When free speech transgresses decency

The public scrutiny of the First Family and the Remulla clan has recently intensified. In particular, I am shocked that the vitriol hurled against First Lady Liza Araneta-Marcos on social and traditional media comes from both the diminished opposition and disenchanted administration supporters. Meanwhile, the Remullas of Cavite are caught in a political maelstrom brought about by the arrest of a scion on drug-related charges.

I stand for our Constitutional right to free speech. But I also uphold basic courtesy in all forms of critical expression, especially online. Let us not devolve this freedom to voice dissent into a weapon of hate and violence against those we dislike.

Respecting the First Lady

The mere fact that she is a presidential spouse, Atty. Marcos should be accorded respect. By religious and legal fiat, President Marcos Jr. and his wife function as one unit. Although not elected by the people, the First Lady occupies an extraordinary role in the seat of power. She can organize or represent the President in official and state functions.

When Bill Clinton ran for the United States presidency in 1992, he and his wife, Hillary packaged themselves as a two-for-one deal. The same can be said of PBBM and FLAM, with the latter taking an active advisory role. In Carl Wasserman’s 1995 article for Vanderbilt Law Review, “Firing the First Lady: The Role and Accountability of the Presidential Spouse,” he said the president’s wife undoubtedly exerts a behind-the-scenes influence over her husband outside the practical operation of law.

Our Family Code obliges spouses like PBBM and FLAM to render mutual love, help, and support. Concerning the property regime, Article 88 states: “The absolute community of property between spouses shall commence at the precise moment that the marriage is stipulated.” As regards marital privilege, Section 20 (b) of the Rules of Court states: “A husband cannot be examined for or against his wife without her consent; nor a wife for or against her husband without his consent, except in a civil case by one against the other, or a criminal case for a crime committed by one against the other.”

As a wife and a lawyer, I believe Atty. Marcos is protecting the interests of her husband. If she advises the President against unfit people in the administration, chances are she has a legal basis. Of course, anyone is free to criticize or disagree with FLAM.

But let us not resort to name-calling. Abusive language has no place in any discourse that seeks to resolve conflicts or solve problems vis-a-vis the affairs of the state. I do not believe the President would be happy to see anyone impugning his spouse. A Marcos follower cannot claim to be supportive of PBBM but is publicly contemptuous of FLAM at the same time. We insult the chief executive every time we malign his spouse.

Remulla’s word of honor

My maternal family, the Lopezes and the Remullas share an inter-generational friendship. Our dearly departed parents were friends during their University of the Philippines years. Justice Secretary Boying Remulla and I have been friends since our undergraduate days at UP since he acted as my protector against leftist bullies.

A few days ago, drug enforcement agents arrested his 38-year-old son for allegedly importing high-grade marijuana. The Remulla family is bearing the brunt of undue public criticism because of this matter. Anti-government groups have politicized the issue and called for the Secretary’s resignation.

However, I can vouch for the Secretary’s character. While Boying is no saint, I know he is a man of honor. The Remulla scion, meanwhile, should possess the moral wisdom to discern right from wrong given his age. To my knowledge, the Secretary got his cousin as his son’s defense lawyer. But I believe that he would not condone any unlawful act nor intervene in the case. Government officials who are in a similar plight should emulate this.

To the government critics, leave the Secretary alone. Why should Boying quit his post when he is not involved in the criminal case? He is also doing well as head of the justice department. So, let us pray for the Secretary and his family. And let the law take its course.

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