Yearender: Human rights protection in RP sinks to 'terrible low'

Yearender: Human rights protection in RP sinks to 'terrible low'
By Katherine Adraneda (The Philippine Star) Updated January 01, 2010 12:00 AM

MANILA, Philippines - The country’s dismal reputation on human rights promotion and protection got worse in 2009.

After declaring a “dismal” state of human rights defense in the country in 2008, the Commission on Human Rights (CHR) affirmed that 2009 was not any better.

CHR chair Leila de Lima said the prevailing culture of impunity by allies of the Arroyo administration saw the Philippines “sink to a terrible low” in terms of human rights protection.

De Lima said the massacre of 57 people in Maguindanao last month can be considered as “a foreshadowing of even worse things to come.”

The massacre has been blamed on a family of politicians that are allied with the Arroyo administration.

“That slaughter offers us a foreshadowing of the other horrors and brutalities we will continue to face, if we do not find meaningful and lasting solutions to some of our grave, systemic problems,” De Lima noted.

“We were already aware that a culture of impunity continues to be pervasive. We already knew for some time that the rule of law was being weakened, and that our elections were being hijacked by the powerful, the wealthy, and the corrupt,” she said.

De Lima stressed the brutal mass murder in Maguindanao made it clear that if no effort is made to preserve and sustain human rights protection, “we will see more brutal murders, individual and en masse, in the coming years.”

According to De Lima, even before the Maguindanao massacre, there already were numerous incidents and “credible allegations” of enforced disappearances, torture, and unexplained killings in the country.

De Lima mentioned that even human rights defenders, as well as members of the media, continued to be harassed and became targets of violence.

De Lima also noted that the government’s counter-insurgency program continued to vilify civil society organizations and their members, branding them as fronts of communist rebels.

This kind of move, she said, is an attempt to transform civilians into legitimate military targets.

The human rights group Karapatan agreed with De Lima’s assessment.

Karapatan reported an increase in the number of victims of unexplained killings in the country during the first 10 months of 2009.

Karapatan said they documented 77 victims of extralegal killings from January-October 2009, which is more than the 53 cases that the group recorded in the same period in 2008.

Karapatan said there are now 1,118 documented victims of unexplained killings.

Karapatan also reported three cases of enforced disappearance from January to October this year, bringing the total number of victims of enforced disappearance to 204 in the eight years and 10 months of the Arroyo administration.

Karapatan also reported the total number of torture victims reached 1,026 in the first 10 months of 2009, while there were 94 cases of illegal arrests in the same period.

De Lima, on the other hand, lamented that thousands continue to be internally displaced by the armed conflict while so-called death squads or vigilante groups continue to operate in some of the country’s major cities such as Davao.

De Lima also expressed disappointment over a Commission on Elections (Comelec) decision against a gay group seeking party-list accreditation, which she said only sustained the prevailing social bias on sexual orientation.

“The dismal state of human rights in 2008 was being perpetuated into 2009, notwithstanding the good faith efforts of many individuals, both within government and outside of it,” De Lima said.

Just like in 2008, De Lima again declined to give the Arroyo administration a numeric grade in terms of its promotion and protection of human rights in the country for 2009.

She stressed that there are men and women in the government who continue to work hard in improving human rights conditions in the country amid criticisms from both local and international groups.

But there still others, De Lima said, who only pay lip service to human rights protection, and there are some who are even willing to disregard human rights for expediency.

Though De Lima made no mention of any group or individual in government, she said the actions and decisions taken by the Arroyo government are “disturbing from a human rights point of view.”

De Lima cited the government response to the Maguindanao massacre, including the poor system of collecting and preserving evidence gathered from the site, charging the suspects of the massacre with rebellion, and the declaration of martial law in the province.

Positive accomplishments

De Lima, on the other hand, lauded the government for the enactment of laws such as the Anti-Torture Law, the Magna Carta of Women, Anti-Child Pornography Law, and the Law on Crimes Against International Humanitarian Law, Genocide and other Crimes Against Humanity, among others.

De Lima also commended the Philippine National Police (PNP) for its Memorandum of Understanding with the CHR in committing to respect the human rights body’s visitorial powers and allow access to police detention facilities.

De Lima also hailed the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) for its efforts to coordinate with the CHR to improve the human rights training of military personnel.

“Again, while there are those individuals in government who see human rights as a threat, there are also those who would like nothing more than to see human rights truly respected and protected in the country,” she stressed.

Vested interests

De Lima encouraged “persons from all walks of life” - from government and civil society, business and academe, the media, other organizations, and the public at large - to put on a united front and demand the protection of the human rights for all people.

De Lima stressed that one of the reasons why it is so difficult to ensure that human rights are truly upheld in the country is the fact that there are many vested interests who benefit from human rights violations and abuses.

She warned that these individuals would not give up their “entrenched positions” of power and wealth without a fight.

“The vested interests are many, so we should be too,” De Lima said.

She said amending or changing some of the laws concerning the issues would be proper, such as laws that discriminate on the basis of gender.

De Lima said administrative issuances which undermine the ability of the different branches of government to act a check and balance on each other should be reversed.

De Lima further called on the government and Congress to approve pending measures enhancing human rights protection.

She pressed the national government to pass the proposed charter of the CHR to allow the body to carry out its constitutional mandate and formalize the effort of human rights protection and enlist support in international forums.

“The fact that the proposed CHR Charter was not prioritized by the government speaks volumes about its position on human rights,” De Lima pointed out.

“That Charter... would have helped our relatively small organization better carry out its broad and rather extensive mandate, with respect to human rights throughout the country. But the Charter was not prioritized, and has not yet been passed,” she lamented.

The CHR has been conducting public inquiries into some of the worst alleged human rights violations brought to its attention, including the inquiry into the alleged Davao Death Squads, as well as other vigilante groups operating in major cities in the country over persistent reports of summary executions of even petty offenders.

The high profile inquiries conducted by the CHR included the killings in Samar, which victims include Fr. Cecilio Lucero; militarization, harassment and internal displacement in Surigao del Sur; violent demolitions within the context of mining in Nueva Vizcaya; reports of abduction and torture in Tarlac; and the recent events unfolding in Maguindanao, among others.

In Davao, the CHR’s efforts in partnership with other government agencies and security forces led to the unearthing of human remains in a private property.

The CHR also advocated the right to vote of vulnerable sectors, such as persons with disabilities, internally displaced persons, the elderly, indigenous peoples, detainees, first-time voters, and migrant workers.

On the international front, the CHR participated in proceedings before United Nations treaty bodies on human rights protection.

While the government tends to paint a fairly rosy picture of the human rights situation in the country, the CHR made a “shadow reporting” and gave the UN bodies a clearer and more complete picture of the human rights reality on the ground.

“Through all these inquiries, we seek to uncover the truth, to accumulate evidence and testimony, to end instances of violations, and to bring these situations to the attention of the public at large, so that they too may judge for themselves the true state of human rights in the country,” De Lima said.

“We seek to fulfill our constitutionally-entrenched mandate and functions, and thereby help ensure respect and protection for the human rights of all Filipinos, and all people.”

Tagubilin at habilin

Tagubilin at Habilin

Sa pagtatapos ng taong 2009, gusto ko dito ibahagi itong tula na sinulat ni Pete Lacaba na binigkas ni Armida Siguion-Reyna. [Mula sa]

Mabuhay ka, kaibigan!

Mabuhay ka!

Iyan ang una’t huli kong

Tagubilin at habilin:

Mabuhay ka!

Sa edad kong ito, marami akong maibibigay na payo.

Mayaman ako sa payo.

Maghugas ka ng kamay bago kumain.

Maghugas ka ng kamay pagkatapos kumain.

Pero huwag kang maghuhugas ng kamay para lang makaiwas sa sisi.

Huwag kang maghuhugas ng kamay kung may inaapi

Na kaya mong tulungan.

Paupuin sa bus ang matatanda at ang mga may kalong na sanggol.

Magpasalamat sa nagmamagandang-loob.

Matuto sa karanasan ng matatanda

Pero huwag magpatali sa kaisipang makaluma.

Huwag piliting matulog kung ayaw kang dalawin ng antok.

Huwag pag-aksayahan ng panahon ang walang utang na loob.

Huwag makipagtalo sa bobo at baka ka mapagkamalang bobo.

Huwag bubulong-bulong sa mga panahong kailangang sumigaw.

Huwag kang manalig sa bulung-bulungan.

Huwag kang papatay-patay sa ilalim ng pabitin.

Huwag kang tutulog-tulog sa pansitan.

Umawit ka kung nag-iisa sa banyo.

Umawit ka sa piling ng barkada.

Umawit ka kung nalulungkot.

Umawit ka kung masaya.

Ingat lang.

Huwag kang aawit ng “My Way” sa videoke bar at baka ka mabaril.

Huwag kang magsindi ng sigarilyo sa gasolinahan.

Dahan-dahan sa matatarik na landas.

Dahan-dahan sa malulubak na daan.

Higit sa lahat, inuulit ko:

Mabuhay ka, kaibigan!

Mabuhay ka!

Iyan ang una’t huli kong

Tagubilin at habilin:

Mabuhay ka!

Maraming bagay sa mundo na nakakadismaya.

Mabuhay ka.

Maraming problema ang mundo na wala na yatang lunas.

Mabuhay ka.

Sa hirap ng panahon, sa harap ng kabiguan,

Kung minsan ay gusto mo nang mamatay.

Gusto mong maglaslas ng pulso kung sawi sa pag-ibig.

Gusto mong uminom ng lason kung wala nang makain.

Gusto mong magbigti kung napakabigat ng mga pasanin.

Gusto mong pasabugin ang bungo mo kung maraming gumugulo sa utak.

Huwag kang patatalo. Huwag kang susuko.

Narinig mo ang sinasabi ng awitin:

“Gising at magbangon sa pagkagupiling,

Sa pagkakatulog na lubhang mahimbing.”

Gumising ka kung hinaharana ka ng pag-ibig.

Bumangon ka kung nananawagan ang kapuspalad.

Ang sabi ng iba: “Ang matapang ay walang-takot lumaban.”

Ang sabi ko naman: Ang tunay na matapang ay lumalaban

Kahit natatakot.

Lumaban ka kung inginungodngod ang nguso mo sa putik.

Bumalikwas ka kung tinatapak-tapakan ka.

Buong-tapang mong ipaglaban ang iyong mga prinsipyo

Kahit hindi ka sigurado na agad-agad kang mananalo.

Mabuhay ka, kaibigan!

Mabuhay ka!

Iyan ang una’t huli kong

Tagubilin at habilin:

Mabuhay ka!

An Estrada surge on eve of campaign

I said this earlier, in my blogs last year, that if Erap runs, he might win. Mr. Tony Gatmaitan, an astute political analyst, concurs. Let us see where Villar's billions and Noynoy's minions will be picked up after the Erap juggernaut is over.

Ain't I glad, finally, that I am not running in this election. I am writing a novel about it, though. Satirical, but I hope also sweet. And the politicians running in 2010 will have a field day gleaning who they are among the characters in my novel. The Comelec included. Ha!

The best revenge, said Oscar Wilde, is to write well.


An Estrada surge on eve of campaign
Antonio Gatmaitan
Daily Tribune

At about the time when things were winding down, Pulse Asia and Social Weather Stations, the two respected and widely accepted pollsters published assessments of the 2010 presidential elections, two days apart, a fortnight ago.

Electoral track record

Absent any satisfactory measure of performance, every candidate would have to deal with the figures, except Joseph Estrada. He has the electoral track record as a gauge of voter performance for him. In fact, his basis is not the opinions of 1,800 in the case of Pulse Asia or even 2,000 respondents in the case of the SWS survey, but actual votes he received in 1998, the first time he ran for president.

10.8 million votes

In 1998, Joseph Estrada’s votes were 10.8 million. This was the very reason he felt confident overtaking his opponents come election time. When he was interviewed over radio he simply said, it was too early, knowing fully well his drawing power bolstered by large turnouts at his sorties of late.

Composite survey results

The composite survey results of Pulse Asia and SWS are instructive. First is Noynoy Aquino, followed by Manny, and close behind is Joseph Estrada. In fact, a few percentage points spelled the difference between the second and third slot. Villar and Estrada could have been in a statistical tie already.

Noynoy replaces Manny

And that would be devastating for Manny Villar. All these months prior to the death of Cory Aquino, Villar was the main game in town. But with the passing away of the Philippines’ democracy icon, Villar’s numbers plummeted and in his place was an unlikely successor. Thus far, Manny Villar doesn’t seem to make a dent. Noynoy Aquino’s lead in the polls has been consistent at 20 points or so. Financial backers are pragmatists, they will not stay for long, unless something dramatic happens in the coming weeks.

NP’s meritocracy

Given the way the Nacionalista Party (NP) and the Villar forces are conducting their campaign, it will be difficult for Villar to overhaul Aquino’s lead in the polls. Villar’s campaign emphasizes meritocracy. He attempts to project himself thus. Appeals to the brain rather than to the heart are hurting him. Moreover, his leaders are virtually all politicians. No cadres of upper middle class and middle class volunteers like the Aquino campaign, crucial in the urban areas where the national party machines are weak. In Luzon, there is hardly any province where Villar’s forces or the Nacionalista Party is known to be dominant or controlling, except arguably for Camarines Sur, where former Speaker Noli Fuentebella is also working for the Estrada ticket. There are exceptions in the Visayas. There is Bohol. The conventional wisdom is the elected officials will mostly side with the NPs. But the margins may not be large enough to offset the projected losses in Cebu and elsewhere.

Fight for the local machines

The fight for the local political machine will be between the Lakas, the LPs, the NPs and to a lesser extent, the PMP. They will be contesting for the local political elite among themselves with Lakas having the upper hand. But the PMP is the most loyal of the lot. They make up for their lack of numbers with the intensity and the passion needed in a multi-cornered fight.

Estrada’s masa votes

The Estrada loyalist votes can already be gleaned from Pulse Asia and SWS. The support for Estrada hovers around 20 percent. This is partly due to the masa vote. There is always hesitancy for this sector to express their sentiments at the early stage. They are for the most part suspicious and would hide their preference until they feel “safe” to express them. The masa vote is definitely more than 20 percent. How much more, we can’t tell at this stage. Suffice it to say, it exists in large numbers, given our impoverished state. And as far as the masa are concerned, there is only one real champion. Not Manny Pacquiao who is revered nonetheless, but Joseph Estrada.

Villar today, Aquino tomorrow

By the start of the official campaign on Feb. 9, 2010, expect Joseph Estrada to tie and ultimately overtake Villar. Noynoy Aquino will follow soon after.

Liberation through education

Liberation through education
(The Philippine Star) Updated December 30, 2009 12:00 AM

There is reason to celebrate the memory of national hero Jose Rizal today. This year education took center stage in national life after a teacher received international recognition as a “hero” for his novel way of bringing education to the poorest of the poor. Efren Peñaflorida, CNN “Hero of the Year,” struggled out of poverty and became a teacher to help others less privileged like him.

Rizal would have approved. The inspiration for many Filipino rebels against Spain famously refused to endorse an armed uprising, instead advocating liberation for the masses through education. Well-traveled and educated in Europe, Rizal knew the value of a good education and wanted it for his compatriots. He was an early advocate of non-violent change, but the Spanish colonizers saw him merely as a threat and executed him 113 years ago today, triggering the Philippine revolution.

The commemoration of Rizal’s death, and the honors heaped on Peñaflorida, should trigger another revolution, this time in education. His “kariton” or pushcart classrooms are being replicated to reach poorly served communities nationwide. The informal, mobile setting greatly reduces the costs of sending a child to school. Those costs are among the biggest reasons for the high national dropout rate despite the fact that basic education is free and mandatory.

In addition to improving universal access to education, the government should complement private initiative with efforts to improve the quality of Philippine education. This includes training more top-quality teachers and upgrading the quality of textbooks, a number of which continue to be riddled with factual and grammatical errors, as Antonio Calipjo-Go will attest.

Peñaflorida led the way in innovation. There must be other innovative ways of expanding education facilities. The country continues to suffer from an acute lack of classrooms, computers, textbooks and other basic school supplies. Teachers, overworked and underpaid, complained of delays in the release of their Christmas bonus this year. A commitment to improving the quality of education would be a fitting way of remembering Jose Rizal.

The scalpel's tip

The scalpel's tip
LODESTAR By Danton Remoto
(The Philippine Star) Updated December 28, 2009 12:00 AM

The Highest Hiding Place is the first book of L. Lacambra Ypil, but it already bodes many good things for this young poet. Just published by the Ateneo de Manila University Press, this book of poems is a young man’s book. It deals with what T.S. Eliot called “memory and desire,” which fuses the past and the future. It deals with childhood and adolescence and young adulthood, the personas in the poems trembling with new discoveries, with singular fears and dreams.

Ypil was born and raised in Cebu, earned a BS in biology at the Ateneo de Manila University, and spent a few years at the UP College of Medicine. He has won the prestigious Don Carlos Palanca Memorial Award for Literature in 2006 as well as the Philippines Free Press Award for Poetry in 2001. He has just finished his MA in Literary and Cultural Studies at the Ateneo and writes a bi-monthly column, “Dog-Eaters in the Wrong Notebook,” for Sun Star Weekend Cebu.

“The Discovery of Landscape” is the first poem. It is set apart from the rest of the book, and functions as an extended introduction. Ypil has the Swiftian gift for telescoping far and near distances. He uses bridges, cliffs, and edges — especially edges — as slippery metaphors for connections that are solid but in the end are also tentative. In “At the Beach,” the edge of the sea becomes “wide arc of the sky that was/ uninterrupted bridge. . . .”

Ypil was one year short of finishing a medical degree at UP when he finally left it all behind to take a graduate course in Literature at the Ateneo. Like Arturo Rotor in his fiction, Ypil has a medical eye that is almost microscopic in its attention to the smallest detail. He notices the sea is littered with “the dear dioramas of the dead,” then proceeds not to catalogue them but to point them out, each tiny detail hooked at the scalpel’s tip.

From the womb of the sea — which is the source of all life —the persona talks about his mother, asking her to draw a mermaid’s tail again, so they could capture “the morning sun on (the) page.” Even the house in seemingly calm suburbia is full of edges — “edge of the bed/ Edge of the world as I knew it.”

Where lies redemption? The poet recalls for us the story of Thomas, who doubted Jesus Christ would come back to life. If the eyes do not believe what they see, and the ears do not believe what they hear, how to decide if the dead person come back to life is indeed palpable, alive? “The hands, they knew/ what faith was—/ the held object/ holding you.”

But the object of one’s affection, whether religious or romantic, is also fraught with danger, with knife-edges. The persona asks: “Oh, affection/ Can’t you feel its shiny splinters/ in your steps?”

“Paradise Village Sketches” and “Esteban Abada Street” come to life in the form of their inhabitants, in the same way that Edgar Lee Master’s Spoon River Anthology painted the characters of his place and time.

Ypil is also adept not just with the short lyric utterance but also with longer poetic forms, as shown in “Five Fragments: A Confession,” where the language throbs, capturing the pulse points of the persona giving a voice to the unutterable.

The unutterable is same-sex love, what the notoriously obsolete Commissioner Ferrer of Comelec calls “immoral.” And it finds perfect expression in the poem “The Love of Books,” which deserves a complete reprint.

“I’ve seen far better pictures/ of this love between two men:/ two legs entwined, two hands/ held tight, a whisper in the ear/ that’s meant to mean we close/ our eyes when no one’s looking close./ Yet still, I find myself/ returning always to this picture/ of two boys who don’t know well/ each other yet, but choose/ to read two books/ together under the same lamp./ Who’ll turn the page at just/ exactly the same moment/ when the page of one, says Bless/ and then the other ends: me, Father/ for I’ve sinned. The sin that says/ it’s wrong to end another brother’s/ sentences. Or to decide it’s time/ to turn it off: the light, the lamp./ The book that’s still not done,/ that’s left half-opened face to face/ that’s meant to mean we read/ what can’t be said by hand/ when we’re not reading.”

Remoto's dilemma and Comelec's Political Homophobia

Remoto’s dilemma and Comelec’s Political Homophobia
December 16th, 2009 by Patricio Mangubat

Now, let me write about Danton Remoto. Remoto, as you know, is the chairman and founder of Ang Ladlad, a partylist organization.

Remoto has just been dealt with two devastating blows—his partylist org was disqualified and just yesterday, he was also stricken out of the list of qualified senatorial candidates. The second division chaired by no less than Commissioner Nicodemo Ferrer handed a fatal blow to Ang Ladlad when he disqualified the organization for being “redundant“. Now, Remoto was also disqualified as a senatorial candidate because of his alleged lack of organization and resources.

This is clearly a sign that the Comelec is suffering from homophobia. How in the world did they determined that Remoto does not have a machinery to use for a national campaign? Remoto’s name alone attracts millions of votes.

Remoto, undeniably, has already established a name as a gay rights activist. His exposure is definitely beneficial for any campaign. His name has been published in most broadsheets and tabloids and people know him by name and by the cause he espouses. Why consider a name such as Yasmin Lao eligible when a Remoto is not?

Lao, pardon me, is a relative unknown, though she is a Liberal party candidate. Remoto can actually launch a campaign all by himself, since he already established political stock.

Do you mean to say that people will vote for a Lao or an Ocampo (a senatorial candidate of the Bangon Pilipinas) instead of a Remoto? I will definitely vote for Remoto rather than waste my time shading that box next to these two names: Lao and Ocampo.

This surely is a justiciable question—whether or not the Comelec has the power to define what a “national campaign is” and what qualifications an individual must possess to be eligible to run for a national post like the Senate.

This decision to strike out Remoto’s name is a clear case of political homophobia. People who love the law must contest it before the Supreme Court and allow Danton Remoto his day in court.

It's final, Comelec denies gay groups party list bid

By Lilita Balane, Newsbreak | 12/17/2009
5:00 PM

Gay community is not special, and therefore not marginalized, says poll chief

The election chief broke the tie in the poll body's vote on Thursday to deny with finality a gay group's bid to participate in the party-list election in 2010.

The first division of the Commission on Elections (Comelec)--composed of Commissioners Gregorio Larrazabal, Rene Sarmiento, and Armando Velasco--voted to grant Ang Ladlad’s appeal to get accredited. The second division--composed of Commissioners Nicodemo Ferrer, Lucenito Tagle, and Elias Yusoph--maintained their earlier ruling disqualifying the group.

Chair Jose Melo sided with the second division to junk Ang Ladlad’s appeal.

Melo countered Ang Ladlad’s argument that the November 12 ruling of poll body applied religious beliefs instead of using public or secular morals in deciding the gay group's application for accreditation. Melo said that what the second division members used were “moral parameters and precept that are generally accepted."

In its ruling, the second division said Ang Ladlad advocates same-sex relationship that offends religious beliefs.

Ang Ladlad, in its motion for reconsideration, cited the 2003 Supreme Court ruling on Estrada vs Escritor case. The Court explained that the terms "immorality" or "morals" referred to in the law, including those in the Civil Code and the Revised Penal Code, are not of religious nature but of public and secular sort.

Though the morals applied are religion-based, Melo said the hundred years of influence of Muslim and Christian beliefs had become an accepted norm in society.

Ferrer, who had been threatened with impeachment for his ruling, said that there is nothing wrong with resorting to what he learned from his religion when judging what is moral and what is not. "How do we resolve matters of morality? Through our background," he said.

Melo reiterated the second division's position that publicly expounding or proclaiming doctrines, including indecent shows and exhibitions, are punishable under the Article 201 of the Revised Penal Code.

Melo, in a separate opinion, said that the community of lesbians, gays, bisexuals, and transgenders (LGBT) is not a “special class,” and is therefore not marginalized or underrepresented.

“Thus, even if society’s understanding, tolerance, and acceptance of LGBT is elevated, there can be no denying that Ang Ladlad constituencies are still males and females, and they will be protected by the same Bill of Rights that applies to all citizens alike who are amply represented also by the males and females who compromise our legislature,” Melo said.

The poll chief said that homosexuality is not a protected right under the law.

Since gays enjoy the same rights as other citizens, Melo gave assurances that they can also seek elective posts, as long as they meet the requisites for the position.

Ang Ladlad’s president Danton Remoto was disqualified in his senatorial bid on Tuesday. According to Remoto, it could have been his way of proving that Ang Ladlad has the support of the sector it wishes to represent.

Earlier, Ang Ladlad held a rally in front of Comelec’s office in Intramuros, alleging that the poll body's ground for not accrediting the group may be used against gay rights advocates who would wish to seek other elective positions.

Comelec spokesperson James Jimenez said that it might not be possible for Ang Ladlad to elevate its case to the Supreme Court, since the SC only hears appeals where there are “grave abuse of discretion” or if the election officials abused their power in denying the Ang Ladlad’s application. Jimenez said it did not happen in Ang Ladlad’s case.

Jimenez, however. said that the group may still ask the Comelec officials to allow them to file another motion. (Newsbreak)

Church not anti-gay, says priest | 12/09/2009 12:24 AM

MANILA, Philippines - Gay party list group Ang Ladlad has seemingly found an ally in the Church.

Father Melvin Castro of the Catholic Bishops' Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) said in a statement on Monday that homosexulity "does not equate with immorality", contrary to a Commission on Elections (Comelec) decision saying that gays are immoral.

And Ladlad claims to represent gays, lesbians, and transgender communities in the Philippines.

The Comelec refused to accredit the Ang Ladlad as a party list since the group reportedly promotes immorality and gays are threats to the youth.

Castro's seeming defense of gays ends there, however, since he opposed same-sex marriage in a statement dated December 7.

He added that the Church's stance against same-sex marriage is not "a hate position" or "anti-gay."

"The Church is only trying to defend marriage as an exclusive union between a man and a woman. Same-sex marriage contradicts the clear teaching of the Catholic Church on marriage and sexuality," said Castro, executive secretary of the CBCP's Commission on Family and Life.

He said gay marriage "goes against the basic purpose of marriage [which is] to produce children."

"No matter how proponents of same-sex union would put it, It would still upset humanity and society," Castro said.

Questioning decision

Ang Ladlad Chairperson Danton Remoto said the group's platform does not include pushing for same-sex marriage.

He said they are fighting for equal rights for LGBTs in schools and workplaces.

"The issue is not religious morality, we are fighting for human rights here," Remoto said.

Ang Ladlad filed a motion for reconsideration at the Comelec, questioning the agency's use of morality as a basis for junking their accreditation.

"The Comelec has no right to make decisions on morality because it is not a moral or religious institution. It is a political institution, and hence, should confine itself to politics," Remoto said in a previous interview.

The gay group said various rights organizations and advocates had supported their cause. Remoto, who plans to run for Senator in 2010, said they are willing to take the issue all the way to the Supreme Court.

The Comelec is set to meet en banc to decide on the group's motion for reconsideration. With a report from Jorge Cariño, ABS-CBN News.

as of 12/09/2009 1:17 AM

Gays, lesbians to hold 'Pride March' in Manila

Gays, lesbians to hold ‘Pride March’ in Manila

By Abigail Kwok
First Posted 19:04:00 12/04/2009

Filed Under: Gender Issues, Human Rights, Eleksyon 2010, Inquirer Politics

MANILA, Philippines—Members of the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender (LGBT) community are set to hold a colorful parade Saturday to promote equal rights for all genders in the Philippines.

The march is also meant to protest the Commission on Election’s decision rejecting the party-list bid of gay and lesbian group “Ang Ladlad”.

This year’s theme, “We Dare. We Care,” signifies the LGBT community’s proactive stance in addressing the human rights issues confronting the sector, according to Great Ancheta, head coordinator of Task Force Pride (TFP) Philippines 2009.

“We shall no longer be complacent. We dare to remind the Philippine government and the rest of society that we have an obligation under international human rights law to promote and protect the rights and well-being of all people, including LGBT Filipinos, who are being threatened by the looming economic crisis, natural disasters, armed conflict, religious intolerance and lack of political will of some government officials,” Ancheta said.

The group will hold the parade in Manila’s Malate district and assembly begins 3 p.m. at Remedios Circle. The program will start with a grand parade, which will be followed by pageants and partying, the group said.

The TFP said the march was set in time for international observance of the Human Rights week.

“The LGBT community will march to show their indignation and concern over the lack of human rights protections for LGBT Filipinos as shown in the recent decision of the Comelec not to accredit Ang Ladlad, a party-list group for LGBT Filipinos, the non-passage of the Anti-Discrimination Bill and the increasing incidence of violence and discrimination committed against them in large-scale because of their sexual orientation and gender identity,” Ancheta said.

The “Pride March” was the Filipino’s expression of solidarity with other members of the LGBT communities in Taipei, Hong Kong, Tokyo, London and other parts of the world to “fight discrimination, homophobia, lesbophobia, biphobia and transphobia at the national and international levels,” said Naomi Fontanos also of TFP.

The march has gained support from various human rights groups.

Dr. Sriprapha Petcharamesree, the Thai representative to the ASEAN Inter-governmental Commission on Human Rights, said in her solidarity message, “the rights of everyone [have] to be guaranteed and the space has to be equally created without which the building of ASEAN Community could not be fully realized.”

The Commission on Human Rights (CHR) of the Philippines also endorsed the 2009 Manila Pride March.

CHR Chair Leila De Lima in her message of solidarity said, “We laud TFP Philippines for organizing this annual Pride March, and we recognize the courage of those who choose to participate in it. The Commission on Human Rights of the Philippines stands ready to offer whatever support it can, not only in relation to this event, but also in order to generally advance respect for, and the protection of, the human rights of the LGBT community.”

The 2009 Manila Pride March is organized by Task Force Pride (TFP) Philippines, a network of LGBT and LGBT-supportive groups and individuals who seek to promote positive visibility for the LGBT community.

Gay rights activist files senatorial bid

By Izah Morales
First Posted 19:25:00 12/01/2009

Filed Under: Gender Issues, Eleksyon 2010, Elections, Politics

MANILA, Philippines—(UPDATE) Gay rights activist Danton Remoto filed his certificate of candidacy for a senatorial seat Tuesday at the Commission on Elections office in Manila.

Remoto heads Ang Ladlad, a national organization of Lesbians, gays, bisexuals, and transgenders. The group was denied partylist accreditation by the Comelec therefore, ineligible in its bid for next year’s elections.

Remoto, who works as communications officer for the United Nations Development Program communications in the country, taught for more than two decades at Ateneo de Manila University.

“I filed my candidacy because we need to inaugurate a new moon in Philippine politics. Kelangan natin ‘yung hindi trapo at hindi dinastiyang politika (We do not need traditional politicians nor political dynasties,” said Remoto.

Remoto said his group has filed a motion for reconsideration asking the Supreme Court to reverse Comelec’s decision.

Being a former associate professor Remoto said he wants to focus on education for all, especially primary education.

“I’m running to win but I’m still open to coalitions or alliances,” said Remoto, adding, “Malapit ako dun sa magbibigay ng campaign funds. (I am close to people willing to fund my campaign). We’re giving ourselves a week to finalize who we’re supporting.”

Thin again

Thin again - Danton Remoto

People who haven’t seen me in the past month noticed I had lost weight. Something like five pounds. Excitement like electric current in their voices, they asked: “How did you lose weight? Share naman your secret with us.”

Well, it’s a “secret” I would not wish on anybody, even my enemies. You see, my father – a retired soldier in the Philippine Air Force – died last October 18 at the age of 76. And exactly a month later, my mother – a retired Music teacher – died at the age of 77. Losing a father after seeing him struggle to live in the intensive care unit with, in his own words, “ a sack of rice crushing my chest,” was traumatic enough. Losing both is beyond words.

I could not eat for two days after Father died. My main worry then was how to tell Mother, who had just undergone angioplasty and was undergoing dialysis three times a day – that Father had gone ahead. It was the most sleepless night of my life. And so the morning after, when Mother asked us why we left Father alone in the hospital, my sister, my cousin and I formed a tight circle around Mother lying on her sickbed. The words choked in our throat, but we managed to inform her, slowly, that Father had passed away.

A trickle of tear ran down her face. Sadness shrouded her eyes. It was a sadness that would never leave her. Not during the funeral wake, when she came in her wheelchair, dignified and calm, asking only to see Father and uttering his name in her broken voice. It was a sadness that would never leave her. Not during the vigil, when a succession of Philippine Air Force soldiers in light blue uniforms stood in attention before my father, in his casket draped with the Philippine flag. It was a sadness that would never leave her, after the soldiers fired their 21-gun salute in the memorial park, and my siblings and I finally erupted into the tears that we had kept in our hearts for many days and nights.

I resigned from my job, to take care of her and to prepare for the coming elections. But stay at home I did, especially when she was more sick than usual, making sure she had all her medicines, was cared for, and comfortable. We went to a nephrologist for her check-up, and her health was beginning to improve: her skin was no longer as pale as paper, and she was gaining some weight.

When my mother was in her sickbed I would sometimes think of my father, and my memories of him revolve around him telling us to be brave, never to run away from a good fight. My father sent himself to college when already a soldier with a young family, commuting 30 kilometers every day to night school, and back. Later, he sent himself to law school, taking the same route for another four years. One of my deepest memories of him is graduating from law school, and the whole family taking a dusty ride home, and finally entering the military base, walking under the sheer brilliance of the stars.

Two days before Mother died, she wanted to stop taking her medicines. My cousin and I would cajole her, brush her forehead with our hands, whisper in her ears. I think she didn’t want us to worry, and took the medicines. But the sadness never left her eyes.

Two days before Mother died, the orchids she had tended with uncommon care bloomed – yellow and lavender and white – their petals like clearest skin. Two days before she died she waved to me and I went to her and I hugged her, kissing her face and her now-bony hands.

The night she died she told my cousin she was already OK, we should not worry anymore, and she gave one of her rings to my sister with Down’s syndrome. She said it was time to sleep so everybody could rest, and from that deep repose she never woke up again.

Now I walk around the city with nothingness in my chest. To lose one parent is devastating. To lose both within a month of each other is beyond words. I try to be brave for my brother and sisters, and for my adopted daughter. In my mind I remember my parents, outside my Grade Six classroom. Under the green translucence of leaves, Father was trying to reach for a star-apple fruit. The fruit was ripened by the sun, and he gave it to Mother. My classmates nudged me, and I felt embarrassed by it all, but that was how Father was toward Mother – always protective, a warm hand around her shoulder. And now they are together, enjoying the fruits of paradise, like the soul mates that I think they are. It’s a thought that lessens, somewhat, the pain lacerating our hearts.

Is the opposite of Noynoy evil?

By Efren L. Danao
Manila Times

The Liberals have been going to town with the mantra that the 2010 election is a choice between good and evil—the good will go for LP presidential bet Sen. Noynoy Aquino, while the evil will vote for others.
The high rating of Noynoy must have gone into the heads of Liberal moguls, such that they now consider themselves the sole repository of goodness and virtue. Do you consider yourself with the forces of good? Then join the sainted LP. If you have sinned before, don’t worry. Once you join the forces of good, all your sins will be forgiven—by the Liberals, that is. I don’t know if the people will forget those sins, however.

I remember that some personalities associated with the anomalous issuance of the Peace Bond are among the most ardent supporters of Noynoy. And what about Kamaganak Inc.? The Mendiola massacre? The Hacienda Luisita Massacre? Oh well, their members or perpetrators must have reformed themselves, otherwise they would not have been with the be-knighted group. Charge them in court? Why, they deserve a halo for joining the forces of good!

The Liberals have also been shouting to the high heavens against the so-called traditional politicians. Excuse me if I my eyes have been misleading me, but aren’t a number of those being sworn in as new Liberal members among those labeled as “tradpols?” Ah, but maybe, a politician ceases to be traditional once he becomes a Liberal. His joining merely means that he fully subscribes to the “good vs evil” campaign of the Liberals. And since he is with the forces of good, then he ceases to be traditional politician. So, all those who don’t want to be tagged a tradpol or political opportunist, join the queue at the Liberal Party headquarters in Cubao and they will become instant instruments for political reforms.

And what’s the main basis for Noynoy’s being the sole hope for national salvation in 2010? Sorry I have to ask that question. Everybody already knows that this is because he is the son of martyred former Sen. Ninoy Aquino and our icon of democracy, former President Cory Aquino. His pedigree should assure everybody that he is of a breed different from the other wannabes. And you’d better believe it, otherwise you will be considered as favoring the forces of evil. Don’t ask about Noynoy’s achievements, about his plans. The memory of Ninoy and Cory should be enough to consider Noynoy and only Noynoy. Why should one still think of any other reason to go for him? After all, one might be hard put looking for another reason.

The question now is, will those who will not vote for Noynoy and the Liberals consider themselves evil? If they don’t, then perhaps the Liberal Party must take a new tact. I don’t question at all the integrity of Noynoy but I don’t consider this the sole reason to go for him in 2010. He must provide other compelling reasons why he deserves my vote. If he can’t, then he can consider me as being with the forces of evil for all I care.

Angara’s warning on population

At the recent national executive conference of the Laban ng Demokratikong Pilipino, party head Sen. Edgardo J. Angara urged LDP to consider solutions to the upcoming problems caused by a burgeoning population. He warned that by 2015, the Philippine population would reach 115 million, which he described as the limit of the country’s “carrying capacity.”

“If we already have difficulty supplying the needs of 95 million, then the difficulty will be much more for 115 million,” SEJA said.

His warning should give more impetus in supporting the Commission on Population’s (POPCOM) aggressive implementation of its Responsible Parenthood-Natural Family Planning Program (RP-NFP) at the grassroots level.

Believing that population is a key component in hunger mitigation, POPCOM collaborated with faith-based and nongovernment organizations to promote RP-NFP to their members and their own communities. Orientations were held at the provincial/city/municipal and barangay levels which reached out to 6,940 participants and 471 batches.

There are already 86 Responsible Parenting Movement (RPM) federations at the local level and 24
federations at the municipal and city levels. RPM teams and groups have been organized in 15 regions, 73 provinces, 770 municipalities/cities, and 4,179 barangays. Every year, POPCOM targets to conduct 58,000 classes that will reach 580,000 couples in 29,000 barangays. As of 30 June 2009, POPCOM reported that they have already reached 232,000 couples through the 23, 200 classes they have conducted in 11, 600 barangays.

National Nutrition Council Chairman and Health Secretary Francisco Duque 3rd as lead of the Anti-Hunger Task Force said that the PopCom’s RP-NFP plays a major role in mitigating hunger in the country. This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it

Trapo politics

By Mon Casiple

The news was a bit of a surprise. After shopping for a senatorial slot in LP, NP, and PMP, Ferdinand “Bongbong”Marcos, Jr. finally found a nesting place in presidential candidate’s Manny Villar’s Nacionalista Party. With this move, the Marcos family will again try–for the umpteenth time–to go back to national politics. On his side, Mr. Villar will try to help breach the historical barrier against the Marcos dictatorship that EDSA I and the antidictatorship movement erected.

The move to bring Bongbong into its fold deliberately sets the NP on a course to capture the pro-dictatorship political base of the Marcoses. This base is, of course, unreachable from the LP side, particularly because of Noynoy Aquino’s own political base that is rooted in the EDSA I and anti-dictatorship struggle. It’s maybe good trapo politics but the consequences will be far-reaching.

Villar gambles that the bitter memories of the dark days of the Marcos dictatorship will have been forgotten or attenuated to the point of a non-factor in the 2010 elections. He, I think, pragmatically saw the advantages of a major slice of the Ilocano vote, access to the huge Marcos ill-gotten wealth, and the projection of a “unifying leader” in the electoral contest. An interesting part of his calculation must be that the loss of possible votes from the Left or from the middle class will not be enough to offset these advantages.

What Villar actually will achieve with this move is the stirring up of a hornet’s nest. The Left, particularly the Makabayan group that he earlier wooed to his side, has no choice but to distance and direct its campaign against his candidacy. To do otherwise will be a political suicide that will reverberate to the heart of the underground movement.

The people power that manifested itself in the August events surrounding Cory Aquino’s death will make the connection between Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo and the Marcoses. That connection has been provided by the Villar and NP campaign. Thus, the translation from an anti-GMA sentiment to an anti-Villar movement is a strong possibility.

It may be a great tactical move as seen from from Villar’s strategists to focus the 2010 presidential elections to a fight between Manny Villar and Noynoy Aquino. However, it brings more complications to an already complicated political contest. It also widened the options and opened new possibilities for the LP’s and Noynoy’s own campaign.

In the end, this NP move may prove to be self-defeating.

after long silence

silent for a week because of my mother's death, merely a month after my father passed away. it was so quick, and so devastating. and now i have to face the intellectual pygmies at comelec.

Poll exec: To be moral is not old-fashioned

Poll exec: To be moral is not old-fashioned
Written by Reynaldo Santos Jr.
Newsbreak Magazine
Monday, 16 November 2009

Gays are already ‘over-represented’ in the House

The Commission on Elections (Comelec) stands firm on its decision to deny a gay organization accreditation for the party list, even after the Commission on Human Rights (CHR) sided with the incensed members of the “third sex.”

In response to the CHR’s comment that the poll body’s ruling on Ang Ladlad (literally, The Coming Out) “smacks of prejudice and discrimination,” Comelec commissioner Nicodemo Ferrer said there was nothing “retrogressive” in it.

Ferrer, along with commissioners Lucenito Tagle and Elias Yusoph, on grounds the group “tolerates immorality,” last week rejected Ang Ladlad’s petition to participate in the party-list elections and be hopefully represented in the lower chamber of Congress.

In its petition for accreditation, the group claims to represent lesbians, gays, bisexuals, and trans-genders. It defined its sector’s sexual orientation as capable of “profound emotional, affectional, and sexual orientation to, and intimate and sexual relations with, individuals of a different gender, of the same gender, or more than one gender.”

Thus, the Comelec ruling that the group would be “exposing our youth to an environment that does not conform to the teachings of our faith.”
Penal code applied

“In using my judgement in cases like this, of course I have to resort to my past experiences,” Ferrer said about his being Catholic.

The commissioners came under fire from CHR for citing provisions in the Bible and the Koran, sacred books of the Christians and the Muslims, respectively, to stress its argument that “petitioner tolerates immorality which offends religious beliefs.”

Ferrer said the use of verses from the holy books was necessary, as they “give us guidelines on how to behave morally.”

“To be moral is not old-fashioned,” he said, in response to Ang Ladlad head Danton Remoto’s comment that Ferrer is “a very old man with obsolete ideas.”

Ferrer said that the decision may have been “medieval,” but it is definitely not a violation of human rights, as he assured that the provisions in the Revised Penal Code are well incorporated in the decision. “We're applying the law as it is,” he said.
Gay lawmakers?

Ferrer also said that the Comelec did not present “unequal protection of law” with its decision. According to him, there are no other petitions similar to Ang Ladlad’s, hence the group is not being singled out.

Besides, Ferrer said, there is no need for Ang Ladlad to join the party list because its sector is not under-represented. “Actually, [they are] over represented in the Upper and Lower House,” he said.

To this, Remoto replied: “Is it correct to out gays who want to keep themselves in the closet?” he said.

Remoto said the commissioners’ use of scriptures “as props for legal arguments” is “not the proper way to argue. They should have defended their own opinion the legal way.” He said their religious biases came into play in deciding on Ang Ladlad’s petition. He said Ferrer is a Eucharistic minister in Pangasinan, Tagle is a director of Christian Family Movement in Cubao, and Yusoph is a Muslim imam.
Welcome intervention

Ferrer said that they are ready for interventions from groups like CHR “to give them full opportunity to express their views.” The Comelec, according to him, though, has to look at the “interests” of petitioning parties to see if there are “reasons other than a valid purpose.”

He said the gay group is seeking accreditation only to create a vehicle “to separate themselves from the mainstream. Do they want to impose their will against the majority?”

Remoto said Ferrer has no recourse but to accept the CHR’s intervention because he could be impeached if he doesn’t. Remoto said the anti torture law states that government officials who are found violating human rights will be subject to impeachment proceedings.

Ang Ladlad will be filing a petition to both Comelec and the Supreme Court this week in able to catch up with the December 1 deadline of filing of candidacies.

The commissioner said only 30% of all appeals for reconsideration are approved, and the poll body is not giving preferences to any group. (Newsbreak)

Joker comes to defense of Ang Ladlad

Joker comes to defense of Ang Ladlad
By Aurea Calica (The Philippine Star)
Updated November 15, 2009 12:00 AM

MANILA, Philippines - Sen. Joker Arroyo came to the defense of Ang Ladlad, a gay organization whose petition for party-list status was junked by the Commission on Elections (Comelec) on grounds of “immorality.”

Arroyo joined several organizations, including militant groups, in asking the Comelec to reconsider its decision.

“The Comelec’s 2nd Division acted out of bounds when it denied accreditation to Ang Ladlad’s bid to participate in the party-list elections on grounds of ‘immorality’ and for ‘being inimical to the interest of the youth,’” Arroyo said.

“The resolution reveals a deeply-entrenched prejudice against lesbians, gays, bisexuals, transgenders (LGBTs), the constituency of Ang Ladlad. So what if they are LGBTs? Precisely because of that, as a group which has been oppressed and marginalized in all spheres of their lives, they should be allowed to exercise their basic right to representation in the House of Representatives to protect and advance their interest, the very objective of party-list representation,” Arroyo added.

According to Arroyo, the Comelec’s mandate is to ensure clean and honest elections, not to vent their ire and prejudice against gays.

“All groups stand on equal footing to have party-list representation under the Constitution. The Comelec cannot, as their 2nd Division has done, discriminate against and whiplash gays, while they give party-list accreditation to cock fighters, etc.,” Arroyo said.

“The decision violates their human rights, is utterly bereft of legal basis, grounded as it was on blighted notions of moral standards, even as it invoked the Bible and the Koran,” the senator stressed.

The Second Division, composed of Commissioners Nicodemo Ferrer, Lucenito Tagle and Elias Yusoph, refused to accredit the organization as a party-list group because their sexuality “tolerates immorality.”

Meantime, Migrante is poised to file a petition for temporary restraining order (TRO) before the Supreme Court next week if the Comelec fails to immediately resolve its motion for reconsideration of a resolution denying them a slot in the 2010 party-list polls.

Remnants of the Dark Ages

Remnants of the Dark Ages
Ellen Tordesillas
Ang Pahayagang Malaya
November 16, 2009

‘Is there in fact a secular, governmental policy against homosexuality?’

Leila de Lima, chairperson of the Commission on Human Rights said reasons cited by the Commission on Elections in denying the application of Ang Ladlad for accreditation as sectoral party illustrates that gays are objects of ridicule, contempt and violence which renders them marginalized.

It’s good that De Lima took up the cudgels for Ang Ladlad, a nationwide organization of lesbians, gay, bisexual and transgender persons.

De Lima read to the Comelec commissioners Article 7 of the Universal Declaration on Human Rights, to which the Philippines is a signatory, that states: "All are equal before the law and are entitled without any discrimination to equal protection of the law. All are entitled to equal protection against any discrimination in violation of this Declaration and against any incitement to such discrimination."

De Lima said there is also Article 26 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights which provides that, "All persons are equal before the law and are entitled without any discrimination to the equal protection of the law. In this respect, the law shall prohibit any discrimination and guarantee to all persons equal and effective protection against discrimination on any ground such as race, colour, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth or other status."

De Lima said, "These two instruments are looked upon and provide the principle and standards that must be demonstrated by the Comelec in its mandate under the Constitution, the Omnibus Election Code and the Party List Law. The UDHR and ICCPR also prescribe the normative direction that States must practice in line with the rights laid out in the instruments. The norm of non-discrimination of persons running for elections is at issue in this instance."

De Lima’s statement was a reaction to the appalling decision of the Comelec’s second division headed by Commissioner Nicodemo Ferrer with Elias Yusoph and Lucenito Tagle as members denying the application of Ang Ladlad for accreditation as sectoral representative of the marginalized Filipino lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community to "protect our youth from moral and spiritual degradation."

Ferrer, Yusoph and Tagle took verses from the Bible and the Koran as basis for their decision that "petitioner tolerates immorality which offends religious beliefs." They quoted an American bible teacher, who said that that ‘’older practicing homosexuals are a threat to the youth."

From what cave did they come from?

The unenlightened trio also said that the Comelec’s Law Department stated that Ang Ladlad "apparently advocates sexual immorality; consensual partnerships or relationships by gays; ) serve no other purpose but to satisfy the market for violence, lust or pornography; offend any race or religion; tend to abet traffic in and use of prohibited drugs; and are contrary to law, public order, morals and good customs, established policies, lawful orders, decrees and edicts."

From out of nowhere, they mentioned, "Those who shall sell, give away or exhibit films, prints, engravings, sculpture or literature which are offensive to morals. (As amended by PD Nos. 960 and 969)."

De Lima said, "We do not think that Ang Ladlad seeks accreditation to promote immorality in the country, but to give a voice to a marginalized sector to push for further protection of their rights. It is a fact that gays are often objects of discrimination through ridicule, contempt and various forms of violence. Just as this decision clearly illustrates."

She further said, ‘Comelec has exhibited, at the very least, a retrogressive not progressive way of thinking. Our views on homosexuality must be in accordance with progressive human rights thought. In an age of growing, rather than receding, tolerance and promotion of human rights, this Decision appears to be a misplaced edifice of arcane views on homosexuality."

De Lima took issue with the Comelec’s citation of verses from the Bible and Koran as basis for their decision. Ferrer and company quoted Paul’s Letter to the Romans (1:26, 27) saying "For this cause God gave them up into vile affections: for even their women did change the natural use into that which is against nature: And likewise also the men, leaving the natural use of the woman, burned in their lust one toward another; men with men working that which is unseemly, and receiving in themselves that recompense of their error which was meet".

From the Koran, the commissioners quoted, "For ye practice your lusts on men in preference to women ye are indeed a people transgressing beyond bounds." (7.81). "And we rained down on them a shower (of brimstone): Then see what was the end of those who indulged in sin and crime!" (7:84) "He said: "0 my Lord! Help Thou me against people who do mischief!""(29:30)."10

De Lima said, "There is a clear breach of the secular-religious divide, which is enshrined in our Constitution. Citing both Christian and Islamic doctrines [as the basis to justify the Decision] are certainly beyond the scope of authorities which the Comelec may employ in resolving the petition."

Moreover, the CHR chairperson explained that the reference to Art. 201 of the Revised Penal Code as the only statutory ground to support the finding of immorality begs the question – is there in fact a secular, governmental policy against homosexuality?

"And if this test were to be rightfully applied for Ang Ladlad, shouldn’t this be equally applied to each and every candidate running for public office?"

Sige nga, tingnan natin!


Letter from Dr Sylvia Estrada Claudio

Dear Editor:

Is there anyway to impeach the following Comelec Comisssioners: Nicodemo T. Ferrer, Lucinito N. Tagle and Elias R. Yusoph?

They must be impeached because they have openly decided to turn the country into a religious state instead of a secular one. I am referring of course to their decision to outlaw Ladlad on the basis of upholding religious beliefs. They quote the Bible and the Koran forgetting that they should consult the Philippine Constitution instead. Only in the Philippines would we have high government officials who state that obedience to religious beliefs trumps other more cogent legal provisions as a basis for policy.

If stupidity were a basis for impeachment, the proceedings would be quite short. Their display of ignorance of current scientific knowledge on sexuality is quite appalling. They should have taken the simple expedient of asking any psychiatrist or psychologist who upholds the standards of organizations like the World Health Organization or the American Psychiatric and Psychological Associations. They would have been told that homosexuality was delisted as a psychological pathology more than 30 years ago. They either did not bother to read for themselves or consulted the psychiatric association of the Taliban when they decided that homosexuality is an abnormality.

As a Filipino citizen who is neither Christian nor Muslim; as a practitioner and teacher in psychology and sexuality; as someone who cares that we do not look like backward bigots to the world community; I urge the impeachment of these men who have violated morals, scientific truths and our laws against discrimination.

I am so upset. I'm gay starting today and until Ladlad gets accredited.

Sylvia Estrada Claudio, M.D. PhD.
Director, University Center for Women's Studies
Professor of Women and Development Studies
University of the Philippines


WeDpro, Inc.
Phone/Fax: (+632) 426 7479
Mobile number: 0918 437 5907 (For urgent message)

Disenfranchising homosexuals

Disenfranchising homosexuals
Ang Pahayagang Malaya
November 16, 2009

‘Homosexuality is now a contagious moral and spiritual disease from which our youth need to be quarantined?’

The Commission on Elections decision last Friday denying accreditation to the Ang Ladlad is the very proof that gays and lesbians are so marginalized they need to be represented in Congress.

They are discriminated against on the basis of their sexual preferences. They are powerless against the dominant culture that classifies them as aberrations of nature. They are victims of beliefs that treat them as moral misfits.

The Neanderthals in the Comelec, in effect, disenfranchised a class of citizens on the basis of a set of prejudices.

The grounds cited by the Comelec second division are laughable.

"Should this Commission grant the petition, we will be exposing our youth to an environment that does not conform to our faith," it said.

It then gratuitously added that homosexuality is against Christianity and Islam.

Are Christianity and Islam now state religions that citizens who do not subscribe to their tenets should be stripped of their right to be voted into office? There is no religious test for running for office. This follows from the doctrine of separation of state and church. Let’s not confuse a sin with a crime. Gays and lesbians certainly have not committed any crime that would disqualify them from forming a political organization by preferring their own sex.

"As an agency of the government, ours too is the State’s duty… under the Constitution to protect our youth from moral and spiritual degradation," the Comelec said.

Accrediting a party, which is fighting against discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation, leaves our youth open to moral and spiritual degradation? What drivel is this? Homosexuality is now a contagious moral and spiritual disease from which our youth need to be quarantined?

Homosexuality, if we understand the Catholic doctrine correctly, is not a sin although acts are. These old farts at the Comelec are trying to be more popish than the Pope.

Modern democracies are founded on the principles of tolerance. One does not impose one’s religious beliefs on others. In times past and in different climes, homosexuals were treated as heretics and were burned at the stake. But also in times past and on these very islands, some "babaylans," the priests of our pre-Spanish religions, came from the ranks of homosexuals. Who is to say which is right or wrong between the two practices? And how do we solve such differences? Through the Crusades of medieval times and the religious wars that blighted Europe during monarchic times?

If we can tolerate fornicators (to crib from former senator Rene Saguisag) in Congress, there is no reason why we cannot accept gays and lesbians.

Comelec says gay party 'immoral'

BY Kristine Servando
November 12, 2009

MANILA - The Commission on Elections (Comelec) on Wednesday rejected Ang Ladlad for party-list accreditation on the grounds that the party advocates "sexual immorality" and "immoral doctrines."

Ang Ladlad is an organization of gays, lesbians, bisexuals and transgenders (LGBT).

In a ruling dated November 11, the Comelec said that although the party presented proper documents and evidence for their accreditation, their petition is "dismissable on moral grounds."

Page 5 of the ruling states that Ang Ladlad's definition of the LGBT sector as a marginalized sector who are disadvantaged because of their sexual orientation "makes it crystal clear that the petitioner tolerates immorality which offends religious beliefs."

The document quotes passages from both the Bible and the Koran (taken from internet site that describe homosexuality as "unseemly" or "transgressive."

The Comelec goes on to state that accrediting Ang Ladlad would pose risks for Filipino youth.

"Should this Commission grant the petition, we will be exposing our youth to an environment that does not conform to the teachings of our faith," the ruling stated.

'Gays are threats to youth'

This statement is followed by a quote by preacher Lehman Strauss published in a website saying "older practicing homosexuals are a threat to the youth."

The Comelec said it is "not condemning" the LGBT community but "cannot compromise the well-being of a great number of people."

The document was signed by Commissioners Nicodemo Ferrer, Lucenito Tagle, and Elias Yusoph.

Ang Ladlad also applied for party-list accreditation in 2007, but was denied this due to the lack of regional membership in the Philippines.

'Painfully obsolete ideas'
Danton Remoto, National Chairperson of "Ang Ladlad" that pushes for LGBT rights. He also plans to run for Senator in 2010. Photo by Ralph Camus.

Danton Remoto, President of Ang Ladlad, told in a phone interview that they will contest the Comelec ruling before the Supreme Court.

"This is a decision of painfully old men with painfully obsolete ideas on homosexuality. We are in the 21st century already, we are fighting for human rights. They do not know what they are talking about," he said.

Remoto, who taught literature at the Jesuit-run Ateneo de Manila University for over 20 years, criticized the Comelec's allegation that older homosexuals are threats to the youth.

"How would I have stayed in the country's premier exclusive Catholic school (Ateneo) if I were a threat to the youth?" he stated as an example.

He also took issue against the Comelec ruling's frequent citation of internet-sourced reports, saying that a legal document should at least use primary sourcing. Remoto said this spoke of "intellectual bankruptcy" among Comelec officials.

Remoto said that the Comelec ruling is offensive to the LGBT community and an insult to their human rights.

Comelec spokesman James Jimenez, however, said he does not consider the Comelec's dismissal of Ang Ladlad's petition for party-list accrediation as a human rights issue.

"They might bring it up because they might feel offended of being called immoral. In that case, it's their right to bring whatever action is deemed necessary," he told in a phone interview.

He added that the right to be voted for is not absolute and is subject to reasonable regulation.

Immoral institution?

Remoto also questioned the Comelec's decision to deny the party's accreditation based on moral and religious reasons since the Constitution provides for separation between the Church and State.

"Since when did the Comelec become a moral arbiter? The Comelec is a state institution, [it is] not the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines," he said.

"The Comelec has no right to make decisions on morality because it is not a moral or religious institution. It is a political institution, and hence, should confine itself to politics," Remoto added.

Jimenez said it is standard for the Comelec to consider what each party-list stands for before accrediting them.

He cited the case of the Samahang Magdalo, a reformist group led by detained mutineers, who were denied party-list accreditation on the grounds that they "advocated violence."

The Ang Ladlad is requesting help from the Ateneo Human Rights Center in filing a motion for reconsideration before the Comelec, before raising the issue to the Supreme Court, where Remoto believes the party may have "some hope."

All is not lost for Remoto and his crusade for LGBT rights, however, since he announced plans to run for Senator in 2010 "under a big political party." He will make a formal announcement in 2 weeks.

Should the Comelec approve his candidacy, he will be the first openly gay senatorial candidate in recent history. Report by Kristine Servando,
as of 11/12/2009 10:06 PM

Questions and answers

1. Why have you taken a break from column-writing?

My father died two weeks ago and I had to take charge of the wake and burial, being the eldest. I had to deal with everything -- from the mortuary to the car that would pick up my siblings at the airport to always being there with my mother, who is quiet and noble in her grief.

2. Are you running under the Liberal Party?

I do not know. All I know is that I am running for senator in the 2010 elections with a big political party.

3. Why not independent?

Been there, been that. People will promise you funds, warm bodies, watchers. But when push comes to shove, you are all alone, with only a few of your most loyal campaign volunteers.

4. When will you declare?

My political party of choice has told me to wait it out while it finalizes a possible coalition with another party. We will declare before November 20, the first day of filing of certificates of candidacy. We will declare as one, solid group.

5. Aren't you afraid of your competitors for the Senate who already have TV ads?

No. I think they need those TV ads to catch up with me.

18 days to go

Eighteen days to go before the start of the filing of certificates of candidacy for elective national positions -- president, vice-president, senators and party-list. The filing period is between November 20-30. Expect the next four weeks to be a nail-biting experience. Why?

1. Not a single political party has completed their senatorial slates.
2. Manny Villar and Gibo Teodoro have no VP candidate, while Loren Legarda has no presidential candidate.
3. The forthcoming Pulse Asia survey should help the political parties finalize their senatorial slates and their alignments or realignments. According to Lito Banayo, this survey should be out late this week.

And which party will I join?

1. The party that will not tell me to firm up my niche or message, because that has been firmed up in the last three years.

2. The party that will treat me with the respect that my candidacy deserves, having done their extensive research and found out the following about my political mapping:

a. There are 4.5 million Filipino lesbians, gays, bisexuals and transgenders;
b. There are 4.5 million Bicolano and/or Bikol-speaking voters in the Philippines and abroad (I am from Oas, Albay);
c. In the last three years I have made deep inroads in the youth, campus, and education sectors through free lectures, workshops, meetings, conferences, book launchings and signing sessions in the length and breadth of the archipelago.

3. I will sayeth no more. The 2010 elections is a campaign and not an advocacy. I intend to run with a party whose candidates have spine, strength of purpose, clarity of vision. Adequate campaign funds won't be so bad, too.

Or as my late father -- a sharp and funny political analyst -- told me two weeks before he died: "I don't think you'll be happy running with a national candidate who is like a carabao with a rope tied to his nostrils. Kung saan ituro ng mga nakapaligid sa kanya, doon siya pupunta. You are too strong-minded and stubborn for him."

Amen, Papa, amen.

My father

Sorry for not posting the past two weeks. My father, Francisco O Remoto Sr., died October 18. We buried him Oct 24 at Holy Cross Memorial Park in Novaliches. He was a soldier, and received a well-deserved hero's burial complete with 24-hour vigil, flag-draped casket, and a 21-gun salute. Here is my poem for him:

(Francisco O. Remoto, Sr.
June 4, 1933-October 18, 2009)

And I will remember
the flag--

held aloft
over his casket
being lowered

into the unremitting
in the ground,

six Air Force
with their crisp

left hand
on the edges

of the tricolor,
the brilliant eye
of the sun

over his cold
shielding us

from the ravages
of grief.

Erap-Jojo, Chiz-Loren in 2010

October 13, 2009, 5:30pm
Manila Bulletin

Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile confirmed Tuesday that former President Joseph Estrada would be running for president in the May 2010 elections with Makati City Mayor Jejomar Binay as his running mate.

This developed as party-list Rep. Florencio “Bem” Noel said that the tandem of Senators Francis “Chiz” Escudero and Loren Legarda in 2010 is a done deal.

In an interview with Senate reporters Tuesday, Enrile said that as far as he is concerned an Estrada-Binay tandem seems to be a “done deal” already and it would only be a matter of time before the ousted president formally announces his presidential bid.

Enrile is chair emeritus of Pwersa ng Masang Pilipino (PMP) which Estrada founded.

“Palagay ko done deal na iyon,” Enrile said when asked about the issue.

“I think that’s it. I think that’s it,” Enrile repeatedly said.

In contrast with other presidential tandems, Enrile compared the Estrada-Binay tandem to Texas fighting cocks and described them as “very good.”

“Magagaling. Kung sa pintakasi yan ay meron din kaming manok na Texas,” Enrile pointed out. (They’re excellent. Like in a cockfight, we have good breeds.”)

“Alam mo itong eleksyon na ito (You know this elections) it’s a joust. It is a political joust, maiwan ang matibay (let the tough survive),” he added.

Enrile also warned Binay’s rivals in the vice presidential race, saying the mayor should not be underestimated.

“Don’t underestimate Jojo (Binay’s nickname). Maraming Ilokano, maraming Ibanag, maraming mayors sa Pilipinas na makokontak nya,” Enrile said citing Binay’s influence and connections. (“There are many Ilocanos, Ibanags and other mayors in the country that he can contact.”)

Enrile also confirmed that aside from him, Estrada’s son, Sen. Jinggoy Estrada would be running under the PMP senatorial slate.

Grace Poe, the daughter of the late actor Fernando Poe, Jr., is also being considered by the group, but Enrile said he could not yet say if she would be joining the group.

Meanwhile, Noel, a staunch supporter of Escudero, said the decision of Legarda to become Chiz’s running mate served as her “belated gift” to the latter who celebrated his 40th birth anniversary last Saturday.

The Escudero-Legarda tandem was “sealed” following a meeting among NPC members at their headquarters in New Manila, Quezon City on Monday night, Noel said.

He said the meeting was attended by 20 congressmen, including Pangasinan Rep. Mark Cojuangco, son of NPC founder Eduardo “Danding” Cojuangco Jr.

“Based on my understanding, although I am not authorized to speak in behalf of them, I believe that Sen. Legarda will be Chiz’s running-mate. That is her belated gift to Chiz,” Noel said.

Noel said Escudero will make a formal announcement regarding his political plans after things shall have settled down a bit. The young senator, he said, believes that making a political declaration in the midst of natural calamities is improper.

Neither Escudero nor Legarda has confirmed reports that they already have a decision on who would be the NPC standard-bearer.

But Legarda herself had said they have already agreed that they should be together on one ticket in 2010.

Legarda said they both believe that she and Escudero are strong together as the surveys show.

She said they are now in the process of fine-tuning the NPC platform and they have to finish it first before announcing their collective decision.

Writing features painlessly

10/13/2009 12:45 AM
Views and analysis

Of course, there is no such thing. Any kind of writing--be it a poem, or a short story, a novel, a play, or yes, a feature article--involves some kind of struggle. The poet T.S. Eliot called writing "this intolerable wrestling with words," and I know you will agree with him.

The Random House Dictionary defines a feature as a "newspaper or magazine article or report of a person, event, an aspect of a major event, or the like, often having a personal slant and written in an individual style."

I love to write features. They don't have the cold objectivity of news, or the rigid logic of the editorial. Of course, we can argue that news writing by itself isn't "objective." By our choice of words alone, by the slant we take, by the very fact that we are individuals with our own biases, doesn't guarantee the "objectivity" of news. Of course, the editorial can also touch lightly, like feathers against the skin. But there is always a direction, something relentless, in the editorial.

In high school, I wrote a lot of features for the school paper: harmless little articles that had no teeth in them. In college, I wrote about the National Assembly (Batasang Pambansa) and called it a "puppy parliament" that followed every whim of the late dictator Ferdinand Marcos. In a grand stroke of irony, I would later work as an Editor for the Secretariat of the Batasan.

My officemates were great, but I slaved in that job. I corrected the transcriptions of the plenary sessions. I edited lines like "Excuse me, Your Honor, but you're barking at the wrong train." Either that or this line: "We should be careful with the national airline, Mr. Speaker. The airplane I took yesterday almost collapsed." It was impossible. Every afternoon, I would go home in a bus full of employees in their immaculate uniforms. I would stare at the sun beginning to sink behind the mountains, and felt sad because I had written nothing again on that day.

After college, I applied for a job at the National Media Production Center, which wanted to revive Archipelago, the art and culture magazine of the Bureau of National and Foreign Information. For my application, they asked me to interview the now-departed historian Teodoro Agoncillo. His wife, Anacleta, who was a medical doctor, said I could do so.

"But only for an hour, Mr. Remoto," the good doctor said, "since the Professor is busy writing his next book." And so I read what I could about him--his CV, his previous interviews published in various magazines, one of his books. Thus armed, I went to his house.

Professor Agoncillo and his wife lived in a big, white house beside busy Quezon Avenue. Their house was a stylish version of the Filipino nipa (grass) hut. The sloping roof was painted red, though, and the walls were made of thick concrete done in white. His wife, a small woman in glasses, opened the gate and ushered me inside the house. Professor Agoncillo was wearing a loose, white T-shirt and light-brown shorts that reached down to his knees. He had thick eyeglasses, and a shock of black, too black, and wavy hair.

The professor was in his element, slashing at his critics with the scythe of his tongue. I sipped my coffee with trembling hands. When I asked him about the five-volume history of the Philippines that Mr. Marcos was supposedly writing, the professor said he read the recently-published volume one. And what is his prognosis? "It's beautiful, it's a beautiful piece of fiction." He laughed merrily, and then cautioned me not to quote him verbatim, things being what they were at that time.

What about the volumes of history published by another professor whose politics leaned to the Left? "Well, I read them too," said the good professor. When his eyes began to twinkle with something that hinted of wickedness, I knew he would release another volley of words.

And what, I asked, is his prognosis on the gentleman’s books? "Oh they're excellent, they're excellent pieces of political analyses." But most of his comments were off the record, he cautioned me, so I just put down my pen and paper, turned off my tape recorder, and enjoyed the rest of the afternoon in the spacious living room.

This, after all, was the man who wrote The History of the Filipino People which, then as now, is the standard text on Philippine history required of many university students. This, after all, was the prize-winning poet and short-story writer who turned his generous gifts into research--and the writing of tomes on the country's history. This, after all, was the man who wrote about history from below, from the point of view of the poor and the colonized, and not from the point of view of the colonizers.

But Professor Agoncillo was also a man capable of great tenderness, especially when he spoke about his children. "One of them," he said, "is sick. We have had to take care of him since he was young. A father loves all his children, but he is really the one that my wife and I love the most."

His wife gave me only one hour for the interview, but the good professor and I talked and talked for three hours. I was only too glad, because I had a lot of material for my feature article.

He even brought me to the second floor of his house, to his library full of books and magazines dating back to the 1920s. He also showed me the first drafts of his books, which he had bound in black leather, and the awards he had received. Only then did I discover that the historian, Professor Agoncillo, also wanted a place in history. Nothing wrong with that. We all write because we have that dim hope that our books will outlive us.

I guess one secret in interviewing for a feature article is to do your homework. Have you read the author’s books? Do you have a copy of his CV? Who among his friends could throw in an anecdote, an episode, which could illumine the subject’s inner life?

All of us have inner lives that go on and on, sometimes in contrast to the masks we wear in public. Good journalists should ask the right questions, probing but not prying. If they are sensitive enough, or lucky enough, the subject will say or do something that will open a door to that inner life.

But I interviewed the professor years ago. Now I myself teach English at the Ateneo, write columns, work part-time in publishing. When I can tear myself from all these, I write my poems, stories and essays. And oh yes, I sometimes take a look at my first novel, with an eye for revision. Again and again.

But I will never leave journalism, even when some wags call it “literature in a hurry.” If done well, it’s still literature. The glory of the byline is one of the few pleasures in life. As the Random House definition states, you can put your own indelible stamp onto your feature; you can impress your thumb mark on it. That’s why good journalists should always be alert, their noses sniffing for news all the time, and for the possible feature story behind that news.

Moreover, their mental muscles must have definition and tone. Sadly, many young journalists today seem to have flabby minds. I still get frantic calls from editors of daily newspapers asking me to edit raw copy for them fulltime. Aside from sound grammar, feature writers, as Kerima Polotan once said, should be able to capture the time of day, the subject’s emotional weather, and make them come alive before the reader.

How to do all these?

Try to use the tools of fiction in your features: crisp dialogue, the telling detail, description with the clarity of water. Read Truman Capote’s Music for Chameleons, and learn the art of New Journalism. Well, not really new, but still helpful.

Observe people with the sharpness of a spy, with the delight of a lover. Open the pores of your skin. Listen to gossip, but don’t believe them. Believe the essayist Michel de Montaigne when he said, “Nothing human is alien to me.” Write with daring and with dash.


Our boon is Gloria's bane

By Armida Siguion-Reyna
The Daily Tribune

NEW YORK — Skype-ing with my brother Sen. Juan Ponce-Enrile the other day was an unusual treat for both of us, but especially for him, as it was his first time to use the technology. The Ilocano in him made him ask how much the conversation was costing, and boy was he amazed to find out it was for free, thanks to VOIP or voice over Internet protocols.

Johnny chortled at the first sight of me, and laughed when I said, "Sorry, ha? Natagalan ako, kasi nagkilay pa ako. Pagka ganitong nagkakakitaan na tayo pag nag-uusap, dapat naman, magpaganda ako."

"My sister," he said over and over again, "my sister." He was clearly amazed at what was there before him on the computer screen, as I was when my children introduced Skype to me sometime last year.

The Senate President and I are not "techies." We were born years before World War II, the age of manual typewriters and heavy, clunky telephones that first came into use with party-lines and operators that connected overseas calls, light years away from cell phones and computers and even just the concept of Internet.

As a probinsiyano from Cagayan on his way to meet our father for the first time, Johnny entered the Soriano Building, or the "Edificio Soriano" as it was then called, intending to go to the seventh floor where Papa’s law office was. Johnny stopped in the lobby, awed by people rushing in to go inside a small room where "there was an arrow similar to the arrow of a giant clock on top of the door."

Natatawa siya, to this day, pag naaalaala niya ang una niyang enkuwentro sa elevator. He found it strange that those who entered the small room were not the same ones who came out. "The arrow, as it moved forwards, pointed to numbers 1 to 7... now and then it would stop at one of the numbers... then it would move again... it took me a while to decide whether I would enter the door or not. This was my first time to see a thing like that, I was afraid that I would not get out of that door."

Senior citizens like us exhibit childlike delight when state-of-the-art gadgets are brought to our attention, even if we are not "techie." It takes me forever to learn using a new cellphone, lalo na si Johnny, whose anger at his "vanishing" prepaid cell phone loads really came from his not knowing how to use his mobile phone the way teen-agers do. Informed by the telcom that he was charged for "downloading" a ringtone, he bellowed: "I cannot even text on my own, how can I download?"

Our generation is unable to master the ins and outs of digital stuff, but I tell you we appreciate it. We are grateful to have reached the era where scientific breakthroughas occur every other blink of the eye. The results of this medical exam I’m going to have, for instance, will be sent to me in Manila, through e-mail. X-rays and MRI’s are now sent through e-mail, from a doctor, say, in Manila, to a doctor in New York. The two doctors are able to confer if not through e-mail, through chat, then through Skype.

And just as you think Skype is the latest in computer overseas communication, hindi pala. There’s a newer one called Oovo, the free version makes it possible to simultaneously converse with two other persons at the other end of the line for a mini-conference of sorts. Of course I’ll never be able to operate this on my own, as even Skype has to be set up for me, but it’s heartwarming to think of how much easier the new protocols make it for families who live apart. Isipin mong nasa Dubai ang anak mo, and you don’t need to rely on snail mail that takes days to arrive. You also needn’t rely on texting alone. Pag talagang miss na miss mo na ang asawa, anak, magulang o kapatid, go on the Internet!

The recent "Ondoy" rescue and relief operations could not have been mounted without computer audio/video technology. Digital video shot on cell phones were transferred to Facebook and Multiply and other such Web sites with such speed, kaya naman ang bilis din ng response.

Two of my US-based granddaughters were fund-raising via Facebook. Another granddaughter based in Hong Kong was doing the same. And this were just my grandchildren, there were thousands out there, forwarding video of swirling water surrounding a family huddled on the roof of a shanty, of cars and vans trapped in the whirlpool of a center court of a hospital, shots through cell phone MMS showing how deep water was in specific spots, so please, can someone come to the rescue?

Kalinisan Steam Laundry Inc., in Quezon City does more than provide food and shelter to flood refugees and announces, first on FaceBook, free washing sa lahat ng apektado, for bed sheets and comforters, curtains and clothes that drowned in the muck, and again the response is swift. So, too, the praises.

And this turns out to be another wondrous thing about the technology. Ang dapat purihin, agarang napupuri. Ang dapat punahin, agarang napupuna. Heroes are lauded, heels are thrashed, pictures of styrofoam packs marked "Tulong ni Manny Villar" are displayed as are packs of noodles stamped by stickers bearing the likeness of Mr. Sipag at Tiyaga.

Hark back to way before Ondoy and recall how the tastelessly expensive Le Cirque dinner was discovered and so quickly spread, but through the Internet. As were all other fancy-schmancy high-priced meals. At the height of the storm a picture quickly made the rounds, that of someone who suspiciously looked Mikey Arroyo, squat on his haunches facing the liquor section of Rustan’s in Katipunan, looking for hard liquor.

The First Brat reportedly got depressed by the posting, saying it was malicious and completely untrue as he was in Malacañang "trying to mobilize rescue and relief operations for the people of Metro Manila."

That Saturday of the storm, thanks to the Internet we knew that Malacañang was still at a loss and didn’t know what to do. Gloria Arroyo’s first declaration of the Palace as a relief center was recalled, it took days before evacuees where brought to the Ceremonial Hall "where the President traditionally meets foreign dignitaries." The Press Office had to say this over and over in case we still didn’t get how philanthropic Arroyo truly was, but was curiously quiet over the congressman from Lubao’s claim that rescue and relief operations were going on in the Palace at the height of Ondoy.

The Internet is our boon, it’s the government’s bane.

(For comments, write to

When the wind blew

By Danton Remoto
(An excerpt from a novel)
Remote Control
Views and analysis

Typhoon Yoling traveled at a dizzying 200 miles per hour, in its wake a tail of fierce winds. Like the moon, it seemed to have raised water from the sea, for when it fell on land, it rained so hard it seemed the very skin of sky had been torn.

We had no classes for a week. That day, my fingers touched the windowpane. Cold, covered in mist. With my forefinger, I trace my initials. From my initials the world outside began to form.

Our duhat tree seemed to be getting a trashing. Its small round fruits and leaves whirled on their twigs, and the branches seemed to have gone mad. They convulsed violently, and then came a sound that made my skin crawl. A low, loud moan, then a gust of wind that blasted against our duhat tree. Our tree tried to hold its ground, to weather the dervish wind, but I heard something snap. I hurriedly brushed away the mist on the windowpane, and saw that the tree had been split cleanly in two, around three feet from the base. The tree—fruits, leaves, and all—lay on the wet ground. I remembered the hot summers when I climbed this tree, its dark and sweetish fruits rubbed with salt and popped swiftly into one’s mouth, and felt a pang run through me.

When my father turned the TV on, there were widespread appeals for relief goods and aid. The whole of Central Luzon—those five provinces that were the country’s rice bowl—was deep in floodwaters. An Air Force helicopter with media men inside took a pan of the area—water everywhere! When the choppers came closer, there were houses submerged in the flood, with only the roofs showing. And on top of those roofs, like the inverted arks of Noah, huddled shadows. No, blackbirds, flapping their wings. But as the helicopters came closer, the figures changed to people, clothes sticking to rain-drenched skin. Not waving, but drowning.

And the reports flew thick and fast.

Of a woman whose whole family was completely wiped out (“I tried to save my children, but their hands slipped from my grasp, and suddenly there was only dark water”). She was saved because she happened to be near the huge styrofoam box that contained the soft drinks they sold in their small variety store. When the floodwaters came, she grabbed the box, turned it upside down, and ran to the room where her children slept.

Of a town whose inhabitants were completely wiped out. Pabanlag (population: 5,000) was a town between the mountains and an estuary that drained off to the sea. The mountains had been dutifully denuded of trees, thanks to the mayor who had found an ally in the provincial military commander and the corpulent governor. There was gold in them thar hills, really, but not the one that could be beaten into the sheerest filigree, but hardwood shaped into tables and cabinets and chairs, especially now that there was a rage for “modern antique,” furniture newly carved but lacquered and painted to look like heirloom pieces.

So when the rains came, no trees stood to hold the water. The flood slipped down the mountains, like vomit. By that time, the river’s estuary had been swelling and swelling. It had been raining for a week and the river had overflowed its banks. The town was now under three feet of water.

When the water rushed down the mountain, it cascaded like a great waterfall. They said they heard the sound of a thousand hooves, louder and louder by the second, making the blood run cold. And then, complete darkness. The people were borne away by the water, holding on to coconut trees, doors, windows, anything.

When the darkness lifted, the whole town was gone.

Houses were wrenched away as if by the roots, and scattered miles and miles away. A broken window, a door, a wall. And everywhere, the dead. In the backyard of what was once his house, a man lay, his fingers in a half-curl, his eyes staring blindly at the sun. On the street lay a mother embracing tightly her baby. And swept out into sea, an old car with the whole family trapped inside. Around the car floated men and women with torn clothes and torn skin, their bodies bloated, floating in the luminous blue of the sea.

Oh, there were the usual recriminations against illegal logging. The President promised a thorough investigation that would spare nobody. The First Lady chaired Task Force Yoling, which gathered plastic bags of rice, sardine cans, salt, mung beans and soap into cotton bags with their design of faded flowers, recycled from B-Meg Poultry and Pig Feeds, and stamped outside, “GIFTS FROM THE FIRST LADY AND FAMILY,” the words blazing in her favorite color: fuchsia.

When the First Lady was auditioning for a role in the movie Sawa sa Lumang Simboryo (Python in the Old Belfry) for Kantutay Pictures in 1952, the producer, Mother Tiger Monteagudo (for her clothes were always in tawny stripes) was impressed by her screen test and still shots. Whereas the producer asked the First Lady her favorite color.

“Oh, it’s like a slumbook question,” she simpered.

The producer smiled quickly, then waited.

“Well, push-shi-ya,” she answered. Trying to impress the producer with her answer, the words coming nasally, as in the American movies she watched.

“So how do you spell it?” the producer asked, her left eyebrow rising like a question mark on her bleached face.

“Err, well,” one foot shifting, then the other, size eight feet sweating in cheap leatherette, “ay, my favorite color is red na lang.”

The First Lady did not get the role.

And so when the President came to power, one of the new First Lady’s first decisions was to buy Kantutay Pictures lock, stock, and barrel—and burn the negatives of all its movies.

The other was to hire an English teacher, a dropout from Oxford who would never split his infinitives ever, even if a thousand typhoons came tearing at his door.

Comments can be sent to