Taking the side of neither bully in the school yard

January 5, 2012. Our involvement with the issue of the Chief Justice’s impeachment must not degenerate into taking sides from among the warring political factions of the government, for we must remember that what truly matters is the people’s welfare. Beyond all the cacophony of this political circus, the truth remains that both contending ruling cliques have their own vested agenda. The Aquino and the Arroyo groups have taken advantage and exploited this feud in order to portray themselves as heroes and saints while neither of them genuinely address the basic pursuit of social justice in the country.

To take side with either bully of the schoolyard is not a choice, it is a false dichotomy.

On one hand, if we are truly for judicial integrity and independence, we should welcome the opportunity for the Chief Justice to defend himself against allegations of partiality in an impeachment trial. We should caution against those who portray the impeachment of the Chief Justice as an attack against the Judiciary as an institution and paint several personalities as martyrs. Impeachment per se is not a breach of judicial independence. Impeachment is a mechanism for Congress to fulfill its check and balance function as representatives of the people. It is not a mere surplusage in our Constitution. Our Supreme Court Justices, highly esteemed by some of us as they may be, are not infallible demigods who are immune from scrutiny and criticism, and they remain to be public officials who are accountable to the people.

We should also welcome the impeachment as a step in holding accountable the past administration of former President Arroyo, for it is undeniable that while the Chief Justice is in power, the integrity and impartiality of all Supreme Court decisions with regard the Chief Justice’s former principal, to whom he has served as chief of staff and legal counsel, will be put into question. Judging the pattern of decisions and opinions of the Chief Justice, indeed his impartiality is in doubt.

On the other hand, we should also caution our support for such pursuit of judicial integrity by refusing to throw all our weight behind the Aquino clique, for it is readily apparent that this is a machination to consolidate all branches of government at his disposal, after a consistent pattern of Supreme Court decisions that run against the present administration’s interests, the final straw being that of the decision regarding Hacienda Luisita. Removing an Arroyo-appointed Chief Justice opens the golden opportunity for President Aquino to install his own. In that regard, we should also remain vigilant in the common pursuit of a Supreme Court that is truly an independent entity capable of dispensing legal matters with fairness and justice.

At the end of the day, while we are being made to watch this political circus the prevailing fact remains, President Aquino has no clear program of action to resolve the root causes of massive poverty and injustice in the Philippines but a rehash the same old bankrupt economic framework and political policies of his predecessors, including former President Arroyo. All President Aquino has to show for, laudable as it may be, is a smokescreen of anti-corruption rhetoric. Such is merely a staged showdown between his administration and Arroyo’s which does not address the basic problems of the people. After all, in the final analysis, how different are the two cliques from each other?

* with reference to former President Arroyo’s infamous line in response to critics: “I’m tired of chasing the bullies around the schoolyard!”

[This is a statement I wrote for the Civil Law Student Council of UST with regard to the political issue of the Chief Justice’s impeachment trial]

DepEd’s overpriced shampoo, dental needs, otoscopes

Kabataan Press Conference on DepEd Scams Kabataan Press Conference on DepEd Scams Kabataan Press Conference on DepEd Scams Kabataan Press Conference on DepEd Scams Kabataan Press Conference on DepEd Scams Kabataan Press Conference on DepEd Scams Kabataan Press Conference on DepEd Scams Kabataan Press Conference on DepEd Scams Kabataan Press Conference on DepEd Scams Kabataan Press Conference on DepEd Scams Kabataan Press Conference on DepEd Scams Kabataan Press Conference on DepEd Scams

Last Wednesday, Kabataan Partylist, held a joint press conference with Gabriela Women’s Party with regard to the allegations of corruption against the Department of Education in its millions of pesos worth of purchases, not only of error-filled books, but also of shampoo, dental needs, and otoscopes for public school children.

Gabriela, who had previously filed a resolution in the House of Representatives about the Department’s purchase of millions of pesos worth of error-filled textbooks, reiterated its call to investigate the scandalous project. Read the list of errors and I guarantee you, it’s like reading jokes from Engrish.com. On its face, it’s hilarious, but if you think about how it’s being taught to millions of Filipino public school children, it’s scary. No wonder our children our faring poorly in standardized exams.

As if the millions of pesos government officials in the Department of Education allegedly pocketed with the error-filled textbooks weren’t enough, here comes overpriced shampoo, overpriced dental supplies and overpriced otoscopes. Hindi talaga pinalampas para pagkakitaan pati buhok, ngipin at tenga ng mga batang estudyante. Bid prices of the medical supplies were found to be more than double the prevailing market prices of the same items. Even if the Department claims they are of excellent quality, shouldn’t the price per unit be even cheaper because they are being purchased in bulk? Here is the TV Patrol story on the scam, as exposed by Kabataan Partylist:

Here is the story of Bulatlat with regard to the scam.

A Tyrant’s Desperate Attempt

When Press Secretary Jesus Dureza prayed last November 18 in a Cabinet meeting that Gloria Arroyo will continue to lead the country “even beyond 2010,” he actually meant it. The President herself also meant it, even as she pretended to be embarrassed, as the events before and after the prayer indicate that the Charter change is set up once again for an Arroyo dictatorship beyond 2010.

After its failed attempt to use the MOA on Acestral Domain with the MILF to initiate constitutional amendments, the US-Arroyo regime is now more desperate than ever to clear the way for the Charter change express. Arroyo’s last ditch effort to extend her term is without the usual theatrics and pretensions – the danger of term extension is now staring us at the eye.

On November 17, Senator Juan Ponce Enrile, an Arroyo ally, assumed the Senate presidency following a political move that ousted Senator Manuel Villar. Such change in leadership in the Senate favors the bid for a Constituent Assembly (Con-Ass) that has been gaining support at the House of Representatives since the start of the month. And at present, Arroyo’s wish for Con-Ass for Charter change is just a few votes away.

Instead of addressing the plight of millions of Filipinos locally and abroad who suffer under the worsening economic crisis, Arroyo busies herself with paving the way for her term extension. By focusing on prolonging her presidency, she is also prolonging her neoliberal policies that have squeezed much wealth and resources from the country for the benefit of US imperialism – which is now crumbling due to sheer greed for wealth. At the wake of the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression, the stay of a tyrant and US lapdog in power is highly favorable for US imperialism to grapple with its crisis. Arroyo’s term extension means further transforming the country into a sponge that will absorb the global financial mess. Eventually, massive layoffs and worse hunger will confront millions of Filipinos who are now barely meeting the standards of decent living. And those who will decry injustice will simply be punished with brutal force.

Yet with such bleak prospect, compliance is not an option for the people that have tasted Arroyo’s atrocities and oppression for years. As Arroyo allies in Congress railroad the new Charter change bid, they also expedite the advance of the mass movement that will trigger the downfall of the US-Arroyo regime. During these critical times, we are left with the sole option to revolt against tyranny and exploitation. We are challenged to avert the prolonged Arroyo dictatorship and make a historical feat by searching for a better alternative social project.

Cha-cha at Gloria, Ibasura!
Papet, Pasista, Pahirap sa Masa! Patalsikin si Gloria!

Student Alliance for the Advancement of Democratic Rights – UP (STAND-UP)

People’s SONA 2008

People's State of the Nation Address SONA

July 28, 2008. It was my second SONA (State of the Nation Address) rally. This year’s mobilization was definitely larger than last year. It was a broad-alliance rally of BAYAN (Bagong Alyansang Makabayan) and other political opposition groups. I went there as a member of the University Student Council along with my other colleagues in the institution.

More than a hundred UP students joined the march all the way from Diliman to the rally site near Ever Gotesco Mall along Commonwealth Avenue. Some of my blockmates from UP College of Law even joined the rally after our Legal History class that morning.

People's State of the Nation Address SONA

I shall just repost the editorial we have for the current issue of Oblation, the official newsletter of the University Student Council.

OBLATION ISSUE #2 EDITORIAL

When power becomes an end in itself, and not a means for the common good, moral judgments are bound to take the backseat. And so, the annual State of the Nation Address — meant to truthfully report on the president’s progress for the year — has evolved into a tool for deception.

Since 2001, Gloria Arroyo has trumpeted her administration’s achievements. Elaborate cover-up techniques were employed, with numbers and rhetoric as her most potent weapons. The littlest improvements were exaggerated, harsh statistics were ignored, and outmoded yet positive data were favored over the recent but negative figures. Consistently, the end result is a rosy picture of the national fabric, even when reality tells of bleak prospects. Yet, a closer look on Arroyo’s fiscal reforms reveals sinister details.

This year, Arroyo chose to laud the unpopular Expanded Value Added Tax (VAT), crediting the regressive measure for providing the necessary cushion amid the global economic crisis. “Ito ang nakasalba sa bayan,” she proclaims. Seemingly, the success of future government initiatives, pro-poor programs, debt servicing, and infrastructure projects hinged on one aspect alone — the additional profits generated by VAT. “Take VAT away and you and I abdicate our responsibility as leaders and pull the rug from under our present and future progress, which may be compromised by the global crisis,” she further declared. Amid disbelieving ears, Arroyo punctuates this statement with a glowing report of development. “We ended 2007 with the strongest economic growth in a generation. Inflation was low, the peso strong, and a million new jobs were created,” she stated with a smile.

Quidquid latet, adparebit. Nil inultum remanebit. Yet, all that is covered shall be unmasked, all that is hidden shall be known. In a PCIJ report, UP Economics Prof. Ernesto Pernia pointed that while the global recession wrought adverse effects on practically all countries, neighboring regions such as Thailand, Malaysia, Indonesia, and Vietnam fared better than the Philippines. Despite the absence of regressive tax measures, the relative strength of their economies was key in weathering the oil and food crisis. In contrast, Pernia describes Philippine economy as “weak,” predicting a collapse in the markets following a brewing financial typhoon. Economic experts agree that Arroyo’s policies have largely been in the wrong for the last seven years, aggravating an already unstable national economy. With no financial security to speak of, the most vulnerable sectors are also the most hard-hit. More and more people are constrained by the dearth of opportunities as poverty rates increase from 30 per 100 in 2003 to 33 per 100 in 2006.

Government response, however, is characterized by a lack in both insight and foresight. Social desirables such as democratized education, employment opportunities, adequate income, sound housing projects, and affordable healthcare system have largely been missing in government plans. Instead, efforts were wasted on “band-aid solutions,” such as oil and rice subsidies and cash dole-outs. These policies are essentially populist, aimed at boosting Arroyo’s popularity while failing to safeguard the majority from the recurrence or exacerbation of the crises. Certainly, the rise in poverty levels is cause for alarm. Yet, this trend is bound to continue for as long as government is preoccupied with palliative measures that are more of a bane than a boon.

With limited national resources, Arroyo must concentrate on solutions that will have a lasting effect on the population while shielding the country from similar predicaments. For in the final analysis, all presidents are weighed according to one standard — the assurance of the future of the Filipino people. This, in turn, is guaranteed by measures that address the root cause and not merely the symptoms of the malady.

“Leadership is not about doing the first easy thing that comes to mind; it is about doing what is necessary, however hard,” said Arroyo to a country where millions are hungry for opportunity. Yet, the Filipino people deserve more than empty and deceptive rhetoric. Substantial and palpable changes are in order, for there is no other alternative but to perish.

Feb 15 Anti-Arroyo Rally

February 15, 2008. This was half the crowd in last Friday’s anti-Arroyo protest rally in light of the Senate investigations regarding Jun Lozada’s expose on the National Broadband Network scandal that involves the President, her family, and certain government officials. Tens of thousands of people converged at the intersection of Paseo de Roxas and Ayala Avenue to express their outrage and disgust at the President and her administration. [Photo above from John Avellana]. I took the rest of the pictures below. The other pictures are in my Flickr site.

Feb. 15 Makati Anti-Arroyo Rally Feb. 15 Makati Anti-Arroyo Rally Feb. 15 Makati Anti-Arroyo Rally Feb. 15 Makati Anti-Arroyo Rally Feb. 15 Makati Anti-Arroyo Rally Feb. 15 Makati Anti-Arroyo Rally

Feb. 15 Makati Anti-Arroyo Rally Feb. 15 Makati Anti-Arroyo Rally

The first photo is of Carmen Deunida, also known as “Nanay Mameng”, the 78 year-old woman whose presence took public limelight with the strong words she spoke on stage and in front of crowds in the many rallies that culminated in the mobilzation that ousted former President Joseph Estrada in 2001. The second photo is of party-list representatives in Congress marching with the delegation from Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (BAYAN).

Feb. 15 Makati Anti-Arroyo Rally Feb. 15 Makati Anti-Arroyo Rally

I got to Ayala a little early. People were only setting up the sound system and the stage at the intersection of Ayala and Paseo de Roxas when I got there. It was past three when delegations came marching from all sides to converge at the designated street intersection.

Feb. 15 Makati Anti-Arroyo Rally Feb. 15 Makati Anti-Arroyo Rally

These were some of the placards the people carried along with their organizations’ flags during the rally. Aside from the statement placards, there were also placards that depicted President Arroyo with a square mustache to liken her to the fascist dictator of Germany. The Desperate Household and the This is Evil placards especially caught my attention.

Feb. 15 Makati Anti-Arroyo Rally Feb. 15 Makati Anti-Arroyo Rally

Feb. 15 Makati Anti-Arroyo Rally Feb. 15 Makati Anti-Arroyo Rally

Honestly, even though I wanted to go to the Makati rally, I felt quite lazy to make the trip all the way to Ayala from UP Diliman. I was at Jollibee Katipunan that time with a friend for lunch. And you know what? Something hit me that made me make the trip and rally after all. I couldn’t stomach the thought that part of the 39 pesos I paid for a sulit meal will go to the pockets of the few greedy individuals in the administration with the value added tax that we all pay. Noong kay Erap nga, jueteng pay-offs lang. If I was at the least only concerned with myself, wala pa akong pakialam d’yan, hindi naman ako naghu-jueteng, wala siyang ninanakaw sa ‘kin. Pero nag-EDSA na ang tao. Etong pinaggagawa nina Gloria and her cohorts, everyone’s going to be paying for them for decades to come.

Feb. 15 Makati Anti-Arroyo Rally Feb. 15 Makati Anti-Arroyo Rally

Ewan ko lang sa iba, kung paano nila nasisikmura na tila nagbabayad tayong lahat ng tributo sa isang royal family na nakatira sa isang palasyo sa Maynila. Sa bawat cheeseburger meal, sa bawat sigarilyo, sa bawat ballpen, imbes na tustusan ang matinding pangangailangan ng mga public hospital, public schools, maging ng UP, napupunta sa mga German bank accounts ng ilang tao. ‘Di ko masikmura.

Feb. 15 Makati Anti-Arroyo Rally Feb. 15 Makati Anti-Arroyo Rally

We have to realize the long-term social cost of this brazen corruption. I really don’t understand why people keep falling into the trap of government propaganda. It gets pretty tiring. I don’t know what to think of people who have kept following the same “trabaho-hindi-gulo” line all these years. They have condoned the long-term cost of severe corruption with the short-term cost of “political instability.” Ang galing talaga ng spin ng mga propagandists nila. Marami namang nagpapauto at nananahimik na lang. Hindi rallies and political instability ang nagpapahirap sa Pilipino. Sa mga bilyun-bilyong pisong kinukurakot ng ilan sa adminstration, marami na sanang pinoy ang nagka-bahay, ang nakapag-aral hindi lang sa elementary at high school, pati sa college. Maraming pinoy na sana ang mabubuhay nang maginhawa sa kinabukasan.

Feb. 15 Makati Anti-Arroyo Rally Feb. 15 Makati Anti-Arroyo Rally Feb. 15 Makati Anti-Arroyo Rally Feb. 15 Makati Anti-Arroyo Rally Feb. 15 Makati Anti-Arroyo Rally Feb. 15 Makati Anti-Arroyo Rally

Still, “Dissent without action is consent.”

Feb. 15 Makati Anti-Arroyo Rally Feb. 15 Makati Anti-Arroyo Rally Feb. 15 Makati Anti-Arroyo Rally Feb. 15 Makati Anti-Arroyo Rally Feb. 15 Makati Anti-Arroyo Rally Feb. 15 Makati Anti-Arroyo Rally

The first part of the rally’s program was filled with speeches and cultural presentations from various religious groups and sectors condemning the rampant corruption and immorality in government perpetuated by President Arroyo, her family and their cohorts. It was quite surprising, perhaps it’s because we are used to the idea of religion being an agent of pacification, that many of the religious people were quite strong in their words and gestures. There were probably a hundred or so seminarians too who took the lead in some of the chants that the crowd shouted throughout the day. One of the priests even made side comments against his fellow priest for being an “Archbishop of Malacanang” for spinning the meaning of the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines call for “collective action” to mean as collective action through prayer alone instead. Actually, I heard that certain archbishop from Northern Luzon on radio that morning, in his bid to keep people from joining the rally.

Feb. 15 Makati Anti-Arroyo Rally Feb. 15 Makati Anti-Arroyo Rally Feb. 15 Makati Anti-Arroyo Rally Feb. 15 Makati Anti-Arroyo Rally Feb. 15 Makati Anti-Arroyo Rally Feb. 15 Makati Anti-Arroyo Rally

Representatives from students and educators also spoke in front of the crowd to condemn the President and her family and call for her ouster. As I’ve said earlier, one social cost, one social service that is hit hard with the effects of brazen corruption in this administration is the education sector, to which the government has continually implemented policies that commercialize the system and its orientation. I was actually surprised, too, that the ouster calls also came from law students and professors, and lawyers themselves from the Integrated Bar of the Philippines. I always thought they would take the more tame call of resignation.

Feb. 15 Makati Anti-Arroyo Rally Feb. 15 Makati Anti-Arroyo Rally

There were also bands that played music to the crowd that afternoon. One of which was Brownman Revival. They even sang Bob Marley’s Get Up, Stand Up, which actually serves as the theme song of our militant alliance in UP (STAND-UP). It certainly roused STAND-UP members in the crowd.

Feb. 15 Makati Anti-Arroyo Rally Feb. 15 Makati Anti-Arroyo Rally Feb. 15 Makati Anti-Arroyo Rally Feb. 15 Makati Anti-Arroyo Rally Feb. 15 Makati Anti-Arroyo Rally Feb. 15 Makati Anti-Arroyo Rally

The program went on till the sun has set. Joey de Venecia III, one of the whistle-blowers in this scandal that involves the President and her cohorts, also spoke passionately in front of the crowd that night. I left Ayala just before the program ended. Let this not be the last manifestation of the people’s outrage! Tuloy-tuloy na ‘to.

Dissent without action is consent

November 30 2007 multi-sectoral protest action

“Dissent without action is consent.” I was reminded of this when I came across Arbet Bernardo’s blog. This was one of the things Brig. Gen. Danilo Lim expressed during the recent standoff that happened in Makati a few days ago. As a comment to the entry, Jhay Rocas had this to say, “It has the same meaning with this anecdote: If you see an elephant stepping down on a mouse’s tail, and the mouse cries out to you for help. If you say that you don’t want to get involved and would like to stay neutral, your neutrality doesn’t help the oppressed mouse. It helps the elephant!” to which I offered affirmation with a quote, “Silence and neutrality helps the oppressor, never the oppressed.” As a reply to another comment here in my blog, I said, “Though I don’t condone the method they used to undertake their “˜rebellion’, may I remind you that the President has quelled all legal and “˜peaceful’ venues. Elections? Rigging. Impeachment? Bribes. Investigations? Silence. Executive Orders. Propaganda.

True, there’s a more democratic and peaceful way for the people to express their outrage. The venue’s on the streets. Though the State answers dissent on the streets with barricades, water canons and violent dispersals, it’s the only potent means of challenging the administration that is available to the ordinary Filipino.” Borrowing words from V, from V for Vendetta; if the crimes of this government remain unknown to you, then fine, follow the government’s propaganda of economic stability and political unity and allow the recent spur of events to pass unmarked. But if you see what Trillanes and company see, if you feel what they feel, then take a stand, and let their expression of outrage be not the last. To end this entry, let me quote a source I unfortunately forget as of the moment. It went like this, “If there’s one thing that history teaches us, it is that bystanders and tyrants are on the same side.”

November 30 2007 multi-sectoral protest action [photos of the Nov. 30, 2007 multi-sectoral mabilization courtesy of Tope Canela]

Reason is with us

November 29, 2007. We have all the reasons to oust this administration. Read the open letter of the renegade soldiers and all the premises for this rebellion are so real and blatant–from election rigging, to the national broadband scam, to brownbag payoffs, I don’t know how any sane person can stand it. Pero, tulad nga ng isang text na natanggap ko. Tao sa lansangan at hindi mga sundalo sa hotel ang mapagpasya sa isang democratic struggle. Trillanes and company had the right reasons, but the wrong methods.

However, I wouldn’t call Senator Trillanes and company, for all their noble intentions, crazy as many of our middle class netizens have said in their blogs and in comments. But you know what, I’d rather call people who refuse to admit that something’s terribly wrong in this administration crazier. I don’t even know what to call people who know how rotten this administration is but would rather go on and live their comfortable lives because they can afford it. What with all other avenues closed, mass action is our only recourse. Ano pa bang vague na ‘other ways’ and sinasabi-sabi ng iba d’yan? No matter how you spin it, they all lead to the tolerance of all this administration’s crimes. Wait till 2010? Give me a break. Tomorrow we commemorate Andres Bonifacio and the revolution he began.

The deadly extent of one’s desperation

I am not offering any conclusion to the string of violence that have happened in Manila the past weeks, from the deadly explosion in Glorietta, to the bombing of Batasan. However, there is nothing wrong with looking at these recent spate of bombings and violence in a critical and doubtful light, from the various possible motives of such acts to the symbolic violence they represent.

One who simply parrots what the administration and its police force are saying is being too naive–sometimes, irritatingly. The state has all the capabilities, the reasons and the resources to fabricate “truths” to suit the needs of the powers-that-be. It doesn’t take much to theorize which side benefits much from these incidents.

There are millions of Mariannets

November 10, 2007. The way the government is handling the issue of Mariannet Amper, the 11 year-old girl from Davao who hanged herself because of her family’s impoverished situation, is very typical of the establishment’s pattern of covering up for the consequences of its evils and its other such shortcomings.

Unfortunately some people readily buy these spins. Primary of such spins is to dismiss the entire issue as an isolated case, and to trivialize the girl’s reasons for committing suicide as largely personal and psychological. And to match such issues with the harping of news that proclaim economic progress by the numbers–numbers that are largely intangible to the vast number of impoverished Filipinos. Too bad the benefits of the apparent strength of the peso, or the booming stock market didn’t “trickle down” to the Amper family, huh, Ms President?

You know what’s worse, the President has used this issue as an instrument and as a reason to hasten the implementation of her highly-controversial, corruption-laden Cyber Education Project, a sister project of the highly-controversial ZTE National Broadband Network Project. You know, these kinds of spins fuel the mentality that blames the poor for their misery because they are lazy, because they are born poor, because they have too many children, that’s the way it is, etcetera. Bullshit. Think what this kind of mentality leads you to do. Nothing. This kind of mentality only leads you to go on with your middle class life. To be purely guiltless. These spins only serve the prevailing order. I would like to echo what Anton said regarding this issue:

In our present society, everyone and everything can be grouped into two: those who support the status quo in their actions, and those who oppose it in their actions. while some peasants certainly spend their lives praying that the afterlife is somewhat better, there are those who realize that it was not ordained by the heavens that they should be slave to some master. while some workers spend their lives in diversions to the misery of their existences, some try to smash the instruments of their misery. and while some students spend their time trying to feel good here in multiply, some are trying to use this very instrument to enlighten others. there is no neutrality. no one put the noose around mariannet’s neck. no one told her to jump. but certain people made her short life miserable, and they can be divided into two categories: first, the ones who are in power and who make the policies of our country. second, the ones who just watch by.

Indeed it is not enough for one to feel sad or angry over the tragedy. There’s a prevailing order that sustains these conditions and tragedies. And there are collective ways of challenging this status quo.