But mass testing, contact tracing and isolation did not come with what they called “quarantine” even if it is just a euphemism for a lockdown. We waited and waited. We called for health measures, as well as social protection for the economically displaced. Government gave us checkpoints, canned goods and cash good for only a few days while many stomachs grumbled. Indeed, fathers and mothers now eat anxiety for breakfast, lunch and dinner.
Those who could not contain their anger and frustration used their voice as a weapon. The middle class turned to social media while the urban poor with no access to the Internet made their hand-painted placards, “Gutom na kami. Nasaan ang ayuda?” (We’re hungry. Where’s government aid?)
Now government wants to lock down even the faintest voices of dissent.
No, it did not matter if Ronnel Mas or Ronald Quiboyen were merely exaggerating. How could a teacher afford P50 million, or a construction worker give P100 million to anyone who would kill President Rodrigo Duterte? Aren’t the authorities aware that rhetorical hyperbole is protected speech?
Presidential Security Group (PSG) Chief Col. Jesus Durante III said, “I would just like to convey to the people not to be involved in any way of threatening the President or anybody, especially with the use of social media.” “Anybody could be held liable if he threatens to harm or kill a person. What more if the one (who) is threatened is the President of the Republic?” he added.
Durante knows that no ordinary citizen could even get close to him, without having to pass through the PSG.
In a span of a week, two others were arrested and charged with inciting to sedition and violations of Republic Act No. 10175 or the Cybercrime Prevention Act. The message is clear: Shut up or you’ll end up in jail.
While it is true that ordinary citizens are expected to maintain civility, speaking out should not be criminalized. We are being punished for demanding from government what it should have been doing in the midst of a health crisis.
We are being treated as enemies by those who should be held accountable for where we are now, still locked up in our homes because government continues to disregard science in its fight against the deadly virus.
Even journalists who perform truth-telling are now fair game to the resident of Malacañan Palace and his minions. They want to silence, nay, control like a rag doll tied to the hands of a tyrant, media giant ABS-CBN. The five-month provisional franchise is a message to behave.
Supporters who rally behind the media network are demonized and called all sorts of names. Copy-paste trolls are mobilized to drown out posts by real people who have been affected by the other virus called government. Using our money as taxpayers, government spends millions to intimidate us into silence.
Speak we must. Speech is a weapon we must wield to prevent evil from becoming more evil. If we allow the powers-that-be to take it away from us, we might wake up one day deprived of our other rights. It is our civic duty to fight fear and spread courage.