The ignorance that kills

Estrada, Duterte, Arroyo, Marcos
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Within months of his coming to power in 2016, President Rodrigo Duterte’s profanities, tirades, threats, outrageous remarks about women, human rights, heads of foreign states, and what he was actually doing, had called the attention of international media — in Japan, the United States and Europe — to what was happening in the Philippines.
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Surveillance state

Rodrigo Duterte
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Upon the declaration of martial law in 1972 and in the 14 years that followed, the Marcos terror regime arrested, abducted, and detained over a hundred thousand political activists; artists, writers and critical journalists; teachers, professors, lawyers and other professionals; student, labor and peasant leaders; Muslims and indigenous people; and members of the opposition and other regime critics. Accused of rebellion, subversion and/or sedition, but only in rare instances charged in the regime’s military kangaroo courts, many of these men and women were tortured, summarily executed, or forcibly disappeared.

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Two countries called “Philippines”

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There are two countries that go by the name “Philippines.” The real, historical one is home to the Filipino millions, nearly half of whom are poor and powerless because they’re ruled by one of the most corrupt and most incompetent political classes on the planet. The other is an imaginary one — a creation of those very same rulers to convince the ruled that everything is fine, indeed nearly perfect, in this earthly paradise.

A March 31 statement by the Office of the Executive Secretary (OES), for example, kept referring to “the Philippines.” But it sounded as if it were describing an entirely different country outside of history.

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Killing hope

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The killing of young people, minors and children that have been blamed on the police of the Duterte regime is not without precedent.

The same atrocities were committed by the then PC-INP (Philippine Constabulary Integrated National Police) and the military of which it was then a part during the Marcos terror regime, which even before the declaration of martial law in 1972 was already abducting and murdering youth activists. Both are crimes against the future that is the youth’s promise. There is a difference between the intent of one and that of the other, but their consequences are the same.
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Imminent danger

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Never mind the 2017 Duterte State of the Nation Address, which was replete with profanities, self-serving claims of current and future progress on various fronts, among them the regime’s brutal and failing war on drugs, and justifications for the use of unaccountable State violence. Take his so-called assurance that he won’t place the entire country under martial law with a reasonable amount of skepticism. All SONAs are after all political and since Commonwealth days have served the ends of every Philippine regime without exception.

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The past in the present

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If those who fear martial law are “living in the past,” it is because much of that past, with or without martial law, is still very much in the present. Human rights defenders are still under threat, and farmer leaders, indigenous people, protesters and political activists harassed and even killed, even as a brutal “war on drugs” that presumes guilt rather than innocence continues to claim dozens of lives every week at the hands of a police force emboldened by President Rodrigo Duterte’s frequent assurances of impunity, or exemption from punishment.

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Things fall apart

Imee Marcos and Rodrigo Duterte
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The 31st anniversary of EDSA 1986 was marked — the government didn’t exactly celebrate it — with both chaos and indifference. The disorder was evident in the differences in the various groups’ and even the government’s separate and conflicting activities to observe it. Apathy was the usual response of much of the populace to an event whose significance has continued to elude them in the same way that they can’t tell what happened in much of Philippine history, thanks to what we laughingly call the educational system.

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Refuge of scoundrels

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TO Samuel Johnson (born 1709; died 1784), poet, essayist and author of A Dictionary of the English Language (published in April, 1755), do we owe the observation that “Patriotism is the last refuge of the scoundrel.”

His biographer James Boswell (born 1740; died 1795) claimed that Johnson wasn’t condemning patriotism but how it was being misused by the unscrupulous to justify even the foulest of deeds. If that was indeed what Johnson meant, he was not not only being astutely observant about his times; he was also being prophetic. Scoundrels have indeed used patriotism, or love of country, to justify even the worst crimes.

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Villain in hero’s guise

Ferdinand Marcos
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The Libingan ng mga Bayani is not, as it name suggests, literally a heroes’ cemetery. Soldiers, policemen, and former Philippine presidents can be buried there, apparently on the tenuous presumption that by having worn a police or military uniform, or being elected to the Philippine presidency, an individual becomes a hero — meaning an exemplar of humanity, and worthy of emulation for, presumably, having risen above the limits of personal, familial and class interests in behalf of country and people.

Most dictionaries define heroes and heroism in less socially redeeming terms. A hero, says the Merriam-Webster Dictionary, is “a man admired for his achievements and noble qualities,” or “a mythological or legendary figure often of divine descent endowed with great strength or ability.”

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