Divorce decree

Philippine Daily Inquirer

CONGRESS is about to decree something that will divorce Filipinos from all the generations that came before them. Acting on a proposal from Sen. Richard Gordon, a bicameral conference committee is working out the final details of a change in the flag: adding a ninth ray to the sun. Gordon claims the addition, to represent the Bangsamoro, will pay tribute to their centuries-old fight for freedom. Congress, which has been unable to adequately address the causes of rebellion in Mindanao, seems inclined to agree that this change will somehow pacify separatist sentiments.

We believe that once Congress passes the amendment to the Flag and Heraldry Code adding a ninth ray to the sun, further divisions, a great nationwide controversy, will take place. This will not assuage Moros who want a substantive recognition of their culture and aspirations; it will not foster unity but provoke division; and it will be financially costly to an extent that will further alienate Congress from the electorate it claims not only to serve, but to represent.

Our founding generation—the generation that dreamed of, and strove for, a united and independent country—in its wisdom designed a flag that paid tribute to the cause of national liberation and independence in its particular and general aspects.

Our proclamation of independence on June 12 couldn’t be more categorical about this: “The three stars, signifying the three principal Islands of this Archipelago—Luzon, Mindanao and Panay where this revolutionary movement started; the sun representing the gigantic steps made by the sons of the country along the path of Progress and Civilization; the eight rays, signifying the eight provinces—Manila, Cavite, Bulacan, Pampanga, Nueva Ecija, Bataan, Laguna and Batangas—which declared themselves in a state of war as soon as the first revolt was initiated.”

Our Constitution, echoing the 1935 and 1973 charters, simply states the flag is red, white and blue, with a sun and three stars, as consecrated and honored by the people and established by law. It further says the flag, our anthem and the national coat of arms can only be changed by means of a plebiscite. Which is only fair, for the flag has been consecrated by generations; it must be by means of a national consensus that it should be changed. When Ferdinand Marcos decreed a change just to the colors of the flag, the country refused to abide by it. Gordon is provoking a national movement to resist changing our flag by mere politicians.

From Bonifacio in 1896 to the Kawit proclamation in 1898, the heroes and patriots who dreamed of a nation taking its rightful place in the community of nations all paid homage and tribute to the fight against foreign colonization that began in earlier times: the Muslim heroes Gordon claims as the justification for the ninth ray were all there, honored in Bonifacio’s manifestos and in the proclamation of independence. All—Moros, Lumads, Aetas, Ilongots, Cordillera Peoples, Ilocanos, Tagalogs, Kapampangans, Cebuanos, Ilongos, Spanish and Chinese mestizos—are represented in the three stars.

The addition of a ninth ray brings up the question of other rays as the general becomes bogged down in contesting claims for the particular honor of a ray in the sun, when the founding generation had sought—successfully, for over a century—to be inclusive. We should be wary of the kind of historical revisionism that operates from ignorance, or to be precise, that is more egotism on the part of politicians pandering to voters rather than in working to achieve a national desire. For who, beyond Gordon, has been dissatisfied with our flag?

The catalogue of things that will have to be replaced, from flags themselves, to every government form ranging from passports to documentary and revenue stamps, to official seals, logos, identifications, departmental and embassy signage featuring the coat-of-arms of the republic, to military insignia, decals, flags, unit patches, the presidential seal and our government’s awards: everything and anything that features the eight-rayed sun of our history and national identity, will have to be replaced, and immediately, for they would be immediately unlawful the moment this law is passed.

It’s not the politicians who are asked to die, if necessary, for the flag. It is the people. And the people love their flag the way it is now


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