Friday, July 29, 2022



Deadly hatemongering

Hate begets hate, and hatemongering further fuels one’s own hate until it becomes deadly and is consummated in a bloody carnage. Hatemongering is defined as stirring up feelings of hatred by inflammatory speech or writing. These feelings could give rise to hateful thoughts and actions against certain targets.


Alas, there are those with blank minds who become hateful (“basta,” “respect my opinion”), who have been smitten by hatemongers whose paid job is to stoke hate for certain human targets who they want out of the way. That is, for them to clear the way for, say, certain candidates lusting for power, or in order for illegal acts to be carried out. Or to simply get even.

The brief but cinematic police chase on July 24 as shown on CCTV footage made us heave a sigh of relief when we saw that the gunman was promptly arrested not far from the crime scene. But on second thought, we are not really relieved.

Not long after the fatal shooting of three and wounding of two people by a determined gunman identified as Dr. Chao Tiao Yumol at the Ateneo de Manila University’s Areté complex, where a law graduation was to take place in the afternoon of July 24, social media was abuzz with speculations. But by now, people’s most basic questions—the when, where, what, why, and how—have been partly answered by police authorities. The university has issued a statement on the postponement of the graduation exercises, security issues, and expressed words of comfort for the bereaved, the wounded, and the graduates whose long awaited day was marred by violence. But many questions still remain unanswered.

If I was on the verge of tears when I learned about the tragedy, it was not only for the victims and the would-be lawyers and their families and teachers. It was also because the Jesuit-run Ateneo is my alma mater. Its threshold was disrespected, bloodied, and defiled by an armed gatecrasher. One who stood guard to protect those who came to relish the significance of the day, security guard Jeneven Bandiala, died with his boots on, felled by the assassin’s bullets. The target, former mayor of Lamitan City, Rose Furigay, and her aide, Victor Capistrano, also succumbed to gunfire. Furigay’s daughter Hannah Rose, who was to graduate that day, and a bystander were wounded.

Much has been said about the assassin’s motives and background, his being a self-styled antidrug crusader, his issues against the former mayor, the 26 cyberlibel cases dogging him, etc., etc. Whatever it was that finally drove him to carry out what looked like a well-planned intention to kill, we will probably know at the court hearing if not from his affidavit. Will Yumol plead guilty or declare innocence? The hearings will be straight out of TV’s “Law & Order” Philippine-style.

While there is no video footage of the actual shooting (or is there?), images were running in my mind, images not so unlike those one sees on crime TV nights, the horror and disbelief they stoke and, finally, the satisfying denouement that leaves one wanting for more of the same. What happened in the Ateneo was a movie in an assassin’s mind that turned real.

Even while people were still trying to get over their shock, while the suspect (a police term) was undergoing inquest, one could already read on social media sickening posts that cheered his act, even wishing boldly that the suspect should have also spent some bullets on a much-awarded but much-persecuted media personality, a Nobel Peace Prize winner at that. How did it come to that?

That the assassin was a supporter of former president Rodrigo Duterte, and therefore a hater of former vice president Leni Robredo (as gleaned from his Facebook posts), does not give trolls a go-signal to turn on their hate hoses, misdirected as they are.

One can easily detect how a one-liner, a meme, or an image posted on social media is intended to trigger a chorus of hateful comments from dedicated trolls, emerging as if from a darkened amphitheater in a Greek tragedy or opera. What orgiastic delight the poster must derive from wallowing in that toxic muck of his/her own making.


Pray tell, compañeros y compañeras, what law might apply to hatemongers who urge troubled characters to act on their behalf and carry out their common murderous fantasies in real life? If cyberlibel does not apply, what will? Inciting to murder? Is hatemongering here to stay?

Read more: https://opinion.inquirer.net/155543/deadly-hatemongering#ixzz7s2xEtMGI
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Friday, July 22, 2022



Seized ‘Imeldific’ art trove at UP museum

On exhibit at the University of the Philippines’ Vargas Museum are artworks in the possession of the Presidential Commission on Good Government (PCGG). According to museum curator Patrick Flores, the 76 art pieces on exhibit are part of the 500 plus that the PCGG entrusted to the Vargas Museum for temporary safekeeping. These were previously kept at the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas’ Metropolitan Museum of Manila that is moving from its present location. PCGG had “sequestered” these pieces “owing to their being unlawfully acquired” but has yet to dispose of them through an auction as part of their mandate.


The art trove was supposedly left behind by former first lady Imelda Marcos when the Marcos dictatorship was ousted during the 1986 people power revolt. From the exhibit notes: “They are entangled in the matrix of refinement and excess, identity, prestige, taste, power and beauty, development, nationalism, and internationalism, acquisitiveness, Cold War, Third World, Martial Law, New Society, People Power.” Pieces in the exhibit “remain under litigation and research on the sequestered property continues.”

The exhibit is dubbed “The PCGG Artworks Collection: Objects of Study.” The piece de resistance hangs on the wall of the landing that leads to the third floor where the collection is. It is huge and dark, titled “Large Landscape with Figure” (approximately 3 meters x 3 meters, oil on canvas, undated) by Italian Giuseppe Zais (1709-1784). This is one of two by Italian masters that remain in the country from the lot of 75 appraised and auctioned by Christie’s in New York in 1991.

The rest are smaller pieces except for the “Altar Piece of Five Saints,” (tempera on wood, undated) by Lippo Memmi (1291-1356) which is quite imposing, I must say. Only Zais and Memmi comprise the Old Italian Masters in the exhibit.

The rest are classified as Russian Lacquerware, Yugoslavian Naifs, and Russian Icons. The Yugoslavian Naifs (all of them acrylic on glass) have a fairytale-like appeal that resonates with one’s childhood imaginations, naif art around which anyone could weave stories. The titles tell tales: “Phantasy Bird Carrying Village,” “The Village in a Basket.” Several of them are dated 1970s. It is “fantasy, folklore and surrealism.” Alas, Yugoslavia is no more.

Eight of the 38 Russian religious icons (17th-, 18th-, 19th-, 20th-century, egg tempera on wood) have the Virgin Mary as subject and given honorific titles derived from places (e.g., “The Virgin of Krasnostock”). As icons go, they have touches of gold and beaten metal on them. Jesus, Mary, saints, prophets, and biblical figures outdo each other on the wall. “St. Luke the Evangelist” held me for more than a moment.

The pieces in the Vargas museum may not be the crème de la crème, but they make me wonder what the rest of the 500 in PCGG’s possession are. But there are so many, many more out there that Imelda Marcos had kept out of sight.

In 2014, I did a two-part series for the Inquirer (“PCGG, Marcos victims in race to claim Imelda art,” 10/12/2014) on the art trove of Mrs. Marcos that are being sought by PCGG agents and the lawyers of more than 6,000 thousand claimants/martial law victims-survivors.

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

Sadly, the claimants’ lawyer, Robert Swift, said the Philippine courts have refused to recognize the $2 billion judgment while the Philippine government uses its sovereign immunity in the US to try and prevent the members of the class suit from litigating to collect on the judgment, touting the Sandiganbayan decisions forfeiting various Marcos assets in favor of the government as enforceable in the US. It had been a case of finders-keepers. (Swift slipped into the country recently to testify in Makati RTC on behalf of the claimants.)


The second part of my series (“‘Imeldific’ collection of artworks, partial list,” 10/12/2014) listed more than 200 high-value art pieces, among them by Degas, Monet, Gauguin, and Picasso.

The pieces on exhibit at UP’s Vargas Museum could be considered loose change but, when monetized, can go a long way for their supposed beneficiaries—among them, agrarian reform and coconut farmers.

The hunt continues. Was that a Picasso that was photographed somewhere and seen on Facebook?

Read more: https://opinion.inquirer.net/155311/seized-imeldific-art-trove-at-up-museum#ixzz7s2xwOkZK
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Friday, July 15, 2022



‘Tingi’/sachet nation

Inquirer banner story headline last Sunday: “Tax on plastics, online sales gets new push.” Part of the blurb below the headline said that “to boost [government] revenue, Finance Secretary Benjamin Diokno says the new administration plans to tax all online transactions, which can raise P13.2 billion annually, and earn another P1billion from an excise on single-use plastics.”


The part of the blurb on single-use plastics should be music to the ears of environmentalists but perhaps not to those who have no choice but to use them in their daily lives and livelihoods. The news report said that the bill passed by the House last year will impose an excise of P20 per kilo of single-use plastic bags used in retail outlets.

I am still trying to picture its trickle-down effect. Does this mean that sellers who buy and use plastics will have to spend more for the plastics and then pass on the added cost to consumers? Will sellers and consumers really balk given the convenience plastics give them?

That is as far as collecting more taxes go, but will the excise really prevent the use of more plastics that clog and destroy the environment? Plastics are the most convenient packaging material, and unless something more environmentally friendly is invented, plastics and foil will continue to be in use.

But one thing worked and caught on. Local ordinances banning the use of plastic bags in supermarkets and retail stores have shoppers now bringing their own reusable shopping bags. In my bag is a light reusable that when rolled is the size of a matchbox. The grocery cashier always asks if the shopper has an eco-friendly tote and, if none, offers a carton with no extra charge.

The bigger problems are in the manufactured items that come in small packages made of nonbiodegradable materials, the sachets. Three-in-one coffee mix, creamers, ketchup, sugar, shampoo, conditioner, sauces. Name it. Corner sari-sari stores sell food items in plastic sachets—black pepper, cooking oil, MSG, crackers—as well as hygiene products. Go to a sari-sari store in a depressed area and find all kinds of single-use items sold individually, sanitary pads among them. Tingi.

The Philippines is a sachet or tingi nation. People who cannot afford to buy big-size (say, of cooking oil) buy tingi that comes packed for single use, in a sachet. It is these small, empty, discarded plastic wastes that are seen floating after a heavy downpour. They find their way into waterways and farther to the rivers and the seas, and become the scourge of marine life.

This is not to put the blame entirely on the cash-strapped consumers who can only afford tingi. Manufacturers should find a way to package and sell their products in a consumer-friendly but also environment-friendly way. And consumers must know how to properly dispose of the packaging that is plastic.

The French word “sachet” means “little sack” or pouch that contains small items like perfume, potpourri, and such. But when I googled it, I was surprised to read that it is a “term mostly used in the Philippines.” Now, we have a French word in our everyday vocabulary. As in, pabili po ng isang sachet ng shampoo with conditioner.

Taxing plastic bags to make them vanish slowly from our lives is easier than banning sachets altogether. What is the alternative? They are as ubiquitous as the plastic forks and spoons that go with fast food orders.


GAIA (Global Alliance for Incinerator Alternatives), an advocacy group for the environment, says: “Sachets may have brought better quality products to poor communities but the problem is that they have become a waste nightmare … There is this crucial necessity to craft regulations that would include sachets in the big picture, and to demand accountability from the companies that manufacture them…

“Comprising an estimated 52 percent of the residual plastic waste stream, sachets have been accumulating in the environment, where they defile the natural landscape, choke waterways, harm wildlife, and threaten livelihoods like tourism and fisheries. Filipinos use a staggering amount—around 164 million per day.”

A World Bank report, “Marine Plastic Management: The Gender Dimensions,” cited the Philippines as one of several Asian countries that contribute 55-60 percent of global plastic waste leakage.

Read more: https://opinion.inquirer.net/155055/tingi-sachet-nation#ixzz7s2yJDlEp
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Friday, July 8, 2022



Distortionists, revisionists, denialists

One of the things I did during the few weeks before the national elections, when I noticed the massive and deliberate ways historical facts were being distorted and revised to suit a particular candidate, was to pull out from my bookshelves the books on the martial law years under the Marcos dictatorship. Two of them are by me, and a couple of others had my pieces in them. I made quite a pile on the floor, minus those I could not immediately find on my bookshelves. I photographed the pile and posted it on Facebook.

I did get worried comments from friends who thought I should find a way to stow away my collection for safekeeping. No worries, I replied, without saying what I intended to do.


A Facebook friend, an award-winning author and lawyer (and antique books collector) based abroad, also later photographed his own pile and posted the photo he took. I gamely commented: “Paramihan tayo.” (Let’s see who has more.) The more the “many-er,” I thought.

Not long after, I thought of photographing each cover and also downloading from the internet the covers of the books I did not have. What an awesome gallery the book covers turned out to be! The cover designs, titles, and authors’ names made the gallery a magnet for virtual viewing and their pages for imagined perusal.

But a few years back, I already made a bibliography of books dealing with martial law and the dictatorship, something I realized some academics had already done. Many written and published abroad are hardly known hereabouts, but are worth reading for the kind of historical perspective they might offer.

I thought of posting the list on a website I would name “Dark Pages,” even while I was still thinking of the tagline to go with it. I hadn’t yet thought of the gallery of book covers at that time. Now I think I should seriously do a good job of this especially because…

Historical distortionists, revisionists, and denialists of that dark era eat your heart out. You could be better as contortionists of the third kind. No matter what you do to bash historians, their work will remain for all time. In this age of digitization, anything can be stored on some planet. Send mine to the dwarf planet Ceres.

I remember being asked by the late writer and icon Doreen Gamboa Fernandez to write for the 10-volume “Kasaysayan: The Story of the Filipino People.” It was to be on the “comfort women” who were sex slaves of the occupying Japanese soldiers. I had met and interviewed the last of them for articles in the Inquirer. I had even gone with them when they, along with other comfort women from several Asian countries, testified at the Tokyo War Crimes Tribunal in the late 1990s.

My piece for “Kasaysayan” is in volume 7 edited by historian Ricardo Jose, an expert on the Japanese occupation. Only later did I realize that my Filipino comfort women piece was the first to be in a history book! It had been a taboo topic until women’s groups drew these abused women out from their twilight zones, Rosa Henson among them.

Last June 30, survivors of the Marcos dictatorship took their oath “to guard against tyranny, falsehoods, and the trampling of people’s rights and freedoms” which coincided with the oath-taking of the Marcos son as the new president. It was held at the Bantayog ng mga Bayani, where names of heroes and martyrs are etched on the Wall of Remembrance. There rises the 45-foot tall Castrillo monument of a defiant mother holding a falling son.

A young person, a student, approached me to say she had read my piece in “Kasaysayan.” It took a second or two for it to click in my mind and give me a rush of joy. I pointed her to the table where books on the Marcos dictatorship were being snapped up by buyers. My own few remaining books were sold out. (Will ask the University of the Philippines Press to replenish.) “Presidential Plunder: The Quest for the Marcos Ill-Gotten Wealth” by former senator Jovito R. Salonga (former head of the Presidential Commission on Good Government) was selling like hotcakes (soft cover, 426 pages, at P150).


More on the “Dark Pages” project another time.

Read more: https://opinion.inquirer.net/154816/distortionists-revisionists-denialists#ixzz7s2ybw9L3
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Friday, July 1, 2022



Coco levy: Monumental sin against coco farmers

In the news recently was former president Duterte’s Executive Order No. 172 that will allow the government to tap the P75-billion coco levy fund to revive and modernize the coconut industry. The EO is also known as the Coconut Farmers and Industry Development Plan.


Much has been written about the billions in coconut levy collected from coco farmers during the Marcos Sr. regime that ended disgracefully in 1986. For decades after that, the farmers had clamored to get the issue settled once and for all—in the true owners’ favor, they had hoped. Layers upon layers of corporate and legal schemes had all but suffocated the farmers’ claims. Well, there is no scam so big that it cannot not be unraveled.

A woke farmer might tell you that only an evil genius could have crafted the biggest money collecting operation in Philippine history, that is, outside of taxation. For how could so much collected money from millions of small farmers for nine years end up in the names of a few? For one, there were no official receipts issued. Saan ang resibo?The coconut levy collected from 1971 to 1982 was supposed to boost coconut research and other programs that would benefit the industry. Alas, the money was diverted into the pockets of Marcos cronies to finance their own business interests.

A 2012 Supreme Court ruling gave the government the ownership of the funds. It also overturned President Benigno Aquino III’s EO for its privatization.

I recently went over my long 1998 interview with coconut farmers that now reads like a primer on how the monumental sin against them was committed. I wrote:

Behold this tree of life. As of last count, there are more than 100 things that could be made from this wonder tree, the coconut. From laundry soap and coconut oil to acoustic boards and medicines, from heady brews and computer parts to culinary delights. And yet, many who live and work in its shadow have suffered penury.

How had they come to this? The very ones from whom money was extracted to fund what was purportedly for their own benefit ended up even poorer, with nary a claim to what was set up in their name.

Two tell-all books on what happened: “20 Million Coconut Farmers Are Victims of Levy Racket” (1992) by former Philippine Coconut Authority (PCA) administrator Virgilio David (Brig. Gen., Ret.) and “Long and Tortuous Road to Coconut Levy Recovery” (2007) by Romeo C. Royandoyan and published by Centro Saka, Inc.

David’s excoriating exposé gives Eduardo Cojuangco Jr., one of the main actors in the coco levy scheme, some pages to explain what it was and what it was not. And then David goes ahead to list the roles institutions played in the anomaly. “With the United Coconut Planters Bank, Cocofed, and PCA backstopping each other, the monopoly of the industry was a foregone conclusion. With billions of levy money deposited at UCPB at his fingertips courtesy of ‘virtual insider arrangements,’ Cojuangco and his clique could reconfigure the industry and its supply and demand patterns according to their whims, needs, or both. They could likewise bleed it dry, condemning in the process some 20 million small coconut farmers to depths of poverty…”

Wrote Royandoyan: “The path to fund recovery and utilization had always been fraught with danger. Prior to the decisions of the Supreme Court (December 2001) and the Sandiganbayan (2003-2004), the contentious issue confronting coconut farmers, government, legislature and NGO advocates was whether the character (public or private) of the coconut levy funds had to be resolved first by the court before any recovery and utilization of funds can be made by the coconut farmers. Now that the public character of the fund has been established, the contention is over the total recovery of the coconut levy funds through the judicial process as against an out-of-court settlement or compromise.”


After I posted on Facebook the cover of David’s book, former party list representative Patricia Sarenas wrote: “My late father, after working for years in a bank, retired to our small coconut farm. At first, income from copra sales was enough for expenses and for the medical school fees of my sister. Then the copra sales income dropped as he became a victim of the syndicate that milked dry thousands of coconut farmers all over the country…”

How now, carabao? Ferdinand Marcos Jr., who took his oath as President yesterday, besides being Commander in Chief, has designated himself Secretary of Agriculture.

Read more: https://opinion.inquirer.net/154589/coco-levy-monumental-sin-against-coco-farmers#ixzz7s2ytjcbr
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