Saturday, August 29, 2009

Family Affair

A long-gone blogger already posted a blog entry on this topic more than two years ago entitled “Political Dynasties in Occidental Mindoro : The Old and Budding Ones”. Click here and try to read him once more. But I would not wish to repeat his accounts that are still true up to now. However, there are latest developments in Didaskalos’ report like the present status of the mayors of Mamburao and Magsaysay, for they have won their cases of election protests in 2007 and legally have taken their respective municipal seats. Right at my very nose, there is an ex-officio councilor who is son of the mayor. Didaskalos was the owner of “Advocatus Socialis” and I am writing this “sequel” hoping that this would do justice to his piece and his memory.

On the occasion of her birthday last Wednesday,- in a radio interview, certain lady Mayor unveiled her plan to slide down as Vice-Mayor for she is now serving out her last term in office. She also added that her youngest son will run for councilor and her eldest will again look forward for another term as Provincial Board Member next year. Also in said interview she reportedly quipped : “It seems that politics is contagious!”

In another town, a wife (who is now serving as Barangay Captain) of an incumbent Mayor (and a former Vice-Governor) is believed to be running for the post occupied by her husband who is expected to just finish his term and retire from politics. The couple has a son now on his second term as a councilor of same town.

Occidental Mindoro has a long history of political dynasty like what Didaskalos pointed out in his write-up when he was still alive. But how could we say that political dynasty is good or bad for us if Congress is still unable to craft and pass implementing law that would also define political dynasty? But I will stick to this straight definition I have learned from the billiard players in Mabuhay Recreation along Gen. Dunckel Street : “A dynasty is a succession of people belonging to the same family, who, through various means and forms maintain power, influence or authority over the course of generations.”

Certainly, the 1987 Constitution has a provision (Art. 2, Section 26) that says that the State shall prohibit political dynasties but until such legislative action is made, this provision will forever be useless. Have you ever dare to inquire this issue to our past and present representatives to Congress? Or explain to them that the reason,- according to the supreme law of the land, for ending political dynasties is to assure that there would be “equal access to opportunities for public service.” Obviously, they would not pick a rock and slam their own heads that would lead to their "untimely" political demise.

Despite of this sad reality, we must do anything we can to support advocacies and personalities (including local politicians) that are against political dynasty and for equal access to opportunities for public service. Until such time that no political family is exercising monopoly of leadership in Occidental Mindoro,specially if they have all the political and economic power to do so.

Until Didaskalos resurrects from his ashes…

(Photo Credit : SSC File. Taken in Abra de Ilog where the present Mayor is the husband of the former Mayor)

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Trying a Quickie

I am in a hurry to post this entry for we are going to Brgy. Central in about fifteen minutes or so. We have a consultation with the residents of Sitio Putol (now known as Sitio Kasoy) on the 2D Seismic Survey to be conducted by Pitkin Petroleum Ltd. in line with Service Contract No. 53 of the Department of Energy or DOE. The residents whose farm lands are previously identified as part of the activity will have a meeting on Friday. Their village officials have already issued a Resolution favoring the project despite the opposition of the residents and the Parish Pastoral Council or PPC headed by their Parish Priest, Rev. Fr. Giovanni “Jojo” M. Gatdula. The residents believe that the project will pose danger to the environment specifically to their water sources. What they are pushing is the use of renewable source of energy specifically biofuel. The 2D Seismic Survey is expected to commence next year while San Jose is commemorating its 100th Founding Anniversary. The present San Jose officials favor Service Contract No. 53, we were told.

Quickly, I just would like to say this with all humility: “Let us keep the flame of our centennial spirit alive even beyond 2010!” What I expect is the creation of a local historical group that would analyze issues as vital importance to our situation and to the future by means of initiating municipal-wide dialogues among different sectors to critically re-examine our historical past, the present socio-economic priorities of our townspeople. We need something that would stir up discussions and lead to ways of empowering the communities and organizations for renewed politics and governance. Remember, our centennial celebration will coincide with the 2010 local elections. We need a “total history” and a celebration that would emphasize structures over development, culture and society over politics, collective behavior and attitudes of every citizen (especially the basic sector), over ideas of individuals and few academicians.

I am not a historian nor from the academe. I just love reading history books while drinking gin during my college days at OMNC. I am a "renewed" Church-worker now. By the way, the Catholic Bishops' Conference of the Philippines (CBCP), through its Pastoral Statement last July 12, 2009, have committed us, Church personnel, to the “… indispensible task of raising social awareness and forming social consciousness through political education.” This is our main focus in 2010. I am just a lowly activist or social advocate and I have never been a publicist or PR man of a politician in my whole life, much more involved in any partisan political campaign in the past. Therefore, I am speaking from my limited view point and background.

I told you I'm in a hurry but this won't take long. Without the intention of exaggerating the issue, I would like to cite this historical fact: On March 16, 1942, Japanese troops invaded San Jose Sugar Hacienda, yes,.. that was in Barangay Central, and imprisoned the entire San Jose municipal government. According to an account of Volker Schult in page 104 of his book "Mindoro : A Social History", the Japanese organized festivities and celebrations, specially on Tenno Hirohito’s birthday that year. A big party with meals for all inhabitants, complete with boxing and other competitions, dancing and other performances were organized. Those celebrations were intended to seek and improve cooperation of the ‘sacadas’ and the rural folks to the Japanese-sponsored new municipal (puppet)leadership. The author concluded by emphasizing : “Yet, these celebrations became a futile attempt to cover the brutal reality of war.”

Similarly, if the San Jose Centennial Celebration is seen as just a one-year affair and totally no hairline connection to poverty and other social problems of the majority of the Pandurucan people, we would only be attempting to cover brutal reality of the 21st Century San Jose, brought about by the absence of care for the environment and lack of political will, to name a few.

We will be going to Central not for any historical find or researches but to rock the boat,- if necessary, and make a historic action by siding with the people in opposing DOE Service Contract No. 53 in Occidental Mindoro.

My companions are already honking me. I'm coming,- I mean, I got to go…

(Photo of the Philippine Sugar Mill in Brgy. Central, San Jose, Occidental Mindoro, from Flickr posted by Ronet Santos. Original photo courtesy of Rodolfo M. Acebes and Rudy A. Candelario)

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Public Relations in a Celebration?

As early as June of this year, the San Jose Centennial Commission is created and Mayor Romulo “Muloy” M. Festin of said municipality in Occidental Mindoro is the Chairman of the Board of Directors (BOD). Various activities were laid up until its culmination on May 15, 2010. The Commission is expected to conduct activities such as slogan and logo making contests and the much anticipated theatrical presentations, etc.

This event and celebration is important and the organizers deserves a tap on their shoulders for this selfless effort. Even psychiatrists remind us that the loss of sense of time is a symptom of personal deterioration. Cut a man off from his memories or his vision and he sinks to a depressed state. And same is true in a society, community or municipality.

Man is a “historical” being. We must recall the past not only by recording it, or by making a cultural presentation (or related activities) out of it, but by anticipating the future not only by preparing for it but by conjuring up and creating it. We are taught that history is not to be viewed as a jail to escape or as an antique to be preserved but as a dimension of reality that enlarges and illuminates the present. In a sucess-and money-oriented society such as ours, we need celebrations that are less trivial but more inspirational and posed current challenges.

Any celebration or commemoration that is only sugar-coated, superficial and has no sustainability is doomed to fail before it is started because in this kind of program or project, what is usually being sought is not public conscientization but public relations. Usually, our public and civil anniversaries and celebrations (including Fiestas or other religious celebrations) doesn’t provide an inspiration to change any social problem, concern or predicament that we are in. It does not give inspiration to fight injustice and other structural and social “sins”. It even made as a temporary social anesthesia being capitalized by the ruling few, including local politicians. It is only designed and intended to astonish and catch the public eye. No more no less.

Most of the celebrations of this sort in the past lack real verve or feeling. Yes we are enjoying because the plays, the dances, the musicals, the slogans, the markers, are all there. But under the surface of the Dionysiac carousing we feel something is missing. When we wake up the next morning, we often wonder why we bothered. And we just laced our celebration with fancy icings but vague with meaning and essence for it failed to move us to act or collectively push us to give our own life and limb for the sake of our beloved town, like what Fermin Baretto did many years ago facing foreign invaders.

To celebrate the centenary is to inspire us to act on the most pressing problem of our town. What a shame to celebrate our 100 years of being an established municipality if they did not even lift a finger to our biggest and dirtiest public mess called San Jose Public Market. Not to mention the immorality of the Small Town Lottery (STL), our mega chaotic drainage and garbage management systems, to mention a few.

But hopefully, the upcoming San Jose Centennial would bring not only gay moments but a transforming celebration as well…

(Photo by

Friday, August 14, 2009

The Trial of Willard

A known figure in our place was implicated in the recent killing of one of the leutenants of his political rival and this was aired through our radio interview with the victim’s widow. Our interviewee merely focused on her supplemental affidavit as evidence for the filing of a criminal case against said influential patron in the Department of Justice or DOJ. Details of her accusations were not discussed. Days after the show, a long-lost friend told me what we have done is “trial by publicity”. Though I am not a lawyer I told him : “I don’t think so!”. And he called me name in Tagalog synonymous with male private body part. Before, I had a high respect for this friend of mine (let us just call him Willard). But now, with his concept of “trial by publicity”, and his recent affiliations, he’s nothing but a laboratory rat to me!

It is difficult to strike a balance between protecting the right to a fee trial and safeguarding the right of free expression. True, the former necessarily entails some curtailment of the information that may be aired (or disseminated) about a party prior to trial. If there is no such limits, the result would be the practical nullification of the protective effect of specific legal rules including the exclusionary rules of evidence. But on the other hand, there are vital social interests served by the right to information. The public has the right to know about legitimate public interest in matters of general concerns.

For Willard, any news that would put his boss in bad light is “trial by publicity”. But I understand Willard, my little nice mouse. His knowing and meaning of “trial by publicity” is constrained by something called channel capacity. Channel capacity is the information-handling ability of any given means of communication. Have you ever wondered what it feels to be a laboratory rat?

Suppose I am a rat named Vhu. And you know that we, rats,- have no cone cells. Cone cells in humans are the cells responsible for the color vision. And as we all know, I, Vhu, of rodent specie and the rest of my race do not have cone cells. This physical limitations deprive us of what to you is a whole dimension of visual sensation. So I, Vhu,- the rat, think that everything I see is all grey. I know this is true. I am mislead? If so, by whom? What can I do about it? There are no answer to these questions and that is why I pity my friend, Willard. His limited finite brain is not capable of telling him about color; and so he cannot know it and cannot even argue with the existence of colors. Be it red, white or blue. The very notion of color is meaningless to him. How much more with his notion and definition of “trial by publicity”?

But my beloved friend,Willard, is not a rat. He is a human being ...
(Photo credit:

Monday, August 10, 2009

Tale of Two Tables

While President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo was delivering her (hopefully!) last State of the Nation Address (SONA) in July 27, 2009, I,- together with participants from other parts of the country were at the St. Michael Retreat House in Antipolo City for a Hapag-Asa Partner’s Meeting. Hapag-Asa(literally “Table of Hope”) is an integrated nutrition program initiated by the Pondo ng Pinoy Community Foundation and established by Cardinal Gaudencio B. Rosales of the Archdiocese of Manila along with 13 other bishops in July 2005 together with Assisi Development Foundation and Feed the Children Philippines. The program aims to feed at least 120,000 poor and hungry children nationwide once a day to improve their overall nutritional status. Its program components are : Supplemental Feeding, Education Classes and Livelihood and Skills. The Apostolic Vicariate of San Jose is a partner of Hapag-Asa in Occidental Mindoro.

While the President was rendering her SONA at the Batasan Complex, complete with figures and percentages boasting the country’s economic growth under her administration, Ms. Florinda Lacanlalay of the Hapag-Asa Secretariat is informing us that malnutrition has been one of the major problems affecting Filipino children. Statistically, according to the 6th National Nutrition Survey of the Food and Nutrition Research Institute, 3 out of 10 Filipino children are suffering from under weight and under height. The Mindoro, Marinduque, Romblon and Palawan or MIMAROPA Region has the highest prevalence of malnutrition in the whole island among 0 to 5 years old with 34.2%, followed by Cagayan Valley with 34.1% and Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao (ARMM), 34%.

One of the participants, Msgr. Reggie Hizon, Social Action Director of Diocese of Balanga, said by way of a reflection: “Feeding is a new way of being a Church. It is a homily”. Twenty seven (27) out of every 100 or 29.9% of pre-school aged children, 0 to 5 years old, are underweight. 25.6% of children, 6 to 10 years of age, are underweight. These children are suffering from Protein Energy Malnutrition and/or micronutrient deficiencies such as Vitamin A Deficiency Disorder (VADD), Iron Deficiency Anemia (ADA) and other related disorders brought by the emptiness of our every table. According to World Health Organization (WHO), “Malnutrition prevalence rate of 5% is considered a public health significance”.

After her SONA, President Arroyo and her entourage, including our representative to the Philippine Congress had their US trip and that controversial dinner happened. New York Post news article posted that the group of just more or less 20 people, paid $20,000 in a world-acclaimed restaurant. The amount is equivalent to almost one million in Philippine currency or P955,400. That lavish dinner at Le Cirque, that famous French restaurant in Manhattan, is one heck of a scandal even it was not a taxpayers money, if we are to believe Press Secretary Cerge Remonde. According to Remonde, Leyte Representative Martin Romualdez paid the bill. Even if the expensive dinner was paid by somebody else, it is still scandalous in face of situation of full-blown malnutrition among our children which was discussed to us at Antipolo while President Arroyo was delivering her SONA...

("Hapag ng Pag-Asa" painting by Joey Velasco)

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

So Long, My President

Corazon “Cory” Aquino became our inspiration in our struggle for freedom, justice and democracy in Occidental Mindoro National College (OMNC). I was a college student then when our own version of “People Power” forced its former administrator, Mr. Bernabe B. Macaraig, to vacate his San Jose National High School (SJNHS) post which he occupied in the early 70’s. SJNHS later became OMNC. Through series of mass actions initiated by the Alliance of Concerned Teachers in Occidental Mindoro or ACTOM and my group,- the League of Filipino Students-Occidental Mindoro Chapter (LFS), with support from other cause oriented groups and institutions in the province, we were able to bring substantial changes to our alma mater. Mrs. Virginia Sicat, my instructor in Filipino, became OIC (or Officer-in-Charge) president of the college from 1986-1987. That was August 1986 and months after Cory took her oath as the first woman president of the republic.

Outside of the campus, after the manipulated presidential snap elections of February 7, 1986, the Aquino administration immediately installed in the provinces OICs to substitute Marcos supporters who are still in office. In Occidental Mindoro, Pedro “Peter” O. Medalla, Jr. was appointed OIC-Governor. Unlike in Oriental Mindoro, where high tension situation ensued between OIC-Governor Benjamin “Chippy” Espiritu and the incumbent Hicoblino Catly, the transition between Madalla and Arsenio Villaroza became peaceful. Villaroza was a political ally of Marcos and served as governor from 1960 to 1986.

The initial years of the Aquino presidency, both insurgency-related and politically-motivated acts of violence in our province have increased. In February 1987, Batasang Pambansa Representative Pedro Mendiola, Sr. was assassinated by an unknown gunman. High profile cases of human rights violations have escalated especially in San Jose and Sablayan where militant farmer leaders were executed. The Aquino government’s banner program, the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program (CARP) have polarized social groups in Occidental Mindoro costing many lives and limbs. Significant cases happened during massive military deployment at the Aquafil Estate in Brgy. Bubog, San Jose, Occidental Mindoro where many of the farmer members of the Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas or KMP were detained and arrested. Law enforcers and security officers of the property were not spared and even targeted by Communist hit squads. Some of the farmer-leaders even joined the New Peoples Army (NPA) after being hunted by the police and soldiers.

According to her critics, especially from the militant side, Cory did nothing on the fundamental social problems. Said problems were not solved and the United States just maintained her hegemony in the Philippines. Cory was considered by leftist groups, including LFS, as another “American Puppet” president. While Marcos loyalists tagged her as “Communist lackey”.

Incidentally just last Tuesday, the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP), the political arm of the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP), conveyed its condolences to bereaved family of Cory. In a statement, the NDFP said that despite being unable to reach a final peace agreement with the government and the failure of the land reform program, the Aquino term was laudable for the release of all political prisoners and the improvement of the human rights situation in the country. The Communist-led group also considered the 1987 Constitution as a one of the legacies of Cory’s term.

Yet in my mind, her speech before the joint session of the United States Congress in Washington, DC in September 18, 1986 entitled “Restoring Democracy By the Ways of Democracy”, made me feel her fearless longing for democracy and at the same time her plea for American assistance. She told her audience, “Yet to all Americans, as the leader of the proud and free people, I address this question : has there been a greater test of national commitment to the ideals you hold dear than that my people have gone through? You have spent many lives and much treasure to bring freedom to many lands that were reluctant to receive it. And here you have a people who won it by themselves and need only the help to preserve it”. And that speech made me proud that I am a Filipino.

And Cory Aquino will forever and always be remembered for uniting Filipinos for their fight for freedom and justice. In a Time Magazine article written by Shiela Coronel in its November 13, 2006 issue (p. 35) it is written : “She (Cory Aquino) is also blamed for resurrecting a political system dominated by the elite clans, causing disappointed supporters to say that she could not transcend the interest of her class..” This is exactly the same situation we are experiencing in Occidental Mindoro today. The clannish political system still exists. And that was not solely Cory’s fault. It’s my fault as a voter and as a citizen. It is our fault.

Somewhere in the same article it is also emphasized, “To Filipinos, who are devoutly Catholic, she was both Mater Dolorosa and Joan of Arc”. And to the courageous woman whom Benedict XVI hailed as a “woman of deep and unwavering faith” : So long, my president

(Photo by Reuters)

Monday, August 3, 2009

Analysis of a Dogfight

I can’t help but understand the situation of the partisan radio propagandists in my place. There is a Filipino saying, “Ang pinakamahirap na gisingin ay ang mga taong nagtutulog-tulugan” (There is no people harder to wake up than the one who pretends to be sleeping). Yes, partisan broadcast journalists in our province, human as they are, have strong tendency to believe only what they wish to believe. That old situation add flame to the recent media dogfight in Occidental Mindoro.

When radio listeners are prejudiced either against the broadcaster of a politician or against the issue or concern which he/she advocates – and in many cases the listeners are prejudiced against both, because the propagandist and his/her cause, the announcer and his/her patrons or bosses’ cannot be dissociated – the media man faces a great difficulty in terms of credibility and so on. Under such circumstances, the majority of the listeners,- the non-aligned and independent audience, will generally consider the views and opinions of the man and woman behind the microphone with skepticism. This kind of listener will not give credit to the evidence adduced and will scoff at the politicians, officials or authorities mentioned. The listener may be even so apathetic and indifferent as to refuse to listen to opposing arguments; or if she/he listens out of fairness, he/she has always a tendency to discredit what he hears. Especially or even the so-called developmental (less controversial, less intriguing) news. Even shifting from news and public affairs to entertainment program would not help because as long as they are working with their political patron, the broadcasters are already and completely identified with the bad side or “notoriety” of a certain politician. Remember, our listeners are not dumb!

Not only the “one-sided” (read: political propagandists or employees of a media outlet owned or influenced by a politician) media men are affected by emotions but including their listeners. Very often, the listeners are convinced of the truth of an assertion, position or conclusion, of a wisdom of an act of judgment, or of the expediency of a course of action. But majority of the listeners may refuse to embrace the truth or follow suggestions laid by the announcer over the radio. No matter how good and helpful they may be.

In war,- as we all know, a dogfight is an aerial combat between fighter planes and pilots and the first world-acclaimed “dogfighter” was a German pilot named Manfred von Richthofen known as the “Red Baron” during World War I. Speaking of Germans, exactly 75 years ago today,- in August 3, 1934, after von Hindenburg died,- Adolf Hitler become the supreme leader of Germany by assuming both the powers of President and Chancellor (with the title of Führer). And the world’s most dreaded dictator was born...

Let us go back to the topic at hand. Being a community radio practitioner, it is very essential how we live our lives inside and outside of our workplaces. How we honestly interact and relate with people outside of the radio booth , especially the masses, those living in far-flung communities, including your political rivals or “enemies”, in a personal and face-to-face encounters with them. We must always keep this in mind, a vital community organizing principle in the Philippines : “Hindi gaanong mahalaga sa masa kung ano ang iyong sinasabi’t ipinaliliwanag, kundi kung papaano mo sila pinakikisamahan” (For the common people, what count most is not what you are saying but how you are treating them). No matter how politically correct, smart, useful, informative and appealing you and your message may be. They are all recycle bin-bound.

For it is only this thorough knowledge of the nature of man, the psyche of the people in the countryside,- their habits of mind, peculiar interests, likes and dislikes (in their socio-economic-cultural and political life) their idiosyncracies, their prejudices,- that the media man of a politician can adjust himself or herself –his/her language, his/her message and his/her actions – to those whom he desires to influence. Including of course his/her (or his/her boss' or patron’s)rivals or “enemies”.

Finally, this is a good time for a careful review and analysis of their role (as community media practitioners) in society and identify things that would unite them. We, media practitioners in the province, like all of our politicians and the Mindorenyos in general,- here and abroad, love Occidental Mindoro. And certainly we are united in serving our listeners’ dreams and aspirations regardless of their political colors. They, the people, our listeners are the true subjects and not just objects of our every endeavor as responsible citizens and human beings. Their welfare and development are ideally our utmost concern. This must be the only constant and unchanging thing that should move us . Unlike your political affiliation, the station and the politicians or personalities you are working with (for) which are not permanent. Let us remember, what unifies us is much greater than things that divide us.

In the present media dogfight, the people is appealing for a ceasefire! …

(Photo credit :