Thursday, March 31, 2022



How green is your president?

Quote card for Human Face:

I am not mistaken when I say that of all the forerunners in the presidential race, Vice President Leni Robredo (VPL) is the one who has seen up close devastation around the country brought about by climate change and environmental degradation. And during her visits to bring relief and initiate revival and restoration, she has experienced up close the effects of these calamities on the lives and livelihoods of communities.


These despite her having been unceremoniously shooed out of the administration of the incumbent misogynist president, belittled and God knows what else. But like the empowered woman that she is, VPL simply soldiered on and found ways to be a balm to people’s wounds and give hope to the forgotten and forlorn. Her efforts have quietly attracted supporters and given rise to volunteerism long before she made her job application to be president of this country.

But even before she was elected vice president, VPL, as a pro bono lawyer and later representative of her district in Camarines Sur, had already served those who live in the fringes and margins. As the wife of the late Naga City mayor and later Secretary of the Interior and Local Government Jesse Robredo who died in a plane crash, she had a front seat view of what was happening on the ground.


During the 2010 presidential campaign that resulted in the election of Benigno C. Aquino III, there were no debates and Q&As aired on TV like we have now, but the Green Electoral Initiative (GEI) was able to compel the candidates to articulate their green agenda, not on air but on paper with their signatures affixed.

Issues covered were climate change, solid waste, chemical pollution, consumer safety, sustainable agriculture, genetically engineered crops, water, forests, nuclear power, and mining. Even billboards from hell were tackled. The presidential bets also had to present their environmental track record, plus their answers to two important questions:

If elected president, what would be your first environmental act during your first 100 days in office?

What qualities would you want your environmental secretary to have?

In these past two months when presidential and senatorial bets were grilled on air, I noted that not much attention was given to environmental issues. Corruption, health issues during the COVID-19 pandemic, education, jobs, food, and taxes took precedence.

I present here the highlights of the 2010 GEI survey that could provide insight to voters and candidates alike regarding environmental issues that continue to challenge us. (I have removed the names of the candidates-respondents.) Have the issues been addressed? Have promises been fulfilled? Where are we compared to 12 years ago?

All favored the phaseout of coal power and support the increasing share of renewable energy (geothermal, wind, solar, etc.) in the country’s energy mix.


All supported the full-scale implementation of the Ecological Solid Waste Management Act or Republic Act No. 9003, as well as a ban on single-use plastic bags.

Five supported a ban on field trials and the commercialization of genetically engineered crops. Two proposed more studies.

All were against the importation of genetically engineered food crops into the country.

All supported the position of the Department of Health to stop the aerial spraying of agrochemicals in banana plantations.

All were for the establishment of national targets to progressively reduce the amount of chemical pesticides and fertilizers in agriculture.

All were in favor of amending the Clean Water Act to incorporate a framework of zero discharge of hazardous chemicals from factories and domestic sources.

All supported the imposition of a total commercial log ban in the remaining forest areas.

With the exception of one, all respondents were against the proposed recommissioning of the Bataan Nuclear Power Plant. Some were opposed to nuclear power as an option, while others saw the need for more studies based on the experience of other countries and the opinions of experts.

All expressed support for an alternative mining code, which seeks to revise the current framework of the mining industry.

Most candidates opposed the proliferation of huge billboards and all expressed the need to regulate them.

All saw anti-smoke belching as a priority, with one committing to solve the problem during his first 100 days, and another vowing to go out to the streets with emission tester in hand and stop violators himself.

Send feedback to cerespd@gmail.com

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Thursday, March 24, 2022




First off for deniers: Denying the existence of incontrovertible and indisputable proof of wrongdoing deepens the wounds of the suffering and tramples on those who risked their lives to expose the truth.

The word resibo (recibo in Spanish, receipt in English), is a favorite word these days and is used for jokes, puns, and also on serious retorts to demand proof. Because statements, avowals, and denials are strewn around us to gaslight reality, Filipinos have found refuge in the rather innocuous word, resibo. And so the oft-repeated question and demand: “Saan ang resibo?” (Where is the receipt?)


Resibo got more media mileage when a candidate, to prove payment of fine, reportedly had his lawyer produce a receipt for paid rent. “Juice colored!” is the millennial exclamation for that.

And so resibo no longer simply means a piece of paper to show that a payment or a transaction was made, it has become a weapon to demand the truth, as in, “Prove it.” In a video footage of an investigation, a simple request to hand over a receipt, “Akin na ang resibo,” elicited much laughter.


We, Filipinos, have a penchant for finding humor during serious undertakings and laugh even while government coffers are being emptied by shenanigans from fly-by-night corporations. Oh, but we laugh even louder when the resibo shows it, and the guilty get their comeuppance.

Even presidential candidate Vice President Leni Robredo used the word when she declared in her campaign sorties and, if I remember right, in one of the debates, how her office performed during crisis situations and reached out to the needy. Yes, despite President Duterte shunting her out from his administration, leaving her with a small budget, and to fend on her own. Oh, but how she thrived, proof of how a woman finds ways to make it through stormy nights, landslides, and rising floodwaters—not for herself but for those crying out from their abject situation. May resibo.

Sounds cliché but as the saying goes, it takes a woman. And during this month of March, when women all over the world are being celebrated, appreciated, and held high, it behooves us to take pride in the women in our lives and show it by supporting them concretely.

The Commission on Audit (COA) has given the Office of the Vice President (OVP) the highest audit rating for three consecutive years. The COA gave the OVP an “unqualified opinion,” which is considered the best that an audited government agency can be given. This means that the agency has presented its financial position and statements in order and in accordance with the Philippine Public Sector Accounting Standards. “May resibo po kami,” (We have the receipts) the Vice President declares repeatedly.

Other government agencies wave their own receipts only to reveal scandalous overpricing, failure in exercising due diligence, especially in procurement, and dealing with dubious providers as was shown in the questionable Pharmally deal that was the subject of a Senate investigation. While the country was groaning because of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Duterte administration dealt with Pharmally, a corporation set up overnight and with little startup capital for protective medical equipment that were overpriced. So much for political connections. Patingin ng resibo!Those who label the massive Leni-Kiko rallies as elitist for lack of any serious issue to tarnish it with are off the mark. They deny credit for those from the financially challenged sectors who come to be part of the “wave,” who have no material support to give but their presence and voices. They are mistaken as “elitist” because they come clean and disente. As if the poor can only be uncouth and unwashed.

From friend and colleague Marites D. Vitug of Rappler: “When I watch videos of Leni-Kiko rallies and see some participants giving away pandesal, bottles of water, treating each other with kindness, immersing themselves in the atmosphere of togetherness, I ask myself, ‘Where is this coming from?’ Apart from the inspiration from VP Leni, it looks like a manifestation of liberation from almost six years of uncivil and lacerating leadership, from curse-laden talk and vile threats, from a Malacañang-directed polarization.”

“D’accord,” former ambassador Victoria Bataclan comments.

Read more: https://opinion.inquirer.net/151376/resibo#ixzz7sDSTm3qL
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Thursday, March 17, 2022



Music in war and in peace

One moving musical performance I watched during this time while Russia is raining bombs on its neighbor Ukraine on orders of Russian despot Vladimir Putin was the choral rendition by the Hiroshima Adventist Academy Choir of Paulo K. Tiról’s composition, “Still, We Sing Alleluia.”


The young Japanese singers are wearing robes in yellow and blue, the colors of the Ukrainian flag. The music video begins with a message in Japanese and English from the students and leaders: “We pray for the current situation in Ukraine. May God be with them in this difficult time and give them peace.”

The song begins with “Through flowing tears, Alleluia, through growing fears, Alleluia.” One cannot miss the fact that the school choir is based in Hiroshima where the first atomic bomb was dropped during World War II and where an estimated 150,000 civilians and soldiers were killed.


I’ve known Paulo Tiról since he was a boy, the second son of my friends Vic and Lorna K. Tiról, both known in the field of journalism. Paulo is now based in the US, where he did advanced studies in music and where he continues to compose for stage and other musical occasions and venues. An Ateneo graduate, Paulo has been a longtime member of the university-based Hangad Music Ministry group. “Still, We Sing Alleluia” was published by Oregon Catholic Press.

Paulo has many compositions under his belt, Mass songs among them. He composed the music and additional lyrics of “Saint Peter’s Mass” commissioned by St. Peter’s University for a mixed choir. I have the CD. He wrote the stage musical “On this Side of the World.”

Indeed, music and musical talent go a long way and that in war and in peace, music can penetrate all sides and corners of this world. Another music video going the rounds features Ukrainian children singing the much-loved “You Raise Me Up.” It ends with the stop icon with “Stop war” on it.

There are music compositions that are specific to war, like the “War Requiem” by Benjamin Britten. Completed in 1962, it was performed for the consecration of the new Coventry Cathedral in England. The 14th-century one was bombed by the Germans in World War II. Latin and war poems by Wilfrid Owen are interspersed in the “Requiem.”

And there is Russian composer Tchaikovsky’s famous hit, “1812 Overture” with its cannon effects and hints of the French and Russian anthems, which, last I heard, had to be dropped in concert halls for now. It might send a wrong message while the Russian invasion of Ukraine continues.

But without doubt, it is Beethoven’s “Symphony No. 9” with its rousing orchestral and choral culmination (“Ode to Joy”) that continues to endure in all climes and times. It was inspired by German poet Friedrich Schiller’s “Ode an die Freude.”

I did write, some time back, a column piece (“The Power of ‘The Ninth’”) about the award-winning documentary by Pierre-Henry Salfati on Beethoven’s famous symphony. It was shown by the German Embassy. I was so smitten by the story that I gushed: What is it about “Ode to Joy” that movements and leaders who hold divergent beliefs and ideologies have claimed it to be the anthem that embodies their quest? (It is the official anthem of the European Union, by the way.)


Pacifists, fascists, religious, communists, Nazis, romantics, tyrants, humanists, revolutionaries, despots, freedom fighters—what do many of them have in common? They have felt inspired by Beethoven’s “Ninth,” particularly its fourth and last movement.

The documentary answers the question “who” — who have been drawn to it with documentary evidence — from Lenin to the Eskimos in their snowy universe. A lot of archival research and great historical footage from different eras where “Ode to Joy” was played went into the documentary.

As to the “what,” it could be anybody’s guess — the grandness of its totality, but also the simplicity of the melody, the lyrics. But methinks there is a divinely infused ingredient there that even Beethoven himself wouldn’t have been able to pin down. Beethoven (1770-1827) was already totally deaf when he composed “The Ninth.” In his dark night in a world that had fallen silent, he harkened to music only he could hear and sat down to share it with the world. It was, I would say, his desiderata on freedom. It is a symbol of our collective longing for a joyful, free, and peaceful world.

Read more: https://opinion.inquirer.net/151112/music-in-war-and-in-peace#ixzz7sDSszecS
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Thursday, March 10, 2022



Russian star conductor on the dock

Quote card for Human Face: Russian star conductor on the dock

A famous orchestra conductor who was a familiar face on the Mezzo channel on cable TV is Russia’s star conductor Valery Gergiev who was a mainstay in the Mariinsky Theater in St. Petersburg. I’ve gotten familiar with his unruly, thinning hair and sweaty forehead, his quivering fingers, and his “baton” which was the size of a toothpick.


Gergiev, I learned recently, is a close ally of Russian despot Vladimir Putin who is insanely raining bombs on neighboring Ukraine. But I am getting ahead of the story. Indulge me a bit.

The Mezzo channel is a French TV channel devoted to classical music, opera, ballet, jazz, and world music. Its sister channel Mezzo Live HD is on channel 252 on cable TV. Here you can have a surfeit of the concerts held in Europe’s fabulous, jaw-dropping concert halls.


I can take only so many long operas in a week, their awesome state-of-the-art sets and display of lung power notwithstanding, but give me symphonies, piano and violin concertos any time with conductors, each dashing in his own way, flailing away, the likes of Zubin Mehta, Kent Nagano, Daniel Barenboim, Sir Simon Rattle, and the Venezuelan enfant terrible Gustavo Dudamel, to name a few. (Alas, still very few women conductors.) And there are the seasoned violinists and pianists, among them the famous Martha Argerich, and a host of young prodigies.

But thanks to YouTube, one can have playbacks of these and many concerts held even decades ago. I must confess to playing over and over Wagner’s “Liebestod” with Rattle conducting the Berlin Philharmonic until I had enough of it in my subconscious. I had always wondered if Gergiev had conducted it on Mezzo and whether I’d be mesmerized and blown away by his style and the sound of his version.

For the likes of me who had no inkling about Gergiev’s links other than to music, learning about the hard choices he faced was unsettling. Gergiev was on the dock, so to speak, because of his closeness to Putin.

A Feb. 27 news report from The Guardian: “Russia’s star conductor, Valery Gergiev, has been dropped by his management over his close ties to Vladimir Putin as he faces a looming deadline to publicly denounce the Russian president or lose yet another role in his rapidly crumbling career.

“The 68-year-old Russian, an old friend and supporter of Putin, has faced increasing pressure to speak out against Russia’s invasion of Ukraine over the last week. He has been removed from performances around the world and faces more professional punishment if he does not condemn Putin’s aggression in the next 24 hours…

“The move by Gergiev’s management comes just before a Monday deadline imposed by the mayor of Munich, Dieter Reiter, on Gergiev to publicly denounce the invasion. If Gergiev does not comply, Reiter said he would be fired as chief conductor of the Munich Philharmonic.

“At a performance of Tchaikovsky’s opera ‘The Queen of Spades’ in La Scala last Wednesday, Gergiev was ‘lightly booed,’ Italian press reported.”


Gergiev’s own manager, Marcus Felsner, said he would be dropping the man he called “the greatest conductor alive and an extraordinary human being with a profound sense of decency” but who “will not, or cannot, publicly end his long-expressed support for a regime that has come to commit such crimes.”

Felsner added: “In the light of the criminal war waged by the Russian regime against the democratic and independent nation of Ukraine, and against the European open society as a whole, it has become impossible for us, and clearly unwelcome, to defend the interests of Maestro Gergiev.” It was, Felsner said, “the saddest day of my professional life.”

I waited a while to write about Gergiev, hoping he might say what needed to be said but so far he has not given in to pressure. I read somewhere that his engagements in Carnegie Hall have been canceled.

Here is a case where an artist of international stature has been called upon to speak out but would not. I wonder though whether a “do it, or else” was the only way to convince a man who was between a rock and a hard place, or to make it sound more European, between Scylla and Charybdis.

Trivia: Two famous musicians who were Ukraine-born are composer, conductor, and pianist Sergei Prokofiev and “titan of the piano” Vladimir Horowitz.

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Thursday, March 3, 2022



Timely and timeless: Diokno@100

Former senator Jose “Pepe” W. Diokno, lawyer, human rights defender, former political prisoner, and nationalist who died at age 65 in 1987 would have turned 100 on Feb. 26, 2022. Human rights advocates organized activities to honor his memory, to stoke further the embers sorely needed to keep the flames alive, flames to light the road ahead. The skies are darkening and this country is in the gloaming, in that hour between daylight and night.


But enough with figures of speech. Fake news had long been proliferating before the election campaign period, being presented as truth in various media platforms and, worse, being believed by the gullible, the ignorant, and those with tunnel vision. There are the paid trolls, bashers, and hecklers whose daily preoccupation is to diminish or kill what is true in order to boost the evil agenda of their employers whose sources of funds are bottomless or, in Pinoyspeak, “unli.”

Yesterday, I again went over “A Nation for Our Children,” a collection of Diokno’s writings and speeches. It behooves us to hearken to him, this man whom the late Bishop Julio Labayen called “a prophet of our times.”


In 1983, Pepe Diokno delivered the Jose Rizal Lecture at the Philippine PEN Conference where the theme was “The Writer in a Climate of Fear.” That was three weeks before the assassination of Ninoy Aquino, the watershed moment that would explode into nationwide rage.

Diokno’s main source was Rizal’s own writings, the “Noli” and the “Fili.” Meticulously referenced, Diokno’s long lecture was directed at writers who, as he quoted Rizal, “feel their wings but find themselves in chains, choking for want of the air of freedom.”

Today, we choke even more because of the cacophony of falsehoods that threaten to deaden the senses.

Diokno freely translates poet Cecilio Apostol on Rizal: “But if a bullet destroyed your cranium/ Your ideas in turn destroyed an imperium.”

Diokno’s lament: “Rizal’s writings did destroy an empire. But, to our sorrow, they failed to change society. The late Leon Ma. Guerrero, perhaps the best English translator of Rizal, has stressed Rizal’s ‘timelessness, or more precisely, [his] timeliness in another world and another age.’

“So our tasks as Filipinos remain the same as they were in Rizal’s days: regain our freedom as individuals, assert our sovereignty as a people, and use our freedom and our sovereignty to create a just society. And your tasks as writers also remain the same. For as Rizal said, ‘The struggle must commence in the field of ideas before it can descend into the arena of action.’

“I do not ask you to lead, or to teach, and much less to agitate our people for this or that cause or credo. What I ask of you is much simpler: to be great writers. Great in the sense in which Rizal spoke of the greatness of man: ‘A man is great, not because he goes ahead of his generation, which is in any case impossible, but because he discerns what it wants.’ That, ultimately, is your job; to discern what our people want and say it clearly so that they themselves will see it, and seeing, gather their strength to achieve it.


“It is a dangerous and difficult task you must undertake. You face the same risks Rizal did: harassment by interrogation and libel suits which some of you have already experienced, arrest and detention which others among you have undergone, torture perhaps, even disappearance and extra-legal execution…

“In today’s climate of fear, how can we afford to face those dangers? It is precisely because of the climate of fear that we cannot afford not to face those dangers. We must damn the risks … say what must be said, and suffer the consequences. Writers can lay down their pens and tear up their manuscripts—but I know of no human—and writers are nothing if they are not human—who can completely silence his conscience.”

In another speech from which the book’s title was taken, Diokno said: “[Ferdinand E.] Marcos has built his entire social system on a system of falsehoods, on a system of repressing creativity, and on creating in our people a feeling of impotence and helplessness. What are we doing to our children? Our system must be the complete opposite. Our system must tell our children the truth.”

So, damn the risks.

Read more: https://opinion.inquirer.net/150569/timely-and-timeless-diokno100#ixzz7sDTXs4qG
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