Thursday, February 23, 2006

Howard Dee, man for peace

``Today the flames of Edsa are flickering, peaceful reform is dying on the vine and our democracy is threatened again.’’

Thus spoke a humble and spiritual man of action whose quest for peace and progress for the poor has been unceasing.

Howard Q. Dee, peacemaker, social development worker, friend of the poor and indigenous communities, former ambassador to the Vatican and businessman, was honored last Monday in simple rites as the sole recipient of the 2006 Aurora Aragon Quezon Peace Award.

Persons from both sides of the political, ideological and social divides came to fete this simple man whose name has become synonymous with peace and development especially in strife-torn and poverty-stricken communities in the country.

``My heart is filled with gratitude yet I feel no sense of triumph,’’ Dee told the small crowd. ``I feel no pride of achievement in the face of so much injustice and widespread poverty that condemns so many of our people to a life of subhuman existence.’’

But just as quickly, Dee lifted spirits by quoting a French philosopher who said: ``The important thing is not be a success. The important thing is to be in history bearing witness. This is not the time to lose heart. Rather, it is in the darkness that our lamps should be lit and our hearts set ablaze.’’

Thursday, February 16, 2006


My fertile imagination went full throttle and couldn’t help conjuring up a World War III scenario being sparked by print journalism in a small European country of a few million people. Straight out of a futuristic novel? The possibility is there if we go by the extreme rage that resulted from a few pen and ink strokes.

Much has been written about the Islamic outrage across the world that resulted from newspaper cartoons depicting Islam, one of which shows the prophet Muhammad with a turban shaped like a bomb. This was supposed to portray those who commit terrorism in the name of Islam. Another one supposedly shows the prophet surrounded by two women fully covered from head to toe, their eyes peering out of an oblong slit on their black chadors while the eyes of the prophet are covered with an oblong band. This was supposed to show Islam’s blind spot when it comes to women’s freedom.

Besieged Denmark was not wanting in supporters. Several European newspapers published the same cartoons to show defiance.

For Muslims, to depict their prophet Muhammad in any visual way--even in a benign way--is blasphemy. But Jesus Christ, whom Muslims consider also a prophet, has been visually depicted in a million and one ways and for so many purposes and it is mostly okay.

Thursday, February 9, 2006

``Wowowee’’ Pied Piper-ed the poor

Here are some of the quotes I remember well in the aftermath of the ABS-CBN ``Wowowee’’ stampede last Saturday that killed more than 70 persons and injured hundreds.

``I was not even aware that ``Wowowee’’ was having its first anniversary.’’-Gina Lopez, head of ABS-CBN’s Bantay Bata Foundation, speaking as guest at ABS-CBN’s ``Straight Talk with Cito Beltran’’

``Ayan, namatayan ako ng anak.’’ (There, now I have lost a child.) –a father, after finding out that his young only daughter whom his wife insisted on taking along, was crushed to death

``Nagkanya-kanya, basta maka-una lang.’’ (It was each man for himself, trying to get ahead.) –Sen. Richard Gordon, head of the Philippine National Red Cross

`` I saw something very wrong, very, very wrong’’ - Police superintendent Vidal Querol, his voice almost cracking, after he saw people stepping over the dead and clamoring for raffle tickets.

``Gusto lang namin sila mapasaya.’’ (We just wanted to make them happy.) -``Wowowee’’ host Willie Revillame.

``Even with all the dead around, many people were still asking for raffle tickets.’’ –a paraphrase of what TV producer Marilou Almaden told the fact-finding committee investigating the tragedy

Thursday, February 2, 2006

Like the wrath of God

Here is something that could serve as a historical footnote to the latest statement of the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) on the current political situation issued a few days ago. As we prepare for the 20th anniversary of the EDSA Revolt three weeks from now, I thought I should do a rewind and see parallels between the bishops’ move now and the bishops’ move 20 years ago.

I dug up the long feature story I wrote on the CBCP statement on the fraudulent 1986 snap elections shortly before the EDSA uprising. (``Like the Wrath of God’’, Feb.21-27, 1986, Mr&Ms. Special Edition, the daring and frisky weekly published by Eggie Apostol and edited by Letty J. Magsanoc, now Inquirer editor in chief.) I remember we were camped out at the CBCP compound waiting with bated breath for what the bishops had to say. That damning CBCP statement helped create the groundswell that led to the toppling of the Marcos dictatorship a few days later.

Take a trip down memory lane. Excerpts:

Finally things snapped. Out of the silent halls of the Catholic Church the voice of the hierarchy crackled. The post-election statement of the CBCP came down like the wrath of God.

Valentine’s Day 1986 would be long remembered as the day the bishops came out to condemn a political exercise. Lifting up their hemlines, they at last waded into muddy waters to cross the moat and lay siege on an impenetrable fortress.