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Archive for the ‘politics’ Category

My head is aching right now. I could not write a single word for work. I’ve been having a hard time sleeping here in Singapore because martial law has been declared over the southern region back home. And just as I suspected, the president has been wanting to declare it since November. Now he has the perfect excuse to do it.

All I can think of right now is Plaza Miranda.

I don’t think I’ll be sleeping well for quite a while.

Martial law on Duterte’s mind as early as November —Lorenzana 

Published May 24, 2017 6:43pm

President Rodrigo Duterte has thought of declaring martial law as early as November to combat ISIS, Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana said Wednesday.

“Actually, matagal na iyan pinag-iisipan ni Presidente iyan. Matagal na naming pinag-uusapan iyan,” he told reporters in NAIA after Duterte gave a press briefing.
Lorenzana said they advised the President against it.

“In fact, iyong pumunta kami sa Butig last year, sinabi niya na, ‘You prepare for martial law. Pero saan ba ito? Island by island ba or whole Mindanao or Philippines?’ Sabi namin hindi pa naman dapat. So the thought process niya nangyari na eh long ago pa,” he added.

Duterte declared martial law in Mindanao on Tuesday while he was on an official visit in Russia.

He cut his trip short and arrived in Manila on Wednesday afternoon. —NB, GMA News



As a communicator and as person who lived towards the end of the repressive regime of Ferdinand Marcos, I applaud that the ordinary people are given the power to express themselves and not be subjected to the caprices and sometimes questionable filters used by some media gatekeepers to be able to have their voices heard.

However, there are limits to this freedom: your freedom ends when you are already stepping on another person’s own freedom.

Facebook and Twitter (but more of Facebook) have become toxic places for public discourse as these now sow hate among users. It has become an effective vehicle for misinformation of a population that has become a parody of some sort. The bullies are now silencing whoever is opposing them; sowing fear or ambivalence among those who have become wary or tired of offering contrary views.

And it doesn’t help matters that the owner of Facebook is playing god.

Mark Zuckerberg accused of abusing power after Facebook deletes ‘napalm girl’ post

Norway’s largest newspaper has published a front-page open letter to Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, lambasting the company’s decision to censor a historic photograph of the Vietnam war and calling on Zuckerberg to recognize and live up to his role as “the world’s most powerful editor”.


Read the rest here.

I had been singing this haunting song to my twins when I put them to sleep since the day I brought them home from the hospital until tonight. Yeah, I know it’s not a good lullaby but it’s the only song I could think of that I couldn’t sing without my entire being shredded into little pieces and stuffed into each note that comes out of my vocal chords.

I got to know this song through Patatag‘s Nagbabagang Lupa album, which my parents brought home one day. It was rare that my parents could buy tapes then because money was really tight so it was a novelty for us to have a tape of any musical genre at home. That tape was played to death on our lone radio/cassette player that sat on top of our mala-cabinet black and white TV.

I think my youngest sister and I had our first heartbreak with that album. I remember that same sister crying after hearing “Tano” because “kawawa naman sya.” I was six years old and my sister was five. The country was about to see its first mass uprising to get rid of a dictator. The housewife of a murdered senator was about to run for president.

Fast-forward, my parents again brought home another tape but this time it was by Joey Ayala, his first album. I discovered he was the composer of the song that has haunted my sleep for so long.

I saved bits of my small weekly allowance to buy his succeeding albums. I was in grade school that time. Later on I fell in love with “Walang Hanggang Paalam.” (That’s for another future blog entry.)

Anyway, the Patatag’s rendition was the one that got stuck in my head for 30 years. It was painful and at the same time beautiful. Joey Ayala’s song was so visual and yet deep. It was a song told from the point of view of a bird, seeing the desolation caused by war. A village caught in the middle of gunfire.

Well at least that was my interpretation when I was in high school and college. I have yet to Google its real meaning or the circumstances surrounding that song.

Years later, I had a gig writing for a series of 2-minute spots about child soldiers for RMN. Dong Abay was one of the musicians working on the series. We spent an afternoon or two figuring out how to incorporate the revised lyrics of “Pen pen de sarapen” with granadas and armalites and my script into 2-minute spots (In the end we used one of his original songs for some of the spots instead).

I was too shy to chat with him about Patatag then. I was also probably starstruck (hey, he was one-half of Yano of my highschool and college years!) and all I managed was “Yeah, I’ll email you my script.”

A decade later, I got to work with AR Sabangan when we were doing investigative stories for InterAksyon. I learned that she was part of the Nagbabagang Lupa album and she was the one who recruited Dong Abay and Grace Nono to join Patatag. Parang, whoa, my youth revisited (sorry, AR, alam mo namang malaki tanda mo sa kin hehehe).

One hazy night (well, hazy because my head was already cloudy with all the stuff we had been doing for our investigative gig), we were able to go down the Patatag memory lane, allowing me to ask her about some of the lyrics of the songs that played on a loop in my head for 30 years.

And I told her that Wala Nang Tao sa Sta Filomena is one of my favorites and their rendition is the one I could never forget.

I hope this song will be remembered by my kids as something that their mother had sung to them while they slept. A song that would remind them that all is not well in other parts of this country. I just hope when they grow up, there won’t be any Sta Filomenas anymore.

I was reading my old blogs and deleting spam comments when I encountered two comments that prompted me to resurrect this blog today.

The entry was about Joel Abong, the symbol of poverty in the Philippines, the poster child of the sufferings of the sakadas in the 1980s. He haunted my childhood, changing me forever and ever. (No, he’s not the reason why I am fat today. Let’s just say I’m scarred forever because there will always be a part of me that would hanker for a meaningful job, instead of getting rich and have a happy ignorant life.)

One of the comments in my old blog directed me to Kim Komenich‘s page devoted to his coverage of the Philippines during the tumultuous Marcos regime leading to Cory Aquino’s ascent to presidency.

Photo by Kim Komenich/San Francisco Examiner) Young tuberculosis/malnutrition victim Joel Abong is among the hardest-hit of the children at The Corazon Locsin Montelibano Memorial Hospital in Bacolod City, Negros Occidental. The hospital is home to a clinic where about a dozen kids are being treated for third degree malnutrition as a result of lack of food due to sugar layoffs. Joel’s father, a fisherman, cannot make enough money to feed Joel and his six siblings. It is doubtful whether Joel, photographed on May, 4, 1985, will recover. (revolutionrevisited.com/remember)

I remember Joel Abong as a sakada child whose emaciated body was plastered all over the newspaper’s front page (and for the life of me I cannot remember what newspaper was that because I’m not sure if it was right before or after EDSA I). Now I don’t know if my parents mistook him for a sakada child, the newspapers mistook him for a sakada child or, as one of the commenters in my old blog claimed, his parents were paid by the photojournalist to pass him off as a sakada child.

Little did I know that this child — skin and bones and all — would haunt me for eternity.

My mother always showed me the newspaper clipping of Joel Abong whenever i threw tantrums and didn’t want to eat. I was really a picky eater then. She often reminded me that I was fortunate that I had something to fill me up whereas this child did not. (Don’t get me started–my parents didn’t care about the psychological repercussions of my harsh education as long as I grew up to be a compassionate and mulat na Filipino).

Because of that, I could not forget that image and his name.

His memory was again resurrected in my head when I watched Maalaala Mo Kaya four years ago featuring a sakada family. Two of the letter sender’s siblings died of hunger and neglect, because of their parents’ ignorance and because their situation was further aggravated by their father’s abusive nature and irresponsibility. I cried towards the end of the episode and I couldn’t pinpoint the exact reason why… Maybe because the drunkard, abusive father asked for forgiveness from his son whom he banished more than 15 years ago or because of the plight of the letter sender’s family.

When MKK showed the ashen corpse of the letter sender’s youngest sibling, the image of Joel Abong suddenly flashed through my mind. No, they didn’t look alike but their lasting impression on me was the same: it was that of horror.

At the back of my mind I know people like them die everyday and stark realities like these every now and then get shown on TV. I’m angry that a child could die like. What makes me more frustrated was that I don’t know if my being a journalist is making any dent to their situation. I don’t know if I am making a difference. Our housekeeper that time asked me (she was watching MKK with me that time when we were having dinner) if it’s true that such things happen. Yes, I replied. It happens everyday. And I don’t know if I am doing anything about it.

We, the burgis crowd, are lucky we don’t know the realities of what this woman lives with everyday. We only get to do stories about them. We only get to read them. Like poverty pornography in print.

I remember my friend of so many years became so disillusioned with multilateral/bilateral projects/grants/loans after being part of one of those “aid” projects in the country. Part of her job was going around the country, to the most depressed places you could think of, and see the areas that needed “development”, to put it simply.

She met a family from a province down south who cut and gathered firewood for a living. All of the children had to work alongside their parents day in and day out so that they could earn a maximum of P250 a day. Collectively. for a day’s work each of them only earned P50.

In contrast, her bosses — the project consultants — were earning at least P350,000 a month. She complained that some of them weren’t even reporting to the office and weren’t doing any work at all since most of the “work” just piled up on other people. As if these consultants were just milking the project of those much-needed dollars that should be going to these impoverished families. She knew they weren’t doing anything much to help solve the poverty problem and all of what they were producing were papers, recommendations — those sort of stuff that wouldn’t really put food in those wood gatherer’s stomachs.

She asked whether there were any sense at all in these projects. She asked me, why can’t these multilateral or bilateral agencies just use the P350,000 paid to each of those “consultants” to help the wood gatherers and their kind instead?

She was so distraught and disillusioned. She resigned from her high-paying job (at that time) and wandered around for a while until she found herself again.

I couldn’t blame her. I would be questioning my raison d’ etre if I were put in her shoes.

Was my father right all along? The debate still continues if these loans do really help the poor.

And now back to the sakadas, I wonder about the sugar workers of the azucareras in the south. I wonder what happened to Joel Abong, his family. I wonder about the farmers who continue to suffer, with climate change, with the failure of WTO agreements and the so-called safety nets that economists promised two decades ago.

I wonder about where I will be going.





Next week will be hectic with US President Barack Obama visiting Manila. Top concern for me are the traffic and tight security–the bane of my life as a harried reporter.

As for the expected outcomes of his visit, as far as I know, it would be mostly about geopolitics and economy would not be as important as the former. I was invited for a teleconference by the US Chamber of Commerce but due to logistical reasons, I wasn’t able to participate. Supposedly, the main topics of discussion are the themes for Obama’s visit to Asia, which are:

  • swift conclusion of a high-standard Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) agreement;
  • implementation of KORU;
  • and bilateral trade and economic relations.

Now, I wonder where I will be deployed…

King Abdul Halim Mu’adzam Shah, second left, addresses President Barack Obama at a state dinner on Sunday. Photograph: Mohd Rasfan/AFP/Getty Images

He is now in Malaysia, to strengthen the geopolitical clout of the Americans on that side of the world.

Barack Obama visits Malaysia with economy and security on agenda – The GuardianOpening the first visit to Malaysia by a US president in nearly half a century, Barack Obama looked ahead Saturday to economic and security talks with the prime minister, Najib Razak, who leads a south-east Asian nation with an important role in Obama’s efforts to forge deeper ties with the region.

Stepping on to a red carpet at the Royal Malaysian Air Base, Obama was whisked by limousine to Kuala Lumpur’s Parliament Square, where a 21-gun salute rang out as Malaysia’s king and prime minister greeted Obama under muggy skies and a yellow awning. A military band played the US and Malaysian national anthems twice and Obama inspected an elaborate honour guard in crisp green and white before the arrival ceremony came to a close.

Read the rest of the article here.


Sabi nga ng isa sa mga sources namin sa pork barrel scam na ito, we will never see another plunder case of this magnitude go on trial if a big fish wont be convicted. Napoles is not the big fish. Just one conviction is all we need. Three convictions would be so sweet. If no one is convicted, tatamarin na ang mga tao. There would be no more whistleblowers, no more Benhurs et al going on record. Nothing. Because those who would be willing to sacrifice their lives (or their way of living and their families) will see that it will be pointless.

CATBALOGAN, Samar – Volunteers and donors told me that whenever they arrive in an area devastated by Typhoon ‘Yolanda’, they’re often in a quandary when it comes to choosing what formal channel will they use in the distribution of relief goods.

But more often than not, private donors, especially those who are familiar with the locality, choose church-based organizations because they move faster and have no biases in prioritizing who should receive help. Locals told me that mayors tend to favor those areas that have 1) helped them win the elections; and 2) where they live or where their minions live.

If the donors are locals–such as the ones I have accompanied on my trip in one of the towns in Samar–they tend to do the relief distribution themselves since the local government units (LGUs) are crippled anyway or they can penetrate the remotest barangays that they have identified sans the politics. Louie Guillem of the Catbalogan Volunteer Firefighter Brigade has been asking the townsfolk when was the last relief has been given to them. As expected, the distribution was uneven–a similar story in areas we’ve been to.

The relief truck of Burublig: Tindog Waraynon in San Antonio, Basey, Samar

Big foreign donors, on the other hand, do not have any choice but to deal with the local politics. They had to course through everything through the LGUs because they do not know the area and they had to do everything through official channels.

Manuel Orejola, the Basey municipal development planning coordinator, related to me the USAID had donoted 1,000 units of mosquiteros (mosquito nets). Up until that moment, these were still stuck in the town hall’s makeshift storage room because the munisipyo still could not figure out which of the 23 barangays deserve these much-needed items (Ga-kalabaw ang lamok sa tabi ng dagat, residents told me). They advised the donors that 1,000 mosquiteros are not enough so they need to choose. First they passed on the responsibility of distributing these to USAID but of course the organization had to delegate this job to the LGU because obviously these Americans are not familiar with the place. Then Orejola said they finally settled on giving these to the victims in the poblacion, where some of the most affected barangays were.

From the way things were going, I could guess how many days have gone (or still counting) before these mosquiteros could be put to good use. Dengue and other mosquito-borne diseases are just lurking in every corner.

I could understand why they needed to use the master list of residents of every barangay in a town. Yes,  they needed to make sure that there would be no duplication and that everyone has been given relief items. But remember, the barangay elections was just a recent event and reigning barangay captains know who had voted for them, or so the volunteers and donors tell me. And in most rural areas, everyone knows everybody.

Speaking of barangy elections, I was told that winning barangay captains in a particular town demanded to be sworn-in first before they could do anything as village leaders. Among the rubble and roofless homes, these officials took their oath of service complete with all its pomp and glamor.

I may not know what it is to be an elected official nor be a victim of the worst typhoon disaster in recent memory so probably I cannot say what is right or wrong in these circumstances. All I know is, the mosquiteros must be distributed at once.

life in business journalism

crazy. exciting. boring to some but hey, you get to understand the world better when you're a business journalist. you learn to be patient with tons of documents, make sense of numbers and charts. all geeky stuff. this is my story, behind the scenes.
June 2019
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