Sunday, June 15

Disturbed, comforted

This reminds me of Carlos Celdran’s own “Damaso” protest, for which
he, too, was charged and jailed. Photo from Flickr / Thom Watson

By now, you’ve probably heard of Em Mijares, a 19-year-old student who was arrested by authorities for heckling the President during his Independence Day speech in Naga.

There’s really nothing I can say that Marck Rimorin hasn’t already, so I’ll just point you in his direction, the one direction you should be looking:

What Pio Mijares did is still a political act, a political expression, and it speaks volumes about the kind of political action you can expect from those who share his beliefs. Yet the treatment of him speaks something about the kind of politics that this administration subscribes to. The latter is far more damning than the former.

I completely agree with the entirety of Marck’s piece. I think there was no need to cuff and charge him; dragging him out of the venue was more than “consequence” enough for his actions.

Let me just repeat here what I said on Twitter Saturday night about this whole thing.

Many have said that Mijares should have been ready for the consequences of his actions. I interpret this to mean that they believe Mijares was disturbing the peace, causing scandal and alarm, and so he should have been prepared to face charges of disturbing public order and causing scandal and alarm.

Have they considered the possibility that there might be others, Filipinos just like them, who were comforted and not disturbed by the actions of Mijares? When we say that he disturbed the public order, as many believe, it must be asked: whose order was disturbed? To which “public” did he cause offense?

Had Mijares screamed instead, “I LOVE YOU, PNOY!”, would we have been similarly disturbed? Scandalized? Alarmed? And would have he been treated as harshly as he was?

As I have already said on Twitter, it could very well be that the authorities had enough cause to charge Mijares—not that he is guilty, just that there was enough cause to charge him. The issue here is not legality. The issue, as Marck said, is politics: this was a political act, and those who have come down on the side of the arresting authorities have revealed their politics.

MalacaƱang has been quick to disown the issue. Abigail Valte said that it was the local PNP, not the Presidential Security Group, that filed the charges. The Palace doesn’t want to “interfere with the decision of local authorities.”

What a load of bull. First of all, it is not improper in the sense that it is well within the President’s power as Commander in Chief. Second, by ordering the PNP to drop the charges against Mijares, the President has the opportunity to prove that his administration respects free speech—even the dissenting kind—not only in word but also in deed.

Sure, there is nothing wrong with leaving the matter to local authorities. That would be a perfectly legal way to handle the matter. The thing is, it’s also the spineless thing to do.

Meanwhile, ordering the charges dropped in the spirit of free speech—and, I keep repeating this because it’s so important to the issue, of dissenting speech—would be an act of conviction, much like the one for which Mijares has been charged.

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