I feel like I have stake both in what is happening here and what is happening back in the Philippines. Here, it’s ever present: news of gruesome, unjust murders of black people, and news of senseless police brutality, every time I get on social media, every hour, every day. And of course I should care about it. I should care because it’s happening right here. I should care because the situation fucking sucks. And I should care, because when the police bring conflict into peaceful protests, I should be angry.
At the same time, I care about what’s happening back at home. Just a week ago, President Duterte fast-tracked the Anti–Terror Bill through the House of Representatives, and they went through the readings like it was a farce. It basically allows a government-appointed council to detain a “suspected terrorist” for up to 14 days without warrant. And the bill is incredibly vague about who is a terrorist. Anyone who speaks up is threatened.
This, of course, is only one blow in a long and sustained campaign against free speech. Duterte’s lodged several complaints against Rappler, one of the country’s larger news websites. Then it was refusal to renew ABS-CBN’s franchise, the Philippines’s leading television network. Now, it’s war against the activists and the protesters, with the police arresting eight people during an Anti–Terror Bill protest, for supposedly violating the ban on mass gatherings. Yet when a police chief hosts a birthday party for dozens, he gets to walk free.
In two different senses, I feel that the world around me is on fire. People are being silenced just for speaking up. People are being arrested just for protesting. People are dying. People are being killed. And in two different ways, I feel powerless about it. I can’t vote here. And I can’t go to the protests back at home.
And I only have a limited amount of attention. Would it be bad if I cared about one more than the other? Would it be bad if I’m not caring enough? Would it be bad if I cared about these two issues more than, say, my hometown’s university firing teachers for making posts criticizing the government, and then its students being told not to speak up?
Is making this blog post harmful? Is continuing with my UROP this summer, as I normally would have if none of this was happening, harmful? Is it bad if I’m not doing enough, if I’m not talking enough, if I’m talking too much?
Sure, I’ve signed petitions, I’ve shared things on social media, I’ve donated to bail funds and organizations. I’m talking to my friends about this. I’m listening to my friends about this. And I’ll try to keep doing this. It feels like little more than indulgence. These faults are large, and deep, and systemic. I don’t know where a solution would even start, but I know it won’t start with silence.
Black lives matter! Junk terror bill!
Makibaka! Huwag matakot!