An unlooked-for gift

An unlooked-for gift

July 29, 2009

‘Thanks to Gloria, Mar no longer
needs to define himself.’

Gloria Arroyo might have unwittingly paid the highest compliment to Mar Roxas when she singled him out among her administration’s critics in her state of the nation address.

There are lingering suspicions that some opposition figures, including presidential aspirants, are prepared to strike a deal with Gloria, assuming they have not already done so, in pursuit of their personal ambition. In her spite, Gloria may just have established Roxas’ credentials as the genuine oppositionist in what is emerging to be a wide-open 2010 electoral race.

Gloria’s attack on Roxas stemmed from the latter’s allegation that she had sought to undermine the Cheaper Medicines Act by refusing to sign an executive order cutting the prices of 22 essential medicines by half. Gloria’s position was that there was no need to exercise the price ceiling option as the pharmaceutical companies themselves were agreeable to a voluntary cut, if only in terms of "suki" cards which just incidentally would carry her picture and that of her health secretary.

The flap that ensued resulted in the retreat of the big pharmaceutical companies. They agreed to cut prices on 16 drugs by half. The prices of the six or so drugs not covered by the manufacturers’ offer were cut anyway by an executive order signed by Arroyo yesterday.

The requirements of the Cheaper Medicines Act were met. So why the unseemly sight of the President using a formal state occasion like the SONA to launch a fishmonger’s scurrilous attack on a senator, however critical he may be of her?

Well, she is just human, according to Speaker Prospero Nograles. "The President is just like all of us. She also feels the pain and the frustration with the relentless effort to malign her and belittle the hard work that she had done for our nation. But there is no denying that she is a leader with a purpose and one who is prepared to defend to the hilt what is right to promote public welfare."

If that’s how Nograles prefers to frame deep political differences – a matter of personalities – we suppose that’s just fine with Roxas.

The issue in 2010 is the nine-year Arroyo administration. How do the presidential aspirants stand in relation to Gloria? Are they for or against?

Thanks to Gloria, Mar no longer needs to define himself. Gloria has done it for him.

Obama's message to GMA

Obama’s message to GMA
Monday, 27 July 2009

If President Arroyo has read Barack Obama’s books and if she has been following his speeches, she’ll know what to expect during their meeting in Washington D.C. this week. And she may find discomfort in Obama's rhetoric and ideas.

It's because GMA's visit to the US comes at a time of public doubt about her true plans past her term in 2010. Dangling in the air are two options, both aimed at extending her stay in office: amending the Constitution through a constituent assembly, and setting up a "transition council" which she will lead and which will preside over the changing of the Constitution.

Clearly, in these two scenarios being peddled by her allies, she's bypassing institutions and violating the Constitution.

Obama, who taught Constitutional law for 10 years, is a believer in institutions. He sees the building of institutions as the key to success of any country.

What Obama told Africa, in his speech in Ghana early July, may as well be his message for the rest of the developing world. Democracy, he said, is "more than just about holding elections. It's also about what happens between elections."

Listen to this: "No country is going to create wealth if its leaders exploit the economy to enrich themselves or if police can be bought off by drug traffickers. No business wants to invest in a place where the government skims off 20 percent off the top or the head of the Port Authority is corrupt. No person wants to live in a society where the rule of law gives way to the rule of...bribery."

Obamas focus is on four critical areas: support for strong and sustainable democratic governments; support for development that provides opportunities for more people; strengthening of public health; and peaceful resolution of conflict.

Obama said that the US government will increase assistance to responsible institutions that promote good governance (parliaments that check abuse of power); rule of law (equal administration of justice); civic participation; and concrete solutions to corruption (automating services, protecting whistleblowers to advance transparency and accountability).

Thus, the issues of rebellion and terrorism in Mindanao, US aid to reform the military and strengthen anti-corruption programs, US investments in the Philippines are specifics that are best addressed, in Obama’s view, by democracies with “capable, reliable, and transparent institutions: strong parliaments, honest police forces, independent judges, an independent press, a vibrant private sector, a civil society.”

Can GMA make the case for strong institutions in the Philippines? That will be tough.

3 Pinoys getting HIV every day -- UNDP

3 Pinoys getting HIV every day - UNDP
Written by Kristine Servando
Tuesday, 28 July 2009

The Philippines has seen an "alarming" increase in HIV cases in the past year, especially among overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) and men who have sex with men (MSM), according to data from the Dept. of Health, as cited by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP).

"Last May, the country had 85 reported cases of human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), the highest ever in the country. That's like 3 people a day, more cases than the A (H1N1) virus," said Danton Remoto, UNDP Communications officer, at the country's 1st National Conference on MSM, Transgender, and HIV last July 22.

There have been 3,911 HIV cases since 1984, according to Department of Health (DOH) data as of May 2009.

All HIV cases were transmitted through sexual contact, with 36% of cases transmitted through homosexual contact and 89% of cases caused by unprotected sex.

Other "vulnerable groups" are OFWs (making up 22% of total cases last May), out-of-school youth, street children who are sometimes forced into prostitution, and MSM communities (which cross-cultural studies said comprise 10% of the Philippine population).

Although the total HIV cases only consist of less than 1% of the Philippine population - making it a low-prevalence country - Dr. Jessie Fanton of the Philippine National AIDS Council said the numbers are still alarming.

"We will always be low-prevalence because of the high population growth. But if you count warm bodies, it really shows an increase in HIV and AIDS cases," he said.

Lifestyle causes
HIV patients are also getting younger and younger, with more HIV cases coming from the 20 to 24 age group (29% of total cases this year).

"We have patients as young as 15 to 17. They cannot be said to be uneducated too. So this is alarming," said Dudz Razon (not his real name), an official from Pinoy Plus Association, a community of persons living with HIV or AIDS (PLWHA).

Fanton, citing a 2007 Integrated HIV Psychological study, said there have been several risk factors that contributed to the rapid spread of HIV in the country.

These include the rise in Internet-usage, which makes it easier to find sexual partners online; the prevalence of drugs and alcohol among MSMs in the past 3 years; and the popularity of anal sex without condoms.

"This is why this is an individual and behavioral issue that needs to be tracked and addressed," Fanton said.

The 3-day National Conference on MSM, Transgender, and HIV is the first of its kind in Southeast Asia, and aims to combat the rise in HIV cases by linking and training leaders from the MSM and transgender communities, as well as non-government organizations.

More than 50 representatives from gay and rights groups nationwide attended the conference. The project is part of the UNDP's 3-year HIV Programme, in cooperation with TLF Share and the Health Action and Information Network (HAIN).

'Double whammy'
Razon, a 40-year-old gay man who has been battling HIV since 1999, said that people like him have to contend with two problems - discrimination for being gay, and discrimination for being a PLWHA.

"We call it a double whammy. Kung baga, MSM ka na, positibo ka pa. Sometimes it's easier to disclose that you're HIV positive than to disclose that you are gay," he said.

"Because on our part, hindi madaling aminin na bading ka at nakuha mo ang HIV through same-sex [intercourse]. Because hindi masyadong pinag-uusapan ang homosexuality sa Philippine culture. There's a stigma," he explained.

Razon, who engaged in gay sex only once in his life, said he has been open to his family about his sickness, but is reluctant to open up about his being gay for fear that it would ruin his "good boy" image or that he would face prejudice or violence.

Razon said he has also experienced insensitivity from health practitioners themselves, who "react differently when they know a person has HIV." "Suddenly they wear masks around you and practice universal hygienic measures. So nakakahiya mag-open up sa kanila," he said.

The Pinoy Plus Association's peer-to-peer counseling has helped newly diagnosed HIV patients open up about their sickness. The Association, based in Manila, has over 100 active members.

HIV myths
UNDP Country Director Renaud Meyer said there have been cases of violence against gays, lesbians, or transgenders all over Southeast Asia. There are many countries that criminalize homosexuality.

Remoto said discrimination partly allows the sickness to continue, and promotes low self-esteem among persons living with HIV or AIDS.

"There are wrong notions about HIV. People think that if you're infected it's because you're a sex worker, or mahilig ka kasi sa sex, so kasalanan mo iyan. We're trying to erase that notion," he said.

Razon shared that many gay PLWHAs are afraid to have sex lest they infect their partner. He said they opt for "careful sexual encounters" like mutual masturbation, watching erotic movies together, or wearing condoms.

"However, this is not purely a gay issue. It is an issue affecting everyone - women, children, and men. It's more of a question of how the public in general lack access to information and education on HIV and AIDS prevention," Remoto said.

Poverty also worsens the problem since poor people do not have access to education or healthcare. "If a poor person would choose between a P15 can of sardines or a P15 pack of condoms, which would he or she choose?" he said.

State should invest in AIDS/HIV treatment
Razon said the government should set up clear mechanisms on how to sustain access to HIV treatment without depending heavily on international funding like the Global Fund Project.

He added that the government had supposedly added an "AIDS benefit package" to its health insurance program, but Razon said PLWHAs have yet to feel the benefits.

Global Fund, a private organization, currently provides HIV/ AIDS treatment to select patients through the help of the DOH and Pinoy Plus Association.

"We feel like the government does not feel the magnitude of the HIV problem. It's time for the government to invest in AIDS [treatment] because trends are changing from low and slow to hidden and growing," Razon said.

Fanton said the government has been assured of international funding for HIV treatment until 2010.

Antiretroviral drugs keep HIV at bay and stops the weakening of the immune system. Once a person takes HIV or AIDS treatment, he or she must do so every day for the rest of his or her life. Otherwise, they could develop resistance to the drug, allowing opportunistic infections to attack their immune systems, that could be fatal.

DOH National Epidemiology Center statistics reveal that from 1984 to 2009, there have been 318 reported deaths due to AIDS.

No follow-through on laws
The present administration failed to address the HIV problem head-on Remoto said, because it was heavily influenced by the Church's stand against contraception and family planning.

"In the 1990s, we had a strong HIV/AIDS program under [former Health secretary] Dr. [Juan] Flavier. But it was discontinued. Health centers no longer give out free condoms, and they no longer give out information about HIV or AIDS. So there are no programs, no plans to give information and education," Remoto said.

Though the Philippines was ahead of its Southeast Asian neighbors when introducing laws like the AIDS Prevention and Control Act of 1998 (Republic Act 8504) or the Reproductive Health Bill, it lagged in terms of passing or implementing these laws.

Anakbayan Rep. Ana Theresia “Risa” Hontiveros-Baraquel, meanwhile, believes the Anti-Discrimination Bill pending in Congress can help curb the spread of HIV.

"[This can help] in terms of accessing the public healthcare system, the bill penalizes any discrimination against lesbians, gays, bisexuals, and transgenders," she said.

Hontiveros-Baraquel also said there should be government reforms on reproductive health policies, especially in terms of promoting condom use as a socially acceptable practice.

"We think if the government becomes pro-condom, pro-life na iyon dahil makaliligtas sa buhay at kalusugan. Sana maglaan din ng resources din domestically at hindi pagkakaitan ng sapat funds ang local government units para sa HIV or AIDS prevention. They can also change their worldview on sex at hindi na masyado mag-ascribe sa views ng Church," she said.

Further, many NGO leaders and MSMs who attended the HIV Conference said they did not see any strong presidential candidate for the 2010 polls who had a clear platform on health and addressing the HIV/ AIDS problem. (

It's Party Time

So who will be my presidential candidate? And under which big political party will I run? As I have said in my 60 minutes interview published in the Manila Bulletin, I will not run as an independent, and I will not run with a small political party. Tapos na ang independent days ko. But it does not mean that my independent mind-set has also vanished.

So which party? Who is the prez?

As of press time, I still do not know. I am still talking to several emissaries of the different political parties, if not the presidential candidates themselves. They always tell me I am up, up, up there, in the senatorial surveys and mock polls that they have seen, such that several senatorial candidates already curse beneath their breath with the mention of my name. Ay, pikunan na agad ito? Wait until the campaign begins, and you hear me speak and make fun of them all, skewering them with my words.

But those surveys and mock polls, why, I have not seen them, because I did not pay PhP 50,000 to be there. Maybe I will save enough money in the next three months to have my name listed in the pivotal September senatorial survey.

Or the easier way is to ask my presidential candidate to bankroll that for me. For I intend the political party I will join to bankroll most of my campaign expenses. I am a teacher and now working for an international organisation. I do not have PhP 100million to run a decent campaign. And if what they tell me is correct, getting me in their senatorial slate would add at least some traction to their campaign. It's going to be a closely-fought campaign, so the political parties will be jostling -- and pouring out millions and millions -- just to complete a formidable senatorial slate.

It is August next week, and by September, all senatorial slates would begin to be completed. It would be complete by October, and by November, all the race horses would be ready, poised before the starting line, waiting for the bark of the gun to begin.

And running........

'Obama's new media tack can work in RP'

by Maria Althea Teves, | 07/25/2009 3:46 AM

MANILA - It is no secret that US President Barack Obama won partly for using new media in his 2008 campaign.

New media is defined by Obama New Media Operations Manager Mary Joyce as a media message created, produced and read by the people. This means media found on the internet, and text messages via mobile phones.

Social networking sites have linked internet users to Obama’s webpage in order to know his policies and actively participate in discussions. But there is one key aspect the Obama campaign team is most proud of: getting online donations for the campaign that amounted to $500 million.

So what if they paid a dollar to the Obama campaign?

Joyce told that the psyche behind donating money is that they feel they belong to the campaign. Joyce is also co-founder of, a volunteer organization helping activists around the world to use Internet and mobile phones to increase the impact of their message.
“Our marketing mantra was ‘own a piece of this campaign,’” she said. In turn, Obama supporters felt they had a say and the power to promote their candidate, and they felt more entitled to voice out what they feel and need.

Recognizing the importance of people’s donations, Obama even mentioned in his November 7, 2008 speech that his victory was built by working men and women who donated small amounts--from $5-$20--to the cause.

Joyce said that Obama did not have access to funds from the traditional elite of America so, “we had no choice but to campaign online, asking for donations from Middle America.”

Obama supporters, Joyce said, felt that Obama was accountable for what he promised because their money was used for their campaign. This way, they felt empowered and wanted him to win.

Donating Online to Organizing Offline

Obama’s campaign also encouraged his supporters to put up their own events at home, or wherever convenient, and invite their friends or family, whatever their political background.

Supporters could ask help from the Obama team in organizing their political-awareness event by filling up a form in their website, and the team would announce the event through the website.

“The objective of this was to get more Obama supporters,” Joyce said.

Organizing online with supporters to create their own event was a cost-efficient way of getting new supporters.

New Media and Old Media

Because of the innovations done to the Obama campaign, they were constantly being followed by the press, said Joyce.

She added that whatever achievement or new idea they introduced, they would send it to publications and make news out of their innovation.

“Without intending to, the Obama campaign was in tune with the concept of hope for change. We gave something new,” she said.

Since not everyone is familiar with online, it is also good to publicize these in newspapers, broadcast centers and radios.

Possible in the Philippines?

“Yes! It can happen,” Joyce said, imitating Obama’s tone when he says his popular ‘yes, we can’ slogan.

Contrary to popular belief that internet penetration is very low in the country, Internet World Stats, as of March 31, 2009 there were 20.65 million internet users in the country. This was 21.5% of the Philippines’ population. The country was 7th in top internet user countries in Asia. China was the highest.

Promoting causes

Promoting causes and actively campaigning for elections through new media can now be an influential tool, said blogger, journalist and activist Tonyo Cruz. Cruz spoke at the “New Media: A Powerful Tool for the 2010 Elections” forum organized by Computer Professionals’ Union (CP-union) at the Sofitel Hotel Friday.

Citing Nielsen and Yahoo’s internet penetration survey done in 2008, Cruz said that even those in social class C2 (63%) and DE (21%) have internet access.

“Most of them are 15-19 years old, they are first time voters, as well as housewives and the employed,” Cruz said.

In the same survey, it said that internet content has more influence in terms of inculcating values than television, print and radio. It also showed that internet penetration is highest in urban areas, and in vote-rich areas like Pangasinan.

New Media Challenge in RP

But unlike Obama’s campaign, Rick Bahague of CP-union said that it might be hard to ask for donations in the Philippines from the middle class and lower class.

“Large political parties are dependent on the Philippines’ traditional rich donors,” Bahague said.

On top of this, Cruz said political parties don’t need the people’s money because they think they’re not accountable to them. And with their resources, they could already manufacture votes that they need to win.

Party-list groups to benefit from new media

Since party-list groups cater to a specific, marginalized target group, new media is a good avenue to promote their cause and make people feel like a part of their team, said Joyce.

Because they are accountable to the groups who support them, party-list groups, especially those which do not have machinery for campaigns, ask for donations, just like what Obama did.

Filipinos have a hard time trusting monetary transfers via internet. Thus, Bahague suggested that mobile companies could monetize small-value prepaid cards for subscribers to donate, which party-list groups can then monetize.

In the US, Joyce said that company Act Blue was responsible for monetizing political donations of Obama, as well as other democratic candidates.

“Donating could be a symbol of commitment (from the supporters and the accountability of the party-list group),” said Bahague.

It is possible, he said, for the marginalized to feel as empowered as Obama’s supporters in the 2008 US presidential elections.

as of 07/26/2009 11:44 AM

How to do well in school?

Views and analysis

1. Listen to the teacher. When the teacher repeats a point two times, red flag it and take notes. That means what she is saying is super important, that is why it is repeated twice, not that she already has Alzheimer’s (she will, 20 years down the road, after teaching young people like you).

2. Read everything thrice. The first is to scan the text, like an eagle surveying the field, before it swoops down for the kill. The second is to read slowly, marking important points on the margins, or underlining key words in the text. The third is to summarize the points in your head, in your notebook, or on the last page of the text. I tell my students: unless you have summarized the text in three sentences, in your own words, then you haven’t gotten it right.

3. Master the four skills. Being a teacher of the old school, I tell my students the four skills of language learning are still important. The four skills are not surfing the net, texting, watching MTV or reading The four skills are still reading, writing, listening and speaking. But because of the four so-called skills I enumerated earlier, some students no longer want to read. “Eh why pa did you go to school if you don’t want to read?” I ask my students in mock horror. Writing well, of course, means reading and rereading The Elements of Style by William Strunk and E.B. White. Listening, with the headphones of your iPod off, works best. And speaking, of course. When one day, I asked a student for his insights into Guy de Maupassant’s The Jewels, he answered, “Wala lang!” I said, “That is good. Therefore, your oral recitation grade is also wala lang!” Then he immediately cobbled together an answer that somewhat mollified his English teacher.

4. Budget your time. You are a student, right? Therefore, your job is to study. When I was taking graduate school in the US and we were reading 600 pages of text every week, I asked my classmates, “How do we survive this?” “Read the darned pages,” Boho from Harlem said, “then go to the gym three times a week — and dance in the clubs on Saturday nights!” And so we did. We read tomes on Islamic Mystical Literature, the Nineteenth-Century Novel, and Literary Criticism, then did the treadmill and danced at Splash in New York every Saturday night. In short, you study hard — and then you play just as hard.

5. Consult with the teacher. Your teacher has placed her e-mail address and consultation hours in the syllabus. Go and make use of these. If you get low marks in Composition class, or just cannot get why the old man Iona Potapov, who has just lost his son, begins talking to his horse at the end of Chekhov’s story, then talk to the teacher. With the patience of Job, I am sure he or she will explain why that sentence is a fragment, and you do not mix your tenses, and “occasion” is not spelled with two c’s, two s’s, and two n’s, that is why you got an F. And I am quite sure that your teacher will also enlighten you on the way Chekhov writes fiction as revelation, where the unsaid words and the absent gestures are as important — if not more important — than what is said and shown.

6. Use the library. I taught for 22 years at the Ateneo, which happens to have an excellent multimedia library. During the first weeks of class, I require my students to attend library orientation, so they will know how to dig in that fabulous archive of knowledge. I also tell them that the library subscribes to Time, Newsweek, The Economist, The Financial Times and the International Herald Tribune — the last two papers because I badgered the library to do so, 20 years ago. In short, the most incisive analysis and the crispest writing in accessible formats can be had, right there at their fingertips, via hard copies of the world’s finest periodicals.

7. Use your imagination. When studying literature, let your minds fly! Ravyi Sunico, my teacher in Philosophy, once said in class that the imagination has no boundaries. Therefore, let the wings of your mind and heart touch the sky when you read. When the French master wrote, “Monsieur Lantin was caught in the web of love,” do not tell the teacher that this means life is complicated. Hell-er! First, you answer that “web of love” is a metaphor that means falling in love is like being caught in a spider web. It reminds you of that time when that “fat dimpled spider” (in Walt Whitman’s wicked poem) comes charging along to eat the unwitting fly. In short, I add, my lips curving in a wicked smile, it is called falling in love because “at first, you are in love, and then you fall.”

8. Open your minds. You go to school to obtain a liberal education, especially in the Humanities. In the Jesuit Fr. Roque Ferriol’s book, that means “magpakatao” — being taught to be fully human. That means never being afraid of ideas. Freshmen jump out of their skin when they hear the word “communism” or the name “Sigmund Freud” discussed in their Literature classes. Eh kumusta naman? You tell me we will discuss Ninotchka Rosca’s novel, State of War, without talking about the class contradictions in society? Or talk about Little Red Riding Hood seducing the Big Bad Wolf in Angela Carter’s “The Company of Wolves,” without discussing that dear, dirty old man Sigmund Freud? Time now to forget your high-school class in Literature, where Sister Marionnete always pinned a moral lesson to every poem, play, story and essays taught in class, reducing the beauty of words to the silence of the lambs.

In short, enjoy your English classes. Have fun in the world of words. Read everything as if it is a love letter, which means reading between the lines. Or better yet, as my unforgettable teacher of the Modern Novel, Dr. Edna Zapanta Manlapaz, put it, read not only with your eyes and with your heart, but best of all, read with your genitals!

Which means reading everything at the gut level, at the level of the groin, where the vital seeds of life begin.

Privileged to serve: nuisance candidates vs. alternative politicians

By Celeste Ann Castillo Llaneta
University of the Philippines
The Forum - May-June 2009 - (Vol 10 Issue 3)

All the world’s a stage, and at no time is this more evident than during national elections. November 30 is the red letter day for those intending to run in 2010, since they have until then to file their candidacies. Their fate as candidates, however, is not in their hands. It is up to the Commission on Elections (Comelec), which weeds out the fly-by-nights, would-be messiahs, and other such nuisance candidates.

However, in the course of declaring nuisance candidates some well-meaning and qualified aspirants—aspirants who might well have made a positive difference had they been elected—get scratched out of the list. One of these is Ateneo de Manila University English Professor Danton Remoto, who ran as representative of the party-list group Ang Ladlad in the May 2007 elections. When the Comelec dismissed Ang Ladlad as eligible to be part of the party list, Remoto aimed for a Senate seat but was eventually declared a nuisance candidate. On the other hand, the list of qualified candidates inevitably includes the usual moneyed, powerful traditional politicians—the same people who have run the country to the ground to further their own interests. All these factors thus make determining who should be given the chance to serve in national government a daunting task.

Privilege, not a right
Under Section 26, Article II of the Constitution, Filipinos are guaranteed “equal access to opportunities for public service,” a provision often cited by people contesting the Comelec’s decision to declare them nuisance candidates and disqualify them from running. This issue, says Comelec Commissioner Rene V. Sarmiento (LLB’78), was discussed in the case of Rev. Elly Chavez Pamatong vs. Comelec (GR No. 161872, April 13, 2004), in which the Supreme Court upheld the Comelec’s decision to declare presidential hopeful Pamatong a nuisance candidate during the 2004 elections, stating that “Section 26, Article II of the Constitution neither bestows such a right nor elevates the privilege to the level of an enforceable right...the provision does not contain any judicially enforceable constitutional right but merely specifies a guideline for legislative or executive action.”

“Pamatong claimed that according to the Constitution, individuals should be given equal access to political opportunities. But the Supreme Court ruled that this is only a privilege, not a right. And because it is a privilege, the law through Congress can impose limitations. These limitations can now be found in the Omnibus Election Code and in Comelec Resolution No. 6492.”

Bonafide intention
The process of disqualifying nuisance candidates is initiated either by the Comelec motu proprio (“on their own”), or upon the filing of a petition for disqualification by an interested person or party within five days from the last day of filing for candidacy. Comelec Resolution No. 6452 specifies that the Comelec can cancel the certificate of candidacy of any person running for president, vice president, senator and party-list on the following grounds:

if the candidate does not possess the constitutional and legal qualifications of the office to which he or she aspires to be elected;
if the candidate filed his or her certificate of candidacy to put the election process in mockery or disrepute;
if the candidate causes confusion among the voters by the similarity of names and surnames with other candidates;
if the candidate has no bona fide intention to run for the office.

A lack of “bona fide intention to run” is demonstrated by a candidate who does not belong to or was not nominated by any registered political party of national constituency; a presidential or vice presidential candidate who does not present a running mate or senatorial candidates; and a candidate who does not have a platform of government and is not capable of waging a nationwide campaign.

It is fairly obvious how candidates with similar names can create confusion among the voters. In 2004 when Melchor Chavez and Francisco Chavez both ran for Senate, the former was disqualified as a nuisance candidate. In 2007 senatorial hopefuls Alan Peter Cayetano and Joselito “Peter” Cayetano both presented themselves and the latter was disqualified. In numerous local elections candidates protest the sudden appearance of rivals with the same last names or nicknames.

The requirement that a candidate must have the machinery and resources to wage a campaign appears to favor the wealthy, the powerful, and the already entrenched. “On the other hand, if you are running for the presidency, how are you going to finance a national campaign?” asks Sarmiento. “You say, ‘On the basis of my dream, I want to be president.’ Fine, but how are you going to travel all around the Philippines to campaign or to finance your advertisements and materials?”

Elections are still held in the real world, and as the Supreme Court observed in Pamatong vs. Comelec, “the greater the number of candidates, the greater the opportunities for logistical confusion, not to mention increased allocation of time and resources in preparation for the election.”

“Much as we’d like to accommodate everyone, we still have to consider the expenses involved,” says Sarmiento. “Too many candidates just make the ballots longer, which results in greater costs. This is another reason the Comelec is discouraging such candidates.”

Alternative candidates
The Comelec is obliged to be practical, even hard-nosed, in choosing candidates to ensure that elections remain rational, objective, and orderly. However, with the clamor for change in governance gaining strength among the populace, the idea of voting based on political power, economic resources, and popularity is slowly, painfully giving way. In this sense, the “alternative” candidates—those who might be considered nuisance candidates by some—may have the right idea after all.

Atty. Adrian O. Sison (LLB’84) is a member of the national political party Ang Kapatiran (AKP) [], which was formed in 2004 and is unaffiliated with either major coalition parties. The AKP promotes a platform-based politics aimed at enhancing the common good and promoting virtue and duty, transparency and public accountability, stewardship and good citizenship.1 Sison and two others ran for the Senate under the AKP in 2007; in 2010, the AKP will field its own presidential candidate, Olongapo City Councilor John Carlos de los Reyes.

Atty. Adrian O. Sison

“[A lawyer] said to me, ‘You’ve got some nerve, thinking to field a presidential candidate,’” Sison relates. “I replied, ‘The AKP members and candidates are thinking outside the box. You’re thinking traditionally. You’re thinking in terms of money, popularity and all of that. We’re thinking in terms of alternatives. We want people to have hope in this country. If you feel hopeless, you will think inside the box—that if you have no money and no popularity, then you have no right to run because you will have no chance of winning.’”

During the 2007 elections and in 2001 when he ran for Representative of the 3rd District of Quezon City, Sison went toe to toe with traditional politicians also running for office, which he describes as a “fun and challenging” experience. “Fun because we had a chance to debate with them, to pick their brains, and to show the public that many of them had no platform. Many of them were not prepared.”

Outside the box
Sison admits that convincing people to run for office can be challenging, mainly because of the traditional outlook that no money and no popularity automatically translate into no win. However, the AKP is ready to welcome aspirants with a sincere desire to serve and the guts to buck conventional thinking. “Join the AKP,” he says. “It’s the only party with a genuine platform for the common good that is not based on personality.” In fact, Sison recommends that the Comelec require would-be candidates to present a political platform besides proof that they have the party support to campaign seriously as a way of ensuring that more genuinely competent people get elected.

For his part, Sarmiento advises sincere, well-meaning aspirants aiming for national positions, who might otherwise be declared nuisance candidates, to start at the local level and work their way up. “If you’re serious about being a public servant, then it’s better if you start locally so you can learn how to govern. It’s not just about having a dream or a vision. It’s also about having the skills and competence. If you’re aiming for the highest position in government, then start from the bottom and learn from the process.”

Critical elections
For 2010, Sarmiento urges voters to carefully study the merits and qualifications of a candidate. “Don’t just vote for them because they are good-looking, popular or highly visible in the media. They have to have competence and skills.”

Sison goes a step further: “The electorate should demand that the candidate have a solid platform. This makes the candidate accountable to the people; the electorate knows how he or she, as an elected leader, will stand on major issues and the constitutional provisions that have not been implemented in the last 22 years since our 1987 Constitution was ratified. Don’t vote for the people in power who have destroyed our economy, and those who have not supported the anti-dynasty constitutional provision, the Right to Information Act, the law that prevents monopoly and restraint in trade, that which allowed a high 40 percent of our national budget to go to debt servicing, the plunderers, the election cheats, those involved in the scandals of corruption and anomalous and illegal government contracts. We should vote them out of power.”

With the 2010 elections nearing, the cogs and wheels of the electoral machinery are already gaining momentum. “This is a critical election for our country,” says Sarmiento. “It will bring closure to so many things, so I’m sure this time voters will be more discriminating and discerning.”

“It’s about time we as voters have the courage to vote for good people, even if traditionally we think they will not earn enough votes and therefore cannot win. If everybody thought like that, by default, the traditional politicians will always win,” Sison reiterates. “The voters should think outside the box and say, ‘No, I’m going to make a difference. I will vote for the right people.’”


1 The AKP platform is available at For inquiries on membership and how to nominate candidates to the AKP, please email

Ramos takes swipe at Arroyo

Ex-president: ‘You can’t stay at the top forever’

By Fe Zamora, Michael Lim Ubac
Philippine Daily Inquirer
First Posted 01:01:00 07/17/2009

MANILA, Philippines — Former president Fidel V. Ramos Thursday told six aspirants to the presidency that being in power was not a permanent state.

“Going up to the summit is optional, but coming down is mandatory,” Ramos said, quoting the first Filipino mountain climbers to scale Mount Everest. “You cannot stay at the top forever.”

Ramos’ remarks were applauded by the six aspirants and their audience, to whom they presented their planned six-year socioeconomic programs. The venue was the 10th Ramos Peace and Development Foundation public lecture series held at RCBC Plaza’s Carlos P. Romulo Auditorium in Makati City.

“Bato-bato sa langit, ang tamaan huwag magalit,” a laughing Ramos also said, mouthing the old Filipino adage about being a sport in the face of criticism.

It was an apparent swipe at President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, whose term ends in 2010 and, according to persistent reports, is preparing to seek a congressional seat representing a district in her native Pampanga province.

The six aspirants present were Senators Francis Escudero, Richard Gordon, Loren Legarda and Manuel “Mar” Roxas II, Defense Secretary Gilbert Teodoro and Metropolitan Manila Development Authority Chair Bayani Fernando.

Why Erap wasn’t there

Ramos said Vice President Noli de Castro, and Senators Manny Villar and Panfilo Lacson had also been invited. De Castro and Villar declined; Lacson has announced that he would not be in the running in 2010.

Ousted President Joseph Estrada was not invited because he was not yet considered a contender when the invitations were sent out in March, Ramos also said.

The forum was attended by businessmen and executives of multinational companies and international organizations.

Among the government officials in attendance were Executive Secretary Eduardo Ermita and Ms Arroyo’s adviser on political affairs Gabriel Claudio, who were once “Ramos boys.”

Energy Secretary Angelo Reyes also dropped in.

Young but mature

Ramos praised the six aspirants for the “clarity, intellect and substance of their presentation.”

He said that compared to himself when he ran in 1992, “they are still very young [but] mature enough to assume the office of the presidency.”

The six aspirants presented their platforms of government in response to two questions:

How do you plan to maintain economic stability and stimulate economic growth in the Philippines?

How do you plan to deal with the peace and order situation in Mindanao?

Each was allowed 15 minutes to make a presentation. They later fielded questions in an open forum.

Platform of government

All agreed that focusing government resources on modernizing agriculture and improving productivity was key to sustainable growth, with Legarda championing the protection of the environment and rural folk as part of long-term solutions.

Fernando proposed a stronger state through the faithful implementation of laws. Gordon urged the nation to revisit its history, learn from the past and start “caring” for the people.

Escudero laid down a six-point priority program to address poverty.

Roxas talked about an “activist government.” Teodoro suggested that the government’s economic infrastructure, health and education programs, as well as public investment in peace and security, be continued.

All six aspirants said they believed that “good governance” was at the center of economic and peace efforts.

President as juggler

Roxas treated the forum as a “job interview.”

“To whom will I entrust the country?” he said, and used the global economic recession and domestic problems to paint the current picture of the economy.

He said serving as president was like “keeping the big picture in sight, juggling so many different things atop a high wire, while keeping [one’s] bearings, principles and vision intact.”

Roxas said “the binding constraint to our development path as a nation … has been poor institutions, the weakest institutions that stop our development.”

He called for an “activist government” that would be “nimble, quick to respond and professional,” and “built on the foundation of accountability, transparency, independence of enforcement agencies, meritocracy and professionalism.

Legarda pushed her proposed agenda on “rethinking development.”

“For far too long, our policies and strategies have only marginally altered the socioeconomic status of our people. The absence of an integrated, unified, and coherent road map is the culprit for the snail-paced Philippine economic and security development,” she said.

She called for a coordinated and integrated plan that would spur efforts toward a developed Philippine state.

“We need to fuse national economic growth with national security in the development of an integrated plan,” Legarda said.

Workplace economics

Fernando, a professional mechanical engineer, proposed his “workplace economics” as the Philippine socioeconomic development framework.

He said he would implement this “if I am elected president, which I am sure will happen,” eliciting chuckles from the audience.

Fernando said the challenges were low respect for labor, unemployment and failure to enforce laws.

“It is inherent upon all of us to implement and obey the laws of the land,” he said.

He also said peace was a prerequisite of development, and that political will was essential to solving the ills of society.

Formula for peace and order

Teodoro said the country suffered from a “structurally flawed political system.”

He ticked off his policy agenda for economic stability and growth: good government, continuation of economic infrastructure programs, better education, health and overall quality of life, and order in civil society through public investment in peace and security.

Teodoro said the three “current threats” in Mindanao were lawless Moro groups, the Abu Sayyaf, and the communist insurgents.

He said the formula for peace and order in Mindanao was development, capacity building and DDR (disarmament, demobilization and reintegration).

“Peace is contextual and must have an enforcement mechanism,” Teodoro said.

Unbroken country

Gordon delivered an extemporaneous speech that was the most applauded.

“I don’t believe we are broken. We may have lost our confidence, but we are not a broken country,” he said, saying the country’s leaders should uplift the dignity of Filipinos.

Gordon said his vision for a new Philippines was an “enabled, ennobled and free” nation through stability, unity and transformation.

“I’d like you to believe that we can effect change in our country” through “transformational leadership,” and not “transactional leadership,” he said.

Gordon cited instances why many Filipinos were poor, uneducated and had violent tendencies.

“We don’t care enough,” he said, adding that Moro separatists and Abu Sayyaf bandits “came out because they are in pain.”

6-point policy

Escudero said good governance, strengthened finances, investment in youth and the country’s future, environmental stewardship, infrastructure development, and making local products globally competitive were the key elements of his six-point policy to address “decades of missed opportunities.”

“Primarily, we seek to eliminate poverty and improve the quality of life of every Filipino. This means striving for higher family income, a highly educated and trainable workforce, better health care, affordable food and housing and peaceful communities,” Escudero said.

Two women: Gloria

Tuesday, July 14, 2009
By Antonio C. Abaya
Manila Standard Today

It was only last July 3 that US Ambassador Kristie Kenney was quoted by the Philippine Daily Inquirer as assuring President Arroyo that her much sought-after meeting with US President Barack Obama will happen “before the end of the year” on the grounds that a new US President always meets with the Philippine President during the US President’s first year in office. (See my article of July 6 titled Puno’s “Devious Plan?”)

Now all of a sudden, barely 10 days after Ambassador Kenney’s lollipop, Malacañang announces that this epochal meeting will take place, not before the end of the year, but on July 30, right after President Arroyo’s “last” State-of-the-Nation Address before a joint session of Congress on July 28.

And to add mystery to the puzzlement, the newly appointed head of the Central Intelligence Agency, Leon Panetta, drops by for a 12-hour visit in Manila to meet with President Arroyo and other top Philippine officials.

What in the world is going on?

My reading is that the Americans smell a dead rat, in all likelihood planted by Ronaldo Puno, who, while attending his daughter’s wedding in San Francisco on July 4, is being eased out of the Cabinet (Interior and Local Government). Executive Secretary Eduardo Ermita called Puno’s leave “open-ended”… ‘‘for weeks” …. and appointed an officer-in-charge in Puno’s place. The parting seems to be bitter and final.

Puno’s offense? He has a “devious plan” for becoming president, as one reader e-mailed to me on June 18 after talking to some of Puno’s relatives, which I published as a reaction letter to this column.

A second reader e-mailed me after the May 27 announcement of Puno’s seeking the vice-presidency, that he would not be surprised if Puno, whom he has known personally for years—who helped make Fidel Ramos, Joseph Estrada and Gloria Arroyo president in 1992, 1998 and 2004 respectively—will now concentrate on making himself, Ronaldo Puno, president.

Even, wrote this second reader, if it means betraying Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo. Puno intends to become the “best president the Philippines has ever had or will ever have,” he wrote.

A third reader has now e-mailed me the anecdotal tidbit that when Puno, then 19, married his 18-year-old Maryknoller bride, he promised to make her First Lady one day. Has that day finally arrived?

What this anecdotal tidbit tells us is that Puno has had an overarching ambition to become president since he was in his late teens. Nothing wrong with that. I would not be surprised if other ambitious presidential wannabes made similar promises to their brides; Ninoy Aquino, Jose de Venecia, Manuel Quezon, Manuel Roxas, etc.

But what happens when this teenager reaches presidential age and finds that his ambition is blocked by his own boss who is scheming to stay in power beyond the limits of her non-extendable presidential term? Gunfight at the OK Corral, or its political equivalent in the Philippines?

At this the September of her years, Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo should concentrate on leaving as benign a legacy as is possible, under the circumstances that she and her husband have created for themselves, of their own free will.

Forget about running for congresswoman for her electoral district in Pampanga, which she has visited 16 times, and counting, since last February.

Forget about amending the Constitution to shift to parliamentary, now or in June 2010, by the dubious method of a constituent assembly, so that she can remain in power as Prime Minster for Life.

Forget about turning the Philippines into a First World country by the year 2020, under her tutelage, of course. It is physically impossible, even if her alma mater, the Balic Balic School of Economics, assures her in her fantasies that it is possible.

Forget about declaring emergency rule or martial law, now or in 2010, so that she can cancel or postpone the May 2010 elections, and thereby remain in power as a ”transition president.”.

A declaration of emergency rule or martial law will be counter-productive. It will make this country a pariah state. Whatever meager foreign direct investments are still trickling in will dry up completely. So will most or all of official development aid. Many countries will withdraw their ambassadors. The exodus of this country’s best and brightest people will accelerate. No one will be left here except the crooks, the cheats and the criminals, and those who do not have the means to get out.

My family and I supported Gloria Arroyo in what we have since realized was the stage-managed People Power agitation against Joseph Estrada in January 2001. In the 2004 elections, I was one of the few columnists who wrote that she was the actual winner over the deaf-mute FPJ, though by a thin majority, based on pre-election surveys, exit polls on election day itself, and an analysis of the data from the independent Namfrel. (GMA by a Hair, May 13, 2004; Who Won? May 19, 2004)

I supported Ms. Arroyo when in January 2003 she called for “a revolution in the way we think and the way we do politics and economics.” But there was no revolution in anything except in the way she blabbered words without meaning them. (GMA Revolution Stalling, Feb. 9, 2003).

As a former supporter, I suggest that Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo and her family magically vanish from the country hours or days before her term ends on June 30, 2010. Move to Portugal or Dubai, and count your “blessings” there. Forget the rumored losses in Lehman Brothers or AIG or the Dubai property market. Do not try to recoup those losses by staying here one minute longer beyond June 30, 2010. Do not force us to make public what we know about you and your husband..

I hope this will be what President Obama will tell President Arroyo on July 30. Anything less than that would be an unforgivable diminution of the Obama Magic.

Cheaper medicine gives Mar a fighting chance

Wednesday, July 15, 2009
By Efren L. Danao
The Manila Times

Sen. Mar Roxas will make a great headway in his quest for the presidency once the Universally Accessible Cheaper and Quality Medicine Law is fully implemented and starts benefiting millions of sick Filipinos. I am certain that if Mar projects himself well on this issues, he could give early survey leaders Vice President Noli de Castro, Sen. Manny Villar, Sen. Chiz Escudero and former President Erap Estrada a stiff competition.

I admire the stick-to-itiveness of Mar on the implementation of what is popularly known as Cheaper Medicine Law. As far as I am concerned, this law is Mar’s baby and if it becomes a success, all of its beneficiaries will be more apt to vote for him in 2010. Sure, the House of Representatives had a lot of inputs at the bicameral conference committee but it was Mar that loomed large at the bicam.

Law is Mar’s baby

The House wanted to put a “generics only” provision in bicam. Mar put his foot down. It had also insisted on the creation of a Drug Price Regulatory Board. Mar claimed that this provision was part of a “last-ditch effort” by the drug cartel to derail the implementation of the Cheaper Medicine Act. He said it is difficult to pinpoint responsibility in a board that he predicted to be the dumping ground of “election losers and relatives of powerful politicians. The Senate version preferred to empower the Office of the President, through the recommendation of the Secretary of Health, to regulate drug prices with the setting of maximum retail price (MRP) for essential medicines. In both contentious issues, the House backtracked so the Senate version—or, should I say, Mar’s version—came out in the law signed by President Arroyo.

Mar was confident that the law as amended would lower drug prices. It provides for parallel importation to improve competition, and the strengthening of the Bureau of Food and Drugs so it can process the importation of quality drugs faster. In a complementary move, he sponsored the creation of a P1-billion special fund in the 2009 budget to jumpstart the implementation of the measure through the importation of quality drugs from India.

Parallel importation amends the Intellectual Property Code to enable the importation of patented drugs and allow generic manufacturers to test, register, produce drugs prior to the expiration of a patent, which is normally 20 years. BFAD will process importation by the private sector to determine the quality of the drugs and if they are checked by their country of origin.

Of course, there are warnings that the law might turn out to be a dud, just like the Electric Power Industry Reform Act that has failed to deliver the promised lower power rates and increased competition. Will it go the way of the EPIRA? Well, not if Mar can have his way. And that is why he is looking at all the nuts and bolts in the law’s implementation. This he does as co-chairman with Palawan Rep. Antonio Alvarez of the Quality Affordable Medicine Oversight Committee.

No reason to smile?

So far, Mar is grousing over the slow approval by Malacañang of the MRP for 22 essential medicines consisting of drugs to treat hypertension, diabetes, asthma and cancer, as well as antibiotics drugs. The MRP would cut the price of the medicines by 50 percent. Health Secretary Francisco Duque 3rd submitted the list last June 10 for President Arroyo’s approval. The President met with leaders of drug firms in Malacañang on July 8 to hear their proposals on the proposed MRP. The President reportedly gave the drug firms 10 days to or until July 18 to voluntarily cut their prices by 50 percent or else she would sign the EO on the MRP.

If there is one thing that I would fault Mar, it is his over-zealousness. For the life of me, I could not understand why he invited President Arroyo to the July 13 hearing of the oversight committee to shed light on the July 8 meeting in Malacañang. He could have gotten the needed information from Cabinet members or officials of drug firms who attended the meeting. No President had ever been invited to a committee hearing. A President appears before Congress merely to deliver the annual State of the Nation Address! I was not surprised at all when none of the executive officials invited attended the hearing.

I believe that Mar’s unprecedented move inviting the President to testify is merely meant to gain him more media mileage. I hope he will stop such cheap shots or gimmicks for they demean his avowed noble aim.

Noli's PAG-IBIG ads cost taxpayers P500M

Noli's Pag-IBIG ads cost taxpayers P500-M
Written by Carmela Fonbuena
Newsbreak Magazine
Monday, 13 July 2009

Who is benefiting from the advertisements of Vice-President Noli De Castro promoting the government’s Home Development Mutual Fund, also known as Pagtutulungan sa Kinabukasan: Ikaw, Bangko, Industria at Gobyerno (Pag-IBIG) Fund?

To lawyer Ernesto Francisco, it’s the vice-president. He noted that the the ads use De Castro’s moniker, Kabayan, a name de Castro registered with the Commission on Elections when he ran for senator in 2001.

“This is despicable practice, which is obviously designed to promote the candidacy of Vice-President Noli De Castro. It should be stopped. Vice-President De Castro should have had the delicadeza and sense of decency to refrain from using Pag-IBIG funds to promote his candidacy,” said Francisco.

For 2009, a total of P208.5 million has been allotted for the Pag-IBIG advertisements. A big chunk of the budget (P109 million) goes to TV placements. The rest goes to radio placements (P54 million), print media (P16 million), cinema placements (P9 million), and sponsorships (P11.7 million).

Francisco estimated that around P500 million have been spent for De Castro’s Pag-IBIG ads since its airing in 2007.

'Money well spent'
De Castro’s lawyer told the cost of advertising is money well spent for the benefit of Pag-IBIG members.

“The ads are for the benefit of the members of Pag-IBIG in order to attract them to apply for Pag-IBIG loans,” Armando Marcelo of the Andres Marcelo Padernal Guerrero and Paras law office told after a hearing on the case on Monday.

“They are not really meant for pre-campaigning. He (Francisco) is the one saying it. If you look at the ads, they are not really meant for that. It is only in his imagination,” Marcelo added.

Marcelo dismissed Francisco’s complaint as a political move to discredit De Castro, who is among the frontrunners in presidential surveys.

Although he has yet to announce his plans for 2010, De Castro is in the short list of the ruling political party Lakas-Kampi-CMD for the administration’s presidential bet in 2010.

“We don’t see any basis for his filing this suit and why he [Francisco] would spend time and money to file this case,” Marcelo said.

Return the funds
In a taxpayer’s complaint, Francisco is seeking a court injunction against de Castro and seven other high-ranking government officials from using public funds “for their respective political campaigns.”

Francisco said the ads violate Republic Act 6713 or the Code of Conduct and Ethical Standards for Public Officials and Employees.

Francisco also wants the officials to return to the government the funds used to pay for the ads.

The case is pending at the sala of Judge Marino dela Cruz Jr. of the Manila Regional Trial Court Branch 22.

“These paid advertisements, while purporting to promote the functions and activities of certain government offices or agencies or to espouse certain public interest causes are, on their face and in reality, clear political propaganda designed to promote the personalities and candidacies of the defendants,” according to Francisco’s complaint.

The other defendants include presidential aspirants Defense Secretary Gilbert Teodoro, and rumored senatorial aspirants Health Secretary Francisco Duque Jr., Education Secretary Jesli Lapus, and Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corp. (PAGCOR) chairman Efraim Genuino.

Francisco also filed a case against Executive Secretary Eduardo Ermita for the ads of President Arroyo, who is said to be eyeing a congressional seat in Pampanga in preparation to becoming prime minister under a parliamentary system.

Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (TESDA) chair Augusto Syjuco and Agrarian Reform Secretary Nasser Pangandaman, who also have government-paid ads, were also included as respondents.

Effective endorser?
But according to an affidavit submitted to the court by Pag-IBIG Vice-President for public relations Marjie Jorillo, stopping de Castro’s Pag-IBIG ads “will cause grave injury and prejudice to its members.”

Jorillo was presented as witness in Tuesday’s hearing on Francisco’s complaint. The other defendants are seeking the immediate dismissal of the lawsuit. They have yet to present a witness who can justify their advertisements.

Jorillo argued that De Castro’s ads have been instrumental in the success of the government’s housing program.

“Advertising and publicity has always been a crucial duty of the public relations and information services to ensure that the programs of the Pag-IBIG Fund will be properly communicated to its members," Jorillo said in the affidavit.

“The advertisements complained of, far from being vehicles for private gain, ensure that programs of the Pag-IBIG Fund are well communicated to its members, thereby ensuring success and compliance with the institution’s mandate under its charter,” she added.

Jorillo testified that housing loans extended by the Pag-IBIG Fund increased during the period of de Castro’s advertisements.

From 46,041 loans in 2007, equivalent to P22 billion, it increased by 36 percent to 62,507 loans in 2008, equivalent to P34 billion.

Jorillo said it was the management of Pag-IBIG fund who chose De Castro to endorse the government program because he has the “qualities of an ideal program endorser.” (

Emo culture

By Danton Remoto
Remote control
Views & analysis
Posted July 14, 2009

More than 10 years ago, I had a student who came to class wearing an all-black ensemble. His fingernails were painted black, his shades were darker than night — and he wasn’t even gay, snickered the straight guys in class. I didn’t mind, because he wrote well, asked difficult questions, and made the teacher think.

Later, he became a friend of mine and last I heard, he was making short films that were being screened all around the globe.

He seems to be the precursor of the emo phenomenon that is sweeping some (okay, a small) segment of the studentry. In 2009 Philippines, what does emo mean?

Since I am now between the age of 40 and death, I had to ask the help of my students in figuring out what it is. They tell me it began with an underground music scene. It all loops back to the mid-1980s in Washington, D.C., where the bands played with pitch and passion bordering on emotional overkill. The subject matter of the songs thrummed with images that are dramatic and poetic – all served up in contemporary melodies. Thus was emo born, emo being shorthand for emotive hardcore.

Quoting Frederic Trasher, a student of mine said that young people cluster together because of common likes. “Peer groups function in two ways: they substitute for what society fails to give them, and they provide relief from suppression (of feelings). Thus, peer groups fill a gap and afford teenagers a form of escape.”

And if it happens in the West, can its clone in the Philippines be far behind? The emo movement has also made its mark here. My students cite bands like Chicosci, Typecast, and Urbandub as emo, whether self-proclaimed, or hailed so by their teenage fans. Young people swoon at lyrics like “I’ll bleed for you like a new tattoo. In my heart you’ll stay permanent . . . permanent . . .” Or listen to these lines: “Caught you in the arms of another, and I’ve been dying every day since then.”

They add it is not unusual to see the teenage fans imitate the way the band members look. Clones of Chicosci’s Miggy Chavez, Typecast’s Arsie Gabriel, and Urbandub’s Gabby Alipe abound. The look is generic: asymmetrical haircut, black nail polish, skinny jeans. The looks telescope the feelings welling up from within. My student, Jamir Tan-Torres, calls these “unstable moods, dark emotions, suppressed feelings. In a way, their personal style is reflective of their current state of mind.”

The young ones also bristle at what they perceive to be emo stereotyping.

Jamir says: “It is a misconception that people who are part of the emo culture cross the boundary of what is normal. It is unfortunate that some people view them as disturbed, self-mutilating and apathetic individuals. Just like the punks and Goths before them, people immediately pinned a label on them. Even media worsened the situation by using the term emo loosely, in several cases portraying the teenagers in a negative light.”

To prove his point, Jamir interviewed a 15-year-old girl who is a self-confessed emo. “Her profile did not fit the description of my notion of the emo look. She was wearing white short shorts and a bright yellow shirt with the figure of a smiling sun. She wore French tips and not black nail polish. Her reply to my comment that she looks so un-emo was a raised middle finger and a laugh. She said she does not like the typical emo look. For her, being an emo is not a matter of physical transformation but a decision to be ‘true to one’s self.’ It is a way of feeling and there is a sense of freedom and acceptance in being an emo.”

However, I have also received some e-mail – mostly from my hyphenated readers (Fil-Am, Fil-Brit) in the West—that emo takes on a much darker hue in the West, with teen suicide as one of its fallout. The location, of course, is the West, where angst, alienation and anomie – and a sense of drift and rootlessness – hounds the young and the restless.

But wherever one is, emo, which used to be a term for a subgenre of punk has, like all its earlier reincarnations, taken on a complex form. Another young Filipino artist I know describes emo in the form of the images that she draws. Her roses have black petals. The tears streaming down the faces are like black knives. Even the blood gushing down a cut wrist is black. And I hope, the way I am sure her mother does hope, that the last image is only alive in the world of her invention and imagination

Panlilio eyes youth vote for 'reform' candidates

By Rommel C. Lontayao, Reporter
Manila Times
July 13, 2009

Gov. Ed Panlilio of Pampanga said “reform” candidates like him are counting on the youth to choose non-traditional politicians when they vote in next year’s elections.

“I hope they will choose someone who can bring good governance, and responsible and ethical leadership in the national government,” Panlilio told a roundtable with editors and reporters of The Manila Times on Saturday.

The priest-turned-provincial-governor had expressed his intention to run for either the presidency or the vice presidency with Gov. Grace Padaca of Isabela as his running mate in the 2010 polls.

Panlilio and Padaca are members of social and political reform movements that champion ethical governance.

Fellow “reformist” Gov. Teddy Baguilat of Ifugao said that changes in the government could be realized through a new generation of voters.

“The youth sector is a big sector. Their decision on whom to vote for can dictate the results of the elections,” Baguilat added.

“That is why we are calling on these young people to go out, register and vote for people who can effect changes in our government,” he said.

Panlilio said that they are going around schools to speak about ethical governance to the youth.

“We already went to several schools,” he added, mentioning some colleges and universities in Metro Manila. “We realized that the clamor for good governance and ethical leadership is now very strong.”

On July 18, Panlilio and Padaca will launch Kilos Na, a political movement that will support non-traditional politicians.

Panlilio disclosed that they will discuss their political plans this early and will come up with a decision by late August on who will be their candidate for president in the 2010 elections.

“We still have to look at the surveys to see who has a fighting chance to win. We also have to consider the resources, machinery and who has the greater determination to go all the way up to 2010,” Baguilat said.

Gay group Ang Ladlad sees Comelec accreditation

By DJ Yap
Philippine Daily Inquirer

Posted date: July 09, 2009

MANILA, Philippines—Ang Ladlad, a party-list organization representing homosexual men and women, expressed optimism Wednesday that it would finally be accredited by the Commission on Elections for the 2010 polls.

Ateneo de Manila University professor and Ang Ladlad Chairman Danton Remoto said the Comelec had assured the group that it would be accredited as a party-list group provided it could prove a national membership.

Remoto said the group now has 22,000 registered members and 10 regional chapters.

In the 2007 elections, the organization was rejected by the poll body on the ground that it did not represent a “marginalized and underprivileged” sector as required by election laws, Remoto said.

“We were told that the likes of (prominent gay men) Boy Abunda, Ricky Reyes, and myself, a teacher at Ateneo, did not belong to the marginalized sector,” Remoto said at the Fernandina Media Forum at Club Filipino in San Juan City.

But he said the fact that some homosexuals belonged to the upper classes did not mean they were not underrepresented. “Most gay people are poor,” he said.

Remoto said Ang Ladlad would advocate “equal rights and not special rights” in the workplace and in schools to remove discrimination against homosexuals.

He said same-sex marriage was not on their agenda, adding that he did not think it would prosper in the Philippines.

Remoto said the group was in talks with political parties, including the Liberal Party and the Nationalist People’s Coalition, for possible collaboration in the 2010 polls.

He said major political parties were interested in teaming up with organizations like Ang Ladlad since the presidential election would likely be a “closely fought” contest and could be won with a margin of fewer than a million votes.

Remoto said his organization would make its final decision on who to support in the 2010 contest by September or October.

Statement of Hyatt 10

Statement of Hyatt 10
8 July 2009


When we submitted our collective irrevocable resignation from the Cabinet on 8 July 2005, we were absolutely convinced that the expose on the “Garci tapes” had severely damaged beyond repair the credibility of President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo. And the “least disruptive and painful option that can swiftly restore normalcy and eventually bring us to prosperity” was for Mrs. Arroyo to voluntarily relinquish her office. Otherwise, the longer she insisted on staying in office—at all cost—under a cloud of doubt and mistrust, the greater the damage to the economy and to our political institutions. In the end, the poor would suffer the most.

It has been exactly four years since our resignation, and the serious concerns we expressed in our resignation statement have come to pass. The truth remains suppressed and the lying continues: the Garci case was never resolved, “executive privilege” became a convenient tool to frustrate truth-seekers, even the President’s health condition has become the subject of subterfuge. Corruption thrived and has continued unabated. Its many faces—the First Couple and ZTE, Romy Neri, CyberEd, Joc-Joc Bolante, swine scam, General Garcia, Euro-Generals, DPWH bidding anomalies, and, lately, the noodles scam—have earned for the Arroyo regime the dubious distinction of being among the most corrupt in the world. Even the killings of journalists, activists, and peasant and union leaders, despite stern warnings from international human rights watchdogs, and journalist and law associations, have not stopped and, worse, have persisted with impunity.

Amidst all of these, Mrs. Arroyo seems undeterred. Perhaps to escape all the criticisms for the sad and despicable state of the country, the President—the most peripatetic in history—has taken flight, with her usual coterie of politicians, family members, and hangers-on, wasting precious foreign exchange, while the fiscal deficit threatens to go haywire. As we speak, she may be scaling the pyramids of Egypt!

As the end of Mrs. Arroyo’s term fast approaches, a profound fear of having to account before our people for all the cheating, the lying, the stealing, and the killings, not to mention, the neglect of the basic welfare of our people, especially the most vulnerable, has taken hold of the President, her family, and their cabal. From mere survival, the President is now consumed by schemes, however illegal or unconstitutional, to perpetuate herself in power—indefinitely.

One track is in play: the subversion of the Constitution, or what constitutionalist Fr. Joaquin G. Bernas calls “constitutional gang-rape,” to enable her to retain her powers under a parliamentary set-up as Prime Minister. Mrs. Arroyo’s lapdogs in the House have taken the first cha-cha step with the passage of House Resolution 1109, which seeks to convene Congress into a constituent assembly to pass upon amendments to the Constitution, even without the participation of the Senate. Any time now, we expect the House to convene by its lonesome self and trigger the filing of a “justiciable” case in the Arroyo-appointee dominated Supreme Court. The hope is that a favorable judgment—that legally the House can convene by itself as a constituent assembly for as long as it secures the ¾ votes of all members of Congress—will give pork-starved members of the House the legal justification to go along with the scheme, no matter how patently illegal.

But should the cha-cha train derail—and by the day, if many of the House members are to be believed, it is becoming an increasing possibility—the Arroyo regime has also put into play a more sinister plan: the declaration of a state-of-emergency. The signs are dangerously evident: the mysterious bombings in Mindanao and Metro Manila, which seem to follow the same pattern as previous but failed attempts; the militarization of the Cabinet and strategic offices in the bureaucracy; the accelerated promotion of Class ’78 generals—the PMA batch purported to be loyal to the President—in strategic services and positions in the military, at the expense of officers belonging to Class ’76 and ’77; the unprecedented increase in the armed personnel of the PNP’s Metro Manila-based Special Action Force (SAF), which reportedly is now even better equipped than the military, which, because of rumblings and divisions within the ranks, has been rendered an unreliable ally of the regime.

And what about the only desirable option acceptable to our people—the scheduled May 2010 Presidential elections? While Mrs. Arroyo herself and her minions have repeatedly assured us that there will be elections in 2010, their actions belie their claim. Even the election automation project, which is supposed to ensure an orderly and fast count, is now mired in controversy. Suspicions linger, with talks of intervention by “big people in high places” to manipulate even the automated process, that automation is not yet a certainty.

What now? Lest we find ourselves once again fighting a repressive and kleptocratic authoritarian regime, we must be vigilant. We must expose and fight every move of the Arroyo regime to stay in power against our will and in violation of our Constitution. We call upon all those who truly cherish our democratic way of life, no matter how imperfect it may be, including those in the military and the police, to stand up against those who seek to exploit the instability and confusion in our midst and impose their dictatorial will upon us. Let us all join hands—with urgency and resolve—in ensuring that a clean, peaceful, orderly and automated election does take place in May, 2010.

Finally, to the President and her cohorts, this challenge we throw: Don’t push your luck. You have crossed the line too often enough. With impunity, you have exploited our people’s cynicism and apathy for your own narrow and selfish ends. As with all things, this too will come to an end. Of this, we are certain.

With God’s help, the Filipino people will put an end to this despicable Arroyo regime.






Pink Revolution: Ang Ladlad's Danton Remoto

Caption: Danton Remoto brings his pink army to the electorate. Photo by Pol Briana, Jr.

Pink Revolution: Ang Ladlad’s Danton Remoto
60 Minutes
June 28, 2009
Manila Bulletin

Will Danton Remoto be the Philippines’ answer to Harvey Milk?

Milk made history in 1977 when he became the first openly gay man elected into public office. Remoto is yet to do the same, but the impact he’s made on the Filipino lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community is certainly as impressive as Milk’s history-making feat.

Remoto, with fellow writer J. Neil Garcia, was behind the pioneering “Ladlad: An Anthology of Philippine Gay Literature.” Its effect on Filipino culture has been immense. Ladlad has gone through several editions, has resulted in the teaching of gay literature classes at the University of the Philippines and Ateneo de Manila University, and is credited for Ang Ladlad, the partylist that Remoto formed in 2003.

“We started in September 2003 with only one mandate — to help Akbayan push the Anti-Discrimination Bill which was filed in 1999,” he says of Ang Ladlad’s beginnings. “Congress is not really against it but they just think it is not as important. So lagi, ang mga bading, lesbians, transgender, bisexual, laging, kung baga cameo role lagi.”

Fighting for one’s rights is certainly nothing new for Remoto. With his father in the military, Remoto grew up with the belief that nobody should take any abuse lying down.

“My father was a military officer and we were trained to be amazons. Isa lang ang turo niya: You study hard, you study well at ‘pag may umaway sa inyo at umuwi kayo ng luhaan, papaluin ko kayo, you should learn to be tough and fight back,” he recalls with a laugh. “So ang nangyari ngayon, may mga pumupunta sa bahay namin na mga magulang, ‘Naku sir, ‘yang anak ninyong bading binugbog ang anak ko.’ Sabi ng tatay ko ‘Eh di, mabuti!’”

Remoto does the same fighting for the LGBT community. Whether it’s freeing hundreds of gay men being detained illegally or arguing for lesbians and transgenders who have been discriminated against for their sexual orientation, Remoto and his allies are always ready with a legal challenge and a witty retort.

“You have to show them that you will not allow this. If you show them that you will fight back, they will move away. Bullies are really cowards,” he says.

Remoto’s fight for equal rights would have reached its peak in the 2007 elections had Ang Ladlad been allowed to run as partylist, but the COMELEC refused to accredit the group, citing its lack of constituents. It is Remoto, however, who has the last laugh, as he is now planning to run for the Senate on an education platform.

“I’m running on a platform of education because I’ve been teaching for 22 years. ‘Yun talaga ‘yung alam na alam kong issue, ‘yun gay rights, kasama na ‘yan sa education. Open-mindedness
is a function of education, kasi ang tao kapag pinaaral mo, luluwag ang isip. Education is what we really need in this country,” he says.

To close June as the Pride Month, Danton Remoto lets it all out: about being gay in the Philippines, his vision for the Philippine LGBT community, and the possibility of being the country’s first openly gay senator. (RONALD S. LIM)

STUDENTS AND CAMPUSES BULLLLETIN (SCB): What led to the creation of Ang Ladlad, considering that the gay rights movement has been here in the country for quite sometime now?

DANTON REMOTO (DR): We started in September 2003 with only one mandate – to help Akbayan push the Anti Discrimination Bill which was filed in 1999. We wanted to help. Akbayan and Ang Ladlad are not enemies ah, si Risa Hontiveros-Baraquel whom you interviewed and I are very good friends. We went to Ateneo together but of course, I’m older than her, by only a few years. (laughs) Magkalinawan tayo noh. (laughs)

Congress is not really against it but they just think it is not as important. So lagi, ang mga bading, lesbians, transgender, bisexual, laging, kung baga cameo role lang…

SCB: How does that make you feel?

DR: I feel bad. One time, it almost got through, it passed the Lower House in February, 2004 but we needed a Senate version. So we called up the Senate, kanya-kanya silang dahilan. Senator A said, “I cannot push for it, my office just got burned.” Senator B said, “Bakit pa ninyo kailangan ng LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender) rights, eh ang yayaman naman ng mga bading?” I think they were talking about Boy Abunda o Ricky Reyes noh. ‘Yung isa naman, sabing ganyan, saradong Katoliko raw siya. Maraming bading ang nangangailangan. My house in Xavierville has an extra room. That became a halfway house for young people na pinalayas ng mga magulang. They stayed for a few months or as long as they wanted, until their problems get sorted out.

SCB: But it’s not really not a center?

DR: No. I’ll be honest with you, we have a lot of offers but we always ask where the money is coming from. Sa politika, some people they don’t argue where the money is coming from, so they can use you for the elections.

SCB: What about for the older gays?

DR: The old people naman like golden gays, we have an alliance with councilor Justo Justo of Pasay. What is sad is that they are not poor. Many of them sent their nephews and nieces to school. Kapag nasa abroad na, hindi na sila naalala, so itong si bading wala nang ngipin, kalbo na, mashonda na, wa datung. Councilor Justo helps them, house, water, light, and food. We want to have a center that will house these old and abandoned LGBTs, kasi ‘yan mga nagpaaral ng kapatid, pamangkin kaya lang inabandona. ‘Yung iba pa diyan, pagkakuha ng retirement, ‘yung pera ipapaaral o ipapautang sa pamangkin to set up a business, not all pero some of them are abandoned. Meron diyan dentista, teacher, they join the Pride March every December.

SCB: That is sad…

DR: We also want to promote LGBT-friendly businesses. In the US for instance, Levi’s is gay-friendly. I studied kasi sa US ang daming gay-friendly businesses that I hope we can also do here. Kasi dito, like the TV show “Out” only had one season, which is only 12 episodes kasi wala silang advertisement. Even if the ad agencies’ creative directors are gay, the owners did not want to advertise. So we have to push for that support, like all the gay magazines are closed now, Icon is closed, Generation Pink is closed.

SCB: What other laws are you pushing for?

DR: We are pushing for the Anti-vagrancy Bill to be taken out of the law, not all pero some policemen use that to extort from gay men. Vagrancy was a law during the American time, it was used to control the population. Kasi ‘yung ibang mga bading di ba nagpapahangin, mainit kasi, naglalakad sa park. So ikaw, as a bading, you bring an ID, you bring money at least R50 para meron kang pamasahe. In short, ‘pag wala kang pera, ‘wag kang lumabas, subersibo ka. So ngayon, ‘yung mga bading
na nagpapahangin lang o nag-aabang ng taxi sa Taft, hinuhuli ng pulis.

I remember, I would always go to the police station in Balic-Balic, CIDG (Criminal Investigation and Detection Group), Camp Caringal, lahat ‘yan napuntuhan ko na, pinapakawalan ko ‘yung mga bading. Because the law says, you cannot detain somebody beyond 12 hours, the new law is 18 hours kung hindi, we can accuse the policemen of illegal detention and we have done that. Actually lahat ng kaso namin nanalo kami, dinemanda talaga namin along with the Akbayan lawyers, pupunta kami sa city hall for the inquest of fiscal. Like one time, there were like, mga 100 na bading ‘yun sa isang gay bar and they were being asked for a lot of money, and you cannot do that.

SCB: Does it still surprise you that young gay men are still being treated this way?

DR: There are cases like that until and unless, they got out from college and begin working. If you want an economic analysis, ang bading para siyang unit of production that only when he gives money to the family saka siya ginagalang. Again, it all boils down to Apple Macintosh or Nokia – “user-friendly.’’

Sa mga magulang at kamag-anak ginawang insurance, ‘yung mga bading na anak. ‘Pag wala pang pera ‘yan, inaapi, inaaway, ‘pag may trabaho na si bading, bida na siya. Like ‘yung mga nagja-Japan, the transgenders, the one with humongous breasts, sabi ko bakit ninyo ginagawa ‘yan? “Kasi ho sa Japan ‘pag meron po kaming breasts, mas popular kami, either as singers or dancers.” Eh saan napupunta ‘yung kita ninyo? Kalahati yan or more than half goes to our parents, brothers, sister the, ‘yung konti sa amin.

If you talk to any beauty parlor worker or transgender worker in Japan, pare-pareho ng kwento ‘yan, ang Filipino family, whether male, female, transgender, bisexual, lesbian or what, nakasentro lagi ‘yung family. So ‘yung mga bading, they only earn respect generally, if they contribute to the family.

SCB: How was it for you growing up gay in a Filipino family?

DR: My father was a military officer, now we were trained to be amazons (laughs). Isa lang ang turo niya, you study hard, you study well at ‘pag may umaway sa inyo at umuwi kayo ng luhaan, papaluin ko kayo, you should learn to be tough and fight back. Kaya nga marunong kami mag martial arts, imagine me, alam ko ‘yan, the basic self defense, tinuruan kami.

Now, sabi ng tatay ko, if the enemy is bigger than you, kumuha ka ng bambo, hampasin mo, kasi he’s bigger than you, he’s bullying you hindi ka pwedeng umuwi nang umiiyak. So ang nagyari ngayon, may mga pumupunta sa bahay namin na mga magulang, “Naku sir, ‘yang anak ninyong bading binugbog ng anak ko.” Sabi ng tatay ko “eh di, mabuti” sabi ko “Papa bully ‘yan eh” “Ano ginawa mo?” “Hinampas ko ng buho!”

SCB: So that is why you are so feisty…

DR: Hello, I grew up in a military camp during Martial Law. We would go to school with military escort kasi di ba ang daming NPA sa Pampanga, barilan kung barilan ‘yan eh. That is why I am not afraid of guns. We’re taught to fight back, ayaw ng tatay ko na iiyak ka. Diba ‘yan ang stereotype ng Pilipinong bading, iyakin, takot, ayaw ng away, ayaw ng gulo, cry na lang ng cry, hindi naman ganun.

SCB: Your father knew outright that you were gay?

DR: Of course! Grade 1, I was seated beside my classmate Robert, he’s now dead, hindi ko pa alam ‘nun ang word na crush. Katabi ko naman si Vivian na crush ko rin, parang bakit ganito? Tapos ang nakikita kong image na bading si Georgie Quizon, sa TV, kapatid ni Dolphy, in short, our role models were negative, sila ‘yung laging pinagtatawanan sa sine. Then later in high school, Roderick Paulate movies.

The only gay role models then were showbiz reporters or hairdressers.

SCB: How did your mother raise you? Did she counter your dad’s ways?

DR: My mother was a music teacher. Ang sabi ng nanay ko lang nun, kasi nung Grade 1, ang hawak ko sa book ganyan (holding a book against his chest) Sabi ng nanay ko, “naku magagalit ang tatay mo. Ang paghawak ganyan” (holds a book on his side). Tapos naalala ko nun may perya nun, may mga impersonators sabi ng tatay ko, ‘Wag mong gagayahin ‘yan.’’ I was 10 years old, and when you’re young you’re confused, wala namang role model.

SCB: Did your father try to “straighten” you up?

DR: Naku ‘neng, pinag-karate pa ako niyan, kaya marunong ako mag-karate, ang hirap nga ng karate, you have to memorize all those moves, hallu!

SCB: Were there no bullies when you were younger?

DR: Ang nanay ko kasi teacher sa elementary, ang tatay ko military. At saka first honor si bading! Wala na silang kokopyahan! (laughs) Sige, bakla pala ha, wala kang kokopyahan sa Social Studies
mamaya. ‘Yung presidents at prime ministers memorize ko, wala kang kopya. Pero pag math, pakopya naman! (laughs) Bobo ako sa math.

Hindi ako na-traumatize, hindi ako pinagalitan, hindi ako pinalo, hindi ako nilublob sa drum ng tubig. My parents were so civilized.

SCB: Kailan niya natanggap?

DR: I love it! When the book “Ladlad 1” came out in 1994, ‘yung kopya ko ibinigay ko sa kapatid kong babae, binigay niya sa nanay ko, nanay ko binigay niya sa tatay ko.

Eto na, sabi ko sa kapatid ko, ano response ng ating parents? Nakita ng tatay “Ladlad” ‘yung cover di ba half-naked man, tiningnan niya ‘yung loob, alam mo kung ano sinabi niya? “Oh, at least they used white paper for his book.” Sagot ng nanay ko “Oo nga.” Ayun, tapos! (laughs)

Kasi in the Filipino society, unlike in the film Philadelphia na aaminin mo sa magulang mo na bading ka, dito hindi naman inaannounce eh. Here, the gay person is the last person to know he’s gay eh. Meron pa “Alam mo bading ako” “Naku, noon pa naming alam bading! Halu, hindi mo pa ba alam?” (laughs)

SCB: You were saying that you were confused before? When was this confusion solved?

DR: I was 26 when the British Council sent me to the University of Stirling in Scotland! (laughs) Naloka ako sa classmate ko na si Brendan from Ireland, a football player, full of muscles. Then he told me he was gay, aba kaya pala sa swimming class namin, sa common bathroom kung makatingin, hindi ko alam, kapatid pala! Sabi pa niya “I like the color of your skin, where did you get your tan?” Sabi ko, “Oh, it’s natural!” Siya ‘yung naging first boyfriend ko. Ay hindi pala, si Stephen pala ‘yung una. Nakalimutan na! (laughs)


SCB: Have you ever been disadvantaged because you are gay?

DR: I’ll be honest with you. I used to get offers from big multinational companies to work for public relations, communications, kasi I went to Ateneo, I have a degree in Scotland, I went to the US for further studies.

‘Yan ang gusto ng mga multinationals eh, may master’s from abroad. Eh ‘yung ginawa ko ‘yung “Ladlad” wala na, lost na, wala nang nag-alok. Dati, every three months may offer letter na mataas ang sweldo, pero ano gagawin ko kung ayaw sa iyo, ‘di ‘wag.

SCB: Pero ‘yung mga lumalapit sa ‘yo na humihingi ng tulong?

DR: For example, like this transgender sa Ang Ladlad, Ateneo graduate siya, with MA in Sociology. Nag apply sa call center kasi konti lang ang trabaho ng sociologists. Apply siya, number one sa entrance, pagdating sa interview long hair, tigbog! Sabi ng interview, this is a call center (based in Ortigas). We cannot hire you because you’re a man with boobs. Sabi ng transgender “Why? Will my breasts do the talking for me?” Sabi lang niya, “Because the manager of the company is a Mormon. He does not want.” I’m just quoting him. Sabi naman ng HRD, but you have to remember that this call center follows American laws. That is questionable because we are on Philippine soil, hindi naman sila embassy, only embassies and consulates follow the law of the country. If you’re a call center here, you follow Philippine laws. So we asked again, gusto mo ba idemanda? Again, the problem with that, siya na rin mismo ayaw, so the victim who doesn’t even want to pursue it hindi na pwedeng ituloy.

Ten years ago, there was a lesbian, malaki ang katawan, apply siya sa Makati. Number one sa written, UP graduate, cum laude. Maikli ang buhok, talagang butch lesbian, hindi lang ‘yung tipong kargador sa pier, kayang buhatin ang buong barko, ganun siya kalaki, matalino. Sabi ng HRD, “Are you a practicing lesbian?” Sabi niya “Why?” Sagot nila “Well, because in this company we don’t hire practicing lesbians.” Sabi niya “Excuse me, I’m no longer practicing, I’m already good at it.” She wasn’t hired!

SCB: Do you get a lot of stories like that?

DR: Kasi, the Labor Code is silent about this, so wala. Sa Philippine military wala rin siya, sa US, don’t ask, don’t tell. Sa Philippine National Police, sa revised code of 1998, nakalagay dun, “There will be no discrimination in the hiring and firing based on sexual orientation.” Napasok namin ‘yan, kasi si Orly Mercado, then Defense Secretary, had a staff who was our lawyer and he was gay. It’s now a law.
Ang military naman, two months ago, I talked to spokesperson Lt. Col. June Torres.

Sabi niya walang diskriminasyon maliban na lang na gay male ka, as opposed to lesbian, ang suot mo talaga male attire ‘pag female ka, female attire.

You know, things are changing, this military spokesman, they talk about it dati they would not even talk about it.

SCB: What’s the worst discrimination you’ve ever experienced?

DR: I remember when I was walking down Katipunan, merong pick up truck. Hindi naman ako pinipick-up. There were a group of teenagers, sabi nila, “Bakla! Bakla!” I’m sure hindi sila taga-Ateneo kasi wala silang breeding. Alam mo sabi ko, “Halika, baba kayo dito!” Umalis! Kukuha pa naman ako ng bato! Kaya lang parang wa’ poise! (laughs)

SCB: That’s the worst?

DR: You have to show them that you will not allow this. If you show them that you will fight back, they will move away. Bullies are really cowards.

SCB: What’s the worst case of discrimination you’ve heard?

DR: Ten years ago, in Iloilo, this beauty parlor worker pinahabol sa aso. In Gen. Nakar, there was a mayor who closed down the beauty parlors kasi salot daw. Ang problema niya, ‘yung mga botante niya nagalit. Lahat ng mga bakla lumipat sa kabilang town, nagalit ‘yung mga babae kasi magbibiyahe pa ng jeep. Natalo sa eleksyon. Buti nga sa kanya.

Sa lesbians, pinapa-rape ng tatay. Kasi daw if they taste having sex with men they will stop being lesbian. These are documented cases. The last case that was reported to me was 2007. Job discrimination is still with us.

Dati sa Catholic school, the parents will sign a form that their son is not homosexual
before they could be accepted. How would you know? Ang anak mo ngayon straight, bukas sirena na! Nagbabago naman ‘yan. Kaya ikaw kapatid! (laughs)

SCB: People say that the number of gays is increasing. Why is this happening?

DR: Parang gremlin lang ‘yan, pag nabasa dumadami! Mas naging visible lang ngayon. Marami na ‘yan noon pa. Dati noon ang tawag diyan PB, pamilyadang bading, bading na nag-asawa. Statistics say na 10 percent although sabi ng ibang tao sa Pilipinas mas marami. Sa Greenbelt, Ang Ladlad diyan laging mabenta. Ang mga malls, urban centers, places na merong medical schools, nursing
schools. Kasi mga nurturers, healers. Mga babaylan! (laughs)

SCB: Are they younger now?

DR: Nako neng, nakakaloka ang mga bading, ang babata. I have a friend who told me “Yung mga bata ngayon sa Catholic school, kapag tumatawid, elementary pa lang, ganito na!” (makes hand gesture) Hindi kami ganyan nung maliit! Ayaw ng tatay ko niyan! ‘Yung tatay ko kasi is from the old school. If you saw me in college sa Ateneo, tahimik lang ako.

That’s the way they want to express themselves. There are conservative elements who say bakit kailangan kumendeng?

Well, malambot kasi ‘yung hips nila, pabayaan niyo na. Kanya-kanyang hips ‘yan. Katulad nung issue sa sagala. We have so many big problems in the country, like one third of the Filipinos don’t have jobs, pag-aawayan natin bakit nakasagala si bading o si BB? Pera naman niya ang ginamit
niya doon. There are bigger problems than men wearing the clothes of women.

SCB: Are you friends with BB Gandanghari? What is she really?

DR: She doesn’t want to undergo sexual reassigment surgery. For her, she’s transgender. Her mind and heart is a woman. The new meaning of transgender, according to my transgender friends, is that you don’t need female sex organs, breasts, as long as your being, sa isip, sa puso, sa kaluluwa – parang Panatang Makabayan! – girl ka, girl ka!

SCB: Some people may misconstrue that as them making a choice....

DR: According to them, kami talaga we were assigned the wrong gender. Some of them work hard, save money, to have sexual reassignment surgery. Another group doesn’t believe you have to undergo surgery. They’re not gay, they’re women.

One time I was in Thailand last year for a meeting with Asian Studies scholars. May tatlong transgender, may boobs na sila, punta silang Thailand para kompletos rekados na. Dumating kami ng Bangkok, tatlong bading nauna na. Pagdating ko, sabi ng matanda sa immigration “You, no breasts yet, no down there, you here for complete operation?” “No, I’m here as a teacher!” (laughs)


SCB: So are you running for the Senate?

DR: I’ve been invited by at least three political parties to run as senator. They’re sending intermediaries. They want me to run with them. Bibigyan ka ng papel na puti, nakasulat ‘yung figure. Hindi statistics ha, datung! Nakalagay 10, 10,000 lang? Sorry, may pagkabobo! (laughs) Hindi sanay sa maraming pera! ‘Yan na pala ang halaga ng mga bading ngayon! And that’s only one politician! On record, we haven’t accepted a single centavo.

SCB: Are these major political parties?

DR: Of course! Tapos na ang independence days ko. People who promise you money don’t deliver. I think that they recognize that the 2010 elections will be a closely fought election. Ang mananalo diyan baka two million votes lang. Ilan ang bading? Bilangin niyo. Ten percent of the population. If we are 82 million, 8.2 million. Sabihin natin na 40 percent lang ang voters niyan. That’s 4.8 million.

SCB: How does it feel that the LGBT are being recognized?

DR: Ang haba ng hair ko! Blond! Naapakan mo na! (laughs) Alam mo kung bakit ako tumatawa na ganito? Ininsulto tayo ng COMELEC! We were not allowed to run kasi ang sabi nila kokonti lang ang bading. Hindi daw marginalized. May umamin bang bading sa Congress? Sabi nga ni (Imee) Marcos, siya lang ang bading diyan!

SCB: Why are you running?

DR: Because of our party list. ‘Yun lang naman ang gusto kong itakbo noon eh, to help Rissa (Baraquel) and Tita Etta (Rosales), and then go back to teaching. Eh ininsulto ang mga bading! Can you imagine Abalos telling us that we are phantom voters? In Tagalog, mga multong bakla? Imagine! Ang sabi ko “With all due respect, Commissioner Abalos, we are not phantoms. We are the opera!” Eh di naloka siya ng ganyan. Hindi niya na-gets. Binulungan pa ng aide niya. Nag-smirk siya. Eh ‘yung mukha niya medyo dry, kailangan ng moisturizer!

SCB: If you win, what will this mean for the gay community?

DR: You know what, I really just wanted to run for party list, push for the Anti-Discrimination Bill, and return to teaching. Ang buhay ng teacher masaya naman ‘yan eh. You don’t grow old. When I see my students “Tatay mo ba si ganyan? “Yes sir!” “He was my classmate.” “Bakit tatay ko kalbo na? Ikaw mukhang bagets?” “Plus 10 ka sa test, iha!” When you’re a teacher you’re always around young people, you’re always happy. It’s a job that doesn’t stress you so much.

Nung hindi kami pinatakbo, I ran as Congressman, natalo kami. Or so the vote count said. That’s ok with me, I never felt bitter. I don’t like this. I’m being invited. They will show me figures that I’m in the Top 12. Hindi ko sinasabing totoo ‘yan. What I’m saying is that I have seen figures. One day I’m in the Ateneo, these three military men, I don’t know them, say I’m number eight. Saan? Hindi naman ako sumali sa beauty contest. (laughs) Sa meeting ng NGO, sasabihin number ganyan ka. 2006, ayaw patakbuhin ang bading. Ngayon ang telepono ko ring ng ring.

It began last year, they were inviting us because they know that 2010 will be a closely fought election. Kaya ang sabi ko sa Liberal Party, ang kunin niyong vice-president, si Kris Aquino, para tapos na ang laban! Deal or no deal! Mananalo siya. She’s very, very strong.

SCB: If you win, how do you plan to change the perception of gays?

DR: I’m running on a platform of education

because I’ve been teaching for 22 years. ‘Yun talaga ‘yung alam na alam kong issue, ‘yun gay rights, kasama na ‘yan sa education. Education is what we really need in this country. One hundred ‘yan na papasok sa Grade One. Forty na lang pag-graduate ng elementary. Twenty na lang pag high school. Apat na lang pag college.

In the general elections, 60 percent of the voters did not finish Grade Six. ‘Yan ang haharapin natin. I will focus on primary schools, kasi makagraduate lang ‘yan ng Grade six, at least may basic skills. They drop out in Grade Four kasi they don’t have food.

It’s not all about my group. My grandparents were public school teachers. My mother was a public school teacher. My father lectured in UE for a while. We’re really a family of teachers. Malaki pa ang sweldo ng call center kesa sa teacher. Mas malaki pa sweldo ng pulis.

SCB: How would you rate the acceptance of gays and lesbians?

DR: Sa urban areas mataas siya. Sa probinsiya, it’s better, but it can be even better.

SCB: Marami pa rin...

DR: Ay oo, alam mo naman the Philippines, the closet capital of the world! (laughs) Lalo na sa business. Sa politics!

SCB: Is it better to be gay in the Philippines than in other countries?

DR: I can only compare it to the United Staes where I studied nine years ago. In the urban areas it’s like here. Pero in the rural areas, marami pa ring small-minded people. Open-mindedness is a function of education, kaya nga my main platform is education. Kasi ang tao kapag pinaaral mo, luluwag ang isip.

SCB: What’s the biggest challenge that gays and lesbians face?

DR: I say this not just to gays and lesbians. Ang biggest challenge natin is education. With 100 call center applicants, they only get three. The rest are retrained.

We need education that will make them stay in this country. We had a reunon in Ateneo, more than half of them are in the US. We are losing the best minds to work abroad. Education is the biggest challenge both of LGBT and non-LGBT Filipinos.

SCB: What’s next after the Anti-Discrimination Law?

DR: The Philippines has many, many laws but they’re not implemented. If it’s passed during our term, our next part is implementation. You need a group like Ang Ladlad and Akbayan as an oversight committee. You make sure that all the implementing rules and regulations are implemented.

SCB: What’s your dream for LGBT in Filipino society?

DR: It’s better now, but I hope that they don’t feel embarrassed that they’re LGBT. If you look at the West, many suicides are gay men. We have not done studies here but I have heard that some of those who have taken their own lives are gay men. I hope they will never be ashamed of who they are.
In the end, if you are working, you are a taxpayer. You pay income tax na masakit, madugo. And you are not given the right to do what you think is right for you? We’re all fighting for equal rights.