Monday, July 17

Spot the difference

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A picture taken during the Holocaust.
The same tragedy continues to occur here in the Philippines. As of July 11 this year, 704 individuals were summarily executed, 299 of whom were activists since Macapagal-Arroyo began her term as president in 2001. A total of 181 individuals have become victims of enforced disappearance, including UP students Karen Emepeno and Sherlyn Cadapan who were allegedly abducted by military intelligence operatives last month in Bulacan.

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End Arroyo's fascist rule in the Philippines!
Join the People's SONA on July 24
Makibaka, huwag matakot!

Sunday, July 16

Fabricated Threats and Payoffs

The government is deploying roughly 14,000 policemen to guard the Batasang Pambansa on Arroyo’s State-of-the-Nation address (SONA) on July 24.

This is said to be the biggest police deployment for SONA in history (which is not surprising at all). The government has been implementing the same measures (though not as big as this obviously) around Malacañang everyday since the Hello Graci controversy broke out last year. From time to time, we see the Presidential palace transform into a virtual fortress, much like the Camp Big Falcon in Voltes V covered with a force field, but in this case, truncheon-wielding, blood-thirsty anti-riot cops and fire trucks serve as buffers to anyone who dares to set foot at the Palace doorsteps in Mendiola.

The discovery of the Magdalo’s supposed plan to bomb the Batasan on Arroyo’s SONA and take lawmakers hostage prompted the heightened security. But anyone who has been inside the Batasan or outside protesting during a SONA would say that such plot is way too far-fetched. Not unless, of course, it is orchestrated by sitting military and police officials (who will be supervising the security measures before and during the SONA).

The Arroyo government is once again creating a climate of fear and panic to discourage people from joining the SONA protests, to divert the people’s attention from the issues hounding the Arroyo and her failed promises, and justify possible violent dispersals.

On the other hand, the government could use this issue to implicate Arroyo’s foes, particularly opposition leaders and party list lawmakers, as well as civil society and militant groups on plots to “destabilize” the government, similar to events during and after the declaration of Presidential Proclamation 1017 on February 24.

The regime could likewise use this fabricated threat to justify its all-out war campaign against insurgents (in connection to the ‘Left-Right conspiracy’ in February 24 and possibly, in this new Batasan bombing script they just released) and push for the immediate passage of the antiterrorism bill (which the government can use to finally tag the CPP-NPA-NDF as terrorist organizations and so with individuals and organizations critical of the government).


There’s no doubt that Tarlac Rep. Jesli Lapus has the credentials to qualify as the next DepEd chief, but the idea of having another politician to head the Education department simply makes things worse for a sector which badly needs a strong, principled leadership.

Malacañang is obviously using cabinet posts, such as the DepEd chief, as a payoff for the administration's most trusted lapdogs.

Lapus sponsored the Arroyo’s VAT law, the effects of which we continue to bear in everyday transactions.

Furthermore, that there are other career officials within the DepEd that are equally-qualified and have long and actual experience of running the department. Though personally, I am not for Fe Hidalgo because she was too weak to stand up for what she believed was right when Arroyo scolded her (and we know the rest of the story).

What DepEd needs is a gutsy educator who has the experience, the determination to assert a higher budget for education and an independent mind which will not compromise education policies for business or political interests.

"What we need is a reputable person who can stand up even against the President to defend the interest of the sector. And more importantly, we need someone in the department who believes that the classroom shortage is more than 70,000.

CBCP: Disinclined Accomplice

I’m dismayed, to say the least, with the recent Pastoral Letter issued by the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines (CBCP). As religious leaders, they have the responsibility to lead their flock in these times of moral decadence and injustice. It seemed, however, that the bishops were even more confused than their bewildered followers.

The Pastoral Letter was so vague that even CBCP spokesman Msgr. Pedro Quitorio had a tough time explaining and defending it in ANC’s Viewpoint earlier. The letter was obviously written with the pretense of moral uprightness and faultlessness, or shall I say the pretense of neutrality, that it miserably failed to serve its main purpose why it was actually drafted and why the bishops convened for three days in Pope Pius VI center in Manila. The bishops may have used ambiguous phrases to avert criticisms of politicking and partisanship, but they did so at the expense of the very substance of a very important paper. It did more harm than good.

The letter’s major flaw rests on the bishops’ faulty outlook which sees all issues and participating parties homogeneously. While it is true that almost all politicians have vested interests (which is to get the maximum exposure to ensure electoral victory or side with the incumbent to benefit from its machinery and resources), the fact remains that the other party, who happened to be the highest official of the land, is being accused of masterminding electoral fraud in 2004. Such an approach tends to highlight the self-indulgent balance-of-power between the administration and the opposition (a perspective which always works for the benefit of the administration) while watering down the real issues in the process. It’s no different to the language used by Malacañang apologists and scriptwriters everyday that Arroyo’s critics are only hungry for power and are out to destabilize the government.

Furthermore, the issues raised in the second impeachment case against Mrs. Arroyo are legitimate and genuine concerns, filed by ordinary people who were disenfranchised in the 2004 elections; who are continuously being deprived of social services because the government coffers was bled dry for Arroyo’s electoral campaign and other personal whims; and who were victims or are being victimized political repression, extra-judicial killings and other human rights violations by government mercenaries.

To see the current political crisis as a mere offshoot of the egotistical tug-of-war between the Arroyo camp and the United Opposition is to disregard completely the hue and cry of millions of ordinary Filipinos who continue to experience hunger, languish in poverty and are gunned down like chickens everyday. It’s not only erroneous, it’s an outright insult.

I also find it ironic that while the CBCP is very clear, vocal and firm on its call for the “resignation or even the prosecution” of Election commissioners involved in vote rigging in the last national elections, it avoids to make a clear-cut stand on Mrs. Arroyo who, based on the taped conversations, was the one on the other line talking to Commissioner Virgilio Garcillano.

The bishops’ homogeneous perspective also reflected on its stand on extra-judicial killings. While CBCP denounced the spate of killings of journalists and activists, it equally condemned the killings allegedly perpetrated by insurgents, as if these were the same. It discounted the fact that the increasing number of extra-judicial killings of activists is part of the government’s systemic political repression (dubbed as Oplan Bantay Laya) against its foes, particularly progressive organizations and party list groups, and is being done with impunity. The killings also involve unarmed individuals or non-combatants, who are being decimated because of their political beliefs (or simply put, because they are exposing government exploitation and are calling for Arroyo’s ouster).

On the other hand, the “killings” allegedly perpetrated by rebels are carried out in the framework of a continuing insurgency and are aimed at combatants (military and police) and politicians or civilians (which are mostly landlords and businessmen) who have done a great deal of injustice against ordinary people. These two are obviously different, both in its objectives and underlying principles.

Unfortunately, even if their intentions were different, no one benefits from the bishops’ ambiguous stand other than the government. Their homogeneous outlook and lack of concrete alternatives only cast clouds of confusion and keeps the people farther from knowing the truth (coming from the bishops’ perspective).

And there, the bigger problem with the bishops actually lies. The bishops are still living in July 2005 and are still searching for the “truth” while the rest of the country are now looking for concrete action to solve this political crisis.

It’s still never late for the bishops though. They still have the time to redeem themselves from being a disinclined accomplice (to use their own word) of the current regime. A proactive and pro-people leadership is crucial in these times of growing questions on the Church’s relevance and problem of declining membership.

Thursday, July 13

Suntok sa buwan

Hindi naman ako umaasa eh. Alam ko namang suntok sa buwan.

I remember saying this to a confidant while waiting for medico-legal test results of fellow young activists who were bloodied in a scuffle with anti-riot cops near Mendiola last week. I could still remember the faces of those policemen who violently dispersed a youth protest against Macapagal-Arroyo’s all-out war policy. They were wielding their arnis sticks in all directions and did not even care whoever they hit or whatever part of the body they’re actually whacking…parang hangin lang ang pinapalo.

As everyone was starting to run for safety, I received a text, “Kmusta yng mob? Ok k lang?” For a moment, I forgot that I was in the middle of a street battle (actually, I was in the service jeep). We’ve been textmates for quite sometime now. I’ve known the person since 2003, but we were just acquaintances then.

Iyong isang kaibigan ko naman talaga ang malapit sa kanya (at sa katunayan ay nagkagusto pa sa kanya.) Hindi ko talaga siya kilala at nitong huli ko na lamang siya nakausap at nakakwentuhan ng matagal nung nagpunta ako sa lugar nila. Tahimik kasi siya. Hindi pala-kibo, para bang nasa loob ang kulo. Ika nga, mahirap ‘i-spell-engin.’

Hindi naging mahirap para sa kanya na magbukas ng kanyang mga saloobin sa panahon na naroroon ako sa kanila, bagay na higit na nakapagpalapit sa aming dalawa. Mahirap at malungkot ang buhay niya bilang isang aktibista doon, lalo pa’t nakaamba lagi ang panganib na baka siya na ang panibagong istatistika na itatala ng Karapatan. Sa harap ng lahat ng panganib at sakripisyo ng pinili niyang landas, tanging ang kanyang mga prinsipyo at adhikain para sa makabuluhang pagbabago ang nagsisilbing inspirasyon para magpatuloy. Kaya naman itinuturing ko siya bilang isang huwaran ng katatagan at matibay na paninindigan.

Same as the weather, my head is a bit cloudy right now. Some many questions are lingering in my mind. Kaibigan mo siya di ba? I know…but…sigh.

Nung Sabado kami huling nagkita, sa SM North. Kumain lang kami, nagkwentuhan, tapos dapat uuwi na siya sa kanila dahil wala pa raw siyang tulog. Ngunit siguro kakapilit ko at dahil gusto rin naman niya, nanood muna kami ng Superman Returns.

Natulog lang siya sa sinehan sa unang bahagi ng palabas. Hindi ko na ginising kasi alam ko pagod siya, pero napanood din naman niya iyong mga maaaksyong mga eksena nung gitna at huling bahagi.

Hinatid ko siya hanggang sa sakayan ng bus sa Annex, sandaling nagkwentuhan sa bangketa hanggang sa sumakay na siya ng bus. “Kailan ko kaya siya uli makikita?” bulong ko sa sarili. Di puno yung bus kaya madali siyang nakahanap ng upuan. Bago tuluyang umalis, tumingin siya sa akin at itinaas ang kanyang kamao sabay ngiti.

Magkahalong tuwa at pangamba ang aking nadama. Tuwa dahil sa buong maghapong kami’y magkasama; ngunit pangamba rin na baka iyon na ang aming huling pagkikita.

I fear for this person’s life, just as I fear my own and for the lives of fellow activists and friends everyday. These are dangerous times for activists and critics of the current regime.

Sabihin mo sa kanya,” my confidant said. But I hesitated. I know one wrong move and it could mean the end of our friendship.

Maybe there are things that are not meant to happen (because we choose not to make it happen). Or maybe, it’s just a matter of timing.

Tignan na lang natin sa SONA.

As of July 11, 2006, 704 individuals were summarily executed, 299 of whom were activists since Macapagal-Arroyo began her term as president in 2001. A total of 181 individuals have become victims of enforced disappearance, including UP students Karen Emepeno and Sherlyn Cadapan who were allegedly abducted by military intelligence operatives last month in Bulacan.*

Mrs. Arroyo recently declared an all-out war against communist rebels, alloting an extra P1 billion for the intensified counter-insurgency campaign.

* Data from Karapatan's Human Rights Bulletin