The usual suspects: a cautionary tale

On Valentine's Day and eve of GPH-NDFP formal peace talks: A call to release all political prisoners (Arkibong Bayan)
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ALTHOUGH HE has yet to be inaugurated as the 16th President of the Philippines, Rodrigo Duterte has already met with the leaders of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) and the Moro National Liberation Front(MNLF). His presumptive peace negotiators also met with the leaders of the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) last June 15 in Oslo, Norway, to discuss the resumption of peace talks between the Government of the Philippines (GPH) and the NDFP by July this year.

The meeting with the NDFP has been described as cordial and open, and that with the MNLF and the MILF as one “among brothers.” Although part of the agenda in the Duterte meeting with the MILF was the incoming administration’s commitment to the passage of the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL), which has been in limbo since 2015 because of the Mamasapano incident and the refusal of Congress to act on it, the meeting with the biggest groups that have been involved in the Mindanao conflict was also meant to resolve such other issues as the MNLF’s resistance to the BBL and the tension between it and the MILF.

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Let the dead bury their dead

Libingan ng mga Bayani (Makati Portal)
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“CEMETERY OF HEROES” is the English translation of “Libingan ng Mga Bayani,” where burying the remains of the late Ferdinand Marcos, Sr. has been resisted for years by most of the victims of the fascist dictatorship he erected on the ruins of the Republic in 1972.

That has not always been the Cemetery’s name. Established as the Philippine equivalent of the American Cemetery and Memorial in Manila where the remains of United States military personnel killed during World War II are buried, it was created in 1947 as the Republic Memorial Cemetery, and given its current name only in 1954, during the administration of then President Ramon Magsaysay—who is himself not buried there.

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Media and power

Journalist covering an event (Lito Ocampo/CMFR)
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THE RELATIONSHIP between media and power—whether in the form of governments, business corporations, or institutions with large followings such as churches—has always been problematic.

The media are almost always the first targets of repression, whether in Indonesia during the 1965 coup and the decades that followed it; in Thailand in the present day where the military junta has taken down supposedly offensive posts in online news sites and blogs, and disallowed the holding of press forums—or in the Philippines, where, upon the declaration of martial law, the Marcos terror regime shut down newspapers and radio and TV stations, required all means of reproducing texts and photos to be registered, created a ministry of information from which all government issuances were to be sourced, seized control of the broadcast networks, and allowed only crony-owned newspapers to publish.

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Four cabinet posts do not communism make

President-elect Rodrigo Duterte (Photo: Rody Duterte Facebook Page)
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IT MAY STILL BE weeks before his inauguration as the 16th president of the Philippines, but President-elect Rodrigo Duterte has already generated enough controversy to occupy the country for the rest of the year through (1) his declaration that he would pursue peace talks with the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP), and release all political prisoners as a confidence-building measure; (2) his subsequent meeting—described as “cordial” by observers—with NDFP emissaries; and (3) his alloting four Cabinet posts to individuals from, or nominated by, the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP).

During the campaign for the presidency, Duterte also declared that he was a “socialist” and that if elected he would be the first “leftist” president of the Philippines. Days before election day, he also presided over the release of several policemen who had been captured by the New People’s Army (NPA), while later engaging in a friendly long-distance conversation with his former professor, CPP founding chair Jose Ma. Sison.

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Duterte takes on the fifth estate

Rody Duterte (AKP Images/Keith Bacongco )
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IT’S NOT just rare, it’s practically unheard of for any Filipino politician to be critical of the Catholic Church, much less to call its bishops names. Soliciting its support during and after elections; maintaining a respectful silence even when they disagree with its bishops’ pronouncements; meekly nodding their heads in submission; providing bishops SUVs for “missionary work” and other favors; and even outright approval of Church collaboration with dictatorship, have been the most common forms of politician and government engagement with the Church—to which they’re likely to belong, anyway, 80 percent of Filipinos being Catholic.

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Deterring crime

Detail from Pisanello's Saint George and the Princess
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PRESIDENT-ELECT Rodrigo Duterte’s reiteration of a campaign promise to have Congress restore the death penalty resonates among most Filipinos who’re justly concerned with,  and are in fact terrified by, the crimes that almost daily threaten their homes, their property and their lives and those of their kin. The number of rapes has nearly doubled, say women’s groups, and murders, kidnappings, assaults, and robberies have been multiplying, even as the drug trade destroys entire families. Outrage over these crimes’ persistence and their going unpunished is not limited to the survivors and kin of the victims. The demand for retribution cuts across classes but is especially strong among the students, professionals, office employees, and graveyard shift workers who feel they’re most vulnerable, and who are the most common crime victims.

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Philippine elections: the national is local

Voters in Region 8 exercise their most sacred right to vote for candidates of their choice. (PIA-8 photo by Vino Cuayzon)
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“PHILIPPINE ELECTIONS,” says the British publication The Economist, “are always local and thuggish.” 

The “thuggish”  part every Filipino is, or should be,  familiar with. That’s the “guns and goons” in the “guns, goons, and gold” equation that too often decides the outcome of elections in those places where the police are either too weak to prevent voters from being intimidated, or are themselves among the thugs  in the pay of the local warlord.  These are the hoods responsible for the violence that characterizes most Philippine elections (but which the police always describe as “orderly and peaceful”). At least vote-buying, or the “gold” part that comes in both cash and kind, helps redistribute, rather than death and injury, the wealth that’s been stolen from the people.

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