Wednesday, December 21, 2016

On Missing James Taylor and the War on Drugs

James Taylor and his songs were part of my adolescent years but I do not mind him cancelling his February 25 concert at Manila’s Mall of Asia. I am not used to live musical concerts for I cannot afford it. The five-time Grammy award winner and singer-composer of the classic “Fire and Rain” and rendered Carol King’s “You’ve Got a Friend”, cancelled the musical tour saying he finds reports of summary executions of suspected drug offenders in the Philippines without judicial proceedings “deeply concerning and unacceptable”. While acknowledging that drug addiction is a worldwide problem that seriously harms society, Taylor criticized the anti-drug campaign of President Rodrigo Duterte.

Well, Taylor, in his teens, was also hooked on heroine but he bounced back in his mid-30s. He once stated:  “A big part of my story is recovery from addiction. One thing that addiction does is, it freezes you. You don’t develop, you don’t learn the skills by trial and error of having experiences and learning from them, and finding out what it is you want, and how to go about getting it, by relating with other people.”  James Taylor will never forget his addicted past, “somehow I haven’t died,” he said once.

I have never heard of James Taylor for years until his recent cancellation of his scheduled musical performance here in the country. I am happy that the musician I adore is still alive at 67. I am happy the same way he stood against how the present Anti-Drug Campaign is waged. I am sad that many Filipino artists do not stood the same.

This government does not need James Taylor on the same manner that it does not need Agnes Callamard, the UN Special Rapporteur on Extra-Judicial summary or arbitrary executions, they may argue. This government cannot be moved by creative artists like James Taylor much more their craft. All they want is to eliminate the drug addicts using foul or fair means.

Barbarism is ignorant of what art could do. It would not understand that the goal of every musician it to connect with his fellow human being in ways that repeatedly surpass time or words. Music, as an art, helps us better understand our world and ourselves, and the eternal quest for knowledge and knowing. This brings us to “Do Not Die Young”, a sad but celebratory song from James Taylor. One of the song’s lines goes this way: “Oh, hold them up, hold them up, never do let them fall prey to the dust and the rust and the ruin that names us and claims us and shames us all.” Isn’t this a good reminder for the government what to do to its young people?

Music cannot tame monsters, movements do…

(Photo: Associated Press)

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Today’s Filipino Youth Amidst Impoverishment

The Speech I never gave.


I am more than proud to be with you today on the occasion of the 3rd Expanded Students’ Grants-In-Aid Program for Poverty Alleviation (ESGP-PA) Regional Assembly with the student stakeholders or grantees (I refuse to call you “beneficiaries” for the word connotes, at least to me, a sort of mendicancy), together with their respective focal persons from all over MiMaRoPa Region, also with our guests from the Department of Social Welfare and Development or DSWD led by RD Wilma D. Naviamos, those from Commission on Higher Education or CHED and the Department of Education or DepEd representing their respective state colleges and universities or schools. To all of you, welcome to Occidental Mindoro!

Allow me to thank, too, the distinguished individuals from my alma mater, the Occidental Mindoro State College (OMSC) who with full trust and confidence invited me to be one the lecturers in this Regional Assembly. They are Marilyn Guilas Nielo, PhD, the Vice President for Academic Affairs, and Dr. Allan Paul F. Catena, Coordinator for the Student Affairs Services. My gratitude too is extended to Dr. Arnold N. Venturina, SUC President II. Let us give them a warm round of applause!

The topic assigned to me is, “Today’s Filipino Youth Amidst Impoverishment” and I pray that I could do justice to this very challenging topic I am about to discuss. Indeed, this is a very universal and broad topic. You guys really placed a heavy yoke upon my shoulders. I am an avid fan of boxing and in the sport we call “sweet science”, there is a strategy called “cutting the ring”. I will tell you about that later.

I am glad you used the word “impoverished” instead of “poor”. There is a big difference between the two. We use the word “poor” when talking about living status it means “people without material possessions or wealth”. While on the other hand, “impoverished” (adjective) according to my own understanding, is used to better describe the circumstances in which a person became poor. For instance, "Filipinos are impoverished by the unjust social structures we are in".

This lecture is a journey and like any other journey, we ought to have travel companions. Learning is a pilgrimage that is not overly concerned with the destination but more on the lessons we learn, re-lean and unlearn from the road and our co-pilgrims. As we go along with the subject, we will thread the gem of ideas and concepts shared to their respective generations and audiences by Gustavo Gutierrez, a theologian from Peru and a practitioner of Theology of Liberation and the late Jose “Ka Pepe” W. Diokno, a quintessential nationalist and a former Philippine senator. (Google would be of great help if you want to know further about them) Let us see what will happen when we put the ideas of a Third World theologian from Latin America and considered as founder of Liberation Theology; a Filipino senator, an anti-Martial Law crusader and founder of developmental legal aid, together.

As they say, there’s no harm in trying. I will “cut the ring” and focus only on the following two slices to share: (a) Spirituality and Human Rights as Essential Elements in Poverty Alleviation, and (b) The Philippine Economy and Social Realities: Why Are We Impoverished? I will only limit my topic on these two important concerns. Towards the end, I will be giving some challenges and call to action that hopefully would serve as guideposts towards your journey beyond this momentous gathering. My final challenge, by the way, is anchored on a basic biblical question. “Cutting the ring” in boxing, by the way, is never giving your opponent enough space. Say, pin him in a corner to deliver punches in bunches or unleash your most lethal blows.

But before that, let us look at the larger picture.  Record shows that the country is unable to meet international and national goals for education. And still is. Poverty is one of the main causes of the country’s poor education record and has affected participation in education in more ways than one, according to “Education Watch Preliminary Report: Education Deprivation in the Philippines," a study done by five advocacy groups including E-Net Philippines, Asian South Pacific Bureau of Adult Education, Action for Economic Reforms, Popular Education for People’s Empowerment, and Oxfam in 2003.

Years later, the ESGP-PA came into existence. As we all know, ESGP-PA found its legal basis through the CHED’s Memorandum Order No. 09, Series of 2012. It is an initiative taken by the government to provide access to the poor but capable students to higher education. The objective of the program is to increase the number of higher education graduates among poor households by directly providing financing for their education in selected SUCs. I will not dwell much on the details of ESGP-PA for our next speaker from DSWD is more competent on discussing it to you in the most extensive and more credible manner.

From here, let us now seek the help of our first travel companion.

To “fathom impoverishment” as what Dr. Catena put in his invitation letter to me, we need first to ask what is the aspiration of the Filipino youth amidst impoverishment. Gustavo Gutierrez, a Catholic priest and a Latin American theologian used a very symbolic material: the drinking well. “Everyone one has to drink from his own well,” wrote Gutierrez in his book, “We Drink from our Own Wells: The Spiritual Journey of a People”. And to contextualize this in the Philippine setting today, this question is imperative to pose: “From what well can the impoverished youth of the Philippines drink?”

Allow me to emphasize that my supposed “esteemed knowledge in the field of community development”, (again, these are words of Dr. Catena’s taken from his letter to me) is anchored on my 20 years of working with the Basic Ecclesial Communities (BECs) of our Local Church, the Apostolic Vicariate of San Jose, initially, allow me to spiritualize a little bit about the topic. The impoverishing social situation in our midst, from my spectacles of faith, needs to be rooted from the main source of the living water: our spirituality. Spirituality was often equated with religious aspects like prayer, sacraments, rituals, penance or even fasting and bible-reading. Yes, they are part of it but those are not enough. Spirituality, no matter what religious belief you are practicing or denominations you are into, it is a lived faith in response to the Spirit. Therefore, it involves a way of viewing and experiencing God, others, self and the world. “Spirituality,” Gutierrez writes, “is like living water that springs up in the very depths of the (historical) experience of faith.” Truth to tell, aside from the Spirit of Jesus, to drink from our own well is to live our own life, individually and collectively, rooted in our individual freedom, our basic human rights.

Today is December 10, 2016 and the whole world commemorates the 68th year of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and it is but opportune time to reflect on how we encounter basic issues of human rights and human dignity in the concrete historical reality and context unfolding in our midst. This is a real experience that can be a foundation of our life project as stakeholders and implementers of ESGP-PA. Poverty caused by inattention, violation, distortion to and of the very essence of human rights brings about gradual and, in case of extra judicial killings, instant deaths. The death caused by impoverishment is not only physical but mental and cultural as well.

According to Gutierrez, “It [death] refers to the destruction of individual persons, peoples, cultures and tradition.”  In sum, Spirituality and Human Rights are main themes and dimensions to loosen the chains of impoverishment among our youth. Human rights are the well where we must drink from. Our human rights are our wells and we much fetch water from it with buckets of responsibility and obligations. How? I cannot offer an answer. I might as well reserve that on your organizational and individual undertakings as well as in the competence of your respective focal persons. Your dynamism and creativity will flow like a thirst quenching well, I am sure. Just remember that strategy without ideal is a menace and ideal without strategy is a mess. Take it from a Gustavo Gutierrez reader.

Let us now go to our economy and social realities and our travel companion this time is the late Senator Jose W. Diokno. Though this talk was delivered in September 6, 1980 before Inter-School Business Association at PICC, Diokno’s message titled “Economic and Social Consciousness” is still relevant today. From Diokno’s time up to the present, though I do not have the statistics to back this up like the situations of educational system and national poverty that I have mentioned a while ago, just looking from the realities around us today, beyond any possible doubt, the life of the Filipino poor is one of hunger and exploitation, inadequate health care and lack of suitable housing, difficulty in obtaining an education, inadequate wages and unemployment, struggles for their rights, and repression. Diokno asked: “What has gone wrong with our economy?” Why is our economy still undeveloped? Well, our economy was run by politicians and businessmen and we, the impoverished, learned to regret it. It is the biggest bane in this equally impoverished country of ours.

I can only cite two major reasons for such a sorry state from said speech of Ka Pepe. First, our economic policy makers have given too much importance to the problem of economic growth and not enough to the problem of economic development; that efforts are concentrated on increasing production to the neglect of improving distribution and equalizing consumption. Second, our economy is export oriented, import dependent. Instead of organizing our resources, our capital and our manpower to the needs of the people, especially the impoverished, the past and present administrations geared them toward the demands of multi-national corporations and capital-greedy businessmen. This economic policy resulted, then and today, to privatization, contractualization and liberalization. Diokno taught us that “economics is more than an exchange of goods; it is also an exercise of power. And just as concentrated power is politics, so politics is concentrated economics.” Our economic and educational policymakers must realize that we need a Filipino economy and education where their goal should meet the needs of the impoverished Filipino people, it should make our workers enjoy just wages to buy the goods the economy produces and the key to economic progress is not on how much foreign loans we get or foreign investments we can attract, or exports we can ship. We need an educational system that would boost a nationalist economy. Regardless of what profession you will be involved in the future, you are all economists and educators, in one way or another, in the privacy of your homes and in your respective spheres of influence.

The Diokno Challenge from my lenses is this: What we need are educators and economists who are socially conscious and politically aware, educators and economists who can distinguish structural problems from personal problems, who for example, seek the solution to poverty, not in foreign aids but in structural change, because they see poverty is caused, not by defects in the character or training of the impoverished, but by the injustice of our social system. A sound policy on poverty reduction best serves the appropriate educational system and vice-versa.

At this point, allow me to share that impoverishment or being poor is also a way of feeling, knowing, reasoning, making friends, loving believing, sufferings, celebrating and praying. We, the impoverished, constitute a world of our own. But life is larger than what we have and what we are. This situation must be remedied and struggled through legal and moral bounds, without resorting to violent means. We may get angry with the situation, but please, do not hate life!

For Gustavo Gutierrez and Ka Pepe Diokno, spirituality and economy are community enterprises and a communal quest. And from the apparently different and sometimes diverse dimensions of spirituality and economy, we draw the promise and hope of reducing, if not dismantling poverty through higher education.

Let me conclude my topic citing my favorite biblical question. After The Fall God came to the garden seeking Adam and Eve asked, “Where are you?” (cf. Gen. 3:8-9) If God is all knowing, why God would ask such a silly question? Philosopher Martin Buber offers a rationally good answer. Buber says God asked that question not to learn something new or to know a certain truth or predicament of things. Rather, God asked that question in order to make Adam and Eve confront their current state in life. It was a question of challenge. If we believe that God also suffers with us in our impoverishment and our co-deliverer from injustice and poverty, our answer to this question must be: “With you, Lord. With You!”

Thank you very much for such a brief but meaningful journey. My congratulations to all who made this pilgrimage a fruitful reality.

Good morning everyone....

(This speech is supposed to be delivered on the 3rd Expanded Students’ Grants-In-Aid Program for Poverty Alleviation (ESGP-PA) Regional Assembly on December 10, 2016 at Hillside Farm and Resort, Magsaysay, Occidental Mindoro but due to the Regional Committee’s last minute alteration of the topics and speakers, I was not able to deliver this. Photo: Don Sevilla of webpages at SCU)

Monday, November 21, 2016

Bishop Francisco Claver and Martial Law

The Philippine Catholic Church indeed suffered under Martial Law. Priests and nuns were arrested, jailed and tortured by the Marcos’ military and even convents and seminaries administered by religious congregations were raided and ransacked. The Church greatly suffered from harsh government repression and harassment, though many priests and bishops at the time were not bothered by these occurrences.

President Ferdinand Marcos declared martial law on September 21, 1972 and its principal goal was to preserve the old order and consequently, the oligarch’s throttlehold of the economy and to perpetuate himself to political power. This resulted to massive violation of civil and political rights of the people especially the basic masses, the anawim or God’s people. As the oppressive regime blatantly suppress the people, some priests and nuns opted to join the Communist movements, both open and clandestine, and resorted to or sponsored armed struggle.

As the horror of PD 1081 unfolds, most bishops did not speak against Marcos and the injustices suffered by the people under martial law that is why the 17 bishops who signed the document “Ut Omnes Unum Sint”, the “silent” bishops, who are composed of the majority, were criticized with these words: “Any criticism of government is then, perforce, criticism of President Marcos, something most bishops are loathe to do. Cultural Reasons could be adduced – deeply personal reasons too of friendship for and indebtedness to the First Family.”  Not only the First Family, the bishops and priests then dined with the oligarchs and the elite. Not unlike today.

A certain bishop bravely stood against Marcos dictatorship truly internalizing the prophetic role of the Church and her social teachings. His name is Bishop Francisco F. Claver, SJ of then Prelature of Malaybalay. Through his writings and pastoral works, he exemplary showed his being champion for the cause of human rights. His voice rang loud against all abuses happening under his diocese and the whole country. In his Pastoral Letter in 1976, 4 years after the declaration of Martial Law, titled “A Prophet to the Nations”, the bishop from Bontoc and an indigenous people himself, affirmed that all must preach the Gospel in words and in deeds and as a community and the Church must be genuinely critical, whether in support of or in opposition to the martial law government of Marcos. 

Bishop Francisco F. Claver is long gone and all we can do is to wonder what if he is still young and alive today under the same circumstances?

In the midst of the recent killings brought about by the government’s supposed War on Drug where innocent lives were lost and the victims denied of due process, where Catholics are killing fellow Catholics, this excerpt from Bishop Claver’s “The Blessing and the Curse” remains thunderously relevant: “I would especially invoke God’s wrath on those who inflict actual physical harm on defenseless people in the name of “government security”. People flagrantly and publicly guilty of this sin against our common humanity and dignity have their own cut themselves off from the Church.”  Tough words, aren’t they? Bishop Claver believes that change must be built on God-given dignity and not on force and armed might, that the Church has the right and the obligation to speak out, even in so-called political matters, when and insofar as they have moral implications, when they violate the laws of morality. To me, Marcos’ Martial Law is not to be forgotten so the faithful must declare in unison, “Never Again!”

Last Sunday, during the celebration of the Solemnity of Christ the King at the Sain Joseph the Worker Cathedral, Bishop Antonio P. Palang, SVD, DD of Occidental Mindoro stressed in his homily that we should forgive Marcos. Well, I took the good prelate’s words as an expression of fatherly concern but I am certain, and the good bishop knows for sure, that he could not make a decision for his flock. Those who oppose the burial could not abandon their judgment in this present historical issue more so since what was at stake is the carefulness of their actions as actors of history.

Now that we are told to “move on” by some quarters and personalities even inside the Church and forget all the injustices and horror of Martial Law but many of us won’t heed to the call. I wish that in the future, if same declaration is imposed by whoever president, may the pastoral actions and writings of Bishop Francisco F. Claver challenge our priests and bishops in the whole Philippines to stand against state repression and not be gratified with the comfort of their air-conditioned room in the company of their altar boys and counting their millions from the donating thieves in barong tagalog


(Photo: Catholic News Asia

Reference : Pasquale T. Giordano, SJ, “Awakening to Mission: The Philippine Catholic Church 1965-1981”, New Day Publishers, January 1987, p. 155-159.)


Friday, November 11, 2016

Occidental Mindoro Campus Writers, Arise!

The Department of Education-Division of Occidental Mindoro is all set for the live out 2016 Division Schools Press Conference (DSPC) on Monday, November 14, 2016 at Occidental Mindoro National High School (OMNHS) in the capital town of Mamburao. This Conference is pursuant to the Campus Journalism Act of 1991.

The participating students coming from various elementary and secondary schools in the province would compete in categories with English and Filipino divisions such as editorial writing, news writing, sports news writing, feature writing, cartooning, copy reading and headline writing, radio broadcasting, and collaborative desktop publishing. Those who make it to the top ranks advance to the regionals and get to undergo further training for the national level tilt.

Here in the Philippines, training on journalism starts at the elementary and high school levels. Here in Occidental Mindoro, I have no slightest idea on how many of those once campus journalists, or those winners in such competition, sustained their first forays into the fourth state and became full pledge or practicing writers.

The most intriguing poem about writing I have encountered is “So, You Want to be a Writer” by Charles Bukowski, a German-American poet, novelist, and short story writer. Here’s the full poem, anyway:

If it doesn't come bursting out of you
in spite of everything,
don't do it.

Unless it comes unasked out of your
heart and your mind and your mouth
and your gut, don't do it.

If you have to sit for hours
staring at your computer screen
or hunched over your typewriter
searching for words, don't do it.

If you're doing it for money or
don't do it.

If you're doing it because you want
women in your bed,
don't do it.

If you have to sit there and
rewrite it again and again,
don't do it.

If it's hard work just thinking about doing it,
don't do it.

If you're trying to write like somebody
else, forget about it.

If you have to wait for it to roar out of
you, then wait patiently.

If it never does roar out of you,
do something else.

If you first have to read it to your wife
or your girlfriend or your boyfriend
or your parents or to anybody at all,
you're not ready.

Don't be like so many writers,
don't be like so many thousands of
people who call themselves writers,
don't be dull and boring and
pretentious, don't be consumed with self-

The libraries of the world have
yawned themselves to sleep
over your kind.
Don't add to that.
Don't do it.

Unless it comes out of
your soul like a rocket,
unless being still would
drive you to madness or
suicide or murder,
don't do it.

Unless the sun inside you is
burning your gut,
don't do it.

When it is truly time,
and if you have been chosen,
it will do it by
itself and it will keep on doing it
until you die or it dies in you.

There is no other way.

And there never was.

If you want to hear the poet’s own reading of his poem, though slightly edited, click the video link above. 

At first, one thinks this is a poem of discouragement or lack of ambition, but when you try to look at it deeper, it is actually a poem of encouragement to write. Many critics rightfully think that this literary piece is an attempt to address the challenges of the reader's creative process and imagination.

Having mentioned that, it is my wish that all the participating campus journalists be challenged, supported and uplifted by their respective coaches and schools, to be at their best in writing, now and then. They should focus on the poem’s challenging entirety and write for the rest of their lives.

Push pen, now and beyond, kids! …

(Video: Youtube)

Monday, October 24, 2016

Of Miss Earth Bahamas 2016 and Cleopatra Jones

She was the crowd's favorite no doubt. Among the five 2016 Miss Earth candidates who visited Sablayan last October 21-23, 2016, Miss Bahamas was the most jolly and mingles with the locals with great gusto. From the motorcade at the town proper up to the Parola Park while she and the rest of the candidates are about to ride in the longest island-to-island zip line in the world, she was followed by children and teenagers chanting, “Ba-ha-mas! Ba-ha-mas!”

She refused an umbrella and preferred to beat the heat of the sun during the motorcade. When the pick-up she was riding passed near the gate of Saint Martin Hospital, she suddenly jumped out of the vehicle and had groupies with the nuns and school children among the near hysteric crowd. She left her escort at the back of the pick-up. She was escorted by Councilor Melchor Quiatchon and he was astonished when Candisha Rolle, Miss Earth Bahamas 2016, climbed back at the pick-up all by herself, capitalizing on her whole 5’ 11” height. Her story of interspersion did not end there. When the pick-up stopped at the Motor Pool, ever smiling and waving at the crowd, Candisha Rolle graciously walked towards the nearby Municipal Building where people are gathered and waiting to meet the visiting beauties with cheers.  

I was with the crowd of people sitting at the foot of the zip line tower when I, together with Mayor Eduardo B. Gadiano, noticed a group of young boys waving their hands at Miss Bahamas when the beauty queen from the former British colony appeared on the line. The Bahamas only became a Commonwealth realm in 1973. The folks were enchanted by her colored beauty and I remember when I was a young boy having a crush on African American fashion model turned actress named Tamara Dobson. I was in high school when I saw Dobson doing lead roles. They are both action films shown at Levi Rama: Cleopatra Jones (1973) and Cleopatra Jones and the Casino of Gold (1975). Cleopatra Jones is a lady James Bond sort of a character actually. Since then, I had liking for the so-called black beauties, albeit in films. I never had a close encounter with this kind all my life until the 2016 Miss Earth beauties visited Sablayan, my second home. Let us forget Cleopatra Jones and Tamara Dobson for they help me remember my age. Let us go back to Candisha Rolle to forget it. What I mean is my age.

Ms. Rolle was selected Miss Earth Bahamas 2016 on August 27 also this year. She succeeds Daronique Young for the tilt. That night, she also won Best in Evening Gown, Best Costume, Miss Amity and Miss Popularity sub-awards. Ms. Rolle, according to her Facebook account, studied Human Resource Management at Southern College in Nassau. In that same account she professed, “I truly enjoy dancing.....and I love comedy!!!!” Well, what else can I say but wish her luck in the coming pageant night on Saturday.

Before I shake my hands off the keyboard, allow me to share that Tamara Dobson ended her short movie stint via the 1976 film version of the play “Norman…Is That You?” If you ask the same question pertaining to the guy posing with Miss Bahamas in the picture shown above, the answer is a big “yes”….

(Photo: Philip Saligumba)

Monday, October 17, 2016

Manny Pacquiao: The Boxer and the Senator

Manny Pacquiao was an absentee congressman during his two terms as representative of Sarangani province but in May 2016, voting Filipinos bequeathed him the 7th seat in the Philippine Senate. Then CongressManny (now SenaPac) spent almost all of his legislative days inside a boxing camp and due to his dubious scholastic records, we deemed him not capable as a politician.

But 16,050,546 voters elected him to senate and now gaining grounds as advocate of the restoration of death penalty and his recent unseating of Senator Leila de Lima as chair of the august body’s committee on justice and human rights investigating the supposed extra judicial killings along with the government’s fight against drugs. Seasoned politician and President Pro Tempore Franklin Drilon’s attempt to quash SenaPac’s motion proved inutile. De lima, whom Pacquiao outvoted and placed last among 12 winning candidates, was unseated by her fellow newbie senator. And the hard core devotees of President Rodrigo Duterte, including those who say that the legendary boxer is unfit for membership in the senate, applauded the boxer for his guts to discontinue what her bashers describe as “Leila lies”. Those who cheer the killings of suspected drug pushers and drug dependents likewise hailed him when the SenaPac contended during the same inquiry that, “We senators are here to investigate, not to protect witness. That is the rule here!,” referring of course to de Lima.

With these powerful shots at the senate, many Filipinos who are dismayed by his previous Bible-totting and his 'gay people are worse than animals' remark became instant supporters of Manny Pacquiao, the politician. With Sen. Dick Gordon at the helm, the inquiry continues at the Senate. On the other end, Manny Pacquiao, the boxer, is with Freddie Roach at Elorde Gym inside Mall of Asia exchanging punches with his sparring mates Jose Ramirez and Leonardo Doronio.

Compared to his stint in congress before, Manny Pacquiao is slowly learning as a senator. He definitely learned a lesson or two from his lacklustre feat in the House of Representatives in the past judging from his performance at the senate committee on justice and human rights just recently. Despite of his perceived deficiency as a national legislator, he was apparently able to learn slowly. But he is yet to disclose his legislative agenda other than restoring the death penalty.

The old and familiar names and faces in the senate already disappointed us for so long so let us not hurry the SenaPac. Anyway, he’s just in the middle of the first round in an institution that already lost its longstanding character, in a country where those who oppose death penalty, including the Catholic Church, are considered coddlers of drug addicts and criminals.

Meanwhile, I expect that both the implementers and the potential victims in the on-going fight against drugs will both cheer for Manny Pacquiao in his fight against Jessie Vargas (27-1-0) at the Thomas & Mack Center in Las Vegas, Nevada for the WBO welterweight championship bout. There will be a decline in volume of crimes and vehicles in the streets and the dizzying hullabaloos of our leaders, the fight, regardless of the result, will surely hit the headlines next day rather than the killings and the president’s consistently inconsistent policy statements and Senator de Lima’s forum shopping in various Catholic gatherings and Eucharistic celebrations.

The next Manny Pacquiao fight for sure, as it was before, will give the divided Filipinos the political break that they fully deserve, even momentarily…


(Photo: Service Space and Time)

Friday, October 7, 2016

Retailing Human Rights

There is a prevailing Filipino culture called tingi or retail and this is due to our financial incapacity to buy items or products by wholesale. Majority of the consumers can only afford to buy small packs of basic items for our daily needs from toothpaste to charcoal. This is how the masses survive the day.

Well, generally the term ‘human rights’ means  a broad spectrum of rights ranging from right to life to the right to a cultural identity. They are basic pre-conditions for a dignified human existence. In a nutshell, there is the civil and political rights on one hand, and economic, social and cultural rights on the other. Allow me to stop at this point for I do not intend here to give you a course on human rights or HR. I’ll just allow you, my dear reader, to self-study the matter and besides, we Filipinos are yet to arrive on a national consensus on the categorisations and classification, concepts and principles and theory and praxis of HR. The keyboards are burning and the so-called internet warriors coming from different quarter debate over theories and practice of human rights in the country.

HR issues are reduced to swords or guillotines aimed at annihilating their critics or political rivals instead of being an instrument aimed at uplifting human dignity. In doing so, we end up valuing personalities than the sanctity of HR tenets and the inviolability and our basic rights as individuals and as peoples. This way of “enlightenment” on HR, HR is reduced to mere instruments of politicking and political stunts. Indeed, our hazy view of HR is manifested by our enduring, hotly contested arguments or disputes about it, especially when Rodrigo R. Duterte was voted to power by 16 million Filipinos last May.

It is apparent that with the explosion of the summary execution of drug suspects by agents of the government is a blatant violation of the victims’ constitutional rights enshrined in the Bill of Rights. The victims, as some of the HR groups claim, were not given due process therefore their civil and political rights were violated, thus the term extra-judicial killings or EJKs.

On the other hand, this administration’s adherence to economic, social and cultural rights is showing a commendable start. For instance, the decisive action of Agrarian Reform Sec. Rafael Mariano distributing thousand hectares of lands which was only partially covered during BS Aquino III’s previous administration. Another is DSWDs giving livelihood jobs and organizing of the Conditional Cash Transfer or the 4Ps beneficiaries into cooperatives as a more permanent measure to alleviate poverty than giving dole-outs like cash allocations made possible by DSWD Sec. Judy Taguiwalo, to cite just two. Though these are initiatives of the progressives in the Duterte cabinet, these praiseworthy actions can also be traced to the president.

Jerbert Briola, a friend of mine, forwarded me a PowerPoint presentation of political analyst Ramon Casiple apparently from a lecture rendered before group of HR advocates days after the inauguration of President Duterte. I will be going to share it to you later. Casiple, by the way, was our guest speaker in the national assembly of an HR network where I formerly belong. The event was held in Quezon City last August 25, 2011. One of Casiple’s slides sent to me by Jerbert reads: “The Duterte administration will have a mixed human rights record. His anti-crime and anti-drug campaign is spawning vigilantism and extra-judicial killings by the police.” On the other hand, he stressed, “His [the president’s] social reform agenda supports many human rights demands and advocacy.” True enough, approaching the100th day of his presidency, Duterte’s human rights record is a mixture of good and bad. More than ever, according to Casiple, it is now high time for the HR advocates to exercise vigilance, undertake popular education on human rights, and independently mobilize support based on specific HR issues therefore, revitalize the HR movement.

Whether they relate to civil, cultural, economic, political or social issues, human rights are inherent to the dignity of every human person. Consequently, all human rights have equal status, and cannot be positioned in a hierarchical order, like what the HR educators have taught. Denial of one right invariably impedes enjoyment of other rights. Thus, the right of everyone to due process cannot be compromised at the expense of the right to an adequate standard of living. 

When human right is retailed, the essence of human being is degraded wholesale…

(Photo: GMA Network)

Tuesday, October 4, 2016

The Hullabaloos of President Duterte

The left and right controversies involving President Rodrigo Duterte’s, during the campaigns and now, are intentional and therefore part of his strategy to win the presidency and later to sustain himself as a populist president at this early juncture of his administration. This is not spontaneous. This is orchestrated and planned. He is intelligent, they say, therefore all his actions and words are expected to be calculated.

The first 3 months of any sitting president rest on shaky ground due to criticisms he gets from international community on many issues and concerns foremost of which is his fight against drugs and criminality including his questionable diplomatic policies and his lieutenants’ paranoia over the imminent taking over of what his fanatical supporters refer to as “Yellowtards”. The traditional politicians inside PDP Laban too cannot be trusted. He and those around him who are not party members know that PDP Laban’s ultimate agenda is to gain party advantage and get the majority of the political seats come 2019 onward and put into effect its party line all over the land and pave the way for Koko Pimentel’s presidency after Duterte’s term. The president’s allegiance to his party, aside from the push for Federalism and issues rooted in socialism, is rickety too. Likewise his alliance with the Left which vows to continue their parliamentary struggle specifically those issues incorporated in the People’s Agenda for Change. It is not far-fetched to assume that in the future, these groups will ultimately clash over their opposing principles, issues and advocacies.

Since this administration rests on shaky ground, it needs a mass base that will continue to be attached or relate to, and believe in everything he will say or do. There is no need of ideology or political principles to unite them. Intrigues and rumors are sufficient to band together, say, the internet warriors, and gain grounds. The cyberspace as it was proven during the campaign period is the most bankable and they have to sustain it. The internet is still the best weapon for this connectivity as long the crisis they have projected since day one, which is drugs and criminality, is highlighted by way of controversial statements or any form of verbal stunts to get the attention of the public and the whole world no matter what would be the outcome. Bad publicity, as we say, is publicity still.

Constant media projection will keep you always on the limelight, hence, evading isolation and ultimately test the level of fanaticism of your followers. He needs a group of people who would rally behind him, fair or square, by hook or by crook, in sickness and in health, so to speak. This is a gamble for you might gain more enemies than friends, critics than followers. But that would be easy for an instant apology or rejoinder could patch them up later anyway. Or lambast the journalists for quoting you out of context and throw them all the faults to the fullest. The call of the day is to be consistent with sprinkling garbage juices and let the deodorizers do their things later. What are important at this early point is to coagulate their connectivity to the masses. So every time you face the camera and the scribes, be quotable, and do not think of the consequences. Just connect to the people who thirst for trash no matter what. Their day would not be complete without it, like the telenovela.

Majority of the Filipinos have penchants for tough and rough leaders because they are tough and rough citizens themselves. We are generally tough and rough as bullies in school and over the net, we are tough and rough as public servants involved in corrupt practices, we are tough and rough as religious leaders baptized with hypocrisy, we are tough and rough citizens who do not follow rules and order. Therefore, we want the toughest and the roughest to continue to lead and represent us!

Having such a mass base or a people’s movement, formal or informal, is necessary under this condition. If you are lucky, this will assure political stability in the process until such time that this wide mass movement gain credibility and power over another groups or individuals (specially the butterflies and the turncoats) around him that cannot be trusted until this movement get the needed power to lay compromises and to assert them. 

Controversy is significant than plain and simple reporting of your achievements if you want to be always connected with the people. If President Duterte would stop making controversial statements, what would he feed to his social media machine? How could his army of on-line warriors survive without such controversies? It is a waste of time to advise him to watch his language or keep quiet. No mortal could stop him now. Not even the roof of a car. Besides, the president is just speaking his mind, just being our president and being true to himself like what we are told.

Well, positively put, controversies are part of the process of knowing. Controversy can be a beneficial and commanding tool to promote learning. Needless to say, controversy is a double-edged sword. The attention we get from it may hurt us but apparently that is what the new breed of Filipinos want: to get hurt as a nation and to hurt each other as citizens…


(Photo: Stripes. Com)

Monday, September 19, 2016

This War Is Kind (A PaRody of Stephen Crane’s Classic Poem War Is Kind, 1899)

Do not weep, maiden, for this war is kind,
Because your brother was a drug peddler to the sky
And he is not to be arrested but destined to death and not alone,
Do not weep.
This war is kind.

Hoarse, booming drums of the law enforcing regiment,
Great souls thirst for your blood yet you didn’t fight,
Men of your kind, they say, are not human hence must die.
The unexplained glory flies above the gory will in them.
Great is the butcher-god, great, and his abattoir (or was it his kingdom?) —
A field where a thousand corpses lie.

Do not weep, babe, for this war for change is kind.
Because your father was spared by the “yellow” trenches,
Raged at his breast, resisted thus died.
Do not weep.
This war is kind.

Swift blazing desire to feed his family, his ever-loved regiment
Eagle whose irreparable self is forever red for gold,
These men born to felony must straightaway die.
Bystanders were taught the virtue of slaughter,
Tutored or tortured on the excellence of killing
And a field where a thousand corpses lie.

Mother whose heart hung humble as a button
On the loosen packing tape that wrapped your son,
Do not weep.
This war is kind!


Here is Stephen Crane’s original poem text:

War is Kind

Do not weep, maiden, for war is kind,
Because your lover threw wild hands toward the sky
And the affrighted steed ran on alone,
Do not weep.
War is kind.

Hoarse, booming drums of the regiment,
Little souls who thirst for fight,
These men were born to drill and die.
The unexplained glory flies above them.
Great is the battle-god, great, and his kingdom—
A field where a thousand corpses lie.

Do not weep, babe, for war is kind.
Because your father tumbles in the yellow trenches,
Raged at his breast, gulped and died,
Do not weep.
War is kind.

Swift blazing flag of the regiment,
Eagle with crest of red and gold,
These men were born to drill and die.
Point for them the virtue of slaughter,
Make plain to them the excellence of killing
And a field where a thousand corpses lie.

Mother whose heart hung humble as a button
On the bright splendid shroud of your son,
Do not weep.
War is kind!


(Photo : Time Magazine)

Thursday, September 15, 2016

Resembling The Lone Ranger and Tonto

I was barely ten when I had my first close encounter with the Mindoro indigenous peoples. I ate, slept and played with Mangyan children each time of a year. During our town’s fiesta celebration, Mangyan families from the boondocks of Mansalay, daring the two-day and one night foot travel via Insulman in Batasan, gather at my grandparents’ residence in Capt. Cooper St. to witness the festivities of lights and colours. My Mamang cooked food them, prepared their beddings in a vacant store room near our family’s ancestral house. The Mangyan elders chewing nganga, with wide grin in their faces and smile in their red lips, simply nod every time my grandma reminds them not to spit on the cemented part of the pavement. She treated them as visitors and not as ordinary strangers seeking temporary refuge. Unlike the town’s wealthy matriarchs, she never drove them away.

Claro, her son, even risked his life for his friends in the upland in many occasions, they say but not going into specifics. They said that their chief cowboy made them change their attitude towards lowlanders who are mostly arrogant and mean. Each time my uncle sits on his weapons carrier truck heading to the mountains, boxes of canned sardines, kilos of dried fish, candies, sacks of rice and bunch of dried tobacco leaves were neatly piled behind his WC51 for his friends’ consumption. The Buhids are treated by him not only as his workers in the ranch but trusted friends. Because my Mamang loves his son, she cared for them. It was her son who gave them the first taste of the modern world. At the very tender age, I’ve learned stories how the Buhids hunt wild animals and nurture the ranch owner’s thoroughbred horses. He even related to me how good my uncle was over the saddle, on catching a stray cow with a rope and firing his revolver. There are many untold stories about his cowboy years that I’ve heard from David Ighay, the Mangyan chieftain, the one who speaks fluent Tagalog. After his cowboy days, my uncle also excelled in other manly actions like motorcycle dirt riding, scuba diving, practical shooting, among others.

I remember the much younger David Ighay, the lead cattle worker, always accompanied by his “bodyguards” Danum Dauy and Ligduman Humbos. I remember my uncle, in full cowboy outfit, with spurs attached to his boots, hat and all, going out of the truck with David beside him in red poplin G-string and his long waist-length hair hooped by a strip of cloth with floral design, no footwear whatsoever.

As they appear at the wooden gate and walk together on the pavement, they looked like The Lone Ranger and Tonto to me.

Even when I grew up and finished my studies, had a family of my own and got a job, he keeps on going down the mountains though my grandparents are now long gone and the ancestral house no longer there. And the ranches all over are just things of the past and Mindoro’s cattle business ceases to be as lucrative as before. He also drops-by at the houses my uncles and aunties and their immediate family for more than four decades already since the day they first reached our Cooper home of yore.

He brings native wallet, panuhugin (bracelet), kadyos (black legume), a knife or a broom for a present every time he visits us especially on important occasions such as fiesta and Christmas. Rice, used clothes, salt, coffee, sugar, medicines and a little cash were given to him in return. He had been close with all our clan members and treated him as a distant relative. David Ighay, upon learning that the cowboy already passed away, wept. And over cups of coffee that night many years ago, the aging Mangyan, who was already a teenager when the war broke out, told me wonderful stories how my uncle, generous and caring as he was, won the hearts of the average tribesmen, women and children alike, and gained the respect of prominent Buhid leaders in the highlands of southern Mindoro in the early 70s’.

Bapa David Ighay, tribal leader from Banaynayan in Panaytayan of Mansalay town, Oriental Mindoro gave in to senility and peacefully died on his sleep on the night of August 19, 2016. The following morning, following the Buhid burial custom, his remains were wrapped in a banig, placed in a big basket locally called buyog and immediately carried to their sacred ground atop the hill with the splendid Caguray River angrily rolling below. A Daniw was performed for the eternal repose of the chieftain’s soul.

Their stories at least to me in this particular moment, like that of The Lone Ranger and Tonto, cannot be told separately. ..


(Photo: From the movie “The Lone Ranger” (2013)

Friday, September 2, 2016

Confirmation Bias and the Philippine Anti-Drug Campaign

When the president you have elected or his closest political rival or his critics and their publicists go with your opinion, you think you cannot go wrong. How could you err if you share the same sentiments or them confirming your existing beliefs? You tend to look for or interpret information in such a way it confirms your biases that lead to disregarding or ignoring other information or evidences contrary to your preconceived ideas or prejudices.

In many points of my life, I have also been a prey to confirmation bias. This is due to the difficulty that, human as I am, I cannot easily see it coming. According to Shahram Heshmat Ph.D. in his column Science of Choice which appeared in Psychology Today dated 23 April 2015, “Confirmation bias occurs from the direct influence of desire on beliefs. When people would like a certain idea/concept to be true, they end up believing it to be true. They are motivated by wishful thinking. This error leads the individual to stop gathering information when the evidence gathered so far confirms the views (prejudices) one would like to be true”. Regardless of the things that divide us, for instance our social standing and religious or political beliefs, humans deceive themselves in many occasions. For example, when a junkie or drug pusher is advised by his parents to stop his vice, he has this tendency to be confident that he can still be a good family member - a good loving father or a husband, a good neighbour and a good citizen despite of the fact s/he is hooked on drugs or peddling it. He can still feel morally upright as long as he does not harm other people. As long as he constantly prays to God and ask for his forgiveness each day and pray for the Lord's blessings. As long as he does not hurt, do injustice, kill, rape or rob people. So if the junkie or pusher gets busted, killed or in the process commits crime to satisfy his cravings for drugs, his false optimism brought about by his self-deception paid an important part in his sad fate.

Having mentioned this, self-deception is as deadly as shabu (methamphetamine hydrochloride) or any prohibited drugs littering the slums or during parties for it deadens our perception of reality. Confirmation bias as self-deception is a thing that blinds us to weigh things by gathering evidence and participate in some intellectual quests that is required in every thinking species in the face of the earth. Confirmation bias as a form of self-deception makes us act like those hooked into shabu.  Robert Pagliarini, writing for I Have Net in an article titled Five Tips to Avoid Confirmation Bias, aptly puts it, “The problem with confirmation bias is that you selectively filter what information you choose to pay attention to and value. So, not only will you actively look for evidence and seek out experts that confirm your existing beliefs, but even more perniciously, you'll hide from or discredit any information that contradicts your viewpoint.” If drug addicts do the most heinous of crimes because their minds are poisoned by meth and other substance, he is at par with those who are drifted into confirmation bias for they both do not see things objectively. They only do and believe those things that confirm their prejudices, as I have said. If those who are fallen into confirmation bias ignore and reject all that cast doubts on their beliefs, the drug addict (and sometimes the political publicists in our midst and including of course their patrons) defy moral compasses, ethical standards and legal dictums and instruments just to serve their own cravings and agenda. They are incarcerated in their own assumptions.

Scrutinizing the exchanges of those who favour and those who oppose the bloody anti-drug campaign happening in the Philippines today, especially the posts, comments and memes over the social networking sites concerning the rift between President Rodrigo Duterte and Senator Leila M. de Lima, it’s easy to point out  how one sector of the publicists deceive their readers. They deceive people by hiding or distorting the truth (or evidences not favouring their line of thinking) and like nincompoops, the readers believe them. To those who deceive people, theirs is the advantage for they know what they have imparted are lies. It isn’t the case in self-deception.

As Ken Taylor, co-creator of the site Philosophy Talk, have noted, “But in the case of self-deception the deceiving party and the deceived party are one and the same.  That’s what makes it so puzzling.” In this particular case of the word war between the hard core supporters of de Lima and Duterte, in this case of self-deception, are same banana. Taylor is right in concluding that philosophically speaking, self-deception borders on the paradoxical.

Of course, you may likewise argue that this little reflection is laced with confirmation bias, or to some point, self-deception…