Who’s afraid of Martial Law?

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Not me. Even if it was declared all over the country, not just in Mindanao.

I am not a dissident. I am not a criminal. I am not a terrorist. I am not an extremist, much less a jihadist. I am not a renegade soldier. I am not a ninja cop. I am not a drug lord. I am not a drug pusher. I am not a plunderer. Most of all, I am not a corrupt government functionary.

I do not advocate extremism and terrorism. I do not believe in communism. I do not condone foreign intervention. I do not support subversion, rebellion, invasion and secession. I do not engage in destabilization plots, much more actively promote the overthrow of duly constituted authorities.

I express myself freely but responsibly. I exercise my religion but I am tolerant of other faiths. I do not harbor or coddle persons wanted by the law. I am a law-abiding citizen of the Republic of the Philippines. So, why should I be afraid of Martial Law?

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Should I allow myself to be afraid because the ghost of Ferdinand Marcos still casts a heavy pall among the victims of military rule who want the rest of the Filipino people to remember what they went through and carry their pain in our consciousness as well? Not to disrespect their suffering, but the same respect should also be accorded to those who ‘survived’ the era without a scratch, as it were. Without a dent in their physical and psychological makeup because they chose to follow the path of least resistance. Does that make them any less patriotic?

I was very young but old enough to remember the choices I had to make straight out of puberty into early adulthood. The so-called First Quarter Storm was a nebulous nomenclature to chew on while playing jack-stones with my cousins back home in the boondocks. And Martial Law was a sort of bogeyman used to keep youngsters like us from roaming the streets after midnight.

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But the parish priests were real. There were two of them in our town who turned out to be rebels recruiting young people – children, essentially – to attend teach-in’s being held in some dark corners of the kumbento. Those priests were indoctrinating us not about the Word of God but of the teachings of Mao. Not about the Bible and Christianity but of the Little Red Book and Communism.

In short, I did the sensible thing and stopped after attending a couple of sessions. The priests were some kind of folk heroes to vulnerable minds and not a few were attracted to their swashbuckling ways and followed them up in the mountains. The president of my school’s student council famously disappeared into the forests, never to be seen again.

The point being, it was their choice. To go underground. To be called subversives. To practice an ideology contrary to what was, and is, enshrined in the law of the land. Whether they were in too deep or were just germinating didn’t matter. Red became the color of their existence. And they were the reason for Martial Law.

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There were abuses, of course, which are well-documented. But there were also benign cases. Those caught jaywalking – yes, jaywalking – were brought to Camp Crame and made to cut grass. And some women detainees I knew said their months-long stay at the stockades were uneventful.

Be that as it may, the Marcos era Martial Law was a decidedly different animal than the one that is written in the Cory Constitution – with enough safeguards put in place, the framers say, to prevent the advent of another dictatorship.  Besides, the Armed Forces of the Philippines today is different from the Armed Forces of Ramos and Ver. They are now mostly professional soldiers, whose sole purpose is to defend and protect the Republic from enemies both within and outside.

Thus, why all the ruckus about human rights violations, cruelties and violence that MIGHT happen? Is President Duterte’s Martial Law not acceptable because the Americans are not behind it? That no American senator speaking in behalf of the American president will tell their much-hated non-puppet that “The time has come, you should cut and cut cleanly”?

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Unlike the 70’s when it was literally ‘dark’ as far as the reporting of atrocities and abuses by the military are concerned, today the same will be told in ‘real time’ and living color by the vociferous social media – fake news or alternative facts notwithstanding. Isn’t this the era of (too much) information? When even the most innocuous things like “makeup transformations” go “viral” in the Internet and people with lots of spare time in their hands announce to the world wide web what they are eating for breakfast, lunch and dinner?

Terrorism is the scourge of modern times. It has inched slowly to our shores whether we accept the fact or not. They are the enemy, and they wear black. Evil, ominous, menacing, without mercy. You don’t know when it will stare you in the face. And if it does, would the oligarchs and elitists and their minions who have been living off the fat of our land and the blood of our people as much as offer an arm to defend you?

Not in a million years. But I will sleep soundly at night knowing that the soldiers of our Republic will be out there in the war zone – in a heartbeat, because theirs is not to question why – putting their own lives on the line, in the service of God and country. Would anybody else do that for you in this horrifying time?

So, yes, Martial Law. Bring it on.

PHILIPPINES DUTERTE

 

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Damn the torpedoes, Duterte all the way!

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Rodrigo Roa Duterte is not the same as you and me. He is as Filipino as can be – in words and deeds, not to mention looks – while you and I are an amalgam of assorted influences that have managed to dilute our Filipino-ness. I can draw a list of traits that are, today, no longer present in the Filipino’s ordinary scheme of things. But just ask your child how much he loves his country, if at all. His answer might confound you. Patriotism? What is that? Blame globalization.

Then along comes the erstwhile Mayor of Davao City who took the country by storm and launched a massive change in mindset among Filipinos who have been laboring under the governance of those foisted by the so-called ruling class and their ilk. For far too long, we have been subjected to the dictum that only one particular group of people are entitled to rule over us, indios and sacadas – not unlike the colonial-era Filipinos subjugated for centuries by their imperial masters.

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No other President of the Philippines in recent memory was able to arouse love of country among the great many who seemed to have fallen in deep slumber as far as nationalistic fervor is concerned than this one has. Rightfully, the country’s colors are back to red, white and blue –the despicable yellow ribbon has overstepped its welcome and has been relegated as one of history’s insufferable moments. (Pray tell, which proud Filipino ever wore that yellow crap on their chest except the Mother’s Son and his now-negligible minions?)

I will not dwell on why a miniscule number of Filipinos hate President Duterte with unmitigated venom in their hearts. Miniscule because they consist of the elite and the elite represents only 1% of the population, counting the so-called elitists (bless their pompous souls) and the displaced politicians (sanctify their insatiable tummies) who could not accept the loss of entitlement and power. Their negativity is not good for the crinkles, so I leave them to their own self-annihilation.

The Opposition? Legitimate dissent, though smattering in number, is essential in a democracy and they are not being stifled by the man they like to call a (budding?) dictator. The nation’s second highest official is free to broadcast her disdain in front of the international community (while noticeably smiling and beaming as she spoke about killings) – perhaps to her eternal damnation. The self-described “political prisoner” can dish out post-dated handwritten statements from her detention cell imploring the public to puh-lease not forget her. And former mutineers turned mercenaries are at liberty to rant and accuse the President of every crime in the book, file an impeachment complaint, and make the rounds of jaundiced media to peddle their alternate reality.

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No, they are not destabilizing the government. They are only exposing their dark facades, tainted by greed and tarnished by lust. Greed for riches amassed without breaking a sweat and lust for power that they can’t let go. So, let them have their cake and eat it stale. Stupid is as stupid does, too.

Rather, I will focus on the things that endeared PRRD to the millions of average Filipinos who have finally found their voice and elected one of them to the highest post in the land. The qualities that make him stand a world away from those pretending to serve the people but all the while just helping themselves.

Of course, PRRD has flaws. Plenty of them. And he owned up to many of those flaws during the campaign. But he won, in spite of. Overwhelmingly at that. And he still enjoys high approval ratings nine months into his term despite being pictured by the “silent majority-cum-silent no more” as the devil incarnate. Try harder, peeps. The man seems to be indestructible, beloved as he is by Filipinos here and abroad. Just watch the crowds roar and scream and jostle to get near him wherever he goes. Have you ever seen anything like that before?

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Because he is a man with a mission, right from the get-go. A mission to take on and take out the scourge of drugs that has enveloped our country like a plague. He dares to do battle where others simply succumbed to the temptation of unimaginable wealth at the expense of the young and the poor. Yes, the poor whom critics say are the sole victims of Duterte’s war against drugs. The same critics who apparently don’t have the nerve to condemn the drug lords and “ninja cops” who made addicts and pushers out of the vulnerable poor in the first place.

If he is single-minded in his mission, it is because the man is a visionary. He envisions a country safe from the horrors of drug addiction, and succeeding generations of Filipinos emancipated from its shackles. It might go down as a quixotic quest, who knows, but he can’t be faulted for not trying. Where others before him were simply apathetic to the people’s travails and concerns (hello, BS!), Duterte walks his coarse and curse-laden talk. He doesn’t care whether he loses the presidency, even his life, he says; but he will fulfill his promises, mark his words.

He speaks the truth about us as a people – inconvenient and beyond the pale though it may be. Who was it who said that in times of universal deceit, telling the truth is a revolutionary act? President Duterte is waging a revolution that will forever change the Filipino psyche. He is taking us out of slavery. Slavery to the mentality that we cannot do things on our own – that we are permanently dependent on dole outs from Big Brother even if they be scraps and tokens and leftovers.

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Slavery to the reality that oligarchs have been presiding over our lives with impunity – paying us wages that will never lift us out of poverty while exploiting our country’s minerals until they run barren and dry, and buying off politicians to legalize their rapaciousness. He is taking us out of the slavery to terrorism brought by differences in ideology and religion, but really just as covert means to make money in exchange for lives.

And the slavery to corruption that has systematically gnawed at every fiber of our existence as a nation it has become the norm instead of the aberration.

Decades of indifference by our leaders have made us slaves to false prophets and fake icons – and these forces of greed and lust are now furiously at work spreading falsehoods and painting a grim picture of the Philippines using foreign media and transnational organizations. With the sole motive of unseating President Duterte by all means dirty and foul in order to get back the power they lost by popular election.

They are taking their crooked movement outside the country because the Filipino people won’t listen to them anymore. Quite a jolt it must be to these pretenders. Enemies of change whose time is past. They are not freedom-loving Filipinos who will die for the Homeland, nope. Just puny slave masters whose sense of supremacy has been smashed to the ground, demolished as myth by one man. And that’s what rankles them to the marrows of their blackened bones.
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Mocha

MOCHA USON IS A CREATION OF MAINSTREAM MEDIA.

During the campaign, she was just another ordinary “blogger”, although her name recall as a “sexy entertainer” attracted some followers. Before long, however, she became the self-described “Media ni Duterte”. Mainly because mainstream media would not publish still pictures and show live videos of the huge crowds lining the streets where Candidate Duterte’s motorcades would pass and the throngs of people who would attend his rallies all over the archipelago. Which were spontaneous at hindi po hakot.

Mocha’s blog was the go-to site for Duterte followers who were ‘hungry’ for news on what’s happening in the Duterte campaign. Kasi po, mainstream media, your embedded reporters focused more on Duterte’s expletives rather than the message of ‘country first’ that he was trying to convey. Those were the things that she shared in her Facebook page – videos on Duterte’s campaign speeches in all the places that he visited which were all cramped with people. And those were “lies” and “fabrications”?

Her followers grew in large numbers until the apologists of the previous regime found out, a bit too late, that her “believers” have reached over four million. For one, the apologists were hard to justify the pathetic scene in Hong Kong where Mocha and her group were performing before a large crowd of overseas Filipinos while a stone’s throw away, a sprinkling of Roxas supporters were seen trying to comfort their standard bearer while he sat slumped on a concrete bench perhaps trying to figure out what the hell was happening. And DU30 was not even there. Did a single media outlet show that “picture”?

And by the way, the holier-than-thou had been dismissing the Mocha Girls in the meanest terms possible when in truth, they were just a group of hard-working girls volunteering their services for free in favor of a candidate that they believed in. Masyado tayong mapang-husga pero ang totoo, mas makatao pa sila kaysa sa atin.

Mocha might have ‘shared’ a few links which were of dubious origins but, what the heck, who hasn’t done so in an era of pretense and deceit when it is easy to fall for crap without giving it a moment’s thought? The lady is admittedly not a journalist, but even journalists do not always report the truth. So?

So Mocha is now a multi-media phenom. Blame yourselves, media oligarchs. You have created your own monster.

THE TARAY CHRONICLES

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Some members of mainstream media have been frothing in the mouth at this lady for scoring an exclusive interview with the Incoming President. What, a “sexy entertainer” out scooping ‘legitimate journalists’ for a full, albeit edited, 15-minute audience with The Digong? A ‘TH’-blogger with 20 million hits outsmarting the big names in news and broadcast media? I say, eat your hearts out.

What you sow, so shall you reap. If you planted ill will, do you expect to gather good seed? Nope, it is not retribution (vis-à-vis Duterte’s ‘justification’ as to death penalty for heinous crimes) or vengefulness (the favorite word to use against the Outgoing President). It is about putting people in their right places. ‘With great power comes great responsibility’. Media has become too powerful even for their own good, the kaakibat (paboritong bigkasin ng mga TV news reader these days) responsibility is now…

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Who’s afraid of China?

(Disclaimer: To my relatives and friends who have been living in the US as American citizens, this is not an anti-American rant. To my Filipino-Chinese acquaintances, this is not a pro-China paean. Just telling things as they are from my point of view. And to find out for myself whether or not President Duterte is justified in “cozying up” to our neighbor and “separating” from our former colonial master.)

dscn3326The Amboys in our midst are apoplectic over President Duterte’s perceived anti-American stance and friendliness towards China. One respectable gentleman even calls it a national tragedy.

I wonder why. They sound so un-Filipino and anti-Filipino to me.

How much do Filipinos love America? How much does America love Filipinos in return?

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Conversely, why do Filipinos love China less? Or sometimes deride – when, in truth and in fact, a big chunk of the Philippine population are of Chinese descent. Tsinoys, they are called, and while many of them do not have Filipino genes, they consider themselves Filipino for having been born here. On the other hand, most Amboys are pure Filipino with nary a drop of American plasma in them. Get the drift.

Then, too, the Chinese never colonized the Philippines even if both peoples have been trading with each other since ancient times – centuries before Ferdinand Magellan “landed on Limasawa at noon” and Christopher Columbus set foot on American soil.

Thus, let me count the ways. And revisit a little bit of history. Starting with the Philippine-American War at the turn of the 20th century that so little is known about.

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First of all, let this sink in: “The overall cost in human lives of American actions in the Philippines was horrific.  One scholar has concluded concerning the American occupation that in the 15 years that followed the defeat of the Spanish in Manila Bay in 1898, more Filipinos were killed by U.S. forces than by the Spanish in 300 years of colonization. Over 1.5 million died out of a total population of six million.”

That tiny bit of information is verifiable at the click of your mouse if you know which archives to look, with the figures varying from one document to another. And if you click your mouse further, you will find that massacring Filipinos was a matter of fact for our American colonizers during that dark period in our existence as a nation; and that they came not as rescuers, which we were apparently made to believe, but as vanquishers.

America’s most famous literary icon, Mark Twain, put it succinctly: “…I have seen that we do not intend to free, but to subjugate the people of the Philippines. We have gone to conquer, not to redeem…”

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In truth, historians refer to the Philippine-American War as the “first Vietnam” where such tactics as strategic hamleting and scorched-earth policy were first used and the death of hundreds of thousands of Filipinos was “usually accounted for as either collateral damage or victims of insurrection.”

Doesn’t the term ‘collateral damage’ sound familiar these days?

In November 1901, the Manila correspondent of the Philadelphia Ledger reported: ”The present war is no bloodless, opera bouffe engagement; our men have been relentless, have killed to exterminate men, women, children, prisoners and captives, active insurgents and suspected people from lads of ten up, the idea prevailing that the Filipino as such was little better than a dog….

Doesn’t that sound like ‘extrajudicial killings’? Genocide? Mass murder? Butchery? (Not to mention patently racist. Little better than a dog?)

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If you are not convinced, click your mouse again onto “Balangiga Massacre”, “Bud Dajo Massacre” or “US war crimes in the Philippines” and you might run into an American general who specifically ordered his men “to kill and burn: the more you kill and burn, the better you will please me.” Or another general who wrote: “All able bodied men will be killed or captured… These people need a thrashing to teach them some good common sense…”

So, yes, those atrocities happened over a hundred years ago. Atrocities which America never apologized for. Because it was all part of President McKinley’s so-called Benevolent Assimilation? In McKinley’s words:“…We could not leave them to themselves – they were unfit for self-government – and they would soon have anarchy and misrule over there worse than Spain’s was; and that there was nothing left for us to do but to take them all, and to educate the Filipinos, and uplift and civilize and Christianize them…”

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Not to forget that Japan invaded the Philippines during World War II, not because we were at war with them but because we were with America. And it cost the lives of one million Filipinos.

By the way, the first American Governor General after whom Taft Avenue is named, coined the phrase little brown brothers when he told McKinley that “our little brown brothers” would need “fifty or one hundred years” of close supervision “to develop anything resembling Anglo-Saxon political principles and skills.”

The point being that those who do not remember the past are doomed to repeat it. What purpose does recording history serve if people do not learn from it?

Speaking of the past, historical records suggest that the earliest direct Chinese contact with the Philippines was during the early years of the Sung Dynasty (962-1279). And surprise, surprise, Filipinos went to China before the Chinese came to the Philippines. Merchants from “Ma-i” (Mindoro) were said to be part of a luxury trade bringing to Guangzhou scents, ivory, coral, pearls, fine steel, tortoise shell, crystal, sea-turtle leather, cloths and other wares in exchange for gold, silver, coin strings, lead, tin, multi-colored silk and porcelain.

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Does that seem like the pre-colonial Filipinos were uncivilized? And Western historians called them barbarians.

Ma-i traders arrived on the Canton coast in 982, not on a tribute mission but sailing directly with valuable merchandise for sale. The first Philippine tribute mission to China appears to have come from Butuan (P’u-tuan) which was described as a small country in the sea to the east of Champa (Vietnam) in March 1001.

Back then, a tribute mission was the Chinese idea of diplomacy where neighboring lands and tribes paid homage to the emperor through presents of pearls and aromatics. In return, the envoys were given brocaded court costumes encrusted with gold and jade, among others. The tributary states did not become colonies or part of the imperial system but were simply enlisted as independent states occupying their proper niche in the Chinese order.

china7Doesn’t China still use trade today as a diplomatic weapon, dispensing favors in the form of investments and soft loans to both near and distant countries?

Fast forward to Mao Zedong’s Great Proletariat Cultural Revolution (1966-1976) marked by a violent class struggle “that saw countless politicians and intellectuals driven to their deaths, civilians killed in armed conflicts, and cultural relics and artefacts destroyed. The official death toll numbered more than 1.7 million.”

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Fifty years hence, the People’s Republic of China – once dubbed as the sleeping giant – has risen to become the second largest economy in the world and, according to Forbes, is set to overtake the US in 2018. While it has been criticized by Western media for unfair trade practices including intellectual property theft and protectionism, its socialist market economy has allowed the still communist state to finance an ambitious space program and initiate the creation of the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank to rival the World Bank, while its Renminbi currency is undergoing the process of internationalization.

Sometime in 1817, Napoleon Bonaparte was supposed to have said, “China? There lies a sleeping giant. Let him sleep, for when he wakes he will move the world.”

So, is President Duterte right in turning to China and strengthening ties with our other Asian neighbors? The writing is on the wall.

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For what it is worth, I am not scared of Beijing. I am not scared of its ancient temples and rich culture, its great halls and massive squares, even its smog, imposing structures and seemingly impassive inhabitants. Its long, enigmatic past touches the old soul and its dynamic, straightforward present arouses the senses.

I am more scared of being humiliated by an American consul denying me a visa to enter his country because I don’t speak English well enough or I don’t look “prosperous” enough. I am more scared of being accosted by an American immigration officer talking down at me and demanding what I am doing in his great country. It would diminish my pride and dignity as a fellow member of the human race.

As a true Oriental, ‘Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon’ beckons to my sense of wonder and curiosity more than ‘Gone with the Wind’ ever will.

However, as a pure Filipino, I am not anti- or pro-USA. Neither am I anti- or pro-China. I will only be forever pro-Philippines.

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Dear Senator Leila de Lima

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It is not a woman thing, Madame. Or a gender thing. Nor is it about misogyny, sexism or a battle of the sexes.

This is the 21st century – when man, woman and child are spoken in the same breath as having equal rights with lesbian, gay, transgender, bisexual, person with disability and person with special needs – up and down the whole spectrum of what is known as humanity.

Women have demolished so many glass ceilings since Biblical times when they were not even included in census-taking. We have fought many battles over the ages – acquiring our right to vote, competing successfully against men for the right to occupy the corner office, becoming heads of state of several countries, piloting airplanes, traveling to outer space, going to war as active combatants. Heck, we even burned our bras to signify our liberation from whatever it was that held us prisoners in the past.

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And now your supporters are invoking womanhood as your way out of the crisis you are currently facing? Are we going to flash the woman card whenever we feel we are being bullied by men? No, ma’am, your being a woman has nothing to do with it.

It is a character thing. Or what an ancient sage said about character being intertwined with one’s destiny. That fate is not preprogrammed, or determined by outside forces but by a person’s inner self, or their own hands.

You are in a tight spot today because of your own making, po. You chased the wind, to be Scriptural about it, right from the get go. Nobody thrust you into the limelight but yourself – with cameras following you while digging graves in Davao as chair of the Commission on Human Rights in 2008.

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Then, as the newly appointed Secretary of Justice, you headed the committee that investigated the hijacking of a tourist bus in Luneta on August 23, 2010 where 25 people, mostly Hong Kong tourists, were taken hostage by one gunman – a disgruntled police officer who felt unjustly dismissed from service and demanded a fair hearing.

To recall, the 11-hour standoff placed the Philippines on the spotlight of international ridicule as the whole episode was watched in real time around the world. The botched rescue operation resulted in the death of eight Chinese nationals and the straining of relations between the Philippines and Hong Kong (and consequently, China), with the latter blaming the deaths to “incompetent handling” by Philippine authorities.

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The investigating body submitted their findings in a report that was mostly ignored by the new president, B. S. Aquino III. You made noises about resigning if such report would be disregarded – which, in essence was, because none of the persons who were determined to have bungled the operation were ever charged criminally or administratively one year after the incident.

But you did not resign and instead clung to your post as Secretary of Justice. That was your first test of character.

Fast forward to the spectacle at the airport on November 15, 2011 when you effectively prevented former president Gloria Macapagal Arroyo from leaving the country to seek treatment abroad even as there were still no cases filed against her at the time and the Supreme Court issued a document allowing her to travel.

Your exact words then were: “My order is a denial of the request for an allow departure order,” sounding like you were above the highest court of the land and looking like too much power has taken over your head.

GMA was never allowed access to media to air her side. No laptops and cell phones throughout her “hospital arrest” even if she has not yet been found guilty of any crime. Contrast this with the blatant use of cell phones by convicted criminals inside the New Bilibid Prisons under your watch. And your propensity to call the media every time you feel the need to contradict President Duterte. (“May gusto ba kayo sa akin?” Ugh.)

The loud hysterics in full view of TV lights at the press conference you called a few minutes after the “riot” at Bilibid with a prepared statement had startled netizens suspicious of its haste and readiness. Your behavior was totally shocking, and unexpected. The strange thing was, no one has accused you of being complicit in the incident. Have we just seen the real Leila de Lima?

It might do well for you, madam senator, to ponder on these words by Charles De Gaulle: “Faced with crisis, the man of character falls back on himself. He imposes his own stamp of action, takes responsibility for it, makes it his own.”

Do you honestly think that you have passed the test of character, dear Senator?

And no, it is not an Every Woman issue. Not every woman walks the corridors of power like you do. Not every woman has the intelligence that you obviously possess. Not every woman is fortunate to be endowed with a good education and a comfortable life such as you have.

Not every woman is accused of protecting the drug trade inside Bilibid. Not every woman is suspected of receiving drug money from notorious criminals. Not every woman has an alleged sex video. And not every woman is given the opportunity to occupy high office but allows her exalted position to be ruined by indiscretions.

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The issues that concern Every Woman are those that feed her stomach, nurture her mind, strengthen her body, uplift her spirits, and nourish her soul. Issues that will allow her to live a decent life by dint of hard work and self-sacrifice. Not the perorations of One Woman trying to portray herself as a helpless victim being oppressed by the full and mighty force of Government. You have been down that road before, ma’am, but you were conveniently on the other side.

And much as I want to sympathize with you on account of being a fellow woman, I cannot. I could not. I will not.

Because it is an individual thing, Senadora. Wala pong kinalaman ang lahat ng kababaihan sa tawag ng inyong pangangailangan.

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Image and statesmanship

 

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So, has the stock market crashed yet? Has the United States severed relations with the Philippines and withdrawn from the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA) thus far? Have we already been treated as pariah in the community of nations? Because of the President’s vulgar, uncouth, dirty, foul, coarse language? Because the Philippines does not have a “statesman” as President?

Read the dailies these days and much of what you will see are some politicians’ and media persons’ concern over the “image” that the country is projecting to the outside world. Like, have we become one huge killing field where thousands are murdered every day on orders of the Commander-in-Chief? Or a genocide is happening and we are blissfully unaware of it?

In the first place, why do we care so much what other nationalities think of us? Do we live and breathe for the Americans who largely refer to us as their “little brown brothers”, or the Europeans many of whom do not even know we exist, or the rest of the civilized biosphere who only recognize us for the throng of skilled and domestic workers that we export to their shores?

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So what if our President is not a “statesman”? Neither is he the embodiment of phony. How many phony characters have we elected as mayors, governors, congressmen, senators, presidents since elections in the Philippines became the norm by which we choose our leaders? And most of them have passed the standard of “statesman” in public comportment even as, all the while, their hands have been digging deep into the country’s coffers; but this President is an aberration because he says things that hit close to home?

President Rodrigo Roa Duterte won the election overwhelmingly on the strength of his genuineness and authenticity in contrast to the other candidates’ phoniness, to put it plainly. All they offered were images of themselves as so-called champions of the poor and vanquishers of the corrupt. On the other hand, Candidate Duterte spoke to the people eye-to-eye, in ordinary man’s terms, offering his life to flag and country – and Filipinos, in huge numbers, believed him. He only had to be himself – including the “abominable” cursing and cussing – not an image of himself, nor an image of the usual. The usual being that of the traditional politician who has been populating the Philippine political landscape for generations. Pray tell, what have those long succession of office-bearers and their respective dynasties done for the betterment of a Philippines led by “statesmen”?

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Before Duterte came along, the whole archipelago – for all of the Filipinos’ fondness for things Western and, yep, colonial – had no working national emergency number like the US’ famous 911, let alone a citizens’ hotline where they can report on and complain about things that bedevil them. Barely a month in office and 911 and 8888 were instituted – which, according to those who have tried each, are functioning and effective.

More importantly, hardly a few days into the new administration and the drug scourge was exposed for what it has been since God knows when – a huge conspiracy among rouge policemen, insatiable police generals, greedy local government officials, corrupt trial court judges and other men and women in power (“statesmen”, indeed) – all of them protecting drug lords and criminals, in the process fostering the drug trade that has been eating at the country’s youth since methamphetamine hydrochloride was invented. Shabu could be the new plague but everyone preferred to look the other way – out of fear, maybe? Or just plain indifference, which is worse.

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In the course of fulfilling his campaign promise, President Duterte ordered a “relentless and sustained” war on drugs – a bloody one at that, as he declared it would be at the outset. Before long, loud cries of “human rights” and “extrajudicial killings” rang out in unison like the sound of an orchestra being steered by an unseen conductor, painting the grim picture of a country wilting under the control of a madman, with cherry-picked information being fed to foreign media and human rights organizations making out the country as a new Darfur, Aleppo or Kabul.

Did President Duterte ever threaten, much less issue an order, to kill law abiding citizens? Right from his inaugural speech, he said: “As a lawyer and a former prosecutor, I know the limits of the power and authority of the president. I know what is legal and what is not. My adherence to due process and the rule of law is uncompromising. You mind your work and I will mind mine.”

If that was not clear enough, in his visits at police and military camps all over the country, he kept repeating the same message: “Go after the drug addicts, pushers and dealers, the rapists, kidnappers, murderers and other criminals. Hunt them down and arrest them. But if they offer violent resistance, if you feel that your life is in danger, then shoot them.”

So, what to do with this leader whose “ugly mouth” and “boorish behavior” rankles the remnants of “civil society” who cannot seem to accept the fact that he is not one of their own, who cannot be “controlled” into bowing to them like he bows to the masses, and whose popularity baffles the mind in spite of his flaws and mistakes?

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A leader who is not afraid to own up to his shortcomings and ask for forgiveness (“I take full responsibility”, “Wala akong pride chicken,” “Fair is fair”), whose loyalty is to the flag, not to a political party (“I am willing to give up my life, my honor and the presidency”), and who does not care what “image” is attributed to his person every time he opens his mouth (“I have many mistakes and faults in life. I am not perfect. But I will not change my character”).

This is also the same leader who has the political will to include the Left in national governance for the first time in the communist rebellion’s 47-year existence, impose an indefinite unilateral ceasefire with the CPP/NPA and release political prisoners who are ranking members of the NDF to enable them to participate in the ongoing peace talks. Not to mention the similar peace talks with both MNLF and MILF. Which “statesman” has done that in recent memory?

If the media in general worries that much about the country’s image abroad, aren’t there enough accomplishments of the Duterte Administration to spread the word around, even as it has still to mark its 100th day? To improve the country’s “image”? Then again, good news does not sell. “Man bites dog” is more soundbites-worthy, while “Dog bites man” stories are panakip-butas lang. There goes the rub.

So. If push comes to shove, I’ll take the ramblings of a trash-talking septuagenarian – anytime, all the time – whose message is clear to me in spite of and/or due to constant repetitions, than the posturing of a so-called statesman who stares down at typhoon victims and tells them to their face: “Buhay ka pa naman, ‘di ba?”

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Ask not what Duterte can do for you

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Chances are, there will be no answer. Because it is not about you. Or me. Or the pet dog barking up the wrong tree.

It is not about you demanding that he should fix this or he should remove that, because either you voted for him and you want to be proven right or you didn’t vote for him and you don’t want to be proven wrong.

It is not about you ranting at the choice of people he wants to put in place, because they are “recycled”, they are not the “best and brightest”, or they are just not good enough for your (lofty) standards. Guess what, he is the President-in-waiting and you are not. He has the prerogative to appoint people whom he wants to work with, and he does not have to get your nice little approval.

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It is not about you and me just sitting there watching him do all the dirty work and yakking till Kingdom come that he is this or he is that and he shouldn’t do this or he mustn’t do that. Armchair experts are only as good as the upholstered metal where their elbows rest; in fact, they are the worst kind of ‘critics’ as they base their statements solely on their own all-knowing self-righteousness.

It is not about you scrutinizing every move he makes and every word he says and pouncing on him like he cannot do anything right even if he has yet to formally take his oath. His pronouncements today do not yet carry the weight of the office he will assume on June 30, and there you are storming the gates of Hell for him to fail before he could start the ball rolling.

For whatever it is worth, Duterte said he doesn’t care about his haters. He is here to serve the people the best way he could. And “people” includes those who did not vote for him and those who persecuted him without let up before the election – especially the media focusing only on his “despicable” mouth, not to mention the pastoral letters and homilies from moral crusaders, so called.

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Now, if you don’t want to be “included”, you are free to make good your threat to leave the country if Duterte is elected. You have the wherewithal, right? Go ahead and pack your bags and leave the Philippines to Filipinos who want to remain Filipinos regardless of who their leader is.

But if you choose not to move your butt and continue to nitpick, that is your right as well. While doing so, examine yourself and think about these:

1) Do you report your correct taxable income?

2) Do you pay your employees the right wages?

3) Do you text while you drive and do you drive when you’ve had too much to drink?

4) Do you occupy the street as parking area for your car because you don’t have a garage?

5) Do you stand at attention when the National Anthem is playing?

6) Do you keep an unlicensed firearm?

7) Do you buy an expensive designer bag even if you can barely afford it?

8) Do you take home bond paper and other supplies from the office?

9) Do you work your full eight hours a day at the office without taking ‘unauthorized’ breaks to do Facebook, Candy Crush or Solitaire on your computer?

10) Do you not open your desk drawer to make room for envelops that will ‘fast-track’ the flow of documents such as permits, licenses, etc. needing your signature?

11) Do you not bribe a traffic enforcer to get out of a routine traffic violation?

12) Do you not bribe Customs for anything that you bring into the country that has commercial value?

13) Do you not segregate your trash?

14) Do you not throw candy wrappers and cigarette butts on the street and ignore ‘no littering’ signs?

15) Do you not spit anywhere and everywhere and spread your germs and viruses on the air?

16) Do you not use a ‘fixer’ to have your car registration renewed or checked for smoke emission, and to get your passport or driver’s license processed because you don’t want to fall in line?

17) Do you not insert yourself in the middle of a long queue?

18) Do you not use the overhead walkways because you are too lazy to climb up and down and just go ahead cross the street even if there are ‘no jaywalking’ signs?

19) Do you not look down on your fellow Filipinos and condescendingly call them “dukha”?

20) Do you ever donate to charity and not let the whole world know about it?

21) Do you ever volunteer your services to help a fellow countryman in times of calamities?

22) Do you ever patronize the works of Filipino poets, authors, musicians, painters, sculptors, artists, designers, inventors?

23) Do you ever report a crime you have witnessed to the authorities?

24) Do you ever open a door for someone? Help someone cross the street? Let someone pass your car on bumper-to-bumper traffic? Stop your car behind a pedestrian lane to let pedestrians pass?

25) Do you ever listen to your parents when they tell you not to stay out late at night?

26) Do you ever give up your seat at the MRT, LRT or bus in favor of a senior citizen, a pregnant woman, and a person with disability or do you remain seated smug while listening to your earphones and ignoring the sea of humanity around you?

27) Do you ever show respect towards your parents and elders by not talking back at them even if you think you are right?

28) Do you ever show respect towards fellow motorists by not unnecessarily honking your horn, cutting lanes, tail gating, and shouting invectives at them when they do the same to you?

29) How far have you ever ventured up north and down south of your country the Philippines?

30) How far will you go to effect change on yourself before asking your leaders to change themselves?

Time to look askance – to borrow Duterte’s word – at ourselves and contemplate if we are capable of initiating change through the small things we do every single day.

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You and I are just among the hundred million tiny snapshots that make up the grand mosaic of our existence as a nation. President Duterte is there to take care of the Big Picture, hopefully, the best way he knows how.

So, if you will keep on whining and carping on how ugly his mouth is and how “evil” his deeds are without giving him the chance to do what he needs to do – better just go away and live in some land of sugar and spice and everything nice where you will be considered as second class citizens.

The Philippines under Duterte will be better off without the sound and fury of sanctimonious people whose only claim to patriotism is their insistence that Daang Matuwid is the one and only true path. Six years of that, and are we as a people any more patriotic than Rizal ever was?

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