Binay: Skin color jokes prove freedom of expression

Jose Rodel Clapano - The Philippine Star

MANILA, Philippines - Vice President Jejomar Binay said he is not offended or even bothered by posts in social media that make fun of his skin color, noting that jokes about public officials are evidence of freedom of expression and triumph against martial law.

Binay made the statement yesterday during a speech before the second annual Salubungan workshop at the Coconut Palace, a gathering of student leaders nationwide that was organized by the Edsa People Power Commission.

“Every opportunity to joke and laugh at our officials, for me, is an unfailing reminder of our triumphs in battling the oppressive regime, one that repressed even the right to laugh even at the most humorous moments,” Binay told student leaders.

“This is the success of our struggle to achieve freedom that you enjoy today. And this is the success to reveal your opinions and belief in whatever medium, from Facebook to Twitter, from the newspaper, radio and television,” he added.

Fined for laughing

The Vice President said those who are attacking his skin color do not understand that the laughter of a man, who has lived through the darkest period of the country under martial law, is the laughter of success.

Binay recalled there was a time during martial law when he was cited for contempt and fined for laughing during a hearing on the sedition case filed against the late journalist Jose Burgos and the editors and columnists of We Forum, a publication critical of the regime. Binay was one of the lawyers of those accused.

Binay said during one of the hearings, the military officer who was testifying against the We Forum staff was very rude to human rights lawyer Rene Saguisag. The officer even threw a piece of paper at him while being cross-examined.

“The judge, who did not want to offend the regime by reprimanding the military officer, whispered ever so meekly that he already told the officer not to repeat the misdemeanor after former senator Soc Rodrigo (one of the defendants) asked him not to be lenient towards such disrespectful behavior,” Binay said.

Binay said the judge’s meekness was the cue for the people in the courtroom to laugh, but he was cited for contempt and fined for laughing the loudest.

“I was cited by the judge for contempt because according to him I was laughing the loudest during one act of collective defiance from the courtroom audience,” he said.

He said that while being cited for contempt was one of the lighter penalties he and his fellow members of the Movement of Attorneys for Brotherhood, Integrity and Nationalism, Inc. were made to pay, they were eventually imprisoned.

“In the end, we succeeded in freeing Joe Burgos and others; in the end we toppled the Marcos regime. A most cruel irony for my dear friend, though, is that until today his son, Jonas Burgos, who followed his father’s heroic footsteps, is still missing, and I think he has been killed,” he added.

Binay stressed that Jonas’ disappearance should remind Filipinos that despite the many sacrifices made, more needs to be done because “democracy is a work in progress” which the people should take care of. He urged the youth to do their part in protecting freedom.

“Don’t forget to be critical of every story that spreads on Facebook or Twitter. Filter all that is said and equally important is to read it well including what is not said,” he said.

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