Saturday, May 23, 2009

Still Praying for Light of Wisdom, for a Miracle

Following is the text of the formal open letter i had written early this morning to Pangasinan Rep. Mark Cojuangco, the original print-out of which i handed directly to him after our brief exchange of views about his Bataan Nuclear Plant revival bill. He had just delivered an hour-long talk about nuclear technology in general and the BNPP in particular before faculty members and graduate students at the International Academy of Management and Economics (IAME) in Makati, and as a faculty member I had the opportunity to be first at the microphone during the open forum portion. Expecting to be cut off before i finished and not to have the chance at the mike again, i came to the event with this letter already signed and placed in an envelope addressed to him.

May 23, 2009
Rep. Mark Cojuangco
House of Representatives
Congress of the Philippines

Dear Congressman Conjuangco:

As a member of the community of the International Academy of Management and Economics here in Makati, I stay about of couple of days in Metro Manila each week. But I extended my stay here this time because our school has been scheduled to host your talk this morning about the bill you had filed in the House seeking the rehabilitation and operation of the Bataan Nuclear Pwer Plant or BNPP. Since the last day of last year I have been a resident of the Municipality of Subic in Zambales. With only Olongapo City and a fairly short stretch of road within and beyond the Subic Bay Freeport Zone lying between, Subic town, my late father’s hometown, is a very close neighbor of Morong, Bataan, site of the nuclear plant your bill con­tem­plates to load with uranium and run. Taking only about an hour and a half to negotiate by public transportation, Morong is practically closer to our town than to Bataan’s capital city of Balanga. Residents of Olongapo, SBFZ and our municipality are therefore legitimate stake­holders in the safety issues of the nuclear plant your bill seeks to operate.

I brought up this concern with our district congresswoman, Rep. Mitos Magsaysay, who is even my relative by affinity. In an open letter that also got published in the opinion section of the Philippine Daily Inquirer, I asked for dialogue seeking to understand as a constituent of hers how she came to decide to support BNPP’s revival considering that the plant is almost at the border of our district. She ignored my letter.

I’ve been glad to receive happier information about her counterpart in Bataan. After the short chain-fasting that I started in Morong last Holy Week, I was was told by some of the anonymous co-fasters that Bataan Rep. Herminia Roman had told some cooperative leaders in the province that she was open to withdraw her signature from supporting the BNPP bill if she could be shown the official documentation reportedly detailing thousands of defects found in the plant as constructed in Morong. That was a sign of openness. Something expected of a respons­ible legislator, especially one who admits not having seen such official data for which both the Aquino and Ramos administrations, in their respective incumbencies, paid millions of pesos of the people’s tax money.
What surprised me was that she was asking her private-citizen constituents to be the ones to make such documentation available for her perusal and consideration. One would expect that the bill’s main sponsor, attesting to the safety of the plant, would have already provided the entire House copies or at least representative excerpts of such official documentation received and even used by the Republic of the Philippines in an international litigation case (and subsequently placed under safekeeping by that office which continues the affairs even of past administrations). And you could have convinced the public of the earnestness of your assessment that BNPP is safe by logically debunking these defects item-by-item. I’ve heard that MalacaƱang functionaries have claimed that those documents are missing. In that case, Congress has both the power and responsibility to subpoena such papers and demand an official report how come these are not being readily available to legislators who are about to pass a bill swearing to the safety of the plant.

After I fasted in Morong for five days and a half, relieved by co-fasters of 37 hours of my declared seven days, I was asked by many people there, in Zambales, in other parts of the country and even beyond, why I made that sacrifice but did not ensure media coverage for it to have any impact at all. Why I fasted was simple to answer: As a resident of Subic, as a Filipino, and as a human being I was and still am very much a stakeholder. Stakeholders in anything have to be active in their stakeholdership. Practically all the problems we can complain about as besetting Philippine society have either been caused directly by passivity or solutions to them have been blocked by passivity with so many excuses. So, we hear the complaints almost together with the excuses, and such a combination has been doomed to last forever.

But why did I not arrange for comensurate media coverage, considering the breadth and life-and-death importance of the issue? Was it because the mass media and the public would only give attention to newsworthy personalities and groups and this private citizen is a virtual nobody? More important than that consideration is the nature of the fast that I started last Holy Thursday: it was a prayer. And I have always believed that “Someone in the Great Somewhere hears every word.”

Moreover, I was praying for a miracle, and only that “Someone” could cause that. I felt that God had to be asked for a miracle akin to what happened to Saul of Tarsus on his way to Damascus.”
And so, Mr. Congressman, I now express this to you: I think God’s miracle has indeed happened. At least in my heart. During our first face-to-face encounter on this same issue last February at Kamayan, during a monthly forum that I used to moderate, I observed that you were then so closed-minded, absolutely confident that you could have the BNPP revival bill passed on the basis of the sheer number of signatures that you had gathered from your colleagues, never mind that the steamroller process excluded earnest study required by responsible legislation, never mind that the people of Bataan and Central Luzon and way beyond may really be placed in grave peril, never mind that the people’s peace of mind can be placed as a permanent hostage to effects of a mysterious sense of haste.

But now I feel that you may be open to do it the proper way -- affording the voting solons fully-informed choice. the responsible way, the way of ensuring your own peace of mind and that of your colleagues. On the BNPP issue, we really can search together for the Truth. I dream this so very fervently that I could almost hear the newscast report about it now: “Pangasinan Rep. Cojuangco has announced that the House members will study first all pertinent document­ation before completing its consider­ation of the BNPP revival bill. He said they will subpoena these documents and investigate their ‘disappear­ance’ if they have to.” I feel it’s not impossible! God moves in mysterious ways! We can’t know.

On the other hand, the Master Creator may have already created a different set of mira­cles to answer the invocation prayed so fervently by all those who prayed with me (including the hundreds who have fasted quietly and anonymously all these weeks) for one. Who knows? We can’t. The very day before its world-class eruption, Mt. Pinatubo was just one of our many “dead” volcanoes, and Japanese high techno­logy could not predict the earthquake that devastated Kobe.

May God bless your heart and mind, Congressman Cojuangco! May God bless us all, and save us all by sharing with our decision-makers the brightest light of His wisdom!
Very truly yours,

Ed Aurelio C. Reyes
Subic, Zambales

Mark Cojuangco answered my point about subpoena by saying the House has actually done it but got no results. How come the government functionaries in charge of safekeeping of official documents (like this voluminous report we had paid for in millions of dollars) could just shrug their shoulders and say "di namin mahanap, eh! -- sorry na lang!" and not get penalized or even probed for such irresponsibility? Was the subpoena a real one and was it responded to in writing and with full explanations? Can the solons decide freely and responsibly the issue of safety of the BNPP if such important data has mysteriously vanished? Have the members of House who have co-signed the bill heard about the internationally-adopted "precautionary principle"? I am still praying for the Light of Wisdom and Propriety to prevail. The miracle can still come...

Saturday, May 9, 2009

Controversies Over Our Anthem

A WIDE VARIETY of comments has emerged about the way baladeer Martin Nievera sang our beloved Lupang Hinirang before the boxing match that made us Filipinos of our "Pambansang Kamao" beating the daylights out of a well-known "Hitman" from London.

"Martin had no right to stylize the singing of the Anthem," cried one voice, "he should be prosecuted for violating the law!" added another. Others were not so indignant, some others were not indignant at all or were even amused. Still others expressed their celebration of Filipino creative talent. Maestro Ryan Cayabyab had earlier warned Martin not to adjust the Anthem not necessarily because the master was personally against such a deed; he was worried that enough Filipinos would be indignant enough to mobilize a lynch mob. Meantime, three public figures were reported to have expressed their non-disapproval of what Martin did -- a little woman on the throne and two solons in the House, all in all representing three distinctly conflicting political streams. Nievera sang our Anthem on foreign land and sang up a loud controversy here at home, all in one prolonged breath.

I have always frowned on having celebrities or celebrity groups aesthetically perform stylized renditions of our National Anthem before programs and shows at the Cultural Center and elsewhere in the country. I have always believed that the crowd is not supposed to just listen and appreciate such singing, because that crowd is the very owner of that Anthem, the Filipinos who could and actually should be singing that Anthem together passionately, with deep-felt spirit of love for the nation and for the national unity that the Anthem is supposed to represent. Like the "Our Father," the self-declared siblings under the same paternity should be shouting out their (our) soul-voice together. (As someone who has been making two-voice and three-voice arrangements for singing groups I really enjoy listening to blendings and contra-tiempo and Gregorian-chant blendings. But the whole crowd should be singing "even if coarsely and crudely," full of passionate sincerity. Such would not be the time to engage in aesthetics however talented we all are.

Much less should the crowd be just listening tolerantly to the playing of the anthem as is ritually done at the beginning of last full shows and other functions. The Filipino crowd should not be listening appreciatively much less singing tolerantly, we should be singing together the National Anthem if we really deserve to have one.

But the crowd at Las Vegas was not at all a Filipino crowd. And the American crowd would not feel any passion at all for Lupang Hinirang or for King George's anthem; they would tolerate such singing as customary protocol before such an event on their land as the Paquiao-Hatton boxing match. Martin was not performing our Anthem before a Filipino crowd who should then be singing with him, it was a Filipino performance not of Nievera but mainly of Paquiao, before a non-Filipino crowd. In that sort of circumstance. "my rules" that i state and explain above would not simplistically apply. I can afford to admit not being too sure about proprieties. (What i am definitely sure about is this: amending the Constitution to allow foreigners to buy up our national territory is definitely wrong and anti-Filipino! Aside from stupid (even with the monetary rewards!). I would rather rage-rage-rage against that one! There are other things i am very sure are wrong, anti-environment, anti-Filipino, anti-Truth, etc. etc. and i would rather rage-rage-rage also about them.

Despite its historical infirmity (a separate topic, no doubt), and despite the remaining controversy over the last line, we love our current National Anthem together, and we really ought to expect ourselves not just to listen to it tolerantly, not even just to listen to it appreciatively, but to sing it together with a passionate sense of patriotism that should be consistent with being patriotic "sa isip, sa salita at sa gawa.".

For those of us who are hysterically stoning Martin for what they consider to be Martin Nievera's artistic but improper, even "criminal," rendition of Lupang Hinirang, and all other Filipinos, here's my personal challenge addressed to the entire citizenry:
Let our National Anthem be an instrument for unifying us, not for dividing us any further. Let us LIVE our National Anthem!

readdingz, 05-09-09

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Truth is Always Sharper than Bravado

Bravado is a texture of character. It does not at all indicate a bravery of character; it implies quite the opposite. On the other hand, the bearer of truth needs no attractive packaging of any sort -- no sugar-coating, no gloss, no bravado-- just truthful packaging of the truthful content and its bearer.

It was not columnist Mon Tulfo's moment of bravado when I first saw him in a jail cell in Bataan more than a decade ago, and accompanied him out of it. He was solemn. There was quiet dignity about him that a kibitzing heckler from afar might choose to describe as "hilas caayo" acting. There was dignity in his position then that it did not need any posture or showmanship.

Mon was right, so he could afford to appear to be simple and humble. That did not dawn on many of our colleagues in the media profession who were trying to dissuade Atty. Ricardo C. Valmonte from coming to Tulfo's defense. Ric was the founding president of the Philippine Movement for Press Freedom (PMPF), and he decided to send me as then PMPF secretary-general to Balanga with papers from his law office to be presented to the authorities that would effect Tulfo's immediate release. The columnist was then being detained on orders of Olongapo Judge Esther Bans (if i recall the name rightly) for refusing to reveal his source on a story he wrote that became subject of a suit. He was right. The Sotto Law was squarely behind him. And PMPF was squarely behind him.

However, his character texture of bravado seemed to antagonize many media colleagues at least a bit and they were not eager to help him or to let us help him in his predicament... even if he was correct in his refusal to be forced to reveal his source, even if he was correct, even heroic, to be willing to go and stay in jail where the judge sent him, even if he did not mobilize resources for bail to spring him out. Even if he was right and was principled to do as he chose.

Some even said Mon Tulfo was overacting, nagpapamartir, adding that "hindi bagay sa kanya!" I think i lost some friends back then, before and after my Bataan trip, trying to defend the PMPF position on the Tulfo case. Later, when PMPF was supporting Masbate journalist Luis Reyes who had been force-fed a page of his newspaper by one Norberto Manaog of the PNP and was being subjected to emotional blackmail to go through a lie-detector test just to validate his allegation, Valmonte showed me, with his characteristic broadminded smile, a clipping where Tulfo was amplifying Manaog's dare on Luis Reyes and implying nasty things about his victimized media colleague. Some people do have short memories, Ric and I agreed, smiling and shaking our heads. But we agreed, too, that PMPF does not regret having helped him somehow; he was in the right! Also, after all, I think Mon's bravado texture has been at least partly a costume, he must have thought this was an apt packaging for his "on target" column title.

If Jun Lozada gets the Inquirer issue of this morning, May 7, and reads Mon's heckle depicting him as just a trying-hard "actor" (very similar to what some of his own colleagues were saying of Tulfo himself as he chose jail over giving up principle), Jun would hopefully just react with his own characteristic broadminded smile, take it as just another pain to be endured by anyone wh wants to be upright in this kind of society.

Taken together, the bravado of all columnists and commentators in the Philippines who hit mercilessly at much lower and weaker officials of the government may not even compare with the actual accomplishment of the very sharp TRUTH this mild-mannered DETAINEE had dared aim at a very powerful target, for the sake of the people. He was the one who had chosen the correct target, albeit a very dangerous one. Many other persons of weaker spine, including Lozada's own former friends, would just choose to be comfortable, convenient, and even richer. And Lozada's critics would just be so understanding of their "pragmatism" (read: opportunism).

Most of Lozada's quiet supporters don't write blogs or columns like Mon and I do. But they are out there, concerned about the force of logic and truth in relation to the logic of force of the powerful. They are, we are, getting educated by Lozada and others like him about the urgent imperative of building a culture of truth in this country. Indeed, not all are asleep or pretend to be asleep in these very dark days in our history. While some of us are even sleeping aloud!

Wake up, Mon!

Monday, May 4, 2009

“Bagumbayan” name is too heavily-loaded
for any politician’s party

We noticed in the last few weeks some news reports and full-page advertisements about a group carrying the name “Bagumbayan,” and we call the attention of the persons behind this group to the heavy historical load carried by the term Bagumbayan, a load too heavy to be borne by a political party being prepared to advance the electoral ambitions of any which politician.

“Bagumbayan” is a word that is historically identified with the martyrdom of Jose Rizal as well as of the three garroted priests Mariano Gomez, Jose Burgos and Jacinto Zamora, collectively known as “Gom-Bur-Za,” because they were all executed in the Bagumbayan field fronting Manila Bay . It is also historically identified with Andres Bonifacio who used it as part of his chosen penname “Agapito Bagumbayan” (supreme love for the new nation) that he used for his most powerful essay, “Ang Dapat Mabatid ng mga Tagalog.”

The protestation that the advertised “Bagumbayan group” espouses a deep sense of love for our country can never be enough justification for appropriating this name, especially as it prematurely identified itself with just a single presidential aspirant, whose track record for loving our country has been, at best, controversial. The name is deserved more by a group that can promote more than just love for the country, which anyone or any group can claim to harbor. It has to cover, as well, a clear program for really establishing a new nation through a comprehensive preparation of the citizens for culture-building and institution-building that would be based on a unified rational plan and synergized passions of the people themselves, without any temptation to simplistically get a certain politician or group of politicians elected to power. A campaign to have a “good candidate who loves the Philippines” elected to power does not relate at all to any new strategy which building a new nation actually needs; on the contrary, it is a worn-out approach that has failed to accomplish anything beyond the usual run of national elections that we have been having in this country for the past more than half century. It cannot possibly work even if the purpose of building a new nation were to be assumed as earnest.

Kamalaysayan (Kaisahan sa Kamalayan sa Kasaysayan), which I led in founding back in 1991, recently launched within the Katipunang DakiLahi para sa Pambansang Pagsasanib-Lakas network (DakiLahi) a localities-based movement-type formation that would mobilize and organize three distinct segments of the population grouped according to age-brackets with as many distinct appropriate roles. These would team-up in active stakeholdership for the full protection and full local utilization of the communities’ cultural, natural and economic resources, where the communities shall be able to build their own respective internal strengths to be contributed to synergies on the scope of clusters of communities and on the scope of the nation itself. For this to be achieved, mere “love for the country” can never be enough, especially if such is distorted to have the sense only of altruism and pure sentimentalism with no sense of active and effective stakeholdership.

DakiLahi network’s own Kapatirang Bagumbayan, which would draw in only the proven patriots of the well-rounded kind, would be willing to work with the well-advertised “Bagum­bayan Group” if the latter could prove to be earnest and responsible in carrying the name it had chosen for itself, especially by proving to us and to the people that its founding members really banded together upon an earnest intention and plan of action (for building a bagong bayan) way before choosing which politician to support and prematurely project well ahead of the election campaign period. The opposite just backfires; it also causes confusion, a gross disservice to the interests of Inang Bayan whom we all say we love.

Let us all honor our heroic heritage more seriously.