Bullet points

Image from Adobo Chronicles, a reliable news site, according to netizens

Image from Adobo Chronicles, a reliable news site, according to netizens

Last year, Manila was in a panic because airport police began finding bullets in people’s luggage.

The apparent extortion scheme saw Overseas Filipino Workers, senior citizens and regular people being charged with illegal possession of ammunition. The charges were often dropped once they reached the prosecutor’s office with the help of the Public Attorney’s Office and the public itself.

Although the existence of an actual widespread scam is yet to be proven, the potential hassle of missing a flight — for one victim, it reportedly meant losing her job — made some willing to settle the case with airport security and make the supposedly planted evidence go away.

Government spokespersons and apologists were quick to point out that these were isolated cases, and were promptly told to stop being unfeeling mouthpieces of this corrupt and inept administration. Even when government officials showed that some of those caught admitted to having the bullets in their baggage or on their body as amulets, people made sure to be extra careful.

Some took pictures of their luggage as proof that they didn’t pack any ammunition. Even more wrapped their luggage in plastic to make sure security personnel couldn’t easily insert bullets and other contraband in their bags.

It didn’t matter that you were sure that there were no bullets in your luggage, almost everyone who went through an airport in the Philippines in September worried, in varying degrees, that someone would find something.

The thought of being prosecuted for a crime that you didn’t commit was so horrific that “laglag-bala”, the name for the supposed scheme, became a campaign issue and was included in the final presidential debate in Pangasinan last month.

And yet here we are less than a year since the scare about to voluntarily subject the country to “laglag-bala” writ large.

Pre-election surveys suggest that Davao City Mayor Rodrigo Duterte will be the likely winner in the elections on Monday, a man who has made a reputation on saving the courts time by executing suspected criminals and who has made executions and pardons for police officers who kill criminals a central part of his campaign.

Fuck due process and human rights, his supporters say mere months after raging about the lack of due process (but was actually the presence of — actual charges were filed and, when warranted, dismissed) at the airports.

If you did nothing wrong, then there is no reason to be afraid, his vice presidential candidate sneers, forgetting, or perhaps having never experienced, the absurdity of knowing there are no bullets in your baggage but being afraid that there will be when security screens your bags.

We want change, his supporters cry. And, indeed, who doesn’t? But voting in a new president will not mean the “laglag-bala” extortionists will no longer be at the airports, or that their supervisors will suddenly be vigilant against the scheme.

Having a new face in the Palace will not mean that suspects who die in shootouts with the police, or while in police custody, will not just be fall guys.

Duterte has promised to pardon law enforcement officers who kill in the line of duty, which will mean sanctioning extrajudicial killings that are already happening in the country anyway. And because the Philippines does not have a death penalty, all killings are, by definition, extrajudicial.

In a Duterte administration, they will still be such, but will have the imprimatur of the president and, worse, the consent of the people.

In the campaign for the presidency, Duterte and his supporters have trampled on and discredited institutions that serve as checks on government abuse — the Commission on Human Rights, the media, the very idea of checks and balances in government — in favor of some nebulous change that is coming and that will be difficult to put back in the bottle once uncorked.

Duterte is not President Benigno Aquino III, is not Vice President Jejomar Binay, is not former Local Government Secretary Mar Roxas and his followers trust him precisely because of that. But a government is more than just one person, that is its strength and its weakness. Duterte may have the purest of intentions, but that does not carry over to everyone else in government service and his promise to kill criminals will not mean there will be fewer criminals, only that more alleged criminals will be killed.

Duterte joked more than once that the funeral industry will boom when he becomes president. Another industry that will see huge profits is plastics, because we’ll soon need to wrap ourselves in it to prevent planted evidence in a society where suspected and guilty will mean the same thing.

This time, instead of bullets being found in our bags, they might be found inside us.

Not All Womanizing

Presidential aspirant Rodrigo Duterte kisses a woman during his proclamation rally. GRIG MONTEGRANDE/PHILIPPINE DAILY INQUIRER

Presidential aspirant Rodrigo Duterte kisses a woman during his proclamation rally. GRIG MONTEGRANDE/PHILIPPINE DAILY INQUIRER

Gabriela party-list, a sectoral group with two seats at the House of Representatives, caused a stir on Twitter last night over a statement made by Rep. Luzviminda Ilagan that implied that Davao City Mayor Rodrigo Duterte’s womanizing is not that bad.

In a report on ABS-CBN News that will by now probably be blamed on mainstream media taking things out of context, Ilagan said that the bits about Duterte — presidential candidate of PDP-Laban — having many girlfriends and cavorting with women at political rallies are a product of media hype and, anyway, are just part of who Duterte is as a person.

“I personally even say that look beyond the words, look beyond the actions. Focus on what he has done, what he can do, what he is still doing that will benefit our people,” Ilagan, who is, incidentally, running for councilor of Davao City under Duterte’s local party, said.

Besides, she said, Duterte’s marriage has been annulled, and so he is not really womanizing when he has multiple girlfriends.

In December, Gabriela Rep. Emmie de Jesus said of Duterte in an Inquirer report that “[w]omanizing and treating women as objects is an affront to women and it is not something that should be flaunted.”

This was also said in a party statement that month:

These [acts] reek of machismo, reinforces the society’s low regard of women and consequently increases women’s vulnerability to violence and abuse. This is both distasteful and unacceptable.

A GMA News Online report attributes the statement to both Gabriela representatives.

But this is now acceptable, apparently. Or at least the womanizing part is, going by Ilagan’s statement. The Gabriela representative was silent on Duterte’s kissing sprees and his justification that how he is with women is just basic biology.

And that, perhaps, is the bigger sin than this political accommodation by Ilagan, who is nominally still with Gabriela but whose statement the party-list might yet disavow as her personal opinion.

By excusing Duterte’s womanizing ways — an issue that few have really raised — and being silent about his behavior with female supporters, Ilagan has engaged in a sort of double speak that could gain her points with Duterte and his supporters in Davao City without overly undermining Gabriela’s position.

She has also,  intentionally or not, minimized the objectification of women at Duterte-Cayetano rallies. (Senator Pia Cayetano has much the same thing by pretending to not notice what happens at these rallies, so it’s a common thing.)

This is not, of course, the first time that party-list groups have looked the other way for what they call tactical alliances.

Former Bayan Muna Rep. Satur Ocampo was once on the same ticket as Sen. Ferdinand Marcos Jr., son of the man who had him jailed during martial law. Bayan Muna Rep. Neri Colmenares of the Makabayan Bloc that Gabriela is also part of has also accepted the endorsement of Manila Mayor Joseph Ejercito Estrada, the man that umbrella group Bagong Alyansang Makabayan helped overthrow in 2001.

In between, Makabayan has also allied itself with revolutionary figures like Senators Francis Escudero, Loren Legarda and Aquilino Pimentel III, and then Las Piñas Rep. Cynthia Villar

Perhaps Gabriela’s latest statement is only disappointing because of our naivete. We expect these party-list groups to offer better and more principled politics than the prostituted mainstream parties when there is no actual promise of that. Or, at least, no more promise than made by mainstream parties.

Party-list groups are political groups and it is silly of us to think that they are any different from the United Nationalist Alliance, the Liberal Party, or the Nacionalista Party except perhaps in size and advocacy.

If anything, this recent move by Gabriela shows how well some party-lists have moved into the mainstream of Philippine politics. Sadly, it is in a way that makes them near indistinguishable from everyone else.

Subtle Spins

roxas

Davao City Mayor Rodrigo Duterte, presidential candidate of PDP Laban, attended a forum with students this week and won the day, if, for nothing else than because none of the other presidential candidates showed up for it.

Senate Majority Leader Alan Peter Cayetano (who, people who know these things say, has not been showing up to work at the Senate for a while now), Duterte’s vice presidential candidate, was quick to crow about this, saying:

Dalawa, tatlo na ang hamon kay Mayor Duterte nang debate, nasaan sila ngayon? Siguro yun ang dapat nating itanong,” said Cayetano.

(There are two, 3 challenges to Mayor Duterte to debate, where are they now? Maybe that’s what we should be asking.)

And he is right. The forum at De La Salle University would have been a good opportunity for the candidates to talk to the youth (and the Internet) about their plans for the country and Duterte and Cayetano should be commended for showing up.

On the day of the forum, netizens were asking where the other candidates were. Vice President Jejomar Binay was apparently in Caloocan, Senator Grace Poe was in Cavite, Senator Miriam Defensor-Santiago did not want to attend unless all other candidates were there. Liberal Party Mar Roxas, meanwhile, was sick.

His social media team said so:

And who are we to say that he was not? What they did not mention, though, was that Roxas’ being sick was irrelevant to his attendance at the forum. He had, in fact, according to sources (who were tweeting openly about it), declined the invitation in favor of sorties in Nueva Ecija province. Had he been hale and hearty, he would still not have been there.

This was made clear the day after by Akbayan Rep. Barry Gutierrez, campaign spokesman:

“Maaga pa lang, sinabi na namin, pinaabot na namin, and I’m sure alam ng kampo ni Mayor Duterte na hindi kami nag-confirm for that event. Madaling magmatapang dahil ikaw lang ang nakatayo sa entablado at sasabihin mo na lahat, natakot na ikaw ay makita. Alam mo namang simula pa lang, hindi talaga pupunta. Magkakaroon pa tayo ng tatlong oportunidad para magkaroon ng debates,” said Gutierrez, referring to debates sanctions by the Commission on Elections.

(Early on, we turned the invitation down and I’m sure Duterte’s camp knows we never confirmed for that event. It’s easy to be tough talking when you’re the only one on stage and claim that everyone’s afraid to face you. But they know from the start that we wouldn’t be going. They’re be three more chances to have debates)

Now, candidates are not obliged to attend every speaking engagement they are invited to, not even to the debates that the Comelec will organize.  If Roxas and his team felt that going to Nueva Ecija made more strategic sense than attending the Rappler forum, then that is fine.

But there is no need to pussyfoot about by saying he couldn’t come because he was sick. The Roxas Twitter account is probably run by volunteers, so they may not have known what the situation was, but one cannot be blamed for getting the impression that this was another subtle attempt at spin, and a president whose people cannot speak plainly is not the Leader I Want.

Shabby sheiks

Happy Halloween!

Happy Halloween!

For Halloween, two hosts of noontime variety show “Eat, Bulaga!” (Or Eat Beluga to our friends from Buzzfeed) dressed up like “Arab sheiks”, a costume that offended some Filipino Muslims, including Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao Gov. Mujiv Hataman, who called it “a mockery of and an affront to the image of the Muslim.”

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Anti-Social Media: Infinite crisis!

All Quiet on the Western Front

All Quiet on the Western Front

The Philippine media industry is facing a crisis: In many newsrooms, journalists are quitting and while that is normal in an industry that has historically had a high rate of attrition, this is happening in the lead up to an election year.

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Military policy, according to Bayan Muna’s Neri Colmenares

bongbong

The Bongbong rockets, a Philippine military attempt to be self-sufficient

Bayan Muna Rep. Neri Colmenares, who is running for the Senate in 2016, said Tuesday that the Philippines should not rely on the United States in its dispute with China over the West Philippine Sea, the country’s economic zone in the South China Sea.

“Let us rely on ourselves,” he said, according to a Rappler report. And that is a wonderful sentiment and a great goal to aspire to. His suggestion is for the Philippines to be “like Vietnam and other countries that didn’t seek [assistance, presumably] from the United States.”

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Masks Off: Miriam is back

miriam

More like: “Watch Out, All Of You Guys”

Days after filing her certificate of candidacy for president, Sen. Miriam Defensor-Santiago has given the public a peek of who she is now, and has always been.

Not the affable lady who cracks pickup lines when speaking in public, or even the supposed “graftbuster”, who loses her temper at the corrupt and the inept, but the blowhard who brooks no opposition.

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Anti-Social Media: And Now, The News

Did you know that Dennis Trillo is in a movie about Iglesia ni Cristo founder Felix Manalo, and that the movie — called, logically enough, “Felix Manalo” — has broken Guinness world records?

Found on the Internet, but also in real life probably

Found on the Internet, but also in real life probably

Well, now you do, thanks to the Philippine Star. Also, some stuff about some whatever sea dispute with China and some baloney about elections. Who cares?

It must be noted, though, that Iglesia did nothing wrong here. If newspaper space can be bought and an advertiser has the money, then it will be bought. What is more disturbing is why the space was for sale at all.

This subversion of the newspaper front page seems to have worked, though, because the world records that the movie broke were for having the most people watching a movie at the same time.

The influential religious group has broken other world records in the past, all of which were essentially variations on the theme: Many people in one place doing one thing at the same time.

Politics is Addition: Makabayan edition

Manila Mayor Joseph Ejercito Estrada with members of the Makabayan bloc

Manila Mayor Joseph Ejercito Estrada with members of the Makabayan bloc

 

In January 2001, when the presidency of Joseph Ejercito Estrada began crumbling and his political allies began jumping ship to join the growing crowd at the EDSA shrine calling for his resignation, a young activist with AGHAM-Youth wept bitterly: “The politicians have stolen the moment, they have stolen our protest.”

And he was right. In the months leading up to EDSA Dos, the movement to oust Estrada was led mainly by Bagong Alyansang Makabayan and the groups affiliated with it.

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