A silent observer looking around. At times he must protect his identity with avatars and weird sounding names.
José Protasio Rizal Mercado y Alonso Realonda, or simply Jose Rizal is revered as a national hero, a truly deserving honor for many. He never fired a shot, or wielded blades like Emilio Aguinaldo, or Andres Bonifacio to incite an armed uprising. But his works awakened nationalism among Filipinos by exposing the corrupt practices of the colonial government officials and Spanish friars. Together with his fellow illustrados, they strived for equality during their stay in Spain.
Rizal’s approach to nationalism rejected violence. He favored peaceful means, and we could say that the freedom we are enjoying right now is his fitting legacy.
But then as I skimmed on the life story of our National Hero, it makes me wonder if Rizal would receive the same honor if he lived today. The question came in the back of my mind based on the current situation in the Philippines. But more importantly, how would he react if he meets the president of the Philippines. By the time this article is written, Philippines is headed by President Rodrigo Duterte. Duterte never shied away from admiring Rizal’s heroism. The problem is Rizal won’t be too happy if he learned that the Philippines had a man like Duterte as a president.
The Battles Rizal Fought
Rizal was a member of the Propaganda Movement, which lasted from 1880 to 1886. Together with him are other known figures like Marcelo H. del Pilar and Graciano Lopez Jaena. They never aimed for complete independence, rather the Propagandists hoped for a representation of the Philippines in the Spanish parliament, secularization of the clergy, creation of public schools without the friars, abolition of labor service and forced sale of local products to the government, basic freedom and the rights for Filipino to enter government service. In short, they strived for equality between the Spanish and the Filipinos.
The ideology of the Propaganda was widely reflected in Rizal’s works, like his novels Noli Me Tangere and El Filibusterismo.
And later in 1892, Rizal formed the La Liga Filipina, a movement aiming to unite the Filipinos against injustice and violence through non-violent way. It did earned Rizal a stay in Dapitan, but members of the La Liga will soon form a more radicalized group known as the Katipunan headed by Andres Bonifacio. In some ways La Liga Filipina became a prototype of the revolutionary movement, though it never aimed for armed revolt.
We went through Rizal’s many involvements to see how he functions as a person fighting for equality. He is the man that favored education, awareness, information, and unity to sought reforms. He also preferred peaceful means over armed rebellion. It also worth knowing that his books also took swipes not only at the flaws of the Spanish Colonizers and the Catholic church, but also at his fellow Filipinos. He noted how lack of education, anti-intellectualism, hypocrisy, greed, and other forms of backward mentalities contributed to the Filipinos’ problematic society back then. With that said, Rizal will cover his face once he saw the state of the nation under the president Duterte. Yes, the Philippines achieved independence, but old problems persisted. And the president needs some explaining to do.
Rizal Will Question the War on Drugs
Rizal never favored violence. In fact, he never approved Bonifacio’s armed uprising. In his book El Filibusterismo, Rizal showed how Ibarra’s transformed persona Simoun lived by the sword and died almost by the sword. He planned a mass murder, and never cared how many innocent people will be killed when he planted that explosive lamp in a wedding party (which was thwarted by Isagani). In the end he committed suicide while being cared by a priest.
Rizal wanted to show how violence never solved anything, that it will only begets more violence. Ibarra’s persona Simoun was born out of violence, been driven to violence, and his act of violence caused his downfall.
But the president Duterte seems to be comfortable killing people. The bloody War on Drugs, though favored by the masses for some reason was criticized as glorified genocide and extrajudicial murders with less effects on the overall drug problems. And recalling how Rizal rejected violence, Duterte’s approach will surely drive him nuts. In fact, we could already hear Rizal’s outrage in a television interview over the president’s unapologetic support for state sponsored violence.
Issues on the Freedom of Expressions
Rizal died because of it. His works expressing the issues he sees on society cost him his life. And Rizal will be rolling on the ground if he saw how the nation’s leader will become the monster he once fought. Duterte’s bloody War on Drugs is a huge blot on his government’s human rights record. Not only that, the people who criticized the president seems to be suffering Rizal’s fate. The Catholic Church was mocked because of stance against the killings. Critics are known to suffer political pressures and ridicule from his online supporters. And recently a TV station was shut down for being a critic of the president.
It seems that the fate of Duterte’s critics mirrored that of Rizal’s plight, from Dapitan to Bagumbayan. Will Rizal suffer the same persecution of he is alive today? You just need to look outside for the answer.
Rizal was popular among the girls. His many colorful romances with women from different nations are always a source of fascination. Physically, Rizal was described as plain and not overly good looking. But he was talented, educated, sophisticated, and a gentleman, a trait priced by women on their handpicked sweethearts during those days, and even today.
But it will be an insult to compare Rizal’s pure and simple charm to the misogynistic advances of the president. If an online troll presents his case that Rizal is no different than the president for having many relationships, one could easily debunk such claim by stating that Rizal was never a pervert. He never harassed any women he met, and surely there is no written claim that Rizal ever uttered rape jokes. And again, one just needs to refer to his works to see how he disapproved any ill treatment of women. He never glorified the actions of the friars Padre Damaso, Pader Salvi, and Padre Camorra. And who knows, Rizal could be updating his works if he ever meets the president of the Philippines. Come to think of it, though his online trolls loved to accuse the present Catholic Church of corruptions, Duterte resembles those depraved friars even more. There could be some rifts between the Catholic Church and Rizal, but we might see Rizal turned Padre Damaso into President Damaso.
But that is another article.
There is this character from El Filibusterismo named Ben Zayb. His overall appearance, which was likened to a friar tells much about him. He is a basement dwelling journalist who writes exaggerated, biased, and inaccurate pieces to glorify Spain. In short, he spreads pro Spain propaganda. Unfortunate, the real-life Ben Zayb exist in every form and in every nation. The modern-day Philippines is not safe either, as political fanaticism just gave birth to several terrible incarnation of Ben Zayb, in the shape of Mocha Uson, Rey Joseph Nieto and the rest. Through Ben Zayb, Rizal showed how misinformation kept the public from breaking from their Spanish colonizers. And today, these fake news peddlers did a good job of dumbing down the public, so they won’t question some of the government’s mismanagements.
And the president should not expect gaining favors from Rizal if he lived. Fake news goes against Rizal’s goal of educating the masses. And the president should answer to Rizal on why he tolerated his peddlers.
The President's Troll Army
And now that we speak of fake news, there is also the president’s rabid online supporters who spread them. Going back to Rizal, his works showed us the dangers of religious fanaticism to the public.
And the president’s blind fanaticism seems to reflect the religious fundamentalism in Rizal’s novels.
I will say it again, aside from the Spanish, Catholic Church, and a certain Chinese businessman, Rizal was not afraid to portray some negative aspects of Filipino culture. Fanaticism, hypocrisy, ignorance, and anti-intellectualism (as how the people treated Pilosopo Tasyo) were emphasized to show the importance of education.
And for the self-proclaimed Duterte Diehard Supporters, they are the epitome of these toxic cultures.
People from other country described them as weirdos, and cult followers, and don’t expect Rizal to side with them anytime soon.
And how could Rizal admire a president who got a degenerated army of followers behind his back?
Getting Bullied by China
The president should explain this not just to Rizal, but to the many national heroes of the Philippines. Rizal died for equality, Bonifacio fought for independence and Aguinaldo (like him or not) managed to win it. The Philippine republic was built from the blood of the revolutionaries. They never fired shots just to see the Philippines being bullied by another oppressing nation.
And in this case, it’s China.
The president’s inaction against the abuses of China, and his willingness to work with it goes against the very ideals of the Katipunan and everything they worked for. I wonder how Rizal and the rest will react if they hear the president say he cannot fight China? Rizal became a Propagandist, established the La Liga Filipina, and wrote his famous novels as a reaction to the abuses of the colonizers. What a way to ruin his legacy by bowing down to another oppressor.
The problem with the president here is that he became the very embodiment of what Rizal saw as undesirable back in his days. Rizal’s works, Noli Me Tangere and El Filibusterism basically enumerated what Rizal thought as everything wrong with the Filipino society. It was not just an instrument for revolution, but as an awakening for the Filipino people that at some point, it is up to them to free themselves.
The public was problematic then, and unfortunately the problem persists now. Both the people and the president should answer to Rizal, and if he lived today, Rizal would have a stormy relationship with the president. Worst, Rizal might suffer the same fate in the hands of the president, seeing how critics are persecuted these days. If Rizal was killed by firing squad in Bagumbayan, then I won’t be surprised if in a parallel universe, a man named Jose Rizal was gunned down by motorcycle riding hitman after hurting the feelings of the president.