Achieving Happiness

March 25, 2010

Presidentiable Trouble

Filed under: Uncategorized — Ina Alleco @ 12:49 pm

This afternoon I went to UP Balay Kalinaw and attended IBON Foundation and Pagbabago!’s forum on 2010 elections wherein UP College of Mass Communications Dean Roland Tolentino, Faculty Regent Prof. Judy Taguiwalo and IBON Executive Director Rosario Bella Guzman discussed a formidable list of criteria for choosing candidates and where the candidates actually stand on issues.

By the time IBON research head Sonny Africa delivered the closing remarks, I had concluded that chances are, on May 10, I was only going to vote for two candidates, and they’re both running for the senate under Makabayan as guest candidates of the Nacionalista Party.That is, if I wanted nothing to weigh on my conscience after feeding my ballot into the PCOS machine.

‘Pagbabago!’ and IBON Foundation released a matrix on the stands of the presidential candidates on issues ranging from economic independence, agrarian reform, human rights, the peace negotiations and gender equality. They weighed the pros and cons of each candidate, and sadly, not one candidate came out perfect: perfect in the sense that they carried agenda that fit in with that of the poor and oppressed sectors when it came to jobs and wages; civil and political rights; their aspirations for genuine freedom and democracy; and their demand for justice against extrajudicial killings and abusive administrations such as that of the incumbent albeit illegitimate president.

Can there be no compromise? Is it possible to support a candidate and not demand that he or she be ‘perfect’? Maybe we’re being too demanding?

In the last three months, the public has witnessed presidential nominees battle it out in all possible venues except the boxing ring. On radio and tv, they’ve released splashy, creative ads, with each candidate trying to present himself as the champion in the fight against corruption and the savior that will lift the nation from poverty. The newspapers are full of stories regarding their sorties, the reaction of their audiences in the provinces, the promises made, the commitments given.

On Facebook and other social networking sites, supporters of Noynoy Aquino did (and continue to do) their darnest (and meanest) to fill the massive lack of their standard bearer by posting raving attacks against those who support Manny Villar. Columnists like Conrado de Quiros contradicted himself and compromised what was previously a strong bent towards human rights and justice for victims of the Hacienda Luisita massacre by coming out with pro-Noynoy pieces and editorials for the Philippine Daily Inquirer wherein he all but absolved Noynoy of responsibility.

In the meantime, administration candidate Gilbert ‘Gibo’ Teodoro is trying to ‘outsmart’ his rivals by harping on his being intelligent: his campaign tag is ‘Galing at Talino’. Apparently, he thinks that by being a top bar passer and a Harvard graduate, he’s already better than everyone else. ‘Rely on me, I’m a genius!’, he seems to say. Nevermind that he sounds exactly like incumbent president Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo who also said that she has the brains to lead the country to progress.

Ousted former president Joseph Estrada is still living in the old glory days, still deluded in thinking that he is much loved and that he has all the answers to the Filipino people’s problems. The man bombed the hell out of Mindanao and justified it by saying that because of the all-out war (which caused the dislocation of thousands of Muslim civilians including children and elderly people), peace came to the region. According to him, the Philippines never had it as good as when it was under his governance.

In the midst of all this, there has been no comprehensive discussion on the PLATFORMS carried by the presidentiables. Despite the existence, availability and accessibility of these said platforms on their respective websites (and said platforms have already been printed in brief in their flyers and other campaign paraphernalia), the public is largely being made to gauge the candidates based on either one or two of the following but hardly all of these considerations: 1) the public image of the candidates; 2) how their soundbites and campaign slogans resonate; 3) how they conduct themselves during their sorties (they threw candies, they distributed shirts and sun visors with such sincere smiles..); 4) the showbiz personalities they have enlisted, and their trackrecord; (Noynoy has had a blah record as congressman and senator, but he’s Ninoy and Cory’s son, isn’t he? Gibo Teodoro voted against the Human Security Act (HSA) when he was in congress, but once he became the secretary of national defense, he became one of its main implementers and defenders); and 5) how they answered during the debates and the fora they attended (Was he quick and witty? Was he boring and did he speak haltingly? Did he lose his temper? Did he sound intelligent?)

The presidentiables all project themselves as anti-corruption and anti-poverty; but there’s nothing unusual or ordinary about that because since the Philippines become a quote-unquote democracy and elections became the means to determine leadership, candidates have always promoted themselves as clean and honest and fighters for the poor. The implications and nature of their stands on the actual lives and welfare of Filipinos and the nation’s immediate future, however, have not been seriously considered.

The nitty-gritty and the real meat of the respective platforms of the presidential candidates reveal that for the most part, the Philippines will not make much positive headway no matter who wins. The only difference is how limited or wide the democratic space will be; the extent of how civil, political and human rights will be respected or violated; and how neglected or protected/abused or supported the two major and most important sectors of workers and farmers will be.

The list Pagbabago! and IBON released is long, and they include the stands of Estrada, Nicanor Perlas III, Eddie Villanueva, Jamby Madrigal, Dick Gordon and John Carlos de los Reyes. For the purpose of brevity however, am focusing only on the three candidates who stand most to win.

Consider this: Noynoy Aquino favors US military presence and supports a review of the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) for the purpose of continuing it. He voted ‘Yes’ to the RVAT law (RA 9337) and the Sin Taxes Law (RA 9334), two regressive taxation measures that added the already heavy economic burdens of the poor. He sponsored the Productivity Incentives Act granting annual incentives to private sector workers; but as part owner of Hacienda Luisita, he tolerated unfair labor practices and cruelly low wages for the workers. He has no clear stand on the peace talks. He also voted against the playing the ‘Garci tapes’ in 2004, and lauded Macapagal-Arroyo’s infamous ‘I am sorry’ speech.

Gibo Teodoro fully supports continuing RP-US military relations; will continue automatic debt servicing and when he was still a congressman, he consistently lobbied to increase the budget for the military and to increase recruitment for the AFP. He was in charge of imlementing Oplan Bantay Laya II and during the period he was defense secretary, there were 320 cases of EJKs and 43 cases of enforced disappearances. He believes that mining should be seriously pursued because it presents the biggest ‘potential’ for the economy. Needless to say, he is not a human rights advocate.

Manny Villar believes that job creation is based on attracting foreign investors into the country. He has said that the peace process should continue, but also thinks that peace can be attained by strengthening and modernizing the AFP. He counts uphoding human rights as a top priority, but also said that HR violations can be addressed by strengthening the leadership of the AFP and the PNP (give them human rights trainings and a sound background on civil rights) and responding to the needs of the military.

Among the three, Manny Villar’s platform is the most promising. Promising meaning, well, he appears to carry most pro-people agenda. This is not, however, to say, that he 100% supports genuine agrarian reform or is against globalization. He is by training a businessman, and while he says he is all for a legislated wage hike, he also expressed a preference for the regional wage boards to determine wage standards. His platform includes promoting the rights of indigenous people and migrant dwellers in upland ecosystems, and has stated that effective land distribution and thoroughgoing land reform is important to address landlessness (I wonder if he will give up a large chunk of his sudivisions and other land property for farmers).

All in all, the most that can be said is that Manny Villar does not appear completely closed or deaf to the demands of the marginalized sectors. He is willing to listen, and he has proven this by asking Satur Ocampo and Liza Maza as guest candidates in his slate.

Given all this, the rather disheartening conclusions of IBON and Pagbabago!, is there hope after the May 10 polls?

Of course. And this is what all Filipinos must realize, recognize and uphold.

The elections is nothing but a political exercise, and it’s actually the least reliable expressions of democracy especially in the Philippines where a presidential candidate and incumbent president herself was caught on tape asking guarantees that she will benefit from rigging operations.

Given then this nature of the elections, supporters of the presidential candidates should not make personal enemies of each other and inset set higher standards for themselves and where they offer their loyalties: not to individual candidates, but hopefully to worthy causes, especially those affecting the workers and the farmers and their rights. The class war still exists, believe it or not, and the sooner you choose your allegiance, the better.

We have very limited choices when it comes to our elected leaders, and this alone proves how weak democracy really is in the Philippines.

Those who have wealth can run for public office regardless of their lack of experience, the backwardness of their political agenda (ex: some would say that counting God as their main adviser isn’t very sound: if the man makes terrible errors of judgment and the country pays, will God get the blame?) and the utter reactionary and militarist character of their stands (buy more guns and bullets! Yes to foreign interference!).

Those who genuinely represent the interest of the poor and the oppressed have very little hope of winning: they have a greater chance of being abducted or killed by the military.

The very system of governance — run by individuals who belong to the ruling classes of landlords and big business interests — is, by extension, very unsound and can never be relied on to be responsive to the needs of the constituency, majority of whom are still mired in unspeakable poverty and want.

Elections in the Philippines is still a long way from being venues of the true sentiments of the people. Thankfully, however, we already have options on how we can exercise our will; how we can deliver our verdict against corruption, against impunity, against abuse of power and authority: the parliament of the streets and the social movement which finds its strength in the collective and organized actions of the oppressed sectors.

So go out and vote on May 10, 2010, but don’t stop there: true democracy is still a long and difficult work in progress.

March 24, 2010

The Supreme Court errs big time

Filed under: Uncategorized — Ina Alleco @ 2:33 am

Over the weekend as legal luminaries, law students and everyone else concerned with the what’s happening in the country’s judiciary system, Makabayan senatorial bet and Nacionalista Party guest candidate Satur Ocampo called on presidential candidates to set aside their personal differences and political rivalry to unite against what he said as Pres. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo’s shameless abuse of power by demanding the right to appoint the next chief justice of the Supreme Court.

Ka Satur said that the Nacionalista Party, Liberal Party, Partido ng Masang Pilipino et all should cross party-lines and unite in a massive rally in Ayala against Macapagal-Arroyo’s penchant for midnight appointments which are, he said, in blatant violation of the spirit and letter of the Constitution.

” She has time and again betrayed the public’s trust and shown callous disrespect for the independence and integrity of the judiciary as an institution. Our presidential candidates can and should unite against this midnight appointment and prove that they will not tolerate this desecration of the Constitution,” he said.

Ka Satur said that the presidentiables should take the lead in denouncing the midnight appointment and present a united front in a symblic protest in Ayala.At this juncture, it doesn’t matter who is appointed as long as it’s the new president who will appoint the next chief justice. “Pres. Arroyo is nearing the end of her term which many still maintain to be illegitimate, but she persists on abusing her authority. The Supreme Court is supposed to be the bastion of justice, but it’s evident that nothing is sacrosanct to Macapagal-Arroyo and even the judiciary is not exempt to her self-serving, manipulative ploys,” he said.

“Those who are behind this shameful abuse of power should be criminally charged and pay for their abuse.There is no excuse or justification for deliberately misinterpreting and twisting what is said in the Constitution regarding appointments.”

Let it also be noted that Satur Bayan Muna representatives Teodoro Casiño and Neri Colmenares have already filed Bill 7109 against midnight appointments. Sana nga magkaroon ng malaking rally against Arroyo’s latest act of abuse of power. I wonder if the presidentiables will be able to take a strong stand against Macapagal-Arroyo before the elections and really put their foot down on the matter of going after her and making her criminally liable.


Well, I’m not a legal expert, but it seems to me that the Supreme Court really erred big time on this matter. For one thing, it released its decision without even hearing oral arguments on the matter of the Supreme Court appointment. I mean, what’s the rush? Will the Philippines collapse if there’s no new Chief Justice after incumbent CJ Reynato Puno steps down in May?

I wonder if any bribes were made. Or big-time promises. because it’s really impossible to understand how the Supreme Court could have made this decision that directly violates the Constitution: is it then any wonder why so many Filipinos have lost their faith in the system of law in this country? Those who promulgate the law and are tasked to uphold it find it so easy to thumb their nose at it in defiance just to make sure that the agenda of the powerful and moneyed are met.

Now, Macapagal-Arroyo will be able to make two appointments, for the post of chief justice, and for the post to be vacated by CJ Puno as one of the SC judges. The prerogative to appoint the next chief justice was unjustly and illegally claimed, and so close to Arroyo’s deadline to step down! No matter how you look at it, the law was twisted and manipulated, and no wonder so many lawyers are disgusted to the point of wanting to throw up on the steps of the SC building.

But then again, it’s easy to see how all this is also part of Macapagal-Arroyo’s over-all strategy to protect herself when her term is over. Scheming, scheming every moment, Arroyo wants to pack SC with her appointees and Congress with her stooges in case an opposition president is elected so that she will be safe from charges filed in court, from Congressional investigations, and will pave the way for a return to power as prime minister via cha-cha. She’s hoping that a CJ she appointed will act as her protector from the whole slew of cases that will be thrown her way the minute she steps down. She thinks that she will be able to escape criminal prosecution for all the scandals that she and her corrupt and murdering administration has been involved in in the last nine years.

Also, in her desperation, she has not even spared the party-list system and machinated to have her allies stand as standard bearers of bogus party-lists. Bastusan na talaga and the very intention of the party-list law — to provide a venue for marginalized sectors to be represent themselves and their interests in the legislative arena – has been bastardized.

Outgoing Pampanga Rep. Juan Miguel “Mikey” Arroyo is the first nominee of Ang Galing Pinoy, while Dennis Pineda, the outgoing mayor of Lubao, Pampanga, is the group’s second nominee. Kelan pa naging myembro ng marginalized sector si Mikey (it’s a group of security guards and tricycle drivers he’s supposed to be representing, hah!) at ang isang scion ng isang pusakal na gambling lord?

Macapagal-Arroyo is determined to weasel through the numerous criminal charges that are coming her way. She’s hell-bent on covering all bases before she steps down from the presidency, and all her efforts are aimed at two objectives: 1) escaping criminal liability; and 2) perpetuating herself in power by becoming prime minister. This is precisely why she is running for congress, and why her allies are infiltrating the party-list system. The shocking greed for power and shamelessness is galling, but it’s not surprising.

It’s supposed to rain really hard tomorrow, Thursday. Typhoon Agaton daw. I can’t help but look forward to it somewhat because it’s been so hot and the rice paddies have all dried up, farm animals dropping dead. Wouldn’t it be great if we could control the rain and turn it on and off like a faucet? Or direct storms where they should go?

March 19, 2010

Kris Aquino could use a cork

Filed under: Uncategorized — Ina Alleco @ 6:16 am

“Do you remember the story of Bambi, the little deer, and all of his friends in the forest? If you do, you will remember that one of Bambi’s good friends was a rabbit named Thumper. Thumper was about your age. He was a neat rabbit, but he had one problem. He kept saying bad things about people. One day Bambi was in the forest learning to walk, and he fell down. Thumper just couldn’t resist the temptation. “He doesn’t walk very good, does he?” Thumper blurted out. His mother felt very bad and said, “What did your father tell you this morning?” And then Thumper, looking down at his feet and kind of shifting his weight, said, “If you can’t say somethin’ nice, don’t say nothin’ at all.” That’s a good piece of advice that all of us need to follow.” ~ Elder Cree-L Crawford

Last Sunday, Kris Aquino went on full autowitter on her showbiz talkshow ‘The Buzz’ and then cried about how unfair it was that people were picking on her and using her against her brother Noynoy Aquino and his campaign to be president. It was right after a segment wherein erstwhile co-host Ruffa Gutierrez said her official goodbyes to ABS-CBN and said that all’s well that’s ends well regarding the issue of her walking out the previous week because of Kris Aquino’s insensitivity.

Boy Abunda, Kris’ much put-upon bestfriend and co-host had turned to Kris and, along with the rest of the audience, expected the latter to give her reaction to what Ruffa had said. Did Kris react? Yes, indeedy! She did, but in full-Kris Aquino fashion, she made everything about her, her woes, and how terrible it was that so many people disliked and even hated her when, in her own words, “Hindi naman ako masamang tao, hindi masama ang pamilya ko!”

So Ruffa’s goodbyes, her fond farewell and her expressions of good will towards Kris were ignored and for the next 10 minutes it was the Kris Aquino show.

Kris Aquino is the most transparent mystery ever, a walking (and talking!) contradiction. She’s supposed to be intelligent, a wide reader, educated at one of the best universities in the country, but she makes the stupidest mistakes ever like admitting to all and sundry that she contracted a venereal disease from a former live-in partner. She may not be a good actress and to see her efforts leaves one with tingling teeth (nakakangilo siya) and the taste of something slightly sour in the mouth, but to her credit, she tries very hard and you can’t help but appreciate it. She could’ve used her gifts to live a more worthwhile life, devote her time to more worthy pursuits, but she chose show business where she does very little to improve the industry and how the public views it.

Now she’s back on the campaign trail for Noynoy and it’s quite, quite annoying the way the tv networks are covering her participation in the sorties. Kris Aquino makes news and she’s always in the news, and you wonder — aren’t there more important things the media can cover? This is a woman so self-absorbed that she doesn’t see it when she’s hurt someone’s feelings– nevermind that the person is seated not four feet away from her.

This is a woman who is so self- obsessed with herself that she produced a magazine and named it after herself, its contents are on what she wears, where she travels, what she likes to eat, what she does on her spare time. This is a woman who, despite her intelligence, fails to understand that there is something innately wrong with the way she often talks to and about people: she cuts them off in mid-sentence, she makes personal (read ‘insulting’) comments about what they’re wearing, how their hair looks, etc.

I suppose everyone has the right to live their own life the way they want to when they’re not really hurting anybody (unless you think feelings count very badly). Kris Aquino is the way she is because the people around her tolerate her and love her all the same so she never learns her lesson that, sometimes, it’s necessary to shut up and be circumspect. That it’s plain good manners to let others finish their sentences before she jumps in and gives her own opinions. That’s it’s not always necessary to connect the experiences of others to her own experiences and run away with the story buy turning it into her own. She’s the Queen of Talk, alright; but she’s nowhere near being like Oprah Winfrey: Ms. Winfrey actually listens to her guests; Kris can barely pay attention to them. She says she is only being true to herself– perhaps it would be best she assess how she is because being true to oneself does not justify frequent bad behavior.

When her mother died, I felt sorry for her. I thought the experience would change her, make her calmer somehow, less tactless. But it didn’t. A few short weeks after Mrs. Aquino’s death, Kris went on her usual shrill, tactless and rude self on tv. When slighted, however, she weeps and reminds people that her father was shot on the tarmac and her mother had recently passed away and that she is “not a bad person really” and that she “loves this country.”

Is it me or is it sign of desperation on the part of the Liberal Party and standard bearer Noynoy that they’ve enlisted Kris for their campaign? She’s a crowd-drawer, alright; but truth were told, the hordes who love her have their equivalent number among those who despise her and wish she’d shut up. Maybe Noynoy thinks that by having Kris take the frontlines in his sorties would distract people from asking him about the Hacienda Luisita mess and his inconsistencies regarding how the issue will be settled (see the New York Times story on the same quoting his cousin Fernando Cojuangco that they would never give up the hacienda; his sister Ballsy, Viel and Pinky’s outrageous statements that the farmworkers are spoiled).
PS why was I watching ‘The Buzz?’ I was trying to distract Miko and I turned on the tv. And Boy Abunda is a really good host and he gives dignity to the program because he treats the guests with respect and asks interesting questions (as interesting as showbiz questions go).

March 18, 2010

The Morong 43, brainless AFP/PNP respondents and the search for the imaginary Mario Condes

Filed under: Uncategorized — Ina Alleco @ 6:49 am

Due to a pounding headache caused by walking in the sweltering heat, I was unable to go to the Commission on Human Rights (CHR) and attend the protest/witness the hearing on the case of the Morong 43. But thanks to the wonders of technology (Kodao Productions live webcast) and the swift typing fingers of the people from and BAYAN secretary general Reyes, I was able to monitor developments.

It’s a wonder how those attending the hearing were able to hold themselves back from hurling garbage at the respondents from the AFP. From the onset, Col. Aurelio Balabad, commander of the 202nd Infantry Brigade, Lt. Col. Jaime Abawag, commander of the 16th Infantry Battalion of the Philippine Army and Police Superintendent Marlon Balonglong exposed themselves to be patently inept: they couldn’t even keep their lies and excuses straight and they fell all over themselves trying to answer the straightforward questions of the CHR officials.

One of them said that they had a secret report that there were NPA members in the area where they arrested the Morong 43. It was so secret that none of them could confirm it actually existed. Then another denied having said that there were NPA members in the area. Where there NPAs or not? Who cares – they just barged in, found the Morong 43 preparing breakfast, eating breakfast, putting away their bath things, etc and said, “A-ha! these are the NPAs and they’re in disguise pretending to be ordinary civilians!”

When asked about the house they raided, they couldn’t remember if the place had a gate or not. They knew the address and said that they conducted an ocular inspection prior to the raid, but hey, may be they flew over the gate, right? Stranger things have happened. And it turns out that the house wasn’t owned by the mysterious Mario Condes? You thought the guy owned the place? Your informant told you and you took his word for it? Great.

Then another one said that the man who’s name was in the warrant the raiding team used to justify the raid and arrest the Morong 43 was ‘well-known’. So well known that not one of the members of the raiding team knew who he was, what he looked like, or where he was. The wanted man, ‘Mario Condes’ was nowhere to be found on the day of the raid, and after more than a month, he was still missing and no one knows where he is. Does Mario Condes even exist? Or is he imaginary? He’s real? So where is he? You don’t know? So who does know? You don’t know that either? so what do you know? Do you actually know anything or where you sent here by your mother to buy suka? No? Okay, let’s try again, where is Mario Condes….?

The responses of the AFP/PNP respondents were like dialogue from Alice in Wonderland: consider the teatime conversations over the dining table of the Mad Hatter, the March Hare and the Dormouse.

The AFP lawyers will probably drown themselves in alcohol after this hearing because they’ve been sent morons to support and assist.

The hearing went around and around because the AFP and PNP respondents got confused with their own testimonies. Ever so patient, the CHR kept asking the same questions, but the answers were never completely consistent or logical. There were denials as well, as the AFP/PNP respondents had lines like ‘I’m not the man to answer your question.”

Yep, you’re not the man, you’re the potato to answer the question. The kangkong stalk. The garbanzo bean. And you people enforce and protect the law?! A field day for idiocy, really. One could laugh if it weren’t so frustrating.

Then a prosecutor for the AFP, Romeo Senson, refused to take an oath or to participate because he had no lawyer and he had filed a case against the CHR in a Quezon City regional trial court. Sheesh, it’s the Commission on Human Rights, why are you afraid? It’s not a court of law. The guy was probably was afraid he’d burst into flames once he put his hand on the bible.

The hearing ended and alas, the Morong 43 are still denied their freedom. The hearing will resume after Holy Week, and it’s such a long way off.

AFP officials particularly those directly involved in the case of the Morong 43, their illegal arrest and detention would rather kill and eat their own children than admit their mistake. They have all been exposed as liars of the first degree and are already determined to delay all legal deliberations at all costs out of pure spite. It’s their commitment to uphold the dignity AFP as an institution, even if it means revealing themselves as idiots who don’t read, review, confirm and double-check warrants of arrests when doing joint operations with the PNP. Even if it means exposing themselves as law-breaking, rule-bending human rights violators who leave whatever passes for their brains at the door once they hear the word ‘NPA.’

There is much to be said about telling the truth: it’s easier than lying. You really have to be, I think, exceptionally intelligent and a good actor in the bargain to be able to pull off what the AFP/PNP respondents tried to do today in the CHR. They wanted to present themselves as credible and to defend the operation they did which resulted in the brutal and illegal arrest of 43 civilians, but they came off as ill prepared and inconsistent. Then again, all the idiocy might just well be deliberate: all part of the strategy to frustrate, delay and obfuscate. Since they cannot win this case by telling the truth (they should all be dismissed from the service, court marshalled and as public penance, sent to scrub toilets in the malls with no gloves on as the first punishment), they will do everything to keep the Morong 43 from being released and that means LYING. If they could stick answering only ‘yes’ ‘no’ and ‘no comment,’ they would.

I think there is no certainty at all that the Morong 43 will be released while Macapagal-Arroyo is still in power. Our hope mainly relies on the public pressure we can create — in continuing to demand the release of the Morong 43 and securing the support of the greatest number of people — human rights advocates, concerned citizens, influential members of various institutions that seek to uphold and defend human rights for the cause of their immediate freedom.

In the wake of the US State Department’s 2009 Country Report on Human Rights Practices, the Macapagal-Arroyo administration’s reputation as regime that violates human rights has been cemented for posterity. This is the last human rights report of the US government on the Philippines under Macapagal-Arroyo, and even the Philippines’ supposedly strongest ally has essentially castigated the incumbent regime. It’s not even enough that the Macapagal-Arroyo government and its police and military forces failed to uphold the human rights of the Filipino people, they committed massive human rights violations in the entire nine years that Macapagal-Arroyo has been in power.

“Arbitrary, unlawful, and extrajudicial killings by elements of the security services and political killings, including killings of journalists, by a variety of actors continued to be major problems. Concerns about impunity persisted. Members of the security services committed acts of physical and psychological abuse on suspects and detainees, and there were instances of torture. Prisoners awaiting trial and those already convicted were often held under primitive conditions. Disappearances occurred, and arbitrary or warrantless arrests and detentions were common. Trials were delayed, and procedures were prolonged. Corruption was endemic. Leftist and human rights activists often were subject to harassment by local security forces. Problems such as violence against women, abuse of children, child prostitution, trafficking in persons, child labor, and ineffective enforcement of worker rights were common,” the report said.

March 13, 2010

Satur Ocampo Live

Filed under: Uncategorized — Ina Alleco @ 4:47 am

During last Thursday night’s live web chat with Makabayan senatorial bet and Nacionalista Party guest candidate Satur Ocampo, netizens asked him not only pertinent questions regarding the prospects of the Philippines in the aftermath of the May 10 polls but a few showbiz questions as well. It was Ka Satur’s first time to do a webchat, and admittedly some of us felt a little worried that he would be a) uncomfortable, b)lost, or c) bored but he was none of those things and all in all, the activity was a great success. Over 650 had logged on to watch and listen to Ka Satur and there were more than a hundred questions.

The webchat was slated to begin at 7:45. Some 30 minutes before, Ka Satur sat in a corner speaking with supporters who dropped by to wish him and his campaign well. During a short lull, I asked him how he was faring with computers. He answered ruefully, not very well. He’d tried before and he’d gotten tired. Was it the screen? The keyboard? He didn’t know. He’d try again to make friends with the technology next time he has a chance, but for the most part he was still old school, writing and editing longhand. Then, a little sheepishly I thought, he brought out his cellphone. “Tignan mo ito, pudpod na.” And yes, the keypad (a Nokia something. It was a camera phone) had lost all its numerals and letters. A textaddict, that’s what he was. I wondered if he’d like it if he had internet access on his phone?

Five minutes after the webchat started, it was evident that Ka Satur was in his element: he answered briefly but concisely heavy questions and he didn’t shy away from some of the lighter ones. He was game, that’s what he was — as a neophyte in the world of webchats, he was a natural and he performed with flying colors. He sat in front of the Mac and looked grave and smiled at turns, depending on the questions. He was serious and sincere in answering the queries, and you could see through it all that he was enjoying himself.

There was one chatter (is that what they’re called?) who expressed doubt that he was really talking to Ka Satur. Ka Satur couldn’t help but laugh and said, “Oo, ako ito Hindi ka siguro pamilyar sa boses ko,e. Sorry na lang!”

Asked if he would seek the endorsement of actor Deither Ocampo, Ka Satur jokingly answered “Matagal ko na ring iniisip na magkamukha kami ni Deither, pero wala naman akong anak sa labas…Wala namang problema kung -endorse ako ni Deither.”

Satur said that he had heard that the young Ocampo was also a philanthropist, helping children in a non-profit organization he founded. “That’s good of him,” he said.

If his life would be made into a movie, who’s the actor he wants to portray him? Satur said that some had suggested Lito Lapid, but he would much prefer Pen Medina. Apparently, Mr. Medina has already expressed interest: should any film bio project come up, he’d willingly play Satur.

Is Kris Aquino going to endorse him any time soon in his bid for the senate? “Back in 2001 when I was running for Congress under Bayan Muna party-list, Kris endorsed us. When her mother former president Cory Aquino died, I attended the wake and there, Kris expressed gratitude because I had previously sent flowers to her mother when Cory was ill in the hospital. Now I’m running under the Nacionalista Party and Kris is of course supporting her brother in the Liberal Party. It’s up to Kris if she still wants to endorse me or not, but any help would be welcomed, of course,” Satur answered.

There were some questions that I thought he’d be cautious about answering, but again, I was wrong. There was none of the defensiveness I thought he would have when answering queries as to why and Liza Maza allied themselves with the Nacionalista Party. He breezed right through such questions, expressing faith in Makabayan’s alliance with NP, and its endorsement of the NP’s standard bearers. “Maganda ang takbo ng kampanya, maayos at masigla. Magtutuloy-tuloy ito hanggang Mayo 10,” he said confidently.

Ka Satur also revealed that he was approached by various people’s groups and organizations in Pampanga when it became clear that Pres. Macapagal-Arroyo was running for congress in its second district. “They wanted me to run against Macapagal-Arroyo as congressman. I considered it briefly, but it turned out that I was registered not in Pampanga where I grew up but in Quezon City where I have been based since I was married. Also, by then, the plans for my senatorial candidacy had already been laid out,” he said.

He was asked how old he was and he answered without pause that he was 71 and still very able to work for change. “Kalakhan kasi ng mga kasama ko sa trabaho at kampanya ay mga bata, kaya parang bumabata na rin ako,” he said.True enough, Ka Satur is by far the most good looking senior citizen I have ever come across. No wonder Dr. Margie Holmes said that Ka Satur was sexy.

Imagine how proud those lucky enough to have been there to hear him speak about socialism (that it was the only option available to any and all country genuinely seeking progress) and the word ‘Leftist’ was a title anyone should be proud to claim.

“Walang masama o nakakahiya sa pagiging leftist. Pinagmamalaki ko na Leftist ako. Leftist kasi talaga sa pag-iisip, at kahit sa pagsusulat kasi left ang gamit ko. Left ang matuwid at sa boxing ang malakas ay ang left hook!”

Ka Satur ended his webchat by thanking everyone who logged on. A lot of people have since said that the session should have lasted longer because they still had questions. I bet many had a kick out of hearing Ka Satur say their name and mention their organizations. There were even greetings from Canada and Saudi Arabia.

Sometimes, when I’m angry over something, the words just flow like water. Right now I’m not angry over anything and the words have the consistency of mud. The weather’s too horrid to be agitated over anything, but I supposed what I’m feeling right now is annoyance.

Noynoy Aquino has his sister the ever-talkative and ever-tactless Kris campaigning for him and it’s being made out to be a big thing because Kris is supposed to be this big celebrity. But now, in the news, Noynoy is trying to downplay the fact that the Nacionalista Party and Manny Villar have boxing champ Manny Pacquiao campaigning for them.

Sheesh. What works for him, he’s saying, shouldn’t work for others. Like he’s the only one entertainment celebrities should endorse.

Another annoying thing — his latest tv ad. Gaaaaad! Because he really has no achievements to speak of, he shamelessly drags out his personal history as the son of Ninoy Aquino and Cory Aquino and says piteously and complete with hangdog expression, “Inapi din kami…” Doesn’t that want to make you barf?! And there go his sisters saying that the Hacienda Luisita farmers are spoiled. Why don’t you women donate your Patek Philippe watches to the farmers and spoil them some more?

March 5, 2010

Tim Burton’s ‘Alice’: reclaiming childhood’s bravery

Filed under: Uncategorized — Ina Alleco @ 9:07 am

I’ve always had a liking for Tim Burton and his movies. From Beetlejuice to Edward Scissorhands to Big Fish and Sweeney Todd, Burton has kept me amazed and grateful: here, I thought, was a man who was fully capable of giving full shape to his imagination, from the realm of the mind to the realm of the real. Or at least, as real as the cinema can be. Imagine being able to depict so clearly the light and dark one imagines and dreams up! It’s not everyone who can truly and so starkly bring out into the open the contents of his brain, monsters, creepy crawlies, blossoming flowers and exercises in fragility and silence.
But Alice in Wonderland — yes! This is the movie that really made me love Tim Burton.

To me there has always been something grim and dark about Lewis’ two books; as a child reading them, I would end up both highly entertained and not a little scared at all the sights and sounds described: the Jabberwocky, the Mock Turtle, the Cheshire cat and his grin that was always the last to disappear. The Duchess who violently rocked a baby in her arms and the babe slowly transformed into a pig and wandered off. Twiddledee and TwiddleDum who fought like fat gladiators clad in foam over a rattle; the battle between the Lion and the Unicorn.

Lewis Carroll would’ve loved Tim Burton’s work on his beloved little girl. Burton’s ‘Alice’ is humorous, intelligent, funny and frightening; but he added his own understanding of the characters: he made them more real (as real as imaginary characters can be, if that makes any sense?) and more sympathetic.

The White Queen in the original books was always sleepy and lazy; in the movie she’s more active, despite being a pacifist: she was a bit of an apothecary, and she believed in justice.

Burton’s Red Queen was the same as Lewis’ — strident, aggressive, violent. The reasons behind the anger, however, were more than hinted at: she needed love (despite being the Queen of Hearts), and she resented not being her parents’ favorite. She reminded me of Macapagal-Arroyo: big-headed (arrogant), temperamental and human (and animal) rights violator that she was. When the Mad Hatter was thinking about words ‘M’, he looked at the Red Queen and said ‘monster’ and ‘murderer.’ Tim Burton could very well have added ‘Macapagal-Arroyo.’

I never particularly liked the Mad Hatter; after all, he was mad. But he was always amusing, as Lewis Carrol made him clever even in his lunacy. Tim Burton made the Mad Hatter into a hero — whatever craziness he possessed was directed towards the goal of restoring Wonderland (or Underland) and giving back the White Queen her crown her sibling stole. Johnny Depp made the Hatter a compassionate character, unselfish in his lucid moments, poetic in his crazy ones. He spoke American, British, Scottish and Irish in turns, and I thought it made his Hatter more interesting. He was a good friend to the 19-year old Alice in contrast to his conduct in the original books when he was an adult annoyed with the six year old she was before.

There were a few scenes there when it seemed that a romance of some sort could bloom between the Mad Hatter and Alice. Thank goodness nothing of the sort happened, nevermind that the Mad Hatter looked like Johnny Depp.

The plot was, to me, about defiance: defying roles that are foisted upon us; defying rules that serve no purpose but to keep some meek and obedient, while others strong and powerful. It was about taking back what’s been taken; and reclaiming selves lost because of years losing contact with our childhood and its illimitable power: there are no boundaries to a child, we are only taught to recognize them, respect or fear them as we grow up. Some lines are meant to be crossed, especially if it means keeping our braver, brighter selves intact. If we mean to grow up, Burton’s ‘Alice’ teaches us, then it means learning to defend what we truly are and what we really want for ourselves to be. It does not mean forgetting the world of fantasy; growing up means learning to appreciate the gift of imagination and learning from it. Imagination is something that can help strengthen us because in it there is freedom.

Burton’s ‘Alice’ made me realize how not very far off one’s childhood is — it’s always there, and it’s the defining moments that helped give shape and shadow to one’s character even as a child are easily summoned at the smallest visual reminder. I remember believing in fairies and aswang, in talking to animals and flowers and having them talk back (and what interesting conversations we had!). I believed in wanting to be taken seriously by the adults around me, yet at the same time not caring what they think. As a child I liked playing alone, and even then I knew the difference between solitude and aloneness.

I also hated being doubted when I told the truth; and there were days when I wanted to run away because I couldn’t stand other people ( I did run away once, but that’s another story) and what they wanted of and from me.

Burton reminded me of how I was as a child, and I now feel a little bit bewildered despite the gladness at being reunited with the forgotten memory. I don’t have to act all grown up (hahaha!, yes!) because who sets the standards for grown-up behavior anyway? So-called adults all over the world are killing millions of people with their policies of government and warfare. What is necessary, however, is to be responsible and to believe that justice should always be for the greater number even as we assert our own individuality. Alice took advice from the Blue Caterpillar who smoked a hookah and found her strength; in real life there is no such catterpillar blue, hookah-smoking or otherwise. We must, all the same, find ourselves, what we’re meant to do, and do our best to be of purpose, even if it doesn’t have to be slaying Jubjub birds or Jabberwockies.

March 3, 2010

Ugaling Hacendero

Filed under: Uncategorized — Ina Alleco @ 3:23 am

There are days when I can write so easily it’s like words are flowing directly from my head, down to my fingertips, into the keyboard and onto the screen. It’s easy to write when there’s something very specific on your mind, and you are agitated as if the words are bees angrily buzzing inside your skull and they need to be let out because they sting sting sting and won’t stop until they’re released.

I don’t feel like that right now. The heat is too hideous — an ugly monster dogging my footsteps making me sluggish, turning my brain into sludge, shushing my heart into silence.

But I will make an effort to write because there are actually so many, many things that need to be written about and I feel I really do that by the fact that I, one person, writes about them, makes these things whatever they are more urgent. My punctuation is also shot to hell it’s the heat I tell you the freaking heat.

Anyway, stories.

In a conversation last week with Ka Satur Ocampo during the Feb. 25 rally led by the Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (BAYAN)-NCR and Kalipunan ng Damayang Mahihirap (KADAMAY), I mentioned to him how annoying Noynoy Aquino was already being. I I told him about the stuff I’ve read in the last week about Aquino losing his temper, being annoyed with the likes of Tony Lopez, sniping at Manny Villar, whining that his campaign ad was being copied.

Ka Satur smiled and shook his head but didn’t say anything. I suppose I wanted to get more of a response from the man so I continued. “Noynoy Aquino is acting like a spoiled brat; he probably thinks that because he is Cory and Ninoy’s son, he is entitled to whatever he wants, and when he says ‘jump’, everyone around him should ask ‘how high?’ all the while making the ‘L’ sign with their thumb and pointer finger! Annoying!”

This time, Ka Satur exhaled and said quietly, “Ganyan ang ugaling hacendero. Sanay kasi sila na nakukuha ang gusto at hindi sanay na kinukontra. Maraming mayayaman ang ganyan, hindi lang naman si Noynoy…”

Sheewiz. Then I remembered that Ka Satur is a son of poor farmers in Sta. Rita, Pampanga. He worked in the fields with is parents, struggled his way through school. His patience was learned, cultivated by experience and tempered by hardship and commitment to a most difficult but most beloved cause.

Oo nga, Noynoy Aquino is actually just being true to his class origins and carries the habits and character flaws common to members of his class. It’s too bad that he hasn’t outgrown them. He never had reason to, anyway. He hasn’t really done much anyway. I don’t care that his father was in prison when he was growing up: the experience didn’t humble him and make him more compassionate.

It’s funny how Noynoy Aquino, educated that he is and what with the religious upbringing he’s had, is whiner. He does like to whine a lot, he complains about this and that in a self-righteous tone, and it does gets on one’s nerves and makes one wonder: this man is running for the presidency? He looks and sounds like a spoiled brat (“Ginaya niya ako, whaaah! Ako lang ang pwedeng may ganyaaaaaaaan!!!!”), and as the campaign continues, the more his temper flares. He attacks his opponents on a personal level, and not on issues. It would be better if they all stuck to issues and quit whining because honestly, it makes one feel even greater despair that this country wants to be run by immature men and women (Sen. Jamby Madrigal, for all my gratitude to her for her devotion to Ka Bel, has really gone overboard in her tirades against Villar. Hmm, come to think of it, she also sounds like Noynoy when she’s attacking Villar! Same snooty and self-righteous tone and manner! Ugaling hacendera?)

Looking so forward to watching Tim Burton’s ‘Alice in Wonderland.’ Growing up, I was both fascinated and frightened by Lewis Carrol’s ‘Alice’ and ‘Through the Looking Glass.’ The Mad Hatter creeped me out, I was outraged for the oysters who were eaten by the Walrus and the Carpenter, and the Mock Turtle made feel so sorry for Alice because she was no good at ‘drawling, stretching, and fainting in coils.” Hahahaha! Burton is a genius and it’s great that he’s made an Alice movie. It’s sure to be a feast for the eyes and the imagination.

What else – ah yes, Iron Man 2. That should help me forget the heat and the annoyance that comes with reading the news in this forsaken country. Robert Downey’s face is always a good and effective diversion.

The earthquakes. I can’t help but keep worrying about them. If one sticks to science, one would simply accept them as natural phenomenon, nothing can be done against them. But when one considers the lives lost… We live on the earth’s crust, and we’re like ants being crushed under the weight of shifting rock. Haiti and Chile have suffered so terribly, and we can only hope that what happened there won’t happen in the Philippines or if it does, the devastation won’t be on the same scale. At this point, we must all prepare emergency kits and rally our communities for quick-response measures. It would too naive to rely too much on the government to do anything majorly useful.

The other day I was walking in downtown Makati, in Ayala, and I looked up to see the tall buildings and imagined them shaking and then beginning to collapse. I shivered in the heat.

On March 5, various organizations are again taking to the streets to demand the immediate release of the 43 health workers illegally detained by the Arroyo government.
The march marks the first month since the Morong 43 were illegally arrested and detained. The Free the 43 Health Workers Now! Campaign, the Health Alliance for Democracy and the Bagong Alyansang Makabayan will lead the march. nationally-coordinated protests are also slated in the same day.

Assembly is at 9:30 am in front of the University of Santo Tomas before the march to Mendiola.