Living In Your Own Private Martial Law

ONCE again the issue of burying Ferdinand E. Marcos in the Libingan ng mga Bayani (Heroes’ Cemetery)  dominates the social and political buzz in social media.

As a millennial-friendly backgrounder: Marcos was the president of the Philippines: elected in 1965, re-elected in 1969, declared martial law and suspended the writ of habeas corpus in 1972, changed the constitution in 1973, declared martial law officially over in 1981 and was reelected in that same year, declared a snap presidential election in 1985, declared winner and was subsequently booted out of the Palace by People Power revolt in 1986. He passed away under exile in Hawaii in 1989.

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Now that’s the simplest, unbiased summary we could come up with, representing a statement of facts that probably – and I still say probably – both (or all) sides of the political spectrum will agree with. In between all those years mentioned there are many events and figures that are being contested by the highly charged and polarized factions attributed to the man personally and to his administration those 21 years. Things like military atrocities, warrantless arrests and jailing political enemies, war medals, economic performance, infrastructure development, hidden wealth, shopping sprees abroad amid massive poverty at home, the assassination of Benigno Aquino, Jr…. a pretty heady list.

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‘Net Nanny’for older folk

When the internet experienced its first surge in the 1990s there was so much concern for kids surfing the net and accidentally (or purposely) going into undesirable sites like pornography or — heaven forbid — advanced education. Thus developers came up with the Net Nanny, a filter of sorts parents could use to make sure their browsers blocked off predefined sites from their kids’ prying eyes.

Many variations of this eventually came around, including Google’s own “Safe Search” filter which allows safe, moderate and unfiltered access to google searches. For example, an unfiltered search of “pussy” will bring you sites and images of what the new US president Donald Trump likes grabbing. But a fully safe search will bring you, guess what, cute kitties!

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Image from Getty Images as used in nymag.com

Eventually the whole exercise became a game of cat and mouse between the internet nasties and the safe surfers.

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‘Off the Record’ in social media

WHEN I was a full time journalist some 30 odd years ago there was a game of cat and mouse we used to play with our sources. Basically we bait them to say things we could use in our stories and hoped they’d agree. The conversation would go like this (usually over beer or some sort of alcoholic beverage):

Me: So, what’s this I hear that blah-blah-blah?(feed the rumor, info, or whatever).

Source: Yeah, you heard right. He did blah-blah-blah.

Me: Really, as in for real? (Slowly takes out pocket notebook and ballpen, sometimes even tape recorder.)

Source: Hey, wait. Off the record.

Me: Awwwww… (pa-cute), But that’s so interesting. And juicy bit of info on the story I’m doing. It’ll really help me.

At this point you really hope that the source would go on record, or at least agree to be an unnamed source (as in “sources said” or even the infamous “a source close to the negotiations”) or even as deep-deep-deep background to help as a lead or pursue the story further with other possible sources.

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Should the source insist that it’s off the record then you respect that. Try next time or just drop it altogether since burning a source may have you lose him or her for any future endeavors. At best you don’t lose a drinking buddy.

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Democracy is not dead… it’s alive and screwing us all.

IN THE wake of the Supreme Court decision on the burial of Ferdinand E. Marcos at the Libingan ng mga Bayani (LNB) and, as of this writing, the victory of Donald Trump as president of the United States of America, many have taken to social media bewailing the “death of democracy.”

Oh spare me, please. Democracy is not dead. It’s exactly the reason why we are in the rut we’re in right now. It’s democracy in action, and if it shows anything it just shows that all these years we’ve been remiss in nurturing and caring for it that it finally bit us in the ass.

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Democracy? Democracy… wala lang. Duterte photo from The Guardian. Imee Marcos photo by Ali Vicoy/ Manila Bulletin.

After the LNB decision I took to my Facebook page to air my view:

Ok, the Supreme Court is the final arbiter in the interpretation of law. And basically, at least from what I have read (no official texts of the full decision and dissenting opinions have been released) the majority decision said that there is NO LAW barring the president from having Marcos buried in LNB, and no legal process has officially declared Marcos a despot and a fake hero but rather it is legal fact that he was a former president, senator, defense secretary and soldier.

Hmmmm… I can respect that.

It’s now D30’s decision to go through with the burial since, according to law, the decision is purely on him. Thus I call on D30 not to go through with it, because the reasons stated in the SC petitions are compelling, not for a law-bound forum, but for a compassionate leader.

I call to task all those politicians, especially in the legislature, for leaving this matter open when clearly they could have done something all these years to quit the political horse-trading with the Marcoses and their allies.

Ultimately, it’s on us. We let it ride all these years. We kept electing these fools into government. And we waited until the last few days to bring it up to the SC, a forum that decides purely on matters of law.

But it’s never too late for change. Especially within us.

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Education: the most strategic change President Duterte can make

PRESIDENT Rodrigo Duterte is in an unenviable position. Sure, the Office has the perks, pomp and pageantry of a cushy life. But he inherited a country so deep in the mire that it will take so much time and effort for it to claw its way back up. Quick fix solutions won’t matter, for while they may satisfy our urge for action in this time – having been deprived of it exponentially in the past administrations – this administration has to kick start a program that will bring lasting solutions for the generations to come.

That strategic move is in education.

Education will move the country along the right path for the citizens: from equipping the people for the changes to come in the country and the world; to having the capacity to discern in the ever growing confusion brought about by technology and media; to the formation of character and values to deal with internal strife such rebellion and secession, external threats such as the protection of our territories, to dealing with the growing drug menace.

To have direction in its education programs the government can – and should – take its cue from the private sector and international best practice. The knowledge and systems are out there, and in many cases there is no need to reinvent the wheel. And while one may ask why the private sector cannot just step in with its soft and hard resources and infrastructure for education, we must remember that in its joint effort the private sector can only do so much and government has the largest education and infrastructure network in existence. On the government has the reach and capacity for mass education, especially in the most important and formative years.

Take the SM Foundation’s scholarship program. For two decades it has built up its roster of college scholars for poor students. This program has a very simple and focused mantra: “Creating better opportunities for the future.”

Some 100 scholars from the Don Bosco Technical Institute prepare to lead the  listen in on SM Foundation's Linda Atayde prior to the launch of the program for 1,000 new scholars of the program.

Some 100 scholars from the Don Bosco Technical Institute prepare to lead the listen in on SM Foundation’s Linda Atayde prior to the launch of the program for 1,000 new scholars of the program.

Indeed, opportunities come with education, and SM Foundation has been able to hone this philosophy: Continue reading

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How the presence of big business aids in the development of our communities

CLIMATE change has become a hot social, political and economic topic worldwide. There are notable changes in well established weather patterns that governments and institutions have radically modified their forecasting models and, more importantly, made serious course correction in mitigating the effects of these changes.

In the Philippines we have seen major catastrophes brought about by the weather with alarming frequency and intensity that response and preparation has become a part of the core agenda of development. One key factor for this is the availability of necessary resources at the right place and time. And this becomes an even greater challenge as we are an archipelago – a nation with 7,100 islands.

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Checking out the landscape you find that a national network of facilities and logistics are best to respond during times of natural calamities. The response time for disaster relief will be best managed from multiple jump-off points throughout the country rather than a single or centralized one. Thus the rationale for the empowerment of local government units in the Local Government Code, the devolution of certain government services like health from the national government to local governments or why the federal form of government is looking attractive not that the national leadership has emerged from the old “imperial Manila.”

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A last look at the VP race for 2016 – Part Two

IN THE previous blog we discussed how important the election of the Vice President is in the upcoming May 9, 2016 polls. The VP is not just a spare tire but must be a positive contributor to whoever becomes president, if we are to get out of this mess we are in now.

At this point in the discussion it all boils down to looking at what Chiz Escudero, Bongbong Marcos and Leni Robredo bring to the table.

Escudero, Marcos, Robredo -- photo stylized from agraphic in Buzzerdaily.com

Escudero, Marcos, Robredo — photo stylized from a graphic in Buzzerdaily.com

Going through their respective websites, Facebook pages, the Senate and House of Representatives websites and some other Googling this is what we’ve come up with: Continue reading

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