Stifling dissent is communistic

GOTCHA - Jarius Bondoc - The Philippine Star

"They’re already benefiting from the government, why do students of state universities still go against the state?” PNP chief Oscar Albayalde asks.

His question is loaded. He poses it in light of student actions last Sept. 21 to recount Marcos’ murderous, plunderous ruin of democracy. The protests likened the Duterte administration to the authoritarianism of 1972-1986. Dissent is par for the course for any Presidency. Those in power need to be tolerant. “May we never confuse honest dissent with disloyal subversion,” cautioned Dwight D. Eisenhower. Another general who became president, Fidel Ramos would wave away the security cordon to exchange views with students picketing his events. He knew the power of open-minded dialogue.

Albayalde’s question also springs from military reports of a communist “Red October” offensive. Supposedly insurgents will recruit students in 18 state and private universities in Metro Manila to oust the government. And supposedly among the recruitment tools would be film showings about Marcos’ atrocities.

Is the PNP head among those nervous that the communists, who have been in strategic defensive for the past 50 years, suddenly will turn the tide in one month? Forums on Marcos’ atrocities are held every Sept. 21 since the 1986 People Power Revolt. School administrators, not communists, organize those events, with government leaders at times as speakers. Only this year, under the openly pro-Marcos Duterte administration, was Sept. 21 contentious. It was prefaced by an Enrile-Bongbong online video glorifying the hated dictatorship. Could it be the PNP that’s being infiltrated – by vile historical revisionists?

Marcos’ dictatorship and plunder are part of history. Education officials have put instruction about it in the high school and college curriculums. If communists want to take part in the learning, then let them. Communist thinking is not a crime; it’s taking up arms against the government that is. Part of that history is the communists’ boycott of the People Power revolt.

Protest is not a departure from democracy, it is essential to it. If Albayalde would care to listen, here are educators’ and rights lawyers’ responses to why state university students demonstrate: (1) It is their constitutional freedom to express and peaceably assemble. They did not forfeit that right when they enrolled. (2) Joining actions is part of learning. By participating in forums they are able to sharpen critical thinking, and choose superior ideas. (3) It is their duty to be patriots and democrats, and therefore protest perceived wrongs. They mostly are of voting age, so must learn how to make their government work right.

Precisely because, as Albayalde quotes Rizal, the youth is the hope of the motherland, they must get involved in national affairs. Involvement does not mean sucking up to the administration. It includes questioning authority, in order to understand and extract proper service. That is their contribution to society. The youth is the trustee of posterity, Disraeli paraphrased the ancients, including Socrates and Euripides. Most of the leaders of the Propaganda Movement and 1898 Revolution were in their early 20s.

Albayalde compares the state university students with his officer cadetship at the Philippine Military Academy. “In state universities, you are given free education by the government and yet they have not graduated and they are already going against the government that gives them free education. While in our case, when we were given free education, we were required to serve the country for a minimum of eight years anywhere. Maybe it’s about time that we do some intervention.”

Albayalde enrolled at the PMA on his own volition, Commission on Human Rights spokesperson Jackie de Guia reminds. A retired general adds that as cadets, they received monthly stipends and free board, lodging, and uniforms unlike his children in state universities.

Albayalde further asks, what if half of the national police force joins anti-government protests?

The answer there is simple: they must all be thrown into the stockade. Unlike civilians, men in uniform who protest are illegally either in mutiny or coup d’etat. Albayalde must have learned at the PMA de Gaulle’s differentiation of civilians and soldiers: “Men who adopt the profession of arms submit of their own free will to a law of perpetual constraint. Of their own accord they reject the right to live where they choose, to say what they think, to dress as they like. From the moment they become soldiers it needs but an order to settle them in this place, to move them to that, to separate them from their families and dislocate their normal lives. On the word of command they must rise, march, run, endure bad weather, go without sleep or food, be isolated in some distant post, work till they drop. They have ceased to be the masters of their fate.” (The Edge of the Sword, 1932) Because he is authorized to carry arms, the soldier is placed under rigid discipline including shutting up about matters not his to opine about.

Intolerance can be fatal. Desiring mono-thought, Pol Pot ordered all two million residents of Phnom Penh to depart on foot for reeducation camps in the countryside. The intellectuals, scientists, and artists among them were singled out for torture and execution. That left Cambodia’s economy dependent for a long time only on farmers knowledgeable in paddy agriculture using water buffalos.

Let not administration leaders be infected with such communistic intolerance.

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Catch Sapol radio show, Saturdays, 8-10 a.m., DWIZ (882-AM).

Gotcha archives on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Jarius-Bondoc/1376602159218459, or The STAR website https://www.philstar.com/columns/134276/gotcha

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