[OPINION] Independence in a time of terror

Karl Patrick Wilfred M. Suyat
[OPINION] Independence in a time of terror
'Independence does not die. Not even when all freedom-fighters are murdered.'

Should we still look forward to Independence Day, at this time?

Tens of thousands of our countrymen are now struggling to make ends meet, as the government chose to enter general community quarantine with little to no plan at all. Thousands of workers teeter on the edge of unemployment because the two month-long enhanced community quarantine prior nearly paralyzed the economy. Our overseas workers, whom the president loves to call “heroes,” now suffer and even die just to fulfill their wish of coming home to their families. Students and teachers stand on the edge of despair because the transition to online classes do not include the marginalized sectors. Mass testing remain to be a clarion call even as the regime owes billions of dollars in loans from foreign powers. Bikers, consumers of Netflix and other applications, and even online sellers are called to pay taxes — while China-backed Philippine offshore gaming operations enjoy billions thanks to tax evasion. Jeepney drivers and even students are being arrested for the mere “crime” of protest. 

And now, amid all the crises exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic, an anti-terror bill wraps around the neck of the nation, ready for the minute Rodrigo Duterte affixes his signature to it. 

To Senator Panfilo Lacson, the bill is a “landmark legislation” striving to penalize acts of terrorism. To the National Task Force to End the Local Communist Armed Conflict, it is an effective way of stamping out their bogeymen. To the police and military, it comes at a perfect time — to shove aside the mockery of Debold Sinas’ mañanita, as well as to show off their graphic art skills. 

But to the ordinary people, who have always been on the losing end in the battle against the powers-that-be, it is none other than an act of legitimizing state-sanctioned terrorism.

Duterte’s Terror Bill does not provide comfort for the common tao. On the contrary, the bill merely evokes the memory of Kian Delos Santos being dragged by two plainclothes policemen to a dumpster before killing him, or of lumad children and teachers being hounded by terrorists in camouflage because National Security Adviser Hermogenes Esperon declared their schools as “communist fronts.” It reminds us of what Carl Angelo Arnaiz, Aldrin Castillo, Myca Ulpina, Raymart Siapo, and the tens of thousands of other Filipinos whom the police had slaughtered in a bogus and murderous “drug war” went through in the mercy of supposed law enforcers, or the atrocious experience of Mindanao under two years of martial law.

For the survivors of Ferdinand Marcos’ brutal regime, it is a throwback to the dark days of dictatorship when even the thoughts and emotions of a person were and could be policed by the State — a scenario lifted straight out of Orwellian dystopia and China’s realities. Once again, we are restricted from freely expressing our condemnation, frustrations, and protestations over the willful incompetence, impunity, and indifference exuded by the Duterte government. (READ: Never again, vow Filipino journalists on Independence Day)

This leads me to ask now: should we still celebrate Independence Day in this time of terror?

At a time when our countrymen grapple with the inanities and loopholes of the “New Normal” so their families won’t die from hunger — if not from the virus’ infection — and face a draconian law which practically criminalizes the smallest act of defiance, should this “independence” still mean anything to us?

My answer is yes. 

Independence should not be an idea frozen in time, nor should it be a memento merely displayed in museums or shown briefly in historical documentaries. Independence is a dynamic fervor, an idea we are tasked to uphold and fight for in times of tyrannical rule. It is an ideal for which our heroes — from Rizal and Bonifacio, to Luna and Sakay — have immolated their lives.

Independence is the social construct that should bind us together, as a nation.

Certainly, the Terror Bill’s impending enactment into law, or China’s continuing encroachment of our country, or the socioeconomic hardships buttressed by the pandemic and Duterte’s illogical response to present-day crises, may weaken our appreciation of independence, liberation, democracy, human rights, and freedom as vital principles in our collective lives.

Yet, independence does not die. Not even when all freedom-fighters are murdered. 

When we choose every day to continue fighting against callousness, to further the battle against the tyrannies of power, imperialist domination, and poverty, to think and express ourselves freely even if that means courting the ire of the tyrant in Malacañang, that makes independence alive — notwithstanding the imminent legislation of state terrorism.

When we choose to live and act freely, without the bounds of this regime’s reign of terror, our independence shall continue to live in us. – Rappler.com

Karl Patrick Suyat is currently the editorial head of Fiat Publication (the official publication of University of Perpetual Help Systems-Jonelta campus), the Laguna provincial spokesperson for Youth UNBOUND-ST, and a national democratic activist staunchly advocating against historical revisionism, fascism, and injustice.