REFLECTIONS: We have to stand for our rights, stand for what we are defending against abuse, for Press Freedom

(Statement delivered by Fidelina Margarita “Gingging” Valle, development worker, freelance writer and Davao Today columnist, during the online press conference on August 12, 2011 on her decision to appeal before the Supreme Court the Ombudsman’s ruling on the criminal and administrative cases she filed following her arrest and detention on June 9, 2019 in what authorities claimed to be a case of ‘mistaken identity.’ )

DAVAO CITY (MindaNews / 14 August 2021) — It is hard enough, as it is, to detach my mind from the “personal,” emotional part of this development, in this so-called mistaken-identity brouhaha, and yet, like it or not, I must confront it head-on, just to “survive,” if not to claim back my equilibrium that has long been destroyed and so difficult to take back.

Two years have passed, and though my heart, head and hands long to go back to take on writing, all I can muster each and every day is do mundane tasks as household chores, pretending that I am “okay” so far.  I have wanted to believe that nothing’s changed, that I am doing “well,” but deep inside, I am far from my true self.  I admit, I hated every moment that a blank wall stares at me each time I attempt at writing my “usual” stuff.

Because it’s just hard, blanko lang talaga.

Nothing can really appease that unexpressed emotion just lurking there somewhere at the back of my head. As if I could not find anything to hold on to as I seem to be falling off a bottomless pit in my mind, and yet, out there in the sun, everything seems so painfully “normal”…

Lies. Maneuverings. Paulit-ulit na bumabalik sa akin yong mga excuses ng mga pulis at military.

I knew since the time I learned about the dirty workings of government systems and everything that drives it, and I’ve been aware that government officials, especially the so-called authorities can easily get away with crime by using legal jargons and vague reasoning that escapes “ordinary” understanding.

“Simple” neglect of duty, as they call it, now easily excuses command responsibility and accountability, and therefore, only the small fry are made responsible, while the big, fat asses go scot-free!

But then, that’s their dirty game. It was just “bad” luck maybe that I became one among countless victims (including those undocumented ones).  Or perhaps, if we look at it another way, I was just among “fortunate” ones who came out outwardly unscathed as against thousands, maybe, who had been maimed, tortured, summarily killed or disappeared… but mentally and psychologically battered… the trauma of those hours that I was cut off from the world was too much still, even just thinking about it…

And though they may be taunting our discomfiture, big bullies that they are, we just cannot allow this transgression to continue without a fight. Yes, we may be small and insignificant against their boastful might, but when we band together and speak up, no matter if our voices may seem just mere whimpers as against their loud mouth curses and insults, we shall prevail!

We will never stop raising our protestations, joining the people’s anger against the injustices that continue to plague the smallest among our people, the ordinary farmers, workers, the indigenous peoples who are being driven out of their ancestral lands and harassed even in their sanctuaries, the small and the weak…

We shall be unwavering and steadfast, no matter if we are feeling weak… and yes, afraid.

Fear is my “daily” fare, for so many reasons, like most of us, perhaps, even if we don’t openly admit it.  Anyone who has experienced or witnessed, one way or another, the harshness and rudeness of this regime, the brutality that critics are dealt with that we learn as we go about each of our jobs/roles as journos… will always make us feel the dread and uncertainty.

But then, we have to stand for our rights, stand for what we are defending against abuse, for Press Freedom and all that Article 3, Section 4 under the Bill of Rights of our 1987 Philippine Constitution asserts, which states thus: 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, that is now being threatened by the Anti-Terror Law.

The affront against my person on June 9, 2019 was a clear attempt at harassing and intimidating what I stand for, and that is to do my profession as a journalist, who is not merely documenting but bringing the voices of those in the fringes of society, and those who have been silenced with threats and intimidation.

That flimsy excuse of saying that I was just another case of “mistaken identity” can also happen to (other) journalists in the field who are just doing their jobs.  We cannot let it happen again, perhaps in our little ways, and we must be vigilant as ever, against attempts at gagging the press like what this administration has been and is currently doing.

Thank you all for being here today…

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