Monday, April 11, 2016

Sensing a Duterte Win

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


(Photo: Cebu Daily News)

Thursday, April 7, 2016

Muhammad Ali and National Service*

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

Let us give first ourselves a warm round of applause.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

Monday, April 4, 2016

Climate Change Mitigation and Adaptation in Occidental Mindoro

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

(Photo: WWF)