Unveiling the Filipino Liberal
By Marlowe C. Selecios
Our predominantly conservative society undeniably looks with suspicious
eyes on the Filipino liberal. Driven by his unusual zeal for individual
liberty and social equality, the liberal is typecast as an activist,
rarely appreciated and often misunderstood. The liberalís excesses
are frequently magnified and highlighted, while his virtues, which
are aplenty, understated. His pronounced impatience with the status
quo is seen as rebelliousness. His self-confidence is mistaken for
But the Filipino liberal is impatient without being rebellious.
True, he is dissatisfied with the socio-economic condition of the
nation. He is appalled by the seeming helplessness of the masses
debilitated and sickened by grinding poverty. He too senses the
growing discontent of the people and is angered and shamed by the
endless corruption in government. But unlike many conservatives
who preach understanding and even tolerance, the Filipino liberal
demands change and action. He does not call for arms like the radicals.
He calls for genuine reforms. He does not espouse violent revolution
as a solution. But he preaches a revolution of individual attitudes.
This relentless and penetrating quest for solutions and alternatives
is a hallmark of every liberal. Like Dr. Jose Rizal before him,
the Filipino liberal courageously presents societyís problems, asks
the difficult questions, and proposes bold solutions. Courage is
his most cherished virtue. Often alone in a society resistant to
change, the liberal always finds the audacity to speak his mind.
Sometimes people heed his call. At other times, however, people
call for his crucifixion.
Rizal himself drew inspiration from the great liberal movements
of Europe. Harassed by an abusive government and horrified by the
great inequalities of his society, Rizal pressed for meaningful
reforms. Realizing strength in numbers, Rizal worked with the other
Filipino intellectuals who, like him, were stirred and awakened
by the fiery and brilliant writings of Voltaire, Montesquieu and
Rousseau, and thus began perhaps the greatest liberal struggle in
Philippine history. Rizal was of course crucified for his beliefs.
But the liberal ideals of individual liberty, equality of opportunity,
and limited government found a new birth and home in Filipino soil.
The Filipino liberal is an eternal optimist. While others consider
this trait a weakness the liberal sees it as his strength. As an
optimist, he believes that life is preponderantly good. Sure, he
sees evil everywhere and among the greatest of them are corruption
and poverty. He acknowledges the successive failures of Philippine
governments in fully addressing them. But he believes that every
new Filipino generation provides a hope and a promise of a more
spirited and gallant struggle. While some people see the government
as an enemy, in this historic and defining battle the liberal regards
it as an ally.
An efficient government run by honest and progressive leaders can
become a vital cog for action that could energize society in the
fight against poverty and corruption. This is a core belief of the
Filipino liberal and thus completely distinguishes him from the
radicals who advocate an overthrow. Liberals are wary of revolutions
which almost always lead to tyranny or a slip in to anarchy. In
effecting meaningful reforms, the liberal believes in working within
not outside the system. Like Ninoy Aquino, Jovito Salonga, and Gerry
Roxas, leading lights during the dark days of martial rule, the
true liberal always acts within the parameters of the law no matter
how great the temptation to do otherwise. He neither espouses nor
welcomes violence. He may be an outspoken critic, a bearer of new
ideas, a bold advocate but never a rebel.
The liberal relishes lively discourses and intellectual debates.
He is happiest when discussing and deliberating new policies and
proposals. Free speech is the most esteemed of freedoms. The pen
is his most powerful weapon. He believes that an open society, where
there is a free exchange of ideas, stimulate people to think boldly
and creatively. Thus an integral part of the liberal advocacy is
the full flowering of the Filipinoís civil and political rights.
Consequently, the Filipino liberal is most effective when he is
Perhaps the greatest misconception is the assertion that one cannot
be at once liberal and a Christian. This is unfortunate for religious
freedom and tolerance is one fruit of many a libertarian struggle.
Liberalism and Christianity are not opposing philosophies. Thus
it is not anomalous for liberals to profess and advocate the Christian
virtues of honesty, humility, charity and prayerfulness. Liberals
find strength and solace in their faith. It is therefore not surprising
to find that the most courageous of Filipino liberals are also often
the most deeply religious. But the liberal also believes that each
man must be free to worship his own God, if he chooses to worship
Ultimately, however, the liberal is measured by the effectiveness
of his response to corruption and poverty, the twin evils of Philippine
society. The people are increasingly becoming restless. A social
volcano is heating up. The Filipino liberal must once again prove
that he is up to this mounting generational challenge. Already his
voice can be heard in the streets, in the universities and in the
halls of Congress calling for genuine political and social reforms.
His cries for a more sustainable economic policy and a stricter
anti-corruption strategy are beginning to stir and energize the
indifferent. His agenda is varied and comprehensive stretching from
education reforms and environmental protection to land redistribution
and population control. But so much more still needs to be done.
His calls at times fall on deaf ears but his voice remains true
and powerful. Some people remain doubtful of his motives. But he
remains steadfast, confident and unafraid. For he is a liberal and,
like his forebears, he will succeed!