Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Tu(d)la* : A Six-Shooter Anthology





1.  Modern-Day Lepers

Sinners right away are the lepers of yore
Measured as social outcasts, devils and more
Though no single stone they did ever hurl
They were stoned to death amidst the crowd’s guiltless growl.

Today, they are guilty right away in the eyes of men
Lifeless to prove that they are blameless and innocent
And no craft of man ever dedicated to them
Except for the bullets from trained marksmen.


2.  Ham and Bacon

A corpse wrapped like a giant ham dumped on a busy street,
Maybe killed not by the cops but by the drug lords themselves
Whoever did that brutal, inhuman feat
Never in the victim’s life did he ever taste
A ham like those in judges’ Christmas feast!

On the long presidential table the dignitaries swoon,
Craving for the pork and its return
For this butchering to them is God-adorned.
In the dark corner of the banquet two shadows move along
The killer and the mastermind, together they bring home the bacon.


3.  Alisin Mo Ang Lahat


Alisin mo ang karapatang mabuhay
Lahat ng karapatang pantao’y wala nang saysay;
Alisin mo ang karapatang dinggin sa husgado
Lahat ng batas ay wala nang sisino;
Alisin mo ang pangamba sa patayang ito
Lahat ng patayan sa iyo na’y panuto;


4.  Ang Bagong Tanim Bala

Hindi sa de-aircon na airport kundi sa mabahong lansangan
At ang mga biktima karamihan
Ay hindi pa man lang nakatapak sa alinmang paliparan.

Tanim-bala. Hindi sa bag at bagahe kundi sa ulo at katawan.
Sa lumang tanim-bala, umusok ang kanilang bumbunan,
Sa bagong tanim-bala, palakpakan ang mga hunghang!


5.  Ang Mahirap at Ang Mas Madali


Mahirap ang mabuhay sa tama man o mali,
Mas madaling pumatay sa nasa man o hindi;

Mahirap ang tumae kailangan pang kumubli,
Mas madaling pumatay kahit lantad ay pwede;

Mahirap ang magnilay sa Ika-limang Utos sa sanlibutan
Mas madaling unawain si Mocca Uson o si Carlos Celdran;

Mahirap ang mag-giit ng pag-iimbestiga,
Mas madaling maparatangan na sangkot ka rin sa droga;

Mahirap ang maging kritiko sa mga nagaganap na patayan,
Mas madaling magbintang na kakampi ka ng Dilawan;

Mahirap ang igiit na ang palitang-pananaw muog ng demokrasya,
Mas madaling ikahon na lang ito sa kampihang pulitika.


6.  Orasyon sa Karapatang Pantao


Sintang
Orasyon
Naging
Atubili.

Nakapagpahanga,
Ipinag-pintakasi.

Dugo
Itong
Ganti,
Orasyong
Nananatiling
Gabi.

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(“Tudla” in Tagalog is “Aiming”,“Shooting”; “Tula” as we all now is “Poem”) Photo: [Rappler.com]

Monday, July 18, 2016

Meet Kai-Lin, 5


Shown above is Kai-Lin Kalas, a 5-year old Alangan Mangyan girl living in the highlands of Mayba near the upper portion of Amnay River. Beautiful yet she would not make it in any beauty pageants when she grew up, for sure. Or be on television or in the movies for that matter.

Neither she could be an academic someday but can be intelligent in her own indigenous, ingenious ways. She does not have to draw life’s meaning by outshining in certain scholastic discipline or from publications and citations as what the renown academics did, but she can surely find personal happiness in the meaning that her roots have created and be relevant for her contributions to humanity and her ancestry. It this sense, she’s still a lovable child hereafter.

In reaching adulthood, Kai-Lin, together with the tribal elders and other Mangyan dwellers would participate in Agpamago, a ritual of prayers for bountiful blessings for their community. It is a profound prayer asking for the enjoyment of inner peace where the written laws and the limit of science would not dictate the existence of man’s life.   

Kai-Lin cannot afford to be like the raised like a princess and debonair Serena Marchesa to marry the most handsome Simon Vicente Ibarra (nee Tenten) who now owns the Marchesa’s ancestral villa in Askovia. Kai-Lin will definitely avoid, when time comes, the highly mechanistic society where citizens want to find explanations for everything that affects their lives like the characters in telenovelas. Human life, for the soon-to be woman of simplicity like her, needs not be measured in having the information on how everything works.

Someday, in the darkest of the night, Kai-Lin would sing the same lullaby sang to her by her mother while as a baby she sleeps on a hand-crafted native hammock. Telling stories she learned in school when the moon is shining in its fullness above the skies. The nourishing milk that flows from her breasts is understood only as a nurturing substance but so clueless on how colostrum works for her child.

In the meantime, the sweet little girl Kai-Lin and all the beautiful yet murky children of her age in geographically isolated areas have to take hours of barefooted walk, though accompanied by their parents, are exposed to dangers in the terrain especially during rainy days or at night, back and forth as pre-schoolers at Rang-Ayan Elementary School in Barangay Proper of Pag-Asa in Sablayan town. They already have a school building back in Mayba constructed 5 years ago and could accommodate all the pre-elementary pupils there but the Department of Education-Division of Occidental Mindoro still failed to station an additional teacher with permanent item to Kai-Lin’s place. With very high probability, Kai-Lin and her classmates would end up as drop-outs as their parents would later arrange their livelihood than being idle taking care of their little children away from home and from their economic base. Like many of the parents before them, their children’s education would ultimately not their priority.

Somewhere inside the school compound is boldly printed: “Education for All” but nothing is mentioned about its accessibility….

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(Photo : IPAO File)





Thursday, July 7, 2016

Pendeho


Kumipis na ang dating matipunong katawan ni Lando. Unti-unti.  Nangitim na ang paligid kanyang sugat sa binti at utlaw na ang buto kaya nagpasya na ang duktor na putulin na lang ito. Kaya heto siya ngayon, alipin ng kanyang saklay (o maaring ang kanyang saklay ang kanyang alipin). Sa edad niyang bente nuwebe ay napakatanda na niyang tingnan. Hanggang sa lumabo rin ang kanyang mga mata na bahagyang-bahagya na lamang naka-aaninag. Mga parusang haplit sa kanya ng kanyang diabetes. Mabuti na lang at kahit papaano ay may programa para sa mga maralitang taga-lunsod ang kanilang parokya. Dagdag din ito sa mga gastusin sa gamot at pa-duktor. Kaysa sa noong kalalaan ng sakit, mabuti-buti na ang lagay niya ngayon.

At sana, habambuhay na.

Taga-deliber siya ng mga papeles ng kanilang kumpanya noon at sapat na rin ang kita para sa bago pa lang nagsisimulang mag-pamilya. Pero dahil sa karamdaman, halos limang taon na siyang walang lakad at walang kita, walang trabaho. Ang maging halos bulag na at hindi makalakad at wala pang trabaho ang pinakamasaklap na sasapitin ng isang amang tulad niya. Ito ang hinagpis niya sa mundo. Nakatira na lamang sila sa isang maliit na barung-barong malapit sa mabahong estero. Ang kanyang asawa ang bumubuhay sa kanila ng kanilang otso anyos na matanong at makulit pero malambing na anak na si Lek-Lek.

Ipinagbubuntis pa lang noon si Lando ng kanyang nanay nang ang kanilang pamilya ay tumungo ng Maynila upang umiwas sa bakbakan ng mga NPA at sundalo sa Mindoro. Nobyembre ng taong 1987 nang ang kanyang mga magulang ay patagong tumakas papuntang siyudad. Akala nila ay tatahimik na sa kanilang baryo dahil napatalsik na noon ang diktador na si Marcos, kaya akala ng marami ay wakas na rin ng militarisasyon. Minsan na kasing tumuloy sa kanilang kubo at nakikain sina Ka Islaw, ang isa sa tatlong bangkay na ibinuyangyang ng mga militar sa plaza ng munisipyo. Inilatag ito sa lupa ng wala man lang sapin. Bakas sa mga nilalangaw na bangkay ang  pagpapahirap na kanilang dinanas bago patayin: Durog lahat ang mga kuko sa kamay, may paso ng sigarilyo ang maseselang bahagi ng katawan at tadtad ng saksak sa leeg.  Sabi ng opisyal na may dalang largabista sa azotea ng gusaling pampamahalaan, napatay daw sa engkuwentro ang mga rebeldeng iyon. Nabalitaan nilang hinahanting ng mga Matasadem ang tatay niya. Samahan ito ng mga mamamayang tapat daw sa demokrasya na isang armadong vigilante group. Sakay ng barko na tigib ng takot, lumuwas nga sila ng Maynila.   

Mahirap talagang makipag-sapalaran sa lungsod ng kawalang katiyakan ngayon lalo na sa kakainin at pang-araw-araw na gastusin. Pero naiisip niya, hindi man nakabubusog ang pagmamahal ay daan naman ito para makalimutan ang kalam ng sikmura at pagkalubog sa kumunoy ng pagdaralita. 

At sana, habambuhay na.

Lubak-lubak na ang bungad na sementadong daang lagusan ng eskinitang papunta sa kanila kaya kinukumpuni ito. Binabasag ang lumang konkretong eskinita para muling sementuhin at lagyan sa gilid ng drainage canal. Ang eskinita na pugad ng mga latak ng lipunan. Ang linyang daan kung saan kadalasan sa liwanag ng street lights ang mga bata ay nagtutuyaan at nagpapayabangan tungkol sa kani-kanilang mga magulang. Maghahamon ng away ang isang nuwebe anyos na rugby boy ng, “Tatay mo nga rapist!” sa isang kalarong ang erpat ay kalalabas lang sa hoyo. At iiyak na lang bigla ang mutaing bata na makakantiyawang supot ang tatay niyang drayber ng sikad. Nabugbog pa nga minsan ng isang ma-ngongotong na pulis ang tatay ni Mutain matapos nitong ipagkalat na ang mga bataan ng pigoy ang numero unong tulak ng droga sa kanilang lugar. Na siya namang totoo.

Sa edad na bente kuwatro, morena ngunit makinis ang kutis ni  Leny at sa taglay nitong ganda, maraming mabibighani sa kanya. Katabi ang mahimbing na natutulog na asawa, sa mga gabing maalinsangan na hindi siya mapagkatulog, napakiskislot din ang kanyang balingkinitang katawan sa tunog at yugyog ng sudsod ng jack hammer ng mga taga-MMDA na nagsasagawa ng road re-blocking sa may ‘di kalayuan kahit nasa katahimikan ng gabi. Madalas nang magputik ang lagusang iyon na dapat sana ay palaging nadudukal o namimentina, noon pa.

Pero kamakailan lang ay nagpasiya si Leny. Kung aasa lang siya sa pagmamanikyur at sa paglalabada ay mamamatay silang dilat sa gutom, lalo silang malulubog sa utang. May disenteng trabaho ba ang naghihintay sa isang hindi man lang nakatapos ng elementarya? At ang ikalawang dahilan ay sa kanya na lang. Ilang gabi na rin kasi siyang hindi mapagkatulog gayung kumain naman siya kahit papaano. May nararamdaman siyang hindi mairaraos sa tulog. Nagbabagang kadena man ng panlalait o kahit dagat-dagatang apoy pa ng Impiyerno ang kapalit nito ay tatanggapin niya. May puhunan naman siyang sisimulan. Mapagsasabay pa niyang maiibsan ang dalawa niyang pangangailangan.     

Simula noon, may ilang hapon na siyang nagpapa-alam na may pupuntahan lang. Lalabas siya ng bahay na bagong paligo at naka-pabango. Isa man sa kanilang dalawa ay walang mag-uusisa, walang nagtatanong. Magpapaalaman sila na kapwa may impit na awa sa isa’t-isa. Mga anino silang hindi hinuhusgahan ang isa’t-isa. Malalim na ang gabi madalas kung siya’y uuwi.

Ngayong gabi habang hinihintay nila sa labas ng pintuan si Leny, kinukulit na naman siya ng matanong na si Lek-Lek, “Tay, ano po ba ang pendeho?”  Tila balaraw itong ‘sing talim ng pagmumura noong kampanyahan ng kauupong pangulo. Tarak na tarak ang inosenteng tanong ng anak sa kanyang dibdib. Tanong na alam niyang bunsod ng istoryahan at kantiyawan ng mga kalaro ng anak. Mabuti na lang at mas entresado si Lek-Lek na ikinuwento kung papaano pinagbabaril ng mga pulis ang tatay ni Mutain. Nanlaban daw ito sa mga umaresto sa kanya. Sinugod daw nito ang mga otoridad tangan ang isang kaputol na bakal. Sabog ang utak ng tatay ni Mutain yakap ang kanyang sikad. Dedbol.

Nailigaw niya si Lek-Lek sa tanong na tiyak na magsasanga pa ng mas malalalim at matatalim na mga tanong tungkol sa pendeho.

Pansamantala.

Kung maaari lang sana, habambuhay na…
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(Photo: from the movie “Mientras Su Durmida”)

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

On Gina Lopez’ Caldero and Other Stories


I came across a story written by seasoned journalist Ellen Tordesillas which appeared in Vera Files last July 27, 2016.  It is about a tussle between Gina Lopez, the incoming DENR Secretary, and an unknown pro-mining participant in a business forum. In Tordesillas’ account, she accentuated that anti-mining are hypocrites for despite of their stance, they are using materials with elements coming from the mining industry. Gina Lopez is anti-mining but at the same time she uses a caldero or a microphone which are both products of mining.

Let me make it clear, I am in no way defending Gina Lopez here. I am not a fan of the Lopezes or ABS-CBN!

What was applied here is bad premise: One should not oppose mining if s/he uses anything made up of elements coming from mining. This is my take on the argument: Then, on that very same reasoning, one would not expect a pro-mining to breath fresh air in un-mined areas with, say for instance, carbon deposits underneath. The pro-mining individuals are not expected to swim too in a clean, cyanide-free river or eat fishes free of mercury contamination or enjoy all the gifts of nature that are not products of mining.  

To put it in the vernacular: Kung HINDI DAPAT gumamit ng kompyuter o caldero na pawang mga gawa sa mina ang mga anti-mining, ang mga halaman, gulay at bungang kahoy na HINDI mga produkto ng mina ay HINDI RIN DAPAT kainin ng mga pro-mining!  Unlike a caldero, my physical and spiritual self is not a product of mining, so, should I cease to use my whole self for my betterment and the betterment of my fellow human being?

I prefer to be called pro-environment than anti-mining, if I may emphasize. A pro-environment is one who favours and is biased for the environment over extractive business industries however financially feasible they are.

Both ends though should find right technology how to recycle mining products such as caldero, computers or other things containing minerals coming from mining. Similarly, responsible mining, if there’s really such an animal, should be defined once and for all and look for common working area to flesh it out. But how could the so-called responsible mining bring back and restore the mining areas destructed by mining operations to its original stage? This is our biggest “how” of all. Until it is assured, responsible mining rests only in one’s illusion!

Also, the Mining No Go Zones should be identified and established. Those communities vulnerable to environmental destruction like the fragile island ecosystem of Mindoro Island. Specifically I am referring to Occidental Mindoro’s  Key Biodiversity Areas, Island Ecosystems, Critical Watershed Areas, Geo-Hazard Areas, Natural Forests, Eco-Tourism Zones and Agricultural Lands.  Since we live in a fragile ecosystems, all mining applications in Occidental Mindoro should be cancelled and all existing mining licenses and permits be revoked. Let us focus more on agriculture and tourism and adhere to the 25 year mining moratorium ordinance of the province.

In-coming President Rodrigo R. Duterte appointed Lopez as DENR Secretary who, until to this very day believes that there are no such thing as responsible mining. Duterte believes otherwise. The presumptive president is so certain that there is responsible mining elsewhere like those in Australia. On the other hand, just like Mar Roxas, Duterte’s candidacy was allegedly bankrolled by big personalities in the Philippine mining industry. But discussions and dialogues on mining must be anchored on facts and data of each individual mining application and not on fallacies such as I have mentioned above.

I haven’t heard much from the campaign supporters of Duterte regarding this. They are more eager to dwell on death penalty, drugs and corruption and Marcos burial at the Libingan ng mga Bayani, while our environment is dying slowly and the caldero of the majority of the masses in mining areas are empty …

(Photo: PTV-4)





Monday, April 11, 2016

Sensing a Duterte Win



Though I am not a fan and I won’t vote for him this coming May, I smell the dawning of the Rodrigo Duterte presidency.

Violence is predominantly felt every day and everywhere in so many different forms and levels in our social interactions: abuse of power, crime, corruption and exploitation. The Filipino people are sick and tired of this chaotic reality happening right before our very eyes. Knowing the Filipino psyche, the word “Peace” is only confined to absence of violence as conveyed to us by both the mainstream and social media. Criminals with their vicious acts, both in the private and public spheres, continue to flourish as we see in the news sensationalizing  the very details of the case to the point that they bring irritating negative vibrations even in our supposedly most solemn or joyful moments. These news, the way they are presented, are giving us anxieties and even irrational fears or paranoia. Many of us are now suspicious of every stranger we meet in the streets, workplaces and even the people in our own neighborhood and homes. The criminals,- the kidnappers, hold-uppers, rapists, carnappers, etc., continue to draw blood from the hapless, innocent victims no doubt.

It is in this dreadful background that Rodrigo Duterte offered himself to the position for the nation’s top post which is the presidency. The former mayor of the then crime-infested Davao City succeeded in projecting himself as the crime busting messiah that is why, as of this writing, he continuous to gain support from the people and get high ratings from many surveys. To those who are behind him in his campaign and to millions who hope that criminality could be ended by using the iron fist approach in leadership, it is okay to employ brute force or even maim or kill in the name of peace and justice. Here lies the reality that generally, we Filipinos have very distorted concept of Peace and Justice.

Peace, to a genuine peacekeeper, is creatively and non-violently dealing with conflicts. True peacekeeping, over and above, is a way of developing alternatives to violence as means to resolving criminality. There can be no peace without justice. Justice in plain words is “giving what is legally and morally due to a person”. Indeed, we are true peacemakers only if we give what is due to somebody, his/her rights as human being to fully achieve his/her full potential and full development. The right to due process is foremost. Given the very alarming level of criminality in our society, presidential aspirants and all the candidates in general, must be committed to the defense of life and its sacredness in all its states and dimensions. The life of the suspects included. There is no room for extra-judicial killings or summary executions but on the other hand, many Filipinos today out of desperation, believe that such brutal actions are the only way to combat criminality. It is alleged that when Duterte was the local chief executive of his city, he formed death squads killing drug pushers and other criminals. We love men of action both in reel and real life. We are bombarded with movies depicting screen heroes radiating with fearlessness in the past thus this idolatry. But to follow the thoughts of Pope Francis, who am I to judge them?

Meantime, Duterte is scheduled for a campaign here in Occidental Mindoro on April 15, 2016 and a huge crowd from all over the province is expected to come. Well, even in the internationally acclaimed Google News and Al Jazeera before me put articles saying that Duterte’s presidency is inevitable.  Except for this hardline way of achieving peace and order, his other stand on certain issues, say federalism, are mostly commendable. But it is sad to note that it is not the issue of federalism or his sound development agenda that moved people to support him but his street smart personality, his machismo and his scheme of how to ultimately end criminality.  

The present generation clamor for punishers. We as voters and as citizens lack good voting judgment as it was shown in the past. As I sense that the Duterte presidency is expected, I also expect that our immaturity as voters and the patron-client relationship in our political culture will remain, so is our regressive electoral systems.

People do not care if Duterte has close friendly links with some top officials of the CPP-NPA-NDF which was classified as terrorist group by many of the Philippines’ ally nations. His supporters are mum over his pronouncement that it is okay to pay revolutionary taxes to armed communist groups. They do not care if Duterte’s stand is not to continue our legal quest against China over territorial disputes. They do not care if Duterte is a womanizer. Plain and simple, we thirst for the blood of heinous, hardened criminals, and corrupt officials except of course if that felonious individual is one of our loved ones, or perhaps, our own president.

The only thing uncertain is how his supporters will sustain to back him up and participate in eradicating and annihilating criminals in this part of the earth in just 6 months (or even after his term). Participatory governance is essential in every president’s agenda and program. Are they willing to participate in every drastic action to attain a peaceful and just society that they and their candidate are aspiring for or trying to imagine?

Ironically, of all the presidentiables, only Duterte is assured of prayers by the Pope after the former personally sent the pontiff a letter of apology. Prayers of the pope are still prayers of the pope no matter what made him do it. Under Duterte’s watch, we must now learn how to pray more for our nation. God, please, have mercy on us!

As the support for Duterte continues to swell, so do my sinuses. Due to acute perennial or seasonal rhinitis, my EENT doctor told me that I would occasionally suffer from olfactory disorder. Over and above, all communicators have reserve privilege to change their minds…

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(Photo: Cebu Daily News)

Thursday, April 7, 2016

Muhammad Ali and National Service*


To our Campus Director Ma’am Lorenza Elena S. Gimutao and her staffs and faculty members and the NSTP-CWTS Professors Melinda Santos and Jonathan Mariano, our NSTP-CWS Candidates for Graduation, friends, ladies and gentlemen, a pleasant good morning.

Let us give first ourselves a warm round of applause.

It is particularly gratifying for me to be able to impart some words to those whose success we celebrate today – the NSTP-CWTS Graduating Class of 2016. They who are able to complete this unique, innovative, and worthwhile program of service to our nation.

As we all know, our government instituted on 23 January 2002 by virtue of RA 9163, the otherwise known as "National Service Training Program (NSTP) Act of 2001". Lumping together the spirit and intention of NSTP-CWTS is summarized in just 7 letters: S-E-R-V-I-C-E. Service isn’t an obligation, but rather, a grace. People nowadays define greatness in terms of position, honor, and glory.

Our world defines greatness in terms of power, money, intellectual brilliance, athletic ability, and good looks. But Jesus, the One who served best in human history, defines greatness in terms of service. We, being an ordinary human being must be involved in service, community service in particular. But sometimes, we serve for evil and cruel intentions, purposes and goals of individuals and even groups.

I am a fan of boxing so allow me to quote the great Muhammad Ali who said that: “Service to others is the rent you pay for your room here on earth.” Just to share, in 1967, Ali was drafted to national service in the US army to be deployed to Vietnam but refused to enlist. This refusal led to his arrest, trial and conviction for draft evasion. His refusal was grounded on human rights and his religious beliefs calling himself a “conscientious objector”. According to the lower Court, Ali violated the Universal Military Training and Service Act. Ali's boxing career dived out of control after his arrest, with the New York State Athletic Commission suspension of his boxing license and the World Boxing Association stripping him of his world heavyweight title. This also banned him from boxing in the United States. After he was acquitted by the US Supreme Court through tedious court battle, his boxing career started to flourish and became “The Greatest” even more.

In the Philippines, we then have PD 1706, which is providing for compulsory national service thus called National Service Law which was drafted in 1980 and signed into law by then Pres. Ferdinand E. Marcos. This was the prevailing national service act before the enactment of NSTP Act 2001 or the RA 9163. Today, citizens are no longer forced to join the ranks of the army but instead undergo a program aimed at enhancing civic consciousness and defense with various components specially designed to enhance your active contribution to the general welfare. Through this Act, the compulsory ROTC completion is suspended. The term “service” or even the word “defense” (as in “civil defense”) went beyond military parlance. In this course, you attended to various seminars and trainings, both technical and values-oriented, aimed at serving the community. To serve is to risk something. If we do not risk our life and limbs, our time, talent and treasure, it is false service hence, a self-service. (Self-service may be acceptable in a restaurant but a unthinkable in a massage parlor! )

Kidding aside, Muhammad Ali is now 74 years old and suffering from Parkinson’s Disease but still serving humanity. As Muhammad Ali was one of the first athletes to use his status as a vehicle to transform sports into larger societal issues through Ali’s six core principles: Respect, Confidence, Conviction, Dedication, Spirituality and Giving,- all manifested by SERVICE.

One year is not enough to make a difference but we, no doubt, were able to inspire and educate people in our little ways. And even when NSTP-CWTS is over, there are still a lot of venues where you can commit yourselves in service despite the odds, when you face the main event, the life beyond school.

Thank you for the invitation and keep on punching, keep on serving!

Congratulations and God bless to the great sons and daughters of your Sintang Paaralan , ang PUP na inyong gabay, paaralang dakila at pinagpala….
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(Photo: Boards.ie)


(*Inspirational Message rendered on the NSTP Graduation and Recognition of Polytechnic University of the Philippines (PUP)-Sablayan Campus on April 7, 2016)

Monday, April 4, 2016

Climate Change Mitigation and Adaptation in Occidental Mindoro


We do not need to be a scientist like Dr. Laura David and a local political leader like Cong. Josephine Ramirez-Sato to realize that Occidental Mindoro and the rest of the Philippine provinces are now facing the very dangers of Climate Change. The effects of climate change specifically in the marine life of Sablayan can be watched in this video documentation posted by Reev Robledo last March 3, 2010 for the World Wide Fund for Nature or WWF.

I was personally invited by Board Member Roderick Q. Agas to attend a Climate Change Forum held in San Jose last Saturday, April 2, 2016. Agas, currently leading the vice mayoralty race in said municipality, a personal friend an erstwhile co-worker at the Social Services Commission of the Apostolic Vicariate of San Jose, personally invited me to be one of the attendees to the meeting. So, I did attend in my own personal capacity as a pro-environment advocate.

Held at Sikatuna Beach Hotel, it was conducted just 20 days away from the celebration of World Earth Day on April 22. The event was initiated by Dr. Corazon Claudio of the Management Association of the Philippines (MAP) and Agas himself as chair of the environment and tourism committee in the provincial legislative board. Among the invited guest speakers are Dr. Helena T. Yap, PhD of the University of the Philippines (UP) Marine Science Institute; Dr. Maricor Soriano of UP Institute of Physics; and the one I have mentioned a while ago, Dr. Laura David, PhD, physical oceanographer. All the ladies are recipients of the prestigious The Outstanding Women in Nation’s Service (TOWNS), all members of the elite group of awardees called TOWNS Federation. Majority of the participants are seaweeds planters and fisher folks from the islands of Iling and Ambulong and some employees of Office of the Municipal Agriculturist (OMA) from Magsaysay and the host municipality. Dr. Claudio is TOWNS Awardee for Science and Technology in 1989.

What strikes me most is the topic “Climate Change: Implications for a Tropic Archipelagic Country” rendered by Dr. David (TOWNS Awardee for Oceanography, 2010). She said that over the years, Philippines continue to experience increase in ocean temperature and acidification, a disturbance on what she calls as “water budgets”, rise of sea level and the increasing strengths of storm events which are associated with storm surges. She emphasized that the LGUs need to revisit their development plans anchored on the mitigations of these inescapable dangers posed by global warming. Dr. Soriano (TOWNS Awardee for Physics, 2010) discussed the importance of Automated Rapid Reef Appraisal or ARRAS where she introduced the so-called Teardrop Hull which she and her team have invented. The Teardrop Hull is an instrument that could accurately record the underwater resources of a certain area at the speed of 33 kilometers per day. On her part, Dr. Yap (TOWNS awardee for Science, 1998) emphasized the need of climate change resilience through livelihood switching. Ecotourism programs managed by the communities themselves, according to her, could also be tried.

Earlier in the day, in her opening remarks, Cong. Sato stressed that to mitigate climate change, our actions need to be comprehensive hence not only to rely on economic side but the ecological side as well. Indeed, all economic activity must respect the environment to a superior amount, reconciling the needs of economic development with those of environmental care. Addressing the seaweed farmers of San Jose and Magsaysay, the Occidental Mindoro representative to Congress said that the event is the “most anticipated shot in the arm for the seaweed industry in the province.” Further, Sato likewise informed the participants that she already authored the Expanded NIPAS Law known as House Bill 06328. Gov. Mario Gene J. Mendiola and Vice Gov. Peter J. Alfaro along with Mayor Muloy M. Festin also came to grace the occasion.

The lady experts are in unison in saying that our fragile island ecosystems should be restored and mining will put us even more in a vulnerable situation facing the changing climate that we are experiencing today. With the massive forest denudation and consequent desertification of our forests and siltation of our bodies of water due to large-scale mining explorations and actual operations, it would toast us even more in this ecological oven and frozen us cold in this ecological freezer.

Thus, one of the concrete ways of mitigating and adapting climate change is our firm, sustained and active opposition to mining, to all the 92 applications (so far) for the whole Mindoro Island…
  
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(Photo: WWF)

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Foreign Meddling: The Most Neglected Issue in the Recent Electoral Discussions


The social networking sites are now cluttered with different opposing partisan political propaganda,- black, white and gray, which are intended to boost the bid of their respective presidential bets this coming Philippine elections in May. The netizens, filled with emotions and armed with over-eagerness to defend or promote their candidates, allowed themselves to act like talkative puppets in the hands of a political ventriloquist. The heated online debates are now at their best. The discussions, fair or foul, are polluting the social media. Irritating memes and links that are scraped from propaganda sites of political parties and politicians sadly invade even our deepest apolitical moment in cyberspace.

These kinds of people allowed themselves to be hallucinated by emotions brought about by the campaign delirium. They are drowned by the illusion that the result of the elections, especially in the presidential and vice presidential races, solely lie in the hands of the voters, in the voting power of the people and the efficiency of the electoral laws and systems. As if American meddling in Philippine politics is just in our dream. As if the American transnational corporations, its main intelligence agency and diplomatic channels are just passively watching over us during voting time. As if the US-influenced media and the survey firms do not manipulate the people and the electoral events to ensure US economic and political control in this part of the globe. As if China has no plan to follow suit. Yes, both Washington and Beijing would surely influence our domestic politics in 2016 and beyond. These two countries’ unseen but critical hand in the Philippine presidential race is very much neglected by the on-line, almost cultic pinduteros in our midst.

Foreign meddling in our political life or internal affairs is an objective reality, as attested by our political history. With Beijing’s assertion of its control over the West Philippine Sea and the Philippine court’s approval of the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA) with US, the coming election is destined to be included in the war strategy of the two superpowers. The US, our distant friend and China, a bullying neighbor, are here to influence the results of the elections. Those avid supporters of certain candidates trolling over the social networking sites are aimed at risking their reputation, sanity and all for their candidates. At the macro level, moneyed American and Chinese corporations would surely bankroll certain presidential candidate and employ every tactic in the book, overt or clandestine, to make certain candidate win and therefore to affect the campaign and its result. Secret compromises between the candidates and power brokers of these two influential countries have already been made, no doubt. The presidential candidates we see in the debates and the political TV ads nowadays endeavor to obtain their support. This would dilute the sanctity of our electoral system. In the process, it would diminish the independence of intelligence thus weaken the action of every avid supporter of certain candidates for the two highest positions in the land. Be it off-line or on-line.

In pages 32-33 of her book “Issues without Tears: Volume I” which was published in 1984, historian Letizia R. Constantino wrote that Manuel Roxas’ presidential bid in 1945 was supported by Gen. Douglas MacArthur and US High Commissioner Paul V. MacNutt despite of Roxas’ previous collaboration with the Japanese. President Manuel Roxas is the grandfather of now administration candidate Manuel “Mar” Roxas III. Let us hear from Constantino: “During the campaign, men who had been in MacArthur’s staff – Andres Soriano, Enrique Zobel, Charles Parsons and Joseph McMicking were big contributors to Roxas’ campaign fund.” Roxas, as expected, won the election. He conformed to the ideals of the Americans and since then, Uncle Sam was able to advance his economic interests in the Philippines through the Bell Trade Act and exploited of our natural resources. Under the said Act, American citizens and corporations were given equal or same trade rights as Filipinos.

The elder Roxas too, ensured the presence of the US Military Bases in the Philippines just like how his grandson supports the EDCA now. Constantino further wrote, “Roxas gave the Americans the privileges they wanted and suppressed the only groups that opposed American demands.”  The Aquino Administration or his Tuwid na Daan is very welcoming to US. The Roxas presidency would bring back the heydays of the American military presence in the country.

Thus, geopolitics is the most neglected aspect in every debate and exchanges among supporters of each presidentiable over every social networking site today. They are mostly confined to the sensationalized trivialities evolving around 2016 elections. Matters that entertain us away from the long lingering monster left unseen behind a tree.

Philippine elections are fragments of America’s colonial legacy. Jejomar Binay already declared his openness to talk with Beijing on the disputed territory or the heightening of economic ties with China the moment he is elected to office. He said to local media some months back, “We have to accept the fact that China has all the capital and we have the property over there, so why don’t we try to develop that property as a joint venture?” Last February, Rody Duterte hummed the same tune saying that he is open to joint exploration with China on the West Philippine Sea. The Economist reported that, “Chinese diplomats have given almost open support to his [Aquino’s] vice-president, Jejomar Binay, who was elected separately and will be the main opposition candidate in the May presidential election.” On the other hand, Grace Poe, formerly held both Filipino and American citizenship is married to an American citizen. Therefore, we do not expect an outright anti-American foreign policy under her watch.

As long as there is election, we open our doors to foreign meddling and our fundamental right as citizens to be sovereign in our country would forever be a dream. The right to self- determination is the ever elusive dream of every patriotic Filipino, then and now. 

The question of foreign intervention in our elections is so essential that the die-hard supporters and/or bashers of Mar Roxas, Digong Duterte, Grace Poe and Jojo Binay intellectually downplayed in this critical junction of our nation’s history…


Sunday, March 20, 2016

Bracing for an All-Female Government in the Future


Here’s a weird extension to what Senator Sergio “Serge” Osmeña III had in mind when he said that Philippines might be the first country in the world to have two female leaders. Yes, he is pertaining to Grace Poe as president and Maria Leonor “Leni” Robredo as her VP. Currently, there are only six women out of 24 members in the Senate which is equivalent to 25% of the members in the Upper House. Having such gender imbalance in the Senate, one might think of voting all the women candidates for senators, regardless of their political party, affiliation, advocacies, ideological leaning or favourite television show. Anyway, except for the TV show, those I have mentioned are now of lesser importance in each election.

Women make up half or more of the population and yet they occupy only 1/5th of elective positions in the government. This imbalance seemingly resulted to the neglect of issues and concerns relating to women. It is now the right time to give the women full and complete responsibility of handling the nation’s political balls. With this, the gap is fixed. Our Constitution should now limit the right to be voted upon to women. The paternalistic and male-dominated governments flawed since election was introduced in the land in 1907. It was the year when the first fully national election for a fully elected legislative body was held both for the Philippine Assembly and the bicameral Philippine Legislature. That was during the American Colonial Period.

In the meantime, why not vote ALL the women contesting for the senatorial race this May? My All-Woman-Ticket is composed of Leila de Lima (#12), Nariman Ambolodto (#2), Risa Hontiveros (#19), Alma Moreno (#24), Princess Jacel Kiram (#23), Lorna Kapunan (#22), and Susan 'Toots' Ople (#25). Imagine what will happen if they join the ranks of the remaining incumbent senators Loren Legarda, Nancy Binay, Cynthia Villar and Pia Cayetano. I cannot image what will happen when women clash with each other in the male-dominated Halls of the Senate.

As I have proposed, let us give the women all the political seats and bestow them, including the women in each barangay, towns and provinces, a chance to lead by banning the males from filing his candidacy and be stripped off of their right to be involved in the electoral arena.  

Both men and women can be a ruthless punisher like Digong Duterte with all his cuss words. In Madagascar of old, there’s a queen named Ranavalona I (1828-1861), a lady punisher. She was a tyrant who hungered for killing. She introduced of a harsh judicial system which claimed the lives of her own people were her ways of indulging in her perverse obsessions. One of her specialties was the traditional practice of trial by the ordeal of tangena (Take note of this word Digong and you too, Mar Roxas). In this trial, the accused was fed three pieces of chicken skin along with poison extracted from the tangena nut and if all three pieces were thrown up, they were declared innocent. However, if they did not manage to vomit up all three pieces or died during the process, they were declared guilty. If that is the case, you cannot even shout or utter “tang ina!” after the verdict! Hundreds of thousands of people lost their lives to this tangena thing!

Bongbong Marcos’ father’s dreaded Military Court under Martial Law was nothing compared to that tangena trial! Now, who says that brutality and arrogance are exclusive and confined only to men?

Before April 30, 1937, and that was 79 years ago, only Filipino men have the right to vote. Article V of the 1935 Constitution limited the right to vote to men but set a condition that suffrage may also be extended to Filipino women if 300,000 will vote in favour of the motion in a special plebiscite to be held within two years after the adoption of the Constitution. The yes votes exceeded the mark at 447,725 votes, and the rest is history or herstory,- ah,… whatever!

Since we, the gallivanting males are mesmerized by all-female bands, why not an all-female led government? …


Monday, March 14, 2016

Occidental Mindoro and Ferdinand Marcos’ Martial Law




The people of Occidental Mindoro contributed not so many stories as possible references on Marcos’ despotic military rule. But in faraway town of Palimbang in Sultan Kudarat where some 1,500 Bangsamoros were slaughtered when soldiers attacked the coastal town in early 70s, merely mentioning the words “Mindoro Occidental”, make them shivers, especially the women,- in horror and lamentation.

Ferdinand Marcos’ Martial Law which he later called New Society has this essential characteristic in the context of Occidental Mindoro: it was submissive to foreign interests, specifically the United States, and that of his relatives and cronies. It facilitated the rape of our sovereignty and economy. In page 272 of the report of the National Committee for the Restoration of Civil Liberties in the Philippine titled Marcos and Martial Law in the Philippines published in 1979, the former strongman was quoted saying, “This American government is the leading power in the world. Of necessity, it has very strong influence in resources of help and is itself a source of aid. Again I say it is our hope…”  In 1975, the whole island of Mindoro was considered laboratory of a project called Mindoro Integrated Rural Development Program or MIRDP. Despite of the socio-political horrors brought about by the dreaded Martial Law then, the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund (WB-IMF) granted Marcos’ authoritarian government a 50 million dollar worth of financial aid mainly for agricultural and infrastructure projects under MIRDP in two Mindoro provinces.  On its part, the Marcos government initiated the Mindoro Agro-Industrial Rural Community Development (MAIRCOD) to implement animal dispersal projects as component of the Kilusang Kabuhayan at Kaunlaran or KKK which is under First Lady Imelda Marcos’ Ministry of Human Settlement. This was called “Mindoro Strategy”, a supposedly model program for the whole Philippines but not fully implemented due to corruption and bad management, among others, according to Volker Schult, author of “Mindoro: A Social History of a Philippine Island in the 20th Century: A Case Study of A Delayed Developmental Process” in 1991. The contractors and politicians close to Malacañang are the ones fully gained from it.

Aside from foreign companies, Ferdinand Marcos cronies profited most from the supposedly development program. They, the cronies or the ruling elite supplied raw materials to foreign companies who have close connection and relationships to said firms. Roberto Benedicto, once owner of the Sugar Central in San Jose and Eduardo Cojuangco, uncle of BS Aquino III are FMs most prominent cronies. Alfredo “Bajo” Romualdez, a brother of Imelda, owned a chain of gigantic businesses from a shipping company to being a franchise holder of Jai Alai. Dr. Pacifico Marcos is the top honcho of many real estate corporations and hotels that time. Pacifico is the younger brother of Ferdinand.  

The late former senator Jovito Salonga once observed: “The New Society offers a tax privileges to foreign and local investments. The New Society cannot seem to stop devising ways and means whereby the big shots could add to their profits.  After reading the tax exemptions of these investments, one wonders if they pay taxes at all. In any case, the New Society is proud to say that the Philippine tax incentives are among Asia’s best.” To add from other source on public interest versus private interest, economic historian Jan Luiten van Zanden wrote about world dictators, “With the passage of time, the balance shifts from the country’s interests to private interests and that is disastrous for the economy. The quality of governance declines, the clique surrounding the Great Leader is corrupt and loots the treasury.” This observation rings true even today in our midst, in the context of Occidental Mindoro. Some quarters, specifically the relatives of the sitting local politicians during Marcos time, considered that Martial Law or the New Society such development in such a good light but poverty in the countryside continued to linger. This is mainly due to indebtedness of the farmers to loan sharks and the high price of farm commodities and inputs and the continuous relegation of the Mangyans. Things we are still experiencing today.

Abunawas Kali along with thousands of other Moro residents were detained by soldiers in Tacbil mosque and killed each night by tens according to a news report. Women were brought to a Philippine Navy boat where they were assaulted and raped. Those who resisted committed suicide by jumping into the ocean, or were shot dead by soldiers. Bainkung Buwisan, one of the hundred victims, was then 14 when raped by soldiers. Buwisan, now one of the claimants under the Human Rights Victims Reparation and Recognition Act, still clearly recalled the name of the Navy boat: “Mindoro Occidental”. 

BRP Occidental Mindoro was landing ship tank commissioned on July 15, 1972 and probably, according to Philippine Navy records, - after being decommissioned, the boat was sold as scrap in early 1990s....

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(Photo: filipiknow.net)



Monday, March 7, 2016

Paper Candidates: You Know Who They Are


The grandest symptom of desperation or bankruptcy of any political group is when it pitches a bunch of so-called paper candidates specifically to key higher positions. Paper candidates, in my one definition, are those who are out of the blue just came out for electoral positions in a certain province or locality. Second, they are the candidates, though they belong to a political team, usually unknown hence having low level of support or its political clout already diminished. Well, although they have a little chance of winning, the main purpose is to make an effort to ensure that there are no cracks in their political register if not to perpetuate their existence in the local political scene and/or power in strategic areas. This is also just to keep a political group to the main track and make itself visibly relevant in one given local election by just keeping all the “blanks” filled up. Third, a paper candidate is also someone, who is not capable- physically, financially and mentally, to launch and much more appear in the fatiguing campaign sorties. Many of these candidates of sort know that their chances are nil and not that serious to win, but who are we to judge one’s intention? They are, perhaps, just helping out their party or cannot turn down their patron or any other personal reasons by allowing themselves to be candidates, thus, even to the extent of putting their names in the walk of shame later!

It is difficult to name names or accuse someone a paper candidate for nobody would admit that they belong to such category even if they are squeezed to death. But it cannot be denied that there are indeed such a candidate of sort and I am certain that their names are now included in the ballots with their respective parties. We, the voters, by the way, have no slightest idea how the candidates in general are groomed or selected.

To be positive about it, local political groupings are essential in a democracy. Democracy is unimaginable without the healthy rivalry of political groups especially during elections. Political parties in general, from the national down to the local, must have, among others, the following major functions: to formulate policies and agenda, platform of government hinged on the party’s ideology, educate public opinion geared towards the growth of the level of political consciousness of common citizens. But first and foremost, any political group has this noble task to recruit men and women of integrity to its fold as members and not those “repeaters” or those with checkered past and of doubtful repute just to “fill the gaps” in the line-up on certain election year.

There are also those opportunists joining and staying with the group for convenience and other considerations, riding on with the popularity and resources of their patrons and party heads. Sometimes they are the party vagabonds doing things in contrast to party lines. They swim against the tide or put themselves in safe position when controversial issue arises. Since they are popular among the masses, even a political nincompoop, he is still considered (and spoiled) by the team/group. The political groups that I know cannot police their ranks and those who are “policed” just move out and quickly jump to the other fence. Over and above, since party principles are is nonexistence, the most problematic area with local political groups is that they are normally tied to a particular political leader/s not to party ideals, given that such animals exist in the team.

With this emptiness in party membership and the disordered situation with regards to party loyalty in the Philippines brought about by personal agenda of certain politicians - the flip-flappers or the butterflies - I sometimes think of all out scrapping of the political parties or groups. I am so disgusted to the point I lost my trust in the mainstream political parties where party ideals and principles are deemed unimportant, if not considered pieces of garbage.

This trouble with our political party culture for me is beyond repair. Party labels, viewing from my almost displaced retina and judging from my sometimes cynical perception, especially in my province, the vicious division hatched by the two dominant political groups, have practically broken us up - as families and as communities- into political scraps.

I do not have to name them. You know very well who they are….

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(Photo: Slideshare)