Thursday, October 30, 2014

Il viaggio continua

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

I gazed at the colored photo of the smiling Italian men—16 in all—in rugged clothes, and then I searched for the faces that became familiar because they landed on the front pages of newspapers and on TV screens after cruel men made victims of them.

The photo’s caption says: “PIME Fathers in 1984: 3 future martyrs and 2 kidnap victims.” The photo is among the many included in a book that should be a must-read for missionaries. Photos on the back cover are of: Fr. Tullio Favali, killed on April 11, 1985; Fr. Salvatore Carzedda, killed on May 20, 1992; Fr. Luciano Benedetti, kidnapped in 1998; Fr. Giancarlo Bossi, kidnapped in 2007; Fr. Fausto “Pops” Tentorio, killed on Oct. 17, 2011.

Fr. Peter Geremia just sent me his book “Seeking God’s Kingdom of Justice and Peace,” an updated version, he said, of his diary-type “Dreams of Bloodstains” (which I wrote about years ago). At the end of the book are colored photos of the priests of PIME (Pontifical Institute for Foreign Missions) in mission areas. Geremia, the book’s author, has been a missionary in the Philippines since the 1970s. He once worked in the Tondo slums but most of his priestly life has been spent in Mindanao. He speaks the local language.

He wrote me a note on the Tentorio case (also included in his book) which has been languishing in the dark. Could the case merit some newspaper space? he asked. He also sent me a copy of “Il vaggio continua,” the newsletter of the Fr. Fausto “Pops” Tentorio Foundation Inc. which was set up after the murder of the Italian priest. Looking out from the corner of the cover page is a cartoon Father Pops wearing a red tubao (ethnic head scarf), which he often used when he was alive.

Two weeks ago, Inquirer Mindanao reporter Germelina Lacorte wrote a story titled “3 years after Italian priest’s murder, still no case in court, say friends.” “Three years after the killing of Italian priest Fr. Fausto Tentorio, people demanding for justice … are still waiting for the determination of probable cause that would lead to the filing of charges in court.”

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Double entendre

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

Justice Secretary Leila de Lima’s statement that she would stop investigating the corruption charges against Vice President Jejomar Binay only if the President or the Ombudsman would order her to stop was a loaded one.

The charges that are also being tackled in the hearings of the Senate blue ribbon subcommittee have put on the defensive the Binay family members who have alternately ruled Makati for almost three decades. The whistle-blowers are coming out of their comfort zones and revealing in the hearings what they know. The corruption charges are grave and jaw-dropping.

Intent on pursuing the case, De Lima dropped a double entendre. Triple, maybe?

Her statement could be interpreted to simply mean that, yes, she follows presidential orders and that is all there is to it.
But she could also have been saying something loudly in a soft voice, so to speak, that: “No way, on my own, am I going to stop investigating. Only the President and the Ombudsman will stop the Department of Justice from investigating.”

Triple entendre if by that statement she meant that if we see her stop, we know who stopped her. To say it more grandly, we would know by whose power she was stopped. Then she can look us in the eye and, with arms folded, say, “Wala akong magawa. There was nothing I could do.” Then it would be up to us to speculate why.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Thoughts on a toilet-bowl murder

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

The Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) between the Philippines and the United States will again be put to the test with the killing of Jeffrey/Jennifer Laude, a transgender, as media reports describe him/her.

(Laude would have surely preferred that a feminine pronoun be used to refer to him, but because there is no proof that he had legally changed his gender status, I will use the masculine pronoun in order to avoid the annoying forward slash.)

When the US naval and air force bases were voted out by the Philippine Senate and kicked out of Subic in Zambales and Clark in Angeles, Pampanga, more than 20 years ago (with a lot of help from Mount Pinatubo’s eruption after 600 years of dormancy), entertainment hubs there suddenly closed down.

Well, Clark has since evolved into an international airport, a hot-air balloon competition venue, etc. Subic, while also transformed, continues to be a docking place for ocean vessels. With the VFA in place, the night strips in Subic come alive again when US carriers disgorge thousands of service men just back from grueling jungle exercises, many of them seeking release for their raging hormones and pent-up rage, or to simply chill out.

The killing of Laude looks almost like a TV crime plot straight out of “NCIS” or “CSI.” Gross, to start with, but with a lot of political and gender underpinnings.

Monday, October 13, 2014

US lawyer says PCGG merely grandstanding

Philippine Daily Inquirer/SPECIAL REPORTS/by Ma. Ceres P. Doyo

(Last of two parts)

MANILA, Philippines–The claim of the Presidential Commission on Good Government (PCGG) was not to the paintings of Imelda Marcos, “which were never government property,” but to the money that was allegedly stolen, according to Robert Swift, the lead counsel of the 9,539 rights abuse victims during the martial law regime of the late dictator Ferdinand Marcos.

“The PCGG has no judgment against Mrs. Marcos for the paintings,” Swift said in an e-mail to the Inquirer. “Its claim is that money was stolen from the Philippine government in the 1960s and 1970s, and some of the money may have been used to purchase the paintings.”

He said Imelda, whom Forbes Magazine had estimated as being worth $5 billion, should be made to repay the government, “should the PCGG ever prove the theft.”
Lawyer Robert Swift handing a check for $1,000
to a victim who suffered human right violations
during the Marcos dictatorship.

“Any money that Imelda Marcos could have stolen from the republic should be recoverable from her $5-billion fortune. She lives in Metro Manila and the PCGG should simply ask her to return the money. If she refuses, attach her bank accounts in Manila,” he said.

Hence, Swift sees the attachment of the paintings ordered by the Sandiganbayan last week as mere “grandstanding” by the PCGG.

“The PCGG has known about the paintings since 1986—28 years ago—but never filed a case until now, and that is just for attachment. I am not aware of any case it filed for forfeiture of the paintings,” he said. “Instead, the PCGG is playing the game of pursuing paintings that Imelda may or may not have purchased using (the Filipino people’s) money,” he said.

$2B judgment

Swift said this was being done as part of the PCGG’s strategy to nullify the $2-billion judgment.

In 1995, a US federal court in Hawaii awarded the victims the $2 billion in damages after it found the Marcos dictatorship liable for the torture, summary executions and disappearances of about 10,000 people.

“For the 19 years since entry of the [$2-billion] judgment, the Republic of the Philippines has been relentless in trying to nullify any enforcement and preclude compensation to the class members, who are predominantly old and live in abject poverty,” Swift said. “This has included refusal to recognize the class’ judgment in Philippine courts,” Swift wrote in a brief he filed last month in the New York appellate court that is adjudicating the case of the so-called Arelma account.

Philippine Daily Inquirer/SPECIAL REPORT/by Ma. Ceres P. Doyo

This file photo taken on June 7, 2007 shows former first lady Imelda Marcos is seen in her apartment in Manila with a gallery of paintings including a Picasso, seen at upper right. Philippine authorities moved on September 30, 2014 to seize paintings by Picasso, Gauguin, Miro, Michelangelo and other masters held by Imelda Marcos after getting a court order against the former first lady. AFP/ROMEO GACAD

MANILA, Philippines--This is a list of 206 art pieces believed to have been purchased by former First Lady Imelda Marcos during the martial law years.

Many of them by European masters and worth millions of dollars each, the paintings have been attached to a Petition for Writ of Execution and Turnover filed in the Supreme Court of the State of New York by the lawyers of the victims of human rights violations during the Marcos dictatorship.

The victims are claimants in a case versus the Marcos estate and who have won a judgment in 1995 and been awarded $2 billion in damages.
French impressionist Claude Monet’s painting “Water Lilies” ** had been illegally sold to a collector by Mrs. Marcos’ aid, Vilma Bautista her co-accused for $32 million but the buyer avoided litigation by paying $10 million which the claimants received in March 2014. Two more—another painting by Monet (47) * and one by Alfred Sisley (7) *—could soon be recovered.
The list is the result of research and investigative work done by the claimants’ lawyers led by Robert Swift. The list has the artists’ names, titles of the paintings, medium used and size.  The list may not be complete.  Images of most of the masterpieces can be viewed on the Internet. – Ma. Ceres P. Doyo

1) Abraham Janssens
Peace and Abundance Binding the Arrows of War,
a.k.a. Peace and Plenty Binding the Arrows of War
Oil on canvas, 150x118cm

 2) Alessandro Botticelli
Madonna and Child
Tempera on panel, 37x29cm

3) Alessandro Magnasco
Christ Heals the Cripple
Oil on canvas, 93.5x70.5cm

 4) Alessandro Magnasco
St. Jerome
Oil on canvas, 73x58.5cm

 5)Alessandro Magnasco
Mother with Child
Oil on canvas, 40x30cm

 6)Alessandro Magnasco
Couple of Farmers with Children
Oil on canvas, 40x30cm

 7) Alfred Sisley *
Langland Bay

 8) Amadeo Modigliani
Jeanne Hebuterne
Oil on canvas, 51x22.25cm

 9) Amico Di Sandro
Virgin and Child
Tempera on panel, 58x58cm

 10) Andrea Della Robbia
Madonna and Child
Terracotta relief, 40.5x23cm (including frame)


PCGG, Marcos victims in race to claim Imelda's art collection

Philippine Daily Inquirer/SPECIAL REPORT/by Ma. Ceres P. Doyo

First of two parts 

The sudden move by the Presidential Commission on Good Government (PCGG) to order a search of the San Juan residence, offices and other homes of the Marcos family for precious artworks that the PCGG claims should belong to the government caught many by surprise.
A GAUGUIN IN SAN JUAN Paul Gauguin’s “Still Life with Idol,” is just one of the masterpieces allegedly in the Marcos art collection that the government seized from the ancestral house in San Juan City.

Why only now?

One of those asking this question is Robert Swift, the lead lawyer of the 9,539 rights abuse victims during the martial law regime (1972 to 1986) of the dictator Ferdinand Marcos, who doubts the motives of the PCGG, the agency created by the first Aquino government to recover the ill-gotten assets of Marcos, his family and associates.

He believes the PCGG is “playing a game” of recovering the paintings as part of a strategy to nullify the $2-billion judgment that the victims won in a class action suit against the Marcoses in a Hawaii court.

“The PCGG has known about the paintings for over 28 years and done nothing about them until now,” said Swift.

In 1995, a US federal grand jury in Hawaii found the Marcos dictatorship liable for the torture, summary executions and disappearances of about 10,000 people and awarded the victims $2 billion in damages from the Marcos estate. According to Swift, Philippine courts have refused to recognize the $2-billion judgment while the Philippine government uses its sovereign immunity in the United States to try and prevent the members of the class suit from litigating to collect on the judgment, touting Sandiganbayan decisions forfeiting various Marcos assets in favor of the government as enforceable in the United States.

Unable to collect

In addition, Swift said the claimants in the class suit also have a 2011 US judgment against Imelda Marcos personally for $353.6 million, which they are entitled to execute on any property she owns. But again, collection of the judgment has been difficult because Philippine courts do not recognize the US judgment.

Swift himself has been engaged for decades in hunting for Marcos assets, including the art pieces—many of them by recognized masters that Marcos’ wife Imelda is said to have acquired using the Marcoses’ enormous wealth—in the interest of collecting on the $2-billion judgment.

Ill-gotten or not, the Marcos assets should be used to compensate the human rights victims of Marcos’ martial rule, he argues. “The class [suit members] are entitled to pursue any assets of Mrs. Marcos, including her art collection, because the class obtained a [2011] judgment against her personally for $353.6 million,” he said.

Finders keepers?

The PCGG and the claimants represented by Swift are therefore in a race to who gets to the trove first. Does the search mean finders keepers?

One of the Marcos art pieces that has been traced, French impressionist Claude Monet’s “Les Bassin Nymphease,” also known as “Water Lilies,” was sold by Imelda’s aide, Vilma Bautista, to a collector for $32 million. To avoid litigation, the buyer offered $10 million to the members of the class suit against the Marcos estate. Bautista and her conspirators continue to face prosecution for selling what did not belong to them.

In March, proceeds from the settlement on the Monet painting were divided among the claimants, the second distribution since 2010. (For each claimant, $1,000 in 2010 and another $1,000 in 2014.) These are a mere trickle from the $2-billion award.

More where it came from

But there’s apparently more where the Monet came from. On Oct. 1, sheriffs of the Sandiganbayan, armed with a writ of attachment from the antigraft court, seized an undetermined number of artworks from the Marcoses’ San Juan residence.


The writ, issued on the request of the PCGG, covered at least eight Old Masters works in the possession of the Marcos family, including “Madonna and Child” by Michelangelo Buonarroti, “Femme Couchee VI” (Reclining Woman VI) by Pablo Picasso, “Portrait of the Marqueza de Sta. Cruz” by Francisco de Goya, “Still Life with Idol” by Paul Gauguin, “La Baignade Au Grand Temps” by Pierre Bonnard, “Vase of Chrysanthemums” by Bernard Buffet, “Jardin de Kew pres de la Serre 1892” by Camille Pissarro and “L’Aube” by Joan Miró.

Swift’s list of artworks, whose value could partly fund the rights abuse victims’ claim, is even longer at 206, not including the “Water Lilies” that was sold.

On the list of 206 are two Picassos, two Gaugins, two Botticellis, three Degases, one Matisse, one Cezanne, one Van Gogh, one El Greco, one Fra Filippo Lippi (1460), one Raphael, one Titian, one Manet, 52 Gobillards, 18 Grandma Moses and three Monets. (“Water Lilies” was one of the three Monets on the list.)

The other Monet, “L’Eglise et La Seine a Vetheuil” (also known as “L’Eglise a Vethueuil”) and an 1887 painting by French impressionist Alfred Sisley (“Langland Bay”) will soon be traced, if not already found, the lawyer said. # (To be continued)

Thursday, October 9, 2014


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

The sisterhood had a blast! The sisterhood like no other, we love to say and tell everyone.

ICanServe celebrated its 15th anniversary last Oct. 6 at the Raffles Hotel in Makati with a rousing celebration and a gathering of breast cancer survivors and warriors who are, most of all, advocates of early detection. It was a gathering that toasted its founders, members and supporters, as well as those who had departed for the hills beyond but who served and fought well.

True to its catchphrase “Saving lives, keeping families whole,” ICanServe served up an anniversary program that was not merely focused on its members but was meant to reach out far and wide to women and men in order to raise awareness of a disease that can be licked well and good if detected early. In short, zap the invader at the gates.

All, if not most, of the attendees were energetic, can-do breast cancer survivors (myself included). Also present were special persons from the indispensable circle of support. Health workers, providers and advocates. Doctors, barangay health workers, relatives, friends, facilitators, organizers, volunteers, sponsors. Survivors in various states of wellness and stages of recovery from illness bonded, embraced, shed tears, laughed, prayed, listened to one another. Bright pink was the color theme of the celebration.

Many of us met at the 3rd ICanServe Silver Linings gathering held in Davao City in 2011 and have since become sisters and friends for the cause in our own little and big ways. Held every three years, Silver Linings is ICanServe’s educational forum and homecoming.

But the 15th anniversary last Monday was extra special. Many came even from outside Metro Manila. A whole ICanServe contingent from Cebu came and even provided an entertainment number.
 Founded in 1999, ICanServe Foundation is an advocacy group of breast cancer survivors that promotes early breast cancer detection. Its flagship program is “Ating Dibdibin,” a Filipino saying that means taking it to heart. “Dibdib” means chest or breast, or where the heart is. For ICanServe, “Ating Dibdibin” means “take your breast care to heart.”

Thursday, October 2, 2014

Fr. Pierre Tritz@100, ERDA@40

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

Few people in this world get to be a century old. One of them is French-born Jesuit Fr. Pierre Tritz, who turned 100 last Sept. 19. The Mass and simple celebration on the 19th was cancelled because of Tropical Storm “Mario” that brought flooding in Metro Manila. The gathering is being set for another date.

Thousands of poor Filipinos who were once students as well as their families know Father Tritz because of how their lives changed for the better, because of the opportunity to be educated given them. Father Tritz, through the Educational Research and Development Assistance (Erda) Foundation which he founded 40 years ago, has enabled poor children to cross the poverty line through formal education that went alongside values formation programs that would equip them to face life head-on and become pillars of society.

Father Tritz has always emphasized: “To allow a child to go to school is to give him hope.”

Erda continues to give hope to young Filipinos who cannot afford basic education while involving countless groups and individuals here and abroad to contribute to the continuing endeavor. Erda has documented many success stories about those who made good, and also those who are giving back and paying it forward.

But Father Tritz is a story by himself (as partly told in “Father Pierre Tritz, SJ: Touching the Lives of Filipinos,” a booklet edited by Sr. Josefina Diaz, ICM). More exhaustive biographies have been written about him but they are in French (one is “Les Anti-Trottoirs de Manille: Pierre Tritz, père des enfants de la rue” by Jean Claude Darrigaud).