A friend posed a question on a social network site “Ano ang Kayalaan para sa iyo?” on the occasion of the 116th
Philippine Independence Day. The typographical error – Kayalaan – inadvertently generated two insights from people
who followed the post: that of ‘kakayahang maging malaya’ (suggesting capacity to be free) and ‘kayang maglaan para sa kalayaan’ (meaning to devote, allocate something, or commit to freedom).
How apropos. For indeed June 12, 2014 became an opportunity for Filipinos to demonstrate our ‘kakayahang maging malaya’ and that ‘kaya nating maglaan para sa kalayaan’.
A hundred and 16 years after revolutionaries declared the Philippines independent from Spanish colonial forces, what are the shackles from which current-day Filipinos are striving to free themselves and for which they are willing to demonstrate capacity and commitment? The events on and surrounding June 12, 2014 provide a good overview.
Two of the challenges come from external sources: the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA) with the
United States government, and the tension with China over maritime territorial disputes in the West Philippine Sea.
The PNoy administration is being challenged for signing the EDCA in time for the visit of US President Barack Obama. Oppositors claim that the agreement violates the Constitutional ban on foreign military bases, in effect
allowing US military elements to be based on Philippine soil albeit on a temporary and rotational basis; and that by signing agreement the Executive arrogated unto itself the treaty-making powers that reside in the Senate.
Other groups are strongly criticizing China’s aggressive and expansionist tactics, and are calling for citizens’ support for ‘civilian-led patriotic activities’.
Freedom from external aggressors is obviously not a one-time achievement. Filipinos will have to continue to demonstrate more vigilance and willingness to stand up against those that will threaten our sovereignty and patrimony.
On June 12, 1898, the public cheered as the leaders of the day declared independence from Spain, displayed the
Philippine flag, and played the national anthem for the first time. It can be said that the 2014 mobilizations
against pork are still part of this thread and signal the maturation of our sense of freedom.
Far from growing tired about the pork barrel issue and getting confused by the maneuverings of the camps of Napoles
and her three key partners in the Senate, outrage over graft and corruption also drew people out to the streets on June 12, 2014. Filipinos of today are defining freedom not only in relation to foreign parties but also in the sense of being liberated from the tentacles of systemic graft and corruption that had come to control Philippine political, economic and cultural life.
Those who had predicted that protests against graft and corruption would fizzle out obviously underestimated
Filipino capacity to dedicate energies to confronting contemporary problems that constrain the Philippine public
system from functioning in a manner that is relatively free from manipulation.
The 26,000 workforce of the Department of Education-ARMM also experienced a form of liberation when the matter of the nearly PhP1 billion worth of Government Service Insurance System (GSIS) arrears took another step towards settlement. Previous leaders and managers of the ARMM Regional Government had failed to remit GSIS premiums thus preventing the DepEd-ARMM employees from enjoying GSIS benefits to which they were entitled. What was particularly oppressive was that the unlawful practice went on for a number of years and affected a huge number of people, perhaps with full knowledge of oversight agencies.
Again, the oppression that the DepEd-ARMM employees experienced was not in the hands of foreign aggressors but
of people to whom had been entrusted the responsibility of public governance and development management. The positive note in this narrative is that another set of public officials demonstrated ‘kakayahan’ and helped the employees obtain relief from the effects of poor management and misuse of public resources. Now if only further steps could be taken to actually bring those responsible to justice.
Our journey as peoples who live and aspire together in the Philippines will likely include more challenges to
sovereignty, freedom and patrimony in the future. To secure our Kalayaan, we must be prepared to demonstrate Kayalaan – that we have the ‘kakayahang maging malaya’ and that ‘kaya nating maglaan para sa kalayaan’.
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