Why have we become like this?

A friend of mine, a young woman of 26, asked me if she could leave before three today to join a protest rally on Katipunan, which if a critical mass is reached, will head to EDSA this evening. I indifferently said yes and told her to just make up for the lost hours next week. I on the other hand had to stay until 6 at the school to work on the evaluation of the French class students. I have papers to check this weekend, a class to prepare for, and cats to take care of. I also have to catch up on my workout as I haven’t gone to the gym for a week now because of work.

The people I see on the street, those my age, show that similar look of resignation, save for some undergraduates in their PE shirts or long tees who seem poised to change history tonight.

For all the rest, this protest on EDSA against the clandestine burying of the remains of Marcos is an annoyance, a cause of this monster traffic. The reason they’re stuck on buses on their way home to Fairview or Bacoor.

This is what has become of us. Work has made us unresponsive to events and happenings that would otherwise scandalize us had we been not rendered docile and satisfied but unthinking by work. I hate this feeling. This is what it means to be an adult; I hate that I am one.

I told myself a long time ago when I was much, much younger, that I would be part of history unfolding. That I will not stay home and let pass that rare opportunity to make a difference in this country. But look at me now. I’m scurrying to go home, cursing the traffic on EDSA just to catch some sleep.

And the saddest thing is that, passing by EDSA shrine, I saw a small crowd, hardly a critical mass enough to send the message that the people are indignant. There were several groups taking selfies while a member is holding a placard.

Everyone is tired. Everyone has gone tired. What with the unfulfilled promises of the past two People Power? The world goes on turning, with Marcos’s body finally subject to the actions of worms and vermins, after years of keeping it almost lifelike inside a tomb his family built for him.

But even rats and roaches won’t touch him. Who would want to gnaw on a dessicated body preserved in formaldehyde for almost three decades?

Life goes on.

And that is the tragedy of the Filipino, myself included, this general quiet and seeming indifference, this lack of rage at the direction this country is heading.

And my train goes to the direction of home, and I’m dying for sleep.

Why I have boycotted the past elections and will definitely boycott this one as well

Most will consider it scandalous to talk about enjoying a cup of freshly brewed coffee in the morning when everyone is supposed to be in his political animal mind these days. Elections are on Monday. And one cannot just write about the pretenses and the superficiality of the bliss of a cup of coffee without being viewed pretentious and shallow. It’s too light a topic. It’s a non-topic, for christsake! Any self-respecting, supposedly responsible citizen of this country must take part in this exercise, must be part of a nation desperately in need for change. But how shall I convince myself that all this be taken seriously? This is laughable, a comedy of basest sort. Comparing elections here in the Philippines to a circus has long gone trite. In fact, they’re expected to be circus-like, that they should be a circus.

Why have I boycotted the past elections and will definitely boycott this one as well?

Boycott is not exactly the most accurate word as there’s no hard line political reason I have not participated in this democratic exercise since I turned 18. I neither feel any compelling need to spectate in this farce nor do I think I can use my one vote to compel these politicians to do what should have been done a long time ago. Participating in this travesty will only add to the delusions of these jokers that I am complicit in their charade. I’d rather close my eyes, cover my ears and let Monday pass.

Why Manny Pacquiao’s defeat wasn’t that painful

For a nation obsessively in need of a hero, Manny’s defeat yesterday, had it occurred two or three years ago would have been catastrophic and irreversibly traumatic for us whose national psyche is too fragile it rests on one man’s ability to throw punches and draw blood from an opponent whose background is as sorry as ours.

The fewer number of Facebook status expressing dismay, hopelessness, and bitterness due to Manny’s loss to Bradley (at least on my page), compared to what I imagined it would be, had been glaring (at least for me). Have we become less sore of a loser? I have proofs to say that as a nation we still are.

Have the Filipinos become less interested in the legend of Manny? Have the Filipinos thought Manny has already become too moneyed they failed to see their hungry faces reflected in his?

Has his story gone too magically realistic it was rendered unbelievable and felt too scripted in a country were people  eat magic realism for breakfast, lunch, and dinner? Have we as a nation shifted our search for a hero to something else? Or have we realized we did not need a hero after all?

Have we thought maybe Manny is just too much of an outlier he can’t be a Filipino? Or has his career like the careers of our many local movie stars’, after having burst into a bright supernova, is now on a road to becoming nothing but a black hole, the star a has-been?

We seem to have cared less now because we realized it is not wise to gamble our national sanity on a champion who, vicissitude they call, will sooner or later face defeat, and that it is far wiser to gamble on our institutions, on our future together as one nation, on a shared belief that this nation is on its road to greatness.

Maybe having a hero was important. But as in all epics, it’s the members of the army who carry out and win the war.

Convicted!

To remind me if in the future this historic fact escapes me:

Senate votes 20-3 to convict Corona

Maila Ager

INQUIRER.net

5:55 pm | Tuesday, May 29th, 2012

MANILA, Philippines – Twenty senators, including Senate President Juan Ponce-Enrile, on Tuesday found Chief

Justice Renato Corona guilty of Article 2 of the impeachment complaint filed against him pertaining to his failure to disclose to the public is statement of assets, liabilities, and net worth.

Only three voted to acquit Corona and they were Senators Joker Arroyo, Miriam Defensor-Santiago and Ferdinand “Bong-Bong” Marcos Jr.

“The Senate, sitting as an impeachment court, having tried Renato C. Corona Chief Justice of the Supreme Court…have found him guilty of the charge under Article 2 of the said articles of impeachment,” Enrile said.

Enrile then directed the Senate Secretary acting as the clerk of court to give the respondent a copy of the resolution, as well as the Speaker of the House, the Supreme Court, the

Judicial Bar Council and President Benigno Aquino III.

Aside from Enrile, the 19 senators who convicted Corona were the following:

  1. Senator Edgardo Angara
  2. Senator Alan Peter Cayetano
  3. Senator Pia Cayetano
  4. Senator Franklin Drilon
  5. Senate Pro Tempore Jose “Jinggoy” Estrada
  6. Senator Francis “Chiz” Escudero
  7. Senator Teofisto Guingona III
  8. Senator Gregorio Honasan II
  9. Senator Panfilo Lacson
  10. Senator Manuel Lapid
  11. Senator Loren Legarda
  12. Senator Sergio Osmeña III
  13. Senator Francis “Kiko” Pangilinan
  14. Senator Aquilino “Koko” Pimentel III
  15. Senator Ralph Recto
  16. Senator Ramon “Bong” Revilla Jr.
  17. Senate Majority Leader Vicente “Tito” Sotto III
  18. Senator Antonio Trillanes IV
  19. Senate Manuel Villar

Corona is considered barred from public office after senators voted to convict him on charges of betraying public trust and violating the constitution.

He testified last week that it wasn’t only him who is on trial and challenged all 188 lawmakers who impeached him to disclose their dollar accounts – but there were few takers.

The nationally televised 5-month-long proceedings gripped the nation like a soap opera with emotional testimonies, political grandstanding and a sideshow family drama.

Prosecutors, most of whom are Aquino’s allies from the House of Representatives, argued that Corona concealed his wealth and offered “lame excuses” to avoid public accountability.

Corona said that he had accumulated his wealth from foreign exchange when he was still a student. Rep. Rodolfo Farinas, one of the prosecutors, ridiculed the 63-year-old justice, saying he “wants us to believe that when he was in grade four in 1959 he was such a visionary that he already started buying dollars.”

“It is clear that these were excuses and lies made before the Senate and the entire world,” Farinas said in Monday’s closing arguments, adding that Corona had declared in his statement of assets, liabilities and net worth less than 2 percent of what he actually owned.

Addressing not only the senators but a public hungry for transparency in a country where corruption is endemic, the rich and powerful rarely prosecuted and a third of the population of 94 million lives on $1 a day, prosecutors sought to discredit Corona’s defense with references to a lifestyle beyond the means of most of the people. With a report from AP

Originally posted at 05:07 pm | Tuesday, May 29,  2012

Retrieved from: <http://newsinfo.inquirer.net/202929/senate-convicts-corona&gt;

Peace, Media, and Propaganda: the Unfolding Drama of the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict (or is it War?) and the role of American Media

It is absurdly difficult to begin a discussion on the Israeli-Palestinian without situating it in its historical continuum or tracing its origin back to the accounts made in the Bible (not that I am saying that this holy book is infallible, it is) down to the accounts made by the different international media organizations that have been covering the event, almost to ad nauseaum since it broke out in the 1970s.

To add to the complicity are intervening factors such as the participation of the United States and the other Arab states who, admittedly have high stakes in the conflict—the US protecting and maintaining its interest in this oil-rich region and the Arabs smitten by the sense of pride, of being victimized in their own territory. The precariousness and complexity of the situation have escaped too many generalizations and simplifications because the issue is never simple and straight-cut. This post will avoid touching and mentioning this very sensitive aspect by leaving it to experts who specialize in studying this volatile region. Instead the post will problematize the role of American media, especially television, and how this powerful apparatus of the society shape how Americans and other nations in the world understand and synthesize the conflict.

The conflict has branched out into so many webs of discord that a graduate student of a university in third-world country will have a hard time grasping, much less making sense of the conflict (or war) occurring thousands of miles away from where he is. But if there is something that connects him and his parochial (relative to the conflict, that is) location, it’s the media that have bridge vast expanse of voids and situate him right at the very heart of the conflict. This perspective afforded to him, however, is limited by the frame he is using, this frame obviously American by definition whose objectivity is doubtful, the ability to tell unadulterated truth is suspect, and the side taken is biased, though sometimes elegantly hidden and subtly injected into the minds of the supposed ‘intelligent’ television viewer.

Let me point out here at the onset that I am incredulous of the believed huge impact media have on their consumers, and that if indeed they have then it’s only a matter of strengthening existing biases or skewing the opinion to a direction not very much divergent from the originally held belief.

Coming from a generally Catholic background, and being raised in the culture of Sunday schools held during summers led by missionaries of the Southern Baptists, I grew up believing that the Isrealites are God’s chosen people. (Let me preclude the fact that my current belief that denies the existence of any omnipotent, omniscient, omnipresent supernatural being whose whim can bring me eternal damnation or salvation, was yet to be formed that time). We were told in Cebuano by our Sunday school teacher that the people of Israel, the chosen lot, suffered from different forms of subjugations that caused their diaspora and that someday they shall all be gathered together and live in the promised land.  I thought it was a form of a rather convoluted fiction lifted by my teacher from the Bible and grossly modified to aid her in her rhetorical exercise. When I reached college in the early years of 2000, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict was overshadowed by the more pressing wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

I graduated from university without fully understanding the conflict that arises from that narrow strip of land in Gaza, opting to leave only some barely perceptible scratches of comprehension on the surface of the issue.

Peace, Propaganda and the Promised Land: Media & the Israel-Palestine Conflict (directed by Bathsheba Ratzkoff and Sut Jhally) is a documentary released in 2004 that succinctly mapped out this implicit agenda of Israel, with the willing aid of the American media, to disqualify the Palestinians’ claim on the land that have been theirs for centuries.

For its framework, the documentary made use of the economic model to explain why the American people, fed by American correspondents in the region who are financed by influential people biased for the Israeli position, are duped into believing the ‘victimization’ of Israel and the demoniacal attempt of the Palestinians to retain the promised land. It used a model characterized by a series of filters built upon institutional relationships —business interests of owners of US Media, political elites, Israel’s own public relations firms, American public relations firms, Israeli consulates, private organizations, and watchdog groups that pressure and/or harass journalists.

While war is being waged in the field, the bigger and more invasive war is waged in the million of TV sets in American homes where people spend more than four hours every day watching. Although I have the feeling that the documentary overestimated the role played by the American media in shaping public opinion, its claim on the importance of public relations and how this strategy has made impact in the direction taken by the talks between opposing sides is undeniable, PR being a highly significant method used by Israel in swaying the ebb of the tide toward their direction.

Most Palestinians intellectuals and even US intellectuals sympathetic to the displaced people in the much contested Gaza strip bewail the apparent absence of context in the reporting of American networks—CNN, Fox, etc—remaining quiet on the fact the what Israel is doing to these territories occupied by Palestinians is a blatant form of occupation. Israel also hides rather impeccably, its object of eventually annexing the area. This it does, though its PR strategists in Washington, by sanitizing the language. For instance, instead of using the word ‘colony’, the illegally built residential structures are referred to as ‘neighborhood’, the use of the word ‘defense’ to describe the action of Israel in the lands they occupy and ‘retaliation’ for the operations they conduct against demonstrators. By altering the lexicon, it successfully takes away the legitimacy from the claim of the Palestinians and gives a rationalization for Israel’s claim.

These television stations also help in keeping the political vacuum created by the conflict tightly in place. The American media portray the occupations as Israel’s response to the suicide bombings when in reality these acts tagged as terroristic by the Israeli governments are the Palestinian’s reactions to the frustrating situation they are forced in. In fact all the actions done by the Palestinians are uniformly called ‘acts of terrorism’ by American media.

Defining what is newsworthy is necessary in the coverage of events that compete for expensive air time in radio and TV or tight column inch in broadsheets. By surreptitiously tipping the balance toward one side, the Media set the agenda of the day, determining what is important and what is banal. Killed members of the Israeli army are victims of a ‘massacre’ while deaths among innocent Palestinians are ‘only a matter of few dozens’. Israeli who died in the conflicts are humanized, with the grieving family interviewed and these dead identified as brother, father, or a friend. On the other hand, Palestinians deaths remain unknown, unnamed, a mere number, a statistics.

Another interesting aspect tackled is the presumed neutrality of the US when in reality, the American government gave Israel USD 6 billion in the form of aid to buy American weapons in 2000; this excludes weapons given free by the US. In total, Israel received USD 100 billion from the US since the conflict started in 1949 until 2000. In fact, Israel is the 4th largest army in the world considering that its current population barely reaches 8 million. It is believed that Israel as a way for the US to maintain its hegemony versus the emerging power of the European Union and Russia in the region.

It is clear to me that the most damning critiques of the American media are their lack provision of an alternative view point, absence of serious examination, and the US journalism having a shameful symbiotic relationship with the powerful forces in the US government which critics describe as ‘incestuous’, the media becoming an apparatus that will ensure that some dissenting voices are not heard. This has led to a dangerous super-simplification, an either…or fallacy: Whoever expresses a divergent opinion is an Anti-Semite. And the debate ends here.

The media have become nothing but an instrument of the state; they have become expensive propaganda machines parroting if not rendering aseptic the pathological language of international politics and the content of the endless memos released to them by the state. This leads to a dangerous conspiracy that murders people in the other end of the world. If they have ceased to become platform for debates where policies are scrutinized, norms questioned, and beliefs examined, then they also lose their very reason for existing in the first place.

References

Martel, Ned. “Eager to Place the Blame for a Never-Ending Conflict”. The New York Times. 28 Jan 2005. http://movies.nytimes.com/2005/01/28/movies/28peac.html?_r=1

Peace, Propaganda and the Promised Land: Media & the Israel-Palestine Conflict. Bathsheba Ratzkoff and Sut Jhally, director. 2004. Documentary. http://video.google.com/videoplay?docid=-6604775898578139565#

Media coverage of a hostage in Manila

If one does not have access to television, radio or any form of media, he would not know that something horrific has occurred several minutes ago. Of the fifteen, based on the estimate made by the media, that were hostaged by a certain Police Inspector Rolando Mendoza, six were killed. Aljazeera, CNN, BBC, and even a hardly known Russian English news channel called RT covered the breaking news live using videos either taken by their own cameramen or signals taken from ABS-CBN, the country’s biggest TV network.

The Philippines is back to world prominence again, this time because of the barbarism of its people, a slight deviation from the usual images of the Philippines in international media, where these barbaric people are being killed by typhoons, earthquakes, or any imaginable natural calamity except maybe an avalanche.

For a long time, I have not watched prime-time news programs on TV because news are predictably reeking with negativity, boring soap operatic narratives of the schmaltzy lives of local celebrities, or uncalled-for commentaries by newsreaders; and because I have other better things to do, of course. But this evening was different.

I came from an intensive one-hour work-out in the gym and several lapses in the pool, when a friend of a friend texted me that he’s staying in the house this evening. I accompanied him to our unit and not wanting to wade in ghostly silence, I switched the television on and we were greeted by this breaking news that seemed to have been inspired by Tagalog action movies in the 90s.

I saw on TV policemen, very hesitant and fearful for their own lives, approaching a chartered bus that contained fifteen Chinese tourists, the driver of the bus, and a policeman who sought to be reinstated through means of a violent nature after being fired a year ago.  After more than 10 hours of waiting, the policemen finally decided to take the matter in their hands and do what they should have done several hours ago. The hostage taker was brutally killed. In one of the least graphic descriptions made by a news reporter, he said without any remorse– “tumilapon ang ilang bahagi ng utak niya sa direksyon namin” (some portions of his brain flew toward our direction).

It’s a story that is not uncommon in a third world country like the Philippines. But it was a news story that  the news-starved media in the Philippines has been waiting for. Not that they are always deprived of it, in fact they have enough and consistent sources of materials for a high-rating story such as this story, only that they can’t get enough.  So they positioned their men/women around the scene, some of them even had the privilege of being with the policemen who attempted to forcibly (how else?) open the bus and pluck the victims one by one, most of them got in the way in the already sloppy operation done by the Philippine National Police.

The 12-hour hostage drama, a ‘drama’ as all the newsreaders of both stations lovingly call it, ended violently as it can end in no other way than violently because the media have determined it to be so. All the coverages, whichever channel one chooses, were closest to a farce because the media thought this is only some sort of a reality TV, by nature, farcical and spectacular.

But if there is one thing the media did impeccably well, it was showing without missing a single detail the ineptitude of our police and their obvious inutility. Bravo, Philippines!

That woman

Nine years after Arroyo came to power, the feeling of seeing her get on that Ford SUV as a private citizen was incomparable; seeing that mammoth gas-guzzler vanish bringing Arroyo with it was almost of divine character, more like an epiphany for a nation her rapacious administration had ravaged.

To the very end, Arroyo never wavered in her arrogance. She exists in a different universe that bars her from seeing reality in our universe. She was booed, heckled, and the people in Quirino grandstand made known to her that they were rejoicing seeing that her regime has come to an end. But she was impervious to these. She has lost everything that makes a human vulnerable to all these.

I’m just happy to see her leave.