Thursday, January 11, 2018

"Tectonic shift'

Philippine Daily Inquirer/OPINION/by Ma. Ceres P. Doyo

The 65th Golden Globe Awards three days ago was like no other because of the color, tone and theme that its black-clad participants pushed, which was “Time’s Up.” Time’s up for those who sexually harass women, time to speak out openly and condemn and expose. Black said it loud.

Oprah Winfrey, media giant (producer, talk show host, actress), received the Cecil B. DeMille Lifetime Award — the first black woman to be given such an honor. She spoke, and the people in the audience rose to applaud. What she said has gone viral on social media but, as always, not everybody is happy for what was said or not said.

Winfrey is criticized for having compared — but did she? — the “black women’s Jim Crow era rape to that of rich white women’s #MeToo” in Hollywood and business. That is, there is no way to compare the two and that she shouldn’t have done so. Writer Charlie Peach pointed out the gaps in Winfrey’s speech and gave more that the world should know about the plight of black women. Well, thanks for all that.

But I read the transcript of Winfrey’s speech and I could not see how or where she was comparing the two eras and the women who were victimized and their victimizers. She was simply presenting cases in a bygone era to emphasize her point. That Winfrey is a black woman billionaire (having risen from an impoverished background) does not mean she has lost the feel for her roots. That she is now touted as a presidential contender is another story.

For this Asian in Southeast Asia, I thought Winfrey’s speech immensely helped in further stoking the fire. Whatever she did not say in those few minutes on stage, whatever blanks there were could be filled up by others in, say, books and books and books and other media.

In Asia, South Asia especially, women do not only get raped, they also get doused with kerosene and set on fire by their husbands and even by their female in-laws. If they survive, they are scarred and disfigured for life, both physically and emotionally.

Yes, there is also no way to compare even loosely the “rich white women’s #MeToo” in corporate and Hollywood’s America with Asian women’s experience of sexual violence. But I thought Winfrey’s message, constrained as it was by time and place, is true and acceptable in different contexts—and it helps if one knew where she is coming from.

Earlier, Time magazine honored the “Silence Breakers” as the publication’s 2017 Persons of the Year, women who exposed sexual assault and harassment. So every act that goes in the direction of women’s freedom from violence and discrimination is a step in the right direction, an affirmation.

I liked what Winfrey said about the media which is her turf: “I want to thank the Hollywood Foreign Press Association because we all know the press is under siege these days. We also know it’s the insatiable dedication to uncovering the absolute truth that keeps us from turning a blind eye to corruption and to injustice. To … to tyrants and victims, and secrets and lies. I want to say that I value the press more than ever before as we try to navigate these complicated times, which brings me to this: What I know for sure is that speaking your truth is the most powerful tool we all have. And I’m especially proud and inspired by all the women who have felt strong enough and empowered enough to speak up and share their personal stories. Each of us in this room is celebrated because of the stories that we tell, and this year we became the story.”

This year’s “stories” being the women’s stories about sexual harassment and abuse. So, yes to storytelling! We journalists are more than just reporters and feature writers. We are storytellers.

The Globes’ best actress for drama, Frances McDormand (of “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri” which won as Best Picture), found the right words: “It’s great to be here and be part of the tectonic shift in our industry’s power structure.”

Hyperbolic though it may sound, the tectonic shift is real. Feel the earth move.#

Thursday, January 4, 2018

SOS for police's mistaken targets

Philippine Daily Inquirer/OPINION/by Ma. Ceres P. Doyo

Police cordon off the crime scene around the corner of Shaw Boulevard and Old Wack Wack Road (Photo by JUSTIN PUNSALANG / Radyo Inquirer)
I was a Girl Scout so I know that in Morse code, SOS is …—… . It is a distress signal. The three letters do not stand for anything (not for “save our ship” or “save our souls”) except to call for help. (More later.)

What do you do if you find yourself in the crosshairs of armed law enforcers and you do not know why, you have not broken the law, and are not in the company of felons? You are not a bystander in the crossfire, you are mistaken prey.

This is what happened in Mandaluyong City a few days after Christmas Day, news reports of which have clearly shown that the “kill, kill, kill” mindset of cops and barangay tanod (village watchmen) are not figments of one’s cinematic imagination. Picture a car full of people rushing a woman with a gunshot wound to a hospital mistaken as a vehicle with armed criminals on board, chased and repeatedly shot at. Even without return fire from the car being pursued, the firing continued.

When the smoke cleared, two passengers were dead and several badly wounded. At least 36 empty shells and slugs were recovered from the scene, a number of them fired by the tanod who shouldn’t be armed.

While there are rules of engagement for cops in hot pursuit or involved in shootouts and the like, what are innocents who suddenly find themselves prey supposed to do to save their lives? Earthquake drills and bad weather warnings we have plenty of to prepare ourselves for the worst. (None for nuclear fallout so far.)

We even have warnings for “carmaggedon” (traffic gridlock) and how-tos in case of fire, flood, dengue fever, etc. For drivers, we have defensive driving. But as the police’s mistaken target, none, nada, zilch, wala.

Criminals on the run and who fight back are on their own, but if unarmed or surrendering, they are not supposed to be killed. Though that is not how it has been in the past one-and-a-half years in the Duterte Wild West. Consider the alleged 12,000-plus drug-related kills, both by cops and by unknown assailants. But that is another story.

The Mandaluyong case is another territory. It did not seem to be a drug-related one; the victims were not pursued because they were on the drug list or even maliciously listed. The police and the tanod—more than 10 of them—simply acted on somebody’s say-so. And so what happened happened.

“Ayan na nga ba, eh,” could be our collective refrain, which translates roughly to: “But of course, it was waiting to happen. Ilonggos would say “Tê?” and Bicolanos “Nem …” with the proper inflection or tone of voice to convey a variety of meanings.

No ill intent, Philippine National Police Director General Ronald dela Rosa said of his men’s foul-up in Mandaluyong. Metro Manila police chief Oscar “Accordingly” Albayalde was sufficiently incensed and promptly investigated the cops involved.

So how do we innocents protect ourselves when we find ourselves becoming prey and in the police crosshairs? Shouldn’t we — or the police — provide some dos and don’ts for us innocents who might find ourselves the object of police pursuit? Even suspects on the run are given fair warning—to go down on their knees, with their hands up or on their heads. (I’ve been watching too many real-life “COPS” shows on cable TV.) Not quite so in “Oplan Tokhang.”

As I said, I was a Girl Scout so I know that SOS in Morse code is …—… and the signal can be sent as sound or light. Because I drive, I thought a distress signal can be sent repeatedly using the car horn—three short sounds, three long, three short—or using the headlights. Do not use a flashlight because the light could be mistaken as gunfire.

Have a white hankie or tissue to wave as a no-fight, give-up sign. Do not dash out of the car or you might perish in a hail of bullets.

I ask the police authorities: What else can you suggest that we can all agree upon and that bumbling, trigger-happy cops can understand? These …—…, …—…, …—…? And more. #

Thursday, December 28, 2017

Christmas and Facebook depression

Philippine Daily Inquirer/OPINION/by Ma. Ceres P. Doyo

First, some stray thoughts from me this Christmas season: Do not be despondent, annoyed or envious when people repeatedly and continuously make Facebook posts about their awesome blessings and great fortune that most people in this world can only pine for. Christmas should not be such a cruel season. Search for gems hidden in your own life and be grateful. Look to The Manger.

I say that because there have been a good number of studies linking Facebook to depression. In fact, psychologists have coined a name for a condition or experience that afflicts not a few Facebook users: Facebook depression. Which makes me think that if, once upon a time, Freud had named a kind of envy that women supposedly felt for not having the appendage that men have (something post-Freud women have debunked), now there is a more real kind of envy that many Facebook users from all walks of life may be experiencing: Facebook envy, a condition psychologists have named.

I cannot see or observe what people in the entire Facebook universe post. I only see, read and observe what my Facebook friends and friends of friends (and the public sometimes) — as they are technically called — posts. And that is about themselves, their families, friends and enemies, triumphs and tragedies, blessings, sightings, acquisitions, milestones and events, food and travel, loud thoughts and feelings, unsolicited opinions, wounds and ailments, losses and gains. A whole range of tangibles and intangibles.
Reading and viewing all that, one can sense or guess the reasons behind postings. They also run a whole range. From simple, joyful sharing (“We want you to know how happy we are”), to something like showing off (absentmindedly?) what they have (materially, that is) that many do not have a fraction of. Intentionally or unintentionally, the latter kind could sometimes border on the distasteful and annoying, as in, enough already.

Am not talking here of bashers, trashers, hecklers, cyberbullies and other Facebook pests from hell. I am referring to those in one’s Facebook circles whose repeated posts from Cloud 9 could trigger negative reactions in those not as well situated, in those who are groveling in the dark because of adverse weather conditions in their personal lives.

Why Facebook envy? Because those who have the tendency to compare their situation with others who are richer, happier, healthier, more accomplished, more successful in the many departments of life may develop in themselves a diminished self-worth. Highly-evolved individuals — in the spiritual realm that is — would not get affected by the show-offs except perhaps to be amused, but those of us on hard ground could harbor self-deprecating thoughts. And those who are on rocky ground (may pinagdadaanan) could really feel left out, despondent, depressed. Especially this Christmas season of revelry and sharing in the name of The One who was born in a stable 2,017 years ago.

I do not say that those reveling in triumph and swimming in a surfeit of blessings should calibrate their rejoicing or tame their happy posts on Facebook. But those already in the doldrums should perhaps stay away from aggravating stimuli on Facebook that could trigger comparisons and feelings of being outsiders in life’s celebrations. Not to skulk further away but to find for themselves hidden springs no matter how distant. Pity-me memes on Facebook could be cries for help though. Hearken.

Today, Holy Innocents Day, we remember those who perished in various tragedies within days before and during Christmas Day — the hundreds in two successive typhoons, many of them buried in landslides; the 38 in a Davao City mall blaze; the dozens in road and sea mishaps. Let us embrace the grieving with our prayers and presence. A deathly Christmas season it has been for so many.

“A voice was heard in Ramah, sobbing and loudly lamenting: it was Rachel weeping for her children; refusing to be comforted because they were no more” (Jer. 31:15; Mat. 2:18).

For the New Year, one more stray thought from me: May you find what you seek, if not now, sometime soon, if not right here, somewhere beyond. Ora et labora, don’t give up. Let’s go! #

Thursday, December 21, 2017

Why midnight replacements at HRVCB?

If it ain’t broke, why fix it?
At the 11th hour when 93 percent of some 75,000 cases filed by human rights violations victims have been adjudicated at the Human Rights Victims’ Claims Board (HRVCB), and five months to go before the board’s mandate ends in May 2018, why did President Duterte have to make midnight replacements? The board was naturally shocked to learn that the President had replaced two of its board members “without cause and due process.”

The midnight replacements worried claimants that there might be more replacements and that the claims would be compromised.
There was no explanation at all except for presidential spokesperson Harry Roque saying that it was presidential prerogative, and that as far as he knew there would be no more replacements.

The nine members of the HRVCB when it began were chair Lina Sarmiento, members Wilfred D. Asis, Galuasch G. Ballaho, Byron D. Bocar, Glenda Litong, Aurora Corazon A. Parong, Erlinda N. Senturias, Dexter B. Calizar and Jacqueline V. Mejia. They were appointed by then President Benigno Aquino III.

Calizar was replaced by Nasser Pangandaman Jr., a former mayor of Masui, Lanao del Sur, whose appointment was signed on Nov. 27. Mejia was replaced by Ricardo Moldez whose appointment was dated Dec. 8. Mejia was Commission on Human Rights executive director for 27 years. “She had excellent work ethic,” a colleague of hers in the HRVCB said.
Former Presidential Commission on Good Government commissioner Ruben Carranza reacted to the news thus: “I wrote the very first draft of this law. So when … spokesperson Harry Roque says ‘We can’t rebuke (President Duterte’s) wisdom’ in appointing these two new persons to the board …, he’s wrong. Not only are these appointments unwise, they’re unlawful.”
In his Facebook post, Carranza said what he thought of the two new appointees and cited Section 8 of Republic Act No. 10368 that created the HRVCB and set the qualifications of its members: “(a) must be of known probity, competence and integrity; (b) must have a deep and thorough understanding and knowledge of human rights and involvement in efforts against human rights violations committed during the regime of former President Ferdinand E. Marcos; (c) at least three of them must be members of the Philippine bar who have been engaged in the practice of law for at least 10 years; and (d) must have a clear understanding and commitment to human rights protection, promotion and advocacy.”
Question: Do Pangandaman and Moldez have these qualifications?
I was told that Pangandaman was interested in another post and not, for heaven’s sake, in a seat in the HRVCB.
Victims of the Marcos dictatorship belonging to the group Claimants 1081 promptly drafted a resolution “expressing grave concern over the midnight replacement of two members of the human rights victims claims board; urging the claims board to faithfully implement its mandate by expediting the adjudication and resolution of all claims; and calling on President Rodrigo Roa Duterte to protect, safeguard and maintain the integrity and independence of the claims board and to immediately direct the organization of the memorial commission and the establishment of the human rights museum pursuant to the provisions of (RA) 10368.”
The HRVCB is “an independent quasi-judicial body charged to, among others, receive, evaluate, investigate and adjudicate claims for reparation and/or recognition for human rights violations victims during the martial law period from September 21, 1972, to February 25, 1986.”

It is divided into three commissions but acts as a single collegiate body and meets en banc on certain matters specified under the law. It maintains a staff of about 150, many of them lawyers and paralegals described as “hardworking and very dedicated.”
The P10 billion allotted for rights victims came from Marcos hidden wealth returned by the government of Switzerland on condition that it would go to victims.
The claims filed with the HRVCB are different and separate from the $2-billion class suit that victims filed against the Marcos estate and won in a Hawaii court in 1994.
The last batch of the HRVCB’s approved claimants is expected to be out before the yearend. The first months of 2018 will be for appeals and oppositions to claims.
With firm resolve, let us find the true essence of Christmas.#

Thursday, December 14, 2017

Christmas trash and Christmasaya

Philippine Daily Inquirer/OPINION/by Ma. Ceres P. Doyo

No apologies for associating trash with Christmas, a most loved season for us except for the scrooges. But haven’t we made scrooges of ourselves by making Christmas garbage-laden, polluted, toxic, and anything but the season it is meant to be, a Christmas groaning from all the trash, jetsam, flotsam, discards and other disposables of our consumerist, throwaway society? This fact, besides our four-month Christmas season, could be another item for the “Only in the Philippines” list.

It does not get better every year. But it does not mean we have to stop reminding ourselves.
The Ecowaste Coalition calls the enormous, foul holiday output “holitrash,” avoiding the word “Christmas.” But I would rather call it by what it is—Christmas trash—which may sound offensive to lovers of Christmas like myself, but then the more grating to the ears and sensibilities, the better. Jesus, the oft-forgotten center of the season’s celebration, would surely not mind because people have really fouled up his season. Have we, even in a little way, contributed to the mess by our mindlessness and hurry to get ahead, to get somewhere, to get it all?

Last week, Ecowaste warned about the Christmas trash that again would end up on streets, in dumpsites, incinerators, waterways and oceans that are already heaving with discards. “Christmasaya kapag walang aksaya,” its catchy, no-waste Christmas call, was sounded in the midst of school children in Quezon City.

A new, lovely term: “Christmasaya”—Christ, Christmas and masaya (happy) all in one unhyphenated word.

“The volume of waste produced is expected to soar as people shop, party, dine and have fun during the joyful season,” said Daniel Alejandre, Zero Waste Campaigner of the EcoWaste Coalition. “Sad to say, the throwaway culture is at its worst as the birth of the Redeemer is recalled and celebrated. In Metro Manila, for instance, per capita waste generation during Christmastime is estimated to rise from 0.7 kilo to 1.2 kilo.”

According to Ecowaste, the most discarded items during the extended celebration of Christmas and New Year include paper and plastic shopping bags; all sorts of packaging materials; party ware, including single-use paper and plastic beverage and food containers; bags, boxes and wrappers for gifts; and tons of food waste. This is made worse by poor segregation at source and, during the New Year celebration, by toxic emissions from firecrackers and pyrotechnic devices.

Is the situation hopeless? If we are mindful of what we can reduce or do without in our lives, no. And before throwing away anything, think of what we can reuse and recycle. The “3Rs” (reduce, reuse and recycle) are as old as the hills, or, if I may coin a figure of speech, as old as the first nonbiodegradables thrown into the sea.

In one word: Simplify.

I am not too keen on recycling nonbiodegradables (plastic bottles, snack packs, soda cans) into décor if they will only be thrown away soon after. The creative exercise is sure consciousness-raising for kids especially, but their creations should better keep for a long time and not end up in the garbage pile when the merrymaking is over.

Sorry for the manufacturers of Christmas wrappers, but Ecowaste also suggests that their use be minimized. Instead, reuse bags and containers for your gifts and use old magazines as wrappers. I have been doing this for a long time.

Party hosts should opt for washable, reusable tableware instead of disposable ones that are wasteful. And if you cannot avoid generating a huge amount of trash, at least segregate, segregate, segregate. That way, reusing, recycling, repurposing of nonbiodegradables and composting of biodegradables to enrich the soil would be made easier for those who will do these tasks for the love of planet Earth and creation.

And why not a simplified, if not more solemn, Christmas celebration, not without the fun, but without much strain on the funds? Not to rival the austerity of the first Christmas, but to celebrate its essence. #

Thursday, December 7, 2017

Vaccines 000

Philippine Daily Inquirer/OPINION/by Ma. Ceres P. Doyo

I wanted to use the title “Vaccines for dummies” because “for dummies” is often used in titles of informative, how-to books, but I don’t want worried nondummies to think they are being insulted.
There have been a lot of discussions and news reports on Dengvaxia, the antidengue vaccine produced by pharmaceutical company Sanofi Pasteur, which had been reportedly administered to some 700,000 Filipino children in recent years, through the Department of Health.
Now parents are nervous upon learning from Sanofi itself that those who had been given the vaccine but never had dengue would have to watch out for more unlikely (I’m using a mild word here) dengue effects when they get sick from a dengue mosquito bite. On the other hand, those who had had dengue already and were given the vaccine would be more protected.

That’s indeed a huh? moment there (as in, ano raw?) for those of us who are not immunologists. I take it to mean that you are better off not getting the Dengvaxia vaccine if you have never had dengue. A case of “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.”

It is befuddling especially for the majority of us in this world who do not understand vaccines, how they are developed in the lab, what they are made of, how they work against deadly viruses, for whom and for how long.
In the case of Dengvaxia, for example, why would it not protect those who never had dengue, and why would their getting vaccinated not be an advantage because of some potential unlikely/adverse effects when dengue strikes? This potential “worse than the disease” scenario is driving many to anger and worry. For blame throwers, this is a great opportunity to rock, rattle and roll.
I did listen in to the live-on-TV press conference of Sanofi officials. The sense I got from it is: Not to worry just yet. After all, there is yet no record of a vaccinated person getting badly hit by the virus for the first time. And what about those who’ve had dengue and then got vaccinated, will they not get sick of dengue at all, or just a mild case of it? Can vaccination be reversed?
The other thing I picked up is that it is not really the vaccine, folks, it is the dengue mosquito that is to blame. Sure. Still I’d like to compare 1) a nonvaccinated first-time dengue patient, 2) a vaccinated first-time dengue patient, and 3) a second-time dengue patient who got vaccinated after his first bout with dengue and before his second bout.
Listening to the explanations, one gets the idea that No. 2 is the most compromised. So it is not just the mosquito, folks, it seems it is also the vaccine. So what about it?
I did my own reading on vaccines. Here are basics from the College of Physicians of Philadelphia website.
“The story of vaccines did not begin with the first vaccine – Edward Jenner’s use of material from cowpox pustules to provide protection against smallpox. Rather, it begins with the long history of infectious disease in humans, and in particular, with early uses of smallpox material to provide immunity to that disease.

“Evidence exists that the Chinese employed smallpox inoculation as early as 1000 CE. It was practiced in Africa and Turkey as well, before it spread to Europe and the Americas.
“Edward Jenner’s innovations, begun with his successful 1796 use of cowpox material to create immunity to smallpox, quickly made the practice widespread….
“Louis Pasteur’s 1885 rabies vaccine was the next to make an impact on human disease. And then, at the dawn of bacteriology, developments rapidly followed. Antitoxins and vaccines against diphtheria, tetanus, anthrax, cholera, plague, typhoid, tuberculosis, and more were developed through the 1930s.
“The middle of the 20th century was an active time for vaccine research and development. Methods for growing viruses in the laboratory led to rapid discoveries and innovations, including the creation of vaccines for polio. Researchers targeted other common childhood diseases such as measles, mumps, and rubella, and vaccines for these diseases reduced the disease burden greatly.”
Without the jargon, it simply means using the virus to fight the virus. Pray tell, what in the world is contained in that Dengvaxia ampule? #


Thursday, November 23, 2017

The backhoe

Philippine Daily Inquirer/OPINION/by Ma. Ceres P. Doyo

2009 rally of media workers after the Ampatuan massacre.
I found the black T-shirt among my rarely used clothes and was about to send it away to Segunda Mana of Caritas Manila but, I thought, who would want to use a T-shirt with something about a massacre? I then decided that I would keep it until justice has been fully achieved, with the guilty sentenced and committed to the slammer, there to grovel for the rest of their lives like Charles Manson before he died in his sleep.
The black T-shirt has a red silhouette of a backhoe and the words “58 dead, 5 years, 0 justice. Ampatuan massacre 11.23.09.” It was given to us journalists to wear at a rally in 2012, the fifth death anniversary of the 58 persons, 30 media workers among them, who were murdered in one massive strike, a massacre of innocents that blows the imagination for its premeditation, mercilessness, heinousness, and the shocking attempt to hide the crime Nazi-style.
I just went over the nine-hour timeline written for inquirer.net by Matikas Santos on the Ampatuan massacre (“Maguindanao Massacre–How it happened” Nov. 21, 2014). Ampatuan is the town in Maguindanao where the powerful Ampatuan clan ruled with impunity.

On Nov. 23, 2009, Vice Mayor Esmael Mangudadatu’s wife Genalin, accompanied by supporters, lawyers and a horde of media workers, were in a convoy on the way to file Mangudadatu’s certificate of candidacy for governor that would challenge the powerful warlord Ampatuan clan. They were coming from Buluan, the capital town of Maguindanao, and heading to the Commission on Elections office in Shariff Aguak. Mangudadatu himself stayed behind. On the way, armed men stopped the convoy, herded the passengers to a grassy area, and shot them dead. Even two passing vehicles, mistaken as part of the convoy, were stopped and the drivers and passengers also killed. Just like that.

The yellow Komatsu backhoe on standby was the piece of machinery used to dig the mass grave even before the massacre was committed, and to cover the corpses and vehicles as soon as the evil deed was accomplished. With its claw, this earth mover or excavator can dig and move dirt. It is a familiar workhorse in construction sites and garbage dumps. A backhoe is similar to but smaller than a payloader.

I saw backhoes (or were they payloaders?) at work at the Payatas dump soon after the 2000 garbage landslide that buried some 200 trash pickers. In the Payatas tragedy, these heavy equipment were used to extricate the dead and the near dead. They might have been lifesavers, too. In the Ampatuan massacre, the backhoe was used as an instrument to commit a crime, a massive, premeditated, politically motivated crime unmatched in this country’s election history. If you want to read about the backhoe driver’s blood-curdling account of the massacre, go to http://newsinfo.inquirer.net/437157/backhoe-driver-describes-maguindanao-massacre-burial.

On the lighter side, I actually have a photo of myself with friends riding on the upturned claw or bucket of a moving payloader, taken on a fun day decades ago in a construction site. Now, every time I see a payloader or backhoe, I am reminded, not of fun and frolic, but of the fate of those buried in cascading garbage and the victims of powerful and evil men on that fateful day which we now refer to as 11/23.

I often see backhoes at work on the road these days because of the government’s “Build, Build, Build” program. I avoid them while I drive and get out of their way fast for fear their long arms and buckets might swing in my direction and smash me to smithereens.

Today, the eighth death anniversary of the 58 victims, as in previous years, we again lament the slowness of the justice system. The Ampatuans’ lawyer then, Salvador Panelo, now President Duterte’s chief legal counsel, had said that the Ampatuans were framed. I leave it to readers to roll their eyes.

Journalists are sometimes thought to be intrepid survivors, the last ones left standing. Many have died in a crossfire, in which they were not the targets. In the Ampatuan massacre, the killers made sure no one, the media workers especially, would live to tell the story. #

Thursday, November 16, 2017

Shocking truth or shocking lie?

Philippine Daily Inquirer/OPINION/by Ma. Ceres P. Doyo

He stabbed someone dead when he was 16 years old, President Duterte told his Filipino audience in Da Nang, Vietnam, a week ago when he was there for the Apec conference.

His words in the raw: “At the age of 16, may pinatay na ako eh. Tao talaga. Rumble. Saksak. Noon 16 years old yun. Nagkatinginan lang. Eh lalo na ngayon presidente ako.” English translation: “At the age of 16 I already killed. A human being. Rumble. By stabbing. I was 16 years old then. Our eyes merely met. How much more now that I am president.”
The President did not say that he killed for self-defense.

This was not the first time that he bragged about his violent streak. He had openly confessed that he shot a fellow San Beda student when he was in college. The President ranted some more “You f*ck with my countrymen, I will not let that pass. Who cares about human rights? My issue is, at least we’ve killed them and that would lessen our problem. I will really kill you. That’s true. Let it be announced to the world.”

The newly appointed presidential spokesperson, Harry Roque, promptly performed damage control the way his predecessor from the “Department of Interpretation, Explanation and Translation” was wont to do.

“I think it was in jest. The President uses colorful language when with Pinoys overseas,” Roque said. Well, how many times in the past did Mr. Duterte’s spokesperson have to find explanations for his utterances that were either sexist, insensitive, insulting, or outright rude and unbecoming of a head of state?

This brag about having killed someone at the young age of 16—a crime of homicide — has yet to be proven true. But why dispute the President’s own words, Mr. Roque? If true, then he had indeed killed a human being as a teenager. Who did he kill? What became of the case? Was there a record of it?

If it was just a “jest” about something so serious, then it was no jest at all. It was a fabrication, a lie. The President therefore lied, and a person who lies is a liar. No one will not dare call him that but he made himself one by making up a story. If indeed he made up that story about himself — lied, that is — might he not be prone to doing the same about others? I shudder to think so.

You either did it or didn’t. To call a shocking statement mere hyperbole — as the President’s apologists are wont to do — is to miss its meaning. Hyperbole is “a figure of speech that involves an exaggeration of ideas for the sake of emphasis.” But it is based on something that is true. When a “Yolanda” typhoon survivor says that the waves are as big as mountains, there is basis for saying so. This is not a fabrication. But to state something as fact from out of nowhere, even if self-deprecating or especially to impress, is telling a lie. We don’t like liars.

Confessing (to simply impress or to sow fear) to killing at 16 CANNOT be a joke. It is either a shocking truth or a shocking lie. Either way, the speaker — proud, unrepentant and unpunished — is a walking peril.

While mulling these, I remember the long feature story about a crime that I wrote in the Inquirer on May 14 and 15, 1995. It was about the killing of Oliver Ong, 14, a scholar at the Philippine Science High School. Oliver had just stepped out of a fast-food place at SM City when Teddy Bernardo, 17, and Cesar Rivera, 20, took him at knife point and led him to Edsa. They wanted Oliver’s cash and when he refused to give it up they stabbed him six times and left him bleeding on the sidewalk.

I did a walk-through in the area in order to picture how it happened. I did a long interview with the young killers at the Quezon City Jail and their jailers as well. I also searched for Teddy’s mother in the San Roque slums and found her.

I am trying to find out where Teddy and Cesar are now, what they have become after 22 years. As to the Davaoeño who bragged that he killed someone when he was 16, he is, at 72, now president of this republic. #

Thursday, November 9, 2017

Red Wednesday for world's persecuted Christians

Philippine Daily Inquirer/OPINION/by Ma. Ceres P. Doyo

Westminster Cathedral in red on Red Wednesday 2016
Nov. 22 is “Red Wednesday,” when the world’s persecuted Christians will be remembered and prayed for in a special way. It is also a call for action. The Aid to the Church in Need (ACN) Philippines has called for the illumination or floodlighting in red of the facades of churches and other buildings on this day. ACN has also issued the call in other parts of the world.

Illuminating iconic structures in certain colors has become a practice to call attention to important issues, to denounce tragic events, or to simply celebrate.

Although the Red Wednesday Campaign is a Catholic Church initiative, it does not focus entirely on persecuted Christians who are Catholics but on all others of the Christian faith. And, more broadly, the call should equally apply to believers of other faiths who are persecuted because of their religion.

The Red Wednesday Campaign’s call is “Stand up for Faith and Freedom.” Red is the color of blood and martyrdom.

ACN was founded in 1947 as a Catholic aid organization for war refugees and was elevated as a papal foundation in 2011. It is “dedicated to the service of Christians around the world, wherever they are persecuted, oppressed or suffering material need.” ACN publishes and disseminates the Religious Freedom Report.

The Red Wednesday Campaign began in 2016 as an ACN-United Kingdom initiative. Lit in red were the Westminster Abbey, Westminster Cathedral, Houses of Parliament and Oxford University. Also lit up were the Fontana de Trevi in Italy, Sacred Heart Basilica in France, and Christ the Redeemer statue in Brazil.

According to ACN-Philippines, numerous studies consistently show that Christians are the most persecuted faith group in the world. Filipino Christians do not feel this because they are the majority. But unknown to many, there are areas in the Philippines where practicing the Christian faith is not easy.

ACN cites a study by Christian advocacy group Open Doors revealing that the global persecution of Christians has risen in the past four years. ACN also cites the findings of the Center for New Religions that over 90,000 Christians were murdered in 2016 and that half a billion Christians are unable to freely express their faith. The details are heartbreaking. These findings, ACN says, affirm Pope Francis’ statement that there are more Christians suffering today than there were in the early years of Christianity. Percentage-wise, that is.

The Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) has endorsed the Red Wednesday Campaign. To light up in red on Nov. 22 are 41 cathedrals (including the Manila and Davao cathedrals), 21 basilicas and national shrines (Quiapo, Baclaran and Edsa, among them) and three Catholic universities in the Philippines. Feel free to join. Christians are enjoined to make a statement by wearing red on that day.

ACN-Philippines’ call: “Let Red Wednesday be the start for Filipinos to lend their voice to the global call to uphold religious freedom and advocate for interfaith harmony. As one global Christian family, may our expression of solidarity be a witness to the power of love over hate and be a source of strength and comfort for Christians all over the world by sending a message that they are not alone and we are one with them in fighting for a better world where acceptance, love and respect for each other is the ultimate expression of faith in God.”

Cynics may say that Christians, at some point many centuries ago, were also persecutors. Well, we are now in the age of ecumenism, when religious freedom, not only in the name of grim tolerance but also out of genuine respect and appreciation for the diversity of faiths, should be — to borrow a millennial catchphrase — the “new normal.” Sadly, this is not so.

The Red Wednesday Campaign is only one of ACN’s projects. ACN-Philippines’ office is in the CBCP compound in Intramuros, Manila. Those who wish to help endangered Christians in Iraq, Syria, Nigeria and other troubled spots may do so through ACN. For info, visit https://acnuk.org/about/ or https://www.facebook.com/acnphilippines.org/.

Controversial theologian Hans Kung said it succinctly many years ago: “There can be no peace between nations if there is no peace between religions.” #