Filipino celebrities call on govt to defend rights in West Philippine Sea, junk Anti-Terrorism Bill

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Several celebrities have joined rallyists during an online Independence Day protest calling on the government to defend the Philippines’ rights in the West Philippine Sea, as well as  junking the Anti-Terrorism Bill, saying such law threatens freedom of speech.

President Rodrigo Duterte should fulfill his campaign promise of defending the West Philippine Sea from Chinese incursion, actor Enchong Dee said.

“Hindi puwede ‘yung sasabihin ninyo ‘pag nasa kampaniya kayo na pupunta kayo sa Scarborough Shoal tapos ‘pag nanalo kayo, sasabihin ninyo joke lang (It’s unacceptable to say during the campaign that you will go to Scarborough Shoal, and say that it’s just a joke once you win the elections),” Dee said.

He  was referring to how Duterte dismissed as a joke his promise of riding a jetski to hoist the Philippine flag in disputed waters during the 2016 presidential campaign.

“Ano ‘yun? Joke lang ba kami? Hindi puwede ‘yun. Pilipino kami. Umaasa kami sa inyo na proprotektahan niyo kami  (What’s that? Are we a joke? That’s unacceptable. We are Filipinos. We are counting on you to protect us.),” said Dee.

For her part, Actress Agot Isidro questioned the government’s  leniency on China’s illegal militarization of Philippine islets when an international arbitration court already invalidated China’s sweeping claims in the strategic waterway west of the Philippines.

In 2016, a Hague-based arbitration court awarded the Philippines a legal victory, invalidating China’s sweeping claims over the South China Sea.

Amid unresolved maritime disputes, Duterte has pursued friendly ties with Asia’s largest economy, which has provided loans to fund his administration’s “Build, Build, Build” program.

“Tayo ang nanalo sa arbitration case… Pero bakit parang pinamimigay na lang ang mga isla natin ng ganun-ganun? Bakit tayo ang parang lumuluhod pa sa ibang bansa?   (We won the arbitration case… but why does it seem that we are just giving our islands away? Why does it seem that we are at the mercy of other countries?),” said Isidro.

“Araw ng Kalayaan ngayon pero parang hindi tayo malaya. Nagbago lang ang mukha ng kaaway at mananakop pero hindi pa rin tayo tunay na malaya  (Today is Independence Day, but it seems that we are not yet free. We are not yet truly free because the face of the enemy and conqueror just changed.),” Isidro said.

Comedian Jun Sabayton called on the government to junk the Anti-Terror bill, which oppositors say threaten freedom of speech in the Philippines as the measure’s “vague” definition of “terrorism” can be used to silence administration critics.

“Hindi masama ang mampuna. Hindi terorista ang mga artista, manlilikha at media… Hindi terorista ang simbahan, development workers, kabataan. Hindi terorista ang aktibismo  (It is not bad to criticize. Artists, creatives, the media are not terrorists. The church, development workers, youth are not terrorists. Activism is not terrorism),” Sabayton said.

Actress Chai Fonacier urged Filipinos to “speak” and defend their rights against powerful officials who are trying to “crack down” on those who dissent.

“If we want to defend this land and the freedom our ancestors fought so hard for us to have, speak truth to power,” Fonacier said.

“Truth makes the evil types of capitalists lose sales, truth makes powerful people crumble, truth makes evil people in power afraid. So tell your stories… Hindi na pwede ang duwag sa panahon ngayon,” she said.

Celebrity musicians Ebe Dancel, Noel Cabangon and Bayang Barrios also participated in the “Ipaglaban ang Pinas!” virtual protests./Stacy Ang

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