Thursday, August 30, 2007

A Pundit Argues With Dead Soldiers

In The Pen Is Still Mightier Than The Sword Philippine Daily Innuendo's pundit Conrado de Quiros notices a sign put up by the grieving relatives and comrades-in-arms at a recent Fort Bonifacio wake for 13 young Marines slain in the successful capture of an Abu Sayyaf encampment in Basilan whilst trying trying to arrest beheaders of their fallen comrades in the July 10 ambush by the MILF that started the current round of fighting in Mindanao:
“It’s the soldier -- not the reporter -- who has given us the freedom of the press.

It’s the soldier -- not the poet -- who has given us the freedom of speech.

It’s the soldier -- not the politician -- who ensures that we live freely and peacefully.

It’s the soldier who salutes the flag, who serves beneath the flag, and whose coffin is eventually draped by the flag.”
Although I know Choy de Quiros to be an intellectual, he is not usually like some are--a heartless intellectual. But seeing as he has chosen to debunk the rude inscriptions we find above, on an intellectual level on his own turf, and there is no one to express what those who wrote the above inscriptions might have felt and thought in doing so, let Choy have a little tit for tat now. This Pen must joust with his own, because the Swords he disdains are yet grasped by cold, defenseless hands which though mute themselves may speak through this humble and perhaps unworthy blog.

He attacks the line about politicians by counterexample, pointing to Jose W. Diokno, Lorenzo Tanada, and Jovito Salonga as politicians that he says have done more than any general or foot soldier he knows to secure our peace and freedom. Well I suppose he never heard of General Gregorio del Pilar who fought the Spaniards and commanded many nameless foot soldiers that we today call the Katipuneros, which I suppose Choy never heard of either. And what of General Vicente Lukban who led the Samarnon foot soldiers of the Katipunan in its most victorious battle against the invading American Expeditionary Forces of Gen. Arthur MacArthur-- the Battle of Balangiga? Mr. de Quiros has apparently also not heard of General Vicente Lim, beheaded by Japanese invaders during World War II, whose body never even felt the warmth of the Philippine Flag draped over his never-found body. Nor I suppose, has he heard of the foot soldiers who fought in that War to liberate the politicians!

Next Mr. de Quiros suggests that "public school teachers" do more than soldiers in a "spiritual" way, saying, "The soldier only protects the nation’s body, the public school teacher protects the nation’s mind."

I think we should honor the contributions and sacrifices of both professions instead of making such fine distinctions as metaphysical as that between "body" and "mind" so as to somehow pit them one against the other. Notice that line 4 of the Soldier's Poem does not mention public school teachers at all. It only emphasizes the fact, that soldiers, unlike all other citizens, are duty-bound and most willingly so, to give the full measure of their beings, to lay down their very lives as a downpayment for the lives and freedoms of others. Moreover, if a soldier protects your body, he also protects your mind, which cannot live outside your brain. But if a teacher gives you homework, in order to improve your mind, they are not at risk of losing their own lives thereby, and there is absolutely no guarantee that by doing so usually from error-filled textbooks, that they have protected your body at all. Perhaps it has to do, again with the logical priority that proceeds from the phrase that defines liberty as our Right to Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness, necessarily in that order!

Mr. de Quiros however, reserves the bulk of his pen's mighty ink to violently disagree with Dead Soldiers Poem and their dumbstruck grieving kin, over their claims of priority over poets in preserving the freedom of speech, and over reporters (including pundits) in defending the freedom of the Press. He violently disagrees and is even insulted, he says, that such a claim would be made by mere body protectors. After all, he says that "scores of reporters who have been murdered who are not being given the kind of burial the soldiers are."

But the reason is crystal clear to most us, if not the Pundit, why those scores of reporters do not get the kind of burial that soldiers do. Reporters are true enough, murdered for using the Freedoms of Speech and of the Press, often enough to defend those rights. But even more often they are killed because they abuse those rights; or they double-cross the wrong sorts of clients; or they accept bribes to write favorable stories or unfavorable stories.
It is actually a rare reporter murdered because he was defending the Freedom of the Press as such, and not merely using (or abusing) that freedom.

But "the soldier" has no such choice in the purposes and uses to which his profession may be placed. When soldiers are ambushed, murdered and beheaded, as they were in Tipo-tipo, Basilan, and Maimbung, Sulu, by the MILF-MNLF-ASG-JI-AQ, they are not merely using freedom speech and of the Press, but literally defending all of our freedoms with their very lives.

As for poets we are even lower than Pundits and even more beholden to soldiers in that we actually take liberties with the Freedom of Speech and the Press, --har har! -- and only ever write and emote about their deaths!

It is but puny compared to your sacrifices -- you dead soldiers -- but this is my humble thanks to you all for this Life, for this Liberty, and for this supreme happiness -- to salute you!



upoytao said...

Hello DJB,

Here is my thoughts on De Quiros' column.

Shine on!


I have yet to react accordingly to what Conrado De Quiros' column on his observation on the huge sign nailed to a wall in Fort Bonifacio in the wake of the 13 soldiers killed in Basilan.

“It’s the soldier -- not the reporter -- who has given us the freedom of the press.

It’s the soldier -- not the poet -- who has given us the freedom of speech.

It’s the soldier -- not the politician -- who ensures that we live freely and peacefully.

It’s the soldier who salutes the flag, who serves beneath the flag, and whose coffin is eventually draped by the flag.”

While De Quiros' article stirs even kinder to what I am about to write I have to give my apologies first to the bereaved and the killed soldiers. Certainly you do not deserve those deaths as is everybody in that war you undertook. Pardon my observations and criticism for I believe that by writing this I may give more justice to your deaths.

Lets' start with the first tribute:

“It’s the soldier -- not the reporter -- who has given us the freedom of the press."

False... Outright false I have never seen or read a single soldier in my lifetime writing anything of the ordinary who has upheld the freedom of the press. They if anything else work only for the good of their company and agenda. Freedom of the press is bestowed by the constitution the soldiers' job is to uphold the constitution nevertheless they of all people are what seems to break it by supporting a false president at that and following a bloodthirsty trail of killings against reporters and freedom fighters.

So allow me to rewrite that statement:

“It’s the soldier -- not the reporter -- who has killed the freedom of the press."

Second tribute:

"It’s the soldier -- not the poet -- who has given us the freedom of speech."

Such a powerful statement... freedom of speech is a universal freedom, who gave them the right to protect it from ourselves or from anybody? Freedom of speech is synonymous to freedom of thinking. It is against human nature to prevent people from thinking their minds out or else give the military the right to safeguard it. For all I know it is them who have prevented this time and again. And the poet is the one who is always at the rescue of the soldier not the other way around. Poets define the world and its reality in the context of its freedom to express words according to how free his/her mind thinks and a poem is a manifestation of that genius not the soldier. Poets are the one who writes their hymns, their war songs, their inspirations and their propagandas. Poets are those soldiers who know how to love their motherland and spun tearful speeches for their aggrrieved loved ones. Poets are the soldiers of the written and un-written word.

So allow me to rewrite that statement:

"It’s the poet -- who's the soldier of the word -- who has given us the freedom of speech."

third tribute:

"It’s the soldier -- not the politician -- who ensures that we live freely and peacefully."

I don't know how soldiers define what a politician is, but all I know is that they have worked under them even if sometimes for the wrong reasons. So permit me to define what a politician is. A politician is voted by the people and with the will of the people passes laws and soldiers are bound to uphold them.
The people choose whom to be made as their leader and a politician is born from the people, it is therefore out of the question that the soldier work hand in hand to protect the people and the law passed by the politician. The work of a politician ergo is different from the work of the soldier for soldiers can never just ensure that we live "freely and peacefully" they can always do the opposite even without the help of the politician or the people. Remember martial law?

So allow me to rewrite that statement:

"It’s the soldier -- not the politician -- who ensures that we live freely and peacefully and sometimes the opposite."

Fourth and last tribute:

"It’s the soldier who salutes the flag, who serves beneath the flag, and whose coffin is eventually draped by the flag.”

I would like to give some points to consider before closing my arguments. The flag has been for many reasons used for different and countless occassions. And if by saluting to the flag one becomes emblazened to serve and protect ones' country then so be it but relegating that truth to just a few people handling guns and dying by it is just so disturbing. The flag for one is a symbol of the Filipino people. The flag is the symbol of what holds right, just and true to the country it represent. From it stems the rich history and culture of its race. Saluting to it means respecting its authority and living by it.But as for me I have never seen a flag being used arbitrarily and brazenly to jutify on stepping on the rights and freedoms of its constituents except to them who truthfully and deserves to be draped by that flag.

So again allow me to rewrite that statement:

"It’s the soldier who salutes the flag, who serves beneath the flag, and whose coffin is eventually draped by the flag because he/she justly deserves so.”

Now don't get me wrong soldiers are there to protect us and fight for us, such is their profession. But using that profession to bring this country backward is a clear insult for the people who died in their ranks and are continually dying to move this country forward. It is my sole prayer that this military see the outsome of their actions.

I am not against fighting for their comrades who were beheaded I was even one of the angrier one's to rant about it but to use a dead soldier in battle to justify the existence of a corrupt military is just abominable. They are not just doing disservice to the people they serve but also to the people who died fighting for them. I have great respect for our soldiers but I have not a dime happy about the state of our military and our government much less something as arrogant as attacking Mindanao who'm is about to celebrate its beloved Ramadan.

But as I always say and believe; "Not all soldiers are corrupt, and not all Muslims are Abu Sayyafs."

Let Us Stop the Killings... Before It's too late...

Let them celebrate their Ramadan...

blackshama said...

This just shows how bad our education on civics is. Paging DepEd!

In the US every citizen knows that their liberties are guaranteed by the US constitution.

It is the CONSTITUTION that has given us all these freedoms. These freedoms were wrested from the King in ages past starting with John in Runnymede to our very own colonizers. Thus today in a republic we may consider the CONSTITUTION as our sovereign.

Soldiers are sworn to defend the CONSTITUTION by force of arms. We civvies are just obliged to live the CONSTITUTION.

Of course the price of such defence may be draped with the flag. But that is what soldiers do. If the Philippines is invaded by a foreign power, civvies like you and me may have to wear the uniform and be draped with the flag.

That is the cost of living the CONSTITUTION.

DJB Rizalist said...

There are two levels at which we can analyze the Soldiers' Poem: literal and literary.

I've tried to defend it primarily at the level both CDQ and Upoytao have attacked it: the literal.

But Blackshama's comment made me realize the power of the poem lies not in its literal meaning but its poetic level, which we can access by asking this question:

WHY would they write stuff that can so easily be attacked on the literal level.

I believe upoytao and cdq both express genuine surprise and rise immediately to contradict a claim like the soldier defends freedom of speech more than reporters.

I said earlier it was because the reporters are merely users of what the soldiers do not use and make a living of off, yet they lay down their lives to protect the Constitution from which such freedom flows.

But there is a deeper meaning to it.

They are saying something like this because they think reporters and journalists do not appreciate that very fact, that reporters and jounalists like de quiros attack them, even when they are ready to die for freedom of speech.

So I will rephrase:

It is soldiers who die for what reporters and journalists only make a living at whilst attacking soldiers for obeying the Constitution.

It is in short a PROTEST POEM from dead soldiers painfully but proudly complaining that reporters, politicians and even poets, often do not appreciate their sacrifices or their heroism, for none of these others are themselves at any real risk of having to defend the freedoms they so cherish, unless the soldiers themselves become derelict in their duty.

I think a defense of the constitution necessarily implies a defense of its defenders, especially those whose job it is die for the Constitution if need be.

Reporters, politicians and poets can all LEGALLY avoid the battlefields whilst taking potshots at those taking real sniper shots to the head.

If they tried to live and work like that, they get courtmartialed.

Defense is the soldiers work, attack and collect, defend and collect is what LOTS of reporters do, whilst pretending to be poets.

Amadeo said...

I am of the belief that the critics to the sign miss the bigger realities in the world.

Though I grant that from a lofty perch and in a perfect world scenario, most of their arguments would be right and spot on.

But unfortunately in this world we live in, things happen a little differently. Thus, whatever liberties or freedom enjoyed by the people in any free or democratic society at present were won mostly through violent confrontations and/or wars engaged in by people in uniform, and for which many of their numbers made the ultimate sacrifice. And to this day, whatever uneasy truce there is in the world, and where these hard-won liberties are still accommodated, continues to be fought for and maintained by these same people in uniform.

It saddens me to add that in the Philippine context, the intellectual "elite" which populates sectors of academia and media, and maybe even in the Philippine blogosphere, does not think much or kindly enough of the Filipino in uniform. Maybe the typical Filipino soldier is too "masa" (or maybe more appropriately, not middle-class enough) and thus not cerebral enough?

But this puzzles me, too. Because, many local bloggers, for example, would raise arms (btw, just keyboard strokes and a little time, and not weapons) to go to bat for the "masa" as the recent Malu Fernandez has shown. Yet have shown quite unanimous harsh criticisms with the local TV shows that at most times bend backward to accommodate masa tastes and affectations, both domestically and internationally (for OFWs and expats); and one such glaring example is the negative prose routinely heaped on the daily show WoWoWee.

pian said...

I know this to be out of place. Please bear with me. I just want to create awareness by choosing the busy forum or the latest.
Do consider Dr. Martin Bautista for the next elections obviously (a senatorial candidate of ‘Ang Kapatiran’ together with Adrian Sison and Zosimo Paredes). He’s a 44-year-old gastroenterologist in the US who came home after 17 years. You can see from his background that he truly means service. For those who find him to be a hypocrite for working abroad, do understand he’s a family man who needs to sustain his family, that he will be able to keep his independence by not relying on public funds to support his family. He helps his countrymen in his capacity but it’s just not enough for there are millions of Filipinos. It’s a good start in Philippine Politics to have him and his party around.
I urge you to forward/text/inform all your contacts about them. I believe they only lack exposure that’s why I’m doing this. But I can’t do it alone so I’m appealing to everyone’s help. If all will inform their contacts about them and urge them as well to forward, we might hit a million.
We cannot afford to be indifferent now if we want meaningful change. Otherwise we only have ourselves to blame. BUT TOGETHER WE CAN MAKE A DIFFERENCE.

DJB Rizalist said...

A warm welcome to Philippine Commentary, Pian.

I saw this too in other blogs. I hope your friends will speak out on current events.

blackshama said...

I am an Army brat and I can say from first hand experience what the life of a soldier is. There is truth to the saying that a soldier's wife and children are soldiers too. Sionil-Jose also correctly says that most of our officer corps come from the lower classes.

The ironic thing is that the rights that most citizens take for granted are curtailed for soldiers. Examples are freedom of expression, association and even the right to marry are limited. My father had to ask his commanding officer for permission to marry the woman he loved.

But when the soldier takes the oath (which all people in public service do) that says we support and defend the Constitution of the Republic of the Philippines, he/she does this without mental reservation or evasion.

That's why my father drilled into his children the duty of supporting and defending the constitution from which our liberties are guaranteed.

I remember that even in the Marcos years, my dad always said that these liberties are not given by Mr Marcos, the courts and obviously not by the military, but by the constitution he was sworn to defend.

I hope the parents, family, spouses of the fallen soldiers understand that despite the pain of grieving. Our politicians have forgotten. That's why I have nothing but contempt for people in the Palace, Halls of Congress who subvert the very constitution they have sworn to protect.

BTW the Constitution lists the obligations of our citizens and one of them is to render military service if need be. This should be brought up to media's attention.

And that's another reason why I have nothing but disgust about the present leadership's lack of attention for reservists and the ROTC program.

domingo said...


The Filipino Soldier, the Filipino poet, and the Filipino politician are all citizens of the Philippines. They are all entitled to the protection of the Republic of the Philippines and, in return, they all owe the Republic the reciprocal duty and obligation of obedience and allegiance.

Thus, every Filipino citizen--not just the Soldier, the poet nor the politician--is obligated to defend and preserve the Constitution of the Republic.

And to paraphrase Judge Learned Hand in The Spirit of Liberty (1944), obedience and allegiance to the Republic--in time of war and in peace--"lies in the hearts of men and women; when it dies there, no constitution, no law, no court can save it; no constitution, no law, no court can even do much to help it."

We should honor and salute all those who have fallen in response to that Call to Duty--the Soldier, the poet, the politician, and the nameless other Filipinos.

DJB Rizalist said...

I sure wish that's what conrad had said. Right on!

Jego said...

Well said, DJB. CDQ's piece was a tad pedantic in the wrong way.

Minor persnickety bit: It is the CONSTITUTION that has given us all these freedoms.

The Constitutions, of both the US and the Philippines, did not give us these rights. These rights are ours inherently. They are inalienable. The Founding Fathers of the American Revolution recognized that these rights come from 'the laws of Nature' and 'Nature's God'. The Constitution only recognizes these inalienable rights. If memory serves, there was a debate about including a Bill or Rights in the US Constitution since those allied with Jefferson (check me on this please) argued that since these rights are universal and inherent, there is no need to put them on paper.

cvj said...

hmmm...for some reason, i feel alluded to.

DJB Rizalist said...

hi cvj. i am sure you will raise the level of our discussions as you do in all fora. welcome,.

cvj said...

Thanks DJB, i don't think it has to be an either/or situation where we have to argue whether it's the soldier or the reporter/politician/poet who guarantees these rights. It's like that old joke about which part of the body is the most important. We all know the punchline to that. As in that old joke, all it takes is for one of the above parties to act like an asshole.

DJB Rizalist said...

Nobody here but us aristocrats.

But I've heard they'll be sending Komiks to the troops soon. Talk about raising the level of the discourse, eh?

upoytao said...

“It’s the soldier -- not the reporter -- who has given us the freedom of the press.

It’s the soldier -- not the poet -- who has given us the freedom of speech.

It’s the soldier -- not the politician -- who ensures that we live freely and peacefully.

It’s the soldier who salutes the flag, who serves beneath the flag, and whose coffin is eventually draped by the flag.”


Again let us read on the above, what would one interpret of it? I mean literarily? Perhaps poetically?

DJB interprets it or merely a part of it as

"It is soldiers who die for what reporters and journalists only make a living at whilst attacking soldiers for obeying the Constitution."

As for my poetic interpretation coupled with logic reasoning or whatever one may call that permit me to ask a question however on why would a reporter or a journalist even attack a soldier? Or how does DJB define attack per se?

Did they desecrate them, or blindfolded them and summarilly murder them? the only weapon they can use whether poetically or literarily is the sword of the pen and I really don't see the point of making that statement "attacking soldiers" by DJB.

Correct me if I'm wrong but again does attacking journalists and randomly killing and harrassing activists equitable to "obeying the constitution?"

When does an activist or a journalist in the middle of being tortured attack a soldier? It is this that boggles me for as far as I'm concerned there is no amount of neither literary or literal definition of that ordeal to be suffered under the hands of the "constitution fighter"

Until now there is no anti-torture law, and most of the torture or murdered victims are brought about by the military while carrying their God-given duty of protecting the constitution.

I can even stomach the idea that it is a "PROTEST POEM" by them dead soldiers against reporters, politicians and even poets.

But the question is who are the soldiers protesting against? The reporters who write because they are being indiscriminately murdered and the government can't give them the protection they want?

And where did the idea of "reporters, politicians and even poets, often do not appreciate their sacrifices or their heroism, for none of these others are themselves at any real risk of having to defend the freedoms they so cherish, unless the soldiers themselves become derelict in their duty." came from?

Is being critical of a system that is corrupt and murderous meant not being able to appreciate their heroism?

Now on the question of "WHY would they write stuff that can so easily be attacked on the literal level."

By just being able to digest de-constructively a statement in the literal sense does not merit giving that option that perhaps they wrote it in the poetic level.

That is where I honestly at a loss for DJB's logic.

For all we know they wrote it as literal, only they could know for sure. It is like trying to interpret the bible and opening up more questions than answers.

Their statement as I see it can also be interpreted as being not open to attacks. Perhaps they wrote it as it is as they see fit and as arrogant as most of them are towards the people they "matter-of-factly" torture and dispose of any chance they get.

Therefore the whole argument of DJB all boils down to personal opinion and interpretation and if DJB feels that it should be interpreted as such then it should be interpreted as such. he left no room for any discussion as could be compared to a decree of a 13th century Roman Catholic Pope.

Please don't get me wrong I admire them and their valor but please let us afford them the righteousness of their deaths by not using them as a smokescreen for the misdeeds of their organization.

I know for a fact that they are just following orders and whatever that may be may it be good or bad as long as it comes from the top that's how it usually works isn't it?

anyway thanks for sharing your thoughts.

Shine on!

DJB Rizalist said...


My intellectual head of reason and logic says that you and Conrad are right, and that in my normal mode of legal and political analysis, I would have to defend your position!

But my heart rebels even if what the soldiers say is wrong at the intellectual level. Why?

Because the heart has reasons that reason knows nothing of!

Tiki said...

But you are also talking about a military where several generals have been accused of not providing any material for combat soldiers, to the point that soldiers are not even receiving boots or even adequate rations. It is the same military that receives surplus equipment from the U.S. and other countries, even as the Philippines is one of the most loyal supporters of the U.S. You are also talking about a military that is using some of its best units against what amounts to be a poorly equipped rag-tag group. Finally, recent reports are looking at flaws like SOPs not being followed, faulty equipment, etc.

It is highly likely that casualties could have been minimised had these problems been addressed. Instead, we have this sign.

DJB Rizalist said...

You blame the generals, the US, the logistics, the poor eqpt, the flawed SOPs.

But casualties could really have been minimized if the MILF didn't ambush the Marines who were looking for Fr. Bossi. Maybe they were hiding him or protecting the beheaders who were.

Why not blame the killers and savage headhunters that did the heinous crimes?