“Owners” of Mindanao

Odd that, while countries such as UK and Australia have rallied their support behind the Moro people’s quest for self-determination, Filipino leaders from here have not shown the same active enthusiasm. Why? What is difficult with giving your own kin the freedom that you are fully enjoying? This country needs to take a hard look at why; therein lies the key to why this part of the country is constrained from attaining its potential.

​Christian Filipino legislators in the bicameral US civil administration played a hitherto unacknowledged role in pushing for the colonisation of Mindanao, as part of the Philippines, by proposing a series of Assembly bills (between 1907 to 1913) aimed at establishing migrant farming colonies on Mindanao. This legislative process was fuelled by anger over the unequal power relations between the Filipino-dominated Assembly and the American-dominated Commission, as well as rivalry between resident Christian Filipino leaders versus the American military government, business interests and some Muslim datus in Mindanao itself for control over its land and resources. Focusing on the motives and intentions of the bills’ drafters, this study concludes that despite it being a Spanish legacy, the Christian Filipino elite’s territorial map — emphasising the integrity of a nation comprising Luzon, the Visayas and Mindanao — provided the basis for their claim of Philippine sovereignty over Mindanao.

Upholding Filipino nationhood: The debate over Mindanao in the Philippine Legislature, 1907–1913, Journal of Southeast Asiam Studies, National University of Singapore, Volume 44 Issue 2, Nobutaka Suzuki

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Conduct unbecoming of the fourth estate

A Penn State fraternity pledge died after stumbling and falling several times with toxic levels of alcohol in his body and suffered for hours with severe injuries while his friends failed to summon help, authorities said Friday in announcing criminal charges against the fraternity and 18 of its members.

A grand jury investigation, aided by security camera footage from the Beta Theta Pi chapter house, found that fraternity members resisted getting help for 19-year-old Timothy Piazza before his death in February. The grand jury said their actions in some cases may have worsened his injuries.

Eight of the fraternity brothers and the chapter itself were charged with involuntary manslaughter. Other charges include aggravated and simple assault, evidence tampering, alcohol-related violations and hazing.

The grand jury said the fraternity was heavily stocked with booze for the Feb. 2 ceremony at which Piazza, a sophomore engineering student, and 13 others accepted pledge bids. The pledges were pressured to run a gantlet of drinking stations that required them to chug vodka, shotgun beers and drink wine.

The cameras recorded Piazza drinking vodka and beer at around 9:20 p.m. and an hour later needing help to walk, staggering and hunched over, from an area near the basement stairs to a couch. He’s later shown trying unsuccessfully to open the front door, then “severely staggering drunkenly toward the basement steps” at about 10:45 p.m., the grand jury report said.

He was subsequently found at the bottom of the steps after apparently falling face-first. Four brothers carried his limp body back upstairs, where some poured liquid on him and one slapped him in the face, the jury said. Fraternity members put a backpack containing textbooks on him so Piazza, lying on his back, would not suffocate on his own vomit, the jury wrote.

When a brother insisted Piazza needed medical help, he was confronted and shoved into a wall, the report said. When the same brother insisted again that Piazza required help, he was told others were biology and kinesiology majors so his opinion wasn’t as valuable as theirs, the jury said.

Piazza tried to get up around 3:20 a.m. but fell backward and hit his head on the wood floor, the report said. He fell onto a stone floor at 5 a.m. and was last caught on video after 7 a.m. He was discovered in the basement at about 10 a.m.

“Timothy was lying on his back with his arms clenched tight at his sides and his hands in the air,” jurors wrote. “His chest was bare, his breathing heavy and he had blood on his face.”

During the next 40 minutes, fraternity brothers shook him, tried to prop him up, covered him with a blanket, wiped his face and attempted to dress him before one finally called 911, the jury said.

Penn State permanently banned Beta Theta Pi on March 30, accusing it of a “persistent pattern” of excessive drinking, drug use and hazing.

Another Hazing DEATH at a University Fraternity House…

Did Horacio Castillo III face a similar turn of events before his death? Did he die from heart attack due primarily to alcohol intoxication compounded by organ stress and shock after the first initiation beating? Did his family’s connections for instance to politicians such as Senator Juan Miguel Zubiri a factor for a more violent initiation relative to other pledges with no “connections of interest”? Is John Paul Solano actually a sympathizer to Castillo’s plight during the initiation?

Such queries about the crime, and more, depending on where our collective imagination carries us, point to the fact that what the rest of us could do is speculate. In this, broadcast media has the comparative advantage. At their worst, they are like starved crazed dogs, that, unlike snakes, attack in a frenzy shredding their food to unrecognizable pieces. Men and women of the law are able, at least, at court to contain their fangs within the procedural rules of law. Broadcast media still foam at the mouth even after having done it’s job reporting the necessary and publicly-legitimate facts. They go on and on, in a forever-mode of mad rampage. After what, no one is sure anymore, because, for sure, it’s not to set people free from the untruth. As what Congress’ new terms of reference implies from the televised series of it’s wasteful and illegal questioning of private individuals who are mere collateral damage in the doings of elected officials and civil servants, broadcast media outlets are the judge and jury in their own public trials, lasting all five minutes of air time, of a person’s or an organization’s reputation, usually, “persons and organizations of interest”, long before pertinent facts have been established and even after verdict has been handed by proper authorities, which provoke the viewing or listening public to hysteria or mob behavior toward the exposed person or organization.

Toward the have-nots of Philippine society, it entitles itself to adversarial questioning as for instance, say, in a corner of a police precinct in front of everybody in the world most of whom don’t know the person, the camera is placed intrusively close to the accused person’s face while asking in loaded words, “pinatay mo si xxx? saan mo tinapon yung kutsilyong ginamit mo? naka-droga ka nung ginawa mo? naka-inom ka nung nag-amok ka?” In another corner of another precinct, the camera is placed at the same distance, this time, to the victim’s while capturing the wailing screams, the snoggle trickling down the nostrils, the shock of unkempt hair, the blanked-out hollow eyes, the cries to their God and whoever else should or could help them, while persisting on the victim for a response to “ano ang nararamdaman nyo ngayon?” On the street, it walks over to the person sleeping on the wayside, the camera closing up onto the face after it did the same on the body while asking in behalf of the audience “pano ka napunta dito?” Yet, it restrains itself when in front of the top 10% of Philippine society. It does not, for instance, walk straight into the offices of the Zobel-Ayalas onto the plump leather chairs and bring the camera on their faces to ask them point blank, “ano ang ginawa nyo sa isang daang pamilyang naapektuhan sa redevelopment project ninyo?” Rather, they make an appointment and are mindful of the rights of the Zobel-Ayalas that they could be liable to violate. 

Same with it’s one-sided reporting of and narrow commentaries on the crackdown on illegal drugs. Rallying all it’s resources – air time, investigations, and human resource – behind the street killings of the poor especially young so-called drug handlers and users serve to deflect public attention away from the other crucial side of the issue: the supply network. Throwing images of young innocents’ mutilated dead bodies 24/7 onto audiences’ laps inadvertently call up latent human emotions- my god, what’s happening to the world? Next the world knows, there’s a lynch mob on the street, the statements on the placards a far cry from the crowd’s level of sophistication, which of course broadcast media don’t fail to plaster on the screen accompanying the coverage with doomsday music. On the other hand, when the haves or in-the-know do come out to help authorities shed light on a wrongdoing, speaking like the Don and Dona they are in their own high-society brand of Taglish, their own community heavily censure them “we don’t do that” and even media don’t know what to do with their kind. Think the late Princess Diana trying to spill to the public her royal life behind the camera.

And, from among, say, 5,000 cases of street killings of young people across the country in a day, why the choice of that one from, say, Tondo? And how is that one representative of the 4,999 other killings? From among 10,000 cases of domestic abuse across the country in a day, why the choice of that one from, say, Caloocan? And how is that one representative of the 9,999 other abuses? And so on and so forth. Broadcast media’s silence on that vital piece of information which it should’ve divulged to the public is like serving broth to a customer which he paid for in full, but really it’s spit-infested. That’s fraud.

What about, recently, giving air time to the exiled head of the Communist rebels here, but not to families whose villages are raided and/or occupied by the rebels and whose loved ones were recruited, abducted, or killed by the rebels, and businesses who were forced by the armed group to provide them regular financial support? What about their voices in the midst of this modern day-irrelevant ideological push?

How would communities respect broadcasters who call themselves journalists who spend most of their day at the golf course with their big wig “friends”, have all the time to watch beauty contests from the front row, or enjoy free food on their advertisers’ accounts, and then go write or report about injustices done to the people? Actors at least have a more disciplined approach to their scripts and getting into their screen characters.

What are the ethical standards governing the country’s broadcast media? Below are some provisions in the Broadcast Code of the Philippines 2007 by the Kapisanan ng mga Brodkaster sa Pilipinas (KBP) whose members are liable to follow:

PREAMBLE
WE BELIEVE

THAT broadcasting, because of its immediate and lasting impact on the public, demands of its practitioners a high sense of responsibility, morality, fairness and honesty at all times.

THAT broadcasting has an obligation to uphold the properties and customs of civilized society, maintain the respect of the rights and sensitivities of all people, preserve the honor and the sanctity of the family and home, protect the sacredness of individual dignity, and promote national unity.

Article 1. NEWS AND PUBLIC AFFAIRS

Sec. 1. OBJECTIVE

News and public affairs programs shall aim primarily to inform the public on important current events and issues rather than merely to entertain. (Admonitory)

Sec. 3. FAIRNESS AND OBJECTIVITY

3.c. Side comments expressing personal opinions while a news item is being reported or delivered are prohibited to prevent the listener from mistaking opinion for news. (Serious)

3.d. When presented as part of a news program, editorials or commentaries must be identified as such and presented as distinct from news reports. (S)

Sec. 4. NEWS SOURCES

4.b. Only news that can be attributed to a source shall be aired. When a source cannot be identified by name, the reason for this should be made clear in the news report. (Grave)

4.c. News sources must be clearly identified, except when confidentiality of the source was a condition for giving the information. (S)

4.d. Information provided by confidential sources may be aired only if it is in the public interest to do so. (G)

4.e. Before airing information provided by a confidential source, an effort should first be made to look for a source who can be identified or who can corroborate the information provided by the confidential source. (S)

4.h. Rumors or gossips shall not be aired in the guise of news. Using terms like “anonymous source”, “confidential source” or “unknown source” shall not justify the airing of rumors and gossips especially in news programs. (G)

Sec. 7. UNCONVENTIONAL NEWS GATHERING AND REPORTING

7a. In the most extreme circumstances, when information being sought is vitally important to public interest or necessary to prevent profound harm, the use of hidden cameras or microphones and other similar techniques of news gathering and reporting may be resorted to. Before resorting to such techniques, conventional methods must first be exhausted. In all cases, the use of such techniques must conform to the law. (G)

7b. When material obtained through such techniques are broadcast, this must be presented fairly, factually and in the proper context. The right to privacy must be observed and harm to the innocent avoided. (G)

7d. When materials that have been obtained through unconventional techniques are received from third parties, their broadcast must conform with the relevant provisions under this section. (G)

Sec. 9. SENSATIONALISM

9.b. Morbid, violent, sensational or alarming details not essential to a factual report are prohibited. (S)

9.c. The presentation of news and commentaries must not be done in a way that would create unnecessary panic or alarm. (G)

Article 3. COVERAGE INVOLVING CHILDREN

Sec. 1. The child’s dignity must be respected at all times. The child should not be demeaned or his/her innocence be exploited. (G)

Sec. 2. The personal circumstance of the child that will tend to sensationalize his/her life must be avoided. (G)

Sec. 3. There should be a conscious effort to avoid sensationalizing, stereotyping, prejudging or exploiting children with disabilities or children belonging to minority or indigenous groups. (G)

Sec. 4. The right to privacy of children must always be respected. Since undue publicity or wrong labeling can cause harm to them, children who are victims of abuse or in conflict with the law shall not be identified, directly or indirectly. Any information that might cause them to be identified shall not be aired. (G)

Sec. 5. Surprise and unplanned (“ambush”) interviews of children are prohibited. (S)

Sec. 6. Child victims, child suspects, children accused of a crime, children arrested or detained on suspicion of wrong-doing, and children that are undergoing trial shall be protected from further suffering emotional distress or trauma; they shall be interviewed only upon the consent of their parent or legal guardian, unless the parent or guardian is the accused. The interview shall be conducted only with the authority and supervision of qualified lawyers, psychologists, or social workers responsible for their welfare. (S)

Sec. 7. Children should not be required, coerced or bribed to recall and narrate traumatic experiences, demonstrate horrific acts, or describe them in graphic details. (S)

Article 4. PERSONAL ATTACKS

Sec. 1. Personal attacks, that is, attacks on the honesty, integrity, or personal qualities of an identified person, institution or group1, on matters that have no bearing on the public interest are prohibited. (G)

Sec. 2. Programs intended to malign, unfairly criticize or attack a person, natural or juridical, are prohibited. (G)

Sec. 4. When personal attacks against any person, institution or group are aired, that person, institution or group shall be given a fair opportunity to reply immediately in the same program, if possible, or at the earliest opportunity. If not, the opportunity to reply should be given in any other program under similar conditions. (G)

Article 6. CRIME AND CRISIS SITUATIONS

Sec. 1. The coverage of crimes in progress or crisis situations, such as hostage-taking or kidnapping, shall consider the safety and security of human lives above the right of the public to information. If it is necessary in avoiding injury or loss of life, the station should consider delaying its airing.

Sec. 2. The coverage of crime and crisis situations shall not provide vital information, or offer comfort or support to the perpetrator. Due to the danger posed to human life in such situations, it shall be assumed that the perpetrator has access to the broadcast of the station.

Sec. 3. While the incident is going on, the station shall desist from showing or reporting the strategies, plans, and tactics employed by the authorities to resolve the situation—including the positioning of forces, deployment of machine and equipment, or any other information that might jeopardize their operations or put lives in danger.

Sec. 5. Anchors, reporters, or other station personnel shall not act as negotiators or interfere in any way in negotiations conducted by the authorities. If asked to assist in the negotiations, they shall first notify station management and carefully weigh how their participation will affect their journalistic balance before getting involved.

Sec. 7. The legal injunction to preserve evidence in a crime scene should always be kept in mind. When the incident is resolved, the coverage crew shall follow the lead of the authorities in the preservation of evidence, taking care not to move, alter, or destroy anything that might be used as evidence.

Sec. 8. The station should always be aware of the following provision in their legislative franchise: “The President of the Philippines, in times of rebellion, public peril, calamity, emergency, disaster, or disturbance of peace and order may temporarily take over and operate the stations of the grantee, temporarily suspend the operation of any station in the interest of public safety, security, and public welfare, or to authorize the temporary use and operation thereof by any department of the government upon due compensation to the grantee for the use of the said stations during the period when they shall be so operated.”

Sec. 9. When interviewing family members and relatives, friends, or associates of the perpetrator, care shall be taken to avoid provoking the perpetrator, interfering with the negotiations, or hindering the peaceful resolution of the situation.

Sec. 10. The tone and demeanor of the coverage should not aggravate the situation. Anchors and reporters must always keep in mind that lives are in danger and could be placed at greater risk by the way they report.

Sec. 11. A coverage should avoid inflicting undue shock or [and] pain to families and loved ones of victims of crimes, crisis situations, or of disasters, accidents, and other tragedies. (S)

Sec. 12. Unless there is justification for doing so, the identity of victims of crimes or crisis situations in progress or the names of fatalities shall not be announced until

their next of kin have been notified, the situation resolved or their names have been released by the authorities. (S)

Sec. 13. Images that are gruesome, revolting, shocking, obscene, scandalous, or extremely disturbing or offensive, shall not be shown or described in graphic detail. When such images suddenly occur during a coverage, the station shall cut them off the air.

Sec. 14. Persons who are taken into custody by authorities as victims or for allegedly committing private crimes (such as indecency or lasciviousness), shall not be identified, directly or indirectly — unless a formal complaint has already been filed against them. They shall not be subjected to undue shame and humiliation, such as showing them in indecent or vulgar acts and poses. (S)

Article 7. INDIVIDUAL RIGHTS

Sec.1. The right to privacy of individuals shall be respected. Intrusion into purely private or personal matters which have no bearing on the public interest is prohibited. (G)

Sec.2. Persons affected by tragedy or grief shall be treated with sensitivity, respect and discretion; they should be allowed to suffer their grief in private. (S)

Sec.3. News coverage must not violate nor interfere with an individual’s right to be presumed innocent until proven guilty. (S)

Sec.4. Care and sound discretion should be exercised in disclosing the identities of persons, by face or by name, so as not to harm their or their families’ reputation and safety. Proper labeling of a person as a “suspect,” “alleged perpetrator,” “accused,” or “convict(ed),” is required. (S)

Sec.5. The broadcast of material showing arrested or detained persons being physically assaulted or verbally abused in a manner that demeans or humiliates them is prohibited. (S)

Sec. 6. No broadcast personnel involved in the coverage of arrested or detained persons shall encourage or exhort the commission of violence against the arrested person or detainee. (S)

Article 10. CALLS OR MESSAGES

Sec..4 Letters, phone calls, e-mails, text messages and the like from unidentified sources or from sources who refuse to be identified shall not be aired. Materials from letters, phone calls, e-mails, text messages and the like when aired must be in accordance withthe provisions of this Code and shall be the responsibility of the station. (S)

Article 20. CULTURE AND TRADITION

Sec.5. Broadcasters must acquaint themselves with the culture, mores, traditions, needs and other characteristics of the locality and its people to best serve the community. (A)

Article 21. RESPECT FOR LAW AND ORDER

Sec. 1. Broadcast facilities shall not be used or allowed to be used for advocating the overthrow of government by force or violence.(G)

Sec. 2. The broadcast of materials which tend to incite treason, rebellion, sedition or create civil disorder or disturbance is prohibited. (G)

Article 24. CRIME AND VIOLENCE

Sec.1. Crime and violence and other acts of wrong-doing or injustice shall not be presented as good or attractive or beyond retribution, correction or reform. (G)

Sec.3. Violence shall not be encouraged and horror shall be minimized. Morbid and gory details are prohibited.(G)

Sec.5. Details of a crime or the re-enactment of a crime shall not be presented in such a way that will teach or encourage the audience how to commit it. (G)

Article 27. ON-AIR LANGUAGE

Sec. 2. Language tending to incite violence, sedition or rebellion is prohibited. (G)

Article 29. QUALIFICATION OF ON-AIR/PROGRAM PERSONS

Sec. 1. Persons who are allowed to handle programs shall have adequate knowledge and competence for the job to insure the integrity and credibility of the broadcast media. (S)

Sec. 2. Program persons shall adhere to the basic principles and ethical standards of journalism, including those provided in this Code. (S)

PART II IMPLEMENTING RULES AND REGULATIONS

Article 1. Complaints of violations of this Code shall be handled by the KBP Standards Authority which shall hear and rule on such complaints in accordance with duly established rules of procedure.

It’s all there, what research and evaluation studies of broadcast media, the more discerning members of the public, and even the President talk about when they say the press has gone rogue. Furthermore, the press retaliates at persons who are providing them truthful feedback. If it comes from the President, they challenge him alleging he’s going politics on them, that he has plans to gag them, that his ultimate motive is martial law, the elimination of the right to free speech, and once that’s done, he’d let in gold bar-birthing citizens from Titan to rule. Dear broadcast media, it’s not personalities who are out to get you. It’s the quality standards of your own profession and industry.

A problem of community

People are noticing and commenting — from the Public Attorney’s Office in media statements to a broadcast journalist who interviewed me during the wake for Carl Angelo Arnaiz in Filipino: “Have you noticed that both Kian delos Santos and Carl Arnaiz’s mothers were OFWs (overseas Filipino workers)? Maybe we shouldn’t have mothers leaving to work overseas?”

The next day at the university, a dean at UP discussed the same issue with me, but expanded her concerns to include some of our students with serious mental health issues and she observed in all the cases she mentioned that the mothers were working overseas.

When mothers leave by Michael L. Tan, Philippine Inquirer

Indeed, the problem is not the mothers (or, women) leaving for work abroad, because with the masses the choice is often the devil or the deep blue sea ie. get a job that will at least provide basic needs for the family and where else is that but abroad, or stay and live without dignity like a sewer rat consequentially setting in motion a slow onset trauma among family members, but rather it is the lack of decent work right here, in the town or municipality and city the mothers or any jobseeker for that matter reside in, not 2,000 miles away, in the “big city” ie. Metro Manila, Metro Cebu, Metro Davao.

Today, the big news on TV is New Zealand opening it’s doors to 5,000 foreign workers, and to show how bright the beckoning light is from the land of Lord of the Rings, it was reported that a driver there stands to receive PHP150,000 monthly and an opportunity to bring in the family after a year. That figure here is in the range offered to senior executives, if not the head of office. This inequality begs the question, why couldn’t employers here pay the same fair price for the same skilled service rendered? Must Filipinos, women or men, mothers or fathers, leave their families years on end just so to receive what they deserve as workers? And we complain about human rights violations!

In Baguio City, a highly-urbanized city, classified ads are the most depressing section to look at. Week after week, for years, jobseekers who are mostly graduates of the several recognized universities here, will go nowhere with their future with “online English tutors”, “call center agents”, “frontdesk clerks”, “sales clerk”, “domestic helpers for Hongkong and Taiwan”, and the like. If it’s like this here, what about the provincial towns? Eh, putang ina talaga. 

It is worse for men especially the unskilled, skilled but with no or limited demand for it, or those wanting to get a new skill. There’s TESDA, but if they’re from the masses, even the agency’s “minimal fee” is beyond their reach. So, in comes the women. With the women, they can fall back on DH or domestic helper that, abroad, more or less, rakes in PHP30,000 monthly. Compare that to at most PHP5,000 here (for same job, same skills set). Saan ka pa? But with the jobless men, thank you traditional views about gender, there’s no such thing as a male DH. Would guys go into it though?

In biology, there’s a topic on symbiotic relationships, one of which, commensalism, comes near to defining the relationship between the jobless frustrated male at home and the financially fulfilled focused female abroad. Commensalism is a type of relationship in which one benefits and the other is neither benefited or harmed. In other words, wala lang. The male who’s left at home is, obviously, the one benefitting. You’d think because he is, he’d happily take on the role of mother to the children. But the arc of the female OFW story doesn’t end happily ever after, for many. Men who are left behind, in the long term, oftentimes, become neglectful of their households including the children. Apparently, they’re taking a longer time coming to terms with their new role in the family.

It takes a village to raise a child.  Spouses left behind by their partners who need to work abroad are in need of their communities’ support. But, what is community to today’s Filipinos? The answer is easy. The image that we are seeing now in government, national and local, reflects our new community: lying, cheating, power play, betrayal, looking the other way, one-uppance, laziness, planning for the next bright move, always looking out for mine, mine, and mine. Gone, particularly in urban communities, is the mindset of looking out for each other. No wonder the children are growing up on their own.

Bayanihan as the term suggests is about building community. The behavior shouldn’t be manifested only during disasters. It should be an intuitive act- for instance, a women’s or mothers group may want to go cook a whole day’s set of meals, say, on father’s or mother’s day, for that household whose mother/wife is abroad working. Or, the therapist in the neighborhood to volunteer some time to go visit households that have one spouse abroad in order to listen. Most of the time, people just need someone to listen, without judgment, to their inner selves, and after that, we’re OK and ready to face the world. This reminds me- once, I hugged my oh-so-tall son on the street, before sending him back (as he isn’t living with me). I haven’t seen him for the longest time and I missed him. I heard from a passer-by, surprisingly, a child, commenting that it’s very, very bad to have a relationship with a much younger guy di ba mommy? To which the mommy said, yes indeed it’s evil blah blah blah. Bayanihan can also be about not going into wholesale judgment about a person until you know all the facts.

Community is not built arguing about it in courtrooms or lecturing about it in the classrooms. We know most everything about it anyway. We just have to do. The Catholic Church (instead of joining in the rah-rah-rah which mostly rings hollow anyway) has a key role in inculcating this in Catholics through it’s Basic Ecclesial Communities. In the barangays, there’s the day care for young children, which, by the way, needs major upgrade in infrastructure and service. There’s also the barangay health center for psychosocial needs of families, which is also in need of overhaul. These, and several more, are facilities being paid for by taxpayers and to be taken advantage of therefore.

Muslim Moro in a modernizing Philippine society

But Islam, like other religions, has also known periods when it inspired in some of its followers a mood of hatred and violence. It is our misfortune that we have to confront part of the Muslim world while it is going through such a period, and when most—though by no means all—of that hatred is directed against us.

Why? We should not exaggerate the dimensions of the problem. The Muslim world is far from unanimous in its rejection of the West, nor have the Muslim regions of the Third World been alone in their hostility. There are still significant numbers, in some quarters perhaps a majority, of Muslims with whom we share certain basic cultural and moral, social and political beliefs and aspirations; there is still a significant Western presence—cultural, economic, diplomatic—in Muslim lands, some of which are Western allies.

Is Islam, whether fundamentalist or other, a threat…? To this simple question, various simple answers have been given, and as is the way of simple answers, they are mostly misleading.

(There are those for which) there is no way but war to the death, in fulfillment of what they see as the commandments of their faith. There are others who, while remaining committed Muslims and well aware of the flaws of modern Western society, nevertheless also see its merits—its inquiring spirit, which produced modern science and technology; its concern for freedom, which created modern democratic government. These, while retaining their own beliefs and their own culture, seek to join us in reaching toward a freer and better world. There are some again who, while seeing the West as their ultimate enemy and as the source of all evil, are nevertheless aware of its power, and seek some temporary accommodation in order better to prepare for the final struggle. We would be wise not to confuse the second and the third.

– Bernard Lewis, The Crisis of Islam: Holy War and Unholy Terror

These, too, were my discovery in the time I’ve spent in southern Mindanao. The realization that the Moro Muslim society, contrary to the image formed by media, is not homogenous, and that it is also wrestling with the winds of change threatening it’s culture and faith, dawned on me while I was listening in on a seminar session.

We were waiting for the session’s resource speaker as he was an interviewee in the study my friend who I’d been visiting in the City was undertaking for an organization. With the way the speaker’s assistant assured us, we thought it’d only take, maybe, half an hour to wait. We ended up waiting for three hours, more or less. When we took our seats at the back and had adequate time to survey our surroundings, the sea of mostly black traditional Muslim clothing among the women and white among the men many of whom, I recognized, are ulema, hit us. My friend and I were the only non-Muslim in there. My friend suggested we wait outside. But I reassured her we’d be fine right where we were, besides the session seemed interesting. My friend whipped out her smartphone and focused on it the entire time. I listened.

They were speaking in the Maranao dialect. Previously, for some weeks already, I’d been exposed to the Iranun dialect (it’s said the root of all Moro dialects is the Iranun) and became acquainted with the meaning of their words, thus I wasn’t exactly a fish out of the water among the seminar participants. Otherwise, you can say I can sense the meaning of foreign words and phrases (in contrast to having learned them) which is similar to people who could, say, smell their way around. The Iranuns laughed when I told them “I just know” after I “guessed” a conversation correctly.

The session entailed participants to present skits of Moro life in Marawi City prior to and during the armed crisis, and afterward, the audience provided their feedback, and the ulema elevated further in terms of implications on their faith.  The portrayals were honest, laugh out loud humorous, and to me, enlightening. They were stories of dirty politics, arms, drugs, and families dealing with parental imposition of careers onto their children (promising them kilometer-long tarpaulins to publicly extol their graduation and board or bar passing), homosexuality, displacement, etcetera. As I said, the presentations were done to humor but for fear that I’d be seen as a non-Muslim laughing at Muslims I tried to trap my laughter inside my chest. The three-hour wait was worth it and serendipitous for me.

Moro Muslims face the same issues that hound modern societies such as those by mainstream Filipinos, but that their religion and cultures  (13 tribes comprise the Moro people, meaning they don’t always see eye to eye) render these issues in different light which in effect means their interpretations of them hence how they deal with them is different. Just as Christians see the world and life from the perspective of Christian teachings so do Muslims, in varying degrees, from the perspective of Islam. Just as the Bisaya or Ilocano or Mangyan approach the world and life from their cultural heritage, so do the different Moro tribes. Being a Moro doesn’t necessarily mean one is a Muslim (as there are the Lumads who also belong to the Moro group). But, otherwise, at the core, we all want the same thing:  a society that’s corruption-free, equal regard for all, equal opportunity for all, and such like. We just need to talk to each other more often.

This is what the media, being the first source of information of many Filipinos, need to correct in it’s language describing natives in the south. ‘Moro’ and ‘Muslim’ need to be unpacked to reveal their varied facets.

Where are the feminists?

If you’ve read the five-part Infidelity series by Aleatha Romig (author of Consequences), you’d see that the state of affairs, in as far as what’s hinted at amongst the pile of documents, between Commission on Elections Chair Juan Andres Bautista and ex-wife Patricia Cruz shares similarities with that of the series’ protagonist’ mother, Adelaide Montague and her second husband Alton Fitzgerald. One tale is fiction and the other not but both are windows to lives of women in high society.

Adelaide Montague, heiress of a tobacco empire in America’s South, was widowed young. She re-married according to family traditions, to what could only be summed up as a husband from hell. Her father though had a hand in it- his last will and testament lays out the role of his only heir, Adelaide, in the Montague wealth: the company will only go to her if and when she marries, and when she does, it’s the husband who manages her share of the stock and runs the corporation. That, in the wrong hands, spells oppression for the female heir, and in Alton’s, that’s what happened. Their affairs get messier and messier until finally the husband’s deeds catch up with him which is the only time things start to get better for the wife. But not before the husband accuses the wife of insanity and locks her away in an institution. Adelaide’s daughter, the protagonist in the story, who’s busy establishing her way in the world on her own terms, steps in to facilitate her mother’s escape.

I’ll stop there. What I’m pointing at here is, where are the feminists? Where are the women who show to the world with the words on their clothing that they are feminists? They have been strangely quiet since Day One of the Andres and Patricia press conferences.

feminist tshirt

I watched the replay of Patricia’s interview in Headstart. It’s disheartening to hear the anchor, a woman, telling Patricia “clearly, you’re out of your league here.”

What do we call first time mothers when they carried their unborn for a good nine months? when they birthed their first children? when they handled their first family budgets, opened and managed their first joint/family accounts?
Some time last year, in one of the training sessions on LGBTQI, everybody was asked to get up and dance to One Billion Rising. I didn’t get up. I was sure that when shit does hit the fan no woman in that hall would come to, for example, my aid. What is the use of dancing to something that one doesn’t have the guts to fulfill in reality? I hate hypocrisy. I was protesting that.

More recently, after an interview with a civil servant that spilled over into lunch hour, I asked my companions, one of them the head of an NGO, if Muslim women also went to pray because it seemed to me it’s the men who were always rushing to the mosques. It was Ramadan.

“Women go,” the NGO head said, “only that inside the mosque they stay behind the men.”

“Why is that?” I asked.

“Well, it has something to do with men avoiding temptation,” he said.

I laughed. Then I said, “You know, that’s the thing. Men think it’s the women who are the temptation. But what about the torture they put women through when men are the ones in front? Women are also distracted by the array of male bodies before them, who has got the more muscled back, firmer butt, toned legs. It’s the same thing.”

He looked at me and then laughed out loud. “I’ll tell them that,” he said.

“Please do,” I said.

I have a post here from several years ago about why women empowerment, women equality, feminism, etcetera haven’t come up to the level that women would’ve wanted: women are also the barrier. We continuously fail one another. When we call each other slut or bitch, it gives men an opening to do too. Behold the men. They don’t go calling one another slut, rather their word for each other is macho. A woman’s vagina and breasts do not have anything to do with understanding financial statements. Same with men- a man’s penis does not have anything to do with them being able to open multiple bank accounts. Our vocabulary shape our behavior.

So yes words spoken by one woman to another like “clearly you’re out of your league here” and “are you an adulterer just so the audience will be clarified” don’t help the sisterhood at all. Such undermine the previous and ongoing work of women for women. Media people, therefore, should study and understand their material for them to formulate intelligent questions and thoughts in order to present an angle that, if the material involves women, supports the sisterhood’s long-time campaign for equality.

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.

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.

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.

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.

“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.