Monday, April 25, 2011

A Sugar-Free Legislation

As I have a “sweet tooth”, so to speak, for budding and intelligent politicians, I pin high hopes on this talented young legislator from second district of Occidental Mindoro named Marian Haydee “Sugar” G. Villaroza who is now on her second term in office as provincial board member. The first time I met her was last September 16, 2009 in Calapan City, Oriental Mindoro while we are both attending the two-day Mindoro LGU-CSO Conference on Mining Moratorium being part of the participants coming from local government units (LGUs) and civil society organizations (CSOs) from all over the island. We were “seat mates” in the activity held at the Provincial Capitol Square of said city and I wrote a story about it via blog entry called "Of True Ants and Truants” two years ago.

I instantly recognized her then being a politician but I doubt if she could still remember me or if she personally know me by now. But things of sort don’t matter to me anymore.

The last time I heard Board Member Villaroza talking was last Monday (March 18) when being interviewed by anchor Alex Del Valle over DWDO-FM in the latter’s program called “Sa Totoo Lang”. The former was discussing about her side on why she retracted her previous nod to a Sangguniang Panlalawigan ordinance adopting the Occidental Mindoro Energy Development Plan crafted and finalized by the Energy Development Advisory Group or EDAG and was presented to the provincial board sometime this month. Said energy development plan is seen as a solution to problematic power situation in the province with regards to, “...below average service performance, inefficient system and neck-deep financial trouble.” Technical people from Occidental Mindoro Electric Cooperative (OMECO) were sent to the Philippine National Engineering Center (UP-NEC) for series of training and the main objective is to improve planning capabilities to enable the cooperative to keep up with the energy demand of our improving province. The creation of the EDAG was approved by Governor Josephine Y. Ramirez-Sato through Executive Order No. 11-11 s. of 2010. “EDAG is composed of the major players in the energy sector, representatives from the municipal and provincial government and non-government organization,” according to the Executive Summary of said development plan.

In the interview last Monday, Ms. Villaroza stated that she retracted her previous stand on that particular legislative action through a formal letter to the august body. The bottom line of such action, according to her, is the existing and still valid Energy Conversion Agreement (ECA) entered into by and between OMECO and Island Power Corporation or IPC. She admitted that she consulted three prominent personalities on the case and those names she mentioned are key officials and supporters of the IPC and known public officials at that. While I believe that she has all the right to talk to those people, she also has the full responsibility to equally ask the opinion of the OMECO Board, the EC management and the Energy Regulatory Commission (ERC) on the status of the ECA even after the presentation to balance her opinion on the matter.

Villaroza further stressed that prior to the tackling of the issue to the Sangguniang Panlalawigan, she said in that same interview that she is not aware of the existing ECA between OMECO and IPC. With all respect to the lady lawmaker, this I do not buy.

As early as the 2009 Annual General Membership Assembly of OMECO, there approved a Resolution to cause the rescission of its ECA with IPC because of the latter’s inability to perform its obligation in said contract.

As expected, the OMECO Board resorted to legal action. Atty. Ditas A. Lerios-Amboy, legal counsel for OMECO, wrote a Notice of Termination in September 2009 and she emphasized, “In a letter dated April 2, 2009, the ERC has ruled that the ECA has effectively been superseded by the Power Purchased Agreement entered into by and between NPC and IPC in June 2000 because when the ERC approved the PPA wherein IPC undertook to supply electricity to NPC for the latter to sell to OMECO, the agreement between OMECO and IPC in the ECA wherein IPC will supply electricity directly to OMECO was rendered ineffectual. The ERC explained further that in both the PPA and ECA. IPC undertook to sell the same generating capacity of its plant which is 7 MW. Both agreements cannot subsist at the same time or independently of each other since IPC can generate and supply only from the same 7 MW capacity. Finally, the ERC has directed OMECO to execute and award a new Power Supply Agreement (PSA) in favor of a New Power Provider (NPP)…..

In view of the foregoing continued inability of IPC to perform its obligations in the ECA and pursuant to the ruling of ERC, we are serving this NOTICE to formally inform IPC of OMECO's intent to RESCIND its ECA with IPC to take effect within 15 days from receipt hereof.” At present, as far as the OMECO is concerned, the ECA is already terminated that is why they are looking for the new Independent Power Producer (IPP) consistent with their position and rightly so, we do not have to wait until kingdom come to solve the problem brought about by this one-sided agreement.

The present OMECO Management Board, in the name of member-consumers, opted to go on with the reform, push the energy development plan as an official roadmap to development with utmost urgency and face the legal consequences later.

To synthesize, allow me to quote this gem from the Catholic Catechism for our discernment: “Authority is exercised legitimately only when it seeks the common good of the group concerned and if it employs morally licit means to attain it. If rulers were to enact unjust laws or make measures contrary to the moral order, such arrangements would not be binding in conscience. In such a case, authority breaks down completely and results in shameful abuse.” (CCC, no. 1903)

We at the Serve OMECO Movement (SOM) believes that the time to implement the energy plan is NOW but Board Member Villaroza thinks otherwise. No doubt, Sugar is free to stand by her own principle and even beyond….

(Photo: From Bokal Sugar Villaroza's Facebook Account)

Friday, April 15, 2011

Busy Bisi

This does not concern his politics nor his personal life or even his love life (if there’s any!) or anything outside of his being a writer. All I want to highlight is how this man, despite of his immobility, became one heck of a writer and may his story as a writer inspire our youth, those who are feeling tired or sick whenever the need for writing comes their way. The story of Rodolfo Meim Acebes as a writer and the great writers before him (and a little bit like him) are really worth telling and re-telling especially to struggling, budding writers of Occidental Mindoro. To those who keep on writing and writing, like a clock letting time pass by keeping its hands busy.

Tomorrow, April 17, is Acebes’ natal day and I am inviting everyone to stroll around the writings of this jolly good fellow who wielded his pen with fearless might but protected with battle-tested armor of social responsibility and service.

Ka Bisi writes from his bed after that fatal accident in 1988 which paralyzed half of his body. In an interview for the Inquirer in 2008, Ka Bisi recalled, “After the accident, I went back to reading and writing to keep my sanity. I worked on a borrowed manual typewriter placed on top of three pillows on my right side.” He made more than two dozen of letters to the editors of various broadsheets and magazines. Maybe, just maybe, if he did not went through this trial, his writing potential would forever be imprisoned by his erstwhile happy-go-lucky attitude.

“You cannot write if you do not read,” my late teacher in English Composition at Occidental Mindoro National College (OMNC) used to tell her class. Since college, Ka Bisi is already a bookworm. He is into reading especially the most sought after materials those days. “I was brought to the world of books by Ed Apigo. He was first to acquire books by COD from bookstores in Manila … We also read Alfredo Saulo’s “Communism in the Philippines”, William Pomeroy’s “The Forest” and the guerilla warfare diary of Ernesto “Che” Guevarra,” Acebes recalled in his column for the Divine Power, a Souvenir Program for Grand DWCSJ Alumni Homecoming 2000.

Acebes’ present situation reminded me of another great intellectual named Marcel Proust of France. Proust, was asthmatic and dying, who could write well only when, bedridden, he lay half-suffocating in a room hazy with inhalations, his bedclothes serving as his desk. I’ve learned that Blaise Paschal and Lucretius too were at their best in writing their respective masterpieces and not eaten up by their severe illness, solitude and destitution. Such situation did not hinder these great men of science and prose to concentrate. They have special gifts that are easier to cherish than to describe.

Ka Bisi, now 61, despite this physical handicap, has made his life fully busy and productive by writing historical and biographical articles and editing local news papers. He was my editor then at Mindoro Guardian. His latest work, “Mindoro sa Panahon ng Digmaan” is one gem of a book written by this Pandurucan-born historian. By the way, in case you are interested to know, Mr. Rudy A. Candelario, equally distinguished historian of Occidental Mindoro already migrated to the United States last March.

To allow you to glance at Ka Bisi’s life story, read it directly from the horse’s mind through his grand prize winning entry in the National Book Store and Globe Telecom’s “If My Life Were a Book 2007” essay writing contest. The piece is about Acebes’ thoughts on finding the meaning of life after becoming a paraplegic entitled “Finding the Meaning of Life and Becoming Free” published in Philstar three years ago.

Ka Bisi figuratively deserves waving of palms and laying down of coats for his literature. He rides on a donkey like a humble writer on a peace mission. At present, I was told, he is working on another book about 100 prominent residents of Pandurucan and I wish him the best of luck for his another noble project.

There is much more to say about the courageous historical and biographical writer who could be our youth’s inspiration for creative and intellectual works like research and writing. But this much can be said with confidence: this man already left a lasting legacy in our community and society that many of us, able men and women of this particular time and space, are afraid, too lazy or too busy to walk across…

(Photo: Acebes at work. Image from the Philippine Daily Inquirer)

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Bully Joe and His Riders

For the people of an Ole West town called Pueblo Del Diablo, big bad Bully Joe is not only the mayor but the king and the messiah. For his band of horse-riders, his thunder-like voice is authoritative and so powerful. He owns the meanest mouth in town that no amount of mouthwash could cure. His tongue is as deadly as a rattlesnake and the smell of his breath is as foul as a cartful of horse shit and those of a farting skunk combined. This made the big mouth of this balding ol' fellow as threatening and deadly as a lighted bundle of dynamite sticks. He loves to boast all his achievements. He openly and very often claimed that he is a good leader and nobody in town could match him. His diehards would apparently die and kill for him for gold coins either from his own pocket or the town’s coffer.

No ordinary citizen in Pueblo Del Diablo dared to cross his path to contradict him. Much more openly say something messy about him. Not even the sheriff or the local banker, the blacksmith, the guns and ammunitions dealer, the tavern owner including the pimps and the beautiful ladies who sing and dance. He only get advises from the gang members who are close to him. He does not mind what others feel as a result of what he blurted out. There are times that he has the tendency to put in shameful situation even his own men. They are scolded for shortcomings even in public. For him, the only important thing is to say what he wants to say, regardless of the gravity of collateral damage. It does not matter how, when and where did he say it. Much more the consequences of what his tongue just wielded. What is only important to him is to express his mind. No more, no less.

Big bad Bully Joe does not mind if he would be hurting your feelings or emotion and your dignity as a person, especially those who are not from his side or does not believe his politics. Those who do not go along with his group are mercilessly treated like a brutal Apache. They are considered traitors and destined to be hanged or tied in a cactus in the middle of the desert until hungry vultures feasted on them.

That’s Bully Joe for you. The Old West leader who see through his eagle sharp eyes are just two colors: black and white. No in-betweens. “White” are his allies who follow his line of thinking and command, and "black" who does not go with him are “enemies”. May they are criminals, dignitaries or just ordinary citizens.

He does have, no doubt, a good horse sense. A so-called horse sense is a good judgment or sound sense an intuitive skill developed from experience. He initiated progress and development in Pueblo del Diablo but those improvements are not enough. You cannot get respect only on what you do but also on what you say and how you say things. As well as how you treat your critics and others who do not care for what you’ve done.

This is what Bully Joe seems to forget. He failed to value people above all other assets and physical or cultural changes. Because of this, not long ago, he had been abandoned by his faithful and experienced lieutenants and rangers because he is so distant when leading, when pursuing certain mission. Not knowing the disagreements and troubles between his riders behind. Many of them developed thick knees or a feeling of abandonment in the middle of something. Especially every time he aimlessly opens his big bad mouth, spitting fire of arrogance and disrespect of ordinary people and hurting the employees of the US Federal government. Some of his men are also tired of this personality. Some of them too are hurt by such bad manners but the only thing they can do is to protest in silence. Many are either too loyal or just being blinded. Many of them feel that their leader is superior in all aspect, so ahead of them in many ways as a person that they cannot fully cope-up with nor follow. Unlike the dusts on their shoulders and hats that they could easily ward off.

While on their way to fetch a ranking government official from Kansas to visit Pueblo Del Diablo, mean Bully Joe moved too far in front of the pack with his Colt 45 pistol around his waist and a Winchester rifle tucked in a holster below his horse’s saddle. After almost an hour of ride away from his group, Bully Joe just realized that he’s already away from them. He, unknowingly isolated himself as a leader.

The next night, his loyal friends, his trusted men and women mourned for his death. His peers were down with deep sorrow. Across the street, majority of the people of Pueblo Del Diablo are happy and jubilant. Drinks are free at the tavern courtesy of the local banker once badmouthed by their leader. The peasants who are maltreated and his erstwhile ally who parted with him and he once insulted in public brought bread, cheese and pudding. While the sheriff and his two deputies are alert in their post. The whole town was flooded with endless music and dances and a drop of solitude.

Bad old man Bully Joe died. He was shot in the back by one of his lieutenants near the cliff. He was mistaken for an Apache, an enemy. That’s what his most trusted man in the pack informed the town folks…


Friday, April 1, 2011

Two Born Blind Stories

If you do not know Zatoichi by now, chances are you are not closely following this blog or you are not into old martial art movies. He is the blind swordsman and one of our childhood screen heroes. Zatoichi, a blind masseur and a master swordsman, is a fictional character featured in one of Japan's longest running series of films and a television series set in the Edo period. And to know how avid I was as his fan, you my revisit my entry called “Swordsmen in My Memory” two years ago.

In ancient Japan (and even today here in the Philippines) giving massages was a traditional occupation for the blind, since blind persons and masseurs were on the lowest social level, no better than beggars because in said country, I read somewhere, it was common to think of the blind as also being retarded or perverted. They are society’s discards. Just like in Jesus’ time.

This Sunday’s gospel is about a blind man who was healed (John 9:1-41) by Jesus. As we celebrate the 4th Sunday of Lent it would be helpful to think of those things that made us hopeless and the miracles we did not notice. This is where we find the blind man in John’s narrative. The guy was born sightless way and, as far as he knows, no one had ever been healed of being born that way and so he resigned himself to his situation to the point that when Jesus came by, he didn’t even ask for healing.

“How does it really feel to be blind?” I often asked my self when I was young every time I watch my sword-wielding hero on silver screen. “I prefer to be blind if I am that brave and invincible,” I often tell my self, feeding my childish fantasy. It is only when I grew up, raised a family of my own that I realized that in a way, I was also born blind.

Most of us have blind spots, presumptions, ideas and perceptions that we don’t even think about changing. These blind spots are major thorns in our lives. They can cause untold harm not only to others but to inner us. Even a quick reading of today’s Gospel shows us in a graphic way how blind the Pharisee’s were to Jesus and to his work. These religious leaders were leading people into the darkness, not into the light. Their interior lives had become hardened, like platinum bars. They had become so smug and sure of themselves that they were not able to recognize Goodness itself as it was shown to them in the person of Jesus. They were as blind as a person could be.

By the way, in the many Zatoichi films that I’ve watched, little of my swordsman’s past revealed especially how he became blind and how he developed his incredible swordsmanship. I am not concerned with those things anymore, then and now. All I enjoyed was how that blind wanderer played dice, sing and dance, aside from killing the bad guys with his mighty cane sword. How he is helping the people in need unlike the disciples in the gospel who are more concerned on the intellectual problem on why the man is blind than helping him. And Jesus told them that not all pain and suffering is because of sin, some of it is so that God can be glorified.

May this Sunday’s gospel and the Zatoichi story from my childhood days remind us of this lesson: Discovering and accepting our blindness is the foundation for receiving sight from the Lord.

Including our fictitious movie characters and idols...

(Photo : Google Images)