Following the multiple protests against the passing of the Anti-Terror Bill, it’s pretty clear that a pandemic will not stop us from expressing dissent and practicing our rights to freedom of speech. If you’re not able to attend on-ground protests, you can join email protests that have been effectively retracting some of the support for the bill. There are also other initiatives such as online protests via video conference or social media rallies. Aside from these, a group of artists is adding poetry to the list.
Named after Section 9 of Senate Bill 1083, Section 9 Poems posted an announcement on their Instagram inviting Filipino poets to create pieces in response to the “grave encroachment on our freedoms” that is the Anti-Terrorism Act of 2020. Section 9 of Senate Bill 1083 states that any person suspected to be involved with acts of terrorism through speeches, proclamations, writings, emblems, banners or other means may be imprisoned for 12 years. People are protesting against the bill because it may be abused to target dissenters through its vague definition of terrorism. Section 9 Poems aims to use poetry to amplify this opposition.
The group explained that visible dissent is essential to democracy and their project aims to mobilize creatives to express this dissent through poetry. In the current political climate, we need to express our dissent all the more to demand accountability from the government and their misplaced priorities.
Everyone is invited to submit poems in their project that “incite love, incite rage, incite hope, incite justice, incite dissent [and] incite change” as a response to the bill. All you need to do is post your pieces on social media with the hashtag #Section9Poems and send them to [email protected] before 11:59 pm on Jun. 12 so they can compile them into a folio on their social media.
The Philippines has a long tradition of protest literature that dates back to the Spanish colonial period. Among those who wrote poems and other literary works in the hopes for reform were Jose Rizal, Pedro Paterno and Marcelo H. Del Pilar. The same goes for the American colonial period when dramatists expressed their dissent against the government through plays like Tanikalang Guinto by Juan Abad and Hindi Aco Patay by Juan Matapang Cruz. The goal of local protest literature back then was to provoke protesting in dissent to the colonization of the country.
Protest literature carried on to the period of Ferdinand Marcos’ Martial Law with writers producing their work in secret like Jose Lacaba’s acrostic poem “Prometheus Unbound” that spelled out “Marcos Hitler Diktador Tuta.” Many of these poets were jailed or punished by the respective administrations for expressing their dissent, but their works supported revolutions that led to the downfall of those administrations. These literary works revealed the perspectives of writers during those times of political unrest and they continue to give us a glimpse of the country’s history in hopes that the injustices during those times would not be repeated. Protest literature remains relevant today with writers and artists using their creativity to express their dissent and remain critical to political injustice.