Issue of July 8, 2018
Mt. Province

70th Courier Anniversary Issue
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Freedom of expression

President Rodrigo Duterte’s remarks about God being stupid disgusted many Filipinos, myself included. I reacted negatively the moment I saw the news and especially when I heard his daughter and his staff members defending him, claiming that he is covered by the freedom of speech.

Freedom of speech is the concept of the inherent human right to voice one’s opinion publicly without fear of censorship or punishment. Speech is not limited to public speaking and is generally taken to include other forms of expression. Wikipedia said this right is preserved in the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights and is granted formal recognition by laws of most nations.

In the Philippines, Section 4, Article 3 of the Bill of Rights, which states that 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 grievance.

Yes, Duterte is a Filipino citizen who has the right to enjoy the freedom of speech, but hey, he is also the President of the country! He is not an ordinary citizen. People look up to him as the father of this country. As a father, many see him as a role model. I’m afraid that those who idolize him might imitate his attitude towards the Church and God.

The Social Learning Theory by Albert Bandura states that people learn through observing others’ behaviors, attitudes, and the outcomes of those behaviors. Most human behavior is learned through modeling: from observing others, one forms an idea of how new behavior is performed, and on later occasions this coded information serves as a guide for action.

When teachers curse or say bad words in a classroom, it becomes a big issue. Parents will complain. The act will be sensationalized. People will say teachers are bad influence to students because they see them as models.

Hence, if Filipinos look up to President Duterte as a role model, it is not impossible that many of them would imitate him. He is also a bad influence to children. It’s good if they only imitate his good qualities, but what if they will also imitate his foul mouth? I’m afraid, most especially for the young ones, that they might think that cursing is okay. What kind of citizens are we raising now?


What makes us human beings

The birth of a person gives him four essential qualities as indications of being a human. These are intellect, free-will, conscience, and dignity.

A person, even with physical deformities, is still called a human being he still possesses these four innate qualities. Physical deformity does not make a person less human. People who were born with intellectual and psychological defects may not learn how to use these qualities or gifts but whether they use them or not, they still have them. It does not matter how they use it because what matters is the possession and not the usage.

The birth of a person completes his status as a human being. Poverty does not reduce the dignity of a person. His bad attitude does not limit his capacity to think and decide. Every person has freedom and conscience. A person who is in prison holds the same dignity as the others that is why he should be treated well. According to St. Thomas Aquinas, as explained by educator Jove Jim Aguas, a person differs from a thing in structure and in the degree of perfection. To the structure of the person belongs an “inner” in which we find the elements of spiritual life and it is this that compels us to acknowledge the spiritual nature of the human soul and the peculiar perfectibility of the human person.

The human being is a creation of God. This explains the human being as a dignified creation because of the special manner he was created. He or she was created because of love and it is fitting to understand that every human being deserves to be loved. From this notion of creation, human being begets the dignity of humankind. The gifts of intellect and free will also give human beings freedom to direct their lives.

The book “Gaudium et Spes,” authored by Pope John Paul II, quoting the Scriptures, stresses that man was created “in the image of God” and that he is capable of knowing and loving his Creator. He was appointed by God to be the master of all earthly creatures; was made little less than the angels and crowned him with glory and honor. Indeed, man is in a privileged position among God’s creatures in the world for he alone is gifted with spirit, intellect, and will.

The person is a spiritual being, a being having rational, intellective soul, and essence. Hence the person and the spiritual being mean ontologically the same. The degree and kind of personality of a person correspond to the spirituality of a spiritual being. This means that the human person and the human spiritual being also mean ontologically one and the same thing. In the hierarchy of beings, man is the lowest person, the lowest spiritual being, according to Aguas.

It is important to understand the concept of a human being because this view greatly affects how we treat others. We grow in a society which weighs the worth of a human being based on social and economic status. Rich people often enjoy high regard from society while poor ones are marginalized. Oftentimes, people give respect to the rich without question while many look down on the poor. Most Filipinos put high value on economic status and this is often viewed as a requirement to be respected or listened to. But as pointed out, the capacity of a person as a human being does not need anything, not even richness, or intellectual superiority.

A person, regardless of social or economic status in life, is a human being. He does not need to be rich or to get educated before he can earn the respect of others because his status as a person is enough for him to be treated with dignity. This means all people are equal and they have rights to be respected. If we can understand the concept of a human being, there would be fewer abuses of human rights.

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