Only a tool, after all

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The exit from the military service of Brig. Gen. Jovito Palparan is becoming as controversial as his watch in Mindoro, Samar and Central Luzon. Palparan, whom human rights and militant groups nickname “the butcher” for the record number of murders and abductions of political activists in those places, retires on September 11 when he turns 56.

The New People’s Army has condemned Palparan to death as “a war criminal” allegedly responsible for some 70 murders and 50 abductions in Central Luzon alone, where the population has been so terrorized by military abuse many towns are as quiet as graveyards after dusk. Continue reading

One more Arroyo achievement

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It is best used to protect the public from media abuse. But the libel law can also harass, intimidate and silence journalists. It is in fact a weapon frequently used to stifle criticism or unfavorable reporting in repressive regimes, which in most cases have equivalent “insult” laws. In some African countries, for example, criticizing the head of state is an insult that can mean imprisonment.

These insult laws are modern day attempts to punish lese majeste, or the idea that criticizing or otherwise implying that the reigning king, queen or emperor is less than perfect. Whatever remains of Philippine democracy has not yet degenerated that far. No government official no matter how exalted his or her post has ever declared that criticism detracts from his or her majesty. But mostly unnoticed except by foreign observers, it could be already treading that path. Continue reading

Behaving badly

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I teach at the University of the Philippines and was also educated there. Unlike Justice Secretary Raul Gonzalez, and like most UP students and alumni, I know to whom I owe my education.

I won’t say who was President of the Philippines when I first came to UP ages ago. But I will say it wasn’t him or his government I felt grateful to, but my parents, as well as the Filipino people, whose taxes sustain UP. To Gonzalez and his fellow bureaucrats, however, it’s the government that’s giving UP students a “world class education.” Thus his recent demand that UP students should be thanking the Arroyo regime rather than “destabilizing” it. Continue reading