Tuesday, October 25, 2005

I Have A New Site!!!

In my quest to bring better and better presentations to my readers, I have relocated this site to Blogsome. Please click here for the new site:>>> Where Now Is The Citizen On Mars?

Please send me feedbacks about my new site at bigtimethomas@yahoo.com.

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Snapping The Nation Again

There is now once more, a call to sidestep the constitutional mode of transition by way of a snap election. It boggles me that we give back our trust so easily to something that had shown to be apparently flawed and fragile, that is, our election system. Isn't that the main thing why we want the President to step down? Remember, if somebody else win that snappy election, or if GMA herself would win again that out-of-the-blue contest, could we trust again any election results? I guess not. Not so soon. There would always be accusations of cheating again, and again and again and there would be tons of tons of "evidences" that would be linedup again in the halls of the Senate or the Supreme Court trying to declare who really won or who really got away with cheating. Remember also that we would wallowing once more in a muddy situation that we had such a bad experience with or a not-so-pleasant encounter with in the past. In 1986, the nation stood breathless before an unprecedented snap election, amidst massive boycotting and rampant violence and election fraud. And when the results came out, no one had believed it and then we drove the dictator out of office by the voices of the street, by the first ever and original People Power. it turned out rather well---having rid of an autocrat---but it was too messy.

Now whose to say that a snap election is good for us right now? And can we trust the COMELEC now to bring us the right election results?

The proposition is just to complicated if not too messy and outrightly laborious. It is basically so devoid of legal basis that we'd actually appear like some messy banana republic whose constitution is so worthless that it is being replaced so frequently just like replacing a mini-skirt.

I thought we were all gearing and desiring a parliamentary system of government, where federalism could give the people a whole lot of autonomy and self-determination with regards to their locality or provinces? Why not stick with the plan? Patience is a virtue, you know.
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Friday, October 21, 2005

FVR Waddling In The Realm of Turncoatism

FVR Waddling In The Realm of Turncoatism

Something unsavory must have happened within the ranks of LAKAS strong bedfellows that now, the elder of all elders of that seemingly formidable political cluster has made a major turnaround and finally spoke against Malacañang. Former President Fidel V. Ramos now completes all three living former Philippine presidents desiring the ouster of President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo aside from former presidents Corazon C. Aquino and Joseph Estrada. I never even thought that this day would come knowing how FVR had unbelievably become a fierce defender of the Arroyo government lately---but the day finally did come. In fact if you ask me, this huge “about face” of FVR seem to leave a bad taste in the mouth, even among anti-GMA factions and may just stain his reputation as a elder politician loyal to his political aggrupation, now that he dwells almost in the realm of turncoatism. Maybe, he'd hide behind the famous Manuel L. Quezon line: "My loyalty to my party ends where my loyalty to my country begins".

What could have happened amongst them? FVR’s back-tracking may be a spinal blow to President Arroyo now that the Makati Business Club had recently emphasized its continued disavowal to her staying in office, while the street marches these days become more and more boisterous and virulent, like the hundreds of farmers from out-of-town braving the elements just to walk miles and miles of rugged streets in order to bash the President (wherever could you find a fiercer determination than that?). Now it seems, everyone is going against the tide, like the ever-pronounced Church people. Seemingly, GMA has no one left to rest her shoulders on. If she survives until 2007, this might be a minor political miracle.

It must have been ambition that destroyed a once formidable political bond between GMA and FVR, a union almost like that of a father to his daughter. When GMA recently declared in front of a congregation of businessman that “the Philippines will get rich in 20 years”, FVR might have seen this as hint to another broken GMA promise---she might not be willing to give way to a parliamentary government come 2007 after all and may even perpetuate herself until 20 years from now (remember, she once broke a promise not to seek another term). You see, in a parliamentary system FVR could once more maneuver a major comeback as the country’s Head of State, like he always had wanted to. Now we see that Speaker Joe de Venecia---a strong FVR ally---is suddenly clamoring for an immediate convening of a constituent assembly, in order to change our system of government.

What we see here is an actual proof that in politics there are no permanent friends, only permanent enemies, or something to that effect.

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Monday, October 17, 2005

"The Fog"

"The Fog"

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I NEVER REALLY KNEW WHY BUT when I was of tender age (like about eight or nine years old) I had always found myself watching horror movies---not by intention but by pure chance. Every now and then, I would be glued to some fearsome flick that an older cousin or an uncle was watching on TV. Of course I had no control of what to watch on the boob tube when I was just a skinny kid back then and I can't really remember if we had a VCR at that time but always it had seem, I had been watching a lot of those scary films when I was little. In fact, there was once this occasion where Uncle Mameng was watching a late night film on TV just by himself and for some reason I arose from my bed so late in the evening and went downstairs and sat beside him as we both watched the film adaptation of Stephen King's “Salem's Lot”. How could I forget that film? There was this one scene when a ghost-child was floating on the night wind trying to open the window of the house being haunted. The ghost was repeatedly saying “Open the window!” and I just got scared by that particular portion of the movie that I cried furiously and so suddenly that Uncle Mameng had to calm me down and make me go upstairs. He said that I shouldn't be watching horror movies again. But then, I still had to watch a lot of them.

And then I remember watching this movie titled “The Fog” from a nearby theater back then. I went alone in the early afternoon while the sun was blazing in the sky. The chairs inside the theater were all empty except for some few souls. I had wondered then that maybe I had just wasted my money on a not-so-palatable movie. But “The Fog” was one movie that I could not easily forget for it had seem to have a hypnotic spell on me that even to this day, I still retain stark images of the film I had seen so many, many years ago. The plot wasn't that original----about some zombie-like creatures using the cover of fogs in order to haunt a town that had been at some point, responsible for their damnation. But inspite of that, I bet it was so well-made that the ghost story was so compelling and powerful. This shouldn't be a surprise to me now knowing just recently that it was directed by the legendary John Carpenter himself.

Now, Sony Pictures brings back to the big screen that unforgettable horror film in a remake. “The Fog” topped the box office in America this week and this may be a sign, that perhaps it wasn't only me that got so frightened by the 1980's film; that a whole generation is now trooping back to the theater to relive once more the horror of mangled hands coming out of fogs. Maybe you'll want to watch it too...
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Thursday, October 13, 2005

What Is A Crisis Condition?

WE SHOULD ALL BE feeling appalled and dismayed by now, but strangely enough, we do not seem to belch anything close to a whimper when there should already be an outcry. Like we--the public--just do not mind it at all or perhaps just could not absorb the whole implication of such happenstance. I am talking about the proverbial emergency power that Malacañang might let loose on us if (according to Executive Secretary Eduardo Ermita) the situations warrant it. Today, the talk on the emergency rule already centers on the three main crisis conditions that could probably justify the declaration of the power and as declared, they are a terrorist attack, a breakdown in peace and order, and a steep surge in oil prices. It was only days ago that the head of the monster was just being whispered as rumors and gossip matters but now, we are almost speaking of the emergency rule as if it is already a requisite event that could always happen in the days to come with reasonable certainty. How much steeper can the oil prices go before it's a crisis condition ? How grave a terrorist attack be? And what breakdown of peace are they talking about? The conditions set by Malacañang are way too general that the gray areas are staring at us like a slimy serpent. And this becomes dangerous for us; when abuse of power become so very convenient for those who are poised to abuse.

What we are talking here are not simple emergency powers that have been exercised before. This is not merely about permitted importations of knock-down vehicles or power contract exemptions; the powers being contemplated by President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo is of such weight that could border on autocracy, taking over private companies and enterprises such as oil companies and public utilities in the aim of settling a “crisis condition”. It amazes me that US-educated economist like our President could speak of such overserious economic matter with mind-boggling casualness as if she is oblivious how such condition may possibly bring more harm than good to our country, like when massive capital takes flight out of our country like it was in the early 80's when then Prime Minister Cesar Virata made that famous television pronouncement “Mr. President, our country is in crisis!”. Not only that, the global economic community would surely frown on a nation that had gone to such dolorous extent as towards a Communist-style tactic of taking over major private undertakings like oil companies by way of executive compulsion. For certain, I do not have such adoration towards foreign capitals and capitalists but at this moment, massive capital plight out of our financial markets would surely result to dire economic consequences to our country. There'd be massive job lay-outs and capital reduction as industrial activity would slacken so sharply. National productivity would surely suffer and our credit standings would for certain reach record lows, even while we are already so low in the eyes of international funders and creditors.

Alright, granting that there'd really be a point that it would be so salacious and tempting to kick some ass and take over those profit-hungry oil companies but in my mind, these high-handedness should not be resorted to except when they become extremely necessary.

General conditions given by Malacañang as to what could be “a crisis condition” that should justify such weighty emergency powers are simply way too lenient and shouldn't be used as the guidelines for the eventual imposition. There should be mayhem in the streets before they'd dare take such measures. Or something like that.

As in the famous adage, absolute power corrupts absolutely.
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Monday, October 10, 2005

Pity The Nation

“Hold me now, oh hold me now. Till this hour has come around. We fought for justice and not for gain but the magistrate sent me away.” --- The Edge singing for U2 in Van Diemen’s Land
WHEN TOMORROW COMES TO THIS NATION of our birth, what door should open to us and what road shall lead us unto what place?

To be certain, we take some little strides forward, and we have gained them, as our exports grow and the remittances of our overseas workers (our modern day heroes) redound into more and more families that are uplifted from the cruel stranglehold of poverty. Yet, as we examine our terrain, our society’s flawed pyramid of wealth, there are still much left to be desired. Like upon a battle, when the smoke clears after the last gunshot is heard and we see the dead and the maimed lying on the bloodied warpath, we know by heart that battles may be won now but the war ain’t over yet.

We must seek our future now for if tomorrow comes, we have no regrets to drink to and have no blame to impute upon ourselves.

Now we seek the key or keys to our forward march into the economic battles of this global economic world where competition is the harshest ever and those who flinch for even for just a second would surely lose any economic advantage where even the richest of nations now are more inclined to protect their markets with inequitable tariff adjustments that favors the few that caters to their own interests. The GATT is never fool-proof in fact, even as we speak, many have already seen blatant loopholes in the agreed rules and conduct of trade that markets like ours could not compete with subsidies other rich governments give their own farmers. There were times in the near past that it was much cheaper to import vegetables from South Korea than source them from local producers. And we are just talking about vegetables here. Fair play is an illusion and we only must realize this. We see even the European states gathering into a strong union in order to build and rebuild their markets and keep other competitions out of the way. To compete then is never to depend so much on equitable tariff adjustments from more advanced states but should be mainly on terms of quality and standard.

The great Lebanese poet Khalil Gibran once wrote: “Pity the nation that does not sew its own garments and pity the nation that does not make its own bread”.

The name of the game is self-sufficiency and resilience in trade. When we produce our own grains, then we do not have to bleed ever-scarce foreign currencies just to feed our people with bread. If we build our own cars, then we do not have to worry about being in the losing end of the economic game where we sell them commodities like rattan furniture and then on the other hand we buy from them high-end products like aircrafts. We gain a little and then lose heavily by gigantic profit margins. This is the apparent cause of the vicious cycle that we are in and that is why we continue to depend on foreign loans and aid to fulfill our budgetary requirements for the vicious cycle clearly indicates the symptoms of a bleeding nation and nobody seem to see the emergency situation.

There is no nation that rises without sewing its own garments. There are few exceptions primary of which are small countries like Singapore and Switzerland. Singapore rose steadily in the 1970’s by being the hub of British middlemen buying and selling anything from oil to silk and transporting them from one place to another—mainly to and from China mainland, which even in the past was already a very huge market. Of course, we know that Switzerland earns its wealth mainly by safekeeping other nation’s wealth and nothing much else. The Philippines could not become Singapore in a sense that the littlest of population of Singapore made it easier to distribute wealth into everyone’s pocket. We are a nation of tens of millions that we could not do business by simply becoming middlemen for other nation’s goods, to sell into somebody else’s market. In short, foreign investment may help small nations like Singapore but a huge nation like the Philippines, we need more effort than just taking in foreign investments. We need to look inward and see if we can create more wealth and become self-sufficient. When we sew our own garments, we can keep more hard currencies by not having to buy garments elsewhere.

When we can produce everything that we need then we will have lesser needs from outside entities and we do not need to bleed the nation for things we haven’t got. Productivity is the key to our nation’s success and self-sufficiency is our main objective.

Our engineers should have more buildings built. The lawyers more cases prosecuted and defended and judges should have more cases decided. Our farmers should reap more harvest and our fishermen should catch more fish from the seas. The writer should write more enchanting narrations and our poets should sing more wordy lullabies that endear the heart of readers. Our teachers should educate more children and our doctors cure more of those who are sick and pained. The carpenters must hammer more nails into more wood and cement while our taxi drivers should carry more passengers from one place to another. Our sellers then should sell more and our buyers would certainly buy more and more. And then when our laborers produces more sardines and electronic products, then they can have more in their pockets as the wages of their blood, sweat and tears rises also. And more money in the pocket of our laborers, the more they buy cigarettes and beer and milk and garments and the rich capitalists would surely have more business in mind. This is the cycle of our dreams, not a vicious one that holds us down like a leech, but one that will supplements us and complement every member of our society, and one day we could become a nation where no one is left behind, where everyone shall have a share in the pie and everyone moves ahead and not only the chosen and lucky few.

Many amongst us, the daily economists whispering into the ears of our leaders may at many times look outward towards the multinationals and the foreign investors with money to spare. But perhaps, we may miss the more important aspect of real economic progress where we only have to develop a self-generating system of economy by looking inward just one more time. We should give it one last try.
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Friday, October 07, 2005

Killer Storms of The Future

HYPERCANE is a new word I have learned after reading a disturbing note in the Periscope section of NEWSWEEK Magazine (October 3, 2005). The article takes issue if there would be more deadly hurricanes in the future like Katrina, the killer superstorm that had mercilessly devastated an entire American city, and left a whole nation in virtual shock.

What are hypercanes? Hypercane is a kind of hurricane that is at least thrice the strength of Katrina and would be deadly like upon a nuclear bomb, where anything on its path---all structures and life-forms---would be banished in seconds. The term was first coined by MIT Professor Kerry Emmanuel when he put into motion a computer model of a super-hurricane, one that could result from extreme temperatures in the ocean, about 80 degrees to 100 degrees Fahrenheit. Obviously, the present times have not experienced a storm anywhere near the strength of a hypercane but scientific studies have reasonably showed that giant storms have frequently disturbed the Earth's surfaces in the ancient times, and may even have contributed to the complete extinction of the dinosaurs. MIT's Emmanuel has strongly theorized that frequent and huge meteorite impacts in the very far past had caused the rising of the ocean's temperature and thus, giving birth to giant and so very ferocious hypercanes, affecting and wiping-out the dinosaurs roaming inland as well as their habitats.

If Emmanuel's theory is credible enough then we have another huge reason to counter and stave off the onset of global warming. It turns out that rise in the oceans' temperature would not only lead to the elevation of sea level (putting in danger many of the world's seaside cities) but could also create sinistrous weather condition that may result to deadly storms like Katrina. Maybe it's time that heavily industrialized countries like America and Australia sign the Kyoto Pact against global warming. Maybe, the warning signs have been too loud for for us to ignore.
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Tuesday, October 04, 2005

A Bad Means To An Unfavorable End

A Bad Means To An Unfavorable End

THE CONGRESSMAN FROM PARAÑAQUE Roilo Golez referred to the reported assassination plot against President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo as a "fantastic tale" and I can't really blame him for that. Killing a bird is one thing but "taking away" a president's life is another. We know how murder plots are usually cooked, they are almost always being done thru whispers and moans, where the windows are shut tight and the door locked hard so that no one could intrude knowingly or unknowingly and hear outrightly about some sullen secrets in the hearts and minds of some men.

How in the world a Senate President and a former Head of State had once became so careless, throwing every caution into the wind, and letting know of some insipid plan to another Senator is quite amazing to me, if it would turn out to be true. I guess even Tom Clancy or John Grisham would not invent such kind of plot in their own fictions for it would be too clumsy and convenient, to the point of embarrassment. The purveyors of this somewhat "fantastic" allegation could have been more original if say, a lowlier military officer would have opened the pandora's box, but to see that it was Senator Miriam Santiago herself overhearing a murder plot being hatched supposedly by a colleague in the Senate is quite unbearable. Or maybe Senator Santiago had an asset and that might just be feasible. Who knows?

Now despite the strangeness or surrealism of this whole assassination plot mess, we could say that in the logic of things and in the matter of statistical possibility, there is still that fair chance that indeed Senator Franklin Drilon and former President Corazon Aquino had suddenly became so maliciously evil that they had decided to "take away" President Arroyo's breath. Now what comes to our mind by then? Would the means justify the end?

I think the means would in no way reach its justification for it would be such a stupid thing to do. The present opposition had so much goodwill among their folds, being seen as the beacon of truth, as against a "lying" president, and it would be so inimical to their interest to ever contradict sanity and kill like killing is but a simple thing to do. In the event of an assassination attempt, failed or successful, the tides of sympathy may just blow over into the Malacañang's side and leave the opposition bloc out in the cold. Furthermore, a military takeover in that scenario may just be seen by many in our country, as well as by other nations, as too hostile for comfort and too uncivilized that in the end, the worse has just become worst beyond estimation, like something hitting the fan. This is what this country needs the least at this point, it is clearly a bad means towards an unfavorable end.

Every assassin is of the same kind of malice, irregardless of the quality of his intention.



I WOULD LIKE to greet all of my Triskelion fraternal brods today as we commemorate the TAU GAMMA PHI 37th founding anniversary. I have been in the brotherhood for almost fifteen years now and it had been such a wonderful experience to be part of one of the oldest fraternity in the country. Though I am mostly inactive now, still I enjoin in this momentous event in my own personal way.


THIS IS THE FIRST DAY OF RAMADDAN, the period of fasting for all moslems. I send my felicity towards the Islam world in this holy month, as they aim for the fullness of faith through self-sacrifice and denial.
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Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Who or What Created Man?

Who or What Created Man?

This is happening in America right now, as only such things can. Image hosted by Photobucket.comIn a Pennsylvania township called Dover, the district school board there just decided that Charles Darwin's theory on evolution is ultimately flawed and that it contained gaps as huge as the water we see in the ocean. And so, they decided to teach the students enrolled in their school system the idea that man existed due to no other causes but by the intelligent hands of God, and that existence on earth is so complex that there could only be a God behind it. This alternative theory to evolution is termed as "intelligent-design" concept and known some other times as "creationism", a philosophy on man's existence that is well-attuned to the story of creation as told in the Bible.

Now, the parents of 11 students from Dover School District have starkly protested this compulsory inculcation of the "intelligent-design" concept of man's existence and insisted that the usual scientific philosophy of evolution as theorized by Charles Darwin should remain in the curriculum of the said school and not any concept that is so devoid of scientific and empirical evidence. The parents also complained that teaching the "intelligent-design" concept would merely undermine the notion that science should be trusted completely, and should be believed as it should be. They say that bringing down science will only be bad for the kids.

It would be quite interesting to find out how this U.S. landmark trial will turn out in the end. Is man created by God or did it existed through millions of years of evolution? This is not the primary question that the U.S. Supreme Court will haveto decide upon but for certain, it would be so swell to see how the American justices will comment on it.
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Monday, September 26, 2005

Symbols of Democracy

Our government, or the administration of President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo to be more specific, is now beginning to act like a huge cynic further losing its composure. As if it believes that the sky is already falling down, and then it goes on a panic streak---yelling and hollering "the sky is falling!" If this is not pushing the panic button, then I do not know what it is.

Malacañang has recently announced that "maximum tolerance" won’t be applied anymore to any street marcher that does not boast of any rally permit and instead the police would take on “calibrated preemptive response(s)" as a manner of engaging permitless dissenters who troop into the streets, highways, parks and avenues of Metro Manila. This reminds me by the way of the term "preemptive response", a wartime idiom invented by Australian PM John Howard amidst the rising global terrorism crisis, to which every human rights activists in the world howled with steep protestations where such policing mode allows arrest and detention of suspected terrorist even with doubtful and hazy probable causes---thereby imbibing possible warrantless arrests.

Just yesterday, Metro Manila Police Chief Vidal Querol had proclaimed in no uncertain manner and in with almost violent emphasis that from now on, street protesters have "to respect the law" and that "Dura lex sed lex (the law may be harsh, but it is the law)". Meaning to say, police authorities would not just stare at a distance when the protesters begin howling in the streets of Manila, instead they would have to take them in, and take them in hard. Because of this, there could just be a rise in the number of arrests of street militants starting from now, and knowing how Manila activists are adamant as hell, there could be a Marcosian scale of street arrests once more, as if the dreaded members of the now defunct Philippine Constrabulary have resurrected from the dead in order to scour the eskinitas and slums of Manila for suspected activists. This is a fearful image in my mind that I am not surprised now if the national anxiety for a return to martial rule is at an all-time high.

To be sure, the constitutionally protected right to peaceful assembly (like political rallies, religious parades, labor protests, etc.) is one liberty that is held dearest by the Filipino people, and one mode of public act that has certainly helped shaped our history through the years, and what we have now become. From the moment those valiant Katipuneros tore angrily their cedulas as a manner of civil disobedience against the tyrannical Spanish conquistadors in the days so old to recollect to the boisterous street singing in Mendiola under Martial hands of Marcos, public assembly had always shown its benefits to us even while admitting that at times, they are just inconvenient and injurious to public peace and order.

In our legal jurisprudence, the freedom of assembly is a constitutionally guaranteed freedom although it is not a freedom absolute (just like any other freedom mentioned in the Bill of Rights). Juridical precedence lays out clearly how this freedom may be limited under a number of tests foremost among are the “Clear and Present Danger Rule” and “The Balancing of Interest Test”. In the clear-and-present-danger rule, any public congregation of people may not be permitted or be impeded immediately if such assembly actually harms the peace of the land. Not only ordinary and common peace we know in the streets but the assembly must be violent enough or seditious enough so as to bring disruption and danger to national peace, to the extent of directly endangering the present status quo or the government. If the assembly is far from directly harming national peace and order, it shall pass the clear and present danger rule and may not be prevented by any means. The key word here is “direct”.

In the balancing-of-interest test, the authorities go on weighing the effect of a particular public assembly, whether or not it harms directly our national interest. This is a much simpler test than the one mentioned above where it is only to be determined if actually, and not by just mere speculation and estimate, that such and such rally poses grave danger to the status quo.

Among other conditions, rallies are permitted in so long as the congregation of people shall not impede or halt public functions or duties, or obstruct the natural flow of people and vehicles. If street protesters fulfill the conditions set in our laws and legal precedence, and pass legal tests for legality and propriety of public assemblies, then “maximum tolerance” must still be applied to them by the police authorities. The marches must go on. The rallies must remain. They are sacred symbols of democracy.

Let us not forget that if not for the angry marches of the people in 1986, we would have not toppled completely a ruinous dictator and there would have been no EDSA Revolution to speak of, or People Power to breathe out into the ears of our young at present.

Without marches and rallies, the scandal-prone administration of Joseph Estrada would have brought us down completely towards economic hell and President Arroyo would not have been in office right now in the first place. She should know that and at least she would be grateful for that.

And yet now, President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo has made known without any pretense how she had become so allergic to street protests that she had virtually ordered a Marcosian-like attitude towards militants with the so-called “calibrated preemptive response” I wonder how calibrated the response would be. The President must have not realized this, by declaring an all-out war against street militants, she had just showed her great inclination towards autocracy and the people might just one day believe that she could really have the temerity to waddle into martial rule. The signs and symptoms are present and if the people would finally believe that she could really do such crazy thing, that’ll be the day that she might just regret completely.
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Saturday, September 24, 2005

Tuba

Over gallons and gallons of tuba ---the quintessentially popular Filipino beverage made out of palm or coconut trees--- I once in a while congregate with some friends from the neighborhood. I am not really so inclined to wallow on the native wine but lately, I had the keenest desire to socialize with the people I know just across the street and thus, I had grown fonder and fonder of the bittersweet taste of tuba every time I went out and join the men from the neighborhood. I wasn't as outgoing as I am now before where I usually stay indoor even during the weekends, reading piles of magazines and newspapers with the television always blaring in the living room. But once about six months ago, a familiar face from our vicinity invited me to a birthday celebration and there were just a lot of drinking that day and then I tasted tuba as the tip of my tongue felt the rich saccharine quality of the beverage that went with a touch of savory bitterness at the end. Not that it was the first time that I have tasted the native drink. When I was in college, I clearly remember one sojourn into the mountainside just outside the city limits and during a stopover to a very small but neat sari-sari store, we were offered to buy a gallon of fresh tuba just newly taken out of the palms of the coconut tree just standing by that store. One of my companions were very adventurous that day and so we sat down to finish about two gallons of tuba. The first time I tasted it, I thought it was so smooth to the taste and so cool as it enters the mouth. There was one problem for me though about the drink---the smell is a little bit overpowering especially when you already have more than what you should be drinking.

But now, I can easily ignore the stench. Perhaps, one can get used to it through some time and become oblivious to the smell completely. One of my friend from the neighborhood once declaimed that tuba is the grape wine of the Philippines, that by drinking it, we somehow recollect a part of the life of Our Lord Jesus Christ, where in the past He had often convened with His disciples through bottles and bottles of grape wine. I responded quite positively to this very keen observation from a friend and I said that maybe, if Our Lord Christ were born in our country, He would have enjoyed the exotic taste of tuba.

Tuba is actually constituted by fermenting the sap extracted from the palm leaves of coconut trees. It is the beverage of choice among the people from the lowlands as well as the hinterlands---the farmers, the fishermen, the laborers and even the tricycle drivers. You could say it is the condiment that soothes the ailing bodice of the masses, the magical wine that inspires the laborer to labor for more and the rural lover to serenade more ardently and sing more ballads, with gusto, while the moon is so full at twilight time.

Through this magical wine, I have known many new friends that speak to me and relate to me like they have known me for a thousand years. We converse at times of some vacuous things in life, some foolishness of youth, about some fleeting things like love and lovers, even of such frivolous things as the number of stars in the sky, and we became gleeful somehow of these fleeting things and our laughters resonate through the windy atmosphere of our neighborhood. But sometime, we talk of the more salient part of life, like the families we are responsible for, the children we rear and educate as well as the harshness of the economy and the stinging effect of rising prices to our shallow pockets.

Lustre Street, if you could only observed more closely, is a cornucopia of everyday reality. Some part of the neighborhood consist of the better-positioned in life with their houses newly-painted while they parade their classy automobiles as they pass by us. In the larger portion of the community dwells the more humble inhabitants and even the poorer ones, as small wooden houses outnumber the large ones by a ratio of fifty to one. Most of my friends are carpenters and masons while others drive the pedicab and some sell fish in the market. And then there are some of them who take their daily bread by carrying sacks and sacks of copra over their very young bodies, day-in and day-out. I have learned that a laborer in the port area earns only about fifty pesos after carrying sacks and sacks of load for almost a day. I find these situation so sad and regrettable. I wonder if the fifty pesos would suffice to answer the cost of food on the table, the fare to workplaces and for the education of their children. I guess, not. I guess they could not do anything but accept the lack of so many things in life. And I guess, with tuba on hand, they often cure the tiredness of their swollen muscles and empty stomachs through gallons and gallons of it, as if the native drink is the narcotic that relieves all the pains of poverty.

And then there are those who just do not have any form of permanent livelihood, who merely stands by the street while waiting for some opportunity for work. They often ask if somebody needed to have the grasses cut in their lawns or if they needed repairs on their toilets. They are often still so young to carry copra at the port area or whose frailty in physique is not as virile fit for a port laborer.

Even those friends I have who are accomplished carpenters and masons, they often complain that many times, work is harder to find. A group of them---Nonoy, Dan and Erwin---had just finished six-month worth of construction work on a plea market but now, they have gone for almost two weeks without work, and of course without any income for their households. Nyor Tony and another Dan on the one hand are still waiting for a certain Peter to arrive from out-of-town in order for their work on a bungalow within the neighborhood to resume. They too had not worked for many weeks. Toti and Paco have been contracted for some painting jobs just once a week and so they still have a problem where to source their daily bread during the rest of the week. Dodong was luckier. He had found employment in a government project in Barangay Ayala and pay is more than average.

Often, the people I know in the neighborhood paints the whole picture of hardship and constant struggle by the Filipino people at present where even those who are willing to work upon harsh conditions still could not find work. Even for carpenters and masons, the opportunity to find the means of livelihood is still very difficult, like threading the very small eye of a needle. Where in the world our country had gone too? To the dogs? There is a sort of panic in my mind thinking how many of our fellow countrymen have long endured the harshness of poverty and lack of opportunity. If only our senators and congressmen, jueteng lords, tycoons, hardware owners, the cabinet members, the President herself, the big business people, the bankers, the mayors and the governors, the political strategists, the U.S. envoys, the ambassadors, the mall owners, the manufacturers and the lot could even just for one day see for themselves first hand, upon close inspection and somehow experience the difficulties many of our countrymen suffers everyday, every time the sun rises from the east and settles in the west, then perhaps they would stop all their follies, all their bickering like who has the bigger pork barrel and who has lesser. If they could only fully comprehend the extent of our people's suffering, then maybe they'd all become less greedy and not full of self-interest as they are right now, as suddenly they would be patriotic and altruistic enough to help alleviate the plight of the poor amongst us, not next year or next month, but now, this moment, ahora mismo!

And so with my carpenter friends who sometimes have work and most of the time logging around and walking about because work is not at hand, I just said to them once that I wish there would be more buildings to be constructed, more houses to be built, more roads to be paved, more walls to be painted, more sand and gravel to be melded and more cement to be poured. By then, they can have work almost all the time.
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Wednesday, September 21, 2005

A Comical Turn

Now the espionage drama, or the to put in another sense, the U.S. knee-deep involvement into our political affairs has now somewhat took a comical turn. Now the U.S. authorities actually has in their dossiers the result of a background investigation on the person of Vice President Noli de Castro. When alledegly asked by a U.S. agent about the trade imbalance between the Philippines and the U.S., he reportedly answered: "We're your Number One ally, and our President is your Number One fan [yet other countries seem to be] getting more." This "unlikely" response by de Castro apparently led the U.S. Embassy in Manila to declare him as highly inept in matters of foreign policy, and probably in all other aspects of governance.

With an oversimplistic answer like that, you could say that we could not really blame the U.S. authorities for giving a thumbs-down to a de Castro leadership in the event of a resignation or overthrow of the GMA administration but I think, something in all this make it highly unfair to the person of our Vice-President, where this report might just shoot down his chances on the presidency (while he already seem to have a lock on it by next presidential election; being ever more popular than any other political figure we know nowadays).

One interview does not make a man. We do not know him that much while we know him casually as a highly personable person with an ultra-high television charisma. VP Noli de Castro may not claim as his strongest point matters on foreign policy but who knows, he might just be the best "dometic policy" president that we might ever have. Remember, history does not as much remember a good leader for his relations with other countries but so much of what a good leader has done to his fellowmen (Like Manuel L. Quezon and Ramon Magsaysay). It is of rare occassion where a statesman is mostly remembered for his views on foreign policy (Like Margareth Thatcher and Richard Nixon). Good leaders are often revered for the deeds that they have done to their nation.

Intelligence is certainly a must for anyone desiring to becoming the next leader of our nation but I believe, it is the genuine interest to help alleviate the suffering of the people that should be prime among all motives. They say a good intention is not enough, but at least it must not be absent at all.
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Monday, September 19, 2005

Why Spy?

Apparently, what could be the subject of espionage by Michael Ray Aquino are two reports by a U.S. envoy on the possibility or viability of coup attempts that were being planned against the administration of President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, one in the early part of this year and another just about a couple of months before the impeachment controversy had reach it climactic heights. The reports were allegedly prepared by US Charge d'Affaires Joseph Mussomeli in assessment of a palpable wrangling within the Armed Forces of The Philippines, among “a substantial number" of junior officers and generals. Such reports went on in concluding that any coup attempt would be premature for primarily lacking in public support. Of course, it could not entirely be confirmed if those reports were actually the subject of documents that former PNP Senior Superintendent Michael Ray Aquino had “sourced” from FBI files in America.

To think, what could be other reasons or motives why FBI had to have some sensitive files concerning the Philippines. There were initial queries about what could exactly be the content of the so-called FBI files and what could probably be so important about our nation that American authorities had to have certain classified information about it. It makes me wonder. Not like we have some secret nuclear weapon program or a stealthy plan to invade a neighboring country, like in the case of Iran or Iraq. I do not think also that we hide some Weapons of Mass Destruction concealed somewhere beneath our Philippine soil.

And so the FBI files must contain none other subject than that “research” or “assessment” by the U.S. Embassy on the possibility of coup plots being launched against the GMA administration. If you asked me, any person worth his while would not have to extract any FBI information storage just to know that some uprising is being cooked within the military organization, with the confluence of the opposition politicians. These things are always up in the air and we always can smell it like dirty fumes from a decrepit factory nearby. Mostly, we do not have to be a super-secret agent in order to know these things?

And so what I mean, Michael Ray Aquino may have just unduly harmed himself by improperly acquiring information that he would have gotten just easily using internal sources, without violating any U.S. laws. I suspect that he was just given the Elliot Ness treatment, being caught red-handed with an innocuous wrongdoing, when he could not be prosecuted successfully with a more serious one. Let us remember that he had fled the Philippines years ago in order to escape murder charges leveled against him in connection with the murder of publicist Bubby Dacer and his driver in 2000. If he can’t be taken out by the murder indictment, he will fall by this espionage infringement.

All the while, although it won’t surprise us anymore why the U.S. Embassy would tinker its hands into our political affairs (where it seems to me that they have to dip their hands into every nation’s affairs), it still amazes me how they could sum up so very detailed information contained in the two reports by Mussomeli, generally pointing out to a certain group of “young officers and generals” as the progenitor of the planned coup attempts, like they knew their names with certainty, and just wouldn’t admit to it for evident reasons. Could the U.S. Embassy been in contact with these military people? Is Mussomeli been involved in this more than what is necessary? This present controversy on spying tells us something about the extent of meddling the U.S. had on our affairs; that perhaps, the U.S. government is trying to wield its influence over our politics more than what is necessary and more than what we ever had thought before.
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Thursday, September 15, 2005

MIG AYESA: Almost A Rockstar

MIG AYESA is finally aboard the ROCKSTAR.INXS finale which will be staged on Wednesday next week. Asked if how he had grown in the past weeks,he said without blinking that he is just all too happy to be part of the show. Now, that's humility unparalleled. No wonder he is of Filipino lineage.

This sort of "good guy image" has certainly earned Migs a lot of votes across the Pacific basin but an INXS member (it must have been Gary Beers) had cautioned him that this overly sweet persona may do him more harm than good. He was told that he needs to have some kind of a "dark side" because as seen popularly, rockers are a little bit mean--meaning Migs must have some sort of an "attitude".

And so Mig was made to sing Rolling Stones' "Paint It Black", perhaps to check out if he has that "darker self". If you asked me, the song may have the word "black" on it but it's still difficult to hide his true self, where we all still know that he is such a nice guy. Could INXS take an overly nice guy as Michael Hutchence's replacement in the band? Well, why not? As what Mig had said, the audience vote (he was never in the bottom three except this week) proves something-- that he should be in the band.

And now there are only three surviving rockers going into next week's finale---Marty, J.D. and of course the ever popular Mig Ayesa. having heard how these three men howled and crooned on the stage, it would be all too difficult to make predictions. They all have performed so extraordinarily well lately that according to Kirk Pengily "it seems unfair for us to make a decision".

Of course my heart goes to Mig being our kababayan. If he were not rooted here, I might have seen him more of a pop star and not as a rocker although his vocal range is wide enough that he can resurrect any INXS song with ultimate ease. But as the INXS members noted in the interviews, he lacks that "rocker attitude". Not that he has an attitude problem but what they could possibly mean is that, a proper rocker must have some sort of an "attitude", a darker side, whatever that means. But Migs is surely popular with the girls and if he ever wins this contest, he could guarantee good sales for any future INXS record.

Now Marty seems to be most talented among the three and he had proven this when he sang an original composition of his titled "Trees", and Dave Navarro instantly blurted "That's a hit song right there". The problem with Marty is that his voice and look is more inclined towards the American side of rockdom, like he can be mistaken for a lead vocalist of any grunge band anytime. If he fronts INXS, it could entirely change INXS' image, like suddenly they have become an American grunge band and not the classic Aussie band that they have always been known for. One thing, Tim Farriss thought he was very controlling. Marty said he just wanted to take the band towards another level. These "brave" words from Marty may have trespassed some INXS ego. Who the hell is this guy telling us what to do? And that would be his own undoing. But on the one hand, he may just be exactly the guy that INXS is looking for---someone that is very talented and with a very strong personality; one that can get his own way almost always.

Now comes J.D. He almost matched the songwriting skill of Marty with his original composition "Pretty Vegas" and which was even voted as the one song that the audience wanted to hear as an encore. J.D. got that perfect rocker's voice and he seems to also have that rocker personality although sometimes he looked like a boy band member---with his good looks and overly-cropped hair. And his strongest point is that his voice has a very strong resemblance to that of Michael Hutchence, rendering the same vocal inflections and emotional emphasis. In fact, when he sang "By My Side" as an encore in today's episode, he sang it so good that I thought Michael Hutchence suddenly came back from the grave. When I close my eyes and hear J.D. without looking at him (with his boyish look), I thought I was hearing the same INXS of old. Would INXS settle for the one rocker that could clone Michael Hutchence voice? Or do they want something new and refreshing? It is very hard to tell at this time.
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Tuesday, September 13, 2005

Where Have They Gone, Those Dragonflies?

When June came, rain started to pour over the arid soil of Zamboanga City that one could see puddles of rainwater littering the ground. The street just in front of our house was soaked in inches-deep floodwater that rose to my ankles whenever I waddle through it. Children playing nearby would almost always sully their arms and feet with mud and their clothes would surely get wet as they couldn’t resist disturbing the rainwater that had finally conquered the once dry surroundings.

The back of our house had suddenly become swampy too that I had suggested to my wife Evelyn that we do something about it. The evening news had made me extremely wary of spreading diseases brought about by insects trapped in stagnant waters like dengue or malaria. And so, we had to cover the swampy backyard with truckloads of filling materials and soon it was elevated enough that the water flooding all over it had virtually vanished.

In the weeks after, me and the kids would trooped to the now waterless backyard and attempted to weed out unwanted vegetations permeating there--those slinky grasses that could grow to almost the height of a regular adult. I had remembered that when I was a kid, I used to venture into these sorts of swampy areas where the bushes and vegetations were so robust and wild that one could get lost into it when not being too careful. In those kinds of places, I and a number of kids would go hunting for dragonflies and butterflies as if they were profitable commodities. We capture and trapped them, and then we just put them into jars until they wither and die or be able to flee from captivity. It was such a virtually a pointless activity (capturing dragonflies) but for kids like we were then, it was especially pleasurable. Maybe in kids, the primal nature of man as a hunter is more prevalent than we had ever thought before.

In our backyard, I was wondering why despite the wild growth of the grasses and other vegetations in the ground, I had not seen a single dragonfly gyrating through the air and hopping from foliage to foliage. The butterflies were also missing from my view. I wonder where they had gone. I had thought to myself that in my childhood days, dragonflies of variant colors and sizes would always enchant my eyes to no end and I would go after them, slowly and gently like a well-trained hunter, in order that they may not be alerted and flee unduly. Where have all those dragonflies gone? Why aren’t those yellow butterflies coming to visit the blooming bougainvilleas? I had these questions in my mind and had many theories about the sudden infrequency of these flying wonders in our urban jungles. Had urban decay and pollution shooed them away towards the faraway hinterlands? Or do dire weather changes push them closer towards extinction? Maybe, global warming is now finally showing its deadly pangs, and it becomes now the main culprit in the disappearance of specie like those of dragonflies and butterflies.

And then, last Saturday rain poured so hard in our city---much harder than ever before---that the floodwaters rose to extraordinary levels. There was a point there that I had thought rainwater would soon enter our living room. But luckily the rain stopped before everything got worst. The day after, I was wondering so much if the backyard would be turned again into a swampy place due to the extraordinary amount of rainfall the day before. I finally walked towards the backyard and check it out for myself. There was indeed some flooding but my fear of the backyard becoming swampy again was calmed immediately. The waters were so minimal. I walked slowly towards the center of the backyard and smelled the soil while it was still very early in the morning and the sun was still soft and radiant from the horizon. And lo and behold, I almost could not believe my eyes when I saw one huge red dragonfly just flew above my shoulder and then towards a wild growth of plants in the corner of the wall surrounding our backyard. I turned towards another direction and I saw many other dragonflies busily gyrating around like they were prisoners who had suddenly been allowed freedom and they were extremely happy for that. My heart was aglow and sweet memories of childhood came rushing all over again. And nearby, I saw a yellow butterfly slowly descending upon the leaves of an infantile Palmera and I couldn’t help but become aware of the fact that it was the first butterfly that I have ever seen in quite a long, long time.

Suddenly, like in a miracle, the dragonflies have come back again.
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Thursday, September 08, 2005

Governments Should Be Like Airline Companies

It was quite sad to see the impeachment complaint reeling down the drain, like a washed up memento of everything that we need to fight for. I was really hoping that the truth could be given even just a moment’s chance to be tested by the fire, like in a full-blown impeachment proceeding against the President, irregardless if the President may eventually be exonerated or not---at least, in that manner, Congress had not resorted to such numbing insensitivity to the public’s cry for a thorough investigation of the alleged election anomalies believed to have been committed by her. Things like these ain’t suppose to get away so easily, otherwise we can half-expect that every election we will have from now on would most probably be rigged. And we have the present Congress to blame for that.

I can recall now, as we examine the sad state of our politics, an episode of Ally Mcbeal that was shown about five to six years ago. It was too long ago but because that episode was so interesting, I have always recounted the story to some of my friends from law school every now and then. In this particular episode, the team of Ally Mcbeal was suing for damages in behalf of nearly two hundred plane crash victim—the plaintiff’s side. As the case went on, the plaintiff’s side was very disheartened to learn that the investigators and aviation experts that was tasked to examine the crash site had found no single evidence whatsoever of negligence on the part of the airline company. In suing for damages in cases like airline accident, it becomes necessary that the plaintiff should prove that the airline company or its employees had committed some form of negligence or breach of care that is necessary for such sensitive industry. When negligence is not proven, damages or full compensation may not be had.

In this case within the TV episode mentioned above, the court could not seem to pinpoint to any wrongdoing on the side of the airline company and like one counsel for the airline company there said, “The plane just went down for no apparent cause”. No pilot error. No maintenance lapses. No engine trouble. No bomb explosions. Nothing. Nada.

And so when the day of reckoning came, the Ally Mcbeal team was not so encouraged by their chances of winning the case while the defendants were already almost celebratory. But then the unexpected happened when the judge finally handed down a judgment in favor of the Ally Mcbeal team, this despite that the investigation did not find any evidence of negligence on the part of the airline company. In the reading of the judgment, the court decided that while it is true that the plaintiff side was not able to prove negligence on the part of the airline company, still the airplane crash victims should be paid damages and their families fully compensated, for it had opined rather strongly that the court does not believe that airliners could just go down in flames without any reason. There must be a cause and this cause, the airline company should be held responsible for. The decision went on to say that the award of damages should give notice to all airline companies that from now on, they should do everything possible in this world to make sure that the safety of passengers are guaranteed by all means. They must do everything, anything lesser is not acceptable. They may have to train their pilots every month if it need be or do maintenance work more often than what is usual. They may have to discard their twenty-year old planes and buy new state-of-the-art aircrafts. They have to do everything to keep danger almost to a nil, if that is possible. Whenever an airliner goes down in flames and lives are lost, airline companies should always recompense the victims. No ifs and no buts.

Now here comes the analogy to the state of our nation. Governments should be like airline companies. The people it serves should not be force to accept malefactors and wrongdoings in the government by masking the truth or manipulating a political exercise. By all means, governments should remain morally intact in order that it becomes a primal force in urging the upswing of a nation, both economically and socially. Any taint in the face of the government that presently serves us should be dealt with accordingly, either by proving the accusations wrong or by just letting the public know the real score. So what’s the real score? The administration of President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo has so many things to explain and yet it had chosen to hide rather than be forward and answer every doubt cast upon its name. The mishandling of the truth may serve as a bad precedence in the future where a people becomes deserving of a tainted government and governments from now on may not care anymore to be morally fit because after all, an unfit government had been allowed to escape unscathed once before. This “act of Congress” will go down badly in the annals of our political history.

Like an airline company, governments should exert every effort possible in order that no airline crashes happen. Meaning to say, it should be ideal for a developing republic like us that our governments should not wallow into any dirt, like having its hand into Jueteng money because bribery is the one singular crime that had brought this nation down from its gloried past. And if talks of election rigging are so prevalent and pestering, the talks should not be allowed to die down. The truth must be uncovered. The GMA administration had preferred to be evasive, as if admitting something and yet not being ready to pay for it. In that sense, it had contented itself into becoming a government masked in doubt and disrepute rather than be a moral and upright one.

The Filipino people deserve a government that is moral and exemplary. But as of now, we will keep on looking for that, for we haven’t got it yet.
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Monday, September 05, 2005

Who Can Handle The Truth?

An umbrella organization called Bukluran Para sa Katotohanan now becomes a delta for “all the voices in the wilderness”, calling for the TRUTH to arise from this bedlam of political arm-wrestling and elbowing. I have always wanted the TRUTH to come out. When everything around us becomes a lie, there is only the TRUTH that we can lean upon. And so, through the initial persuasion of MLQ3, I now support this following declaration:

Statement of Unity
Bukluran Para sa Katotohanan

We come from all walks of life, from different political, cultural, and economic persuasions, different points of view. But in diversity, we find a cause for unity. That cause for unity is our common objective to secure the truth.

We all seek the truth. We want the truth to come out. And yet every means for seeking the truth has been frustrated; every avenue for arriving at the truth has been blocked; and every opportunity to find the truth is being closed.

Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo’s response to our call for the truth has been to suppress evidence, hide her accomplices, engage in a grand cover-up, sow fear, foment distrust and use every instrument at her disposal to encourage division among our people.

We will not be divided in these critical times.

We say with one voice, Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo must go. For the good of the country, she must go. For the sake of our nation’s future, she must go. For the preservation of hope as a motive force in our national life, she must go.

We are united by the belief that this crisis must be resolved in a manner that is peaceful and democratic. Without the truth, there cannot be peace; without the truth, there is no genuine democracy. The truth must set our nation free.

Unite for the truth. Demand the truth. Defend the truth.

Kami ay ang Bukluran Para sa Katotohanan.
Action for Economic Reforms
AKBAYAN Citizen’s Action Party
Ateneo Concerned Faculty and Youth
Bangon, Pilipinas
Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (BAYAN)
Be Not Afraid
Black & White Movement
Citizens for TRUTH (Transparency, Responsibility, Unity, Trust, Hope)
Citizens for Truth, Resignation, Impeachment, or Ouster (C4T)
Coalition for National Solidarity
Counsels for the Defense of Civil Liberties (CODAL)
De La Salle
FPJP Movement
Freedom from Debt Coalition (FDC)
Interfaith Movement for Truth, Justice and Genuine Change (IFM)
Kilusan ng Makabansang Ekonomiya (KME)
Laban ng Masa
Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF)
Peoples Assembly for Genuine Alternatives to Social Apathy (PAG-ASA)
Pwersa ng Masang Pilipino (PMP)
Reporma
Union of Muslims for Morality and Truth (UMMAT)
United Opposition (UNO)
Unity for Truth and Justice
UP AWARE
UP Diliman Student Council (UPD USC)
White Ribbon Movement
Women March
Youth DARE
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Friday, September 02, 2005

Katrina’s Wrath Remain Harsh Long After The Storm

An American daily called it “hell in new Orleans”, and by the manner by which we now witness the ultimate devastation and ruin brought forth by the now legendary hurricane, then it might as well be. Hell it is and if it had a fury like a woman scorned, then the woman must come in no other name but “Katrina”.

I was glued the whole time yesterday to the international coverage of the giant storm’s aftermath on cable television and I was hoping I could catch a glimpse (by way of video documentation the actual onslaught of the hurricane) of how strong and ferocious it had been---did the houses sprung up into the air like broken dollhouses. Unfortunately, CNN had no such videos or if they had, they did not replay it anymore. Maybe, they were just too gruesome for comfort.

So I had to see the devastation through the flooded streets and overcrowding, and the misery painted in the faces of those who got stranded, the babies crying while being carried by their sweating mothers and old women drooping like they got the whole world on their shoulders. Apparently, Katrina’s aftermath had become such a colossal logistical crisis where flooding waters and smashed-up streets and bridges had made rescue efforts so darn difficult to carry out. It had also become a gung-ho police problem for the New Orleans authorities as lootings had become so widespread. There were reports of child-rape committed in one of the temporary shelters where overcrowding had rendered the situation there maddening and hellish. Some thugs have even controlled some areas of the locality that at one point, helicopters trying to deliver food and water encountered gunfires from what was reported to be random snipers. This could be what anarchy in America looks like---if it is not already.

As of this morning, President George W. Bush was speaking to reporters about how the rescue operations would entail huge amount of federal funds while his father, former President George Bush and former President Bill Clinton looked on at the wayside. Apparently, the White House was still in the stage of sourcing funds for the much-needed rescue operations and acted as if nothing was really urgent happening over there in New Orleans. Some dailies have reported how it took quite a while for the White House to get notice that there are actually thousands and thousands of hurricane victims being stranded in temporary shelters throughout New Orleans, Houston and San Antonio, without food, water and medical help in sight. People were actually dying there and President Bush was still “looking up for funds”. This seeming lack of action and urgency in Katrina’s aftermath is so unlikely of the American authorities and I couldn’t believe that the mayhem and devastation I was seeing on television was actually happening in America, the most progressive state in the world, and not in Jamaica or Somalia.

Where were the Chinooks and hummers that the U.S. Government used to flaunt all over the world? It seems to me that every modern equipment, materiel and gadgets that there is to have, the U.S. military has it. They are even giving them like peanuts to countries like the Philippines for anti-terrorism purposes, among other reasons. But now that their country needs it most, these useful equipments are nowhere to be seen. Perhaps, they were all already sent overseas, in Iraq and Afghanistan among other places, and America has already none of them in their homeland. Now tell me if this is such "a responsible conduct".

What we see here perhaps is a symptom of President Bush’s overly outward sense of priority where White House had become so foreign-centered that whenever problems arises in their own country of the magnitude of Katrina, it becomes completely inutile in handling it, becoming overly-used already outside actions.

And one thought does not seem to escape my mind. Why is it that there is a very patent delay and laxity in responding to the devastation in New Orleans? I have noticed that those who were stranded and lay helpless in the streets of New Orleans were mostly black Americans. Would help had come much faster if those who lay homeless were mostly whites and not colored ones?

I could not believe my eyes that the most powerful country in the whole world struggles so pitifully in handling a giant storm’s wrath when they all have the much-needed resources in their hand. And I wish I am wrong but in this very modern age, America is still showing some hang-ups about its racist past, where there still remains alienation and prejudice against the colored people, and marginalization of those who are in the minority.

What was devastated was “black America”. And help had not come so soon. And it makes me wonder.

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Monday, August 29, 2005

A Sensible Suggestion

The House Committee on Justice is set once again to tackle today the most proverbial question lately: What impeachment complaint shall they grind and then decide upon? As we speak now, three distinct complaints are presently docketed before the aforementioned committee, first of which was filed by lawyer Oliver Lozano, where the tenor of the argument is that President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo has “betrayed the public trust” on account mainly of the Garci tapes. And then there was the amended complaint filed by several lawmakers from the opposition where aside from “betrayal of public trust”, it was additionally alleged that President GMA had violated the constitution as well as of bribing Comelec officials---among other crimes. Aside from these two complaints, there also was that of lawyer Jose Lopez who is said to be a “virtual copy” of the Lozano petition.

The long and protracted debate on whose complaint shall be received for actual deliberation by the house committee on Justice arises mainly from the constitutional rule that provides that only one impeachment complaint against the President shall be heard in any given year. Therefore, it becomes vital for argument purposes as to whose complaint it is that shall initiate the “one complaint” as prescribed by our laws.

On August 19, Former Justice Secretary Artemio G. Tuquero suggested that the three complaints could actually be merge and consolidated, thus doing away with the problem of possibly violating the rules on the initiation of impeachment proceedings. For me, this is the most sensible and sane idea ever to come out of this bedlam of opinions and hush-hushes. When Congress still has no permanent rule on the matters of form and substance of a proper impeachment complaint, it could still anytime propose and establish a rule where it could be allowed that two or more complaints could be merge and consolidated as long as they retain a reasonable semblance of tenor and arguments. In the present situation, since all three complaints are pointed against the same defendant, that is the President herself, the house committee on justice may motu propio (on its own) decide today to merge the three complaints and thus “creating” merely one complaint where it is incorporated all petitioners as complainants in such, and then listing in it all the particulars and basis of complaints, from betrayal of public trust to bribery. In this manner, it is completely avoided that one single complaint may violate the constitutional limitation on the number of impeachment complaint initiated against the President.

The suggestion presented above is never farfetched or strange since the regular Rules of Court also allows merger and consolidation of parties although in a much stricter way. Section 6 of Rule 3 of the Rules of Court allows the joinder of parties into a singular complaint where they all have similar causes of action arising from a transaction or series of transaction. The house committee on justice may just emulate this rule in order to resolve the present debacle at hand.
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Friday, August 26, 2005

It’s Still A Long, Long Way For Iraq

Early Wednesday morning, while doing their tasks for an American electronics company, three of our compatriots were caught in a crossfire somewhere in Kirkuk, Iraq’s most volatile northern region, and one of them just lost his life. Federico Samson once more typifies the sacrifices some of our countrymen make just in order to keep afloat amongst the ocean of poverty happening now in our country. When will it ever end? This violence…these killings…

The casualties kept rising and the reports of explosions over the streets and avenues of Iraq are mounting by the day and now we heard, the National Assembly is far from ready from finally putting up a draft constitution for the planned October 15 plebiscite, where the Iraqi will go to the polls once again in order to institute their most fundamental legal framework. But even that may not happen as scheduled when days past its supposed deadline, no proposed constitution was agreed upon by the three major sects---the Shiites, the Kurds and the minority Sunnis.

Apparently, the main conflict among Iraqi lawmakers lies not in any political or religious matters but revolves around the economic control of oil. Sunnis have complained that the present draft constitution could allow the Shiite to form an autonomous region in the oil-rich southern region, as a due course to the federal nature of the planned Iraqi government when the constitution is finally approved. The Sunnis are wary that Shiites may use this autonomy to shun them out of resources coming from oil. The Kurds are not unusually silent about the present draft since federalism would also allow them control of the oil-rich Kirkuk region. Meaning to say, their silence is a silent abeyance.

Aside from being the minority, the Sunnis populate areas that are not known for any oil deposit and a looser form of federalism may leave them mostly on the losing end. Once mighty as a ruling sect---where they controlled the Iraqi government under the regime of Saddam Hussein---the Sunnis could not seem to adapt to a newer environment where majority should rule.

The only way to solve this present stalemate is to reformulate the proposed Iraqi constitution where federalism may thrive while at the same time the resources of the entire Iraqi economy could be apportioned fairly among all regions, including those where oil are not drilled. Otherwise, these delays would only prolong the harsh days and nights where life and limbs are lost in the streets of Baghdad, like almost there is no end to it.

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Tuesday, August 23, 2005

Gasoline From Corn

Gasoline From Corn

Image hosted by Photobucket.com

What you see on the picture is nothing else than a stack of the lowly “corn”. But they won’t be too lowly for far too long. I have read this article from Newsweek about a couple of weeks ago and I just couldn’t help but share it to the readers here.

As you know, plants like corn, rapeseed, and the all-too-prevalent coconuts are fast becoming sources for what is now termed as “next-generation petroleum” or more commonly known as biofuels. Brazil (and also China) are right now far too ahead in the developent of biofuel technology and in fact most of the vehicles that runs through the rugged streets of Rio de Janeiro nowadays are already running on 20 percent ethanol, mixed with gasoline. In some form of vehicles, ethanol mix could reach as high as up to 40 percent. This set-up allows so much cost-saving in terms of fuel expenses among individual car owners and in a wider scale, Brazil as a country saves a lot of dollars from minimizing their oil imports, especially now in these “dangerous days” of $70 Dollars per barrel of oil in the world market.

Our country is currently finding out ways and means on how to curve energy use and thereby saving more on the ever-scarce dollars like avoiding gas-guzzling Expeditions, turning off unnecessary appliances and limiting workdays to four in a week. I think, what we must embark on now is a widespread and very determined effort to developed our own biofuel technology since plants and vegetations that are used as source for biofuels like corn and coconut trees could easily sprout everywhere in this all-too-fertile land of ours.

Like petroleum, biofuel that comes from corn and coconut could actually run a car when they are converted into ethanol and biodiesel. And if they could similarly run our power plants and factories, then our dollars may not have to leave our shores just in order to source that much needed petroleum.

The technology behind biofuels is not that complicated. Like in a cliché, it doesn’t have to take a rocket scientist just in order to handle it. The process is amazingly simple. Materials like corn and coconut are dried-up and then extracted of its oily elements. These procured oily substances are then processed by way of distillations until combustibility is attained. It’s amazingly simple and efficient.

Watch out for this vital development in the fuel industry in the coming months or years. It is said now that biofuel is the greatest challenge to the viability of petroleum as a main energy source. Maybe, OPEC is just pushing the red-button now (by skyrocketing the oil prices per barrel) knowing perhaps that the rise of biofuels as an alternative energy source would be soon forthcoming. Still, how I wish oil prices in the world market could stabilize at more reasonable level.

Photo Credits : Alamy Images
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Monday, August 22, 2005

My Life In One Full Minute

"Who Am
I?
I am Jean
Valjean!!!"
---From the musical,
Les Miserables
Last week, a temptress named Nao listed me as one of the bloggers that she would be interested in knowing more of. In short, I was once more tagged for a question-and-answer portion, to which I am just glad to comply with.

Frankly, among all the “tags” in the world, I have never felt more anxious than this one---although in such a fine way---since the questions presented here demands more of honesty and deep, profound introspection. Who am I? Where I’ve been? Where am I going to? These are queries that I need to know myself now as much as you do.

TWENTY YEARS AGO. I was thirteen years old and in that fragment of my past, I am ardently reminded of one unique and an altogether hilarious experience. I was so giddy one morning about going to school since it was my first day in Ateneo de Zamboanga as a freshman highschool student. Perhaps maybe then, I was just feeling so happy that I have found myself within the grounds of a classy school despite that my father Hussin A. Masdal, was just then a lowly employee of the city post office. It was thru the benevolence of my grandfather Unih, that I was enrolled in Ateneo, the one person who once took me in when I was still a toddler, and coddled me like his own child for many, many years, until the moment that I had to return to the fold of my parents, just about the time when I was already finishing elementary school.

On that first day of school, I decided to wear orange pants that an aunt gave me as a gift upon graduation from elementary school. All students were lining up for our first ever flag ceremony when suddenly I heard some snickering from somewhere behind me. I heard a voice whispered loudly, “Gee, with those orange pants, he should have gone straight to the city jail.” It suddenly came to me that particular moment that “orange” was such an unusual color for baggy pants. I thought it was stylish then but I forgot that prisoners wear orange pants similarly, causing some others in the crowd to make fun of them. I sweated hard that morning all throughout the flag ceremony, becoming overly conscious with my baggy orange pants. Since that day, I never wore my baggy orange pants ever again.

FIFTEEN YEARS AGO. I was eighteen and finally knew that I have the right to vote, Suffrage is such a memento of adulthood, I think. A mark of age,

It was about the time that my grandfather, Unih, passed away, at the old and ripe age of 81. At that age, you could say he had lived fairly long enough but his departure from this mortal world had such a telling effect on me, that I felt like the entire sky fell upon my shoulders. I was so saddened with grief that for a long time, I had a somber mood and a stooping gait. He was almost the most singular person that I dearly loved the most, and the one central figure that I have the healthiest amount of trust. But suddenly, I found him gone like smokes melting into thin air. Like upon a poem, he had been my East, my West, my North and South; my Sun and Moon; my morning, noon and evening; my morning star and my northern star when darkness comes. He was a wall that I had grown accustomed to leaning upon, and which suddenly had just disappeared.

Years after his death, my grandpa appeared to me in a vivid dream, amidst a falling rain at nighttime. He slowly appeared out of the rain and with a smiling countenance he asked how I was. I said I was just alright. He then handed me a ten-peso bill which I refused and said in response, “Maybe you’d need it more. Father gives me enough money now.” In reply, my grandpa said, “In that case, you will be just fine.”

And then he disappeared into the heavy rain once more. When I woke up from that dream, I immediately felt the loneliest of emotions that I wept like a child. There was grief and longing for a most beloved figure in my life, but then I had consoled myself in the thought that, thru that dream, I now believe that my grandfather is just out there somewhere, guiding me still and seeing me through and that someday I’ll be meeting him once again.

TEN YEARS AGO. I was about 23 years old and at that time, I could not remember much anything except stacks and stacks of law books which I had to read as I was then going into the junior years of my law schooling. And oh…I was elected the President of the University Student Council of the Western Mindanao State University later that year.


FIVE YEARS AGO. My eldest child, Sef-Sef was born and that momentous event in my life showed me that indeed, genuine happiness is something that money could not buy.


THREE YEARS AGO. I just failed my first and only attempt at the bar examinations. The world was heavy and the days were dim. I felt so gloomy then but I promised to try again and do better.

LAST YEAR. I should have been taking the bar again but family and other concerns did not allow me the right circumstances. Also, I started blogging sometime in the month of September.

THIS YEAR. Busy with some personal concerns and family matters. I continue blogging like never before.

NEXT YEAR. If I had the right frame of mind and if the circumstances around me are favorable than ever, I might just find myself in Manila once again taking review classes for September’s bar examinations.

TEN YEARS FROM NOW. Maybe, I’d be a lawyer by that time. It’s hard to foresee so much into the future. Or perhaps, in addition I would already be heading an organization that I have in my mind for so long now, a kind of a movement that you know, might just well be able to change the world---for the better.

WHO I WISHED WOULD TAKE THESE QUESTIONS: In my mind are the usual suspects. I hope that they won’t be so busy to answer these queries. Here in no particular order: Teacher Sol, Bing aka Juilet, Angelo, Sam, JP, Bokbok, Anicee, Trickyboy, Punzi, Jove, Glen, Abaniko, Jeff, Buffwings and Shalimar.
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Friday, August 19, 2005

Dead Wrong!

Dead Wrong!

It seems like it was only yesterday that we had witnessed one of the more memorable international political image in recent years---that of former U.S. Secretary of State Collin S. Powell holding high in his hands what turned out to be a deadly amount of anthrax that he was then using as a visual aid (while he was trying in earnest to convince the U.N. Security Council to give “Gulf War II” a psychological go-ahead). He was then orating in support of his employer’s war plans, hollering in high booming voices that a time to kill and a time to make war in Iraq had finally come that particular moment.

But years after “Gulf War II”, and over $ 100 Billion Dollars spent on bullets and missiles by U.S. taxpayers, we still haven’t got any single hint that indeed Saddam Hussein had in his possession any substantial amount of weapons of mass destruction (WMD). For now, Mr. Powell and America is just “dead wrong” about their findings.

On Sunday, CNN verges deep into the myth of Saddam’s chemical weapons and meaningfully exposes and investigates the truth behind the U.S. intelligence failure on such matter. In a
CNN feature titled “Dead Wrong”, the Atlanta-based news network will try once and for all to unravel and perhaps prove rather conclusively that the U.S. intelligence network was way off the mark when it barked throughout the political world that Saddam Hussein was viciously detrimental to world peace and that he was then maintaining a sizeable arsenal of WMD’s. Perhaps CNN may just go beyond that and implicate America outrightly for being caught lying---in red-handed fashion.Image hosted by Photobucket.com

This is not the first time actually that insinuations that America had lied to the world in order to pursue a war that is thousand of miles beyond American borders. In April of this year, a presidential commission had concluded in its final report that
“the United States still knows ‘disturbingly little’ about the weapons programs and intentions of many of its most dangerous adversaries. In short, President George W. Bush may just have decided to lie in such a big way just in order to coax U.S. Congress to fund the most expensive war in recent history. Could he have intentionally allowed the manipulation of facts just in order to unduly justify an unjustifiable war?Image hosted by Photobucket.com

America peddling half-truths is not already new to us actually. In the years leading to the Vietnam War, then
President Richard Nixon was often seen declaiming the merits of sending American troops to southern Vietnam. It was then highly circulated by Nixon’s henchmen that if Vietnam will fall entirely to the hands of communism, the whole of Asia would soon follow---like dominoes collapsing one by one. We all know now what really happened. Vietnam did entirely fall to the Vietcong but still communism hasn’t made so much of a ripple in the rest of Asia, as feared initially. Did Nixon’s Vietnam war adventure a kind of a “dead wrong” scenario? It seems to be now that the huge casualties of war suffered by America in Vietnam was merely a result of one huge misapprehension.

Now, only history could decide if Bush’s war in Iraq is merely just “one huge misapprehension”.
Photo and Image Credits: CNN/ WikiPedia/ Warblogging.Com/
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