By Alex P. Vidal
“If the freedom of speech is taken away then dumb and silent we may be led, like sheep to the slaughter.”—George Washington
IF the citizens think the government is inutile, they have the right to express it; they have the right to write about it and complain.
No citizen should be threatened, arrested and jailed, or harmed physically for expressing his feelings about the government.
No citizen should cower in fear and hopelessness if he thinks there is a need for government to improve its services to the people.
People in government are expected to respond with open mind, civility, grace, and reason, not act of belligerence and violence.
By airing their displeasure doesn’t mean the citizens want to destroy the government.
Unless it’s a call to arms—a summon to engage in active hostilities—or campaign to wage a rebellion to topple the government.
It’s normal for people to agitate and complain because they pay for the salaries of public officials running the government.
Our constitution specifically guarantees this freedom and no authority or law can be passed abridging the citizens’ right to free speech and expression, at least not in a democratic state like the Philippines.
Framers of our constitution made sure these civil rights aren’t infringed, trampled and subjugated.
If Goryo and Lydia think and feel the city hall is remiss of its obligation to protect the Ilonggos during the pandemic, they can express it to their heart’s content even in the mass media; and Mayor Geronimo “Jerry” Treñas and his staff shouldn’t begrudge it.
They can always belie it if they think Goryo and Lydia were merely misinformed or didn’t know their facts.
If the line of communication in this clash of opinions isn’t hampered, truth will come out and the public will be informed and enlightened.
If Bardot and Glenda think and feel the capitol does not provide the necessary assistance to residents in the province hit hard by the pandemic, they can always relay their disgust and frustration in writing or by airing it in the media and in any public plaza.
Governor Arthur “Toto” Defensor Jr. and his assistants shouldn’t feel annoyed and distracted.
If they believe Bardot and Glenda were lying or weren’t getting the real story behind the provincial government’s efforts to help the people, Defensor, et al can always correct the misconception or miscommunication.
In a free market of opinions and ideas, there can be no loser. Everyone is a winner.
If we think our senators and representatives in congress are inept and incompetent, there is nothing wrong if we tell it as it is; it’s normal to call spade a spade without being threatened by a loaded pistol.
Barangay officials who reacted violently when some residents went ballistic after they weren’t given their share of the social amelioration program (SAP) for the novel coronavirus pandemic, didn’t fully understand their mandate as officials of the smallest political unit in the local government.
Some of the cruelty and irrational response of barangay officials confronted by frustrated residents over a SAP dispute have been captured in the videos that went viral during the period of lockdown.
The knee-jerk reaction of some petrified and irked barangay officials betrayed their guilt.
Either they really tried to do a monkey business but were caught, or their brutal reaction and bullying tactic were a defense mechanism after they were caught “red-handed” of pocketing the SAP intended for some residents.
Also, the military or the Philippine National Police (PNP) should refrain from acting as toy soldiers or utak berdugo if someone will call a public official—or even President Duterte—as “buang” (insane) or “gago” (stupid).
Their job is to secure the people, not to curtail their rights to express what they intend to say or stop them from cursing the public officials.
Under this administration, which has institutionalized the use of expletives, everyone has been calling anyone “gago”, “putang ina” (SOB), idiot, and even the morbid “papatayin kita” (I will kill you) and nobody gives a damn.
(The author, who is now based in New York City, used to be the editor of two local dailies in Iloilo)