Every serious journalist I have ever met or worked with–whether feisty professionals from the Manila press or overworked correspondents in the communities who refuse to be corrupted and who risk harassment and even death to get the news out–is concerned with the standards of a profession he or she knows to be crucial in the making of a free citizenry.

These journalists know that to have some meaning, the calling they chose despite the low pay, the risks, the sleepless nights and the pressures from various sources including owners and editors, politicians and special interest groups, must subscribe to two complementary sets of standards. Continue reading

People Power Revisited


It was the military who drove Ferdinand Marcos out of Malacanang and into exile in 1986, and they who handed over the power they had wrested from him to Corazon Aquino. For this service the country should thank the civilian and military leaders–specifically then Defense Minister Juan Ponce Enrile and then Armed Forces Vice Chief of Staff Fidel V. Ramos– who made the overthrow of the Marcos dictatorship possible.

If the Marcos soldiery did not fire at the EDSA crowds during the five days of the EDSA 1 revolt (February 22 to 25), it was out of the goodness of their hearts. They could not bear to fire on the people massed at EDSA because these were their people, and Filipinos like them. Continue reading

A dangerous illusion


Not only most Filipinos 25 years old and younger have no recollection of the martial law period. Some of their elders who were around during the14 years of one-man rule by Ferdinand Marcos don’t either.

What they remember instead is a period of clean streets, “peace and stability,” “low prices,” “efficient and honest governance,” and “better times” over-all. They compare the dreadful present with the martial law period as they remember it, and they see chaos, rampaging poverty, criminal inefficiency, and corruption everywhere. They thus denigrate People Power, whether at EDSA in 1986 or 2001, as a failure and a fraud. Continue reading

Stray animals and wild boar


I hope the US Navy Seal who’s been shooting stray animals in Sulu doesn’t graduate to shooting wild boar. If he does, he could end up shooting a Filipino who mistakenly assumes that because this is his country he can go anywhere in it, including the periphery of US military camps.

That’s what some Filipinos thought when the US still had its Clark airbase in Pampanga. The sentries at the periphery of the base got into the habit of shooting at people near Clark’s outer fences who couldn’t tell the difference between Philippine territory and “US territory”, and shot some of them for making that mistake. Continue reading

Provoking Muslim outrage


None of the Manila broadsheets have reprinted the 12 cartoons that first appeared in a Danish right- wing newspaper last September 12, 2005, although some of our Muslim-hating editors may have been tempted to do so. Despite their many admitted failings, in this sense they may be more responsible than their European counterparts have been.

While the original publication incensed Muslims, the reprinting of those cartoons in Germany, France, Italy, Spain and the Netherlands provoked the firestorm of protests now raging all over the world. The protests–complete with the burning of the Danish and other flags in some cases–have occurred not only in predominantly Muslim countries like Indonesia, but also in countries with Muslim minorities like the Philippines. Continue reading

A Pinoy of better caliber


Quite by accident, I read a letter emailed to the editor of one of the Manila dailies (not the Business Mirror) last week. Judging from her name and email address, the letter writer’s a Filipina married to a Belgian national. But I’m sure her husband looks nothing like those bandy-legged, balding and toothless specimens of Caucasian manhood we often see in these parts fighting off 18 to 30-year old Filipinas who want to marry them so they can relocate to the prosperous West.

In any event, you could sense the anger in this Filipina-married-to-a-Belgian beyond the actual words she used, which by themselves were already quite pugnacious. Continue reading

A Filipino-made tragedy


Last Saturday’s stampede at the PhilSports Arena (formerly Ultra) in Pasig, Metro Manila during what would have been the first anniversary of the ABS-CBN noontime TV show “Wowowee” has been aptly described as a sign as well as consequence of how desperately poor most Filipinos are.

Despite government statistics claiming economic growth, the class structure in this country bars the poor from benefiting from it enough, or even at all. The unexpected increases in productivity last year were thus pleasant surprises only for government economists, but meaningless to the legions of the poor, for many of whom hunger is a daily visitor. Continue reading