Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Streams of Thought Again

Here's another bunch of ideas running in my head due to excessive exposure to the late-night news.
Same Old, Same Old. Exactly 21 years have passed since the infamous Mendiola Massacre that left at least 13 farmers dead from anti-riot police gunfire. And yet, nothing has changed -- except for the people in power. Or so I think.

Farmers are still pushing for genuine agrarian reform. Police are still trigger-happy. Put these two groups together in one place -- chaos ensues.

I pity these poor farmers who almost break their backs to till land that is not theirs. Up to now, it still has to sink in their minds that there is no such thing as genuine agrarian reform. Not in the Philippines, not anywhere.

For as long as our legislators and leaders are dominated by the landed elite, these people from the grassroots will simply wither away and still not achieve what they have long dreamt of: a land they can call their own.

A Question of Ethics. The recent Manila Pen siege has really brought out the worst in the Philippine Armed Forces. Not only were they exposed for their ineptitude and over-agressiveness in securing a small band of disillusioned military officers: their major faux pas was also seen on national and global TV and splashed over the pages of all major dailies.

It's no small wonder that they decided to turn the heat on journalists covering the event by detaining mediamen for several hours.

Now, the military top brass are threatening journalists that if ever the latter decides to "intervene" in future military operations, then they will not hesitate to round up these media people -- again.

Of course, the media is screaming bloody murder over the whole thing.

Isn't it enough that the military has already been tagged several times for extra-judicial killings of mediamen in the recent past?

Perhaps these officers in the military, including Department of Justice Head Raul Gonzales (a favorite of mine from the Arroyo administration -- not), may have forgotten the Bill of Rights in the 1987 Philippine Constitution. Article III, Section 4 of the Constitution specifically states: "No law shall be passed abridging the freedom of speech, of expression, or of the press, or the right of the people peaceably to assemble and petition the government for redress of grievances." (Geez, I will always have Atty. Victor Avecilla -- my former teacher of Law in Mass Media -- to thank for literally tattooing this particular law in my mind.)

Or maybe the AFP just doesn't understand the meaning of the word, "abridge."

On the other hand, there is also an ethical dilemma present in this situation regarding military operations. More specifically, it borders on the age-old clash between effective insurgency operations and the right of the people to know. For example, the military intends to launch an attack on an Abu Sayyaf stronghold, and details of this are kept in confidential documents. If a journalist either gets a hand on these said documents, or tails the military -- complete with camera crew -- all the way to the venue in question and catches live on camera the said offensive, then the military's cover is blown. Those Abu Sayyaf members who manage to lock in on the news can easily escape before any harm is done to them. At the end of the day, the planned military offensive becomes a failure, all because of over-eager media people trying to get ahead on the latest scoop.

Another former teacher of mine, Atty. Romeo Candazo, taught us in our Media Ethics class that journalists conform to a strict code of ethics. However, when an ethical dilemma like this comes about, one question must be answered: "Will your action prove beneficial to the majority, or only to a chosen few?" Actions based on their potential beneficial effects on the majority should be the ones undertaken. It is the benefit of the majority that has to be upheld, no matter what kind of ethical dilemmas are posed.

This only goes to show that the military's decision to deter journalists from military operations are not at all that spaced-out. Or maybe just a little.

Destabilization Plots. Still on military boo-boos, these guys are getting all paranoid again, saying that there are recent reports of destabilization plots against the Arroyo govovernment.

They can't even provide solid evidence to prove their paranoia.

Honestly, who wouldn't want to go against this present administration? A lot of Filipinos are still going hungry while these well-heeled people in Malacañang are celebrating over the strong performance of the Philippine peso over the dollar.

Geez, these people are talking about statistics, while there's still no food on the Filipino family's table.

If statistics can only be eaten...

Cat Murder. Okay, so I'm a little delayed in making a ruckus out of this news article (see GMA's Saksi video here) that happened during the early part of January. More than 20 cats -- all former strays -- living in a shelter inside the posh Dasmariñas Village in Makati were found killed inside their cages early one morning. Autopsy reports on the dead cats showed that they were gunned down using a pellet gun. Thank God, eight of them managed to survive the massacre.

The last I heard about this incident, the suspected gunman is the shelter caretaker. Probably sick and tired of cleaning cat poo and pee, this guy decided to end his suffering by using the poor cats as target practice.

Of course, animal welfare groups are up in arms over this gruesome incident. Even the residents of the village were concerned -- but not much for the cats but for themselves. According to them, if this cat-killer has the guts to do such a thing to caged animals, then what will keep him from killing people next?

Talk about false concern. In this case, I'd rather have them placed in the cat cages instead of the cats.

Whenever I encounter stories like the Makati cat massacre, I would sometimes think of the concepts of karma and reincarnation. If ever these are really true, I wish that perpetrators of cruelty to these gentle animals would eventually die and turn into the very same animals they were cruel to in their next lives. And I hope the very same pain and torture that they inflicted in their past life would also be inflicted on them.

This cruelty to animals is no longer new to us human beings. In the provinces, cats and dogs are being skinned alive and eaten. Roosters are pitted in cockpits to fight to the death. Pigs are brought to the slaughterhouse in the most inhumane way -- tied down in groups and hung at the back of a motorcycle, placed in a sack and thrown inside the baggage compartment of a bus, etc. Unfortunate dolphins that get caught in fishermens' nets end up sliced up and sold in the wet market. And we just turn a blind eye to these occurrences as if nothing happened.

No amount of information dissemination can take away the innate cruelty of some humans.

Pit Señor Sto. Niño! Cebu City was dressed up to the nines and turned into one big party place last Sunday, thanks to the celebration of the Sinulog Festival, held in honor of the said city's patron, the Sr. Sto. Niño.

This was my second time to watch the Sinulog, and this time I watched it from a very strategic vantage point: my TV in the comfort of my room.

Last year, I was still very new in Cebu and eager to see how Cebuanos party. Thus, I braved the crowds with an officemate and we trekked the long stretch of road where the grand parade was held.

While the dance steps are not that new to me (I half-hail [Is there such a word? LOL!] from Tanauan, Leyte where we have our own Pasaka Festival in honor of Our Lady of the Assumption.), I was astounded by the sheer number of contingents and their elaborate costumes.

And yes, I was also astounded by the sheer heat of the sun and the difficulty to get a ride home. But it was an experience not to be missed, so no regrets -- only lessons to be learned.

That's why this year, I just watched the Sinulog on TV.

Of course, the experience is not as exhilarating as watching the real thing -- but at least I got to see most, if not all of the contingents strutting their stuff in the Cebu City Sports Center.

However, for some strange reason, every time I see the TV footage of the Sinulog, I couldn't help but shed a tear or two. I dunno: I guess I'm just moved to tears by seeing the true beauty and richness of Philippine culture through these magnificent dancers. Or maybe I just remember my daughter when she took part in our Pasaka Festival three years ago. Whatever it is, my tears are tears of pride -- pride in the Filipino.

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