Wednesday, August 20, 2014

To Joke Or Not To Joke

Before this week, I'd not known that the Filipino term for shrimp is used to connote something derogatory.

Now, thanks to Dutertes of Davao City and the Davao City Council, I do.

Over the weekend, Last Saturday, comedian Ramon Bautista got himself into hot water when, while appearing at a show in Davao City, he said, "Ang daming hipon dito sa Davao!" He then proceeded to encourage the audience to chant "Hipon!"

As it turned out, "hipon" is Filipino slang for a woman who has a sexy body, and a not-so-pretty face. It's a rather crass joke, but Bautista apologized for using the term later that night, after being reprimanded by Vice Mayor Paolo Duterte.

Apparently, that was not enough for the Davao City Council, which declared Bautista as "persona non grata", a declaration that appears to be more symbolic than enforceable, although, given the fact that Davao City is controlled by the Dutertes, Bautista should probably stay away from the City.

A number of netizens have found the Council's declaration as excessive. I agree. It's not as if Bautista was unrepentant for his actions; he has apologized again and again over it. I would be more understanding if Bautista had ignored his gaffe, and acted arrogantly about it.

While inappropriate, Bautista's joke still falls under the aegis of the freedom of expression, an aegis the City Council has ignored.

The Mayor's daughter Sara Duterte took to social media to air her outrage, and, having said that the city councilors are her friends, went on to call for Bautista's ban from the city, after, of course, in classic Duterte style, cursing Bautista for his joke. What a wonderful show of power by the Dutertes.

It should be recalled that Sara Duterte, when she was Mayor of the City, was videotaped assaulting a court sheriff who was implementing a legal court order. While the late Interior Secretary Jesse Robredo found her at fault for her actions, I don't recall any sanctions being levied against her. She was even unrepentant about her actions, and threatened the local judiciary that she would cut off their budget if they would cite her in contempt of court.

It should be noted that Bautista has repeatedly apologized for his inappropriate joke; it should also be noted that Sara Duterte has never apologized for her assault on a court official.

The Council action, of which the Dutertes have conveniently washed their hands, saying that it is the decision of the Council, not theirs, is a demonstration of the type of leadership the Dutertes will bring if they take their act to the national level.

On one hand, one may argue that, should Rodrigo Duterte be persuaded to run for a higher office, he could be the Lee Kwan Yew the country needs to shape up and become greater. It is true that he and his family have not enriched themselves, and have built up Davao City to be a model city, albeit one founded on fear. It's very possible that, given a higher office, Rodrigo Duterte could clean up corruption more effectively than his ally, President Noynoy Aquino. Just don't ask where the bodies will be buried.

Of course, the flip side is that Duterte could very well be the next Marcos should he rise to higher office. The adage of absolute power corrupting absolutely is applicable to Duterte, since criminals in Davao seem to rarely make it to court, and find themselves summarily executed. Should Duterte gain the presidency, it's anybody's guess how he will act, and what he will do with all that power.

Monday, August 18, 2014

Charter Change? Say It Ain't So, Mr. President

It's interesting looking at the social media, and seeing what issue is trending. 

Among the politically-minded in the Philippines, the current issue is Charter Change, as President Noynoy Aquino has indicated that he was interested in it, particularly for allowing a second term, and setting limits to the powers of the Supreme Court. 

Even those of us who have supported the President over past controversies (the Disbursement Acceleration Program, or DAP, in particular) are dismayed by this. The first reason, getting a second term, has been a touchy issue insofar as Charter Change is concerned, because it has always been seen as a self-serving move. 

It's touchier now because of the President's lineage. President Aquino's parents, the late Sen. Ninoy Aquino and the late President Cory Aquino, helped spearhead the fight against the late dictator Ferdinand Marcos, who perpetuated himself in power for more than twenty years, and, now, here's the Aquinos' son indicating that he is interested in extending his term. 

While the President has made some significant gains in the fight against corruption, he has also made a number of missteps, for which he has been roasted by his critics. By indicating even an interest in term extension, the President may wind up setting back all of the reforms he has put into place, and will find it difficult moving forward as he approaches the end of his term. If he does not step away from this precipice, he will most likely find himself wasting valuable political capital on this issue, instead of using it to strengthen reforms in government. If he does not back off from the issue of Charter Change, he risks throwing away the legacy his parents have put in place.

The second reason, clipping the Supreme Court's powers, is even more insidious. Admittedly, the President must be feeling ticked off with some of the Supreme Court's decisions, such as the unanimous one on the DAP. Still, it is no excuse for going after the Court hammer and tongs, with his allies in Congress itching to take down the Court over its Judiciary Development Fund (JDF), which, the allies claim, is supposed to be the 'pork barrel' of the Court. Some have even gone as far as to threaten impeachment, not an empty claim, since the ruling party undoubtedly has the numbers to push it. 

However, the Supreme Court is the last resort of those who are in need of legal succor. The Supreme Court is part of the check-and-balance system of government; it has to be free to rule on issues, in order to check the excesses of the other two arms of government (executive and legislative). By suggesting to clip the Court's powers, the President gives credence to those who accuse him of wanting to control all of the arms of government. 

Granted, the Supreme Court has stumbled at times (the del Castillo plagiarism case and the allowing of the midnight appointment of former Chief Justice Renato Corona come to mind.), but, by and large, the Court has served as a bulwark against government corruption. It is to the President's credit that his appointees have proven to be more independent-minded than expected; it is proof of the even-handedness of the President's appointing powers. The DAP decision, for example, was unanimous, and, for its independence, the President wants to reward the Court by emasculating it? Say it ain't so.

The other dangerous effect of the President's move for Charter Change is that it will wind up alienating those who supported him through thick and thin. I know it's a small sample, but, having talked to my co-teachers who are Aquino supporters, we are unanimously against the move to extend his term. The lessons of martial law still burn bright in our hearts, and we do not want to see another possible dictator rise to power.

From the looks of it, the move for term extension via Charter Change may stem, in part, from the inability of the Liberal Party (LP) to promote its main candidate for 2016, Interior Secretary Mar Roxas, who has not distinguished himself as a potential successor to Aquino. Based on the surveys, Vice-President Jejomar Binay is firmly in the lead for 2016, and perhaps the LP controllers feel that only an Aquino run will prevent that. Well, the LP had better let go of that notion, because people are likely to revolt if they press the issue.

There's a part of me hoping that this is a mere trial balloon, to test public sentiment on the issue. Hopefully, the reaction is enough to stop the President and his merry men from embarking on a ruinous course for our country. If not, we had better be ready to fight another potential dictator.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Oh Captain, My Captain!

Image from grandes personages

One of Robin Williams' iconic roles is that of the teacher Mr. Keating in "Dead Poets Society." In the movie, Mr. Keating teaches more than the everyday academic lessons; he taught his students how to live. 

In the movie, he teaches his students the poem "Oh Captain, My Captain," Walt Whitman's lament for the assassinated U.S. President Abraham Lincoln. With Robin Williams' passing today, and the manner by which he died, the poem is even more linked with Williams.

I thought I would post the poem below, since it captures my feelings about Williams. I shall miss him.

O Captain! My Captain! our fearful trip is done;The ship has weather'd every rack, the prize we sought is won;The port is near, the bells I hear, the people all exulting,While follow eyes the steady keel, the vessel grim and daring:
But O heart! heart! heart!
O the bleeding drops of red,
Where on the deck my Captain lies,
Fallen cold and dead.
O Captain! My Captain! rise up and hear the bells;Rise up—for you the flag is flung—for you the bugle trills;For you bouquets and ribbon'd wreaths—for you the shores a-crowding;For you they call, the swaying mass, their eager faces turning;
Here captain! dear father!
This arm beneath your head;
It is some dream that on the deck,
You've fallen cold and dead.
My Captain does not answer, his lips are pale and still;My father does not feel my arm, he has no pulse nor will;The ship is anchor'd safe and sound, its voyage closed and done;From fearful trip, the victor ship, comes in with object won;
Exult, O shores, and ring, O bells!
But I, with mournful tread,
Walk the deck my captain lies,
Fallen cold and dead.

Requiem for a Master Actor and Comedian

The Genie from "Aladdin"

Popeye

Adrian Cronauer ("Good Morning, Vietnam")

Parry ("The Fisher King")

Peter Pan ("Hook")

Sean Maguire ("Good Will Hunting")

Patch Adams

Mrs. Doubtfire

Mr. Keating ("Dead Poets Society")

Mork from Ork

I can't imagine what my life would have been like without Robin Williams. Over the years, he has portrayed an amazing array of characters, all of them larger than life. I have a knack for memorizing lines, and there's probably a huge chunk in my head that's reserved for Robin Williams' quotes.

Some of the more memorable:

  • "Goooood morning, Vietnam! This is not a test; this is rock 'n roll! Time to rock it from the delta to the DMZ!" ("Good Morning, Vietnam")
  • "Phone call from God. If it had been collect, that would have been daring." ("Dead Poets Society")
  • "Well, Ali Baba had his forty thieves, Scherazade had a thousand tales, but, master, you're in luck, 'cause up your sleeve, you've got a brand of magic that never fails!" ("Aladdin")

And his comedy, oh, his comedy was sharp, biting, and hilariously funny. I remember buying a cassette tape (yes, that long ago) of one of his performances on Broadway, and I probably wore out that tape listening to it over and over and over.

Image by Dolores Freeman on Fanpop
I also remember his spiel on one of the "Comic Relief" shows, which was put up by Williams, Billy Crystal, and Whoopi Goldberg, to help the homeless. During the spiel, Williams gave a uproarious rendition of what he called porn using Shakespearean actors:

"Now, let me part you like the Red Sea and drive you to China!
Behold, your golden orbs! I shall mount you like Kilimanjaro!
Now let my mighty steed rush forth from its stable of joy!
Now, cry, 'By God and King Henry!'"

There are many memories I have of Williams' performances, but that one was one of my personal favorites.

Robin Williams was a genius, but, apparently, that genius had a dark side.

It came as a shock this morning to learn that Robin Williams had died, apparently due to suicide. Apparently, he had been battling depression, although I'm not sure what might have caused it. I do remember that, back in the 70s and 80s, Williams was heavily into drugs, but, he managed to beat the habit. I guess there are demons and there are demons; I don't know what demons were driving him, but, I hope and pray that, with his passing, he is finally at peace with himself.

Requiescat in pace, Robin Williams. Thank you for all the memories. You shall be missed.

Image from The Guardian (2009)

Monday, August 11, 2014

Impeachment Blues

The purpose of impeachment in the Philippine setting is to remove national officials who have committed grave offenses, such as, among others, culpable violation of the Constitution, graft and corruption, and betrayal of public trust.

According to Article XI, section 2 of the Philippine Constitution, the following may be removed via impeachment: the President, the Vice-President, members of the Supreme Court, members of Constitutional Commissions (such as the Commission on Elections), and the Ombudsman.

So far, in our history, there have been two impeachment trials: the trial of former President and convicted plunderer Joseph Estrada, which was aborted by EDSA 2, and the trial of former Supreme Court Chief Justice Renato Corona, which led to his removal from office. There was also the attempted impeachment of former Ombudsman Merceditas Gutierrez, which did not materialize because Gutierrez opted to resign rather than face the impeachment court.

It should be understood, though, that impeachment is a serious process, and something that should be resorted to at the drop of the hat, such as what is happening now, with two possible looming impeachments, that of President Noynoy Aquino, and Supreme Court Chief Justice Lourdes Sereno. Let's take a look at each impeachment.

President Aquino's impeachment complaints are being driven by two things: the Supreme Court's having declared the Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP) as partially unconstitutional , and the government's Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA) with the United States government. Both are considered as betrayal of public trust, and the DAP is considered to be an example of culpable violation of the Constitution.

The main drivers behind the impeachment complaints are the leftist party-list representatives under the Makabayan bloc, whose most vocal proponents appear to be Rep. Terry Ridon (Kabataan) and Rep. Neri Colmenares (Bayan Muna).  Based on Reps. Ridon and Colmenares's statements, the DAP constitutes a culpable violation of the Constitution on the strength of the Supreme Court's decision; "culpable," in this instance, means that the violation of the Constitution was deliberate and wrongful.

Of course, therein lies the question of impeachment. Did President Aquino and Budget Secretary Abad willfully violate the Constitution when they implemented the DAP? Through the presidential spokespersons, the two have asserted that the DAP was done in good faith, and such has been supported by a number of columnists and businessmen.

Unfortunately, two of the most senior Associate Justices, Antonio Carpio, and Arturo Brion, have cast doubt on this stand. Justice Carpio noted that it was surprising that Congress allowed the DAP, considering that DAP, according to Carpio, "castrates the power of the purse of Congress." Brion, on the other hand, scored Abad, saying, "As a lawyer and with at least 12 years of experience behind him as a congressmen who was even the Chairman of the House Appropriations Committee, it is inconceivable that he (Abad) did not know the illegality or unconstitutionality that tainted his brainchild."

Of course, these are just opinions of the two Justices, but the militant party-listers have latched on to them as gospel truth, and this is what is fueling their impeachment moves.

It'll be an uphill climb, since the President currently controls  Congress. At least a third of Congress must sign an impeachment complaint in order to convene the Senate's impeachment court, so, unless the minority has the numbers to sign the complaint, it's highly unlikely that the impeachment complaint will prosper.

As for Chief Justice Sereno, several lawmakers, including those who were involved in the prosecution of former Chief Justice Corona, are threatening impeachment over what they perceive to be the Supreme Court's intransigence in not explaining the Court's use of the Judiciary Development Fund (JDF), a source of court employees' allowances. Representatives Rodolfo Farinas (Ilocos Norte) and Niel Tupas (Iloilo), two members of the House prosecution team during the Corona impeachment trial, have taken the Chief Justice to task for not appearing in the House Justice Committee hearing on the JDF.

If there is a smidgen of possibility in the Aquino impeachment, there is even less reason in impeaching Sereno. The lady Chief Justice has shown that, despite her being appointed by President Aquino, she is capable of independent thought, and has decided against the Aquino government in a number of cases, particularly that of the DAP.

The House threat seems more a means to get the Supreme Court to bow to its will, rather than an actual serious case against the Court. It's also clear that the House initiative to impeach is based on the removal of its pork barrel funds by the Court, a retaliatory punishment for having taken away the representatives' play money.

The two impeachment complaints demonstrate how impeachment can be cheapened as a tool to intimidate and coerce officials. Impeachment is a serious business, and the leftists and other House representatives have no valid reason to threaten impeachment at this point in time. At this point in time, I would rather they spend time doing what they're supposed to do, which is to craft laws to benefit our countrymen.

Around the World: A Quick Look

While we go about our daily lives, around the world, things aren't as routine. Here's a rundown of the various hot spots:

1. Ebola outbreak

Thanks to the movies and other media, people have a very graphic reminder of what the Ebola virus can do to a human body. In West Africa, the threat is very real, as Ebola has broken out in Guinea, Sierra Leone, and Liberia, causing hundreds and hundreds of deaths. As it is, even Americans have been infected by it, as two missionaries have been airlifted home to the U.S. to be treated there; I can imagine that the security surrounding that operation must be airtight. (What to know about Ebola.)

Because of our globalized context, it is now much easier for viruses such as Ebola to spread, even more so since the initial symptoms of Ebola aren't that noticeable as Ebola. At this point, even the Philippines is at risk, as there are around 3,000 to 5,000 Filipinos working in the three African nations, and there are Filipino peacekeepers in Liberia. Hopefully, our local and national health officials are on the ball on this crisis, as I can't imagine an Ebola outbreak here in our country.

2. Israel-Gaza conflict

The Israel-Gaza conflict is entering its fourth week, with little indication of any resolution. The conflict, which started over the abduction-killing of three Jewish teenagers, has now claimed the lives of around 1,875 people, most of whom are civilians.

While Hamas, the terrorist group suspected of the teenagers' murders, has fired numerous rockets indiscriminately into Israel, Israel has been no less destructive, given the fact that most of the casualties in this latest conflict are civilians. It is not clear that it will face severe sanctions because of this, as its main ally, the U.S., seems reluctant to condemn Israel for its actions.

It's also not clear as to how this conflict will end, since both sides are unwilling to make any concessions. This means that the bombings, as well as the deaths, are likely to escalate as the conflict continues.

3. ISIS depredations

The links to images on social media are gruesome and horrifying: the bodies of decapitated children, crucified bodies, and bloodied corpses. Such as the depredations of the terrorist group known as ISIS (The Islamic State of Iraq and Syria), Sunni Muslims who are intolerant of any other religious groups, particularly Shia Muslims and Christians.

Currently, ISIS is operating in Northern Iraq, and appears to be bent on eradicating the Yazidi, which are, according to a CNN news report, "an ancient religious sect, that worship an angel figure held by many Muslims to be the devil." Around 50,000 Yazidi remain trapped on the Sinjar Mountains, with deaths occurring due to dehydration and exposure. Kurdish forces have managed to create a corridor of escape, but it is by no means secure, something for international forces to consider should they decide to come in and assist.

The U.S. has begun airstrikes on ISIS targets, in order to contain the activities of the group, although it's also unclear as to how this crisis will be resolved.

As with the Israel-Gaza conflict, children are the helpless victims of this horror.

While these are events happening far away from us, they are still events to be concerned about, to learn from, so that we can prepare for or even prevent these situations from happening in our country.

Sunday, August 10, 2014

UAAP 77: A Quick Look

It's been a while since I've managed to watch a UAAP basketball game from start to finish, but it's nice that I've been able to catch the last quarter of several games this season 77.

The first round ends on Wednesday, with the Ateneo Blue Eagles leading the pack, with a 6-1 card, the one loss coming at the hands of the NU Bulldogs. After the loss to the Bulldogs, the Blue Eagles then went on a three-game winning streak. However, it should be noted that each win was very close, with the last one, against UE, coming from behind a 21-point deficit to win it in overtime, 93-91.

Leading the Blue Eagles in the UE win was King Eagle Kiefer Ravena, who scored a career-high 38 points to seal the win. Von Pessumal and Chris Newsome scored 19 and 18 points, respectively, to help support Ravena.

One of the dangerous factors is the seeming reliance Ateneo has on Kiefer Ravena, who has played his heart out in each of the Blue Eagles' wins. In the lone loss to NU, Ravena was held to just 13 points, and barely got a point in the second half, a tribute to the Bulldog's gutsy defense. It's apparent that the other players have to step up, or else risk burning out Kiefer before Ateneo reaches the Final Four. 

In other developments, the UP Fighting Maroons finally broke a 27-game losing streak yesterday, with a 77-64 win over the hapless Adamson Soaring Falcons. As promised, there was a bonfire last night at the UP Sunken Garden to celebrate the win. As a UP alumnus, I am happy that UP finally won, but, at the same time, I wish there was some way to make the team more competitive and more of a threat in the UAAP men's basketball scene.

The FEU Tamaraws have a chance to create a logjam at second place, alongside NU and La Salle, by winning against Adamson this Wednesday, which, given the Falcons' showing so far, should be a lock. UST and UE will go up against each other, with both teams fighting for a favorable position going into the second round of eliminations.

However, it's clear that, after missing the playoffs completely last year, due in large part to Kiefer Ravena's absence because of injury, Ateneo is back in the championship hunt, and, going into the second round, is the team to beat. 

Wednesday, August 06, 2014

Whoops! Tiglao Does It Again

It would be nice if Manila Times columnist Rigoberto Tiglao would stop twisting facts in order to push his anti-Aquino agenda.

In his latest column, he takes the President to task for having said in his State of the Nation Address (SONA) last July that the Aquino administration had built over 12,000 kilometers of road, which, Tiglao estimates, "could stretch from Manila to Los Angeles." Tiglao then points to a part of Aquino's SONA where the President supposedly said,
“Hanep po talaga: …(N)aipagawa (ng DPWH) na kalsada mula nang maupo tayo, umabot na sa 12,184 kilometro. (boldface mine)  Nung nakita ko po itong numerong ‘to, napag-isip rin ako: Paano ko ba maipapaliwanag ‘yung labindalawang libo? Sabi po sa atin: katumbas ito ng apat na kalsadang nag-uugnay sa Laoag hanggang Zamboanga City. National roads lang po ito; wala pa rito ang mga local farm-to-market roads o tourism roads.”
The rest of Tiglao's column is devoted to ranting and raving about the President's supposed lies, about how the President's staff is misleading him, and how inept this President is.

Of course, it takes a sharp reader (Raymart Anthony Hernaez) to comment how Tiglao seems to have dropped a portion of the President's SONA, and points out that, in the official Presidential website, the text of the SONA reads
Hanep po talaga: Kasabay ng mga natipid ng DPWH, ang nailatag, napapaayos, napalawak, o (boldface mine again) naipagawa nilang kalsada mula nang maupo tayo, umabot na sa 12,184 kilometro.  Nung nakita ko po itong numerong ‘to, napag-isip rin ako: Paano ko ba maipapaliwanag ‘yung labindalawang libo? Sabi po sa atin: katumbas ito ng apat na kalsadang nag-uugnay sa Laoag hanggang Zamboanga City. National roads lang po ito; wala pa rito ang mga local farm-to-market roads o tourism roads. 
"Nailatag, napapaayos," and "napalawak" translate into "laid out, fixed," and "widened."

Hernaez goes on to point out that the 12,000 km of roads includes those that were laid out, fixed, or widened, and wonders why Tiglao seems to have dropped that part of the SONA.

While Hernaez is polite and hopes that Tiglao was as misinformed as he claimed Aquino was, given Tiglao's checkered past in his columns about Aquino, I sincerely doubt it. With this latest column, Tiglao simply reminds me that he has no credibility, nor does he have the moral high ground to criticize the current administration.

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

SONA 2014: Some Musings

How one will react to President Noynoy Aquino's State of the Nation Address (SONA) will depend on how one views the President. (Click here for the original transcript, and here for the English translation.)

If one is a member of the militant Left, it's likely that everything the President said last Monday will taken as a lie. Of course, with the militant Left, nothing any administration has done or accomplished is ever recognized. This is probably because the apparent sole goal of the militant Left is to destabilize the government so that they can take over. Until the Left is able to actually gain more followers, more than the pitiful handful who walked out before the SONA and are agitating for impeachment, this is a pipe dream, especially since it has been proven across the world that the society that the militant Left envisions simply does not work.

If one is a known critic of the President, one will be more careful about attacking the President's SONA. An educated critic will fact-check, and see whether what the President said last Monday can be verified. As it is, reports have come out debunking the President's assertions about accomplishments for victims of typhoon Yolanda. Expect critics to jump on this, as well as any other inaccuracies that may surface.

Admittedly, typhoon Yolanda caught our officials, both local and national, by surprise, and the lack of relief efforts in the initial days after Yolanda hit several parts of provinces was a huge black-eye for the Aquino administration. It did not help that Interior Secretary Mar Roxas was heavy-handed in dealing with the Tacloban mayor, who is a member of the Romualdez clan. I'm not sure where the President got his details on Yolanda; as I read in a newspaper last Tuesday, one Yolanda victim said that perhaps the President was misled by sycophantic officials wanting to get on the President's good side. Still, given the fact that Yolanda has been a sore spot in the Aquino administration, the President probably should have double-checked his details to make sure no misunderstanding occurred.

In my case, I still support President Aquino, and I applaud his efforts to get our country back on the right track. As I have said before, he has taken much effort, and has spent political capital, to fight corruption. At the same time, I recognize that he's not perfect, and, like many of us, he has committed mistakes, that his critics have harped on. Still, as I've mentioned before, if one compares his administration to at least the previous two administrations (Estrada and Arroyo), he has accomplished much more than these two.

It's impossible to expect that the President will be able to address and solve all of the ills of the country. I will be satisfied with the accomplishments he has achieved, particularly the heightening of people's perception of corruption, which has caused more people to be vigilant about the government use of the people's money and the government's ability to provide the basic services to the people.

His SONA was not as belligerent as his previous SONAs, as the President mostly refrained from comparing his administration with the previous administration of former President Gloria Arroyo. Nor did he attack the Supreme Court over its unanimous decision to declare the Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP) as partly unconstitutional. While he did mention the DAP in his SONA, it was to point out the benefits the program had provided and how, because of the Supreme Court decision, it would be necessary to ask Congress to approve a supplemental budget, to be able to fund some of the DAP-funded projects.

He also did not make any mention of the three Senators who are currently being detained over charges of plunder; it seems that people were predicting that he would do so in the SONA. Perhaps he realizes that, whether he likes it or not, he will have to deal with these Senators and their allies in order to get anything done in the legislative arm of government. I hope, though, if this is the case, it does not mean that he will be lenient on Senators Estrada, Revilla, and Ponce Enrile.

All in all, it does look as if President Aquino is starting to look at the legacy aspect of his presidency, as he softened his tone during the SONA. He still listed down his achievements, and, near the end of his speech, he called on the Filipino people to help carry on the idea of good governance that he helped plant in the minds of our people. It's something to take forward into the future, for all of us to continue working for the good of the country.

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

SONA 2014: Whither FOI?

So, what's the state of Freedom of Information (FOI) bill?

It was one of the most glaring omissions in President Noynoy Aquino's State of the Nation Address (SONA) yesterday, considering one of the President's spokespersons promised that the President would push for the bill in his SONA. The FOI bill is an important component of transparency and accountability in government, as it is envisioned that citizens would be able to access information about the government, particularly how the government is spending the Filipinos' money. At this point, the Senate has already passed its version of the bill, putting pressure on the House of Representatives to do the same. Four months have passed, and there seems to be no word regarding the FOI bill's progress through the legislative grind.

Based on what I have been able to find regarding the bill's progress, there appears to be two sticking points that is keeping the bill's progress in the House at a snail's pace.

One appears to be the so-called right of reply, wherein aggrieved parties could demand equal media space to answer accusations or charges against them. Quezon City 2nd District Rep. Winston Castelo has opposed the inclusion of right of reply in the FOI bill, and has proposed that right of reply be separate from FOI, and rightly so. Right of  reply is a different issue, and would only complicate the already-difficult sections in the FOI bills.

The other appears to be the discussion of exceptions to the FOI bill. Admittedly, determining what should and what shouldn't be disclosed is always going to be a tricky issue, with some probably saying that there are too many exceptions and others will probably say that there are too few. I'd rather, of course, that there be few exceptions to accessing information.

A word from the President regarding FOI in his SONA could have spurred the House members to speed up work on consolidating the various pending FOI bills. However, there being no mention, it is likely that the House will continue to sit on the bill, perhaps until time runs out in 2016.

I'm also not sure why the President did not mention FOI in the SONA, but it's likely that his spokespersons will explain that in the coming days. Still, it's not reassuring that, in the most public of forums, the President chose not to mention the inclusion of transparency in his government.

Sunday, July 27, 2014

The President's Upcoming SONA

It's been a hectic week, what with school work and parent-teacher conferences taking up much of my time.

Much of the week's news focused on the upcoming State of the Nation Address (SONA) of President Noynoy Aquino. Speculation has abounded regarding what the President will include in his speech this year.

Of course, he's going to deliver a litany of accomplishments his administration is supposed to have achieved over the past year, but, what else will he mention? Will he address the various bills that he'd said in his previous SONA were urgent (Where in the world is the freedom of information (FOI) bill?)? Will he continue to bash the decision of the Supreme Court regarding the Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP)? Will he continue putting down his predecessor, former President and Pampanga Rep. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo?

Of the various questions, it's likely that he will address the DAP, considering his differences with the Supreme Court over the matter. Given his tirade against the Supreme Court shortly before typhoon Glenda descended on us, the President will continue to insist on the correctness of the DAP. While there appear to be commentaries in support of the DAP (see here, here, here, and here), considering that it has not been proven that the President has personally benefited from the funds, the fact that the Supreme Court decision was a unanimous one is a difficult obstacle to overcome. The President will be wiser to let the matter go, and move on; there are more pressing concerns that are in need of his attention. However, since the President is not one to mince words, it is certain that he will mention the Supreme Court's decision on the DAP in his SONA.

It's also likely that he will not call for the resignations of officials close to him, such as Budget Secretary Butch Abad, who is seen to be the architect of DAP. I'm on the fence when it comes to Abad, since I've always seen him as an honorable person. It may reach a point, however, that keeping Abad in the Cabinet may do more harm than good in terms of the President's moving his programs forward, so it remains to be seen whether he will actually let go of his Budget Secretary.

It's likely that the President will list the accomplishments of his administration. That's nothing new, as each President has always crowed about his or her accomplishments. It would be nice if he would also admit where his administration is lacking, and what steps he will be taking in order to address those concerns. If he is able to do that, I will admire his honesty in doing so.

That being said, I'm not sure as to how to grade his administration so far. Admittedly, I'm one of those who voted for Aquino, in the belief that he will be able to get this country back on track. To some extent, he has done so, as he has made strides in fighting corruption and getting the country's standing in international investment upgraded. At the same time, there are instances of incompetence, such as the failure to deal effectively with the devastation wrought by typhoon Yolanda last year.

There is also the perennial problem of poverty, a Herculean task no President has been able to address. Unfortunately, unless there is a great change in our culture, and we are able to rise above our corruption, it's likely that the problem of poverty will continue to bedevil succeeding administration.

There is also the matter of the manner by which Aquino speaks on matters, which is blunt, and often without filters. In that, he's his sister Kris' brother, as neither have shown that tact is an element of their speaking repertoire.

But, then, not one of us is perfect, and it is unfair and unrealistic to think that President Aquino is greater than any one of us. He has his faults, but he has not equaled neither the corruption practiced by his two previous predecessors, nor the magnitude and enormity of the crimes of the late dictator Ferdinand Marcos. For his critics to even suggest that shows their lack of appreciation of history.

In the end, I will say that the President has been doing relatively positively so far. There are still lapses and matters of incompetence, but I believe the positive that the President has done outweighs the negative.

Thus, come Monday, I will try to listen to the President's SONA with an open, but critical, mind.

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Requiem, Fr. Jack

I remember Fr. Jack Carroll, S.J., for two reasons.

One is that I would often run into him (not literally, of course) at the college covered swimming pool. While I would be doing my laps, he would be floating and paddling a bit, under the watchful eye of his caregiver. I never really got to talk to him during these times, but he was a familiar sight to those of us who frequent the college pool.

The other reason I remember him is because of his insightful columns in the Philippine Daily Inquirer, wherein he would share his thoughts and insights on social issues. His last column was published last March, and, in it, he analyzed the flaws of the EDSA revolution. He wrote:
Edsa was a political revolution, not a social revolution. The faces changed, initially for the better, but the social structures—the landholding and legal systems and the educational and tax systems—did not change sufficiently to change the lives of the poor. In the first election under the new government, the traditional local elites reasserted their dominance, and shortly after that the House of Representatives emasculated an already weak agrarian reform bill. And so it has gone on for 28 years, with small, marginal changes in response to the growing frustration of the poor. ("'Miracle' at Edsa?", March 1, 2014)
Sad but true.

During the great furor over the reproductive health (RH) bill, Fr. Jack was invited to give a talk to the faculty about it, and, during the talk, he outlined what he believed were possible talking points over the RH bill. While he did not support the abortion-related aspects of the bill, he, along with Fr. Ritchie Genilo, S.J., looked for the middle ground.

Like Fr. Reuter and Fr. O'Brien before him, Fr. Jack, despite being an American, embraced the Philippines so lovingly that he was probably more Filipino than a lot of us. It was in reading his columns and listening to him that his love for his adopted country rang through.

Fr. Jack rejoined his Creator last Thursday, at the ripe old age of 90. He will be sorely missed.

Requiescat in pace, Fr. Jack. Rejoice in the company of our Lord.



Portrait: RIP, Fr. Jack Carroll SJ. 
born Jan 16, 1924, entered july 30, 1943, died july 17, 2014

Wake Masses, Loyola House of Studies:
July 18-20,Friday to Sunday, 8PM

Funeral Mass, Loyola House of Studies
July 21, Monday, 8AM

Interment: Sacred Heart Novitiate, Novaliches
right after the funeral mass

Event of the Week: Flight MH17

Aside from 'Glenda', the other big news is the downing of Malaysian Airlines MH17 last Thursday.

One has to wonder what Malaysian Airlines had done in order to deserve such a situation.

In the span of four months, the beleaguered flight was hit by two tragedies, with flight MH370 mysteriously disappearing last March, and, more recently, the downing of MH17. There was a horrific video that went viral, showing wreckage, and bodies of the victims. The area wherein the plane apparently broke up into pieces covers a large swath of Ukrainian soil. That, and the lack of clear protocols in a disaster will likely hamper investigators and recovery crew's efforts to make sense of the tragedy.

The casualty list, numbering 298 passengers and crew, includes, at least: 189 Dutch, 27 Australians, 44 Malaysians, 12 Indonesian, 9 U.K. citizens, 4 Germans, 4 Belgians, 3 Filipinos, and 1 Canadian; the 3 Filipinos, Irene (54), Darryl Dwight (20), and Sheryl Shaina (15) Gunawan were on a summer vacation. I offer my condolences and prayers to all of the friends and family of the victims.

It is still not clear as to who is responsible for the downed flight, as Ukrainian and Russian officials trade accusations of blame. The fact that the plane was hit over an area that is currently controlled by pro-Russian Ukrainian rebels makes it difficult not to blame the rebels, although the rebels have denied complicity in the act, and have even assisted in the recovery efforts. Still, suspicion rests strongly on the rebels.

What is known is that the flight, which started from Amsterdam bound for Kuala Lumpur, was flying in Ukrainian airspace (33,000 feet) when it was apparently shot down by a surface-to-air missile. Who fired the missile is still the subject of much debate, and is likely to escalate tensions in the complicated Ukraine-Russia conflict.

CNN posted a list of questions that help clarify what happened, although, admittedly, a good part of it remains speculative. It's likely that the questions will remain unanswered until more information is released.

I'm hoping and praying that the wanton destruction of MH17 does not lead to more conflict between the U.S. and Russia, but, if it is proved that the missile was indeed Russian, and that the Russians provided the rebels with the missile, there will be hell to pay.

Event of the Week: Typhoon 'Glenda'

Typhoon 'Glenda' roared through Luzon last Wednesday, and, while it spared Metro Manila a direct hit, there was enough damage in the city to categorize 'Glenda' as one of the major storms.

When 'Glenda' passed through the metro, it blew down trees and signs, but, fortunately, no billboards, since people have learned at least that lesson from previous storm. Social media was inundated with people posting their pictures of the storm's rampage, with images of cars being crushed by trees prevalent.

On a personal note, 'Glenda' broke enough branches from the mahogany tree outside our house to fall into our garage, hitting the gate, the grill work, and our venerable family car. Here's a pic of the aftermath:

 

Fortunately, neither the car nor the gate were damaged, and the grill work just needs a new welding job. Considering the amount of damage 'Glenda' caused in the city and in rest of Luzon, I think it could have been worse, and I can just count my blessings on that.

Almost predictably, the storm knocked out power across the metro, and Meralco was hard-pressed to restore electricity. As of this writing, there are rotating brownouts going on, as power-plants were also affected by the storm's wrath; it's a worrisome reminder of the early 90s, when brownouts were the norm. Hopefully, power will be back on 100% soon, but it's a wake-up call to the government to figure out how this does not repeat the power crisis of the early 90s.

While there's still a number of casualties (the current count is 64), I like to think that our officials were more prepared in this situation, and that preparation has kept the casualties down; in fact, Albay governor Joey Salceda has claimed zero casualties in his province, and credited that statistic to his province mates, who apparently prepared well.

Credit should also go to our weather forecasters in the Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration (PAGASA) who gave enough advance warning in order for people to prepare for the storm's onslaught. Perhaps the government should look into ways and means in order to upgrade both the technology for predicting the weather, and the compensation of PAGASA personnel in order to motivate them to stay in the country.

At the same time, the government should be more aggressive in storm-proofing the country, from upgrading technology, to providing alternative housing to people living in flood-prone areas, to improving infrastructure so that we are better prepared to deal with storms. It's a no-brainer, considering that it's well-known that our country is hit by a good number of storms every year. While there are a number of steps taken in the right direction so that we are more prepared, it's still not enough, and Filipinos will continue to suffer as a result.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Musings on the DAP and President Aquino

After the President's speech defending the Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP) last Monday, the President's critics were up in arms. The militant Left, whose spokespersons appear to be party-list representatives Neri Colmenares (Bayan Muna) and Terry Ridon (Kabataan), have upped their strident voices, and have called for the President to be impeached, and for his Budget Secretary, Florencio Abad, to be charged with plunder. The social media has been inundated with posts of angry netizens calling for the President to step down.

Admittedly, I wasn't thrilled with the President's speech yesterday, considering that there appears to be a veiled threat against the Supreme Court, which ruled that the DAP was partly unconstitutional (I have yet to read the entire decision, plus the concurring opinions.). If he had simply defended the DAP, which is his right, it's likely that the outcry may have been less. But, to issue a challenge/threat against the Supreme Court, knowing full well that he probably has the numbers to impeach another Supreme Court justice, that's where the voices probably are angriest at. No small number of netizens have called the President "arrogant", and they're probably right.

At the same time, have people considered what the implications of impeaching the President would be? Who benefits if President Aquino is somehow removed from office? Vice-President Jejomar Binay, around whom serious questions of corruption and political dynasty revolve. Binay, who is the virtual leader in the 2016 presidential field. Binay, whose allies include former President, convicted plunderer, and Manila mayor Joseph Estrada, and former martial law Defense Minister and Senator Juan Ponce Enrile.

At the same time, were the funds utilized by the DAP pocketed by the President and Secretary Abad? Aside from the allegation thrown by Senator Jinggoy Estrada, that DAP funds were used in bribing Senators to impeach former Chief Justice Renato Corona, it appears that the DAP was used in the manner by which the President and Secretary Abad described: to help pump-prime the economy.

Economist and UP Professor Winnie Monsod has been loud in her defense of the President, and I have a lot of respect for her. Yesterday morning, on GMA 7, she noted that the Supreme Court has not always been correct in its rulings; for me, the ruling on the plagiarism of Associate Justice Mariano del Castillo, and the ruling that allowed former President Gloria Arroyo to make a midnight appointment of Renato Corona come to mind. Is it possible that the SC erred on DAP, as President Aquino noted?

Monsod was also loud in defending Secretary Abad, noting that, among others, Abad was able to fix things in the budgetary process, streamlining it as a result. She also noted that, in President Aquino's term so far, there has been no reenacted budget, unlike during the term of President Arroyo.

While it is true that the Supreme Court has ruled DAP unconstitutional, it's still a long stretch for its creators to be called criminal at this point. Whoever is making that claim should have the proper evidence before making such a claim. Reps. Ridon and Colmenares are probably barking up the wrong tree in their call for impeachment.

While I am not too thrilled by a number of the President's actions, I agree with one of my friends that he is probably the closest we've had to having a good man as our national leader. He's not perfect, but none of us are. Compared to three of his five predecessors (Marcos, Estrada, and Arroyo), President Aquino has done the most to help reestablish a sense of anti-corruption in our countrymen (even if he himself has not been that keen on going after his own partymates).

In the end, as my friend said, "what do we want?"


Thursday, July 10, 2014

Requiem, Beach House

I was in my first year of college when I was first introduced to Beach House Canteen. It was a small, unassuming establishment just beside the U.P. Main Library, with chairs and tables for those who couldn't fit in the small building.

Beach House would need those tables and chairs, because U.P. students kept on coming back for its pork barbecue, which was cheap and delicious. For less than 50 pesos (if I remember correctly), one could have a cup of rice and a stick of barbecue for lunch. It was a welcome change from CASAA food for budget-conscious students.

Of course, one would have to plan ahead if one was to eat at Beach House, since the lines would build up around 11:30 am, and there probably would not be any barbecue left by 12:30 pm or so. I think I only ate at Beach House when I had free time in the 10-11:30 schedule block. Otherwise, I would've had to join the long lines, without assurance that I would be able to get barbecue. I guess it's basically the equivalent of what Ateneo students deal with at Manang's.

The last time I ate at Beach House was when a group of my co-teachers decided to sample the barbecue several years ago. I think the price went up a tad, but it was still fairly affordable, and still delicious.

I was saddened to learn that, after 28 years of existence, Beach House would be closing, courtesy of a court order. Reading the news reports, apparently the local administration felt that there was a sanitary risk having an eatery close to a open drainage system, although I can't recall anyone getting sick after eating at Beach House.

One of my former students, also a U.P. alumnus, took a different tack, and suggested that Beach House Canteen had not paid their taxes. While that seems plausible, I've not read of any report that suggests such. My student noted that, when he ate at Beach House, he was not issued a receipt, which, I'm guessing, confirmed his idea of non-payment of taxes. For that matter, Rodic's, another venerable U.P. establishment, doesn't issue receipts for their meals, nor do a number of eateries around the campus. Does that mean that they, and Rodic's, should be closed? If that were to happen, it would be very difficult for U.P. students to get a good, cheap meal.

Still, the court had decided, and, as of yesterday, Beach House Canteen closed its doors, or, rather, had its doors closed by the court sheriff.

While I'm hoping that the proprietors of Beach House are able to continue in some form or the other, it won't be the same. I, along with a lot of U.P. alumni and guests, have fond memories of that small wooden establishment right beside the Sunken Garden.

Well, goodbye for now, Beach House Canteen. Here's hoping that if your owners do decide to resurrect you somewhere, they'll still be able to serve cheap, affordable fare.

As they say in Iloilo, Sa madason liwat. Until the next time.

Tuesday, July 08, 2014

"The Noblest of Reasons"

Based on the words of University of the Philippines President Alfredo Pascual, regarding the recent hazing incident involving his fraternity, Upsilon Sigma Phi, it appears that the saying "once a fratman, always a fratman" rings true. 

In an official statement released by his office, the U.P. President said that he was "closely monitoring the investigation being undertaken by the UP Diliman administration, led by Chancellor Michael L. Tan, on the recently reported fraternity incident involving one of its students," and that he was "in constant touch with the concerned Vice Presidents of the UP System who are keeping watch and informing me of the developments in the on-going UP Diliman investigation."

So far, so good.

Then, President Pascual says that "incidents of violence, done even for the noblest of reasons (boldface mine), have no place in U.P." That's when I did a double-take.

The "noblest of reasons" obviously pertains to the joining of a fraternity, the nobility of which, given the recent spate of violence involving the frats, is seriously in question. The fact that these so-called brotherhoods hurt, and sometimes maim and kill their initiates makes me wonder just how noble joining a frat truly is.

Being a U.P. alumnus, I saw first hand the violence of the fraternities. I was taking Citizen's Military Training (CMT) when the Vanguard, the officers' fraternity, was warring with a rival fraternity. One Saturday, during training, the officers suddenly started shouting warnings, and we were herded into the DMST compound. Apparently, Delta Battery of the Field Artillery Battalion was training behind the U.P. gym, when a van appeared, carrying masked men brandishing guns. They made the entire battery drop to the ground, and then proceeded to beat the officer present so badly that he was hospitalized as a result. While it was not proven, it was suspected that the rival fraternity was behind the attack.

When I was in my third year of college, I had a class on the third floor of Palma Hall, when we heard a loud explosion coming from the second floor, where the tambayan of a fraternity was located. Seconds later, a guy ran past our classroom, chased by men wearing shirts around their heads and wielding metal pipes. I later learned that the fraternity that was attacked was vying for the right to sponsor the beer concession during that year's fair with another fraternity.

I remember an acquaintance of mine who was beaten up because he was mistaken for a frat member. I remember my wife, who was my girlfriend at the time, was nearly hit by a pillbox because her friend was a frat man.

My father, also a U.P. alumnus, tells me that it was pretty much the same story during his time, when frats would war at the drop of a hat.

And the list goes on.

As long as the frats embrace the culture of violence, expect that there will be more deaths in the future, some of them from frat wars, others from the "noblest of reasons."

Sunday, July 06, 2014

Two Thoughts on Fraternities: Doyo and Leonen

It's very possible that, after the Imelda visit to the Ateneo, the social media will be moving away from the fraternity hazing stories, but, before that happens, I'll just share two thoughts on fraternities that I found to be relevant.

One is the column penned by Ma. Ceres Doyo in the Inquirer, entitled "Frat torturers and their victims are weaklings," wherein she scores fraternities for the need to hurt their incoming "brothers" to the point that some of them are hospitalized or even killed. However, aside from the frats themselves, Doyo also blames the victims to some extent, for being so stupid or weak that would subject themselves to the mental and physical torture in order to belong. It's something I agree with.

The other is the comments made by Associate Justice Marvic Leonen of the Supreme Court regarding the violent fraternity-related incidents. Some of the quotes of Justice Leonen:
"Wise men know this: brotherhood is earned, it is not produced by inflicting harm on the other. Teach this to our sons and daughters," (Leonen's Twitter account)
"Fraternity rumbles are an anathema, an immature and useless expenditure of testosterone. It fosters a culture that retards manhood." (Supreme Court decision penned by Justice Leonen, upholding the conviction of Dennis Venturina's murderers.)
 Aside from the St. Benilde hazing incident, yet another hazing incident was reported to have happened in U.P. This incident involved the law fraternity Upsilon Sigma Phi. Fortunately, though, the unnamed 17-year old victim survived his ordeal, but the family looks to be pressing charges against the frat.

The problem with frats is that, aside from the culture of violence many of them appear to espouse, they are sources of corruption in the real world. Many of those who join frats do so for the promise of connections in the real world, since, supposedly, a fratman is more likely to hire his "brother" over one who isn't. So, one's ability doesn't matter, but one's connections will.

I doubt that we will be rid of fraternities as long as there are people who feel a need to belong, as well as get some aces for their future, but, if we can expunge the violence, it'll be a step in the right direction.

In the Aftermath of Imelda's Visit

In the aftermath of Imelda Marcos' being invited to an event at the Ateneo (the Ateneo Scholarship Fund's 40th anniversary), there's a lot of moral outrage over the incident. Those of us who lived through the Martial Law years, and who've seen friends and family affected by the corruption foisted upon our country by the Marcoses found it hard to accept that the remaining half of the "conjugal dictatorship" was invited by a school whose alumni (Ed Jopson, Evelio Javier, et al) were victims of that dictatorship.

What was even more difficult to swallow were the viral pictures on Facebook of scholars hamming it up with the former First Lady. I'm not sure what was going through those students' minds, but definitely an appreciation of history was absent.

While the Ateneo Scholarship Fund is not an official part of the Ateneo system, Fr. Jett Villarin, S.J., the university president, was present at the event, and was shown in a group picture with Marcos.

This happened at a time when the Marcoses, unrepentant for their crimes, seem to be making a media blitz to retell history, in preparation for a possible run by the dictator's son, Senator Bongbong Marcos, for the presidency in 2016.

As a result of the outrage, Fr. Villarin seems to have been compelled to issue a public apology, but, judging from the reactions online, it has appeased few; the damage has been done, and we have to pick up the pieces.

One level-headed reaction I liked was that of a college instructor, Brian Paul Giron, who posted his own thoughts on the matter. I'd like to quote a part that gave me some food for thought:
But then I think that our problems are bigger than Imelda. —why does it take an Imelda and a bunch of photos to make us realize that in so many places, and in so many venues and fora and means and ways; “Ateneans” are doing terrible and unspeakable things that should shame us.
Ateneans are out there thinking that money is more important than service. Ateneans are out there thinking that their education was the entrance fee of being elite; rather than the privilege of learning how to be a person for others.
Inviting Imelda was a mistake that we need to talk about but it may also be a good place to start talking about the other names out there who claim the name ‘Atenista’ but act contrary to what we’re taught. Now we know that there are those among us who have to be reminded about what it means to be Atenean.
I am angry that Imelda was invited to our school. But my reaction will not be one of disownment.
I am Atenean and I come from the Ateneo that opposes Marcos and all things related to his legacy of injustice, corruption and suffering.
I come from an ideal that is far bigger than Imelda can ever hope to corrupt, or twist, or use for her ends because at the end of the day Imelda can only step on a campus, and sit in a room, and pose for photos.
Tomorrow I will wake up and I will be content in the knowing that the Ateneo I love exists in places where no murderer, no thief, no liar, and no Marcos can ever hope to assail it.
It exists in the provinces where Ateneans have gone to serve their countrymen with the light of their knowledge, their kindness, their commitment, and their humility. It exists in those places where ‘Atenista’ means the smallest, and the kindest, and the least privileged. It exists where faculty, students, and alumni work and study hard for the opportunity to do well for others.
It exists in the lectures we teach in our history classes where propaganda has no place; and where the memory and pain of a nation that suffered for two decades under a despicable tyrant will hopefully be passed on to a generation that has never known martial law so that they, too, can say ‘Never again.’
I like what he says because it's more proactive than reactive. Giron gives us a direction which we can take to deal with this situation in a rational manner.

It's something I can take into my classroom, and share with my students why we should keep on thinking, "Never again."

Friday, July 04, 2014

When Will the Killing End?

Lenny Villa.

Dennis Venturina.

Alexander Icasiano.

Nino Calinao.

Chris Mendez.

Marc Andrei Marcos.

And now, Guilo Cesar Servando joins those victims of fraternity-related violence; sadly, there are more than these. While Venturina and Calinao were victims of circumstance, the others were killed by hazing, that often-violent means of initiation.

Much has already been written about the most recent death, and about how fraternities are a bane to society. I myself have written about my desire to see the culture of fraternities expunged from our society, but, so far, little has been done in terms of dealing with this deadly problem, despite the presence of an Anti-Hazing Law. As it is, the conviction of killers of Lenny Villa was only finalized just recently, more than 20 years after Villa's death, an exclamation point on the grinding slow pace of Philippine justice.

Is this because the legal system is contaminated by fraternity brothers and their ubiquitous connections? Or is it because of our so-called ningas kugon attitude, that the anger is fleeting and will disappear once a new outrage is reported? Is it because of our jaded belief that nothing is ever going to change, so why bother?

The bottom line is that we have to believe that change is possible, that these evil actions can be stopped. If we give up and pack up, there will be more Lenny Villas, more Chris Mendezes, more Guilo Cesar Servandos who will die for the glory of the fraternity.

One of my friends on Facebook, an org mate whom I look up to, had this to say about first steps in dealing with this menace:

"Beyond the anti-hazing law and schools' own regulations on fraternities, there is one crucial sector that can make a huge difference in curbing all this nonsense: the fraternity (and sorority) alumni. We said it three decades ago, when we were - let's face it - kids, and we're saying it now... as parents. There is only one way all of you can prove sincerity in your supposed sharing in our - barbarians' - outrage, mga 'brods', mga 'sis'. Renounce hazing as a mistake. Then just TELL your new brothers and sisters to simply stop the practice. If they refuse, then refuse them the funding, and all the support and benefits supposedly attendant to being called brods. But let's be clear: Until hazing is put to an end, you alumni are all complicit in this continuing madness."

I remember when former Senators Jovito Salonga and Jun Magsaysay resigned from Sigma Rho to protest the death of Chris Mendez. Perhaps the alumni of Tau Gamma Phi can start by convincing the current head of the frat to surrender himself to the police, because it seems that he's gone and run.

My own prayers go out to the Servandos, who still cannot understand why their son felt the need to risk death in order to belong. Believe you me, after so many deaths, I still cannot understand why people should decide and join the frats.

Saturday, June 28, 2014

Sudden Hiatus

It's been a very hectic second half of June, which has made sitting down to post anything an impossible task. This is just a placeholder to let people know that I'm still around, and will resume posting when it's less hectic.

Until then, everyone take care.