Friday, April 15, 2016

Thoughts on Davao, Duterte, the Death Squad and why I'm very, very afraid

I was curious about those smoke stacks spewing black smoke right by a busy city thoroughfare, so I asked the driver what it was. A power generator operated by Aboitiz, he said, adding that the region needed it to address its power shortage problem. I wondered though if that coal-powered plant couldn't be located somewhere else, but wondered too how much farther it would've had to be to affect the citizens of Davao significantly less.

Don't judge a city by its Ayala Mall, that wouldn't be a fair judgment, or a realistic visualization. Just as Binay wanted the rest of the country to have this image in their minds that the whole of Makati looks like Greenbelt - a bustling, highly urbanized district nestled amid trees and green open spaces, there are depressed areas there too... the rest of Baguio isn't like the Technohub, in the same way that the rest of Davao is not all Abreeza Mall. I happen to be visiting the city and staying somewhere near the rather swanky commercial center.

So if the Davao example is what convinced you that Duterte's promise isn't merely ampaw, hold on a sec...

In fairness, Davao's streets look cleaner than those of a lot of other cities', maybe it's the norm in the whole city, but I've learned from the Olongapo example where the main thoroughfares, where us, non-residents normally pass, are spotless but the inner streets show a different picture, that it could all be cosmetics. But let's say it isn't so, and I have no problem believing that.

(Update: looks like it isn't mere cosmetics, as on our way to the airport on our last day there, we passed the inner streets to avoid traffic, and they were clean. Bravo, Davao)

First, I felt afraid, not exactly petrified, but afraid. It's sad that all the good things about Davao are now connected to Duterte's tough guy, I have huge balls pronouncements. The streets are clean because if you litter... damn, I can't get the image of the Davao Death Squad and dead minors, guilty of petty crimes, or perhaps not even, out of my head. I know he will make you eat that cigarette if you happen to take a puff outside of that square, those designated smoking areas.

I made sure I was well inside that square when I smoked a cigarette in Davao because, well, it's the law and also because, well, I don't wanna eat a lit cigarette nor do I want to die.

One of my hosts joked, "it's really a beautiful city. If you're good, life is beautiful in Davao. If you're bad, life ends here in Davao."

Nervous laughter.

The fear was palpable. And I'd rather be inspired to not smoke in public, litter, jaywalk, etc., than to be afraid. I want to look up to our leaders, follow their lead because I respect them, not because I'm afraid of them.

On our way to the airport, I saw some gangster graffiti on the walls of an underpass, not sure if gangs are a serious problem in Davao, but I do believe the graffiti are the handiwork of minors. I wondered if any one of the vandals have fallen victim to the Davao Death Squad.

I read the other day how Duterte planned to eradicate, oh wait, he has since changed that to "suppress," crime in 6 months. The plan revolves around improving the lot of our police force in terms of salaries, equipment and legal protection and giving them marching orders to kill suspects who will resist arrest violently.

I arrive in Manila, turn on the TV and the news: a tricycle driver in Davao was killed by a policeman who thought the former was stealing his motorcycle. The tricycle driver was in fact just helping, lifting his bike that fell.

Correction: now I'm petrified.

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Domogan vs. (Molintas vs. Claravall)

That's the way it's going down, the incumbent against two challengers. And at first glance, common sense tells us that the former has the upper hand. Again.

To win against Domogan, one must not only get all the opposition votes, he must also get a substantial number off of the incumbent numbers. In the last election, after several landslide loses, Molintas got to close the gap - from the usual 20,000 vote-margin down to just around 4,000.

In 2013, Mauricio Domogan garnered 49.5% of the total votes cast for Mayor, he almost won by majority vote while Molintas got 44.7%. The rest was split between Jun Labo (3,000+) and perennial contender Hernandez along with Puzon and Mina who got negligible numbers.

49.5 percent. That's a big number, and getting a huge slice of that would be the holy grail for the opposition. It's actually a 4-cornered fight, but given Hernandez's dismal showing in 2013 (666 votes), maybe his candidacy would hardly matter in the end.

My two centavos' worth, based on what I see, hear, feel and their respective performances in the candidates' forum held last month at the Baguio Convention Center :

DOMOGAN, The Incumbent

He's gunning for a third and final(?) term as Mayor. His battle cry is this: continue the good work he's doing. Depends on where one is coming from, the promise may be a pro or a con.

He's been trumpeting the city's increased revenue over the last over two decades with him at the helm in one way or another - from below 500M to 2B. Of course he won't mention that it stayed at half a billion for 15 years or so before making that huge leap to a billion in .ca. 2008. But never mind that, fact is, Baguio's economy is on the up, and for those directly benefiting from the boom, a promise of continuity will be attractive.

But at what cost, that so-called boom? The environment under Domogan's reign hardly got any attention. It seemed like when it came to a choice between commerce and environmental sustainability, his administration seemed to have always favored the former. The direction in which he took this city is dangerously unsustainable. When the Mt. Sto. Tomas issue erupted, I don't recall any strong words from him about the damage that his congressman wreaked on a forest reserve, compromising the water supply of thousands of citizens. Instead, what I remember most is his hands-off remarks, and how sure he was that Aliping will able to explain and defend himself in the "proper forum."

He has shown very little regard for the city's heritage too with the fencing of City Hall and his stubborn stand to turn the Melvin Jones into a concrete parking facility.

Yet, the fact remains, he got 49.5% of the votes the last time, and he will remain as the choice of the apathetic and the shortsighted.

MOLINTAS, closer and closer then...

...Claravall finally threw his hat in the ring. In 2013, if we were to tally all the non-Domogan votes, that would have been 50.5%. Never mind Hernandez's 666, but the rest would have been enough to unseat Domogan. This time. Molintas would have just needed to step up his previous efforts to IP a bit to close the gap, but currently, the opposition votes are now divided between him and Claravall.

What's he putting on the table? His track record as a champion of the oppressed, being a human rights lawyer. He is forwarding a platform that balances equitable development and environmental protection. He is knowledgeable about the issues afflicting Baguio today, and his pronouncements during the forum were backed with facts and legal realities.

From where I was sitting, he did very well in that forum, I must admit.

CLARAVALL, the dark horse

I have been hearing of the former judge's name being floated since the early 2000's, I concede that there was some clamor for him to run. He almost did in 2013, but backed down due to unresolved issues with the Molintas camp - who's right or wrong depends on who you are more inclined to believe.

I have been eagerly waiting for what the former judge will put on the table since he filed his candidacy last year. I must say that I went to that candidates' forum last February specifically to hear his voice, and frankly, I was not satisfied. He kept to making motherhood statements hardly backing up his answers with facts and a clear vision on how to get it done. When asked about certain problems that Baguio is faced with today, his answers mostly focused on why they should be solved and not much on how he intends to solve them.

I said, well, cut him some slack - it was his first salvo in front of a large audience. Perhaps he was nervous, rattled, etc. Although a friend pointed out, and quite rightly so, that for someone who's presided over countless cases in his sala, handing down decisions with a bang of a gavel in front of an audience - public speaking should be a walk in the park.

His battle cry - "Bangon, Baguio, Bangon!" This will definitely strike a chord among the concerned, the citizens who care about the city beyond their fenced and gated homes. But to those who are just happy to be in a secure job or see their businesses grow, those who only see the opportunities that Baguio has to offer today, those who equate condominiums, hotels, overpriced donuts and coffee as a sign of progress, the question may be, "bakit kailangang bumangon kung hindi naman nakatumba ang Baguio?"

But, Claravall seem to come across as a breath of fresh air, that's something Baguio needs right now. Couple that with a more solid platform and game plan, and he's golden.

IN THE END, politics is numbers

Addition, addition, addition, as Rey Bautista Sr. used to emphasize during his son, Peter Rey's campaigns. Everything you do must be aimed at adding to your numbers. Domogan's promise of continuity may not add to his current numbers, but it will keep the contented citizens on his side.

Molintas will most likely lose some of his votes to newcomer Claravall, the key for him is to work hard to keep that loss to a minimum, and hope that Claravall will bite significantly into Domogan's share of the electoral pie.

As for Claravall, he must be able to convince the unsatisfied that he is the right man who can turn things around in Baguio. He needs a big slice off of Molintas' 39,000+ votes and some of Domogan's 44k. As for my one vote, I need more how's because I already know the why's.

If it's going to be a tight race, 34%, or 29,697 is what's needed to bag the Mayoralty race, leaving 66 percent which hopefully will be divided equally among the other two opponents.

Hernandez's 666 votes may matter, after all.

And my 1 vote goes to... hmmm, perhaps I'll wait a while longer.

Saturday, March 5, 2016

Ask 'em too how'd they do it: THE BAGUIO THEY PROMISE

That's one thing Mauricio Domogan didn't exactly tell us when he promised, back in 2010, that he will solve the city's garbage problem in the first few months of his administration if he's made to sit as mayor again: HOW HE PLANNED TO DO IT.

Six years, two terms, and millions of pesos later, the problem persists.

But while I may have criticized him over policies - his proposal to cement over the Melvin Jones grounds for a parking facility and to put gates around Burnham Park, the fencing projects at City Hall, etc. - actions that I believed were contrary to the welfare of this city and its residents, the fact is Mauricio Domogan is my Mayor today, whether I voted for him or not. And as a resident of the city he leads, it is my responsibility to do my share to help uplift the quality of life of the people of Baguio.

This coming elections, Domogan is asking for another term: should we give him the chance? Running against him are:

- Perennial opponent who posted the biggest threat to Domogan's reign in the 2013 elections by trailing by only 4,000 votes as opposed to the 2010 elections where he trailed the incumbent by almost 20,000, and

- political returnee, former judge Del Claravall.

They will all promise us a lot of things, and with all the challenges that Baguio is facing today, hearing all those promises will give us a glimpse of the direction this city will take under the leadership of these candidates. But more than that, as a voter who isn't 100% decided yet, I'm really interested to know how exactly they plan to deliver those promises. I owe it to the city I call home to place her under a competent leadership, and The Baguio We Want Movement's local candidates' forum on Monday, March 7 may give me that opportunity.

For more information about the forum, click HERE to access the event page on Facebook.

Friday, February 26, 2016

EDSA didn't fail us, we failed EDSA

The whole thing has been brewing for a few days already, and my mother has been in and out of the house. Been hearing about the goings on from adult conversations in the house and the rest of the neighborhood. Marcos cheated in the recently concluded snap elections. The minister of defense and the chief of the armed forces  have resigned. People are gathering at EDSA to protect them, Cardinal Sin has called for more warm bodies.

That morning, my mother was talking to several grown-ups in the neighborhood (I was 12) - she was renting a jeepney to ferry whoever wanted to join her at EDSA. Next thing I knew, everyone was getting ready to go. I wanted to go with them, but this time my mother told me I couldn't for things could get ugly. Odd, for I have been to countless rallies with her - several times not only as a participant but also as a performer along with my friends who belonged to my mother's community theater group, the Workshop for Creative Survival.

When one Ninoy Aquino was assassinated, I was turning 10 the following month at the time, I remember being at all these rallies all over Metro Manila - I remember Mendiola, Liwasang Bonifacio, Plaza Miranda, I remember WOMB (Women for the Ouster of  Marcos and Boycott), Inang Laya, the smoke-filled (mostly courtesy of my mother's cigarettes) Hiraya Gallery mezzanine office where the cool people hung out (and where I was a child would alternately try to pick something from the conversations or just be amused by the animated characters around the table). That was where I, while doodling on Tito Bobi's desk overheard a story about a woman who was captured by the military, her vagina was carved out with a hunting knife by the same soldiers who gang-raped her earlier. The story was told by a photo journalist.

Back to February 25, 1986 - not this time, I watched that jeep full of Road 7, Project 6 residents leave with a heavy heart. Whatever was happening in EDSA, it was huge, I thought, and I wanted so much to be part of it.

It wasn't as easy to follow goings-on then as it is today. There were only five TV channels available - 2. 4, 7, 9 and 13. Broadcast was erratic. The radio was on too and almost everyone in the neighborhood was tuned in to Radio Veritas.

I remember getting scolded several years earlier for toying around with our stereo. After playing my Voltes V 45 vinyl a hundred times, I got bored and thought I'd put on whatever I could get my hands on in our collection of records. I picked out one with an interesting cover and put it on in full volume. Turned out to be one of those subversive recordings - it was Martial Law, and people have been arrested or made to disappear or killed for less. My grandmother immediately turned the stereo off.

I remember wondering about who Carpio was, and why every teenager in the neighborhood was afraid of him. "Pasok na tayo, Carpio na..." I would hear the "tambays" in the neighborhood say. Ahh, curfew.

Suddenly, there it was: Marcos Flees. It's over, and the real winner of that election, Corazon Aquino, would now sit as the first ever woman president of the Republic of the Philippines. I remember - I could literally feel the country's collective sigh of relief, a nation's victory over tyranny - I could now play that Inang Laya or any other album in our collection.

And my grandmother, along with myself and the rest of the family, could now sleep better at night not having to worry if my mother will make it back home after a rally or a play or whatever other activity she may be involved in that, during the Martial Law years, could be considered subversive.

Fast forward 30 years later, and Bongbong Marcos, unrepentant son of the tyrant that EDSA rid us of, is threatening to make it a step closer to being back in Malacanang. There are young people clamoring for the return to the "Golden Years" of Martial Law. Duterte proclaims without batting an eyelash: I am a dictator, so what? And a lot of us applauded him.

These days, Cory's being lambasted for her supposed lackluster performance as the first post-martial law president. Try hurdling six coup attempts while running a transition government.

The prevailing sentiment is this: EDSA, the People Power Revolution, did nothing to uplift the lives of Filipinos, that it failed us.

But, no, EDSA didn't fail us. It gave us what it was supposed to give us - freedom. It's what we did with that freedom that failed us. And if the current trends remain 'til election day this May, we're just about to fail ourselves again.


Thursday, February 18, 2016

VANI: a better fighter, pound-for-pound, than Manny Pacquiao

Just like any other kid, he's made some bad decisions here and there. But like a man, so to speak, he owned up to them, learned from them, moved on and came out a better person every time.

I can't imagine him running for public office, taking an oath to serve his country, but showing up only for a few days while receiving a salary for three years. That would be wrong, and he won't do something like that.

He steps onto the ring not knowing who his opponent will be motivated only by his conviction that all men are created equal and all men must have equal rights, regardless of the color of their skin or their sexual orientation.

And these fights he fought not because he stood to earn millions in prize money, pay-per-view buys, endorsements, etc. Nah, he fights to defend his rights as a human being, he steps onto the ring not only to fight his fight but to fight for the rights of others like him. Now there's a real fighter.

And for that, Vani, my gay son, is a much better fighter, pound-for-pound, than Manny Pacquiao.

Related articles: 
Are you gay? 
Father and his gay son
Be and let be

Monday, February 15, 2016

I want to ride my bicycle (but the Mayor won't let me)

Just like many others, I too do double takes when a flashy coupe zooms by, yield to imposing "get-out-of-my-way-or-I'll-run-you-over" SUVs and once in a while find myself daydreaming of driving one of those.

I personally drive a 25-year old mini van. A Toyota Liteace which just came out of a car hospital - for just like its owner, its joints needed some lubricating, get its bearings... repacked, re-greased, replaced. While in there, I thought it might as well get an oil change. It's running so well now and i'm very happy. it breezed through this morning's emission test. But in those daydreams, I find myself wanting to sell the van, add to it to get a car that's at least a few years younger, with an engine that's a bit bigger, stronger.

A prospect presented itself - a Chevrolet Trailblazer, just about a decade old, reasonably priced. Sell the van, then scrounge up more to cover the cost. What usually bursts the bubble for me is this - how much gas would that V6 engine eat up for every engine start, uphill climb, occasional trips to San Juan, La Union or Manila, and would our family's carbon footprint be justified?

I don't think so. See, it's not like the van's 1800-or-so cc cannot provide for our needs, or even my need as an artist who often does location shoots from way up north to a bit down south on various, often unforgiving terrain. The Liteace has taken us to highest point in our country's highway system, up to Sagada and Besao and even over that treacherous under-repair road to Batad, Ifugao last year. Sure the van came back home to Baguio with a few added "sound effects": more squeaks and thuds, but nothing the Manong down the road can't fix with an adjustable wrench, WD40 and few taps here and there.  

An 1800, even with some 6 or 7 passengers on board, runs comfortably at 100 kph along the sleep-inducing TPLEX. That V6 can surely go much faster, but who needs 120, 130, eeeek, 160(!) when the country's superhighways pegs the limit at 100 kph anyway?

Besides, I can hardly afford to keep the van gassed up - which brings me closer to the title of this article (pardon the long intro and the digression/s)...

...see, climate change is upon us, believe it or not. Excessive man-caused carbon emissions at the top of the suspects list. And while the van sevices the whole family, a lot of times I find myself driving that van alone. Yes, that van that's designed to accommodate as many as 9-passengers, okay, maybe 7 more comfortably. Sometimes on long drives to the lowlands, more often to downtown Baguio. I cringe a little when I get caught, nay, WHENEVER I HELP CAUSE TRAFFIC in the city's Central Business District and realize how much space that van is taking up and how much carbon is spewed out onto the atmosphere to bring me, one person, to my destination. Destinations that, while may be quite physically challenging for my middle-aged knees to walk, are easily accessible by bicycle.

So the past few weeks, my SUV daydreams have been replaced by ones with me wearing a helmet pedaling to town. That's certainly more affordable than an SUV with a V6 engine, and I wouldn't have to sell the van. And in a city battling with worsening vehicular traffic and air pollution, a bike makes sense.

But the city government of Baguio, under the leadership of the Hon. Mauricio Domogan, Mayor of Baguio City, is the bubble-burster his time - bikes have just been banned not only along Session Road, but in the whole Central Business District.

While other cities have been doing all they can to accommodate and encourage cyclists to help mitigate vehicular traffic and lessen emissions, Baguio once again takes a step backward with this ban. Just like it does whenever the city condones environmental destruction in the name of development (read: commerce, and that isn't always equals development).

Ahhh, to borrow lines from Freddie - I want to ride my bicycle, I want to ride my bike... but Domogan won't let me.

Photo lifted from the comment of Jp Leung on a post on my page

Monday, November 23, 2015

Kung handa ka nga sa Rehimeng Duterte

Ayun, matapos ang ilang beses na paroo't parito, tatakbo si Rodrigo Duterte, Mayor ng Davao na kilala bilang tigasin, matapang, walang-takot na amining handa siyang pumatay ng ganun-ganun lang, nang hindi napapatunayan ng korte, "beyond reasonable doubt," kung ang isang tao nga'y nagkasala basta't sa mata ni Duterte ay dapat na nga siyang itumba.

Ang daming masaya sa deklarasyong ito, mga naniniwalang siya nga ang magsasalba sa bayan mula sa katiwalian, sa korupsyon, sa kriminalidad, sa kahirapan at iba pang sakit ng lipunang Pilipino.

Ang sarap nga namang panoorin sa TV, nakakaaliw, kung ang presidente ng isang bansa ay nagmumura, bumubuga ng mga katagang pang action movie na walang sinabi sina Julio Valiente, Leon Guerrero, Asiong Salonga atbp. sa bagsik ng mga salita.

Handa ka nga ba sa isang Rehimeng Duterte?

Ingat ka sa lansangan, lalo na siguro kung lalaki kang mahaba ang buhok, gulanit ang maong - alam mo yun, yung sa mata ng karamihan e kung hindi man tulak e gumagamit ng droga. Baka kasi mapagkamalan kang yun na nga, tulak, o baka may kamukha kang wanted na kriminal dahil isang bala ka lang. Pwedeng-pwede mangyari yan pre sa ilalim ni Duterte - sa iyo o sa kahit sino. 'Di ba't yun ang nagustuhan mo sa kanya, kung paano niya diumano nilinis ang Davao?

Teka, siya nga ba mismo ang pumisil sa gatilyong kumitil sa buhay ng ilang "suspected criminals" sa Davao? Hindi naman siguro. Ilang taong nabigyan ng baril, ng kapangyarihang kumitil ng buhay - paano kaya naiseguro na yung iniwan nilang bangkay sa bangketa e tunay ngang nagkasala? At kung nagkasala man, buhay nga ang dapat nilang bayad sa pagkakamaling iyon? Meron din kayang mga nagkaatraso lang sa isa sa mga tauhang ito?

At dahil labag sa batas hindi lamang ng Pilipinas kundi ng kahit saang sibilisadong lipunan ang ganyang uri ng hustisya, handa ka rin bang ibasura ang konstitusyon, ang batas? Dahil kung payag kang gawin ito sa Davao, payag kang gawin ito sa buong bansa, at malamang ay payag ka ring balewalain ng Rehimeng Duterte ang iba pang mga batas kung sa tingin niya ay hadlang ang mga ito sa kanyang uri ng hustisya.

Ingat ka rin sa pagpuna sa isang tulad ni Duterte, sakaling mahalal nga siya (salamat sa boto mo), kung hindi man siya, ay baka masamain ito ng mga taong bibigyan niya ng mga baril at kapangyarihang mamaril.

Handa ka nga bang sabihin na karahasan ang paraan para ibangon ang ating bayan?

Ako kasi, hindi e.