Thursday, January 31, 2013

Ninoy's family entitled to compensation

Philippine Daily Inquirer/OPINION/by Ma. Ceres P. Doyo

I think of Purificacion Viernes whom I interviewed and photographed in the early 1980s. She was in a hospital bed, her feet raised by strings and pulleys, the burned soles of her feet showing proof of torture. She recounted how soldiers strafed her home and killed members of her family. Wounded, Purificacion played dead. A soldier burned the soles of her feet with a lighter to find out if she was alive or dead….

I had said it then and I say it again now: The close to 10,000 martial law victims who filed the class suit against the Marcos estate did not do so for the prospect of wealth. That was not what pushed them to make a claim on the Marcoses’ ill-gotten wealth. It was justice.

With the signing by the bicameral committee of the compensation bill for human rights abuse victims two days ago—after more than two decades of waiting—hope for a more just recompense springs once more. The pittance received two years ago by thousands of members of the 1986 class suit filed against the Marcos estate hardly symbolized the kind of justice that they have been waiting for. But it was a good beginning. Even for historical purposes only.

In 2011 the claimants, I among them, each received $1,000—the result of Honolulu Judge Manuel Real’s approval of the distribution of $7.5 million to settle a class action suit filed in 1986 by human rights abuse victims of the Marcos regime. The $1,000 was a trickle compared to the amount that the federal grand jury in Honolulu had decided should be awarded the rights abuse victims. In 1995, the grand jury found the Marcos regime liable for the torture, summary execution and disappearance of about 10,000 victims and awarded them $2 billion in damages.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Finding Nemo in Tubbataha

Philippine Daily Inquirer/OPINION/by Ma. Ceres P. Doyo

One of the characters that I thought of after the minesweeper USS Guardian ran aground in and destroyed parts of Tubbataha Reef on Jan. 17 was Nemo, the clownfish who is the object of a transocean search in the blockbuster Walt Disney animated film “Finding Nemo.”

My childlike, cinematic thoughts turned to the countless Nemos who lost their lives and their womb-like dwellings because of careless naval navigation, disregard of warnings, and other reasons that have not been disclosed or explained. A superpower’s minesweeper turned into a destroyer when it plowed into Tubbataha Reef. This amazing marine sanctuary, the Philippines’ pride that has tantalized the world, has been scarred.

I also thought of Captain Nemo, that character in Jules Verne’s “Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea” that I read as a child. The clownfish Nemo must have gotten its name from this seafarer who captured children’s imagination, or borrowed Greek adventurer Odysseus’ pseudonym.

Yes, all these stories, ancient and new, had a way of opening little-known and unexplored worlds under and beyond the sea, and we grew up carrying with us the wonderment and wondering whether it could all be true. As it turned out, reality is even more wondrous than fiction, as Tubbataha—known to the world only starting in the 1970s—would prove.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Don't ride with armed groups and marked prey

Philippine Daily Inquirer/OPINION/by Ma. Ceres P. Doyo

Here are some recollections and caveats that came to mind after the Jan. 6 encounter/shootout/rubout (?) at a police checkpoint in Atimonan, Quezon, that claimed the lives of 13 people, among them policemen and soldiers, who were traveling together in a convoy. Of the police officers and men, plus the backup members of the Armed Forces that lay in wait at the checkpoint that fateful night, only their leader sustained gunshot wounds.

Even after the smoke has cleared, some questions have not been fully answered. Among them, why were civilians with the armed men? For a more impartial probe the National Bureau of Investigation has been tasked to do a “CSI” (crime scene investigation), not necessarily Miami-style a la Horatio Caine and company. And the media have been on the case 24/7. The Inquirer’s headline two days ago was: “It was an overkill—NBI.”

One of the don’ts we tried to observe as journalists of the alternative press during the dark days of martial rule—and this applies even today—was: Don’t ride with an armed group, the military, para-military or police especially, if you can help it, and with marked and hunted prey, too.

Thursday, January 10, 2013

The Nazarene's nightmare

Philippine Daily Inquirer/OPINION/by Ma. Ceres P. Doyo

“This restless multitude, confused or orderly, the immensity of which terrifies us: this ocean of humanity whose slow, monotonous wave-flows trouble the hearts even of those whose faith is most firm…” A line from Pierre Teilhard de Chardin’s “Hymn of the Universe.”

When I read this again in the first week of the New Year, it was as if I was reading it for the first time. Chardin might have been referring to something else but I could not help thinking of the Jan. 9 feast of the Black Nazarene which was expected to draw eight million devotees. And for this, thousands of policemen were to be fielded, many of them pulled out from their regular duties.

I am writing this piece while the so-called ocean of humanity is moving and groaning toward its destination, the Quiapo Church. There is no word yet on how many hours it might take for the andas carrying the Black Nazarene to navigate the winding six kilometers. Last year it took almost 24 hours.

Year after year analysts, researchers and academics try to explain from their high horse this one-of-a-kind expression of faith while true believers describe the miracles in their own lives in simple words. I have written—with awe, sometimes—about this phenomenon a number of times. This time, I am sorry to say, I am not in the mood for a cosmic-anthropological, socio-cultural or psycho-spiritual treatise. Not after the tragedies that have happened to crowds and communities here and elsewhere. Some warnings are in order.

Thursday, January 3, 2013

Conversation with Fr. James Reuter SJ

Philippine Daily Inquirer/OPINION/by Ma. Ceres P. Doyo

Countless students from several generations have had unforgettable times with Fr. James Reuter SJ who passed on last Dec. 31 at the age of 96. I had mine. I was part of the production crew of the huge stage play “The Island” which Father Reuter wrote and directed for St. Scholastica’s College. I still have the souvenir program with lots of pictures in it.

I was among those who operated the music and sounds. With our head phones on, we could hear Father Reuter barking orders and cussing sometimes. One of my tasks was to make sure the sound of water splashing was right on cue when Butz Aquino (among the imported male theater veterans we ogled) jumped into the dark waters.

Fast forward to 1989. I was assigned to do a quick Q and A with Father Reuter because he was going to receive the prestigious Ramon Magsaysay Award. Here are excerpts from that interview that came out in the Sunday Inquirer Magazine.

He was a dead ringer for Paul Newman in his youth. But that was not what attracted the young boys and girls to him. There was something else about Fr. James Reuter SJ that drew the young to him. He had charisma, much of which could be spelled out as energy.

Being the head of the Catholic Church’s National Office of Mass Media is only one of the many jobs of Father Reuter. But this office is the hub and heart of what the Jesuit padre is into. He writes, he directs plays, gives retreats and spiritual guidance. He is also an organizer, a mover. The youth is his forte. Here are excerpts from the interview which came out in the Sunday Inquirer Magazine.