My staff recently showed to me a transcript of the Special Report in ANC’s “Mukha”, featuring my current situation, which aired last January 10.
Having lived through the events that the episode depicted, I was not expecting to be so moved by the way ANC handled the story. But, based on the transcript and prints of some of the accompanying shots, I found that ANC’s feature story was not only comprehensive but also unexpectedly moving. It gave me an opportunity to look at my situation from a different perspective, and see so many pieces fall into place.
Yes, I saw myself in the program as the subject and, as some would say, the “face of dissent” in these dark days for Philippine democracy, but I also saw that I am far from being alone in this fight.
I saw the faces of my staff, who are, day in and day out, doing their best to keep our office operational and responsive to the needs of the public we serve, which includes keeping me abreast of what is going on out in the world and what we can do about it.
But what moved me the most in particular is seeing my youngest brother, Vicboy (“Macky” to his friends and officemates), sit before a camera and share heartfelt words of support for me and my cause, and also talking about the struggles that he, my other siblings and my family are going through because I have chosen this path.
We have always considered him to be the smartest/nerdiest in the family, and the conscientious and ever-reliable kid brother. But what truly and clearly shined through in his interview for “Mukha” is his great capacity for compassion. In my absence this past year, he has taken up the torch of rallying everyone’s spirits – our family’s, friends’, supporters’ and even mine.
Taking on that burden was something he did of his own accord and initiative, simply because he saw that we all needed it and he was willing and able to provide it. And, indeed, he has done, and is continuing to do, an amazing job.
What moved me, even more, were Vicboy’s words and recollections about our father, to whom I owe everything that I am and have always aspired to be as a lawyer and a public servant. I recalled that he did warn me against running for public office when the prospect was just a remote idea years ago.
And I recall that my father’s reservations were again brought up by the family when I decided to run for Senate in 2016 – at the time, I was convinced that I was doing the right thing because becoming a lawmaker would open up a whole new avenue – a natural progression – that would allow me to promote my advocacies about justice and human rights even further.
To this day, I believe that I made the right decision. But the way the special report laid down my history – from the upbringing I received from my parents, through the parade of powerful and influential people I had to go up against in the discharge of my various public functions, and up to my calling for an investigation into the spate of EJKs arising from the “War on Drugs” – I realized that there was an inevitability to it, too.
The moment I accepted the principle that all men are equal, that it requires people of great dedication and integrity to deliver the sacrifices that public service demands – my destiny was writ. There was really no option, but to forge on and stand in defense of what I believe is right. Anything else would have been a betrayal of who I am. And I couldn’t betray myself any more than I can betray the public I serve.
So here I am. And here we all are.
I may be the one in detention, but I know I am not the only one suffering, nor the only one fighting.
Even now, I can only hope that the Filipino people will soon realize – before it’s too late – not only the truth of the reality of EJKs, but also why authoritarian rule and the violation of the rule of law and human rights are destructive to our society and antithetical to who we are as a people. I can keep fighting, but we need to stand as one if we are to succeed in preserving our freedoms, our rights, our dignity, our security and sovereignty as an independent nation.
In the coming days, weeks, months and years, I believe that we will see more “faces” with eyes wide open, and standing for these ideals.