Wednesday, February 27, 2013

4Ps and Politics

As early as March last year, top honchos of the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) have already warned local officials against using the Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program (4Ps) or the Conditional Cash Transfer (CCT) for their partisan political ends, but how about national candidates?

Now that May 13 polls is just around the corner, it is expected that the 4Ps Grievance Redress System (GRS) would receive left and right protests or grievances coming from political camps especially in provinces such as Occidental Mindoro where politicking is so intense and yes,… year-round.

Carrying the slogan"Makialam. Magsumbong. Bawal ang Epal Dito", the social welfare department will be launching this March an advocacy campaign which aims to empower the beneficiaries to participate in this campaign and to protect the households from baseless threats of removal from the program if they will not support political entities in the upcoming elections. The department reiterated that only DSWD and not the politicians has the say in delisting or removal of a beneficiary if s/he will not comply with the conditions earlier set for the cash transfer.

In short, the DSWD one-line message is this: “Pantawid Pamilya is not a campaign vehicle for political advancement." In short, 4Ps as a national government program is not supporting any partisan political party whether local or national. How about Team PNoy?

In August 3, 2012, Social Welfare Secretary Corazon “Dinky” Soliman, issued a directive that prohibits  4Ps field implementers from threatening or intimidating any beneficiary to attend any partisan political activity; employing deceit or misrepresentation to gather beneficiaries for a political caucus, meeting, rally or other assemblies in the guise of an official program activity; active endorsement of a political candidate or party to beneficiaries; distributing partisan political literature or campaign materials to beneficiaries during official program activity; allowing the program or any activities of the program to be used as a vehicle for partisan political activities; or performing any act that promotes any political candidacy or party.   

On the other hand, according to reports, the department is respecting the rights of beneficiaries in choosing their political party and candidates. DSWD emphasized that beneficiaries should only support or endorse any political candidate or parties as citizens of the country and NOT as beneficiaries of the program. Violators are going to face sanctions. In short, when they (the beneficiaries and implementers) campaign, they should not use the name of 4Ps in vain. Hopefully they would. Let us pray.

Those workers who felt threatened by politicians must report immediately so that corrective measures will be taken up, according to DSWD. The beneficiaries are those who are in a dilemma if elections or politicians truly make their lives light or heavy. Are elections and politicians the main problem or the main solution? The answer rests in our hands as a nation.

Needless to say, politicians, especially the traditional ones, those who come-and-go in every elected positions, those who are members of a political dynasty, know that there are many ways to skin a cat and avoid illegal electioneering. Soliman’s directive would only be saving the program from pangs of partisan politics but not the beneficiaries from political peril. 

Nevertheless, vigilance of the beneficiaries/stakeholders is a must this election season. Each 4Ps beneficiary must realize that s/he is not a lowly 2Ps: Political Pawn!...


Friday, February 15, 2013

Diokno is No Joke

Over a bottle of Red Horse Mucho,- Yobhel, my eldest, and I shared thoughts about Jose W. Diokno, the great Filipino nationalist. He told me things I am not aware of about the great man. My knowledge about Ka Pepe, Diokno’s nom de guerre, is limited only of him being a lawyer and senator dedicated to the promotion of human rights, the defense of Philippine sovereignty and the enactment pro-Filipino economic legislation. My son informed me that Diokno was the only person to top both the Philippine Bar Examination and the board exam for Certified Public Accountants (CPA). Then we discussed about the content and the ideas in the book “Nation for Our Children” which I purchased when I was still a young activist at Occidental Mindoro National College (OMNC), our alma mater. That was three years or so before my son was born.

In an Inquirer net article published last year, Ka Pepe’s son, Jose Manuel “Chel” Diokno remembered, “It was 1974, the height of the Marcos dictatorship, when I first started going to court with Dad. The first time I saw him in action, I was hooked. I knew then, without a shadow of a doubt, that I would become a lawyer. And of course, I wanted to be a lawyer like him.”  Like father like son, indeed. I cannot help but recall and recount to Yobhel stories from my challenging and long stint with the Task Force Detainees of the Philippine-Southern Tagalog (TFDP-ST) where I served as its Regional Human Rights Education Program (HREP) coordinator. I told him that Ka Pepe’s idea of developmental legal aid have inspired us then, TFDP workers, to challenge government policies and practices. I told him about Diokno’s pet project, the establishment of Free Legal Assistance Group (FLAG) and how its members, mostly lawyers and paralegals, promote people’s genuine development. Ka Pepe and his legacy have tied the endearing and meaningful paternal knot between me and my only son that very hour with our favorite beer, if I may emphasize.

In that father-and-son mara-talk, we even compared senators during Diokno's time and the senators of our day. Ka Pepe and another late nationalist legislator, Lorenzo Tanada (AKA Ka Tanny) were both intelligent but never been unethical. Witty but never been arrogant. Their most memorable fight were against foreign corporations and not against their fellow senators. Whenever they present themselves in the media, their speeches are oozing with nationalism, democracy and sovereignty and not about their fellow senator's sexual preference or mental state. Well, those were the days when the Hall of Senate was a seedbed of intellectual and academic quest more than a circus or an entertainment venue. Those were the times when the media was interested more of words of wisdom coming from politicians rather than pick-up lines and antics. Those were the days before the likes of Miriam Defensor-Santiago and Panfilo Lacson came to the show. The days when the Filipino people prefer to be educated rather than entertained by politicians!

Though a man of Law, Ka Pepe was also a man of Faith. In that same article, siblings Mench and Pat Diokno wrote, “Dad was such an intellectual that it would probably surprise many to learn that he was a deeply spiritual person. His faith was very personal and private; he did not preach and as we children grew older, he left the practice of our faith to each one of us, without judging us for our sometimes lack of fervor.” It was said that Pepe Diokno even at sickbay, never lost faith and respect to people with different beliefs. 

My son, just like me when I was his age, is deeply hooked on the ideals and aspiration of Ka Pepe specially the man’s Filipino concept of Justice. Yobhel emphasized how Western thought dominated our way of thinking as a people and shared me a classic Diokno line in the manuscript “The Filipino Concept of Justice” from the book “Nation for Our Children”: “We have been dominated by the West for so long; our political institutions, our laws, our educational system, all are copies of Western patterns; and the advertising, television programs, books, magazines and newspapers emanating from the West have deeply affected our values. In these circumstances, can we hope to find a concept of justice native to us Filipinos?”

Diokno succumbed to lung cancer on February 27, 1987, just one day after his 65th birthday. In 2004, Diokno was posthumously conferred the Order of Lakandula with the rank of Supremo—the Philippines' highest honor. February 27 is celebrated in the country as Jose W. Diokno Day and this was declared by former President Corazon C. Aquino. I have no inkling about it but Yobhel shared it to me.  My old book “Nation for our Children” edited by Priscila Manalang, a compilation actually of Diokno’s speeches, taught my son this words from the great man himself : "Reality is often much more beautiful than anything that we can conceive of. If we can release the creative energy of our people, then we will have a nation full of hope and full of joy, full of life and full of love — a nation that may not be a nation for our children but which will be a nation of our children." With this, Diokno’s legacy to us is indeed “no joke”. A little book that has a special space in our little bookshelf at home and it’s a tenant there for more than 22 years now.

On February 27, hopefully my son and I again clink our glasses not only for Jose W. Diokno but also for them, my children, and the rest of the children of this great but impoverished nation of ours….

(Photo :

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Of Goops and the Silent Mode Bill

A humorist named Gelette Burgess created a book series called “Goops” that  circulated in the US for around 50 years. Since the publication of the first ever Goops book in 1900, it became well-known for it taught children the importance of polite behavior and good manners. In short, it was a comic book on etiquette targeting children as its readers. There are also bunch of political Goops in our  broadcast industry here in Occidental Mindoro but since you are sick of that reality already, I’ll fasten momentarily my lips on the topic.

Senator Miriam Defensor-Santiago, the one who has the nosiest mouth in the Senate (and in every given venue and forum), filed Senate Bill 3384 otherwise known as (please don’t laugh and say “You First” to the lady solon!) “Silent Mode Act”.  Said bill seeks to penalize cellular phone users, among other  electronic devices, in cinemas, concert halls and other venues of public performances. Santiago by way of justifying his proposed bill said, “Jurisprudence has consistently upheld the government's right to impose restraints which regulate the time, place and manner of expression in public places." In its explanatory note she added: "It is time to establish a law with corresponding penalties to marshal rude gadget users and allow other patrons to fully appreciate and enjoy the performance”.

Under the bill, theater owners and employees will be responsible for reminding the audience to keep their phones silent, and to escort violators out of the venue. People who can't help but answer calls must, "leave the theater and move to an area where they cannot be heard," the bill states. Not only that. Violators are going to fine P500 for the first offense, P1,000 for the second, and P3,000 for the third.

I keep my old MyPhone B88+ Plus Duo inside my pocket always set in silent mode while the vibrator is turned on. This way, nobody is distracted while I and my co-workers are in the middle of something. I am also puzzled why many people consider sitting off-line for just a couple of hours as a matter of life and death nowadays. Aside from entertainment venues, some people are emotionally or concentration-wise attached to their CPs even inside Churches in the middle of the Holy Mass. For them, incessantly cyber surfing, texting, and networking seem to be more urgent than basic public etiquette, if not more important than the sanctity of said central act of worship among us Catholics.

But the core of the problem is this: We, the modern man, have different ideas of what is tasteful, acceptable and "normal". To add, human beings have many different ideas of what is right and wrong. Thus civil or public etiquette serves as general rules or guidelines so that we could get along and peacefully co-exist in this rumbled (or scrambled) realm of mixed “nuts” and ideas. Perhaps that's why people like Emily Post came into existence.

Yahoo! Contributor e.s. Jones wrote in an article I just stumbled upon, “The rule here is, when in public, try to behave in ways that most would construe as empathetic towards the feelings of others.” The writer added, “Pretty simple really, but quite often ignored”. Let us all be reminded, “When in public, try to keep in mind that others might not be as enthusiastic as you are with the noise you're generating. This includes yelling or speaking loudly, arguing, laughing over exuberantly, talking on your cell phone and playing music. While it's true we do all have the right to do these things, it doesn't really mean that you should ignore the peace of others. Anything that disturbs the ambience of a particular public place would generally be considered outside what is the right thing to do”. So, to cut this discussion short, I support Santiago’s “Silent Mode Act”. Let me add too that attending to your CP or any other gadgets when people are very much aware of your presence is a grave sign of disrespect. Something that I myself, is always guilty of. If enacted into law, Santiago's bill would best serve as a reminder for all of us how to use our CPs and gadgets civilly. 

By the way, in Gelette Burgess’ “Goops and How to Be Them”, wrote something like this:

“If you gentle when you play,
You would be glad of it someday!”

This reminds me of an old goop named Johnny when he and Miriam had unpleasant and childish exchanges over cash gifts and biscuits last Christmas season…

(Photo: Todosabongga)