Friday, January 30, 2015

Noy, wala na nga, wala

Aling kalapastangan pa
ang hihigit kaya?
Sa kawalan ng dangal 
at pagkaimbi
Gaya ng pagtalikod
sa kabayanihan ng mga magiting
na sa bayan ay buhay ang inalay
Aling kalapastanganan pa?
Wala na nga, wala


Monday, January 26, 2015

Pagpapahayag ng dalamhati at pasasalamat sa pakikiisa

Hindi po namin ninais ang kahit ano maliban sa maiparating sa mga kinauukulan ang aming dalamhati sa walang saysay na pagkaputol ng mga puno sa Luneta Hill.

Ang sa amin lamang po ay hindi makatuwiran na bale-walain ang kapakanan ng mas nakararami para lamang sa kapakanan ng isang korporasyong siya nang pinakamayaman sa buong bansa.

Hindi rin namin pinipigilan ang SM na magpayaman pa kung nais talaga ng pamilya Sy na mas yumaman pa sa kabila ng pagiging pinakamayaman nang pamilya sa buong bansa. Huwag lamang sana sa paraang makakasakit sa iba.

Sa mga hindi sumasang-ayon sa aming paniniwala't prinsipyo, hindi po natin kailangang magtapon ng mga bintang na walang batayan at walang katotohanan. Gayunpaman, nawa'y nagkakaisa tayo sa mithiing isulong ang tama at makatarungan at mga adhikaing ikabubuti ng ating komunidad, ng ating bansa, ng daigdig.

Maraming salamat po sa mga naki-isa. Mabuhay po kayo.

Mabuhay ang Baguio, ang mga taga-Baguio, ang kalikasan at ang kinabukasan nito.

Saturday, January 24, 2015

So why did SM have to kill those trees?

The trees on Luneta Hill were cut to pave the way for the construction of a "sky garden." (But why destroy an existing forest to put up an artificial one?)

The trees on Luneta Hill were cut to pave the way for the construction of a parking facility to help ease traffic at the Central Business District. (But wouldn't attracting hundreds more cars to one area actually worsen the congestion?)

The trees on Luneta Hill were cut to pave the way for the construction of a "sky garden" and parking facility that would solve the soil erosion problem in the area. (But wouldn't a retaining wall the construction of which would not require removing the trees achieve that?)

The trees on Luneta Hill were cut to pave the way for the construction of a "sky garden" and parking facility to help absorb the impact of climate change. (But Baguio receives excessive amounts of rainfall and wouldn't removing hundreds of trees and concreting that much earth space reduce the water absorption capability of the area and what happens to the lower lying areas, particularly Harrison Road which has been having minor flooding issues lately, where all that extra water run-off go?)

The trees on Luneta Hill were cut to pave the way for the construction of a "sky garden" and parking facility because we want to earn more money even at the expense of the welfare of the community...

ahh, ok.

Saturday, January 17, 2015

The Death of Pine Trees on Luneta Hill: A ConspiracyTheory

The months of December and January seem to be jinxed as far as Baguio's environment is concerned: on December 12, 2014, the Court of Appeals upheld the decision of the lower court with regards to the environmental case filed against SM, DENR, DPWH, et. al. effectively giving Henry Sy the go-signal to destroy one of the few remaining forest covers in the city's Central Business District for a parking building. And this morning, Baguio woke up with this news: Most of the area eyed for their expansion plan has been cleared of trees.

Upon hearing about this latest tree-cutting activity by SM, I just had to go see it for myself. For the first time since December of 2011, I entered SM City Baguio and went straight to the balcony before any of SM's personnel recognized me. I didn't really think they'll drag me out, but who knows. I whipped out my point-and-shoot and started clicking away. These are the pictures:

Photos taken on January 17, 2015

I manually counted the number of trees left standing - there must be around 90 or so left. We can easily say that a total of 100 trees - combination of Alnus and Pine - have been removed. 

Their lawyers will proclaim: there is no legal impediment preventing them from pushing through with their plans. The late Judge Estevez of the Baguio Regional Trial Court himself proclaimed: our arguments against the planned sacrifice of the welfare of the community for Henry Sy's benefit were not enough to stop the expansion plan, and this decision got the nod of Associate Justices Magdangal M. de Leon, Stephen C. Cruz and Zenaida T. Galapate-Laguilles. In their eyes, SM violated no law. In their minds, there is nothing wrong with killing a hundred trees to benefit one corporate entity. For them, SM followed the law to the letter. 

Perhaps, but SM, along with its co-conspirators, violated the very spirit, the true intentions, of those laws. Shame on every single one of them who used, perverted the law to justify environmental rape.

SM City Baguio is not the only guilty party here, no amount of cosmetics can hide the guilt of their enablers.

1. The Department of Environment and Natural Resources led by Sec. Ramon Paje, all the way down to his subordinates at the regional office, who not only legalized SM's immoral plans with their stamps and signatures, but even defended the planned killing of trees in the press and the courts. 

2. The Department of Public Works and Highways led by Rogelio Singson all the way down to officials at the City Buildings and Architecture Office, along with Evelyn Cayat of the City Planning and Development Office, for clearing the way for SM to get away with the murder of trees including circumventing our own zoning laws. 

3. The City Executive, led by Mayor Mauricio Domogan, he who merely said, when asked by the protesters for his help, "I cannot do anything." 

4. The Baguio City Council, or majority of its members during the term 2010-2013, who could not even hide their bias for SM and spent most of the time during that City Council hearing defending SM and castigating the protesters.

5. Members of the judiciary and the bar, from the aforementioned Associate Justices to the late Judge Antonio Estevez to the Fortun and ACCRA Law Offices and even lawyers from the Solicitor General's office who are supposed to protect the interest of the state and therefore the interest of the people of the Philippines who used their skills and talents to enable SM to destroy.

6. Members of the so-called Fourth Estate, supposed guardians of the truth, who willingly sang SM's songs, forwarded their half-truths and outright lies for free movie passes and a gadget or two. 

You, all of you, have all joined hands to destroy Baguio forever. You spat on the faces of every single one of the thousands of members of the community who wanted nothing more than to defend the integrity, heritage, beauty and natural environment of Baguio City. Shame on you. 

Our environmental laws are designed to be circumvented - that's how SM City Baguio got away with murder. 

And to SM? A while back, they sent their emissaries led by Vice President Bien Mateo to present what was supposedly a re-designed expansion plan. In that meeting, attended by some members of the protest movement including Atty. Chris Donaal, Ms. Glo Abaeo, Mr. Gideon Omero, Mr. Nelson Alabanza, myself, et al, they said that out of all the remaining trees on Luneta Hill, maybe only less than ten will be affected with this new plan. Last night, 60 trees were cut. 


As for me, SM just proved once again that they will do everything they can for more money. This kind of greed is what's preventing this country from moving forward. 

So they've cut a hundred trees on Luneta Hill, and a friend asked, "what's the point now of appealing the decision of the Court of Appeals all the way to the Supreme Court when most of the trees are already gone?"

Around 90 trees remain on Luneta Hill, and they are still worth fighting for.  


Thursday, January 8, 2015

That afternoon, who really was Damaso?

No apologies, I am not with Carlos Celdran on this one.

I have written about issue in this blog ("But even enemies can show respect") - and Carlos' statements on the issue since failed to change my position.

Celdran was charged with a crime against religious worship, and was found guilty as charged by the lower courts. The decision was appealed and the Court of Appeals upheld the lower court's decision.

He posted this on his Facebook page:

Dear ‪#‎PopeFrancisPH‬ ‪#‎Pontifex‬ My name is Carlos Celdran and I am a citizen of the‪#‎Philippines‬ and a Catholic. Today, I received news that my legal appeal was denied. I am one step closer to being incarcerated for the crime of "offending the religious feelings" of Filipino bishops back in September 30, 2010 (article 133 of Philippine Penal Code). Please have a word with the bishops of the Philippines. Truth be told, I don't mind going to jail. I only wish that your message of forgiveness, reason, and tolerance finally reaches their hearts and their minds. I heartfully hope this message reaches you and thank you for your consideration. Love, a humble member of your Filipino flock. Carlos Celdran. ‪#‎RHBill‬ ‪#‎Damaso‬ ‪#‎CatholicBishops‬ ‪#‎CBCP‬ ‪#‎RT‬
The statement itself is not entirely true, he is not "a step closer to being incarcerated for offending the religious feelings of Filipino bishops," he disrespected not only the bishops but a place of worship, an ongoing sacred religious ritual, he is so because of this:

Art. 133. Offending the religious feelings. – The penalty of arresto mayor in its
maximum period to prision correctional in its minimum period shall be imposed upon
anyone who, in a place devoted to religious worship or during the celebration of any
religious ceremony shall perform acts notoriously offensive to the feelings of the faithful.

He wished that the Pope's message of "forgiveness, reason... etc." will reach the hearts and minds of those offended by his actions. But, forgiveness without repentance? No, no, that's not right too.

I do not agree with the bishops', alright, the Catholic Church's position on the Reproductive Health Bill, and never will I. But no priest nor bishop dared enter my home at dinner time holding up placards while I explained what the Reproductive Health Bill is all about to my children. That would be just wrong. No, I don't find that comparison silly at all.

I don't agree too with the fatwa issued by Ayatollah Khomeini on Salman Rushdie, or the killing of innocent people by extremists in the name of jihad, but I am not about to barge into a mosque to mock, disrespect Islam in general or any Muslim I happen to chance upon.

I just can't agree with Celdran referring to himself as a "humble member of your Filipino flock." What's humble about barging in on an ongoing mass, wearing a costume holding up a placard with the word "Damaso" written on it?

I wrote this in that previous article I mentioned above:

"I also believe that Celdran should be released, not even be charged – it’s just wrong for him to be in jail while Romeo Jalosjos isn’t; while priests found to have committed pedophilia are merely suspended by the church or transferred to another diocese. The government has pardoned a plunderer, it cannot justify keeping someone like Celdran incarcerated. But…"

Yeah, but... yeah, it's easy to join the bandwagon and throw mud at the whole church for the acts of but a few, portray an image of being a firebrand, a revolutionary, yeah, wear that Che Guevara beret, but I will only applaud you until you cross that line. It's not only the bishops that Celdran offended - he offended the Church, a Church, a religious rite, a religion. That's just not right. 

In an article in the Inquirer, Padre Damaso was described as "He was known to be... selfish, proud, cruel, judgmental, malicious-minded..."

Tell me, that afternoon in that church, who was Damaso? 

Saturday, January 3, 2015

Stop, look, listen and do something

Just when you think we have started to get used to the heavy traffic in certain parts of the city, here come the Christmas holidays and the hundreds of thousands of tourists that come with it.

Most of us would each have our own horror stories to tell, here’s one of mine: took my kids to their practice game at the Melvin Jones Football grounds and it took us almost two hours to get there from our home in Pacdal, usually a mere 10 to 15-minute drive. It’s a good thing that the World Health Organization didn’t do their research on air quality in our city at that time, we didn’t need a nifty measuring device to know that the air over Baguio had way beyond the usual allowable levels of poison.

The community was not happy about it, the internet was flooded with critiques on how the local government of Baguio failed to prepare for the anticipated influx of tourists (I must say though that there seemed to not enough police visibility from the 24th to the 26th of December, I was really surprised not to see anyone directing traffic at the usual bottlenecks such as the Pacdal Circle, the intersections along Leonard Wood Rd. and Teachers’ Camp and Gen. Luna Rd., etc.). The rest of the tirades were directed at the tourists, not a few of whom can be seen disregarding traffic rules and basic road courtesy and decency, particularly going into counter-flows at already heavily congested single-lane streets a sight normally seen in the streets of Manila.

But in fairness to the local government, police and whoever else is responsible for traffic management in our city, even if they did anticipate, plan for and executed a scheme to ease the jam, Baguio was simply unprepared for that kind of volume of tourists. Heck, we’re still determining how to make our city livable for our own residents – you’ve heard it time and again, Baguio was designed for a population of only about 25,000.

Two things stand out for me: the need to spread out development initiatives to the neighboring towns, and a review of our public transportation system. 

Let’s start with the first. Yes, the BLISTT concept (which involves Baguio, La Trinidad, Itogon, Sablan, Tuba and Tublay) must be implemented already. Take our area for example: we moved to Pacdal because it’s not as congested as other areas in Baguio, except during the tourist seasons. But look at one office (PhilHealth) and a couple of new restaurants can do: since these opened the area has been experiencing heavy traffic almost at all hours of the day. The city can hardly handle any more development initiatives that attract a certain volume of human and vehicular traffic.

If the BLISTT concept is not easily and immediately implementable because it involves several government entities to come together, and you know what happens when there are too many politicians involved in any initiative, then perhaps we can start right in our own backyard first. See, our tourism efforts seem to only benefit a few members of the community. You really didn’t hear hotel and restaurant owners (alright maybe a few of them did) complaining about the volume of people and cars in Baguio at that time, most of the complaints came from the majority who not only do not benefit from the influx of tourists but whose livelihood and normal lives, in fact, got adversely affected by it. People couldn’t get to work, or even just get out of the house for a day in the park. The purported economic benefits of tourism, which is what our officials would want us to focus on, do not trickle down to the man on the street, so to speak, so how can you expect them to just grin and bear it? If BLISTT is not ready, then Baguio should consider spreading out development initiatives outside the central business district and its immediate environs. Perhaps start and experiment with the annual Baguio Flower Festival or Panagbenga where almost everything happens in and around Session Road. Involve all 129 barangays, and not only through token initiatives such as the superficial sprucing up of pocket gardens here and there to get whatever award they give out for the barangay with the most painted rocks along their main road.

Secondly, our public transport system. We have been seeing the same faces since time immemorial running things in this sector, maybe it’s time we bring in new people with fresh and updated concepts. If we have a public transport system that’s affordable, convenient, safe and efficient, there’s no reason for motorists to bring their own cars. That way, we not only solve our traffic woes during the peak seasons but every single day. And no, Mayor, with all due respect, parking facilities, particularly ones that require desecrating a heritage site, are not the answer. That, in fact, has the exact opposite effect – we do not want to encourage more private vehicles to be brought into the central business district.

And we’re only talking about how to probably ease up the congestion in our roads – do you have any idea about the amount of garbage generated by those hundreds of thousands? How it depleted our most important resource: water?

We can’t have, must never accept, statements like “I cannot do anything” anymore. We need to and must do something.