Philippine independence?

PERSPECTIVE - Cherry Piquero-Ballescas (The Freeman) - June 13, 2020 - 12:00am

June 12, 2020 was accompanied by Typhoon Butchoy.

Did the other June 12s of previous years also experience typhoons? We wonder whether the presence of a typhoon during this year’s Independence Day was a portent of crucial events to come for the Philippines.

This year’s Independence Day took place during a pandemic. A deadly virus has hampered the freedom of people, not only in our country but throughout the world. Health is important for freedom. Can one speak of independence where majority aren’t healthy, without water and proper housing?

This year’s Independence Day is governed by quarantine protocols that have restricted movement for millions but not for a few powerful and entitled. During this pandemic, it’s clear that freedom of movement for most Filipinos, which is an important dimension of independence, is absent.

COVID-19 has aggravated inequality which has chained millions to poverty and hunger. On the other hand, a few rich and privileged have proceeded as if the new normal wasn’t different from the old.

With little public transport allowed and provided, poor workers have to walk miles to earn money to buy food for their families. The stranded aspiring OFWs and other Filipinos want to return home but cannot. Privileged and powerful Filipinos, however, have transport and freedom of movement, even if they’re seniors. Most Filipinos, including less-privileged seniors, have movement restrictions.

Pandemic or not, while the triangle of inequality remains (with a few rich/middle class, and countless poor), one cannot really speak of real independence. Unless the triangle is reversed, with more, if not all the masses enjoying economic independence and its attendant empowerment, real independence remains an elusive dream.

Also, is the Philippines really free when even freedom of assembly and speech are restricted? The present government and the military were one in saying that when jeepney drivers and student protesters were arrested and detained, it was in violation of quarantine protocols. The protesters allegedly compromised the health of others by not keeping social distance and not taking precaution to spread the virus.

However, when a military general and a political appointee held parties and gatherings, there was no arrest at all!

Can there be real independence without equal treatment of people, without freedom of assembly and speech for all, regardless of position, wealth, or belief?

Critics are raising the alert that the Anti-Terror Bill, once signed into law, will mark the death of freedoms - speech, assembly, and more. If so, will June 12, 2020 be the last Philippine Independence Day to celebrate freedom of speech and assembly?

“Ipaglaban ang Pilipinas” was another cry of protesters for Independence Day, 2020. This call to fight for the independence of the Philippines has become more urgent in the midst of a stronger presence of China in the country and in the region.

Philippine-owned territories have been claimed unlawfully by China. Filipino fisherfolks are not allowed to fish in Philippine-owned waters!

The presence of POGOS and Chinese have increased significantly. These are given better treatment, released immediately without detention or penalty despite clear violations, and, privileged to be tested ahead of Filipinos.

Despite loud questions and protests about the Chinese intrusion and the undeserved privilege accorded to Chinese, the present government has instead reiterated its friendly ties with China.

The present administration reasoned that it doesn’t want war with China; hence, they refrain from strongly asserting our territorial rights. However, while our neighbors have defiantly asserted their right to their territories from Chinese intrusion, no war has ensued, as feared by those in this government.

Like the gray, cloudy, stormy 12th of June, 2020, will Philippine Independence continue to be obscure and unsettled?

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