The Filipinos' freedom of expression

WHAT MATTERS MOST - Atty. Josephus B. Jimenez (The Freeman) - November 6, 2020 - 12:00am

It was George Orwell who said that if liberty means anything at all, it means the right to tell people what they do not want to hear. And Oscar Wilde once wrote: I may not agree with you but I will defend to death your right to say it.

Theodore Roosevelt, a great US president, who, by the way, was a Republican, once said: "To announce that there must be no criticism of the President or that we are to stand by the president, right or wrong, is not only unpatriotic and servile, but is morally treasonable to the American public." George Washington himself, the first US president, also said: "If freedom of speech is taken away, then dumb and silent we may be led, like sheep to the slaughter.” In his special message to the US Congress on the Internal Security of the US in 1950, President Harry S Truman wrote: "Once a government is committed to the principle of silencing the voice of the opposition, it has only one way to go, and that is down the path of increasingly repressive measures until it become a source of terror to all citizens and creates a country where everyone lives in fear.”

Another great American president, James Madison also wrote: "There are more instances of the abridgment of the freedom of the people by gradual and silent encroachments of those in power than by violent and sudden usurpations.”

John Milton exclaimed in his work “Areopagitica”, "Give me the liberty, to utter and to argue freely, according to conscience, above all liberties." And Benjamin Franklin said: "Whoever would overthrow the liberty of a nation must begin by subduing the freeness of speech.”

We quote all these because there is a reader who is irked, angered, agitated, irritated, vexed, and provoked by our opinions on many issues, like US politics. He is defending their politics and does not want us to express our views concerning them, here in our own country.

We happen to be a free country, and we are a free people. We are not a colony or vassal of any foreign power, no matter how strong they are in the global arena. Look, these people are very vocal criticizing our politics and our leaders, but when their leaders are commented on, they brandish their money and power to persecute us. Their own CNN and their many mass media are throwing all sorts of venom against their president, day in and day out, and they do not raise hell against these giants networks. Why do they single us out? Because we are small? Come on, we are not slaves or second-degree races who can be dictated what to write about and how to express ourselves. Americans freely lambast our president, and President Duterte does not care. But when we give opinions on their politics, they threaten to use power over us. We will not be silenced. Every Filipino is a free man.

In the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, it is enshrined: Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; the right includes the freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers. The first amendment of the US Constitution forbids any form of abridging our freedom of speech and freedom of expression. The Philippine Constitution, all of them, from the Malolos to the 1935, 1973, and 1987 fundamental law, we are allowed to freely express our opinion, and no one, even if they come from a “superior race” cannot and should not be allowed to tell us what to do and what to say.

Doctor Jose Rizal was executed because he freely expressed his thoughts and ideas in his novels against the injustices of Spain. Was it Socrates who first said before he drank the cup of hemlock, what Patrick Henry delivered: “Give me liberty or give me death.” Ninoy said before the military tribunal which ordered his death by execution: "I would rather die standing up than live on my bended knees". And so be it.

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