MANILA, Philippines -- In the wake of the House of Representatives' passing of the controversial Anti-Terror Bill earlier this month, Alyssa Valdez spoke up on her Twitter account, which boasts over 1.9 million followers.
"Hindi makatao," she tweeted. "Bakit parang sariling mamamayan pa ang kalaban?"
Her tweet was retweeted over 6,500 times and liked over 36,000 times. Many of her fans were supportive of her message, adding the hashtag "#JunkTerrorBill" and thanking the Creamline star for using her considerable platform on social media.
"Idol, we have been waiting for you to speak up 'cause your voice can reach a huge number of people, and you seem to have a good heart," one follower replied.
Valdez is just one of the athletes who have grown increasingly more vocal on social media about recent events in the country. UAAP athletes, in particular, have not been shy about expressing their outrage about the anti-terror bill, the shutdown of ABS-CBN, and the guilty verdict against Rappler executive editor Maria Ressa. Filipino-American players in the PBA, meanwhile, have lent their voices to the Black Lives Matter movement.
For the most part, the fans of the athletes have been supportive of their idols' forays into activism. Kobe Paras, perhaps the most vocal among all Filipino athletes, was especially praised for volunteering to raise bail money for protesters in Cebu who were arrested while rallying against the anti-terror bill.
Yet there are still those who would prefer for the athletes to, in the words of FOX News host Laura Ingraham, "shut up and dribble."
One fan told Valdez, "'Wag ka makisali, ma-bash ka lang." Another said, "Mag-volleyball ka na lang. Doon ka lang magaling."
But the athletes are not backing down. Former Ateneo de Manila University libero Denden Lazaro-Revilla, who has also been using her social media platform to raise awareness on national issues, made it clear that gone are the days when athletes would "stick to sports."
"For me, I think it's good that athletes are starting to speak out and (are) using their platforms well," she said during an appearance on the "Crossover" podcast.
"'Cause, I don't agree with people saying na, 'Ha, athlete lang kayo, why would you have a say on these things?' Well, we're citizens first," she declared.
Lazaro-Revilla, like Valdez, has posted about the anti-terror bill, and joined the recent discourse about rape culture in the Philippines.
"We should have a say in these things," said Lazaro-Revilla, who now plays for Choco Mucho. "It's good that these athletes who have platforms, who have reach to other people voice out their concerns and voice out what they're passionate about."
"It's good that they're passionate about current happenings in our country and internationally."
Valdez agreed with her former Ateneo teammate, pointing out that athletes have shown recently that they are very much aware of what is happening in the country and in the government.
"As Den said, we're citizens first," said Valdez, who has 1.3 million followers on Instagram on top of her huge reach on Twitter.
Moreover, Valdez noted that many of the athletes who are speaking up have represented the country in international competitions. She and Lazaro have played for the national team in the Southeast Asian Games; Valdez was even the Philippines' flag bearer for the 2015 SEA Games in Singapore.
"I'm not saying that… meron kaming mas siguro pang pinanghahawakan to say our comments about everything that's happening," said Valdez. "But I think that we're part of this community, this country."
"That's why it's really nice to hear athletes say their parts, also," she said.
PBA commissioner Willie Marcial has previously said that he has no issues with the basketball players speaking out, though the league itself has generally shied away from making any political statements. UAAP executives are also supportive of their athletes, though they also warned them to be responsible.
Ricky Palou, the president of Sports Vision which organizes the Premier Volleyball League, gave Valdez and Lazaro his full backing, and said that athletes should not be discouraged from making their opinions known.
"I think athletes have a right to speak out, too. They should have a say," said Palou, himself a former athlete for Ateneo. "Why should we limit it to certain sectors? All sectors should be heard."
"The athletes are a sector that I think is relevant and I think they should be heard, too."
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