It is high time to take a stand

To Take A Stand
Oscar P. Lagman, Jr.

Posted on August 09, 2016

True to the name of this column I am taking a stand on the President’s determined and vigorous campaign against the menace of drugs that has overrun the country. I hail him for it. I am immensely disturbed though by the violence that has marked the war against the scourge of drugs. The inspiration that gave birth to this column prompts me to denounce the ongoing extrajudicial killing of drug suspects.

“What does one achieve when he takes a stand to reassert his fundamental rights? Perhaps the best answer is another question: what happens when one does not take a stand and allow his rights to be trampled upon? Isn’t our nation’s recent history filled with enough vivid evidence of the consequences of apathy and fear? Surely the value of taking a stand and fighting for one’s rights need not be spelled out.”

“If the struggle to rid our nation of a dictatorship is a valid struggle, then it is a struggle that must be fought. And if it must be fought, it must be fought by every single one of us who values justice and freedom. Not by proxy, but by each one of us individually taking a stand when called on to do so.”

This is what Ramon R. del Rosario, Jr. wrote in BusinessDay under the title “To Take a Stand” 32 years ago, on Sept. 25, 1984 to be exact. It was his way of sharing with his friends in the world of business and finance his reasons for believing that it was important for concerned citizens, even businessmen and bankers, to march to Mendiola on Sept. 21, the 22nd anniversary of the proclamation of Martial Law. Some of his friends had found the idea silly, ill-advised, and unnecessarily confrontational.

From then on Ramon’s subsequent commentaries in BusinessDay appeared under the column named “To Take a Stand.” The courageous stands he took against the Marcos dictatorship inspired people from the business world, the professions, and academe to also stand up to Marcos and voice their denunciations of the injustices and excesses of his Martial Law apparatus. For their voices to gain strength and impact on Marcos, the activists banded together. As they were driven to action and drawn together because of the series of articles of Ramon, they decided to name the organization Manindigan!, Filipino for “to take a stand.”

After Marcos was deposed and Tita Cory installed as president, Ramon turned over the column, which re-appeared in this paper after BusinessDay closed, to the organization for any member of Manindigan! to use it as the medium through which to ventilate his or her sentiments on the burning issue of the day. My first contribution -- in May of 1989 -- criticized President Cory for retaining in her Cabinet three officials who had betrayed the cause for which Manindigan! members and countless others risked property, liberty, and even life: a new moral order in government.

After the Senate had voted against the extension of the RP-US Bases Treaty in September of 1991, President Cory, in her attempt to negate the decision of the Senate majority, proposed that a national referendum on the treaty be conducted. Health Secretary Alfredo Bengzon, Trade and Industry Secretary Peter Garrucho, Jr., Tourism Secretary Rafael Alunan III and Undersecretary Narzalina Lim, Peace Commission member Edilberto de Jesus, Ambassador to the United Nations in Geneva Narcisa de Leon Escaler, President Cory’s nominees to the 1986 Constitutional Convention Father Joaquin Bernas and Florangel Braid, all spoke against the calling of a national referendum.

They were all Manindigan! members. They had marched with Cory in the streets during those Anti-Marcos protest days, answered her call to them to serve in her government, and rushed to her side when the bogus military reformists attempted to grab power from her. But when President Cory compromised the national interest by trifling with constitutional processes to keep US troops in the country, they stood up to her.

Martial Law compromised the people’s rights. According to the civil society groups that fought the Marcos regime, there were 1,388 extrajudicial killings 398 disappearances, and 70,000 illegal arrests. I call on Judy Taguiwalo, Silvestre Bello III, and Leonor Briones, who were prominent in the struggle to put an end to the Martial Law regime and who are now part of the present dispensation, to take a stand on the ongoing extrajudicial killing of drug suspects.

I call on Senators Vicente Sotto and Gregorio Honasan, who opposed vigorously the Reproductive Health bill because it would allow the prevention of conception of human life, to take a stand on the indiscriminate termination of human life by the forces of the present administration. Your ally in that campaign against the bill, Lito Atienza, has spoken against “the extrajudicial killings in the President’s merciless war on drugs.”

I also call on the Makabayan bloc party-list members of Congress, who are ever-present in squatter demolition operations in defense of the occupants of to-be-demolished shanties, to denounce the summary execution of drug suspects living in shacks, like pedicab driver Michael Siaron, and the accommodation of a known drug lord, Albuera Mayor Rolando Espinosa, in the luxurious quarters of the chief of the national police force to give him a chance to defend himself.

The President referred to the scene of Jennilyn Olayres cradling the lifeless body of her husband Michael as “drama.” I call the order to the chief of the national police force to investigate the extrajudicial killings in the President’s brutal war on illegal drugs nothing but a charade. The President himself has given “shoot-to-kill” orders against drug dealers. Now comes the order to the President’s deep selection hand-picked chief of police and wedding godson to investigate police operations that might have involved human rights violations. If the police chief does find violations and tells the Secretary of Interior and Local Government or the President himself, I don’t expect anything to be done about it. After all, the President has said, “I’m waging a war. I am now invoking the articles of war.”

If the people do not speak against this alarming situation, anarchy will engulf the land.

Oscar P. Lagman, Jr. teaches Advanced Marketing in the Master of Science in Tourism and Hospitality Management program of De La Salle -- College of St. Benilde.