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Monday, December 12, 2016

Saying Goodbye 2016: Mentors (Part Two)

One of the aspects I appreciated about the BA Psychology program in UP was that it allotted 15 units (equivalent to 5 subjects) for free electives. This meant that one could enroll in whatever discipline, as long as he/she had the prerequisite subjects. I decided to take all of mine in English. I would later find out that there were several designations for English subjects, which included Literature, Creative Writing, and Comparative Literature.

The first major subject I took was English 100, Introduction to English Language, which was taught by Prof. Magelende Flores, who was also the mother of Emil, one of my high school gaming barkada from UPIS. Learning English Language took me on a linguistic tour of English: its structure, its sounds and semantics, and so forth. Ma'am Flores, in her proper  made it seem to be the most interesting subject in the world, which may explain my tendencies toward studying language and grammar rather than analyzing literature. Through her class, I gained a greater appreciation of the linguistics behind English.

As a result, for my second English Language elective, I took 117, which was about Syntax, and, once more, Ma'am Flores took me and my classmates on another linguistic journey. Geeky, nerdy stuff, probably, but Ma'am Flores helped make the class enjoyable. If I remember right, it was in this class that I learned about Noam Chomsky and his transformational generative grammar.

In my final year in UP, I had one more elective to take, and I decided to take English 120, Stylistics, which, if I recall, applied linguistic theory to literature. On the first day of class, when she was reading out the attendance via class cards and got to mine, she looked up, and asked acerbically, "Mr. Tomas, have you transferred to the English Language program?" I assured her that I was still in the Psychology program.

It was in Stylistics that I received my one and only "1" as an undergrad. My final papers in her class were an analysis of a passage from J.R.R. Tolkien's "The Fellowship of the Ring," and a deciphering of the nonsense language of Lewis Carroll's "Jabberwocky." I like to imagine that she was impressed, hence, the "1."

One of the random things I remember from her class was that she was critical of the government's bilingual program, because she felt that the split in attention would create students who were masters at neither language.

Since I would get to talk to Emil every so often, I would sometimes ask about his mom, and learned about her deteriorating health. We had an opportunity to get together with some of the members of the barkada just before Ma'am Flores passed away, and I learned that it was just a matter of time. Last September 30, Ma'am Flores joined her Lord.

I credit Ma'am Flores for my attempts to be precise with my language, and for me to be more perceptive about how the language is used in everyday speech. For that, I am thankful for having been her student.

Requiescat in pace, Ma'am Flores. You are missed.

Saying Goodbye 2016: Mentors (Part One)

This year I said good-bye to two of my mentors. Last September, my judo sensei Ma'am Aurora Rodriguez and my English professor Dr. Magelende Flores both passed away, having touched thousands of lives, including mine.

Ma'am Rodriguez was one of the first Filipino women judokas, having been trained by the late Sensei Keiko Fukuda (9th dan, highest ever rank for a woman), and, before her passing, held the rank of 6th dan.

Ma'am Rodriguez was instrumental in introducing me to the martial art/way of life that I continue to follow, judo. When I had just graduated from grade school, my mom asked me what activity I would like to take up over the summer. Having been bullied in grade school, I immediately chose judo as a means to defend myself.

The summer sessions were a wonderful time as I learned the basics of judo. With the help of Ma'am Rodriguez and her assistant Jeanna Panganiban, I learned how to fall, how to throw, and how to be thrown. I learned about the philosophy behind judo, as formulated by its founder, Sensei Jigoro Kano. And I was hooked.

Throughout my high school life, judo was a constant part of my Fridays. Despite the fact that I was one of the few kids playing with college players, I picked up a lot of tips, tricks, and techniques from my ates and kuyas. Ma'am was a constant part of all that, dispensing advice and wisdom all through my formative years.

When I went to UP for college, I would always assist Ma'am in her PE classes, as well as some of the sports major subjects for judo, during my free time, whenever I had the chance. It was through doing this that I honed my judo skills, as well as my teaching skills; it's likely that it was during these classes that my foundations for being a teacher were set. In my later years in college, Ma'am would delegate the tasks of introducing the martial art to the students to me.

Ma'am would also be there for me during my personal struggles, acting as a parent to me;  she never married, and she treated all of us who were in her classes as her surrogate children.

Even after I graduated from college, and re-entered the Ateneo as a teacher, I kept my ties with UP judo strong, which meant that I also kept in constant contact with Ma'am. My wife and I had wanted her to be one of our godmothers at our wedding, but she declined, saying that she was bad luck, since a number of weddings wherein she was a principal sponsor had broken up. Despite this, we insisted that she would be our godmother in spirit, if not in person.

During the 2000s, I saw less and less of Ma'am, and our conversations would often be limited to phone calls to one another; I had made it a point to call and greet her regularly on her birthday (March 13). My last conversation with her was on her birthday this year.

I learned of her passing when one of our co-players posted about her on Facebook; once it was verified, I grieved. I attempted to give a reflection to my class about her as a tribute, but, midway, I broke down.

I was able to attend her wake, and see the number of lives she had touched; as I said, she never married, but her surrogate children were there at her wake to keep her company. As luck would have it, despite it being a school day, I had enough free time to accompany her to her final resting place. She lived a rich life, and I, along with her former students, will miss her terribly.

Requiescat in pace, Ma'am Rodriguez. Thank you for touching my life greatly. I shall always remember the lessons you taught me, both in and out of judo. God bless you, sensei

Dealing with Fake News

One of the structures that helps enable the current post-truth world we find ourselves in is the proliferation of fake news. Our social media feed is inundated with it, making it difficult to discern fact from fiction. Fake news was seen to be responsible in manipulating people's perceptions about events, such as recent election of businessman Donald Trump as the next U.S. President and the current moves to rehabilitate the Marcos family via historical revisionism. Sadly, however, the spread of fake news is not only limited to the Philippines and the U.S. According to an article in the The Guardian, various correspondents have illustrated how fake news is a global problem, with its incidence inundating every continent, except maybe Antartica.

What makes the problem worse is the fact that a good number of those who use social media rely on it for their news, and don't always check whether what they're reading is truthful or not. Thus, people wind up helping weaponize fake news, as it makes its viral path down social media lines. We have seen the results of such, as well as that of troll sites, in this very disturbing year of 2016 (I'll probably have to devote a post or two on the year that is rapidly coming to an end.).

Even the Pope had strong words on the issue, and took media to task for helping spread disinformation, as well as the compelling need for media to report "nasty things." Said the Pope,
“I think the media have to be very clear, very transparent, and not fall into – no offence intended – the sickness of coprophilia, that is, always wanting to cover scandals, covering nasty things, even if they are true.” (The Guardian, December 7, 2016)
At the same time, Pope Francis chided people in general for their desire to look up bad news,
“And since people have a tendency towards the sickness of coprophagia, a lot of damage can be done.” (The Guardian, December 7, 2016)
While a number of articles have attempted to educate people on how to spot fake news and avoid sharing it, the steps can be research-intensive, which not many may be willing to spend the time on. For example, in an article on NPR, Wynne Davis enumerates several steps in checking for fake news (the writer credits Alexios Mantzarlis, director of the International Fact-Checking Network at Poynter, and Melissa Zimdars, an assistant professor of communication and media at Merrimack College in North Andover, Mass. for these steps):
  1. Pay attention to the domain and the URL;
  2. Read the "About Us" section; 
  3. Look at the quotes (or the lack of them) in the story;
  4. Check the comments;
  5. Reverse image search.
 Zimdars even has a document on fake news for her students.

However, there are some lights at the end of the fake news tunnel, such as Facebook's more aggressive stance against fake news. In the end, though, it looks like we ourselves will have to be more vigilant and discerning about how we process the news we receive, whether through traditional media sources or social media.  

Monday, December 05, 2016

On Coming Back

It's been over a month since my last post, and, as I posted on FB, I'm feeling a little rusty. After setting a fair pace over the past eleven years, I hit the wall hard last June, which accounts for my sparse posting after the May elections. However, with recent events , particularly the upcoming resignation of Vice-President Robredo from the President's Cabinet, I feel I have been galvanized into action once more. I don't know whether this is just adrenaline rushing through me as I write, but I do feel pumped up to write on a more regular basis. I've been trying to figure out how to do it, though, which will take a little time.

Blame social media for my inactivity, as I found myself drawn to sharing posts on Facebook, of insights and material which I felt were superior to my own; As much as possible, I've tried to avoid ranting, since nothing good will come out of it, but, with the Marcos burial, and the election of Donald Trump as US President, I found myself venting in short, angry posts over such events. I've also tried to vet what I post, and make sure that what I share are sensible posts, but, with the primacy of fake news and a post-truth world, it's been difficult to sift through the dross to find the nuggets of truth. Double- and triple-checking are now the norm for me, although, sadly, not everyone does such.

Admittedly, I've allowed myself to be sidetracked by social media; it's time to continue crafting my own voice, via this blog. While it's likely that I won't be posting on a daily basis (which makes my blog name a misnomer; anyone with suggestions can message me), I'm hoping that I can get back to my regular grind (as regular as it can be). The topics will still be freestyle, which means I write about anything that interests me: politics, current events, pop culture, geekiness, etc.

So, here's hoping that those of you who've been visiting will be seeing new stuff on a fairly regular basis. I'm keeping my own fingers crossed, myself.

Updates: What's Duterte's Next Move?

It's been almost six months into the Duterte presdiency, and it almost as if every day, there's something to be pissed about.

First, of course, is the drug war, which seems to be the primary focus of this administration. As of this writing, the death toll has risen to surpass the official tally of Martial Law, and has continued to climb. Of course, most of the dead come from the poor, who have few means of defending themselves, either against being shot down by the police, always because "nanlaban sila" (they fought back), or being gunned down by unknown assailants, possibly the drug rings themselves cleansing their ranks or possibly death squads operating with the President's unofficial consent.

The dead also include children, with the youngest casualty being 4 or 5 years old. However, drug lords such as Peter Lim who got an audience with the President and was allowed to leave the country, remain untouched. Curious.

Second, is the President's payback promise to have the late tyrant and dictator, Ferdinand Marcos, buried with full military honors in the Libingan ng Mga Bayani. Buoyed by a Supreme Court decision which acknowledged that there was no legal obstacle for the President to order the burial. This despite voluminous proof of the Marcos's wanton plunder of our country, of the human rights violations committed under Martial Law, and the fact that Marcos lied about his war record.

One of the arguments in favor noted that Marcos was never convicted of any crime. The response I liked was that the architect of the Holocaust, Adolf Hitler, was also never convicted of any crime, so does that absolve Hitler? Definitely not.

It's also interesting that another common argument in favor of the Marcos burial is to let bygones be bygones, forgive and forget. So, is it that easy to forgive one who basically destroyed the foundations of our country, while common drug users, who may be victims of addiction themselves, are not spared any sympathy, or even due process according to law, and should simply be gunned down? There's a huge cognitive dissonance happening right over there.

The latest brouhaha is the coming resignation of Vice-President Leni Robredo as Housing Secretary. In her statement on the issue, VP Robredo stated that there was a plot to "steal" the vice-presidency. It's been public knowledge that the President prefers the dictator's son, Bongbong, to be Vice-President; in fact, a election protest over Robredo's victory has been filed with the Presidential Electoral Tribunal. Given what's been happening, it's very possible that the PET will rule in favor of the younger Marcos, whether or not he has proven his case. When that happens, it is possible that there will be no peace in our country whatsoever, since the President has made.it clear that he would give the Presidency to Bongbong should he be unable to finish his term.

It's also possible, though, that the President has been playing us all along, keeping everyone off-balance by being unpredictable. The Marcos burial, for example, came out of nowhere; even the military and police commanders claimed that they only learned about it the day before. Who knows what the President and his merry men are planning next?

For now, those of us who still believe in justice and the rule of law, it is time for us to close ranks, and protect the VP any way we can, for, if Robredo is removed from her position, it's clear that there is no rule of law, and the rule of the strongman is firmly in place. 

Monday, October 17, 2016

Still Around, Although ...

Looking at my archives, I've never skipped more than a month ever since I started writing this blog twelve years ago.

This is my first post in almost two months. Thanks to a combination of workload and family duties, to understate it, writing posts has been a little difficult for me. When I do have free time, I wind up relaxing or doing other things aside from blogging. As a result, it's been a mini-hiatus for me, as I try to make sense of my priorities, and try to set adequate time for each. However, it's been a struggle, so this blog has been the casualty of the struggle.

At the same time, the political scene has not improved, as President Duterte (or Mr. Duterte, as he so styles himself) continues to rant and rail at long-time allies, and continues to court the favors of China and Russia. It's a dangerous game of brinkmanship, and we will be the victims should the odds go against him.

Despite his foul mouth and desire to exterminate drug users, the President continues to enjoy widespread trust and approval, as evidenced by his 86% rating from the most recent polls. Count me as one of the minority, though, as I still don't approve of his style of bullyboy leadership.

One of the more disturbing issues, which will probably come to a head this week, is the insidious plan to bury the late dictator and plunderer Ferdinand Marcos Sr. in the Libingan ng mga Bayani. The status quo order imposed by the Supreme Court is set to expire this week, whereupon it is expected that the burial will push through, to the dismay of those whose lives were affected or destroyed by the martial law regime. The President can continue to put forth the argument that the burial will not erase the crimes of the Marcoses, but, with the Filipino's penchant for forgetting one's past, it's likely that the burial will redeem the Marcoses in the eyes of many Filipinos. As it is, the dictator's son almost won as Vice-President, which is a troubling sign for the next presidential elections. If the burial pushes through, it is practically certain that Bongbong Marcos will run for president in 2022, and it is 100% certain that he will point to his father's burial in the Libingan as proof of his family's innocence.

That will be the evil that the Marcos burial will bring about, as it will strengthen the historical revisionism that the Marcoses and their paid trolls have been foisting on us. And, given their woefully short memory, Filipinos will embrace the Marcos myth as the truth.

That being the case, should Mr. Duterte push through with the burial, there is nothing that will make me approve of this administration. It would be as if the Germans had absolved Hitler of the Holocaust. The administration may solve the traffic problem, or make moves to combat corruption in government; it still won't make a difference. If Marcos is buried in the Libingan, that makes the Duterte administration no better than that of the Nazis.

With the current political situation being what it is, my main method of engagement has been on Facebook, wherein I've wound up posting regular articles and analyses of the current issues, since I've had no time or energy to write my own. It can be argued, though, that I could devote time and energy to writing instead of simply sharing articles. I guess I have to come to a decision, and soon.

Sunday, August 21, 2016

Explanations Are in Order

So ... it's been a while.

The workload continues to stymie me, making it difficult to post anything. However, upon reflection, that's not the only reason why I've not posted much in the past two to three months.

I got burned out.

The first 51 days of the Duterte administration has been a dismaying experience, as both the President and his loyal followers have shown the ugly side of the Filipino.

For the President, while he has made a number of welcome moves, such as the lowering of income tax and the requirement for government offices to release documents within three days of application, he has also made a good number of questionable moves, such as:

  • the insistence to bury the late dictator in the Libingan ng mga Bayani - I'm unsure why Duterte is so bull-headed on the issue. He came into office with a largess of political capital, and, yet, he chooses to waste it on this divisive issue. Make no mistake: burying a corrupt dictator in the Libingan sends the wrong message. It says that history will be rewritten in order to soften the horrors of that era, which set our country back so much that it's taken 30 years in order to bounce back. It's tantamount to having Hitler feted in Germany, or Idi Amin in Uganda, Baby Doc Duvalier in Haiti, and so on, so forth. We may be one of the very few countries who will give military and burial honors to a man who raped and nearly destroyed our country. And Duterte is spearheading the historical revisionism.
  • his callousness towards human life - so far, his war on drugs has claimed a reported 1564 deaths in one a half months. This number includes a number of people who had nothing to do with drugs, and were just unfortunate to be at the wrong place and the wrong time. These include alleged drug dealers who supposedly fought back or resisted arrest. While some of these deaths are legitimate, more are the work of vigilantes sowing fear and chaos. There are some who argue that there were more people who were killed by riding-in-tandem during the Aquino administration, but here's the thing: while records show that 3,000 or so died via riding-in-tandem, these were not ordered or abetted by the Aquino administration. Secondly, while 3,000 died over the course of the six-year Aquino administration, 1,564 have died in the first month and a half of the Duterte administration. Do the ratios, and, if this keeps up, the death toll after six years will far outstrip those killed during the Aquino administration. Duterte is on record saying that he does not care about these deaths, as long as the perceived drug menace is eradicated. It's doubtful that many of the families of these victims will see justice done.
  • his inability to accept criticism - the President has shown a Trump-like attitude when it comes to criticism; instead of accepting it for what it is, the President has chosen to hit below the belt and attack his critics. When Supreme Court Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno took him to task for including dead judges in his drug list, the President threatened to have government officials ignore the Court and even threatened to declare martial law. The President's actions against Senator Leila de Lima were beyond the pale, as the President claimed that the Senator's driver was her lover, and that he was the conduit to the drug lords. Up to now, no charges have been filed against Sen. de Lima, which raises the question on whether Duterte actually has the goods on de Lima. 
At the same time, a number of Duterte's followers have shown an appalling level of cognitive dissonance, refusing to acknowledge that their elected President was wrong and going to the extent of raising fallacious arguments in order to defend him. As I posted on Facebook, it's akin to banging one's head against a brick wall. As a result, I have resolved not to engage his followers, and will instead continue to post, here and on Facebook, my thoughts and reflections on the state of affairs in the country. 

As it is, a number of Duterte critics have disengaged, whether dismayed by the state of affairs, or threatened by his fanatical followers. American expatriate blogger Joe America, for one, has decided to suspend his blog, citing the dangers to his family, as well as the requirements of his visa. He also castigated the President's internet trollers for making intelligent discussion useless. 

I must admit that I have been tempted to follow Joe's suit. I suspect that his reasons are my reasons for my relative silence the past few months. 

However, there's a part of me that just refuses to be cowed by the state of affairs, but I will have to do some reflection on how I will proceed. I, too, have personal concerns that may be affected should I continue to write critically about the current government. While my readership is nowhere near the big hitters, it's still possible that someone will wander into the blog, and identify me as a Duterte critic. 

Rest assured, I will probably try to find ways to post more regularly, although I can't say for sure what I'll be writing about. Perhaps those of you who do read my posts can give me suggestions. 

Until then, I leave with a snippet of Dylan Thomas' famous poem,

"Do not go gentle into that good night,
Rage, rage against the dying of the light."

Remembering Ninoy 2016

It's Ninoy Aquino's death anniversary. Thirty-three years ago, despite the clear and present danger to himself, he chose to return to the Philippines, knowing that to return would probably mean his death. His sacrifice helped galvanize the country into ousting the corrupt dictator.
I wonder how he would view the current state of affairs in the country, where one is presumed guilty until proven innocent, where Filipinos apparently applaud the crass behavior of the current President, and where his tormentor, the late dictator will soon be honored with a burial in the Libingan ng mga Bayani.
Would he have continued to insist that the Filipino is worth dying for?
I'd like to think that he would. He had undergone the torment of Martial Law, and emerged a changed man, fighting for the rights of the Filipino people. It's likely that, were he still alive today, he would have still looked to the better side of the Filipino, and still state that the Filipino is worth dying for.
We have to remember that we are better than what we are today. We have to remember that, aside from Ninoy, many have died in order to give us the freedom that we now enjoy. We cannot let the desperation of the times crush our spirit. We cannot let the current state of affairs cause us to lose hope and despair. Now, more than ever, we have to continue to fight for the rights of every Filipino.
We look to the examples of Ninoy, and those who died before him, and continue to take heart and keep on fighting for a better Philippines. 

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Experiencing Difficulties

Unfortunately for my writing, this school year has just been way too tough for me to be able to buckle down and post on this blog.

It's frustrating since there are so many ongoing issues that I want to sink my proverbial teeth into: Brexit, the current state of the war on drugs in the country, the Black Lives Matter movement, the ongoing U.S. presidential campaign, and, now, just out yesterday, the decision of the International tribunal declaring China's so-called claims to the entire South China Sea (West Philippine Sea). So many issues, so many thoughts, so little time. Still, I'm managing to get my thoughts out on these issues on FB and Twitter, where people tend to react to issues more.

Be that as it may, I'm not satisfied with just posting what others are saying; I want my voice to ring out on these issues as well. However, given the current state of affairs, I am encountering difficulties in doing so.

So, sadly, I have to say that my posting on the blog will continue to be sporadic, until I can get my 'sea legs,' and manage to figure out how to write amidst the journey of this school year.

Tuesday, July 05, 2016

Warming Up: Looking at Old Posts

After spending most of last month away from this blog, I'm slowly trying to get back into the groove of writing. Looking at the viewing stats, I find it interesting that there are those who visit past posts, and I would love to know the reasons behind the views. Below are three of the older posts that visitor to my blog have viewed:

1. Choir Practice (January 12, 2005)

Like judo, being part of a choir has been an integral part of me, even though I haven't been able to join practices recently, because of my various duties. Still, I'm able to join my subdivision choir whenever I can, so that will have to be enough for now.

2. Korean Food Trip (January 2, 2013)

Of the restaurants listed here, I miss Insadong the most, since it was there that I was introduced to Korean cuisine. Sadly, Insadong is long gone, and, in its place, a mini-mall has been built. A number of Korean restaurants in the Don Antonio area have disappeared, but Ummason Kimchi, the one where we had the worst experience remains. It's been upgraded, though, so maybe the quality has improved.

3. The Very Best of Gary Granada (For Me, Anyway) (June 19, 2013)

This is a list of my main favorites by composer-singer Gary Granada, and, going over the list, I haven't changed my mind about them.

Sunday, July 03, 2016

Just Let You Know I'm Still Here

In one of my two lone posts last month, I noted the possible difficulty I would face in continuing to blog. Little did I realize then how prophetic that observation would be; the two June posts mark a new low in the number of posts I've managed in a month. After a post commemorating Independence Day, that was it for the month, as work basically took over, and tired me out. Instead of writing, I found myself either sleeping or de-stressing.

I had underestimated the effect of the changes being implemented this year, thanks to the shift to the K-12 program. After several years of acting as one of the prefect in the high school, I find myself returning to the full load of an English teacher. Throw in a class adviser's role, as well as my Grafiction org moderator duties, and it's just been a struggle to keep up with everything.

Sadly, I missed out on quite a bit over the past month: the inauguration of our new leaders, the terrorist attack in Istanbul, as well as the passing of various personalities, whose requiems will most likely remain unwritten. My inability to write was not borne out of the lack of topics, but the lack of time.

Still, I can't complain much. While I have been unable to write, life has continued to be so full of interesting experiences that, while they remain in my memories, they are there for me to access should I find the time to write about them. While my blog remained predominantly dormant last month, I did not. Hopefully, I'll be able to find a way to resume a more regular posting schedule.
At any rate, I am writing this post to let my readers know that I am still around, and will resume my regular schedule of writing, as time permits. I will most definitely not be limited to just two posts this month, that's for certain.

Sunday, June 12, 2016

Independence Day Musings

Today is Independence Day in the Philippines, and, to kick it off, Facebook made a graphic for users to share:

It didn't register with me immediately, but some of my friends saw it from the get-go: there was something off with the display of the flag. For those who are unfamiliar with Philippine flag laws, the blue side of the flag should be displayed above the red in times of peace. The red side on top means that the Philippines is at war.

While Facebook eventually took down the graphic and apologized for the gaffe, the Filipino sense of humor took over and spun the gaffe into all sorts of interpretations:

  • The Philippines is quietly at war with China over the latter's usurpation of islands that, by law, belong to the Philippines;
  • The Philippines is at war with corruption and poverty;
  • The Philippines is in a war over the core values which should govern us.
Okay, maybe they're not so funny, and, instead, they should provoke deep thought. The first interpretation is a serious commentary on our current relations with the closest superpower to us. For the past years, China has rapidly swallowed up our sovereign domain, with its spurious claim over almost the entire South China/West Philippine Sea. It is, for all intents and purposes, a sheer invasion of our country, and, if we're okay with that, there's something definitely wrong with that line of thinking.

Unfortunately, our physical means of defending our territory are not capable of repelling this foreign invader; thus, we have to resort to legal means in order to defend our sovereign rights. China, of course, being the aggressor, has opted to push for bilateral or one-on-one talks, which is so much more advantageous for them, as they can simply bully us into submission. While we are not officially at war with China, we are, for all intents, locked in a conflict with them in a battle to fight for what is our.

The second interpretation should be the proper attitude in tackling the state of corruption and poverty in our nation. Both are inimical to our country's development: corruption eats away at our character, and persuades us to accept less-than-ideal ways of getting what we want, while poverty weighs down our countrymen from pursuing their goals in life. At the same time, it can be said that corruption breeds poverty, not only the poverty of material wealth, but also the poverty of the soul. Corruption batters and pounds away at our character, weakening our resolve to fight for what is right.
Sadly, thanks to corrupt leaders and government officials, corruption and poverty are so firmly entrenched in our culture and mentality that it will probably take years or, sadly, generations, before we can break either of these lead weights on our country's growth. It will take more than a president-elect's threat of killing every corrupt official he finds in order to achieve any progress on our anti-corruption war.

In the same vein, quick fixes such as giving out free stuff and dole-outs is not the solution to winning the war on poverty. Proper education and empowerment is the more correct road in order to solve poverty. By doling out goods and services to the poor, we simply make them dependent on such mechanisms. By educating them about their rights, and exhorting them to fight for their rights, they will be able to stand up on their own.

Finally, the third interpretation is based on the most recent elections, wherein the corrupt dictator's son,  who has repeatedly denied his father's crimes against the nation, very nearly became vice-president. It's a sobering illustration of how we have failed to educate ourselves on the horrors and sins of the past. Despite the fact that much data and information exists on the culpability of the son in his father's crimes, he still managed to come within a hair's breadth of coming back into power. The closest equivalent is if the son of Adolf Hitler became Germany's leader.

At the same time, it is also galling that the president-elect has praised the dictator's son, and has promised that the said son will play a part in his government, after the one-year ban on appointing losing candidates to government positions. The president-elect has been unabashed about his friendship with the dictator's son, despite the fact that he was quoted as saying that his friendship with others ends with the interest of the country. His Squealer-like spin doctors will no doubt come up with a way to explain this, although, to those of us who heard the president-elect, the content of what he said was loud and clear.

The fact that this is the sorry state of affairs in our country shows that there is a compelling, immediate need to educate people about the values we need in order to gain our self-respect as a nation. There are already moves by the education department to prepare a curriculum that focuses more on what happened during that dark time, although, with the friendship between the president-elect and the dictator's family, it's anybody's guess whether that curriculum will see the light of day. 

Today is the commemoration of our Independence as the Philippine nation. Let us remind ourselves that the fight for independence doesn't end. There will always be those who seek to steal it from us, and we have to remain ever-vigilant against this.

Saturday, June 11, 2016

Still Around

June 2016 came in with the force of a sledgehammer, and it's taken all my strength to keep abreast of everything. From the preparation of classes to the first week of classes, which ended yesterday,  everything has been a whirlwind of activity, and much of my free time was either spent recuperating from the breakneck pace, or continuing preparations (lesson plans, schedules, etc.) for the coming school year.

This year is the first full implementation of the K-12 education program, which means that the high school is now split into two: the Junior High, composed of grades 7-10, and the Senior High, composed of grades 11-12. There are still some vestiges of the old high school system, as grade 10 still has the honors/semi-honors class system, while the grade 12 will be the last graduating batch of the old high school.

Senior High is now more focused on preparing its students for college. As such, they have been organized into strands which reflect the college degrees the students may go for once they graduate from senior high school.

The Junior High School has been re-organized into four clusters, each composed of 3-4 sections per grade level, for what is hoped to be better management and student formation. Each cluster has been named after a place significant to the spiritual development of the Jesuits' founder, St. Ignatius of Loyola. For the foreseeable future, I will be in Cardoner cluster, which is located in the old grade 10/2nd year wing, and, for this year, I will be teaching grades 9 and 10. 

For the first time in seven years, I will be moderating a class, 10-Pignatelli; another significant change is that junior high school sections are now all named after Jesuit saints and beatified. St. Joseph Pignatelli, S.J., kept the Jesuits going after the Pope suppressed their order in 1773. He gathered all of the Jesuit brethren he could and looked after them as they struggled to deal with the suppression of their order. At the same time, St. Pignatelli worked to reestablish the Jesuit order, and succeeded in reestablishing the Jesuit order, albeit unofficially. He died in 1811, three years short of the official restoration of the Society of Jesus in 1814.

Coincidentally, St. Pignatelli was also the name of the last section I moderated, when I was on exchange to the grade school.

As things stand, I am not sure of the status of the blog for this school year. I want to continue writing, but I'm pretty certain that there will be times when it will be too busy for me to write. At the same time, it's no different from the struggles I've had in maintaining this blog, so we'll just have to wait and see how the cards will fall this year.

For now, this is just to let my readers know I'm still around. Tomorrow will take care of itself.

Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Daily Musings Turns 12! (In Advance)

Tomorrow, my blog turns 12, and it's been a slower year, comparatively. While I continue to write about what's happening in the world, less people have come to visit, despite the inclusion of my posts on social media. Still, it's not for the numbers that I do this, but rather, I do this to let people know about important issues (at least to me), so that they can be better informed.

For the coming year, as I mentioned in a previous post, I'll be looking into how to make this blog a daily one, and, for that, I'll be looking into sharing space with guest posters more often. For now, I'm still figuring it out, but, if I see something I like, in the news, or on social media, I will include it in this blog. Of course, if there's anyone interested in writing about the world the way I do, feel free to send me a personal message or e-mail.

For those who have followed my blog faithfully over the years, thank you for your patronage.

Here are the top posts from the last year (June 2015 - June 2016):

1. The 2016 Senatorial Candidates, Parts One to Ten (April 13 - 29, 2016) - This series of posts took up all my attention and energy during the time I was writing them, as I had to do quite a bit of research in order to come up with a voters' primer for those who needed information on those who aspired for a seat in the Senate.

2. David Hall Memories (June 11, 2015) - This post came out when I was still very active on the Atenista Facebook group, and, apparently, the permanent closure of what has been a home to many a grade school graduate hit hard. David Hall, and all of the wonderful memories created there, will continue to have a permanent place in the hearts of those of us who walked its hallways.

3. The Bulldog Conundrum, Solved (September 16, 2015) - It took former Ateneo coach Bo Perasol two years, and five tries, but he finally managed to win over the National University Bulldogs before his tenure as coach ended.

4, High School Memories (1st Year) (September 6, 2015) - I had planned for this to be a series running all the way to fourth year, but I got untracked, and never got back to writing the rest of it. It's probably a reminder for me to do so, before I forget everything.

5. UP Issues: CASAA and Tiffany Uy (June 27, 2015) - This was a double post, first about the fire which gutted the CASAA cafeteria in UP, and a look into the disparaging of Tiffany Uy, who probably got the highest grade average I've seen. People were probably more affected by the loss of CASAA, which fed many a student who had gone through UP Diliman.

6. Sharing a Post by Nathaniel von Einsiedel (August 1, 2015) - This post came out when outgoing Vice-President Jejomar Binay was still leading in the surveys, as President-elect Rodrigo Duterte was still waffling over whether to run or not. It was a clear look into the corruption surrounding the Vice-President, who stands to face charges once he steps down from office.

7.  Ateneo Grade School Memories (August 29, 2015) - I was still active on Atenista when I was posting these memory lane posts of my time as a student in the grade school and high school. As such, my experiences left an indelible mark on my life.

8. Being an Atenista (August 29, 2015) - This was just a quick commentary on the then-newly formed Atenista group on Facebook. I left after discussion points got a little heated, and then I just recently returned. Maybe I should continue my recollections on my life as an Ateneo student.

9. 2016 Elections: The Major Players' Senatorial Slates (October 29, 2015) - With the filing of the certificates of candidacy done, the major groups at the time formed their senatorial slates. It's a sign of weakness for our political culture, that, except for the Liberal Party, the other groups could not form complete slates, and had to include guest candidates.

10. Requiem, Fr. Chito (September 9, 2015) - For many grade school students, Fr. Chito Unson, S.J. was a consistent presence in their lives in the Ateneo Grade School. His passing last year hit many of them hard, and he will be missed.

Monday, May 30, 2016

Guest Post: On the Marcoses - Jo-Ed Tirol

 Still getting my writing gears back in synch, so here's one more guest post, this time from another friend,  Jo-Ed Tirol, who is an Assistant Professor of the Ateneo de Manila's History Department. While, like myself, he is ecstatic over the win by Camarines Sur Rep. Leni Robredo as Vice-President, he expresses concern over the number of people who still believe in the Marcoses' Golden Age. Like Jo-Ed, I want us a people to never forget the damage the dictator did to our country and to our culture. Never again.

My initial feeling when the final count by Congress named Leni Robredo as vice-president was overwhelming joy and hope. I was so happy to see the proclamation of someone of unquestioned integrity and a solid track record of public service, and also hopeful that she can hopefully serve as a check to the, um, interesting persona of our new president. 

Plus, of course, I was relieved to see the defeat of Bongbong Marcos. Let him now be cast into political oblivion, I told myself. Let it be a public humiliation that will convince him not to run again, ever, for higher office.

And yet, when I thought about the situation more closely, I realized I don't want the narrative of the Marcoses and the Filipino people to end here, because it is far from over. The elections were too close, down the wire. There will be inevitable protests filed, and loud doubts cast on the counting by certain politicians, journalists, and academics. 

More troubling than that, is the simple fact that the senator received fourteen million votes. FOURTEEN MILLION ENFRANCHISED ADULTS, and that does not consider the support he receives from those too young to vote, but probably would have if the age limit was lowered.

Put another way, there can be no political oblivion for that unrepentant family because realistically speaking, this defeat was not decisive enough. If some people will refer to it as a battle in the context a larger war, I would rather refer to it as a significant, but not large enough, defeat of historical revisionism. 

Sadly, Leni's victory is simply not enough.

The naive conclusion to make about the support base is that it was mainly the millennials who voted for Bongbong. A closer look reveals that the majority of pro-Marcos Filipinos were actually older people, who still believe the lies about the so-called Golden Years of our history.

What this means, then, is that the campaign to recover our history is an on-going process, not just about educating the younger generation, but opening the eyes of the older generation. It is encouraging to hear talks of money to be directed to a Martial Law museum, which is a necessary but far from sufficient first step towards closing the gap between history and memory. 

What is needed now a reassessment of the education the students receive, and the medium and message of commemoration, or non-commemoration, that Filipinos need to see and hear about the truth of Martial Law. What is needed is that commemoration is not limited to specific holidays and museums and monuments, but the internalization into the Filipino psyche of who we are, and what values we hold dear.

In sum, what I would want to see is two-fold. 

First, a second more resounding defeat in the political arena of that family, because only an optimist would believe that the senator will not try again in 2022. A more definitive win at the ballots should, hopefully, convince them, that the Filipino people have had enough of them and their brand of history and government.

Second, even with them eventually driven from politics, their role in Martial Law, and that of their cronies and lackeys, should never be forgotten. This is not a question of forgiveness and removal of hate. This is a question of justice and memory.

As a people, we must be vigilant about what our politicians do, on a day-to-day basis. That is a given, a duty. As a people, we must be vigilant about how our history is being shaped in the present. 

But more importantly, we need to protect how we must remember all that has come before, especially the darkest chapter of our history.

About Guest Posts and Sharing Space

I'm trying something new this time around. Instead of just me posting on my blog, I've decided to open it to those whose voices resonate with mine, those whose posts evoke what I might have wanted to say, or those whose posts provoke thought. So far, I've included three posts, one by a colleague of mine at school, and two from a friend from college. Originally, these were notes posted on Facebook which caught my attention. This got me to think about others whose posts were as thought-provoking, about whether I should include them here.

Opening up the blog to guest posts would be a solution to a perennial problem: the fact that, despite the title of the blog being "Daily Musings," there has only been one month wherein such was the case. Sharing posts by others would fill up the void left by my inability to write as regularly as I would have liked. At the same time, there would be more thoughts, more voices speaking on the blog, perhaps enriching the experience?

However, I myself would have to be careful that the blog won't just become other voices speaking out; I would have to up my game, and continue writing, hopefully, more regularly. Sharing space with others may help me establish a rhythm.

I realize I'm writing this as the blog approaches its 12th anniversary in June. Actually, it's only now that I realize it's close to June, and I'd like to shake things up. Expect more guest posts in the future, and me to follow a more regular schedule of posting (hoping for this).

The blog continues, and evolves.

Guest Post: Recognition, by Romano Jorge

Another guest post by Romano Jorge. This time, it's a shout-out to those who have more because of their circumstances. First appeared as a note on Facebook.

Romano Jorge

The success you enjoy today through hard work and talent, was it capitalised and seeded by ill-gotten wealth, feudal ownership of haciendas, lucrative government contracts with kick-backs, bogus charity organisations, or ghost employees on government payroll?

Could you have become the parent, the artist, the athlete, the humanitarian, the citizen, the fun person, and the great human being you are today by depriving others of the same opportunities through the misuse or diversion of their tax payer's money?

Is your family business protected and furthered by political clout and power?

Did cronyism with the Marcos, Estrada, Arroyo, Ramos, and Aquino regimes and afford your education, your family's business, your financial security and lifestyle, your artistry and passions, or even your advocacies and convictions?

These are not rhetorical questions. I am actually begging you my friends to ask these questions of yourselves.

It's human nature to justify our existence. The most common excuses are moral relativism, exceptionalism, and denial.

"Everybody does it anyway so we do it too." "That's the way it is." "That's the only way to survive in this business and to get ahead." "We do more good than harm." "Look at all the people we give employment to. None of that would be possible if we didn't do something on the side." "It's easy for you to talk that way. You don't have the problems we do." "Only the little people pay taxes." "We deserve this." "My family isn't corrupt. We are just really good at business."

Some of the most ardent and indignant apologists for the abuses of past regimes I know are those whose families have benefitted greatly from cronyism. Some of the most loyal supporters of political dynasties I know are those whose families' fortunes depend on political patronage.

Would I be any different had I been born in similar circumstances? I wouldn't know. All I've known all my life is my own undistinguished middle-class existence. And that's why I can talk this way now.
I know a number of you my friends come from prominent, wealthy, and politically connected families. I recognise that you do good for others with advocacies for the environment, Philippine athletics, the disabled, cultural heritage, gender equality, poverty alleviation, low income housing, and alternative livelihoods. I recognise that some of you produce great poetry, painting, dance, and theatre works. I recognise that you believe you are on the side of right. I recognise that your loving family will always be just that, regardless of what investigative reports, court rulings, people power revolts, or history books say. I recognise that, regardless of political differences, you are a good friend and a good person. And that's why I can talk to you now.

All I ask is that you recognise the sacrifices of everyone who gave you the life you enjoy today. And I mean everyone--not just your parents who gave you all that you have but also the people your parents took from to give you all that you needed and wanted.

This is not an attempt at public shaming. That wouldn't work anyhow. And I am not holding my breath and expecting anyone to renounce their wealth or repudiate their own families.

Your wealth, stature, and education may seemingly set you apart, but the debt you owe the people binds you to them. They won't let you go so easily.

All I ask is that you hold yourself and your kin by the same standards that you regard other people.

Sunday, May 29, 2016

Guest Post: Nothing Personal, by Romano Jorge

Today's guest post, comes from a college friend of mine, Rome Jorge, whose insights into Philippine society I've come to value. In this note, which first appeared in Facebook on May 20,2016, he takes a tongue-in-cheek look at President-elect Rodrigo Duterte's controversial Cabinet choices, and the reactions these have garnered.

Nothing Personal
Romano Jorge

Any system works only because the people that comprise the system each decide to do the right thing. Every person has to make a personal choice to do the right thing regardless of the status quo.

Arguing with evidence and logic may be part of the legal process. But lying and delaying tactics were never meant to be part of the court of law.

Haggling and bargaining may be part of the process of buying goods at the market. But selling defective and harmful goods were never meant to be part of the marketplace.

Debates and campaigning may be part of the election process. But bullying and spreading disinformation were never meant to be part of politics. 

Appointing the most qualified people is part of governance. But rewarding supporters, endorsers, and loyalists with choice cabinet and department positions under the spoils system was never meant to be part of government.

We take it personally against him if a murderer is just doing his job. We take it personally against him if a thief is just doing his job.

The loved ones and colleagues of Ampatuan massacre victims and human rights victims the Marcos Dictatorship take it personally when the lawyer of the Ampatuans becomes the presidential spokesperson and an apologist for the Marcoses becomes the secretary for education.

The loved ones and colleagues of critics of presumptive president Rodrigo Duterte who were mysteriously assassinated take it personally when many of his supporters find such deaths acceptable.

Supporters of Rodrigo Duterte take it personally when the presumptive president is criticised. How can anyone be so defensive about a politician they do not know personally, yet feel no concern or empathy for issues that affect us all--threats to press freedom, human rights, and democracy? These are not abstract concepts. People's lives are at stake.

It was never about being for or against Duterte or any other politician. Being a citizen is about making a stand for or against on each issue. And the issues of the day include the killing of journalists by the Ampatuans, the torture and killing of democracy activists by the Marcoses, and the looming rule of the Duterte regime.

The appointment of a lawyer who defended a political dynasty accused of massacring journalists as the president's chief liason to journalists as well as the appointment of a known Marcos supporter as education secretary can only be a deliberate act, a statement of intent.

Duterte could decide to end the the culture of political patronage and the spoils system by simply appointing the most qualified and mot principled people for each job. There is no position more powerful than president and there is no one above him to pass the blame. His choices are truly his own.

It may be nothing personal if those who oppose warlord rule, arbitrary killings, political dynasties, and fascism also happen to oppose the incoming regime of Rodrigo Duterte. That decision is all up to him.

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Guest Post: A Perspective on the “hypocrite” that is the Philippine Catholic Church - Franz Santos

Last Sunday, presumptive President Rodrigo Duterte lambasted Catholic Church leaders, calling them 'hypocritical,' apparently for having condemned him during the elections. He listed down the numerous faults Church leaders have been guilty of, and cursed them, as he did the Pope.

Predictably, this raised a collective howl from Catholics, who criticized him back, but I'll deal with that later. What I'd like to deal with is his accusation that the Church has many faults, something other critics of the Church have raised. To answer this, I'm sharing the Facebook note of Franz Santos, a colleague of mine at the Ateneo. He's currently the Araling Panlipunan subject area coordinator for the Ateneo Senior High School, and an astute observer of the world. Here's his take on the Catholic Church's 'hypocrisy.'

A Perspective on the “hypocrite” that is the Philippine Catholic Church - Franz Santos

Around 3-4 years ago, I was having a conversation with a Church historian and he was casually saying some interesting things about the Philippine Catholic Church that not a lot of people know about. I was so amazed with the facts so I told him that they (members of the religious) should tell this more to people to balance the hate the Church gets from its critics (admittedly warranted at times). But he just kept silent and did not react so we continued our history-related talk (and chismis).

I think the Church is like that. It concedes and introspects when criticized for the right reasons (sex abuses, materialism of some members of the clergy, improper involvement in politics,etc.), but does not aggressively publicize all the good that it has been doing here since the 16th century. So it is often misunderstood, and critics highlight the negative things:
- thanks to the Propagandists of the 19th century, isolated cases of friar abuses were popularized (and often exaggerated)
- thanks to the Republic Act No. 1425 of 1956, known as the Rizal Law, Rizal's works (especially the Noli and Fili) were required to be discussed in all educational institutions. this is good from a nationalist point of view. Unfortunately for the Church (and for historians), many people conveniently forget the literary nature of the books and actually consider it as source material for 19th century Philippine history.
- thanks to the wrongdoings of some members of the Philippine Catholic Church, especially when it comes to politics (RH debate, Pajero Bishops, defending PGMA, etc.) critics generalize the wrongdoings of a few and attribute the sins to the entire institution
So yeah, the Church makes mistakes, is sinful (like all of us), and it will be the first to admit that reality. But that's not the whole of it. To say that the Church is insensitive, useless and hypocritical, one has to consider not just the mistakes. For that we need history and social studies:
1) From the beginning, it was the Philippine Church who fought for the rights and safety of the natives against the abuses of Conquistadores and Encomenderos (search: The Manila Synod of 1582)
2) The Church was responsible for the material and intellectual development of the Philippines during the Spanish occupation (especially since the government had limited reach and funds!)
- missionaries planned and facilitated the construction of towns, roads, bridges, churches, etc. and developed key industries especially in the agricultural sector
- the religious educated the youth (by 1896, they were educating almost 200,000 Filipinos in 2,500 schools)
- the early friars were responsible not only for learning the languages in the island, but also for discovering their nuances to the advantage of the natives (e.g. “Customs of the Tagalogs” by Fray Juan de Plasencia)
3) The Church took care of the poor, weak and marginalized all throughout the Philippine's history (founded, ran and funded orphanages, hospitals, asylums, taking care of lepers and many others)
4) contrary to popular belief, while the 1896 revolution was anti-Friar, it was not anti-Church and the Philippine Church provided guidance and support for the Filipinos (check Schumacher’s “The Revolutionary Clergy”)
But we really don't need to read all these. We can just look at society today. As I often say, in the absence of a strong central government, the Church is always the 1st to help out.
1) Who joins farmers in their fight for justice so that they will be heard by the government? (e.g. Sumilao and Casiguran)

2) Who do the poor, marginalized and oppressed run to when they are persecuted or turned away? (offering sanctuary to enemies of Martial Law, feeding programs for the poor and other forms of social work). Go to your parish this Sunday and check out all their pastoral work.
3) Who continues to educate the youth? (from parochial schools to universities)

4) Who do the indigenous people run to when they are terrorized by both the AFP and NPA?
I could go on and on. But maybe we also just need to look at our own experiences. For all her sins (and more particularly, that of her clergy), i’m particularly thankful for the members of the Church. They helped me appreciate life and what i have. They helped me become more generous because of their examples and their works. They challenged me to be more loving.
So for me, let us call out the Church when necessary. After all, she welcomes dialogue. She won't tell us to "shut up". But let's also give credit where credit is due, and look at the bigger picture for perspective.
As I often say, if the Church wants to protest, she can just have a picket and stop all Church-related operations for a couple of days. Let's see what will happen to the country. But she is not like that, and she never will be. And that's why, whether we admit it or not, the Church as an institution is and will always be relevant in our country, even after 2,000 years.
(This post is dedicated to all my friends, former teachers and colleagues who are generously and courageously living out the religious vocation. Ad majorem dei gloriam!)

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

The Flight of the Political Butterflies

In Philippine politics, the political butterfly is seen as a politician who ignores party loyalties and simply flits to the ruling party/coalition at the time. To the political butterfly, there is no such thing as party loyalty; what is important to the political butterfly is the opportunity to be able to partake of the power provided by the ruling party.

This is not a new phenomenon; even before Martial Law disrupted our democratic mode of government, politicians shifted from the two existing major parties, the Nacionalista and the Liberal Parties, depending on which was more advantageous to them. By advantageous, this could mean personal, as in the accumulation of personal power, or group, as in the benefits a politician would be able to garner for his or her district or province.

This has not changed in the post-Martial Law era: from the late Cory Aquino's UNIDO coalition with former Vice-President Doy Laurel, to the Lakas-NUCD of former President Ramos, to the LAMMP of former President and convicted plunderer Joseph Estrada, to former President Gloria Arroyo's KAMPI to outgoing President Aquino's Liberal Party, politicians have always flocked to the party or coalition in power. It is realpolitik in action, as most political parties have merely served as vehicles for personalities.

In the current setting, the apparent coalition to which politicians are flocking is presumptive President Rodrigo Duterte's so-called "Coalition for Change." Already, around 80 district representatives of Aquino's Liberal Party have reportedly jumped ship and transferred their loyalty to Duterte's PDP-Laban; whether they will remain LP members coalesced with Duterte, or whether they will join PDP-Laban remains to be seen. Davao del Norte Rep. Pantaleon Alvarez, seen to be the next Speaker of the House, would prefer that these turncoats profess their loyalty to PDP-Laban, while the outgoing Speaker Quezon City Rep. Feliciano Belmonte Jr. would prefer that they remain LP members. I'm betting that Alvarez's desire will hold sway, and these members will soon be PDP-Laban members. These include former LP members such as Representatives  Jerry Treñas, Richard Garin and Arthur Defensor Jr. of Iloilo City; Ben Evardone of Eastern Samar; Lucy Torres-Gomez of Leyte; Rene Relampagos of Bohol; Cesar V. Sarmiento of  Catanduanes; Paolo Javier of  Antique; and Gerard Gullas of Cebu. The party-list bloc in the House, which formerly supported the presidential bid of Sen. Grace Poe, has also apparently transferred their loyalty to President Duterte.

For veteran turncoats such as Ilocos Norte Rep. Rodolfo Farinas and Camarines Sur Rep. Rolando Andaya Jr., key House posts are apparently awaiting them as they have made the transition to being PDP-Laban members. Farinas will most likely be the majority leader in the House, and Andaya will chair the powerful Appropriations Committee, which oversees the national budget.

To Belmonte's credit, he and some other LP members such as Caloocan Rep. Edgar Erice, Quezon City 5th District Rep. Alfred Vargas, and Marikina City Rep. Miro Quimbo have expressed that they will stay with the LP, and form the minority body in the House, for all the good that that will do, since the sheer numbers that the rapidly forming "Coalition for Change" is gathering will likely enable President Duterte to get his pet measures passed with little opposition. Still, if they're vocal enough, the minority may prove to be able to make the majority members stop and think about the measures they're voting for.

The current state of affairs simply highlights the weakness of the political party in our government system, since the party, in general, is a mere vehicle of the personality in charge. Being weak, the party is unable to hold sway over its members, who can drop their membership just like that. Sadly, it is unlikely that the current state of affairs will change anytime soon. For that to happen, political parties must be strengthened, with clear platforms and programs distinct from each other. Before that can happen, however, we need to elect leaders who put the country first before their own selfish interests, and, like the cultural change I've mentioned before in my blog, it'll be ages before we see that happen.

Rubbing Salt in the Wound

Originally, I was going to compose a post on the flight of the political butterflies in the aftermath of this year's election, but it's not coming together as I'd hoped, so I thought I'd focus on another issue of note: that of presumptive President Rodrigo Duterte's plan to allow the burial of the late former President Ferdinand Marcos in the Libingan ng mga Bayani; apparently, Duterte wants to have it done at the soonest possible time. His reason is that of the revisionist camp: that it's time to move on, and that it will "erase one hatred" in the country.

However, if he thinks that it will quell the anger that arose when the dictator's son ran for the vice-presidency, he's dead wrong. At the same time, as I posted on my Facebook wall, it's a slap in the face of those who were affected by the ravages of the Martial Law era. To have the dictator's body interred in a cemetery reserved for our soldiers and heroes without any acknowledgement from Marcos' family about the atrocities that occurred during the Marcos era is not closure; rather, it's rubbing salt on wounds that have yet to heal.

As it is, Duterte rubbed salt in the wounds when he appeared to boil down the issue as a matter of money, when he said, "Nandiyan na 'yung k'wan, kobrahin 'nyo na 'yung pera." This reeks of insensitivity on the incoming President's part. He once said that he could not be soft on criminals, that the human rights of the victims and their orphans are more important? If this is the case, why is he advocating the burial of one of the greatest criminals in the Libingan? Aren't the rights of Martial Law victims more important?

Even Duterte's argument that Marcos being a soldier was grounds enough for his burial in the Libingan is specious at best, since Marcos' war record has long been repudiated. 

One analyst, Earl Parreno of the Institute of Political and Electoral Reforms, has questioned why Duterte is pushing for this now, since it will mean spending precious political capital "when he should be consolidating support." 

Note that he hasn't even been officially proclaimed, and he's already made a number of questionable and even controversial moves: his choice of Cabinet members, his move to pardon former President Gloria Arroyo (even though she hasn't been convicted; I thought Duterte was a lawyer?), and now this. 

Presumptive President Duterte should remember that, while he won the elections, he did not win a majority vote; more people didn't vote for him than those that did. At the rate he's going, he may yet solidify that opposing majority against him, which will make it difficult to rule for the next 6 years. 

At first, I thought I'd give him a chance to prove himself, but he's raised too many question marks from the get-go. Count me as one of those who will be watching his Presidency like a hawk.

Friday, May 20, 2016

Opening Game, Part Two

One of the things to keep in mind about the current situation is that everything is still unofficial. The official canvass for the Presidential and Vice-Presidential positions, which is a function of Congress,  will only begin on Monday, so I hesitate to comment strongly on what's coming out of the presumptive President's camp. As I mentioned on Facebook, I'd like to treat the news of plans and Cabinet appointments as trial balloons, tests for the Duterte camp to determine public reactions to these. Until Duterte formally steps into the office, everything is unofficial.

This being the case, it's interesting to look at the initial prospective choices for Duterte's Cabinet, since these may show the priorities that presumptive President may have.

Here are some of the choices that have surfaced so far:

  • Sen. Alan Peter Cayetano – Secretary of Justice/ Foreign Affairs
  • Perfecto Yasay – Acting Secretary of Foreign Affairs
  • Carlos “Sonny” Dominguez – Department of Finance
  • Chief Superintendent Ronald Dela Rosa,  Mimaropa police officer-in-charge Chief Superintendent Ramon Apolinario and  Chief of staff of the PNP Anti-Kidnapping Group Senior Superintendent Rene Aspera – PNP Chief
  • Art Tugade – Department of Transportation and Communications
  • Communist Party of the Philippines –  Department of Agrarian Reform, Department of Environment and Natural Resources, Department of Labor and Employment or Department Social Welfare and Development.
  • Gilbert "Gibo" Teodoro III - Department of National Defense
  • Peter Laurel - Department of Education
  • Jesus Dureza - Peace Process
  • Silvestre "Bebot" Bello III - Peace Process (communist side)
  • Salvador Panelo - Presidential spokesperson
  • Salvador "Bingbong" Medialdea - Executive Secretary
  • Andrea Domingo - PAGCOR
  • Mark Villar - Department of Public Works and Highways
  • Manny Piñol - Department of Agriculture
Based on netizens' reactions, the ones getting the most condemnations are those of Mark Villar, Peter Laurel, Salvador Panelo, and the Communist Party, while Teodoro's selection as Defense Secretary has been a positive choice.

Villar's selection is controversial since his family is into real estate; it should be recalled that one of the issues that hounded his father, former Sen. Manny Villar , during his 2010 presidential run was the chrage that he had used his influence to reroute the C-5 road, a costly change for the government and an apparent windfall for the Villars. While the charges were never followed up after the elections, its stigma remains, leaving the younger Villar vulnerable to suspicions that he might do the same, given that his presumptive appointment grants him power over the awarding of public works contracts.

Peter Laurel's selection is equally suspect, because of his apparent pro-Marcos leanings. This was clear when Sen. Bongbong Marcos was invited to be the commencement speaker at the Lyceum Batangas campus, of which Laurel is president. In an election where the issue of the Marcoses' involvement in the imposition of Martial Law and the plundering of the country was front and center, appointing Laurel to the Education portfolio send the wrong message, as there is a compelling need to educate the youth about the atrocities and the horrors of that dark period. Laurel's presumptive appointment probably spells an end to such initiatives.

While Salvador Panelo is Duterte's lawyer, he has represented a number of controversial individuals, including the likes of the former President Gloria Arroyo, who is currently facing plunder charges, and the Ampatuans, who just happen to be the principal suspects in the infamous Maguindanao Massacre. The fact that he has defended those accused of murdering journalists will be something hanging over his head every time he addresses the media. At the same time, Panelo comes off as too arrogant and flamboyant to act as the official voice of the President. If appointed, he will probably draw too much flak from the media.
Of all of the announced possible appointments, the one giving the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) either the Agrarian Reform (DAR), Social Work and Development (DSWD), Environment and Natural Resources (DENR), or Labor and Employment (DOLE) portfolios is the most questionable, considering the CPP, along with its military arm, the New People's Army (NPA) remain outlawed. While it appears this is a move to hasten the peace process, giving the CPP a position in the government, especially that of DOLE, is bound to send shock waves through potential investors, and may scare them off.  

So far, a good number of Duterte's choices, or that of his vetting body, include primarily friends and classmates of the incoming President. While it's necessary that the President should have people around him he can trust, he should also make sure that as many voices can be heard in his government; otherwise, it will be more of the same type of Philippine politics, where friends and family reign supreme.

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Opening Game, Part One

With Davao City Mayor Rodrigo Duterte as the presumptive president (technical note: since Congress has not yet convened to do the national canvassing, it is apparently incorrect to refer to Duterte as the president-elect, as the current tallies are unofficial, and he has not yet been declared the winner. End long note.), he and his team have been busy preparing for when he steps into the office as the new President. So far, what's been coming out has been underwhelming, and even disturbing, which raises the question as to whether the change that was supposed to be coming, as per his election slogan, is a change for the better, or not. Let's look at some of the reports that have already surfaced.

Ban on Liquor, Karaoke Playing, and Smoking, and a Curfew

While commendable, these are more of town or city ordinances, which would be more enforceable by local governments. Still, it's a step in the right direction, since it would promote discipline, to an extent.

60km/h Limit on EDSA

Given the regular traffic situation on EDSA, it's rather difficult to assess how effective this is going to be. At the same time, it's still limited to Metro Manila, and, once more, the local government, or the Metro Manila Development Authority (MMDA) would be the one to impose this.

Reinstatement of Death Penalty/ 'Shoot to Kill' Orders

This is where the waters start getting murky. Duterte has long established his reputation on a bloodthirsty vein, earning him the moniker,  "The Punisher," so this comes as no surprise. However, re-implementing the death penalty will be tricky, since: one, the death penalty has never been proven to be a deterrent to crime, and two, our country may invite condemnation from other countries for taking what is perceived to be a step backward. Even we ourselves are divided on the issue, so returning the death penalty may not be the solution to reducing crime.

The 'shoot to kill' order on criminals who 'violently resist' is equally murky, since one would have to define what that term means, and, given our police forces, it's possible that, in some cases, the order will be given broad latitude, which may mean a large body count. Since Duterte has stated that he's willing to defend these actions, it's also possible that our police forces will be on a 'shoot first, ask questions later' mentality. 

Repealing K-12

Militant leftist youth groups, such as the Kabataan  party-list, have long clamored for the repeal of this education reform program, claiming that it will simply be a burden on students and their families. With Duterte coming into power, the youth groups probably think that they will get their wish, since Duterte is a long-time professed leftist. However, this will also not be easy, since the entire educational system is being geared towards K-12; simply trashing it will be a waste of time and resources.

At the same time, repealing K-12 is a step backwards to an educational system that does not address our being competitive with the rest of the world. Admittedly, implementing K-12 has been messy, but change is always messy. By staying the course, K-12 aims to improve our educational system, and make our students more able to deal with an ever-changing global working environment. While Duterte's team has apparently promised to take a month to study K-12, I'm hoping that they just let things be, and allow K-12 to develop naturally.

In the next post, I'll take a look at Duterte's initial choices for his Cabinet.

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

The Second Day

It's the second day after the elections, and it appears almost every race has been settled. The only race keeping Filipinos on the edge of their seats is the vice-presidential race, where Liberal Party candidate Rep. Leni Robredo and Nacionalista Party Sen. Ferdinand Marcos Jr. are running neck and neck, with Robredo holding a slim lead of around 200-300 thousand votes over Marcos.

In the presidential race, Davao City Mayor Rodrigo Duterte holds a commanding lead over his rivals, who have all conceded the race to Duterte, even before the official canvassing has begun. It's a sign of our growing maturity, considering that the running joke about our politicians is that none of them lose, as they've all been cheated.

Marcos, for one, appears to be of this school, as he claimed such in an interview on GMA7 last night. He accused the ruling Liberal Party of orchestrating Robredo's rise, and said the LP planned to impeach Duterte, and install Robredo in his place. Marcos seems to have forgotten how arduous the impeachment process is, that it's not as easy as it seems. As it is, a number of our politicians have begun flocking to Duterte's banner, in the almost traditional migration of the political butterflies flying to the ones in power, so it's doubtful an impeachment complaint will prosper.

Marcos' run, though, is enough to force us to reflect on whether we've done our part in educating the young about our past, because, based on the results, we've utterly failed to do so. The failure has allowed Marcos and his supporters to claim that the Martial Law era was a golden era, which blinded voters ignorant of the truth. It's a sobering reminder for those of us who remember those times. We have to do better; we have to open our countrymen's eyes to the past.

By and large, last Monday's elections were peaceful and orderly, although there were pockets of violence in some provinces. While some of the counting machines broke down and had to be replaced, voting was generally quick, and, as we've seen from the results, getting them was also quick; in the past, we would have had to wait for weeks before any trend would be known. Now, the day after the elections, we already have an idea who our next set of leaders will be.

At the same time, this has been the most hotly contested elections, fueled mostly by emotions running high on social media. Duterte's camp, for one, was notorious for manipulating social media feeds. As one of my co-teachers noted, it was "a campaign that was deliberately and masterfully built on lies, black propaganda and aggressive use of social media to sow doubt and spread misinformation...From thousands of fake troll accounts, “online warriors” by Quiboloy to blatant lies theatrically presented as truth by the Mayor’s team, it was an avalanche of misinformation that overwhelmed us all." This is why a number of those opposed to the Mayor's campaign still cannot accept his impending victory. Me? I've resigned myself to the fact that the anger against the current administration is partly to blame for Duterte's meteoric rise; I'm moving on.

That doesn't mean, though, that I won't remain vigilant on any abuse of power. One of my students made an analogy to rolling dice, that people are hoping to roll a 6 on Duterte, which means that he'll be the leader they believe him to be; for my student, the only other possible result with Duterte is a 1, which means big trouble for us. I remain vigilant on the possibility that the die roll is a 1. However, like those who voted for Duterte, I'm praying fervently for a 6.

The elections are over, and life returns to normal. However, we cannot just rely on our leaders to effect real change in our country; they are few and we are many. In the end, it is up to us to make the lasting changes to lift up our countrymen from poverty. It is up to us to make the lasting changes that will make an impact. Change begins with us.

Friday, May 06, 2016

Musings for May 9

It's the weekend before Election Day on May 9, and social media has fueled Filipinos' emotions to a point where rational thought and clear discernment has become difficult, if not impossible. It should be noted that, compared to 2010, our last presidential elections, social media has been wielded as an effective tool for the dissemination of information and propaganda. In my Facebook feed, in particular, majority of posts are political in nature, either calling for support of a particular candidate or vilifying a particular candidate. It's gotten to the point that I have to think critically about what is posted on my wall, and carefully decide whether a post is worth sharing or not.

A number of posts were clearly emotional in nature, wherein the writer simply needed to express his or her anger, whether it be against the current administration, or against a particular candidate. While it was probably cathartic for the one posting, it wasn't particularly helpful in terms of making a sound decision on a candidate, although the posting is informative, since it's indicative of emotions running high in this coming elections.

At the same time, there have been many thought-provoking posts that were worth sharing, as Filipinos attempted to verbalize how they felt about their chosen candidates. The nature and quality of the posts demonstrated that a number of us are actively discerning, and letting others know the thought processes that led their respective decisions. The fact that others are sharing these posts helps demonstrate our nascent maturity in our decision-making.

As the campaign period winds down, it appears that, despite all of the negatives, Davao City Mayor Rodrigo Duterte is going into the weekend as the favorite to win, with a commanding double-figure lead in the surveys; it almost parallels the impending victory of U.S. businessman Donald Trump as the presumptive Republican presidential candidate. Despite this, Duterte's camp cannot rest on its laurels, as it still has to persuade the electorate, particularly Duterte's followers to go out and vote for him on Monday.

It's also still possible that those who have supported Duterte up to this point may have second thoughts, and decide otherwise on May 9, which may give the victory to LP candidate Mar Roxas or Sen. Grace Poe. In the end, whoever is able to get out the vote for their candidate will secure the win in Monday's elections.

At the same time, it's important that the candidates' camps do not resort to cheating in order to win. That does not help us, as a democracy. It is imperative that the people's will not be hijacked by unscrupulous forces.

Hopefully, though, once the elections are over, all of us can move on, and accept the results, whatever they may be, and both support and scrutinize the winning candidate, in order to ensure our nation's growth. We cannot allow the divisiveness of this elections continue beyond the elections, for that will be the path to our failure as a nation. Come Monday, the majority will have spoken, and we need to join with the winner to continue to build the nation, assuming, of course, that nation-building is what the winner has in mind.