Friday, September 26, 2014

Journalism under siege: The years of writing dangerously

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

(Editor’s Note: Starting Sept. 21, the 42nd anniversary of the proclamation of martial law by President Ferdinand Marcos, we have been running a series of articles to remember one of the darkest chapters in Philippine history. The articles are necessarily commemorations and more so a celebration of and a thanksgiving for the courage of the men and women who endured unspeakable pain and loss to overcome the Marcos dictatorship and regain our freedoms. These are some of their stories.)

MANILA, Philippines–Those were the years of writing dangerously. In the eyes of the oppressive Marcos regime, the defiant journalists were better dead than read, better writhing than writing.

Whenever our group of women writers is asked to speak about our harrowing experiences during the martial law years, we never forget to say: “The men were in jail or dead, so we were (wo)’manning’ the fort.”

But we did not like being described as “women with balls.”

This is the cover of the book "The Philippine Press Under Siege,
vol. 2"carrying articles by journalists arrested or threatened     
during the rule of dictator Ferdinand Marcos.                            
We had our share of frightening interrogations. I and many others were interrogated more than once for antimartial law and human rights pieces that we had written. I, and again many others, came close to being seized in the dead of night by armed men, had it not been for quick-thinking church people who came to our rescue.

But more important than ourselves and our foray into dangerous terrain were the stories that we wrote and managed to get published, thanks to the editors who paid dearly for their daring.

Future generations

What were these stories, what were they about, who wrote them? Fortunately, they have been preserved between covers for many generations to come.

In 1984 and 1985, our group, the Women Writers in Media Now (Women), came out with “The Philippine Press Under Siege,” Volumes 1 and 2, containing the “dangerous writing” that had provoked the dictatorship and brought on the horrible aftermath of such dangerous pursuits.

The collection was published by the Women’s Committee to Protect Writers and the National Press Club under the bold leadership of the late Tony Nieva.

These two volumes which we had worked on under the cover of darkness and under so much stress are now out of print. But the good news is that the National Historical Commission and the University of the Philippines Press recently agreed to resurrect them, so to speak, in a much better format, if not a better design. I am the editor of these resurrected editions.

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Interrogated by the military

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

Since Sept. 21 (the 42nd anniversary of the imposition of Marcos’ deadly martial rule) the Inquirer has been running stories about that terrifying era (1972-1986) that saw the death of democracy and the killing, disappearance, detention and suffering of tens of thousands of Filipinos. Unrestrained evil, I call it, and today’s young Filipinos ought to know about it.

I wrote damning stories during those dangerous times and suffered the consequences, but they were nothing compared to what others went through. An assigned piece I wrote last week might come out in this paper in a day or so, but I want to share another one in this column space.

This is about my second interrogation in Fort Bonifacio on Dec. 11, 1982, by the National Intelligence Board Special Committee No. 2 led by Gen. Wilfredo Estrada. Human rights lawyer and former senator Jose W. Diokno asked lawyer Alex Padilla to be with me. The summons said I was “to shed light on confidential matters,” and that my failure to appear “shall be considered as a waiver on [my] part and the Committee will be constrained to proceed in accordance with law.”

There were about seven military officers-interrogators. After I was asked for my name, I dared ask them for theirs, which they gave. A couple of weeks later we, the individually interrogated women journalists and our media colleagues, named each one of them and haled them to the Supreme Court (petition for prohibition with preliminary injunction). We had a battery of Mabini lawyers led by former senator Lorenzo Tañada and UP law professor Perfecto Fernandez. The military backed off.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Noli: Love in the grip of tyranny

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

Like a thunderbolt in a dark and forbidding landscape, the character Sisa burst onto the stage and launched into an unforgettable, heartrending, four-hankie vocal and acting performance that might not be seen again in a long time.

O Inang Bayan na sadlak sa dusa (O Motherland mired in sorrow) raced through my thoughts as I beheld the grief-stricken mother in search of her lost sons, her voice rising from the gloomy depths to the gloomy beyond. She wept, she wailed, but she sustained the great soaring voice until she was reduced to a moan, until life mercifully left her.

What a searing scene. I could only gasp in awe and hold my breath. That electrifying solo performed by coloratura Antoni Mendezona rammed into my soul and shattered it to pieces.

An aside: The whistle-like portion of Mendezona’s Sisa aria reminded me of the popular Queen of the Night aria in Mozart’s “The Magic Flute.” Thanks to National Artist Felipe de Leon, who surely knew the extent of the Filipinos’ vocal prowess and who might have had that in mind when he wrote the music for National Artist Guillermo Tolentino’s libretto.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Mabuhay, FOI champions in Congress

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

Are political parties taking a collective stand on the freedom of information (FOI) bill that was killed at the last hour in the 15th Congress?

The hopeful news is that last Tuesday, the technical working group (TWG) of the House of Representatives committee on public information approved without objection a consolidated version of more than a dozen FOI bills. FOI advocates are hoping that this is a harbinger of good things to come—that is, the early passage of the bill in the 16th Congress.

The Right to Know, Right Now Coalition (R2KRN) considers this “a major positive development that punctuates months of active engagement and constant monitoring of the TWG process.”

R2KRN reports: “Departing from the paragraph-by-paragraph deliberation in the earlier TWG meetings, the meeting on Tuesday approved all remaining provisions, from Section 7 (f) through Section 33, as well as the Title and Short Title of the measure. This was made possible by consultations among authors and groups with the objective of reconciling provisions and forging consensus to assist and speed up the formal TWG.”

There was a blending of forces, R2KRN happily notes. Those who worked for the FOI bill’s almost uninterrupted move deserve mention and praise. They are midwives assisting in the birth of a groundbreaking law that can make a positive impact on the life of this nation. R2KRN believes that if passed in its latest consolidated form, the FOI bill will mean substantial gains for all citizens, and a definite advance of their right to information.

Here are the persons that R2KRN regards as FOI champions:

• Representatives Teddy Baguilat Jr. (Ifugao), Kaka Bag-ao (Dinagat), Ibarra Gutierrez III and Walden Bello (Akbayan), Emmeline Aglipay (Diwa), Winston Castelo (Quezon City, 2nd district), Gus Tambunting (Parañaque City, 2nd district), Leah Paquiz (Ang Nars), Jose Christopher Belmonte (Quezon City, 6th district), Anthony Bravo and Cresente Paez (Coop Natcco), Roman Romulo (Pasig City), and Sherwin Tugna and Cinchona Cruz-Gonzales (Cibac).

• The authors and key reform partners of Malacañang at the House—Rep. Leni Robredo (Camarines Sur, 3rd district) and Deputy Speaker Henedina Abad (Batanes).

• Rep. Jorge Almonte, chair of the House committee on public information, constantly assisted by his legislative staff Norman Pelinio and Karissa Jumaquio, and the committee secretariat headed by Romualdo Sta. Clara.

• Other authors who reconciled their versions through amendments, such as Representatives Magnolia Rosa Antonino-Nadres (Nueva Ecija, 4th district) and Xavier Jesus Romualdo (Camiguin).

• Malacañang’s representative to the TWG—Undersecretary Manuel L. Quezon III, working in coordination with Secretary Edwin Lacierda.

• Members present at the TWG meeting, including Representatives Gwendolyn Garcia (Cebu, 3rd district), Raul Del Mar (Cebu City, 1st district), and Sol Aragones (Laguna, 3rd district), and the other TWG members that have actively participated in the full deliberation of the exceptions in the previous meetings.

• R2KRN, itself an author of the bill through indirect initiative.

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Orphan diseases' challenge

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

The ice bucket challenge to raise funds for and awareness of ALS (amyotrophic lateral sclerosis) or Lou Gehrig’s disease is still going on. Celebrities the world over have shown video proof of their daring and generosity. There is criticism, of course, of this so-called marketing scheme, from “selfie-shness” to waste of precious water to plain exhibitionism. But the campaign worked for the good.

Many known Filipinos have accepted the ice bucket challenge, with some getting doused publicly for all to see. With the challenge catching on, some health advocates have taken the opportunity to call attention to other so-called “orphan diseases” besides ALS that strike young and poor children whose parents cry out for help. “Orphan” because these diseases are rare and do not get enough attention.

I have been privileged to meet and write about these patients, their families, doctors and the support group that continue to create awareness and raise funds that could help these children live normal, productive lives.

The Philippine Society for Orphan Disorders Inc. (PSOD) is at the forefront of the “care for rare” advocacy and coordinates efforts to sustain the quality of life of those with rare disorders. There have been many breakthroughs since PSOD’s founding in 2006. It has become a support group and has established a network of patients, families, doctors and support groups in different parts of the world. Many patients have found access to treatment and are now enjoying a better quality of life. But there’s more to be done.
So, have you heard of Pompe’s disease? What about MPS Hunter syndrome (mucopolysaccharidosis II), maple syrup urine disorder (MSUD), Gaucher disease, adrenoleukodystrophy (ALD), Apert syndrome (craniosynostisis syndrome), adrenoleukodystrophy (ALD) and phenylketonuria (PKU)? Lack of space prevents me from describing them in detail here.
Even if you shed tears while watching the movie “Lorenzo’s Oil,” you probably would not recall or pronounce the name of the disease—it was ALD—around which the plot revolved and the cure for which was the object of a couple’s (played by Nick Nolte and Susan Sarandon) research so that their only son would live.

The movie “Extraordinary Measures” (starring Harrison Ford as the eccentric doctor-scientist and Brendan Fraser as the father of two ailing children) also turned out great performances and gave hope that a cure, this time for Pompe’s disease, could be found. In fact they came close with enzyme replacement therapy.