Achieving Happiness

April 30, 2008

Pre-International Labor Day musings

Filed under: Uncategorized — Ina Alleco @ 7:49 am

Been watching episodes of the sci-fi comedy series “Eureka” and so far, am enjoying them. It’s the kind of program that grows on you — you feel less than enthusiastic about it, but you’re also slightly curious; the fact that you have some time to spare at night also helps, but the most compelling reason to see it is because your geek of a husband and geek of a sister have been raving about it (or at least saying that the show has been receiving rave reviews and they want to find out for themselves whether there’s basis for the raves or not).

Sometimes when there’s a lull in the work (or more often, when I begin to feel a little stir crazy and I need to reboot my brain by reading something universes apart from the work at hand), I google people, places, movies or tv shows, and last night I read Wiki entries on old 80s and 90s programs I used to watch – The A-Team, Silk Stalkings, ALF, the original Battlestar Gallactica, Automan, Forever Knight, Ripley’s Believe It or Not, The Real Ghostbusters, Starman – and I felt more than a little shocked: where the hell did the time go?! I really don’t remember getting old. It’s like only yesterday I was rushing to finish homework or gulping down my dinner so I could camp out on the sofa in front of the tv and listen to the theme of the Cosby Show, My two dads, or Perfect Strangers…

Tomorrow is International Labor Day, and May First has always been my favorite event of the year (this is why Kim and I chose to present ourselves as a married couple on May 1 three years ago). I’m crossing my toes and fingers that there will be a massive turnout tomorrow because jeez, workers (and the rest of the poor and working people) have so many reasons to take to the streets for, to speak out and protest and demand immediate, genuine and effective change – like, say, bringing down the cost of commodities and the rates of basic services such as water and electricity.

Only today there are newsreports that fish and meat prices will be going up in June – holy heck, as if they weren’t already expensive. Today LPG prices go up by P2.00 per kilogram. Rice costs as much as P38-P40 per kilo, and even the prices of tinned food like tunafish and corned beef have gone up. Where the heck will ordinary working-class Filipinos get the additional money to pay for these increases? Steal or resort to prostitution?!

Pag nagtangka ka namang maghanap-buhay nang disente bilang manininda sa palengke, the hired thugs and goons of the MMDA will swoop down and confiscate your goods , wreck your small ambulant store, and drag you to jail.

What rubs more salt into already gaping wounds is the continued flood of statements from Malacanang and its phalanx of idiot spokespersons and spin masters that the food crisis is under control and that there are alternatives being prepared in lieu of an actual wage or salary increase. Freaking hell! Pampalubag loob . What are people supposed to pay Meralco, MWSS or the neighborhood LPG store with – copies of Malacanang press releases printed by the Philippine Information Agency?! Sana kung lahat ng tindahan nagpapautang tapos ang sisingilin ay Malacanang – hanggang Tuguegarao and back ang haba ng listahan kada araw.

So what with the endless economic problems besetting laborers and the rest of the working people, coupled with the relentless political scandals and scams that make you feel sick to your stomach and wish you had a way of throwing up all over Macapagal-Arroyo, Ignacio Bunye and the rest of the damn wretched crew, why celebrate Labor Day at all? Who feels like celebrating at a time like this?

I do. Because I still have hope for this country. Because I believe in a cause that will survive all chaos, despair and degradation; a cause that stands for a kinder, more compassionate, humane and poor and people-oriented way of life. I have to continue believing in this or I will be consumed by anger and bitterness and hopelessness, and one cannot live without hope. My greatest happiness lies with the knowledge that I am part of a living, breathing movement that stands in opposition to all that makes living in the Philippines an endless series of painful experiences.

Nakakabuhay ng loob ang makita, marinig at malaman na may mga patuloy na lumalaban at hindi pumapayag na sila’y basta na lang apakan at manatiling api. Hindi man mawakasan sa ngayon at sa agad-agad ang kaapihan at kahirapan, sa diwa man lang, sa pag-iisip, pag-unawa at pagsusuri ay makamit ang ganap na kalayaan.

More importantly, ang sarap sumigaw laban sa lecheng gobyerno na ito at sa walang-kasing kapal na mukhang presidente!

Tutoo ang class guilt. Kahit di naman kami alta de sosyodad.

Sa tutoo lang, it’s really harder to enjoy things fully these days; somehow everything is tainted and feels a tad superficial and hollow because at the back of your mind you feel a little guilty. Kakain sa Yellow Cab, you end up computing how many kilos of rice for a family of six the pizza’s cost could’ve bought. Aaaaagh!

To explain – we live right next door to a small community of ‘squatters.’ They’ve built their ‘houses’ from corrugated cardboard, wide strips of discarded tarpaulin, rusty, leftover galvanized steel or aluminum sheets probably picked up in Payatas, construction sites, or brought from itinerant garbage pickers. Their children run around half naked or in sun-faded, much-too big, tattered clothes. They cook their food using bonfires, no stoves. Sometimes we get to peek into their homes and we see a sleeping/living space that’s only slightly wider, bigger than a pig pen. We walk past them every morning on the way to work and at night when we come home, and one is always consumed by alternating guilt, pity and outrage on their behalf. Really. Call it class guilt, but heck, it’s true.

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April 23, 2008

RobertRobertRobert

Filed under: Uncategorized — Ina Alleco @ 6:59 am

I’ve had a crush on Robert Downey Jr. since I was a kid. I’ve always thought him to be both beautiful and intelligent (okay, so mostly beautiful – I was a child, what did I know about intelligent acting or intelligence per se?! I just thought, even then in my days when beauty was still very much an abstract, mostly-felt concept I was far from being articulate about, that he was beautiful ). I don’t know what it says about me that I had a terrible liking for an actor who played disturbed young men in his movies (drug addict, small-time hustler, college drop-out), but Robert Downey Jr was THE MAN to me when I was younger. Funny that’s he’s only 40 now.

When he became part of the regular cast of the cancelled Ally McBeal series almost a decade ago and played Atty. Larry Paul, I started watching the show again. I loved his voice, I loved his face (eyes to die for), he was funny in a faintly caustic but still endearing way, and I thought he deserved someone better than whacked out Ally.

Then his real life problems with alcoholism and drug addiction came to a head and David E. Kelly was forced to write him out of the show. Aaaargh!

Anyways, it’s a little looney-sounding, but heck, am personally glad that his career is now more stable and he’s making a good comeback. Of course am watching Iron Man, nevermind that I never really cared about the comic book or the character of Tony Stark. I can even ignore Gwyneth Palthrow’s presence as his partner in the film.

I really don’t know why i just had to blog about RDJ – it was birthday earlier this month, and I said HAPPY BIRTHDAY ROBERT! out loud at the office when I read about it. When one of my colleagues asked me who the heck was ‘Robert’, I couldn’t really explain and instead I just said that I was just reading something and I felt like doing it out loud. Sheesh.

I’m now looking for a DVD or even CD copy of the film “Chaplin” where he played Charles Chaplin Jr, a compelling character with a personal and professional history that’s the stuff of both tabloid stories and award-winning biographies.

I also had a crush on Charlies Chaplin, so there. “The Tramp” always looked so sad and dear to me.

—-

The weather is so hot and I get faintish whenever I go outside. I’ve some tasks out of the office, and they’re pretty urgent and I really need to get them done, but the heat is literally working against me and keeping me indoors! I keep peering out the windows to see whether the sun is giving this part of the country a little respite, but it’s still there, a brightly shining ball of fire and unimaginable heat.

I’ve read in some newspaper that it’s 38 degrees out, boy! No wonder my brain is off wandering — it’s actually telling me to chuck everything and head straight to Shangri-la Plaza in Ortigas and sit under a Haagen Dazs umbrella and pig out. Gad.

I can’t help but long for the weekend because I want to go swimming and cool-off. I get sudden headaches because of the stifling heat and it’s not good. I can’t even concentrate properly on work, or at least give it the usual focus when am not distracted by abdominal twinges or the heat. Hell, am writing about Robert Downey Jr when I could be writing a reaction to the freaking electricity rate hike Meralco is imposing this summer!

Now that’s that’s been mentioned, lecheng Meralco yan. Taking advantage of people using all the electricity fans and aircon units full-blast all day and all night. Tiba-tiba na naman sa tubo, the thieves. And without doubt, Meralco will use the EPIRA to justify the rate increase and present its usual magical mathematical formula  as explanation  to the whopping additional P149 a month! According to reports, residential customers, who use up to 200 kWh a month, will pay an additional P149 or 8.95 percent, equivalent to about 4 kilos of commercial rice. Houses using up to 50 kWh a month will pay an additional P19, while a family consuming 70 kWh will have to cough up P35 more.  Houses using 100 kWh a month have to pay P61 more.

Tapos walang wage hike. $%#%^*.

April 21, 2008

Small vanities

Filed under: Uncategorized — Ina Alleco @ 6:11 am

Seven months yesterday! Two more months to go.

I didn’t expect it of me — I thought myself to be above such things, incapable of such shameless vanity — but I sometimes feel so sorry for myself because I can’t fit into my old clothes. Through the years I have put together a considerably decent wardrobe consisted mostly of jeans and t-shirts and sneakers, and now 95% of them I cannot wear because they don’t fit. My waist and my hips have ballooned and the one time I hoped against hope to get into my jeans I couldn’t pull them beyond my knees. As for my sneakers, well, my feet are swollen and to try wearing my former foot wear would be torture:I’d be better off lopping my feet off at the ankles.

Poor me, fat, lumpy and wearing my husband’s billowy shirts. My feet are always clad in Ronald McDonald rubber clogs, and I waddle like one belonging to the Anatinae specie. Whenever I see people my age or generation in those skinny pants (and shorts!) and form-fitting shirts and blouses, I sigh. Not that I ever wore form-fitting clothes, but my clothes did look like they were mine, that I bought them and fitted them first because I wore them. Now everything I wear is borrowed or hand-me-down. My belly precedes me by a quarter of a foot, and it’s a challenge to get up every morning and I huff and puff up and down the stairs. I know I look like a beached walrus, and often I feel like it, too.

In the sweltering afternoon heat yesterday I put up in hangers the few remaining t-shirts I have that still fit me; the rest I folded up and put on top of the already considerable and messy pile of clothes that I don’t expect to wear for a few more months, even a year yet. I couldn’t shake off the small creeping feelings despair at the idea that jeez, there’s a big chance I will be at least two or three sizes bigger than I was before and the word ‘svelte’ will never again be used to apply to me (vain, vain, vain).

But enough. All these silly vanities vanish whenever I feel my baby move inside me. Kimiko wriggles and turns, and I am re-assured. All this discomfort and feelings of –let me say it — unattractiveness — dissipate and become worthless whenever I think of Kimiko, every time she makes herself felt: nanay, I’m here!

Within her now reside my best hopes for the future; receptacle of my dreams and better imaginings; my happy memory generator; she who tethers me tighter to a Kilusan that seeks a better world for all others.

Now I’m thinking more of what Kimiko will wear: one thing’s for certain, though – no pastels, no Disney characters, and definitely no fuss and feathers.

Countdown to May 1st International Labor Day and incidentally, Kim and my third wedding anniversary. I don’t think I’ll be doing any marching, and will probably be staying under the shade on May 1 because the heat really gives me a headache and I get so dehydrated I could faint.

Around this time of year the issue of a wage hike always comes around, and the responses and reactions are all pretty predictable: workers demand a wage increase; employers day no-we-can’t-afford-it and the government tries to weasel its way out of the deadlock by saying hey, let the regional wage boards decide.

No one denies that the escalating prices of rice, meat, fish and gasoline necessitate a wage increase – Filipinos need more money if they’re to survive the price hikes. The Arroyo government, however, keeps resorting to motherhood statements and publicity stunts to show that it’s doing something to address to food and energy crisis, and generally evades the issue of a legislated wage increase. Instead, the likes of Ignacio Bunye keep crowing that decisive steps are already underway to solve the crisis: stupid measures like stopping the sale of NFA rice in the public markets, removing tarrifs and quotas. Or giving out rice cards to the indigent (to get, one has to prove that one is poor. How do you that? Show broken teeth? Scabs covering what used to be incision marks when a kidney was taken out and sold? Jaundiced skin?)

Isa namang taon ang dadaan at walang makabuluhang pagtaas ng sahod. Mapapamura ka talaga.

Panaka-naka an intelligent proposal surfaces like stopping the conversion of agricultural lands and scrapping the biofuel act; in the long run, if these proposals will be completely carried out, they will have a positive impact, but on the whole, can this government be trusted to implement such plans that go against it’s own deep-seated, twisted economic programs?

Nu-uh.

In the meantime, more and more families are forced to eat instant noodles for lunch and dinner; to drop bread and meat from their diets, and to make rice porridge to extend their meager rice supplies.

Sa tutoo lang, what we should also be raging against is how the Macapagal-Arroyo has more or less successfully distracted Filipinos from the corruption scandals involving her and her good-for-nothing palamunin, kurakot, matapobre, magnanakaw family. It’s not at all impossible that this “rice crisis” was something they orchestrated with the US with the aim of accomplishing two things: 1)buksan ang local markets to US rice supplies, and 2) tanggalin ang pansin ng sambayanan sa isyu ng kurapsyon, extrajudicial killings, at iba pa.

Below is an account of a colleague here at the office about her recent visit to Ka Dan Vizmanos. It’s sincere and well-written. Am sharing this in the hopes that more comrades would visit Ka Dan or send letters to him to cheer him up.

i visited ka dan yesterday Sat apr19. i have been intending to visit him before i left for my feb trip because i heard that he was previously hospitalized. i never got the chance to do so. while i was there in feb and march, i heard that he became more sick and could not move around much. after i got back from our all-Moro mindanao-wide training in early Apr, i resolved to visit him. friends in cotabato sent some vitamins for ka dan. it seems that they got to know him personally early last year when he was invited to speak in cotabato, iligan, basilan (?) and some other areas.

i was not prepared to see ka dan in the state that he is in. he has lost a lot of weight, moves and speaks very slowly and is confined to bed most of the time (the living room has been converted into his bedroom). he tries to sit up from time to time but even just 5 minutes in a sitting position causes much pain in his lower body, abdominal area up to his head. his mind is still sharp though. that is, after some prodding. then the memories will start to rush in.

we shared a lot of stories, both recent and old (circa our partido ng bayan years when i first met him). we also discussed about the work of the JS. i gave him our latest pamphlet and updated him about my trip there and other provincial trips. he asked if all of you already know about his condition, then he surmised that perhaps not because he has not heard from the “tropa” (he referred to all of you this way). he then narrated his 2001 trip to oslo and his PPT testimony. he inquired if he could get a copy of the PPT book. also, if there will ever be a resumption of the talks now that OBL is very much around and that GMA will never leave her post. he requested me to inform all of you about his condition. (he looks forward to the May 5 tribute but is very worried that he could not attend it.)

ka dan was diagnosed with prostate cancer 3 years ago. his PSA level that time was 25 and the biopsy confirmed the cancer. because he had no other ailments and was relatively healthy despite his age (he was 77 then), the doctor told him he had 5 years to live. ka dan said that he did not feel anything and thought that he was very healthy because he even kept his almost daily swimming exercise. so he was really surprised to be diagnosed with such an ailment. since then, he took medications and went for regular checkup. after several months, his PSA level went down to below 2. the cancer was gone although he continued with the medication and checkup.

last oct-nov, he experienced shortness of breath and some chest pain. he thought it was an asthma attack (he had asthma when he was younger). when it worsened, he was brought to the hospital. it turned out to be a mild stroke. he spent time in the hospital. it was there that other pain began to manifest and he began to have difficulty urinating.

so far, the cancer has not returned but his prostate is enlarged. the doctor has adviced against operating on it because of his age and his heart condition. hopefully, the medicines will help. ka dan takes 5 types of medicines 2x a day.

he told me that he really does not dream of prolonging his life further and has in fact, accepted death. but when he sees his 12 grandchildren, he tells himself that he still has to live. when he dies, his pension will be gone and his grandchildren’s schooling will be affected. his wife passed away several years ago so no one can receive his pension anymore.

i promised to visit him again.

April 12, 2008

Second ultrasound and the kindness of strangers

Filed under: Uncategorized — Ina Alleco @ 4:04 pm

Last Wednesday was my second ultrasound session. It wasn’t really about finding out the baby’s sex, it was primarily about getting reassurance that the baby has all his/her limbs completely formed and that the placenta and umbilical cod were all in their proper places. At least this is what it all meant to me. To the ultrasound doctor, though, it meant the usual thing — finding out whether the baby was male or female.

She made me twist and turn on the low bed while she maneuvered the joystick (whatever the heck you call it) and glided it all over my tummy which was slathered with icky cold gel. On the monitor I saw my baby (okay, our baby – Kim’s too. naiinis na siya na I always refer to the baby as MY baby) and the outlines of his/her head and body. The doctor seemed preoccupied, for 5 minutes she essentially ignored me while she examined the screen and moved the stick around. and I was going to ask her the reason for the look of ultra-concentration on her face when she spoke up: “Di ko makita a…”

I blanched. I thought, holy heck, what the hell can’t she find?! The baby’s head? heart?! Spine?!!!

“Doc,” I asked her worriedly, “Andyan ba lahat ng limbs nya -arms, legs, torso?”

She nodded impatiently and pointed at the screen, jabbing at the monitor. “Oo, ayan ang arms, legs nya. Yan ang head, nakabaligtad ang posisyon nya…”

I breathed a sigh of relief. “So ano ho ang di ninyo makita?”

She turned to me. “Yung organ niya. ”

Omigod, she was determined to find a penis. Paano kung vagina?

“Okay naman doc, kung girl. Basta buo ang limbs niya…”

She just looked at me and shrugged as if to say “Suit yourself!”

Ano ba ang isyu kung walang penis at babae ang baby na inultrasound?! Is it always like that – the doctor searches for the penis?!

—-

I had a good work week. Meaning I managed to get a lot of work done. That’s a great thing because I’m starting to get physically exhausted again the way I felt during my first trimester. I have slight edema and my feet are like ginger tubers — splayed, with thick and stubby toes. By midday my eyes are drooping and it takes almost all of my will power to keep from dozing off in front of the computer and salivating on the keyboard.

I’m on the verge of my 7th month and so far so good. I’ve talked to my obi-gyne about pain relief during the birthing process and I suppose some of my fear is lessened. Jeez, childbirth is so scary — the pain, pain, O Africa! Like Stephen King character Paul Sheldon hallucinates in the novel ‘Misery’- and everyday I thank my mom for going through the entire process and having me kahit na nagdusa na siya with my sister and my brother.

I really want to write about the kindness of strangers and how it often makes up for the crap other people deal most of the time.

The other day I had to take the MRT, and while I did get to get on the coach for women and the elderly, there were no seats. I was prepared to stand up the rest of the way, holding on to one of the poles or the wrist holds, but this girl saw me, looked at my belly and immediately got up, offering me her seat. I thanked her twice (once in English, once in Filipino, how else?) and sat down, and it felt good to be the recipient of such kindness — why? because it’s much too often that i doubt the goodness of human nature and am too resigned to people being selfish and uncaring.

Then there was the bag boy.

Earlier tonight I went to buy milk, cereal and raisins at Shopwise, and the bag boy was so concerned that I wouldn’t be able to carry the plastic bag. He frowned when he saw that I was alone and he pointedly looked at my stomach. He asked me how far along I was, if it was my first or second or third baby, and whether I was commuting or if I had a car.

Of course I didn’t have a car, but to assure him that I was okay (“Hindi ito mabigat.” “Ma’m seven months ka na, baka matumba ka…” “Kaya ko ito.” “Ingat mam. Di ba pwedeng tawagan mister mo?”) I said I was driving and doing so very slowly. Mistake no.2 – he got all the more worried: “Ma’am, baka di na ninyo abot ang steering wheel…”

Sheesh. I smiled and waddled off with the bag.

April 4, 2008

Countdown to the UNHRC Universal Periodic Review

Filed under: Uncategorized — Ina Alleco @ 7:40 am

 

 

 

 

1899472729__un_logo.jpgun1.gifThe countdown to the United Nations Human Rights Committee (UNHRC)’s Universal Periodic Review has begun, and we can see the efforts of the Macapagal-Arroyo regime. Unang-una na ang mga reports ng kapulisan that they have gained headway in the investigation of the extrajudicial killings of political activists. For the past two weeks, the Philippine National Police (PNP) and its Task Force Usig (TFU) have been releasing reports to the media about its so-called achievements in this area.

It’s outrageous how the ad hoc body of the PNP tasked to investigate cases of “unexplained killings” asserts that the PNP has acted on more than half of 141 verified incidents, leading to the filing of 83 cases, the arrest of 28 suspects, the surrender of 14 others and the conviction of four assailants. The TFU said that a total of 29 incidents of killings of political activists involved members of the Communist Party of the Philippines-New People’s Army (CPP-NPA).

It’s highly improbable for the PNP and TFU to have conducted credible and through investigations into the killings. It’s even more improbable that the court cases the PNP is now bragging to have filed on the extrajudicial political killings bear any genuine, factual or legal credibility How could there be? There have been no cooperative efforts between the TFU and the families of the victims and the human rights groups helping the families. The families are highly distrustful of the TFU and its findings.

Sa tutoo lang, there is neither truth nor credibility in the findings of the PNP and the TFU. The TFU’s main mission is to discredit, dismiss or pass-off the almost 1,000 cases of extrajudicial killings of political activists, human rights workers, church people and activist lawyers. Even United Nations Special Rapporteur Philip Alston has said that in his November 2007 Report that the Philippine military had systematically hunted down leftist activists in the course of an anticommunist campaign. Alston’s report also dismissed the “internal purge” theory, but TFU continues to use this malicious and fallacious theory because it’s convenient for them on the one hand; and it serves to deflect blame from the real perpetrators among the military carrying out the killings under Oplan Bantay Laya.

What is clear is that the fabricated findings and bloated, self-serving reports of TFU will also be used by the official government representatives to the upcoming Universal Periodic Review (UPR) of the country’s human rights record by the United Nations Human Rights Council on April 11. The government wants to make its human rights record less bloody that it really is, and its agencies are now above fabricating lies, twisting facts and rushing the filing of legal cases to do it.

The TFU itself is prone to fabricating findings regarding the killings and passing these fake and manufactured findings as legitimate results of their investigations. In August 2006, the TFU announced its supposed findings on the killings of lawyer Felidito Dacut, Bayan Muna (People First) regional coordinator; Rev. Edison Lapuz, chairman of Katungod-Sinirangan Bisayas, the regional chapter of Karapatan (Alliance for the Advancement of People’s Rights); Atty. Norman Bocar (Bayan-Eastern Visayas) and Pax Diaz, chairperson of the Confederation for the Unity, Recognition and Advancement of Government Employees (Courage) in Eastern Visayas and said that they were victims of the NPA’s ‘purge’ and killed as punishment for ‘financial opportunism.’

The task force was also quick to declare the brutal assassination of the Right Rev. Alberto Ramento, D.D., Bishop of the Diocese of Tarlac and the Diocese of Ilocos Norte and 9th Obispo Maximo of the Iglesia Filipina Independiente (IFI) as an ordinary criminal case. Bishop Ramento was brutally stabbed inside his convent on October 3, 2006. The TFU said that the Bishop’s murder was not politically motive, but a case of robbery with homicide.

On the whole, the TFU’s version of investigating in practice only means collecting unverified data from the local police task forces and piecing them to together. The cut and dried conclusion in the end is always the same: it’s either the killing was a result of a common crime, or the revolutionary movement was behind it.

As has been pointed out by many others, the country’s justice system has continues to suffer from various ills, including corruption, influence peddling, lack of resources, insufficient funding and low wages, making law enforcement officials vulnerable to bribery and powerful special interests.

Because of these inherent weaknesses, the families of the victims of human rights victims see very little hope that the cases of their loved ones will be given justice. Human rights lawyers have themselves become targets of threats and other acts of intimidation; the same goes for witnesses. Even as the government insists that it harnesses and mobilizes the entire government resources investigate the killings, what is evident is that there is no genuine effort to prosecute and punish the real perpetrators. While it appears that it has already taken steps to address the worsening human rights violations in the country, the fact remains that the violations persist and justice remains elusive for the victims and their families.

So long as the Arroyo government maintains its all-it war policy against its political opponents including legal activists, the killings will continue. So long as the butchers in the AFP have the full support and encouragement of the administration, the list of human rights victims will lengthen. No number of task forces, commissions or special courts will be able to put an end to them and give justice to the victims. The government cannot even stick to the truth when it comes to the documentation and verification of the killings and the circumstances surrounding them.

Napakalaking kasinungalingan ang isisiwalat ng gobyerno sa UPR — hugay kamay sa lahat ng kaso ng pagpaslang sa mga aktibista, kahit pa hinding-hindi maitatanggi na nagmantsa na ang dugo ng mga biktima sa mga palad ng mga berdugong sugo ng pamahalaan.