Imagine this: it’s raining just when you’re on your way to work and you forgot your umbrella at home; your battery is down to 10% and your UberPool is lost (again, because the driver clearly has trouble reading a map); you receive a barrage of emails from your boss, your boss’s boss, and your landlady; oh, and the creepy guy from IT is still skulking around the corridor near the toilets. You’re so hungry you end up getting a fried chicken and rice from Mini Stop even before your lunch break, and they forgot to pack the gravy. You’re having a bad, terrible, no-good day, and you just want to clock out at exactly five o’clock and head to happy hour and karaoke with your best friends.
But before you start complaining on Twitter about the traffic and the troubles of having slow Internet connection and not enough cash for a caramel frappe, think about it: you’re alive at a point in human history where things aren’t as bad as they seem. Sure, the news cycle tends to send everyone into a tizzy, and sometimes it seems that there’s nothing but endless violence and stupidity on your smartphone screen. But we live in an age where violence towards human beings have declined significantly. As psychologist Steven Pinker reminds us, “The decline of violent behavior has been paralleled by a decline in attitudes that tolerate or glorify violence, and often the attitudes are in the lead.” So here are 8 civil liberties that were fought for – and in many instances, people had died for – so that we can all live in a better, more peaceful world.
The right to an eight-hour work day
One of the very first rallies in the Philippines happened on May 1, 1903, and called for workers’ rights – including the eight-hour working day. Over 100,000 people attended, because let’s face it, without this right, you’d probably be worked to the bone by companies who are only looking for a profit.
The right to a weekend
It’s hard to believe, but there was once a point in time when Saturdays and Sundays weren’t considered rest days, but simply work days like the rest of the week (especially if you weren’t Jewish or Catholic, where the Sabbath was celebrated as a day of rest). Aside from workers’ rallies fighting for the eight-hour work day, they also fought for the right to a weekend. And if you had to work on weekends or holidays, you would be entitled to overtime pay. In fact, the recently enacted El Khomri law in France has made it illegal to send work emails outside of office hours. So the next time your boss asks you to come in during the weekend, feel free to say no.
The right to worship
The right to worship is something guaranteed by the Philippine Constitution, in many forms, since the establishment of the Philippine state. As early as the Commonwealth era, the Philippine Organic Act of 1902 declared that “the free exercise and enjoyment of religious profession and worship, without discrimination or preference, shall forever be allowed.” This is echoed currently in Article II of the 1987 Constitution, which declares the separation of Church and State. So if you want to believe in the Flying Spaghetti Monster, then go right ahead. We’ve got your back.
The right to vote
Though the declaration of independence from American colonial rule was only achieved in 1946, Filipinos had been given the right to vote during local and national elections as early as 1901. However, women were only given the right to suffrage in 1937, largely thanks to the efforts of early feminists such as Pura Villanueva Kalaw, Conception Felix Rodriguez, and the members of the Association Feminista Filipino. The group was established in 1905, and fought for Filipina women’s rights to own property, be educated competently, and cast a vote.
The right to privacy
You know the annoying spam text messages you get on your phone sometimes? That’s actually going against the Data Privacy Act of 2012, which says that you need to give consent before someone uses your information to communicate with you. Your phone number, email address, and social media information is yours alone, and you need to give permission before anyone can contact you using these channels. You can even file a complaint at privacy.gov.ph if you think someone’s gone a step too far.
The right to free speech
Now this is a bit of a sticky scenario: under Article III of the 1987 Philippine Constitution, you have the freedom to say what you want to say, to express yourself, and access to media. However, this has been problematic, especially under the Revised Penal Code, which rules that libel and slander are criminal activities. Furthermore, the Cybercrime Prevention Act of 2012 makes online comments subject to the same libel laws. Though the Cybercrime Prevention Act is currently suspended by the Supreme Court, it’s still best to always think before you tweet. (And check your sources!)
The right to fair and equal representation
As the 1987 Philippine Constitution notes, in Article III’s Bill of Rights, “No person shall be held to answer for a criminal offense without due process of law.” This is why the writ of habeas corpus is very important – it requires that the arresting agency provide a valid reason for holding someone in jail.
The right to protest
The Philippines has a long and proud history of non-violent protests – stretching all the way back to the 1890s and the publication of La Solidaridad and Rizal’s two novels, Noli Me Tangere and El Filibusterismo until the 1986 EDSA Revolution and the 2001 EDSA Dos Revolution, up until the latest protest movements, across all sectors of civil society, in 2016 and 2017 – that asserts our rights as citizens of this country, and that we have the right to be heard. Before you complain about those damn protestors disrupting your daily routine, you might want to remember that it’s protests like these that actually allowed you to have a daily routine – your right to say what you think, to own things, and to have a choice in terms of participating in national conversations. You have been protected by people who protest and fight for your rights to be an individual.
What other liberties do you think we take for granted? Share with us your thoughts below!