Carvajal: What freedom?

Break Point
Carvajal: What freedom?

It’s anybody’s guess why the President moved Andres Bonifacio’s birthday from Nov. 30 to Nov. 27. If you ask me, it was like moving Christmas, Jesus’ birthday, from Dec. 25 to Dec. 23. Not that Bonifacio can hold a candle to Jesus, because he can’t. Just that it’s equally a dishonor of a truly great person’s birthdate.

Anyway, it was his speech on my favorite hero that drew my attention. President Marcos sent the wrong message to the wrong people when he urged Filipinos to imitate Bonifacio’s heroism by pouring their “skills, talents, courage, time… into the country’s political, economic, and cultural development.” It was a wrong read of past and current events.

First, Bonifacio never gained the freedom of the Philippines as he was cruelly executed by the Magdalos. Second and more importantly, the freedom the latter gained by surrendering to the Americans was freedom gained exclusively for the country’s elite. As a result, the ruling oligarchy, today’s Ilustrado class, continues to have all the freedom to exploit and enjoy the country’s resources while Bonifacio’s descendants, today’s “masa,” are only free to be poor or be slaves again in foreign countries.

Third and most important of all, the freedom needed today is the most basic freedom from crippling poverty which is depriving many Filipinos of hardly a life. But this freedom can only be gained through basic changes in our social structure. To erase poverty, the heroes we need are those who would work to transform us into a true democracy, i.e., participative politically, inclusive economically, and with a culture of self-reliance. Everything we’ve never been and still need to be.

Yet we have true heroes. Many are working for a peaceful change of social structure as a means to giving the bigger number of Filipinos the freedom to lead prosperous lives without becoming slaves in foreign lands. But what does the ruling elite do to these heroes? They are all branded and persecuted, without distinguishing the peaceful from the violent, as enemies of the state.

(The President cited the heroism of OFW’s working for foreign masters abroad. Yes, they are heroic but the President forgets they are forced to become slaves of foreign masters to get the jobs and better pay their government neglects to provide them with at home.)

If the only way to erase mass poverty is to level the playing field through social restructure, the President should tell himself and his elite ilk not to persecute Filipinos who are working, many of them peacefully, for structural change. That would be the right message to the right people. Obviously, he can’t possibly do it.

The President ended his speech by urging us “to treasure the freedom that Bonifacio fought for...” But what freedom when he was killed and could not finish the revolution? What freedom when today’s elite do not allow anybody, not even the peaceful and non-violent, to finish Bonifacio’s revolution?


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