Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Follow-Up to "Going Co-Ed": A Look at College Co-Education

Two years ago, the Ateneo celebrated the 40th anniversary of the first women students (co-eds) to enter the college. In 1973, the first batch of full-time women students, 127 freshmen and 35 upper batch students, entered the college. In 1975, six women, who had started out as exchange students, graduated from the college.

I can't imagine what it must have been like for those six women who were the very first pioneers in the Ateneo. To be such a minute minority and to have to deal with whatever discrimination back then must have been a great challenge to these women, but, despite this, they persevered.

In an article in the Philippine Daily Inquirer by Dr. Queena Lee-Chua about the anniversary,  she notes that co-education could have started in the Ateneo much earlier, in 1966, had the student body and government approved it. But they didn't, and a rather discriminatory question in an article in the school's official publication Guidon asked, "“What about the sons of alumni who may have the same amount of brains [as girls] but less inclination to work themselves to the bone studying the way many girls do?”

However, thanks in part to then-Guidon managing editor Antonio Carpio, now an Associate Justice of the Supreme Court, who pointed out that female undergraduates of Yale University were "assets," the school eventually relented, and, in 1973, the first batch of co-eds enrolled in the university.

Forty years hence, and we can see that, like the undergrads of Yale University, female graduates of the Ateneo have proven themselves as leaders in their respective fields. According to statistics cited by Dr. Lee-Chua, 18, 217 women have graduated from the university, 2, 421 of them with honors. Quoting from the same article, Dr. Lee-Chua lists down just a few of the many successful women who have graduated from the Ateneo:
Female Ateneans are public servants: Chief Justice Ma. Lourdes P. A. Sereno; former Akbayan Party Rep. Risa Hontiveros-Baraquel; Dipolog City Mayor Evelyn Tang-Uy; Postmaster General Josie dela Cruz; and Quezon City Vice Mayor Joy Belmonte-Alimurung.
Scholars and educators: University of Cebu chancellor Yvette Candice Gotianuy; University of Chicago astrophysicist Reinabelle Reyes; and Philippine Wildlife Conservation Society president Angela Nina Ann Ingle.
Executives and social entrepreneurs: Sunstar president Gina Garcia-Atienza; Rags2Riches founder Reese Fernandez-Ruiz; GotHeart founder Mel Yeung; and Human Nature founder Anna Meloto-Wilk.
Media movers: Summit Media president Liza Gokongwei-Cheng; investigative journalist Chay Florentino-Hofileña; ABS-CBN executive Cory Vidanes; host-actress Kris Aquino; GMA anchors Vicky Morales-Reyno, Pia Arcangel-Halili and Suzie Entrata-Abrera; and Solar News anchor Pia Hontiveros-Pagkalinawan.
Artists: School of Fashion and the Arts cofounder Amina Aranaz-Alunan; painters Elaine Roberto-Navas and Mia Herbosa; actress Ina Feleo; designer Mich Dulce; novelist Samantha Sotto; and poet Fatima Lim-Wilson.
Athletes, advocates and religious: equestriennes Toni Leviste and Mikee Cojuangco-Jaworski; cancer warrior Kara Magsanoc-Alikpala; and Cenacle Sisters regional superior Sr. Nerissa Bandojo, RC.
 42 years after the first full batch of co-eds entered the college campus, the Ateneo is once more breaking new ground as it prepares to open its Senior High School to female students; the first batch is expected in school year 2016-17. Once more, there is opposition in the form of students and alumni who cannot bear to see the formerly all-boys high school breached by the opposite sex.

I've already responded to some of these concerns in my previous post about co-education in the high school. Perhaps we can take a page from the lessons learned by the college when it embraced co-education; perhaps we can invite some of these pioneers to the high school in order to give us an idea of what we should expect as a high school. Granted, the experience is going to be different, since high school students are generally younger than those entering college.

I'd also like to take this time to point out that, 42 years after the college embraced co-education, the University still standing, prouder than ever. School officials and teachers are working hard in their preparations for senior high school. There is no reason to believe that the senior high school will not acquit itself well as a co-educational school.

Monday, March 23, 2015

Requiem for Singapore's Father

One can only imagine the strength of character that was needed to be Lee Kwan Yew. To have to deal with one's province suddenly cast away by its parent country, and then taking the steps to transform it from a third world existence, to first world affluence and respectability. It meant curtailing some rights and freedoms, and banning dissent, but it also meant moving forward with a clear goal in mind.

Whatever one may say about Lee Kwan Yew, one cannot doubt that all of his actions, good or bad, were done with the good of his country in mind. With his goals in mind, Lee Kwan Yew led Singapore, and established it as a first world economic power. And, unlike some leaders who clung to power because of their own selfish needs, Lee Kwan Yew stepped down from power, although he continued to influence Singaporean politics from behind the scenes.

There is a lot that we Filipinos can learn from the man, who died early this morning at the age of 91, after a long, lingering illness. Our leaders, in particular, can learn a lot from him. Here's hoping that they can find the strength of will to be like Lee Kwan Yew, and truly work for the betterment of the country in mind. 

Requiescat in pace, Elder Minister Lee Kwan Yew. Your long journey is at an end.

Saying Goodbye to Steve Nash

When my co-teachers and I first formed our fantasy basketball league nine years ago, Steve Nash was one of the players I drafted to be part of my team. When we decided to make the league a keeper league, wherein we would keep three of the 12 players on our team for the next season, and I managed to snag the very first pick, I actually picked point guard Steve Nash over LeBron James. In retrospect, while it may not have been the most astute decision, Steve Nash was the centerpiece of my fantasy team for around five years.

Of course, I'd made it a point to get to know my star player. Six times a leader in assists. Two-time leader in free throw percentage, and career leader in free throw percentage (.904). Eight times an All-Star player. Two-time Most Valuable Player (MVP). In all likelihood, when the time comes, Steve Nash is heading for the Hall of Fame.

He played in three teams over the course of his career: the Phoenix Suns (two tours of duty), the Dallas Mavericks, and, his last stop, the Los Angeles Lakers. It was with the Suns and the Mavs that Nash had his best years, and, while he was unable to lead his team to the championship, he came pretty close.

It was with the Los Angeles Lakers wherein the end for Nash came quickly, as he broke a bone in his leg in just his second game with the Lakers. Back injuries, which had plagued him earlier, came to the fore, and limited him to just fifteen games last season.

This season, he wasn't able to make it out of the preseason, as he tweaked his back as he tried to lift his bags. While he hoped to make it back sometime this season, it wasn't meant to be.

Seeing the writing on the wall, Nash penned his retirement notice in the Players' Tribune, a website wherein he was the senior producer. In the article, he thanked the many persons who helped his career along the way. He also wrote about what drove him to be one of the best players ever:
The greatest gift has been to be completely immersed in my passion and striving for something I loved so much — visualizing a ladder, climbing up to my heroes. The obsession became my best friend. I talked to her, cherished her, fought with her and got knocked on my ass by her.

And that is what I’m most thankful for in my career. In my entire life, in some ways. Obviously, I value my kids and my family more than the game, but in some ways having this friend — this ever-present pursuit — has made me who I am, taught me and tested me, and given me a mission that feels irreplaceable. I am so thankful. I’ve learned so many invaluable lessons about myself and about life. And of course I still have so much to learn. Another incredible gift.
 While Nash contemplated the end of his basketball career with some pain, he also was upbeat:
I will likely never play basketball again. It’s bittersweet. I already miss the game deeply, but I’m also really excited to learn to do something else. This letter is for anyone who’s taken note of my career. At the heart of this letter, I’m speaking to kids everywhere who have no idea what the future holds or how to take charge of their place in it. When I think of my career, I can’t help but think of the kid with his ball, falling in love. That’s still what I identify with and did so throughout my entire story.
Lastly, he paid tribute to his three children, whom he considered to be the most important part of his life:
Lastly, Lola, Bella and Matteo, you’re the center of my universe. All my focus and energy is here for you guys and moving forward, I couldn’t think of anything more exciting or rewarding.
 I, for one, wish nothing for the best for Steve Nash as he moves on to the next big thing in his life.

Thanks for all the memories, Steve Nash. I, and a lot of other basketball fans, will miss you.
Steve Nash playing for the Suns. Image from Downtown Devil

Sunday, March 22, 2015

TRO Vs. Suspension: Which is Correct?

In my previous post, I commented on the sense of entitlement the Binays have demonstrated in defying the Ombudsman's suspension order on the Makati Mayor, the son of the Vice-President. This sense of entitlement is also demonstrated in the Mayor's securing of a temporary restraining order (TRO) to stop the suspension. The Mayor's camp has insisted that the TRO takes precedence over the suspension order. The Ombudsman's side, which includes the Justice Secretary, has argued that, since the suspension order was served, and Vice-Mayor Romulo Peña has been sworn into office, the TRO has no effect, being moot and academic. Whose side is correct?

On the surface, and in the eyes of his supporters, it may appear that the Mayor may have the upper hand. A TRO, as it is understood by laymen, is supposed to stop an action from being carried out. Therefore, the TRO should have been followed, and the contempt charges the Mayor has filed against just about anybody should prosper.

However, since the suspension order was served (this, of course, is disputed by the Binay camp.) and  Peña sworn into office, what the Court of Appeals should have issued was a "status quo ante" order and not a TRO. A status quo ante returns the situation to the original condition, which is Binay Jr. as mayor; the TRO would be moot and academic, since, as Ombudsman Conchita Carpio-Morales notes, the situation that was supposed to be stopped by the TRO (the suspension) no longer exists.

Furthermore, when one reads Republic Act (RA) 6770, otherwise known as the Ombudsman Act of 1989, Section 27 of RA 6770 clearly states,
In all administrative disciplinary cases, orders, directives, or decisions of the Office of the Ombudsman may be appealed to the Supreme Court by filing a petition for certiorari within ten (10) days from receipt of the written notice of the order, directive or decision or denial of the motion for reconsideration in accordance with Rule 45 of the Rules of Court.
This was upheld by the Supreme Court in 2010, when it revisited its 2008 decision in the case of the Ombudman vs. Joel Samaniego, and was even expanded such that the suspension would be  "immediately executory pending appeal and may not be stayed by the filing of the appeal or the issuance of an injunctive writ." Unless there is a later decision which overturns this decision, this is the current ground rules for a suspension. Therefore, it is clear that the Court of Appeals (CA) erred when it issued the TRO; in fact, the CA Justice who issued the TRO may even face administrative charges for overstepping his/her boundaries.  

Of course, the Binay camp has ignored this point of information, which means that Binay Jr. is the one who should be found in contempt. He is already under suspension by the Ombudsman, and yet he continues to hole up in his office and sow confusion by signing all sorts of official forms. As Inquirer columnist John Nery noted last week:
He will be suspended for all of six months, and the immediately executory nature of the Ombudsman’s order is to protect City Hall, and by extension the people of Makati who own that seat of government, from any machinations that an incumbent official might do—clean the books, for instance—to dodge the charges. The mayor has all this time protested his innocence, saying he has nothing to hide. The Ombudsman now gives him the proper forum to rebut the charges against him—and what does he do? Petulantly lock himself up in his room, so to speak.
By continuing to act as the official mayor, Binay is the one who is putting his constituents and city employees at risk. His father, the Vice-President, is not yet even President, and already the son is acting as if he is above the law. What more if the elder Binay does win in 2016? What damage can the Binays should the patriarch gain the highest office next year?

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Junjun Binay's Suspension: The Binay Sense of Entitlement

According to a report by the Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism (PCIJ), in 2006, then-Makati City Mayor Jejomar Binay, along with various Makati City officials, was ordered suspended by the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) because he and the other officials were accused of "allegedly padding the city payroll with over a thousand 'ghost employees'."

Two things helped the elder Binay prevent the suspension from being served. One is that the late Cory Aquino rallied supporters to field themselves around Makati City Hall, making it impossible for any legal authority from serving the suspension order. The other is that former President Gloria Arroyo was considered to be even more corrupt than Binay, and it was easier to believe back then that Binay's case was politically motivated, although Binay has long been suspected of corruption even before the time of Arroyo.

Now, almost ten years after that incident, it is the younger Binay, now the Makati City Mayor, who is facing corruption charges over the allegedly overpriced Makati City Hall Building II. The Ombudsman, through the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG), has served the suspension order, although the Court of Appeals issued a 60-day temporary restraining order (TRO) to stop the suspension. This has created a tussle between the courts and the government. The government, through the Justice and Interior Secretaries and the Ombudsman, has insisted that the TRO is moot and academic, since the suspension order had already been served, albeit rather speedily. Mayor Binay and his allies have insisted that the rule of the courts is supreme.

The current situation, as well as other previous actions of the Binays, has demonstrated that how the family will probably act if the elder Binay is elected as president next year. They have avoided facing whatever charges have been leveled against them, opting instead to resort to court TROs and non-attendance, as well as making claims that such charges are politically motivated. To critics of Binay, it appears that the Binays are afraid to face the music, because it's very possible that the evidence against them is overwhelming, and the courts will likely find them to be guilty.

The manner by which the Binays have avoided being suspended or charged shows their contempt for the rule of law. By all means, let the law take its course when it is beneficial to the Binays, but, if the law goes against them, the Binays have shown a marked contempt for it, by almost always opting to crying political harassment.

It's not the first time the Binays have demonstrated this contempt. The much-publicized incident of the exclusive subdivision, wherein the Binays practically forced their way through a closed gate by way of intimidation, has been a prime example of their feeling of entitlement. One can only wonder what sort of behavior the Binays will show once their patriarch gains the presidency.

Sunday, March 15, 2015

Ateneo Athletics: Successes

In the old days of the Ateneo, it seemed that the only sport that really mattered was basketball. A holiday would be granted by the school only if the basketball team won the championship. As a result, other teams used to toil in obscurity because of this rather unhealthy focus. Happily, the Ateneo community has grown more aware of the various sports that populate the athletics field, and has shown its support of sports other than basketball in recent times. Today, the school recognizes all forms of achievements by the members of its community.

The support from alumni that once was reserved for basketball has also become more balanced, with all teams receiving some form of alumni support or the other. As a result, the quality of players entering the athletic field for the school has risen to the point that the Ateneo can now contemplate of contending not only for the basketball crown, although that's still the key jewel, but also for the overall UAAP championship.

This second semester has been particularly fruitful, as various teams managed to make it to their respective playoffs or finals. While not all teams managed to bring home the trophies, the effort that each has shown in their quest for the gold is in itself a reward, as the hard work and effort that each player brings to the game is character building.

A look at some of the winning teams in the second semester:

The volleyball teams, both men's and women's, managed to bring home their respective championships, and each was special. For the men's team, it was the very first time that Ateneo was able to win the championship, and, for the women's team, they managed to not only win the championship, but they also achieved a perfect record (16-0) as they soundly trounced the school's archrival, La Salle, for a back-to-back championship.

The Ateneo junior basketball team managed to bring home the trophy that was last in the high school when current King Eagle Kiefer Ravena was still playing for the juniors. The current team, anchored by the Nieto brothers, Matt and Mike, and junior standout Jolo Mendoza, dethroned the defending champion NU.

The men's baseball team completed a grand slam with their third straight championship, sweeping archrival La Salle in the finals. 

What makes the various teams' successes even more amazing is that the Ateneo players are also academically competent, since the school give little leeway even for those who represent it, unlike in other schools. The players' successes on the field are duplicated in the classroom, forming well-rounded graduates.

Congratulations to all representatives of the Ateneo de Manila! Win or lose, they all bring glory and honor to the school.

Going Co-Ed in the AHS: A Teacher's Response to Former Students

Ateneo de Manila University President Fr. Jose Ramon Villarin's announcement about Senior High School  being co-ed this week was met by some Ateneo de Manila High School alumni with anger or dismay, as they railed against the end of what they see as the "Ateneo culture."

Before I go on, I'd like to share a few points of information that may help understand the context of the discussion.

The Ateneo de Manila Grade School and High School have been all-boy school ever since they were founded; the college, otherwise known as the Loyola School, opened its doors to women back in the 70s, if I'm not mistaken.

However, with the advent of the K-12 educational program, the university's Board of Trustees made the decision to allow female students into the Senior High School program. These first female students will come from the public schools, the parochial schools, and the provincial Ateneo schools. Personally, I'm hoping that the female children of faculty will be given a chance to vie for the 300 new student slots for Senior High School, since there are a number of us in the community, including myself, who have female children.

For me, the move makes sense, since the Senior High School system will be nothing like the traditional high school set-up. It will be more like a junior college program, wherein the students will be grouped according to their career preferences, to better prepare them for their future courses. Since the college has long been co-ed, it probably would help students to learn how to deal with the opposite sex as further preparation.

At the same time, since the Ateneo will be accepting students from other schools, it would be unfair to limit the incoming new students according to gender. What if the valedictorian and/or the salutatorian of a public school are female? Will they be denied the opportunity to study in the Ateneo because of their gender?

As for the Ateneo culture, Franz Santos, one of my co-teachers, an alumnus himself, posted some interesting food for thought. 
While we have different opinions on Ateneo's move to go co-ed in senior high, I am extremely disappointed that some former Ateneans reacted violently, going as far as saying things like going co-ed will ruin the Ateneo culture. I was under the impression that competence, compassion, commitment, conscience, Christ-centeredness, magis, being persons for others are some of the most important parts of the Ateneo tradition which we will now share with other students coming from other schools, both male and female. Please read the university memo. We are even trying to get as many scholars as we can from public schools.
Gustong-gusto nating magturo sa TD tapos ngayong may chance na for some of them to go to the same school as us, ayaw na?
 Well said.

 In the first place, the Ateneo culture is always changing, since the context of the students is likewise changing. There, of course, will always be parts of the culture which will be immutable, since we in the Ateneo de Manila are inculcating in our students specific attitudes and key values which will identify them as Ateneans; for the high school student, the 5 Cs (competence, compassion, commitment, conscience, and Christ-Centeredness), and the values of magis and being a person for others, as my co-teacher mentioned, will probably remain at the center of the Ateneo culture. Others, such as this move to the co-ed system, are parts of the continuing change that the school undergoes.

Case in point for some of my former students who are up in arms over the change: some venerable high school structures, such as the class nights and the "Days with the Lord," are no longer existing in the high school. The graduating batch this year, I think, has never experienced a class night; the "Days" ended a year or two before the class nights did. Will the lack of those experiences make them lesser Ateneans? I don't think so, since there are different, and maybe better, structures in place, structures which will be better aids to the student character formation.

It's also not going to be easy for the incoming female students, since they will be a distinct minority in the high school system. How will they be integrated into their senior high school batch? That will be a challenge for both the students and the school, which will have to structure the senior high school system to accommodate the new students, and help both new and old students adjust to the new system. Hopefully, by doing so, the Ateneo de Manila will demonstrate how it is responding to Pope Francis's call for the faithful to "go to the peripheries."

Friday, March 13, 2015

Requiem, Sir Terry Pratchett

To many readers, Sir Terry Pratchett is probably best known for "Good Omens," his collaboration with "Sandman" writer Neil Gaiman, but, to his more select fans, Pratchett is better known for his creation of the Discworld, his major setting for many of his novels.

My first foray into Terry Pratchett's Discworld was "Small Gods," a gift from a co-teacher almost two decades ago. In the book, Pratchett explores the notion that gods are powered by beliefs; those who lose their followers lose their power, and become small gods.

"Small Gods" was followed by "Feet of Clay," which introduced me to one of Pratchett's major staging grounds in the Discworld, the city of Ankh-Morpork, also known as the Big Wahoonie. Soon after, I found myself tracking down the various Discworld novels, and, believe you me, there are many of them. Each book opens up a new aspect of the Discworld: a new setting, a new character, or a new idea.

What I loved about Pratchett's work was the humor he infused into his writing: witty, satirical, and colorful. While the inhabitants of the Discworld went about their lives in a serious manner, Pratchett portrayed them in a humorous manner. At the same time, Pratchett would poke fun at everything he could think of, from computers ("Going Postal") to politics ("The Fifth Elephant") to film ("Moving Pictures").
While most of his books were geared towards older readers, Pratchett did find time to write books that targeted the young adult, including the Tiffany Aching series and "The Amazing Maurice and His Educated Rodents," both of which were set in the Discworld, as well as the Nome Trilogy, which was an entirely different setting.

Whether he wrote for adults or younger readers, Pratchett rarely failed to entertain or educate his audience.

In his later years, Pratchett developed Alzheimer's, which caused him to change the manner by which he wrote his books. It also caused him to explore the possibility of assisted suicide; he even participated in a documentary about the issue.

The Alzheimer's did not deter him from his writing, as he continued to write, almost as if in defiance of the disease. The novels from this period, from "Unseen Academicals" to "Raising Steam" show an urgency in style, as if Pratchett was aware of his mortality, and wished to capture as much of his Discworld as possible.

His last Discworld novel, "Raising Steam," seemed to capture this urgency, as it was as if he tried to include as many of the inhabitants of the Discworld in it.

Sadly, Pratchett died yesterday at the age of 66, his battle with Alzheimer's over. Despite his support for assisted suicide, his publishers stressed that he did not die by this route.

One of the favorite Discworld characters is Death, who appears quite often in the novels, and is recognizable by his speech, which is always in capital letters.Whenever he appears, he doesn't make the reader that Death is something to be feared, just something that happens.

On Pratchett's Twitter feed, Death makes his appearance:

Requiescat in pace, Sir Terry Pratchett. Thank you for all the wonderful memories.
Image courtesy of Books Alive

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Pouring Gasoline to Put Out A Fire

The worst tactic one can use in putting out a fire is to pour gasoline all over it. In a way, that's essentially what President Noynoy Aquino did last Monday when he not only blamed former PNP-SAF chief Getulio Napenas for the tragic Mamasapano incident, but also claimed that Napenas had fooled him. The President also took aim at his detractors, and called them "KSP (kulang sa pansin)."

The outburst won the President no supporters, as even his own allies took the President to task for blaming Napenas for the failed operation, which, while attaining its objective, led to the deaths of 44 PNP-SAF members, 18 members of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) and five civilians.

In fact, one of the President's supporters in Congress, Akbayan party-list representative Walden Bello, has publicly cut his ties with the government, and may even step down as party-list representative, since his party-list group still supports the President. Stated Bello, "The President is engaging in a brazen cover-up of his responsibility and that of his trusted aide (resigned Philippine National Police Director General Alan) Purisima for the tragic SAF mission and placing all blame on the ground commander (Getulio) Napeñas."

While it may be possible that Napenas is responsible for the tragic operation, the manner by which the President castigated Napenas and called into question Napenas' competence was ill-timed and unwise.

Some may point out that the length of time that it took for the President to come out and place blame squarely on Napenas' shoulders may have been too long, and may be seen as a tactic to obfuscate and confuse the issue. It may also be seen as a way to absolve suspended PNP chief Alan Purisima, who has been seen to be the brains behind the Mamasapano operation. It should be noted that, in his speech last Monday, the President avoided mentioning Purisima's role in the operation.

From the politic point of view, it was unwise to castigate Napenas at this point in time, considering that the PNP has yet to release the findings of its board of investigation (BOI) formed to study the Mamasapano incident. The President may have jumped the gun on the report, and may cause the report to be seen as skewed and biased. It probably would have been better for the President to wait for the BOI report before making any ill-advised comments. 

It will be difficult for the President and his communications team to spin any positive result from his speech last Monday. Worse, it may have given more momentum for the anti-Aquino crowd to step up their efforts in their attempt to remove the President from office. It definitely would have been better for the President to have kept quiet over the matter, but then, that's probably not in his nature to do so. As a result, he had better be ready to reap the whirlwind over the anger he has raised.

Sunday, March 08, 2015

All-Out War? Are You Kidding Me?

In the aftermath of the tragic Mamasapano incident, wherein 44 members of the Philippine National Police Special Action Force (PNP-SAF), 18 members of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), and around seven civilians were killed (Note: I will keep on repeating these numbers, in reaction to those who only refer to the SAF 44, as if theirs is the only deaths that mattered. All of those who died in that encounter, except bombing expert Marwan, were Filipinos, and all of their deaths are important.), calls for retaliation against the MILF, including a call for a return to war, were loud and strident.

Former President, current Manila mayor, and convicted plunderer Joseph Estrada, for one, reiterated that the "all-out war" formula that he employed during his presidency should be reestablished, as he claims that it was effective. He also questioned the sincerity of the MILF in its participation in the peace talks, saying, "They’ve been going on for 40 years, and it’s always ‘peace talks, ceasefire, peace talks, ceasefire.’ That’s still what they do now. Will you still trust them?"

While the MILF's participation is, indeed, questionable, given their rather belligerent stand in the aftermath of the Mamasapano incident, the other question, the one about all-out war, merits attention, since, because of the MILF's perceived lack of cooperation in investigating the incident, there are those who will argue that the all-out war is the way to go. To that, I will quote a co-teacher's favorite rejoinder: "Are you kidding me?!"

To basically take revenge for the SAF 44, those calling for an all-out war would wish to sacrifice more lives. An all-out war will create even more casualties, since the MILF will not willingly just lay down their arms. Instead of just 69 casualties, with an all-out war, we may be looking at an even higher casualty rate, perhaps in the hundreds.

It's not as if those calling for an all-out war will be one of those possible hundreds. It's their relative safety that emboldens them to glibly call for war. Perhaps if Estrada and the other hawks will be the ones to take up arms and lead the charge, it will give more credence to their call. At the very least, it will cull the gene pool of a number of idiots.

At the same time, the all-out war scenario will only be considered as effective by those thinking at the national level, and it will ignore the real-time cost of such an operation. An all-out war will displace thousands who will have to evacuate in the face of armed battle, and the government will have to figure out what to do with these evacuees. Furthermore, an all-out war will simply render useless the areas wherein the war will be fought; no seed may be sown, and no harvest may be gathered in such areas. Those at the national level will say that the nation is at peace, but, in Mindanao, there will be much unrest.

The all-out war scenario will not solve the Muslim Moro question, aside from the possible total obliteration of the Moros. It won't solve the decades-long struggle of the Moros to gain a greater say in their affairs. It will be as in the United States, wherein the Native Americans were subjugated and marginalized. As it is, the fact that the Moros perceive themselves to be marginalized is probably one of the factors for their revolutionary movement. An all-out war will simply enforce that marginalization.

While peace should not come at the cost of national sovereignty, as some think the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) will do if it is passed, it cannot be argued that peace is a desirable goal of all. Instead of opting for belligerence and war, both sides in the Mindanao conflict must exhaust all peaceful means to settle the conflict. As retired Chief Justice Reynato Puno said in 2008, in an all-out war, "The losers are all of us."

Looking on the Positive Side

There's a tweet attributed to comedian Chris Rock which goes,

Admittedly, the shine has long fallen off U.S. President Barack Obama as he approaches the end of his second term in office, but, as Chris Rock observes, perhaps the tag of failure is undeserved. Despite some shortcomings, President Obama has achieved much in his almost eight years of office, and he should be lauded for that.

Similarly, President Benigno S. Aquino III has long been pilloried by his critics for his own shortcomings, but, when one tries to take an objective eye towards his achievements in office, he actually may come out as a winner.

A quick example would be the economic gains his government has made. The fact that foreign accreditation bodies have upgraded the country's investment rating can only be attributed to the government's fight against corruption that, while incomplete, has made inroads into minimizing corruption in the government. The President's image, unsullied so far by personal corruption on his part, has made it difficult for critics to attack him on that front, unlike two of his predecessors, who were complicit in corruption, and made it a foundation of their own presidencies.

Also, his stand against the depredations of China into our territory has gained much admiration, even if it may be a hollow stand because of our country's inability to put a stop to these depredations. The fact, though, that the case has been filed in the international court demonstrates the country's adherence to the rule of law, even if, once more, the Chinese government refuses to submit itself to the court's authority.

This is not to say that the critics are wrong about President Aquino's failings, and, believe you me, there are many. However, it is unfair for them to simply criticize the President without giving credit where credit is due. There is no perfect leader, since all of them are like us, humans with their own frailties and failings.

Perhaps it would be better to try to see the President in an objective light, and try to be more understanding towards his failings. Being the leader of a country isn't easy, especially when people expect perfection from those in that position, but it's an unfair expectation, since no one of us can truly be perfect. When Pope Francis visited the Philippines earlier this year, his message centered on the values of mercy and compassion. Perhaps that mercy and compassion can be directed towards the President.

Sunday, March 01, 2015

What About the Fallen 7?

Sarah Pananggulon was only five years old when she died. She died in her father's arms, a victim of a stray bullet.

She is one of about seven civilian victims of the Mamasapano incident last January 25, wherein, aside from Sarah and six others, 44 commandos of the Philippine National Police Special Action Force (PNP-SAF), as well as 18 members of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), were killed.

While much media attention has been given to the so-called Fallen 44 (of which a hashtag had been trending), there is scant news about the civilian casualties. While a Moro group, Suara Bangsamoro, has identified at least seven casualties, official news reports peg the civilian deaths at three. A recent MindaNews report has it at five.

At least the PNP-SAF forces had knowledge that they could possibly be killed in this operation, which was to arrest or neutralize international bombing expert Marwan. For civilians such as Sarah Pananggulon, they were simply caught in the crossfire between the PNP and MILF forces. Theirs is the true tragedy in this affair, being innocent victims of an incident not of their choosing.

While politicians such as Saranggani Rep. Manny Pacquiao and Maguindanao Governor Esmael Mangudadatu have extended financial aid to the civilian victims, perhaps more can be done by the government at large to help these people who were tragically affected by government affairs.

While politicians and netizens rage against the President and his officials over what they refer to as a "botched" police operation (never mind the fact that the PNP-SAF did achieve their objective), perhaps some thought and prayers could be made for the fallen seven.

Saturday, February 28, 2015

Requiem for Mr. Spock

I first saw Leonard Nimoy as Mr. Spock in the first full-length feature of the old TV series, "Star Trek." While the movie itself was underwhelming, I enjoyed Nimoy's performance as the cold, emotionless half-Vulcan Mr. Spock. In the second movie, "Wrath of Khan," Spock has a moment to shine (SPOILER!) when he sacrificed himself to save the crew of the badly damaged U.S.S. Enterprise. As he lay dying in the engine room, after successfully repairing the warp drive, he tells a grieving Kirk, "The needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few, or the one." While Spock is resurrected in the third movie, "The Search for Spock," his death in "Wrath of Khan" remains one of the franchise's iconic scenes.

Nimoy would go on to portray Spock in four more movies involving the original cast of the TV series, and reprise his role both in the second TV series "The Next Generation," and in the rebooted "Star Trek" movies (2009 and 2013), wherein his Spock is now an alternate timeline character, who gives assistance in the form of advice to the new Captain Kirk and Mr. Spock.

Nimoy's Mr. Spock is a character who transcended time, being relevant both in the past and in the present. His trademark Vulcan greeting, "Live long and prosper," accompanied by the "V" hand sign, has become part and parcel of popular culture. The fictitious Vulcan powers of mind probing and nerve pinching have also become touchstones of pop culture.

While "Star Trek" is indubitably Nimoy's bread and butter, he has made science fiction his own by providing the voice of both Galvatron ("Transformers; the Movie," 1986) and Sentinel Prime ("Transformers: Dark of the Moon," 2011), and by playing the character of William Bell in the sci-fi TV series, "Fringe."

Aside from being an actor, Nimoy was also a director and writer. He directed the third and fourth original cast movies, and wrote the story for the fourth and sixth movies.

Nimoy was not above making fun of himself, as he hams it up hilariously in the music video of Bruno Mars' "The Lazy Song." In the video, there's a lot of referencing to "Star Trek", and Nimoy sends it all up in a puff of smoke.

Unfortunately, it was smoking that eventually caused Nimoy's demise yesterday, as he had contracted chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), even though he had stopped smoking 30 years prior.

Below is a tweet Nimoy posted a few days before his death:

Even though Leonard Nimoy is no longer with us, he will continue to be with us through his work. Whenever we watch "Star Trek," we will always remember him.

Requiescat in pace, Leonard Nimoy. Live long, and prosper.

Friday, February 27, 2015

A Look at the Mayweather-Pacquiao Fight

So, the fight that everyone has been clamoring for is finally pushing through. On May 2, 2015, Floyd Mayweather, Jr., puts his unbeaten record on the line to face Manny Pacquiao, in a match that pits the top two pound-for-pound fighters against each other.

It is a fight that is long in coming, thanks in a large part to Mayweather's perceived ducking of the fight. Over the past few years, Mayweather has done everything he could possibly conceive, from drug issues to promoter conflicts, to prevent the fight from happening. Mayweather has also been incredibly arrogant, engaging in taunt after taunt after taunt against Pacquiao; in doing so, Mayweather has earned the ire of many boxing fans, both for his arrogance, and for his perceived cowardice. One can only wonder why Mayweather has finally agreed to the fight.

Perhaps it's because he sees Pacquiao has having lost his killer instinct, as Pacquiao has won all of his last few fights via judges' decision. Even Freddie Roach, Pacquiao's expert trainer, has admitted that Pacquiao may have lost his desire to pummel an opponent into senselessness, saying, "He feels that to beat a person, you don't have to kill him or knock him out." If this is the case, it could be one reason why Mayweather consented to the fight, since he may no longer be in danger of being knocked out by Pacquiao. This may be to Mayweather's advantage, since he is known to be a skillful ring tactician.

Pacquiao's faith may also contribute to his more compassionate nature, although Pacquiao demonstrated some hubris when he declared that God was on his side, and that God would deliver Mayweather to him. It probably would have been better for Pacquiao to keep quiet about how his faith will come into play, for, if he should lose, his rash words may come back to haunt him.

At the same time, it's no secret that Pacquiao's priorities are not all with boxing at the moment. As it is, he's splitting time (if one can call it that) between his duties in Congress (almost non-existent, being one of the most absentee representatives), his ludicrous basketball career, and his role as an entertainer, aside from his boxing training. The divided attention may mean that Pacquiao's focus may not be as it used to be, and this will give an opening to Mayweather.

While the apparent lack of killer instinct and his divided priorities may be factors in Pacquiao's fight against Mayweather, it should also be noted that Pacquiao is coming off a number of impressive victories, albeit via judges' decision. Also, it's no secret that Pacquiao has had Mayweather in his sights for so long that the fight may trigger dormant feelings and skills that may come into play in the fight.

Pacquiao still also has Roach in his corner, and his trainer's expertise in the sport, and his ability to mold Pacquiao into the fighter Roach envisions, will be one of the key factors in the fight.

It is clear to many that, while this fight was much desired, this fight is less than what it should have been had Mayweather agreed to fight Pacquiao when both were at the height of their boxing prowess. This knowledge will not detract from the fact that this will probably be one of the richest, if not the richest, payoffs in boxing history. Here's hoping that, on May 2, Pacquiao will emerge victorious.

Sobriety on the Fallen 44 Issue

Much has been said and written about the 44 Special Action Force members of the Philippine National Police (PNP-SAF) who were killed last month as a result of their operation to hunt down an international bombing expert. In social media, the hashtag #fallen44 was trending as a result of the deadly encounter. There have been fund-raisers and special events held in the name of the fallen 44. However, tragic as the case may be, they are not the only victims who should be mourned. In fact, there has been quite a bit of overreaction over the gravity of the deaths of the 44 PNP-SAF members.

First of all, it should be correctly noted that the death toll from the deadly Mamasapano incident was around 65-69, since there were also 18 members of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), as well as 3-7 civilians who lost their lives in that battle. Inquirer  columnist John Nery, in his February 17, 2015, article, scores Senator Miriam Defensor-Santiago for her insistence on repeating the phrase "44 Filipinos," since it creates the impression that the Moros, as well as the civilians who were killed, are not Filipinos (only Marwan, the bombing expert, is not Filipino; he is Malaysian.). Writes Nery:
Santiago’s phrasing may have been a subconscious tell, but whether deliberate or not, it served to emphasize the us-versus-them divide that runs through the assumptions of too many of our senators and congressmen like an ugly sneer. Is it a coincidence that the civilian and the MILF dead that Santiago forgot or ignored were all Muslim? There is a rhetorical power in referring to the 44 SAF troopers as “44 Filipinos,” but it is an arrogant power gained at the expense of (yet again) minimizing the Moro experience. 
 Sen. Santiago is not the only one who has engaged in the "us-versus-them" mentality. The late publisher of the Philippine Star, Max Soliven, was notorious for his anti-Muslim slant in his columns. Ramon Tulfo, of the Philippine Daily Inquirer, has also written columns that suggest that Moros and Muslims are of a different ethnic group, or even species, from us.

Aside from the exclusion of the slain MILF and civilians, it should be remembered that the 44 PNP-SAF are not the only ones who have fallen in the line of duty. Soldiers, police, government officials, and civilians have all suffered losses in the ages-long conflict. While the deaths of the 44 are tragic, how is their situation different from previous deadly encounters?

Perhaps it's because the government is currently attempting to push through the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL), that the deaths of the PNP-SAF members gained more significance. Certainly, the deadly encounter has thrown a monkey wrench into the peace process, with Congress deciding to shelve deliberations on the BBL.

I have yet to read the text of the BBL. so I will refrain from commenting about it. A good number of netizens have already spoken out about it, saying that the BBL will do everything from sundering the country to betraying the Constitution. I hope they have read the whole text of the law, so that their comments are based on fact, and not on hysteria.

Furthermore, the 18 MILF members are not the only Moros who have fallen in the long rebellion
against the government. In a MindaNews article Herbert Docena, a PhD candidate at the University of California, Berkeley, suggests the hashtag #Fallen120000, as this is his estimate on the number of people who have died in the conflict, of which he cites instances dating way back to the 1900s.

This is not to belittle the deaths of the 44 PNP-SAF members who bravely gave up their lives in doing their job. By all means, let us mourn their deaths, but let us also make sure we do not go overboard in our lionizing their sacrifice. If we are to remember the fallen 44. let us also take a moment to remember and pray for those who have died in the past, or are currently affected by the state of affairs in Mindanao.

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Further EDSA I Musings: Nothing to Celebrate?

A Facebook post from one of my former students caught my attention. He was complaining about the traffic caused by the closing of EDSA for the celebration of the 29th anniversary of the EDSA I People Power Revolution.

Admittedly, he's not the only one complaining, since the closing of EDSA caused a major traffic gridlock. I myself am wondering why the government only called off classes, and not work; perhaps officials were concerned about there being too many holidays, or perhaps, as some anti-Aquino sectors claim, the government wanted to stave off possible anti-government protest actions.

I'm not inclined to believe the anti-Aquino crowd, which has had difficulty in gaining traction in terms of attracting people to their protest rallies. Whether it's because majority of Filipinos still believe in the President despite his many missteps, or whether people don't think protest movements are effective, or whether people are turned off by the strident cries of the leftist crowd, I don't think government officials are too concerned about the effects protest movements may have in the political arena.

As for the traffic, once more, admittedly, it's something the government could have done something about. Declaring the day a non-working holiday would have helped immensely.

Going back to my former student's post, it was his comment that caught my attention. In response to one of his friends asking "Why celebrate it at all?", my former student responded, "Yup, nothing to celebrate."

Nothing to celebrate?

Many Filipinos, including the late Senator Ninoy Aquino, former Antique governor Evelio Javier, and Bayan founder Lean Alejandro gave up their lives to secure the freedom we now enjoy. We are able to express our disgust at the government fairly freely, without fear of reprisal from the said government.

During the Marcos dictatorship, one could be jailed, tortured, or even killed, for speaking out against the government. Now, all one has to do is to type in his or her protest or disgust in any social media outlet; in my case, I'm not sure if my blog would have survived the Marcosian era.

The fact that we are free to express ourselves is nothing to celebrate, according to my former student. I'm hoping that my student's comment is a voice in the wilderness, but, unfortunately, there are many of us who have forgotten the cost others have paid to be where we are today.

This is where we are, 29 years after EDSA, wherein people have forgotten the fight for freedom so much that they don't see any reason to celebrate freedom's return.

Such is our memory and appreciation of history: extremely short.

Musings on the 29th EDSA I Anniversary

Thanks to the needs of my academic work, it's been another unexpected hiatus from writing, but, with the school year winding up, it'll be a little less busy for me, and I'll probably be able to write more often.

It's the 29th anniversary of the EDSA I revolution, and, based on current events, we seem to have taken a step backwards in growing as a nation. Instead of respecting democratic processes, there are those, such as the conveners of the so-called National Transformation Council, that would short-circuit the process.

The flashpoint is the tragic Mamasapano incident wherein, in the process of neutralizing (e.g. apprehend or kill) bombing expert Zulkifli Abdhir, a.k.a. Marwan, 44 members of the Philippine National Police's Special Action Force (PNP-SAF), around 16 members of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), and around 5-7 civilians were killed. The ongoing investigations over the incident have shown how involved President Benigno "Noynoy" Aquino III was in the operation, although, to be fair, official investigations have yet to release their respective reports on the incident.

As a result of the Mamasapano incident, perceptions about how much President Aquino knew about the allegedly botched attempt to apprehend or kill bombing expert Marwan have leaned towards the negative. President Aquino has not helped matters by reportedly acting rude and unfeeling towards the grieving families of the 44 PNP-SAF members who were killed in the encounter.

Anti-Aquino critics, such as the Philippine Star's Alex Magno and Bobit Avila, as well as the Philippine Daily Inquirer's Amado Doronilla, have scored the President for this point, and the militant Left, led by Bayan and several party-list representatives, have called for the President's resignation. Note that the Left have not called for the resignation of Vice-President Jejomar Binay, who is perceived to be as corrupt, if not even more so, than the former Presidents Estrada and Arroyo. This dilutes the resignation call, for, as Inquirer columnist Solita Monsod has said, "Are you out of your minds?"

In the wake of the Mamasapano incident, the National Transformation Council (NTC) has stepped up its efforts, and once more called for not only the President's resignation, but also the entire political leadership. Instead, the NTC would then form a council to institute political reforms and then restore elections once these reforms are in place.

Nothing could be more anti-democratic. At least Marcos was elected, initially, before he made himself a dictator. With the NTC, there is no one, except themselves, to vet their reform council, so who will oversee them?

What the NTC wants to do is to take a short cut, and do away with the messiness of democracy, but, by doing so, the NTC takes away freedom of choice to choose our leaders, something for which people such as Ninoy Aquino and Evelio Javier gave up their lives. For the NTC to take over the country would be revolutionary, and counter-productive to the democratic process.

The path to true democracy is through proper political education. Those of us who are concerned about the state of our country would do well to exert our efforts on that front. Many Filipinos are unaware of their political rights; many are more than willing to get paid for their votes. This is the process we have to short circuit, and not the actual electoral process. We must find a way to stop the corrupt practices of politicians who have only their selfish reasons to be in power.

If one was to look at history, particularly at the U.S. style of democracy, one would note that, in the earlier days of the U.S., politicians were just as corrupt and greedy as ours, and practically got away with wholesale murder. Even now, as the U.S. has become more developed, we still see incidents of corruption going on, which means that a democracy is always a work in progress..

Our democracy is barely 29 years old in its restoration, and it will take much longer before political reform will take root. We Filipinos have to exercise patience, and not resort to short cuts, in order to grow democratic ideals in our countrymen. Admittedly, taking the long view is not a popular one, when one sees what is going on in our country today. However, it is the saner, safer path.

Saturday, February 14, 2015

Alternate View on President Aquino: Netizens

This is the last part of three posts focusing on those who have taken a supportive stance of President Aquino's dealing with the deadly and tragic Mamasapano incident, where 44 members of the Philippine National Police Special Action Force (PNP-SAF), along with around 16 members of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) and 4 civilians, lost their lives. The first post focused on blogger Joe America's take, and the second focused on economist Solita Collas-Monsod's views. This post will focus on the various netizens who have taken up the cudgels to defend President Aquino.

Admittedly, defending the President, at least based on my feed on social media, is not a popular task. Thanks to an apparent lack of empathy and an inability to choose his words carefully, the President has set off land mine after land mine of anger. Of course, while this may make the President appear unfeeling and insensitive, there are those who take the a more objective perspective, and look at the achievements of this administration with an unemotional eye.

Among those whose posts I've read, my own co-teacher, Jay Hernando, has been heroic in his defense of the President on Facebook. In the aftermath of the Mamasapano incident, when the negative emotion against the President was running highest, Jay, who's an Araling Panlipunan teacher, thought to look at history as he made his defense of the President.

Writes Jay,

History is replete with accounts of great presidents and leaders who had military commanders who had committed much greater blunders. Roosevelt had MacArthur losing the Philippines because of his ineptness and over confidence, Churchill, the generals before Montgommery in the Desert War around whom Rommel ran rings, Lincoln, the Union generals before Grant, and even Bonifacio who had Sancho Valenzuela losing his blockade of Sta. Mesa that enabled Spanish reinforcement to attack the KKK in Pinaglabanan from behind. History has also put the blame squarely on the shoulders of the military commander and not on the commander-in-chief. And here you are, Noynoy bashers who are calling for his head as if you knew everything about this military operation. (January 30, 2015)
 Trust history to point out that the military commander in charge of the operations or battles was to blame for the failure. Of course, the investigations have still not yet conclusively proven that the President was in charge of the PNP-SAF operation, although anti-Aquino critics such as the militant Left want the public to believe so.

Jay also writes about how President Aquino has helped both the police and the military, as compared to the previous administrations:

Among the last few presidents of this country, I think PNoy has done the most for the AFP and the PNP. Under his administration, the country was able to buy a couple of modern warships (when was the last time the PN was supplied with crafts of the size and capabilities of the BRP del Pilar and the BRP Alcaraz? Marcos' time?), and several aircrafts, with negotiations for our first jet fighters in several decades still going on. AFP and PNP personnel were supplied with new rifles and pistols which are of more modern and reliable than the old ones our soldiers and police had. Their salaries were also increased and other benefits such as houses were given to them. This president was also in Zamboanga City while the battle there against the MNLF was still going on. And for the valiant police officers who fell in that last Maguindanao encounter, he has declared today as a day of national mourning and has scheduled to join and lead the necrological services to be given for these fallen heroes. And yet, his critics never paid attention to all these and are now even accusing him of not caring enough for his soldiers. (January 30, 2015)
Of course, Jay conceded that the President probably should have been at Villamor Air Base to receive the bodies of the fallen SAF troopers.

At the same time,  the points Jay raised demonstrate that the critics' point that this administration has achieved nothing is without basis. Of course, there are lapses that this administration has had, although, compared to previous administrations, these are not as grave as those perpetrated by previous administrations (I can imagine a number of people disagreeing with me on that point, but I'm prepared to agree to disagree.)

Another netizen, Niccolo Vitug, a former student of mine, and a professor in his own right, tries to analyze the President's constant references to his own context, a practice which has been roundly bashed on Facebook. Writes Niccolo,

I do think that being in the elective position does not provide opportunities to examine the shadows in one's psyche. I assume that there is very little time to do self-examination - something that all of us are, indeed, called to do in order that we can relate to others beyond the shadows of our own perceptions.
Somehow, I relate being President to other highly regarded offices, like the priesthood or the episcopacy of the Catholic Church. In the religious life, self-examination and processing with someone who can help is regularly done; however, as we can see, there are still many things that need to be healed in the church. I've seen people become kinder and more sensitive and accepting, and even more critical in a helpful way, over the years; the self-examination and processing does help. But indeed we need much more. Indeed, we need lots of grace.
And so it is with being nation. Looking at him during his eulogy, I saw, just like my FB friend, the young man who lost his father, who probably still has a harder time than many dealing with death. I really think that, alongside our being critical, we should also - if not stop criticizing the President - look at ourselves, and look where are criticisms come from. Are there angers in us that are transmuted into our commentary? Let us try to be honest about these matters, all in light of working for peace.
And, one last note: if the President is the symbol of the nation, doesn't he reflect us as a people? Perhaps the negative things that we see in him, these are things that are also in ourselves. The President and his people are like mirrors to each other, I think.
Perhaps the Pope's message of mercy and compassion should be applied to the President. Do we judge the President too harshly? I believe so, as social media has a way of amplifying emotional responses. Strengthened by the sight of others posting sentiments with which we relate empowers us to either like or express our own response to the world around us.
As Niccolo concludes in his post, "If in good conscience you have to be very critical, then proceed. But let's proceed with an attempt to be more aware since that can really help out with gaining peace." While he is referring to the peace process in Mindanao, which has been short-circuited by the Mamasapano incident, his insight can also be applied to the manner by which we deal with the President.  

Requiem, Father Bu

While much attention has been given to the Congressional hearings over the incident, last Tuesday, it may not have been noticed by many that Fr. Jaime C. Bulatao, S.J., also known as "Father Bu" to his students and colleagues, had passed away at the ripe old age of 92.

Father Bu is considered to be one of the fathers of Philippine Psychology, a subject I had wanted to take when I was in college, but wasn't able to due to constant scheduling problems; my last chance was in the last semester of my senior year, wherein a registration glitch meant that I had to take one of my required subjects during the same time when the only class on Philippine Psychology (Psych 108) was being offered.

Still, as a high school teacher, I would often hear Father Bu's name mentioned, either because of psychology or because of hypnotherapy, of which he was an expert. I also remember his strong connection toward the mystic, as he was known for his 'astral flight' sessions.

Ateneo's Department of Psychology has this to say about their founder:

Fr. Bulatao introduced group dynamics in the Philippines and wrote The Technique of Group Discussion (1965). He advocated the importance of understanding of the Filipino psyche, and undertook studies on Filipino culture, and the phenomena of spirituality and consciousness.  This led to his seminal Phenomena and their Interpretation: Landmark Essays 1957–1989 (1992).

As a clinical psychologist, Fr. Bu aimed to find the kind of therapy best suited for Filipinos, experimenting with different alternatives that combined both his knowledge of Western methods and his understanding of the local culture. He used hypnosis to understand these occurrences and other related paranormal phenomena such as ESP, clairvoyance, and telepathy.  Fr. Bu undertook experiments about altered states of consciousness and taught hypnosis and hypnotherapy. In 2000, he published the book Hypnosis and Hypnotherapy.  At the turn of the century, he devoted most of his time grounding his thoughts about relationships through numbers and quantitative methods.

Although Fr. Bu has received many awards and recognition for his contribution to Psychology, he claims that his best achievement is in teaching.

Even just a few years ago, he was still active as a professor in college, since he was awarded for 50 years of service fairly recently. What I remember is how frail he seemed, as he was escorted, and supported, by a lady cadet as he made his way to the stage.

While I was not fortunate to have been in his classes, I know quite a few who were, and they will miss him dearly.

Requiescat in pace, Father Bu. You will be missed, but you will finally join the Lord whom you have served so faithfully.

Go with God.

Fr Jaime C Bulatao SJ, 92
Photo from PHJesuits official Facebook page

Thursday, February 12, 2015

A Tale of Two Houses: Congress Hearings on Mamasapano

As I write this, the TV set in the coffee room is set on the Senate hearings on the Mamasapano incident, wherein 44 members of the Philippine National Police-Special Action Force (PNP-SAF), along with 16 members of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) and 4 civilians, were killed. Currently, Senator Gregorio "Gringo" Honasan is posing questions about the botched operation. The manner by which Sen. Honasan asks his question, along with the entire demeanor of the Senate hearing, is a stark contrast to the circus the House of Representatives perpetrated yesterday.

To be frank, I didn't watch the House proceedings, and I've only seen snatches of the Senate hearing, but, based on what I've seen, there is a remarkable difference of decorum between the two houses.

In the Senate, while it's clear that some Senators have axes to grind over the Mamasapano incident, and some Senators are simply grandstanding in order to gain "pogi" points with the viewing public, the atmosphere in the Senate, while tense, remains somewhat controlled. Of course, there are exceptions, such as Senator Miriam Defensor-Santiago, who has been prone to speak her mind without fear, or even decorum, but, by and large, the Senate hearings have been fairly organized and each person is allowed to speak in turn.

In contrast, the House hearing yesterday, which lasted seven hours, was, as the Inquirer article put it, "a circus," as House committee leaders Negros Occidental Rep. Jeffrey Ferrer (public order and safety) and Basilan Rep. Jim Hataman-Salliman (special committee on peace)  failed to keep their colleagues, who apparently numbered 100 or so, in line. As a result, it was absolute chaos, as each district representative jostled and pushed to be able to get a turn at either asking questions, or simply ranting.

The picture by Lyn Rillon that accompanied the article clearly illustrated the disorder present in the House yesterday:

CRYING  ‘HAVOC’ House members fall all over themselves during the congressional hearing on the SAF mission to capture Malaysian terrorist Zulkifli bin Hir, alias “Marwan,” in a botched operation that resulted in the death of 44 police commandos in Mamasapano, Maguindanao, on Jan. 25. LYN RILLON
House hearing on the Mamasapano incident. Photo by Lyn Rillon in the Philippine Daily Inquirer

From the picture, it is unclear who is in charge; Rillon captures the chaos of the entire proceedings perfectly.

If there is any consolation over the hearing, at least the representatives didn't come to blows, such as the representatives of the Taiwanese parliament are wont to do. However, for those who keep a close eye on politics, it is a disappointing picture of how low to which the level of political discourse has sunk.

Sunday, February 08, 2015

Alternate Views on President Aquino: Solita Collas-Monsod

When it comes to insights on the Philippines, one of the sharper minds would have to be former National Economic Development Authority (NEDA) head, U.P. economics professor, and Philippine Daily Inquirer columnist Solita Collas-Monsod. Well-respected because of her somewhat balanced views on the nation, Professor Monsod has weighed in on various issues, and, recently, has spoken out in defense of President Noynoy Aquino, over the tragic Mamasapano incident last January, where 44 PNP-SAF police commandos lost their lives in their successful attempt to neutralize Jemaal Islamiya bomber Abu Marwan.

Because of the President's unclear role in the bloody incident, which also claimed the lives of a number of Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) and Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) guerrillas, as well as a number of civilians, as well as the alleged participation of suspended Philippine National Police (PNP) chief Alan Purisima in the operation, despite his being suspended, have caused anti-Aquino critics, particularly those of the militant Left, to call for President Aquino's resignation.

Anti-Aquino critics are also using the recent decision of the Supreme Court to affirm its initial decision over the Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP) to bolster their calls for Aquino's resignation.

In her column yesterday, Professor Monsod has strong words for this call: "Are you out of your minds?"

While Monsod has taken the President to task over a number of issues, particularly, his "excessive loyalty" to those close to him (Purisima, former undersecretary Rico Puno, and former LTO head Virginia Torres), as well as the President's handling of resigned Health Secretary Enrique Ona, who may have been a victim of politics, Monsod lauded the President for his selection of a number of "great appointments," such as Justice Secretary Leila de Lima and recently-resigned Commission on Audit (COA) head Grace Pulido-Tan (I disagree with Professor Monsod over the appointment of Bureau of Internal Revenue head Kim Henares.).

For Monsod, however, the main reason why she thinks those calling for President Aquino's resignation are insane is because, should Aquino step down now, the main beneficiary will be Vice-President Jejomar Binay, whom Professor Monsod has written about extensively, particularly about his corruption.

Monsod then compares the two:
"Say what you will about P-Noy, he is not at all tainted with any charge of corruption or of unexplained wealth. And he has waged an unrelenting, albeit sometimes reluctant, war against it. And the results of that war are shown by the country’s generally improved status in international indexes of corruption and overall competitiveness. Now, judging from past experience, would Jojo Binay do any better?
"Have you heard of P-Noy benefiting from stock market movements or freebies from friends? Have you heard of him breaking bread with possible contractors for multimillion-peso projects, or taking cuts from winning contractors? No. And, of course, because of his unmarried state, his name has not been connected with mistresses who take advantage of his position. Can we say the same for Binay?"
Given Binay's questionable acquisition of his wealth, and his apparent arrogance at assuming that the Presidency is his for the taking, it's safe to assume that Binay will not be like Aquino if he wins in next year's elections.

Like blogger Joe America, it's likely that Professor Monsod will be accused of selling out, of becoming an Aquino hack, but, once more, her words ring true. If Aquino were to step down, or be ousted, it's very likely that someone worse will step into his place.