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 “TĂȘ?” 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. #