Sunday, September 29, 2013

Let's (Not) Get Physical

The issue of participation by foreigners in local politics has recently received attention in the media.  publicity.  According to the Philippine Daily Inquirer, such involvement by non-Filipinos is illegal, at least when it comes to elections for public office. Yet, as the Inquirer has noted, the Bureau of Immigration has applied this ban to include all political demonstrations as well.and went so far as arresting and deporting two aliens for joining  a protest criticizing President Aquino's State of the Nation address. 

Is should be noted that the Philippines is a constitutional democracy, and freedom of speech is a protected right. According to the" Inquirer" this right should extend to foreigners in the Philippines to the same degree as it does to Filipino citizens, as long as the former are not fomenting violence or civil unrest.

But even if the law were clarified to permit non-Filipinos to participate in  overt nonviolent displays of political and social activism, in my mind there is another matter to be considered: delicadeza i.e. a sense of propriety. As a non-citizen (although a permanent resident) in the Philippines, I still consider myself a "guest" in this country. And as such, is it proper for me to get into my host's  face by physically inserting myself in, say, by joining in an anti-governement march, even if I have a stake in the issue that's being contested?

And yet, as a foreigner the posts that I write in this blog are often critical of Philippine customs, culture, and society.  Isn't that just as rude and confrontational as physically participating in  a rally?  I think that there may be some differences. For one thing, in blogging, I'm not part of a gathering  that may be peaceful in its intent but somehow is goaded into violence. Further, my protests are passive.  Those who want to read my posts  must come to my site and read my work. Importantly, if they disagree with what I've written, they can  enter comments, including corrections to any errors I might have made. Unlike in a  demonstration, there's no chance my words will be disruptive or will inconvenience anyone.  On the other hand, you can't as easily argue with someone waving a placard and shouting slogans and / or who may be blocking traffic.

Another thing is that foreign demonstrators, especially tourists and other short-timers here, may be going off half-cocked because they've not bothered  to fully inform themselves about the matter that they're protesting.  Also, if the demonstration turns into a clash with law enforcement they may get injured or arrested..  In the event of the latter, they may think that their embassy will come to their rescue and bail them out (this is especially the case with Americans). That's not going to happen. Aliens who are taken into custody are subject to the laws and legal system of the Philippines just like anyone else here.

Ultimately, of course, it's up to the individual non-citizen here to determine the kind of involvement in which  (s)he will engage regarding local issues about which (s)he feels deeply. And perhaps the law should be amended to remove any ambiguities that stand in the way of foreigners involving themselves in marches and rallies, although as I've emphasized, personally such activity is not my cup of tea. However, until such time, I would urge such would-be protesters to ask themselves how they feel about foreigners demonstrating in their own countries (think illegals in the U.S. who take to the streets  waving flags of their country of origin and  making demands for rights to which they aren't even entitled in the first place), then decide on your course of action.

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