Monthly Archives: November 2011

“Of the Same Ilk”

For Friday/November 25, 2011
Good Morning Philippines
ON SECOND THOUGHT

Here we go again with our penchant for changing names of streets to satisfy our egos or someone else’s ego specially if that someone happens to be the current President of the Philippines. There is a bill in the Lower House that seeks to change the name of EDSA, the longest and primary thoroughfare in Metro Manila and the Philippines for that matter, to Cory Aquino Avenue. We don’t know what got into the head of Bohol Rep. Rene Relampagos to all of a sudden want to mess around with a name of a main road that crosses several cities in Metro Manila and that’s been known as EDSA since it was changed in 1959 from the bland and plain “Highway 54” to the initials of Epifianio de los Santos. For those that know the name EDSA as a street and not a person, de los Santos was a historian, patriot, scholar, associate editor of the revolutionary paper “La Independencia”(1898), writing in prose under the pen name G. Solon and also a member of the Malolos Congress. He was an internationally known scholar who contributed to early Philippine studies on anthropology, ethnology, archaeology, linguistics, and demographics. If there ever was a renaissance man among Filipinos, de los Santos was certainly one and recognized by scholars of his time worldwide. The practical repercussions in changing EDSA’s name will affect more people and businesses than changing any other street name in the country and the cost will be huge. It will be more burdensome than perhaps changing the name of even Bohol province. Why does not the good legislator just name a grandchild Cory or the main street of his district where he will not create as much problems as messing with the EDSA name. There are other ways to honor Cory if he finds there are insufficient honors bestowed on her. We’re not even sure if Mr. Relampagos will be singing the same praises for Cory when political expediency finds him in opposition to the Aquino camp as so often happens with our politicians. Maybe, it would be better for the Congressman to pass a bill prohibiting the re-naming of a street with a name of anyone that has ran for public office at anytime during his or her life. In doing so, we keep politics out of “way” – dual carriageway, main thoroughfare, or any way.

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The 7th anniversary of the Hacienda Luisita massacre was observed, or hardly observed, a week before the much publicized Ampatuan massacre’s 2nd anniversary. In the former, 7 farmers died and hundreds were injured when military men and private security forces of the hacienda open-fired at the thousands of farmers that were on strike. This was the last time the Aquino-Cojuangco clan worked in tandem with GMA before they turned their guns at each other continuing to this day. The families of the dead farmers see little hope in ever getting justice, much less now with an Aquino at the helm of government. In fact, there was not a yelp or squeak from the Palace to even acknowledge the incident during its seventh year anniversary and no one is surprised. A joint statement by the two leading peasant organizations stated: “Mr. Aquino, his family and his predecessor (GMA)connived to launch an armed attack against the peaceful strike of the farm workers, who were demanding for just wages, decent working conditions and re-instatement of union officials and members who had been retrenched for addressing the workers’ plight.” Both GMA and PNoy were too busy — one trying to desperately leave the country and the other using all government means to prevent her from leaving — to hear what was said by these “mere peasants.” Beyond personal animosity between them, GMA and PNoy are actually of the same ilk.

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“Who Needs a Piece of Paper?”

For Wednesday, Nov. 23/2011
Good Morning Philippines
ON SECOND THOUGHT

Today, we remember and honor the victims of the Ampatuan massacre that took place two years ago in Sitio Masalay in Ampatuan, Maguindanao. Fifty Eight Filipinos were killed, 32 of whom were journalists. It was a display of murderers killing with impunity and attempting to hide the entire gruesome blood bath underground, literally, with the use of a back hoe. It announced to the world how cheap the lives of people are here in this country for some of us. It was politically motivated yet did not bother to distinguish between the political opponents and those who were there “for the ride,” for one reason or the other. We have become known as “the most dangerous country to live in” for a journalist. This is the same country that was featured in all the media of the world twenty five years ago showing its’ citizens with military support to have kicked out a “detestable dictator” in what has come to be known as “people’s Power.” Yet, the official figures show that more journalists have been killed during each succeeding administration post Marcos than during the entire 20 years of Marcos rule. In other words, it was safer for a journalist to be living here during the reign of Marcos than during Cory’s, Ramos’, and GMA’s time. From the time former President Ferdinand Marcos declared Martial Law until the military-backed “people’s power” of 1986, an average 2.5 journalists were killed each year compared to six a year during Cory’s term, slightly worse during Ramos’ time, and by far the worst during the nine years of GMA. We should think twice now before we revel in having a free press. To the families and friends of the journalists that have been killed since Cory’s administration, “free press” does not mean the same thing to them as it does to us. Unlike the media moguls (the old oligarchs resurrected) that have their own bodyguards and homes tucked away in heavily guarded private affluent subdivisions, the reporters and journalists and rank and file of media take public transport or move around in motorbikes and walk the dark streets at night. It’s all nice and dandy to freely criticize a provincial, city or even a national administration or official on a daily basis if one wishes, but for a journalist, it’s not much fun walking a dark street at night or even during broad day light for that matter knowing how many journalist get killed yearly in this country. Today, as we remember those that were randomly and brutally killed two years ago in that lonely road in Maguindanao, let’s not forget what this country has become for journalists that live and work here. For them, that “nightmare” in Ampatuan and other “bad dreams” of journalists being brutally killed continue to play in their minds, and justifiably so, despite all guarantees of press freedom. There is actually very little assurance that yet another journalist will not be gunned down today, tomorrow or the following week for opinions he or she has been guaranteed to express freely as enshrined in the Constitution no less. The free press we enjoy for now is like a check that keeps on “bouncing,” or a Supreme Court TRO that is not obeyed. Who needs a piece of paper?

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Lady Justice

For Friday/Nov. 18, 2011
Good Morning Philippines
ON SECOND THOUGHT

What happened at the airport yesterday (15 November) will have dire consequences if not resolved soon and we mean in the next 24 to 48 hours. Whether we like GMA or not, whether she and FG are guilty or not, whether she is as ill as she says she is or not, all these are neither here nor there — they are all irrelevant to the issue. The issue is non-compliance by the executive branch of government with a Supreme Court ruling that is executory. The highest court in the land that virtually confirmed GMA’s rights including the right to freely travel outside the country issued a TRO on her hold-departure order – that’s what it is by any other name. It had some conditions placed on her right to travel which she complied with and yet, she was disallowed by Justice Secretary De Lima and enforced by the Bureau of Immigration to board her plane. The main contention of the Supreme Court in allowing Mrs. Arroyo to travel is her presumed innocence against charges being readied by the Department of Justice and the fact that there have been no cases filed against her up to now. And this may be the reason for De Lima’s bull-headedness because it is her department that should have filed at least one case for a court to be able to issue a hold-departure order. Having failed in doing this, she now would risk a crisis in government to compensate for what seems to be a shortcoming of her department. However, for this administration, that does not look like anything new. More seriously, this action of a member of the Executive Branch of Government with the concurrence of the President is a clear defiance of a Supreme Court ruling, the final and ultimate arbiter and interpreter of the Constitution that contains the laws of the land. There is no other institution of government to turn to in order to appeal a final and executory ruling made by the Supreme Court. So, what happens now? Clearly, the executive branch controls the airports not to mention the police and the military. But has it come to physical might to determine who is to be followed? If the protagonists were not the executive and judiciary branches of government, one could conclude that this was a story of a war lord in some remote province of the country where the rule of law is secondary to who has the most arms, gold, and goons. We are told that there will be another attempt by GMA to leave and that the justice Department will again not allow it. When that happens, we will be witnessing a constitutional crisis unprecedented in this country. What follows is anybody’s guess. There is an irony in this drama filled “battle” of two co-equal branches of government for many people including myself and that is: we now find ourselves in favor of allowing GMA to travel and the possibility of her escaping prosecution for the crimes she allegedly committed which we opine the Arroyo couple are guilty of. It is sometimes tempting to remove the blindfold of “Lady Justice” but we either strengthen our institutions at every chance they are threatened or postpone it for another day and weaken it.

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“The Leon Maria Guerrero Anthology” by David Guerrero

Good Morning Philippines
November 12, 2011
ON SECOND THOUGHT

The Leon Maria Guerrero Anthology authored by his only son, David Guerrero, is a must read for anyone that wishes to serve in our Foreign Service, or wishes to become a writer, or simply wants to know about a nationalist of the top order that lived through the country’s transition from colony, to occupied, to independence from foreign domination or at least, a semblance of it.

The book opens with a brief summary of Ambassador Guerrero’s family tree beginning the mid 19th century, a family described by historian/writer Nick Joaquin as “a mixture, a very uneasy blend, of religious conservatism and intellectual radicalism.” “On the one hand, they uphold tradition; on the other, they sponsor revolution.” LMG’s immediate forebears include, among others, Dr. Leon Ma. Guerero, the first Filipino botanist; Lorenzo Guerrero, the famed artist and one time teacher of Juan Luna; the highly acclaimed poet Fernando Ma. Guerrero; and Manuel Guerrero the scientist and discoverer of both the Beri-Beri disease as well as the remedy for it, the Tiki-Tiki .

From there, we are introduced to the subject’s student days at the Ateneo where he excelled academically, graduating Suma Cum Laude together with Horacio de la Costa and Jess Paredes. These three very bright students “got the highest grades of 99% and a 100% continuously in their classes. Leoni’s “quick rapier-like mercurial mind turns now to satire, now to tragedy; mobile, pliant, never at rest – the dream of Jesuit education realized; soul and substance, genius and geniality – a gentleman who is also a man,” as he was described in the Ateneo “year book.” But it was not only in grades that LMG stood out among his fellow students; he was just as active and prominent in debates, school plays, sports, and of course, the student publication of his school. Estefania Aldaba Lim’s recollection of him typifies how most remember him as a college student : “ I knew him in Ateneo like Manglapus as the rah-jah boys, scions of wealthy families, blue blooded of Ermita. As a young man, women chased him because he was an Atenean Big Man on Campus.” And from Chief Justice Claudio Teehankee: “Leoni was the campus idol and took part in almost every extra- curricular campus activity.” In fact, if his academic performance can be seen as nothing short of superlative, none would disagree that it was well matched with good looks and a captivating charm. And as his sister “Chitang” described him as a young college student (and she is not one to say something untrue just to make a brother or anyone for that matter feel good): “he had a fresh open, handsome face with a dazzling smile which he could hold indefinitely. He was chief altar boy, cadet commander, and champion debater. He had been born charming and he knew it.”

We don’t intend to relate here all the wonderful snippets and stories of this exemplary Ambassador who did plenty to gain respect for his country in all the posts he was assigned to in his more than three decades as Philippine Envoy, culminating with the conferment of the highest award given our diplomats, the Order of Mabini, the third only to receive it. The award was personally handed to him at his hospital bed by the late President Marcos. Joe Guevara then reminded his readers that “they were ‘enemies’ then, Special Prosecutor Guerrero asking the Supreme Court to affirm the lower court conviction of fresh bar topnotch Marcos for murder imposed by Judge Roman Cruz Sr., father of now Ambassador JV Cruz….”

As author, he is already guaranteed immortality through his translations of both of Rizal’s Fili and Noli from Spanish to English; and of his biography of Jose Rizal entitled, The First Filipino, one that’s been read by millions of people and to be read by more millions in future years. It has become a standard text in Universities here and had won the first prize in the Rizal Centennial Commission’s biography competition.

The book,The Leon Maria Guerrero Anthology, is available in all major bookstores. Good read or Christmas gift.

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Love and Riches in the Time of Luna

There’s this video in YouTube – “Aquino-Cojuangco: Facts They Don’t Want You to Know” — that’s going “viral” not so much for the “facts” being disclosed for the first time to some, but for the production value that is probably not even consciously appreciated. Firstly, the quality is excellent (HD) and the editing and some footages are quite good. It’s enough to impress you to a point that it helps in making the film credible. However, is it credible? Is the information in the film factual? Did Antonio Luna really leave with Dona Ysidra Cojuangco the wealth of the revolutionaries meant to help in the rebellion against Spain and then the Americans? That seems to have been thoroughly investigated and documented with personal accounts handed down from just two to three generations ago. Was the purchase of Azucarera sugar mill and Hacienda Luisita by the father of Cory made with a government loan with provisions that required the Cojuangco family to distribute the land after 10 years? Yes, that’s all on record. Were the terms of the loan adhered to, followed? Well, we all know it still belongs to them up to this day some 50 years after the acquisition. It also managed to get exemption from Cory’s agrarian reform program as was said in the film. The human rights record of Cory’s regime as stated in the film is also documented by independent human rights groups so all of the data included in the film are pretty much accurate and corroborated by data from other independent sources. Of course, the film dramatizes the numbers with special effects and professionally done graphics with matching musical score. In fact, there’s really nothing in the film that’s new except for the fact that the entire film is concentrated on the history of the Cojuangco-Aquino family and how they have accumulated the wealth and the power they now wield. For a “blind follower” of the “Yellow Brigade,” it would surely be jarring like no compilation of written documents could ever do if they were to be read at all. Filipinos are film lovers but nowhere near being voracious readers. This video as posted in YouTube was uploaded last Oct. 21, less than 3 weeks ago but only went “viral” a few days ago around the time P-Noy had his not too spontaneous YouTube question and answer program. We are aware of the attention and active participation of Malacanang in social networks including the setting up of various fictitious accounts to counteract criticisms and disseminate the Palace’s stand on issues. The more than 350,000 views the short film has garnered in a short span of time will surely get a counter offensive from the Palace in the form of rebuttal to the information supplied by the film either with another film on YouTube, or through their allies in traditional broadcast media, the Lopez group in particular. Meanwhile, we can expect the film posted in YouTube to continue to gain more views and to possibly break the 1M mark by year-end.

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The S Word

The “S” Word
It is difficult to imagine peace in Mindanao with the MNLF, MILF, BILF, and even Muslim civilians finally giving up the idea of a truly autonomous region, a sub-state, or a full blown secession (the “S” word). First off, Muslim children are taught in schools by their Muslim teachers (ask Dep-Ed to explain) and you can be sure at home, too, that the land they walk on is rightfully theirs by virtue of ancestral domain and it is the Christians that are the interlopers. Secondly, over the years while growing up, a Muslim living in the Philippines will experience, personally, treatment by non-Muslims that will convince him of the second-class status he has been relegated to. Economically, he would soon realize that among the poorest areas in the Philippines are the provinces with the most number of Muslims: Tawi-Tawi, Maguindanao; Sultan Kudarat; and the entire ARMM region. In addition, he would be witness to political realities that show him that non-Muslim politicians in the Executive and Legislative branches of government are deciding his fate. A recent case in point is “Imperial Manila” deciding to appoint the leaders of ARMM after it had been given autonomous status enshrined in the Constitution and now taken away as easily as taking candy from a baby. The chances of Muslims in the Philippines integrating with Christians anytime in the near future is slim, close to nil, as can be gleaned in Muslim communities outside Mindanao keeping to themselves and only interacting with the rest in commercial activities. The choice male Muslims make when they reach adulthood or sometimes, even before, is whether to join an armed group to realize “independence” or work it politically; integration seems an unlikely option. Meanwhile, the Christian Filipino population outside Mindanao hardly understands or cares for that matter, about the Muslims in the South and that includes their representatives in Congress who only mouth the “Filipino Christian-Muslim brotherhood” concept because it’s what “leaders” are supposed to say but in reality, is said with the sincerity of a fox to a rabbit. Most are just simply apathetic. Moreover, if you ask the average person of Malolos, Bulacan, or Albay or Ilocos Sur what their feelings are towards the secessionist movement in Mindanao, most will be scratching their heads. If you explain to them the situation from the MILF’s point of view, they would most probably agree for them to secede or create a sub-state. Sometimes, it’s the answer coming from the simplest explanation that has the most wisdom.

Nevertheless, there is a parallel story to the 2nd oldest conflict on earth, after the conflict between North and South Sudan, and that is the growing number of non-Mindanaons acutely if not painfully aware of the violence in that part of the country; they are the families of soldiers killed in the conflict. These are families that have probably never been to the area where their father, brother, husband or son had been killed. The number continues to grow as the rest of the country gets more weary and tired of hearing or reading or watching on TV people dying for reasons not at all clear to them as to why Filipinos are shooting at each other. Themselves Christians, they are most likely to take the side of the “Christian explanation” with the biased slant of media, making it even more difficult for them to have a view of the Muslims at equal footing with themselves and so the divide gets deeper and the “2nd class status” given the Muslims, albeit unofficial, becomes more ingrained in the psyche of both Muslims and Christians. This does not bode well for an integration of both communities. The S word could be gaining ground in both the Muslim and Christian communities.

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“Slogans Ring Hallow”

Good Morning Philippines
ON SECOND THOUGHT
For Wednesday/ Nov. 2, 2011

A first week of September SWS survey released a couple of days ago showed that one of every five Filipinos have experienced hunger or not having food to eat in the last three months. That translates to about 4.3 Million families going hungry “often” in the last 3 months while those that experienced hunger “once or a few times” in the same period numbered 3.6 million families. The 4.3M families going hungry “often or always” represents the 21.5% recorded by the SWS survey which is 7.5% higher than the average 14% of the last 13 years, or the administrations of Erap and GMA combined. This reflects badly on the contentious issue of the very costly Conditional Cash Transfer program of the Aquino government aimed at alleviating poverty among the poorest of the poor. For those that were hesitant to endorse that dole-out program but decided to give it a try, they are now most likely to have a change of mind. These figures, coupled with a projected year-end growth of 4.3%, a looming world wide recession emanating from both Europe and the US, and for the LGU’s, a 4.3% reduction in their IRA’s for the coming year, paint a gloomy picture for the Philippines in 2012. Parallel to that is a political divide among Filipinos that seems to have grown even wider due to the perceived persecution of his predecessor and his refusal to allow the remains of former President Ferdinand Marcos to be buried at the Libingan ng mga Bayani, contrary to surveys that show a majority of the populace in favor of a “hero’s burial,” and a Congressional Resolution signed by 2/3 of the members of the Lower House urging the President to allow the controversial burial.

In addition to these foreseen woes waiting to descend upon this administration is a developing schism between the military and the President as a result of a perception by the military rank and file of a Commander in Chief unsympathetic towards the recent massacre of Philippine soldiers in various parts of Mindanao, Basilan, Zamboanga and Cotobato specifically, where a total of about 30 soldiers have been killed in a span of only two weeks. All of these point to a coming end to the honeymoon between the Palace and the majority of Filipinos and the start of a more critical populace demanding more from the President after more than 500 days in office.

Newly coined slogans coming from Malacanang spokespersons and the President himself are ringing more hallow these days because there is nothing to substantiate these messages. The economy is faltering, the twin NPA/MILF insurgencies have become more robust, and corruption is still very much part of the daily grind of people in dealing with government. The President has raised the bar in good governance, accountability, and transparency and so far, has only managed to set himself up for a big crash landing if things don’t change for the better sooner than later. There is no better time than now for P-Noy to shed the symbolic yellow ribbon constantly pinned on his shirt, and decide to become President of the Philippines and not just of his “yellow supporters;” the number of supporters will surely be dwindling in the coming months the way it had happened to his late mother as more people became disillusioned with the lack of progress brought about by her Presidency.

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