Sunday, April 25, 2010

Why I am Voting Joseph "Erap" Estrada

Joseph "Erap" Ejercito Estrada, the 13th President of the Philippine Republic. So unceremoniously deposed by the conspiracy of political opportunists, unpatriotic businessmen, misenlightened Church prelates, seditious military elements and stupid gullible mob during the January 2001 EDSA 2 "People  Power" coup.

Why vote for him in his renewed bid for the presidency  this coming May 10, 2010 elections? There are several very good historical, moral and practical reasons why I support him. In this evolving post in the countdown to election day, I explain my vote.

1. Erap is a Nationalist.

In September 2009 speech, Sen. Juan Ponce Enrile took to the Senate floor  in defense of the former President against the tirades of now-Senator-on-the-run-for-murder-raps Panfilo Lacson. In his  characterization of Estrada as a matter of personal privilege, he recounted the struggle of the nationalists, Estrada well included, in moving to terminate the protracted RP-US Military Bases Agreement.

Enrile describes Estrada as someone who has "proved to be a true nationalist," being part of the eleven other Senators who dared vote for the abrogation of the Bases Agreement. This came despite the strong lobbying done by the pro-Bases advocates, led by no less than President Corazon C. Aquino. The pro-Bases forces tried to push for the extension of United States military presence in the country, some 92 years after the Americans colonized the land and over four decades after the Bases Agreement was first forged. Estrada and the other anti-Bases senators were denounced as the "The Dirty Dozen" by those who had no sense to assert Filipino sovereignty; on the other, the progressive nationalist groups hailed them as "The Magnificent Twelve."

On April 19, 1988 during his 51st birthday, then-Sen. Joseph Estrada delivered his privilege speech for the abrogation of the U.S. Bases Agreement. Erap's words can still remembered today for its stirring and clarion call for the nation to muster its will and courage to assert its independence and take on the path of self-sufficiency:

Let this be our finest hour as we face the judgment of history. We have become so dependent on the Americans that we have not learned to be self-sufficient. Our country has been seen as a nation of beggars, a nation of prostitutes, a nation of cheaters, a nation of domestic helpers. And if we do not assert ourselves today, we will also be known as a nation of cowards. This I cannot accept and this, we must not accept.

The role of the 12 Anti-Bases senators in heeding the sovereign call for real Philippine independence free of the military presence of its former colonizers cannot be discounted. Prior to his vote, Erap even did his laudable part in the propaganda campaign to bring the issue to a people long bathed in colonial conditioning with the movie he produced himself, "Sa Kuko ng Agila. " Co-starring former Sen. Nikki Coseteng,  the movie took potshots at the American bases in anticipation of its scheduled expiration in 1991.

Estrada  obviously did not do the abrogation of the neo-colonial treaty himself. Even prior to the "Magnificent 12" senators, the likes of Claro M. Recto came before in the decades-long campaign against what was then the greatest symbol and tool of continuing neo-imperialist US influence in the country. However, Estrada's use of popular cinema--with his craft, charm and connection with the masses--undoubtedly proved an effectively tool that helped crystallize the cause of Anti-Bases movement in the masses' mind and ready the Filipinos for the historic change the true patriots and nationalists have long been aspiring and working for.

(To be continued....)


by Jesusa Bernardo

Images & References @ SOBRIETY for the PHILIPPINES

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Why Not Mothers First in Biographies?

EVER wondered why it is the case that in reading biographies of great and minor figures, the name of the father is almost always mentioned first than that of the mother? Not counting the cases of one of the parents being lopsidedly famous and powerful or influential over the other, the general trend has been that the father is almost always mentioned first. Notwithstanding if the father is a scum and it is the mother who served as major breadwinner. Even in the case of United States President Barack Obama whose father deserted them, his biographical page in the White House website cites his father first: “With a father from Kenya and a mother from Kansas, President Obama was born in Hawaii on August 4, 1961.”

Is such really the natural course to follow? Perhaps, because most human beings carry the surname of the father* it is deemed to be a most natural thing to mention the father first.  Or, maybe, it is thought that God of some patriarchal religion decrees it that way. Perhaps in the days of old when outdated thinking and stiff patriarchy ruled the world, citing the father’s name first was understandably standard operating procedure for historians and biographical writers. Today in a world enlightened by science and humanist philosophy, should fathers still come first?

If it is “natural,” we should abide by, is it not logical that the name of the mother–who carried the infant in her womb for 9 months and risked her life giving birth to the child–instead come first in the biographies of noted humans of this planet? Why should the father, whose paternity is not obvious or readily verifiable be mentioned first?

In the olden times when it was exclusively the men who eked out a living and financially supported the wife and child, such practice of crediting the paternal roots first over the maternal  can be justified. But even that is arguable from an objective, non-patriarchal viewpoint.

In the modern times when women also work, if not actually serve as the family’s main breadwinner, should it not be fair SOP to mention first the mother over the father. I mean, it is the woman, after all, who is the biological source of the child, notwithstanding the genetic contribution of the man. So long as there’s a (valid) witness to the pregnancy and the delivery, the fact of motherhood is always undeniable. It is the woman who suffers the discomfort and extreme pains of pregnancy/labor, and, usually, the responsibility of nurturing the child in the critical early stages of infancy. So why prioritize giving credit to the father whose paternity cannot be perfectly guaranteed unless the mother was under fool-proof eunuch-guarded house arrest for a few months before the estimated date of conception.

In the Philippines, there is a saying that "sigurado ka lang na apo mo ang isang bata kapag yung nanay ang anak mo" (the grandparents can only be certain that a grandchild is theirs if it is the mother who is their offspring). Indeed, the marriage of, say, a son to his wife will not guarantee that any grandchild such a union produces carries the grandparents’ genes. The context of the saying is, of course, the traditional setup where DNA paternal testing was not yet available. However, even such DNA testing does not provide 100% accurate confirmation of paternity. Unless, perhaps, the procedure is repeated multiple times.

I say it is high time that humankind flow with the biological and reverse the patriarchal viewpoint of biography writing. Let the naming of mothers come first before that of the fathers. Mothers not only deserve first credit for all their pregnancy woes but, also, such a practice should provide more accurate, biologically founded biographical information.

*At least one exception is Sweden, as a Swedish friend informed me that couples have the option of choosing which surname (the wife or the husband) they wish to legally carry.


by Jesusa Bernardo

Images & reference @ BLOG by Taga-Ilog News

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Dimensions of a Failed Election and What GMA Needs to Do

By Jun Bautista

As the May 10 elections near the failure of elections anxiety grows even stronger. This fear acquires special significance because for the first time in Philippine history the elections will be automated - at least on a nationwide basis, since we already had a taste of computerized polls during the ARMM elections. In this coming elections, however, the stakes are high as all positions, from president down to the councilor of the smallest municipality, will be voted for.

Failure of elections is not something new in our electoral lexicon. Losing candidates have at various times in the past utilized this as a legal tool to annul the proclamation of their rivals. More often than not, however, this legal argument has been met with disapprobation from the Supreme Court. The High Court has sustained this claim only in the clearest cases of electoral frauds.

Section 6 of the Omnibus Election Code identifies the instances under which the Commission on Elections (Comelec) can declare a failure of elections, which the Supreme Court in Soliva v. Comelec, G.R. No. 141723 (April 20, 2001) has enumerated in the following manner:

Section 6 of the Omnibus Election Code contemplates three instances when the COMELEC may declare a failure of election and call for the holding of a special election. First, when the election in any polling place has not been held on the date fixed on account of force majeure, violence, terrorism, fraud or other analogous cases. Second, when the election in any polling place had been suspended before the hour fixed by law for the closing of the voting. And third, after the voting and during the preparation and the transmission of the election returns or in the custody or canvass thereof, such election results in a failure to elect.
In the context of automated polls, many fear failure of elections with computers breaking down or not transmitting election results. The glitches experienced in the recent absentee voting in Hong Kong have only served to heighten this fear. In Roque v. Comelec, however, the Supreme Court dismissed this fear in denying the petition to declare the automation illegal. The Supreme Court said the automation law provides manual voting as a contingency measure in the event computers break down. The problem with this, however, is that if manual voting is resorted to in case of computer glitches, elections in affected precincts may take unusually longer and pass the closing of voting, especially so that precincts are now clustered with registered voters numbering as many as 1,000 in a precinct. Many voters will end up not being able to cast their votes.

Another scenario is the ever-looming threat of electoral fraud. Opponents of automation claim the resurgence of Garci-type cheating, wherein Comelec insiders will rig the PCOS machines by configuring them to make the favored candidates win. Inquirer columnist Amando Doronilla, however, refuses to accept this possibility in his February 16 article Who Will be the Evil Genius? According to him, there is none among the current presidential candidates (except perhaps Gilbert Teodoro via Pres. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo) who is in a position of authority to direct the manipulation by Comelec. Teodoro and Comelec chair Jose Melo, he says, would not do it. Doronilla argues that President Macapagal-Arroyo has clearly no need for this to further her congressional bid, considering her almost guaranteed victory among her town mates.

If elections fail - because of massive cheating or breakdown of voting machines or both - and the problem is not resolved before the term of office of the president and her constitutional successors ends on June 30, there would clearly be no one legally authorized to lead the country after this date. Since GMA would be the last person to hold the reins of power before the crisis begins, I would suppose she would stay at the helm in the mentime. Now, whether or not she will do so for good remains to be seen.

Although most GMA critics would conclude that she will take this opportunity to remain in power for good, I humbly believe otherwise. If GMA were to perpetuate herself in power she would certainly meet stiff opposition both domestically and internationally, not least of which is the US. With all the military exercises the US has been conducting in the Philippines and the millions of dollars it pours into them, the Philippines is still much within the radar of US global interests. With all its worries on terrorism, the need to check an ever expanding China, and an adventurous North Korea, the last thing the US needs is a failed or weakened Philippine state.

On the local front, a permanent GMA tenancy in Malacañang would elicit thunderous protests from the opposition and civil society groups. Coups are not farfetched. In short what will happen will be nothing short of a civil unrest; even worse, an uprising that could throw the whole country into a bloody revolution. This very gruesome scenario is something that will make Washington even more vigilant in preventing a Marcosian reprise by GMA. With all her faults, I don't think GMA is ready to take this dangerous path.

GMA can, however, do one last thing that will mark her legacy. She could remain in power - a sort of hold-over president - in the event of a failed election. But in doing so, she must assure the public that it will only be temporary until the elections are re-held and completed. By law, the Comelec is mandated to re-hold elections in the event of failure at the first instance. This would entail huge expense and effort, but this is the only way that chaos can be averted.

The alternative of her not staying and vacating office when no successor has been proclaimed and sworn would be more dangerous. Power grabbers from all stripes will try to outdo each other to succeed in power. There can be no illusion that this will happen peacefully. To be sure it will be a violent race to the top. On the other hand, if GMA were to hold-over, it will simply be a case of status quo. What will save the day is the assurance that she will give to the public that she will only be doing so to pave the way for a smooth transition of power.

Monday, April 5, 2010

Philippine Lent 2010 from the lens of a doubting patriot

I gave in to taking part in the Catholic Filipino tradition of “Visita Iglesia”, a form of penitence involving the visit to 14 (or lesser variations) Churches and the solemn prayer of  the Stations of the Cross in each stop. The Good Friday experience somewhere in the north comes not from the perspective of a religious devotee but, rather, from an open-to-religion nationalist student of history who can’t seem to let go of the blows Western colonialism dealt to the pride of her race, the indigenous people of the isles called the Philippines.

My group completed seven Catholic Churches, each of which was marked by purple drapes covering all the icons in the altar, chancel, nave and sometimes the narthex area of the temple interior. Not everything was covered, so I had the chance to marvel at the spiritually uplifting beauty of Christian architecture and dome painting and, in some instances when the karo slated for the Easter procession were already being prepared, even the icon sculpture. Beyond the artistic merits of Churches in the Philippines, my Visita Iglesia got me to contemplate on the role Christianity played in the colonial history of Filipinos and Filipinas.

The Catholic Church & Spanish Colonization of the Philippines

While most of the religious tour members prayed or read from the Stations of the Cross pamphlets at every church stop, I got myself to kneel and sit down on a pew. I engaged in a sort of meditation, true, but it was more of my mind drifting to the Spanish colonial times and wondering how the Christian religion factored in three centuries of subjugation of the peace-loving early Filipinos.

How could the Christ, a holy embodiment of sacrifice and martyrdom, have given rise to a religion propagated by forcible means of colonization, at least during the height of the Church's power? How is it that Christ’s name was used by the alien Spaniards in the colonial, unkind, unjust, even racist, control of the primarily Malay and Indones people of “Las Islas Filipinas” and the exploitation of their natural resources? Did not those Spaniards (and the Pope's Church for that matter) find it unchristian and blasphemous to advance their empire’s interest with the use in part of God’s name?

How about having used Filipino elites to control the masses, as well as the pitting of “indios” against fellow“indios” from different regions to maintain colonial dominion of the archipelago? How easy was it for those Spanish friars and government officials to gloss over the immoral, unholy incongruence of Christ’s teachings with colonialism? Nineteenth century propagandist hero Graciano Lopez Jaena perhaps gives an answer with his Fray Botod character --a fat and lecherous priest with a false piety that always had “the Virgin and God on his lips no matter how unjust and underhanded his acts are."

As I was looking at the pews lit by the stained-glass filtered sunlight, I imagined how some 200 or so years ago, pious, meek, more-or-less downtrodden brown-skinned Filipinos heard mass officiated by some friar who stood out both by way of his pale-skinned, chiseled-nose features and his power over the sea of “subjects” inhabiting his king’s territory-archipelago in the Southeast.

“Kandarapa” Good Friday Penitents

In between Church stops, our group was treated to what foreign tourists would describe as the “spectacle” of self-flagellating penitents. Virtually in all the routes leading to every church we visited, numerous mortifying half-naked, masked men did their thing. Those we caught lying prostate caused us some traffic delays.  Looking at their very bloody red backs, I initially thought they were “colored by some red dye applied to the whips because they just seemed so red and so rather profuse to be real, but real blood it was.

The penitents scourged themselves with whips (”burillos” supposedly tipped with sharp objects, such as bamboo splices) while in sort of processional route to a church. A few carried a cross but in all cases, the penitents seemed to have made periodic stops in which they laid more or less prostrate on the hot ground while some assistant(s) did the whipping of the back and even the legs using the penitents’ lash or some other whip.

Locals supposedly call the Good Friday penitents “kandarapa.” The mortification ritual is part of the kandarapa's “panata” or religious pledge, often made either in the bid to make God forgive or their sins or to ask for some difficult favor for themselves or some loved ones. The ritual serves as a reenactment of the passion of Jesus Christ while on the way to his crucifixion. The prostrate move, with arms outstretched and legs held straight together, symbolizes Christ's crucifixion on the cross.

The history of Lenten self-flagellation is uncertain but a commonly accepted version is that “Penitente are descendants of the Third Order of Saint Francis of Assisi,” with members who were basically lay people wanting to follow Christ’s teachings (or footsteps literally?). Spain brought the ritualistic practice to the Philippines and later, Filipino penitents supposedly compared their enactment of Christ’s Passion with the sufferings they endured under the abusive hands of the Spanish colonizers, specifically the friars and landlords.

Today, the Catholic Church in the Philippines makes it known that it officially disapproves of the practice of Lenten mortification, including the more extreme nailing to the cross mainly seen in the province of Pampanga. Makes me wonder whether the church ban in fact began during the colonial times when the practice the Spaniards themselves brought assumed the character of being a reflection of the injustice they wrought on the conquered natives of the land.

Colonizers Long Gone?

At the turn of the 19th century, the combined strength of local revolutionaries-transformed-into-Filipino soldiers and United States military forces drove the Spanish colonizers out of the country. American imperialist propaganda, however, made it appear that Spain "sold" its colony the Philippines to the US under the Treaty of Paris. The Philippine-American War ensued but the fledgling Philippine eaglets were no match for the colonizing bald eagle and the rest is mostly more unfortunate history.

Today, more than a century later, there are no more Spanish friars but only Filipino priests in the Southeast Asian archipelago. Although perhaps made not so obvious with its persisting colonial name of Philippines,* the country proclaims itself a wholly independent republic. How is it, therefore, that Lenten self-flagellation persists despite the Catholic Church's expressed disapproval? Could it be that vestiges of colonization remain in the former Spanish and American colony and that the self-flagellation ritual forms a way of showing to the Christian world the prevailing hypocrisy of the ruling elites, locals and otherwise, in their rule over the land?

*The Philippines was named after King Philip II (El Rey Felipe II), the reigning monarch during the time the archipelago was first settled/colonized by Spain. It was called Las Islas Filipinas and Philippine Islands during the Spanish and American colonial period, respectively.


by Jesusa Bernardo

Images & References at SOBRIETY for the PHILIPPINES