Thursday, July 29, 2004

Gracia returns

Avalanched by news stories on the State of the Nation Address delivered by Pres. Arroyo last Monday was the first brief news item on Gracia Burnham’s return to the country and her scheduled appearance in court today at Camp Bagong Diwa.

Sources were quoted as saying that Gracia’s testimony was facilitated by a mutual legal assistance treaty between the U.S. and the Philippines.

As most everyone knows, American missionary couple Gracia and Martin Burnham plus several others were taken hostage by the Abu Sayyaf, while they were on holiday at the Dos Palmas resort in Palawan in 2001. The hostage takers beheaded one of the hostages and kept the rest in the jungles of Mindanao for one year. During the rescue operation, Martin and Filipino nurse Ediborah Yap were killed, Gracia was wounded but survived.

Gracia now returns in the wake of a different kind of hostage crisis which involved one of our OFWs in Iraq and put the name Angelo de la Cruz on everybody’s lips. Gracia returns as Philippine and US troops start anti-terror war games in North Cotabato and in a rebel area at that. The locals are apprehensive.

`In the Presence of My Enemies,’’ the book Gracia wrote (with Dean Merrill), is a gripping account of the hostages’ ordeal in the Mindanao jungle while in the hands of the Abu Sayyaf. The book’s title is a line from Psalm 23, the shepherd psalm.

Thursday, July 22, 2004

How green is the SONA?

Environmental lawyer Antonio A. Oposa, Jr. whose green opus (two huge colorful books on the Philippine environment) I had featured here, is shaking the ramparts on behalf of all greenies.

Says he: ``In all of Pres. Arroyo’s three State of the Nation Addresses (SONA), she never said a single word on the environment. Repeat, not a single word was said on the condition of the very natural elements—land, air, water—upon which all life in this country depend.’’

Oposa’s little grievance paper is titled ``The President is an Environmental Ignoramus.’’ Ouch. ``Sometimes words have to be a little wild,’’ Oposa says, quoting JM Keynes ``Because they are the assault of thoughts upon the unthinking.’’

In painful silence the greenies listened to the past SONA, they waited for those few little green words. But they heard nothing.

After Pres. Arroyo won a mandate in the recent elections, she laid out her 10-point agenda. Again, not a single word on the environment. (Well, at least she wore green for her oath-taking.) This says something about the President’s level of awareness of the importance of air, water and land resources, Oposa points out. This is a symptom that she is suffering from a severe case of environmental ignorantia.

Thursday, July 15, 2004

Psalm for Angelo

Are we speaking as one? Are we standing as one to save his life?

Here is a puny man, a truck driver crouching on an immense world stage, awaiting his fate, his hands tied, knowing next to nothing about what is going on, his heart crying out, why am I here, what is my sin, what is my sin?

They don’t shoot their hostages over there, they prefer to sever the head from the torso. I don’t know how many more hours or days it will take before Angelo de la Cruz is either set free and allowed to go home to the Philippines or beheaded by his Iraqi captors.

I don’t know how many more hours or days it will take before the Philippine government accedes to Angelo’s captors’ demand that Philippine troops be withdrawn from Iraq. (While I was writing this, news came that troops will be withdrawn soon. The US government wasn’t pleased. FU!) I don’t know how many thousand candles have to be lighted, how many more prayer rallies and protest marches have to be staged in order that those who hold Angelo’s life in their hands would make the move to pave the way for his freedom.

Here at home, so many brutal words have been said, so much blame has been hurled. Name-calling, labeling, finger-pointing. The softening ingredients have all but been forgotten. One can’t help thinking—sure, everybody’s really trying to save Angelo’s life but... Are we speaking as one, standing as one, uh, doing prayer rallies as one?

Angelo waits while groups from a broad-spectrum of Angelo savers fall over each other. In the meantime, Angelo’s captors are getting more emboldened.

Thursday, July 8, 2004

US steps back on immunity

The latest good news is that the US has beaten a retreat.

The US has withdrawn its bid for immunity through the renewal of Resolution 1487 at the UN Security Council deliberations. Renewal would have meant a grant of a 12-month period of immunity to peacekeeping personnel who are citizens of countries that are not State Parties to the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court (ICC). The US is not a Rome Statue signatory.

The Philippine Coalition for the International Criminal Court, a member of an international coalition supported by 150 countries, hailed the development and said the US move to seek immunity would have been another way to escape prosecution by any international body.

According to the Asian Forum on Human Rights and Development (Forum Asia), Resolution 1487 would be a corruption of the intent and purpose of the Rome Statute because it exempts a certain class of people from international justice. It undermines the authority of the ICC to determine its own jurisdiction and forces the Security Council to overstep the bounds of its own authority.

This development in the UN shows the Security Council upholding the integrity of the ICC and affirming international justice and the rule of law. Countries that held fast to their position against Resolution 1487 were Benin, Brazil, China, France, Germany, Spain and Romania.

By the way, the Philippines, represented by Amb. Lauro Baja, chaired the Security Council during the deliberations on Resolution 1487. The Philippines’ vote went for Resolution 1487 despite the overwhelming tide against it. The US, seeing the odds, retreated. With its pro-US vote, the Philippines had exposed itself.

Thursday, July 1, 2004


Last week, amidst the post-election noise and proclamation ado, my two-part special feature on death along the riles came out on the front page. I thought the warning train whistle was all but drowned out but on the same day we started the feature, Inquirer TV took up the same issue on its first one-hour weekly show. And it did something more—it asked viewers to text in their views on who they thought was at fault (``sino ang may sala’’) in the endless tragedies on the tracks. The best view won the texter a 21-inch TV.

The winner was Ramil Jimenez of Bulacan who SMSed: ``Pnganib man ay di alntana, buhay riles sa knilay gloria, madurog dto y krngalan pa khit ang gobyerno y iwas pusoy sa kainutilan nila!’’ Straight out of Huseng Batute country.

InqTV producer John Nery said they received hundreds. For both the txt addicts and the txtually-challenged, here are a few more. Have fun deciphering them. ``Mga politikong mpgsmntala bgmt mapiligro mgtayo ng bhy s tbi ng riles pngttangol pa nla ang mga e2, pra boto lng nla ay mkuha.’’