Roy Tang

Programmer, engineer, scientist, critic, gamer, dreamer, and kid-at-heart.

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According to Wikipedia, Speaking truth to power is a non-violent political tactic, employed by dissidents against the received wisdom or propaganda of governments they regard as oppressive, authoritarian or an ideocracy. I always had the general sense of it before, but not that it was specifically for use against oppressive or authoritarian governments. It is believed the phrase has origins in a Quaker pamphlet published in 1955.

I was reminded of this phrase today and looked it up because it seems relevant again recently, at least in the Philippines. Recently Maria Ressa, the head of the online news site Rappler, was arrested at dusk (so no bail could be set), on charges of cyberlibel, for an online article published before cyberlibel became a crime. Ostensibly, the state’s rationale is that there was a minor edit to the article after the cyberlibel law was passed.

I’m struggling to think of any instance where a state authority arrested journalists without the intent to silence criticism. I’m not saying there aren’t any - there probably are - but probably such instances don’t get much publicity precisely because they are normal functions of the state. For this instance, it feels very much as just the next step in targetted harassment against those who, as they say, speak truth to power. I remember one of the pork barrel senators saying during the launch of his senatorial campaign that he was the victim of “selective justice” (which is weird because it still implies he was guilty, just that other people were guilty too). I’m hoping in some interview someone has the balls to ask the senatorial candidates whether they think Trillianes or Ressa have been victims of “selective justice”.

Pro-admin partisans of course will just say “rule of law” etc, which they like to do when someone they dislike is being targetted, but not when say, suspected criminals are killed by vigilantes or under suspicious circumstances by the police. Most probably in their heart of hearts they know exactly what is going on here, and they either approve of it wholeheartedly or view it as a necessary compromise in their pursuit of what they believe to be good for the country.

I’ve tried to avoid being too political in this blog, maybe sticking with the occasional rant or election-related personal leanings post. But with the climate these days, I’m not sure that’s resposible. Those of us who are able to speak out on our platforms, no matter how small, don’t we have a responsibility to speak truth to power?

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roytang.net is a personal site; I post about a random assortment of topics that interest me including software development, Magic the Gathering, pop culture, gaming, and tech life. This site is perpetually under renovation.