Monthly Archives: August 2006

Refugee nation

According to the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, “more people are now forced to leave their homes because of environmental disasters than war.” In fact, more than 25 million people in different parts of the world are now classified as being environmental refugees.

An environmental refugee or to be more accurate, a climate refugee is defined as a “displaced person caused by climate change induced by environmental disasters. Such disasters result from both incremental and rapid ecological change and disruption that include increased droughts, desertification, sea level rise, and the more frequent occurrence of extreme weather events such as hurricanes, cyclones, flooding and tornados.”

Meanwhile, internally displaced persons are “persons groups of persons who have been forced or obliged to flee or to leave their homes or places of habitual residence, in particular as a result of or in order to avoid the effects of armed conflict, situations of generalized violence, violations of human rights or natural or human-made disasters, and who have not crossed an internationally recognized state border."

What is unique and alarming in the Philippines is the growing number of environmental refugees and internally displaced persons caused by environmental disasters and armed conflict.

Flooding and landslides remain the most common natural disasters in the country. This will worsen each year if mountains continue to be denuded.

Last January, 7,000 families were evacuated to safer grounds due to heavy rain in eastern sections of Luzon and Visayas. Three weeks ago, 3,500 families were evacuated after floods caused by heavy rains inundated 10 villages in Lanao del Norte. From January to June 2006, there were seven major disasters and 15 minor disasters in the Davao region. Of the major incidents, six were flood incidents and one landslide incident.

Early this year, the landslide in Southern Leyte caused the evacuation of more than 3,314 residents. Ten persons were reported missing after a landslide in Barangay Balacbac in Buyog, Zamboanga del Sur. More than 172 families lost their properties due to landslide in Tarragona, Davao Oriental in February.

The bad news is that the government has identified an additional 1,500 areas as geo-hazardous.

Threats of major volcanic eruptions are also displacing residents. More than 2,027 residents near Mt. Bulusan were forced to flee their homes. Mt. Mayon’s mild eruption caused the evacuation of 43, 725 residents.

The Rapu-rapu mining disaster damaged creeks, marine sanctuaries and fishing grounds which sustain life in coastal towns near the area. The historic Biak na Bato is now a mining and quarry paradise. It is feared there will be more mining disasters since the government has allowed foreigners to extract and exploit the country’s mineral wealth.

The Guimaras oil spill, Philippines’ worst marine disaster, affected the tourism industry and economy of Western Visayas. More than 40,000 fisherfolks are now without stable livelihood.

There is no central tally of internal refugees in the country but more people are reported to have left their homes caused by militarization in the countryside. The all-out war policy of the government empowered the military and police to accost civilians suspected of sympathizing with the communist rebels.

According to conservative estimates by human rights groups, 75 families in Bulacan and 77 families in Zambales are now classified as internal refugees.

We have yet to determine the number of refugees in other areas, especially in Mindanao where infighting between government troops and Muslim separatists continue to this day.

Even infrastructure projects are displacing families. The Northrail project forced the evacuation of more than 20,000 families in north Luzon.

Senator Franklin Drilon laments that every time a disaster occurs, government reaction has always been to seek assistance from other countries. We seem to lack the manpower, skills, resources, preparation and technology to deal with calamities yet we know that natural disasters are frequent in this past of the world.

We should prevent more people from becoming environmental refugees by implementing a comprehensive and sustainable program to protect our environment. We need more than just green highways. We need green mountains and clear waters.

We should seek to stop the massive deployment of troops in barangays which causes people to flee their homes. Every citizen must feel secure in their own private abode. After all, it is illegal for State agents to barge inside our houses without an order from the Court.

We are a proud nation. We produce beauty queens, boxing champs, supermaids and honest taxi drivers. But we seem to have barely noticed that we are slowly becoming a refugee nation.

Our predicament is not just how to discourage our people from leaving the country. Another dilemma is how to stop our people from becoming refugees in their own land.

Related entries:

Disaster preparedness. Kulang na kulang.
Super nation. Enchanted kingdom.
Total war. Private grief.

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Undergrad adventures

A college professor once threatened to flunk students who will cite the works of Inquirer columnist Ambeth Ocampo in their research papers. According to the lady professor, (aww, is this a giveaway clue?) Mr. Ocampo is a pseudo-historian and mere gossiper.

But the writings of Ocampo were important to me. I became more interested in history and Philippine culture by reading Ocampo’s essays when I was in high school. I even gave my teacher a copy of Ocampo’s book, “Looking Back”, so that it may be endorsed to other students.

Ocampo can delight readers without trivializing history. He does not just provide boring facts; he narrates amusing stories. Ocampo supplements what our textbooks failed to tell us like Bonifacio’s bank accounts, Aguinaldo’s breakfast, Quezon’s fart, prewar lovers’ guide and controversies in Philippine historiography.

I remember reading an article of Ocampo about the essence of independence and he pondered whether we are really free despite the strong influence of foreign institutions in our land. That was the first time I understood neocolonialism.

In another article, he wrote:

“A Filipino invented the yoyo centuries ago, but it took an American company to develop it and make money out of it…Today, they still do the same thing. They take our natural resources, even our people, to make their country rich. When will we ever wake up?”

Ocampo’s interview with Austin Coates influenced me to buy the latter’s book on Jose Rizal which turned out to be the best biography of our national hero. Still, Ocampo’s own book on Rizal is a must-read for all students of history.

During my freshman year in college, I was curious to read the works of Teodoro Agoncillo since Ocampo wrote so many fascinating articles about this great historian. Reading Agoncillo led me to appreciate the works of other nationalist scholars like Cesar Adib Majul and Renato Constantino. Agoncillo, who was also known in the field of literature, inspired me as well to study the writings of his contemporaries or colleagues like Alejandro Abadilla, Lope K. Santos, Macario Pineda and Lazaro Francisco.

Jose Maria Sison was just a strange political figure to me until I read an article by Ocampo about this legendary communist leader.

Another example on how much I believed in Ocampo: I once insisted to my professor that I would not use the word ‘bibliography’ in my term paper since I agreed with Ocampo who wrote about the dishonesty of not a few scholars who cite so many books and articles which they haven’t read in the bibliography of their papers.

Related entries:

Undergrad notes. Maganda pa ang daigdig.
Book hunt. Best bookshops.
Silang mga nasa komunidad. Community schools.
Aguinaldo and Imelda. Ano ang ugnayan?

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Thanks to MLQ3 and Newsstand for the link on the Washington Post article about the July 7 youth rally in Mendiola.

Guimaras oil spill and HB 4363

Extra-judicial killings in the Philippines, my blog entry for Global Voices Online.

Last December, a rupture in a NAPOCOR barge released 220,000 liters of bunker fuel in the waters of Semirara, Antique which destroyed 113 hectares of mangrove area and 40 sq. kilometers of marine life. It reportedly cost the government 80 million pesos to clean up the mess.

It was the worst oil spill in the country’s history. Two weeks ago, it was surpassed by the Guimaras tragedy.

The beautiful island of Guimaras known for its export-quality mangoes and pristine beaches is under state of calamity. More than 26,000 people who depend on fishing suddenly lost their livelihood after tanker MT Solar 1, chartered by Petron, sank in 3,000 ft of water with some two million liters of industrial fuel.

Some 50,000 gallons of oil leaked from the tanker which still lies 900 meters underwater. This has already polluted 20 barangays covering 220 km of coastline and destroyed 454 hectares of mangroves and 58 hectares of seaweed farms in Guimaras.

The slick is threatening nearby islands, especially Panay.

Local government officials have already appealed for foreign assistance. Environmentalists immediately conducted an assessment of the affected areas. Petron vowed to assist the province “as long as necessary.” The Department of Environment and Natural Resources is investigating the incident.

Some questions need quick and precise answers: After the Semirara oil spill, were there new standards or policies implemented to prevent this kind of accident? Is Petron liable for contracting Solar 1 which is deemed to be obsolete and unfit to transport oil?

Senator Jamby Madrigal is set to file a bill that would ban oil tankers in protected marine sites. Ships carrying hazardous materials like oil would also be mandated to be double-hulled.

The Senate is also encouraged to tackle a bill passed by the House of Representatives last November of 2005: HB 4363 or an Act providing for the implementation of the provisions of the 1992 International Convention on Civil Liability for oil pollution damage and the 1992 International Convention on the establishment of an international fund for compensation for oil pollution damage.

This bill, if passed into law, would require all ships registered in the country “to maintain insurance or other financial security for pollution damage.” It would also define the liability of ship owners for any pollution damage caused by the ship. An Oil Pollution Management Fund will also be established to be used primarily for the “containment, removal and clean-up operations in all oil pollution cases.”

This is a bad year for Philippine marine ecosystem. We ask lawmakers to pass laws that would protect the environment. If they can quickly abolish the death penalty law, can they also expedite the legislation of an environment measure that would preserve life?

We ask authorities to prosecute and punish environment-wreckers. We also ask guilty parties to provide livelihood for the fisherfolks of Western Visayas, particularly in Antique and Guimaras.

Related entries:

Preserve mineral wealth. Ubos na timber natin eh.
Travelogue. Landslide sa Luzon.

Queen of the House

Impeaching the Philippine President, my blog entry for Global Voices Online. Alien alien or a discussion on the US Immigration reform bill is my Tinig column….

She goes to the House of Representatives everyday. She is secretary to a member of Philippine Congress. But she is not an ordinary employee of the House. She has seven grandchildren and is only 81 years old.

In the 1960s, she was a committee secretary. When Martial Law was declared, Congress was abolished and she was forced to retire after 20 years of government service. In the early 1980s, she worked again in Batasang Pambansa until President Cory Aquino dissolved it in 1986. In 1998, she was hired by her former boss to work again in the House of Reperesenatives.

If Charter Change will push through and Congress will be revamped again, that will be the third time this lady ‘survivor’ will lose her job as an employee of Philippine Congress.

Well, she is not really part of the payroll of the House (since she is already beyond retirement age) but she is as hardworking if not more intelligent than the young office workers in Congress.

If other employees use their lunch break to sleep or watch noontime shows, this veteran worker solves crossword puzzles. She finds local puzzles too easy so she asks her children abroad to send the more difficult ones.

She once tasted the boredom of retirement that is why she immediately grabbed the opportunity to work again when her old job was offered to her. But this iconic government worker discouraged her children to apply for a job in government. She feared they would not have the stamina to appreciate corrupt and shallow politicians.

She is bewildered that members of Congress are not prepared in most committee hearings. She recalls that during Cesar Virata’s time, committee hearings are brief but productive since everybody has read th pending bills and resolutions. Those who were not punctual will be reprimanded.

She thinks House committees are overstaffed. She is disappointed that there are many incompetent employees. During her time, she was alone in the committee. She handled everything from preparing voluminous paperworks, briefing lawmakers and overseeing committee hearings. She performed her duties without the help of computers, photocopy machines, cellphones and the internet. Her work may be described as outstanding since she will not be hired many times if her output and work ethics were inferior.

She echoes the resentment of the Lower House against the Senate since the latter continues to ignore a bill which she thinks would have resolved or prevented the Guimaras oil spill.

Successful senior citizens, especially those 80 and above, inspire many young people. Eddie Garcia may be regarded as the real king of Philippine movies. Juan Ponce Enrile is the guru of politicians (not to mention coup plotters). Bishop Julio Labayen represents the section of the clergy who aspires, prays and works for social change.

Let me add the 81 year old employee of the House of Representatives to the list of the most active senior citizens of the country. She is indeed the queen of the House.

Related entries:

Grand Old Man. Guingona.
Interview with the Pinoy Vampires. Congress.
Deodorant boys. Spice boys noon.
Hello Garci and Dovie Beams. Parehong scandal.

Terror in the city

First, British Intelligence revealed they uncovered a terrorist plot to bomb transatlantic airlines. Then, the world reacted as if a terrorist attack took place. Arrests were made in the United Kingdom and Pakistan but we have yet to see the suspects believed to be al-Queda members. In the name of public security, flights were delayed and cancelled at the Heathrow airport. Hand luggage and liquid substance were banned. Perhaps air travel would never be the same again.

Indeed, the world was never the same after the 9/11 World Trade Center attack. Before 2001, a mere plot to bomb an airline would not cause serious panic among government agencies. It was not possible to drastically alter flight schedules since the public would be in uproar. 9/11 changed our attitudes and our perception on terrorism.

As expected the London terror plot had global repercussions. In the Philippines, stringent security measures in all ports were implemented. Officials also warned the public that terrorists may strike LRT/MRT. The administration even used the London terror plot to appeal for the immediate passage of the controversial anti-terrorism bill.

The problem with this ‘war on terrorism’ is that it tries to unite the people against the kind terrorism depicted by mainstream media and the State. The public seems to be unaware or has failed to recognize the terrorism sanctioned by the State.

We knew the ‘evil intentions’ of the al-Queda network but what about the diabolical motives of the US empire? Hezbollah is a terrorist political party which intends to destroy the Israel State but what do you call George Bush’s Republican party which massacred Iraq? The NPA is labeled as communist-terrorist organization while the military is praised for defending democracy by head-butting citizens who do not have community tax certificates.

State-sanctioned terrorism is the bigger problem in the country, and perhaps elsewhere too. The London terror plot must not distract us from also challenging the violence inflicted by ruling political parties on its citizens.

Eradicating terrorism in the Philippines is a task of every Filipino. But legislating an anti-terror measure is merely palliative. In fact, we doubt if it can really deter terrorism. Senator Pimentel was correct. He opined that the only way the anti-terror bill would be acceptable is when political killings would also stop.

Suicide bombing or kidnapping of soldiers are not the only terrorist acts. Killing innocent civilians, abducting dissenters, torture and hamletting of villages must be described as terrorist attacks. If the military and police are accused of human rights violations, then steps must be taken to investigate, prosecute and punish the guilty terrorists.

If the government wants to locate all terrorists in the country, it is not enough to guard all entry points in the archipelago or to haunt the rebels in the hills. Another way to speed up its campaign is to search for terrorists in the barracks.

Related entries:

Total war, private grief. Bakit tinutugis ang natdem
Killing fields. Nadadamay ang inosente.
Who’s afraid of the Left? Ang militar.

iMonitor

Impeachment notes: I’m encouraging foreign students who are here to learn english to attend theimpeachment proceedings next week. Our lawmakers are giving free (but awful) lectures on this topic. Last Tuesday, Rep. Edcel Lagman defined a transitive verb. In the process, he associated the word referral with receipt. Last year, the impeachment case was quashed. This year, it was jettisoned. Rep. Cagas bolstered his argument by citing an article from Reader’s Digest. Rep. Macarambon became like a mad dog when Rep. Plaza used the word ‘involved’ in his manifestation over the inhibition of lawmakers whose names are included in the COA report about the fertilizer scam. Rep. Macarambon may have forgotten that he himself used the word ‘implicated’ just moments before Rep. Plaza spoke.

The article below was written last year. I hope there would be no need to to republish this piece next year….

Tulad noong taong 2000, abala ang mga estudyante ngayon sa pagbabantay ng impeachment proceeding sa Kongreso. Inilunsad kamakailan ang iMonitor o Impeachment Monitor sa mga eskuwelahan upang maging sentruhan ng impormasyon tungkol sa nangyayari sa Kongreso at anunsiyo ng mga pagkilos para bantayan ang inihaing kaso laban sa Pangulo.

Makikita sa mga booth ng iMonitor ang impeachment complaint, polyeto, pin, white ribbon, stiker, poster, Hello Garci CD at iba pang materyal na kaugnay ng kampanyang patalsikin si PGMA. Mayroon ding lingguhang newsletter na ipamimigay upang mag-ulat kung ano na ang sitwasyon ng impeachment. May talaan din ng pangalan ng mga mambabatas na pabor sa impeachment at yung mga todong himod-puwet kay PGMA.

Maaari ding kumuha ng sample letter para sa mga mambabatas upang himukin sila na suportahan ang pagsulong ng impeachment. May mga klase na nag-aayos ngayon ng field trip papunta sa Batasan para masaksihan mismo ng Kongreso na matiyagang nagbabantay ang mga estudyante.

Marami ang nagsasabi na pakikinggan ng Kongreso ang boses ng kabataan. At sinisikap nga natin na tipunin ang inisyatiba ng mga kabataan upang malakas na maiparating ang ating mensahe. Gusto nating basagin ang pananahimik ng ibang estudyante sa isyu at makasama ang mga ayaw sa rali pero naniniwala sa impeachment.

Kinikilala natin na ang pagtatayo ng iMonitor center sa mga eskuwelahan ay kumakaharap ng pagtutol mula sa administrasyon ng maraming pamantasan at malamig na pagtanggap ng ilang lider-estudyante.

Wala itong pinag-iba sa karanasan natin noong 2000. Nagsimula tayo na kaunti lamang ang naniniwala sa pagbabantay ng impeachment pero malaon ay sinuportahan ito ng marami upang hindi lutuin ng Kongreso ang kaso.

Nakakalungkot nga lang na hanggang ngayon ay buhay na buhay pa rin ang red-baiting sa mga pamantasan. Marami rin ang may maliit na pagpapahalaga sa mga mapangahas at mapanlikhang pagkilos. O kaya ang paggigiit na ang mga rali ay labag sa batas, magulo, madugo at walang naidudulot na mabuti.

Sa kabila nito’y nagpapatuloy ang pagkausap sa mga mag-aaral, galit o hindi kay PGMA. Kinakausap din ang mga hindi raw kakampi at kaaway ni PGMA pero gusto lang masunod ang Konstitusyon at tamang proseso.

Iba’t-ibang paraan ang ginagawa upang makabig ang maraming estudyante na suportahan ang panawagang bumaba ng puwesto si PGMA. Pero gusto nating huwag kalimutan na hindi magtatagumpay ang anumang inihaing impeachment ng mga pinakamatalinong abogado’t mambabatas kung walang pamumuwersang gagawin ang mamamayan. Kailangang impluwensiyahan ng publiko ang desisyon ng Kongreso. Kailangang iparamdam na tayo’y nagmamasid at malapit ng mapatid ang pasensiya.

Naniniwala ako na higit pa sa pagtalima sa nasusulat sa Konstitusyon ay ang paggalang sa boses ng mamamayan at ang karapatan nitong mag-alis ng lider sa paraang gugustuhin nito.

Related entries:

Forget the next elections. Matapos katayin ang impeachment.
Deodeorant boys. Sina Zubiri, et al.
Interview with the Pinoy Vampires. Kongreso.

From strong republic to super nation

Disclaimer: Somebody used my name and the URL of my weblog in posting a (pathetic) comment in Schumey’s blog. What bothers me is that this transgression can be repeated. I was lucky the last time because I was immediately notified by Schumey (Thank you po). What was the motive in impersonating me? Was it an honest mistake or a deliberate attempt to foment animosity with other bloggers? On the other hand, my resentment is tempered by a realization that the crime committed can be excused as trivial compared to what is being done against my comrades in the provinces. “What can’t kill you can only make you stronger,” – I’m still alive and I can reclaim my identity. But how about my comrades who were silenced forever?…

Bishop bloggers of the Philippines is my blog entry for Global Voices Online….

What happened to the Strong Republic mantra of the government? Since 2002, it was the battlecry of all government agencies. It was also the campaign theme of President Gloria Arroyo in the 2004 elections.

Its objectives were to focus on reform initiatives and implement a coherent action plan that would build up our institutions’ capacities. It covered six sectoral concerns, namely, poverty alleviation, environment and natural resources, economy and infrastructure, political stability and national unity, good governance and international relations.

Since last year, when Mrs. Arroyo endorsed the charter change proposal, it seems the Strong Republic project has been abandoned already. No public official was to echo again the commitments and vision of the Strong Republic.

During President Ramos’ time, the entire machinery of the State promoted Philippines 2000 – the ambitious plan to achieve the ‘newly industrialized country’ status before the end of the millennium. Of course this project was a failure. But at least it was something concrete which the public supported (or rejected) throughout the term of Mr. Ramos. It allowed many people to identify with this drive to make the Philippines a prosperous and industrialized nation by year 2000.

It is imperative that every government inspires the people on what it aims to fulfill. The Strong Republic, though flawed in many aspects like the Philippines 2000, had this opportunity to unite the people and provide guidance to all civil servants. The surprisingly quiet demise of the Strong Republic meant that it has yet to be understood and appreciated by the public.

The shift towards charter change may be a survival strategy of President Arroyo who is facing allegations of electoral fraud and corruption.

Recently, Mrs. Arroyo heralded us with her dream of bringing the Philippines into the ‘enchanted kingdom’ before the year 2020. During that time, we thought the President was just being poetic. But on her state of the nation address, she charmed the crowd with her plan to create super regions in the country. Then, a few days ago, the President vowed to retrain the returning maids from Lebanon and transform them into ‘supermaids’ to be exported in other less dangerous countries.

What’s next? Super athletes, super charter change, super president, super congress, super Philippines?

Should we blame the speechwriters of the President who are obviously still overwhelmed by the movie ‘Superman Returns’? Or is this a proof of the debilitating influence of fantaserye shows in Philippine television? Is this the official policy of the State: talk whimsical, delight the crowd and avoid substantial issues?

From Strong Republic to super nation, this seems to be the story of the Philippines under the present leadership. The future is scary.

Related entries:

We are no different from Myanmar. Yabang natin sa ASEAN.
Mirror on the wall. Kakaibang government programs.
Sports for all. Hindi ako pro-FVR ha.

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Pictures during my stay in Gubat, Sorsogon.

Gloria and Cory

Josie Lichauco, the (un)embarrassed former maestra of Gloria Arroyo, delivered memorable soundbytes in the street Sona last July 24. Lichauco lampooned Arroyo as stupida and matigas ang ulo.

Indeed, Arroyo’s Sona at the Batasan proved that she is really stupida and matigas ang ulo. Arroyo stunned everybody when she personally lauded major general Jovito Palparan, the unrepentant military official who admitted in an ABC-5 documentary that yes, he may be responsible for the abduction, torture and killing of activists because of his “aggressiveness.”

The shocking endorsement for Palparan came after a wave of condemnation by powerful middle forces on Arroyo’s total war policy versus the national democrats.

In many editorial pieces of the Inquirer and opinion articles of its highly-esteemed columnists, Arroyo was criticized for launching an anti-insurgency campaign that relies on brute military force.

The Commission on Human Rights, Amnesty International, Catholic bishops, Vatican, the political Opposition and even anti-natdem segments of the Left rejected Arroyo’s all-out war campaign which harms and kills many innocent civilians.

But Arroyo is defiant. In her Sona, she disregarded the clamor for peace; instead, she vowed to intensify the war against the natdems.

Why is Arroyo so stupida and matigas ang ulo? Why acknowledge the brutal and inhuman ways of Palparan? Why is Arroyo not listening to her friends from the middle class?

Since last year, Arroyo has been compared to Marcos. Both cheated in the elections, stole peoples’ money and used the military to remain in power.

But I believe Arroyo also learned many things from Cory Aquino.

Aquino and Arroyo benefited from People Power uprisings. Both faced a restive military sector. Both enjoyed the backing of Church hierarchy. And most significantly, both unleashed a total war to crush the Reds.

Despite her image as paragon of virtue, Tita Cory’s human rights record is not exemplary. In fact, Arroyo’s death squads trace its origins in Aquino’s vigilantes. Cafgus were deployed in the provinces during Aquino’s term. Arroyo may claim to have decimated the most number of political activists; but Aquino can always boast that the biggest number of forced disappearances occurred during her term.

Arroyo is not afraid that she will suffer the same fate of Marcos. On the contrary, she is inspired by Aquino’s ploy: implement total war and violate human rights but still manage to be known as peace advocate and moral leader in the end.

Aquino’s war of annihilation against the Left is Arroyo’s blueprint in her anti-insurgency campaign. The following took place during Aquino’s term: Mendiola massacre, hamletting of peasant communities, killing of Partido ng Bayan members (Bayan Muna of the 80s), assassinating leaders of the Left (Lean Alejandro and Rolando Olalia), imprisonment of peace negotiators (Satur and wife Bobbie) and forcing elderly members of the natdem movement to go into exile in Europe.

Since Arroyo is inggitera (according to the late Sen. Raul Roco), her government adopted Aquino’s formula: Hacienda Luisita massacre, Palo Leyte massacre, militarization of the countryside, assassinating Leftist personalities (Sotero Llamas), persecution of Batasan 6 and scuttling of peace talks.

Perhaps Arroyo has been brainwashed by the military that when Aquino ended her term, the Left was already a weak political force. Perhaps Arroyo wants to replicate this feat by copying the total war approach.

Arroyo is advised to read the documents of the natdem movement so that she may know that the total war was ineffective in defeating local communism. Yes, the Left suffered major losses in 1986-1992, but not because of Aquino’s military campaign. The Left has already admitted that what weakened the Revolution were the many blunders it committed in the 1980s.

Friends of Aquino, Ramos and Estrada are correct when they remind Arroyo that reducing poverty is the best antidote in dealing with the insurgency. But what they failed to tell us is that no government has ever adopted this strategy. The shameful truth is that the military has effectively asserted in every regime its doctrine that killing all communist members and sympathizers is the only acceptable/logical method in defeating the Left.

Related entries:

GMA is next. Naunahan tayo ng Penguin Revolution.
Yes Virginia, landlords still rule the land. Hacienda Luisita massacre.
Losing the war. Bakit natatalo ang militar?

Txtpower

Reforming Philippine elections is my blog entry for Global Voices Online this week.

Seven years ago, you have to ‘beep’ a friend to greet him/her on his/her birthday. Texting was still an alien term to most Filipinos. A mobile phone was a luxury item. Seven years ago, who would have thought that texting would bring amazing changes in our lives….

First published in Yehey!

There was a news report on Filipino refugees in Lebanon who were rescued from their homes after they texted for help. It was also reported that some returning Overseas Filipino Workers (OFWs) who could not face reporters or the cameras were able narrate their ordeal through texting.

What do these reports tell us?

The use of mobile phones has become part of our life that it is no longer a simple tool of communication. We have maximized the use of this ‘wonder’ gadget which made it indispensable in our everyday lives.

We might not be the real ‘texting capital of the world’ but we can always boast that we send texts not just to greet or ask questions; we text for various interesting purposes which already astounded the world.

In 2001, texting facilitated the spontaneous gathering of people in EDSA. Before that, Erap text jokes became popular which further eroded support for the former President. Sending political text jokes on controversial personalities and events like Jose Pidal, FPJ, Juetengate and Gloriagate scandals became a national pastime. The ‘Hello Garci’ ringtone was among the most downloaded tunes last year.

Text jokes and ringtones for political goals? Impossible in other countries; but effective in the Philippines.

Even proposals to impose tax on texting or the registration of sim cards would not prosper since texters would always unite in texting legislators not to support the bills. Imagine just a fraction of the 30 million cell phone subscribers texting a lawmaker not to pass a certain legislative measure. This is not just lobbying in the 21st century, but also doing it the Filipino way.

Mobile phone companies have received accolade abroad for developing unique programs which allow users to send money through texting. These innovations benefited families of OFWs and local entrepreneurs.

Government offices answer queries through texting. Private companies provide customer support through texting as well. Schools announce important reminders through the help of texting. Scholars vow to renew interest in literature among the young people through competitions via texting. Media solicit instant feedback from the public through texting. Showbiz stars maintain contact with fans through the ubiquitous cell phone service we came to know as, well, texting.

From articulating a particular political viewpoint to recounting an agonizing life in another country, texting is already part of the modern Filipino culture. It was a catalyst in improving communication among Filipinos which altered the lives of millions of our countrymen scattered across the globe.

Recognizing the impact of texting today, government should exert effort to keep texting cheap and convenient to use. Recently, the National Telecommunications Commission boasted of higher revenues due to many 3G applications. The NTC is advised to use its resources and mandate to enforce strict measures that would improve texting/cell phone services in the country.

More people should have access to affordable phone lines. No consumer should experience bad signal coverage, dropped calls and overcharged bills. If texting has done so many wonderful things in the past, imagine what it would do in the next few years.

(By the way, I’m a proud convenor of Txtpower).

Related entries:

Defining Filipino youth. Not apathethic.
PC games, schools and Gloria. Schooling and technology.
Gameplan. Technology and activism.