The critic is not an enemy PDF Print E-mail
Monday, 12 November 2018 12:58

By Remedios F. Marmoleño

In his book “My Life” by Bill Clinton he makes the statement to Vietnam War veterans  that “[W]ar is the cost of freedom… disagreement is the privilege of freedom.” The statement was made because Clinton was heckled by the veterans because he himself as a young man was against the war and did not serve in the US forces in that same war.

While the statement was made specific to an American occasion, the wider truth of the statement applies to any discussion of issues in any country. Like in the Philippines, for one.

Our Philippine culture puts strong emphasis on smooth interpersonal relations (SIR) and so we don’t like to voice our disagreements in public and neither do we like being disagreed with.

But expression of differing opinions is the very essence of freedom, so long as we are respectful of each other even in our difference of opinions. However, many of our leaders, even those at the very top and even those who are supposed to be well-versed in the law and democracy, cannot tolerate criticism of their official actions. The critic is mainly considered an enemy.

Let us put ourselves in the context of this present administration and take the case of Sister Patricia Fox. Being a nun we would have expected her to criticize the language coming out of the presidential mouth, with its preponderance of “four letter words” and other gutter-type expressions. But the media never reported that the language style of PRRD was her target. She is said to have criticized the killings in the government’s wars on drugs, the violation of the civil rights of the poor and the powerless and the continuing disregard of the poor and the landless. In short, issues that caring citizens should properly be engaged in. Sister Fox was a critic of this government’s performance. So, what happened instead? Sister Fox was detained overnight by the Bureau of Immigration (BI) for behavior unacceptable for a foreigner simply in the country on a missionary visa, and given the warning that her visa to stay in the Philippines would be cancelled. She was soon deported after having lived in the Philippines for 27 years as a missionary. That puts the Philippine government in the same category as China, as far as how that country treats foreign missionaries goes. Was Sister Fox a critic or an enemy?

Or take the case of Rappler, the online newspaper. It criticized many of the administration’s decisions until finally  its accreditation to the Malacañang press pool was withdrawn, it’s license to operate as a news company was cancelled and finally, it was slammed with a tax evasion case. Was Rappler a critic or an enemy?

Think about it, reader. Today it may be Sister Fox or Rappler. Tomorrow it might be you or me, if we dare to be a critic of this government.