MY MOTHERS Day this year came and went with mixed emotions. Part of me commiserated with my friend, filmmaker Coreen Jimenez who lamented in a Facebook post: “Boycott na ‘ko sa Mother’s Day para makidalamhati sa ating Inang Bayan.” Like her, I didn’t see any reason to celebrate motherhood in the light (the darkness) of the ignominy of May 11, which saw the death of judicial independence in our country. As Human Rights Watch aptly described it: “The Philippine Supreme Court’s unprecedented and nefarious removal of Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno constitutes a frontal assault on human rights protections and democratic rule.”
On May 11, I watched the ANC coverage of the unconstitutional ouster of Sereno and endured the torture of listening to Atty. Larry Gadon be his arrogant and ill-advised self so that I could remain informed about the proceedings. It was clear that he was only mouthing a spiel and could not even cite relevant legal precedents to support his false claims. On the other hand, Atty. Joel Lacanilao, spokesperson for Sereno spoke calmly and with confidence in the rule of law, even in the face of defeat. Most importantly, I waited to listen to the speech Sereno gave to her supporters rallying outside the SC and then I watched the entirety of her press conference. I sat in awe of the strength and faith of this woman. I know she is not perfect (as none of us are), but I believe her. I want to.
I changed my Facebook profile picture into black to express my dissent. Not as dramatic as the “I Dissent” tweet of Atty. Theodore Te, spokesperson of the SC, but as important as any voice speaking up now against this unjust decision. I also added the frame saying “I Stand with CJ” for the people in the back, who may need a louder message. Yet my dissent is not based solely on the person behind the position, but on the larger issues involved. I am not a lawyer and do not have to be one to know that the quo warranto case against the chief justice was wrong and unconstitutional in the first place and should have been dismissed.
I will not belabor the points already discussed by others who are in a better position to explain why this SC decision has dealt a deathblow to our judiciary and to constitutional checks and balances. But I will say that this attack on Chief Justice Sereno is tantamount to an attack on ‘Inang Bayan’. Sereno herself said, “Ang araw na ito ay hindi tungkol sa akin… ang araw na ito ay tungkol sa ating lahat.” It is not only about her, but about each one who seeks justice in the face of impunity, whether in our personal lives or as a nation. Those of us who have ourselves been victims of persons who abused the authority of their positions cannot stand idle or be silent about this issue.
Many have perhaps forgotten that the phrase ‘Inang Bayan’ was coined by the hero Andres Bonifacio in response to the false claims of the merciless ‘Madre España’, and against whom he was calling the Filipinos to revolt. In his most famous poem, “Pagibig sa Tinubuang Bayan,” he writes, “Ay! Ito’y ang inang bayang tinubuan / siya’y ina’t tanging kinamulatan…” and adds that he will turn his back even on his own family if the country so needs him to, if “ito’y nasa sa panganib” or in danger.
Clearly, these are times in which our motherland is under threat from its own reprehensible, self-serving leaders and thus needs to be defended by her children who remain loyal to the Constitution that forms the heart of our democracy. These are times in which the phrase ‘Inang Bayan’ remains relevant, if only to remind us of what we owe to the country. And perhaps it is not a coincidence that Andres Bonifacio was betrayed and killed on May 10, 1897.
As it turns out, I didn’t boycott Mothers Day. I couldn’t. My children reminded me that it is not all darkness and despair; as a mother, I must continue to focus on the light I myself exude as I fight for their future. Sereno’s daughter Mia put it so succinctly in her own tribute to her mother: “Such clarity was possible only because she knows the law so completely; because she holds the Constitution paramount as the will of the people; because she is unafraid…The only question to be asked is: what is the right thing to do?…And that is all that matters.”
I’d like to believe that. If each of us did the right thing, individually and together, we can play our part in saving Inang Bayan from those who betray her for their personal gains.