Thursday, August 31, 2006

Arvind Kejriwal’s battle against corruption

So young and so brave. The opposite of that now-famous line that once aptly described a Filipino bureaucrat-turned politician: So young and so corrupt.

Arvind Kejrawal of India is this year’s Ramon Magsaysay Awardee for Emergent Leadership. Only 38 years old, Kejrawal has spent six years now fighting corruption that is so ingrained in India’s bureaucracy. It has not been a desperate, useless battle though. His efforts have yielded results and benefited the simple and the lowly whose concerns might not have merited the attention of the high and the mighty.

I caught up with Kejrawal the other day during the launching of RM Award Foundation’s (RMAF) 3rd, 4th and 5th volumes of “Great Men and Women of Asia” (Anvil Publishing)—must-haves for school libraries. Kejrawal battles must indeed soon be part of the inspiring stories in these books (for which I have written a number of stories) that should inspire the young and confound the wise and, uh, wily.

(RMAF formal awarding ceremonies will be held tonight at the Cultural Center of the Philippines. Inquirer founding chair Eugenia “Eggie” Apostol is this year’s awardee for Journalism, Literature and Creative Comm

Thursday, August 24, 2006


Just before I sat down to write this piece yesterday, I was reading the Inquirer banner story about another killing, that of peasant leader Hermilito Marqueza in Tandag, Surigao del Sur last Sunday. The lead paragraph said this happened hours after Pres. Arroyo announced the creation of an independent commission that would investigate the wave of politically linked killings.

Marqueza was the 247th victim of this “type” of killing since 2001 when Pres. Arroyo became president. If one goes by the victims listed in Amnesty International’s (AI) report released last week, Marqueza should be the 51st victim of year 2006. AI’s list ended with victim number 50, city mayor Delfinito Albano who was killed on June 27, 2006. The 49th is Wilfredo Cornea, of Task Force Mapalad, who was killed on June 20, 2000.

But one cannot breezily go down the list that way. After AI’s number 50 there must have been a few more before Marqueza who did not make it to the AI list and deadline. I cannot believe that there were no victims in July. What, no victims? That would have been unusual. Killings have been so common, so every-day, that a sudden lull is unbelievable. Marqueza is not the 51st, he’s probably the 55th. Throw in a couple of slain journalists in between.

I am appalled that I am talking numbers, sequence and lists here, like these victims were just to be ticked off a list. But they happen to have names and faces, they have families, professions, places in their communities, organizations, churches and in the hearts of those they loved and those who loved them.

Thursday, August 17, 2006

Tyre and Sidon

Tyre and Sidon. The names of these two ancient biblical cities have been floating in my head since the fighting between Israel and the Hezbollah began a month ago. These two coastal cities in Lebanon are always shown on the war maps on TV, being among the places threatened by Israeli fire.

These cities are mentioned in the bible 14 times, always as a pair (like Sodom and Gomorrah) and in significant situations that they have a way of remaining in one’s subconscious. In mine, at least. But since I’m no bible scholar, I couldn’t easily find where in the bible they’re mentioned.

Then last week, at the height of the Middle East crisis, the twin names popped up on the Inquirer’s “The Daily Gospel” readings. Synchronicity?

The names are mentioned in Jesus’ encounter with the Canaanite woman who begged him to heal her demon-possessed daughter. The scene portrays an example of great faith and feminine spunk. But Tyre and Sidon are mentioned here rather casually, to only establish the location perhaps, while in other parts of the bible, the mention of Tyre and Sidon seems to have greater significance. Like the ones in Isaiah 23, Joel, Luke and Matthew.

Thursday, August 10, 2006

Accidental heroes, reluctant exiles

The armed conflict going on between Israel and the Hezbollan in Lebanon that is forcing thousands of terrified overseas Filipino workers (OFW) to go home, the stories and the images one reads, hears and sees are the stuff OFW nightmares are made of.

I couldn’t help thinking of the many past crises in that part of the world that OFWs have had to bear. And I thought, if we were to put together the feature stories on the overseas Filipino workers that came out in the Inquirer, the human interest stories particularly, and the photos too, they would fill several volumes. This has been playing in my head for days now. (By the way, the Inquirer has a book publishing department.) The stories would form part of our written national history. As they are, they would also be interesting stories—cinematic, dramatic, heart-rending, tear-jerking, sad, triumphant. Future generations would certainly look upon these stories with amazement at how their ancestors survived hardships in hostile lands in order to give their descendants a better life.

I have lost count of the many OFW stories I have written over the years. There was this Filipino domestic helper (DH) in Kuwait who killed her employer (a cruel princess) while they were vacationing in Cairo, while another DH lived it up in another royal household somewhere across the desert. Here were husbands and children who were left behind by the women in their lives, and NGOs that help OFW families stay whole. Recently I wrote about the Filipinos who work aboard a luxury cruise ship.

Thursday, August 3, 2006

Environmental group sounds an alarm

What is wrong with this piece of news? What is wrong with this picture?

Not so long ago the Manila Bulletin came out with a story that said that The Fuhua Group of China has broken ground in Silang, Cavite. It launched the “first of 500 technology demonstration and industrial processing sites that will be put up in the Philippines over the next five years.”

The industrial site will run under the Philippine Fuhua Sterling Agricultural Corp. (PFSAC) and is part of what is called a programmed production from a corn-sorghum facility from which will come ethanol and other by-products such as milky starch livestock feed, corn protein, corn oil and amino acid.

According to the article by Melody M. Aguiba, the ethanol supply from the integrated plants is apparently aimed at beefing up China’s ethanol requirement in its intensive drive to shift to cheaper and renewable biofuel as alternative to dwindling crude oil. China is also stepping up production in Vietnam, Cambodia, Thailand and Laos.