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tonyo cruz e1508233167982 228x300 - Parents and activists unite in 2020
Tonyo Cruz

Who wouldn’t sympathize with parents Francis and Relissa Lucena who went to the Supreme Court to beg that their daughter Alicia Jasper (AJ) Lucena, a full-time activist, be returned to them?

As far as I know, this was the first such case that parents of an activist went to court for that objective.

But in its ruling, the court dismissed the petition for the writ of habeas corpus (to produce Alicia before the court) for lack of merit and the amparo (to protect her from the threat of extrajudicial killing) for being improper.

“There is not much issue that AJ’s situation does not qualify either as an actual or threatened enforced disappearance or extralegal killing. AJ is not missing. Her whereabouts are determinable. By all accounts, she is staying with the Anakbayan and its officers which, at least insofar as AJ’s case is concerned, are not agents or organizations acting on behalf of the State. Indeed, against these facts, petitioners’ invocation of the remedy of cannot pass,” the court ruled.

The court said “it did not at all appear that AJ had been deprived of her liberty or that petitioners had been excluded from their rightful custody over the person of AJ.”

As she has already attained the age of majority,  AJ – at least in the eyes of the State – has earned the right to make independent choices with respect to the places where she wants to stay, as well as to the persons whose company she wants to keep. Such choices, so long as they do not violate any law or any other persons’ rights, have to be respected and let alone, lest we trample upon AJ’s  personal liberty, the very freedom supposed to be protected by the writs of amparo and habeas corpus. While we understand that petitioners may feel distressed over AJ’s decision to leave their home and stay with the Anakbayan, their recourse unfortunately does not lie with the Court through the instant petition. The writs of amparo and habeas corpus were never meant to temper the brashness of youth.

Mr. and Mrs. Lucena, together with the Philippine National Police, also filed charges of kidnapping against Anakbayan, Kabataan Rep. Sarah Elago, former Bayan Muna Rep. Neri Colmenares, Communist Party of the Philippines founder Jose Maria Sison, and several other activists.

In its ruling dismissing the kidnapping case, the Department of Justice said “there is also no evidence presented showing that Anakbayan is the recruiting arm of or somehow connected to the CPP-NPA-NDF.”

The parents and the PNP “failed to prove that Anakbayan is an armed force or that the members thereof used children to participate in hostilities.”

Like the court, the DOJ ruled that AJ was not being held against her will.

One finding of the DOJ, which was noticeably absent in the court ruling, could unlock the mystery in the minds of Mr. and Mrs. Lucena and to make them understand and appreciate what AJ and other activists had done or chosen to do.

It is this: “As it appears in the evidence presented, Anakbayan is just a comprehensive national mass organization of the Filipino youth that is advocating for jobs, land reform, education, rights, and justice.”

Who are the parents who wouldn’t be proud of a son or daughter advocating jobs, land reform, education, rights, and justice? What kind of society dissuades or makes it appear that youth are merely “indoctrinated” into doing the right thing?

There are hundreds of thousands, perhaps millions, of parents of young (and once young) activists, but it is really rare that they go to court to settle their differences with their sons and daughters. The best possible outcome, as far as history shows, is when parents try to understand and respect the choices made by their sons and daughters, treat them as adults, and take seriously the causes they take on.

Looking back, the trouble for Mr. and Mrs. Lucena did not start with AJ deciding to be a full-time activist. Considering the findings and rulings of the court and the DOJ, the problem started when the parents wittingly or unwittingly allowed themselves to be used by the police and the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict as tools to promote their beliefs about activists and activism.

The ideas that activists are bad, that they were merely forced into the movement, that they are held against their will, and that they are communist rebels, are not part of any parent’s unwritten manual. These ideas are promoted and were put in their heads by agencies such as the PNP and the NTF-ECLAC. Sadly for the Lucena couple, they ended up losing the cases in the court and the DOJ, while the PNP and the NTF-ECLAC found for themselves propaganda tools against activists.

In 1971, the historian Renato Constantino wrote a compelling essay titled “Parents and Activists” as the country faced an explosive political situation, with the youth leading calls for a political revolution.

Constantino wrote: “A reversal of traditional roles seems to be occurring. Traditionally the young were expected to be self-centered, intent only on pleasure, to a great degree socially irresponsible. The old saw themselves as the guardians of the society, the people who worked and sacrificed, the planners and makers of a world they would be proud to leave to their children. Today, it seems as if it is the old who are more guilty of social irresponsibility and the young who have taken it upon themselves to plan and sacrifice for a better world for themselves and for the future.” “The least the parents can do is to listen to the young, ask questions, read what they read, examine their values.”

With the situation we face today, parents should appreciate if the youth, who they bring up and ask to focus on studies, study our country’s ills, find solutions and fully engage in addressing those ills. Activists meanwhile must consider their parents as part of the public they hope to enlighten, seek to serve, and mobilize towards the common national enemy. Amid all these, one would understand how families could be needlessly torn and whose interests are ultimately served by hysterical red-tagging.

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