Friday, January 29, 2010

Foot-(in-the)-Mouth Disease

(Freudian and not-so-Freudian slips from the powers that be which made me raise my eyebrow a meter and a half high)

“We expect patients from every class and political spectrum.” (patients who can afford your world-class standards.)

-Jose F.G. Ledesma, SLMC president and CEO
On SLMC’s 2nd branch in the Global City

“They are all brand new and state of the art, but I think the charges are also state of the art.” (Excactly.)

-Noli De Castro, Vice President
On SLMC’s 2nd branch in the Global City

“In spirit and in substance, what I have done for my district cannot be denied,” (Uh-uh)

-Jules Ledesma, Congressman
On being “most notorious chronic absentee” in Congress

“It’s not about President Macapagal-Arroyo making the appointment.” (I argree, it’s about fairness and delicadeza which PGMA has nothing of.)

-Justice Secretary Agnes Devanadera
On PGMA appointing CJ Puno’s successor.

“We should be thankful that Gloria Arroyo is the president, otherwise the economy would be in an even worse situation.” (Tell that to millions who are jobless and can’t even afford a decent meal save for noodles and sardines.)

Jose Salceda, Albay Gov. and Presidential adviser on economic affairs.
On the Philippine economy

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The closest I’ve come to the First Quarter Storm is my experience in EDSA 2.

You can say EDSA 2 is my political maturation. It came on my third year in college, more than a year after my very first, and rather innocent, taste of political activism.

I remember that months before January 16, the very first day of almost a week long EDSA 2, there has been a steady rise of political activities inside the campus. More and more students are signing up in signatures drives to petition the government to allot more budget for education instead of the All-Out War in Mindanao. “BOOKS NOT BULLETS!” the studentry said. Each day, teachers became more accomodating to activists who knock on their doors during class to ask for a short audience with her/his class, to shortly discuss some issues and invite the class to a mass meeting, a discussion group or a forthcoming rally.

By the second semester, when the campaign is heating up, I had to make the difficult choice of dropping my Bio 11. I thought, better to drop it than receive a 5. However, when January came and students and teachers, non-academic personnel and others were pouring out of the campus and into the streets, towards the EDSA Shrine, teachers were assuring the students that everyone would receive a passing grade if the campaign drags on.

On that fateful night of January 16, when the impeachment court voted against opening the 2nd envelop, I wasn’t part of the people who launched instant noise barrages. I had just come home from school when I received the message from the text brigade to converge at EDSA. I opted to stay in, turn on the television and be part of the growing text brigade.

The following morning, I am ready to go out by 6 am. Before I was out of the door, my parents gave their blessing for the first time for my political activism. It was a very good feeling.

On the trip to the school, I proudly wore my “OUST ERAP!” pin. In Quezon Hall, students and their teachers were already there. We cannot possibly fit into the jeepneys we can readily hire. We made the decision to march from Quezon Hall to EDSA Shrine. We were approximately 5,000 all in all.

The next day, our numbers swelled to 15,000. And everyday, our numbers keep on rising.

Under the sweltering heat of the tropical sun magnified by the concrete jungle, we marched the length of EDSA chanting “Erap, Resign!” and “Sumama na Kayo!” to the cheering crowd along the highway. People lined up along the streets and cheered us on. They honked their cars and buses to the tune of our chants. It was a very heartwarming feeling when you see that you and the people are one in this historical fight.

I spent most of my days in EDSA, going home only before the sun rose to take a refreshing bathm, then it’s off to school once again to march with the students.

On the fourth night of the EDSA vigil, the closest allies of Erap have withdrawn their support. Confetti poured. The jubilitation is high. Onstage, the speaker relatedly that the anti-Erap united front is still deciding on whether to push through with the march to Malacanang or just stay in EDSA. We were consolidating our ranks by the SEC building, talking about the day, about the march, about the plans. Just across us, a church group, Youth for Christ, is having a street party. But the fight is far from over. Talks were rife that Erap is getting ready to escape the people’s wrath. If people slip into complacency, Erap might very well do another Marcos and escape to another country, far from the reaches of the popular masses. I nearly cried in frustration. As certain as they’re having a party, Erap is maneuvering to freedom. This is no time to party, it is time to be vigilant and firm.

At about 3 am, word reached us that while most leaders decided to stay in EDSA Shrine and await Erap’s final moment there. The ND forces, however, decided to bring the fight and the people closer to the proverbial seat of power. By 5 am, we were organising our forces and our fellow students who stayed overnight. We started marching towards Malacanang at 7 am. I don’t know our exact number but we were one long line of militant marchers, waving red banners and chanting slogans. We arrived in Malacanang at about 12 noon.

And the rest they say is history.

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Monday, January 25, 2010

Of Januaries

First of three parts

For most people, Januaries are off to a slow start which can be attributed to the lingering scent of Christmas in the cold amihan. There are also enterprising individuals, mostly politicians, use this general public lethargy to slip in resolutions and what have that would have reaped loud protestations if done in ordinary times. Still there are also explosive Januaries in our recent history.

By explosive Januaries, I mean circumstances that have gained a prominent space in our history. I can recall only three, though there can be many others, the first quarter storm in the 1970’s, the mendiola massacre in the 1980’s and the Edsa 2 in 2001. Of the three, I can give a personal account only about Edsa 2, of which I am a part of. For the other two, I have only read and heard about it.


On January 26 1970, more than 50,000 demonstrators converged in Congress. This was after Marcos delivered his “State of the Nation Address” which was found wanting by the people. The 50,000 throng, composed mainly of students, is a fitting rebuff to Marcos’ SONA and US Vice President Agnew. Of course, just like EDSA 1 and 2, a demonstration this big did not happen overnight.

For years militants have clamored for social justice and reforms that consistently fall on deaf ears and lying mouths. The Laurel-Langley Agreement which is essentially the same as the Bell Trade Act is scheduled to be terminated come 1974. It was renewed and the trade policies heavily favoring US cntinued to be implemented. The Marcos’ regime has already approved the Investment Incentives Act ang the Magna Carta of Social Justice and Economic Freedom which is deliberately cloaked with “nationalist” propaganda but which grant US monopolies all the legal phrases they can use to impose their economic and political domination. Marcos, having begun his Bagong Lipunan vision, has already incurred extremely huge budgetary deficit and foreign debt.

That day, 7,000 policemen and troops were unleashed on the demonstrators. These state forces used brutal “anti-riot” methods against the protesters. They were trained by the AID Public Safety Division and by special “counterinsurgency”agents of the JUSMAG. The mass of students retaliated in self-defense.

It was clear as day that the January 26 protest of 50,000 people is merely the pening salvo of a bigger struggle.

True enough, a bigger mass protest which was participated in by more than 76 universities, colleges and highschools in and around Manila, was held on January 30 until the wee hours of January 31. This time, the protesters converged in fron of Malacanang, the seat of power, albeit local, itself.

The militant students commandeered a firetruck to break through Malacanang’s main gate. They also commandeered a bus to break the line of Metrocom men. Army and police vehicles did not escape their tit of tat response to the police’s brutal dispersal tactics.

All the while, the patriotic demonstrators shouted slogans condemining the brutality of the state and called on the workers, peasants, students ang progressive intellectuals to unite against US imperialism among others.

Many wounded demonstrators were taken in and treated by the residents in the area who sympathized and were inspired by the courageous upheaval of the students.

The protests didn’t die down when January ended. On the contrary, it continued well into February and March. As the protests grew in number and zeroed in on the its chief targets, the Malacanang and the US Embassy, so did the police ranks which consequently meant a rise in human rights violations not only against the protesters but against innocent bystanders and residents. In the course of this fiery actions, five students have given their lives, countless others have sustained heavy beating and other wounds.

The First Quarter Storm went down in history as proof of what our national hero, Jose Rizal, said about the youth being the hope of the nation, as it was led mostly by students. Militants however are careful to claim that the students are the key to genuine social change. The FQS, although composed mainly of students, saw the participation of a significant number of workers and peasants. The humble origins of the FQS participants belie the depth of their understanding and rage against US imperialism which is ultimately the root of all evil.

Eman Lacaba’s Days of Disquiet, Nights of Rage details this fateful event. If your are interested in knowing more about this, you can ask about it from your Tibak friends, scour the Popular Bookstore at Tomas Morato, or your friendly mainstream bookstore might just carry it. I think it has been reprinted, meaning it gained more following, so it might be a little pricier now.

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Friday, January 22, 2010

Foot-(in-the)-Mouth Disease

(Freudian and not-so-Freudian slips from the powers that be which made me raise my eyebrow a meter and a half high)

“We will surely have automated elections.”

-Jose Melo, Comelec Chairman
On the recent hacking of government websites, backlogged teachers’ training and the delayed arrival of counting machines.

“This meeting is being convened so there will be a national consensus …. on the importance of ensuring 2010 elections will be held as scheduled and that they be transparent and credible (emphasis mine).”
-Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, “President”
On the upcoming elections

“That’s destiny.”

-Joseph Estrada, Deposed President
On retuning to Malacanang in six months time

“She is definitely an example of a strong, independent woman.”

-Jessica Cox, Fil-Am pilot

“When you go against MalacaƱang, you have to be tough and steel yourself because the President is vengeful.”
-Rep. Eduardo Nonato Joson, Nueva Ecija
On double murder charges against Lacson

“The state must give priority to education, science and technology, arts and culture, and sports to foster patriotism and nationalism, accelerate social progress, and promote total human liberation and development. (Emphasis mine.)”
-Republic Act No. 9850 declaring Arnis as National Martial Art

“That’s what you get when you are in power.”
-Rep. Danilo Suarez, Quezon
On GMA’s almost half a billion peso expenditure on her district

“How can you be a good president if you cannot take care of the needs of even your own district?”

-Rep. Mikey Arroyo, Pampanga
On her mother’s almost half a billion peso expendture on her district.

‘I want to be king again’

- Joseph Estrada, Deposed President
On the upcoming elections

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Friday, January 15, 2010

Foot-(in-the)-Mouth Disease

(Freudian and not-so-Freudian slips from the powers that be which made me raise my eyebrow a meter and a half high)

Whatever is the title of the song that starts with “It’s now time to make a change….” A song that is a kind of discussion between a father and a son, where the son goes “from the moment I could talk, I was ordered to listen…” which is very true.

There are so many things that people want to talk about but cannot. Workers want to talk about how they lost their jobs, maybe even their limbs. Mothers want to talk about how creative they are to make do P50 for a family of five. Drivers want to talk about how little net income they get to take home after the paying for the gasoline and daily boundary of the jeepney, cab or bus they’re taking out. Students want to talk about how they weren’t allowed to take the final exams beacause of an outstanding balance. People want to know why they keep on getting short end of the stick when they were assured time and again that everything is fair and just.

But they don’t get to do this sometimes, or even at all. Because are being pushed to silence by their upbringing, beliefs and often times by the state. Since 2001 almost a hundred journalists have been killed. There have been 1,118 extrajudicical killings, 204 enforced dissapearances and numerous others tortured.

The State, however, has and uses every means to perpetuate itself and the things it believes in no matter how wrong or skewed it may be. It has many image consultants, advisers and what have you whose main goal is to make the State look lovable, caring, compassionate, which it is not. It has access to the tri-media and can impose a news black out on any issue it deems too harsh to its image. And when the dam of lies could not be contained anymore, send in the spin doctors to lie about the dam of lies.

This fact made me want to compile the long list of “quotable quotes” by those from the government which could be a Freudian slip or a calculated move on their part. And so, this Friday and every Friday thereafter (I promise, I’ll try to be religious about this), I will post some of these quips that I found amusing during the week. I encourage you, dear readers, to add to this roster of fine politicism.


“We keep coming back to the same principle—equal application of the law, equal application of regulations for everyone in this particular case.” (This principle seems selective of its application, if Olivar has not yet noticed.)

-Gary Olivar, Presidential Spokesperson

On the Ampatuan’s VIP treatment in jail

“I will give it (Comelec) an 8 [out of 10]. I’m very confident that there will be automated elections.” (That’s it, positive thinking, come on now.)

-Jose Melo, Comelec Chairman

On Comelec “level of readiness” even as the Commission is months behind it’s election calendar.

“We leave it up to Congress to proceed on this issue as best as they see fit in their collective wisdom as legislators.” (That is, if wisdom resides in them.)

-Gary Olivar, Presidential Spokesperson

On Congress making final Con-Con push

“Not guilty.” (And his nose grew a thousand mile-long.)

-Andal Ampatuan Jr.

On his arraignment for 41 counts of murder

“The President is not popular, but this doesn’t mean that she’s a failure.” (Hahahahahahahaha!)

-Gary Olivar, Presidential Spokesperson

On GMA’s sinking popularity

“She governs for posterity.” (Two meanings: for ALL future generations and for all of SOMEBODY’S generations, which is which?)

-Gary Olivar, Presidential Spokesperson

On GMA’s sinking popularity

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Friday, January 8, 2010

Tragedies : GMA's Silverlining for CHACHA

Right smack in the middle of preparations for the Yuletide Season, when the nation has been struck by news of the Maguindanao Massacre and the sinking of two vessels MV Baleno 9 MV Catalyn B after the back-to-back typhoons Ondoy and Pepeng, GMA saw a
golden oppurtunity to exploit.

First, these issues have conveniently redirected the people's attention and wrath away from the exposed urban planning disaster in Metro Manila and its neighboring provinces of Rizal and Laguna, and the bane of Pangasinan that is the San Roque Dam. Second, it provided a
testing ground for the public's tolerance of and the administration's experimentations with Martial law. Third, it resurrected the ghost of Cha-cha past.

The first two have been rebounded back to the administration. Just when the public's outcry of the justice and compensation for the damages brought by natural disasters which were aggravated by poor urban planning, liberal policies on the environment and the drive to
rack up profits was gaining its momentum, The Maguindanao Massacre happened. For a few weeks, it transfixed the nation with highly graphic stories and accounts of how the bodies were found, what condition they were in and who the victims were. The massacre took home the record for the most victims of killings at any one time, and placed the Philippines ahead of Iraq and Afghanistan as the most dangerous place for journalists. The public turned their sights on the most probable perpetrators of the crime, Datu Unsay Mayor Andal Ampatuan. Soon, under the watchful eyes of the media and the public, after highly dubious evidences start to surface, the truth was revealed. The road of impunity has not stopped at the Ampatuans' door, and instead have led right up to the doorsteps of the Armed Forces of the Philippines, for being their "force multipliers", and lastly, to that of the "President" herself, for issuing Executive Order 546 which sanctioned the formation of Civilian Volunteer Organizations and for the ties that bind them come election time. So indeed, just as
the San Roque Dam became operational despite its structural flaws and ethical issues, and winning the 2004 and 2007 elections for herself and her cohorts, "the President has never been distracted" just as Gary Olivar has said.

The Martial Law Experiment or Presidential Procalamation No. 1959, was a calculated flop. It came thundering in the wake of the Maguindanao Massacre. Maybe, GMA thought that with the people so enraged by this unspeakable crime, the Martial Law declaration can ease itself comfortably without so much of a fight from the people. And boy, was she wrong! It sent the Senate, the constitutionalists and everyone who suffered during Marcos' Martial Law into uproar. After a week and a day of localized Martial Law, and with the disunited House still debating on the rules, GMA pulled out the proclamation, the plan is to "maintain it only as long as required, and to work to lift it once crucial objectives had been met” according to Olivar. Well, and what "crucial objectives might this be, kind sir? To ensure that the
Ampatuans keep their dirty secrets to themselves, especially after burnt election paraphernalia was found buried (disposed, taken cared of, eliminated, cleaned) within one for their compounds? To hoodwink the people that the Iron-fisted lady who governs the Strong
Republic does not tolerate any hanky-panky in her government, when she herself built this monster up to serve her purposes?

Maybe. Maybe not. Not when we remember Lore-Liar Fajardo's very candid statement, “I don’t think the President’s friendship with the Ampatuans will be severed. Just because they’re in this situation doesn’t mean we will already turn our backs on them.”

And that was the year that was. We welcome the New Year with bright eyes full of lingering Christmas cheer and spirit and revitalized with all the goodness that people reserve especially for this season and we were welcomed by the ghost of Cha-cha past.

Can you believe that the Lower House led by Speaker Prospero Nograles which dillydallied to convene when the Martial Law proclamation was made, can move faster than that and has actually managed to pass the new version of the Charter Change bill into its second reading before taking their Christmas break? The recent tragedy the administration is milking to push their Charter Change agenda is the marina disasters last December.

Once again, the floating coffins brought into fore the problem that plagues this industry. Most ships, both cargo and commercial, are second-hand ships with an average age of 35 years. Most of these are Japanese ships which they have deemed unfit for further voyages
after 10-15 years of sailing, which we, in turn, purchase and use to ferry products and people from one island to another.

The administration, meanwhile, took the upsweep of emotions for these maritime disasters to remind us of the need to liberalize our economic policies (read: Charter Change) claiming that “we need constitutional amendment to address the matter." One major point in
the 1987 Constitution that the Charter Change will adress is the premise that limits foreign-ownership of corporations to 60%.

Mr. Olivar said that relaxing "the more people there are who are "investing, competing to provide service, the better services will become." But Olivar also claimed that the local oil industry that had deliberalized years ago is different because it has a "natural oligopoly"
from the “huge investments required to look for oil.” Oil prices have more than doubled since the ceiling price was taken off. So with all the other basic services that were opened up to "competitors" or privatized, like electricity, water, telecommunication, even education.
Doesn't this trend already say something about the current economic policies which leans towards deregularization, privatization and liberalization? Olivar simply cannot conclude that amending the constitution and implementing economic reforms that will substantially put foreign-owned companies before our local companies, will and can transform into "better services and ... affordable fare" for the maritime industry.

Charter Change is truly a politically-charged issue. It cannot be done without people questioning the intent, motive and purpose of its proponents. When former Pres. Ramos proposed this, the people stumped it. When ousted Pres. Estrada revived this measure, the people made history again via EDSA 2. Now, a president widely believed to have commited electoral fraud is staunchly, bullheadedly leading its passage, Charter Change becomes even murkier.

It is not Charter Change per se that people are against, because surely the Constitution can do with some more improvement. Con-Con or Con-Ass won't spell much difference when the Charter Change is used to disempower the contituency the Constitution is supposed to protect.


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Sunday, January 3, 2010

A poem in three languages

Kabunian's breath
embraces the unforgiving hills
silver moonshine
glistening over towering pine trees
Rest your weary bones for the night,
brave fighter
with crickets and nightowls
humming the nighttime salidummay
Ardently, patiently,
wait for the breaking dawn
the sun shines the brightest
after the darkest night

Niyakap ng hiniga ni Kabunian
ang mga bundok na humahalik sa langit
kumikislap sa gagahiganteng saleng
ang pinilakang sinag ng buwan
Ipahinga muna ang hapong katawan,
magiting na mandirigma
habang inuugoy ng mga kuliglig at koop
sa indayog ng salidummay
maalab ngunit mahinahon
hintayin ang pagsambulat ng bagong umaga
Pinakamaliwanag ang araw
pagkalipas ng napakadilim na gabi.

Inarakup ti anges ni Kabunian
dagiti bambantay nga umag-agek iti langit
sumilsilap iti dadakkel a saleng
ti duyaw a raniag ti bulan
Inanaam pay ti nabannog a bagi,
natured a mannakigubat
bayat nga inindayon
dagiti kuriat jen koop
iti ayog ti salidummay
Napinget ngem natalinaay
namnamaem ti panagsingising
ti baro nga agsapa
Nakalawlawag ti aldaw
kalpasan ti nakasipsipnget a rabii.

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