A heckling incident against the President took center stage in a recent state university graduation ceremonies.

Maria Theresa Pangilinan, a 23-year-old Cavite State University mass communications graduate, caused what in my opinion, is a necessary stir, by shouting “Patalsikin si Gloria,” and unfurling anti-charter change placards, a few minutes into Mrs. Arroyo’s graduation address. She was later joined by other student activists.

Presidential security men and cops were prompted to silence Pangilinan and company, saying “Don’t be insolent,” in Filipino.

Pangilinan, the president of their central student government, was still allowed to get her diploma from GMA. They shook hands, but avoided looking at each other, apparently faking smiles.

A day after the incident, Justice Secretary Raul Gonzales ordered an NBI investigation of Pangilinan and other university officials. He says there was a grave violation of a provision in the revised penal code, upholding “peaceful gartherings,” especially “when the President is present.”

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Having lived in a family, where voices and opinions matter, I can’t help but raise the same question a senator asked, “Since when has been airing grievance a crime?”

Although I admit I am no law expert, I am aware that the Constitution guarantees freedom of speech. Pangilinan, like the many others who call for change, is merely expressing her sentiments against a President who has failed to answer long-standing, legitimate, questions from her people. The people deserve to know, more than anybody else.

May the Cavite outburst remind Malacañang, that so long as the Hello-Garci scandal gets real answers, the big question mark clouding the President’s legitimacy would never cease.

I envy Pangilinan. I think the radical in me would never have the guts to do what she has done. It would take a great deal of self-rediscovery on my part, or perhaps, just pure grit.

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I take this opportunity to congratulate three pioneer graduating batches: Faculty of Arts and Letter’s AB-BSE; College of Rehabilitation Science’s Sports Science; and College of Science’s Applied Physics (AP) programs. Guinea pigs you may be called, but what the heck? You managed to finish what you started.

Prove you’re first in every sense of the word.

Send feedback to joevalarosa@yahoo.com.ph

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