Approving death

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Pope Benedict XVI may or may not be familiar with the “Hello Garci” scandal. He may or may not know that some Catholic priests and ordinary Catholics as well as members of other Christian churches have been denied their basic rights and have even been shot dead in the Philippines.

He may not know either that still many more could lose their lives in the Arroyo government’s anti-insurgency campaign. He may or may not know that the Philippines is the second most dangerous place in the world for journalists—and the most dangerous for members of certain legal political parties, advocacy groups, and non-government organizations. Continue reading

The Hiroshima temptation

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The developing crisis over Iran’s nuclear program is mostly unappreciated in this country. And yet that crisis could lead to a nuclear holocaust that could immediately affect not only Iran, but Afghanistan, Pakistan, India and even China. At least some of the Philippines’ 1.5 million Overseas Workers would also be affected.

The primary danger is the United States’ or Israel’s attacking Iran either separately, together, or in concert with whatever other countries the US can intimidate or bribe into participation. With its forces bogged down in a long war in Iraq, the US is not likely to send in ground forces to overthrow the Iranian government and occupy Iran. It will instead attack Iran with nuclear weapons for a quick and decisive victory that would leave the country in shambles and overthrow or kill its current rulers. Continue reading

Sin’s uncertain legacy

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In 1986 the first people power revolt removed Ferdinand Marcos from power. In 2001 the second ousted Joseph Estrada. The late Jaime Cardinal Sin whose first death anniversary the Catholic Church marked the other day (June 21) was a leading figure in both.

In 1986, the cardinal issued a call for Filipinos to protect then Defense Minister Juan Ponce Enrile and then Armed Forces Vice Chief of Staff Fidel Ramos. Both had withdrawn to Camps Aguinaldo and Crame, respectively, after Ferdinand Marcos’ discovery of their supposed involvement in a coup plot against him . Continue reading

Figments of the imagination

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A “figment of the imagination”–the usual assassin on a motorcycle–killed a Church activist last Saturday at about the same time that Raul Gonzalez was declaring that civilian deaths “can’t be avoided” in the “new” Arroyo campaign against “the Left.”

Tito Marata of the Rural Missionaries of the Philippines was shot dead in Oroquieta City, Misamis Occidental. While Marata was being shot, Gonzalez was not only saying that “collateral damage” was inevitable once the Arroyo regime’s billion-peso anti-Left campaign got off the ground. He also said that the killing of activists with at least “government acquiescence” (Amnesty International’s phrase) was “a figment of (the militant groups’) imagination.” Continue reading

Time bomb

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An organization not known for the rigor of its police work, the Philippine National Police has been feeding the public with the usual theories on the who and why of the bombings that have recently plagued metro Manila.

That the bombings were meant to embarrass the police is only the latest in a string of speculations about motives as well as perpetrators we’ve heard from the PNP. Some of its spokesmen (of which it seems to have as much a surfeit of as generals) earlier said the bombings were “meant to sow terror.” These spokesmen later said the bombings were not terrorist acts because they didn’t hurt anyone. But they’ve been consistent in claiming that the purpose of the bombers, whoever they are, is—here’s that word again—“destabilization.” Continue reading

Taking lives

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Nothing and no one can bring Leo Echegaray or anyone else wrongfully executed back to life. But it doesn’t mean that nothing can be gained from a public discussion of Chief Justice Artemio Panganiban’s assertion that the Supreme Court erred in upholding the death penalty for Echegaray.

Certainly the Filipino public as well as the anti-crime groups that have been among the chief advocates of capital punishment can gain something from such a discussion. And although the Philippine mass media may deny any complicity, and even pretend total innocence in the “wrongful death” of Echegaray, they are among the sectors that could learn something from a public review of the case and the death penalty issue. But so has the Arroyo regime much to learn from it, despite its new found advocacy as an opponent of the death penalty. Continue reading

The ignorance that kills

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The evil that is in the world always comes of ignorance, and good intentions may do as much harm as malevolence, if they lack understanding… The most incorrigible vice [is] that of an ignorance which fancies it knows everything, and therefore claims for itself the right to kill.

—Nobel Prize for Literature laureate Albert Camus

It’s bad enough to demand that journalists be informers. But it’s even worse to justify the killing of journalists and political activists by declaring that other crimes happen anyway, and no one can do anything about them.

Raul Gonzalez’ being justice secretary is among the many crosses Filipinos have to bear, courtesy of the so-called government of the Philippines. The other day he used the attempt on the life of Batangas Governor Armando Sanchez to argue that the government has nothing to do with the killing of journalists and political activists. In the process, however, Gonzalez succeeded in validating what everyone has known all along about the state of criminality in the Philippines as well as who’s responsible for it. Continue reading

When more is less

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Wealth distribution is extremely unequal in the Philippines. Too few people get too much while too many get too little of the wealth the economy generates.

A handful of families earn millions annually and can afford several homes, a fleet of vehicles, the most expensive local if not foreign schools for their children, the best medical care, and trips abroad and other luxuries whenever they feel like it. Continue reading

Highs and lows

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Some Filipinos aren’t doing cartwheels over those three Filipino mountaineers’ being the first Filipinos to reach the summit of Mt. Everest. I’m one of them, but I’m not so much belittling their achievement as lamenting how it’s been damaged, and made to seem so much less, by what’s going on in this country.

I’m not about to whine that many other climbers from other countries have done it before, as some grouches are alleging. There are deeds worth doing again and again, and climbing Everest is one of them. (This former mountaineer who’s climbed, among others, Mounts Pulag and Banahaw knows what ordinary climbing entails–but can only imagine what climbing Everest in sub-zero cold and oxygen-thin air is like.) Continue reading