September 25, 2023

(Editors’ note: The Midland Courier is reprinting the columns of the late Atty. Benedicto T. Carantes as a tribute to one of its long-time columnists. This piece was published on June 11, 2006)

Some forgettable years back, we celebrated Independence Day on July 4, the day the United States of America pompously granted us independence in 1946.
Of course, our so-called Independence was fraught with uncertainties, given the fact that Parity Rights inserted in the grant gave the Americans equal access to our natural resources, if not more so.
For one, they had the equipment and technology that placed us Filipinos at a clear disadvantage, hampered as we were by our pick-and-shovel style of mining and manual industry.

The Americans also retained large tracts of land as military bases, purportedly for defensive purposes.
More galling, all crimes committed by Americans within these bases – deemed to be U.S. territory – were not triable by Philippine courts, unless waived, which were seldom.
It is like a colored man being set free by removing his shackles, and yet not actually free because the color of his skin prevents him from exercising or enjoying the basic rights of a citizen.
The Klu Klux Klan may be a thing of the past, but discriminations still pervade many parts of the United States, and not just in the deep South.

True, freedom is never absolute, and admittedly subject to limitations, but the parameters should be defined by law, and not by the political leadership, and especially not the military.
What is subversive to Malacañang or the Armed Forces of the Philippines may not be so under our laws.
As it is, critics of government are being branded as enemies of the State, as are political foes of the powers that be.
We sometimes wish that that the lower courts would play a more active role in protecting the rights of citizens, and not be intimidated by outside factors.
Considering the strict requirements, not all lawyers or litigants can run to the appellate or Supreme Court for relief.

Remember that whatever freedom we enjoy today was what Rizal, Bonifacio, the del Pilars, the Mabinis and other Filipino heroes – many of them unsung – died for.
Speak your mind, Kabayan, feel free, be free, scream your protest, do anything short of taking up arms, if only to jolt our political leaders into action, so they may address the problems of the country with all their hearts and minds, to lead by example and not by talk and more cheap talk, and to become heroes in their own right.
Then, and only then, will we really be free.
Happy “Freedom” Day!