“Tunay na nga ba tayong malaya?” Unity Statement.pdf
This was the question posed by Senator Risa Hontiveros as she led an online independence day rally aiming to protect the Philippines from what she referred to as modern-day ‘oppressors’ that continue to deprive the country of its sovereignty and deny Filipinos basic rights and freedoms.
“Araw ng Kalayaan pero hanggang ngayon, nakakulong pa rin tayo sa kahirapang dulot ng COVID-19, sa panghihimasok ng Tsina sa ating mga isla’t teritoryo, at sa mga banta ng paniniil ng ating karapatan at kalayaan,” she said.
Streaming live via the Senator’s official Facebook page, Hontiveros, together with advocacy groups and celebrity influencers, called for the government to prioritize the welfare of Filipinos first in order for them to experience the true sense of freedom. The failure of the government to provide a robust health care and comprehensive response to the novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19) has continued to imprison the public especially the commuters, Overseas Filipino Workers, non-medical and medical frontliners in a health crisis.
“Nalulunod na ang health workers, commuters, public utility drivers, at mga OFWs sa epekto ng pandemiya. Ang iba nagtitinda na online para may mapantawid lang sa araw-araw na pangangailangan,” she said. “Pero imbis na bigyan ng salbabida para makaligtas, pabigat pa ang ibinato kaya lalong nalubog at nasadlak. FIlipinos deserve better.”
Hontiveros also opposed the much-criticized Anti-Terrorism Bill, saying that the timing of certifying it as urgent is dubious, coming after the series of mass arrest of citizens and critics of the government’s COVID-19 response. “Definitions in the Terror Bill are open to too much interpretation. Hindi tayo dapat pumayag na maipasa ito dahil siguradong gagamitin ito ng mga politiko laban sa kritiko o nagrereklamo, hindi sa terorista.” she said.
The Senator cited Chinese government’s brazen defiance of the law evident in its continued aggression over the country’s Exclusive Economic Zone in the West Philippine Sea. This, according to her, is not just a clear violation of the country’s rights under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea but it also poses a massive danger to Filipino fishermen who have been bullied, rammed and left to die on the high seas.
“We should not hurt China’s feelings daw. Pero yung mga Pinoy, sakit na sakit na. Tinalikuran na ang tungkulin sa Konstitusyon, tinalikuran na tayong mga Pilipino para sa sinasabi nilang ‘kaibigan’.” Hontiveros said. “Kahit ang pagkakaibigan may hangganan lalo na kung nang-aabuso at walang kompromiso.”
At least 165 individuals, advocacy groups and student organizations supported and signed a unity statement on Friday. Among those who supported Hontiveros’ call were celebrities Iza Calzado, Enchong Dee, Jasmine Curtis-Smith, former secretaries Albert Del Rosario, Butch Abad and Dinky Soliman, veteran journalist Winnie Monsod, Diocese of Novaliches’ Bishop Antonio Tobias. and photojournalist Raffy Lerma among others.
Hontiveros then addressed Filipinos not to cower in fear and continue to actively participate in public discourse. “Huwag tayong matakot magsalita dahil di tayo nag-iisa. Marami na ang may pakialam. Ipakita nating mahal natin ang bayan, patuloy tayong lumaban para sa tunay na kalayaan,” she concluded./Stacy Ang