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Davao City, Philippines

Are we really free?

June 12, 2019 - Wednesday 5:06 AM by Funny Pearl A. Gajunera, Ruth Palo

Article Banner Image FREEDOM. Members of Davao City Police Office (DCPO) raise the flag at City Hall on Monday ahead of the celebration of the 121st Independence Day today, Wednesday. ARJOY M. CENIZA

What is freedom? What does it mean to be free? And are we more free these days under the administration of President Rodrigo Duterte who has literally shaken up the world by pursuing an independent foreign policy for the Philippines?

MDM asked a number of prominent people for their views on independence and freedom and found that most believe the Philippines is in a better position these days to enjoy the freedom that was won for us in 1898 by our forebears.

For TV5 Davao reporter Gem Avanceña, independence is being free from colonizers and from slavery.

“Knowing our history, the Philippines has been under different political control. Thus, being independent lets us enjoy our own power,” Avanceña said.

TV5 Davao reporter Gem Avanceña

Despite the issue of China allegedly holding sway because of the West Philippine Sea dispute, she said the Philippines is still free under the administration of President Rodrigo Duterte.

“PRRD upholds our freedom. We are being considered allies to other countries but they remain powerless over us. PRRD never allows anyone to dictate him,” she said.

Rizal Memorial College School of Law Dean Ramon Edison Batacan said freedom is real if the government upholds what is written in the Constitution.

“Independence means freedom. There is real freedom when the government upholds the  guarantees afforded to every citizen under the constitution,” Batacan said.

Rizal Memorial College School of Law Dean Ramon Edison Batacan

He added, however, that freedom is not absolute. “Under PRRD, there is certainly freedom, but it must come with responsibility,” he said.

“There is no absolute freedom because when one exceeds the exercise of his rights and steps on the rights of others as to give rise to a cause of action against him, then he must be made to account for it either civilly or criminally,” he added.

For councilor Edgar Ibuyan Sr., independence day is not just a celebration that can be taken for granted.

Councilor Edgar Ibuyan Sr.

“It also serves as a remembrance of the sacrifices of many generations of Filipinos who gave their lives in our quest for freedom. Thus, for me it is a day to reflect and remember how valuable our liberty is,” he said.

Ibuyan said Duterte’s pivot to China does not mean our independence is being compromised.

“In fact, the President views his latest actions as essential to keep the country’s independence intact and to make our voices heard in the negotiating table especially since we cannot fight a direct war against a world power.”

“We can take our battle in the field of diplomacy where we establish friendships with nations as a way to protect the sovereignty of our archipelago,” he said.

Maguindanao Governoro-elect Bai Mariam Sangki Mangudadatu said independence means freedom from colonial powers and from oppression.

Maguindanao Governor-elect Bai Mariam Sangki Mangudadatu

“It means that we have established a government that is of the people, by the people, and for the people. Yes we are free. Part of being independent if being able to freely negotiate equally with other states,” she said,

Mindanao Development Authority (MinDA) OIC Chair lawyer Nathaniel Dalumpines said independence is “the exercise of our primordial right of sovereignty, to chart our own destiny as a nation, to engage in harmonious relationship with all nations, but ever instilling to all Filipinos, wherever they are, our cultural and ancestral heritage.”

Mindanao Development Authority (MinDA) OIC Chair lawyer Nathaniel Dalumpines

“We are ‘freer’ today under the administration of President Rodrigo R. Duterte. We have opened new doors in the international corridors and have engaged vigorously in symbiotic relationship with our neighbors China, Japan, South Korea, and Southeast Asian brothers,” he said.

Dalumpines said the country is now “slowly drifting away from our almost century-old colonial mentality.”

“Under the PRRD administration, we will continue to practice independent foreign policy, a policy of upholding the accepted maxim of ‘non-interference’ from other countries in our pursuit of our dreams and aspirations,” he said.

For Renz Allan Lacorte, secretary general of the Samahan ng Mag-aaral ng Pamantasan ng Ateneo de Davao, independence “means more democratic spaces and more chances to air out concerns not necessarily for dissent but for improvements.”

Samahan ng Mag-aaral ng Pamantasan ng Ateneo de Davao secretary general Renz Allan Lacorte

“To be honest, our independence is historically problematic sans the Duterte and China issue. More free? Yes! More free in the sense that during this administration the social media space of freedom has been continuously expanding and challenging the norms of before, more liberal laws and more movements of recognizing identities that were shackled before,” he said.