The unbreakable alliance between freedom, human rights and science – The Manila Times

I WAS recently invited to speak in the boot camps of The Filipino Patriot Scholars Project of the Department of Science and Technology Science Education Institute. At first, I was surprised by this because I felt, like many others, what would a history talk be doing in a science boot camp?
But Dr. Josette Biyo, the director of the institute who is an award-winning educator after whom a planet, 13241 Biyo, is named, told me that to solve the problem of the brain drain of our scholars going out of the country never to return, she wanted to inspire them to remain in the country to serve it by infusing patriotism in the program, hence, my history lecture. She started The Filipino Patriot Scholars Project about five years ago in 2017, and their data show that avoidance of the contract to serve in the country after graduation has lessened, and many of those who left are finally coming back through the Balik Scientist Program.
I was assigned to talk about “The Rights and Responsibilities of Young People in Philippine History.” I explained that contrary to the popular notion that Filipinos do not have their own concept of human rights, I pointed out that it can be found in our ancestors' concept of the “kapwa” — seeing the self in the other. That the basis of forming the political order, “bayan,” is the sanduguan (blood compact) of the datus, the symbolic kapatiran or brotherhood (and sisterhood!) of all therein. Hence, for us, human rights are the things we do to protect the kaginhawahan or well-being of our kapwa. Because when we protect the rights of the individual, or think of our fellow's well-being, we protect human lives altogether. When we take away the ginhawa of a person, like how our colonizer tortured freedom fighters, that is a human rights violation. The Katipunan of Andres Bonifacio encapsulated it in his writings when he said love of mother country is love of fellow men (and women!).

Emilio Jacinto Photo/Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas

Emilio Jacinto Photo/Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas

Lean Alejandro Photo/Jaime Zobel de Ayala PHOTOS FROM THE ARCHIVE OF MICHAEL CHUA

Lean Alejandro Photo/Jaime Zobel de Ayala PHOTOS FROM THE ARCHIVE OF MICHAEL CHUA

Talking about the role of science and technology in society, I went back to the Enlightenment in Europe, which was such an influential period that it caused not just political revolutions but scientific revolutions in the world. In the 1700s, people began to think of their absolute monarchs and the reason for having an entitled aristocratic class just by birth, which was assumed as coming from their divine right or anointing from God. Using reason, they perhaps thought, “How do we really prove that?” And since they could not, the concept of the equality of man was born. The Enlightenment privileged science over religion and reason over superstition in solving the problems of man. With liberalism (from the word “libera” which means free) and equality comes freedom of thought, hence the advancement of scientific thought.
And the result of scientific thought is technological advancement, whose result is that has an easier, more effective way of life, hence, kaginhawahan.
No wonder then that the league of young heroes of the Propaganda Movement were also scientists and lawyers like the pharmacist and chemist Antonio Luna, the general of the revolution, or the ophthalmologist José Rizal, our national hero. They were called “ilustrados,” believers of the ilustracion or the enlightenment.
Even the Katipunan firebrand Gen. Emilio Jacinto said in one of his erudite expositions in the newspaper Kalayaan: “And from [freedom] springs the thinking that probes and discovers the secrets of science.”
Student leader Lean Alejandro, whose 35th death anniversary it was yesterday, said that a freedom fighter should be a well-rounded person. “[An activist] must know how to compute the distance of the stars, how to differentiate a fish from a shark,” he said.
The unbreakable alliance of freedom and science is clear, true freedom produces scientific thought and from it, technology will make life better. Dissent and activism should not be seen as a way of bringing down the government, but as an avenue to make a stronger government that addresses the needs of the people in providing a better life for them using reasonable and scientific solutions. The whole point of freedom, science and technology, and being a Filipino scientist is to produce “kaginhawahan” for all.
That is why a lot of those who struggled to fight the suppression of dissent, freedom of speech and thought, and the ill effects of martial law, which was proclaimed 50 years ago, on Sept. 23, 1972, were students and young people. That we lost many of them was lamentable for they could have contributed more to a better country. Their heroism was not gossip. What happened to them was not mere intrigue. It is history and historical fact. And so, in a time when many want us to forget, to remember is to love your country, to commemorate is an act of personal heroism. We remember not out of hatred, but out of love.

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