Thursday, November 24, 2005

Deadly playgrounds, cold numbers

I had looked into their eyes. I had watched some of them cock their rifles and aim at an imaginary enemy lurking behind the trees. I had aimed my camera at them and captured the resoluteness in their gait as they carried the heavy weight on their frail bodies.

I saw these so-called child soldiers for the first time in the 1980s in a rebel training camp in the mountain fastness of Samar. In Bicol I also saw a young girl, maybe all of 16, carrying a rifle.

My body ached after that journalistic foray in the jungle but I did come up with a long story. We used the photo of the young boy carrying a long firearm, marching with grizzly rebels in the Sunday Inquirer.

That was many years ago but the images still burn in my mind. What a heavy burden for these children, I thought. I had tried carrying some of the heavy metal that the rebels carried and wore a bandoleer of bullets across my chest for a photograph of myself bristling with bullets. But that was for the fun of it. I still have that photo. In the background, heavily armed rebels played dama.

Now the law says you can no longer use the photographs of minors in a publication, show their faces on TV or identify them if they have been involved in illegal activities or are victims of crimes.

Thursday, November 17, 2005

Rape a violent crime of conquest

Man's discovery that his genitalia could serve as a weapon to generate fear must rank as one of the most important discoveries of prehistoric times. From the prehistoric times to the present, rape has played a critical function. It is a conscious process of intimidation by which all men keep all women in a state of fear.
-Susan Brownmiller, Against Our Will

Stereotypical rape scenes as depicted in movies and komiks do happen in real life. Ginahasa sa cogonan (raped amid tall grass) or ginahasa sa sagingan (raped in a banana grove) aren't imaginary scenes used to simply add color to lewd narratives, they actually and quite commonly take place in those proverbial places.

Tricycle drivers waylaying and then raping their young passengers has become stereotypical. Not that tricycle drivers are generally the raping kind. Maybe they just easily make it to the news because they have nowhere to run. They end up beaten up by the victims’ kin at the police stations and in front of the TV cameras, unlike the powerful types who could run away aboard their SUVs.

US servicemen raping ``the natives’’ should now be stereotypical too if we go by the statistics that Sen. Francis Pangilinan cited—3,000 rape cases against Americans have been dismissed in the Olongapo City court. I would presume that the cases were mostly against uniformed men.

Thursday, November 10, 2005

Women’s letter to rape victim

``We believe in you. We do not have to behold your face or know your name in order to say this.’’

Thus began the short but moving letter of 28 women’s groups and their allies to the 22-year-old victim of rape allegedly committed by five US servicemen last Nov. 1 in Subic.

The letter, expressed profoundly in Filipino, offered solace and solidarity with the woman from Mindanao who met her tragic fate while visiting Subic. Some members of the women’s groups that sent the letter are rape survivors themselves.

``We are with you while you weep, because your experience has been the experience of many of us. We are with you as you nurse the pain, because we also feel the pain when your dignity as a woman was trampled upon by US servicemen who had done the same to women in Angeles, Olongapo and other places. We are with you as you seek justice…We know that your healing will depend on many things, one of which is getting justice.’’

Those excerpts are for English speakers who do not understand Filipino. But there is nothing like reading the whole letter in the national language. It stabs deep into the heart. I hope the rape victim, whoever she is, wherever she is, would be able to read this and be convinced, really convinced, that she is not alone. Her kabaro are reaching out to her.

Thursday, November 3, 2005

VCO as bird flu remedy?

News flash.

If coconut oil proved effective for HIV-AIDS cases, it might also be good as a H5N1 (bird flu) remedy. Studies must now be made on the oil’s efficacy against this new disease that threatens to become a worldwide epidemic.

This urgent proposal came from Dr. Conrado S. Dayrit who helped make virgin coconut oil (VCO) a popular dietary supplement and medicine here and abroad and helped remove it from the ``bad oil’’ list.

Dayrit, hale and active at 86, is a known pharmacologist, cardiologist, internist, science researcher author and University of the Philippines professor emeritus. He was former president of the National Academy of Science of Technology, the highest scientific body in the country.

The team Dayrit directed in the early 1990s proved that HIV-AIDS cases responded to coconut oil. The highly promising results are now the bases for continued trials meant to alleviate the suffering of millions HIV-AIDS patients countries especially those in Africa.

Dayrit outlined his proposal and rationale in his Oct. 24 letter personally delivered to the office of health secretary Francisco Duque III.

Dayrit’s proposal was for ``Southeast Asian countries affected by H5N1 (bird flu) to conduct clinical, animal and viral studies on the effectiveness of coconut oil (either RBD copra oil or virgin coconut oil) which the Philippines can supply.’’