“Mr. and Mrs. Smith”

Privately, a woman’s touch is often needed in the White House, whether it’s a steadying hand on the shoulder or a judo chop to the back of the neck. Publicly, nearly every First Lady has flourished an identifying issue (Lady Bird Johnson, highway beautification; Nancy Reagan, “Just Say No” to drugs; Michelle Obama, physical activity and healthy eating). Melania Trump’s was to be cyberbullying, a ludicrously unself-aware, doomed-from-the-start crusade, given her husband’s stubby-fingered prowess as chief Twitter Troll. As any number of people have observed, if Melania really wanted to curb cyberbullying, the first, best thing she could do would be to confiscate her husband’s Android phone and flush it down the toilet. Good luck with that. Given his nocturnal addiction to Twitter, he won’t surrender his phone until it’s pried out of his cold dead hand.

The First Lady’s degree of sway rests on her hubby president’s being cognitively supple and emotionally receptive to persuasion, and on his trusting, respecting, and being willing to listen to his wife (or, here, darling daughter), to take her seriously as a person and perception.

Can Melania Trump Ever Be A Great First Lady?, James Wolcott, May 2017, Vanity Fair

This is the rare time that being up to date with the news is chicken soup for the soul. We have already abandoned the Ozamiz City weekend happening and hot on the trail on the real-life Mr. and Mrs. Smith show. Or, the next big thing between the Commission on Elections Chair Bautista and his estranged wife. I guess this is what we can call a “first lady’s” judo chop. Although, now that it’s out there if I were the wife I’d be scared to go back to the “conjugal” house. Ah, but this might finally lead to the truth in the rumors that simply won’t die about Smartmatic having made fools of Filipino voters. Let’s see.

What it takes to become a republic

The Filipino has this attitude of making light of every single thing, joking about everything even serious and grave matters. You could witness this in a funeral vigil. There’s always laughter in there somehow. Well, Haiyan was no joke. A republic running on drug money is no laughing matter either. Nothing is as clear then than that, in a republic, anybody who wants to run the country on drug money is the enemy of the citizens.

I was in Panguil Bay a few days before the weekend when the incident with the late Ozamiz City Mayor happened. Ozamiz City from where I was at the time is only a 15-minute ferry ride across the Bay. The City is the stuff of legend according to both insiders and outsiders from the towns on the other side of the Bay. Ozamiz City is supposedly the Sherwood Forest to “Robin Good and his merry men”. But that, in a sudden reversal of fortune, now looks like it’s going to be “the forty thieves” minus Ali Baba.

The closest analogy to this event can be likened to the case for risk reduction measures in natural disasters. For example, we know there’s going to be “the big one” but if all we do is worry about it happening… could worrying save us? Action is what’s needed to be prepared for and the risks of a megaton earthquake reduced.

So yes in this war against drugs everybody had been given early warning. How many times have we heard “do not do it!” over broadcast media? Is the message too difficult to comprehend? I guess it truly “is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God”.

Local politics is oiled by incredibly unbelievable negotiations and settlements even between and amongst enemies, one of the more famous ones was the arranged marriage of Dimaporo and Quibranza, once bitter enemies, touted to have “healed (the) relationship” between these two political clans, that the thinking has become everything including personal happiness therefore freedom is negotiable. That has been the case for a long time not only in Mindanao which is why this country fails to take off as a republic again and again.

saltwater cure for anything

How does one pick up 1001 kinds of shit?

I’ve been off the news (except for the SONA which I replayed) the past weeks, partly for my own well-being. You see, there is so much more to the Philippines and the Filipino than what’s in the news. That is the truth. What gets in the news are – I will be blunt – biases of this and that editorial team from this and that agency. Featuring a 30-second statement out of an hour of speech or report is like zooming in on just a brow out of an entire person’s face– it doesn’t help audiences form right decisions and opinions. What if the person is actually blind in both eyes but the news is talking about his brow? Does that make any sense?

Inside a taxi late one night, my companions and I were listening to the news through the radio. The anchor was reporting about a drunken man in so-so neighborhood in so-so City  One drunk. On air for a good 10 minutes. I couldn’t help myself and blurted out, “how do these people do it? why that drunk out of probably fifty million Filipino men drinking out there? and why always about drunkards? what about the other half who are sober?” There was a few seconds of complete silence and then my companions burst out laughing. I realized it was because one of them, the executive director who was sitting in front, was once infamous for his drinking ways among local partners. He has since sobered up after a health scare. But, seriously, though, whose story gets published or reported? and what about the other half of the story?

So I was taken aback when on meeting my host after the weekend, he asked if I’ve heard the news- the raid in Ozamiz City that led to the Mayor’s death. “How?” I asked (it has been an interesting time since I came here. the news about the Marawi City siege and then Martial Law and everything in between). The response was that the Mayor’s security detail fought back. Soon as I got back to my place, I re-connected and replayed the news. Here are my thoughts:

This war on drugs stems from the repeated failure of local government especially Barangay and Municipal/City Local Government Units and citizens to address community issues before they morph into monsters. Once these are out of the community’s control, it’s not just the locals who suffer but also the wider community. Like what we have right now with this. And, look, the resolution to this drug abuse problem is being commuted back to the originating communities through the community-based MASA MASID (Mamamayang Ayaw Sa Anomalya, Mamamayang Ayaw Sa Iligal na Droga) program in which local teams that also include barangay volunteer-members are put in charge of managing the rehabilitation of drug abuse-surrenderees.

community based rehabilitation program masa masid

When I was told this, I was “oh.my.god. so many years gone to waste. if only the barangays and the people did this the first time the problem popped out instead of closing their eyes to the problem and believing that it can’t be solved thus allowing the problem to grow, grow, and grow out of proportion and control. we’re all so back to square one.” If I were the President, listening to this, I would’ve gone and grab the useless Barangay Captain and his cohorts by their ears and drag them a mile. Because- my god, my god, years and years of tax money gone to waste! Not to mention wasted years of otherwise productive lives.

National government DILG’s MASA MASID program is news-worthy topic that news agencies have not given equal air time to so that all people (and other countries) know is that the drug abuse problem in the country is being resolved through EJKs (which we should note were in the news as early as then former President Noynoy Aquino’s term). This begs the question, how is journalism – the ethical search for and telling of the entire truth – helping the nation to resolve the drug problem? Whose side are news agencies on? Their investors? Their businesses? What sells? Truth should not be sold as if it were a good nor chopped into pieces that make it impossible for audiences to understand the complete whole. Truth is integral to the personhood of human beings. Journalists messing with truth is like them chopping up the human body into unrecognizable pieces that anyone buying cannot distinguish it from minced livestock meat.

Finally, the people. The masses. What’s funny about the masses is that they continue to have fiestas and dancing on the streets even when they know where the money that funded the dancing came from. They dance long and hard for fiestas but not for basic medicines and equipments for their village health centers. They sing long and hard at neighbors’ birthday parties but not for roads in their villages. They approach the throne like very meek sheep for, like, maybe, food, clothing, shelter, and curse the same throne once they’re far away and have gotten the goods. Well, this is the sort of attitude and behavior that produces shit, not freedom, as the outcome.

And so, 1 + 1 = 1001. Elected local officials who live as if they will live forever + citizens not in the proper state of mind + media that keep their cameras on perpetual zoom mode = 1001 kinds of shit.

What is the proper way to go about picking up shit like this?

In any case, the weekend incident in Ozamiz City is yet another call for the nation to reform. Something we should’ve done a long time ago, since the time of Rizal and Bonifacio. To reform, at the core, means to be authentic. STOP using the people’s money to buy collections of Birkins or Hermes bags, luxury cars, or children’s tuition into Harvard or Oxford. STOP using the masses as if slaves, your errand boys and girls. STOP knighting family members as second-liners to a throne that’s not there. We are a republic. STOP the desire for quick and easy money. We have long ago turned our backs to Juan Tamad. Let’s faithfully till the land this time to it’s full potential. STOP the thinking that this nation is comprised of just one class or tribe of Filipinos. We are many. We urgently need to learn how ‘many’ could actually become a strength. STOP everything that has gotten us to this point of in-fighting, back stabbing, and fakery. STOP trying hard to be Americans or like Americans. Let us START to embrace our identity. We are Filipinos. Let us START to listen to old folk songs if only to re-call the life of honor that Filipinos before us strove to live. Let us START to live our positive values of maka-Diyos, maka-bayan, pagtutulungan, pagkakaisa, hiya.

Sustainable security

The sustainable security of states can only be based on the security of people: their physical safety; their socio-economic well-being; respect for their dignity and political and cultural identity as individuals and as members of communities; gender equality; and the protection and promotion of all human rights – including women’s rights – and fundamental freedoms in the home, in the community, in their country and in the wider world.

Agents for Change: Civil Society Roles in Preventing War & Building Peace, Catherine Barnes, European Centre for Conflict Prevention

Martial law: whose perspective?

I’m not, never will be, for martial law or any restrictions to liberty and freedom. Even if it’s a benign form of martial law, the fact that civilians are searched or required to present evidence of who or what they are to armed personnel instill an environment of distrust that in turn gives birth to other negative feelings (fear, paranoia, anxiety, more distrust, and the like) and thoughts (am I going crazy? am I the only one distressed over restricted movement?). I can’t help feel angry that I’m searched or asked for identification. Do the checkers really give a hoot about who I am or what I do? No. They only need to see that I am not one of those wanted men and women. The wanted individuals that’s who or what they care about, bottomline, which is why it doesn’t really matter to them if good and law-abiding citizens are made to line up even in scorching high noon heat. Who are being persecuted? But this is my perspective.

I do try, for my own sanity, to understand martial law or forms of restrictions from the perspective of Mindanaoans. They welcome it. People here, Moro and migrants alike, tell me, “people in Manila who are protesting and complaining about martial law here do not know anything, if they want we’ll exchange places, they could come stay here and we’ll go there. See if they don’t embrace martial law.” I have no response to such, just a smile. But I understand now that I’ve been here some time and have gone around in conflict areas where you don’t know if you’re going to be sniped at driving through a village while Michael Learns to Rock is crooning 25 Minutes Too Late in the background, or becoming a secondary victim of a blast in a shop next to the one you’re in. Such does things to your psyche. What more for folks who have been subjected to such a volatile environment for the longest time? I understand, travelling on the Pan-Philippine/Maharlika Highway to and from conflict-ridden areas, why people from Visayas and Luzon would want to build their homes here and why some people here would want to defend it at all cost. This place, this region, is very beautiful. I’m caught by the beauty of it’s landscapes, it’s wilderness. It’s a much-contested space. But I also understand what somebody who’s working in peacebuilding in the region for more than a decade meant when he said “pagod na din ang mga tao dito. Mamamatay tayo na baka hindi pa naayos itong problema (people here are already tired. We’d probably die without the conflict getting resolved).” What a sad, sad thought. I wanted to weep.

Whose voice? Whose agenda? Whose perspective? Whose future? These should guide us as we make a decision or a judgment about what is best for a community.

Duterte at 365 days: fixer-President

Jose C. Sison in his Philippine Star article Unity in uncertainty writes,

the lingering questions that remain unanswered in the minds of our countrymen especially in the affected areas, are: why no preemptive action was taken to prevent the siege? Why the members of terror groups were able to carry out their plan and infiltrate the city with seeming ease? Why Marawi City? Are there many sympathizers of the group there as would enable them to stage a rebellion or uprising that led to the declaration of martial law in Mindanao? Is there really a rebellion happening in Marawi City now?

Maybe if these questions are satisfactorily answered, our people will be more united in supporting the moves of this administration and in praying that the fighting in Marawi City will soon come to an end.

The answer doesn’t have to always come from Malacanan or those the people elect, rather it should first and foremost come from the governed as a result of doing their part as good citizens. If the masses of Filipinos only make an effort to read more and often, invest in a home library, or visit and support their local libraries instead of always holding unnecessary fiestas (every month or so!) and boozing themselves to death, we should’ve all known by now that

The Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) is likely to create branches in the Philippines and Indonesia this year.

Although the Indonesian military pre-empted ISIS plans to declare a satellite state of the so-called caliphate in eastern Indonesia, ISIS is determined to declare at least one province in Asia in 2016.

The creation of training camps will lure not only South-east Asians but also other nationalities – from Australians to Chinese Uighurs – who cannot easily reach Syria. The nationalities trained in the new ISIS province, and seeking to carry out the ISIS vision, are likely to be a threat to their home countries.

Just this month, ISIS announced the unification of four battalions in the Philippines and the allegiance of their leaders to Baghdadi.

Ansarul Khilafah Philippines is the group that pledged allegiance to ISIS in August 2014. After it did so, it released a video threatening to deploy suicide bombers in the Philippines and make the country a “graveyard” for American soldiers. On two occasions, attempts by the group to transport weapons to Mujahidin Indonesia Timur were disrupted by the Philippine National Police working with their Indonesian counterparts.

Based in South Cotabato province, Sarangani province and General Santos City, Ansarul Khilafah Philippines is led by Abu Sharifah, who is also fluent in Tagalog.

The Philippines has been an important arena for domestic, regional and global terrorist groups for 20 years.

The ISIS-initiated merger of the fighting formations and unification of the leaders will present an unprecedented challenge to Manila. As the “soldiers of the caliphate” in the Philippines, they will mount operations that will increasingly mirror those of the ISIS core in Syria and Iraq. There is no better time for the Philippine government to act. If the commander-in-chief of the armed forces, President Benigno Aquino, procrastinates, ISIS ideology will spread, gravely damaging the peace process. The four ISIS “battalions” will grow in strength, size and influence and present an enduring challenge to his successors.

ISIS in Philippines a threat to region, Rohan Gunaratna, January 12, 2016, Straits Times

Same with the other threats to human security- illegal drug use, criminality, insurgency, and corruption. These did not suddenly happen during the current President’s time or watch. In a way then we could call him the fixer-President. But imagine the burden (of past inactions) on the shoulders of this 72-year old, foremost, that to his life from red ants scampering to get out of their mounds that are under attack. History is replete with stories about belated recognition of sincere and genuine leaders.

On the “do no harm” humanitarian principle and the Moro problem

The Moro struggle is not just about a conflict between the Philippine government and Moro rebel groups nor a religious conflict between the Muslims and Christians in Mindanao. Rather it is a complex, deep-rooted and multifaceted one spanning several centuries starting from the Spanish and American colonial times up to the present.

No single cause can sufficiently explain the Moro problem. Despite the many literature on the conflict, much is still to be told, learned and understood regarding the causes and consequences of the conflict that the Moros believe to be their holocaust.

Much of what has been written about the conflict in Mindanao focused mainly on its economic cost and partially on its social cost. Most of these accounts failed to expose the wounds and sufferings that are deeply entrenched in the Moro psyche that continuously shape and influence the Moro’s attitude towards the Philippine government and the rest of the majority Christian Filipinos. Since no respite was given for the wounds to heal, they are continuously aggravated by the protracted war and the elusive peaceful resolution of the problem.

Human Development, Economic and Social Costs, and Spillovers of Conflict: The Case of the Province of Lanao del Sur, Yasmin Busran-Lao

In our last stop of relief operations for Marawi City evacuees, while I was observing the queue of evacuees, under a very hot sun, toward the tables where their names would be verified against earlier validations and their names registered etcetera, a Moro leader came up to me. He told me of his concern that for fellow Moro who have not gone through a process of awareness, understanding, and thus opened themselves up to healing and closure, the fact that Christians were the front-liners in the operation (not withstanding that, too, the soldiers and police in the Marawi conflict are Christians) might again revive sentiments against Christians. My spontaneous reply was, “I understand. That was exactly what I was thinking last night.” When I got back to my place after the relief operations at another town, I couldn’t help the tears flow and spent much of the night trying to understand where humanity – us, Filipino Christians – did wrong. But such thinking always end up in me realizing my own limitations, humankind’s limitations to resolve it’s own problems. Humanitarians can only do so much. I finally went to sleep thoroughly humbled yet again.

The Moro leader had approached me asking if I could help them facilitate for a phase two of the relief operations to assist Moro evacuees undergo a culture of peace education, essentially a process of peace building that begins with the self and then with others. As goes the UNESCO Charter, since wars begin in the minds of men, it is in the minds of men that the defences of peace must be constructed. 

Moving on, still on our exchange, but with one other a Christian migrant who joined us, I said, “but, you know, I’ve also thought about what if I was on the other side, an evacuee? how do I respond to aid, people helping me?”

“Ah,” said the Moro leader looking amused, “sige daw ano? (okay, what?)”

“Sige (okay),” added the Christian migrant, “ano ang gagawin mo given na ang taas ng pinag-aralan mo (what would someone who’s had a university education like you do in that situation)?”

I laughed and said, “I’d refused to be interviewed. I’d refused to have my photo taken. To hell with them.”

The two men became silent and offered no response or reaction. I believed they fell into thinking. Perhaps the Moro leader was thinking I’m worse than his people? I didn’t offer further explanation. Let them think about what I meant, which is that human dignity is for every human being regardless of religion; it’s about one human being responding to another human being and taking care to do that justly, and to achieve that one must have an understanding of one’s own basic needs and rights transcending one’s prejudices against race, religion, gender, etc. For example: Just because someone is an evacuee doesn’t mean he or she is stupid or uneducated or his or her rights suspended that other people think they could go around the evacuation centers taking shots and making them public and thrusting microphones, recorders, or cameras at, for instance, mothers breast-feeding their babes, demanding or expecting coherent replies (and when they receive incoherent responses they readily label the evacuee-interviewees as schizophrenic. My god, who is the schizophrenic in such a situation)? Would I want that done to me if I were an evacuee? NO! If I’m required or pressured to be interviewed in exchange for food relief then take back your food relief! But media do that to evacuees to their fellow Christians too (think of evacuees from natural disasters in Luzon and Visayas).

Irresponsible callous acts are monitored by the offended party and added in it’s long List of Sins by the Enemy, naturally. Then when the offended party has decided it’s done with listing, it fires back and in the process not only are members of the offending party hurt but also innocent parties. Media and those dealing directly with fragile communities therefore have a great responsibility in sustaining the gains in peace building.

At it’s most basic level, human security consists of the freedom from fear, freedom from want, and freedom from humiliation.

Human Security and Armed Conflict, Philippine Human Development Report 2005

Prolonged humiliation does things to your head not to mention it’s ill effects on emotions and the body hence being genuine is a response that is so welcomed, in fact, heals.

Religion and ethnicity are incidental, in plenty of cases

The other passengers and I were waiting for one more individual before we could finally go on our way. Everybody was growing restless. Outside our vehicle, the scorching noon-time sun was painful to the eyes. Still, I watched the stream of people outside which I suppose is what people seated in the front do. So I was doing that and then– the two young men, barkers, standing near the headlights and who were just talking the last I saw them suddenly broke into a fight. My heart jumped up my throat. I was travelling alone and in a city that’s a melting pot of armed groups. I feared that any second they’d bring out guns from somewhere the way they were grabbing at each other’s necks. Should I stay put or get out at the driver’s side? Things happened quickly. In a minute, the area swarmed with more men who tried to break up the two young men. But they were bent to get at the other. Finally the men were able to get them to the back of the parking area which was when my breathing returned to normal. When we left, they were still in a heated discussion.

Thinking about the incident during the trip, I realized that nutrition, the lack of, may have played a significant part. Think diabetics experiencing erratic sugar levels. The men are Moro and Muslims and since it was Ramadan, on a fast. I have been amazed and curious from observation of Muslims during Ramadan here– they continue to do normal amount of work. But wouldn’t common sense tell you that with less food going in, energy usage need to be conserved. In short, less food and drinks means one has to cut back on physical work, physical movement, and the like. Otherwise, the body is put under extraordinary strain.

I then typed up a message to someone I knew: minsan, sa kakulangan lang talaga ng sugar sa katawan dahil sa pag-fasting nila ang dahilan kung bakit madaling uminit 🙂

‘Moro’ and ‘Muslim’ are over-rated, often cited as the reason native people in this region are violent or hot-blooded. But as it turns out there are other factors why people would become violent, in this case, perhaps, nutrition. What this points to is that the Moro as well as the Muslims, setting aside religion and ethnicity, are, simply, human beings, and just like the rest of the specie, we show our fangs when our stomachs and brains are drained of food and nutrition. And the reality for this specie is, only a few do get to become saints out of fasting. The majority grow temporary horns (I’m in this category which is why I don’t fast so much from food during Lent. I fast in other ways though like staying still and becoming quiet which is very hard to do).

I guess the solution there is that when we have to fast from food and drinks our entire waking hours, we take care to avoid situations in which our biological vulnerabilities could take over our rational thinking (the ability to think rationally requires adequate and right nutrition hence food, just observe nutritionally-deprived school children).

Which brings me to ask, what is the poverty incidence level in the poorest areas of this region (eg. ARMM)? In other words, imagine going on a decades-long fast.

confucius on simplicity

Confucius says… simplicity

In an earlier article, I briefly mentioned about Church leaders’ absolute rejection of the use of birth control methods that in effect stands in the way of citizens’ civic responsibility. In this article, I’m adding to this topic by mentioning another issue that’s disallowed by Church leaders:  Divorce. Church leaders’ absolutist stand against divorce when they are fully aware of it’s impact particularly on already disintegrated families is just plain cruelty. Why should Church leaders dictate on your personal right to an openly happy and fulfilling life?

Divorce is again being revived by women’s party lists and as to how to re-frame this divisive topic, perhaps we should look to Presidential Decree 1083 (signed 1977) also known as the Code of Muslim Personal Laws of the Philippines (yes, there is such a Code!) specifically on the provisions for divorce or talaq may help, viz.

Section 1. Nature and Form

Article 45. Definition and forms. Divorce is the formal dissolution of the marriage bond in accordance with this Code to be granted only after the exhaustion of all possible means of reconciliation between the spouses. It may be effected by:

(a) Repudiation of the wife by the husband (talaq);

(b) Vow of continence by the husband (ila);

(c) Injurious assanilation of the wife by the husband (zihar);

(d) Acts of imprecation (li’an);

(e) Redemption by the wife (khul’);

(f) Exercise by the wife of the delegated right to repudiate (tafwld); or

(g) Judicial decree (faskh).

Article 46. Divorce by talaq.

(1) A divorce by talaq may be affected by the husband in a single repudiation of his wife during her non-menstrual period (tuhr) within which he has totally abstained from carnal relation with her. Any number of repudiations made during one tuhr shall constitute only one repudiation and shall become irrevocable after the expiration of the prescribed ‘idda.

(2) A husband who repudiates his wife, either for the first or second time, shall have the right to take her back (ruju) within the prescribed ‘idda by resumption of cohabitation without need of a new contract of marriage. Should he fail to do so, the repudiation shall become irrevocable (Talaq bain sugra).

Article 47. Divorce by Ila. Where a husband makes a vow to abstain from any carnal relations (ila) with his wife and keeps such ila for a period of not less than four months, she may be granted a decree of divorce by the court after due notice and hearing.

Article 48. Divorce by zihar. Where the husband has injuriously assimilated (zihar) his wife to any of his relatives within the prohibited degrees of marriage, they shall mutually refrain from having carnal relation until he shall have performed the prescribed expiation. The wife may ask the court to require her husband to perform the expiationor to pronounce the a regular talaq should he fail or refuse to do so, without prejudice to her right of seeking other appropriate remedies.

Article 49. Divorce by li’an. Where the husband accuses his wife in court of adultery, a decree of perpetual divorce may be granted by the court after due hearing and after the parties shall have performed the prescribed acts of imprecation (li’an).

Article 50. Divorce by khul’. The wife may, after having offered to return or renounce her dower or to pay any other lawful consideration for her release (khul’) from the marriage bond, petition the court for divorce. The court shall, in meritorious cases and after fixing the consideration, issue the corresponding decree.

Article 51. Divorce by tafwid. If the husband has delegated (tafwid) to the wife the right to effect a talaq at the time of the celebration of the marriage or thereafter, she may repudiate the marriage and the repudiation would have the same effect as if it were pronounced by the husband himself.

Article 52. Divorce by faskh. The court may, upon petition of the wife, decree a divorce by faskh on any of the following grounds :

(a) Neglect or failure of the husband to provide support for the family for at least six consecutive months;

(b) Conviction of the husband by final judgment sentencing him to imprisonment for at least one year;

(c) Failure of the husband to perform for six months without reasonable cause his marital obligation in accordance with this code;

(d) Impotency of the husband;

(e) Insanity or affliction of the husband with an incurable disease which would make the continuance of the marriage relationship injurious to the family;

(f) Unusual cruelty of the husband as defined under the next succeeding article; or

(g) Any other cause recognized under Muslim law for the dissolution of marriage by faskh either at the instance of the wife or the proper wali.

Article 53. Faskh on the ground of unusual cruelty. A decree of faskh on the ground of unusual cruelty may be granted by the court upon petition of the wife if the husband:

(a)Habitually assaults her or makes her life miserable by cruel conduct even if this does not result in physical injury;

(b) Associates with persons of ill-repute or leads an infamous life or attempts to force the wife to live an immoral life;

(c) Compels her to dispose of her exclusive property or prevents her from exercising her legal rights over it;

(d) Obstructs her in the observance of her religious practices; or

(e) Does not treat her justly and equitably as enjoined by Islamic law.

Article 54. Effects of irrevocable talaq or faskh. A talaq or faskh, as soon as it becomes irrevocable, shall have the following effects:

(a) The marriage bond shall be severed and the spouses may contract another marriage in accordance with this Code;

(b) The spouses shall lose their mutual rights of inheritance;

(c) The custody of children shall be determined in accordance with Article 78 of this code;

(d) The wife shall be entitled to recover from the husband her whole dower in case the talaq has been affected after the consummation of the marriage, or one-half thereof if effected before its consummation;

(e) The husband shall not be discharged from his obligation to give support in accordance with Article 67; and

(f) The conjugal partnership, if stipulated in the marriage settlements, shall be dissolved and liquidated.

Article 55. Effects of other kinds of divorce. The provisions of the article immediately preceding shall apply to the dissolution, of marriage by ila, zihar, li’an and khul’, subject to the effects of compliance with the requirements of the Islamic law relative to such divorces.

Section 2. ‘Idda

Article 56. ‘Idda defined. ‘Idda is the period of waiting prescribed for a woman whose marriage has been dissolved by death or by divorce the completion of which shall enable her to contract a new marriage.

Article 57. Period.

(1) Every wife shall be obliged to observe ‘idda as follows:

(a) In case of dissolution of marriage by death, four months and ten days counted from the death of her husband;

(b) In case of termination of marriage by divorce, for three monthly courses; or

(c) In case of a pregnant women, for a period extending until her delivery.

(2) Should the husband die while the wife is observing ‘idda for divorce, another ‘idda for death shall be observed in accordance with paragraph 1(a).

The above provisions clearly state the parameters in which divorce are allowed, which is basically what the hype is all about. We contend that the Islam way of life is constricting, but in fact in certain aspects it’s essentially more progressive, practical, and respectful.

Another case in point: Acknowledgment by father (of his children). The same Code provides,

Article 63. Acknowledgment by father. Acknowledgment (igra) of a child by the father shall establish paternity and confer upon each the right inherit from the other exclusively in accordance with Article 94, provided the following conditions are complied with:

(a) The acknowledgment is manifested by the father’s acceptance in public that he is the father of the child who does not impugn it; and

(b) The relations does not appear impossible by reason of disparity in age.

Whereas it took us mainstream Catholics/Christians 27 years (after 1977), but not before having subjected to hell thousands of parents to produce this and that documentation and having made a volleyball out of innocent young children as when they were referred to on public policy papers illegitimate this and illegitimate that, to finally put into law Republic Act 9255 (An Act Allowing Illegitimate Children to Use the Surname of their Father). My god. Oftentimes, we complicate human life unnecessarily.

As you simplify your life, the laws of the universe will be simpler; solitude will not be solitude, poverty will not be poverty, nor weakness weakness.

― Henry David Thoreau

Food for thought (going forward toward understanding and assimilating with our Filipino Muslim brothers and sisters).

Happy Independence Day!

As long as I can remember, it used to be that Philippine Independence Day (119th today) is merely a lukewarm celebration of sorts in localities dependent on the budget that a local government has allocated (which corresponds to the extent of regard local government has for the history behind Filipino liberty and freedoms). What my stay in Mindanao at this time has taught me is that independence cannot, should not be taken for granted, ever. Local governments should stage community celebration of this historical event, remembering the people in the past as well as in the present and their sacrifices in order that the country remain free and independent. Independence Day is so much more worth the public celebration than fiestas. Such would be the place to acknowledge past mistakes and our limited humanity, and in the spirit of humility resolve to do better. The aim of this community ritual, like reunions, is for community members to reconnect around a common history and purpose moving forward. We’re always blaming the Spaniards and Americans – colonizers – for our inability to break through poverty (economic as well as in attitude) but, hey, the people and governments who colonized ithe country are long dead or gone and changed. Since then we only had ourselves to blame. Just look at the state of our present-day Congress and local government units. T he other day, while out to do some errands, I had just crossed the street to the grocery when I heard a commotion among people up ahead. It turned out there was a convoy of military trucks going by. They were filled with masked soldiers, and they looked weary. No smiles to the people and vice versa. That was not a familiar sight for me. What’s familiar to me is the images of poker-faced but palpably happy and shiny cadets at the Philippine Military Academy, whether on parade or on their regimental exercise. That image the other day was the result of experiencing realities on the ground, the actual battlefield which for the most part do not jive with what students were taught in school. But, I guess, as in much of life, we don’t run away from life and our duties. We face whatever comes our way. That is the way to live, the only way in order to fully enjoy life and the freedoms that go with human life. The question in the end isn’t what did you do to care for yourself? but rather what did you do for others? Life here in the Islands is so much more safe and free if we all got one another’s back.

The conflict in Mindanao from the perspective of Malthusian theory

There’s a joke that Muslims here like to tell, to which Muslims and Christians alike laugh at. It’s this- Muslim men could have as many as four wives max and still be legit by standards of their religion and law. Beyond that, however, they said they’d have become Christians. I hurt my stomach the first time I was told this. I couldn’t stop laughing.

In a way, this joke summarizes the complicated relationship between Muslims and Christians in the region particularly as you move further south where it’s more visible. If certain Muslims have taken arms to defend their sociopolitical and cultural survival in a country of 80-90% Catholic largely mainstreamed into the globalized economy and with that it’s sociopolitical and cultural ethic and, for some other groups, to defend at whatever cost the dictates of their conscience, there is or was, following the rule in physics, also the corresponding movement from Christians in the region- the Ilaga.

The Ilaga, the most notorious among the Christian vigilante groups, was reported to have been organized by seven local Christian politicians (“Magnificent Seven”) who were bent upon preserving their respective power and expanding them further by infiltrating and dominating areas traditionally controlled by Muslims. It was reported also that the Ilaga was supported by some influential Christian capitalists and logging magnates. The Ilaga group was the most feared to many Muslims primarily because of what its members did to their victims, like carving out ears, slashing nipples, plucking out eyes, and marking bodies with cross.

Yasmin Busran-Lao, Human Development, Economic and Social Costs, and Spillovers of Conflict: The Case of the Province of Lanao del Sur, background paper submitted to the Human Development Network Foundation, Inc. for the Philippine Human Development Report 2005

That dark period in the region’s history is apparently an experience that people here Muslim and Christian alike do not want to forget hence is passed on to younger generations in the form of stories which in turn may explain why there is still such vigilance, in their unconscious, between the two (which only a few have truly transcended the ones who are free to “cross over” invisible yet palpable boundaries such that we hear for instance Muslims protecting their Christian neighbors when armed fellow Muslims raid villages). Such stories were given as part of the orientation I had about the region. I was not yet five days old in the area. I was, what? can you spell that out please, because, for the life of me, I haven’t heard the word until then (I guess the reason is, I was schooled abroad).

Nothing apparently is what it seems. To truly understand the situation in Mindanao, ML or not, one must approach the subject with humility and in the calm or neutral spirit of scientific inquiry ie. if one is a Muslim, to be ready to accept that Muslims or certain Muslims are culpable and if one is a Christian, to be ready to accept that Christians or certain Christians have also had a hand, and, for both, in accepting that, to be open to the fact of our shared humanity which is that there is only one earth, one Philippines. How the planet, the country should be divided up for each and every human being should be done through intelligent and peaceful means (otherwise we have not really transformed from our ape past). Then again the rhetoric of ‘One Philippines’ need to be unpacked.

In one of the community discussions, somebody mentioned about population growth and population control as a related issue. Oh? I said in surprise. But it was obvious although not readily perceived. Filipino Catholics make up 80-90% of the country’s total population, and what is the total population? 100M. This means Catholics, whatever the ethnicity, greatly outnumber Muslims whatever their ethnicity. Such is true in the region. In other words, the droves of non-Muslims in continuous migration to Mindanao in search for land and greener pasture just by their sheer number easily overpower the original settlers hence easily impose their politics and culture on the “new land.” Now, population control. Catholics/Christians, since they make up much of the population, should share the bulk of the responsibility for birth control (the most rational, strategic, and intelligent means to population control (hence adequate space and quality of life for all)). That is equity. But the funny thing is, they are the ones, the Church leaders at least, who cite religious teaching as justification for disallowing Catholics to openly subscribe to a civic responsibility.

Without any checks, population would theoretically grow at an exponential rate, rapidly exceeding its ability to produce resources to support itself (Thomas Malthus).

I remember another joke about the root cause of this world’s problems, which is that, if it’s not economic, it must be sex. This brings us back to the joke about the wife taking.

De-constructing IS or ISIS in the Philippines

For the many of us here who have not given a fug about IS (or, ISIS as popularized here), because why should the topic muddle our daily conversations, until the Marawi City incident, IS or Islamic State is none other than the former al-Qaida in Iraq. ISIS is acronym for Islamic State of Iraq and Greater Syria, the self-styled Islamic caliphate that the (former) al-Qaida group “overran huge chunks of Iraqi and Syrian territory” after the demise of bin Laden.

Al-Qaida (now IS), according to several independent studies, such as J.Milligan’s Islamic Identity, Postcoloniality and Educational Policy: Schooling and Ethnoreligious Conflict in the Southern Philippines and Samira Gutoc’s Causes of “Terrorism”: The Philippine Case had “thoroughly penetrated” the country by the late 1990s. Purportedly, in 1980 the MILF “had begun sending mujahideen for training and combat experience in Afghanistan. One result of this effort was the establishment of ties with the al-Qaida network of Osama bin Laden which began…recruiting soldiers for the war in Afghanistan”.

The Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG), a splinter group from the MNLF and Filipinos who fought in Afghanistan, appearing in the mid-90s, has been linked to the al-Qaida network. However, when this link weakened in the late 90s, the group connected with Indonesia-based Jeemah Islamiyah (JI) that has “ideological origins in the Darul Islam (DI) movement of the 1950s and 1960s” also networked with al-Qaida. JI aims to establish a pan-Islamic State in South East Asia.

Another group affiliated with the al-Qaida network which appeared around the same time, in 1991, is the RSM (Rajah Solaiman Movement). The group is comprised of Christians from Northern Philippines who converted to Islam, supports violence against Filipino Christians and maintains base in Metro Manila. Reportedly, it gets funding from JI and training from ASG. It has been alleged that the group was behind the 2004 Superferry bombing that killed 116 people

Yet another group, AKP (Ansarul Khilafah Philippines) founded by a former MILF member disgruntled by the collapse of the peace talks in 2008. It is reported that the group has direct connections to ISIS fighters and has it’s base in Sarangani and Sultan Kudarat.

Last, but only so far as this post goes, the Maute Group also known as IS-Ranao or IS-Lanao. The IPAC Report writes of the group,

The Maute Group based in Lanao del Sur has the smartest, best-educated and most sophisticated
members of all of the pro-ISIS groups in the Philippines. It is largely ethnic Maranao, and its
stronghold is Mindanao State University (MSU) in Marawi City, where it has been able to attract
students and teachers.

The Maute group reportedly began as a training unit set up by Marwan around 2011 or even earlier, called al-Ghuraba and briefly Jamaah Tawhid wal Jihad – the name used by the late Abu Musa Zarqawi in Iraq and later by the supporters of radical Indonesian cleric Aman Abdurrahman in Indonesia.

By 2012, it had become Khilafah Islamiyah Movement (KIM), initially reported to be led by one Ust. Humam Abdul Najid alias Wai but in fact the Mautes are believed to have been the organisers even then.56 KIM was said to have been responsible for the 26 July 2013 bombing at a Cagayan de Oro bar and bistro that killed six.57 After ISIS’s recognition of Isnilon as amir, the Mautes began using the name “IS-Ranao” to indicate a division of the new as-yet-undeclared province of ISIS – just as BIFF became IS-Maguindanao and Isnilon Hapilon’s territory was IS-Basilan.

Locals call these groups “spoliers of peace”. 

But why all these splinter groups and their more extreme views relative to their more principled former organizations? Synthesizing their histories, we come to see that they have become disenchanted over the inconsistencies in the decades-long peace talks that appear to have no end, like drawn-out criminal cases in corrupt courts and we can site the massacre of journalists in Mindanao, and have taken matters into their own hands, the hard way or no way. Looking deeper, the root of their struggle is continuing injustices to the Moro/Muslim people. When you go to Mindanao, the mass of the Moro/Muslim people remain living on the edges of villages, sa laylayan as VP Robredo calls it. Mawawalan ka talaga ng dignidad living in these places, and the Moro are proud people.

” Attention grabbers” the armed groups are also called. Precisely, in the sense that their violent acts underlie and point toward the real ills in Mindanao society. Remember that once in the lives of these terrorists they believed, trusted and allied themselves with government or the rule of law. But at one point, abandoned that because of not being able to take anymore government’s failures. Pity, because their talents have been misdirected. How does one resolve such a misdirection of people? 

Government, national and especially local government, needs to re-boot it’s style and system of governance in the region. It also needs to undergo healing as what it has been extolling people in the region to do. It can start by making a sincere apology. Recall when the Australian PM offered an apology to the aborigines, “unfinished business of the nation”, for the mistreatment the natives suffered under past governments, in order “to remove a great stain from the nation’s soul”. The Filipino nation is inextricably bound to the decisions and actions of the State as the resources behind State decisions and actions come from the people. The people share in the consequences, good or bad, arising from the decision or action of their elect.

Further, when you go around the villages the common statement locals make is that government’s promises made to the people in the region have remained just promises. Nagkapatong-patong na over the decades. What do villages in the region need? Land (many migrants as well as marginalized Moro/Muslims remain without titles to the lots they occupy), jobs and access to training and capital for the masses to establish and sustain their livelihoods, barangay roads, health centers (many are without staff and equipment), inclusive education (ie. the use of Maranao as mother tongue for Maranao children and not Cebuano/Bisaya), adult education, rules and processes that do not disenfranchise the already poor, upholding the rule of law as well as TA and respect for positive traditional mechanisms eg. council of elders, etc.  Recognition of the unique culture and beliefs of the Moro people and provide for their integration in national policies. Presently, policies regard Filipinos as a homogenous people. The Cordillera is better off in the sense that each tribe has their own land or territory eg. Mountain Province for the Bontoc people, or Kalinga and Apayao for the Kalingas. This the Moro people don’t have. From their perspective, it’s now the non-Moro who’ve occupied much of their land or at least the best or most fertile portions of it. Religion is incidental.

The above , basically the MDGs or the SDGs now  are what more progressive Mindanao areas like Davao enjoy. And, with Davao, it was not national government extending it’s arm to the City that made it a premier city in the South, rather it was local government. In many provinces, however, it is local officials who are obstacles to good governance and therefore contributed to the opening up of a space right under their noses in which extremism has taken over.

“Let there be peace on earth and let it begin with me”

The recommendation of the TJRC (Transitional Justice and Reconciliation Commission) is to create an independent national mechanism that will address the issues connected to transitional justice in Mindanao and in the Philippines. This National Transitional Justice and Reconciliation Commission for the Bangsamoro is the mechanism that will address the four important aspects:

One, is the Historical Memory,

the issue of Impunity and Accountability,

the issue of Marginalization through Land Dispossession

and Healing and Reconciliation.

The Philippine Government, and I mean it’s decision-makers, need to be sincere and honorable in following through their commitments for Mindanao. To walk their talk. This is also true for the groups on the other side- the MNLF, MILF, and CPP-NPA. For instance, we have seen that despite ARMM in Mindanao which is the resulting system and structure that the MNLF fought for with much bloodshed and which they said is the answer to the armed struggle in the region, the story of the Moro masses has not significantly changed. How is it that ARMM provinces remain the poorest in the country? And where is that alternative system of governance that MNLF said it wanted to establish that would solve the ills in the region? The Filipino people, the Moro people included, see the same old issues re-playing itself in the ARMM system.

Peace therefore starts with having peace in one’s heart, and by having peace I mean sincerity (what is your real motivation in pushing for independence? presumably not for private interests), empathy, humility (recognition of one’s limits), and constraint of one’s baser tendencies eg. desire for limitless material wealth and beliefs of superiority be it in race or culture, morals, and socio-economic standing. For we cannot give what we, individually, don’t have.

Pioneers in the 21st century

Displacement is one of the wicked issues affecting people and governments in the 21st century. Camps and centers are not home, merely holding areas. Eventually IDPs leaving the camps find new places to resettle in preferring urban areas for their perceived wealth of opportunities. For the urban planning community, this implies the need for new strategies in designing inclusive settlement areas.

The Filipino people’s back subject

I don’t know why, in the dailies and broadcast media, people feel the need to explain their positions post-declaration. Martial law is martial law. It’s the most unfortunate thing to happen to a nation and country in the 21st century. For 21st century citizens to find themselves in such a state means only one thing- they have become degenerates, moving backward to the point in civilization where they need to be martialed forward. You know, like Brad Pitt’s hapless character in The Curious Case of Benjamin Button.

Didn’t the President repeatedly warned, “don’t force my hand”? As it is, his hand has been forced, apparently, not by a freak accident of gravity but by…terrorists? Perhaps. But more significantly by the Filipino people. If we the people faithfully fulfilled our part in governance – you know, government of the people, by the people, and for the people – we shouldn’t be in this situation in the first place. We did this to ourselves, the nation. The finger we’re pointing at others should be directed at ourselves, each and every Filipino, the haves and have-not alike.

In my other blog, in a post showing early morning beachgoers doing the rounds on a banana boat I wrote that “resilience” cannot all be laughter and smiles but that real resilience is about sacrificing now in order to enjoy freedoms afterward, maybe not in our lifetime but at least in our children’s and their children’s. Such is the level of maturity that Filipinos in the exercise of their responsibilities as citizens need or should want to attain.

The “siege” in Marawi City is the story of Mindanao, in a capsule. If Mindanao is like the abandoned buildings in the City, it is like that sorry-looking storied building riddled with bullets, the ground a playground of forces that seem to have the supernatural ability to switch places sending the poor residents scampering confused into rat holes. While all that is going on, the rest of us, onlookers from afar, are on banana boats doing our own thing, pa-comment comment (on social media, readily accessible as apps on our touchscreens) kapag may time.

Catholics, who comprise the majority of the population, have all sorts of devotions, novenas, etc. but in what ways are we positively changed by such? Has our knee-jerk recourse to prayer in fact just an avoidance of what we know we could or should do, right here, right now (versus “waiting” for God to send his angels to act)? Did Catholics or Christians in Mindanao have to wait for third-parties ie. NGOs to facilitate understanding and peace with Muslims? What is keeping someone, for instance, from baking a freaking pie, stepping outside your goddamned door and walk across your stupid lawn to knock on your neighbor Muslim’s house, and in utmost sincerity, offer the pie? (I cite this example of pie-giving because I have done it, when I was in grade school abroad. I baked some sconces (inspired by Enid Blyton’s The Magic Faraway Tree) and went and gave some to our Muslim neighbors. They were delighted with the bread. That began exchanges of that sort on occasions between our families. It only takes a step, a gesture from either side, you know, like how lovers become; though boldness is needed to be able to make that step or gesture. And what’s the worst that could happen? Pie on your face? Well at least it isn’t acid. And at least it’s not you throwing out the pie.) Fear that a thousand cannons will be let loose on you? Let us honestly examine ourselves. Maybe it’s not fear at all. Maybe it’s pride masking as fear. If then, woe to us Filipinos especially Catholics. We have imprisoned ourselves in our misplaced pride and snobbish prejudice all these regrettable years!

Further, ML in Mindanao revealed the general state of community among Filipinos, and that is, wala na talagang paki sa kapwa Pilipino o sa kapwa Pilipino na tiga ibang rehiyon (there’s now a lack of solidarity and empathy for fellow Filipinos or Filipinos in the other regions) such that in the first few days after the declaration there was no collective action from the two islands, not even from Congress, to, you know, dedicate a moment of silent in support of people in Mindanao especially Marawi City residents. Wala man lang from broadcast media that thought of pausing their tele-seryes and katuwaan on lunch time variety shows to broadcast a word of support to people in Mindanao. Nada.

What would it take for us to learn the lesson of our history? True people power is commitment to the daily grind of stepping outside private interests (even outside security of our gates) onto engaging without discrimination with fellow citizens and those who are governing. People power is less about yak-ity-yak-yak in the streets and more about rolling up our sleeves, sweating it out under sun and rain season after season, and actually making good government happen. Only then shall we know and deserve peace, freedom, development, all the good things that are the inevitable fruits of a people’s good and hard work.

Outside the box thinking

The priority of media now is to report on the real situation of evacuees or IDPs in order to provide accurate data to people and organizations who want to help. I don’t think that their detailed reporting on the fighting – even so far as going alongside the troops as they fire their guns at snipers (thereby disclosing their position to the enemy!) – does not add value in any way except well how manly our armed forces are with their newly-acquired gears. What I’m saying is, let the armed forces do their war thing because we very well could imagine their thing even without media coverage, and not be too focused on that. The information the rest of the country need right now is the situation of displaced persons as well as estimates of trapped population or those who remain in Marawi City- what’s happening to them, their needs, and the like.

For one, the ‘no ID no entry’ rule. I understand why this rule must be enforced but then on the other hand let us also exercise common sense and good judgment as we apply the rule (at checkpoints, etc.). In other words, let us not turn away people fleeing the City without IDs on them just because this is the rule. Many who were turned away are the very people who are truly poor (eg. the old, women, children, young people the ones without vehicles who had to walk miles) and are outside of the social insurance and health systems (hence their having no government IDs at all). Turning them away because we don’t want to “break the rule” does nothing positive for security and only doubly marginalizes the already poor. Hence it is very critical that those in charge of checkpoints are persons with good judgment, intelligence, and common sense.

Second, management of evacuation centers and camps. We’re not new to this. In fact, by this time after so many natural and man-made disasters we’ve been through we should already be experts at it. By this time, sanitary, medical, sleeping, even praying or quiet-time facilities etc. should have been in place, because order on the outside brings order in the inside (ie. the human psyche) which in turn helps displaced people to heal from their trauma and loss. But how come centers look disorganized? Evacuation centers should not be like pig sties. Let’s remember the humanitarian imperative to uphold human dignity in times of disasters- it’s not just the food “relief” that humanitarians need to secure for the affected but also relief in it’s holistic meaning ie. restoration and protection of dignity.

Another, air dropping of food relief for people who remain in the City. A Director I was speaking to a few days earlier said he was very worried about the situation of people who are still in the City, whether by choice or trapped (as when a Director-friend of his went to the City on the second day of the conflict because her relatives are there and she wanted to bring them out herself). I told him, laughing, that the armed forces, it’s humanitarian arm (is it the Office of the Civil Defense?), otherwise, why not Bam Aquino’s recently-established GoNegosyo in ARMM (as it’s first outreach mission)?, should have also dropped food alongside the bombs (or, food-loaded caravans if GoNegosyo?); coordinated with ground personnel for a secure drop and holding area.

Such things, lessons derived from the one before (or, conflicts around the world) would make this martial law different. For me, and as I said, I don’t care if the armed forces pursue the bad ones to the edge of the earth, that’s their job after all, only that the effects of such a pursuit on the human population and community should also be taken cared of with as much care, commitment, and dedication. After all, the resources that are used to pursue the bad guys are the people’s resources (taxes).

“The Peace of Wild Things”

Thursday, December 8, 2016 – 2:50 pm


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When despair for the world grows in me and I wake in the night at the least sound in fear of what my life and my children's lives may be, I go and lie down where the wood drake rests in his beauty on the water, and the great heron feeds. I come into the peace of wild things who do not tax their lives with forethought of grief. I come into the presence of still water. And I feel above me the day-blind stars waiting with their light. For a time I rest in the grace of the world, and am free.

A Wednesday to remember

Is there such a thing as benign martial law? I hope there is. Because I’m right here. What freakin luck! I’ve a lot of thought about this declared state in the region, foremost is that let all the armed forces, good and bad, fight each other till kingdom come for all I care, after all until now the people do not know who’s the good ones from the bad and is this again manifestation of interests ie. whenever we have leaders who have the will to facilitate change they are sabotaged. In any case, please can martial law be done in such a way that people can still go on movie dates like it’s any other ordinary day ie. without having to always look over one’s shoulders?

Who wants to gamble with love?

who wants to be a gambler? gina lopez

Today, Gina Lopez. Trailing her, Leni Robredo. Before her, Leila de Lima. Oh, of course, how could we not mention Imelda Marcos, Cory Aquino, Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo. They’re examples of Filipino women breaking through the glass ceiling, yet… why and how did their stories end in tragedy?

Used, I say. Pawns in the high-stakes Game of the Generals. Look at each of their publicly-lived lives and you’ll see M.E.N as the common element, invisible perhaps, but very palpable. But where were these M.E.N in the end, when they ought to have shown up as knights in shining armor? What was that line in the song? Naglaho. In the end, these women faced the mob alone, perhaps wondering as they look out to the crowd how did they end up as meat for the dogs.

But, surely their participation in the Game was with their consent despite their knowledge of the consequences? In other words, the serpent’s sugar loaded words was not an acceptable justification for Eve’s decision hence action. At the end of the day, each individual, man or woman, is accountable for his or her own decisions and actions. At this point, Paul Anka’s Don’t Gamble With Love floats through my head:

Don’t gamble with love

It’s only for fools

So play by the rules…

Oh don’t gamble with love

You’ll lose it for sure

There’d be no cure

When you gamble with love.

You can gamble your house,

gamble your car…

(But) Don’t gamble with love.

In the case of mining, or should I say irresponsible mining, the real enemy is from within (the agency) in the form of licenses that have been continously renewed despite findings from monitors. There is a law, system, and procedure that ensues from noncompliance. But how was it that noncompliant companies were renewed their licenses? This is the standing question across all or most government agencies here not only the DENR. The HLURB and LGUs and real estate developers, for instance. How were development fees allocated back by recipients of the fees for community development? Thus take out or put a stop to the real enemy and irresponsible profit-making (and continuing poverty of the masses) should end. In any case, Ms. Lopez made a gamble, choosing to move away from what was evidently the right set of cards in front of her. Ms. Lopez is a seasoned CEO. Why would she not see that? This was the part that didn’t fit.

Then, oh, in April there was yet another female face plastered on the front pages of national dailies. A police officer. Allegedly, she had been coddling a high-ranking member of the ASG. She is his lover, reportedly. Blah blah. There was nothing on the man’s story of their relationship which made the affair as if entirely manipulated by the woman. Perhaps it was, perhaps not. Who knows?

Which brings us back to the word pawns. Women pawned by other women, men, institutions. Still, women, those “foolish” enough, make a gamble. We would’ve wanted these women to win, if only for the sake of the female species, but apparently opponents are stronger, wilier, more embedded. I guess what women need to have to be able to stand their own ground on their terms, to break away from becoming pawns just so to break through the glass ceiling, are a winning combination of goods to gamble with, the right mix of rules to play with, and an impenetrable machinery that is the sisterhood.

First Lady for the 21st century

The much-anticipated ASEAN Summit is finally here and the President and his team are doing a wonderful job. He is much respected among his peers which is why what he says, as Chair, will shape the direction of the Summit in a big way.

On the sides though we hear the crabs- Filipinos who keep at putting down their fellow Filipinos, or more specifically, a President who they can’t control, who refuse to be their puppet. They label him ‘strong man’ and they think with that they’ve pulled the curtains down on the people. But who are they fooling? I mean, who among the world’s state leaders are not strong men and women? Can a country survive when led by weak men and women? In this sense, strong is like sex.

Anyway. What I’d really like to say in this post is that it’s good to see the President’s partner, Honeylet, visible in the Summit. She is lovely. She looked classy in her green (love the shade!) jacket. And, may I say it, she has a fine pair of pins (rivalling Duchess Catherine’s!). She has the making of a 21st century Filipino First Lady.

It has been a long time since this country had a First Lady. The last has been unjustly called names to the point where First Lady is degraded to Supreme Slut. But the association is just the conjuring of dirty minds. Do we know that the Filipino bloodline is of dugong maharlika?

It is time the country has a First Lady. Honeylet touring the other First Ladies in the national museum signifies the important role of a woman, a First Lady, in, among others, promoting, preserving, and sustaining Filipino culture. And culture includes values ie. positive Filipino values. The President in his speech essentially called for a culture of peace to prevail in and within ASEAN. How do we go about achieving that? The First Lady of the 21st cemtury has much to contribute toward that.

Video: resource-based conflict and peaceful resolution: the case of IPs in Mindanao

Conflict arising from misunderstandings around resource ownership does not only happen in localities but also between countries. The South China Sea, for example. Or, the growing North-South tension in the Korean Peninsula. Tensions may be unavoidable but still the call to localities as well as countries is for parties to always seek peaceful resolutions. That’s what education is for- to know better than cave people of the past.

Rainwater harvesting

My past employer used to fund construction of rainwater catchments for households. They’re the standard water tank design but concrete ones. This one by BMDesign Studios as featured in Dezeen is amazing and more sustainable.

rainwater catchment bmdesign studios

rainwater catchment bmdesign studios

The government should promote and support rainwater harvesting given that we’re often visited by rains and storms.

Common denominator

What do Environment Secretary Gina Lopez and the mining community have in common right now?

Johnny Mathis!

I heard a forest praying
The trees were cold and bare.
What was the forest praying?
Man turned the fields and the forest
Into a battlefield grim

Oh, look at you, oh, look at you
So warm, so sweet, so shy
Look at me, oh, look at me
I can’t believe that I’m such a lucky guy
To have Gina

There’s a saying that when opposing parties share something, even if one thing, in common, all is not lost between them.

Beyond moronic

Inquirer front page Davao hit man says hundreds were killed

Why would any one with half a brain provide a self-confessed killer air time or front page visibility so he could broadcast to the people his misadventures? Do we, educated people, and without expert legal assistance seriously believe the words of a self confessed killer? Worse, that highly-educated Senators have allowed a self confessed killer to splatter the halls of Congress with casual recount of murder is beyond moronic! What does it merit Senators or the nation to listen, in attention, to a self confessed killer tell about smashing the head of that guy, or gorging out the eyeballs of that youth, or pelting that man’s body with shotgun bullets? A killer’s place is in court or behind bars under maximum security! Why is a mass killer even in Congress, at large, free to walk in and out, and talking?

PTV Twitter implication of Senate hearing of Davao death squad

And, my god, why do we even want to debate on the implication of the Senate hearing of mass killers? The implication, obviously, is that these Senators having stooped so low have totally lost their respectability and good sense- the place of killers are in court or behind bars not in the hallowed halls of Congress! Senators going toe to toe with the reasoning of killers and murderers, conversing with them like they were in a cooking show and their topic was how to do a perfect sunny side up?

oh darling go buy a brain

These Senate hearings are exactly why Pinoys, the masses who are viewing these, get desensitized, over the years, to violence and government’s lack of proper response. The government in modeling to the nation a casual and laggard attitude to public issues which it’s duty-bound to protect the nation from has formed the kind of people at large now: cooking class students gathered around the table seriously giving ear to how to dissect and cook a dead body.

Social science research in developing countries

​There is a vicious circle of under-investment in research in developing countries, especially in the social sciences. There are fewer researchers in these countries even adjusting for population.

researchers per million inhabitants 2014 unesco

Expenditure on social science research is generally less than 20% of gross expenditure on R&D, according to the 2013 World Social Science Report (UNESCO).

GERD per capita 2014 unesco

Instead of the highly interactive and collaborative experience that research is increasingly becoming in the North, in many developing countries it is still a lonely endeavour, and not a very prestigious career choice.

But why does research in the social sciences matter?

1. The very essence of a democracy with a vibrant civic culture rests on the assumption that citizens and decision-makers have access to reliable information; evidence on which to base policy and programmes; free and open debate; and a plurality of views. Social science research, by its nature, plays a critical role in this regard.

2. The current priorities on the global development agenda, captured by the SDGs, need local research to be translated into national priorities and research agendas to be implemented and pursued. And for that, a more conducive and enabling local research environment is critical.

3. The current model of having development paths based on research primarily carried out in the top universities and research centres in the world or by external short-term consultants (in the absence of local capacity) is not sustainable or equitable. The way to mitigate this is to improve conditions for research in developing countries. Even research agendas are not derived and owned locally.

4. Without understanding the nature of the problem in depth – i.e. knowing what are the barriers to doing good and useful research in developing countries – we do not know how to fix it, even where there is good will, a reform agenda, or funding available, from local or external sources.

5. And, finally, because changing the incentive and institutional structure for research is difficult even where there is good will, but there is ample scope for competition, learning and sharing. Benchmarking helps highlight an issue, by virtue of introducing comparisons to neighbours, competitors and even allies, which often prompts some debate and action.

Source: Assessing Research Systems in Developing Countries – 5 reasons why it matters and a teaser on how to get started by Ramona Angelescu Naqvi 14 November 2016, Research To Action (R2A).

The article is part of GDN’s (Global Development Network) blog series in it’s Doing Research project that aims to identify barriers to good, policy-relevant research being produced and used in developing countries. 


The islands, and everywhere, have been experiencing more frequent quakes these past few years. It means plates are more active than ever. The 6.7 quake in Surigao, on a weekend, reminds us once again that disaster strikes anytime and as the country’s located on active faults, it pays to know in order that appropriate decisions can be made and safeguards put in place throughout the islands.

We trust that PHIVOLCS will invest more in earthquake research and be more forthcoming in educating the public through various media forms.

Video Lecture: Yes, Humans Really Are Causing Earthquakes by Justin Rubinstein, USGS Research Geophysicist

Video Lecture: Unusual Sources of Tsunamis From Krakatoa to Monterey Bay by Eric Geist, USGS Research Geophysicist

Doing business in the Philippines: mining


denr list of mining firms to be closed 2017
via DENR site

With Environment Secretary Gina Lopez’ pronouncement, I can just imagine how upset these firms are especially Lepanto and Benguet Corporation which have had long presence in Benguet (CAR). Hence their host communities as well.

I am for the non-degradation of the environment and all that. But I am also for mining as a vital economic activity. Mining gives us the raw materials necessary for almost everything around us. Go check your teeth for starters. So unless technology has come up with viable alternatives, a large scale 3D printing of gold, diamonds, and the other minerals for example, mining is as vital as air to us.

The root of the “problem of mining” in this country rather goes back to government regulation, or more correctly, inconsistent application of institutional procedures and systems.

Let’s review the Department of Environment’s Mines and Geosciences Bureau (MGB) clarification of frequently asked questions on mining posted on the agency website:

1. How is mining regulated?

mgb how is mining regulated

2. What makes the present law better than the old Mining Law?

mgb old vs new mining law

3. How can the Mining Act safeguard the environment?

mgb how can mining law safeguard environment

4. Are all areas open to mining activities?

mgb areas not open to mining

5. Who monitors the compliance of these environmental programs?

mgb monitoring compliance

6. How are the interests of the host communities be safeguarded?

mgb safeguarding mining community interests

The significance of these policies, procedures, and systems are further summed up in MGB mission statement:

It fully recognizes that the development of a responsive policy framework in partnership with stakeholders to govern mineral exploration, mining and investment decisions and an effective institutional structure, are fundamental requisites for the sustainable utilization of the country’s mineral resources.

There is no way noncompliance could go undetected from the above givens, no?

The wider community assumes that the mining firms which were given and continue to be given the go signal to operate have all complied with government requirements at every step:

mgb different stages of mining

For instance:  Results of compliance monitoring based on commonly-agreed monitoring indicators, following the required multipartite membership of the monitoring team, should be known by all team members and subsequently by the entire constituent the members represent. If and when a member complains it has no knowledge of whether a firm is compliant or not, the problem emanates from within the monitoring team and should be already resolved at that point. Member(s) that were deliberately left out should already bring it up with the team lead and demand repeat of the monitoring activity (because earlier findings made without them are void). This is proactive participation versus reactive, that is, putting off simple problems in field operations for a resolution at national government level. By then, as we’re seeing now, simple has grown into costly.

In the first four years after university, I was involved in research for mining firms through their community relations offices. The studies were input to management’s strategic planning as they identify development programs for their host communities. In the period that we lived on site for the studies, I have come to observe that the firms’ business, second to meeting production objectives, has been focused on dealing with various and opposing local forces ie. local politicians (barangay up to region), IP groups, rebel groups, environmental groups and organizations all demanding one thing from them:  money or it’s equivalent. When they each didn’t get what they wanted, they make noise. In insisting for each of their agenda, without care of the others’, the groups lose sight thus cannot appreciate the strategic or longer term goals and programs being planned to benefit them all and the rest in their communities. They each wanted their demand to be given right here right now than talk common sustainable goals with the firms. Definitely no demonstated sense of community there. Possibilities of entire communities thrown away by group interests of the more visible, more vocal, more powerful few among them. A pitiful sight. Traumatic too for a relatively fresh university graduate. It was like witnessing somebody going through the act of suicide and being unable to do anything about it.

We haven’t yet touched the taxes and fees mining firms pay local governments over, what, 50 years, and how these actually translate to development and generation of growth in the localities. The poorest communities are the hosts to mining firms. Wala man lang sila matinong or up to standard main road for god’s sake! How is this after 50 years? And it’s not due to fucking environmental degradation.

Finally, as the MGB has clarified (above), mining doesn’t end when the firm stops producing, rather, includes rehabilitation of the place. This is not the case in the country. The mines have been allowed to pack up and flee. Thus what the majority in the communities are left with, that has imprinted itself in their minds, is the irresponsibility of mining companies.

It is therefore unfair, illegal, that mines, having been licensed the past 20, 30, 50 years, are being suspended or closed left and right because they’re suddenly now on watersheds. Businesses should not be made to doubly suffer from having dealt as best they knew how with inconsistencies and corruption in government.

The “problem of mining” is more complicated than what is being reported in media. And government has been part of that problem. When will it for a change become part of the solution?

Welcome the American Spring

Nations must be bewildered at goings-on in the US of A. The seven countries on immigration ban especially. It must’ve rocked their governments to see the nation they so “hate” take to the streets for them. To defend all of them. Ah. If there is one group of people in the world now that can be said as model of #LoveNotHate post-9/11 it’s Americans under the Trump administration. It’s naive in a way, like children easily forgetting pain, which more hot-blooded Eastern nations find hard to digest, but paradoxically that is what has made America great in the first place. 

american spring?
Who knew #MakeAmericaGreatAgain would become the rallying point of two opposing views?

“Disasters are interesting…”

flooding in agusan del sur

Disasters are interesting because they tell us something about human behavior. The disaster calls upon the community to respond and exploring these community responses provides information about how a community functions, treat outsiders, and rises to new challenges.

Community responses also inform us about cultures, the habitual ways of doing things, and the meaning ascribed to these patterns of action, about what is normal and abnormal behavior in a given community and of how this can be stretched to its outer limits by the circumstances. 

Diane Bretherton, Community resilience in natural disasters

Note: The statement in the image translates: “This flooding happens every year, here, in Agusan del Sur. We’re used to it.”

In the new year, out with the skeletons

New year new role for Congress. This most venerable of public bodies has happily taken to it’s new role as high court of sorts digging into and wanting to dig into cases from the sensational to the mundane never mind if these are the jurisdiction of proper courts whether it’s the Supreme Court or lower courts across the regions. What do the honorables hope to prove? That they’re A.T.T.Ys for nothing?

Fine. Let’s get back to the one topic – EJKs, War on Drugs, and Oplan Tokhang whatever – Congress can’t seem to extricate itself out of despite mounting legislation it’s supposed to attend to with urgency.

President Duterte’s war on drugs is not a stand-alone declaration but is linked to a global effort to address the world’s continuing illicit drug problem which according to the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) has “significant impact on peace, security and development” and “appears to be the nexus between organized crime and terrorism.” Nor is it a one-off operation. Indeed when President Duterte tells us that he will carry on the “war” until the end of his term he is merely stating a fact in international pacts that have taken effect decades before. And, ‘EJKs’ or extrajudicial killings may seem to have exploded right in our faces only during President Duterte’s time but this is not so. If we remember in the time of former President BSA III, national dailies were already reporting “mysterious” killings by “riders in tandem”. The difference between then and now is that President Duterte explicitly made war on drugs a national policy. In the previous administration, media and the public didn’t know shit why people were randomly shot at in the streets. The public now is being kept abreast at least.

This post is not to take sides on the EJKs controversy because it is a moot point. There simply are no EJKs in war. The “EJKs” that we’re hearing about are, technically and for want of a better term, casualties of such a war. Nonetheless everyone has been duly warned and whoever has ears and heard the message and is part of that enemy ring has had plenty of time to reflect and decide- life or death? But no one among them are coming forward, no? Buti pa ang mga Communista na nagdesisyong bumaba at maging miyembro uli ng lipunan. So be it. Their decision it goes without saying carries the implicit consequence of innocent lives getting caught in the crossfire. This is like when friendly forces have to make the difficult decision to invade a country knowing that while their objective is to end an oppressive regime innocent lives will be part of casualties. But at the end of the day invading friendly forces cannot be faulted. That choice had been made for them in the first place by the enemy. It’s why we don’t want war if possible. It’s beyond hard, for all involved. And this war at home should not have been declared if our communities are free of drug lords, peddlers, backers, protectors, users; or, despite their presence if they had turned themselves in. But was there ever a drug lord who’d do that? So be it.

The objective of this post rather is to reiterate key facts and nuances of the world’s illicit drug problem in order to better understand why the administration is insistent on solving it and why it’s imperative for Congress and Philippine civil society to craft a strategic and integrated response to the problem.

The latest World Drug Report published by UNODC is for 2016 but in here I’m using the one for 2015  based on 2011-2013 data. Overall, for the period,

there has been little change in the overall global situation regarding the production, use and health consequences of illicit drugs. It is estimated that a total of 246 million people, or 1 out of 20 people between the ages of 15 and 64 years, used an illicit drug in 2013. That represents an increase of 3 million over the previous year but, because of the increase in the global population, illicit drug use has in fact remained stable. Notwithstanding national and regional variations in trends in drug use, the limited data available indicate that the use of opiates (heroin and opium) has remained stable at the global level. Mainly as a result of trends in the Americas and Europe, cocaine use has declined overall, while the use of cannabis and the non-medical use of pharmaceutical opioids have continued to rise. Trends in ATS use vary from region to region, and some subregions such as South-East Asia have reported an increase in methamphetamine use.

Flows of illicit drugs across the world

The production of cannabis resin continues to be confined to a few countries in North Africa, the Middle East and South-West Asia, whereas cannabis herb is produced inmost of the countries in the world. South America continues to account for practically all global cultivation of coca bush, and South-West Asia (Afghanistan) and South-East Asia (mainly the Lao People’s Democratic Republic and Myanmar) continue to account for the vast majority of illicit opium poppy cultivation. Although the manufacture of ATS is difficult to assess, there are reports of ATS manufacture in all regions worldwide.

global flows of methampethamine

global flows of cocaine

global flows of opiates

There is also evidence that organized criminal groups, which in the past may have limited their trafficking activities to one drug type, are diversifying. For example, groups that previously focused on heroin trafficking appear to be increasingly engaging in trafficking in cannabis resin and methamphetamine. The “dark net”, the anonymous online marketplace used for the illegal sale of a wide range of products, including drugs, is a prime example of the constantly changing situation, and it has profound implications for both law enforcement and drug trafficking.

main transit countries in illicit drug trade

The growing importance of Africa as a transit area for Afghan heroin bound for Europe and other regions has been reflected in increasing seizures of heroin reported in recent years in some African countries, particularly in East Africa. Recent seizures also suggest that it may have become more common for large shipments of Afghan heroin to be smuggled across the Indian Ocean into East and Southern Africa. Moreover, Africa continues to be used as a trans-shipment area for smuggling cocaine across the Atlantic into Europe, and Eastern Europe is emerging as a transit area and as a destination.

West Africa appears to have become an established source of the methamphetamine smuggled into East and South-East Asia via Southern Africa or Europe, with new trafficking routes linking previously unconnected regional methamphetamine markets. The established market for methamphetamine in East and South-East Asia continues to grow, while there are also indications of increasing methamphetamine use in parts of North America and Europe. In 2013, Australia, the Philippines and the Republic of Korea also reported the seizure of crystalline methamphetamine perceived to have originated in Mexico.

As opiates originating in Myanmar may be unable to meet the demand in South-East Asia, the so-called “southern route” could be increasing in importance as a conduit for smuggling Afghan heroin southwards from Afghanistan through Pakistan or the Islamic Republic of Iran. Trafficking networks using the Balkan route to smuggle Afghan heroin into Europe may be experimenting with a new route, leading through the Caucasus, and there are indications of heroin being trafficked from Iraq rather than from the Islamic Republic of Iran.

In the past few years, a growing number of NPS (new psychoactive substances) have been sold on illicit drug markets. In the United States, the annual prevalence of cannabis use among twelfth-grade students remained stable between 2011 and 2013 and declined only slightly in 2014 while synthetic cannabinoid (“spice”) use almost halved in the period 2011 to 2014. The perceived harmfulness of synthetic cannabinoids among secondary school students (twelfth grade) increased between 2012, the first year of measurement, and 2014, which may have contributed to the decline in use.

Data from a recent qualitative study suggest that use of both herbal cannabis and synthetic cannabinoids may not be uncommon. Users may choose one or the other depending on the situation, for example preferring synthetic cannabinoids when trying to avoid a positive drug test result.

For some time, the market for “ecstasy” has been on the decline in several European countries and mephedrone and other NPS may have been serving as a substitute for “ecstasy”. Despite a possible decline in the overall demand for mephedrone in the United Kingdom, high levels of use have been observed among some segments of the population. Mephedrone use appears to be particularly common in London dance clubs. Similarly, another survey of visitors to nightclubs in Rome in 2013 found that NPS were being used in addition to drugs such as cocaine.

According to EMCDDA (European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction), there has been a decline in the injecting of illicit drugs in Europe, but there have been recent reports of the injecting of NPS, particularly synthetic cathinones.325Use data for NPS at the substance level are still limited. Among the reasons for this are that there is a large number of different NPS available on the market, and some of them are sold under street names that could imply a variety of different substances. For instance, the term “spice”, often used in reference to the use of synthetic cannabinoids, does not relate to a specific substance and could instead refer to a large variety of substances.

Up to December 2014, a total of 541 NPS had been reported to the UNODC early warning advisory. In 2014, 450 substances were reported, an increase from the 430 substances reported in 2013. In 2014, synthetic cannabinoids continued to account for the majority of NPS reported (39 per cent), followed by phenethylamines (18 per cent) and synthetic cathinones (15 per cent).

Preferred mode of transport

The frequency of use of different modes of transportation used by drug traffickers has not changed a great deal over the past decade. Accounting for nearly half the reported individual seizures in the 2009-2014 period, trafficking by road and rail is the most common mode of transportation used by traffickers globally, along with trafficking by air. Trafficking by air has become more frequent, but quantities intercepted remain comparatively small.

mode of transportation of illicit drugs

The average size of drug shipments intercepted on road and rail increased substantially from 68 kg between 2006 and 2008 to 107 kg between 2009 and 2014. maritime trafficking remains the least common mode of transportation in terms of individual seizure cases, but maritime seizures tend to be comparatively very large. For example, parcel post was the most commonly detected method of drug importation at the Australian borders in 2013, yet just three maritime seizure cases accounted for 74 percent of the total weight of heroin intercepted that year in the country. This confirms that interdiction of maritime shipments has potentially the greatest impact on the total quantities of drugs smuggled, as well as on trafficking flows and the availability of illicit drugs at the global level.

Gender differences in usage

To what extent are women into drugs? They’re in it big time, but on the other hand their treatment-seeking behavior is a dismal low.

women's use of illicit drugs and treatment seeking behavior

Women encounter significant systemic, structural, social, cultural and personal barriers in accessing substance abuse treatment. At the structural level, the most significant obstacles include lack of child care and punitive attitudes to parenting and pregnant women with substance abuse problems. This makes women fear losing custody of their children or having to relinquish their children as a condition of treatment, and prevents them from seeking treatment in residential settings. Treatment programmes may also be located far from where women live and may have inflexible admission requirements and schedules that may not suit the needs of women. Moreover, women with children may still need to secure child care to participate in outpatient treatment programmes as they may not have enough money to pay for child-care costs, transportation or treatment itself. Although men may be referred for treatment by their family, an employer or the criminal justice system, treatment history among women is more associated with and triggered by other problems, such as a diagnosis of antisocial personality disorder, or sex work, and could be referred by the social services system, mental health facilities or self-initiated, rather than solely due to substance abuse. In many societies, substance use both in general and among women is heavily stigmatized and cultural norms may make it difficult for women to acknowledge such a problem or leave their homes and families to undergo treatment.

Women are twice as likely as men to use tranquillizers, but both have roughly equal levels of use of prescription opioids.

gender differences use of illicit drugs

Women’s greater use of tranquilizers may be explained by findings showing 

women with substance-use disorders tend to have a history of overresponsibility in their families of origin and have experienced more disruptions and report more interpersonal conflicts in the family than their male counterparts, particularly issues related to parenting and exposure to childhood and adult trauma. Women with substance-use disorders may come from families where one or more family members is also drug dependent and may have suffered victimization and injury. Many women identify relationship problems as a cause for their substance use. In addition, psychiatric co-morbidities, especially mood and anxiety disorders, are reported to be higher among women and these disorders typically predate the onset of substance-use problems.

PWID affected with HIV

Approximately 40 per cent of the estimated global total number of PWID (people who inject drugs) living with HIV reside in Eastern and South-Eastern Europe, mostly in the Russian Federation and Ukraine. East and South-East Asia contribute a further 20 per cent to the global total number of PWID living with HIV, although both the prevalence of injecting drug use and the prevalence of HIV among PWID are below their respective global averages. It is the large population aged 15-64 residing in this region that translates into the relatively large number of PWID living with HIV. South-West Asia, the region with the highest prevalence of HIV among PWID, contributes 12 per cent to the total global number of PWID living with HIV, with a large proportion of these residing in Pakistan. Four countries, the Russian Federation, China, Pakistan and the United States (in descending order), when combined account for nearly two thirds (63 per cent) of the total global estimated number of PWID living with HIV.

In many countries, women who inject drugs are more vulnerable to HIV infection than their male counterparts and that the prevalence of HIV is higher among women who inject drugs than among their male counterparts. The transmission of infectious diseases such as HIV and hepatitis C and the occurrence of drug overdoses are only some of the risk factors that lead to the level of mortality among people who inject drugs being nearly 15 times higher than would normally be expected among people of comparable age and gender in the general population.

prevalence of hiv among pwid

Drug dependency treatment services

Treatment of drug dependence need to be provided through a continuum of care service and may be in the form of pharmacological, psychosocial, and social rehabilitation and after-care services. Based on the report,

there is a greater level of pharmacological and psychosocial services and interventions in Europe than in other regions, particularly Western and Central Europe, where higher levels of opioid substitution also reflect the fact that opioids are the major substance for which drug users receive treatment in the region. In other regions, Governments may not yet be ready to address drug dependence with pharmacologically-assisted treatment, leading to limited coverage of such programmes.

global extent drug dependency pharmacological treatment services

global drug dependency psychosocial treatment services

In Africa, the fact that counselling is more available than other types of intervention could be due to cannabis being the most common substance for which drug users receive treatment. However, most drug treatment services in the region are provided in specialized psychiatric hospitals, which may explain why there is a considerable number of interventions in the treatment of psychiatric comorbidities in Africa, although the lack of other types of intervention in Africa may also indicate limited responses to treatment needs in general.

global drug dependency socialrehab aftercare treatment services

Not only are available services for the treatment of drug use disorders and dependence limited in most countries, there is an overall lack of provision of a continuum of care in interventions to address drug use disorders and drug dependence adequately among those in need of these interventions.

Countries who reported having alternative development strategies in place

countries with alternative development 2010-2013

Alternative development is one of the three pillars (the other two being, crop eradication and interdiction ie. law enforcement measures) in the international community’s “balanced approach” toward drug control which has been a key supply reduction strategy for several decades. Emerging in the late 1980s from the more narrowly focused crop substitution initiatives of the 1970s and the integrated rural development approach of the 1980s, the concept of alternative development has been implemented around the world for over 40 years. Alternative development is not generally an objective in itself but rather a means to an end: it is aimed at contributing to an enabling environment for longterm rural development without illicit crop cultivation.

impact of alternative development on illicit drug trade

(The UN) General Assembly defined alternative development as a “process to prevent and eliminate the illicit cultivation of plants containing narcotic drugs and psychotropic substances through specifically designed rural development measures in the context of sustained national growth and sustainable development efforts in countries taking action against drugs, recognizing the particular sociocultural characteristics of the target communities and groups, within the framework of a comprehensive and permanent solution to the problem of illicit drugs”. While this definition is used at the international level, different definitions reflecting new strategies and approaches toward alternative development have been developed by a wide variety of implementing countries, donors and practitioners. Alternative development is a concept in constant flux.
Alternative development is sometimes described as “conventional rural development applied to a drug-producing area”, “development in a drugs environment” or “development-oriented drug control”. This does not mean that the purpose of alternative development is limited to purely counter-narcotics objectives. National strategies may vary, but the specific purpose of alternative development in its present, broader meaning is to contribute to economic development (especially in rural areas) in order to target the underlying factors and root causes of illicit drug economies.

To better frame the drug problem thus design a responsive preventive strategy and interventions, we need to know and understand the factors that increase a person’s vulnerability to drug use:

factors increasing vulnerability to drug use

There is no single cause of drug use and addiction. Vulnerability to drug use is due to a variety of factors, whether stemming from the individual or from developmental contexts. The interplay between these factors ultimately either increases or attenuates an individual’s vulnerability to substance use. This is why there is no “silver bullet” remedy for prevention, although multi-causality also offers many starting points for preventive activity (that could take place in various) settings significant to the target group — family, school, workplace, community, media and leisure settings.
Groups with a higher risk, such as children with a substance dependent parent, should be approached in a different manner to population groups in which the majority does not tend to use psychoactive substances, such as school pupils. Prevention programming takes this into account by providing strategies for the population at large (universal prevention), for groups that are particularly at risk (selective prevention) and for individuals that are particularly at risk (indicated prevention, which also includes individuals that might have started experimenting and are therefore at particular risk of progressing to disorders).

The developmental notion of drug use behaviour implies that prevention should incorporate not only drug-specific components, but also skills that help individuals to deal effectively with the challenges of each phase of life, such as relationship skills for adolescents or parenting skills for parents. In fact, drug prevention is aimed at supporting the safe and healthy development of children and youth, but may also include, when relevant, additional aspects specifically related to drugs around the age of drug use

(A) broader strategy of “alternative development” (was) developed at the international level by UNFDAC in the second half of the 1980s, which sought to improve the integration of regional development assistance with law enforcement initiatives, while promoting the appropriate coordination and sequencing of those interventions. Flexible law enforcement in countering illicit cultivation — with law enforcement interventions being carefully timed in order to be supportive of the development effort, and undertaken once the basic conditions for acceptable alternative living standards had been achieved — was considered to be an integral and fundamental part of alternative development. Alternative development interventions sought to have a more sustainable impact by creating local organizations and farmers’ associations to facilitate the production, distribution and marketing of products.

The 2006 Afghan National Drug Control Strategy made a specific reference to alternative livelihoods as the main approach to addressing illicit cultivation. Meanwhile, other strategies, such as the approaches adopted by the European Union, Colombia and Peru, continue to use the concept of alternative development to address underlying drivers of illicit cultivation (for example, marginalization and poverty) in a way that is very similar to the alternative livelihoods approach.

Alternative development continues to be relevant as long as drug crops are grown illicitly and development and security challenges that are specific to areas where drugs are cultivated remain. However, it offers no quick-fix solution to the supply side of the illicit drug economy as a stand-alone strategy. Previous evaluations of alternative development have already shown that success is very situation specific and that there are few, if any, practices that can be plugged into a template. As was noted in the Report of the International Narcotics Control Board for 2005, “there is no manual or definitive guidelines for alternative development”. However, with the adoption of the United Nations Guiding Principles on Alternative Development, a set of general guidelines that contain good practices for planning and implementing alternative development now exist.

Donor contributions to alternative development

Over the past four decades, alternative development has largely been funded by external donors, including countries of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) in North America, Europe and Oceania, and non-OECD countries such as China, Iran (Islamic Republic of), Saudi Arabia and Thailand. In recent years, there has been a trend towards more project funding by countries that were traditionally recipients of such assistance, such as Bolivia (Plurinational State of), Colombia, Peru and Thailand.

international assistance to alternative development

According to the OECD International Development Statistics, in the period from 1998, when the Political Declaration and its associated Action Plan on International Cooperation on the Eradication of Illicit Drug Crops and on Alternative Development were adopted by the General Assembly, to 2013, global commitments by OECD countries for providing alternative development in developing countries amounted in total to, on average, $219 million per year (as expressed in 2012 dollars), of which 89 percent was for agriculture-related alternative development and 11 per cent was for non-agriculture related alternative development activities such as income opportunities in other sectors, social and physical infrastructure and nonagricultural training and capacity-building.

And we thought our greatest problem were the numerous shoes of Imelda Marcos! But I do understand the need for our 70 year-old President to belt it out on the karaoke sometimes. Ma-buang ka talaga just trying tonvisualize the global transit points in the illicit drug trade.

But, seriously, Congress need to discuss the drug problem as it is happening and evolving in this country, and understanding that, craft a national drug control/management strategy. National and local governments should develop financing strategies to generate funds for it’s implementation. These strategies should align with current national strategies on urban development, housing, employment (eg. OFW support, counselling services), poverty alleviation (eg. 4Ps, agricultural development), and yes, early childhood care and development as well as adolescent and youth development and parenting education.

See, when the President told his critics in the Church to shut up and instead help him solve the problem he really means it. Drug abuse is a developmental issue and the Church with it’s Basic Ecclessial Communities (BEC) strategy and capacity to counsel, provide spiritual refuge, etc. has a big role to play in prevention. Ironically, it’s media and people around the President who don’t get the point of his remarks. They go away from press conferences to coin terminologies such as EJKs and Tokhang which are redactions of the real problem and then sell these to the public as “the truth and nothing but the truth”. Media has not been part of the solution.

Of course, those who know better could always take the road favored by the lazy which is what Congress is doing now: suspects are cornered, media are called in, and when cameras start to roll, they yak at the suspects making sure to throw in humungous terminologies the (illiterate) suspects believed were names of past honorables, all on cue for the camera, until it’s time to call it a day, a week, a month, a year. At the close of the year, SALNs will read PHP12M or so richer. Goodness! Are these actors paid per show? Out in the real world, citizens, in offices, factories, schools, stores, farms, etc., are at their jobs 12 hours a day every day in order to remit taxes to their government. Meanwhile, the problem is still out there waiting for it’s next victim. Everybody’s so good at staying within the scope of their roles that this thing goes like clockwork, a script rehashed year after year, one decade after another.

Liberty without order

Yesterday marks the second year since the untoward deaths of 44 Special Action Force (SAF) troopers of the PNP that were sent to calm rebels MILF-BIFF encounter in  Mamasapano, Zamboanga. This year, on a similar vein, amidst ongoing Miss Universe pageantry around the islands and another news of Filipino OFW execution this time in Kuwait, we hear of the shocking circumstances surounding the death of a foreigner (South Korean) on our shores allegedly in the hands of police inside police headquarters too. Regardless if it’s politically-motivated by the opposition or just plain murder, killing of foreigners by police is a big blow to the country’s image. These things make us look inconsistent and furthers the ill repute given to Filipinos. Where’s our native values of hiya (shame) and dangal (honor) in the context of pamilya (family) ie. the Filipino nation as one family? Isn’t it that ang sakit ng kalingkingan ay dama ng buong katawan (pain in the little finger is felt by the entire body)? Remember the handling of the hostage incident involving Chinese tourists and it’s subsequent impact on then President Noynoy and the country on the whole? What do these tell of law and order here? How could we look the international community in the eyes and convince them “it’s more fun in the Philippines”? How could we walk around proudly as ” world class” Filipinos when there are these things piggy-backing on our backs? How could we make the leap forward as a country to reckon with when we’re so busy, in thought and deed, stabbing each other on the back? These events are not about loss of public trust and respect on any one individual or entity rather they’re more of a mirror to the sorry pattern of Philippine governance: just when peace, order,  growth, reforms basically are taking off things suddenly appear from nowhere pushing the country back a hundred years. We’ve never fully taken off. This is our sad repetitive story.

Hello, Philippine civil society what say you to these? But we don’t hear from the sector often and loud enough at least on such topics, on the premise that “we don’t do politics.” Ah.

Some insights from Samuel P. Huntington in Political Order in Changing Societies may help in polishing that outlook:

The most important political distinction among countries concerns not their form of government but their degree of government… The United States, Great Britain, and the Soviet Union have different forms of government, but in all three systems the government governs. Each country is a political community with an overwhelming consensus among the people on the legitimacy of the political system… These governments command the loyalties of their citizens and thus have the capacity to tax resources, to conscript manpower, and to innovate and to execute policy. If the Politburo, the Cabinet, or the President makes a decision, the probability is high that it will be implemented through the government machinery.

In all these characteristics the political systems of the United States, Great Britain, and the Soviet Union differ significantly from the governments which exist in many, if not most, of the modernizing countries of Asia, Africa, and Latin America. These countries lack many things. They suffer real shortages of food, literacy, education, wealth, income, health, and productivity, but most of them have been recognized and efforts made to do something about them. Beyond and behind these shortages, however, there is a greater shortage: a shortage of political community and of effective, authoritative, legitimate government. “I do know,” Walter Lippmann has observed, “that there is no greater necessity for men who live in communities than that they be governed, self-governed if possible, well-governed if they are fortunate, but in any event, governed.” Mr. Lippmann wrote these words in a moment of despair about the United States. But they apply in far greater measure to the modernizing coumtries of Asia, Africa, and Latin America, where the political institutions have little power, less majesty, and no resiliency–where, in many cases, governments simply do not govern.

In the mid-1950s, Gunnar Myrdal called the world’s attention to the apparent fact that the rich nations of the world were getting richer, absolutely and relatively, at a faster rate than the poorer nations. “On the whole,” he argued, “in recent decades the economic inequalities between developed and underdeveloped countries have been increasing.”… A similar and equally urgent problem exists in politics. In politics as in economics the gap between developed political systems and underdeveloped political systems, between civic polities and corrupt polities, has broadened. This political gap resembles and is related to the economic gap, but it is not identical with it. Countries with underdeveloped economies may have highly developed political systems, and countries which have achieved high levels of economic welfare may still have disorganized and chaotic politics. Yet in the twentieth century the principal locus of political underdevelopment, like that of economic underdevelopment, tends to be the modernizing countries of Asia, Africa, and Latin America.

With a few notable exceptions, the political evolution of these countries after World War II was characterized by increasing ethnic and class conflict, recurring rioting and mob violence, frequent military coups d’etat, the dominance of unstable personalistic leaders who often pursued disastrous economic and social policies, widespread and blatant corruption among cabinet ministers and civil servants, arbitrary infringement of the rights and liberties of citizens, declining standards of bureaucratic inefficiency and performance, the pervasive alienation of urban political groups, the loss of authority by legislatures and courts, and the fragmentation and at times complete disintegration of broadly based political parties…

What was responsible for this violence and instability? …it was in large part the product of rapid social change and the rapid mobilization of new groups into politics coupled with the slow development of political institutions. “Among the laws that rule human societies,” de Tocqueville observed, “there is one which seems to be more precise and clear than all others. If men are to remain civilized or to become so, the art of associating together must grow and improve in the same ratio in which the equality of conditions is increased.” The political instability in Asia, Africa, and Latin America derives precisely from the failure to meet this condition: equality of political participation is growing much more rapidly than “the art of associating together.” Social and economic change–urbanization, increases in literacy and education, industrialization, mass media expansion–extend political consciousness, multiply political demands, broaden political participation. These changes undermine traditional sources of political authority and traditional political institutions; they enormously complicate the problems of creating new bases of political association and new political institutions combining legitimacy and effectiveness. The rates of social mobilization and the expansion of political organization and institutionalization are low. The result is politival instability and disorder. The primary problem of politics is the lag in the development of political institutions behind social and economic change.

For two decades after World War II American foreign policy failed to come to grips with this problem. The economic gap, in contrast to the political gap, was the target of sustained attention, analysis, and action. Aid programs and loan programs, the World Bank and regional banks, the UN and the OECD, consortia and combines, planners and politicians, all shared in a massive effort to do something about the problem of economic development. Who, however, was concerned with the political gap? American officials recognized that the United States had a primary interest in the creation of viable political regimes in modernizing countries. But few, if any, of all the activities of the American government affecting those countries were directly concerned with the promotion of political stability and the reduction of the political gap. How can this astonishing lacuna be explained?

It would appear to be rooted in two distinct aspects of the American historical experience. In confronting the modernizing countries the United States was handicapped by its happy history. In its development the United States was blessed with more than its fair share of economic plenty, social well-being, and political stability. This pleasant conjuncture of blessings led Americans to believe in the unity of goodness: to assume that all good things go together and that the achievement of one desirable social goal aids in the achievement of others… In American thinking the causal chain was: economic assistance promotes economic development economic development promotes political stability…

If political decay and political instability were more rampant in Asia, Agrica, and Latin America…it was in part because American policy reflected this erroneous dogma. For in fact, economic development and political stability are two independent goals and progress toward one has no necessary connection with progress toward the other. In some instances programs of economic development may promote political stability; in other instances they may seriously undermine such stability. So also, some forms of political stability may encourage economic growth; other forms may discourage it…

With the Alliance for Progress in 1961, social reform–that is, the more equitable distribution of material and symbolic resources–joined economic development as a conscious and explicit goal of American policy toward modernizing countries. This development was, in part, a reaction to the Cuban Revolution, and it reflected the assumption among policymakers that land and tax reforms, housing projects, and welfare programs would reduce social tensions and deactivate the fuse of Fidelismo. Once again political stability was to be the by-product of the achievement of another socially desirable goal. In fact, of course, the relationship between social reform and political stability resembles that between economic development and political stability. In some circumstances reforms may reduce tensions and encourage peaceful rather than violent change. In other circumstances, however, reform may well exacerbate tensions, precipitate violence, and be a catalyst of rather than a substitute for revolution.

A second reason for American indifference to political development was the absence in the American historical experience of the need to found a political order. Americans, de Tocqueville said, were born equal and hence never had to worry about creating equality; they enjoyed the fruits of democratic revolution without having suffered one… This gap in historical experience made them peculiarly blind to the problems of creating effective authority in modernizing countries. When an American thinks about the problem of government-building, he directs himself not to the creation of authority and the accumulation of power but rather to the limitation of authority and the division of power. Asked to design a government, he comes up with a written constitution, bill of rights, separation of powers, checks and balances, federalism, regular elections, competitive parties–all excellent devices for limiting government… Confronted with the need to design a political system which will maximize power and authority, he has no ready answer. His general formula is that governments should be based on free and fair elections.

In many modernizing societies this formula is irrelevant. Elections to be meaningful presuppose a certain level of political organization. The problem is not to hold elections but to create organizations. In many, if not most, modernizing countries elections serve only to enhance the power of disruptive and often reactionary social forces and to tear down the structure of public authority. “In framing a government which is to be administered by men over men,” Madison warned in The Federalist, No. 51, “the great difficulty lies in this: you must first enable the government to control the governed; and in the next place oblige it to control itself.” In many modernizing countries governments are still unable to perform the first function, much less the second. The primary problem is not liberty but the creation of a legitimate public order. Men may, of course, have order without liberty, but they cannot have liberty without order. Authority has to exist before it can be limited, and it is authority that is in scarce supply in those modernizing countries where government is at the mercy of alienated intellectuals, rambunctious colonels, and rioting students…

In a society with only a few social forces, one group–warriors, priests, a particular family, a racial or ethnic group–may dominate the others and effectively induce them to acquiesce in its rule. The society may exist with little or no community. But in a society of any greater heterogeneity and complexity, no single social force can rule, much less create a community, without creating political institutions which have some existence independent of the social forces that gave them birth. “The strongest,” in Rousseau’s oft-quoted phrase, “is never strong enough to be always the master, unless he transforms strength into right and obedience into duty.” …but if the society is to be a community, the power of each group is exercised through political institutions which temper, moderate, and redirect that power so as to render the dominance of one social force compatible with the community of many…

In addition, a complex society also requires some definition in terms of general principle or ethical obligation of the bond which holds the groups together and which distinguishes its community from other communities… The obligation is to some principle, tradition, myth, purpose, or code of behavior that the persons and groups have in common. Combined, these elements constitute Cicero’s definition of the commonwealth, or “the coming together of a considerable number of men who are united by a common agreement upon law and rights and by the desire to participate in mutual advantages.” …Yet there is also a third side. For attitudes must be reflected in behavior, and community involves not just any “coming together” but rather a regularized, stable, and sustained coming together. The coming together must, in short, be institutionalized…

The institutions are the behavioral manifestation of the moral consensus and mutual interest. The isolated family, clan, tribe, or village may achieve community with relatively little conscious effort. They are, in a sense, natural communities. As societies become larger in membership, more complicated in structure, and more diverse in activities, the achievement or maintenance of a high level of community becomes increasingly dependent upon political institutions. Men are, however, reluctant to give up the image of social harmony without political action. This was Rousseau’s dream. It remains the dream of statesmen and soldiers who imagine that they can induce community in their societies without engaging in the labor of politics…In fact, this atavistic notion could only succeed if history were reversed, civilization undone, and the levels of human organization reduced to family and hamlet.

Historically, political institutions have emerged out of the interaction among and disagreement among social forces, and the gradual development of procedures and organizational devices for resolving those disagreements… “Conscious constitution-making appears to have entered the Mediterranean world when the clan organization weakened and the contest of rich and poor became a significant factor in politics.” The Athenians called upon Solon for a constitution when their polity was threatened by dissolution because there were “as many different parties as there were diversities in the country” and “the disparity of fortune between the rich and the poor, at that time, also reached its height.” …The reforms of Solon and Cleisthenes were responses to the social-economic change that threatened to undermine the earlier basis of community. As social forces become more variegated, political institutions had to become more complex and authoritative. It is precisely this development, however, which failed to occur in many modernizing societies in the twentieth century. Social forces were strong, political institutions weak. Legislatures and executives, public authorities and political parties remained fragile and disorganized. The development of the state lagged behind the evolution of society.

Political community in a complex society thus depends upon the strength of the political organizations and procedures in the society. That strength, in turn, depends upon the scope of support for the organizations and procedures and their level of institutionalization. Scope refers simply to the extent to which the political organizations and procedures encompass activity in the society. If only a small upper-class group belongs to political organizations and behaves in terms of a set of procedures, the scope is limited. If, on the other hand, a large segment of the population is politically organized and follows the political procedures, the scope is broad… The level of institutionalization of any political system can be defined by the adaptability, complexity, autonomy, and coherence of its organizations and procedures. So also, the level of institutionalization of any particular organization or procedure can be measured by its adaptability, complexity, autonomy, and coherence.

On the proposed ‘Bikini Bottom’ down South

With the approval of the 2017 national budget of PHP3.35T of which PHP2.5B is allotted for tourism, the country’s thirteen regions can now start implementing their tourism plans. But especially this year having declared 2017 as the Year of Sustainable Tourism for Development the UN reminds nations that it’s not just tourism. This test for sustainability came early to our shores, in Coron Palawan last year’s ‘Best Island in the World’ according to Travel+Leisure where a Nickeldeon theme park has been proposed. An environmentalist group claiming the proposed park will involve underwater development mounted a social media campaign against it.

Without additional information than what’s reported online, I cannot say whether or not the group has it right. However, their campaign against the development highlights two things that are also faced by the rest of the country which compel vigilant groups to react thus.

First: the more legitimate group of people to voice what, why, where, and how development should happen be it in their barangay, municipality, city, province, or region are the insiders or residents (voters and taxpayers in the area, technically). That’s not happening though. Yes, locals talk among themselves when development activities negatively affect them but such do not reach the camps of decisionmakers. Are they scared? Maybe. Cynical? Perhaps. Regardless of reason, local people have effectively surrendered their collective right to development, viz.

Recognizing that development is a comprehensive economic, social, cultural and political process, which aims at the constant improvement of the well-being of the entire population and of all individuals on the basis of their active, free and meaningful participation in development and in the fair distribution of benefits resulting therefrom,

Recalling also the right of peoples to exercise, subject to the relevant provisions of both International Covenants on Human Rights, full and complete sovereignty over all their natural wealth and resources,

Recognizing that the human person is the central subject of the development process and that development policy should therefore make the human being the main participant and beneficiary of development,

Proclaims the following Declaration on the Right to Development:

1.   The human person is the central subject of development and should be the active participant and beneficiary of the right to development.   

2.   All human beings have a responsibility for development, individually and collectively, taking into account the need for full respect for their human rights and fundamental freedoms as well as their duties to the community, which alone can ensure the free and complete fulfilment of the human being, and they should therefore promote and protect an appropriate political, social and economic order for development.

Abdication from the inside has given rise for outsiders, be it civil society groups and organizations, media, academia, and such like, to step in and determine “in behalf” of locals what is best for them. This is not to say that outsiders have no business doing so, but rather if and when outsiders must go in they are duty-bound to ensure informed and meaningful participation of local people. At the end of the day, the decision of local people should be respected. In committing to this process, not only are outsiders protecting local people’s right to development but also set the stage for greater awareness, knowledge, and capacity for self determination.

In the cited Palawan development case, the voice of locals are absent in the campaign and media reports. What do they know? What do they say? Theirs is the most important.

Second: We can get too focused on the immediate negative costs of the project that we forget we’re living in an age of technological advancement in architectural and engineering design, methods, materials, and tools hence lose what could otherwise be greater benefits of the project. Don’t Filipinos make regular pilgrimages to Disneyland in HongKong, Gardens by the Bay in Singapore, or Palm Island in Dubai? Weren’t these places developed at the scale that it’s disapproved here? The latter two are on reclaimed land.

Development is the future. We cannot live in huts forever. Sooner or later, a tide of such great height will come and wash it away. Nor live off bananas and coconuts straight from the trees everyday. The more intelligent way forward therefore is to pay more attention to developers’ plans to mitigate unsustainable effects and impacts of their projects, and if such are absent or mitigation measures inadequate it is the place of local people to say so.

This is done through the standard development process known as Environment Impact Assessment (EIA) System, or what’s referred to in the Philippines as the Philippine EIS System (PEISS). This is not only just an SOP in development planning, but in this country a legal requirement under Presidential Decree 1586 passed in 1978 subsequently enhanced in 1981 through Proclamation 2146.

Coron is an Environmentally Critical Area (ECA) hence under PD 2146 development projects sited there shall comply with the PEISS. The figure below illustrates the EIA processes corresponding with the phases in the project development cycle:

Here in more detail are the different stages in EIA. Public input are required during (1) EIA study scoping, (2) EIA study/report, (3) review and evaluation of EIA, and (4) environmental monitoring and evaluation or audit.

At the time former President Marcos signed off on PDs 1586 and 2146 the country was under a centralized government system which explains identification of the Ministry of Human Settlements as lead agency of the PEISS. The National Environmental Protection Council (DENR now) served as Secretariat. In 1991 during Corazon Aquino’s administration LGUs were given authority over devolved activities of national government. DENR took over the PEISS mandate and in more recent years specifically through DENR MC 2007-08 clarified the LGUs’ involvement in the Process .

In reality, however, the PEISS has been largely flouted. The concrete result of this we see on the landscape. Therefore I do understand the immediate negative reactions to the Coron development. To be blunt, nothing brings out the “dirt” in development than this side of the planning process ie. permits and approvals from planning boards, zoning authorities, conservation and/or historical commissions, and environmental authorities. It’s good training ground for fresh out of university urban planners though.

How do you face an angry mob of locals? You don’t. There’s a roundabout way to deal with that. It’s called the impact fee and it’s legal. Here and abroad. The LGU planning officer (or other assigned personnel) negotiates with the developer for the best monetary deal in the name of mitigation measures. The fee could amount to anything as name your price. What these impact fees are actually spent on- locals don’t usually hear about it either. It could be a handful of trees for all the community know. Regardless, and from all angles, the developer walks away the winner in these deals. They could pass on the impact fee amount to buyers.

When an LGU has been paid the impact fee and there’s no improvement seen or felt in the locality… this is when the importance of organization hits community residents. They need to have legal entity with legal rights to acquire funding and therefore employ professional expertise, lobbying power. I have yet to see in the country a community-based group organized around property or development rights and sustainable development.

How do I conclude? Real estate development can be quite a jungle but it’s not to say development projects per se are bad. This country is being groomed and marketed as a “more fun” tourist destination and to deliver on that promise we need to upgrade services and infrastructures in order to compete with other destinations worldwide. What makes development bad is when locals are deliberately left out of the process and gain nothing or little from development projects.

Rude awakenings Part 2

Fourth: LeniLeaks. This country’s recent political history of coup d’etats with a woman at the forefront has brewed speculations and concerns over VP Leni Robredo’s alleged involvement with her Party alongside sympathetic foreigners in a bid to oust the President. The issue came into the open when the VP was sacked by the President as Cabinet member ie. Chair of the Housing and Urban Development Coordinating Council in early December last year. This perennial “personality problem” between the two highest seats in the land is an effect of the Philippine electoral system whereby the VP position as with the President is voted on by the people and oftentimes the VP hails from the opposition Party. What if the VP is instead an ally of the President? We can learm from Barack Obama’s final speech as outgoing US President particularly in his reference to VP Joe Biden:

To Joe Biden, the scrappy kid from Scranton who became Delaware’s favorite son: you were the first choice I made as a nominee, and the best. Not just because you have been a great Vice President, but because in the bargain, I gained a brother.

That ought to be the case. How could a President possibly make progress when he is at the start saddled with an enemy from within his own house? The Vice President whose words and actions in public wilfully undermine the President’s while raising his/her own image as if s/he is the President is in danger of committing high treason and cannot be trusted therefore. Ask also any company president or CEO. Or children of endlessly bickering parents. In any case, that vice president need to re-take a class in Role of the Vice Presidency 101.

Whoever thought and approved of setting up the Presidency for failure should be given standing ovation for this wise move. Past Presidents who had gone along with this system…it was, well, plain self destruction.

Fifth: SSS pension reforms. How did Congress come up with it’s PHP2,000 pension increase recommendation? is the million-dollar question staring SSS member-contributors in the face in the new year. And sans public presentation of computations to back the recommendation the process reeks of yet another pak! ganern! policy making; as if the country’s pensioners are mere cattle being bidded out in the marketplace- 100? 200? 300?…500? 1000? 1500? You there mister? 2000 you say? Going…going…anyone? gavel hits the podium with finality And 2000 it is! Sold to the gentleman in black! Pak! Ganern! In all that noise, not a yea or nay heard from the herd.

Adding fuel to the fire is Senator Drilon’s statement that

The passage of this bill is an early Christmas gift of the Senate to the SSS pensioners, who depend on these pensions for their daily expenses.

I’ve resolved to utter less cuss words this year so. But I understand the decisionmaker’s ie. the President’s difficult position of what to make of the Two Thousand Pesos. In the end perhaps out of public pressure – the figure’s already been publicized and we know the masses- any amount of increase whether or not it’s the right or correct one is good enough – the President just went ahead with One Thousand Pesos.

I remember the head of office at my former workplace who got mad at the practice by some colleagues who placed documents on his table for him to sign (this was before he hired a secretary) without an accompanying note summing up what the document was about or for why he was being asked to sign the papers. With mile-high of documents getting piled up on his table everyday, did his people suppose he was going to do their work ie. read each, page by page and make summaries? As it happened, everyone of us got a memo strongly warning us against “unprofessional behavior inconsistent with an organization such as ours” (I’m one of those people who don’t ever put documents on my boss’ (or colleagues’) table like that so it hurt that I received one. But, that’s life in organizations).

There is of course a scientific process of making policy recommendations in pension systems. Sweden, for instance, in 2006 successfully transitioned from public-defined-benefit pension plan to defined contribution plan and this was attributed to the Minister of Social Policy and parliamentary party members that comprised the review committee who by way of analyzing demographics (age structure of the population and age of median voter) computations demonstrated how the reformed system is better compared to the old. The reviewers used

random sample of the 1995 Swedish Household Income Survey (Statistics Sweden, 1995), which comprised about 20,000 individuals ages 18–65. Because we use data from the census database, the tax authority, and the social insurance board, non-response is 0%. Their income histories from 1960 are known (the previous pension system was implemented starting in 1960).

We then calculate the proportion of winners in the electorate, i.e., those who benefit from the reform. We repeated the calculations for selected years, before and after the actual implementation of the reform in 1999. Given that those who benefit would favour the reform, the calculations indicate what the attitude of the electorate would have been – if the reform had been implemented from 1990, 1995, 1999, 2005, or 2015. The underlying question is: do changes in population structure or economic growth affect the expected proportion of winners?

For this exercise, we needed population and income data for the years after 1995. Population data and population projections by age and sex are from Statistics Sweden.
We simulated income for the years after 1995 using a 2% annual real earnings growth assumption. Simulated earnings rise steadily from 1995. But to avoid a low lifetime income due to a low, possibly temporary income in 1995, we used the highest annual income that was earned between 1990 and 1995 as a starting point. That is, we used the maximum of these years for individuals with income below 1 basic unit.6 Our procedure does not account for switching to better-paid jobs, a deficiency that might be important but mainly for young people. We examine the effects of various economic growth rates and return rates on the individual accounts in the new system and test the sensitivity of our model against some other assumptions.

The voting age in Sweden is 18. We assume that this age is fixed and that identical shares of voters of all age cohorts vote, although younger persons and low-income workers have lower voting rates than others.

We assume that the pension system does not affect lifecycle incomes. To cope with pension commitments in the old system, the future contribution rate must be raised, and this should result in lower wages and accordingly, lower pensions, especially for younger generations. The higher work incentives in the new system affect lifecycle incomes by increasing labour supply and reducing incentives for early retirement. This, in turn, should result in higher pensions, especially for younger generations. Consequently, our result might underestimate the number of non-winners in the old system and the number of winners in the new system, especially among younger generations.

We calculate the numbers of winners and non-winners for each birth cohort. Do winners outnumber non-winners in 1999, which was the year of the Swedish pension reform? Would there have been differences if the reform had come into force in any other year? We used the same values for economic growth rate (g) and return rate of individual accounts (r) as did the pension commission when it described its main alternatives. To simplify, we assumed that everyone reaches age 85.

Why Sweden’s pension reform was able to be successfully implemented, Jan Selén and Ann-Charlotte Ståhlberg, 2007

To give us an idea of the pension amounts in other countries, in Japan for example the full basic pension in 2012 was 4,342 Euro a year or 16% of average earnings of 26,433 Euro a year. In Philippine Peso, 4,342 Euro annually translates to 4,703 pesos weekly. This is an OECD country figure of course, but my point is such is the rational policy making process the people expect from their government. For all we know, PHP2,000 (or, any other amount for that matter) across the board increase standard for all pensioners is not proportionate to each member’s realities in way of their contributions owing to varied salaries and wages. Furthermore, the reality is that there’s a significant number of people outside of the system who should be in otherwise and benefiting, and these are the poor: tenant farmers, workers in shadow or underground economies like maids (who are paid, what, three thousand pesos monthly?), plantation workers on day-to-day employ, peddlers, etcetera) hence even if the One Thousand Peso-increase is legislated these population groups will gain nothing from this purported early Christmas gift. How do we bring these groups into the system (in short, the economy)? It’s jobs, proper salaries and wages, and lifting off for some time (akin to giving preferred companies tax holidays) onerous taxes such as VAT that murder workers before they’re even able to save for the future- the crucial elements in the design of social welfare systems.

Sixth: GSIS retirement fund. In light of news about the agency’s insolvency, fear has resurfaced among government workers, especially public school teachers, that their retirement funds will go kapoot. Philippine Star Jarius Bondoc’s article, GSIS members: watch your bank, reminds us of the agency’s irreputable past:

Presidents played with their retirement mutual fund like personal cash. Political appointees invested those billions in worthless companies. Two of those were banks of business cronies that were bailed out of insolvency on Malacañang’s behest. That resulted in the pointless establishment decades ago of a thrift bank owned 99.6 percent by GSIS. It was, in short, a mere cash cow.

As with any depository run by political stooges, the GSIS Family Bank came short of cash several times. Each time, the parent GSIS had had to recapitalize it with multibillion pesos. Supervision by the new bureaucratic Governance Commission on Government Corporations only led to sloppier operations. As the financial bleeding couldn’t be stanched, the Bangko Sentral placed GFB under receivership last May. Two months later the Philippine Deposit Insurance Corp. (PDIC), as receiver, invited private financial institutions to buy up the GFB.

The ailing GFB still had some value: P2.4 billion in assets, P500 million in cash, intact deposits, and a network of 22 branches. Yet no one bit, as the PDIC suddenly changed the rules midstream and doubled the asking price. Last Nov. the PDIC announced to just close the bank and liquidate the assets.

It’s fine for entities or corporations to make investment decisions here and there, because money’s just right there and what’s being passed around, the money, is just a thing but do they for one moment see the faces and warm bodies behind those contributions, ordinary civil servants working hard and long in order to save up for old age? It’s criminal how people’s money are just going to pigs. Something must be finally done about GSIS.

(I was going to mention here the RH law as the seventh, but the President has just signed Executive Order No.12 (Attaining and Sustaining Zero Unmet Need for Modern Family Planning Through the Strict Implementation of the Responsible Parenthood and Reproductive Health Act, Providing Funds Therefor and for Other Purposes) which now okays full implementation of the national reproductive health program. Hurray! I was going to say The human body (including the mind) is not State property hence has no hold over it, and that cutting off contraceptives supply is like going around rooms in the hospitals unhooking people off from their life support systems. But these are now moot statements.)

Rude awakenings

The Fire Rooster is indeed a hard worker. It’s still the first days of the new year and already we’ve been buzzed up to hard realities. We need those energy bars to keep up!

First: Typhoon Nockten/Nina made a total of eight landfalls. It’s second was in Pili, Camarines Sur when it was at it’s strongest, around 300 kph. Turns out 12,000 out of the municipality’s 17,000 households incurred damages. And except at the town proper, electricity has yet to be restored.

I learned of this just two days ago. I was shocked because media has reported just about everything post-Nina but these. The typhoon struck the area on Christmas Day while the rest of the country were gorging on Noche Buena fare and joyful for gifts received. There was a report about the Vice President who went to her hometown, Sorsogon, right after her return from the US where she spent Christmas. She commented on the response as “I think it is somewhat slow” and “wish(ing) I was here”, but nothing more afterward.

As it happens around here, owing to so-called politics over local funds earmarked for disasters, local governments have again failed to step up as first responders. By this, I mean not just handing out one-time emergency food rations but as mandated of them in the DRRM Law, ensures compliance to humanitarian standards, and systematic and comprehensive disaster management up to the time affected communities have recovered. Once again, it appears the bulk of response (as there are still households in remoter areas in need of food rations), recovery, and reconstruction work is heaved upon civil society, triggering within the community switch to familiar hyper-fast high-adrenaline mode of doing things.

Stressful for humanitarian workers but on one hand, projects that do get funded give rise to relatively high-paying job opportunities for otherwise unemployed locals that in turn help revive otherwise stagnant local markets, contributing in the long term to the phenomenon of disaster areas becoming boom towns. For the urban manager, this opens up the opportunity to plan ahead and set in motion the strategy that will shape the “future town” the people want (as opposed to a hands off approach to growth and development which inevitably leads to sprawl which was what happened to Baguio City after the 1991 earthquake).

Second: Former President Noynoy Aquino et.al. are sued for plunder over his sign off during his term on the shipment to a bank in Thailand of USD141M 3,500 metric tons of gold bars of 99.999 percent purity confiscated from the Marcoses. In exchange of the gold bars, the Philippine Government under Aquino had purportedly agreed with Thailand’s Centennial Energy Company to produce funds for humanitarian projects. Talk about disaster politics! True or false, my god!!!

Third: South Korea has the fastest average internet connection speed globally, Akamai reports. At 26.3mbps Whoa! At the rate we’re used to here, 4.6mbps, Filipinos find it hard to imagine that kind of speed.

What is with speed? I knew of employees who got memos (getting sacked even) for “not immediately responding to urgent emails” and “lying about why you’re not responding to urgent emails”; organizations missing out on much needed funding because “sorry, you did not send in your proposals on time”. Headquarters with their relatively faster internet speed have difficulty believing that field offices located in godforsaken areas are hard put (and fed up) with what to them is a 0.0000000000001mbps internet speed at best. The email site takes years to open and another century for one document to be uploaded. Then, just when you’re on the verge of throwing out the device you hear a beep. It’s the telco sending a notice hi! we noticed that your data usage today has been really high. we’re now reducing your browsing speed to maintain quality service for all users blah blah blah; oops, you’ve used up the MBs of your surf promo. The regular browsing rate will now apply…avoid unexpected data charges by turning on SurfAlert blah blah blah. In these places, it is more reliable and speedier and a lot less stressful to send documents, photos, and recordings via bus lines but then this forfeits the meaning of ‘urgent’. Folks at head offices who rarely visit therefore wouldn’t know how it is really conclude that field people are ignoring their notice. They refuse to acknowledge that internet speed is a valid concern.

Same conversation between consumers and the telcos. The latter, because they’re only, what, three (plus a subsidiary each)?, they put on earplugs to cancel out the constant banging of customers on their doors (picked up even by international papers such as Forbes), or better yet, stage superfluous marketing gigs that promise more than what could actually be delivered. In this sob story we see the Department of Communications approaching the telcos’ doorsteps at incredibly slow-mo- ten years at a time. Could someone please throw them the dictionary opened at ‘breakneck’?

Quirks, no longer

The sustained anti-corruption protests by South Koreans which led to the impeachment of their President and the arrest of her childhood friend and confidante Choi Soon-sil “the woman behind it all” and more recently of Choi’s daughter abroad in Denmark put Filipinos to shame.

In 2013, Filipinos listened in utter horror as media rolled out investigative reports on the PHP10B pork barrel scam by Janet Napoles “the woman behind it all” with members of Congress as accomplices. Filipinos knew about under-the-table dealings even before, but it was the first time that the depth and extent of corruption by public officials was reported to the nation. The people however only managed to rouse themselves to a one-day protest which looked more like a picnic at the Park.

One wonders if the Filipino people are not the zombies shipped on the “train to Busan”- how was it that we were not moved by such massive corruption of our money by persons whom we trusted and put into positions? by that woman who is not even a public official? by that daughter who published a photo of her smug self inside her PHP80M Ritz Carlton hotel apartment wallowing in a bathtub of money-slash-the-people’s-money? The burial of a former soldier-President in a soldier’s allotted grave is of no consequence compared to this infamy. Until now, there has been no systematic and sustained trial of those implicated in the corruption. Why?

Anyway. This post is actually about the capacity of leaders, taking on as example, because it is more recent and closer to home, the South Korean President.

There is no lack of research written about what qualities befit a good leader whether in the public or private realm. Forbes for instance argues for the Top 10 Qualities That Make A Great Leader. The Harvard Business Review explains: Why We Keep Hiring Narcissistic CEOs; Why People Are Drawn To Narcissists Like Donald Trump; Narcissistic Leaders: The Incredible Pros, The Inevitable Cons. And so forth. But, why, indeed, do we have leaders who disappoint?

The Park and Choi scandal, according to Park Yoon-bae in his article Let Checks and Balances Work for The Korea Times, is a classic example of corrupt political leadership that collects funds from conglomerates in return for business favors. Judging from what she has done so far to deal with the scandal, Park apparently lacks moral and political integrity that is required for the chief executive.

Let’s unpack “lacks moral and political integrity”. Over the years, S Korea media have noted Park’s queer behavior in times of national crises, viz: (1) Photos suggest Park had beauty surgery amid Sewol tragedy; (2) Park spent 90 minutes hair styling when 315 students were trapped in sinking ferry; (3) Suspicions re-emerge over ‘7 missing hours’. We are also provided glimpses of Park in her private persona: (1) ‘Toilet sensitive’ President Park; (2) President Park, a ‘Hikikomori’; (3) Soap opera: South Korean President Park Geun-hye ‘used TV character as pseudonym’ at detox clinic. Last but not least, on her tragic family history Park Geun-hye and the friendship behind S Korea’s presidential crisis.

Stepping outside the perspective of politics and into that of medical science, the above information would lead us to these theories: (1) still deeply traumatized by the assassination of her parents, first her mother, and after them her own experience of violence she has difficulty trusting or allowing anybody apart from her childhood friend into her private sphere; (2) her entry into politics afterward has her conflicted over how she is part of the system that had taken away both her parents. Religion or symbolism somehow alleviated that inner turmoil; (3) the shadow of her larger-than-life father, so-called Rasputin and the father of modern S Korea, still looms over her causing her to freeze in inaction or helplessness, like a child, deeply fearful to be seen or judged as less than perfect; (3) the oversight role her father had suddenly vacated is displaced onto her stronger-willed childhood friend who apparently took advantage of her friend’s emotional and mental state.

What I’m saying here is, Park’s capacity to lead ie. health in light of extraordinary personal circumstances had been perhaps initially perceived by the people as idiosyncracies. After all, she is her father’s daughter. Don’t we accord larger-than-life personalities a wider berth? Time, however, has revealed the quirks as “defects” for want of a better word, and the people after repeatedly experiencing the effects of such have been awakened and are now looking at events as they really are and not as what they wished them, or her, to be.

This is the twist in most every corruption drama and the question now is, who is more liable for what happened? Park? Choi? The system? The voters? A headache really. But, definitely Park’s history of leadership says that she was and is in no condition to take on her shoulders the burdens of State and a nation. She may be in need of care herself. I’m truly amazed that she has stayed this “strong” at least in the public eye although in cases like this something – the weakest link – will always give. And it did. But funnily enough it wasn’t her although she could now be quoting Montaigne (who quoted Aristotle):

‘O my friends, there is no friend.’

Modernization in the time of Scrooge

If street sweepers could grow into giants, what then?


Easy breezy, no? I did think emergency powers to solve traffic is more effective in the hands of street sweepers! Or, perhaps even mothers- mothers against traffic.

Kidding aside, and still on the topic of transportation, my recent dawn ride in a turboprop was different this time ie. it wasn’t as scary as what my mind’s able to imagine it. The unfortunate incident that wiped out members of Chapecoense is exactly the reason behind my fear of flying. It could happen to anyone, anytime. And anybody surviving a plane dropping out of the sky which incidentally is happening more frequently these days is I believe a miracle through and through. If such an accident is my fate, I just want that it will happen on a bright cloudless day. I don’t want to go down on a gloomy day. Gloom + doom is too much of a double whammy.

PAL Express Bombardier turboprop Q series

Anyway. I noted the plane is a Bombardier Q model. What did I know of Bombardier besides that it sounded French-y classy? There was something lodged in the recesses of my brain… maker of the first bomber aircraft? Well then I should feel comfortable. This plane’s for extreme weather! Didn’t it have an invisible shield somewhere? And there must be something more to Q. Now that such things had sparked my interest, I had to know. From take off to when we landed – it felt like a quick five minutes all – I focused off my fear to knowing more about the manufacturer.

It turns out, the founder Canadian Joseph-Armand Bombardier invented in the 1930s the snow mobile which eventually became the company’s first product. (Ah, nothing of a bomber aircraft in it’s history then.) From the snow mobile, the company went on to build rail vehicles and related solutions which is actually it’s best known product, making headway in European countries. It then expanded to aircraft eventually buying out Learjet (of course! this was what’s lodged in my memory but can’t readily recall). The Q in it’s turboprop Q series stands for quiet, to describe the company’s breakthrough invention, Active Noise and Vibration Suppression (ANVS) system, that “make turboprop cabins almost as quiet as those of jets”. Indeed, yes, there was just the soft whirr-ing from the plane’s props and I was seated near the left side propeller. Today, Bombardier continues as a global leader in rail vehicles and solutions.

Bombardier sustainable solutions in rail transport

What am I saying here? We should buy quality for our rail transport. We should not be a Scrooge or Grinch when it comes to providing Filipinos infrastructures and services- these should be the best. (Scroogey-ness by the way extends to the private sector in relation to it’s local Filipino consumers- we here get the littlest – apple, grapes, soap bar, name it – and lowest quality of products in supermarket shelves and without corresponding and I mean fair change in price; same for PUV fares, we pay the same even when service is crap or the vehicle is near shambles or noncompliant to standards. Nobody cares to report because nobody on the other end care to right things. Then we shout human rights in streets? Start with food and basic needs first!) We should let go of our tingi-tingi mentality in purchases or investments in public goods. We should also let go of our pwede pa yan i-repair mentality (getting junk parts from god knows here, there, and everywhere and piecing them together to imitate the original when it’s obviously junk) when things have reached their expiry dates we should not think twice about buying new and better.

The only message that daily news of the breakdown of MRT and LRT rail cars sends to the public is how dumb and dumber those managing it are. It’s not the machine’s fault as it’s not some human who’s able to intuit and decide on his own if he or she is sick and needs a day off to go for medical treatment. We need Congress to step into the real attitude of modernization. Instead of wasting public money on a merry go round chase of whodunnit, it should be talking about how to connect remote areas to urban centers and up Philippine infrastructures and services. This will take years so it has to start today.

It’s the lack of and resistance to discipline

​Conspiracy theories around human rights violations, Martial Law, and misuse of the death penalty if enacted belie a deeper issue among Filipinos which is the lack of self-discipline and true regard for neighbor (we’re losing these positive traditional values).

Just look at the rivers, especially in urban areas where you’d think people being more knowledgeable and cultured will have the cleanest water bodies, the waters have been choked to death with household and industrial waste (and then they cry in the movie house over some imagined fate of imaginary Avatars?). Pati ba naman kasi yung kaliit-liit na candy wrapper hindi pa maitapon sa tamang lalagyan? Must the State tell hands to not throw out garbage and dicks not to urinate in public places? Should we wait for the highest person in the land, the President, to tell us to store away for good that nuisance wang wang? It must’ve shocked the former President how his mere reiteration of a standard rule in vehicular use gained him massive yehey! from Filipinos. What did I say? Why am I suddenly a hit? What’s going on? A presidency buoyed up by an anti-wang wang policy! If for anything, that gave him an important insight into the psyche of Filipinos.

Look everywhere. It is the daily experience of the average Filipino. Here and there, the vandalization of common spaces by failure of local governments to implement their own strategies and codes such as zoning, and willful disobedience of basic dos and dont’s when occupying public places.

We can’t observe lines (in places outside of Makati City CBD). We stop PUVs in the middle of the road and are dropped off in the middle of the road. We talk at the top of our lungs in places where quiet is the rule. We dress like we were going for a swim inside sacred places. We drive through red lights and zebra lines (which is why despite technology we still have warm bodies on the road directing traffic even under strong sunlight). We spit phlegm everywhere. We park wherever we want to. We cut down trees planted in public grounds. And when we are caught and shown the NO SPITTING, NO URINATING, NO SPEEDING/REDUCE SPEED, CHILDREN CROSSING, NO PARALLEL/PARKING, NO CUTTING OF TREES, OBSERVE PROPER DRESS CODE signs and the like, we make a scene, we cry foul, we insist that we have been deprived of our human rights, that government is acting with impunity, we make joke of it. When that’s not enough, we flash IDs of relatives in government (which is nothing more than threatening the same authorities in government). And we haven’t mentioned our other duties yet, like filing and paying taxes. The funny part is, we transform into sheep when in foreign countries. There, we follow the laws to the last letter. What do governments have there that we haven’t got here?

Now, this State business of going after crooks and the proposed death penalty- they put the fear in people. Good. For the longest time, wala na tayong kinakatakutan, we turned up our noses at our most basic of laws, because anyway this government, ay, good for nothing so might as well do our own thing. We the people are that government in case we’ve forgotten. See this? We have no respect for self, others, or our public institutions. 

If we can’t be trusted to do the good or right thing even when no one is watching, as simple as not urinating in public places, we force the hand of the State to exert greater authority on us even down to our private parts. What if the State turns a blind eye to such bullheadedness? The whole place will stink. And nobody wants that to happen.

For every human right there is a corresponding responsibility on the part of the rights holder. One cannot claim it with impunity. When claiming the right to free speech and expression, there is the corresponding duty to not be a nuisance to others or impinge on the right of others to privacy. Karaoke singing on speakers that penetrate bedroom walls at bedtime, or partying on frontyards until partygoers are drunk which by that time howl more wolfishly than the actual animals- this is tyranny not freedom. In the same vein, when barangay, municipal, or city officials do not or will not do their duties to maintain peace and order on the ground, the national is forced to step in. But even when the national intervenes to save localities, we’re seeing a wrecked version of goverment. Where are the first responders and what are they doing?

So how does one tame and coax a bull? Shoving a lamb inside the ring does not do it for sure. Ask Pacquiao. And Martial Law? Has Davao ever been put under Martial Law in the years that the President was it’s mayor?

The people get the government that they not only actually but importantly feel themselves to deserve, one which simultaneously flatters and humiliates them, and in ways that allow them to hide and lose themselves in the process.

On the mission of the Church

Leaders of the Catholic Church here should really stop themselves from participating in secular politics. In this, they have no less than Christ for role model. In His time, human rights situation was far worse. Dissenters of Ceasar, innocent and not, were pierced and displayed upside down on the highway, to dissuade anyone from following in their footsteps. That was just one means of putting dissenters to death. Christ, in fact, was a victim to this. In his conversations with people, His gospel alluded to Himself as the King (whom John before Him had announced was coming) which prompted those loyal and in service to Ceasar to catch and tried to get Him to say directly that He is, because to them there was no other King but Ceasar. For spreading news of a new King and kingdom which in effect challenged Ceasar’s authority, He was hanged. No thanks to the final betrayal of somebody from His inner circle as well as a people’s indecision (who to be loyal to?).

Within this political and social environment, did Christ call Ceasar names? rally people to His side? storm the palace in order to show who and what is right? change history with just one word?


He let human history run it’s course. Render unto Ceasar the things that are Caesar’s and unto God the things that are God’s, He said. And they marveled at Him. They expected this “usurper” to call up a grand following and then march against Caesar. They were astounded when He shunned even the suggestion and instead told them to give Caesar as their ruler due recognition and respect.

What is the message there? Christ is telling us that there’s the practical world of humans which Caesar at the time in that place ruled, and there’s also His Father’s kingdom which will come in due time. And in order to set the latter in motion (to also run it’s course, so to speak), He had to come- Do not think that I have come to abolish the law of Moses or the writings of the prophets. No, I came to fulfill them. Meaning, while we are called to participate in human history we are also called to prepare (our souls) for that other kingdom.

Christ, by His life and death, opened to us the way toward this kingdom. The Church takes on from what He started. In doing so, the Church like Christ before it has to transcend “the world of Caesar”; to lead, like a good shepherd, the fulfillment of God’s words (the Gospel). And what are some of these words?

Make every effort to live in peace with everyone and to be holy.

Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everyone.

I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.

These are actually profound words. For instance, make every effort to live in peace with everyone. How does one do that in the secular world? To be holy. What does this mean for a secular person? Is it even possible in these times? But take heart! I have overcome the world. But, we say, He had not experienced globalization, terrorism, extremism, how could He have had overcome the world? How could we take heart? What relevance does Catholicism have in these times? Today, many words in the Scriptures seemed to have lost their meaning, and there’s so much work to do preparing for God’s kingdom.

To be light, to show the way, to unravel the mystery that is Love, to be Christ again and again. Church leaders therefore must be contemplatives at the same time activitists in God’s court in order that they be given wisdom and knowledge from the Spirit.

History shows us there had been miserable consequences for the human community when the Church dabbles in secular life. Recently, I was struck reading Robert Tiglao’s Manila Times’ opinion piece Ninoy Aquino: Hero or miscalculating ‘throne’ gamer?in which he feautred the transcript of (Ninoy) Aquino’s telephone conversation with Psinakis August 13, 1983.

Ninoy Aquino: Hi Steve, I’m at the airport and I cannot leave America without saying goodbye to you and expressing to you my deepest gratitude.
Steve Psinakis: Our prayers are always with you and all I can [say]is, remember that a word from you and anything you want is in your fingertips from me, okay? There’s no limit to what I will do for you if you need some help. We are praying for you, for your safety and success and freedom of people, okay?
Aquino: Now this is the latest, Steve, that I can give you. My source is Cardinal Sin. Number one: Marcos checked in at the Kidney Center. The experts went, saw him, they did a test. He flunked all tests and the conclusion was if they operate on him, it would be fatal.
So he went back to the Palace. He is no longer responding to medication and he will have to be hooked up to the dialysis machine now more often. How he will last with that machine on, I don’t know. Apparently they are now moving to put Imelda in effective control. And they are going to revamp the Cabinet, with (Roberto) Ongpin most probably emerging as prime minister and finance minister. Danding Cojuangco or [General Fabian] Ver, defense minister. O. D. Corpus possibly foreign minister, and maybe Ayala, I mean Enrique, maybe agriculture minister, I don’t know.
But there’s a major shake-up. Marcos met with his generals and apparently said goodbye to them last Friday. He was on television in Manila 24 hours ago, commenting on the boxing fight of Navarette and Talbot to show the people he is okay. But it’s a matter of time, so he wanted three weeks to collect this thoughts, write his memoirs, complete his book and most probably craft the final stages of his administration.
He’s a man now: Terminal. He knows he’s going and that’s the background I’m coming in.
Psinakis: I [also]heard some of this yesterday. I got some reports, not of course as authoritative as yours, but pretty much the same that something was wrong and they couldn’t operate and so forth. At any rate, the thought that comes to mind is that is good and bad. Good in that he’s going and he knows it. He might show some compassion for the country and treat your return with more pragmatic thinking. The bad part may be that hardliners like Ver who are bulldogs without any political savvy, who may think that they’re next in line [of succession]. Obviously, such people would look at your return with uh… That’s what I’m worried about.
Aquino: Well, there are two reports I received along that line. Well, if they pinpoint the plane I’m coming in. The rumor in Manila is that I’m taking the private jet of Enrique (Zobel) from Hong Kong. But all planes are being guarded and they may close the airport on Sunday or turn back the plane if they would be able to pinpoint which one I’m coming in.
The third, and this is the real iffy. They have two guys stationed to know me out at the airport. And they will try them for murder, they’ll convict them, but they have assurances.
Psinakis: Ah…let’s not think about that.
Aquino: Yeah, that’s the… Those are the things that I’ve been alerted. So, I don’t know what options they will do now. But I am meeting with ASEAN leaders beginning Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday. Indonesia—Suharto might receive me. Malaysia is already firm and Thailand is just about firm. Now Japan has sent word that if Imelda is in place [Prime Minister] Nakasone is willing to use his economic clout.
Psinakis: Ah really, huh?
Aquino: Yes…to tell Imelda that if you treat Aquino nicely, we can dialogue.
Psinakis: Oh, that’s good news all right. That’s damn good news.
Aquino: Nakasone is willing to send a private envoy, a secret private envoy with a personal letter making a plea for me. If am still alive and in prison, that if they will treat me gently, and come up with some kind of an understanding, Japanese economic assistance will continue. Because they are very uptight that if the woman [Imelda] takes over and there will be chaos, you know, it would be bad. Now the ASEAN leaders, on the other hand, feel this way: ASEAN today is already one region. And any instability in one part of ASEAN will scare investors in the entire region.
That’s why they are very, very uptight about the possibility of chaos and instability in the Philippines with Imelda. And that is the background of my conversation with them: That I am not going to upset the apple cart but that we can harmonize our movement.
To what extent they will be able to mitigate the hardliners, I don’t know. That’s the chance we’ll have to take. If I survive Sunday, and I get to prison, I’m there in a week’s time, I can get the works going.
I’m picking up a letter from [MNLF chairman] Nur Misuari, telling them that if the government will trust me as a negotiator, then they can start talks again. But they will not talk to anybody else.
Psinakis: It sounds to me like you have an awful lot of pluses on your side.
Aquino: Those are the trump cards I’m bringing home, which of course can be negated if one character gets to throw me out.
If I get into prison, there is no doubt, like 100 percent, I will be brought directly to prison. I may not even get a chance to talk to anybody there on the ground. But it’s okay. A long as I’m alive and in prison, I can start using my trump cards.
I will try to hold out for a meeting with Marcos. Now that’s he’s about to meet his Maker, I am almost confident that I can talk to him and sell him something. Although the Cardinal told me that “if you think you can sell Marcos a bill of goods like return to democracy and electoral processes, forget it. You’re dreaming.”
“He’s no longer in that state.” This is the Cardinal’s idea. I don’t buy it. Because I don’t think that a man who is about to die will be, you know, too hard-headed.
SP: I hope you are right, but I think the Cardinal is right. I think Marcos…not only because he doesn’t want to, that’s academic at this point in time. But I think he has just…he’s so deep and he has no choice but to stay where he is and leave things as they are. And I certainly hope that that’s wrong because we don’t want that.
Aquino: Okay. So, goodbye Steve.
Psinakis: One last question…
Aquino: Yes?
Psinakis: Any whatsoever…any indication from the US side that there might be some help on the cooperative or absolutely nothing?
Aquino: No. No indication. Except that they are watching me. They are following all my steps. But I am still hopeful that sanity will prevail and they will know that eventually, they’ll have to come to talk. Because I don’t think they’re very happy with the woman [Imelda] running the show.

I’d like to highlight the role of the late Cardinal Sin in that momentous episode of our national history ie. the turning point in Ninoy’s decision to return. Ninoy had placed his faith in the Cardinal’s words that Marcos was “soon going to meet his Maker” (as if anybody can confidently predict that!). But what if the Cardinal spoke the truth to Ninoy? What if he didn’t take advantage of an agitated man? What if he had kept his hands off the grab for power? What if he allowed history to run it’s course? Would the Filipinos have no cause to blame Marcos for Ninoy’s death? Would Ninoy still be alive today? If he were, what is the country like, now? Unified? But we couldn’t know exactly could we? That crossroad is forever lost to us. The Cardinal had directed the country toward another path. We have seen though that dissatisfaction and rebellion have not ebbed on this path. The Communists, MILF, MNLF, the people’s criticisms, protests etc. did not go away even with Cory and later her son at the helm. This tells us that lack of cohesion among Filipinos is not because of Marcos but rather it’s much more than that. The Church thought it was simply a change in President, or policies.

What if, also, Christ allowed emotions to dissuade Him and eliminated with a flick of a finger all His “enemies” ie. Caesar and his government? Burn you bastards! Where will the world be now? One thing I’m sure of- there’d be no Catholic Church, or Christian Churches for that matter. For there’d be no compelling model of love nor mission to love from which to draw upon. Humans would’ve been deprived of their power to chart their own history and learn it’s lessons. Men and women would’ve been deprived of living life. Also, Christ would’ve been stuck on earth, constantly changing less than ideal governments. That’s not a life.

I watched the turn over ceremonies in the AFP, and I was touched by the AFP minister’s prayer. He prayed for the country’s leaders including the President, that they be guided and given the strength to lead wisely. Uttered in community, the prayer showed itself as the middle ground on which Church and State could come together in mutual support and understanding. The Church has dedicated a year in support of it’s priests. I believe one for leaders will be good.

The Church has to look at this country’s leaders as it does all it’s priests- with fraternal love and respect. Would the Church criticize it’s priests in front of churchgoers? It has not and it will not. It recognizes that priests are of the line of Melchizedek. Same with leaders elected by the people. Christ recognized human authority and while here subjected Himself to that regardless of what He knows of them. For He and the Church afterward had a greater purpose, one that’s apart of human history and all it’s troubles yet at the same time intricately linked to it. How this greater purpose can come to be is the realm of the Church. In the end, we’re all in this together, individually trying to make sense out of life and looking for solutions. But together.