Freedoms under threat

WITH threats to some of our basic freedoms, Filipinos all over the world marked on Sunday the 118th Independence Day of the Philippines as a republic. I say “with threats” because of the pronouncements by none other than the incoming President to suppress not only some of our individual rights but also the right of the legislature to investigate his anti-crime policies.

Perhaps it is in the face of such threats that Facebook greeted Filipinos with the Philippine flag upside-down, with the red part at the top and the blue at the bottom, indicating the country is in a state of war. But then, it could also mean solidarity with the incoming administration’s declared war against criminality and corruption.

The proper way of displaying the Philippine flag is having the blue field above the red.
In Sept. 2010, when President Benigno Aquino 3rd joined leaders of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) in meeting US President Barack Obama in New York, the Philippine flag was also displayed upside-down.

According to the British Daily Mail, in some countries including the United Kingdom and the United States, a flag flown upside down indicates a state of distress.

Perhaps US-based Facebook sees the Philippine political situation in distress that is why it had an inverted Philippine flag that went with greetings on the celebration of the country’s independence from foreign colonizers.

The social media network may not have been aware of Section 10, Republic Act No. 8491, which provides: “The flag, if flown from a flagpole, shall have its blue field on top in time of peace and the red field on top in time of war, if in a hanging position, the blue shall be to the right (left of the observer) in time of peace, and the red field to the right (left of the observer) in time of war.”

Disrespect for the flag carries penalties of fine and imprisonment of up to one year.

Incoming President Rodrigo Duterte, ironically, used the Philippine flag as a symbol of his campaign. His spokesperson Poala Alvarez said the former Davao City mayor wanted to be seen with the national colors in his campaign sorties, rallies, and motorcades because “the tricolor represents the unity and aspirations of the Filipino people.
“We believe the flag should be the symbol of national unity even as we Filipinos come from different ethnic, social, and cultural backgrounds, speak different languages, and hold different religious beliefs,” Alvarez said.

Laudable though the intent might be, some of the actions and pronouncements of the tough-talking President-elect are heavily criticized because of the disconnect or inconsistencies, such as his statements that tend to further divide instead of unite the different religious organizations and political factions.

Sometimes, his statements on issues involving foreign policies and international relations tend to isolate the Philippines from long-time allies like the United States, Australia, and Singapore.

For one, it does not bode well for the Philippines when an incoming President threatens to burn the flag of Singapore, where roughly 170,000 Filipinos, mostly domestic helpers and professionals, find employment.

The threat came in response to news reports that the Singaporean government will investigate the circumstances behind the Facebook image that Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong endorsed Duterte’s candidacy. The FB post showed a photo of Lee with a quote: “Mayor Rodrigo Duterte is the only presidential candidate that could make Philippines like Singapore. Clean, efficiency and disciplined.”

The Singapore Embassy in Manila took seriously the Facebook image that became viral on social media. It issued a statement on April 22, noting that the post “mischievously alleg(ed)” that Lee was endorsing Duterte’s presidential bid as it clarified that it was not endorsing any candidate. “The choice is for Filipinos alone to make. We wish the Philippines well in the conduct of the elections,” it said.

Similar FB posts showed popular international personalities including Pope Francis, whom Duterte cursed on the day he accepted the nomination for President by the PDP-Laban party, and US President Barack Obama, as well as celebrities like National Basketball Association (NBA) star Stephen Curry and local heartthrobs Daniel Padilla, Maine Mendoza (of the Yaya Dub fame) and Sam Milby, which all turned out to have been fabricated.

But what is most disturbing is Duterte’s apparent dislike for criticisms in media and the threat to manage news by allowing only the government-owned PTV-4 and
RadioTelevision-Malacañang (RTVM) to cover his activities, following negative criticisms about his wolf-whistling and catcalling during near-midnight news conferences that were broadcast live on national media.

His threat to shut down Congress if it investigates his anti-crime shot-to-kill policy or when he is threatened with impeachment is similarly disturbing.

Congress is supposed to be an independent check against possible abuses of the executive, but Duterte’s public statements warning to dissolve Congress and declare martial law are sending shivers to many who had unpleasant experiences during the martial laws years under then-President Ferdinand Marcos, whose son, defeated vice-presidential candidate Bongbong Marcos, had earned Duterte’s admiration.

In fact, Duterte had said he was not considering any Cabinet position for incoming Vice President Leni Robredo because doing so could “hurt” Marcos.

In 17 days Duterte will formally be sworn in as the 16th Philippine President. It has not been more exciting than in previous turn overs of the presidency in recent history.

Duterte’s campaign mantra that “Change is Coming!” either titillates or scares, depending on which side of the political fence you are.

We count on the incoming President’s promise that he would behave prim and proper once he assumes the presidency. We count on him to protect and preserve the freedoms we had long fought for and won. Long live our constitutional freedoms!

Source: Manila Time