Thursday, February 21, 2008

So You Won't Feel Shortchanged...

Willing Exile: Second Milepost

This song is just too good to pass up, so I've used whatever re-learning on posting stuff from (a boon to music fans, really) to bring it back...

Random gross-out moment - The third "rule of conduct" of Muslims for eating is to place food on a sufra on the ground - namely to emulate the Prophet (peace be upon him). It is du jour to see an ordinary cement slab in one corner of eateries striving to attract Saudi customers, decked out with carpets and cushions ---

I was buying grilled chicken take-out the other night when I observed one fellow getting ready to eat his meal. He dutifully washed his hands (the second "rule of conduct"), hunkers down on the carpet and picks a cushion to lean on, takes off his sandals, spreads the chicken and rice on the plastic covering ... check, check, and check. While talking into his phone, he picks at some toe jam with his right hand, flicks the grime carelessly, and then HE PICKS AT HIS FOOD with the same hand!

Just too much!

Taking credit, ehem! - One of my students's blog posts with a quote. Did I really mean what I wrote there? Hmmm ... sometimes having a brain fart produces gems of inspiration, at least for other people. It's to her credit she's deriving some crazy wisdom from whatever it is I wrote. I just had the words as an open door, she crossed through it and learned something for herself (way to go, girl!).

(Edit: replacing the Imeem links with YouTube)

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Witness to a Passion Play

This is an interesting quote that Google put up, but it does capture many of my sentiments on the NBN-ZTE issue:

"If moderation is a fault, then indifference is a crime."--- Jack Kerouac, American novelist

We are undergoing another Passion, the Passion of summoning the collective will of the decision-makers and the people, to get the current government to step down and clear the way for democratic reform.

We are still in a painful process of learning. The Cory administration made a grand show of going after the Marcos cronies, sequestering their properties and restoring property to their rightful owners. But the government failed to successfully prosecute the Marcoses, made too many midnight deals and spawned its own coterie of sycophants and hangers-on. Truly, the revolutionary of today is the conservative tomorrow.

The Ramos administration's catchphrase was building the Philippines and moving it forward, an effective disguise for the politics of accommodation that permeated all its corners. Result - the new order of corruption, with the old cadre of Marcos loyalists fully rehabilitated, the Coryists scattered to make their own side deals, and the rest a barometer to where money and political expediency would dominate. So many would misinterpret the result as a success --- but it did point out that more and more, the Presidency was a chip to be bargained for, the talisman and gateway to power for the bearer.

Then came President Erap - whose only crime was being untrue to his upper-class beginnings. Here was a personality who truly understood the hoopla of politics --- and was a realist in living the life without the benefit of cordon sanitaire. The result --- the media had a field day, while his lieutenants squabbled over, as it seems later on, just mere pickings of the huge pie of graft and corruption.

A sad sacrifice, but a necessary one. If only he were not pardoned.

That pardon, among many other sad events that have happened during the Macapagal-Arroyo regime, has brought us full-circle to the questions that hounded us before the onset of Martial Law --- to submit to "pragmatism" and continue what is, in effect, a "benevolent" dictatorship, or to rebuild, where answers are still wanting?

The surfacing of Jun Lozada as a key witness to corruption should be the culmination, instead of just another story, just another by-line. I cannot fault those who support Gloria because there is no alternative --- they are pragmatists of one type, the one that claps at circus bears and dolphin shows, without being a party to the cruelties that go hand in hand with such shows. I deplore the fence-sitters. As for the GMA supporters and apologists, well, it's your turn now. See you at the reckoning, which I believe would come.

There is no excuse for "moderate corruption." And still less for indifference among our people.

To end this kilometric post, just sharing with you the homily of Fr. Manoling Francisco, SJ for witness Jun Lozada, last February 17, at La Salle Greenhills.


On this Second Sunday of Lent, during which we are asked to reflect on the Transfiguration of Jesus Christ, I wish to touch on three themes that have to do with our moral transformation as a people: first, Ascertaining Credibility; second, Rediscovering our Humanity; and third, Witnessing to the Truth. In so doing, I hope to invite all of you to reflect more deeply on how we, as a nation, might respond to the present political crisis in which our identity and ethos, our convictions and integrity, in fact, who we are as a people, are at stake.


Jun, as Sen. Miriam Santiago has grilled you to ascertain your credibility (or was it to undermine your credibility? ), allow me to raise some important questions to consider in the very process of discerning your credibility. Allow me to do so by drawing on my own counseling experience.

Very often, a young rape victim initially suppresses his or her awful and painful story, indeed wills to forget it, in the hope that by forgetting, he or she can pretend it never happened. But very often, too, there comes a point when concealing the truth becomes unbearable, and the desperate attempts to supposedly preserve life and sanity become increasingly untenable.

At this point the victim of abuse decides to seek help. But even after having taken this step, the victim, devastated and confused, will tell his or her story with much hesitation and trepidation. It should be easy to imagine why. In telling the truth, one risks casting shame on himself or herself, subjecting oneself to intense scrutiny and skepticism, and jeopardizing one's safety and those of his or her loved ones, especially when one dares to go up against an older or more powerful person.

Similarly, it is easy to imagine why Jun would initially refuse to challenge the might of Malacanang. Who in his or her right mind would accuse Malacanang of crimes against our people and implicate the First Family in a sordid tale of greed and corruption, knowing that by doing so, one endangers one's life and the lives of his or her loved ones? We are, after all, living in dangerous times, where the government has not hesitated to use everything in its power to keep itself in power, where it has yet to explain and solve the numerous cases of extra-judicial killings.

But Jun is in his right mind. His story rings true especially in the face of the perils that he has had to face. And by his courage, Jun has also shown that it is not only that he is in his right mind; his heart is also in the right place.

Hence, my personal verdict: Jun, I believe that you are a credible witness. And if hundreds have gathered here this morning, it is probably because they also believe in you. Mga kapatid, naniniwala ba kayo kay Jun Lozada? Naniniwala ba kayo sa kanyang testimonya? Kung gayon, palakpakan po natin ang Probinsyanong Intsik, si Mr. Jun Lozada.

Jun, we hope that by our presence here, you may find some consolation. Pope Benedict XVI writes that "con-solatio" or consolation means "being with the other in his or her solitude, so that it ceases to be solitude." Jun, be assured that your solitude is no longer isolation as we profess our solidarity with you. Hindi ka nag-iisa. We are committed to stay the course and to do our best to protect you and your family and the truth you have proclaimed.


What makes Jun a credible witness to us?

I think Jun is credible not simply by virtue of his being an eyewitness to the unmitigated greed of some of our public officials. Perhaps more importantly, Jun is credible because he has witnessed to us what it means to be truly human.

Which leads me to my second theme: What does it mean to be human? How might we rediscover our humanity?

Allow me to quote Pope Benedict XVI, who in his latest encyclical, Spe Salvi, has written: "the capacity to accept suffering for the sake of goodness, truth and justice is an essential criterion of humanity, because if my own well-being and safety are ultimately more important than truth and justice, then the power of the stronger prevails, then violence and untruth reign supreme. Truth and justice must stand above my comfort and physical well-being, or else my life becomes a lie. . . For this … we need witnesses—martyrs …. We need them if we are to prefer goodness to comfort, even in the little choices we face each day."

Our Holy Father concludes, "the capacity to suffer for the sake of the truth is the measure of humanity."

Isn't this the reason we emulate our martyrs: Jose Rizal, Gomburza, Evelio Javier, Macli-ing Dulag, Cesar Climaco and Ninoy Aquino? They have borne witness for us what it means to be truly human—to be able to suffer for the sake of others and for the sake of the truth.

I remember Cory recalling a conversation she had with Ninoy while they were in exile in Boston. Cory asked Ninoy what he thought might happen to him once he set foot in Manila. Ninoy said there were three possibilities: one, that he would be rearrested and detained once more in Fort Bonifacio; two, that he would be held under house arrest; and three, that he would be assassinated.

"Then why go home?" Cory asked.

To which Ninoy answered: "Because I cannot allow myself to die a senseless death, such as being run over by a taxi cab in New York. I have to go home and convince Ferdinand Marcos to set our people free."

Witnessing to one's deepest convictions, notwithstanding the consequences, is the measure of our humanity. Proclaiming the truth to others, whatever the cost, is the mark of authentic humanity.

Jun, we know you have feared for your life and continue to do so. But in transcending your fears for yourself and your family, you have reclaimed your humanity. And your courage and humility, despite harassment and calumniation by government forces, embolden us to retrieve and reclaim our humanity tarnished by our cowardice and complicity with sin in the world. You have inspired us to be true to ourselves and to submit to and serve the truth that transcends all of us.


This leads us to our third and last theme: witnessing to the truth. In his encyclical, Pacem in Terris, Pope John XXIII exhorts that it is the fundamental duty of the government to uphold the truth: "A political society is to be considered well-ordered, beneficial and in keeping with human dignity if it grounded on truth." Moreover, the encyclical explains that unless a society is anchored on the truth, there can be no authentic justice, charity and freedom.

Every government is therefore obliged to serve the truth if it is to truly serve the people. Its moral credibility and authority over a people is based on the extent of its defense of and submission to the truth. Insofar as a government is remiss in upholding the truth, insofar as a government actively suppresses the truth, it loses its authority vested upon it by the people.

At this juncture, allow me to raise a delicate question: At what point does an administration lose its moral authority over its constituents?

First, a clear tipping point is the surfacing of hard evidence signifying undeniable complicity of certain government officials in corruption and injustice, evidence that can be substantiated in court.

Hence, during the Marcos Regime, the manipulation of Snap Election results as attested to by the tabulators who walked out of the PICC was clear evidence of the administration' s disregard for and manipulation of the collective will of the people in order to remain in power.

During the Erap Administration, the testimony of Clarissa Ocampo, claiming that Pres. Erap had falsified Equitable Bank documents by signing as Jose Velarde, was the smoking gun that triggered the rage of our people.

Allow me to respond to the same question by pursue an alternative track of argument: an administration loses it moral authority over its people when it fails in its fundamental duty to uphold the truth, when it is constituted by an ethos of falsehood. When a pattern of negligence in investigating the truth, suppressing the truth and harassing those who proclaim the truth is reasonably established, then a government, in principle, loses its right to rule over and represent the people.

Regarding negligence: Do the unresolved cases, such as the failed automation of the national elections, the fertilizer scam, the extra-judicial killings, and the "Hello, Garci" scandal, constitute negligence on the part of the GMA Administration to probe and ferret out the truth?
Regarding covering-up the truth: Does the abduction of Jun Lozada and the twisting and manipulation of his narrative by Malacanang's minions constitute concealment of the truth? Was the padlocking of the office of Asst. Gov't Counsel Gonzales who testified before the Senate regarding the North Rail project anomaly an instance of covering-up the truth?

Regarding the suppression of the truth: Does the issuance and implementation of E.O. 464, which prevents government officials from testifying in Senate hearings without Malacanang's permission, constitute suppression of the truth? Was the prevention of AFP Chief of Staff Gen. Senga and six other officers from testifying before the Senate with regard the "Hello, Garci" scandal tantamount to a suppression of the truth? Was disallowing Brig. Gen. Quevedo, Lt. Col Capuyan and Lt. Col. Sumayo from appearing before the Lower House an instance of hindering the truth from surfacing?

And regarding harassment of those who proclaim the truth: Are the abduction of Jun Lozada and the decision to court-marshal Gen. Gudani and Col. Balutan for disregarding Malacanang's order not to testify before the Senate examples of punishing those who come forth to tell the truth?

By conflating one's responses to all these questions does one arrive not at hard evidence showing culpability on the part of some government officials, but a gestalt, an image which nonetheless demands our assessment and judgment. I invite all of you then to consider these two methods of evaluating and judging the moral credibility of any government, the moral credibility of our present government.

Allow me to end with a few words about an Ignatian virtue, familiaritas cum Deo. To become familiar with God involves the illumination of the intellect, coming to know who God is and what God wills. But it also involves the conversion of the affect, the reconfiguration of the heart. Becoming familiar with God entails transforming and conforming my thinking, my feeling and my doing in accordance to the Lord's, which can only be the work of grace.

Familiarity with God thus entails rejoicing in what God delights—the truth; abhorring what God detests—falsehood; being pained by what breaks the heart of God—the persecution of truth-seekers. Familiarity with God means sharing the passion of God for the truth and the pathos of God whenever the truth and the bearers of truth are overcome by the forces of the lie.

On this Second Sunday of Lent, as we contemplate the transfiguration of Jesus Christ on Mount Horeb, we pray that our hearts and minds be so transfigured and so conformed to the mind, heart and will of the Jesus, our way, our life, and our truth.

May the Lord bless and protect you, Jun, and your family. May the Lord bless and guide us all into the way of truth. Amen.

Friday, February 15, 2008

Song Trip, of Sorts

A tribute to the season - am a bit half-hearted since this I am not in the state of mind nor is this the country for Valentine's. A classic from Minnie Ripperton.

So you ask me what do I see
When I look into your eyes
I see things that have never existed before

Shall I tell you all that I find
In those beautiful eyes -- I can try
But it never existed before

The silvery moon... a walk in the park
The tunnel of love... a kiss in the dark
The light of the stars... the clouds in the sky
The fireworks on the fourth of July

And you ask me what do I hear
When you whisper my name
Music plays that has never existed before

Oh, and I don't know why
But it's there just the same
And it's plain that it never existed before

The song of the rain ... the flowers in spring
The wind in the willow trees murmuring
The laughter that falls ... the children at play
Like church bells that call all the people to pray

So you ask me why do I glow
Well, I think you should know
I'm in love and I never existed before


So you ask me what do I see
When I look in your eyes
I see things that have never existed before

Shall I tell you all that I find
In those beautiful eyes --- I can try
But it never existed before

Oh, why do I smile
When I dream in the night
Hold me tight, and you'll hear my heart beating for more

And if we touch
I, I love it so much
I'm in love and I never existed before

Ooohhh... I'm in love, and I've never. I've never, I've never ...
Never never never never...

(Edit: replacing old Imeem links with YouTube)

Thursday, February 14, 2008


Subscribing to a particular world-view demands a challenge from most people. Then again, just watching events go by, with the usual horn-blaring from the media, would be enough to daunt anyone. Possibilities are everywhere, but life can surprise you even so.

It's all about magnitude.

The days of the past few days have gone by and by all accounts some of these events would seem earthshaking:

* The gritty, hard-luck New York Giants beat the New England Patriots in this year's Super Bowl, thus denying the Pats an historic 19-0 season.
* The Lakers trade for Pau Gasol for the corpse of Kwame Brown and loose change.
* The Suns match by shipping out Shawn Marion and Marcus Banks to the Miami Heat for Shaquille O'Neal.
* The Dallas Mavericks welcome back Jason Kidd from the New Jersey Nets in a trade package that includes mainly Devin Harris and trade filler.

And that's just from the world of sports - the only news that's worth reading these days if you manage to tune out the steroids saga in baseball and Refereegate in the NBA, and of course Spygate in the NFL.

The latest "smoking gun" in the Philippines and the presidential primaries in the United States are from two different areas of political life --- one showcasing the corruption endemic in government procurement, the other the harbringer of the political agenda for the next few years not only in the United States but also worldwide.

While all the rabblerousers drum it up for the resignation of President Macapagal-Arroyo, the apologists, the "pragmatists" and cynics in general have already called it a day. PGMA's tenure has been the most divisive one on record --- and the rupture she has caused Philippine political life will take another generation to fix. What's breaking my heart is that my generation --- one that has just come to experience power --- has demonstrated little more than transactional politics, all for the sake of "not rocking the boat." The political culture --- not the system, is in sore need of a vision.

Ranged against this current soap opera, still, there is an ongoing soap opera in each life. The biggest thing that is befuddling most families here would be the high school JS prom and the graduations from grade school and high school. It's all about creating the "memories.

Put these two events together --- you have the cameras and the throng. The difference?


The candidacies of Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama represent so much hope from the new and so much left-over dynamism from the old. Seeing either one as Democratic candidate in 2008 for US President would represent a change --- Clinton representing the gender line, Obama the ethnoracial line. Riddle me anything you want, but I see Obama as the future NOW --- he not only represents the once disenfranchised, but his politics point the way for reconstructing the US --- a United States which by 2050 will have the WASPs as the minority. Hillary, for all her intelligence and her grasp of the issues, and despite being a woman, still is part of the old guard.

So I pick Obama.

Where the issues of peak oil and environmental change become more pressing and world-girding, talking the US economy still pales in comparison. Neither candidate, nor even the Republicans, still have a rational policy for waging peace in the Middle East.

The cameras and the throng are on one side even though the other needs a more assertive push. The throng just latches on the latest spin. I gather the ordinary American still reads Page Six or watches "The Insider" more than keeping tabs on these issues.

One day the world will get its payback, if it's not asking for downpayment now.


This life, then, with all its drama, even with the damper of banning Valentine's in Saudi Arabia is just a piece of flotsam in the ocean.

But it is the universe with which I am best acquainted.


The stars may fall, and all around the world may crumble, but I hold on to the faith that this life, this little candle, may someday shine forth some meaning for somebody else. Lacking that, I go each day living my own truth as best as I can, for in the end I am just a whisper in the wind of history. Much as I strive to put in a kink in the human tapestry, all falls with the magnitude of humanity, and time.

The ultimate end of human acts is eudaimonia, happiness in the sense of living well, which all men desire; all acts are but different means chosen to arrive at it. -- Hannah Arendt