Too Much Freedom in the Philippines

During a briefing at the headquarters of the
Armed Forces of the Philippines, a high-ranking military officer told the United
Methodist Delegation on Human Rights in the Philippines “there is too much
freedom in the Philippines.”

Manila–I hope it was simply a mis-statement. I hope he meant something different than how his words came out. But during a briefing at the headquarters of the Armed Forces of the Philippines, a high-ranking military officer told the United Methodist Delegation on Human Rights in the Philippines, “There is too much freedom in the Philippines. People can move about freely. We don’t have a national identification program.”

I give him the benefit of doubt, but still, it’s chilling. Too much freedom? No national identification program? Spoken within the context of a briefing on how the military is attempting to train its soldiers to respect human rights, such language is incongruous at best.

When the people themselves are perceived as the enemy and freedom is viewed as a problem, something is seriously wrong. That’s why I don’t want to believe that this officer really meant what his words communicated. It would be too frightening to consider.

There is too much talk of the risks of freedom and of the need for governments to curtail rights in the name of fighting terrorism. As I reflected on this statement I read of the closing of the blog of the Chinese journalist in Beijing. Microsoft not only closed his blog, they took the files before he had a chance to download and save them. His whole work is now gone.

This was done because he commented on a strike by journalists protesting the forced removal of two editors of a major Beijing daily because the made an error identifying a woman held in a jail cell for drug violations. She was held nude. In early editions of the newspaper she was identified as Chinese. In later editions she was correctly identified as Malaysian.

When government has the power to regulate speech, it’s a dangerous power. All of us are threatened. My blog, yours, and other forms of electronic communication at put at risk.

After hearing what I’ve heard this week and considering the unrestrained power of government officials, I’m even more wary.

Those in the church who enjoy freedom of speech must energetically preserve this right, even when we hear things we don’t agree with, and which are offensive to our sensibilities. Anything less is just too dangerous to consider. Where, and who, draws the line on too much freedom?

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