Sunday, February 28, 2010

The People (of the World) vs the Armed Forces of the Philippines

“Safeguarding human rights is always at the core of every military operation. It is deeply
entrenched in the institution’s programs, policies, and regulations. It is the very principle that Army soldiers try to live everyday," Army spokesman Lt. Col. Marcelo Burgos Jr. said.

This is what the Army would want us to believe, but the letter below first published in Bulatlat is what the rest of the world think about the illegal arrest and detention of the Morong 43. The Permament People’s Tribunal is a new addition to the growing voice of indignation against the blatant disregard of human rights against the alleged NPA health workers.

Founder: LELIO BASSO (Italy)
General Secretary: GIANNI TOGNONI (ITALY)

H.E. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo
President of the Republic
Malacañang Palace,
JP Laurel St., San Miguel
Manila Philippines
Voice: (+632) 564 1451 to 80
Fax: (+632) 742-1641 / 929-3968
Cell#: (+ 63) 919 898 4622 / (+63) 917 839 8462
E-mail: ph/ ph

H.E. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo
President of the Republic of the Philippines,

As Jurors of the Permanent Peoples' Tribunal, and as part of the larger human family, we recognize that the dramatic and worsening human rights situation in the Philippines is the responsibility for us all. During the PPT's Second Session on the Philippines held in The Hague in March 2007, we expressed our commitment to defeat those powers which, under the pretext of the so-called war on terrorism, deprive the marginalized peoples of a life in justice, dignity and peace.

We sympathize greatly with the plight of the Filipino people who suffer from poverty and who cannot afford medical care. That is why we admire and fully support health professionals who can volunteer their talents and time to help the more needy. Forsaking private gain, they teach their skills to community volunteers and provide their health services for free. They should be treated as heroes of the Filipino people, worthy of our esteem and emulation.

It was thus with great alarm that we received the news about the questionable arrest and detention of 43 volunteer health workers in Rizal province in your country. The victims include two medical doctors, one registered nurse, one midwife and 39 community health workers.

We are greatly dismayed to hear that in the morning of 6 February 2010, combined elements of your government's Philippine National Police and Armed Forces of the Philippines barged into the private home of Dr. Melecia Velmonte in Morong, Rizal. Without showing any legal cause nor mandate, your security forces proceeded to conduct an illegal search of the premises and illegally took into custody the 43 volunteer health workers. They were handcuffed, blindfolded, manhandled and taken, not to prison, but to a military camp.

We are appalled to hear that as of this writing, that they are still in detention in the military camp, even undergoing interrogation. Relatives, lawyers and human rights organizations have not been allowed to visit them. Initial reports from the Commission on Human Rights and non-government human rights organizations said that the victims remained in handcuffs and blindfolded for more than 36 hours; they were denied food and bathroom privileges confined in dark cells, forced to listen to sounds of gunfire and slapped several times during the night. They were not allowed to speak to each other and they were forced to admit that they were members of the New People's Army. And today, your military officers arrogantly did not heed the orders of the Supreme court to bring all the 43 to court.

As the Chief Executive and Commander in Chief of the Republic of the Philippines, you have the obligation to uphold and defend the rights of Filipino citizens. We see in this lamentable episode that the citizens' inviolable right to be secure in their persons, houses, papers and effects against searches and seizure has been violated. The victims are clearly suffering physical and psychological torture, their right to be informed of their alleged offenses is being trampled and they have been denied access to legal counsel of their choice.

As the Chief Executive and Commander in Chief of the Republic of the Philippines, you also have the obligation to enforce the law. Those who attack the inviolable rights of the citizens must be brought to justice. For starters, Colonel Aurelio Baladad of the 202ndInfantry Brigade of the Philippine Army and Superintendent Marion Balonglong of the Rizal province PNP, should be relieved of their duties and undergo judicial investigation for gross ignorance and violation of the Bill of Rights.

We pray that your government would put an immediate end to this deplorable situation. Release the 43 volunteer health workers. Return all their private belongings and the belongings of Dr. Melecia Velmonte.

Thank you for your attention and prompt action.

Salvatore Senese (Italy), PPT President

Gianni Tognoni (Italy), PPT General Secretary

François Houtart (Belgium), Session President

Irene Fernandez (Malaysia), Session Judge

Ties Prakken (The Netherlands), Session Judge

Lilia Solano (Colombia), Session Judge

Øystein Tveter (Norway), Session Judge

With copy to:
Gen. Avelino Razon, Ret. PNP
Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process
Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process (OPAPP)
7th Floor Agustin Building I
Emerald Avenue
Pasig City 1605
Voice:+63 (2) 636 0701 to 066
Fax:+63 (2) 638 2216 ph

Norberto Gonzales
Secretary, Department of National Defense
Room 301 DND Building, Camp Emilio Aguinaldo,
E. de los Santos Avenue, Quezon City
Voice:+63(2) 911-9281 / 911-0488
Fax:+63(2) 911 6213
Email: osnd@philonline. com

Atty. Agnes Devanadera
Secretary, Department of Justice
Padre Faura St., Manila
Direct Line 521-8344; 5213721
Trunkline 523-84-81 loc.214
Fax: (+632) 521-1614
Email: ph

Atty. Leila De Lima
Chairperson, Commission on Human Rights
SAAC Bldg., UP Complex
Commonwealth Avenue
Diliman, Quezon City, Philippines
Voice: (+632) 928-5655, 926-6188
Fax: (+632) 929 0102
Email: chr.delima@yahoo. com
Posted by The PRWC Blogs at 1:06 AM 0 comments
Friday, February 19, 2010

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Friday, February 26, 2010

Well, I'll be DAM-ed!

This early in the year another crisis looms its head, the water crisis. The El Niño phenomenon came too early for summer and the Philippines is again caught dumbfounded.

The government agencies did little to assuage public fears of a consequent power crisis because of El Niño. Almost all dams that generate hydroelectric power have fallen into near critical, if not critical, levels. Thus, Alex Magno’s article in The Philippine Star last February 18 “Parched” and this is my unsolicited reaction to it.

Magno started the article by calling the people who ask for San Roque Dam’s decommissioning as idiots. What a fine way to start an article! Firstly, here in the Philippines, I do not know of any big dams that were urged to be decommissioned save for San Roque Dam, for entirely valid reasons. Civic groups and local officials from the Cordillera and Pangasinan have clearly stated why they want the San Roque Dam decommissioned. For one, it should be held accountable for the flood in Pangasinan that submerged whole towns for many days. For another, it is situated near a faultline that makes it vulnerable to structural damages leading to eventual bursting, which history has already witnessed in Idaho and Pennsylvania, both in the US.

Magno seems to hold these people fighting for just compensation, for their very lives, at fault why we have less rain today. It is not these people’s fault that a global weather phenomen that is El Nino has made itself felt this early in the year.
Magno further said that when the floods came last year, “oppurtunist voices…blamed the calamities on the dams.” Of course we blame the dams more than the heavens for we virtually have no control on the latter whereas on the former, these were entirely man-made. In the case of San Roque Dam, people from Benguet and Pangasinan have raised their voices against its construction precisely because of the worse flooding it can cause.

True, we have invested billions in dams. But they are not entirely OUR economic capital as most are built and run by private firms. In San Roque Dam, we are already flushing “massive investments…down the drain” because this supposed 354 MW dam only produces 85 MW. The dam is heavily silted not only by natural minerals from the mountains, but also the mine tailings from Benguet, which diminishes its capacity to store water and this generate electricity.

There has never been a debate that the dam needed to be drained and that “costs and benefits need to be precisely weighed. But in the case of this particular dam Magno is referring to, the San Roque Dam, the water was drained too late and too fast, and the benefits to be gained by the management far outweighed the cost of such a move to the people downstream.

How silly it is for Magno to look at a “larger view” and say that the flood that inundated Pangasinan is good after all, since we are having a drought today. To look at things with a larger view means to consiously consider how factors would affect something in the future, near or far. I doubt if the management running San Roque that time was foreseeing a drought in the first half of 2010 and consequently decided that flooding Pangasinan is a small cost to pay since we will be having a drought anyway. The more palpable reason they waited to fill the dam to bursting is the profit they would rake in.

Magno is mistaken that no one anywhere ever scuttled a dam. Since a 100 years ago, people have been opposing constructions of large dams, like San Roque Dam. The reasons are mainly environmental and social. Studies have shown that large dams adversely affect the riverine ecosystem. More importantly, people, most likely, the national minorities, are displaced from their homes.
Abroad, people from Great Britain protested over Lake Thirlmere Dam. In the US, an underperforming dam was decommissioned in 1999 when the cost clearly out weighed the benefit.Locally, the Kalinga tribe successfully opposed the construction of Chico Dam in the late 1970’s to early 1980’s.

These oppositions are not because these people are adverse to development. That these people would not like to have their farms irrigated and homes lit by electricity. These oppositions to dams, specifically large-scale dams, are borne out of “precisely weighing”, as Magno said, the cost and the benefit of such dams. It so happened that people think that the benefit is not equal to its cost, and that, in the final tallying, they are at the losing end.

I do agree with Magno on one point, that we need to explore more the option of renewable energy sources. Dams, per se, are not bad, although they do come with the usual caveat emptor clause. Dams can provide the freshwater and electrical needs of a growing population, PROVIDED that these are run efficiently and conscientiously. Meaning the welfare of the people is first and foremost on the list of priorities, listed way above the profits the dam can make.

Lastly, building dams will not be enough to mollify the effects of climate change which more concretly translates into harsher El Niño and La Niña phenomena. Climate change is the effect of in irresponsible global mode of production that puts profit above the environment and society. Climate Change can only be controlled to a conscious effort to address the root of its problem.

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Friday, February 19, 2010


(Postdated to 15 February. As of 16 February, the Expanded Senior Citizen’s Act is now a Law.)

This Valentine’s Day, some hearts got broken.

The de facto President has been sitting on the Expanded Senior Citizen Act, dilly-dallying on signing it into law. The reason that Gary Olivar presents has ranged from the usual “The ‘President’ is busy” to claims that it might not be a good idea at all. This after some statements that it is a very good idea to let the elderly enjoy the full benefits of their 20% discount.

The latter is more believeable if we are to consider the “President’s” penchant for saying one thing then doing another.

I am inclined to think that this pussyfooting of the “President” stems from lost revenues, which ultimately translates to lost kickbacks.

Last month, both Houses of Congress has given their go signal on the reconciled version of this Act. If Signed into law, this would mean a full 20% discount to ‘purchases of medicines and essential medical supplies, accessories and equipment,; fees of attending physicians; and medical, dental fees and diagnostic and laboratory fees.’

But last week, the Department of Finance, sent a memorandum to the “President” over its concern that this discounts would mean a P 1.68 Billion loss in revenues.
A loss in revenues of that amount is really something, considering the amount of our budget deficit and debt servicing obligations.

However, if we think about the corruption-ridden system that the Arroyo Regime has cultivated so, we can just roll our eyes or wave our fists in disbelief and rage over that flimsy excuse the DoF and the President’s Deputy Spokesperson who is IN FACT a US Citizen, Gary Olivar is trying to sell us.

According to Ibon Foundation, the government has a national debt, both to local and foreign creditors, of “P 4.92 trillion - almost 85.7% higher than what it was when President Gloria Arroyo first assumed office in January 2001.” The approved budget for 2010 is pegged at P 1.54 trillion, with a budget deficit of ≈ P300 billion.
Wow! That seems a lot of money! That’s a huge deficit, almost a third of the budget. And where are we supposed to get all this? From the us taxpayers of course!

It honestly wouldn’t be so hard to pay taxes and fork over a portion of our hard-earned money if we know that we will be enjoying these taxes in the long run. Bigger taxes should mean better services for the public. Better service for the public mean better lives and standards of living. Better lives and standards of living mean a higher productivity rate. A higher productivity rate ultimately means a better nation.

However, we know corruption has already trickled down to the lowest echelons of state power. Which is sad. But come to think of it, it is only a reflection of a bigger and more blatant corruption in the upper chambers. Which is sick. Sick,sick, sick!

According to one editorial,(sorry I forgot what newspaper)for every P 1 in the state coffers, 73 centavos goes to debt servicing, leaving only 27 centavos for public services. However, under the corruption-ridden Arroyo administration, 60% of the 27 centavos left or 16.2 centavos, goes into privates pockets. This means that out of P 1, after debt servicing and kickback “allotments” only 10.8 centavos goes back to the people.
So when the Department of Finance, Gary Olivar and the “President” claim that the implementation of the Expanded Senior Citizen’s Act is a huge loss to the money-making ability of the government, let’s make them cough up that 16. 2 centavos per P1 tax that they channeled into the gorge in their pockets.

Alas, that is ‘where our taxes go.’

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Thursday, February 18, 2010

Joke, Joke, Joke!

Teacher: What is the capital of the Philippines?
Student: None. The Philippines has no capital because it is broke.

2010 budget: P 1.54 trillion
Projected budget deficit for 2010: ≈ P 300 billion
National Debt to local and foreign creditors: ≈ P 5 trillion

On the Campaign Trail
The national elections campaign trail is burning hot. It is littered with promises of presidential hopefuls in a bid to gain the hearts and minds, and of course the votes, of the people.
Let us hear them:
Erap who was ousted last 2001 and is guilty of plunder says: I need to steal again!
Noynoy who has launched a good vs evil campaign says: I will not steal!
Gibo who is the graft-ridden administration’s official candidate says: I don’t need to steal!
Manny who is embroiled in the C-5 double insertion accusation says: I will not steal – anymore!
But GMA has outwitted them all says:Don’t worry, you have nothing to steal anymore!

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Last Friday, February 12, the Armed Forces of the Philippines defied the High Court when it failed to present the 43 detained health works to the Court of Appeals. The High Court has granted the petition for the writ of habeas corpus that the kin of the alleged rebels have filed.

The reason the AFP cited for their failure is logistics. They claim to have no sufficient time to prepare for the security and transportation details of the 43 detainees. They received the order to present the detainees on Thursday, a day before the scheduled hearing.

For this omission, the military, represented by Col. Aurelio Baladad, received a mere slap on the wrist instead of a graver citation for contempt. It is their job after all to secure people in their custody and transport them to hearings. They cite possibilities of an ambush and a rescue attempt by their “comrades” assuming that they are indeed NPA elements. They cite the lack of a vehicle that can accommodate the 43 detainees plus a minimum of , say, 43 custodians. How then were they able to transport them on that morning raid on February 6? What is the purpose of being the largest armed group in the country if they cannot accomplish such a simple task?

The 43 detainees were conducting a training seminar in the farm owned by Dra. Melecia Velmonte when they were rounded up, cuffed and blindfolded on the grounds of a search warrant for a man named Mario Condes.
But this is only where the flimsy storyline starts to unravel.

Under Duress

Starting with a questionable search warrant for a Mario Condes that was not even present in the farm of not known by Dra. Velmonte and covers a non-specific address, the raiding group of 300 men “found” assorted bomb-making materials UNDER the beds of the detainees. I echo Dra. Velmonte’s disbelief, who in his right mind would put bomb making materials in places where one sleeps? It also begs to be noted that the search was conducted in the abscence of the owner of the house or witnesses which is a clear violation of the Rules of Criminal procedure. These grounds alone should be enough to provide for the unconditional release of the 43 detainees.

AS the days went on, the army now flaunts NEW arrest warrants for the some of the detainees. These arrest warrants were presumably supported by “confessions” of the detainees. It begs to be said that these confessions were obtained UNDER DURESS, for how would you classify being blindfolded for more than 36 hours, being dunked into water, being electrocuted, being cuffed till your wrists are red and sore to touch, being denied visitors and the right to counsel, if not duress?

Guilt by Association

More than this, the Morong 43 are judged guilty by association. Lt. Noel Detoyato said that they found acupuncture needles among the confiscated stuff. He concluded that wherefore acupuncture needles being trademarks of NPAs, therefore the health workers are NPAs. Has he not been to Ongpin and Chinese drugstores selling acupuncture needles? BY virtue of his logic, they are also NPAs? How come he immediately made this acupuncture needle-NPA connection instead of the acupuncture needle-alternative medicine connection? Jessie Mendez is offering acupuncture treatment in his beauty business venture, is he an NPA too?
Also, the army took note that Atty Romeo Capulong is representing the Morong 43. Atty. Capulong, they said, is a “lawyer of personalities from the Left, including, Jose Ma. Sison.” And so what? Does this prove anything at all? If anything, it proves that Atty. Capulong is one very capable lawyer. The various charges against Jose Ma. Sison has been dropped, including the terrorist tag by the European Union.

Lies, Lies, Lies

But the lies just keep on coming. One side continually claims innocence, that they are mere health practitioners holding a training seminar. The other side claims the group is into making bombs and is composed of NPAs.
Then one day, the other side made a subtle change in their story, that they are NPAs but they are called medical officers.
What’s next? The military seems to tweak their story here and there to serve their purpose, not the truth. First they claim that bombmaking paraphernalia were found among the Morong 43’s things, therefore they are NPAs. Then they say, acupuncture needles were found, which makes them medical officers of the NPAs. Either way, they are NPAs.

However, the second claim actually bolsters the Morong 43’s claim of being rural health workers and not bomb-making terrorists, which, casts doubt on the military’s accusations.

Human Rights

And so what if they are NPAs? Is being an NPA reason enough for the army to violate his basic human rights that democracy has bestowed on him?
From the statement of Usec. Severo Escatura, the Executive Director of the Presidential Commission on Human Rights, it would seem that indeed a double standard on the observance of human rights exists. In a radio program, Huwarang Pilipino, in Radio ng Bayan last February 14, he evaded the military’s accountability to observe human rights and practically turned the tables around to make the NPAs accountable too. In fairness to the underground movement, I have not heard of a single HRV against the state elements when and if they were captured that was lodged legally, instead of being harped on in public.

Malacanang stands by the military

And what does the Malacanang have to say about all the clamor of the public against the military’s move to detain the Morong 43 and continually refer to them as NPAs? We stand behind the military, is what it says. No matter that prominent public servants and professional organizations in the health sector stand by the Morong 43’s claim to innocence. No matter that Ms. Leila De Lima herself and the Commission she stands for is accused of being Left-leaning over her justifiable concern for possible human rights violations.

Cultured Impunity

These past days what the state, through the AFP has accomplished is to send a clear message to the Filipino people. The culture of impunity that has pervaded the Arroyo regime has not been countered effectively despite numerous appeals from different international bodies to address the issue. It has been lying latently just beneath the surface, ready to spring out when the ripples have petered out.
But recent events, especially exposed ties between the perpetrators of the daytime Maguindano Massacre and Mrs. Arroyo herself, run counter to this culture of impunity observation. For while this culture of impunity may have sprung from a social base that is uncaring for people other than themsleves, it has been cultured deliberately to perpetrate a status quo that has increasingly become beneficial to some.

And transgressions of this nature by the state armed force that should have been foremost in protecting and upholding a civilian, a citizen’s right over anything else, are not reprimanded nor sanctioned. Instead, these transgressions against the most basic rights of a person that is enshrined in the Constitution are applauded, condoned and encouraged by the highest executive of the country itself, the President.

What we have far from a democracy. It is a farcical interpretation of it.

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Friday, February 12, 2010


Nakuha ko ang recipe na ito mula sa isang magasin noong naghahap ako ng extrang mapagkakitaan. Ang orihinal na lahok nito ay sari-saring seafoods tulad ng tahong, hipon at iba pa na medyo mahal. Para makatipid, pinalitan ko ng tuna ang mga iyon. Masarap din naman ang kinalabasan.

Para sa pasta:

1/2 kilo pasta

1 small can tuna

1 all purpose cream

I small can evap

1 chicken broth cube



Salt and peper to taste

Para sa sauce:

Igisa nang mabuti ang tuna. Ihalo sa mantikang panggisa ang mantika mula sa tuna.

Ihalo ang chicken broth cube

Ilagay ang all purpose cream, lutuin nang mabuti.

Ilagay ang evap. Huwag pakuluin nang husto para hindi masunog at magbuo-buo ang gatas.

Lagyan ng asin at paminta ayon sa panlasa.

Ihalo sa pasta

Para sa pasta:

Magpakulo ng tubig na may halong mantika at asin. Maaari ring lagyan ng cubes para lumasa sa pasta.

Ilagay ang pasta kapag kulung-kulo na.

Hanguin kapag walang nang puti sa gitna pero hindi naman malambot na malambot (al dente)

I-strain at hugasan sa malamig na tubig para tumigil ang pagluluto at mapanatili ang texture nito.

Kayang kainin ng 10 katao.

Puhunan: P100+

Gross income: P250

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Thursday, February 11, 2010

The President’s Legacy: an Enchanted Kingdom

A legacy is something you bequeath to posterity. It can range from the simplest to the most complex. It can be a single personal item, or a piece of land. Legacy can also be something as immeasurable as the universe, like culture or education. Essentially, a legacy is something you left behind as part of a collective memory, of two people, a family or a nation.

This year, 2010, is as much a year of ‘goodbyes’ as a year of ‘hellos.’ Everybody up in the national ladder of leadership is either up for re-election or is retiring. Meanwhile, those wishing to be in their shoes have already started running for it even before the gunshot has gone off. This ingress-egress makes for a stimulating, if not politically volatile, national situation.

On the top rung of the ladder is Mrs. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, the de facto President of this humble Republic who is now running for a much, much lower post, a congressional seat. On her last State of the Nation Address last year, while she has made it a point that she will remain as the president until the very last day of her term, she also hinted on possible plans to enter the race for a congressional seat. In the first two months of the year, the nation woke up to full page ads of the regime’s ‘achievements’ as a way of emphasizing the legacy it would leave behind com June 30th.

By the way, This last-ditch efforts to endear the “President” to the public and the media is dubbed as by the media as the charm offensive. That term, though unintentional, appears as a tongue-in-cheek reference to the “President”, as her charm IS offensive.

On the subject of legacies, the “President” has spent P912 million on advertising in 2008 and P1.14 billion, in initial estimates, in 2009, according to the Commission on Audit, to publicize her efforts and winning strategies that she claims boosted the Philippine economy.

However, I doubt if the Filipino people will remember her government as how she paints it to be.

In the nine years of her rule, she has been embroiled in a number of scandals and scams, either directly or indirectly. Off the top of my head, there are at least five scandals. The fertilizer scam that was exposed after the 2004 elections. I have forgotten the entire amount involved but it is presumably in the millions. Fertilizer funds where very generously spread over the municipalities regardless of whether they needed it or not.

Then came the NBN-ZTE scam of $329 million which involves her husband Mike Arroyo, Benjamin Abalos, Romulo Neri and the whistle-blower JunLozada. In the aftermath of this scandal, Neri was given a six month suspension while Abalos and Arroyo were acquitted of charges. Jun Lozada, meanwhile, had to live an entirely new life surrounded by the protective habits of the clergy and nuns. Incidentally, Mike Arroyo invites more criticism for his wife as international lending institutions recently divulged anomalies in securing road works contracts. Most contracts are being given to contractors that have close ties with Mike Arroyo.
Who can forget the “Hello, Garci,” scandal were a woman was recorded calling a Comelec Commissioner to ensure a comfortable lead against her opponent? The “President” eventually admitted to a “lapse in judgement” when she called the commissioner. She appeared on national television saying the infamous words “I… am… sorry.” which insiders say has taken many shoots to achieve a semblance of humility. I am sorry to say, to has failed to exonerate the “President’s” ‘lapse in judgement’ and her face only reeks of insincerity and displeasure in having been pushed to admit her guilt.

The “President’s” term is also one consistently threatened by impeachment raps. Sadly, each attempt to impeach the “President” has been outmanoeuvred by bogus impeachment claims and or outright dismissal for ‘lack of merit’. This ‘lack of merit’ judgment comes from an Arroyo party-dominated Lower House.
Of course, it is also in this term when a Charter Change was aggressively sought for. A slight problem in the implementation of an economic policy warrants a comment from administration allies that only Charter Change can solve the problem. However, Charter Change is far from the solution we are looking for at this point in time.

Besides these, the 3rd quarter of last year also brought to public awareness how much the entire first family has literally gained from this venture in politics. Only Mikey Arroyo was stupid enough to think that he can wiggle his way out of it when he guested on Unang Hirit. Too bad he didn’t adopt his mother’s own strategy of surrounding herself with a phalanx of spokespersons to keep herself one step removed from the controversy.

But more than financial unaccountability, ballooning budget deficits and tax measures that squeeze the regular Juan dela Cruz for all he is worth, the “President” is leaving the presidency with a trail of blood.
Following the Arroyo’s rise to power on 2001 after the ouster of Joseph Estrada, she has kept a tight leash on all forces critical of her. It can be remembered that when her actions have departed from her promises in the Edsa 2, ten Cabinet officials resigned and urged her to do the same or face impeachment.

And the witch-hunt began.

Oplan Bantay Laya was put into action as soon as it was clear that the public is not satisfied with Arroyo’s performance and might even stage another Edsa, this time, aimed against herself.
Under Oplan Bantay Laya 1 and 2, 284 political prisoners were arrested and detained. Most of them are consultants of the National Democratic Front for peace talks. They should have been covered by the Joint Agreement on Immunity and Safety Guarantees (JASIG) signed by the GRP and NDFP negotiating panels. Elizabeth Principe, an NDF consultant, is one of these detainees. She has since been released. The others, Philip Limjoco, Rodolfo Calubad, Gabriel Calubad, Leopoldo Ancheta, Celina Palma, Gloria Soco, Ariel Beloy, Prudencio Calubid, Federico Intise, Nelly Intise, Cesar Batralo, Leo Velasco and Gloria Canaveral, were not quite as lucky.
2006 was the peak of extrajudicial killings which prompted the United Nations to send UN Special Rapporteur Philip Alston, whom Enrile derogatorily dismissed as a mere “muchacho,” to investigate the pervasive atmosphere of state-perpetrated violence. It also prompted the government to convene the Melo Commission that would also look into the extrajudicial killings. Both findings confirmed a prevailing culture of impunity that is state-sponsored.

Arroyo herself confirmed this when she praised Jovito Palparan in her 2006 SONA for doing a “job well done.” Palparan has been branded “Berdugo” or “The Butcher” by militants who have suffered the brunt of extrajudicial killings and enforced disappearances in all the regions he was assigned to. Asked about this, Palparan boastfully said that it was not his fault if people are inspired by his words.Not far behind the killings are cases of enforced disappearances and torture. Sherlyn Cadapan, Karen Empeno, James Balao and Jonas Burgos lend faces to the voices that have suddenly quieted down. Meanwhile, Melissa Roxas and Raymond Manalo provide first-hand accounts of torture victims of the state.

By the end of 2009, more than a thousand cases of extrajudicial killings have been reported, excluding 204 cases of enforced disappearances and 1026 cases of torture.

Also, in 2009, the impunity index of the New-York based Committee to Protect Journalists shows that the Philippines is ranked sixth in the world, the only “peaceful-democratic country” in it. The other five topnotchers were Iraq, Sierra Leone, Somalia, Colombia and Sri Lanka, all of which are war-torn countries.
There have been more or less a hundred cases of journalist killings in the Philippines since Arroyo took to the presidency. This puts the Philippines before Iraq and Afghanistan as the world’s most dangerous place for a journalist.
Sadly, it is only in this way that “President” has succeeded in making the Philippines world-class and globally competitive.

Surely, the “President” will not be remembered for how much the Philippine economy had improved over the years that she took the helm. Neither will she be remembered for the so-called investments and pledges or financial aids she has reportedly bagged in her very many trips abroad amounting to billions of dollars, which are in the form of debts that the Filipino public have to eventually pay for. She will not be remembered for her policies that made the Philippine democracy stronger for everything she did undermined it.
Rather, she will be remembered for her unabashed spending of the taxpayers’ money to finance her and her battalion of an entourage on her trips abroad. She will be remembered for the scams and brown paper bags she routinely distributes to politicians to pay them off. She will be remembered for that million peso splurge for a dinner that is “not even good.” More than being remembered for the money she brought into the economy, she will be remembered for how she spent it as “befitting” a head of state. She will be remembered for her retributive character against anyone who has crossed her path.

Indeed, in lieu of a legacy of economic stability and improving standard of living that is being trumpeted by her all her SONAs and recent full-page ads, what the Filipino public will receive is a legacy of ill-fated, anti-poor economic measures and a country masquerading as a democracy. The bequeather, a de facto President known to go back on her own word while struggling to keep the facade of an iron-willed manager of the Strong Republic. The bequest, an Enchanted Kingdom of lies to lull the unsuspecting.

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Monday, February 8, 2010

Avatar and US Hegemony

James Cameron’s Avatar is indeed a movie worth seeing. His rich imagination is a treat that can overwhelm the senses, in a good way of course. It is rare that an extremely animated and alien movie can and will elucidate on topics beyond the end of the world as we know it. For in how many alien and futuristic sci-fi films do we see the role reversed, where the Earthlings are not the race to be conquered but is the one doing the conquering?

Avatar is the story of Jake Sully’s rebirth. An ex-Marine paraplegic, he was forced to take his brother’s place in a crucial military and scientific endeavour in another planet, Pandora. Part of the team of Scientists who study the planet and its inhabitants to facilitate the _________ Clan of the Na’Vi people’s relocation, Jake becomes an avatar.

An avatar, tracing its origin to Hinduism where gods like Vishnu and Shiva’s embodiments are called such, is a bodily vessel that resembles the Na’Vi but is controlled by the human mind. It is a matter of being in two places at the same time, one at the lab where the body goes into a deep sleep and the other where the mind or ‘consciousness’ is transferred into and active in the avatar’s.

A high-ranking military officer, Colonel Miles, working on the military side of operations promised Jake an expensive surgery to regain his legs in exchange for a deal, to be a double agent. He would continue to work with the scientists but will report to him.

Jake reaches a conundrum when in later times, he is forced to choose which race to ultimately serve.

It turns out, the big military and scientific interest in Pandora and particularly in the Na’Vi are all part of a big private company’s project to extract unobtanium that is highly concentrated in the __________ Clan’s territory. Unobtanium, a definite play on words, is a mineral that sells for 20 million USD per kilo.

More Than Entertainment

More than a movie about aliens vis a vis Earthlings, Avatar is a political, social and environmental commentary.

It touches on the military’s role in private ventures. It touches on the brute force that the powers that be impose on its subjects. It touches on the relationship of man and nature, of man and man. It touches on the prevalent preference for individual profit and gain over the goodness of all.
The keen undertones of aggression and resistance is subtly set throughout the whole film. It calls to mind films like Star Wars, Lord of the Rings and even Voltes V for its similar theme of goodness versus evil. However, Avatar hits much closer to home. It in itself is an avatar of the current political and military climate.

US Imperialism

In Avatar, the general, representing the US’ aggressive streak, dismisses the efforts of the scientists to study the Pandora and the Na’Vi people’s way of life to initiate a probable diplomatic solution to the problem and advocates the military solution. With the obvious gain of the private company funding the operation from the future sales of unobtanium, it is easily the solution that gained its ear.

James Cameron effectively portrayed the inextricable ties of the government and the private sector especially in the country portrayed in the movie, the US. For why else would the state’s vast military assets be utilized by a private company, led by Parker, if there are no ties that bind? In the US, it is a fact that its government is controlled by a few corporations who benefit most from the capitalist system of production. In particular, the US military complex, private companies that sell war material to the government, continue to have a say in government policies. “The Marines fight for freedom,” Jake said,” but in Pandora, they are hired guns taking the money from the company.”

In the US, capitalists naturally look for more ways to extract more profit. To do this, they colonize other countries, direct and indirectly, and control the native government to do their bidding. In doing so, they retain monopoly on both the resources extracted from that country and the market that consumes the finished products. Thus capitalism has evolved into imperialism. In both stages, capitalism and imperialism couldn’t care less on the social, economic and environmental effects of their ventures.

As in the movie Avatar, the US or the sky-people moved in on Pandora to exploit its rich mineral resource, the unobtanium regardless of its implication on the native inhabitants and the place itself. The diplomatic solution the scientists are proposing is for the Na’Vi to be allowed ample to be convinced to resettle somewhere else. But the military solution that has gained the momentum waylaid all diplomatic efforts and proceeded to destroy the Sacred Tree, displacing and killing many Na’Vi.

Wars of Aggression

It cannot be denied that this has happened not a few times in the history of Man. Before the industrial period, back when slaves were used to fuel backward, agricultural economies, the most powerful countries of that time have fought wars and divided the world and its resources amongst themselves.

Some of these are : The War of 1812 between Britain and US where British ships frequently flagged down American ships, confiscated their cargo and captured the American crew members; the Queen’s War staged by Louis XIV to add the Spanish Netherlands to his kingdom; the Anglo-Dutch Wars from 16-52 to 1654 and 1664 to 1667 where two maritime leaders where engaged in a bitter commercial and military struggle; the War of Spanish Succession from 1701 to 1714 of the Grand Alliance led by England against a coalition led by France and Spain which is essentially a struggle for political ang military hegemony ang territorial aggrandizement.
Of more recent memory is the World War I during 1914 to 1917 and the World War II during 1939 to 1945. World War I is deeply rooted in the prevailing political and economic policies in Europe after 1871, the year when Germany became a major European power, Essentially, it is a war to redivide the spoils. World War II however came at the heels of the conflagration of communism, which threatens to reduce the world imperialists profit and the Great Depression of the 1930’s. It is a war to defend imperialist interests.

After World War II, the US emerged as one of the superpowers of the world, along with the Soviet Union. The US mainland, having withstood the War without much damage to its economic base, moved on to establish itself in the world. It engaged the Soviet Union, then at the forefront of great societal change, in the highly unnerving war of the nuke technology, the Cold War.

Posing as the guardian of freedom and keeper of the higher morale ground, the US further launched a war in Vietnam on the basis of the “domino effect”. The domino effect is the theory that when Vietnam falls into Communist hands, the rest of Southeast Asia will inevitably follow. The US lost that war and it cost it 30,000 lives lost. The US also launched a war against Korea, fearing that the Communist North will consolidate its power.

In both wars, the US used indiscriminate bombing, air strikes and strafing, killing thousands of civilians and unarmed people. As in Avatar, it showcased the military might of the most powerful state, such as big, powerful aircrafts, superior firepower, and highly-trained and ready-to-die soldiers. Put up against the native Na’Vi armed only by their indigenous armaments like bows and arrows, the sky-people is readily on the higher ground.

The Bush Doctrine

However, following the decline of the Soviet Union’s power in 1991 when it has ceded making pretences on being a socialist country and unmasked the revisionist within by ending the Cold War, a lone superpower emerged, the US. Since then the US had the hegemony all-over the world unchallenged by any nation. It made him all the more arrogant to incite wars.

Since 2000, the US economy is not doing so well. The American corporations have a 23% bankruptcy rate. More than a million Americans have lost their jobs and 8.6 million more are looking for work. By 2003, the US budget deficit has reached more than $300 billion. These figures, according to the US Congressional House Appropriations Committee is the bleakest in over a decade. Thus, it is not surprising to note that the US started its warmongering at this time.

Once again taking the role of a peacekeeper, then Pres. George W. Bush, drafted a new foreign policy that seeks to deprive other nations the so-called weapons of mass destruction. This came in the wake of the deadly September 11, 2001 attacks which people now are claiming have been orchestrated by the US government itself. In his speech, Bush said “We must be prepared to stop rogue states and their terrorist clients before they are able to threaten or use weapons of mass-destruction...”

This is the same reasoning, pre-emptive strike, that the general took in Avatar. He knew that it is only a matter of time when Jake turns his back on him and lead the Na’Vi against the sky-people. So while Jake and Professor Grace continue to do their best to convince the Na’Vi to relocate and spare the rest of the people the inconvenience of a war, the general went ahead and bombed the Sacred Tree.

Today, the US continue to impose its military supremacy over the Afghanistan, the Balkan Peninsula, Yemen, Columbia, North Korea, China and the Philippines, among others.

And after the murders, the bombings and strafing and inevitable “collateral damage” carried out in the name of the war on terror, in the name of freedom, Bush promised to “protect Americans from... investigations, inquiry or persecution by the International Criminal Court” whose jurisdiction the US does not accept.
The Resource Angle

Very eerily like the true wars of aggression waged by the US during different times, the war in Pandora goes back to the resource angle, unobtanium.
The 2003 war focused its attack on Iraq and Afghanistan citing terrorism as the major cause. This is in “retaliation” for the 9/11 bombings. I place retaliation in “quotes” because recent findings disprove the terror allegations. Instead it points to the rich oil resource in that region as the main motive to wage war in that area and eventually control it.

The Balkan Peninsula is also a place of contention as the imperialists want to control this very strategic area for commodity shipments, troop deployment and rich oil reserves.

In the Philippines, our permanent visitors are obviously laying the groundwork to channel our oil reserves into their pockets. Our mineral rich mountains which contain gold, silver, chromium etc, are also hard to resist.

Na’Vi War: a National Liberation War

When the sky-people attacked the Sacred Tree and used the element of surprise and superior military power to their advantage, the nature loving Na’Vi were displaced literally and figuratively. Although they took a defensive stand, their bows and arrows were simply no match to the bombs and fighter aircrafts of the military. They were quickly subdued.

When the smoke cleared, devastation is everywhere. The great Scared Tree longer stands tall and proud. The ground is littered with bodies of fallen Na’Vi, including its chief.Naytiri joined the wails of the others who lost family.

On the other side of the picture, Jake and the Na’Vi-loving scientists were taken as prisoners. But an alliance with Tree of the Air Force proved strong when she defied military rules, mutinied by herself and sprang the prisoners and hid themselves in one of the Hanging Mountains. Jake, Prof. Grace and a scientist friend, once more became avatars and joined the Na’ Vi in their retreat.

But Jake is spurned by his mate for life because of his treachery. He decides to capture the biggest flying beast to prove that his heart is still with the Na’Vi people’s plight. Regaining his place in the Na’Vi community, he urged the people to rise up and fight against the sky-people. They then embarked on a trip around Pandora to organize all Na’Vi.

This is where the pre-emptive strike of the general took shape, seeing a rapid massing up of Na’Vi forces.

The following scenes of battles between the Na’Vi and the sky people, are reminiscent of the Vietnam war, one of the many wars of national liberation of recent date, between the Vietnamese and the US forces.

In Vietnam, the biggest and strongest military troop in the world suffered its most humiliating defeat. Just as the US Military was defeated by the Na’Vi in Pandora despite its more advanced technology.

The Vietnamese, like the Na’Vi, employed both indigenous materials and modern military arms in defence. The Vietnamese used punji sticks and wasps among others to protect their country from the US invasion. The Na’Vi meanwhile used the flying beasts and other animals. Both parties highlighted ingenuity, oneness with nature and courage in their fight against invaders.

Art Imitates Life Imitates Art

This is where art imitates life. The question of colonization has been around for centuries and so has the battle between the colonizers and the colonized. Our own Philippine Revolution in 1898 is part of this battle, as we strived to rid ourselves of the shackles of Spanish colonization, only to be cunningly replaced by American colonization.

But life will continue to imitate art too. In this day and age of imperialism where the one country who wields absolute power over the world is in its worst depression ever, we can expect it to strike down anyone who challenges his political and military authority and pose a threat against its profits. More that this, we can expect it to incite more wars, force other countries to open their economies to the “global market” and exploit poorer countries to spur its economy. In that case, we will never be in short of countries waging a war such as the one waged by the Na’Vi.

To See is To Learn

“The sky-people can never learn what they cannot see.” Naytiri said. It speaks of a global connection, a worldwide web so to speak, that is more than the proponents of free market and globalization can understand.
The Na’Vi are deeply connected with their world and with Pandora, with each connection magnifying its complexity and significance. They have a filament embedded in each being that can connect to another filament, and allow acess to the other’s thoughts, memories and feelings, much like USB ports in a computer. They can connect with each other, with the flying beasts, the big cats, the hyena-like cats and others. Through this filament, they have a direct line to Eywa, their ancestors and the collective memory of their people.
Environmentally speaking, this connection is to see that the people are part of a crucial web of life wherein a loss or surplus of something can send ripples throughout the whole web.

But more than this, the connection that we need to see is the universal law in science that whatever you do rebounds to you. The decision to study and “be friends” with the Na’Vi, to build schools and teach them the English language is part of a grand scheme of things. To clear the Sacred Tree of the _____ Clan and exploit the rich unobtanium deposit there. Everything is interconnected.

From this we can surmise that every decision and every move the powers that be make is also following a grand scheme. A decision to adopt the GATT-WTO in 1997 have deep repercussions in our economy which is bombarded with foreign products and produce that the local economy cannot keep up . The effects of the Mining Act of 1995 continue to be felt with continued and ever-tightening militarization of areas that are covered by mining permits, resulting to internal displacement, damage to the flora and fauna and gross human rights violations against the inhabitants.

We cannot remain complacent and ignorant of the things going on around us as it may mean our survival as a human being, a social being, itself.

That is what the Na’Vi can see and the sky-people cannot. That is why the Na’Vi fought with all their might against a bigger and stronger enemy. And that is what the rest of the sky-people can do if threatened by the likes of the General and Parker.

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Friday, February 5, 2010

OF Januaries : part 3

The Mendiola Massacre

It happened when I was a child just learning the ropes of the world ourside my own home. I was 5 going on 6 years old. Just like the First Quarter Storm, I’ve only heard about the Mendiola Massacre, which has less references than FQS. I read in the newspaper a few days ago that Damasa Perez, or Nanay Masang, 86, was the oldest participant of the “Lakbayan ng Anakpawis para sa Lupa’t Katarungan sa 2010.” Lakbayan was a caravan launched to commemorate the Mendiola Massacre and remind the government of the continuing absence of a genuine land reform program. Nanay Masang is one of the participants of the 1987 march that ended in the gruesome massacre of 13 farmers.

The EDSA 1, not more than a year ago, is still fresh. For a people opperessed and terrorized for over a decade of martial rule, the EDSA 1 promised change and freedom. The Philippines being an agricultural country has a very wide base of peasants. But these peasants cntinue to be deprived or land to own and till.

If we are to look back in history, when the Spaniards came, they came with their swords unsheathed. They claimed ownership over our island nation and disposed of its land as they saw fit. They vast land, obviously grabbed from the “uncivilized indios,” was divided amongst themselves, particularly among the religious congregations. With Spain engaged in commerce abroad, marketing raw materials from our very own backyard, and the commerce increasingly becoming competitive, the Spaniards waied the self-sustaining economy of the the various settlements and instead leaned more and more towards single-crop production per province to boost production. So now we have provinces that specialize in tobacco, in sugarcane, in rice, bananas, etc.

Needless to say, as the Spanish government gained more foothold in the Philippine, the more the peasants lost theirs. And this s just the beginning.

The following years after the Spanish colonization saw how the economy became more and more liberalized and geared not towards self-efficiency, but production for exportation. The years saw how the vast majority continued to be tied to the shackles of pauperism as they continue to be the producers.

And on January 22, 1987, the farmers marched out of their fields and into the streets to remind the new administration that promised deliverance from evil, to take stock of their plight. Some 10,000 farmers made it to Mendiola Bridge. There, a rain of bullets greeted their demands. When the smoke cleared, 13 farmers lay dead.

2010. Twenty-three years hence, justice has not been meted out to the perpetrators of the massacre. Land reform is still the distant dream that farmers continue to run after.


As with every new day, Januaries represent hope against hope. Januaries promise change and progress, with the past sorted out for its lessons for the forward march. This year, our January surely didn’t start out in a christmassy humming. It opened the year with news of updates on the Maguindanao Massacre. It is feverish with election fever. It is a-buzz with NO-EL scenarios. It is politically charged wih insinuations true or otherwise.

But this January is no different from the last. Come to think of it, for the last 10 years or so, my Januaries have never had that languid nature I used to wake up to.

Januaries do represent hope, promise and change. However they may not always be of the explosive sort like the First Quarter Storm, Mendiola Massacre and EDSA 2. The hope, promise and change are strong under currents that vibrate throughout the whole year.

Maybe Januaries have never been as quiet as I would like to believe.

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