Philippines: The most dangerous place for journos

Australian journalists have a lot to be thankful for. They live in a relatively safe and free environment. The violence that they will, at most, get will probably be a bashing from their news subject. And yet the government will protect them even if they run after government personalities, not for witch-hunting, but to deliver information on the politician’s performance to the public.
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OAV registrations set

With about 18 days to the deadline of registrations for the Overseas Absentee Voting, the Philippine Embassy here in Australia released the schedule of mobile registrations. Mobile registrations are scheduled this month in Darwin, Melbourne and Perth.

Filipinos including those who hold dual citizenship are entitled to register for the OAV. For Filipinos who previously registered as OAV elsewhere, kindly contact the consulate office in your area if you can skip this registration schedule. There are some Pinoys who have expressed doubt in the exercise, however, this is the best that we can do rather than watch as the votes are cast. If there will be any irregularities, I believe there will be some good representations from independent organisations who will be able to deter or at least note of such thing.

Following are the schedule here in Australia:

Darwin, NT

Date and Time: Saturday & Sunday, 15-16 August 2009, 9:00am to 5:00pm

Venue: Philippine Community Centre, Corner of Amy Johnson Ave & Batten Road, Marrara, NT

Melbourne, VIC

Date and Time: Saturday & Sunday, 22-23 August 2009, 10:00am to 5:00pm

Venue: Philippine House, 93 Cowper Street, Footscray, VIC

Perth, WA

Date and Time: Saturday & Sunday, 29-30 August 2009, 9:00am to 5:00pm

Venue: Filipino Australian Club of Perth, Inc., 1 Catherine St., Bedford, WA

The registration in Perth on Saturday will be between 9:00am and 12 noon only while registrations on Sunday will be held from 9:00 am to 5:00pm (with 12-1 lunch break :)).

All registrants are required to bring a photocopy of their Philippine passport or Dual Citizenship ID. More information on OAV can be found here.

Our country’s history has had some tumultuous and momentous episodes. Some of us have been part of those episodes so, I think it is better for us to participate, for better or worse, in our country’s history. Boycotting this important election is just throwing in the towel. Bloggers who don’t blog about an issue do not get any attention that they did so unless they blog about their action. So, I guess it’s the same with us who might be planning to just dump this important exercise and say, “we’re making a statement.” Unless you blog about it, no one will care that you didn’t vote.

No matter how frustrated some of us with the system, it is worth trying, it is worth fighting, it will still be worth our vote, whether the system fails us or not. We are Pinoys, we are known to be resilient, so let’s go out on those dates and register.


We Remember

I remember, I was in Grade 3 when Ninoy was assassinated. I could vividly remember watching intently the news on TV the nervous general. I remember my angry father who couldn’t believe that it had happened. In retrospect, I reckon that the feeling that he had was the same that I had when I watched in horror as terrorists flew the planes onto the twin towers–disbelief.

I remember that this was the time that I became aware of the political events in the country. I remember eagerly going to our city’s Catholic school gymnasium to have glimpse of a Ninoy exhibit when they had a roadshow, even if it meant walking a good 10 kilometers from our home to the city. I was in fourth grade then.

I remember the military trucks passing in front of our school and later watching on TV, again, history unfolding as Marcos was ousted without much bloodshed. I remember the news on Cory’s determination to oust the dictator, not out of vengeance but for love of the people that her better half has truly loved. I remember the accolades that the world has given to Cory. She was surrounded by famous and infamous advisers giving this and that advice, which I reckon made her a favorite target among military rebels. At some point, I felt the ‘uprisings’ were made not as an attack on democracy but an attack on Cory as a person as she still tries to endure insults and scrutiny in the midst of male-dominated Philippine politics.

I remember when Cory was despised that even a famous journalist accused her of hiding under her bed in Malacañan in the middle of a coup. She sued and the journalist proved himself to be more qualified as a gossip scribe rather than a serious journalist.

I remember her serious effort to make it easy for most Filipinos passing an agrarian reform law, establishing the good government commission among others.

I remember political analyst saying that after the plunder of the Philippines, it will take about 12 years of consistent good policy for the Philippines to recover.

I remember Cory trying her best putting the best men and women in her cabinet to build and manage the economy.

I remember Cory stepping down and giving in to her successor making good of her promise that she’s only there for ‘housekeeping.’ Despite some disappointments during her term, she did a good job as a president disappointing her critics that a ‘housewife’ will not be able to do it.

I remember the woman behind the great man. I remember the woman who became an icon for democracy. I remember the woman who lived up to upholding democracy and fighting for it even as a private citizen. I remember the woman who earned greatness in her own right. I remember, the Filipinos remember, the world remembers.

We remember.

Thank you President Corazon Aquino.


Lessons learned

As news of an impending health reform is discussed all over Australia, the Philippines is abuzz with the supposedly last State of the Nation Address of President Gloria Arroyo.

This might be a comparison between an apple and an orange but if we look closely to a possible link, one might note the difference in the prevailing attitudes in the politics in both countries. Sure there are cynics  in Australian politics or public but the general action of most Aussie politicians show that they are united in trying to figure out what is best for the country. From saving the economy from the effects of recession to leading the global talk on climate change–be it the government or the opposition. There are downsides but one can’t help but notice the good sides in Australian politics.

Zoom into Philippine politics, save for a few, a number of congressmen are out to bend almost anything to protect, not the people, but themselves. There are would-be presidents who are mum on issues surrounding their pasts and would-be presidents who are trying to be someone they are not. In the August Hall, there might be some discussions on proposed legislation but, most of the time, the proposed legislation would likely be for the benefit of the few or the elite. Result–on the opposition side? Well, instead of focusing on proposing sound legislation, they are on the ‘attack mode’ to quell any action by the government to continue to plunder and corrupt. There are good sides but one can’t help but notice the bad sides of Philippine politics.

The Philippine Daily Inquirer was blunt in noting that if, indeed, this will be President Arroyo’s last term, the legacy that she will leave is a “legacy of corruption.” There were hints that if the charter change (first thought to be decided on through referendum but was later said to be decided on through a constitutional assembly), which the opposition allege was meant to extend Arroyo’s and her cohort’s term, fails then she might run for congress. Sure there is nothing wrong about Arroyo running for another electoral post but if we believe the assessment of Dr. Benjamin Diokno of UP School of Economics (where Arroyo received her PhD), then I think the Philippines has had enough of her. Will she step down? Her speech has some hint that she might not. This might be a good or bad news, remember when she declared in a previous SONA that she will not run for president but decided to run anyway?

There are a number of uncertainties in the Philippines as there are many uncertainties bugging most of the expats here and around the world. For instance the OAV system, one cannot blame that some of us will never participate, some by choice and/or some by the inadequacy of the OAV system. But for the few who will participate, futile as it may be, but it will be an exercise of our rights and stand that we will never be silenced.

One thing that the Philippine government has succeeded to do is to isolate its people. It has isolated its citizenry to fend for itself, be it in health care, housing or even the basic daily needs. If there are those who will doubt that most Filipinos are lazy and should be working on something for their country instead, they are mistaken. We’ve done our part and we are continually doing so, however, some life principles such as give and it will be given just never becomes a reality.

Call me a pessimist but I do hope that there’s a miracle round the bend.


I’ve written this piece when I was still based in Bangkok. For some reason, I wasn’t able to post this. As I got to coordinate with the Embassy here Down Under (again) I think it’s about time to post this, for the record. This is unedited and captures my raw emotion when I was writing this. :)
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The Master and the servant

A best selling author and columnist (so he claims. I don’t even know this guy) just made a swipe at the Philippines for claiming a stake at the disputed Spratly Islands. He did not go far to rant about the Philippines’ move to put into law its claim at Spratlys, he confronted his Filipina helper, who he claimed was a holder of International Politics from the University of Manila (in effect maligning the quality of citizen that the Philippines has).

He lectured her about the truth on who really owns the Spratlys and threatened her that if this development continues, he will not increase her salary (now think about the shallowness of the mind of this guy).

To say that the article is a racist rant is an understatement. I could not comprehend a guy of his caliber, as what he claims to be, could rant carelessly about something he does not fully comprehend. His impulsive action shows his immaturity and lack of decency on all levels. He might be a former BBC reporter and a writer for a number of English magazines but he has made himself vulnerable to ridicule of how low his state of mind is.

He went as far as threatening that if the Philippines dared to bring the dispute to a higher level, the Philippines will suffer the fate of Argentina during the Falklands War.

Reyna Elena returned the favor to this Chinese writer and called on every Filipinos both expats and local to “suck up this ugly and xenophobic Chinese remarks and continue cleaning their f****g toilets, save the water and use it to cook for their food.”

Now to this Chinese guy… Mr. Chip Tsao, that was really a cheap shot.

The war begins and so does the blogging challenge

As the Pangandamans and the Dela Paz’s trade suit, Hamas and Israel trade rockets with increasing number of civilian casualties. This is the analogy that first came to my mind after being a part of Philippine blogging history. It is an off-tangent analogy but I was wondering what’s next after blogging passionately and in support of a fellow blogger? There are bigger issues in society such as the Gaza conflict, the financial crisis, corruption and the Philippine Cha-Cha.

This is not a post that concedes that the blogging exercise in support of the Dela Paz’s was futile–we rattled Malacañan and highlighted the power of blogging. I am proud to be part of the bloggers that rallied behind victims of injustice. The Golfgate event of Antipolo showed the unique society that the blogosphere has created wherein there is hardly a delineation between the coño and the masa.

When a member of the blogosphere receives injustice, there is no distinction on his/her social status, his/her background and sometimes some of us are guilty of jumping into the issue without looking at the other side of the story. We’ve read about how to blog responsibly and I believe most of us did blogged responsibly in this case and we were vindicated as evidence surfaced of what really happened that fateful day (but of course, I’m not pre-empting the courts but in the public eye, it was inevitable for the Pangandaman to look like a red-faced liar).

As I was writing this post, I read Carlos Conde’s take on the event. He was spot on in highlighting the power of blogging. As he wrote as follows:

Today, blogging, apart from being both a narcissistic and cathartic exercise of self-expression among millions, is a potent information tool. News organizations use it to complement their journalism (take note: complement, not supplant). Activists use it to promote their cause. Victims use it to right a wrong.

We were able to highlight an injustice in this case, however, blogger and journalist Carlos expounded and challenged not only blogger Bambee but all Pinoy bloggers that there are other issues that warrant the same outrage that was exhibited. As he explained:

I have not seen the same level of outrage in the blogosphere over the disappearance of Jonas Burgos, of Karen Empeno and Sherlyn Cadapan, of the atrocity done to Remegio Saladero Jr. and the hundreds of human-rights victims in the Philippines as we have witnessed in the Pangandaman incident.

While others might be fed-up with the issue and with due respect to the Dela Paz’s (OK and the Pangandamans), this is a lesson learned for bloggers that with the acknowledged power of this medium we are responsible to direct it to drum-up interest to other social issues such as the killing of children in Gaza, the continued greed at Wall Street, the blind eye of the presidency (it’s up to you to choose whose president I’m referring to) on corruption among other things.

As a comic cliche goes… with great power comes great responsibility. So, use it wisely.


A year Down Under and away from the Pearl of the East

A full year Down Under and two years away from my native soil. I do miss the Philippines and this blog helped me connect with anything that’s from the Philippines and thereby relieve homesickness (I do have my family here but you miss some things that is uniquely Philippines!–balot, kwek-kwek, mami, lomi, Jollibee, atbp.).

After 200 posts, 570 approved comments, 43 categories and 387 tags, 2008 has been a wonderful year for me as a blogger. I’m ambivalent whenever I write about issues. Here in Australia a great actor, Heath Ledger, died early last year and later last year a budding Filipino actor died in his sleep (reminds you of Rico Yan). Early in 2008, Australian politics was rocked by what the media branded as “Iguanagate” and just last month before the year ended, in the Philippines, “Golfgate” or Golf’s Black Friday took place highlighting the very bad side of politics (aside from what we already know).

Australia experienced a spate of ATM firebomb attacks while bank robberies in the Philippines became more frequent and bolder as the Philippine economy grew only in paper with the effect not readily felt at the grassroots. Australia’s Prime Minister, Kevin Rudd, delivered most of his election promises within his 100 days in office while it’s been more than hundreds of days since Gloria said that she’ll step down (and there are fresh moves to, apparently, extend her stay in office).

The biggest news last year probably is the global credit crisis. It saw the mighty dollar fall and institutional banks crumble. The CEOs of Wall Street has given a new meaning in begging, i.e., by coming to the US House of Representative in Jets, they later tried to change their tactics and came by hybrid cars but some of them still made a mistake by driving a hybrid car that was meant to be phased out.

Australia is looking forward to a better year in the year of the ox while the Philippines is claiming that this will be their year.

I said I was ambivalent because I was passionate to write about things that I stumble online or hear from my social network (online or in person) but sometimes it has been a burden to write about some things that you hate hearing like the case of the Golf course beatings in the Philippines. Despite these, blogging will still be a therapy and “practice” for me. It has been a great medium that united Filipinos worldwide and even connected people of different ideologies.

As everybody hope for the best for the new year, I also pray that my regular readers and “transit” readers have a better 2009 regardless where we are and whatever our status in society.

God bless us all!


RP Police claims that suspects went berserk

The Philippine National Police is in hot water after a ‘dramatic’ shootout, as an MSNBC report described it, with robbery suspects in Manila. The news about the shootout was also picked up by CNN and Al-Jazeera. Media reports said that the PNP Chief has apologized for the civilian deaths and blamed the robbers for the ‘collateral damage.’ The Police, however, is also insisting that they made no mistake in killing one of the alleged suspects, a certain Ronaldo Eusebio, despite proof that he is a legitimate employee of a toll company and testimony from the “suspect’s” wife.
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