Thursday, May 28, 2009

What a country!

Another boat sank off the waters of Batangas, and twelve people are reported to have died. Another 42 have survived. On the basis of the arithmetic, Marina officials say the boat was overloaded, because it had registered capacity for only 42 passengers. Soon, when the victims shall have been buried, the issue of maritime safety will be forgotten. Months ago, another boat capsized off the waters of Calayan Island off Sta. Ana in Cagayan. I don’t even remember how many perished. The same reason was given by our maritime “safety” officials --- overloading plus big waves.

Each time a boat, a ferry, a ship capsizes, the Coast Guard and the Marina belatedly discover that these vessels were overloaded when they left their last port of call. It happens all the time, and we forget all the time. Worse, neither the executive nor the legislature seem to care, after the tears of surviving families have dried.

And we are all of 7107 islands, a piece of geography that all know. What a country!

* * *
The Foreign Correspondents Association of the Philippines (FOCAP) has asked the DND to look into reports that New York Times and International Herald Tribune correspondent Carlos Conde, who once headed the National Union of Journalists of the Philipines, is listed in a 2007 “order of battle” by the intelligence unit of the Philippine Army’s 10th Infantry Division in Southern Mindanao.

Journalists normally shrug off these lists, and in the time of Ferdinand Marcos, it was even a distinction of sorts if you were, kuno, listed in the OB. But with the spate of unresolved murders and killings of suspected activists and journalists in this country, FOCAP, and for that matter, the entire journalistic community, has reason to express fear and apprehension. Fact is, a Davao City peasant, Cesar Pojas was also on the same list, and he was shot dead in May last year.
Conde had bared last week that he found his name listed with more than 100 members of left-leaning groups in a document titled “JCICC ‘AGILA’ 3rd QTR 2007 OB VALIDATION RESULT,” said to be an intelligence paper from the Southern Mindanao Army division. FOCAP says there had been previous instances when members of the press were “unjustly associated with alleged enemies of the state while reporting on developing events in the country.”

What has happened to the “missing” Jonas Burgos, abducted by suspected military operatives more than two years ago? Only his mother Editha and our fellow opinion writer Ambassador Rey Arcilla keeps counting the days when Jonas unexpectedly disappeared, a case yet unexplained by police officers to this day. Whatever have happened to Sherlyn Cadapan and Rey Empeno? Only their parents seem to care, their tears never having dried up.

How many else are listed, perhaps “targeted”, in the order of battle? And whose order of battle? The Army? The ISAFP? The commander-in-chief’s? What a country.

* * *
People no longer care. They no longer get shocked by corruption most gross. They no longer feel rage at officials who wantonly do as they please, unmindful that they betray the public trust. All that matters is power and more money for the greedy, and all that matters for the rest of benighted humanity is survival. What a country, indeed!

* * *

Happiness is buying a lotto ticket, in the vain hope that one might hit the jackpot. Happiness is watching Wowowee, better to participate in contests that tend to humiliate one’s personal dignity, hoping to win a few thousands, or more. Happiness is getting a copy of the latest sex video of perverts like Hayden Kho and his bevy of bed partners.

Remember when some poll sometime listed Filipinos as among the “happiest people on earth”? In the lingua franca, we deride people whose pursuits constitute “mababaw ang kaligayahan”. But in a larger sense, because we cannot see beyond the tips of our noses, because we cannot appreciate the issues that affect our lives, our well-being and our future, we are all “mababaw ang kaligayahan”. The happiness index is so shallow. Never mind the quality of life, for as long as there is a Willie Revillame to regale us, and a cup of instant noodles to pass off the hunger pangs.

What a country!

* * *

Yet many still look at the elections of 2010 as “solution” to the kind of life we suffer in these benighted parts. We are enthused by 30-second television commercials, labeled “info-mercials”, as if we are informed by the inanity of slogans created by some advertising genius trying to conjure images of “matulungin”, “mabait”, “maawain”, and “madaling lapitan”, all those stupid benchmarks of leadership found by pollsters to be “desirable traits” to the Filipino voter.

Even former President Joseph Estrada, who won overwhelmingly in 1998 but was ousted by a coup in 2001 by his own chief of staff, now offers himself as that “solution”. He wants to run for president once more, despite the Constitutional edict against “any re-election”.

But, some of the same lawyers who advised him against allowing the “second envelope” to be opened at a critical juncture of the impeachment trial, thus breaking the floodgates for early political denouement, are now telling him that he is qualified to run despite what many in their profession consider an “open and shut” interpretation of the fundamental law. “Any re-election” means any, not an immediately succeeding re-election, and Fr. Joaquin Bernas dug up the records of the arguments of the constitutional commissioners to show the very clear intent of the framers.

UNO spokesman Adel Tamano, president of the Pamantasan ng Maynila and a lawyer himself, defends Erap against those who claim that the latter is no longer eligible to run once more. “Personally, I would much prefer a president who wins the support of the Filipino people despite what some claim as prohibitions to his candidacy than to have a president who is not prohibited from running but will cheat her way to the presidency,” Tamano said.

Come again, Adel? That is good rhetorical flourish, and I agree with you that our common bĂȘte noire cheated her way to the presidency, but isn’t that statement a non sequitur? Sure I would take Erap anytime against Gloria, but, does he qualify to be a candidate for another election? And pray tell, who will interpret the Constitution? The Supreme Court, by which time 13 of 15 justices shall be decidedly pro-Gloria, and the remaining two, who are clearly independent, are not likely to bend the law to favour Erap either. Unless, as I once wrote in this column (The Hamlet Act, Malaya, Jan. 8, 2009), a deal, a transaction, is unseemly brokered between the oh so forgiving Erap and the oh so fearful Gloria.

“The real issue that we Filipinos should be discussing about is not who is prohibited from running but rather what type of president do we need in 2010", the UNO spokesman declared.
Pray tell, Atty. Adel, in your heart of hearts, and against everyone else, do you really believe the former president is “the type … we need in 2010”? Yet, if the people of these benighted parts want to elect Erap once more after losing it and blowing his chance at greatness, what can we do, except to say, what a country!

* * *

Still, our common friend, former Senate President and former Ambassador to Washington D.C., columnist Ernesto Maceda reports: “Lawyer Adel Tamano has joined the camp of Sen. Manny Villar to the disappointment of Sen. Chiz Escudero who thought Adel was firmly for him.”

Sino ba talaga, Adel? Chiz, Erap, or Mr. Itik? Well, the “itik” lays golden eggs, perhaps. And loves to say, “who has the gold --- rules”.

Talaga nga naman. What a country!