A reckoning

Zero-based budgeting is a management practice that was introduced and popularized by Peter Pyhrr in the 1970s.

Most budgeting processes – especially in large firms – are based on questions of whether a particular department or function will get more or less money than they did the previous year.

Managers will use last year as a baseline and argue for where they think they should get more, or haggle with their boss and the finance department if they’re told they’ll get less.

Zero-based budgeting (ZBB) asks everyone to start afresh each budget period, and so managers must build up all of their costs for the next period and submit that as their budget. It can help finance teams and the managers they work with take a fresh and comprehensive look at how funds are used and reallocate resources to the most profitable activities.

Indeed, US presidential hopeful and former Hewlett-Packard CEO, Carly Fiorina suggests the US administration adopt ZBB .

Myth #2: ZBB budget cycles are excruciatingly long

The truth: ZBB is fundamentally designed to force managers to think hard about how to fund every function or every program within his or her control, and then document, analyze, and prioritize which ones will get funding and which ones will not.

So ZBB should take significantly longer than the traditional approach. But not according to CEB data: the average traditional budget cycle time is 69 working days, and ZBB is just marginally longer at 74 working days.

Myth #3: ZBB is a budgeting approach

The truth: ZBB is a more of a mindset than a process. Companies that are best at managing ZBB set a strong tone from the top that this is a shift in strategy versus an introduction of a new process. A zero-based mentality must permeate the day-to-day conversations that finance teams have with business partners, and that business partners have amongst themselves.

3 Myths of Zero-Based Budgeting, Gartner Inc.

Congress may have unwittingly introduced ZBB in government budgeting, starting with the CHR, ERC, and NCIP, with PHP1,000 each. This is consistent with the past administration’s financial reform of performance-based incentives among goverment employees: poor or no performance, no incentive. It’s just fair. Plus, ZBB does away with politically-motivated “priority lists”.

With CHR, one can see that, in going over it’s functions, it’s work on the following, for example, has not translated into significant change:

  1. Exercise visitorial powers over jails, prisons, or detention facilities;
  2. Establish a continuing program of research, education, and information to enhance respect for the primacy of human rights;
  3. Recommend to Congress effective measures to promote human rights and to provide for compensation to victims of violations of human rights, or their families.

The state of jails all over the country will break anyone’s heart. They are no place for humans. What has CHR been doing to facilitate change in this? We don’t see any third party reports.

National broadcast media have been indiscriminately showing to the public, practically anyone with a TV and internet connection, video recordings of CCTVs to bone up their news about who they report as crimimals. This is illegal, the very basis of anti-CCTV arguments because it intrudes on the right to privacy and protection from judgment without proper and fair trial. What is even more disturbing is how were they given access to the recordings, and why did owners of the CCTV system in the Metro think they’re doing the public a good turn by giving access to citizens’ data to third parties? But, above all, despite these disturbing practices there has been no word, admonition to the media companies, from CHR.

And, instead of joining members of Congress in hurling accusations left and right which they have no intention of following up in court, inadvertently revealing that the accusations are only meant to rile up public sentiments, the public has not heard news about CHR recommending, in a non-combative stance, effective policy measures to promote human rights in the country as a result of research it regularly undertakes.

I’ve read CHR reports for Philippines, publicly available on the UN site, and most in them are motherhood statements that are too-associated with campaigns pushed by personalities. came by it’s 2016 report in which there’s this statement

The government generally respected the privacy of its citizens, although leaders of communist and leftist organizations and rural-based NGOs alleged routine surveillance and harassment.

My god. We’re not a communist country so of course groups that are a threat to a republic will be routinely surveilled. What does CHR want? For this nation to give up a hard-earned republic? CHR people need to remember that for every right acted on, a corresponding right is withheld. By protecting the right of communist groups to take to the streets, you deprive the right of democracy-loving citizens of security. Where does CHR stand, with the voice of communism or of democracy? In any case, I was looking for a human rights-based analysis in the reports. Let’s take the right to basic education. The quality standards of this right include, quality, access, and availability.  How is the quality of teaching, learning materials, school infrastructures, and the like? To what extent are school-aged children have access to schools? To what extent are schools available to school-aged children? To what extent is DepEd allocating resources to uphold these standards?

As to IEC on human rights, they don’t show up unless invited (meaning,     expenses are paid for by the inviting party). This says so much about who their clientele are. What about the masses, the poor communities whose rights have long been overlooked and/or stepped upon? There have been no initiatives from CHR, for example, of launching a caravan of human rights educators and counselors traveling the entire year to every nook and corner unreached by electricity, television, radio, or telephone. If this will take them to rebel or guerilla lairs, well and good because these communities need to have a good shakeup around human rights issues. Christian missionaries, private citizens, were brave enough to take the road less travelled in order to educate communities not even government has reached. This should inspire CHR- to make it their mission to educate each and every Filipino on their human rights. But, none.

Same with the Energy Regulatory Commission (ERC). In 2005, ADB released it’s Sector Assistance Program Evaluation of ADB Assistance to Philippines Power Sector report from which the following risk assessment is lifted:

Fast forward to 12 years, now, the state of power facilities and supply lag behind ASEAN member-countries. The sector remain controlled by just a few the reason they are incentivized to dictate the price. And what has ERC done about this?

Lastly, what is this PHP1Billion budget the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples (NCIP) wants from taxpayers? The Philippines is probably among the countries populated with multiple ethnic minorities. Cordillerans probably have a better deal, with each ethnic group having it’s own territorial land where they basically could practice their own unique culture and governance practices. Still fundamental issues common to IPs remain: titling, poverty, recognition of their language, beliefs, and practices, ownership to indigenous inventions eg. farming technology, seeds propagation, medicines, art, music, lierature. Of the latter, NCIP could have assisted the IP communities set up a kind of community savings from royalties received from use of patented inventions. But, none. Little is known about the IPs in this country and they remain misunderstood and hidden. If not for a private individual who popularized “carrot man” many Filipinos would’ve remained ignorant of the “normal” features of “carrot people”.

So, yes, PHP1,000…until these agencies come up with the one critical thing they will do this year and show results for. 

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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.

On the alleged PNP killings of young people 

change quote

The killings of two young people, Kian and Carlos, remind me of an incident in a City in Mindanao that involved young people mostly minors who protested, on the day the President delivered his SONA, the extension of martial law in the region. We learned about it directly from two young people.

Their group, around 30 in all, were not several minutes at a spot on the main street with their placards when police came and hauled them into the waiting police vehicles (there were some in the group who were able to get away unobtrusively which caused the rest of the group to, later, accused them privately because “didn’t we say that we’d stick together no matter what?”). They were brought to the central precinct and held up there for almost four hours.

In the precinct, the police (except for one who they said treated them humanely) proceeded to verbally harass them, pressing them to own up “c’mon, who”s really behind this protest?” Media people were there but were basically useless. This treatment stopped when, first, somebody, a City resident who’s on the government’s peace panel, arrived to assist the youth group, and soon after, the lawyer for the youth group whose presence earned them their release.

The two young people had been recounting this to us in a light and humorous manner. In fact we laughed at some of their accounts while the head of my host organization interspersed the air with “congratulations!” He meant it as compliment for them being able to come out of that first experience in relatively good spirits. Still the young people’s group concluded it was the President’s mandate, that he was going against his own assurances of non-abuse during martial law.

Me, I was busy thinking. I was bothered and piqued that those policemen dared to act out of character to what no less than the President constantly reminds them to be especially during martial law. I probed the two young people further. I learned that the order to round up protesters on that particular day, the SONA, emanated locally, from the LGU, which purportedly didn’t want potential PR disasters in their backyard on such a day. A blanket official backing is cover that could justify the means, means that national government, the Office of the President or the PNP, may not be privy to. There were no similar orders from the LGUs in other areas. which points to discretion.

This is what I’m reminded of with Kian’s and Carlos’ death, the politicians’ and media people’s knee-jerk reaction, convinced as if they’ve all witnessed each and every incident first hand, as to who is behind the deaths: the President. A very dangerous and damaging thought considering

(1) the CCTV recording of what clearly are the backs of, was that, a couple of men, accosting, what appears as a younger man, is not conclusive. One wonders where the story of cops dragging someone named Kian blah blah blah popped out from. Anybody with clear vision and a brain will tell you it sure does not come from that recording;

(2) Senator Hontiveros appearing on the scene to take away the witnesses in order to protect them herself along with “another institution” promising “they’ll appear in Congress at the right time” is highly questionable, given that there are their families, the Barangay LGU, and the local social welfare office as the proper custodians. Next, we see the Senator at the Senate grilling the PNP, pressuring them to own up to their policy to kill indiscriminately, the authority coming from the President. In any case, my God, even if it was true, who is dumb enough to own up to something that’ll put your own head on the block? 

(3) the female witness who appeared in Congress has material information missing in her account, that anybody with a brain could tell. Materially incomplete accounts do more harm than good, as, one, people who are watching or listening are propelled toward wrong conclusions. 

Nothing therefore of what the politicians and media people said since the death of the teenager named Kian made sense. Who is to tell it was actually 10 men and 4 women (remember, the recording only shows the edge of the dragging scene such that there could be more than what appears on screen), two of whom were in police uniform the lucky ones caught on screen, who accosted a teen named Gian after a gang fight and brought him to a nearby alley where…in a corner they saw a dead body their age, which gave them such a scare they took off on all directions. What if that’s the true story of Kian, whose already dead body was found? Remember that reforms are like disturbing the mounds housing armies of red ants. 

On the other hand, what became clear out of these young people’s deaths are the relentless attempts to confuse the nation, to shake the people’s trust, to switch off the sunshine, to nail the country in perpetual third world mode, to usurp a legitimate Presidency. What’s even more disturbing is, this is not just in Duterte’s time, but true in past administrations as well. The first responders, citizens’ first line of defense, are the Barangay LGUs thus when residents get murdered in or abducted from their own villages the Barangay LGU is the first one accountable- what measures did they put up to make the alleys safe? to secure and protect residents? do they actually believe that CCTVs on every corner is enough? Citizens are working hard to pay their salaries but they, for instance, tanods couldn’t even put themselves in between residents and their attackers? Why are LGUs not called on the Senate hot seat? We’re moving in circles when it comes to failures of LGUs.

What is clear is, those behind these attempts are traitors, not only to the legitimate leader, but also to the republic. They’re just lucky that while the law is hostile to such acts, this government, unlike those in the rest of the world, tolerates treachery and treason. Real impunity is when people and institutions get away with words and actions that debase, divide, demoralize, and destabilize the nation and government rather than promote reflection and learning for reform and growth.

The people’s eardrums are near bursting from continously hearing of accusations against one individual, the President, Duterte and past ones, of human rights violations. What about institutionalized – politicians’ and civil servants’ compounded – violations of people’s human rights as a result of dirty politics and plain laziness?

What is clear is, no politician truly cares who or how a citizen dies as their bodies are mere playgrounds for political power.

body not political playground quote

In the end, ang kawawa, those essentially ripped off of respect and dignity, victimized many times over, used, are people like Kian, the families they left behind, as well as the witnesses dragged into the public eye who have had no access to proper legal procedures hence justice.

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.

On the plan to build a new Marawi City

Coordination for the City’s rehabilitation is said to be led by ADB and the World Bank. I don’t know what their terms of reference as lead coordinators entail but I’m sure Filipinos prefer to have a national body or institution in the lead. Marawi City is not just a city, it’s a heritage city (as Aleppo is in the Muslim world). For this reason alone, the City’s rehabilitation should be fronted by insiders. Planning and actual rehabilitation should involve or integrate input from City residents especially the Moro people. In fact, visioning exercises can already start now with the temporarily-displaced inside evacuation centers in Iligan City and elsewhere, for them to also get their minds off despair and on productive and hopeful thoughts. Peace-building could be embedded as a strategy into the rehabilitation which should bring to the table the GOP, MNLF, MILF, civil society, private sector, and urban planning experts. This project could be implemented as a pilot project to test the operational workability of the Bangsamoro Basic Law (rather than have Congress again bore citizens to death by arguing theoretically whether or not BBL works).

On Headstart, in June, I watched the interview with Senator Gordon about the plan to rebuild Marawi City. He said that a tourism hub is what comes to his mind. This is the thing, whether or not Marawi will become a tourism city should be an offshoot of the planning process with City residents not what politicians want. Says who? you might ask. Says lessons learned.

I’m really excited for the rebuilding of Marawi City. When I told my host organization I’m interested to take part in it, they exclaimed “are you planning on committing suicide?” I didn’t expect the reaction. But my primary motive is, I’d like to put my urban management knowledge into practice, to help ensure that the foundation of the rehab plan is anchored on input from locals/residents. It’d be similar to an architect or interior designer getting the clients’ vision of their dream house and giving expert suggestions as to the best way to put the dream together and then render that on paper and eventually onto the actual space. In other words, to transpose this creative process – collab – in planning the new Marawi City (in contrast with the usual practice of urban planning in this country which is developer-led or largely the playground of real estate developers which does nothing to bridge the gaping divide between the haves and have-nots of this country).

It is said “war in Mindanao is a business” the reason why conflict is sustained which benefits the architects and actors of such a business. It is also the reason why Mindanaoans in general are wary and distrusting of external initiatives that promise peace and stability. Sincerity is needed, for once, and the opportunity to demonstrate that has presented itself once again this time in Marawi City. Let’s not lose it (like we did with Tacloban City post-Haiyan).

war torn city via livejournal

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.

“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