Robredo on fight for freedom: Resist, because a threat to one is a threat to us all

Mara Cepeda
'Sa mga pagkakataong may banta sa kalayaan ng isa, kailangang lahat tayo pumalag dahil ang tunay na binabantaan ay ang kalayaan ng lahat,' Vice President Leni Robredo says on Independence Day

SALUTE. Vice President Leni Robredo leads the flag-raising and wreath-laying ceremony in celebration of the 120th Independence Day held at Luneta Park in Manila on June 12, 2018. File photo by OVP

MANILA, Philippines – Amid mounting fears of an intensified government crackdown on dissenters, Vice President Leni Robredo called on the public to fight for their freedoms because a threat to one is a threat to all Filipinos. 

This was the Philippine opposition leader’s Independence Day message on Friday, June 12, more than a week since Congress passed the bill that broadens the definition of terrorism that many fear would be used against mere government critics. The anti-terror measure is now awaiting President Rodrigo Duterte’s signature. 

“Magkakarugtong ang kalayaan ng lahat. Walang kalayaan ang isa kung wala ang kalayaan ng lahat, dahil ang sistemang sisiguro nito ay gagana lamang kung lahat ituturing nang patas at makatao, patas ang dignidad, patas ang karapatan, pare-parehong may kalayaan,” Robredo said in a video premiered as live on Facebook.

(All our freedoms are interconnected. One cannot have freedom if the rest are not free, because the system that ensures this would only work if everyone would be treated equally, humanely, and with dignity, all enjoying their freedom.)

“At sa mga pagkakataong may banta sa kalayaan ng isa, kailangang lahat tayo pumalag dahil ang tunay na binabantaan ay ang kalayaan ng lahat,” added the Vice President. 

(And at times when there is a threat to the freedom of one, we all have to resist because what is really being threatened is everyone’s freedom.) 

Robredo strongly opposed Congress’ railroading of the anti-terrorism bill, questioning lawmakers’ priorities when the country struggled with the coronavirus pandemic that had claimed over a thousand lives in the Philippines since the first local death was confirmed in February.

The Vice President warned that the bill is prone to be abused by people who have no qualms about planting evidence against critics and silencing them. (READ: Robredo: Is lethal anti-terror bill against terrorists or critics?) 

On the eve of Independence Day – when various sectors planned to hold protests against the anti-terror bill – the Department of Justice said rallies were “temporarily banned.”

“Kung gusto natin ng pansariling kalayaan para maghayag ng saloobin, kailangan ding siguruhin ito para sa lahat – dahil ang mga istrukturang panlipunang maaaring sumiil sa kalayaan ng iba ay maaari ring ituon para siilin ka,” Robredo said. 

(If we want the freedom to express our sentiments, this also has to be ensured for everyone else – because the social structures that can trample on the freedom of others can also be used to oppress you.)

She then reminded Filipinos about the ideologies that had pushed their countrymen years ago to resist their colonizers – equality of rights, dignity, and the freedom of each person to express his or her beliefs. 

The Vice President is also hoping that Filipinos would not forget the lessons they have learned during the pandemic.  

“Umaasa ako na sa panahong iyon ay hindi mababaon sa limot ang mga aral ng pandemyang ito. Na hindi tayo babalik lamang sa nakasanayan, na hindi ‘back to normal’ ang magiging pundasyon ng ating pamumuhay,” Robredo said. 

(I am hoping that by that time, we would not forget the lessons from this pandemic. That we would not just return to what we have been used to, that the foundation of our everyday lives would not just be “back to normal.”)

“Bagkus, susulong tayo sa isang bagong mundo nang buong-loob at bukas-palad na tumutugon sa panawagan ng kalayaan, karapatan, at dignidad, para sa lahat. Haharap tayo sa bagong bukas nang kinikilala ang malalim at di-maisasantabing pagkakabigkis natin bilang Pilipino,” she added. 

(Rather, we will press on in a new world wholeheartedly and generously responding to the calls of freedom, rights, and dignity for all. We will face a new tomorrow acknowledging our deep-rooted and indomitable bond as Filipinos.)

Unlike in past years, Robredo was not invited to lead any Independence Day activities on Friday. Her staff said she would likely spend the day in her office, which has been busy assisting frontliners in the pandemic.

In his own Independence Day message, Duterte called on the public to emulate the courage of the nation’s heroes to overcome the COVID-19 crisis, which has claimed over a thousand lives in the country. – Rappler.com

Mara Cepeda

Mara Cepeda specializes in stories about politics and local governance. She covers the Office of the Vice President, the Senate, and the Philippine opposition. She is a 2021 fellow of the Asia Journalism Fellowship and the Reham al-Farra Memorial Journalism Fellowship of the UN. Got tips? Email her at mara.cepeda@rappler.com or tweet @maracepeda.