Thursday, December 28, 2017

Christmas and Facebook depression

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

First, some stray thoughts from me this Christmas season: Do not be despondent, annoyed or envious when people repeatedly and continuously make Facebook posts about their awesome blessings and great fortune that most people in this world can only pine for. Christmas should not be such a cruel season. Search for gems hidden in your own life and be grateful. Look to The Manger.

I say that because there have been a good number of studies linking Facebook to depression. In fact, psychologists have coined a name for a condition or experience that afflicts not a few Facebook users: Facebook depression. Which makes me think that if, once upon a time, Freud had named a kind of envy that women supposedly felt for not having the appendage that men have (something post-Freud women have debunked), now there is a more real kind of envy that many Facebook users from all walks of life may be experiencing: Facebook envy, a condition psychologists have named.

I cannot see or observe what people in the entire Facebook universe post. I only see, read and observe what my Facebook friends and friends of friends (and the public sometimes) — as they are technically called — posts. And that is about themselves, their families, friends and enemies, triumphs and tragedies, blessings, sightings, acquisitions, milestones and events, food and travel, loud thoughts and feelings, unsolicited opinions, wounds and ailments, losses and gains. A whole range of tangibles and intangibles.
Reading and viewing all that, one can sense or guess the reasons behind postings. They also run a whole range. From simple, joyful sharing (“We want you to know how happy we are”), to something like showing off (absentmindedly?) what they have (materially, that is) that many do not have a fraction of. Intentionally or unintentionally, the latter kind could sometimes border on the distasteful and annoying, as in, enough already.

Am not talking here of bashers, trashers, hecklers, cyberbullies and other Facebook pests from hell. I am referring to those in one’s Facebook circles whose repeated posts from Cloud 9 could trigger negative reactions in those not as well situated, in those who are groveling in the dark because of adverse weather conditions in their personal lives.

Why Facebook envy? Because those who have the tendency to compare their situation with others who are richer, happier, healthier, more accomplished, more successful in the many departments of life may develop in themselves a diminished self-worth. Highly-evolved individuals — in the spiritual realm that is — would not get affected by the show-offs except perhaps to be amused, but those of us on hard ground could harbor self-deprecating thoughts. And those who are on rocky ground (may pinagdadaanan) could really feel left out, despondent, depressed. Especially this Christmas season of revelry and sharing in the name of The One who was born in a stable 2,017 years ago.

I do not say that those reveling in triumph and swimming in a surfeit of blessings should calibrate their rejoicing or tame their happy posts on Facebook. But those already in the doldrums should perhaps stay away from aggravating stimuli on Facebook that could trigger comparisons and feelings of being outsiders in life’s celebrations. Not to skulk further away but to find for themselves hidden springs no matter how distant. Pity-me memes on Facebook could be cries for help though. Hearken.

Today, Holy Innocents Day, we remember those who perished in various tragedies within days before and during Christmas Day — the hundreds in two successive typhoons, many of them buried in landslides; the 38 in a Davao City mall blaze; the dozens in road and sea mishaps. Let us embrace the grieving with our prayers and presence. A deathly Christmas season it has been for so many.

“A voice was heard in Ramah, sobbing and loudly lamenting: it was Rachel weeping for her children; refusing to be comforted because they were no more” (Jer. 31:15; Mat. 2:18).

For the New Year, one more stray thought from me: May you find what you seek, if not now, sometime soon, if not right here, somewhere beyond. Ora et labora, don’t give up. Let’s go! #

Thursday, December 21, 2017

Why midnight replacements at HRVCB?

If it ain’t broke, why fix it?
At the 11th hour when 93 percent of some 75,000 cases filed by human rights violations victims have been adjudicated at the Human Rights Victims’ Claims Board (HRVCB), and five months to go before the board’s mandate ends in May 2018, why did President Duterte have to make midnight replacements? The board was naturally shocked to learn that the President had replaced two of its board members “without cause and due process.”

The midnight replacements worried claimants that there might be more replacements and that the claims would be compromised.
There was no explanation at all except for presidential spokesperson Harry Roque saying that it was presidential prerogative, and that as far as he knew there would be no more replacements.

The nine members of the HRVCB when it began were chair Lina Sarmiento, members Wilfred D. Asis, Galuasch G. Ballaho, Byron D. Bocar, Glenda Litong, Aurora Corazon A. Parong, Erlinda N. Senturias, Dexter B. Calizar and Jacqueline V. Mejia. They were appointed by then President Benigno Aquino III.

Calizar was replaced by Nasser Pangandaman Jr., a former mayor of Masui, Lanao del Sur, whose appointment was signed on Nov. 27. Mejia was replaced by Ricardo Moldez whose appointment was dated Dec. 8. Mejia was Commission on Human Rights executive director for 27 years. “She had excellent work ethic,” a colleague of hers in the HRVCB said.
Former Presidential Commission on Good Government commissioner Ruben Carranza reacted to the news thus: “I wrote the very first draft of this law. So when … spokesperson Harry Roque says ‘We can’t rebuke (President Duterte’s) wisdom’ in appointing these two new persons to the board …, he’s wrong. Not only are these appointments unwise, they’re unlawful.”
In his Facebook post, Carranza said what he thought of the two new appointees and cited Section 8 of Republic Act No. 10368 that created the HRVCB and set the qualifications of its members: “(a) must be of known probity, competence and integrity; (b) must have a deep and thorough understanding and knowledge of human rights and involvement in efforts against human rights violations committed during the regime of former President Ferdinand E. Marcos; (c) at least three of them must be members of the Philippine bar who have been engaged in the practice of law for at least 10 years; and (d) must have a clear understanding and commitment to human rights protection, promotion and advocacy.”
Question: Do Pangandaman and Moldez have these qualifications?
I was told that Pangandaman was interested in another post and not, for heaven’s sake, in a seat in the HRVCB.
Victims of the Marcos dictatorship belonging to the group Claimants 1081 promptly drafted a resolution “expressing grave concern over the midnight replacement of two members of the human rights victims claims board; urging the claims board to faithfully implement its mandate by expediting the adjudication and resolution of all claims; and calling on President Rodrigo Roa Duterte to protect, safeguard and maintain the integrity and independence of the claims board and to immediately direct the organization of the memorial commission and the establishment of the human rights museum pursuant to the provisions of (RA) 10368.”
The HRVCB is “an independent quasi-judicial body charged to, among others, receive, evaluate, investigate and adjudicate claims for reparation and/or recognition for human rights violations victims during the martial law period from September 21, 1972, to February 25, 1986.”

It is divided into three commissions but acts as a single collegiate body and meets en banc on certain matters specified under the law. It maintains a staff of about 150, many of them lawyers and paralegals described as “hardworking and very dedicated.”
The P10 billion allotted for rights victims came from Marcos hidden wealth returned by the government of Switzerland on condition that it would go to victims.
The claims filed with the HRVCB are different and separate from the $2-billion class suit that victims filed against the Marcos estate and won in a Hawaii court in 1994.
The last batch of the HRVCB’s approved claimants is expected to be out before the yearend. The first months of 2018 will be for appeals and oppositions to claims.
With firm resolve, let us find the true essence of Christmas.#

Thursday, December 14, 2017

Christmas trash and Christmasaya

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

No apologies for associating trash with Christmas, a most loved season for us except for the scrooges. But haven’t we made scrooges of ourselves by making Christmas garbage-laden, polluted, toxic, and anything but the season it is meant to be, a Christmas groaning from all the trash, jetsam, flotsam, discards and other disposables of our consumerist, throwaway society? This fact, besides our four-month Christmas season, could be another item for the “Only in the Philippines” list.

It does not get better every year. But it does not mean we have to stop reminding ourselves.
The Ecowaste Coalition calls the enormous, foul holiday output “holitrash,” avoiding the word “Christmas.” But I would rather call it by what it is—Christmas trash—which may sound offensive to lovers of Christmas like myself, but then the more grating to the ears and sensibilities, the better. Jesus, the oft-forgotten center of the season’s celebration, would surely not mind because people have really fouled up his season. Have we, even in a little way, contributed to the mess by our mindlessness and hurry to get ahead, to get somewhere, to get it all?

Last week, Ecowaste warned about the Christmas trash that again would end up on streets, in dumpsites, incinerators, waterways and oceans that are already heaving with discards. “Christmasaya kapag walang aksaya,” its catchy, no-waste Christmas call, was sounded in the midst of school children in Quezon City.

A new, lovely term: “Christmasaya”—Christ, Christmas and masaya (happy) all in one unhyphenated word.

“The volume of waste produced is expected to soar as people shop, party, dine and have fun during the joyful season,” said Daniel Alejandre, Zero Waste Campaigner of the EcoWaste Coalition. “Sad to say, the throwaway culture is at its worst as the birth of the Redeemer is recalled and celebrated. In Metro Manila, for instance, per capita waste generation during Christmastime is estimated to rise from 0.7 kilo to 1.2 kilo.”

According to Ecowaste, the most discarded items during the extended celebration of Christmas and New Year include paper and plastic shopping bags; all sorts of packaging materials; party ware, including single-use paper and plastic beverage and food containers; bags, boxes and wrappers for gifts; and tons of food waste. This is made worse by poor segregation at source and, during the New Year celebration, by toxic emissions from firecrackers and pyrotechnic devices.

Is the situation hopeless? If we are mindful of what we can reduce or do without in our lives, no. And before throwing away anything, think of what we can reuse and recycle. The “3Rs” (reduce, reuse and recycle) are as old as the hills, or, if I may coin a figure of speech, as old as the first nonbiodegradables thrown into the sea.

In one word: Simplify.

I am not too keen on recycling nonbiodegradables (plastic bottles, snack packs, soda cans) into décor if they will only be thrown away soon after. The creative exercise is sure consciousness-raising for kids especially, but their creations should better keep for a long time and not end up in the garbage pile when the merrymaking is over.

Sorry for the manufacturers of Christmas wrappers, but Ecowaste also suggests that their use be minimized. Instead, reuse bags and containers for your gifts and use old magazines as wrappers. I have been doing this for a long time.

Party hosts should opt for washable, reusable tableware instead of disposable ones that are wasteful. And if you cannot avoid generating a huge amount of trash, at least segregate, segregate, segregate. That way, reusing, recycling, repurposing of nonbiodegradables and composting of biodegradables to enrich the soil would be made easier for those who will do these tasks for the love of planet Earth and creation.

And why not a simplified, if not more solemn, Christmas celebration, not without the fun, but without much strain on the funds? Not to rival the austerity of the first Christmas, but to celebrate its essence. #

Thursday, December 7, 2017

Vaccines 000

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

I wanted to use the title “Vaccines for dummies” because “for dummies” is often used in titles of informative, how-to books, but I don’t want worried nondummies to think they are being insulted.
There have been a lot of discussions and news reports on Dengvaxia, the antidengue vaccine produced by pharmaceutical company Sanofi Pasteur, which had been reportedly administered to some 700,000 Filipino children in recent years, through the Department of Health.
Now parents are nervous upon learning from Sanofi itself that those who had been given the vaccine but never had dengue would have to watch out for more unlikely (I’m using a mild word here) dengue effects when they get sick from a dengue mosquito bite. On the other hand, those who had had dengue already and were given the vaccine would be more protected.

That’s indeed a huh? moment there (as in, ano raw?) for those of us who are not immunologists. I take it to mean that you are better off not getting the Dengvaxia vaccine if you have never had dengue. A case of “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.”

It is befuddling especially for the majority of us in this world who do not understand vaccines, how they are developed in the lab, what they are made of, how they work against deadly viruses, for whom and for how long.
In the case of Dengvaxia, for example, why would it not protect those who never had dengue, and why would their getting vaccinated not be an advantage because of some potential unlikely/adverse effects when dengue strikes? This potential “worse than the disease” scenario is driving many to anger and worry. For blame throwers, this is a great opportunity to rock, rattle and roll.
I did listen in to the live-on-TV press conference of Sanofi officials. The sense I got from it is: Not to worry just yet. After all, there is yet no record of a vaccinated person getting badly hit by the virus for the first time. And what about those who’ve had dengue and then got vaccinated, will they not get sick of dengue at all, or just a mild case of it? Can vaccination be reversed?
The other thing I picked up is that it is not really the vaccine, folks, it is the dengue mosquito that is to blame. Sure. Still I’d like to compare 1) a nonvaccinated first-time dengue patient, 2) a vaccinated first-time dengue patient, and 3) a second-time dengue patient who got vaccinated after his first bout with dengue and before his second bout.
Listening to the explanations, one gets the idea that No. 2 is the most compromised. So it is not just the mosquito, folks, it seems it is also the vaccine. So what about it?
I did my own reading on vaccines. Here are basics from the College of Physicians of Philadelphia website.
“The story of vaccines did not begin with the first vaccine – Edward Jenner’s use of material from cowpox pustules to provide protection against smallpox. Rather, it begins with the long history of infectious disease in humans, and in particular, with early uses of smallpox material to provide immunity to that disease.

“Evidence exists that the Chinese employed smallpox inoculation as early as 1000 CE. It was practiced in Africa and Turkey as well, before it spread to Europe and the Americas.
“Edward Jenner’s innovations, begun with his successful 1796 use of cowpox material to create immunity to smallpox, quickly made the practice widespread….
“Louis Pasteur’s 1885 rabies vaccine was the next to make an impact on human disease. And then, at the dawn of bacteriology, developments rapidly followed. Antitoxins and vaccines against diphtheria, tetanus, anthrax, cholera, plague, typhoid, tuberculosis, and more were developed through the 1930s.
“The middle of the 20th century was an active time for vaccine research and development. Methods for growing viruses in the laboratory led to rapid discoveries and innovations, including the creation of vaccines for polio. Researchers targeted other common childhood diseases such as measles, mumps, and rubella, and vaccines for these diseases reduced the disease burden greatly.”
Without the jargon, it simply means using the virus to fight the virus. Pray tell, what in the world is contained in that Dengvaxia ampule? #


Thursday, November 23, 2017

The backhoe

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

2009 rally of media workers after the Ampatuan massacre.
I found the black T-shirt among my rarely used clothes and was about to send it away to Segunda Mana of Caritas Manila but, I thought, who would want to use a T-shirt with something about a massacre? I then decided that I would keep it until justice has been fully achieved, with the guilty sentenced and committed to the slammer, there to grovel for the rest of their lives like Charles Manson before he died in his sleep.
The black T-shirt has a red silhouette of a backhoe and the words “58 dead, 5 years, 0 justice. Ampatuan massacre 11.23.09.” It was given to us journalists to wear at a rally in 2012, the fifth death anniversary of the 58 persons, 30 media workers among them, who were murdered in one massive strike, a massacre of innocents that blows the imagination for its premeditation, mercilessness, heinousness, and the shocking attempt to hide the crime Nazi-style.
I just went over the nine-hour timeline written for inquirer.net by Matikas Santos on the Ampatuan massacre (“Maguindanao Massacre–How it happened” Nov. 21, 2014). Ampatuan is the town in Maguindanao where the powerful Ampatuan clan ruled with impunity.

On Nov. 23, 2009, Vice Mayor Esmael Mangudadatu’s wife Genalin, accompanied by supporters, lawyers and a horde of media workers, were in a convoy on the way to file Mangudadatu’s certificate of candidacy for governor that would challenge the powerful warlord Ampatuan clan. They were coming from Buluan, the capital town of Maguindanao, and heading to the Commission on Elections office in Shariff Aguak. Mangudadatu himself stayed behind. On the way, armed men stopped the convoy, herded the passengers to a grassy area, and shot them dead. Even two passing vehicles, mistaken as part of the convoy, were stopped and the drivers and passengers also killed. Just like that.

The yellow Komatsu backhoe on standby was the piece of machinery used to dig the mass grave even before the massacre was committed, and to cover the corpses and vehicles as soon as the evil deed was accomplished. With its claw, this earth mover or excavator can dig and move dirt. It is a familiar workhorse in construction sites and garbage dumps. A backhoe is similar to but smaller than a payloader.

I saw backhoes (or were they payloaders?) at work at the Payatas dump soon after the 2000 garbage landslide that buried some 200 trash pickers. In the Payatas tragedy, these heavy equipment were used to extricate the dead and the near dead. They might have been lifesavers, too. In the Ampatuan massacre, the backhoe was used as an instrument to commit a crime, a massive, premeditated, politically motivated crime unmatched in this country’s election history. If you want to read about the backhoe driver’s blood-curdling account of the massacre, go to http://newsinfo.inquirer.net/437157/backhoe-driver-describes-maguindanao-massacre-burial.

On the lighter side, I actually have a photo of myself with friends riding on the upturned claw or bucket of a moving payloader, taken on a fun day decades ago in a construction site. Now, every time I see a payloader or backhoe, I am reminded, not of fun and frolic, but of the fate of those buried in cascading garbage and the victims of powerful and evil men on that fateful day which we now refer to as 11/23.

I often see backhoes at work on the road these days because of the government’s “Build, Build, Build” program. I avoid them while I drive and get out of their way fast for fear their long arms and buckets might swing in my direction and smash me to smithereens.

Today, the eighth death anniversary of the 58 victims, as in previous years, we again lament the slowness of the justice system. The Ampatuans’ lawyer then, Salvador Panelo, now President Duterte’s chief legal counsel, had said that the Ampatuans were framed. I leave it to readers to roll their eyes.

Journalists are sometimes thought to be intrepid survivors, the last ones left standing. Many have died in a crossfire, in which they were not the targets. In the Ampatuan massacre, the killers made sure no one, the media workers especially, would live to tell the story. #

Thursday, November 16, 2017

Shocking truth or shocking lie?

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

He stabbed someone dead when he was 16 years old, President Duterte told his Filipino audience in Da Nang, Vietnam, a week ago when he was there for the Apec conference.

His words in the raw: “At the age of 16, may pinatay na ako eh. Tao talaga. Rumble. Saksak. Noon 16 years old yun. Nagkatinginan lang. Eh lalo na ngayon presidente ako.” English translation: “At the age of 16 I already killed. A human being. Rumble. By stabbing. I was 16 years old then. Our eyes merely met. How much more now that I am president.”
The President did not say that he killed for self-defense.

This was not the first time that he bragged about his violent streak. He had openly confessed that he shot a fellow San Beda student when he was in college. The President ranted some more “You f*ck with my countrymen, I will not let that pass. Who cares about human rights? My issue is, at least we’ve killed them and that would lessen our problem. I will really kill you. That’s true. Let it be announced to the world.”

The newly appointed presidential spokesperson, Harry Roque, promptly performed damage control the way his predecessor from the “Department of Interpretation, Explanation and Translation” was wont to do.

“I think it was in jest. The President uses colorful language when with Pinoys overseas,” Roque said. Well, how many times in the past did Mr. Duterte’s spokesperson have to find explanations for his utterances that were either sexist, insensitive, insulting, or outright rude and unbecoming of a head of state?

This brag about having killed someone at the young age of 16—a crime of homicide — has yet to be proven true. But why dispute the President’s own words, Mr. Roque? If true, then he had indeed killed a human being as a teenager. Who did he kill? What became of the case? Was there a record of it?

If it was just a “jest” about something so serious, then it was no jest at all. It was a fabrication, a lie. The President therefore lied, and a person who lies is a liar. No one will not dare call him that but he made himself one by making up a story. If indeed he made up that story about himself — lied, that is — might he not be prone to doing the same about others? I shudder to think so.

You either did it or didn’t. To call a shocking statement mere hyperbole — as the President’s apologists are wont to do — is to miss its meaning. Hyperbole is “a figure of speech that involves an exaggeration of ideas for the sake of emphasis.” But it is based on something that is true. When a “Yolanda” typhoon survivor says that the waves are as big as mountains, there is basis for saying so. This is not a fabrication. But to state something as fact from out of nowhere, even if self-deprecating or especially to impress, is telling a lie. We don’t like liars.

Confessing (to simply impress or to sow fear) to killing at 16 CANNOT be a joke. It is either a shocking truth or a shocking lie. Either way, the speaker — proud, unrepentant and unpunished — is a walking peril.

While mulling these, I remember the long feature story about a crime that I wrote in the Inquirer on May 14 and 15, 1995. It was about the killing of Oliver Ong, 14, a scholar at the Philippine Science High School. Oliver had just stepped out of a fast-food place at SM City when Teddy Bernardo, 17, and Cesar Rivera, 20, took him at knife point and led him to Edsa. They wanted Oliver’s cash and when he refused to give it up they stabbed him six times and left him bleeding on the sidewalk.

I did a walk-through in the area in order to picture how it happened. I did a long interview with the young killers at the Quezon City Jail and their jailers as well. I also searched for Teddy’s mother in the San Roque slums and found her.

I am trying to find out where Teddy and Cesar are now, what they have become after 22 years. As to the Davaoeño who bragged that he killed someone when he was 16, he is, at 72, now president of this republic. #

Thursday, November 9, 2017

Red Wednesday for world's persecuted Christians

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

Westminster Cathedral in red on Red Wednesday 2016
Nov. 22 is “Red Wednesday,” when the world’s persecuted Christians will be remembered and prayed for in a special way. It is also a call for action. The Aid to the Church in Need (ACN) Philippines has called for the illumination or floodlighting in red of the facades of churches and other buildings on this day. ACN has also issued the call in other parts of the world.

Illuminating iconic structures in certain colors has become a practice to call attention to important issues, to denounce tragic events, or to simply celebrate.

Although the Red Wednesday Campaign is a Catholic Church initiative, it does not focus entirely on persecuted Christians who are Catholics but on all others of the Christian faith. And, more broadly, the call should equally apply to believers of other faiths who are persecuted because of their religion.

The Red Wednesday Campaign’s call is “Stand up for Faith and Freedom.” Red is the color of blood and martyrdom.

ACN was founded in 1947 as a Catholic aid organization for war refugees and was elevated as a papal foundation in 2011. It is “dedicated to the service of Christians around the world, wherever they are persecuted, oppressed or suffering material need.” ACN publishes and disseminates the Religious Freedom Report.

The Red Wednesday Campaign began in 2016 as an ACN-United Kingdom initiative. Lit in red were the Westminster Abbey, Westminster Cathedral, Houses of Parliament and Oxford University. Also lit up were the Fontana de Trevi in Italy, Sacred Heart Basilica in France, and Christ the Redeemer statue in Brazil.

According to ACN-Philippines, numerous studies consistently show that Christians are the most persecuted faith group in the world. Filipino Christians do not feel this because they are the majority. But unknown to many, there are areas in the Philippines where practicing the Christian faith is not easy.

ACN cites a study by Christian advocacy group Open Doors revealing that the global persecution of Christians has risen in the past four years. ACN also cites the findings of the Center for New Religions that over 90,000 Christians were murdered in 2016 and that half a billion Christians are unable to freely express their faith. The details are heartbreaking. These findings, ACN says, affirm Pope Francis’ statement that there are more Christians suffering today than there were in the early years of Christianity. Percentage-wise, that is.

The Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) has endorsed the Red Wednesday Campaign. To light up in red on Nov. 22 are 41 cathedrals (including the Manila and Davao cathedrals), 21 basilicas and national shrines (Quiapo, Baclaran and Edsa, among them) and three Catholic universities in the Philippines. Feel free to join. Christians are enjoined to make a statement by wearing red on that day.

ACN-Philippines’ call: “Let Red Wednesday be the start for Filipinos to lend their voice to the global call to uphold religious freedom and advocate for interfaith harmony. As one global Christian family, may our expression of solidarity be a witness to the power of love over hate and be a source of strength and comfort for Christians all over the world by sending a message that they are not alone and we are one with them in fighting for a better world where acceptance, love and respect for each other is the ultimate expression of faith in God.”

Cynics may say that Christians, at some point many centuries ago, were also persecutors. Well, we are now in the age of ecumenism, when religious freedom, not only in the name of grim tolerance but also out of genuine respect and appreciation for the diversity of faiths, should be — to borrow a millennial catchphrase — the “new normal.” Sadly, this is not so.

The Red Wednesday Campaign is only one of ACN’s projects. ACN-Philippines’ office is in the CBCP compound in Intramuros, Manila. Those who wish to help endangered Christians in Iraq, Syria, Nigeria and other troubled spots may do so through ACN. For info, visit https://acnuk.org/about/ or https://www.facebook.com/acnphilippines.org/.

Controversial theologian Hans Kung said it succinctly many years ago: “There can be no peace between nations if there is no peace between religions.” #

Thursday, November 2, 2017

Endangered wildlife,endangered humans

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

Five months of being barraged by scenes of war, death and destruction in Marawi City initiated by terrorists, a year and a half of groans and lamentations caused by thousands of drug-related killings, a scenario of a nuclear Armageddon from an Asian neighbor — and we cannot help wondering if we have perhaps become a nation of terrorized Filipinos, an endangered species. We have a front-seat view of — to borrow a movie title — a series of unfortunate events.

Preservation of human life has been uppermost in our minds. But even with all these, Manila hosted the United Nations conference of state parties to the Conservation of Migratory Species (CMS), a five-day gathering of some 500 delegates. It was the first time it was held in Asia, and we knew little about it while it was going on. CMS is short for the Convention on the Conservation of Migratory Species of Wild Animals. It is also known as the Bonn Convention because it was in Bonn, Germany, that the Convention was negotiated in 1979.

Only after the meeting ended last week did we know more about it, and that 34 endangered species, among them the whale shark — the biggest fish in the world that also thrives and makes a home in the Philippines — were selected for stronger conservation efforts.

What is a migratory species? The Convention defines it as “one that cyclically and predictably crosses one or more national jurisdictional boundaries.” (So our endangered Philippine eagle—one of the three largest in the world—is not a migratory species.) Covered by the CMS are “mammals, birds, reptiles, fish and one insect… including many whales and dolphins, bats, gorillas, antelopes, albatrosses, raptors, waterbirds, sharks, sturgeons, marine turtles and the Monarch Butterfly.”

Some might wonder about all the fuss over migratory wildlife species while human lives are being decimated, exterminated, annihilated by their own species. Well, there is a science to it (ecology) and a spirituality to it (creation spirituality). By now we know what the so-called “web of life” or ecosystem is all about, our interconnectedness as citizens of Planet Earth (magkakadugtong ang bituka). As singer-composer Joey Ayala keeps belting out, “Ang lahat ay magkaugnay, magkaugnay ang lahat.”

I never get tired of correcting those who demonize certain animals and make them represent the worst of human behaviors. Vultures are good: They clean out rotting carcasses that could spawn harmful diseases. Important, too, are the nonhuggable crocodiles, snakes and bees. When bees begin to disappear, this planet is in trouble.

So working to preserve endangered wildlife vis-à-vis preserving human life is a nonissue. The Manila conference theme was “Their Future is Our Future: Sustainable Development for Wildlife and People.” The meeting in Manila was the largest in the 38-year history of the Convention. Going over the list of newbies on the CMS protective list is a treat for the imagination, with names such as Steppe Eagle, Asian Vulture, Sub-Saharan Vulture, Lappet-faced Vulture, Christmas Frigatebird, Black Noddy, Yellow Bunting, Lesser and Great Grey Shrike.

The Giraffe, Leopard and Lion are on the protective list, so is “humans’ closest relative,” the Chimpanzee, the near-extinct Gobi Bear of China and Mongolia, the Caspian Seal, and so on.

“In total, 12 mammals were afforded greater protection under CMS, 16 birds and 6 species of fish. Listing on Appendix I requires governments of Parties to protect the species while Appendix II calls for international cooperation to ensure that the conservation status of a species is favorable.”

Yes, all these while humans — because of war, terrorism ethnic cleansing and political and ideological strife — are being driven out of their habitats, their lives threatened. But why not?

As Chief Seattle said: “Every part of the Earth is sacred to my people. Every shining pine needle, every sandy shore, every mist in the dark woods, every deer and humming insect is holy in the memory and experience of my people. The perfumed flowers are our sisters, the deer, the horse, the great eagle, these are our brothers. The rocky crests, the juices in the meadows, the body heat of the pony, and the man, all belong to the same family.”

Thursday, October 26, 2017

Nun wrote diary on drug killings

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

With residents of San Andres Bukid filing for a writ of amparo from the Supreme Court against the Philippine National Police to protect their community from more drug-related extrajudicial killings and deadly police operations, focus is now trained on that densely populated area in Manila. This move could become a template for similarly situated communities whose residents tremble when they hear the sound of gunfire in the dead of night.

Singled out in the petition is Manila Police District’s Station 6 which, the petitioners said, has turned that area of police jurisdiction into a “killing field.” The petitioners also sought the relief of those assigned to Station 6.
According to an Inquirer news report, this is the fifth petition filed in the Supreme Court questioning President Duterte’s war on drugs which has left at least 4,000 dead in police operations and thousands in so-called EJKs (“PNP faces class suit in SC over drug killings” by Marlon Ramos, 10/19/17).

Aiding the petitioners is the Center for International Law or Centerlaw. Some weeks ago, groups of human rights lawyers held a press conference to announce the filing and related moves to counter the endless killings.

Here is a text message from Sr. Nenet Dano, a Good Shepherd sister who works in San Andres Bukid and who has been supporting the community’s plea against the killings. She is among those behind the writ of amparo petition. “After the writ was filed, one lady tanod of Barangay 770 was asked to write a tokhang salaysay (statement on the killings) by MPD Station 6 to counter what she had written… Three petitioners were called by barangay chair Enales of 775 to ask if they want to withdraw. That resulted in pangamba (fears). I pacified them.

“My personal experience: Six barangay chairs forced me to talk with them last Saturday evening as they thought they were in the complaint even though they were not. I told them to read the petition thoroughly and if they cannot understand, to have it translated in Filipino…

“Over the phone the chair of 787 asked: What if Mayor Erap calls him and asks questions? Most of the heads are scared because they have no knowledge of the petition.”

While I was writing this column, I received this added information: “Victoria Factor (one of the petitioners) was also called by Barangay 770. She was in panic as the barangay head told her to get a lawyer so she could reverse her statement. She calmed down after our lawyers assured her [that there was no cause for worry].”

I have in my possession this nun’s diary on the drug killings which she began writing several months ago. Here are excerpts:

“When the second killings happened on July 28, 2016, which involved three young men, I asked: ‘Is killing the only solution to solve the problem of illegal drugs?’ I was very disturbed and restless. Something should be done, I thought, and I should do something as a personal advocacy.”

As months passed, the body count increased. Sister Nenet provides a list of names, ages, dates when killed (for lack of space, I did not include the action taken):

Edwin D. Eduardo, 47, 7/7/17; Ernesto Martinez Cruz, 49, 6/21/17; Ramon Rodriguez, 55, 6/10/17; SPO Dennis Padpad, 47, 5/29/17; Reynaldo T. Javier, 35, 5/25/17; Ryan Dimacali, 31, 5/6/17; Bimbo Merced, 37, 1/25/17; Joshua Merced, 22, 1/25/17; Leo Merced, 25, 1/25/17; Eduardo M. Gores, 29, 1/18/17; Ramil Gallo 22, 1/4/17; Randy Concordia 34, 12/15/17; Jay R. Estreller, 30, 12/15/17; Emiliano Blanco, 36, 11/30/16; Joseph Baculi, 32, no date; Gilbert Beguelme, 31, 11/9/16; Alvin Mnedoza, 23, 10/11/16; Ryan Eder, 28, 7/28/16; Willy de Leon, 42, 9/30/16; Jomar Manaois, 20, 7/18/16; Jefferson Bonoan 20, 7/18/16; Mark Anthony Bonoan, 18, 7/18/16; Conrado Berona (the very first one to die, not fully documented) 7/05/16; Manuel Roy Manalac, John Paul Martinez, Rollyn C. Frias, a certain Patricia, Jerson Colaba, Josing Colaban (all six cases not fully documented).

The nun’s diary is long and covers more than one year; the list of the dead covers July 2016-July 2017. Total number of recorded drug kills in that neck of San Andres Bukid: 29.