Freedom from invisible enemies | Inquirer Opinion

Freedom from invisible enemies

/ 05:07 AM June 12, 2024

Ahead of the celebration today of the 126th anniversary of the Philippines’ independence from Spanish colonial rule, President Marcos made the timely and relevant call for citizens to awaken their “Filipino spirit,” revive their sense of nationalism, and fight for all aspects of being Filipino.

Of course, what immediately comes to mind when talking about the noble fight for freedom today is the need to secure “our territory and sovereignty” amid continuing threats from foreign aggressors, particularly China.

This as even after eight years since the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague invalidated its claim over most of the South China Sea, China adamantly refuses to recognize the landmark 2016 arbitral ruling favoring the Philippines and continues to harass Filipino ships and fishermen peacefully navigating or fishing within the country’s established exclusive economic zone.

It is thus reassuring that Mr. Marcos had said that his administration’s “vigilance is tireless” and that he would continue to engage with foreign powers and partners “to help us promote our welfare and rights,” a policy direction that is supported by the majority of Filipinos based on a survey.


Dual-track approach

The recent survey on the West Philippine Sea dispute with China showed that 61 percent of Filipinos surveyed agreed with the Marcos administration’s moves to firmly stand its ground in the face of repeated and unapologetic Chinese incursions into Philippine territory.

It likewise showed that Filipinos support a dual-track approach that combines military action, including expanding naval patrols and troop presence in the West Philippine Sea, with exhausting all means to bring the continuing conflict to a peaceful resolution.

Complementing these efforts is the recent suggestion by House Deputy Majority Leader Erwin Tulfo for the Philippine government to sponsor a resolution before the United Nations General Assembly calling for a stop to Chinese adventurism in the West Philippine Sea that also poses a threat against freedom of navigation of international waters.

Clearly, the Marcos administration is exhausting all means to protect the Philippines against external threats.It must realize, however, that these threats to freedom are not just coming from outside the Philippines, nor are they confined to issues on territorial integrity and sovereignty.


Debilitating poverty

There are powerful enemies from within, too, such as pervasive and debilitating poverty. Its chains may be invisible, but just as heavy and restricting, denying citizens the right to pursue their ambitions for themselves and for their loved ones.

Oppressors, unfortunately, largely roam freely among us, among them the corrupt politicians who have no qualms about enriching themselves at the expense of the people who elected them into the position that is supposed to come with a heavy responsibility to serve.


Indeed, instead of fulfilling their end of the social contract by serving the people who put them in power, they are wielding their privilege to enrich themselves. They do nothing of significance to free long-suffering constituents from the shackles of poverty that have kept them weak and powerless to move up in life.

The commemoration of the country’s 126th year as a free nation is an opportune time for the Marcos administration to pause and reflect on these internal conditions that continue to oppress our people. The President should realize that threats from both outside and within must be vanquished if the Philippines is to meet its full potential.

Apathy and cynicism

Ordering all branches of government to contribute to the effort to espouse good governance that has kept some 22 percent of the Filipino population in poverty, for example, will go further in carving his own legacy as president.

Doing right by farmers so that they could produce more and earn more from their land; ensuring that every peso in the annual budget is spent as envisioned, mandating the rich to pay the right taxes. All these will do more to enhance freedom from invisible enemies such as corruption and poverty.

Without question, doing these will do more to instill pride in Filipinos and perk up their sense of nationalism than mandating the singing and recitation of the “Bagong Pilipinas” pledge and hymn during the weekly flag ceremony.

Without actions that will immediately redound to the improvement of the lives of Filipinos, the “Bagong Pilipinas” hymn and pledge will remain mere words that could invite mere apathy and cynicism, words that are easily mouthed but just as easily forgotten along with all the other slogans that are now relegated to footnotes of history.

Mr. Marcos should thus rally the people toward more concrete actions and reforms that will lead to a new dawn on a Philippines where prosperity is shared and poverty finally becomes history.

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Now that is a way to repay the sacrifice that Filipinos fought for 126 years ago.


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