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Home to roost

The United States is in crisis, and it isn’t only because of the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic that has killed half a million Americans. Neither is it due to the threat of the foreign terrorist networks that for decades has vexed every US administration. It is because of the very real danger of terrorism from home-grown extremist groups, of which the Jan. 6 attack on the US Congress could only be the beginning.

Reinventing EDSA

The 35th anniversary of the 1986 civilian-military mutiny known as EDSA I — or as its participant-adherents then called it, the People Power Revolution — that overthrew the Ferdinand Marcos dictatorship and forced him and his family to flee to Hawaii, USA came and went this year with hardly anyone noticing.

Democracy in retreat

Democracy is either in retreat or has disappeared altogether in many parts of the world. The Feb. 1 military coup in Myanmar is only one of the many instances that validate that conclusion.

Uncivil wars

The “uncivil war” President Joseph Biden wants to end has a counterpart in the Philippines. But while the barbaric war in the latter has been going on for five years with no end in sight, that in the US has entered a second, though equally troubling phase.

It isn’t just ‘academic’

To the list of human rights lawyers and defenders; political and social activists; research and media organizations; reformist officials in government; independent journalists; Lumad leaders and school teachers; teachers’ groups; and farmers’, workers’, and student leaders whom they have labeled as either guerrillas of the New People’s Army (NPA), members and supporters of the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) and/or of the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP), or as recruiters for the NPA, the Duterte regime and its loyalist military have added universities and colleges.

Counterproductive

It was then Defense Secretary Fidel V. Ramos who signed for the government the 1989 agreement that the Department of National Defense (DND) rescinded last week prohibiting the police and military from entering University of the Philippines (UP) constituent universities without the consent of their officials.

The Undead

As fact-resistant as some Filipinos are, there is at least one issue about which they have been consistent. In one survey after another, 75 to 80% of them have repeatedly opposed amending the 1987 “People Power” Constitution. Many are unfamiliar with that document. But others are against amending it because they believe proponents for its change will use it to keep themselves in power.

Trump’s triumph

With only a little exaggeration did some analysts call it an insurrection — an attempt to overthrow the US government.

Preparing for 2022

May 2022 is all of 17 months away, but the politicians are acting as if the elections then were about to take place tomorrow.

Against the Cult of Cheer

The advent of a new year and the end of the old should be an occasion for assessing what has gone before as well as for looking into what could happen in the next. But the second task is more difficult than the first for being the opportunity for the usual cheer mongers to once more predict that despite its foundations in yesterday, tomorrow will inevitably be better for everyone.

Back to the Fifties

Whenever President Rodrigo Duterte’s military and police minions or he himself “red-tags” — or, as it was known in the 1950s, red-baits — a women’s organization, a journalists’ union, or any other group that dares criticize the regime, they inevitably label it a “legal front” of the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) and/or the New People’s Army (NPA).

Dangerous UP

The University of the Philippines (UP) has been in the news lately. But it is not only because its graduates’ have been topping one licensure exam after another and its rising to 69th place from 71st among the world’s best 500 universities. It is also because of the threat to defund it and its being red-baited by no less than the President of the Philippines.

Government by confusion

It was the students of the Ateneo de Manila University (ADMU) who had declared an academic strike — they won’t attend online classes and neither would they submit course requirements — in protest against what they saw as government’s inept response to the disaster wrought by typhoon Ulysses. But it was the University of the Philippines (UP) President Rodrigo Duterte threatened to defund and at the same time accused of “doing nothing except recruit communists.”

Ulysses is another wake-up call

The fourth in the month of November, Typhoon Ulysses was aptly named. Like the hero of Homer’s Odyssey, it meandered through a vast expanse of land and sea. Its broad rain band deluged almost a third of the Philippine archipelago, and as it crossed Luzon its winds destroyed crops and left entire provinces and regions in ruins, while the floods its waters brought cost thousands their homes and belongings and even took the lives of, at the latest count, 73 Filipinos.

Crisis watch

Some Filipinos were rightly on tenterhooks over the United States of America’s 2020 presidential elections, but for the wrong reasons. Some were rooting for Joseph R. Biden, Jr. and others for Donald Trump. While it does matter, it is not so much who prevails in that contest, but how the most contentious US elections in decades are resolved that should really most concern the people of this country and those of the rest of the world. Because of Trump and the Republican Party, a crisis could develop in the US in the coming months that could have far-reaching consequences on the entire planet.

At cross-purposes with itself

In 2016, then candidate Rodrigo Duterte promised to end corruption. That promise echoed that of his predecessor’s, Benigno Aquino III, whose 2010 campaign catchphrase was “Kung walang corrupt walang mahirap” (Without corruption, there would be no poverty).

Unreason as norm

Although already all-powerful by 1972, Ferdinand Marcos still delivered his public statements with care. Only rarely did he allow his temper to break through his carefully contrived image as articulate, civilized and reasonable.

Surveys and the fear factor

The results of the September 2020 Ulat ng Bayan (literally, the People’s Report) survey of Pulse Asia released on Oct. 8 surprised — and, said one of their fellow political observers, even “appalled” — some of the polling firm’s own executives. Indeed, in response to the skepticism of those citizens aware of, and deeply concerned over the gross incompetence and corruption rampant in government, at least two of the latter went out of their way to try to explain what could have led to the unbelievably high approval and trust ratings of President Rodrigo Duterte and his administration.

Threats, empty and otherwise

It doesn’t take much imagination to picture some of President Rodrigo Duterte’s officials shaking their heads or slapping their foreheads and muttering “why on earth did he say that?” when their boss of bosses blurts out something patently absurd, incoherent, or completely off during one of his late night television appearances. After all, not every last one of them is a dolt, an incompetent, and an imbecile, or a retired police and military man. One was in a previous life even a human rights defender and a passable academic.

A cruel irony

Could Senator Leila de Lima be right? Was President Rodrigo Duterte’s speech as “plastic and (as) fake as the dolomite beach”? Did he not really mean what he said?

Abetting the information crisis

Despite the people’s Constitutionally protected right to information, the Office of the Ombudsman has issued a memorandum restricting access to the Statements of Assets, Liabilities and Net Worth (SALNs) of the officials that are in its custody, among them that of the President.

Legitimizing tyranny

As if to mock not only the country and the people Ferdinand Marcos and his civilian and military thugs pillaged and victimized but also the very same government of which they’re supposed to be a part, the House of Representatives passed a bill declaring Sept. 11, 2020 as “President Ferdinand Edralin Marcos Day” in Ilocos Norte to mark the 103rd birth anniversary of the late dictator.

Deadly serious

The call for a “revolutionary government” by the pompously named Mayor Rodrigo Roa Duterte National Executive Coordinating Committee may seem absurd and cluelessly sophomoric, but it is not just the joke some observers have described it to be. It is a deadly serious threat, as both the Integrated Bar of the Philippines and the Philippine Bar Association have warned, for espousing which, some lawyers have argued, the instigators should be charged with inciting to sedition.

Health watch

Department of Interior and Local Governments (DILG) Secretary Eduardo Año once again tested positive for COVID-19 less than two weeks ago. That development naturally led to questions on whether other members of the Cabinet, but most especially President Rodrigo Duterte, have also contracted the infection.

Government by improvisation

When made public, Resolution No. 62 of the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF-MEID) provoked the curiosity and, worse, the skepticism of  Netizens in social media. Few saw the need for it and attributed it to the sinister plot of further extending the reach of the already vast powers of the Duterte regime.

Breakdowns

As the number of the infected swells and threatens to overwhelm the healthcare system, the country’s medical frontliners have wisely called for the reassessment and reform of what passes for the Duterte regime’s anti-COVID-19 strategy. But they did not include in their proposals the need to address the possibility that we may also be in the middle of a mental health crisis that will quite possibly have a long-term impact on Philippine society. The physical and mental well-being of its people is after all among a nation’s chief assets, since only mentally healthy citizens can function as productive and responsible members of the community.

Post-Lenten Calvary

As ardently observed as Christmas in these Catholic isles, Lent was all of four months ago, but ABS-CBN broadcaster and former Philippine Vice-President Noli De Castro recently described what his network is currently going through as a “calvary.”

Dismantling the oligarchy

An oligarchy is governed by a few families and individuals. While wealth is indeed among its members’ more obvious attributes, wealth alone does not make an oligarch. The capacity to influence or control government and governance does.

Decline — and fall?

As in many other countries reeling from the impact of the COVID-19 contagion, a wave of pessimism, fear, and hopelessness is sweeping vast sectors of the population of the United States of America. With over three million afflicted and the death toll rising to some 136,000 during the week of July 8 to 15, the number of COVID-19 cases in the US is way ahead of that of every country on the planet, including Third World countries with substandard healthcare systems. The pandemic has provoked analysts into taking a hard look at why the richest country in the world has fallen on such terrible times.

Philippine education in crisis

More than 9 million students in both private and public schools had enrolled online for schoolyear 2020-2021 as the month of June ended. The resumption of K-12 classes is scheduled for Aug. 24 this year, hence the Department of Education’s (DepEd) reserving the entire month of June for registration, and later extending it till July.

The other pandemic

The United States marks on July 4 its 244th year of independence. But is it a “failing” or even “failed” state? At least two distinguished US authors think so.

A verdict against the right to know

Unless reversed by a higher court, the conviction for cyber libel of Rappler’s Maria Ressa and its former researcher Reynaldo Santos, Jr. will further shrink not only the democratic space for free expression and press freedom but also the people’s right to be informed on matters relevant to their lives as citizens and as human beings.

Heroes all

It seems hardly necessary to recall the continuing relevance of the life and writings of Jose P. Rizal, whose 159th birth anniversary the country should be marking today with greater urgency.

Independence Day 2020

With no hint of irony did Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin, Jr. declare on June 3, or a scant nine days before this year’s anniversary of Philippine independence, that the regime he’s been so faithfully serving has decided to suspend the termination of the country’s Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) with the United States. He said this decision by President Rodrigo Duterte was due to the COVID-19 pandemic and “heightened superpower tensions.”

Insensitive

Many described it as “insensitive,” which is just another word for callous, inconsiderate, indifferent, uncaring, thoughtless, and even heartless.

The ABS-CBN shutdown and democracy

Communication academics, media advocacy groups, human rights defenders, journalists’ organizations, artists and other professionals, and even some congressmen and senators have condemned the shutdown of ABS-CBN.

The ‘new normal’ anomaly

The Philippine government has eased restrictions on people’s movement and allowed the operation of some businesses in Metro Manila, Cebu City, and Laguna by putting these areas under what it calls a modified Enhanced Community Quarantine (MECQ). Some provinces that used to be under ECQ (enhanced community quarantine) have been placed under General Community Quarantine (GCQ).

Information lockdown

Mixed reactions have met the National Telecommunications Commission’s “cease and desist” order stopping the operations of television and radio network ABS-CBN.

The use of force

THE American writer William Carlos Williams (1883-1963) was also a lifelong doctor of medicine. In one of his short stories, “The Use of Force,” the narrator-physician recalls making a house call to check on a little girl who, her parents suspect, has caught diphtheria during an outbreak of that disease among children.

In capable hands

If the COVID-19 pandemic has demonstrated anything, it is how imperfect such institutions as governments and even entire societies are -- and that some are more flawed, damaged, and damaging than others.

Human Rights post-COVID-19

In the aftermath of the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center in New York and the Pentagon headquarters of the US Department of Defense came the virtual reversal of the global trend towards liberalization and democratization that had characterized the last two decades of the 20th century.

Press freedom is a global need

A sovereign citizenry’s right and duty of monitoring and evaluating public issues and problems, and of commenting on them and proposing alternative approaches and solutions, are best served by a free press. But because their hold on power partly depends on being perceived as infallible, most governments -- including the Philippines’ own -- detest criticism, hence their antipathy to press freedom and free expression.

What they’re in power for

The Department of Health (DoH) has stopped the local government of Marikina City from testing its residents for COVID-19 despite the considerable efforts and costs of setting up the facility. The DoH said it should be located in a separate building all its own.

Defying the virus

With over 500 cases in the Philippines, the COVID-19 threat is already serious enough to concern everyone. But its unwanted presence has also further exposed Filipinos to the authoritarian virus that to this day has survived the 1896 Revolution, World Wars I and II, the EDSA civilian-military mutiny of 1986, and the untiring efforts of human rights defenders, independent journalists, committed artists and academics, civil society organizations, and social and political activists to combat it.

The Plague

The global COVID-19 crisis has heightened interest in a 73-year-old novel by Albert Camus. Published in 1947 in Paris, France, The Plague (La Peste in the original French) is a fictional account of an outbreak of bubonic plague in the French-Algerian town of Oran.