I write better when I smoke. Don’t ask me to reduce it to a science.


It takes a good leader to make hard decisions. It takes an awesome leader to make hard and unpopular decisions just when he needs to be popular – like in the run up to an election year for example?

From this news report, it seems like Noli de Castro knows what an awesome leader is. I mean, sure, it was Cerge Remonde who said

I think we should not glorify and glamorize these people by giving in to their demands as to whom they would want to negotiate with. I think that could be a very bad policy.

But the way things work around here, if de Castro wanted to score a few easy brownie points, he could’ve easily overriden sensible voices and gone on to Sulu for the photo ops. It is, I think, to his credit that he seems to be toeing the reasonable line with this one. 

Which prolly begs the question, when has he ever gone against this government? I’m all for that whole loyalty thing, but there comes a time in a politician’s life when, if he can’t break ranks, he can at least make his discomfiture known. Has de Castro ever done that?

The answer to that question will be relevant to those who are now considering him for 2010. He’s done a significant amount of good, sure; but a person who has kept his ass too safe will turn off the voters.

All told, de Castro might know what it takes to be an awesome leader, but is he good enough to actually be one?


Filed under: 2010 watch, news, politics, , , , ,

Red Cross


Filed under: crime, international, law and order, news, ,


The PDI editorial says:

Or take the case of Justice Undersecretary Ricardo Blancaflor. He took a call from the family of Richard Brodett, who was facing an investigation for drug dealing. He took it because he knew the parents of Brodett. He took it upon himself to inquire as to the status of the case, when “inquiries” by officials have become notorious as instances of influence peddling (“Will I still win by one million?” comes to mind). Blancaflor, by all accounts, is widely respected. He may have acted on the principle that justice delayed is justice denied. But these are times when deviating from official procedures by resorting to the gray areas, in which officialdom often tries to find ways to humanize the inexorable harshness of the law, has become increasingly impermissible.

The public has an increasing intolerance for such cases of official consideration because it has come to expect a more impersonal, and thus, equitable, approach to the justice process. We all know our institutions are understaffed and overworked. What we expect is the democracy of the queue and of not jumping the line merely on some official’s (well-intentioned or not) say-so.

First off, anyone – PDI editors included for sure – who has ever had any reason to deal with government above a certain level has called on a well-placed acquaintance to – at the very least – ‘follow up’ on his interests. And anyone who knows anything about this sort of shit should know that members of the media rank among the worst followers up. They throw their weight around for this friend or that relative and badger government officials to exert whatever influence they can to secure a positive outcome. And it doesn’t have to be blatant either. It can be as subtle as saying “I don’t care what the outcome is, as long as everything is done fairly and transparently and the truth comes out.” The problem with that, of course, is that people who say shit like that have often decided what the “truth” ought to be.

And because they have microphones bigger than their dicks, they come on strong – their words laced with the implicit threat of negative publicity in case they are rebuffed. So it smacks of irony that PDI should be taking this tone now: since they seem to acknowledge that even ‘inquiries’ are impermissible, why do they keep doing it? Why keep  on egging or even badgering government officials to do them ‘favors’ when those favors are the exact same things they then turn around and condemn?

And to add to the irony, the editorial attempts to paint the public as some morally outraged group that demands the democracy of the queue. HAH! What a load of bullcrap.

Your average Filipino cares nothing for the democracy of the queue if a means exists to shorten the wait. It’s when we see other people getting a jump on us that we complain. And no one is immune. It’s like that thing they say about money being the root of all evil: the only people who say that are those who don’t have money.  

Oh sure, there are those who make valiant attempts to stay in line but given the opportunity – and the probability of doing it with impunity – how many of those won’t take advantage? And how many of people of stature will stay away from situations where even their mere presence will influence the fate of the queue? 

Once I was talking to this very high-profile private lawyer – a public intellectual he was – who bitched endlessly about traffic. He ends his rant by saying: ‘when I get caught, I roll down my window and give the cop a chance to recognize me!’ HAH! I’ve wished often enough that my face could be just as effective a passport out of inconvenience. But since it isn’t, I rant and rave – however privately – about the injustice of it all.

A modern, democratic society substitutes official discretion and similar gray areas, for a fussy, often slow, and tedious devotion to doing everything by the book. Blancaflor is simply the latest example of the adjustments officials — and not just the public — have to endure, if we are to eliminate the more flexible but highly corruptible present for a more orderly and fair future.

Eliminate the highly flexible but more corruptible present? Might the PDI be talking about the endless calls for an extra-constitutional end to the Arroyo presidency? Might it be referring to how the media and the senate relentlessly pillory those that have the temerity to disagree with them? Or could it be referring to glorification of putschists like Trillanes who toss out the law to have tea-time at Oakwood, and then again at the Pen? 

The only difference between those examples and what’s going on with Blancaflor and those drugpushers is that with Blancaflor, it looks like the extra-legal route is going to benefit the perceived bad guys. But hell, if those drugpushers had been savvy enough to gain the sympathy of the public – maybe they should’ve told their friends to blog about what nice boys they actually are – no one would be raising so much as a squeak now. HAH! So much for the wisdom of the mob.

In a perverse way, the editorial might actually be read as a lamentation on the fate of Blancaflor, but the PDI’s predisposition to pander to the righteous outrage of a public that feels it’s been one upped – and it’s track record of throwing its weight behind moves to undermine the rule of law in favor of swifter and seemingly poetic justice – tarnishes what might’ve been a refreshingly honest piece. 

Because it is true that even honest and upstanding government officials do try to accomodate requests as best they can without crossing over the line into impropriety; and it is true that our culture places extreme pressures on each of us to bend over backwards for people who invoke friendship, blood, and mercy; and because it is true that a strict democracy of the queue would be a wonderful thing.

But because the PDI couldn’t resist taking the pulpit with it’s holier-than-thou shtick, it missed the opportunity to rise above the fray – demonstrating only that, like the rest of us, that mighty newspaper is just as prone to castigating people for doing as we do, instead of as we say.

Filed under: journalism, law and order, news, society, , , ,


I have nothing against Muslims. I do not think that they are any worse or any better than any Christian. But I do have something against many Muslim politicians from Mindanao. 

I’ve been there and most of the politicians I’ve met were either blatantly corrupt or sneakily so. Invariably, however, they evidenced incredible arrogance and an unmistakeable disdain for everyone else. They considered themselves gods and the rest of us, little ants that they can easily trample underfoot when we give them any kind of slight – whether real or imagined.

And so I feel for Decidido.

Yesterday, she recounted in harrowing detail how Nasser Pangandaman Jr. – the Mayor of Masiu in Lanao del Sur – and his band of goons beat up her father after a run-in on the golf course.

My brother and I were playing golf at the South Course of Valley. We were on the 3rd hole, and we see two golf carts going past us, overtaking our flight, and setting up to tee off on the next hole. My dad goes up to them and asks them why they would do that, why they would overtake us without even asking for our permission. Golf etiquette 101. One of the guys says that they’re with the flight in front of us. (So what? That doesn’t give them the right to just pass us WITHOUT asking.)

The mayor of Masiu City, Lanao del Sur talks with my dad. Things get heated up. Voices were raised. But never, in my wildest dreams, did I ever imagine that someone would pull out a punch. Apparently not. He attacks my father. His flightmates, maybe 2 or 3 of them, rush to his aid and beat up my father. My 56-year-old father. My younger brother and I could not just watch. We rushed to break the fight. My younger brother pleads to the mayor to please stop it. To not hurt my dad. To just stop. His words still ring through my head…”Sorry na po, sorry na po…tama na…tama na po…” With his hands in front of his chest in a praying position. PLEADING. The mayor socks him in the face. My brother defended himself. My dad is still on the ground getting clobbered. My brother is the same way. I try to stop the fight, but all I can do is stop one person. There were 4 or 5 of them attacking now.

Someone breaks up the fight. I thought it was all over. The mayor shouts to his caddy: “Hindi nila kami kilala! Sabihin mo nga sa kanila kung sino ako!” 

My mom and my older brother come. I tell her (my brother’s) right ear is bleeding (from the beating). They both look like they could kill. My dad holds my brother off, I hold off my mom. When I finally got my mom under control, my older brother gets away and I hold him off. Two of the mayor’s bodyguards pull out guns. I embraced my brother from the back, just holding him back, crying. The receptionists came to us, crying, hugging me, my dad, and my mom, whispering to us to just leave. “Maam, umalis na po kayo, may mga baril sila…Maam…umalis na po kayo please…”

So there you have it. In Mindanao – or at least in Masiu – a thug sits as Chief Executive. A man who – in a fit of rage at not being recognized and kow-towed to – attacks an old man and his young son.

This brute insults Islam with his every breath.

Filed under: crime, news, , , ,

All apologies

I wish I was like you easily amused
Find my nest of salt, everything’s your fault
I’ll take all the blame, opposite from shame
Sunburn, freezerburn, choking on the ashes of her enemy

– Kurt Cobain

The once venerable Corazon Aquino – now called Sorry Aquino by Dick Gordon because she apologized to Joseph Estrada for being one of the movers behind his ouster in 2001 – ought to apologize to the Filipino as well.

She should apologize for helping take the nation into what she now considers a disastrous detour. Following her logic, she’s at least partly responsible for all the shit we’ve been through since 2001. Following her logic, if she hadn’t decided to play God with the country’s fortunes – if she hadn’t decided to completely take a crap on the millions who voted for Joseph Estrada – then we wouldn’t be in the cesspool we are now.

By extension – still adhering to her logic – what reason could we possibly have for believing her whining now? If she failed so miserably to forecast what was good for the nation then – and in the process irreparably weakened the foundations of our democracy – why should we believe that she is right this time about doing the exact same thing all over again? Thus, she should also apologize to the Filipino people for ceaselessly trying these past four years, to railroad us into the same detour which, by her own admission, led to our disastrous present circumstances.

Of course, in the aftermath of her apology, her spinners have tried to pass it off as a joke. Right. Tell that to her kumadres and sycophants in the Black & White movement. Maybe they’ll be as forgiving towards her as they were towards Jess Dureza. 

And speaking of her comrades in arms, maybe she should apologize as well to those who took to the streets in 2001 for turning their sacrifice into a sham. I mean, Estrada was convicted of plunder. He is a criminal in the eyes of the law and, swallowing the affront to the Constitution in 2001 as a fait accompli, that conviction amounted to something like a saving grace: they may have trampled all over the Constitution but at least they got that crook sent to prison. Now, those 2001 putschists don’t even have that anymore. And they have Cory Aquino to thank for that.

And after she’s done with all her apologies, she should pick up the phone. GMA has been calling her since the news of her apology hit the newsrooms. Seems like GMA wants to invite Sorry Cory to join the Honest Mistake Club.



Filed under: news, politics, , , , , , ,

Ameril Umbra Kato


Umbra Kato is one impressive gnome. 

Beginning at 0:51, Kato denies the status of his unit as a lost command – claiming that his unit has not done anything contrary to his organization’s orders. 

At 2:15, Kato denies that he started the troubles in North Cotabato. He claims that soldiers and CAFGU attacked – unprovoked – MILF cadres in Aleosan (?). The attack, Kato claims, took place on July the first. That ought to be easy enough to verify, eh?

Anyway, Kato goes on to explain that the attack was clearly intended to drive them out. “Where do we go?” he asks. “We can’t go to Luzon or the Visayas.” All in all, he paints his actions as being grounded on a ‘defense of one’s home’ kind of theory. Of the military, he says “You are driving somebody from their own place. Terrorist yun!” Then he asks, how would you like it if we did the same to you?

Starting at 4:53, Kato draws a parallel between himself and the Prophet Muhammad. He says that the 10 million reward for his death or capture is simply an indication that the military has run out of ways to get him. The same thing, he said, happened to Muhammad for whose capture his enemies offered a hundred camels. Shades of a messianic complex?

Asked about the escalation of hostilities in Maguindanao, Kato mumbles something about how that had always been the President’s plan – to ‘invade’ Maguindanao under the guise of preventing the signing of the MOA-AD.

And that’s where part one ended.

Filed under: news, , , ,

Small mining, big death

Those Compostela Valley landslides? Could they have been caused by small mining operations? Already, eighteen are dead and more than 900 have been displaced. I mean, wow. If it is proven that small mining caused – or even contributed to – the landslides, then I say it’s time to reassess (if we haven’t already) the conventional wisdom that small mining operations are better than large-scale ones.

Filed under: news, , , ,

One way to decongest UP-Medicine

Not that there’s a congestion problem, of course, but this latest development (reported by the Philippie Star) could really empty the corridors of the UP Med School.

Freshman students entering the University of the Philippines’ College of Medicine next year will be required to serve as doctors in the Philippines for three years, with violators to be fined more than P1 million.

Dr. Alberto Roxas, UP College of Medicine dean, said 2005 figures estimated the fine at P1.8 million, but the amount could increase by 2014 when the freshmen in 2009 would be graduating.

“Their tuition is only about 17 percent of the total cost of medical education,” he said. “The government subsidizes the remaining 83 percent.
If you are subsidized by the government, you really have to serve.”

Roxas said the 2014 UP medical graduates will be required to do a three-year return service in public health (clinic, management of programs, policy); academe, research or private clinical practice.

“For as long as these are done in his/her capacity as a physician and in any part of the Philippines,” he said.

Roxas said the return service must be completed within five years after graduation from the UP College of Medicine.
“I’m not saying ‘Don’t go abroad,’” he said. “If you’re good, go abroad. If you think that’s what’s best for you, go. But if you go to UP, you have to serve your country first… What’s good if you are the best mind if you don’t serve your country?”

Roxas estimates that starting 2014 and up to 2017, 480 medical doctors from UP would be available in the country at any given time.

“This is because some120 students will serve under the mandatory return service agreement every school year,” he said.

Roxas said it would not be easy for the 2014 graduates to breach the return service agreement.

“When they go abroad, their medical education credentials have to be authenticated by the dean of the College of Medicine,” he said.

“If they have not complied, I will not give them authentication.”

Like I said, I think it’s a small enough inconvenience for people to bear for the sake of the nation. And it’s great that someone – or at least a group of people – actually went ahead and responded to a call for … I don’t know … call it ‘responsible citizenship,’ despite the inevitable backlash. ‘course, I hope no one complains about this move; especially not the students or their parents. After all, as the Dean said, their tuition only comes up to about 17% of the actual cost of a medical education.

Still, I really think that this move – as laudable as it is – will negatively impact on UP-Med’s enrollment.

Filed under: news, , , ,

Rats don’t turn the other cheek

So the Ilaga are back, eh? Now everyone is in a tizzy – scared shitless at what a group of people, operating on the same rules as the MILF, can accomplish. That’s the key concept there, y’see: “operating on the same rules as the MILF.”

For too long, the MILF have been handled with kid gloves by the authorities. On the one hand, the politicians have bungled the game and the armed forces have been bound by the rules of civilized warfare.  On the other hand, the bandits of the MILF have pretty much operated as they saw fit: killing indiscriminately when the mood takes them, snatching up people for ransom, beheading people they  don’t like. It begs the question, why the fuck is the military bringing knives to a gunfight?

The answer is simple: they’ve got no choice. The MILF operate beyond the pale of the law; to pursue them into that territory (thereby going extralegal themselves) will deprive our regular forces of moral authority. This adherence to form is very important in this world where a single misstep by the army is touted endlessly as a mortal offense against human rights, the law, and common decency by the very same people who keep as quiet as mice against the MILF.

The MILF , naturally enough, make full use of this necessary restraint. They kill and loot and burn with impunity, secure in the knowledge that if one of them kills a kid, it’s called the misfortune of war; but that if one of them is killed, it’s a human rights violation.

Hopefully, the Ilaga – or even just the threat of their resurgence – will make these bandits think twice. Sure, it’s the Christian thing to turn the other cheek, but when both cheeks are bruised and bleeding, where else do you turn? You turn to yourself; you help yourself; you defend yourself.

This is how we all feel, isn’t it? That’s why we say things like sobra na, tama na. Is it surprising then that some people in Mindanao will feel the same way? We don’t lift a finger as they are being victimized, and yet we howl with outrage when they refuse to be victimized. … the hell is that?

Filed under: news, , ,

A small enough inconvenience

Over at Filipino Voices, cocoy reacts strongly to reports that “Rep. Ignacio Arroyo of 5th District, Negros Occidental proposes a measure requiring all registered Filipino professionals to render two years of service within the country prior to any employment overseas.”

If Government paid in entirety the said tuition fee. Then, sure, we can require said professional to give something back. Unless Government does, why should people who have spent a lot of money paying for their own way in school give something back to a government? Who the frak cares if it is for the “national interest?” When has any politician cared for the greater good?

First off, I’d say that there is an undeniable fairness in what Cocoy says about government paying tuition fees. Still, I’d take exception to the second half of his comment – the part that asks ‘who the frak cares.’

Well, I care. And I think this country would be in a much better place if we all did – politicians notwithstanding.

I think Cocoy also hit it square on the head when he called this proposed measure “akin to a DRAFT.” In the sense that there is the element of forced service, then yes: this is a draft. But when Cocoy goes on to say that Draft has gone the way of slavery, there I think a distinction has to be made.

Slavery – like the polo during the spanish colonial period – involved service without compensation. The draft, on the other hand, involves service with compensation. And that’s what makes the comparison falter. The draft – and the proposed measure – does not force anyone to serve without recompense; it merely delays the freedom to choose your employer. And since the person is not deprived of a just return for his labor, I think the delay of two years is a small enough inconvenience to suffer for the sake of the national interest.

Filed under: musings, news