Tell it to SunStar: Rights under siege

IN THE recent Senate hearings, Sen. Ronald dela Rosa called for the firing of teachers and professors who encourage their students to seek more education beyond their classrooms by attending rallies or mass actions.

I strongly propose that senators, before assuming office, should have a seminar on the Constitution, especially on the Bill of Rights, to avoid national embarrassment.

Article III section 1 of the Constitution explicitly guarantees the freedom of speech, of expression, or of the press, or the right of the people to peaceably assemble and petition the Government for redress of grievances. Of course, there are restrictions like the law on libel and inciting to sedition.

Yet, here is a senator of a supposedly democratic country who wants to curtail the citizens’ basic constitutional rights of free expression and free assembly in the name of national security.

By threatening the teachers and professors who allow their students to attend rallies, the senator from Davao in effect, prevents them from exercising their basic constitutional rights to free speech and free assembly for redress of grievances.

Today, there is a clear danger of losing our shrinking democratic space which may pave the road to authoritarianism.

Interior Secretary Eduardo Año wants to revive Republic Act 1700, otherwise known as the Anti-Subversion Law. The purpose is ostensibly to end the 50-year-old insurgency. The good Secretary forgets the lessons of history that more repression will promote more resistance; and that insurgency cannot be solved by draconian measures but by extirpating the root causes of rebellion which are injustice and chronic poverty.

The academic freedoms of the universities and state colleges are imperilled with the proposal of Senator dela Rosa that the police and the military be allowed entry into state universities to compete with left-leaning organizations in “recruiting” students.

Of course, the police are not banned from entering the universities in cases where they are going to act as speakers in forums and symposia. But it would be different if they spy on students and professors who teach non-conformist ideas. That would be a violation of academic freedom. This has already ignited sparks of protests nationwide in all UP campuses in the country which proclaimed Aug. 20 as a “UP Day of Walkout and Action.”

We must all resist the creeping erosion of our constitutional rights. For according to a civil libertarian, the late writer I.P. Soliongco: “Every stroke of the bell that tolls the death of freedom should be the concern of all. Never send to know for whom the bell tolls, it tolls for thee.”


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