THIS past week, two incidents in the country became viral and continue to be the subject of significant public interest.
First is the hit-and-run case involving Jose Antonio Sanvicente (driver of the SUV involved in the incident) and victim Christian Joseph Floralde (the security guard manning the traffic along the intersection of Julia Vargas Avenue and St. Francis Street in Mandaluyong) which took place last June 5.
Second is the arrest and detention of the Tinang farmers, artists, and human rights advocates in Concepcion, Tarlac last June 9.
Of the two, however, there appears to be more noise concerning the apparent special treatment of Sanvicente by the Philippine National Police (PNP).
Still, it’s a good thing both incidents have garnered a lot of attention from the public as we’ve yet to see improvements on how law enforcement deals with cases that involve rich and poor people on opposite sides of the fence.
The powerful vs the powerless
While the PNP is not being spared from criticism no matter their explanation for the legal basis of Sanvicente’s non-arrest, we’re not seeing the same level of attention on how local police in Concepcion, Tarlac handled the Hacienda Tinang matter, including the ₱1.2 million bail set for those arrested.
The National Union of Peoples’ Lawyers, according to lawyer Jobert Pahilga, paid a total of ₱1.2 million in bail, with ₱13,500 for each individual facing charges of illegal assembly and malicious mischief, plus a ₱1,000 processing fee per person.
According to Pahilaga, the cops went against the judge’s release order, citing prosecutors’ claims that the judge erred, but then they eventually consented to let the activists go.
Artists, foreigners and human rights advocates supporting the farmers were, of course, accused of using the farmers to advance their own political agenda – and we can only guess (rightly) what agenda Agrarian Reform Secretary Bernie Cruz was referring to in this case.
It’s not like we don’t know the underhand tactics that have been used by the government (or the people being challenged) to silence peasants (and farmers in general), environmental defenders, leaders of indigenous peoples’ movements, journalists, etc.
Indeed, our country is a difficult place to be in when all one wants is freedom and justice. Those who are perceived to be enemies of the government or the status quo are quickly red tagged, or accused of criminality or colluding with the New Peoples’ Army (NPA) or some other group.
But if we strip certain issues down to the basics; that is, people opposing mining in Sibuyan, the construction of the proposed Pasig River Expressway (PAREX) and the Kaliwa Dam project, among others – it’s simply about local people trying to protect the environment and their livelihood.
Surely, these are things we can all relate to or, at the very least, understand.
And yet it seems so easy for us to turn a blind eye to the destruction of our natural resources, and the suffering and death of those who’ve tried to defend the environment and their birthright.
No wonder, the Philippines was considered the most dangerous place in the world for environmental defenders back in 2019.
What of the Paris Agreement, then, and our formal commitment to COP26?
Urgency and attention wanting in environmental issues
Now that it’s typhoon season once again, we’ll surely be seeing news about the destruction of homes and infrastructure and people’s lives.
Media will, again, be highlighting the impact of climate change on our country.
We will, again, be reminded that we are victims of the global climate crisis.
While it’s true that certain highly developed countries need to be held accountable for their role in exacerbating the climate crisis, we also need to take responsibility for not doing much better in our own country.
We need to call on our leaders, our government to not make decisions in a vacuum, by not acknowledging how the Build-Build-Build scheme is detrimental to not only the environment but also to social good.
Understanding the effects of BBB on our country, among other things, requires research.
Lots of it.
I hope you have time to do that.
I hope and pray that, rather than joining trolls and misinformed people in saying that individuals like me would say or do anything to denigrate the government; that our minds are closed to the benefits of BBB to tourism, in attracting more investments and improving mass transportation; that we are pinklawans or dilawans or whatever you perceive to be derogatory labels fit people like me, so we see no good in whatever the government does – I fervently hope you love this country enough to want to invest time in getting to the bottom of the truth.
I hope you love your children and grandchildren enough to not take things at face value.
Question me, question the media, question the opposition, and question the government, too.
See where your search takes you.