Under a regime anchored on falsehood, all it takes to be a hero is to tell the truth.
During the National Union of Peoples Lawyers first anniversary, Jun Lozada, the whistleblower who linked the First Family to the multi-billion ZTE bribery said, "They say I am a hero because I came forward to tell the truth. I did not know that just by telling the truth, one becomes a hero.”
Heroes do not rise in times of comfort. While ideal, telling the truth at such a time is not heroic. But in times when to tell the truth is to invite a tyrant to train her gun on your head, it is heroic. The Arroyo administration has invested most of the resources at its disposal to kill truth. It dreads truth, as the Spanish colonizers feared a mass revolution. At that time, you rose up in arms, you were marked for death. In our time, you tell the truth, you are marked for death or enforced disappearance. Yes, Jun Lozada, you are a hero.
To the Arroyo administration, Lozada is no hero. He is a termite threatening falsehood, the foundation of its tyranny. Her heroes are abroad. Annually, she presides over the Bagong Bayani Award and lauds them- Filipinos pushed to seek greener pastures from the desert that is the Philippine economy where employment is a miracle. Why, their dollar remittances are saving the Philippines from certain economic doom resulting from economic mismanagement. Indeed, no one can deny the contributions of our OFWs. But far from being heroes, they are victims.
One does not rise to heroism from being a victim as what Arroyo made of Angelo dela Cruz, a truck driver abducted in Iraq by Islamic militants with threats to behead him unless the Philippines pulled out its troops from Iraq. He was released after 17 days. The accidental hero is no hero. Heroes are conscious of the risks they assume for the common weal. Andres Bonifacio whose birthday we celebrate today knew that by leading the Philippine revolution against Spain, he could lose his life. Yet the ferment of his spirit urged him to resist colonization. Our Overseas Filipino Workers (OFWs) took plane rides out of the country not to keep Arroyo’s economy afloat but to silence grumbling stomachs.
Arroyo’s definition of heroism removes the element of struggle against an oppressive structure. It removes the issue of truth. Which present day Philippine heroism must push to the fore. Which she wants to shove into a shredder. The human rights defenders, political dissidents waging a principled struggle, and journalists in the forefront of resistance to lies are the heroes in these times, but Arroyo tagged them Abu Sayyaf lovers, communists and terrorists. One by one, they are being killed or are made to disappear. The perpetrators obviously believe that they do not only abduct and kill bodies; they also abduct and kill truth.
From its early days, Arroyo and her minions have been telling lies after lies to the Filipino people, suppressing truth when it slackened her grip on power. Her decision to run for President in 2004 after she made an announcement not to a few months earlier was a portent of more lies to spew out of her mouth. When the Senate, through its congressional investigations, was piecing truths about her regimes’ lies, she issued E.O. No. 464 preventing cabinet members, police and military generals, senior national security officials, and "such other officers as may be determined by the President" to attend congressional hearings without her permission. With that EO she had power over truth and lies. The wimp Romulo Neri appeared before the Senate but refused to tell the truth. He got the top Social Security System post as a prize!
The House of Representatives has always been a willing instrument to promote the Arroyo regime’s falsehood. In 2005, the House of Representatives schemed to kill the truth about fraud in the 2004 presidential elections. Last Wednesday, in behalf of Arroyo who is quaking in fear over the possibility of the truth about her role in the ZTE scandal being exposed, it put the impeachment complaint into a train bound for eternal damnation. Even the most hallowed vanguard of truth became a tool to perpetuate an environment of falsehood and promote a national consciousness pervaded by lies. In the Neri case, the Supreme Court ruled that to hide the truth is protected by executive privilege. So what if the truth will set the Filipino nation free?
And it has been oft-repeated that truth sets us free. Truth presided over the ouster of the Marcos and the end of the Estrada regime. Unfortunately, the truth that quashed the Estrada regime saw the rise of the Arroyo principality of falsehood.
Every move of the Arroyo regime is calculated to ensure her stay in power, not to increase the purchasing power of the poor family’s peso. By that, it has to promote lies, using money from the public coffers. Even before former House Speaker Jose de Venecia announced last week that legislators were bought in 2005 to vote against the impeachment complaint, the fact was already well-known. Equally well-known is that many local government officials are given money and legislators are taken to junkets abroad at the public’s expense to buy their loyalty to her lies.
With a huge chunk of the Philippine budget allotted for the promotion of falsehood, it is no wonder the national consciousness is a false consciousness. In an atmosphere of lies, the casualty is freedom: freedom from repression, even freedom from hunger. The streets are begging for mass actions like the ones staged during previous regimes. But as long as Arroyo keeps feeding the falsehood machines and neglects restructuring the economy, the masses will continue to be weighed down by worries over the next meal. The crowds in the mass protests will continue to thin, while queues in offices issuing passports and foreign visas grow day by day.
Hunger, which is worse now than it has ever been in the country, has driven the people to a state of lethargy if not apathy. Enforced on the nation, hunger is a form of repression. It silences protest and resistance to falsehood with as much force as the barrel of a gun.
Enforce hunger among the masses, enforce disappearance of activists and freedom fighters, slay the heroes, slay the truth, keep giving chocolates to the legislators and officials. A combination of all these has given teeth to a tyranny of unparalleled magnitude in the Philippines.
These are the times of living most dangerously. But these are the times that call on us to emulate Andres Bonifacio and be heroes.
These are the times to speak the truth and reject lies.
(This article also appears in The Northern Dispatch.)