Outrage in the citizenry continues erupting over the recent ruling of the Supreme Court regarding the online libel clause in Republic Act 10175, A.K.A. the Cybercrime Law. Due to the online libel clause not being declared unconstitutional, social media is abuzz with discussion that the end of “freedom of speech” and “freedom of expression” draws near. Anybody who dares criticize the government could, and most likely end up facing a libel suit. Given that the head of the current government, president Benigno Simeon “BS” Aquino is hypersensitive and unwelcoming of criticism, that grim scenario looks to be a real one, indeed.
On the other hand, we’ve got the Freedom of Information (FOI) Bill – something that collectively, Philippine lawmakers are trying very hard to bury and forget. Recall that this was a promise of BS Aquino during his presidential campaign which, up to this day, remains unfulfilled. It looks like it will stay that way.
What the online libel clause of RA 10175 and the FOI Bill seemingly have in common is that they both point to a “freedom” that Filipinos think they are entitled to. A freedom that they supposedly “earned” in 1986. Whenever the commemoration of the EDSA I revolution creeps up every year, the whole issue behind this “freedom” becomes pointed and poignant.
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The question that needs to be asked, in light of the bigger picture, is this: have Filipinos been able to use their “freedom” responsibly?
Recall that in 1986 Filipinos went to the streets to oust a man they had perceived as a dictator who needed to go. By that time his government was losing control, and he didn’t have long left to live due to his deteriorating health. After the military withdrew its support of then president Ferdinand Marcos, Marcos stepped down eventually. His successor was dubbed an “icon of democracy”, none other than Corazon Aquino, BS Aquino’s mother.
Filipinos relished their freedom and their “democracy”. They interpreted their “democracy” as a license to do anything they want regardless of the consequences. They had the power to choose their government officials through elections. They could express themselves in whatever ways they want without fear of censorship. They could strut their sense of self-importance. They could throw discipline and the sense of a bigger community out the window.
In other words, they want back to their old, clannish, dysfunctional ways.
Fast forward 28 years later, after being out of a “cage” for that long, Filipinos will fight tooth and nail to avoid being put back in. Anyone who attempts to do so is evil, a dictator, and an enemy of the Filipino people.
So what did they do with their freedom? Filipinos essentially used it to run themselves to the ground and keep themselves from progress.
With this in mind, it would be worth thinking about and questioning the assumption that Filipinos deserve their “freedom”.
Let’s relate this to the online libel clause. Even before the advent of social media and the internet, Filipino society already seemed to be an inherently libel-prone one. On one hand, Filipinos are insufferable gossips. They will resort to spreading rumors and bits of “enlightening information” about other people if they feel slighted for whatever reason – and usually it’s personal even if it needn’t be. They easily believe hearsay and take it as a very reliable source of information without verification as needed. On the other hand, Filipinos are extremely hypersensitive about receiving criticism. They don’t take dissent very well, especially if it’s well-founded. Filipinos also like to believe that they are entitled to be exempt from scrutiny.
With regards to freedom of information, Filipinos have always had opportunities to scrutinize their government officials before and after they choose them. However, they don’t like tough questions – both giving and receiving. They are resourceful when they choose to be, but when it comes to public affairs, it seems they would rather treat their public servants as infallible. And once they do get their information, they would rather blackmail people instead of hold them accountable.
If Filipinos haven’t been using their freedom in these two aspects very responsibly, then why are they acting like the dog in the hay from the fable?
It seems they have no use for that freedom.
“Democracy works only when the people understand the limitations of democracy. When people think only of the freedoms of democracy and know nothing of the implied responsibilities, democracy will not bring the goodness that it promises.” – Mahathir Mohamad
And the same goes for freedom. When people think only of being free and not of the implied responsibility with this freedom, no good will come out of it.
Once again, another one of those things that make you go hmm…
А вы, друзья, как ни садитесь, все в музыканты не годитесь. – But you, my friends, however you sit, not all as musicians fit.