Thursday, August 8, 2019

No to China 'smart cities' on our islets

August being Buwan ng Wika (National Language Month), I am using a second byline written in “baybayin,” one of several writing systems used by our ancestors before the age of colonization that nearly obliterated many of our ancient practices and bodies of knowledge.
At last, at last, the China-enamored Duterte administration might be waking up (is it?) to the reality that China’s “slow-by-slow” takeover of territories we claim as ours is indeed happening, if not becoming alarming.

Different from outright intrusions/seizures/takeovers as what happened in several areas in the West Philippine Sea, the Chinese from mainland China are eyeing with beady eyes several islands that are not in so-called disputed waters, but islands that are in fact on the Philippine land map—this time, not by actual seizure but in the guise of business and development.
Last May, I did write about this worrisome development (“Chinese takeover of Fuga Island?” 5/09/2019) in this space after I read a joyous-sounding announcement in the Cagayan Economic Zone Authority (Ceza) website that said: “Chinese firm invests $2B on Cagayan isle.”

That “Cagayan isle” is Fuga Island, located north of mainland Luzon, that could become an exclusive domain of China, its special enclave and playground, a dream isle of Chinese investors and more. I did say that without our knowing it, the island could slowly slip away from us, be lost forever and become a forbidden “smart city” for Filipinos.
A dystopian scenario? Not at all. But I thought it was a lost cause and was about to raise my hands in surrender.

Then, two days ago, the Inquirer bannered: “Chinese investors target 3 PH islands.” It was an alarum. The story was by Frances Mangosing. The Chinese investors were not only targeting Fuga Island, but also Grande and Chiquita Islands in Zambales. These places “are to be developed into economic and tourism zones as part of China’s Belt and Road initiative, raising concerns among Philippine security officials,” the page 1 blurb said.

That gave me a joskolord moment. Alarmed, I thought of Palaui Island off Cagayan and some other outlying islands that we could lose. And whyever not?
The supposed $2-billion “smart city” on Fuga Island was to be constructed under a memorandum of understanding between the Ceza and the Xiamen-based Fong Zhi Enterprise Corp.
Fuga Island is part of the Babuyan group of islands that lies between Cagayan province and the Batanes group of islands. Fuga is part of the mainland town of Aparri, Cagayan, while the rest in the Babuyan group belong to the island town of Calayan. Fuga is now a coveted place because of its proximity to Sta. Ana, Cagayan, where Ceza is.
The Ceza announcement said: “Secretary Raul Lambino, Ceza administrator and chief executive officer, said the project would be patterned after the firm’s ongoing mega-infrastructure project in Fujian province in China. The investment is part of $3.9 (billion) worth of commitment investments made at the sidelines of the recently concluded 2nd Belt and Road Initiative Forum in Beijing.”On the other hand, Chiquita and Grande Islands, the Inquirer story said, served as key defenses of Spain and the United States during their years as colonizers.
Now that alarm bells have been rung, there seems to be a turnaround. Navy officials are concerned. Even Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana said his office had not been consulted on the security implications of such “Chinese investment.”
“Investment” it is, indeed, not only of the business kind, but an investment that is more alarming. National Security Adviser Hermogenes Esperon Jr. has been busy and pettily charging two religious sisters and other human rights workers with perjury. Why doesn’t he train his energies instead on the islands that the Chinese are eyeing to turn into “smart cities”? He should begin to spell and pronounce the word “sinofication.”
S-I-N-O-F-I-C-A-T-I-O-N. Will our senators find it in themselves to look into this matter of national concern? #

Thursday, August 1, 2019

A conjuring

There was a movie titled “The Conjuring” that had paranormal investigators and demonologists delving into strange phenomena and other events that bordered on the macabre. A horror movie, in other words.
The recent spate of killings in Negros Oriental (at least 14 at last count) is one such horror movie playing out in real life. One of the victims is lawyer Anthony Trinidad, brother of former Inquirer reporter Andrea Trinidad.

And just as chilling, if not terrifying, is the series of cases conjured up and filed against persons daring to speak out against, or even just constructively criticize or remind, the Duterte administration about excesses particularly in the human rights department.
Creepy and unnerving, they feed on people’s primal fears that fester when the street lights are dim and with the roar of motorcycles with masked men riding in tandem.

Sutokil, not as the Visayans say of their favorite repast, but of the guns-for-hire on wheels who leave pools of blood as they speed away.
To conjure up means “to summon into action or bring into existence, often as if by magic.” To invoke, call forth, put forward, arouse, evoke, stir, raise. The word itself conjures up images of something unprecedented, surprising, as in “What?” In Pinoy textspeak, “Anyare?”

Take the case of Sister Elenita Belardo of the Religious of the Good Shepherd, chair of the Rural Missionaries of the Philippines (RMP), and Sister Emma Cupin of the Missionary Sisters of Mary and coordinator of RMP-North Mindanao.

On May 6, RMP, along with Gabriela and Karapatan, filed a petition for writs of amparo and habeas data with the Supreme Court. The writ of amparo has to do with human rights violations and seeking protection for human rights defenders.
The petition partly said: “Petitioners’ rights to life, liberty and security are being violated and continue to be violated. This petition invokes the jurisdiction and power of this Honorable Court to issue these protective writs in favor of Petitioners who are constantly threatened and harassed, red-tagged and maliciously terrorist-labeled only because of their advocacies in various fields of human rights work…
“Petitioners are likewise asking the Honorable Court to compel Respondents, under the writ of habeas data, to produce and, if necessary, to update and rectify, or to suppress and destroy, data and information filed in their possession, under their control or contained in their database that relate to or which concern Petitioners.”
The Supreme Court sent the petition to the Court of Appeals, which tossed it away. Another petition is being prepared.

Shortly after, National Security Adviser Hermogenes Esperon Jr., one of the more than a dozen government officials named in the petition, filed a perjury case against the officers of RMP, nuns Belardo and Cupin, as well as the officers of the two other groups.
By the looks of it, the perjury case stems from the RMP petitioners supposedly not having read the truth of their allegations — and their status? Esperon  et al. did some explorations and checked RMP’s registration with the Securities and Exchange Commission and found it had been revoked at one time.
But RMP, Belardo says, had in fact reregistered and religiously filed reports thereafter, and there was never any notice that their reregistration was either denied or accepted.
That is the butas (hole) that led to the perjury case. Perjury has to do with lying.
As to the allegations that RMP funds help communist rebels, Belardo says the European Union office recently conducted an audit and found nothing irregular.
Therefore, the red-tagging and threats from government officials that necessitated the filing of a petition for a writ of amparo or protection for human rights defenders resulted instead in a backlash in the form of a perjury case.
But why perjury? Esperon, sir, you know better.
Today, at 9 a.m., the preliminary investigation on the perjury case will be conducted at the Office of the City Prosecutor in Quezon City.
Conjuring also fits the case filed against lawyers, church officials, bishops among them, and Vice President Leni Robredo — all accused of having coddled the “Bikoy” character who ratted on the alleged drug connections of President Duterte’s family but, expectedly, later changed his tune. Now coddled by government agents, he’s been singing since. #