Pelayo: Flagging the disrespectful

REMEMBER the old times when you try to come early for school before the flag ceremony? We hurry to get in line with fellow classmates because once the national anthem starts to play, those pupils who are arriving late should stop wherever their position is in order to pay their respect to the Philippine national anthem and to our Philippine flag. If you came in late and the song began to play, you just hope you are not in an awkward location where the rest of the students can notice you even from afar. In Catholic schools, people would do the same, plus during the Angelus when it’s being broadcasted on loud speakers inside the campus and join in prayer.

Whenever the national anthem is being played, we stop and we join in the singing. It should be automatic for us Filipinos. We were trained at a young age to comply, and it’s the law. And soon there may be steeper fines for disrespecting Lupang Hinirang as the Congress has already approved this year House Bill 5224, which updates the rules on the proper rendition of the national anthem, as well as the specifications and proper display of the Philippine flag and heraldic symbols.

In our existing law under Republic Act 8491, Section 38 under Chapter II states that “when the National Anthem is being played… the attending public shall sing”… and that “the singing must be done with fervor.”

More than a week ago, Charge d’affaires Elmer Cato had asked the authorities to apprehend a Filipino man after refusing to stand for the National Anthem inside the theatre after trying to call his attention for a couple of times. The report said the man ignored the country’s representative in Iraq and continued to devour his popcorn. The story of the arrest went viral on social media and it even got featured on national TV primetime news.

The diplomat also shared the experience on his social media account and right away, an outpour of support from his kababayans flooded Cato’s page. Many thought the man deserved to be arrested and that it’s high time that we teach a lesson to all those people who ignore the national anthem. But later on that night, some netizens who thought otherwise started to turn against the action taken by the Charge d’affaires, venting on what they conceive as a harsh punishment on the violator.

Bashers resorted to engage in a crude substitute for argument by name calling, defending the guy who just disrespected the national anthem. They tried to justify the action of the man who preferred to enjoy his kernels instead of standing for just around a minute and thirty. These keyboard warriors exerted a lot of their time and effort trying to warrant that particular behavior of this 20-year-old Filipino to be let off the hook.

An unschooled vigorous blow these hooligans did against this Filipino official in charge of a diplomatic mission in Iraq. They were not aware that the arrested man was apologetic after his conscience and realization kicked in.

Obviously, those rowdies who some of them hide from using a different moniker have a contrasting view on this case and they did not quite get the message of what Cato wanted to relay to his fellow Filipinos. That our flag is not a mere cloth that is displayed in school campuses or government offices. And that our flag neither symbolize a political color nor any governmental figure. It does not matter what religious beliefs we follow, our Flag represents us as one. An indefinite number of our countrymen have fought and died for the freedom we currently enjoy. No, Cato did not want attention, he does not need it. Little do these bullies know what he has done for our country. I know some stories of his mission in Iraq. Many view it as a suicide mission given the gravity of danger and threats he’s already got immune to.

We have laws to follow and this collection of jurisprudence did not happen overnight. These underwent tedious process and took a lot of time before setting forth. Those who are against the apprehension of the person should raise their concern to the lawmakers if they think that the law should get amended.

The war in Marawi has just ended. Our troops did everything to defeat the terrorists and restore peace and order. But during the course of the battle when our soldiers were running out of food or ammos, they usually get their hopes from these four: their strong faith in the Creator, the photos of their loved ones, the tune of the National Anthem and the raised Philippine flag. For only about 90 seconds, it’s not that hard to show respect.
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