What is patriotism?

Everybody’s got to believe in something. I believe I’ll have another beer. – W.C. Fields

Last November Bacolod City’s lone representative, Cong. Anthony Golez, filed House Bill 6689 — “An Act Strengthening National Pride by Mandating the Playing of the National Anthem Three Times a Day in All Malls, Commercial Centers, and Government Offices.”

Golez, explaining his bill to a Bacolod newspaper, intoned, “I believe that playing the Lupang Hinirang in prominent public places will make Filipinos more nationalistic, more sympathetic to the plight of less fortunate Filipinos and more participative in activities that concern our nation. Playing the Lupang Hinirang three times a day in public places can be considered as equivalent to saying I love you, Philippines!” Don’t laugh. Golez is serious.

His bill says the National Anthem must be played “loudly and clearly” three times a day everyday–at 10 AM, 1 PM, and 4 PM–in “the premises of their offices” in the Office of the President, the Senate of the Philippines, the House of Representatives, and the Supreme Court; “within the premises” of all government offices the President shall designate; and “within the corridors and hallways” of all malls and commercial centers when they are open.

Furthermore, all persons inside the above locations “shall be required to stand still, listen, and stop what they are doing every time the Lupang Hinirang is being played.” Violators will be punished.

“All heads of government offices or the division of a particular government office, tasked with making sure that the provisions of this Act shall be properly implemented, shall be charged with serious neglect for non-compliance with the requirements of this Act and shall be removed from office with forfeiture of all retirement and separation benefits.”

“Owners of malls and commercial centers” will be fined P25,000 pesos every time they fail to play the anthem at the designated hours and “all persons” inside the malls and commercial centers who do not “stand still, listen, and stop what they are doing every time the Lupang Hinirang is being played” will be imprisoned for one month and fined P1000 Pesos. I know what you are thinking but don’t do it. Slashing your wrists will leave a mess that you won’t be able to clean up afterwards.

Golez filed his bill while Congress was preoccupied with the Rproductive Health (RH) and Sin Tax bills. It escaped my attention until a few days ago when some Congress members issued a call to declare pop star Justin Bieber persona non grata for making fun of Rep. Manny Pacquiao’s knock-out courtesy of Mexican fighter Juan Manuel Marquez.

Why ban Bieber? “Banning him will show how seriously we take our national pride,” declared Yacap party-list Rep. Mary Jane Lopez, the congresswomen leading the Batasan’s patriotic charge on Bieber.

Chauvinism is not new to politicians. Several years ago, the City of Manila declared Oscar-awarded actress Claire Danes persona non grata and banned all her movies from being shown in the city after she described Manila as a “ghastly and weird city” that “smelled of cockroaches, with rats all over.”

Danes later apologized for her observation by putting it in context, ”Because of the subject matter of our film Brokedown Palace, the cast was exposed to the darker and more impoverished places of Manila. My comments in Premiere magazine only reflect those locations, not my attitude towards the Filipino people. They were nothing but warm, friendly, and supportive.”

But her apology was not accepted. Councilor Kim Atienza, who sponsored the resolution against Danes, said it was “an excuse made by Hollywood press officers and not a genuine apology. We are not hard to appease, but we know if an apology is true or not. We will lift the ban only if we are satisfied.”

Danes also raised the patriotic hackle of former president Joseph Estrada, “Her remarks were uncalled for. She should not be allowed to come here. She should not even be allowed to set foot in the country.” As a senator, Estrada showed his patriotism by voting against the US bases but he tempered it after he became president and championed the Visiting Forces Agreement and finally forgot all about it when he committed plunder, a crime for which he earned both a life sentence from the Sandigan Bayan and a presidential pardon from Gloria Arroyo.

Patriotism is not the chauvinism espoused by Rep. Lopez and her colleagues and it is not “liberating” your fellow countrymen from foreign “occupation”, only to rob them afterwards. It is certainly not something to be indoctrinated through music as Rep. Golez believes. Patriotism is so simple and straightforward that it was summed up in one sentence by the late syndicated columnist Bill Vaughn, “A real patriot is the fellow who gets a parking ticket and rejoices that the system works.”

Buencamino is a fellow of Action for Economic Reforms (www.aer.ph).

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