Resist, speak up, SC justice tells new grads
BAGUIO CITY, Benguet, Philippines — “Makibaka. Huwag matakot.” (Resist. Have no fear.)
Supreme Court (SC) Associate Justice Marvic Leonen on Monday reprised the battle cry of activists during the martial law regime of authoritarian President Ferdinand Marcos, as he urged young people to speak up in these “troubled times.”
“Our silence maintains the status quo. Our silence ensures that others will also be victimized … Silence about corruption and abuse of power is not only unjust. Our silence — when we have the ability to speak — is also injustice,” said Leonen, a University of the Philippines (UP) alumnus and former UP law dean.
Addressing this year’s graduates of the UP Baguio, the SC associate justice also lamented the rise of dictators and tyrants “or simply fascists,” who cast themselves as messiahs during “times of disorder.”
“I sense a reckless kind of impatience” in the country to explain the desire for strongmen, Leonen said, “particularly those with access to media [who] demand order at any cost.”
He added: “Authoritarian regimes have learned to present themselves in a more sophisticated manner… Normally they present [a] false choice. Either maintain democracy the way they have experienced it, or taste the nirvana of an authoritarian regime that is willing to do away with many human rights values in exchange for order and prosperity.”
The solution a strongman offers is “not the rule of law, but the rule of insensitivity which would leave many of invisible Filipinos suffering needlessly,” Leonen said.
Many people today “do not question the state of emergency or martial law simply because they are not affected, or because there is nothing happening,” he added.
The rise of information technology which has connected the world, he said, has not helped improve democracy because “information is not illumination.”
“Many have disempowered themselves willingly in order to get the thousand likes, the hundreds of retweets and the hundreds of reposts, said Leonen, an avid Twitter user.
Quoting UP activist Lean Alejandro, who was murdered during Marcos’ martial rule, Leonen said: “In times of crisis, the line of fire is always a place of honor.”
“Be better than us,” he told the new graduates. “Do not allow yourselves to be silenced … Do not temper principle with pragmatism … In the face of threats from those who abuse power, always resist injustice.”
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