The perils of witnesses


It’s easy to ask people who have witnessed crimes, or who have anything to say about them, to come forward and identify themselves. It’s not so easy being the witness. Not in this cradle of democracy, it isn’t.

Musa Dimasidsing, a school district supervisor in Pagalungan town, Maguindanao, witnessed vote-rigging and ballot-snatching in his area of responsibility during the May elections, and promptly complained to the Commission on Elections. He was shot dead for his pains, and joined the long list of teachers, poll watchers, civil society volunteers and others who’ve died protecting the people’s right to choose their leaders. Continue reading

A bad idea


It seemed like a good idea at the time, ousting Joseph Estrada from office. Almost from day one, the Church, civil society and militant groups had weighed the Estrada administration and found it wanting–outstandingly, it seemed, in the moral and competency departments.

A womanizer who did not conceal his numerous liaisons, former movie actor Estrada talked out of the corner of his mouth in the monosyllables of the neighborhood toughie, jeepney driver, and real-life hoods he played in the dozens of movies for which he was known during the better years of Philippine cinema. Continue reading

Article of trade


It was as if she had planned it. Mrs. Gloria Macapagal Arroyo may not have succeeded in electing all 12 of her anointed to the Senate this year. But she did succeed in (1) confusing Filipinos about when the 109th anniversary of Philippine independence was being celebrated; (2) reducing the number of people who attended the usual events—flag-raising, parades, etc.—that commemorate Independence Day; and (3) diminishing the significance of June 12 by implying that it was just another day in which to sleep late and spend at the mall.

Mrs. Arroyo achieved all three by the simple expedient of declaring June 11 a holiday and June 12 a working holiday this year, in accordance with her “holiday economics” policy. Continue reading



Most Filipinos consider themselves devout Christians and Catholics. The churches are so full on Sundays and holidays they have parking problems. There’s a sizeable group of people who regularly confess their sins, and take holy communion. Some go to church everyday and practically live there.

Church and State may be officially separate, but few government offices lack a Santo Nino and/or Virgin Mary shrine. The name of God falls from the lips of bureaucrats as often as the names of their bosses. And we all observe the Christian holidays with a ferocity Islamic fundamentalists may well envy. Continue reading



A number of countries have taken note of and expressed concern over the extra-judicial killings, abductions and other human rights violations that since 2001 have surged in this vale of tears. They have asked the Arroyo regime to either do something about them, or–on the charitable assumption that it’s already doing something–to do more.

These countries include the regime’s chief patron, the United States, whose “war against terror” has inspired various tyrants all over the world to savage the rights of their citizens. The US ambassador urged the regime early this year to investigate and prosecute those responsible for the killings particularly, declaring that “we (the US) take extrajudicial killings or murders seriously”. Continue reading