Thursday, January 26, 2017


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

Crime-ation (noun): hiding a crime of murder by cremating the body of the victim and disposing of the ashes.

That’s a word I have just coined to add to the crime lexicon. A proper name that has also just come up is “Camp Crime”; it was derived from Camp Crame, the name of the national headquarters of the Philippine National Police, where a heinous crime, the murder of a South Korean kidnap-for-ransom victim, was carried out in October 2016 by PNP members. The crime site was just a stone’s throw away from the residence of PNP chief Ronald “Bato” Dela Rosa.

According to initial investigations, South Korean businessman Jee Ick-joo was murdered on the day that he was abducted—yet ransom was exacted from his family. The prime suspects, ranking police officials, are now in hot water. There is finger-pointing as to who masterminded the deed, who carried out the deed, who stood to gain from the deed. It was, to borrow a title from the Miss Marple movie series, murder most foul.
Jee’s body was cremated in a regular (licensed and operating) funeral facility. This is the part of the criminal modus that I am interested in. I have not known of anything like this, not even from the “CSI” series on TV that features unimaginable crimes being solved through pluck, luck, and, most importantly, scientific means.

We’ve known of human corpses being incinerated, buried in the ground, sealed in drums, or thrown into the sea. The perpetrators of the 2009 Maguindanao/Ampatuan massacre used a backhoe to dig a mass grave where the dead were hastily buried. More than 50 persons, including media workers and passersby, lost their lives in that preelection massacre.

The killers of Ruby Rose Barrameda put her corpse in a drum that was sealed with concrete and thrown into the waters off Navotas. When the drum was fished out in 2009, Barrameda’s body was there, intact and with signs of the cruelty she underwent. Her estranged husband was the prime suspect.

Hitler used gas chambers and incinerators in the Nazi concentration camps to wipe out millions of Jews from the face of the earth. Photographs and documentary films from the World War II archives show piles of emaciated bodies ready for disposal. I have the book “The Last Days of Dachau” which has photos of the dead and near-dead that the Allied Forces found when they arrived. In this day and age it is difficult to hide such mass extermination or what we call ethnocide.

I have always wondered about rescue and retrieval groups operating after tragedies. Do they take photos of the unidentified dead in body bags and number them before these are temporarily buried or cremated en masse?

Modern-day cremation facilities taking part in a crime cover-up, as in Jee’s case, was unheard-of in the past. An anticrime group is now seeking an investigation into the cremation procedures of mortuaries. What papers should be required in cremation—the dead’s identity, death certificate, family’s consent, etc.?

Once the corpse of a crime victim is cremated, the so-called main body of evidence is erased. There is no body to exhume and autopsy, no DNA to extract, no poisons to find. The ashes, if preserved, are almost of the same kind as other ashes, except perhaps if there are metals that survived the extreme heat.

In Jee’s case, there was only his golf set that was found in the funeral facility, a supposed gift in exchange for services rendered. But surely there were witnesses—the undertakers, for example—who handled Jee’s corpse and prepared it for cremation. What were they told, what did they know? Who took away the ashes and flushed these down the toilet?

A report by the Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism says Jee was cremated as “Jose Ruamar Salvador, Filipino.” Did anyone take a photo—surreptitiously, or as a regular procedure—of the dead Jee? Did it occur to any of the undertakers that there might be foul play? And that they were performing a “crime-ation”? Are they also criminally liable?

Are authorities looking into this new criminal modus? Time to put funeral facilities and their services under scrutiny. Dead men tell no tales, or so it is said, but there is no such thing as a perfect crime. #

Thursday, January 19, 2017

The Pinkpussyhat Project

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

Here’s something US President-elect Donald Trump said about women in 2005 that was recorded and surfaced during the US presidential election: “Grab them by the pussy. You can do anything.” For women who value their essence and dignity, that is an insult.

Participants in the Women's March on Washington make their way down Independence Avenue Jan. 21. (CNS photo / Bob Roller)
Hereabouts, President Duterte, when asked by a male reporter about his health, retorted angrily and spoke about foul-smelling vaginas. Well, Trump won over Hillary Clinton but his controversial win is still a puzzle, with some help from Russian hackers, US intelligence has revealed. As the Inquirer banner headline said yesterday: “World on edge as Trump era nears.”

The blurb below the headline: “From China to Germany, nations across the globe are accustomed to US President-elect Donald Trump’s provocative Twitter messages, but they are less clear about whether his remarks represent meaningful policy guidelines, personal judgments or passing whims.”

Trump’s remark where he used the “p” word sure shows the kind of worrisome president of women he could be. What is it about women’s private parts that these have to be disdainfully dragged into discussions? And what is it about the men who refer to them in such a distasteful and derogatory manner?

On Jan. 21, the day after Trump is sworn into office, the National Mall in Washington could become a sea of pink if women are able to mobilize enough people attending the Women’s March to wear pink pussyhats. The march is meant to call attention to civil and human rights issues which include women’s rights. About 1.7 million people can fit in the Washington Mall.

The term “pussyhat” comes from Trump’s infamous statement. The hat—a knitted rectangle-shaped bonnet with two corners that look like cat ears when worn—is meant to be a visual statement, a protest against the denigration of women as exemplified by no less than the man who would be the president of the most powerful nation in the world.

The pussyhat idea was hatched by two women from Los Angeles—Krista Suh and Jayna Zweiman, who have called on those attending the Women’s March to wear pink pussyhats. Those who cannot be there can knit the hats for those who can’t make them. The website https://www.pussyhatproject.com/ shows how.

They’re bonnets with ears. I think one can even make do with fabric if knitting is not among one’s talents. Even cardboard might do. Women in the United States are encouraged to hold knitting parties to make hats for their sisters. It is cold over there so knits are in fashion. A problem: Pink yarn is running out, a report said.

(Here in the tropics, Filipino women are not into knitting but more into crocheting.)

The Pussyhat Project stresses the “power of the handmade”: “Knitting and crochet are traditionally women’s crafts, and we want to celebrate these arts. Knitting circles are sometimes scoffed at as frivolous ‘gossiping circles.’ When really, these circles are powerful gatherings of women, a safe space to talk, a place where women support women. Anything handmade shows a level of care, and we care about women’s rights, so it is appropriate to symbolize this march with a handmade item, one made with a skill that has been passed down from women to women for generations.”

There is the “power of pussy”: “We love the clever wordplay of ‘pussyhat’ and ‘pussycat,’ but yes, ‘pussy’ is also a derogatory term for female genitalia. We chose this loaded word for our project because we want to reclaim the term as a means of empowerment… Women, whether transgender or cisgender, are mistreated in this society. In order to get fair treatment, the answer is not to take away our pussies, the answer is not to deny our femaleness and femininity, the answer is to demand fair treatment….”

I wish our American sisters, Fil-Ams among them, great pink success. This kind of project should go global.

To quote Eve Ensler of “The Vagina Monologues” fame, founder of V-Day and on how these became phenomenal: “Something is unfolding. It is both mystical and practical. It requires that we show up, do our exercise and get out of the way.”#

Thursday, January 12, 2017

Terror truck attacks

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

What will they think of next? What weapons of terrorism will they use next to kill and maim innocents, paralyze communities with fear, and keep people in a heightened state of anxiety?

These thoughts were uppermost in my mind while the yearly procession of the image of the Black Nazarene was in progress on Jan. 9. Drawing millions of devotees that fill the main streets of Manila, the procession keeps getting bigger every year.
I experienced this up close decades ago when the procession was just confined to the Quiapo and Sta. Cruz areas and the Black Nazarene was not brought to the Rizal Park where, as the practice is now, the procession or traslacion would begin. Some photojournalist friends and I situated ourselves on the high concrete island near Quiapo Church, there to wait for the surging crowd. It was awesome then; it is phantasmagoric now, an almost terrifying, orgiastic feast of faith, indeed.
Last Tuesday’s traslacion of about five kilometers lasted 22 hours. It left the Quirino Grandstand in Rizal Park at 5 a.m. on Tuesday and reached the minor basilica of St. John the Baptist, the home of the Black Nazarene, at 3:20 a.m. on Wednesday. I was awake to see on TV the poon, with cross and all, stagger into the church entrance. There was no hint of weariness in the devotees’ shouts of “Viva!”

The day before the feast, the Inquirer headline was “Faith swells amid terror alert.”

I had this recent devotional phenomenon in mind because of the series of terror attacks late last year. These came in the form of the ubiquitous trucks one sees everywhere, only they did not ferry goods and could have gone through checkpoints unimpeded. They were not loaded with cargo meant to explode upon reaching their objects of destruction. The drivers simply drove into crowds of people. They did not dissolve in fiery balls like in explosive suicide attacks. The trucks just went “wayward” and plowed into people, killing many of them. The drivers then simply jumped out, disappearing in the melee, leaving the scene of the carnage undetected, their evil intent accomplished.

Is this the new form of terrorist attacks? To borrow the title of an ancient TV Western, have truck will terrorize.

The recent truck attacks happened in France and Germany last year and in Israel last weekend.

In the seaside city of Nice in France in July, a truck plowed into a crowd during Bastille Day celebrations, killing 84 people and injuring dozens, many of them severely. The driver was shot dead by the police. French President Francois Hollande called it a terrorist attack.

Last Dec. 19, a truck drove into a Christmas market in Berlin. A news report said 12 people died in the attack. The Islamic State claimed responsibility and released a video where Anis Amri, the Tunisian driver, was shown pledging allegiance to the IS chief, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi. Amri, 24, was later killed in a shootout with police in Milan.

On Jan. 9, a Reuters news report said at least four persons were killed in a truck attack in Jerusalem: “A Palestinian who may be linked to IS rammed his speeding truck into a group of Israeli soldiers in Jerusalem Sunday, killing four people and wounding 15 others before being shot dead in one of the deadliest attacks in a year-long campaign of violence, Israeli police said.

“Five people were arrested Sunday—including the assailant’s father and brother-in-law—in connection with the attack.” Speaking at the scene of the slaughter, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said there “definitely could be a connection” between Sunday’s horrific attack and similar IS truck attacks in France and Germany in recent months.

Hereabouts, we’ve had previews of this but not of the terrorist kind. How many cases of trucks hitting homes by the roadside have we had?

Some months ago a wayward truck plowed into an RTW tiangge in Taytay, Rizal. The tiangge is the town’s showcase. I had been there a couple of times to shop and see the local RTW industry come alive. The tiangge by the highway was a perfect hit for a truck with faulty brakes.

We can’t be sitting ducks.#

Thursday, January 5, 2017

Journalism is not a game or a joke

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

Who elected the press?” is the title of a 1980 piece by Letty Jimenez-Magsanoc, who was editor in chief of the Inquirer for 25 years until she passed away on Christmas Eve of 2015.

She wrote the piece when she was the editor of Panorama magazine. It was one of her pieces that displeased the Marcos dictatorship and was therefore censored—the last straw that caused her forced resignation. Truth to tell, I did put her in trouble then, with several of my own risky pieces in the magazine.

LJM’s “Who elected the press?” was on my mind while reading the Dec. 30 statement of the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP) titled “Di po laro ang pagbabalita, Mr. President!” (Journalism is not a game, Mr. President!) The statement is in crisp Filipino, with an English translation provided.

First, let me share excerpts from LJM’s piece that was written because Ferdinand Marcos and his minions tried to keep a tight grip on the press, which kept fighting back during the dictatorship’s waning years.

“Who elected the press? No one… “Yet it is the only private institution that is protected by the Philippine Constitution as it is by other democratic states… (She cited provisions in the Constitution.-CPD)

“By the fundamental law of the land, the press has the right, the authority, the moral obligation, the duty to ask questions, to dig up facts and winnow fact from fiction and present them to the public in the free market of ideas, to hold up a mirror to society reflecting both the potholes as well as the smooth, concrete highways, to focus on the raw display of power of public officials, to promote the living arts as well as the art of living, to record, dramatize, applaud and celebrate the events, the men and women who are sobering, civilizing and inspiring forces of society.

“Because of the unique role and function of the press sanctified by the Constitution, its practitioners have to be women and men who look on their work not only as source of income but as a vocation that demands continuous study, curiosity, enthusiasm, a level of joy, inspiration, integrity and laughter… Our motives must be free, as free as the press itself is envisioned to be.

“So help us God, unelected as we are.”

Now from the NUJP: “With due respect, Mr. President, the NUJP deliberately wrote this statement in the national language to stress the importance of clear communications and to ensure everyone understands what we wish to say.

“In your interviews with media on Thursday, you again said you were ‘playing’ with us and are ’fond’ of ’joking around.’ Which is why it is the responsibility of reporters to examine everything you say, if it is true or not, and we are to blame if our reports do not reflect the message you wish to impart.

“We beg your pardon but, we reject outright your point of view. Not because we have no wish to examine your words—it is part of our job to do so—but because, as President of the Philippines, you have the responsibility and the duty of being clear in all your statements to the nation and the world.

“There are times for joking or even nonsense. But because you are the President, all your public statements are considered—and it is only proper to do so—administration policy. Besides, many of your ardent supporters consider even your jokes as marching orders while the corrupt and the criminals inside and outside government also use these to justify their heinous designs. In such a situation, would it not be more prudent if you stopped playing with us and tamed your penchant for jokes?

“…If your statements are not clear and if it is not clear whether you are serious or joking, the problem lies with you and not with us or with the people. We are serious in our work and obligation to treat seriously and report faithfully everything that issues from the President’s lips.

“Do not foist on others your obligation to speak clearly, Mr. President.”

And you keep mumbling to yourself, we noticed.#