Burning flags

IT SEEMS that the flag burning is once again back on our streets.

Last Friday, Chinese demonstrators burned paper flags of the Philippines and United States outside the Philippine Consulate in Hong Kong to express their dogged support to China’s claim over the Scarborough Shoal (to use the neutral term in lieu of Panatag Shoal or Huangyan Island).

These Chinese demonstrators could not be blamed for burning Philippine and US flags because, in their early schooling, they were taught that those contested islands belong to them, and taking them away from them is a matter of national pride and survival.

They could not be blamed also because we first started the fire.

Two weeks ago, a former policeman and Laguna mayor burned two Chinese flags in front of a building hosting China’s consulate in Makati
City to protest Chinese assertion of its territorial rights over the Scarborough Shoal.

If this would be the order of the day, then we should also burn the flags of Panama and United Arab Emirates.  Last month, Panamanian diplomat allegedly raped a 19-year old Filipina while the United Arab Emirates Ambassador was also accused of sexual harassment by his two Filipino maids. Both accused could not be sued to court due to their diplomatic immunity.

One of the first things we learn in our schools, however, is to respect and pledge our allegiance to the flag. This is so because we were taught that the flag is a symbol of a sovereign country and therefore, it symbolizes everything that that country stands for and believes in.

We have a law, Republic Act 8491, also known as Flag and Heraldic Code of the Philippines, that mandates us to accord due reverence and respect at all times to the Philippine flag, the national anthem, and other national symbols that embody the nation’s ideals and traditions.

Under pain of public censure, a jail term of one year or a fine ranging from P5,000 to P20,000, the law also strictly prohibits certain acts, such as casting contempt or ridicule upon the flag or wearing it in whole or in part as a costume or uniform.

Burning the flag of a foreign nation achieves nothing but only shows disrespect and hits on the pride of its citizens. It also be speaks the kind of nation and people we all are. Of course, there are issues we do not see eye to eye but our disagreements or differences should not get the better of us.

Respect for each other, regardless of nationality or religious beliefs or political affiliation, should never be abandoned. In our civilized society, no one should be allowed to show that much disrespect no matter what the reason, not even in the name of freedom of expression.


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