May I ‘have the right’ to disagree with the PCG spokesman?

By Alex P. Vidal

“If the freedom of speech is taken away then dumb and silent we may be led, like sheep to the slaughter.”—George Washington

IF I say democracy is bad; communism is good, it does not make me a communist and anti democracy per se.

Also, if I say Lucifer is good—my religion might be offended—but it doesn’t make me evil and anti God. It doesn’t make me a bad guy intrinsically.

Why? Because they’re only an opinion; and if I express them in a free world, I am entitled to it because expressing an opinion in a democratic country is part of freedom of expression.

Freedom of speech and of the press, under Philippine and American judicial decisions, is the right to express and thereafter disseminate one’s opinions on matters of public concern without previous restraint and without fear of subsequent punishment.

Section 4 of Article III of the 1987 Philippine Constitution is clear: “No law shall be passed abridging the freedom of speech, of expression, or of the press, or the right of the people peaceably to assemble and petition the government for redress of grievances. Section 5. No law shall be made respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.”


Thus, I beg to disagree with Cmdr. Jay Tarriela, spokesman of the Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) who called as “unpatriotic” and “traitors” Filipinos who are allegedly defending China even if there’s ongoing tension between the Philippine and Chinese Governments over a spate of harassments by Chinese vessels against Philippine boats in the West Philippine Sea.

“Allegedly” because I have not monitored any Filipino “justifying” or “defending” China in the ongoing sea tumult as mentioned by Tarriela (in the first place, it’s common sense no Pinoy in his right mind will act this way).

Unless Tarriela was only imagining things.

Tarriela thundered in a tweet August 10: “If you are a Filipino, whether in government or private sector, regardless of your politics, defending and making excuses for China’s aggressive behavior should deem you unpatriotic, and a traitor to the Philippines and to our people. Given current developments in the West Philippine Sea, it is important to show loyalty to country.”

Although the PCG spokesman acknowledged that it is the Filipinos’ constitutional right to freely voice their opinions on the issue, “their freedom of speech should not be misused to act as Beijing’s mouthpiece.”


We have a problem here, Mr. Spokesman.

Who “misused” his speech in the behest of Beijing? Who acted as Beijing’s “mouthpiece”? No names means Mr. Spokesman must really be imagining things here.

Granting for the sake of argument that somebody with a Filipino blood running in his veins did justify and defend China (for whatever reason), it doesn’t make him a traitor and unpatriotic per se according to Tarriela’s standards.

“Justifying” and “defending” in words are parts of freedom of speech and expression in democratic Philippines.

It’s another story if this Filipino will mount an armed rebellion to fight for China against the Philippines. That’s no longer covered by free speech; it’s plain and simple rebellion and treason and this Filipino must be shot in public.

The PCG official, meanwhile, further exhorted his countrymen: “All Filipinos should unite in calling out China’s aggressive and unlawful actions in the West Philippine Sea. Together, we should stand united in protecting our nation’s interests and pursuing a peaceful resolution to the issues. Dahil sa West Philippine Sea ang yaman nito ay para sa Pilipino.”

Yes, he is entitled to his opinion and he has the right to say it.


MAUI INFERNO. As of this writing, death toll has risen from 36 to 53 and was expected to rise higher in catastrophic wildfires that raged across the Hawaiian island of Maui.

Reports said much of Lahaina, a tourist and economic hub of 9,000 people, has been destroyed and hundreds of families have been displaced. More than 270 structures have been impacted, including several historical sites that date back to the 1800s.

Locals and visitors struggled to leave as power and communication services have been knocked out in parts of the island. One resident described to CNN the scene as “apocalyptic” while another said it looks like “something out of a horror movie.” Most of the fires on Maui—fueled in part by violent winds from Hurricane Dora churning around 800 miles away—have not yet been contained as of August 10 evening.

(The author, who is now based in New York City, used to be the editor of two daily newspapers in Iloilo.)