VICE President Jejomar Binay told youth leaders Friday evening that the freedom to openly express opinions—even to poke fun at public officials—should be seen as a reminder of the successful struggle against martial law.
“Every opportunity to joke about and laugh at our officials, for me, is an unfailing reminder of our triumphs over the oppressive regime, one that repressed even the right to laugh even at the most humorous moments,” Binay said during a dinner he hosted at the Coconut Palace for the 2nd Annual Salubungan Workshop.
The Salubungan Workshop is a gathering of student leaders from across the country organized by the Edsa People Power Commission.
The Vice President said he is not bothered or offended by social media posts, especially those that make fun of his skin color.
He related a particular experience during the martial law regime where he was cited for contempt and fined for laughing during a hearing on the sedition case filed against Jose Burgos and the editors and columnists of We Forum, a newspaper critical of the regime. Binay was one of the counsels for Burgos and his co-accused.
“I was cited by the judge for contempt because according to him I was laughing the loudest during one act of collective defiance from the courtroom audience,” he said.
Binay recalled that during one of the hearings, the military officer who was testifying against We Forum was especially rude to then human rights lawyer Rene Saguisag and even threw a piece of paper at him while being cross-examined.
“The judge, who did not want to offend the regime by reprimanding the military officer, whispered ever so meekly that he already told the officer not to repeat the misdemeanor after former senator Soc Rodrigo [one of the defendants]asked him not to be lenient towards such disrespectful behavior,” he said.
According to the Vice Pre–sident, the judge’s meekness was the cue for the people in the courtroom to laugh. But he was cited for contempt and fined for laughing the loudest.
He added that while being cited for contempt was one of the more lenient penalties he and his fellow Movement of Attorneys for Brotherhood, Integrity, and Nationalism, Inc. members were made to pay, they were eventually imprisoned in their long battle against the dictatorship.
“All of you know that some who were less fortunate, but surely no less brave, had to pay with their lives. Some simply disappeared, never to be seen again by their friends and families,” Binay said.
“In the end, we succeeded in freeing Joe Burgos and others; in the end we toppled the Marcos regime. A most cruel irony for my dear friend, though, is that until today his son, Jonas Burgos, who followed in his father’s heroic footsteps, is still missing, and I think he has been killed,” he added.
Binay also said that Jonas Burgos’ disappearance should remind Filipinos that despite the many sacrifices made a lot still needs to be done.
The Vice President then urged the youth to do their part in protecting freedom.
He also told the students to preserve the national memory that contributes to Filipino identity, particularly culture, history, and the indigenous Filipino values such as kind-ness, good fellowship, honor, compassion and honesty.