of this year, the figure still represents 2.7 million families with an average size of five.

Fear of the future has become another shackle to shake off as our finance managers and elected officials insist on establishing a sovereign wealth fund that threatens government pension funds. Will the Maharlika Investment Fund (MIF) live up to its proponents’ rosy promise of “inclusive and sustainable economic growth,” or will it become, as most people predict, another milking cow for a few select and favored individuals and politicians? The P75-billion expected contribution to the MIF by the Development Bank of the Philippines and the Landbank could also mean less funds for lending to small and medium enterprises and to farmers, their allocation diverted to a fund with no track record, no concrete plans, and no identified management personalities who could be held accountable for its failure. Can a largely compliant Congress stop this gravy train before it runs over and crushes hard-earned taxpayer money?

Our future, and that of the next generation, is held hostage as well by the country’s debilitating debt: P13.86 trillion by the end of March this year. Based on the enacted 2023 budget program, the government will pay P582.32 billion for interest payments alone, and P28.7 billion for net lending, leaving us with the dismal prospect of higher taxes and even leaner social services, the equivalent of colonial Spain’s garrote squeezing us dry.


As for history, how much of it has been revised, and how is it being written now with paid trolls fueling the scourge of disinformation? How can we disabuse the younger generation of the promoted narrative that the martial law years represented a golden era, that autocracy is the way to rule, and that the vaunted threat of a foreign ideology justifies the use of torture, unlawful arrests, and salvaging? With Red-tagging and the anti-terrorism law becoming convenient means to stifle dissent anew, we must surely be on our way to repeating history.

Freedom. Future. History. Such a loaded theme could easily prompt the skeptics among us to propose that, with our freedom still purloined, our future in jeopardy, and our history finessed into a fairy tale, we just might need another Independence Day.

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TAGS: 125th Independence Day, Editorial, freedom from debt, freedom from hunger, freedom of navigation

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