Thursday, December 31, 2009
1. The revival of community spirit
In the face of the numerous natural disasters that struck us, particularly typhoons Ondoy and Pepeng, it was heartening and inspiring to see people come out in force to organize relief efforts. People readily gave what they had, whether it be goods and clothing, or sheer physical effort, to help those who were affected by the two typhoons. It was nice to see that we Filipinos have not lost our bayanihan spirit in the face of all the corruption and evil that our country has experienced.
2. Efren Penaflorida
The kariton educator emerged as CNN's Hero of the Year, lifting our spirits and proving that, with a little effort and dedication, it's possible to make a difference.
3. Charice Pempengco
The little girl with the big and powerful voice was chosen by ABS-CBN voters as the Newsmaker of the Year, showing that Filipinos prefer the positive news over the negative, as well as giving kudos to Filipino talent.
Well, it's been a raucous year. Here's hoping that 2010 has something better in store for us. A happy New Year to all!
Wednesday, December 30, 2009
While I surged ahead in the early going, I eventually came in second to a colleague to devoured nine books in the span of a single weekend. I don't mind having lost; what's important is that my love for reading was reawakened, and I plunge into new books on a regular basis.
After I completed my challenge I continued to read, and below is a small sampling of the books I'd read since then. I don't have time to comment on them anymore, so I'll just put stars to indicate how much I enjoyed them. A five-star rating indicates a very good book. Do look them up.
Books Read After the Book Watch Challenge
1. Nation by Terry Prachett - * * * * *
2. Fool Moon by Jim Butcher - * * *
3. Trese vol. 1 – 3 by Budjette Tan and KaJo Baldisimo - * * * * *
4. Reinventing Comics by Scott McCloud - * * * * *
5. Making Comics by Scott McCloud - * * * * *
6. The Edge Chronicles by Paul Stewart and Chris Riddell - * * * *
7. Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman - * * * * *
8. Comeback Guy by C.H. Frick - * * * *
9. Stardust by Neil Gaiman - * * * * *
10. The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy - * * * *
11. The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman - * * * * *
12. Hunger Games and Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins - * * * * *
Currently, I'm reading Nightwatch by Sergei Lukyanenko, and translated by Andrew Bromfield. It's a good story so far, and I'll probably write a review of the series when I'm done.
Happy reading, all.
1. Transport accidents – sinkings of Catalyn B and Baleno 9, Jell Transport tragedy at Camp Crame
This is a perennial problem that doesn’t seem to have any resolution. It’s like we voice our outrage whenever they happen, and then forget them after a week or two. I remember my dad remarking that the reason why the Ampatuan massacre won’t be forgotten is due to the number of media people among the dead. Unfortunately, the media don’t ride enough boats that sink, or deal with buses on a regular basis that it’s likely that such tragedies will continue to capture the news for a week or two.
2. Presidential excess – the $20,000 dinners
The fact that the President had these dinners while the nation was in mourning for former President Cory Aquino makes the excess all the viler. Of course, palace officials and media dogs brush the critics aside, and claim that having dinners worth a million pesos is common for world leaders, forgetting that US President Barack Obama doesn’t mind a Sabrett hotdog or a cheeseburger every now and then.
3. Mikey Arroyo’s faulty statement of assets and liabilities
This issue, which was blown up because of Mikey’s idiotic remarks on a TV news show, was quickly forgotten and buried. Even Mikey’s threats of legal action came to naught. Why did the media let go of this one? Your guess is as good as mine.
4. Chavit Singson’s beating up of his live-in partner
The battered and bruised image of the National Security Adviser’s live-in partner brought to light the culture of impunity of the Arroyo administration. Singson even said on radio that his partner and her lover were lucky they weren’t killed. The whole issue went away when the partner withdrew her case against Singson, raising suspicion that she was probably paid off to lay off.
5. The Book Blockade of 2009
It all started with a blog post detailing how the Bureau of Customs had put a tax on books, a non-taxable item due to international treaty. The Customs officials came out with a very narrow interpretation of the treaty, which brought more ridicule upon them. Ostensibly, the so-called book blockade has been lifted, although Customs officials have apparently found ways and means to get around this little hitch in their schemes.
6. The Hayden Kho sex videos
Actually, the case against doctor-dancer-sex video maker Kho is still ongoing, with regular updates in the news. This in part is thanks to the persistence of Katrina Halili, who is actively pursuing the case. As of now, Kho’s license to practice medicine has been suspended or revoked, although he appears to be moving into other fields.
7. Open Parties
The issue of open parties came to light early this year, when a boy was beaten up, supposedly for being lewd to a girl. However, the mother of the boy exposed the shady details behind open parties, about the frats that haunt them and the amount of alcohol that is consumed. The organizers of the open parties, high school students themselves, responded angrily to the mother’s allegations, but it was clear that their response exposed their immaturity in dealing with problems. Since then, I’ve not heard about any open parties being organized, but it’s also possible that all the publicity has pushed organizers to be more furtive and secretive about when these parties are held. Parents, however, have hopefully emerged wiser from this issue, and keep track of what their children are doing.
This was originally intended to be one post, but I thought I'd divide it because it had gotten too long.
As the year 2009 comes to an end, and the promises of 2010 beckon, it’s nice to take stock and take a look back at the year that was.
News events of the year
1. Ampatuan massacre
The massacre in Maguindanao will go down in Philippine history as the most heinous act of political killing ever committed. Not even the traditional shields of womanhood and media protected the victims, as they were gunned down in cold blood. Complicating the matter is the fact that the primary suspects, the Ampatuans, were close allies of the President, casting doubt on whether justice will actually be served in this case. Since mediamen were part of the massacre, it’s likely that the media will follow this case to its very resolution.
The A(H1N1) influenza virus caused deaths worldwide, causing the shutdown of schools and businesses, as well as the manner by which we interacted. While the flu has appeared to be less virulent than initially expected, health officials all over the world remain vigilant against another, possibly more dangerous, outbreak.
3. Ondoy and Pepeng
The massive flooding these two storms caused still continues to affect many, whether in living arrangements or livelihood. In Metro Manila, the megacity was paralyzed as flood control mechanisms failed against the onslaught of Ondoy, while the fields of the North were lashed by Pepeng. The two storms raised questions about climate change, and whether they were the harbingers of worse to come.
4. Passings – Cory Aquino, Michael Jackson
Of the number of people we said goodbye to in 2009, including Patrick Swayze, Ricardo Montalban, Farrah Fawcett, John Updike, Bea Arthur, and John Hughes, the passings of Cory, the so-called saint of democracy, and Jackson, the King of Pop, probably touched the lives of people the most.
5. Manny Pacquiao
Two fights. Two victories. Running for congressman. Krista Ranillo. It seems that, for better or for worse, world boxing champion Manny Pacquiao has managed to keep himself in the limelight. His stunning victories over Ricky Hatton, whom he demolished in two rounds, and Henry Cotto, whose much vaunted power was useless, established Pacquiao as one of the greatest fighters of all time. If he and his promoter Bob Arum can pin down unbeaten Floyd Mayweather Jr., the Pacman can add another feather to his cap.
Monday, December 28, 2009
Last Christmas Eve, the Catalyn B, a wooden passenger boat, collided with a fishing boat, and sank just off the coast of Cavite. Around 3 people were confirmed dead, with around 23 still missing.
A day after Christmas, the MV Baleno 9 sank off the coast of Mindoro, with 73 survivors, 45 missing and 6 dead.
It's difficult to understand why these had to happen, considering that there is no lack of cases involving marine vessels.
It was only last year that Sulpicio Lines’ Princess of the Stars sank off the coast of Romblon, killing hundreds. Up to now, the shipping company continues to operate, despite having been at the center of two of the worst peacetime maritime accidents. Up to now, the cases filed against the company seem to move at a snail’s pace, if at all.
Not only the seas are unsafe for travelers, but our roads as well.
This year, a mother and daughter were run over by a Jell Transport bus in front of Camp Crame, the headquarters of our national police. The daughter was killed, while the mother, an encoder in the camp, lost her right arm, ending her job at Crame. Despite an initial outpouring of rage, Jell Transport continues to ply its routes, unmindful of the tragedy it caused.
The lack of progress in these cases emboldens transport groups to continue to ignore safety and traffic rules, which led to a repeat of the tragedies that unfolded over the Christmas season. Buses continue to drive as if they are race car drivers, and it’s only a matter of time before another high profile tragedy will occur, to be forgotten once more when another issue crops up.
One can only wonder how Transportation Secretary Leandro Mendoza manages to stay in the good graces of the President after so many tragic accidents which, up to now, remain unresolved, and the companies involved in the accidents remain unpunished. But, then again, it’s not like this is anything new in our country. As it is, instead of castigating the possible laxity of maritime officials, the palace spokesperson chose to blame the Senate for not passing the needed laws on maritime safety.
It appears that our marine officials have become jaded to such tragedies, as it seems that these could have been avoided had the officials done their jobs properly. Instead, the sinking of the two ships provides an exclamation point to a year filled with tragic events.
Thursday, December 24, 2009
It’s Christmas Eve, and, once more, people gather to celebrate the birthday of Jesus Christ, while non-Christians simply gather to celebrate another holiday.
In the Philippines, part of the preparation for the momentous occasion is to participate in the nine-day novena masses known collectively as Simbang Gabi or Misa de Gallo. Depending on whether one attends the anticipated masses the evening before, or gets up early in the morning to attend the 4 or 5 o’clock masses, the whole set of masses represents a sacrifice in preparation for the birth of Jesus.
Of course, there’s the Filipino belief that if one completes the nine-day set, his or her wish will come true, but priests remind us that we’re not asking for something; rather, we are thanking God for sending us His only son.
In my case, I normally try to complete the Simbang Gabi, although for the past few years, I’ve been unsuccessful, having only gotten to seven or eight, even if our chapel is only a short walking distance away. The fatigue of waking up early, coupled with the rush to complete one’s Christmas shopping, normally catches up with me on the 22nd or 23rd, and I wake up an hour or two too late to make it to our chapel’s Masses.
This year, I thought I’d be able to make it, having attended the first seven masses, but fatigue won through again, and yesterday, I woke up to see light streaming through the window. I was too late. C’est la vie. I’ll try again next year. Still, it’s not a failure, as I managed to make it to eight days of dawn masses. :D
A merry Christmas to all, and to all, a good night. I hope that your year was a God-blessed and fruitful one. And may the coming year be even more blessed.
Monday, December 21, 2009
The Christmas season caught up with me much too early, leaving me little time to do any writing. Having a bit of a quiet moment now, I can get back up to speed on what’s going on, if only for some quick bites.
Update on the Maguindanao Massacre
With the imposition and subsequent lifting of martial law in Maguindanao, all eyes are now on the trial of the primary suspect, Datu Unsay mayor Andal Ampatuan, Jr. Already, there have been some fireworks, as the judge who initially got the case, Judge Luisito Cortez, hastily backed out of the trial, citing fears for his life and his family. Considering that the trial was already moved to Quezon City from Cotabato City, Cortez’s action might be considered cowardly, although there appear to be extenuating circumstances, as he is already trying the political murder of an Abra politician. It didn’t help Cortez that the next judge who got the case was Judge Jocelyn Solis-Reyes, a woman who disdained the need for a bodyguard.
It also remains to be seen whether the massacre murder charges will eventually be incorporated into the rebellion charge against the Ampatuans. While it cannot be denied that the imposition of martial law produced results, it’s still debatable whether the evidence obtained during this period is admissible in court. If the Supreme Court rules that the imposition of martial law was unconstitutional, then the rebellion charges won’t stick. If the murder charges are included in the rebellion charge, then they too will be dropped, getting the Ampatuans off the hook.
Questionable Comelec Actions
With the elections only a mere months away, one would think that the Commission on Elections (Comelec) would be doing its utmost best in ensuring that its credibility would be beyond question, a necessary requirement for the elections to be clean and honest. Instead, the Comelec has gotten itself embroiled in a number of questionable decisions.
First, it denied the party-list application of the group Ang Ladlad, which claims to represent the homosexuals and transgender individual. What makes the Comelec’s decision questionable is that it didn’t base its decision on legal jurisprudence, but on moral grounds. In rejecting Ang Ladlad’s application, the commissioners claimed that the group represented immorality, and cited the Bible and the Koran, as well as an American Bible teacher. Nowhere did the commissioners cite any legal reason to disqualify Ang Ladlad; if immorality was a valid argument against running, then more than half of the candidates should have been rejected outright.
Comelec head Jose Melo compounded the problem by casting the tiebreaking vote against Ang Ladlad in rejecting the party’s motion for reconsideration, and saying something to the effect that the party had nothing substantial to contribute to the nation. And with that, Melo has cast aside the rights of a sector that requires representation in Congress to help minimize the discrimination against them.
Second, the Comelec appears to be going after officials who have been thorns in the side of the government, by overturning the elections of the Bulacan and Isabela governors, who are both members of the Liberal Party (LP). Even the President’s election lawyer Romulo Macalintal lamented the decision to oust Isabela governor Grace Padaca; he even threatened to turn in his license if the Comelec doesn’t change its decision. Reportedly, even the cases against Pampanga governor Ed Panlilio and Naga mayor Jesse Robredo may also result in the overturning of election results; both Panlilio and Robredo are LP members. So, what gives? Is the Comelec being used to eliminate administration opponents?
Finally, the Comelec pared down the list of candidates, and there were a number of questionable exclusions. Independent presidential candidate Nicanor Perlas, who has been active in a number of presidential debates, was excluded from the eight candidates chosen by the Comelec. Senatorial candidates Gen. Danilo Lim, Lito Osmena, and Danton Remoto were also dropped from the official list of senatorial candidates.
It’s hard to fathom why these candidates were among those dropped by the Comelec. Perlas has been very active, and, while I don’t think he has a chance of winning, he probably has enough support to make a difference. Gen. Lim was disqualified, but his co-mutineer Col. Querubin was allowed to run. Both are in detention, so what differentiates them that one can run and the other cannot? Remoto, I suspect, was dropped for the same reasons Ang Ladlad’s application was rejected, further proof of the discrimination gays receive from society.
With these three questionable actions, it’s hard to believe that the Comelec is capable of running a credible, clean and honest election in May 2010.
Saturday, December 05, 2009
With the recent declaration of martial law in Maguindanao, President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo has sent jitters throughout the country, especially among her opponents.
The declaration comes in the wake of the infamous massacre of civilians, particularly women and journalists, allegedly led by the son of the Maguindanao governor and Datu Unsay mayor Andal Ampatuan, Jr.
I ‘m not sure what prompted this turn of events, as I haven’t read Proclamation 1959, which establishes the rule of martial law in the province, although I caught snippets of it in the news. Apparently, armed bands loyal to Ampatuan have taken positions against the government forces. This, along with the discovery of a buried cache of weapons, enough to supply a battalion, near one of the Ampatuan residences, have caused the President to declare a state of martial law in Maguindanao.
The declaration now allows police and army forces to arrest, without warrant, suspects allegedly involved in the massacre, primarily members of the ruling Ampatuan clan, as well as search the premises of the Ampatuan residences.
Already, critics of the government and the President have labeled the declaration as illegal and unconstitutional, arguing that the declaration of martial law is only allowed in cases of rebellion or invasion, and, despite the discovery of the weapons cache, no such case currently exists. Others suggest that the President is using the declaration as a test, presumably to see whether she can impose martial law on the whole country, as well. Still others decry the proclamation as a short-cut to proper police and legal investigation of the massacre, which may short-circuit whatever case may be filed against those responsible for the massacre.
Another point that was raised, by University of the Philippines Dean Marvic Leonen, of the College of Law, was that the declaration could be used to influence the outcome of next year’s elections, or be exploited to cause a failure of elections.
Predictably, allies of the President in the House of Representatives, particularly Speaker Prospero Nograles, are lauding what they describe as a “necessary” act, and claim that, contrary to the Constitution, Congress need not convene if majority agree with the President’s actions, anyway. Then again, the House has proven, time and time again, to be subservient to what the President desires, so its capitulation of its check-and –balance function is not surprising.
Personally, I think that the declaration is a dangerous overreaction to the Maguindanao massacre, as it appeared that investigators had compiled enough evidence to charge the Ampatuans for the heinous crime before the declaration was made. Considering that the Ampatuans were (or are, if presidential spokesperson Lorelei Fajardo is to be believed) political allies of the President, it appears that the President is overcompensating in her response to the massacre in an attempt to distance herself from the Ampatuans.
It also brings back memories long kept away, of the time when the late President Marcos declared martial law in 1972, and of the transgressions the Marcoses and their cronies inflicted on the country for almost two decades.
At this point, the only thing that can be done is to monitor the situation, and hope that it doesn’t escalate or worsen.
Wednesday, December 02, 2009
Watching the presidential candidates on ANC’s “Harapan” debate was an exercise in futility, as far as intelligent debate was concerned, as the questions asked, as well as some of the answers, bordered on the inane.
In attendance were Senator Noynoy Aquino (Liberal Party), former President Joseph Estrada (Pwersa ng Masang Pilipino), Senator Richard Gordon (Bagumbayan-Volunteers for a New Philippines), Brother Eddie Villanueva (Bangon Pilipinas), Nicanor Perlas (Independent), Olongapo City councilor JC de los Reyes (Ang Kapatiran), and former Defense Secretary Gilbert Teodoro (Lakas-Kampi-CMD). Nacionalista Party candidate, Senator Manny Villar, was supposed to attend but begged off, citing an important business meeting.
The first question for the night, which all of the candidates answered, probably set the tone for the session: “How do you feel about President Gloria Arroyo as House Speaker?” First of all, it’s a very hypothetical question, for, while the President has filed her certificate of candidacy for the representative of Pampanga’s 2nd district, and she’s probably a lock to win, her becoming House Speaker is by no means a certainty. In addition, it has nothing to do with the Presidency and governance, which was what I preferred to hear from the candidates. It was simply a partisan jab at the President, considering that ABS-CBN, ANC’s parent network, is very biased against the Arroyos.
I think I tuned out during this set, although I wish I had listened to what Teodoro had to say, considering that he’s the administration candidate, and it would have been informative .
The second question was more focused, and dwelt on the recent Maguindanao massacre, particularly on what first three orders the candidates would have given had they been President.
During this round, I think, speech-wise, the best answers were given by Gordon and Teodoro, who both gave well-thought out and pointed answers. Aquino also gave an intelligent response, although he had a tendency to speak rather quickly. Perlas also gave a fair answer, although it was rebutted by Teodoro pretty well. Villanueva tended to speak of himself in the third person, which I found rather disturbing. De los Reyes didn’t really answer the question, and, instead, focused on repeating parts of his opening statement, as if he didn’t trust himself to directly answer the question. Estrada tended to dwell on the past and rambled; if I didn’t know better, I’d say that he was probably drunk.
After the first two questions, Ted Failon, the moderator, opened the session to the audience, wherein an audience member was allowed to ask one candidate a question.
The first question was posed to Aquino by the UST Student Council president, and it was whether Aquino had ever lied or cheated during his time in public office. While I would heartily approve of such confession, I’ve not seen any of our elected officials admit to such, and Aquino’s answer, while fairly eloquent, was a predictable “no”.
The second question was posed to Perlas by an FEU student, about what the role of the First Lady and the president’s family in governance. Once more, another soft ball pitch, and Perlas fielded it pretty well, saying that the family should help the President govern well.
The third question was posed to Estrada by a UP economics student, about what vice or luxury that Estrada cannot do without. It was obvious Estrada didn’t understand the question, mistaking “vice” for “life”, prompting the student to rephrase his question in Filipino. Estrada answered that his only vice was caring for the Filipino masses. It was at this point that I turned off the TV, as it was clear that the debate was going nowhere, and I’d be better off doing something more productive.
If this is how electoral debates are going to be conducted, how can we educate our voting public about the candidates?
Tuesday, December 01, 2009
As of now, the murder charges are piling up on prime suspect Datu Unsay mayor Andal Ampatuan, Jr., with 25 of the 57 (or 64, depending on sources) deaths being placed at the mayor's feet. It looks like other members of the Ampatuan clan are also going to be charged, considering that it's unlikely that the son of the Maguindanao governor is the only one who planned this grisly affair.
Predictably, the Ampatuans are crying foul, saying that they are being tried via publicity. However, it should be noted that, aside from the younger Ampatuan's ridiculous claim of blaming the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) commander Umbra Kato for the massacre, the Ampatuans have been largely silent about who was responsible for this crime on their turf.
I just read that the Ampatuans are asking that the trial be held in Cotabato City, citing the expenses that they will incur should the trial be held in Manila. That's funny, considering that they have the resources to fund a fully armed private army. Cotabato City is only convenient for the Ampatuans, as they will likely use whatever pull they have to influence the trial should it be held in Cotabato City, which is just a stone's throw away from Maguindanao. No, an impartial trial will be better held far away from the scene of the massacre, and nothing the Ampatuans say or do should change that situation.
- President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo files her bid to be the Congresswoman for the 2nd district of Pampanga.
- Senator Richard Gordon and former Metro Manila Development Authority (MMDA) Chair Bayani Fernando team up to run as president and vice-president, respectively.
- Senator Jamby Madrigal, Brother Eddie Villanueva, and Nicanor Perlas file their respective bids for the presidency.
By tomorrow, the dust will have settled, and we'll have a better look at the contenders and the pretenders, not only for the presidency, but for the other elective positions up for grabs next year. It's going to be a busy season.