Thursday, December 03, 2009

Maguindanao massacre: Why Andal Ampatuan Jr. thought he could get away with it

Published on December 4, 2009
Posted by Davao Today

By Alex Tizon
Knight International Journalism Fellow
Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism

THE BODY count of the Maguindanao Massacre has gone up each of the past five days. The count is now at 57, with authorities continuing to sift through the blood-soaked dirt just outside the town of Shariff Aguak. Thirty of the victims were journalists and at least twenty-two were women. The women were raped and their genitals shot at close range.

Expect the numbers to change in the coming days. What will likely not change is the identity of the accused mastermind of the killings: a smug, round-faced blip of a man named Andal Ampatuan Jr., a local mayor and the son of a powerful political patriarch who is allied with no less than the president of the Philippines.

The suspect reportedly ordered the massacre to prevent a rival politician from challenging him in the upcoming gubernatorial election. According to at least twenty eyewitnesses who have testified to the Department of Justice, it was Ampatuan’s plan to ambush the caravan of six cars, kill all the occupants and then bury the victims and their vehicles in large pre-dug pits. Burying the victims, he thought, would erase the evidence.

Ampatuan actually believed he could get away with it. But the plan went awry when word spread that army soldiers were in the area and the attackers panicked, leaving a half-buried massacre scene. So frenzied were those last moments that even the operator of the government backhoe used to dig the pits was reportedly killed to minimize witnesses.

Word trickled out and by Tuesday the whole world knew about the Nov. 23 massacre. For the rest of the week officials have filled the airwaves and front pages with their horrified reactions but it doesn’t take a telepath to know that some of the “horror” was for the benefit of the international audience.

For those not familiar with contemporary life in the Philippines, it must be pointed out that political violence here is a norm, and that people like Andal Ampatuan Jr. are no aberration. There are many more like him scattered like vermin droppings throughout the country. The system creates Ampatuans.

The reason Monday’s incident became international news is because of the high number of victims killed all at once and because so many were journalists and women. Had the killings been spread out over weeks and months, very few outside of the province would have heard of it.

“The massacre in Maguindanao may stand out for a long time for its brazenness, but the forces that shaped it are by no means isolated or peculiar to Muslim Mindanao,” writes Randy David in the Philippine Daily Inquirer. David is a sociology professor at the University of the Philippines. “These forces lurk in many regions of our country….”

I’m in the Philippines to work on a poverty-related media project called Suriin Ang Kahirapan or Audit of Poverty. One of the aims is to create a network of citizen journalists in the country’s five poorest provinces. Maguindanao is one of the Suriin provinces.

In all five of the Suriin provinces, there is a dynastic political family like the Ampatuans and a hatchet man – or two or three – like Andal Ampatuan Jr. Until Monday, none have been foolhardy enough to slay all their enemies in one fell swoop. The usual modus operandi is to knock them off one at a time and as quietly as possible.

For instance, in the Suriin province of Masbate, an island north of Mindanao, there have reportedly been as many as 30 politically related murders over the past year, and many of the killings can be tied to one family that has been in power for years. All know the name but no one will say it out loud. Who would dare? Like in Maguindanao, most of the local police and military take their orders from the ruling family. Those who have dared cross family members end up shot on some lonely stretch of gravel, their corpses no more than road kill. Hardly anyone on the outside knows – or cares – about the killings in Masbate.

In Maguindanao, the Ampatuans have controlled local politics for most of the decade, and the current governor, Andal Ampatuan Sr., had been grooming his son to take over his post. The Ampatuans had grown accustomed to running unopposed in local elections, so terrified were potential opponents.

So when one rival announced he would oppose Ampatuan for the governorship, the clan was incensed. The heretic, a local vice mayor named Esmael Mangudadatu, sent his wife and two sisters – accompanied by a retinue of lawyers and journalists – to the county seat to file his certificate of candidacy, apparently believing that not even the Ampatuans would murder women in cold blood. It was this caravan that was intercepted and massacred. Some of the victims reportedly were forced to eat filing documents before they were shot.

Ampatuan family members “act like gods” in Maguindanao, Leila de Lima told the Armed Forces of the Philippines. De Lima, chairwoman of the Philippines Commission on Human Rights, said there have been similar, but smaller-scale killings, linked to the Ampatuan family, but up until now witnesses have been afraid to come forward.

Today, Ampatuan sits in a Manila jail awaiting further proceedings. He was persuaded to turn himself in on Thursday by an emissary sent by President Gloria Arroyo herself. Many believe the administration was forced to act because of overwhelming international pressure. The emissary, special advisor Jesus Dureza, accompanied Ampatuan on government aircraft all the way to Manila where, upon parting, Dureza and Ampatuan shook hands and hugged.

Can you imagine the president of the United States sending an ambassador to negotiate with a man suspected of wiping out 64 people, and then having that ambassador accompany the suspect on private aircraft to the nation’s Capitol where they say good-bye with a hug? A hug!? Can you imagine President Clinton providing red-carpet treatment to Branch Davidian leader David Koresh or Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh?

The Ampatuans have long been coddled by officials high in government. The Ampatuans were well-known allies of Arroyo, and have been photographed together with the president in various locations including Malacanang (the equivalent of the White House). The Ampatuans “delivered” Maguindanao province to Arroyo in the last election, and did so with frightening efficacy, signing up entire towns and villages – often with not a single dissenting vote.

The administration, in return, has taken a hands-off approach to Maguindanao. Provincial officials, for example, can choose their own police chiefs and officers, many of whom end up as bodyguards or hitmen. These officials also end up using taxpayer money, intended for anti-terrorist programs, to deputize and arm groups of mercenaries officially known as Civilian Volunteer Officers, or CVOs. The end result is that people like Ampatuan have created their own private armies and rule their territories like warlords.

It came as a surprise to no one that among those implicated in Monday’s massacre are all of Ampatuan’s CVOs, and nearly all of the highest ranking police and military officers in the province. Already their courtroom defenses have become apparent in the few interview snippets that have gone public: They were only following orders. Of course.

Ampatuan and his family hobnobbed with the president. His father was a three-term governor and his brother a governor of the Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao, of which Maguindanao is a part; his relatives were mayors of half the towns; he was insulated and protected by local police, and he had his own mercenary army to do his bidding in a far-flung region populated by poor and illiterate farmers. Ampatuan believed he could get away with it because he’d been groomed all his life to think so.

There are many others like him in the country’s 83 provinces, rogues with government titles who believe they’ll never be caught. And most of them will be right.

(Alex Tizon is working with the PCIJ on a crowd-sourcing project that will help media track government efforts to alleviate poverty in the country’s five poorest provinces, including Maguindanao. As national correspondent of The Los Angeles Times, he has reported on the war in Iraq and Hurricane Katrina, and as staff writer for The Seattle Times from 1986 to 2003, received the 1997 Pulitzer Prize in investigative journalism for a series on corruption in the federal Indian Housing Program.)

Monday, November 30, 2009

Bound to happen

November 30th, 2009
By Nereo Lujan
The Daily Guardian

While the Ampatuans of Maguindanao is already an old and powerful Moro clan in Mindanao, wielding political power around the province even before the birth of the republic, it was not until 1986 that they became known nationally following the appointment of Datu Andal Ampatuan, Sr. as officer-in-charge of Shariff Aguak town by then President Corazon Aquino. He was the town’s vice mayor during the Marcos regime who endeared himself to the military for helping them fight the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF).

But the Ampatuans became more powerful following Datu Andal’s election as provincial governor in 2001, defeating Zacaria Candao. It was a victory that was described as military-supported, as Candao was suspected to be a supporter of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF). Datu Andal was re-elected in 2004 while his sons and grandsons were sworn into office either as mayors or vice mayors. Three of them ran unopposed. The elder Ampatuan’s nephew, former Justice Secretary Simeon Datumanong, also got reelected as representative.

The Ampatuans did not only make themselves win the elections of 2004 but they delivered a winning margin of at least 300,000 for Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo over Fernando Poe Jr. The Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism (PCIJ) reported that in seven towns ruled by the pro-Arroyo Ampatuan clan, Arroyo won over Poe by an incredible vote ratio of 82,411 to 142 (or 99.83 percent to 0.17 percent). In two towns, Arroyo garnered all the votes, with Poe getting zero.

That’s the reason why Arroyo loves the Ampatuans so much, despite a number of political murders attributed to the clan. She owes her victory to them. In 2005, the Arroyo administration repaid the Ampatuans by endorsing the candidacy of Datu Andal’s son Zaldy, then 38 years old, for governor of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM). He won, the youngest ever to become head of the regional government. But the election, boycotted by the MILF and other rival candidates, was marred by allegations of multiple voters’ registrations and other acts of cheating.

The Ampatuans endeared themselves more to Arroyo when they allegedly provided shelter to Election Commissioner Virgilio Garcillano after he went into hiding when his name figured in the so-called “Hello Garci” scandal. The controversy, which broke out in June 2005, involved recordings of a wire-tapped conversation between the President and Garcillano over alleged attempts to rig the May 2004 elections, which almost cost Arroyo her post. Garcillano went missing after issuing an affidavit clearing Arroyo of poll fraud.

In August that year, the House of Representatives ordered Garcillano arrested after he ignored its summons twice. Reports then surfaced that he was spotted in Singapore but on December 4, Garcillano turned himself in to authorities in Maguindanao. A week earlier, he even gave an interview to ANC wearing a Moro scarf. The MILF said Garcillano was in Maguindanao all along, allegedly sheltered by the Ampatuans.

Because of the favors that the Ampatuans gave to Arroyo, Malacañang has been turning a blind eye on the private army that they built over the years. Despite a constitutional ban on private armies, the Ampatuans have an excuse. In July 2006, Arroyo issued Executive Order 546 allowing local officials and the Philippine National Police to deputize barangay tanods as “force multipliers” in the fight against insurgents. In practice, the EO allows local officials to convert their private armed groups into legal entities with a fancy name: Civilian Volunteer Organizations (CVOs).

Interestingly, writes Jaileen Jimeno of PCIJ, Arroyo issued the EO just weeks after a bombing in the Shariff Aguak public market that killed five people. Datu Andal, who has survived several other ambushes, was said to have been the target in that attack.

“It was Arroyo who gave the Ampatuan clan the authority to recruit and arm civilians to assist in fighting ‘insurgents’ in the region,” writes Jose Maria Sison, founder of the Communist Party of the Philippines. “As a result, the Ampatuans now have a 500-strong army, which includes 200 special armed civilian auxiliary forces, as well as entire regular military and police units assigned to ensure the security of the clan members.”

Sison, in his paper “The Structure of Reactionary Violence and Human Rights Violations in the Philippines” published by the think-tank Ibon Foundation, describes the Ampatuan clan as a prime example of feudal-fascist warlords who are coddled and nurtured by the national ruling clique in order to secure their hold over local populations and resources. “The Ampatuans are among the most loyal vassals of the Arroyo ruling clique and responsible for orchestrating the electoral fraud in the region through which Arroyo has kept herself in power,” notes Sison.

“Clearly the Ampatuans consider themselves untouchable because of their loyal ties to the incumbent President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo who has deliberately created a climate of impunity for human rights violators and mass murderers in the Philippines,” adds Sison. He cites reports that recorded over 800 extra-judicial killings in the country since Arroyo’s ascent to power in 2001, which includes 51 incidents of massacres victimizing 255 persons. Not one has been punished for these vilest of crimes.

The horrendous mass slaughter in Maguindanao was a massacre waiting to happen. Had it not for Malacañang’s tolerance of senseless killings, those 64 casualties – among them children, women and journalists – could still be alive today. And it is this same tolerance that made monsters out of the Ampatuans and their private army.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

State of emergency

By Amando Doronila
Philippine Daily Inquirer
November 25, 2009

THE MAY 2010 national election was marred by the bloodiest massacre on Monday forcing President Macapagal-Arroyo to declare a state of emergency in two provinces and one city. This was the first time an emergency was declared in relation to an election, although past Philippine elections have often been marked by violence between private armies of provincial political warlords.

The carnage in Maguindanao set the gruesome tone of election-related violence. The massacre took place outside the matrix of the fighting stemming from the clashes in Mindanao between government forces and Moro Islamic Liberation Front rebels fighting for the establishment of a separate Bangsamoro homeland in Mindanao.

The casualties were both Muslims and Christians, and no group associated with the MILF or the Moro National Liberation Front has been linked to the massacre. The President declared the emergency after Presidential Adviser for Mindanao Jesus Dureza recommended the extraordinary measure to facilitate the disbandment of armed groups and prevent the escalation of violence. The President condemned the attack and said no effort would be spared to find those responsible. “Civilized society has no place for this kind of violence,” she said.

The human rights organization, Amnesty International, reported the killings of at least 21 civilians, including journalists, relatives and supporters of a family of local politicians, and said the slaughter was the first to be linked to the May 2010 election. According to first reports, a group of about 45 people were ambushed and abducted by about 100 armed men. The military reported that it had recovered the bodies of 13 women and eight men, some of them mutilated.

Reports said Buluan Vice Mayor Esmael “Toto” Mangudadatu, led by his wife Genalyn, was waylaid at 10:30 a.m. by armed men, while they were on their way to file the vice mayor’s certificate of candidacy for provincial governor at the provincial office of the Commission on Elections on Shariff Aguak. The Philippine Council for Islam and Democracy said the brutal violence brought the state of lawlessness in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) “to a new low.”

Previous elections in the ARMM were marred by violence and widespread cheating. The deputy director for Asia Pacific of Amnesty International said, “These killings underline the danger facing civilians in the run up to the national elections.”

According to Vice Mayor Mangudadatu, among those killed where his wife, his two sisters—Eden, vice mayor of Mangudadato town, and Farina—and his legal counsels Cynthia Oquendo and Connie Brizuela. Mangudadatu is running for governor, a post held by Gov. Andal Ampatuan, whose son, the mayor of Unsay town, is reported to be seeking to fill. The Mangudadatus are reported to be engaged in a long-running feud with the Ampatuan clan, which counts among its members Gov. Zaldy Ampatuan of the ARMM.

The slaughter reaped the biggest haul of deaths among journalists, who were covering the filing of Mangudadatu’s certificate of candidacy, in one stroke of violence. The New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists said, “Covering the news has always been dangerous in the Philippines, but the wanton killing of so many people makes this an assault on the very fabric of the country’s democracy.”

This condemnation echoed the statement of the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines which said: “This [massacre] not only erases all doubts about the Philippines being the most dangerous country for journalists in the world, outside of Iraq, it could very well place the country on the map as a candidate for a failed democracy.”

More than 38 Filipino journalists have been killed for their work since 1992, and 27 others have been killed for reasons other than their work. NUJP pointed out that very few cases have been brought to trial, giving the Philippines one of the worst records of impunity in cases involving the killing of journalists in the world, as well in cases involving the extra-judicial executions of leftist activists by anonymous death squads.

Whether or not the crackdown ordered by President Arroyo on the private armies of Mindanao warlords will lead to their disbandment and stop violence from escalating into vendettas is very much in doubt. The army is fully engaged in fighting the Islamic separatist rebels, and can ill afford to divert its effort and forces to disarming the armies of warlords.

President Arroyo is widely perceived to have benefited from the ARMM’s “reservoir of votes” during the 2004 presidential election, in which her intervention in the tally is widely believed to have led to the rigging of the election, allowing her to win.

The Maguindanao slaughter has heightened fears that the declaration of emergency in area could lay the ground for a possible declaration of a failure of election in some parts of the country, giving the President an excuse to suspend the results from such places and opening the way for the rigging of results later. The emergency declaration, no matter how limited in scope, is being made at a critical moment of an election in which the President is widely suspected of grabbing opportunities to suspending it.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Kalikot sa Dukot

November 21, 2009

Ni Teo S. Marasigan

Mahusay ang pagpapakita ng pagiging brutal ng karahasang pinawalan ng rehimeng Arroyo sa mga aktibista at maging sa mga manggagawang pangkarapatang pantao at mamamahayag – na, katulad ng mga aktibista, ay nagsisiwalat ng lagay ng mga mamamayan. Mahusay rin ang pagpapakita kung paano nilalaro ng militar ang opinyong publiko sa pamamagitan ng simpleng pagbaligtad ng mga kwento – imbes na militar ang gumawa ng isang bagay, ibibintang ito sa New People’s Army o NPA.

Nakatulong ang paggamit sa pagbabalik-tanaw at hindi pagiging linyar ng naratibo. Ang hinala ko, solusyon ito sa praktikal na problemang hinarap ng mga gumawa ng pelikula, dahil nga nakatuon ito sa tortyur. Naiadya nito ang mga manonood sa tuluy-tuloy na panonood sa karahasang dinanas ng magkasintahan sa kamay ng militar.

Mahigpit ang pagkakatahi ng istorya, at lalong dapat itong papurihan dahil ayon kay Bonifacio P. Ilagan, sumulat ng script ng pelikula, batay ang lahat ng laman ng istorya sa mga kwentong naganap sa totoong buhay – ibig sabihin, sa mga aktwal na dinanas ng mga aktibista sa bansa. Sa matatag na pagharap nina Junix at Maricel sa pagpapahirap ng militar – hindi nagsuplong, walang ipinahamak – maaalala tuloy ang iba pang katulad na kwento ng iba pang progresibo at rebolusyunaryo sa bansa.

Isa pang martir sa labanang iyun sa Panay si Antonio Hilario (TonyHil), inaalala ng mga kasama kahit ngayon bilang “utak pang-organisasyon” ng Samahan ng Demokratikong Kabataan… [S]ugatan si TonyHil. Sabi ng mga nakasaksi, inilibing nang buhay si TonyHil ng mga sundalo ng kaaway. Nang nakataas ang kamao ng pagbabalikwas, sumisigaw siya ng “Mabuhay ang Partido Komunista ng Pilipinas!” habang sadistang tinatabunan ng lupa ng kaaway. [Antonio Zumel, “Remembering the Martyrs,” 1992 nasa Radical Prose: Selected Writings, 2004.]

Sa mga hindi aktibista, ipinapakilala ng pelikula ang panganib na dulot ng cellular phone sa mga aktibista – na tumampok sa panahon ng paghahari ng rehimeng Arroyo.

Para sa karaniwang tao, normal na gamit pangkomunikasyon lang ito at pinagmumulan ng kasiyahan sa araw-araw. Pero bukod sa narito ang mga taong kaugnayan ng isang aktibista, ginagamit din itong pang-tukoy ng kinaroroonan niya. Sa panahon ng rehimeng Arroyo, maraming kwento tungkol sa bagay na ito.

Sa isang probinsya, bago lumaganap sa mga aktibista ang kaalaman tungkol sa panganib ng cellphone, nagpupulong ang ilan sa kanila:
Aktibista 1: (Nakatingin sa cellphone.) Oh, bakit nagte-text ka pa eh kaharap lang kita? Tsaka narinig mo naman ang sinabi niya, bakit itinatanong mo pa ulit?
Aktibista 2: Hindi ako nagte-text.

Bagamat naipakita ng pelikula na wasto at makatarungan ang ginagawa ng mga aktibista, mas madiin ito sa pagsasabi ng isang punto: Na kung inaakusahan man sila ng kung anong kasalanan ng Estado, hindi sila dapat basta na lang dukutin o barilin, kundi litisin at ipakulong. Ito naman talaga ang pagtinging mas makakahatak sa mas marami para tumutol at lumaban sa pagdukot at pagpaslang sa mga aktibista.

Tiyak, gayunman, na mapapaisip ang mga nagpasyang maging kritikal sa pelikula kung bakit pinatay ng kapatid ni Junix ang militar na bagamat oo nga’t nagtortyur at pumatay sa kanyang kapatid ay dapat din sigurong iharap sa batas at parusahan batay dito. Hindi ba’t labag ito sa sinasabi ng pelikula?

Dito hirap ang maraming liberal sa bansa: ang igiit ang dapat habang kinikilala ang totoo – ang igiit na dapat parusahan sa batas ang mga inaakusahang nagkasala rito habang kinikilalang marami ang gumagamit ng dahas labas sa Estado para maghanap ng katarungan sa mga pandarahas ng militar.

Ano ang kaibahan ng liberal at Marxista?
Kapag nakakita sila ng pulubi sa kalsada…
Sasabihin ng liberal: Hindi gumagana ang sistema.
Sasabihin ng Marxista: Gumagana ang sistema.

Ang hinala ko, pinatay ng kapatid ni Junix ang militar sa dulo hindi bilang personal na paghihiganti, kundi bilang miyembro ng NPA. Ang pinangyarihan ng pagpatay – ang sabungan – ang batayan ko. May inilathala kasi dati ang Pinoy Weekly tungkol sa pagpatay ng NPA sa isang elemento ng militar na napatunayan nitong responsable sa pagdukot at pagpatay sa mga aktibista sa Bicol, na naganap din sa sabungan.

Pero ang hinala ko, hindi naunawaan ng mga manonood na NPA sa yugtong iyun ang kapatid ni Junix. Wala naman kasing anumang palatandaan sa pelikula na ganito nga. Pero NPA man o hindi, malamang na papalakpakan ang eksenang ito ng mga manonood – bunsod ng pagkasuklam sa pagpapahirap na ginawa kina Junix at Maricel.

Hindi makakawala ang Dukot sa paghahambing sa Orapronobis. Sila naman kasi ang pinakamatapang na mga pelikulang progresibo sa kasaysayan ng bansa. Pareho silang nag-endorso ng paggamit ng dahas, at nagpapatanggap sa mga manonood na may mga tao sa lipunan na naitutulak na gumamit nito – anuman ang paghusga natin sa kanila.

Lumabas ang Orapronobis noong 1987; ang Dukot, ngayong 2009. Pareho silang kumukwestyon sa “demokrasya” sa bansa. Pareho silang lumabas sa isang panahon ng paghupa ng pampulitikang panunupil – kumpara sa panahon ng diktadurang US-Marcos at kasagsagan ng pampulitikang pagpaslang ng rehimeng Arroyo.

May pagkagulat sa pagkamalay at pagkagalit na dulot ng Orapronobis – na ang mga porma ng pampulitikang panunupil na namayagpag noong panahon ng diktadura ay nagpapatuloy sa bagong rehimeng tinatawag na “demokratiko.” May pagkagulat dahil may pag-asang namamayani sa bagong rehimen, bukod pa sa ang militarisasyon sa kanayunan na isiniwalat ng pelikula ay hindi gaanong malaganap sa kaalaaman lalo na ng mga manonood na nakabase sa urban at ibang probinsyang hindi naging puntirya.

Bagamat may pagkagulat din sa pagkamalay at pagkagalit na dulot ng Dukot, mas dulot ito ng tindi ng brutalidad na ipinakita, na lingid sa kaalaman ng marami. May pangkalahatang kaalaman na kasi ang mga manonood sa isyu ng pampulitikang pagpaslang at pagdukot. Wala rin kasing namamayaning pag-asa sa demokrasya, kundi papadausdos na pesimismo at sinisismo rito at sa posibilidad nito sa bansa.

Kinakaya pa ng ibang bansa na panatilihin ang mga relasyon sa pag-aari sa pamamagitan ng mga pamamaraang tila hindi kasing-marahas tulad ng gamit sa ibang bansa. Nagagawa pa ng demokrasya sa mga bansang ito ang pagkamit ng resultang siyang dahilan kung bakit kailangan ang karahasan sa iba – sa partikular, ang tiyakin ang pribadong pag-aari ng mga kagamitan sa produksyon. [Bertolt Brecht, “Writing the Truth: Five Difficulties,” nasa Galileo, 1966.]

Ang problema sa Dukot, gayunman, ay nasa karakter na si Junix. Bukod sa pagiging masigasig na aktibista at marubdob na mangingibig, wala nang ipinakita sa pagkatao niya. Sa panahong tinotortyur siya at si Maricel, mas matatandaan siyang nagbigay ng palaban at matalas-sa-pulitikang mga pahayag. Na para bang sapat na tanganan ang mga pahayag na ito para maging matatag sa harap ng matinding pagpapahirap.

Sa tingin ko, hindi. Marami ang kailangan para maging matatag sa gitna ng tortyur at banta ng kamatayan. At ito sana ang naisama sa mga pagbabalik-tanaw sa buhay ni Junix: ang mga kwento ng katatagan ng mga naharap sa parehong sitwasyon, ang epekto ng pagtataksil sa mga kapwa-aktibista sa kanila at sa mga inoorganisang anakpawis, ang pagmamahal sa mga kasama at masa, ang mga biruan, at iba pa. Hindi naipakita ang paghango ng isang aktibista sa kultura ng paglaban at pagrerebolusyon sa bansa ng lakas para kaharapin ang pandarahas at banta ng pagpatay. Pwedeng sa ganitong konteksto umangat ang personalidad niya, o maipakitang nahubog.

Tampok ang paghahambing kung paanong mula sa pag-oorganisa at pamumuhay ay ikinahon ang katawan nina Junix at Maricel hanggang sa tuluyang pinatay ang mga ito at kung paano, sa kabilang banda at kasabay naman, umalpas ang katawan ng kanilang mga magulang sa tradisyunal na mga espasyo ng mga ito patungo sa paglaban.

Salamat sa mga manggagawang pangkarapatang pantao at sa buong kilusang progresibo, makatotohanan ang optimismo ng kwento ng pelikula: Na bagamat hindi mapapalitan ang mga aktibistang nagbuwis ng buhay, maging ang kamatayan nila ay pagkakataon para dumami ang mga lumalahok sa kilusang progresibo.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Where the trains run on time

By Luis V. Teodoro
November 6, 2009

The results of a poll recently released by the US-based Gallup Organization say that some 700 million people worldwide would move to another country if they could.

No, Filipinos didn’t lead the pack, despite the 2007 finding that nearly 20 percent of the population would take the next plane for another country — any country — if they could, and Philippine airports’ being choked daily with the 6,000 people who’re either leaving for jobs abroad or permanently relocating elsewhere. Ahead of everyone else was the population of sub-Saharan Africa, of which 38 percent was most anxious to pack up and go.

Sub-Saharan Africa is a vast region south of the Sahara desert which includes practically every country (50) in the continent except the six countries that comprise North Africa (Algeria, Egypt, Libya, Morocco, Tunisia, Western Sahara).

With a total population of around 650 million (or some ten percent of the world’s total), the region includes some of the poorest — and most volatile and conflict-ridden — countries in the world, including such headline grabbers as Somalia and the Congo.

Sixty percent of all people with HIV — the virus that causes AIDS — are from the region, with an estimated 22 million men and women infected out of the global total of 32.9 million. Seventy five percent of all deaths from AIDS worldwide occurred in the region in 2007.

With poverty, AIDS, ethnic cleansing, and such other woes as piracy and the proliferation of armed groups of various stripes as part of daily life in many countries of the region, it’s a wonder that the number of those who want to leave isn’t higher.

In contrast to Sub-Saharan Africans, Asians wanted least to leave, with only one in ten of those polled saying they would, despite the number of Sri Lankans, Pakistanis, Indians. Bangladeshis, Indonesians, Filipinos, etc. who’ve left their countries to drive cabs in New York or to scrub toilets in London.

As a sub-group, Filipinos are among the most likely Asians to leave. Some go as mail order brides who end up sitting out winters in the US mid-West, others as truck drivers and construction workers braving improvised explosive devices and suicide bombers in Afghanistan. Large numbers of professionals, especially the doctors and nurses of which the Philippines has a shortage, also leave each month for jobs in other countries. While others leave as immigrants, the most preferred country being the United States, where there were 600,000 documented Filipinos in 2008, practically everyone who leaves for the US, Canada or any other developed country would prefer to stay there permanently.

As for the undocumented — the “TNTs” of Filipino migration lore — they’re not only in the United States but also in places as diverse as Italy, the Middle Eastern countries (Dubai and Saudi Arabia, for example), and even Croatia.

Despite what seems to be the obvious answers (poverty, limited economic opportunities) why Filipinos leave has been a perennial subject of debate in talk shows, newspaper columns and academic forums.

Some commentators attribute it all to greed. One broadsheet (not the BusinessWorld) excoriated a soon- to- be medical graduate who was planning to immediately leave for the United States for wanting to live in luxury and for his lack of patriotism, in a display of the self-righteousness the more comfortable in these parts share — “comfort” being defined in terms of a house in a (flood-prone) Manila suburb, a car in the garage, and a six figure salary at least.

The migration-as-greed-thesis does have some validity — but only in some cases, in which leaving the country for, say, the United States, is primarily driven by the immense propaganda impact of Western, mostly US, cultural fare to which allegedly “English-speaking” Filipinos are exposed 24/7. While more and more Western countries are adopting stricter immigration laws, the TV shows, movies and music they blanket the world with daily continue to entice millions with dreams of an earthly paradise in New York or Sydney.

But while among the lower middle classes the desire for some level of luxury otherwise unattainable in the Philippines moves some Filipinos who’ve had some education to leave, at least one other factor accounts for middle class migration. It’s the desire for order and predictability, which in turn has a bearing on a family and its children’s future. If you can’t predict what will happen next year, or even next month, planning for the future doesn’t make much, or even any, sense. (Those who invested in college assurance plans, for example, found this out soon enough when the companies they had put their money in went bankrupt.)

One Filipino academic, asked why he moved to the US, quoted Benito Mussolini’s boast about fascist Italy: at least the trains run on time. Indeed the trains run on time, the mail’s delivered on schedule, and the garbage collected regularly in such places as much of Europe, the United States, Australia, Japan, Canada as well as on that emerging destination of choice, New Zealand. But it does come at a price, among them having to live with racism and random violence, among others.

If some Filipinos do leave out of choice, many more do so because they have to. To this category belong the tens of thousands of migrant workers from poor families who can’t get jobs in a country where development has been at a standstill, or who do have jobs, but still can’t provide their families with the medical care, shelter and education to which every human being is entitled. More and more of these are women, and they’re the ones who’ve had to bear long hours of work, abuse, and even being beaten and murdered in some cases for the sake of their parents, siblings, husbands and children back home.

Mail order brides are on the other hand not always solely driven by dreams of comfort — or even, in some instances, the simple and piteous need to be in a situation where “I can eat enough and what I want”. Many leave for countries they may not even know anything about so they can send home something for brothers, sisters and parents. They’re not Out There in search of a place where the trains run on time and the mail’s delivered on schedule. They’re there because they need to be. (BusinessWorld)

Sunday, November 08, 2009

Jesus in yellow

Method To Madness
By Patricia Evangelista
Philippine Daily Inquirer
First Posted 22:50:00 11/07/2009

THE GRASS IS YELLOW OUTSIDE THE GATES OF HACIENDA LUISITA. Jesus walked here once. His father watched him die, almost five years to this day. Nov. 16 was when close to 15,000 tenants gathered to protest their treatment under the Cojuangco-owned Hacienda Luisita. Dispersal units charged with a thousand soldiers in full battle gear. The Northern Command numbered over five hundred. Stones and shouts, water cannons, tanks that barreled into gates. It was three in the afternoon. The sun burned yellow. The father heard it first: rifle cracks, a barrage of bullets punching through bodies. Jesus died that day, one of seven reported union deaths. They tell me there are more whose names were never reported.

They called it a massacre. Sen. Benigno Aquino III called it propaganda.

On that day, Federico Laza and other farmhands loaded the 38-year-old Jesus into a tricycle. The father wept and Jesus bled. It was too late when they brought him to the hospital. The police claimed they found powder burns on Jesus’ hands, proof he, too, had a gun. The autopsy said otherwise.

Today, Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino III runs for president of the country his father died for.

I believed in him, not very long ago. I believed in him in spite of a long-ago interview on Hacienda Luisita, on his first run as senator. As it happened, I was standing by Federico Laza, looking at a death certificate, while Noynoy claimed the dead were Manila radicals shipped to Tarlac for the purpose of terrorizing the hacienda. He said the farmers were content, and that all I knew were left-wing lies. The Cojuangcos still own Luisita, even if on paper they are meant to share profit with the same starving farmers who are worse off now than before they were made to sign land meant for them into stock market shares.

And still I was glad Noynoy was running, believed his mistakes, and his mother’s, were a result of their class and could change in the lead-up to 2010. I believed he could bring together a scattered field of candidates, pare down the fight between administration and opposition. I believed that the myth of the Aquinos behind him would be enough to convince his rivals to throw their support behind one candidate, and allow him to prove he was not just a paper doll hero, a crudely-cut outline of his parents. I was afraid he might lose. Now I am afraid he may win. I wish I still believed in him, because without him there’s very little left in the rogue’s gallery of would-be leaders.

For months he has been leading headlines. The Aquino son, soaring on the wings of heroes. His rivals have not stepped back; the field is still open. A fever sweeps through the media, crowning Noynoy, the man who has yet to say anything that is not an echo of the old revolution. Remember my father. Remember my mother. Vote for me, and you vote for them. And that is all. It has been months since he became suddenly the nation’s moral choice, and there is little resembling platform, policy or position. Miracle, they call him. This is the revolution, say his supporters. This is Edsa. So he may not be as intelligent. So he may not be as articulate. So he may not have proven himself. And because we are faced with the usual array of the corrupt and the devout, we wait, we believe. And we are rewarded, in all its cinematic splendor, by a music video.

The scene is a forest, in the dark of the night. Yellow shirts and soft yellow light, Regine Velasquez by a fire in the woods, singing of togetherness and unity and a farewell to fear. There is the small child, offering a bamboo torch to the senator. There is talk show host Boy Abunda, standing on a boat manned by a young boy. There is Kris Aquino, Noynoy’s sister, who is rumored to have been wining and dining A-list celebrities to support her brother. It is national unity via television ratings: the top stars of the warring networks linked by yellow. ABS-CBN’s darlings of prime time television are lit beautifully in the flickering firelight, holding their bamboo torches, hair bouncing as they walk, smiling soulfully into the distance. The camera lets GMA7’s number one love team Dingdong Dantes and Marian Rivera look lovingly at each other as they walk on, a smiling Sharon Cuneta raises a lantern, Ogie Alcasid marches with torch. There is the odd farmer and soldier, but it’s clear who the stars are. And so the full shot, a great phalanx of torch-bearing, yellow-clad men and women marching to battle, the celebrities at the front lines. Through it all, Noynoy smiles at children, at people, at the camera, smiles blankly, and you can almost hear him count in his head the seconds before he has to turn to the lens. In the end, he leaps awkwardly up to a mound of soil, surrounded by his beautiful constituency, and a sun explodes behind him in shattering brilliance.

In a nation where government responsibility has shifted to the media, and calls for aid are directed to newsroom desks instead of the hotlines of the National Disaster Coordinating Council, this sort of move isn’t particularly surprising. A united GMA7 and ABS-CBN may seem like the best of metaphors for a united nation, but it says very much about the sort of man Noynoy Aquino is. Flanked by stars, surrounded by celebrities, content to ride on the waving banner stamped with his parents’ faces. There is no message, other than that personality is king. There are no voices, not even his. His defenders say it’s not the time for campaign—and yet that video rolls on and on in prime time television. You are not alone, they say, but who stands with you? Anne Curtis? Ate Shawie? Marielle Rodriguez? Just recently, Noynoy promised to give up his share of Hacienda Luisita, and yet denies knowing of eviction notices to farmers even while the case sits in the Supreme Court. Laza continues to march in rallies, five years after a bullet ripped a good man away. Nothing has changed, the same songs, the same names, the same injustices.

They say the miracles are colored yellow now—the yellow of thick lengths of ribbon, the triumphant swags of bright flag, the inside edge of a flame on a bamboo torch held up to a camera lens, the same yellow of grass outside the gates of Hacienda Luisita, where a man named Jesus once walked with his father.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

FDC calls for debt moratorium, reparations from World Bank, ADB

Friday, 16 October 2009 12:07 p.m.

QUEZON CITY, PHILIPPINES – Desperate times call for drastic measures.

Instead of relying on usual remedies like new borrowings to finance the relief and rehabilitation efforts and the reconstruction of public structures damaged or destroyed by Ketsana (Ondoy) and Parma (Pepeng), the government should firmly and unilaterally call for a debt moratorium, and sternly seek reparations from developed countries’ governments and international financial institutions like the World Bank (WB) and the Asian Development Bank (ADB) for the current climate crisis.

These were the demands made by the Freedom from Debt Coalition as Congress approved Wednesday the P12-billion supplemental budget for the emergency relief and rehabilitation efforts and as the government shifted the purpose of the P50-billion bonds from funding the Economic Resiliency Program to reconstruction of public infrastructures. The US$1.1-billion bonds will be offered by the state-run National Development Company (NDC) next week.

“This is the time for bold measures,” stressed Lidy Nacpil, FDC vice president. “Relying again on usual measures such as floating bonds would sink the country deeper into the debt and deficit spiral.” “While financing mechanisms should immediately be pursued to provide immediate relief and rehabilitation, it must not be at the expense of bloating the national government debt and our fiscal deficit—all of which shall be borne eventually by the people including the typhoon victims. It would be a case of victimizing the already victims,” she said.

FDC raised the same sentiment on the P12-billion supplementary budget which will be sourced out from different quarters such as the 2009 General Appropriations Act’s unprogrammed funds. “The mere fact that unprogrammed funds are ‘unprogrammed’ means that their sources of financing are dependent on available savings or other extra revenues. Since we have none, this would only become a license for the government to incur additional borrowings,” Nacpil said.

Debt moratorium

“Instead of tapping new borrowings, the government must freeze external debt payments and re-channel freed up funds to finance government’s relief, rehabilitation and reconstruction programs. More than ever, the recent catastrophe must become an occasion for the country to renege from paying external debts many of which are challenged as illegitimate.”

FDC said the moratorium should be until an official comprehensive investigation and audit of all public debt and contingent liabilities is completed while “unbendable” policies such as the Automatic Debt Servicing Provision of the Revised Administrative Code of 1987 which perpetuate our debt problem is overhauled.

The group also said there should be no interest accruing on debts during the moratorium period. It said accumulated principal payments of these debts should not be paid immediately after the moratorium but should be spread out over time.

It was reported that total external debt payment in the proposed P1.541 trillion 2010 budget is P253.459 billion, more than enough money says FDC, to fund any national rehabilitation and reconstruction program.


The group is also demanding the Arroyo government to seek reparations from developed countries’ governments and international financial institutions like the World Bank (WB) and the Asian Development Bank (ADB) for the current climate crisis. FDC said developed countries, transnational corporations and financial institutions must own up to their historical responsibility for their plunder and extraction of developing countries’ resources and minerals as well as for funding technologies and industries that exacerbate the climate crisis.

According to Nacpil, the World Bank and ADB have been funding fossil fuel projects for many decades with investments amounting to $51.4 billion and $7.3 billion, respectively, in Asia alone.

“As such, instead of begging for assistance and aid, instead of acting like beggars and helpless victims, we should be demanding reparations and just compensation for the climate crisis they largely contributed in the first place,” Nacpil concluded.

Sunday, October 04, 2009

Was it the rain? Or the waters from the dam?

October 5, 2009

While typhoon Ondoy was devastating Manila and the floodwaters was raging, killing hundreds of people, devastating properties, it has never occurred into my mind…the waters from the dam.


Until I read something…it said….

Moreover, Pantabangan Mayor Romeo Borja Sr. said that the National Irrigation Administration was justified in ordering the release of water from the dam reservoir since there is a coming typhoon. “It is better for them to release water now when there is still no rains than when the typhoon and rains are already there,” he said. Source: Ondoy ruins P307-million Ecija crops

Interviews upon interviews of people who were flood victims where almost in unison and in chorus saying that floodwaters were rising very fast! “Ambilis pong tumaas nang tubig!” That’s what we all heard. Over and over.

In all my life, I have never heard of a rain to have caused such massive flooding – in a very short period of time. Flooding in New Orleans was not caused by rain. It was caused by the levee breaking up!

And then, I read another story:

Officials of Bulacan, which hosts the Angat and Ipo dams, have said that the water releases should not be blamed for the massive flooding in Metro Manila and Central Luzon. The amount of rain that fell on Sept. 26 was unusually high. Source: Pimentel to lead class action suit

So, they want us to believe that it was the rain? Massive rain?

But Pimentel is not satisfied. He is already talking with lawyers and is studying facts and collecting evidence in order to find out which dam managers failed to take necessary precautions or “recklessly” allowed water to flow out of the dams. The La Mesa, Angat and Ipo dams are near Metro Manila. Source: Pimentel to lead class action suit

If true, this is terrible! Just like Senator Pimentel, I’d like to know if indeed the the very sudden rise in floodwaters was caused by the waters released from the dams, and not just the unusually heavy rainfall. And shouldn’t they have warned that they will be releasing waters from the dam?

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

The Great Flood

An aerial view aboard a Philippine Air Force chopper shows devastation brought by Tropical Storm Ketsana in Cainta, province of Rizal, eastern Manila.


Ginulantang kahapon ng walang patid na buhos ng ulan na hatid ng bagyong “Ondoy” ang rehiyon ng Luzon kung saan pangunahing sinalanta ay ang Metro Manila matapos nitong palubugin sa ga-hita hanggang lampas-taong baha ang 90 per cent ng kalungsuran.

Kasabay nito ay naitala ang 9-kataong nasawi dulot ng hagupit ni “Ondoy” sa iba’t ibang panig ng rehiyon.

Paliwanag naman ng Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services Admi­nistration (PAGASA) flood forecasting center, ang bumuhos na ulan kahapon ay katumbas ng halos dalawang linggong normal na pag-ulan.

Nabatid pa na simula alas-otso hanggang alas-11:00 pa lamang ng umaga ay umabot na sa 112 millimeters ang volume ng bumuhos na ulan at sobra-sobra na umano ito para bumaha ang malaking bahagi ng Kalakhang Maynila.

Bagama’t sunud-sunod ang bagyong pumasok sa teritoryo ng Pilipinas nitong nakalipas na tatlong linggo, ang pinagsama-sama nilang buhos ay naitala lamang sa sukat na 300 millimeters.

Samantala, isa pa sa nakadagdag ng biglang paglaki ng tubig ay ang obligadong pagpapakawala ng tubig mula sa mga water reservoir na mabilis na napuno at umangat ang tubig sa critical level dahil na rin sa walang patid at tila galit na galit na buhos ng ulan.

Unang nagpakawala ng tubig ang La Mesa Dam matapos umakyat sa 80.15 meters ang antas ng tubig dito. Sinundan ito ng pag-akyat din sa critical level ng tubig sa Angat Dam kaya’t napilitan din itong magpakawala ng tubig dakong alas-11:00 ng umaga.

Ilang oras makaraan ito ay nagpahayag din ang Magat Dam sa lalawigan ng Isabela na posible rin silang magpakawala ng tubig dahil sa mabilis na pag-akyat sa critical level.

Ang Ipo Dam ang unang nagbawas ng tubig dakong ala-1:20 ng madaling-araw nang buksan ang gates 2, 3 at 4. Makaraan ang ilang oras ay isinara na ang gate 2 at ang gates 3 at 4 na lamang ang iniwang nakabukas hanggang kahapon.

Bilang direktang resulta, 25 barangay sa Marilao, Meycauayan, San Miguel at Bocaue sa Bulacan ang lumubog sa flashfloods.

Sa pang-alas-dos ng hapong ulat ng National Disaster Coordinating Council (NDCC), umabot sa 33 barangay sa Metro Manila ang iniulat na lumubog sa baha: isa sa Maynila, dalawa sa Marikina City, anim sa Malabon City, dalawa sa Muntinlupa City, lima sa Quezon City, isa sa Makati City, isa sa Pasay City, lima sa Pasig City, isa sa Valenzuela City at siyam sa San Juan City.

Bukod pa rito, 37 kalsada sa Kalakhang Maynila ang idineklarang “impas­sable” o hindi madaanan ng maliliit na sasakyan.

Nguni't sa ulat ng Manila Police District (MPD) district tactical operations center, sa Maynila pa lamang ay 33 major at minor streets na ang hindi madaanan pagsapit pa lamang ng alas-12:30 ng tanghali.

Bunga nito, kinaila­ngang gumamit ng mga 6x6 o 10-wheeler truck ang mga kawani ng Manila City Hall sa paghahatid ng mga relief goods sa evacuation centers at maging sa pag-rescue sa mga na-trap sa baha.

Sa kahabaan ng Epifanio Delos Santos Ave. (EDSA), daan-daang commuters ang na-stranded sa hindi inaasahang pag­laki ng baha rito kung saan marami sa mga ito ang sumugod na at nagpakabasa sa ulan habang sinasagasa ang ga-tuhod hanggang ga-baywang na baha makaraan ang siyam na oras na pagtitiyaga sa walang galawang trapiko.

Sa Makati City, mahigit 1,000 pamilya sa Silverio Compound ng San Isidro ang kinailangang iligtas sa ga-bewang na baha. Samantalang umakyat din hanggang tuhod ang baha sa San Antonio, Palanan at Olimpia.

“We need the help of the concerned agencies to help us evacuating hundreds of (families) in eight out of nine barangays in Muntinlupa. They are in danger,” pagsusumamo ni Muntinlupa City Rep. Rufino Biazon.

Ang mga tirahang barung-barong ng mahigit 1,000 pamilya sa San Isidro, Parañaque City ay nilamon din ng malaking tubig.

Bunga nito, nagpasaklolo kahapon si Parañaque City Rep. Roilo Golez sa pamahalaan upang saklolohan ang mahigit 5,000 pamilyang naapektuhan ng baha sa kanyang distrito. Karamihan umano sa mga ito ay ngayon pa lamang nakalasap ng baha sa kauna-unahang pagkakataon.

Si Bayan Muna party­list Rep. Teodoro Casiño, sa kabilang dako, ay nanga­lampag naman ng rescue teams para saklolohan ang mga pamilyang na-trap sa biglang pagbaha kung saan marami sa mga ito ay nasa bubungan na ng kanilang bungalow na mga bahay sa kasagsagan ng buhos ng ulan.

Sa Kabikulan, tinatayang 1,000 hanggang 2,000-katao ang na-stranded matapos na harangin ng Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) ang kanilang paglalayag.

Sa inisyal na ulat na 9-kataong nasawi, isa rito ay mag-ama na nabagsakan ng isang bumagsak na pader sa kasagsagan ng baha at buhos ng ulan samantalang apat na bata ang nalunod at tatlo pa ang tinangay ng malakas na agos.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Ondoy, Ang Bagyo

Las Pinas, Metro Manila, Philippines, Sunday, September 27, 2009

The rains started even before 8 a.m. last Saturday. I was awake and was supposed to wash clothes but didn’t.

The rains fell hard and next thing I knew, the bridge connecting Phase 1 (us) to Phase 2 was under water, kaya pala a long line of vehicles was lining up in front of our house, they couldn't see the bridge. The water outside was already knee deep, and it’s a good thing may pader kami, kung hindi, pumasok na ang tubig sa bahay.

After several minutes, passing tricycles (ito na lamang ang pwedeng lumusong sa baha) would push debris to our garage. The debris/basura came from the nearby creek.

I was dumbfounded to know that the Project 8 house (remember the Quemuel house?) was under water and all my in-laws had evacuated to higher grounds....WALA silang nadala. The water rose that fast. The Q house is near a creek, too.

Meanwhile, my youngest brother who lives in Sta. Mesa, was crying for help—the water had submerged the first floor of their house and they fled to the second floor—WALA rin silang nadalang kasangkapan. He has three young children and his elderly in laws lived next door.

I was desperately contacting all government agencies, the Red Cross, the radio/TV stations—but to no avail. Busy lahat. The rains continued until almost 6 p.m.

Nakakatakot. This is the first time that the whole Metro Manila and nearby provinces went under!!! Nataranta ang gobyerno—and the local governments are not prepared for such a big disaster.

In a certain subdivision in Marikina, rescuers found dead people who had climbed to their roofs but couldn’t stand the cold or fell to the waters.

On TV, there was a group of people (relatives maybe) who were atop a roof that had dislodged from the main house and was carried away by rampaging waters in Marikina!!! Horrific—in front of you, you see people needing help, but you couldn’t do anything. Namatay yata ang lahat na iyon. They couldn’t have survived those angry waters.

I was praying na huminto na ang ulan, kasi kung hindi, we will evacuate—on foot! Wala akong kotse at walang sasakyan dito like jeep, bus, or taxi na dumadaan Digoy (2nd son) was in their subdivision and couldn’t come, kasi baha din ang dadaanan niya at hindi pwede ang kotse niya.

Tootsie (1st son) was already on alert with his two young daughters (aged 4, and another, 7 months) and wife in case they also had to evacuate on foot. The water in front of their house was already waist high! Tumirik na ang aming Pinoy jeep (all of 38 years na ito!).

All of us were on edge. We kept texting each other and sisters from abroad were texting too. Yung mga kapatid ko sa Japan and States were panicking—they wanted to know what was happening.

All of us here were mesmerized by the visuals before us—buti na lamang may koryente. Hindi naman kasi malakas ang hangin. I couldn't bring relief goods to my in laws and brod, baka bukas na kapag wala na ang baha.

That is the latest muna.

AFTERMATH: Tuesday, September 29

Among the relatives, itong youngest brod ko ang tinamaan—lahat ng kasangkapan niya, sira na kasi nababad sa tubig sa first floor nila. Yung in-laws ko ang hardest hit kasi they had to evacuate when the water rose while they were watching “Wowowee.” Buti na lang may back door sila. But all they had were the clothes on their back. Sila itong tinutulungan ko kahit pakonti-konti. (MQ)

For the latest Philippine news stories and videos, visit GMANews.TV

For more information on typhoon aftermath and Relief Sites:
1) A map that helps the victims of Ondoy/Ketsana:
2) Alerts and information (updated): Manuel L. Quezon III—The Daily Dose

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Wishful Thinking for Philippine Cinema

On September 1, 2009, film critics Alexis Tioseco and Nika Bohinc were murdered in their home in Quezon City, Philippines. Born in 1981, Alexis Tioseco was founder and editor-in-chief of Criticine, an online journal of Southeast Asian cinema. Nika Bohinc was editor of EKRAN, an international magazine on film based in Slovenia.

By Alexis A. Tioseco

March 15, 2009, 3:57 am (Shorter version originally published as an addendum to an article in Rogue Magazine, extended final version which appears below published in Philippines Free Press week of December 13, 2008).

I wish that the Film Development Council of the Philippines would understand the value of the money they’re given and consider going to Paris and spending P5 million of their P25 million allotment for a showcase given by a young festival an investment, and not just a vacation.
They support filmmakers with finished films to go abroad to festivals for the pride they bring their country—I wish instead they would support their films locally, and help them get seen by a larger Filipino audience.

I cry for the loss of Manuel Conde’s Juan Tamad films.

I cry for a country that can’t convince that one Filipino-American who owns the only known print of Conde’s Genghis Khan in its original language to return (i.e. sell) the film back to his mother country.

I cry for the generations of Filipinos, myself included, that can no longer see Gerry De Leon’s Daigdig ng Mga Api, and instead have scans of movie ads to admire on the internet (with sincere thanks to Simon Santos and James De la Rosa).

I mourn a heritage that has allowed through neglect the prints of Mario O’Hara’s Tatlong Taong Walang Diyos and Peque Gallaga’s Oro, Plata, Mata to turn flush sepia.

I cry for a Union Bank and University of the Philippines that conspire in apathy to let the master negatives of treasures produced by Bancom Audiovision rot in rooms only air-conditioned half the day and in cans untouched for years and years.

I pray for a city government or even enterprising and concerned theater owners to consider setting aside 50 centavos or a peso of a ticket for the preservation of our national audiovisual heritage. There have been flood taxes siphoned from movie tickets for crying out loud—this should be easy!

I wish Cinemalaya, which, thanks to the media and the government’s press mileage behind it, has a great festive excitement, would actually put their efforts in the service of Philippine cinema, and not their own self-involved attempt to start a micro-industry.

I wish filmmakers would stop listening to Robbie Tan.

I wish Cinema One, which takes more risks, gives more money and often produces better films than Cinemalaya, would actually give filmmakers some rights to their work and stop swindling them.

I wish Cinemanila, which has introduced to the country more great films than any other institution, doesn’t stop showing them on 35mm.

I wish Cinemanila would publish their full schedule in advance: it’s difficult to plot what films to watch when you don’t know which ones will show again.

I wish the Goethe-initiated Silent Film Festival, with live scores by Filipino musicians, would continue annually, and that one year they get to show a Chaplin, a Griffith, a Dreyer, and maybe a Vertov or Medvedkin.

I wish Lav Diaz would have larger budgets to maneuver and shoot with. And would work with the ace production designer Cesar Hernando once again.

I wish more people saw Lav Diaz’s films rather than just respecting his stance, and using him as a symbol.

I wish Raymond Red would get to make Makapili and/or return to making fantastic shorts in the experimental mode.

I wish Raymond Red would still get to shoot on celluloid.

I wish John Torres would sacrifice the image quality of his HDV camera for the special intimacy and spontaneity he is able to achieve with his 1ccd camera. Or get a smaller HDV camera.

I wish Mike De Leon would make another movie… please.

I wish Roxlee would get enough money to buy the time necessary to make an animated feature.

I wish everyone would buy a copy of Nicanor Tiongson and Cesar Hernando’s richly illustrated The Cinema of Manuel Conde.

I wish there were more books on Philippine cinema.

I wish a book series was started that published classic screenplays.

I hope Noel Vera gets to write his book on Mario O’Hara.

I wish a close study of the entire oeuvre of Ishmael Bernal were made.

I wish older commentators would understand: Lino Brocka is dead.

I wish younger filmmakers would understand: Lino Brocka compromised when he had to because he had to, and perhaps even, at times, too much. You are living in a different time. The excuse that Brocka made more than 60 films therefore you can afford your own mediocre ones does not hold water.

I wish we had less tourist cinema.

I wish we had less formula cinema—“real-time” anyone?

I wish Cinefilipino had put out Maalaala Mo Kaya with the reels in the proper order.

I wish Cinefilipino would have put our their Brocka titles with just a little bit of care and affection, providing some writing on the film or special features to contextualize them rather than just throw them out their bare to earn.

I wish Nestor Torre would open his eyes…

I wish the Manunuri books on Philippine cinema in the ’70s and ’80s would go back in print.

I wish the Manunuri actually cared about Philippine cinema today.

I wish more of the Manunuri actually reviewed films instead of just giving out awards.

I wish the Young Critics Circle were actually young.

I wish the Young Critics Circle were actually critics.

I wish Francis “Oggs” Cruz, Richard Bolisay, and Dodo Dayao would get space in the broadsheets, because they’re far more interesting than anyone writing there regularly.

I wish we didn’t have a cinema of the press (more on this soon).

I wish Noel Vera would move back.

I wish Hammy Sotto were still alive.

I wish Hammy Sotto’s manuscripts would get published.

I wish film preservation activist Jo Atienza was still in Manila.

I wish we had a fully-supported Film Museum.

I wish we had a Cinematheque.

I wish the UP Film Center had better seats, and more important, showed better films.

I wish more non-filmmakers from the Philippines would get to travel to festivals.

I wish film were taught in high schools.

I wish we had more film lovers and less bureaucrats in important positions in the field of cinema.

I wish Teddy Co would get the recognition that he deserves for his selfless work.

I wish Teddy Co would write more as his ideas deserve to be recorded.

I wish co-ops would co-operate.

I wish Khavn De La Cruz would get to make his musical EDSA XXX.

I wish the Max Santiago feature would get made, and that shorts would finally come to my hands on DVD (Hi Marla!).

I hope Tad Ermitano never stops writing and playing in his cave.

I wish Lourd De Veyra would continue writing on actors and cinema.

I wish Raymond Lee’s UFO success.

I wish Albert Banzon would get more credit.

I wish we had more regional feature films, and more support for regional filmmakers.

I wish everyone would watch When Timawa Meets Delgado.

I wish someone would lower MTRCB rates for screening fees, especially for festivals.

I wish someone, anyone, would make a good, thought-provoking film about the Philippine upper class.

I wish Ketchup Eusebio would get more leading roles.

I wish Elijah Castillo would appear in a lot more films. Soon.

I wish Cesar Hernando would get to make a video transfer of his experimental short Botika, Bituka.

I wish filmmakers had some integrity and told Viva to screw themselves when offered another exploitation film.

I wish more people could see the film Bontoc Eulogy by Marlon Fuentes.

I wish Vic Del Rosario wasn’t presidential adviser on Entertainment, given the shlock they produce, and yes, that includes the films that starred First-Son Mikey Arroyo.

I wish Star Cinema would stop—just stop.

I wish there was a film library that people could go to in order to read books on cinema.

I wish the MMFF were not in the hands of the same people who install public urinals (admittedly useful).

I wish the MMDA didn’t call those circles and boxes Art.

I wish that MMDA Art wasn’t so much better than every MMFF film.

I wish a certain festival in December didn’t consider box office as a criteria for its main prize (which comes with rewards). We don’t give cultural awards to Wowowee, do we? Well, not yet…

I wish I could see how “commercial viability” was computed.

I wish Mother Lily didn’t have a monopoly on the Metro Manila Film Festival.

I wish Mother Lily took better care, or rather took care at all, of the good films she unwittingly produced in the past.

I wish Mother Lily would get to see Raya’s Long Live Philippine Cinema! …or maybe not.

I wish the Hammy Sotto-led Philippine Cinema in the ’90s book, with excellent interviews and a complete filmography of the decade, and which has been completed for several years, would finally get printed.

I wish all the old Mowelfund shorts—including the works of Regiben Romana, the Alcazaren Brothers, Louie Quirino and Donna Sales, Raymond Red and Noel Lim—would come out on DVD.

I wish a book would be written about all the Mowelfund shorts.

I wish a book on Philippine poster art would be released.

I always look forward to the rest of Nick Deocampo’s projected four-to-five volume history on Philippine cinema—at least someone is writing it.

I wish there were a pure film studies course available in the Philippines.

I wish that venues that are censorship (and therefore MTRCB fee) exempt would understand the vital role they play and take more responsibility.

I wish we had a regular film journal. Why don’t we? We have enough critics groups and awarding bodies.

I wish more film teachers were approaching cinema from cinema.

I wish R.A. Rivera would get to make his first feature soon.

I wish Quark Henares refrains from selling out again, because if he doesn’t, he has the potential to be one of the important ones.

I wish more people would get to see In Da Red Korner. It deserves to be reconsidered.

I wish Rogue Magazine would cut down their featuring of foreign films in the gallery section when there is so much to write about locally that doesn’t get covered in other media beyond sloppy journalism.

I wish the government would sponsor DVD releases of the surviving films of Lamberto Avellana, Gerardo De Leon and all other classics that still exist.

I wish FPJ Productions would again screen the footage of Gerry De Leon’s unfinished Juan de la Cruz (the icon, by the way, that was invented by this magazine).

I wish less filmmakers compromised.

I wish more filmmakers admitted when they did.

I wish we focused our attention more on audience education, development and literacy, than on dumbing down films to pander to them.

I wish Philippine cinema all the success in the world.

Wednesday, September 02, 2009

Mar Roxas Supports Candidacy of Noynoy Aquino for President in 2010
September 3, 2009

Statement of Senator Mar Roxas supporting the candidacy of Senator Noynoy Aquino for President come 2010, complete and full text of speech. See Video on right column.

Country above self. Bayan bago ang sarili.

Iyan ang habilin ng aking lolo, President Manuel Roxas.

Our nation is in trouble. Leadership is bankrupt. Institutions are in disarray. People are hungry. Noynoy Aquino and I share the same outrage over the mess we are all in, the same way we share the solution–clean, honest, selfless public service.

Marami at matindi ang mga problema ng bansa. Kailangan nating ayusin. Matindi ang kalaban. We need a determined force for good far stronger than the festering evil around us.
We need to fight just as our own fathers fought dictatorship, and just as both died believing that good will conquer evil.

Noynoy and I want to make a difference, but we also know that we need to unite to achieve what we want.

I am the President of the Liberal Party.

It is within my power to preside over a potentially divisive process or to make the party a bridge for the forces of change. I choose to lead unity, not division. Bilang pinuno ng aking Partido, magdedesisyon ako.

Mahal ko ang Partido Liberal. My grandfather founded it. My father led it during the most difficult times of Martial Law. Sa harap ng peligro, sa kabila ng napakaraming tukso–hindi siya sumuko. He inspired me–to stay the course, to fight the good fight, to pass the test of true character. To believe.

Over the weekend, Noynoy and I had many long conversations… Masinsinang usapan. We agreed: Let us forget about ourselves for a moment. This is not about us, this is about our people and our country. This is about our common dream. The dream of our parents.

But let us not remain a country of dreamers. Tama na ang pangarap. Gawin na natin, ngayon. Today, I am announcing my support for the candidacy of Noynoy Aquino for President in 2010. Noy has made it clear to me that he wants to carry the torch of leadership.

The passing of our beloved former President Aquino has reawakened a passion among us. I acknowledge this as fuel to bring us to the realization of our dream: Good will triumph over evil.
Ito na ang pinakamabigat na desisyon sa buhay ko. Maniwala man kayo o hindi, ginagawa ko ito para sa bayan, para sa inyo. I do this for unity in support of change. And if that means that somebody must make the sacrifice, it must be me. Ako na.

To you, Noy, I say: I began the campaign to sow the seeds para sa pagbabago at reporma. You must now be the one to grow them in the arena of leadership. Hindi kami maghihiwalay ni Noy. I will stand with him.

At sa aking mga kababayan, sa mga nagtiwala sa akin: Mahal na mahal ko po kayo. Mahal na mahal ko po ang ating bayan. Hindi rin tayo maghihiwalay. Itutuloy natin ang pagbabago sa ating bansa. Itutuloy natin ang laban para sa reporma!

Kay Noy, at sa aking mga kababayan: Country above self! Bayan bago sarili! Hindi ko kayo pababayaan! Lalaban tayo!

Tuesday, August 18, 2009


Guest Editorial
Reprinted from Philippine Daily Inquirer
First Posted 01:18:00 08/18/2009

After the uproar over what some sectors have called “extravagant and ostentatious” spending by government officials on foreign trips, now should be an opportune time to remind them of Republic Act 6713, the Code of Conduct and Ethical Standards for Public Officials and Employees.

Section 4 (h) of RA 6713 says in part that “public officials shall lead modest lives appropriate to their positions and income” and that “they shall not engage in extravagant or ostentatious displays of wealth.” It behooves government officials, especially the high-ranking ones, to remember the law because they should lead the nation not just by precept but by example.

Government officials have to remember that they are not the owners but the stewards of public money. They have to spend it wisely and prudently, like any head of a family. They have to have a hierarchy of values, a schedule of priorities and a sense of proportion in the expenditure of public money.

Even when they are spending their personal funds while on a trip abroad, they have to remember that they come from a poor country where the poverty incidence is 26.9 per cent and 23.7 per cent of households suffer involuntary hunger. It would be the height of insensitivity for them to splurge on luxury hotels and expensive restaurants when millions of their countrymen are starving and living in hovels.

We are not saying that the President, Cabinet members and members of Congress should just eat at a hamburger or hot dog stand or stay in fleabag hotels while abroad. After all, they represent the Philippines while they are abroad and they have to stay in respectable hotels and eat at the better restaurants and not just cafeterias. But certainly they should not choose to stay in expensive five-star hotels and dine in the classiest restaurants.

The wise and prudent expenditure of public funds is not just a matter of following the letter and spirit of the law. It is not just a matter of scrimping on government funds at a time of a global and national economic crunch. It is also a matter of ethical correctness.

Perhaps government officials should remember the example of former Prime Minister Lee Kwan Yew of Singapore, one of the richest countries in Asia, who came to the Philippines many years ago with his wife and a few aides aboard a commercial jet. Taking a commercial airline did not diminish his stature as a leader in Asia. If anything, it impressed many people that the leader of a rich nation had the humility and practical good sense to travel aboard a commercial airline and not in a private jet .

And why can’t our government officials follow the example of the late former President Corazon Aquino, member of an old rich clan, who practiced voluntary simplicity and kept government spending on presidential trips at a minimum? At a time like this, when the plight of millions of Filipinos has been exacerbated by a global economic downturn, government officials have to set the example in austerity and voluntary simplicity.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Can Arroyo afford to declare martial law?

PUBLISHED ON JULY 11, 2009 AT 11:52 AM

Talk is rife that the Arroyo government would proclaim martial law, especially after the series of bombings that rocked several parts of the Philippines. However, the Arroyo regime sorely lacks the factors that enabled the dictator Ferdinand Marcos to successfully impose martial rule. The bottomline: if Arroyo declares martial law, she would be adding fuel to the fire of the people’s anger.


MANILA — The day started like any other. But things were very much different. Television screens went blank; all that one could hear on the radio was static. On the streets, the people were going about their daily business but one could feel the uneasiness in the air. Gone were the almost daily demonstrations and clashes between the Metrocom (Metropolitan Command) and the protesters. The bombings also stopped.

By the time Ferdinand Marcos’s information minister Francisco Tatad appeared on air to read Proclamation 1081, the military and police had established control over the country, conducting simultaneous raids and arrests of activists and the opposition, padlocking television and radio stations, and manning checkpoints that control the movement of people.

In one broad sweep, Marcos was able to install himself as dictator. He subsequently “legitimized” his hold to power by reconvening the 1971 constitutional convention to effect a shift to a parliamentary system of government, with a strong president and a weak prime minister.

While activists and the opposition had been saying all along that Marcos would declare martial law, especially after he suspended the writ of habeas corpus more than a year before, in August 1971, many Filipinos were still surprised when he did declare it.

The element of surprise and the capability to exercise complete control through the military and police – these were the two major factors that enabled Marcos to successfully declare martial law. And when he was able to do so, he tried to consolidate his rule by proclaiming that he would usher in a “New Society” that was characterized by order, as opposed to the anarchy of the past, and prosperity for all, versus the oligopolistic control of the old society. There were some who actually believed him or were willing to tolerate martial law and see whether he would be able to deliver on his promises — at least during the early years.

Of course, another essential factor that enabled Marcos to declare martial law was the support of the US. The Laurel-Langley Agreement, which granted American businessmen the same rights as Filipinos, was about to expire in 1974 and the US wanted to make sure that its interests were protected thereafter. The US then supported dictators who protected its interests all over the world.

Today, talk is rife that the Arroyo government would proclaim martial law, especially after the series of bombings that rocked several parts of the country. However, the Arroyo government sorely lacks the factors that enabled Marcos to successfully impose martial rule. Arroyo could no longer use the element of surprise as the progressive movement and the opposition have been preparing for possible martial law. When the Arroyo government issued Presidential Proclamation 1017 (PP1017) in 2006, placing the country under a state of national emergency, it was immediately challenged by street demonstrations and through a petition filed before the Supreme Court.

While the chain of command of the military still holds, the regime could not be too sure about the loyalties of the military and police if and when it declares martial law or another state of national emergency. The divisiveness of the military and police forces is evidenced by repeated attempts by some officers to call on soldiers and police officials to withdraw support from the Arroyo government. In the event that Arroyo is able to pull it off, it has no credibility left that would enable it to hold on to power even for a year. Its unresolved issues of corruption and bribery, extrajudicial killings, enforced disappearances, and other human-rights violations would continue to haunt it. More importantly, the Filipino people had flexed its political muscle to oust a dictator before and they are likely to do it again.

As to the US, it would decide again on the basis of its interests. If it thinks that supporting a dictator would be the best way to advance its interest now that it is under a deep economic crisis, it would support Arroyo. After all, Washington has been pushing for amendments to the 1987 Philippine Constitution to remove restrictions on the activities of its monopoly corporations.

But if the US thinks that supporting a dictator is not in its best interest now because of its Bush-tarnished image and that doing so would create a situation that would strengthen the Left and other patriotic groups and individuals, it would not support Arroyo.

These, perhaps, are what keeps the Arroyo government in check whenever it is inclined to declare martial law. But this does not mean that it would not or could not declare martial law or another state of national emergency. It could still do so in a moment of desperation such as in February 2006 or, as former speaker Jose de Venecia revealed, in 2007.

Nobody has claimed responsibility for the recent bombings. And it is not farfetched that these were done to create a climate of fear to justify declaring martial law or a state of national emergency. The holding of a constituent assembly in the next few weeks would not be as smooth as the Arroyo government would have wanted and the May 2010 elections, when Arroyo is supposed to step down, is drawing near. If it does try to declare martial law or another state of national emergency, it would be adding fuel to the fire of the people’ anger.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

What are 1109, 9006, and 9369 in Arroyo’s agenda?

Series of 2009

Surely, for nine years, this administration has been obsessed with the numbers game starting with the liquidation of impeachment charges. With the May 2010 elections around the corner, the numbers 1109, 9006, and 9369 may just be what the sitting president would need to spend the rest of her life in power.

By the Policy Study, Publication, and Advocacy
Center for People Empowerment in Governance (CenPEG)
June 17, 2009

Like the flock of presidential aspirants, Mrs. Gloria M. Arroyo will spend the rest of her presidential term removing all impediments to her bid to stay in office beyond June 2010.

The knots to this grand design are quite clear: They can be seen in the President’s frequent provincial forays, orchestrated moves by her allies in Congress, new appointments to her Cabinet, the armed forces, and even the Supreme Court, the recent merger of Kampi and Lakas-CMD, and an election scheme. All these point to the fact that Arroyo’s plan to stay in power is not hers alone to pursue but smacks of a grand conspiracy involving her allies in Congress, Cabinet secretaries, key LGU officials, and others. The success of the strategy rests on Arroyo’s ability to command significant loyalty from elements she has maintained through patronage all these years – as well as logistical support and her allies’ own cunning maneuvers.

By far the clearest sign radiates from some Cabinet secretaries, Mrs. Arroyo’s election lawyer, and local executives in Central Luzon – the traditional bailiwick of the Macapagals. Former Justice Secretary Raul Gonzalez, now the presidential legal counsel, last week confirmed that Mrs. Arroyo will run for a congressional seat in Pampanga for her “self-preservation,” a claim echoed by the agrarian secretary, a press undersecretary, and local politicians in Central Luzon. Mrs. Arroyo has visited Pampanga, her home province, 17 times this year. She hinted as early as 2007 about her plan to run for a seat in Congress.

The President’s election advisers can cite the Fair Election Act of 2001 (RA 9006), particularly Section 14 which deems a candidate running for presidency not resigned from his/her elective position. This section is claimed to have been inserted by stealth but the whole act was enacted and signed into law anyway in February 2001, a month after Arroyo became president following the Edsa 2 uprising.

HR 1109

Arroyo’s plan to run for her son Mikey Arroyo’s legislative seat in Pampanga is consistent with her House allies’ railroading of House Resolution 1109. Approved on June 3 in a marathon session by the Arroyo-dominated House, the resolution empowers Congress to convene into a Constituent Assembly in which both the lower and upper (Senate) chambers would vote jointly – not separately – to amend the 1987 Constitution. Arroyo’s House allies said they will push through the Con-Ass even without the Senate participation as soon as Congress resumes session in late July.

Some of the congressmen, however, are dangling the proposal to adopt a federal system of government to bait senators, led by Aquilino Pimentel – its original proponent – in supporting the House initiative. The pro-Con-Ass legislators are basically the same House members who voted down four impeachment complaints filed against Mrs. Arroyo since 2005 over allegations of election cheating in 2004, culpable violation of the constitution, human rights violations, and other crimes. Since 2005, it has been their singular role to support the retention or extension of the besieged President in power.

HR 1109 has been billed as yet another move by Arroyo and her allies to ram through a parliamentary system by charter change, with Arroyo seating as Prime Minister and with those voting for the resolution enjoying a term extension. The plan was apparently hatched on the sidelines of the recent merger of Arroyo’s Kampi party and Lakas-CMD and, according to some of her allies, had the President’s imprimatur.

Both her election to Congress and the Con-Ass are conjoined to allow her a seat in a new parliamentary set-up. The nixing of a parliament, however, will not prevent Pampanga representative Gloria M. Arroyo from eventually taking over as the next House speaker under a scenario where it will remain dominated by the coalesced Kampi and Lakas-CMD after the 2010 elections.

Presidential successor

Mrs. Arroyo’s immediate dilemma is who she will anoint as her presidential successor if and when the May 2010 elections are held. Her current vice president, Noli de Castro, who is also reportedly leading in the popularity polls is well advised that running for president under the wing of Kampi-Lakas will likely be a “kiss of death” - thus his reported preference to run as an independent with another independent candidate for VP, Sen. Francis Pangilinan.

Will the other presidential aspirants, like Sens. Francis Escudero or Loren Legarda, members of the Nationalist People’s Coalition (NPC) under Eduardo Cojuangco, Jr., an ally of the President, welcome being adopted by Mrs. Arroyo’s coalition as guest candidates? Defense Secretary Gilbert Teodoro, who has declared his availability as the Malacanang nominee, can be a fallback choice and his campaign can be bankrolled by administration resources with military support. Teodoro, an emerging pro-U.S. politician, may team up with Local Government Secretary Ronaldo Puno, who was implicated in dagdag-bawas (vote-padding and –shaving) during the 1992 elections where Fidel V. Ramos won as president.

RA 9369 is now being implemented under the Commission on Elections’ (Comelec) full automation or automated election system (AES). Fully endorsed by Mrs. Arroyo, the AES will use the optical mark reader (OMR) machines to be supplied by the winning bidder, the Dutch-Venezuelan company Smartmatic, whose local partner, TIM, is reportedly based in Cebu where the President got her “swing votes” in the rigged 2004 elections.

Comelec has assured the public there will be clean and credible elections in May 2010 with the use of the OMR but many voters are probably unaware of the automated system’s potential flaws as well as vulnerabilities to electronic cheating. Some observers now ask: In the likely scenario of automation breakdown, will there be a failure of elections and, if so, will this not justify the extension of Arroyo power? An emergency situation which can be declared well within the term of Arroyo may result either in the extension of her presidency or in a holdover government led by Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile, also a known Arroyo ally.

No solid opposition bloc

Any of these options will likely come into fruition in the absence of a solid opposition bloc that will challenge Arroyo and ensure an anti-Arroyo opposition victory in the 2010 presidential and local elections. Five months away to the deadline for the filing of candidacy in the coming automated elections, the broad but divided anti-Arroyo opposition has yet to put its act together in order to forge a formidable bloc with a national machinery that can match that of the Arroyo coalition. With the current fractiousness of the broad opposition camp showing no immediate prospects of fielding a common candidate there may yet emerge at least three opposition presidential contenders, making the total number of serious aspirants to five, in addition to Noli de Castro and the administration bet.

“Self-preservation” lurks in the shadow of the Arroyo agenda. Stepping down voluntarily at the end of her term will unleash a deluge of lawsuits to make her pay for the alleged crimes she had committed while in office since 2001. She must stay in power to shield herself against any lawsuit even if some observers believe being House speaker or prime minister does not necessarily give her legal immunity.

Progressive forces, including those aching for reform in the country’s political and electoral systems, should now face the reality that Mrs. Arroyo and her supporters are positioning themselves for power extension as shrewdly as the traditional opposition appears to be headed for electoral uncertainties. More effective and creative strategies are needed, certainly more than the reactive protestations against fraud, corruption, persecution, and dirt politics that people have known of this administration for nine years.

Surely, for nine years, this administration has been obsessed with the numbers game starting with the liquidation of impeachment charges. With the May 2010 elections around the corner, the numbers 1109, 9006, and 9369 may just be what the sitting president would need to spend the rest of her life in power.

Tuesday, June 09, 2009

It’s battle of good vs evil, church leaders say of cha-cha fight

Religious leaders from various denominations affirm their commitment against charter change.
From left: Caloocan City Bishop Deogracias Iniguez, Senator Mar Roxas, NBN-ZTE star witness Rodolfo “Jun” Lozada, Monsignor Pedro Quitoria and lawyer Ricardo Ribo.
(Photo by Janess Ann J. Ellao /

PUBLISHED ON June 10, 2009

Several religious leaders have vowed to never abandon the Filipino people in their struggle to defeat the regime’s attempt to change the Constitution. Arroyo, they say, “has surpassed the brutality and evilness of martial law.”


MANILA – Mother Mary John Mananzan, OSB, never swore in her life. Despite having seen so much corruption and injustice all these years, she said she has never cursed. These days, however, Mananzan has the convent-bred and Catholic-educated Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo to thank for losing her manners, if not her cool.

“This is not only a matter of politics,” Mananzan firmly said at a press conference on Wednesday. This, she said, is also about “good and evil.”

Mananzan, co-chair of the Association of Major Religious Superiors of the Philippines (AMRSP), was among the religious leaders who have come out publicly against the efforts by Arroyo and her allies to change the Constitution. Many say this is just a way to extend Arroyo’s term or make her prime minister so she can, among other motives, enjoy immunity from the many legal cases that are sure to be filed against her once she is out of power next year.

Thousands of Filipinos are expected to take to the streets on Wednesday to protest charter change. (Read related story below.)If the Philippines’s religious leaders will be cowed, “who is left to shout for the truth?” Bishop Godofredo J. David of the Iglesia Filipina Independiente (IFI) asked during the press briefing at the Ilustrado restaurant in Intramuros, Manila.

Bishop Jessie Suarez of the United Church of Christ in the Philippines said the Church will “never turn its back on its responsibility to uphold the truth.”

David said only few would benefit from charter change. “Our county has so many problems to deal with. I wonder why everyone was willing to stay up late and railroad this bill,” he said, referring to House Resolution 1109 passed last week by Arroyo’s allies in Congress. The bill paves the way for the convening of Congress as a constituent assembly, one of ways the Constitution can be amended.

Sister Maureen S. Catabian of the Interfaith Justice Peace Network said that there are more relevant problems that the current administration needs to address. She underscored the less priority given to education and health services for poor Filipinos.

Catabian said more Filipinos are leaving the country as migrant workers because of lack of local employment in the country. “The congressmen are not prioritizing these. They are more focused on getting privileges and personal favors from this administration despite the widespread poverty in the Philippines,” she said.

Bishop Lito Tangonan of the United Methodist Church said before anyone thinks of changing the Constitution, those in power should be changed first. He said charter change is illegitimate since the majority of the Filipino people had no say in the approval of House Resolution 1109.

Father Joe Dizon of Solidarity Philippines said his group is “very dismayed” that upon surviving the dark period of martial law under the dictator Ferdinand Marcos, “we now have Gloria.” Arroyo, he said, “has surpassed the brutality and evilness of martial law.”

“Gloria, in its literal sense, is a beautiful word. But since the president is named after it, the meaning of Gloria becomes ugly,” said Bishop Elmer Bolocan, also of the UCCP.

Father Charlie Ricafort of the Task Force on Urban Conscientization of the AMRSP said the Arroyo administration has not learned from history. He said attempts by previous regimes to tinker with the Constitution failed because the people protested.

Mananzan, of the AMRSP, conceded that not all bishops from the Roman Catholic Church support the anti-charter change position she and her colleagues have taken. But, she said, they will not wait for the bishops to make up their minds. “We are mature and grown-ups,” she said. “We do not wait for anyone to lead us.”

But Mananzan said that even if representatives of Muslims and the Iglesia ni Kristo were not present in the press conference, she was sure that they would soon take a stand against charter change.

Despite the lack of over support from the Catholic bishops in the movement against charter change, Dizon said they did not have problems coordinating with various church sectors. “The gang rape committed by the Lower House bound us to call for the people to stand up and show their righteous indignation against charter change,” he said.

Dizon warned that if the administration will push through with the constituent assembly, religious leaders will not hesitate to organize bigger protest actions. “We assure the people that we will be with them in the streets,” Dizon said. (