Jose Rizal, Mideo Cruz, Kulo and Censorship

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150 years. Did the world really change? Most times, I feel like life is spearing ahead too fast. But if you examine our history, our legacy, you may ask, did it really change?

150 years after. We celebrate Rizal’s 150th birthday with exhibits, shows, parades and many other commemorative exercises. We celebrate the hero. Yet, are we really free from the things that he was fighting for, more than a century ago?

Today, we are faced with things that I didn’t think is still possible, especially in the age of internet and new media. CENSORSHIP. Noli me Tangere and El Filibusterismo, do the Filipinos still know that these novels were censured by the Spaniards? Why? Because it was offensive to the church. Do we not remember that? Do we not remember so many of our heroes, persecuted, tortured and killed because of causing offense to the church, because they were fighting for our rights.

Why then, that after more than a century, this hard-fought battle is still ongoing. Sadly, now, it is Filipino against Filipino. Mideo Cruz strikes at our culture, at our beliefs. He makes us think, he offends. But he does not attack a person; he does not curtail anyone’s right. Yes, he offends, but it is never against the law to offend. He challenges our society, is that so wrong?

What hurts more is that the Philippine press, the very institution that should be the bastion and supporters of the freedom of expression, contributed to its curtailment. Irresponsible journalism runs amok in the country, selling even their fellow artists out for increased ratings and earnings. XXX completely misrepresented the exhibit, without any objectivity in their reporting. This was followed by other columnists and newspaper writers. Do you know your crime? Do you not honour your brothers and sisters who died fighting for just that—for the freedom of expression? Yet now, you sell us out.

The church started calling us sinners, calling to arms their supporters. Is that not a bigger problem of our society? The followers of Catholic belief, of Christianity—creating hate pages, threatening death and violence, attempting arson, vandalizing and worse demonizing Mideo Cruz and other cultural workers, yet the CBCP thinks that the art is the problem? They never even called to their people to stand down, they never asked them to be calm, and instead, they instigated this hatred and violence. Amazing, for people who say they follow one of the most peace-loving persons that ever lived, Jesus of Nazareth himself.

Expectedly, the Aquino Administration supports this. PNoy himself, called the board and let them know of his displeasure and of “concerns” over the issue on the exhibit. Democracy, yes. But if you are the President of the country, there is an obvious imbalance of power. There is a big discrepancy of the expression of my own personal opinion and the opinion of the President of the country. Is it really your democratic right? To censor? More so of our atrocious Senators. Senator Sotto threatens to use his power as Senate Majority Leader to deprive CCP of its budget. Along with Senators Enrile and Estrada, they demanded the resignation of the CCP Board. Over what? Do they not know that they are committing a Grave Abuse of Discretion? That according to the Doctrine of Prior Restraint, they are not allowed to go through with a Senatorial inquiry because it is a curtailment of the Bill of Rights?

This is not the Middle Ages, we can offend the Catholic Church, there is no incidence of Offending Religious Feelings according to the Revised Penal Code—the work was not done inside the church, no religious service was interrupted and no one was prevented from practicing their religion. No public fund was spent by Mideo Cruz, it was a Venue Grant. He exhibited inside CCP but he was given no money by the government to create his work, he was not paid to exhibit. It was simply his artistic expression. The people breaking the law are the abusive fanatics who vandalized, threatened life and property, and even the Senators and the President who are abusing their political powers in order to censor, a crime against our human rights, as stated in the 1987 Constitution’s Bill of Rights. Ironic, that a law established by the first President Aquino is being destroyed by her only son, the second President Aquino.

We Filipinos have fought long and hard, so we can attain the democracy that we have now. Yet, this democracy is being destroyed by denying us our basic human right. Even Rizal, the hero for whom the Kulo exhibit was for, died fighting for that right. People keep on missing that point, that exhibit was not about the RH Bill, it was about the struggles of Jose Rizal. We now get to experience firsthand the kind of oppression Rizal suffered from the church. What’s worse, we are suffering oppression from our fellow Filipinos rather than from foreign colonizers.

Rizal died for us, for our country; he died fighting for this freedom. He died to show us and the rest of the world our reality and suffering. Do we continue to be oppressed people? Do we continue to be ruled by an oppressive religion? What do we do now? I can my fellow Filipinos to continue fighting this struggle. It has been too long. Too many centuries we have been oppressed, it is time we break free from it. Rizal tried, but is it all in vain? Do we all in that same trap? Or do we fight?

I say no to censorship, as many others say no to censorship. Let our voices be heard. Let us not stand by and watch as our basic human right is denied us. It is not about Mideo Cruz and the Kulo exhibit anymore. It is about oppression, censorship, irresponsible journalism, misrepresentation of religious doctrine and most of all, abuse of power. We should not accept this sitting down. We should stand up and fight.

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