Freedom for The Thought We Hate (An Open Letter)


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Dear Dr. Antonio P. Contreras,

Ours is a democratic country where there is, or ought to be, enough freedom for the thought that we hate. As J. Holmes put it, “if there is any principle of the Constitution that more imperatively calls for attachment than any other, it is the principle of free thought—not free thought for those who agree with us but freedom for the thought that we hate.” 

Should Agot Isidro then be really ashamed of herself? No, Doctor. There is no shame in having a conviction not shared by many. Shame lies not in having an honest opinion but elsewhere. Shame lies in being a monster who hides in anonymity and darkness and threatens or curses people. Shame lies in intellectual dishonesty and academic egoism – shooting down others’ opinion not on the basis of logic but on the basis of argumentum ad hominem. Shame lies in uncalled for epithets and misogyny. Shame lies in blind support as much as it lies in blind opposition. Shame lies in what is wrong regardless of color. May dilaw na walanghiya. May pulang walang hiya. May asul na walang hiya. Husgahan natin ang kawalang hiyaan hindi ayon sa kulay bagkus ayon sa katwiran. 

Let me therefore reason with you.

According to you, “international relations is not as simple as what [Ms. Isidro] think[s] it is. Countries do not behave like the soap opera [she] play[s] where a bitchiness of one leads to a catfight, or a fistfight.” 

But Doctor, is it not that in 1883, Lijar declared war against France because the citizens of the former heard reports that King Alfonso XII had been insulted by Parisians? Is it not that the Paraguayan war was waged by President Lopez against Argentina, Brazil and Uruguay simply because he wanted to? Is it not that in 1925, a war sparked between Greece and Bulgaria when a Greek soldier chased his dog across the Bulgarian border and was shot by the latter’s sentry? How about the “War of Pork and Beans” and the “Pig war” between the United States and Great Britain. Does Jenskin’s ear also ring a bell?

World History teaches us that while most wars are fought over the most serious and compelling issues, others arise from unusual and curious circumstances. And it wouldn’t be unusual for war to arise from utterances.

Words can heal in the same way that it can hurt a nation. This was acknowledged by President Rodrigo Duterte, no less, prior to his assumption of office when he said, “I need to control my mouth. I cannot be bastos because I am representing the country. […] If you are representing the country, you need to be prim and proper.”

It was also the President who voiced about going hungry when US and EU pull out aid to the country. “We will survive. Even if it’s difficult, we will survive […] I’ll be the first one to go hungry. I’ll be the first one to die of hunger. Do not worry,” he said. Ms. Isidro’s statement against hunger was therefore premised on the President’s statement.

Yes, we should not be subservient to any foreign power; the State should pursue an independent foreign policy (Art. II, Sec. 7, PH Constitution). But we shouldn’t ignore basic realities of a globalized world either for to do so would be a disservice to our countrymen, here and abroad. We need not be an enemy of one to gain the friendship of another (a friendship that calls for such situation is dubious at best). Indeed, the Constitution did not stop at a blanket policy of independent foreign policy, it went on to state, in its relations with other states, the paramount consideration shall be national sovereignty, territorial integrity (West Philippine sea included), national interest (think of our OFWs and foreign investments), and the right to self-determination (gusto naming magka-abs pero ayaw naming magutom).

By the way, I am a lawyer and a political science graduate. Would you, by any chance, extend to me your offer to Agot Isidro and indulge me with a one-on-one on political literacy? Don’t worry, I am more than willing to pay for your consultation — for the love of country.

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