The freedom to openly express opinions – even to poke fun at public officials- should be seen as a reminder of the successful struggle against martial law, Vice President Jejomar C. Binay told youth leaders Friday evening during a dinner he hosted at the Coconut Palace for the 2nd Annual Salubungan Workshop organized by the Edsa People Power Commission for student leaders from across the country.
“Every opportunity to joke and laugh at our officials, for me, is an unfailing reminder of our triumphs in battling the oppressive regime, one that repressed even the right to laugh—even at the most humorous moments,” Binay said
The Vice President said he is not bothered or offended by social media posts, especially those that make fun of his skin color.
“Hindi nila naiintindihan na para sa isang taong kagaya ko, na nabuhay sa malagim na panahon ng batas militar, ang pagtawa natin ngayon ay alaala ng isang tagumpay. Tagumpay ito ng aming pakikibaka upang makamit ang kalayaang tinatamasa ninyo ngayon. At ito ang kalayaang ilahad ang inyong mga opinyon at paniniwala sa kahit anong possible medium, mula sa Facebook at Twitter, hanggang pahayagan, radyo, at telebisyon,” he added.
The Vice President related a particular experience during the martial law regime where he was cited for contempt and fined for laughing during a hearing on the sedition case filed against Joe Burgos and the editors and columnists of We Forum, a newspaper critical of the regime. Binay was one of the counsels for Burgos and his co-accused.
“I was cited by the judge for contempt because according to him I was laughing the loudest during one act of collective defiance from the courtroom audience,” he said.
Binay recalled that during one of the hearings, the military officer who was testifying against We Forum was especially rude to then human rights lawyer Rene Saguisag and even threw a piece of paper at him while being cross-examined.
“The judge, who did not want to offend the regime by reprimanding the military officer, whispered ever so meekly that he already told the officer not to repeat the misdemeanor after former Senator Soc Rodrigo (one of the defendants) asked him not to be lenient towards such disrespectful behavior,” he said.
According to the Vice President, the judge’s meekness was the cue for the people in the courtroom to laugh. But he was cited for contempt and fined for laughing the loudest.
He added that while being cited for contempt was one of the more lenient penalties he and his fellow Movement of Attorneys for Brotherhood, Integrity, and Nationalism, Inc. (MABINI) members were made to pay, they were eventually imprisoned in their continued battle against the dictatorship.
“All of you know that some who were less fortunate, but surely no less brave, had to pay for their lives. Some simply disappeared, never to be seen again by their friends and families,” he said.
“In the end, we succeeded in freeing Joe Burgos and others, in the end we toppled the Marcos regime. A most cruel irony for my dear friend, though, is that until today his son, Jonas Burgos, who followed in his father’s heroic footsteps, is still missing, and I think he has been killed,” Binay added.
Binay also said that Jonas Burgos’ disappearance should remind Filipinos that despite the many sacrifices made, a lot still needs to be done.
“Kailangan pa ring ituloy ang pagtuligsa sa pang-aapi, at lalong kailangan pa ring ipagtanggol ang ating kalayaan. Kailangang alalahanin natin na ang demokrasya ay isang work-in-progress—inaalagaan at binabantayan dahil laging may nagbabantang mga salungat na kaisipan na maaaring igupo ito,” he said.
Binay then urged the youth to do their part in protecting freedom.
“At gampanan ninyo ito sa simpleng paraan. Sa bawat kuwentong kumakalat sa Facebook o Twitter, huwag ninyong kalimutan na maging kritikal. Salain ninyo ang mga sinasabi, at kasinghalaga, basahin ninyo nang mabuti pati ang hindi sinasabi.”
“At huwag ninyong ubusin ang oras ninyo sa harap ng computer o ng inyong cell phone. Maging mapag-isip, maging malikhain sa pagbuo ng pangitain ng inyong hinaharap. At tumbasan ng gawa, kilos, at lakas ng bisig ang inyong imahenasyon o haraya,” he told the participants.
He also told the students to preserve the national memory that contributes to Filipino identity, particularly culture, history, and the indigenous Filipino values such as “kagandahang-loob, pakikipagkapwa, dangal, pagmamalasakit, pagkamatapat.”#