Thursday, November 29, 2018

Filipinos as foreign bullies' delight

“Gina-tonto,” would be how Ilonggos might describe the way Filipinos are being treated, bullied, made to look like fools in their own territory by foreigners. In Filipino, “ginagawang tanga.” “Tonto” is Spanish for fool, crazy or stupid. Incidentally, in Spanish, too, is how Ilonggos curse the insufferable “hijos” who are bullies themselves and who bring shame to the mothers and fathers who begot them.
Filipinos are a delight to bullies because Filipinos allow themselves to be bullied. To say it in Filipino, “tiklup-tuhod” (on bended knees) right away. TH (trying hard), in colloquial lingo, to please.

Our leaders have been treading on eggs these past days after the visit of Chinese President Xi Jinping, who must have been delighted that he was treated by his hosts as if he were God’s gift to this woebegone country.
Consider the news headlines in the aftermath of that visit: “Probe won’t hurt PH-China relations, say senators,” which refers to the unprecedented rise in the number of Chinese workers entering the Philippines that needs probing. On the same page: “Defense chief sees no security problem with China biz park.” Several pages away: “Lorenzana: Seas ours but PH military weak.” And to sound reassuring: “Xi in letter, tells Duterte: Our tree will bear more fruits.”

Those are all in one day’s issue of the Inquirer. Don’t blame the messenger, blame the newsmakers who are bending backward, falling all over themselves (the onomatopoeic word for it in Filipino: “nagkakandarapa”) to be accommodating, to not offend while at the same time reassuring those of us with furrows on our foreheads.
All that while Filipinos are constantly being stunned (“sindak” is the operative Filipino word) by China’s maneuvers and the Philippine government’s “pagkakandarapa” and acquiescent position, despite stunning triumph over China at the Permanent Court of Arbitration at The Hague in 2016 regarding our claims to the West Philippine Sea. (The Aquino administration filed the case.)
Revealing was the differing views of presidential spokesperson Salvador Panelo and Foreign Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr. on whose version would be used—the Philippines’ or China’s—for the memorandum of understanding on the gas exploration in Philippine territory in the disputed West Philippine Sea. Panelo said it didn’t matter whose version was used—as in, who cares?
Locsin flared up, saying, he cared, he “f***ing’” cared. Turned out his version was, in fact, the one used. Locsin must care that his version, written in elegant English, might stun the Chinese, that is, if much of its elegance is not lost in translation.
But what really matter are the results of these signed agreements, their impact on Filipinos who are constantly being bullied by Chinese power and might in the seas and on dryland.

Just recently, a documentary team from GMA 7 was shooed away by Chinese Coast Guard from Panatag (Scarborough) Shoal, which is on Philippine territory.
Locsin’s reaction this time was: Filing a diplomatic protest would be like throwing paper against a brick wall.

So we wake up one misty morning to find out that the labor field is overrun by Chinese workers who were brought in as tourists with intent to stay on as workers. The alarming rise in their number began with the Duterte administration. Countless Chinese with or without work permits, criminal elements among them, are now roaming our landscape. Clandestinely, they operate online gambling, drug manufacture and smuggling, name it. Above ground, Chinese workers are stealing away jobs meant for Filipinos.
At the Senate hearing the other day conducted by labor committee chair, Sen. Joel Villanueva, jaws dropped with more revelations on the “Chinese invasion” never seen in the past—1.6 million tourist visas issued in 2018 alone. Whether the many who stay on to work have alien employment certificates is another story.
We are being invaded, overrun, taken over, and we sit back? Or with nary a peep from the man where the buck stops, who adores Xi Jinping as his conquering hero.
Some days ago, a Turkish guy who was stopped for a driving offense assaulted the poor traffic officer and threw his weight around like a bully on the loose, trying to petrify with fright those around him—until the cops came. All caught on video. Turned out he was driving without a license.
What have become of us? Bullied na, doormat pa.#

Thursday, November 22, 2018

Unlikely idols for the young

Last Monday, the Inquirer had two separate stories in one page about two men whose lives were suddenly and tragically ended while they were at a relatively young age and while they were serving in their areas of expertise in hopes of making a gentler, better world for us all.
And last Sunday’s Inquirer featured the efforts of a young artist to make heroes, more than a century removed from the present, come alive and relevant to today’s young generation.

The two present-day martyrs for a cause are human rights lawyer Benjamin Ramos Jr., who was gunned down on Nov. 6 in Kabankalan City, Negros Occidental, and botanist Leonardo Co, who was killed in a rain of 245 bullets from Army soldiers while he and his companions were on research in a Leyte forest on Nov. 15, 2010.
Ramos was a pro bono (and “abono,” too) lawyer for a group of farmers fighting ejection suits and for ownership of land they are tilling. Here are words coming straight from Ramos’ widow, Clarisa:

“On November 6th, 2018, at 10:30 p.m., while taking a break from finishing a motion for one of his clients, my husband was brutally shot three times by unidentified murderers, riding in tandem.
“Ben dedicated his pro bono law practice to representing those who had no one to turn to for legal assistance — the landless and oppressed farmers, environmentalists, activists, political prisoners, and mass organizations in Negros island. And he did this with no thought toward monetary gain.
“But he was not just a lawyer and a community organizer, he was, more importantly, a loving husband and a doting father to our three children. He taught them that those who did bad should be given a chance to change their ways for the better.
“We were partners in all things. He helped me with the kids’ homework. I helped him with community organizing.
“We had one soul, one advocacy: to help the marginalized people in our island organize themselves so they could lead the way towards change, to defend the human rights of those who had no one to fight for them.

“And now those three bullets have taken his life and ripped apart our dreams and our community.
“Who will now defend the defenseless? Who will now demand justice amidst all the injustice around us? Who will now help me raise my children?

“I call on the authorities and the government to find his killers and bring them to justice. I demand justice for my husband, Ben Ramos.”
Ramos was the 34th lawyer killed under the Duterte presidency, according to an officer of the National Union of Peoples’ Lawyers of which Ramos was a founding member and secretary general of the group’s Negros chapter. He was the founder of Paghidaet sa Kauswagan Development Group, which helped farmers and victims of human rights abuses.
I did write a Sunday Inquirer Magazine cover story on Co (“A Glimpse of Paradise Lost”) for Earth Day 2011. I wrote then:
“He knew the wilderness and its many secrets. Each leaf, each stem, each trunk spoke to him in ways ordinary humans might not hear. He hearkened to them and gave them names. From under the huge canopy of green that was his second home, he would emerge, carrying with him evidence of rare and amazing life. He had glimpsed paradise. The world, he thought, needed to know about the treasures hidden in these endangered vastness.”
The young need to know about such recently departed Filipinos, they who were into advocacies not totally unfamiliar, they who took the path less traveled. And while at it, I cannot help but also remember young barrio doctor Dreyfuss “Toto” Perlas, who was murdered in Lanao del Norte last year.
Oh yes, we always do need another hero, contrary to what a song proclaims. Not the kind with superpowers seen on television and movie screens, but flesh-and-blood humans who walked this earth and served those left on the wayside, those left behind, the voiceless, nameless, faceless.
Oh, but we need them alive for a long time, if that is possible, they whose passion the young of this generation could emulate if not surpass.#

Thursday, November 15, 2018

Kaliwa dam, a debt trap?

A news report several days go said the Metropolitan Waterworks and Sewerage System (MWSS) has allayed fears on the construction of the P12.1-billion New Centennial Water Source (NCWS)-Kaliwa Dam Project, which is opposed by vocal sectors. Why the “fears”?
The Kaliwa Dam to be built in Quezon province has been in the pipeline for three decades. Expected to be operational by 2023 if begun soon, it is supposed to complement the Angat Dam, which supplies 96 percent of the water needs of Metro Manila, Bulacan, Rizal and Cavite.

According to MWSS Administrator Reynaldo Velasco, Kaliwa Dam will add 34 million liters daily to the mentioned areas. It is supposed to address the possible water shortage that Metro Manila and surrounding areas might experience in the coming years. And it is “a done deal,” Velasco added, meaning that President Duterte and Chinese President Xi Jinping will be signing the contract on Nov. 21.
Who are saying no to the construction of Kaliwa Dam?

In July, 51 Catholic bishops and four priests expressed support for a pastoral letter issued and signed by Bishop Prelate of Infanta Bernardino C. Cortez titled “No to Kaliwa Dam, Yes to Alternative Sources of Water.”
While the dam could mean more water for Metro Manilans, the letter enumerated the reasons why the dam is a cause for concern for the inhabitants of the area where the dam will be built, short of saying it could be a disaster waiting to happen.
“It will inundate the ancestral domain of the Dumagat-Remontados, uprooting them from the Sierra Madre where their ancestors lived for centuries enjoying a symbiotic relationship with the earth like the children to their mother. Undeniably, until now the indigenous people have not given a Free, Prior and Informed Consent to the Kaliwa Dam project as required by Republic Act No. 8371.” Or have they, have they?
This is not a romanticizing of “the forest primeval, the murmuring pines and the hemlocks” of poetry. There is more to the plaint of the people of Sierra Madre than meets the eye.
The dam will be constructed over the Infanta Fault and will endanger some 100,000 people who live downstream of the Kaliwa River, the letter said. In 2004, a flash flood in the area left 1,000 people dead and millions worth of properties destroyed. Velasco was reported as saying that the dam could withstand an 8-magnitude earthquake.

With climate change and erratic weather that have brought even high-tech and well-prepared countries to their knees, and with unpredictable rainfall that comes in unprecedented torrents hereabouts, how much can this dam hold? Can it withstand a “Yolanda”-type supertyphoon?
The bishop’s letter offers alternatives for thirsty 30 million Metro Manilans, among them, water management to reduce water consumption and waste, rainwater harvesting, rehabilitation of the Pasig-Laguna River Basin, adoption of the Singapore New Water technology (treatment of wastewater), and most important, expansion of the dwindling forests that serve as watersheds that could refill the underground aquifers.

The bishop’s pastoral letter is echoed in a letter sent recently to President Duterte by groups such as Alyansa Laban sa Kaliwa Dam, Save Sierra Madre Network Alliance, Purisima, Task Force Sierra Madre, Tribal Center for Development, Green Convergence and Alyansa Tigil Mina, to name some.
The proposed NCWS-Kaliwa Dam Project “will inundate 291 hectares of forest from the total 9,800 hectares in Infanta-Kaliwa Watershed, including the sacred site of Dumagat-Remontado in the areas of Tinipak in Barangay Daraitan in Tanay, Rizal,” they said.
The environmental groups allege that President Duterte is “being manipulated by his advisers to sign the contract…with Chinese President Xi Jinping.”
“It is a debt trap,” the groups warn. President Duterte’s advisers “are simply duplicating Sri Lanka’s Hambantota airport and seaport experience,” with said Chinese-funded projects having turned into liabilities.
Remember, “Come hither, hither, said the spider to the fly”? Or the old saying, beware of Greeks bearing gifts? Learn from Malaysia’s Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad, who canceled projects with China to avoid being trapped. While in Singapore these past days for the Asean Summit, President Duterte, with his foul mouth in check, should have made time for a tête-à-tête with Mahathir.#

Tuesday, November 13, 2018

Thursday, November 8, 2018

Pre-dep words from Sister Patricia Fox

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

The day before Sister Patricia Fox, 71, was scheduled to leave (Nov. 3) the Philippines where she immersed herself among the poor for 27 years, I managed to ask her for some parting words. This Australian religious sister of the Notre Dame of Sion congregation, a lawyer by training and with a heart for the marginalized, has left her mark in the lives of many who pray she’d be back, if not soon, in better times.
“It is with great sorrow that I finally have been forced to leave the Philippines with the Bureau of Immigration (BI) refusing to renew my visa. This was despite the announcement of the Department of Justice that they would decide on my deportation case within a month. It seemed at first the BI would agree to an extension, but I believe either the President or his daughter blocked this. It has been clear since the beginning of the case that the BI had no legal basis for the deportation case and never could answer any of the legal arguments. Basically, they said they are the alter ego of the President and are just implementing his orders, for which he also had no basis.

“I am choosing to leave under protest rather than overstay and be deported for that reason. I prefer to be sent by my friends and coworkers in the Philippines to do solidarity work outside the Philippines. I always hope one day I can return.
“I plan to continue fighting the deportation case through my lawyers as what is at stake is the right to freedom of expression, freedom of movement, freedom of assembly, freedom of religion, all guaranteed under the Constitution and international law. If we do not challenge and this case becomes a precedent, any foreigner can be deported for standing in solidarity with the poor, or even attending such conferences as anti-mining.

“During all the appeals over the six months, the BI has made several alleged and unsubstantiated arguments. In the latest denial of the extension of my visa, they used the deportation case even though the secretary of justice said this could not be used as grounds because the case is still pending. They also added that they had not seen me in a shirt of the congregation, but had seen me with shirts or banners of ‘so-called’ leftist groups. From this they concluded I was not doing the missionary work of the congregation but was representing the various groups that they alleged I had the shirt or banner of.
“Our congregation no longer has a habit, and part of our charism is to work for a kingdom of justice, peace and love first promised to the Jewish people for all. I believe that being with groups that advocate genuine agrarian reform, ancestral land and the right to culturally sensitive education of the indigenous peoples, regular jobs for the workers, decent housing for the urban poor, freedom of political prisoners, and justice for the victims of extrajudicial killings, is the essence of my commitment as a sister of Sion living our charism in response to the call of God for our times. I am proud to be associated with these dedicated and brave people who are being vilified for daring to demand their rights.
“I am sad that I see the Philippines sinking further into both economic and ecological crisis. And the answer to this has been to increase militarization. Included are threats to kill farmers who plant food crops on small pieces of land that the large landowners can well afford to donate. The urban poor suffering one demolition after another are threatened when they move into idle housing where the costing shows a lot of corruption which should be the focus. Workers are threatened if they strike and rallies are banned in several areas. Yet history has shown that the spirit of the people for freedom and justice cannot be quashed through might. I know the people will not be silenced and pray that the Church finds her voice to speak out for the victims and call for an end to impunity. I will miss the people I have come to love and admire, but we will always be united in our common aspiration for a better world and a freer, just and more democratic Philippines.”
Perhaps alluding to the government conveniently losing documents, Sister Pat added: “Hopefully, the blacklist will get lost and I can come back soon!”#

Thursday, November 1, 2018

'Dies iirae' for the corupt

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

All Saints’ and All Souls’ will remain among the Filipinos’ favorite feast days. Only Filipinos can celebrate these feasts with so much fun and laughter. Until the West introduced the grossly macabre into our feasting, these feasts were religious and ethnic in nature, solemn but family-oriented and fun, too.
As we observe these feasts on Nov. 1 and 2, our thoughts turn to our dear departed, even as our view of the afterlife has changed somewhat over the years. The Catholic Church has erased limbo from the landscape of the afterlife. But there is still heaven and hell and purgatory. You either believe or you don’t.

Let us remember not just the special human beings in our lives who have gone ahead; let us remember, too, the nonhumans, the other creatures that have enriched our lives and this planet. We are all part of a web, of a cycle of life.
I also remember our Benedictine school days when Nov. 1 and 2 were marked as special liturgical days. As college boarders (synonymous with brats), we would listen to the nuns singing the Latin “Dies irae, dies illa” at Mass on All Souls’ Day, even when English was already the liturgical language of the day.

It was very neo-monastic, and I would picture the squarish Gregorian notes swimming in space while I tried to keep my thoughts from wandering. The organ roared and the voices soared, shaking the rafters of the neo-Romanesque, Germanic chapel which, I must say, is the only one of its kind in this country.
Gregorian was part of our music appreciation class (part of our expansive liberal arts education!), and we were taught how to read those square-shaped notes on four lines and sing them with the mouth correctly shaped. No beat or time, just rhyme and roundish strokes in the air from the conductor. One was supposed to go with the swelling and the receding of the waves, the ebb and the flow of the sound of the spirit.
It takes time and hindsight for one to get to appreciate all these. Today, I can still sing some of the lines from the “Dies irae,” particularly the soaring “Lacrimosa dies illa,/ Qua resurget ex favilla…” toward the end. (It translates as, um, “Full of tears and full of dread,/ Is the day that wakes the dead.”) It is as lachrymose as Mozart’s “Lacrimosa” and “Rex tremendae majestatis” are grand and tremendous.
“Dies irae,” with its arresting tone and somewhat terrifying but hopeful message, will certainly remain a liturgical musical classic.
“Dies irae, dies illa,/ Solvet saeclum in favilla,/ Teste David cum Sibylla…” (That day of wrath,/ That dreadful day,/ When heaven and earth will pass away,/ Both David and Sybil say…) The theme was derived from the prophet Zephaniah’s words, which should strike fear in the hearts of the corrupt leaders of this land.

Zephaniah’s biblical wrath is for those who remain incorrigible: “Jerusalem is doomed, that corrupt, rebellious city that oppresses its own people. It has not listened to the Lord or accepted his discipline. It has not put its trust in the Lord or asked for His help. Its officials are like roaring lions, its judges are like hungry wolves, too greedy to leave a bone until morning… But the Lord is still in the city…”
But he ends with a song of joy. And I think of the millions of Filipinos toiling abroad. “I will bring your scattered people home, I will make you famous throughout the world and make you prosperous once again.”

But as to striking fear in our hearts, this much-admired translation of the “Dies irae” by Dr. W.J. Jones should do the job. Nature is very much a part of the scenario, so those who defile our world with their foul words and evil deeds, hearken.
“Day of wrath and doom impending,/ David’s word and Sibyl’s blending!/ Heaven and earth in ashes ending!
“Oh, what fear man’s bosom rendeth,/ When from heaven the judge descendeth,/ On whose sentence all dependeth!
“Death is struck, and nature quaking,/ All creation is awaking,/ To its judge an answer making…”#