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Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Where Do We Go When Our Keepers Are Our Enemies?

"The title ascribed to it as keeper of law and order should be a comfort and refuge for those who seek them but is slowly becoming a travesty of the institution it stands for."

Fifty-eight innocent civilians murdered and another one still unaccounted. All died mercilessly at the hands of habitual criminals. Five months of agonizing wait for justice to take hold seem to be eternity. And yet, that tiny shred of  hope for the victims and their families abruptly dashed. The hope that in this age of moral decadence, unheard of greed and lust for power is seldom a virtue worth-keeping. Such can be said  when justice seems elusive to those who have less in life. Where do we go when our own keepers are our enemies? Who will protect the oppressed when their oppressors are those who vowed to protect them?

Words are not in abundant to best describe how savage, repressive and immoral this present administration can be. When tons of evidences against the murderers are being blindly and deliberately ignored, it is hard to decipher what kind of human being is this DOJ Acting Secretary Alberto Agra. His order to drop charges against two of the major suspects in the Maguindanao massacre came as a shock that sent waves of anger and frustration across all sectors of the society. This decision did not only effectively jeopardize the mass murder case but also insulted the dignity of the victims and their families.

This resolution by the DOJ chief to exonerate Zaldy and Akmad Ampatuan from the mass murder in Maguindanao is the latest blow to the integrity of the judiciary. Despite piles of evidences that would directly implicate the two, Agra is just adamant to review the evidences on his table and insists that his was the right decision. His decision however came just a day after he assured families of the victims that he is painstakingly reviewing the case. His quick judgment on the case is strangely a thing to do and  implies stinking conspiracy in the works. Let us be reminded that Agra served as lawyer for Gloria Arroyo in her election fraud cases involving the massive cheating in Maguindanao that delivered 12-0 for Gloria's senatoriables, and the same that egged FPJ in the preceding election.

Despite government prosecutors' protestation on Agra's decision, the Acting DOJ Secretary is proud to boast of his arrogance that, "when others' turn to become DOJ secretary, they can do what they want but since I am at the helm, I can do what I want." This unheard of arrogance and cockiness devoid of reason, by a lawyer and  justice secretary, is utterly contemptible and disgusting. This is an ominous manifestation of how this moron can ruin the integrity of a justice system of a country if he is allowed to continue serving in the judiciary. His words echo his real motives of not serving for the interest of many but for his own selfish agenda. And the cost is so dear - justice for the fifty eight victims. How much was the plunder? The criminal Ampatuans are awash with cash, billions of them, and Agra is just perfectly aware of it.

The silence of Gloria on this issue however, is expected and it would be sounding strange if she orders a careful review of his decision. This is the kind of conspiracy, a criminal conspiracy in Gloria's administration that had already the nation subjected to a complete betrayal and feeling of dissent. Why would she not speak up on the matter if she thinks there were lapses committed by her subordinate? Doesn't she feel for the families of the victims? Doesn't she believe that due process should be given its chance? And if not, doesn't she think that any repercussion from this so-called judicial sacrilege could lead to her precipitous and untimely demise from Malacañan? Now, anything is possible given the anger and faithlessness by the people in her government.

If in the judiciary itself, there now exist a growing dissent and a growing spirit of rebellion, it is not far-fetched that this unprecedented degree of abomination towards the government could lead to a civil war. All things considered and this is entirely becoming a possible scenario. All because of greed, greed and more greed.It is nice to say in words that the Department of Justice is the sword and shield of law and order. The title ascribed to it as keeper of law and order should be a comfort and refuge for those who seek them but is slowly becoming a travesty of the institution it stands for.

Many had hoped including myself, that the gravity of Maguindanao massacre with which the culture of impunity that existed was laid bare, was strong enough to ignore that could prompt the government to get its act together and bring the criminals to justice. The president did  the expected, expressed her condolences to the victims' families, and preached justice as the only way forward. Five months since the massacre, rumors of imminent acquittal of the murder suspects were a thin possibility, based on incriminating evidences available. But what started as a fervent hope and faith to our justice system suddenly crumbled on the announcement by the Justice Secretary that two of the major suspects are innocent.

Being a Filipino, there are zillion hosts of reasons to be proud as one. But with the advent of Gloria Arroyo and her crooked ilks, I am fully equipped with reasons to think otherwise. I was once fond of her. Her intellectual exploits behind that tiny frame that impressed Bill Clinton at Georgetown are no-nonsense. But the emergence of Hello Garci, massive election fraud, Fertilizer Scam, ABN-ZTE deal, inexplicable wealth gain, human rights violations, midnight appointments prior to elections, large-scale graft and corruption in every government agency, and countless other graft and corrupt practices done with impunity under her watch, words do not satisfy my description of this immoral, greedy and unjust government.

As for this creature called Agra, your day will come Sir. You are a travesty of the institution you were called to safeguard. You are a disgrace to every human being called Filipino. Your gross defiance of every logical and legal assertion, and deliberate show of arrogance is proof of your gutter-drawn origin, where power and fortune do not equate with honesty and humanity. Where has your conscience gone? You certainly know for a fact that you are having a time of your life. And you are smart enough to realize that it will not be for long. While it is understandable of a starving croc to grab every ounce of meat and shred offered to it, the sight of your bloated frame letting out a burp, feasting on a kill is beyond one's grasp. You preyed on the pains of those who lost their loved ones. All because of greed, greed and more greed.

No one has asked for your compassion and favor. You may not have them because you did not experience grief of any kind. What is only asked of you is for true justice to be administered. But all the pleadings went to naught, nary a word of remorse. The very institution you were tasked to protect now stinks with injustice, its stench has reached the sphere beyond. Your utter disregard for justice to take its course is your ticket to perdition. Yes, certainly you will have your day, the day of reckoning, when the blood of those murdered will be upon your head for  conspiring with the murderers and partaking with their loot - the precious lives snatched from them without mercy. Plunderers and murderers, that day is drawing nigh!

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Wednesday, April 14, 2010

I Voted And Insist To Be Counted!

"Days or months of scrutiny are over. The agony (of choosing) upended.  No more what ifs in hindsight. My votes had been cast. And the time to await the outcome just gets longer." 

Yesterday was a memorable trip to the new Jeddah Consulate. I and a colleague had decided  the earlier the better - exercise our constitutional rights and experience democracy at its best - in this kingdom of desert sand. Surreal? Yes, it was. This was only my second time to vote as an adult. And it happened here in the most unlikely of territories where democracy spells obscurity.

The sun was blazing past midday, and traffic along Tahlia Road leading to the Consulate compounded to my almost losing a thin virtue called patience. I reckoned the Consulate normally closes at three in the afternoon, and ten minutes preceding, we were still stuck in a single-lane-turned-three by the notorious motorists of Jeddah. (Please note excavation of main thoroughfares in Jeddah is a generations-long problem fraught with graft and corruption.) At long last, the sight of a lonely and pale-looking sun-drenched Philippine Flag atop the Consulate did appease me.

Upon presenting our IDs and after some log book formalities, we proceeded to verifying our names in the list and got to memorize our sequence numbers. A kind fellow in barong-tagalog welcomed us and volunteered to find our sequence numbers, when obviously we were efficient enough to master the alphabet chronology. But his slapping us with a boldly-written name of the party-list he is endorsing, was a big turn-off. The whole process though went smoothly and funny.

The three people manning the polling precinct seemed to have panicked, (perhaps over-excited) on a joyful sight of two dutiful voters. I must say the gap of voters coming in,  has served to be therapeutic from their night's bout with insomnia. My mind wandered. What if my vote does not count? My eyes glued on a thinly-placed piece of carton that stores the ballots. The bandages strapped heavily around each corner with some scribbles in it, did not amuse me either. This is a far cry from the fabulous PCOS machines that tantalize you everyday on TV Patrol. "But I don't want to lose the moment. This rarely happens."

A quarter of an hour was all it took me to complete my ballot. There were last moment addition to the roll as I was compelled to fill in the twelve. My choice for president and vice-president, regardless of their survey rating or degree of popularity,  satisfies my own standards and I believe they are the kind of candidates our country needs. The entire experience of having voted gave me a sense of empowerment and satisfaction. That was a proud moment I can never forget. Photos of me savoring the moment can vouch to that. (lol!)

Caveat: I was promptly warned at the reception by a male staff in shades, (with his signature thick accent endemic of a group that cornered the pirated DVD trade), not to take photos outside of the Consulate premises. Not once or twice he warned us, as we posed for camera beaming and parading  shaded thumbs. As a seasoned veteran in the desert wrinkled by time (haha), I'm pretty smart already at knowing the pros and cons of every opportunity and when or not to kill the prey.

Heading outside, I can see people coming in droves, but not to vote. The one room conspicuously busy and filled with people is for application and releasing of passports, while a group huddled in one corner - an inquisitive and gloomy mood dominated their supposed discussion as one obvious protagonist narrates her plight, her eyes welled. Oh no, not again. Another distressed OFW? Perhaps. I did not dare ask. This is just another common unsightly scenario at the Consulate. We could have stayed longer but opted not to let loose a shred of rebellion.

Speaking of 'unsightly scenario', I decided this one is as unsightly too. As we drove off, one scene that caught my attention was a solitary poster of a senatorial candidate, conspicuously adorned the wall of the main entrance of the Consulate. (There went the warning on taking photos!) I am not an expert on any protocol or rules governing elections, but I think embassy and consulate staff should play neutral and at least exercise some sense of propriety not to endorse any candidate (within its premises) on the basis of affinity. (Get what I mean?) The fact that the candidate runs under the purported secret administration candidate, not from Lakas-Kampi puzzles me.

On the grounds of fair play, I must assume that supporters of other candidates might have sought permission from Consulate officials, to post campaign posters of their candidates but were quietly turned down. In Jeddah, you don't expect to misbehave and disobey your officials at the Consulate, let alone insist with what you think is fair. After all, they are the ones who could help you in your case against your employer and the expedition of the same solely rests in their hands. So whatever is deemed legal and proper by them, the same applies to your judgment. No questions asked.

Another day went, and a lot to ponder. But what supersedes one against another is the apprehension whether my vote will indeed count or not. Does it carry a weight even if it doesn't? Effectively not. But to me it does. The feeling itself and the experience is enough. I did my duty and it it is up to the rest of them to do theirs.

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Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Gibo Teodoro: A Clueless Or A Willing Victim?

"Did he make himself a willing sacrifice? Did he do it or will he do it for a price and a prize? This question remains a paradox till it is stripped of its mystery by the discerning."

If anything, Gibo has every right to take up his armor and revolt against his 'former' patroness. The latest announcement by Presidential Spokesman Gary Olivar, that the president will not campaign for Gilbert Teodoro, already amounted to her repudiating the latter for another one obvious candidate. Well, this amphibious wizard (kapit tuko) of Malacañan, will have not been president for ten years for naught. Her surreptitious workings, done when one is utterly clueless, in this case the bar topnotcher Gibo himself, has been her trademark.

Most pundits and ordinary folks would decry the infamous 'Villaroyo marriage', as one desperate act and an unfounded allegation, woven by the rift-prone-insecure yellow brigade. But as things heat up by the day, it is getting sunnier and crystal clear that Gloria Arroyo is backing Manny Villar. Gibo she decided is no longer viable as a candidate. And so thinks everybody. Gibo does not owe the nation a dime and so if he loses, opportunities could still come in abundance. But Gloria? She owes the nation her entire existence. She could be offered a guillotine trip for her sins against the nation she misruled. And under  Noynoy Aquino's probable presidency, the hauntings do not seem to lack its horror - for her and her equally crooked allies.

When she smells danger slowly creeping down her path, it is primordial instinct to effuse defence mechanism. Such is Gloria Arroyo in all her notoriety, being no stranger to clear and present danger - coup attempts, impeachment, among others. She will be brutally and honestly equipped with sense of entitlement, that this war is only hers to lose. She had once indulged herself in the realm of never-ending enthronement, but could only watch it dissipate, as guardians of the Charter would later wake her up from disillusionment. Hers is infectious that her young granddaughter would even hail her to be president for life.

It is not conclusive though whether Gibo is a sore victim of Gloria's cunning scheme (of self-survival), or perhaps he himself is a willing major participant, in her much broader and sinister plot to avoid prosecution, if not to stay in power. She is fully aware that a Noynoy presidency would be too much to handle. Her survival is at stake politically, and to a larger extent economically. Her wealth that has gone to an astronomic proportion needs some explaining, and deservedly needs some space in the courts of law. The Maguindanao massacre that has remained unresolved due to a contrived government intervention. The exponential graft and corruption scandals that till date, remain a fodder for media but largely ignored by her government.

Thirty three days left before election day, only two presidentiables remain in the fray. Surveys would indicate that only Manny Villar and Noynoy Aquino remain as viable candidates. And surveys  offer the real pulse of the voters. Teodoro, though an administration candidate (on paper) and a standard bearer of the biggest political party, with the most powerful machineries to boot, miserably trails in surveys, his ranking showing no progress. His political episode, despite the claims (and belief) that he is the 'ordained one', lacks vibrance and stamina, financial capabilities, and notably a sitting president declaring she is not campaigning for her protege. Surely she knows his destiny is sealed this early.

Is the Villaroyo thing a genius born out of desperation? At this juncture, it doesn't seem like. If there is anyone to scream of its unholy alliance - it is the administration. It is blatantly loud. Administration candidate Atty. Raul Lambino himself, has voiced out his resentment toward the party, for its lack of financial support to its candidates. He seems to be ready to jump the gun and pull the trigger with his seemingly conclusive innuendos, that the so-called Villaroyo thing is very much in existent. Former House Speaker Joe de Venecia, the founding chairman of Lakas party himself, has acknowledged that Gibo obviously is not the real candidate by the administration, culling from the indifference by the  Malacañan towards his candidacy.

Now there is no denying of the harlot from her emergence onstage, to flaunt her wares and invite the 'sheepish' wolf to drink in her cup, as they celebrate their marriage. She believes he alone could save her from perdition. And so the pact from both power-hungry howlers was inked by the blood of its sacrificial lamb, Gibo Teodoro. Did he make himself a willing sacrifice? Did he do it or will he do it for a price and a prize? This question remains a paradox till it is stripped of its mystery by the discerning.

Granting for the sake of argument, that he did willingly oblige her patroness and offered himself to be used for her ends, what sort of man is Gilbert Teodoro? That despite the raves and praises he gained from various forums and debates, was it all for a show? Did he deliberately mislead the people? Did he play with their emotions when he reached for their  hands, patted their shoulders and touched their hearts with his 'authenticity'? What if it was the flipside? Does he deserve an ounce of sympathy and empathy? What is now in store for Gilbert Teodoro?

I however, do not see a sweet revenge in the offing. He is a fine and brilliant gentleman with a lot of promise ahead in his career. Understandably, he must be shaken by this seismic turn of events. I, much less do not see him a defeated confrontational act. He had once beamed to the world of his gratitude to her, for putting her trust in him, by giving him a chance and privilege to serve in her government. And perhaps strangely,  he would even be apologetic to her, given the circumstances they are both in. Why is it so? His poor showing in surveys did not bode well with her plan, to efficiently avoid future prosecution, and so the forced marriage of convenience  as remedy.

"In politics, there are no permanent friends and enemies, only permanent interests", goes the saying. Every politician from president down to the barangay councilor, has his own self-serving agenda in mind upon their venture in politics. A real selfless and noble intent to serve a constituency, plays only second fiddle albeit in a non-altruistic agenda. It is all about exponential personal benefits that deluge their minds upon assuming office. What is new then? This culture of corruption has been etched in every mindset. This is a political norm that doesn't get outdated through ages. Some smart thinkers could be credited with ryhming up the 'Corrupt' and 'Mahirap' monotone, to the delight of their paying client. But do they really mean it? Or did its invention prove to have subtly come when prompted by necessity? Or is this just another empty slogan?

Barely four days left  before voting begins here in the Middle East,  I am yet to decide who fills my ballot. As I said before, to me it is an agonizing process of choosing and weighing, who really deserves to occupy the mantle of saying he is the 'right one'. If I had picked one to be the best but is not gaining ground, will I be rewarded for satisfying my conscience? Or others would aptly say, it is just another wasted ballot? Or if I ultimately chose the winnable of the lesser evil, did I desecrate my right of suffrage? To go on a 'stampede' on the first day of voting will not be an option though, as anything can factor with my decision in the days ahead, and  hopefully this 'self-inflicted agony' gets to stop before I find myself trooping towards the line to cast my vote.   

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Silay City, Negros Occidental, The Philippines

Some of the photos above courtesy of Arnaldo Arnáiz Díaz

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