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Independent, somewhat

Every year on June 12, Filipinos hoist their flags and profess love for country. It’s Independence Day, after all—an occasion to remember how we have been freed from the clutches of colonialism and become able to determine the course of our own future.

Independent, somewhat

This year is no different in terms of the celebratory mood and patriotic pronouncements. But more than ever before, we need to take a look at what we are actually celebrating on independence day.

Are we truly free from threats to our democracy? No less than the President himself has characterized the present election system as riddled with fraud, asked the Commission on Elections to junk Smartmatic and find a more reliable, credible automated election service provider.

Are we free from the disempowering hold of fake news? Many Filipinos have yet to learn to be circumspect in receiving and spreading news items. It is increasingly becoming difficult to tell the genuine from the fake, and sadly, those with sinister motives are capitalizing on this carelessness—nay, ignorance—to achieve their own ends. Meanwhile, those who dare criticize or offer other ideas find themselves vulnerable to threats of reprisal, or marginalization. 

Are we free from the toxicity of politics? The just-finished midterm elections have shown us the extremes to which opportunists masquerading as public servants are willing to go to put their self-interest first. We are also seeing institutions being undermined, sometimes demeaned, by the very officials that run them. 

Are we free from doublespeak? Our leaders swore to protect our sovereignty, put our welfare first, uphold the rule of law, respect everybody’s rights, and end corruption. Unfortunately, we hear them saying one thing and see them doing the exact opposite.

Finally, are we free from poverty and hopelessness? In the end, everything that really matters is whether Filipino families have enough food on the table, roof above their heads, clothes on their back—and a modicum of hope that somehow the next days would be better.

There will be another day to celebrate a “yes” answer to all these. For now, a stark realization that we need to get our act together might be enough. The alternative is to just get by and be somewhat free for the rest of our days.

Topics: Independence Day , Commission on Elections , Rodrigo Duterte , Poverty
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