The suppression of dissent

One of the things leveled on la Gloria’s government is its penchant for “proactively” limiting dissent against it and its actions. Foremost among the critics of this suppression has been, of course, media, which jealously guards its Constitutionally-mandated rights. Another that has been quite vocal is the “Fifth Estate”, Civil Society, which demands the right to dissent against a regime it believes is a sham at the least, cruelly despotic at worst.

Dissension comes in many forms in the Information Age, of course. Ever since blogs became an “in thing” during the second invasion of Iraq in 2003, more and more people have found a pulpit free from media’s Gatekeeper power and have aired their views on the hottest issues of the day. No more are people limited to “traditional” media, since its easy to set up one’s own blog and deliver one’s message without the need to either pay for ad space or have their thoughts subjected to the rules or whims of the editorial policy.

Of course, for democracy, this is good news. I once read somewhere that it is dissent – the right to do so and the exercise of it – that is the cornerstone of the “informed decision making” that is part and parcel of a mature polity of the liberal democratic mold. As LP Founder Manuel Roxas said in his Definitions of a Filipino Liberal, one must respect another’s right to defend his or her opinion, provided you are also accorded the same right in a free and fair contest.

In fact, true democracies should encourage in its public a healthy appetite for questioning things that seem out of hand, because dissension is part of the vigilance that ensures the continuation of the freedoms we all enjoy. The moment dissent ends, despotism begins.

But there is a form of despotism that perhaps goes unnoticed in the Philippines in these interesting times of the post-Garci age. I’m not talking about the one practiced from the banks of the Pasig; when Government suppresses any civil liberty, it goes as unnoticed as an elephant walking through an open plain.

Yet when the supposed guardians of your liberties and freedoms and rights begins to exercise a form of despotism, particularly in the realm of ideas and concepts, will you even notice?

And if you do, will you even have the courage to point it out?

It’s funny how some people who castigate the Little Girl never notice that when they engage pro-Gloria people in “debate”, they do so in tones and manner that discourages others who do not share their opinion from speaking out. Its as if the anti-Gloria crowd has the monopoly on what’s Good, True and Right.

Even worse, they call you a dozen unsavory names and cast aspersions on either your personal life or morality. The last is particularly galling because, to the anti-Gloria crowd, it seems to be a pre-supposition that anyone defending Gloria is either blind or paid. It never occurred to them that there are people who, though not necessarily loving Gloria, do not agree with certain of the positions of the anti camp, much less their preferred means of addressing the issue that is Gloria herself.

In fact, even this post is actually getting difficult to write because you expect a certain type of reaction. If the libel suits and killings of journalists – nevermind if some of them were actually caused by factors outside of the Garci scandal – are said to have a chilling effect on dissent versus Gloria, then, in my opinion, the rabid reaction of Civil Society, particularly certain of the punditocracy, to dissent to the anti-Gloria line has also had a chilling effect on subjecting the issue that is Gloria to a rational and (more or less) objective debate on merits.

Even as I write the preceding paragraph my training as an analyst kicks in and tells me that the “blind” accusations will fly. Merits, they’ll say? What more is needed, daw, to convince people of Gloria’s evil, that nothing less than her removal from office before 2010 will suffice?

I have my own little internal debate on that matter, thank you. But that is in view of my active participation in KOMPIL II Youth back in the 2000 – 2001 Resign-Impeach-Oust (RIO) Movement vs. Erap. I mean, really: what evidence did we use to convict Joseph Estrada other than the word of a Jueteng Lord, who just happened to be the “bagman” for the former President, prior to the actual impeachment and the Senate Hearings? Clarissa Ocampo was unknown then, at the start of the RIO, much less the legendary “Second Envelope.”

It’s hard to explain to the anti-Gloria crowd why there are people who, at the very least, won’t go out to the streets in order to demand her ouster. How many “escalations” have there been, at least since the Garci tapes? Yet despite the brutality in the quashing of several of them, or even in view of the amazing stupidity of Palace operators in issue management, the Little Girl is still there. And this even with survey after survey that says she is probably the most despised President of the Republic other than Marcos. Some will even contend that Marcos was actually more lovable than Gloria.

I find it rather amusing that anti-Gloria forces would parade those surveys, and someone who defended the last Trillianes Tantrum even cited how people in the cars honked their horns as well as the overwhelming show of support when they were walking to the Pen. I have a barkada who is a statistician and he gave me quite the lecture on the science behind surveys, why they are believable. He even told me, the kada’s political operator, how American candidates rely on surveys for their campaign strategies.

This is probably where the brazen disregard for the reality of real dissent to the Gloria-is-evil line comes from. Given all of these scientifically-backed statistics, in light of all the “names” that have gone against Gloria… how can anyone who is not blind or paid be of any other opinion to her removal from office?

I will not answer these questions for the anti-Gloria forces, why there are people like me who, even though we claim we do not like the President have continuously “supported” her administration (and some, like me, who are also in one sense helping defend it). I believe that no amount of leveling-off will allow us to have a meeting of minds with people determined to see a particular outcome with regard to Gloria.

But I hope that, in the interests of the further maturation of the Filipino public – despite our losses, I still think the results of the 2007 Midterms is a watershed in the development of the Filipino as a mature polity – those who have the gall to demand such a high level of morality and ethics from the Little Girl and her functionaries should not be so selective in the application of these standards. If she has to answer for being a liar and a cheat, should lying and cheating be used as part of the arsenal of her ouster?

If Civil Society demands the freedom to speak its mind against Gloria, and castigate her for the “chilling” maneuvers she and her cohorts use to stifle dissent and negative commentary, shouldn’t these so-called defenders of our freedoms and rights also accord the same to those who do not share their views?

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One Response to The suppression of dissent

  1. Lawrence says:

    A very nice piece. I’m printing it out then I’ll comment later…

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