Em’s Independence Day

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I initially intended to have this story published with the Philippine Daily Inquirer as a follow-up on the incident that shot Pio Emmanuel Mijares to popularity as the boy who courageously called The President of the Republic of the Philippines the “Pork Barrel King” on Independence Day in Naga City in 2014.  Sad to say, it did not merit a spot on the paper as the other stories I also wrote about him (for the full stories please follow these links: http://newsinfo.inquirer.net/611222/aquino-heckler-in-naga-charged and http://newsinfo.inquirer.net/610939/student-held-for-heckling-aquino).  Here is the story of the day “The Student Who Heckled PNoy” celebrated his own Independence Day.

Still wearing his favored shirt for the occasion, a red t-shirt with a print that says ‘Serve the PEOPLE!’, student-activist Pio Emmanuel Mijares, 19, lifted his fist to the late afternoon sky June 13, Friday, while leaving the Naga City Police Office (NCPO) with his uncle and friends after spending almost two days there.

He was welcomed by fellow students and friends with signs that said “Happy Independence Day, Em” while his relatives walk beside him also lifting their fists to the air both as a show of support and a declaration of triumph.

Mijares, ‘Em’ to his friends and family, was arrested last June 12 for interrupting President Benigno Aquino III at the middle of his Independence Day speech by yelling and waving banners at him just some 45 meters away from the stage during the Kalayaan 2014 public celebration at Naga City’s Plaza Quince Martirez.

The psychology student of Ateneo de Naga University was arrested by members of the Presidential Security Group (PSG) and was detained at the NCPO while charges of “assault against an agent of person of authority” and “tumults and other disturbances of public order” or essentially creating “alarm and public scandal” was filed against him at the city prosecutor’s office.

Mijares was said to have resisted arrest, damaging the uniform of arresting officer PO1 George Estocado of NCPO in the process after he raised his voice to shout “There is no change in the Aquino administration!” while waving four banners, bearing the words “Oust P-Noy” and “Free Benito Tiamzon and all political prisoners” and “Scrap all forms pork! DAP, Ibasura!” during the Independence Day rites.

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Em, after being freed, said that he took the initiative to be the voice of his fellow student-activists last June 12.

He said his parents, whom he refused to identify, understand his actions because they know and support his advocacies. It was his parents who actually inspired him to become a free-thinker by allowing access to information and making him decide on his own opinions while he was growing up.

“I would rather be part of the minority that pushes for things to be done than be included among those youth who are apathetic,” he said.

Em recalled how the crowd around him at the Independence Day celebration seemed to have disapproved of his behavior. He said he heard some people murmur against him, attempting to keep him quiet with their frowns.

“My actions (on that day) were not about me. It’s not about me. It was all about what were contained in the streamers I was waving, what we are all fighting for,” he said.

He said he was not disappointed with the crowd’s reaction then because he knows now that reports of his deed is now making waves in the country with its message to the people, particularly to the youth, to take action to give solution to the problems that the country is facing now.

Despite being overwhelmed with his popularity now in the internet social media and other discussions in public and over the media, he said he hopes the people would remain focused on the real issues that he drew attention to last Independence Day.

Of all his advocacies, Em said he strongly pushes for education to become free for everyone. He said he believes the continuous rise in school tuition fees is unfair for the youth and their parents.

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Jovy Mijares, Em’s uncle and guardian, said he is proud of his nephew despite negative responses that he has been hearing from other people since he was arrested.

He said he believes his nephew’s courage to stand out in the crowd and voice his sentiments was not disrespect against the President but a manifestation of how enlightened his nephew is.

“My first thought when I heard all about what he did was: That’s my boy!,” Mijares said while waiting for the judge’s release order for his nephew that he managed to secure by posting a P8,000 bail.

Em’s parents, now residing in Laguna, are also proud of him and nowhere near panicky over what happened as some people speculated, Mijares said.

He added that he knew of Em’s plans during that day as open communication in the family is encouraged and their children are always given the chance to express their opinions in topics like politics, government and religion.

Even as a child, Em already showed the inquisitive nature that led him to question things and people around him, a trait that his uncle believes contributed to his deeds today.

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Em was welcomed by his fellow students who hailed him as a local hero when he exited NCPO for being brave enough to voice out their own sentiments despite threat of being arrested and charged.

Rachel Vivien Griego, 21, education student and personal friend of Em, said she was overwhelmed at first with rumors on Em’s actions that somehow clouded the truth.

She said she came to know of the incident via social media where some users claimed to have heard Em cry “Boom Panot!” pertaining to the President.

“I knew he would never say anything as shallow as that,” she said.

Now that she is aware of the full details, Griego, a student-journalist herself, said she is proud of Em for upholding the freedom of speech and the right of the people to be heard.

“He did something that we are afraid to do ourselves. He gave us a voice,” she said.

However, despite encouragement from his own peers, Mijares also garnered negative reactions from local officials and residents in Camarines Sur for his behavior during the Independence Day rites in Naga City.

On a comment on the Inquirer’s article on Em, a user named Don Dee said: Throw the book at this idiot. Let his record show he has a CRIMINAL RECORD!

With another comment on the same thread, user PHtaxpayer said: The boy has guts. If only there were more of him in this country, we would become a better nation.

Other comments and status messages on Facebook also hailed Em either as a hero or a disrespectful youth who offended the President.

Karlo Emmanuel Barde, also from the same school as Em, said on his facebook account pertaining to Em: We voiced out our opinions to be heard. You covered your ears so we raised our voice even louder.

Another comment from an Inquirer.net reader called Buddy said: “Talagang kabastusan yun…..I totally agree at president pa man din,” pertaining to Em’s deed.

“This is not a personal attack to damage the President. This is about letting him know the sentiments of the youth. How can you be heard if you whisper especially to someone who acts blind and deaf if you do not raise your voice?” Em said regarding his detractors.Image

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