3 crucial reasons Filipinos should care more about freedom

Why Mindanao’s Martial Law and the president’s rising popularity are red flags

Jerry Kiesewetter on Unsplash

About a year ago, we let him sit in our country’s captain-chair. And surprise, surprise…he’s still there, with his inelegant tongue, rogue problem-solving methods, and nonchalant regard for legal process. Personified proof against what theory tells us won’t last: a strong-man leader who cares too little about human rights in a democratic system.

Last week’s survey makes an even stronger case against this theory. According to the rappler report:

Duterte garnered a net satisfaction rating of +67, categorized as “very good,” based on the results of an SWS survey held from June 23 to 26, a month after he declared martial law in response to the Marawi siege. (READ: TIMELINE: Marawi clashes prompt martial law in Mindanao)
This is his highest SWS net satisfaction rating so far, besting his September rating of +64.

Still, looking at the numbers more carefully, it’s not all good news for good ‘ol Rudy. His popularity across the country is up, but not so in Mindanao. There, his approval ratings have slid from +87 to +75. Somewhat unexpected since that’s his home territory and we all know how faithful Filipinos are to members of their tribe.

Rappler explains this decrease is due to his decision to place the entire island under Martial law. If they’re right, it exposes an important limit to Duterte’s legitimacy. He may have won because his Davao stint proved he could get things done, but people of Mindanao are beginning to see that sometimes the cost to freedom is way too high.

They’re beginning to notice that cutting out too much freedom is not worth the short term safety it’s bartered for. An old rule, according to the eighteenth century political guru, Ben Franklin:

“They who can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety.” 
Benjamin Franklin, Memoirs of the life & writings of Benjamin Franklin

So maybe the reason the people of Mindanao aren’t as fond of Duterte post-Martial Law is that he’s guilty of sacrificing “essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety”? If so, he definitely doesn’t deserve the security of his tribe’s loyalty.

What’s strange about this perspective shift is that the weight of freedom can’t be measured in numbers or scales, while safety has concrete, tangible costs in real human lives. Yet, those who now frown on Duterte feel the invisible weight of freedom matters more than safety, in a sense.

What value do they see in freedom when it isn’t edible, nor graspable?

We might find clues in the lives of people who have died for it, or at least, risked their lives defending it. Here’s a short list of Filipino freedom warriors: Andres Bonifacio, Jose Rizal, Ninoy Aquino, Gabriela Silang, Nazaria Lagos and Nieves Fernandez. These men and women must have discovered something so valuable in freedom, they thought it worth their blood and lives.

Then there’s the wisdom of philosophers, statesmen and thought-leaders. From them, we can take these three insights:

1. Freedom is sacred.

Our freedom is our sacred cow; no one should touch it! We must be very pious in this holy matter. — Mehmet Murat Ildan (Turkish writer)
We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men are created equal; that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights; that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. — Thomas Jefferson

Freedom is what enables man to make things, to change things, to transcend difficult circumstances. It’s an inner power that makes novelty and invention possible. Inventions that might even make miracles happen. Think of vaccines and digital communication.

2. Freedom keeps conscience alive.

Where there is no freedom of speech, there is no conscience. — Ayaan Hirsi Ali (Somali born Dutch-American Activist)

Without freedom, citizens have less of an opportunity to curb selfish oppression coming from on top. When freedom is curtailed, the chances of leaders using power for self-interest rather than the common good increases. And in the long run, oppressive leadership may just lead to more lives lost.

3. Freedom has more than one enemy.

History teaches that grave threats to liberty often come in times of urgency, when constitutional rights seem too extravagant to endure. — Thurgood Marshall (African American U.S. Supreme Court Judge)

Times like this when there seems to be one clear enemy, it’s important to remember liberty has many threats. Terrorism and religious fundamentalism are not its only enemies. Despotism, cronyism, unbridled power, and widespread decadence are just as dangerous. If only our leaders realized this, then maybe they wouldn’t cut into freedom as rashly and complacently as they do.

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Thank you so much for reading! I do hope you stop by again soon.

P.S. Your comments would mean a lot to me, but only if you have a few moments to spare. :)