No, I’m not a Coco Martin fan, but ….


coco martin with Cebu media
Coco Martin, the new endorser of Shell Rimula and Shell Advance, poses with Cebu media influencers like Joy Torrejos of The Freeman and Tonton Antogop (Inews.PH editor) who are standing beside the actor. Allan Defensor (Inews.PH photo-journalist), and yours truly (blogger, Superbalita columnist and PRworks chief digital officer).

We behaved like regular members of the Cebu media a little over an hour before the start of the Shell Trade Partners Convention at Oakridge in Mandaue City last July 6, 2019. (Haha, a very late post!)

I thought it would stay that way until after the event climaxed with the performance of “Ang Probinsyano” and Shell’s new endorser Coco Martin and his gang.

Media

But, the 50 mainstream and online media practitioners who sat at the front tables of a gathering of some 500 people transformed into showbiz fans when Coco Martin himself showed himself and belted song after song. 

Coco’s Shell narrative

I tried to distance myself at first as I focused on the reactions of the audience and the actor’s narrative about growing up with Shell. Yes, his narrative about having been poor and his father driving a jeepney years ago sounded authentic. 

However, the excited response of an agitated audience was simply contagious. “What the heck,” I told myself. “Just go with the flow.”

 

Can peace prevail at West Philippine Sea?


Duterte

My take on President Duterte’s 2019 SONA

The Philippines is at the losing end if the current tension at the West Philippines Sea leads to war. This is what we sensed while listening to the State of the Nation Address of President Rodrigo Roa Duterte on July 22, 2019.

“The avoidance of conflict — armed conflict and protection of our territorial waters and natural resources compel us to perform a delicate balancing act. A shooting war is grief and misery multiplier. War leaves widows and orphans in its wake. I am not ready or inclined to accept the occurrence of more destruction, more widows and more orphans, should war, even on a limited scale, breaks out. More and better results can be reached in the privacy of a conference room than in a squabble in public. That is why I will do in the peaceful way, mindful of the fact that it is our national pride and territorial integrity that are at stake,” President Duterte said.

“There is no ifs and buts. It is ours. But we have been acting, [applause] along that legal truth and line. But we have to temper it with the times and the realities that we face today,” he concluded.

In a nutshell, President Duterte is not willing to risk war and prefers to resolve the dispute over the West Philippine Sea in a peaceful way. But he will do this with “national pride and territorial integrity” in mind.

Global significance

Is this possible as China slowly creeps inside the West Philippine Sea? For China, the impetus is quite strong to bully a country considered weak and gain dominance on a strategic global economic corridor.

Let’s take a look at the strategic location of the West Philippine Sea, or the South China Sea, for example.

Robert D. Kaplan, the chief geopolitical analyst of the private global intelligence firm Stratfor, wrote this brief description in his book Asia’s Cauldron: The South China Sea and the End of a Stable Pacific:

“The South China Sea functions as the throat of the Western Pacific and Indian oceans — the mass of connective economic tissue where global sea routes coalesce. Here is the heart of Eurasia’s navigable rimland, punctuated by the Malacca, Sunda, Lombok, and Makassar straits. More than half of the world’s annual mechant fleet tonnage passes through these choke points, and a third of all maritime traffic worldwide.  The oil transported through the Malacca Strait from the Indian Ocean, en route to East Asia through the South China Sea, is triple the amount that passes through the Suez Canal and fifteen times the amount that transits the Panama Canal. Roughly two-thirds of South Korea’s energy supplies, nearly 60 percent of Japan’s and Taiwan’s energy supplies, and 80 percent of China’s crude oil imports come through the South China Sea. Whereas in the Persian Gulf only energy is transported, in the South China Sea you have energy, finished goods, and unfinished goods.

Kaplan likewise “cites proven oil reserves of seven billion barrels, and an estimated 900 trillion cubic feet of natural gas.”

US-China dynamics

For the weak states with claims on the West Philippine Sea or the South China Sea like the Philippines, the options range from unity with all other claimants, wielding the international arbitral decision supporting its claims, and alliance with the United States.

Kaplan noted that the U.S. Navy is the dominant military force at the West Philippine Sea. However, the Americans have been downsizing its military through the decades even as the Chinese navy has grown dramatically.

Unfortunately, on top of the Chinese moves like building military-fortified islands, the Chinese-American trade war is bound to intensify tensions.

Still, unlike previous Philippine leaders who leaned on country’s military ties with the United States, President Duterte opted to befriend China and proceeded to forge bilateral dialogues  with Chinese leaders.

Will President Duterte’s China maneuver work for peace while upholding Philippine interests? As China and the United States flex their muscles amid territorial claims, more maritime incidents and tense moments are bound to happen.

Let’s keep monitoring the West Philippine Sea as these unfold.

#SONA2019

 

Pro-Duterte Kilusang Pagbabago flexes muscles against poverty (updated)


Evasco urges mass movement to claim #BiyayaNgPagbabago

The 50,000-strong pro-Duterte crowd gathered at Davao City’s Freedom Park on December 9, 2017 may be half of the original target turnout of 100,000. I personally went around the whole stretch of the park that was closed off to traffic to look at the crowd.

But that’s not what made the launch of Biyaya Ng Pagbabago — President Rodrigo Duterte’s anti-poverty program under the supervision of Cabinet Secretary Leoncio Evasco Jr. — significant.

Members of Kilusang Pagbabago, mostly coming from poor communities all over the archipelago, heeded the call to come to Davao City using their own resources. KP flexed its political muscles and delivered.

Alvarez, Evasco, Biyaya Ng Pagbabago
House Speaker Pantaleon ‘Bebot’ Alvarez listens to Cabinet Secretary Leoncio ‘Jun’ Evasco as the latter briefs him about the Biyaya Ng Pagbabago program and Kilusang Pagbabago.
Biyaya Ng Pagbabago launch 1
The stage was set up across the Bonifacio monument at the junction of Roxas Avenue, C. Bangoy Street, and Magsaysay Venue. At its height, the crowd stretched along Roxas Avenue to the corner of Daang Maharlika Highway.

Consider the following:

  • I expected more than half of the turnout would come from Davao City. However, some 70-80 percent arrived from other parts of Mindanao as well as Luzon and the Visayas.
  • To spread the word about the program, a Kilusang Pagbabago caravan had left Ifugao, Mountain province on December 1. The caravan traveled to Pampanga, Metro Manila, Batangas, Bicol, Samar, Leyte, and reached Cebu on December 6, 2017.
  • Some 2,000 KP members welcomed the caravan with a signing ceremony at the plaza fronting Cebu City Hall.
  • Cebu City Mayor Tomas R. Osmeña posted a video message expressing support for the Biyaya Ng Pagbabago program.
  • The Luzon group left that Wednesday night and arrived in Cagayan de Oro on Thursday (December 7) for the start of the Mindanao leg.
  • From Cagayan de Oro, the group traveled to Marawi City and proceeded to Cotabato where they were welcomed by hundreds of KP supporters inside the compound of the Autonomous Region for Autonomous Mindanao. The delegation arrived  in Davao City on December 8.
  • Another delegation from the Visayas, meanwhile, arrived in Cagayan de Oro on December 8 and traveled to Davao City via Bukidnon.
  • Most Kilusang Pagbabago chapters are active in poor urban and rural communities. Each Kilusang Pagbabago chapter were asked to observe the principle of self-reliance if they decide to send a delegation to Davao City. Aside from expressions of support, no politician spent money to finance the mobilization.

Map Biyaya ng Pagbabago Caravan

Promise of Change

During a press conference on December 8, CabSec Evasco said the first KP members originally helped in unleashing the mass movement that swept then Davao City Mayor Duterte to the presidency because of the promise of change.

The movement continued after the election victory to help realize the change that the Duterte victory ushered.

“Biyaya is Tagalog for gift or gasa in Bisaya,” explained CabSec Evasco. The anti-poverty program are the gifts brought about by change that the mass movement needs to claim.

The cabinet secretary is relying on projects of 12 agencies placed under his jurisdiction by President Duterte’s first executive order upon assuming office in July 2016. These are:

  1. Cooperative Development Authority (CDA)
  2. Housing and Urban Development Coordinating Council (HUDCC)
  3. National Anti-Poverty Commission (NAPC)
  4. National Commission on Indigenous Peoples (NCIP)
  5. National Commission on Muslim Filipinos (NCMF)
  6. National Food Authority (NFA)
  7. National Youth Commission (NYC)
  8. Office of the President – Presidential Action Center
  9. Philippine Commission on Women (PCW)
  10. Philippine Coconut Authority (PCA)
  11. Presidential Commission on the Urban Poor (PCUP)
  12. Technical Education Skills Development Authority (TESDA)

Participatory Governance

“Kailangang kumilos ang mamamayan sa isang malawak na Kilusang Pagbabago at aktibong makilahok sa pamamahala. Ating ilunsad ang isang pambansang kampanya para kamtin ang mga biyaya,” said Undersecretary Penpen Libres of the Office for Participatory Governance (OPG).

“Biyaya ng Pagbabago” is aligned with the objectives of the Philippine Development Plan ‎2017-2022 to reduce poverty in the country from 21.6% to 14%.

“We are targeting to alleviate poverty by 7%, or lift the lives of about six million people listed under the poverty level, before President Duterte’s term ends in 2022,” Libres said.

Unlike previous anti-poverty programs that were conceptualized and implemented as patronage projects of  traditional politicians, the Biyaya Ng Pagbabago integrated participatory governance and empowerment of people’s organizations.

20171209_182439

Federalism

Though I considered him a traditional politician because of the massive hakot PDP-Laban did in Cebu in mid-November, House Speaker Bebot Alvarez showed his support for this movement for change to end poverty in the country. and push for federalism.

In addition, the House Speaker spelled out targets for the federalism campaign come early 2018:

  • Passing and approval of the new federal constitution via constituent assembly;
  • Ratification of the new constitution simultaneous with the barangay elections in May 2018;
  • Start implementation of the federal set-up starting May 2019.

Alvarez, who is confident of steering the House super-majority in coordination of the Senate, needs a partner outside the halls of Congress. Kilusang Pagbabago is a nationwide mass movement primed to drum up massive support and votes for the administration’s shift to the federal system.

Indeed, Kilusang Pagbabago flexed its muscles on a nationwide scale and delivered.

Cebuanos sing against Bongbong Marcos


#NoMoreMarcos #NeverAgain #NeverForget

The shrill reactions of a handful of loyalists — of course with their dozens of dummy Facebook accounts — exposed something they could barely hide. They wished the concert never happened. But over 2,500 Cebuanos flocked to Plaza Independencia last April 17, 2016 for the “Cebu Against Marcos – The Concert.”

We listened to local alternative bands as we sang along with familiar songs of guest performers from Manila. From time to time, we chanted “No More Marcos. Never Again.” The loyalists, on the other hand, kept insisting only flies and mosquitoes came.

The lie that the Marcos years were the best, repeated a thousand times, still remains a lie. And a concert extolling the truth poses danger to that lie.

audience2

Cebu_Against_Marcos

 

Cebu_Against_Marcos

Marcos_victims, anti-Bongbong_campaign, Cebu, Philippines
Lighting candles in memory of  victims of the Marcos dictatorship.

Anti-Aquino

A constant pro-Bongbong litany involves rants on the failures and shortcomings of the administration President Noynoy Aquino but with a twist. Bongbong is presented as the alternative.

The pro-Bongbong narrative hits those against his candidacy as pro-Aquino. Loyalists gleefully label anti-Bongbong partisans as “Yellowtards.” But they are simply wrong.

Yes, there are supporters of Cong. Leni Robredo within the Anti-Bongbong Coalition (ABC). But there are also supporters of Sen. Alan Peter Cayetano and Sen. Chiz Escudero.

Karl Ramirez_and_Boogs_Villareal, Cebu_Against_Marcos
Karl Ramirez and Boogs Villareal

Listening to the music of Andres, a local alternative music band, along with Karl Ramirez and Boogs Villareal of ReverbNation, one should get a sense that the anti-Bongbong narrative goes beyond the Aquino-Marcos dynasties.

Thus, Karl and Boogs, two millennials who had not tasted the dictatorship, alludes to a change that is national democratic in “Pagbabago.”

“Laban natin ay tama
Tunay na reporma ng lupa
Makabulohang trabaho
At pagtatayo ng industriya ng bansa”

Noel_Cabangon, Cebu_Against_Marcos
Noel Cabangon

Noel Cabangon, on the other hand, opened his set with the “Tatsulok” that calls for ending the present system ruled by the political dynasties.

“Hindi pulat dilaw tunay na magkalaban
Ang kulay at tatak ay di syang dahilan
Hangga’t marami ang lugmok sa kahirapan
At ang hustisya ay para lang sa mayaman

Habang may tatsulok at sila ang nasa tuktok
Di matatapos itong gulo.”

Jim_Paredes, APO_Hiking_Society

Jim Paredes of the Apo Hiking Society brought me back a lifetime when we began trying to figure out the opposite sex with songs like “Ewan.” But those were the years when we also started exercising our rights as we wakened to bigger realities. Memories streamed as we sang along with “Batang Bata Ka Pa …”

“Alam ko na may karapatan ang bawat nilalang
Kahit bata pa man, kahit bata pa man

Nais ko sana malaman ang mali sa katotohanan
Sariling pagraranas ang pamamagitan
Imulat ang isipan sa mga kulay ng buhay
Maging tunay na malaya
‘Sang katangi-tanging bata”

Clenched_fist, Cebu_Against_Marcos
Clenched fist
Clenched_fists during anti_Marcos_concert
Spotted: Judge Menmen Paredes and Ka Bino Guerrero

Bayang Barrios and Cookie Chua, led the assembly sing the anthem of the anti-dictatorship movement, “Bayan Ko.”

Ibon mang may layang lumipad
Kulungin mo at umiiyak
Bayan pa kayang sakdal-dilag
Ang ‘di magnasang makaalpas

Pilipinas kong minumutya
Pugad ng luha at dalita
Aking adhika
Makita kang sakdal laya

Bayang Barrios_and_Cookie_Chua

 

Street_Art, Cebu_Against_Marcos
This is work by street artists in Cebu City who joined Cebu Against Marcos — The Concert. This painting was stolen along with the tarpaulin backdrop after the concert.

Attention all anti-Marcos advocates. Feel free to post your comments below. Please share this post to friends and family in your social media channels.

Check out our Facebook page: Anti-Bongbong Campaign.

More photos:

Minnie Osmena, Menmen Paredes, Cebu
Minnie Osmena, daughter of Serging and elder sister of Tomas, talks briefly with Judge Menmen Paredes as Susan Echaves.

Cebu’s 4-day ‘Welgang Bayan’

Cebu, Philippines, anti-Marcos protest, Marcos

October 22-25, 1984

(This is an account of the first day of the four-day transport strike in Cebu. This is part of an attempt to write a book on those dangerous years when we risked our lives to fight for nationalism and democracy. I am posting this in the hope that others who were also these would also write their versions in the comments space below or send me their narratives via email.)
The noise woke me at around 7 in the morning of October 22, 1984. People inside the apartment were looking down the street. A barricade had appeared early that morning outside the building. A familiar voice barked using a loudspeaker.
It took me a minute to figure out where I was and the people around me. Perhaps this was because I dozed off at 4 am. I had just three hours sleep. Today’s digital natives might joke about my semi-catatonic state as loading, or even booting up. But those were the days when I moved around a lot carrying a sling bag containing an extra shirt, a pair of pants, a book, and some notes. I often bring with me a portable typewriter but not at that moment.
I might find myself waking up in retreat houses or sleeping quarters of seminarians, the residences of some members of the Professionals Forum, or former political detainees.
Still, I would spend days on the typewriter at home — the Mongaya residence at the lower middle class community behind Chong Hua Hospital.
Many nights, though, would be spent a block away at the urban poor communities of Sitio Manzanitas and Sitio Kawayan, Sambag II. Several core group meetings went overnight. However, the EDs – education and study sessions – sometimes lasted several days. Thus, I could brag about sleeping all over Metro Cebu.
The tempo quickened after the Aquino assassination in August 1983. I was then part of the alliance and mass campaign core group of Nagkahiusang Sugbo Alang sa Demokrasya (NASUD), the Coalition Against People’s Persecution (CAPP), the Cebu Oust Marcos Movement for Nationalism and Democracy (COMMAND)  and the Professionals Forum (PF). After moving around hangouts of PF members and some media friends in Sanciangko and Pelaez Streets, I would attend late night meetings together with Fr. Rudy Romano at the residence of Inday Nita Cortes-Daluz. During the early jogging protests, the dawns would be spent at the St. Alphonsus Seminary that served as the assembly point for the student groups. The core group meetings would transpire in nearby religious residences arranged by Fr. Romano.
Once, I met Gerthie Mayo (then a law student who was also a reporter at DYRF) for a week-long meeting with regional mass campaign organizers many of them priests in Bacolod City.
Gerthie used to be a student leader at St. Theresa’s College (STC). I first came to know her as part of the student support group for an urban poor community threatened with demolition at the North Reclamation Area in 1979. I later joined her in mobilizing support for human rights victims in 1981. She was then connected with the Visayas Ecumenical Movement for Justice and Peace (VEMJP) while I volunteered as a writer of the Nagkahiusang Sugbo Alang sa Demokrasya (NASUD). NASUD was then squatting at the VEMJP office located beside a creek behind the St. Alphonsus Seminary.
There was still no direct Ceres bus to Bacolod City from Cebu City in 1984. With barely enough money for transportation and snacks, I got on board a bus to Toledo City just before noon one day, transfered to a ferry to San Carlos City, and took a tricycle to a bus stop. I arrived at the Bacolod City bus terminal at around 9 pm.
I recall taking a cab and arriving in front of a house that was actually a convent. A nun around 5-feet tall met us at the gate and brought me inside through a side door. After the simple but welcome meal, the nun guided me to an empty dorm.
She woke me up before daybreak and instructed me to wash up before the others in the convent would be up. When I was ready, she led me to a foyer and introduced the man who would drive me to the regional alliance and mass campaign meeting. The driver turned out to be a priest involved in organizing rallies and mass campaigns in Bacolod City. I could no longer remember his name. But he showed me Bacolod like a tour guide along with the political situation. I met Gerthie – whom the NASUD staff would call Manang when she was not around – at the conference venue.
The loudspeaker outside the building blaring knocked me out of the stupor. I woke up at a youth-student hangout, a cramped apartment atop a building at the Taboan market area. It was home to student leader Debbie Almocera and her family. A barricade, something I did not notice some three hours ago, had appeared at the corner of T. Abella and B. Aranas Streets at the Taboan Market. Like a shot of adrenaline, the tense atmosphere brought me back to the fast unfolding present. The transport strike had advanced into something beyond what we expected.
All over Metro Cebu that dawn, multi-sectoral groups identified with the militant NASUD and CAPP set up human barricades in key city choke points. However, military and police units swooped on the militants even before the sun was up. The strategy apparently was to nip the protest action in the bud.
Then the unexpected happened. Public vehicles, including buses and taxi cabs, usually plying city streets on an early Monday morning were eerily nowhere to be seen. Ordinary folk from Talisay to Lapu-Lapu City were spontaneously moving to put up instant barricades. Used tires burned as thick, black smoke billowed all over the metro. Ordinary folk took the cudgels while the militants were being hauled off to jail. It was a transport strike so unlike previous transport strikes.
The local media kept on calling what happened a transport strike until we began using a term that emerged from Mindanao. That same Monday, Davao City protesters heeded the transport strike call. However, they baptized their two-day protest, the Welgang Bayan.
Strike2
Tires burned in the middle of Cebu City streets. This and the photo above were taken from files of The Freeman we dug up at the Cebuano Studies Center.

Strike Call

A year had passed since the assassination of former senator Benigno Aquino Jr. Cebuanos turned out in huge numbers in response to calls for mass actions. The Reds, those belonging to militant organizations and alliances, organized giant marches and rallies in coordination with the Yellows, the organized and spontaneous following of anti-Marcos leaders and groups.
There were dawn jogging protests. We marched from Plaza Independencia to Fuente Osmeña. There was the reenactment of the Ninoy assassination in front of tens of thousands at Fuente. Though we normally did not seek permits for these protests, local law enforcement authorities generally observed what they called ‘maximum tolerance.’
However, it was different when the militant Kilusang Mayo Uno (KMU) chapter in Cebu emerged. The Visayan Glass chapter of the ALU-TUCP broke away from the labor federation, announced its affiliation with the newly-formed militant labor alliance in Metro Manila, and staged a labor strike at the Visayan Glass Factory in Guadalupe, Cebu City. The police were hardly tolerant at all. The violent dispersal operations saw the local anti-riot police use tear gas on Cebu protesters for the first time. The state violence schooled local labor leaders, along with student activists who came to pledge support for the strikers, in confrontational protests.
As these transpired, the militants with their red banners organized bigger joint mobilizations with political leaders and organizations that sported the color yellow. Coordination among the militant groups with friends in the local mass media, organizations of the middle forces, and the “Yellow” anti-Marcos groups were carried out through the alliance and mass campaign committee.
The group included Fr. Romano, youth-student organizers, journalists, and myself. The committee served as a core group among leaders and staff members of NASUD, CAPP, the Visayas Ecumenical Movement for Justice and Peace (VEMJP), the local youth chapter of the Justice for Aquino, Justice for All (JAJA) headed by Ronald Baquiano, and a community youth group based in Sitio Kawayan, Sambag 2. Lending us a hand during the mobilizations were businessmen Winston Monzon and other members of the Professionals’Forum (PF) as well as urban poor leader Jorge Barrioquinto.
Providing us logistical support were religious contacts and supporters of Fr. Romano along with a network of former political detainees composed of FQS activists. We likewise closely coordinated with lawyer Democrito Barcenas, the local leader of Pepe Diokno’s Kaakbay.
Cebu, Philippines, Marcos opposition
Photo shows human rights lawyer Democrito ‘Mocring’ Barcenas with members of the Cebu media and opposition leaders Lorenzo ‘Ka Tanny’ Tanada and Tony Cuenco.
I was involved, among other things, having been a staff member of NASUD and CAPP. Gerthie and I were instrumental in the early discussion groups that evolved into the Professionals’ Forum headed first by Joe Mateo and later Mrs. Zenaida Uy. Those early discussion sessions were held at the CAPP office at a building that soon gave way to the present One Mango complex at Maxilom Avenue.
A day before he suffered a heart attack that caused his death, veteran journalist Job Tabada asked me to write about the secret meetings of several reporters and editors at the office of The Advocate along Zulueta Street during those dangerous days. The office located at the Cebu City’s Parian district was just a block away from where military men swooped on opposition leader Ribomapil Holganza Sr., son Ribomapil “Joeyboy” Holganza Jr., journalist Felimon Alberca, and a couple of companions two years before. Across the Parian plaza meanwhile lived human rights lawyer Meindrado Paredes. Perhaps, the reporters who attended those meetings then (they are now senior journalists) might prefer to write their own stories. Tabada, a political detainee in Dumaguete City during the early martial law months, was coordinating then with Fr. Romano and Rex Fernandez who worked briefly at the Republic News.
The Marcos dictatorship sought to control the surge of popular protests towards the electoral channel with the Batasang Pambansa elections of May  14, 1984.
In a way, the parliamentary elections split the protest movement even at the local level. Many street parliamentarians called for a boycott. Populist protest leaders Cebu’s Inday Nita Cortes-Daluz and the detained Ribomapil ‘Dodong’ Holganza Sr. decided to participate. However, we managed to maintain communications and cooperation with Inday Nita and other pro-participation leaders during the electoral campaign. Our broad alliance core group composed of Debbie Almocera and Ronald Baquiano coordinated with Inday Nita. We organized the Marcos Resign March from Danao to Cebu City to demonstrate the continuing unity of pro-participation and pro-boycott partisans. To consolidate the pro-boycott groups, we launched another long-march from Carcar to Cebu City.
Widespread electoral fraud brought the protest movement together in bigger, more militant protests after the elections.
Tension particularly spiked on May 19, 1984 when a bullet killed 17-year old Raul Pintoy during protests over tabulation anomalies at the Cebu Provincial Capitol. The killing sparked an overnight riot in uptown Cebu City that left 27 injured, including eight soldiers, and scores arrested. After this incident, protest actions became more regular and spontaneous. Coordination between the “Red” cause-oriented groups and the “Yellow” protesters identified with Inday Nita became closer with regular meetings at her residence in a subdivision along V. Rama Avenue. This time, the Marcos Resign March organizers baptized the group the Cebu Oust Marcos Movement for Nationalism and Democracy (COMMAND).
Moreover, the protests turned more confrontational. Even jeepney drivers resorted to wildcat strikes in July 1984 to pressure, for instance, the Lapu-Lapu City government to abandon an anti-overloading policy.
By mid-September 1984, two presidential decrees increasing registration fees and imposing a road users tax pushed even transport operators to action. Local transport operators sent Malacanang a letter asking President Marcos to repeal the two decrees. The signatories were significant: Ramon Atillo of the Metro Cebu Taxi and PU Operators, Benjamin Somilla of the Cebu Jeepney Operators, Julian Vercide representing the bus operators, Manuel Granada of the trucking services sector, and Julito Roden of the Cebu Contractors Association and Aggregate Suppliers and Haulers. Signing  as coordinators for owners of private vehicles were Sonny Espina, Victor Elipe, and lawyer Manuel Paradela.
Meanwhile, local drivers groups called for a strike September 28, 1984. The transport operators joined the crescendo of protests as a result of the imposition of a road users tax. Together, the transport sector paralyzed the province with a deafening day-and-a-half transportation standstill.
The weeks that followed saw local militant protest leaders calling for a wider transport strike.
Meanwhile, national protest leaders set a nationwide strike on October 22, 1984. Being at the forefront of the street protests, a tambay in urban poor communities in Sambag 2 and Sitio Kawayan, and privy to internal NASUD and CAPP meetings as well as the meetings at the residence of Inday Nita, I felt in my guts more than just a transport strike was taking shape in Cebu.

The other two persons in the three-man strike core group – Rex Fernandez and Bonnie David – also felt Cebu was ready for a heightened confrontation with the dictatorship though at that particular moment, we did not know how exactly bulk of the population would respond.

That fateful morning of October 22, 1984, several communities all over the metro looked like movie scenes of Latin American uprisings. The local press and even our spokespersons then called the rising as a mere transport strike. At that moment, I still have to read about the term “Welgang Bayan.” The Davao Welgang Bayan erupted that same day and lasted two days. This is a story about the Cebu version — a people’s strike that raged four days.
fr-romano1
Fr.Rudy Romano played crucial roles during the rising.  It is unfortunate  that he could not tell his story first hand. Minions of the dictatorship abducted Fr. Rudy along with student leader Levi Ybanez months after the Welga.

Bonfire at Colon

October 21, 1984, the day before the strike, was a long day.
Two marches commenced from Tabunok, Talisay in the south and the other from Lapu-Lapu City that Sunday morning. I joined several thousands from Tabunok as we marched along the eight-kilometer route along the south highway, now Natalio Bacalso Avenue, then Candido Padilla Street. We had late lunch at the San Nicolas Church grounds as I, being a member of the mass campaign and alliance committee, awaited word from the marchers coming from the north. Because of the longer route from Lapu-Lapu City, we had to wait for them. The plan was to stage a rousing simultaneous arrival at the Gaisano Metro junction of Cebu City’s oldest street named Colon.
For several years, the destination of many protest marches in Cebu City was Fuente Osmena. The first human rights day rally I joined was dispersed at Fuente Osmena. This was the rally in December 1979 when the police picked up and later released Fr. Rudy Romano. I watched opposition figures who joined a Freedom March got drenched with red-tinted water at Fuente Osmena. The dawn Jog for Freedom protests that lasted several weeks in September 1983 transpired around Fuente Osmena.
That Sunday however, we transformed Cebu City’s oldest and busiest street into an arena of struggle. Standing at the makeshift stage at the Gaisano Metro junction, one could see a sea of protesters reaching the Lane junction to the south, Sanciangko Street along Osmena blvd., and beyond Pelaez Street to the north.
“Katawhan! Ang Nasud! Karon Nakigbisog!” “Marcos! Hitler! Diktador! Tuta!” The familiar chants sounded different. Expressing pent up rage of tens of thousands, the collective roar shook the ground at the heart of Cebu City’s the central business district. The scene gave this rally veteran goosebumps.
In a statement to the press, driver leader Eddie Ferrer outlined the strike demands:
  • Decrease the taxes on oil;
  • Abolish the new registration fees on private vehicles;
  • Reduce the drivers’ license fees and penalties for traffic infractions;
  • Increase the salaries of government and private employees;
  • Repeal Amendment No. 6;
  • Release all political detainees like Ribomapil Holganza;
  • Stop IMF-World Bank intervention in the Philippines.
It was already evening when the rally ended. But the long night had just begun. The student sector took over for an overnight vigil. Pushing the ante further, they built a giant bonfire at the center and tied a rope around the Colon-Osmena blvd. junction. Amid songs and speeches presented by student leaders from various colleges and universities, there were lots of meetings and last minute arrangements right there at the heart of Cebu City’s business district. Those wanting to rest spread carton strips on the road and took naps near the raging fire. The junction looked like a small commune. We owned Colon Street that night.
It was at the middle of Colon Street where I awaited news from Rex and Bonnie who were at a meeting of transport operators at Pete’s Kitchenette. The meeting went on deep into the night. Redemptorist priest Fr. Rudy Romano represented the cause-oriented groups as the operators discussed whether to support the strike or not. With Fr. Rudy was  Vic Elipe, a transport operator who was already committed to the strike. In fact, he lent an office located across the old bus terminal that we converted into the strike HQ.

Rex and Bonnie likewise coordinated with sector leaders of NASUD and CAPP who were tasked with setting up human barricades.

While some operators hemmed and hawed, the bonfire at Colon signified the die had been cast. As militants silently moved to set up human barricades in key city choke points, the Colon bonfire symbolized the call on the Cebuano population to put up barricades. How they responded surprised us, hardened protest veterans.

1st Day

Debbie Almocera, a militant student leader, and I left the Colon bonfire at dawn. Together with Ronald Baquiano of the Justice for Aquino, Justice for All (JAJA) movement in Cebu City, Debbie and I composed the core group of COMMAND or the Cebu Oust Marcos Movement for the Advancement of Nationalism and Democracy. The team coordinated closely with Redemptorist priest Fr. Rudy Romano and Prof. Zenaida Uy of the Professionals Forum. Our job was to establish and maintain the unity between the national-democratic organizations and the anti-Marcos opposition identified with Inday Nita Cortes Daluz. Sometime before the May elections, we coordinated with Daluz and Fr. Romano to stage a 20-km long march from Danao City to Cebu City that called for the resignation of President Marcos. The march, participated by both boycott and participation advocates, sought to portray that the elections failed to break the unity of the parliament of the streets in Cebu.
Located a few blocks from the Colon bonfire and the strike HQ across the south bus terminal, I decided to wash up and get some rest at Debbie’s residence — a space at the top floor of an old building at the Taboan area where her family and some relatives lived. The place also served as a hangout of student leaders. I dozed on the sofa at around 4 am thinking the next few hours would be a much longer day.
The sun was up and so was Debbie when the noise outside agitated the household. A big crowd had gathered around a big tree trunk barricading the corner of T. Abella and B. Aranas Streets outside Cebu City’s Taboan Public Market. Nagkahiusang Sugbo alang sa Demokrasya (NASUD) and Coalition Against People’s Persecution (CAPP) officials Raoul Doroteo and Zac Campaner were negotiating with a police team. Raoul and Zac later briefed me about spontaneous barricades sprouting all over the city. They decided to go around Metro Cebu to get a sense of what was fast unfolding, identify local leaders, and establish communication lines.
As Debbie and I moved fast along Sanciangko and Panganiban streets towards the strike HQ, only tartanillas plied the streets. Used tires burned in the middle of the road as an expression of anger. Cebu City streets looked like an uprising scene of a Costa Gavras movie.

At the strike HQ, Rex and Bonnie along with Vic Elipe and Greg Nilles of DYRF were huddled around a radio set and a DYRF microphone. CAPP and NASUD were our organizational links to organized militant sectoral organizations. Meanwhile, the direct access to DYRF broadcasts provided a voice and a central leadership to the scattered and largely spontaneous protest actions. The barricades set up by the militants in key choke points were easily dispersed. Police forces arrested several students sleeping around the Colon bonfire as the others scampered. The next day’s papers listed 33 arrested during the strike’s first day.

However, spontaneous barricades – physical blockades by spontaneous, unorganized elements — sprouted all over the city.

After a quick meeting, Rex and I hitched on board the DYRF service vehicle to link up with Inday Nita who was in her radio station booth located along Ramos Street.
Cebu, Philippines, Marcos, protests, Welgang Bayan
A news item in The Freeman about the strike.
The next stop that morning was the Redemptorist convent to coordinate with Fr. Romano who was then working with church-based groups to set up a logistics assistance center at the Bradford Church of the protestant United Church of Christ of the Philippines (UCCP). As these developed, the student leaders regrouped and organized a contingent of some 500 militants marching around the Colon area. They later went to the Cebu City Hall with Rex Fernandez. The group later marched to the Ramos police station to protest the arrests of protesters.
Not content with coordinating behind the scenes, I joined the students march around the Cebu business district late that afternoon.

By evening, thousands of spontaneous protesters joined the militants at Colon Street. People filled up the whole stretch from the Cinema Theater to the Lane area.

As this developed, news reached the strike HQ that a similar scene had spontaneously developed at the Tabunok area.

Later that night, I retreated to a safehouse at the pier area for a late meeting with two senior community organizers who witnessed the developments in Tabunok.

(Yes, this account is incomplete. I plan to make this into a book. Please help by contributing your stories, photos, and memorabilia)

ferd_marcos1
Bongbong Marcos was already in his mid-20s when events mentioned here happened.
edsa
Much had already been written about the parliament of the streets in Metro Manila. I hope Cebu protesters would now come out to tell their own stories.

Pasalamat

Mom Nats, Mongaya, Nacorda, funeral mass

//platform.twitter.com/widgets.js
Mao kini ang kumpletong Kulom nga akong gi-submit sa Superbalita. Ang nakaapan lang kay tungod sa kakulang sa espasyo, wa na hinuon makarga ang katapusang mga linya. Mao nga dinhi na nako gi-post kini.


Pasalamat

Akong problema isip usa ka magsusulat kay dili ko hanas, bisan og naniguwang na, mosulti atubangan og daghang mga tawo. Kini akong gipadayag dihang nag-atubang ko sa mga kaparyentihan ug kahigalaan sa miaging gabii atol sa katapusang gabii sa haya sa akong inahan nga si Fortunata Nacorda Mongaya.

Pagkahuman sa maong pakigpulong, halos tibuok gabii nga nagbalikbalik kog hunahuna kabahin sa akong gisulti.

Way klarong outline. Nagtuyoktuyok ang mga punto.

Nganong wala ko mag-andam daan og listahan sa mga punto bisan og wa ko sulti-i daan? Klaro na man nga duna gyuy maingon nato nga tribute ug mahimo pang maka-pass ang mga manghon kay sa kinamaguwangan.

Tingale duna lang gyuy mental block. Daw mura kog zombie nga tua sa haya sama kaniadtong namatay sab akong amahan nga si Eleodoro ‘Doroy’ Mora Mongaya kaniadtong 1994. Ang problema kay ang emosyon daw mobul-og pagkalit inig mag-inusara na ka ug ang pait kay magbalikbalik sulod sa katuigan.

Ambot, usahay makahunahuna ko nga mas suwerte ang makangaab ug makaminatay diha mismo sa haya ug sa paglubong sa usa ka minahal nga kinabuhi sama sa amahan ug inahan.

Patalinghugi lang gyud ko nga kining maong lindog akong i-dedicate sa akong inahan karon. Di ko mahimutang kon di ko ni buhaton.

Mom Nats, Mongaya, Nacorda, funeral mass
During the funeral mass at the Sto. Tomas de Villanueva Parish church in Pardo, Cebu City.

Bisan pa man, sama kagabii, tulo lang kabahin kang Mom Nats ang akong mahinumdoman.

Una, ang pagka strikta. Matod pa sa among mananabtan, disciplinarian. Apan, di lang siya disciplinarian. Super disciplinarian. Gani, makaingon ko nga kahadlokan. Murag nasunod gyud niya ang konsepto sa pagdisiplina sa mga katiguwangan.

Bisan pa man, ang ikaduha nakong mahinumduman mao ang iyang kinaiya nga mounong sa mga anak nga nagkasakit ug anaa sa krisis sa kinabuhi.

Akong personal nga mga kaagi mao kadtong higayon dihang nag-typhoid fever ko ug nipauli sa balay gikan sa daghan kaayong mga kalihokan isip aktibista panahon sa diktadurya ni Marcos.

Siya mismo ang nikuyog ug niateman kanako sulod sa duha ka semana sa Southern Islands Hospital.

Pila ka buwan human nawala si Fr. Rudy Romano kaniadtong Hulyo 11, 1985, niabot ang punto nga delikado na alang sa akong personal seguridad ang padayong magpuyo dinhi sa Sugbo.

Ug nakadesisyon ang pamilya nga “i-exile” ako ngadto sa balay sa akong tiya sa Manila kay ang akong tiyo nga dakog ranggo sa kapulisan mahimong makapanalipod kanako.

Ang akong inahan nga nikuyog kanako ug nidesisyon gyud nga mo-leave una sa trabaho diha sa Southern Islands Hospital sulod sa kapin sa bulan aron lang masiguro nga mahimutang ko ug mapaila-ila sa tanang mga paryente nga tua sa kaulohan.

Mao kini ang rason nganong naabot kog Manila dihang nibuto ang Edsa 1.

Ikatulo, didto sa among pagkuyog sa kaulohan nako nasinati gyud nga kami lang duha magkuyog ug akong mahinumdoman ang iyang pagka madaginuton.

Isip kinamaguwangan, nasiguro ko nga daghan og mga higayon nga magkuyog kaming duha sama nianang mas una kong dad-on sa manghihilot nga si Tiago sa Talisay kay sa doctor kon mahilantan. Apan, mas mahinumdoman nako karon kini mga semana sa Manila kay dako na man.

Ug tungod niini, dali ko nga nasuweto kon unsaon mag-jeep ug mag-bus libot sa kaulohan. Gani, makapanghambog ko nga nasulod na namo ang kinasuokan sa karaang Divisoria gikan sa Tutuban station ngadto na sa gamayng terminal kaniadto sa mga jeep nga sakyan padulong sa pier.

Daghan ko og nakat-onan ug ubay-ubay pa ang gusto nakong isulti kabahin sa kinabuhi gikan sa akong inahan. Ug bisan pa man ug dili gyud maingon nato nga way sami ang relasyon tali sa usa ka anak ug inahan, mas makahinumdom ug mangita ko karon sa mga ingon niini nga mga kasinatian.

Hinuon, di masulat tanan dinhi.

Igo na lang tingale nga mopadayag ko og pasalamat, nasiguro ko nga bisan naa na ka padulong sa langit, makabasa gihapon ka niining akong gisulat karon. Salamat Ma.

Magpasalamat sab ko sa tanang mga pangadye gikan sa tanang kabanay ug kahigalaan lakip na sa niduyog sa among kasubo diha sa pag-text ug sa Facebook.

(@anol_cebu sa Twitter)

Mamasapano: The Messy Search for Truth

Mamasapano, #NasaanAngPangulo, Fallen44

But should P-Noy resign
and give way to Binay?


What happened in Mamasapano, Maguindanao, last January 25, 2015 that led to the deaths of 44 elite police commandos?

Personally, I have lots of questions. I mentioned these in my last column in Sun.Star Cebu titled “Seek the Truth.” Among others, I asked: “…who gave the go-signal and why was suspended PNP Chief Alan Purisima on top of the failed operation.”

As more information are published each day, the questions in my mind further increases.

Embed from Getty Images
Too many probes

One question I like to highlight now is why the number of inquiries into the tragedy? The Philippine Daily Inquirer listed eight investigations. And the editor put the story’s heading this way: “To many probes (8) may spoil the truth.”

The Philippine National Police (PNP) and the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) immediately conducted separate investigations. The Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) also ordered its own probe.

However, Malacañang prefers investigations by regular agencies. Thus, Justice Secretary Leila de Lima ordered a separate probe. As this developed, Human Rights Commission (CHR) chairperson Etta Rosales announced a separate fact-finding initiative. Both the House and Senate public order committees likewise went into the motions of opening their own respective inquiries.

The International Monitoring Team (IMT), composed of foreign military officials that monitors the implemention of ceasefires between the government and the MILF, is also gathering information on what happened.

Revelations by the PNP Director Getulio Napeñas, the suspended commander of the Special Action Force (SAF), that President Aquino had knowledge of the operation prompted calls for an independent investigation.

Map of Maguindanao showing the location of Mam...
Map of Maguindanao showing the location of Mamasapano (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

#NasaanAngPangulo

As of this writing, or some 10 days after the tragic Mamasapano encounter, we can now see that the PNP and the AFP are blaming each other. The PNP is saying that the army units nearby failed to reinforce the  SAF. However, the AFP said some 300 SAF elements were merely on standby four kilometers away from the firefight.

The law enforcement and defense arms of the government at loggerheads shows weakness at the top. What can one expect from a commander-in-chief who prefers a car company event than the arrival of the fallen 44? As the nation grieved watching the bodies of the fallen 44 arrive in Manila, the hashtag #NasaanAngPangulo became trending in Twitter.

Resign?

The popular outrage has prompted various quarters to call for the resignation of President Aquino. One group pushing for the resignation is the National Transformation Council (NTC), which has earned the support of some bishops.

The resignation call, however, is also being met by this fear of Vice President Jojo Binay — who is busy evading the Senate probe into alleged corruption — emerging as president.

What are your thoughts, guys?

Pursuing peace


peaceThe Aquino administration crowed about its pursuit of peace with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF). But is ending the war with our Moro brothers enough to achieve peace? How about the war being waged by the National Democratic Front (NDF) along with the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) and the New People’s Army (NPA)?

With a much economically and militarily stronger China going bolder in bullying us, the time has come for President Noynoy Aquino to push harder for internal peace on all fronts so we will be stronger in facing this growing Chinese threat.

The signing of the peace agreement with the MILF leadership last March was a big step for President Aquino. However, the arrest of the Tiamzons and how top officials justified this move led us to question the administration’s sincerity in the peace advocacy.

Top government officials echoed the position that Benito and Wilma Tiamzon are not peace consultants contrary to what the defense lawyers are saying.

Here’s what Alex Padilla, head of the government peace panel, said:

padilla

Padilla went further.

padilla1

Let us add the statement of Justice Secretary Leila de Lima:

De Lima

In my search for the other side, I came across tonyocruz.com and his post titled: “Give peace a chance.” In this post, he published the following:

tiamzon-loa

crising

Yup, the other side of the story goes back to the time of President Fidel V. Ramos. Here’s a copy of …

 

Executive Order 276, by President Ramos, implementing JASIG

With these attachments, Tonyo Cruz pushes giving peace a chance, something that should resonate in President Noynoy Aquino and his advisers who are known as peace advocates for decades.

At this point, I just want to point out that the different sides have opposing views on how to achieve peace with the insurgency.

For the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP), peace means military victory in crushing the insurgents.

AFP1

AFP2

However, here’s what communist leaders Jose Maria Sison and Luis Jalandoni are saying:

Sison and Jalandoni

The way I see it, the Aquino administration cannot go on pursuing peace with the Moro rebels but showing the world that it won’t honor agreements made by previous administrations. President Aquino is practically telling future presidents that they could ignore the peace documents he has signed now with the MILF.

The JASIG documents presented above show the rebels are actually telling the truth while de Lima and Padilla are, at the very least, misinformed. Statements from the AFP brass also convey the message that their version of peace is way off the kind of peace supposedly being pushed by peace advocates and negotiators.

What do you think?

 

Enhanced by Zemanta

Find best PH climbing wall atop Cebu skyscraper


The breath-taking view of Cebu City's South Road Properties (SRP) from the Club Ultima tower.
The breath-taking view of Cebu City’s South Road Properties (SRP) from the Club Ultima tower.

cebu-Crown-Regency-05

Cebu City visitors won’t miss the tall Club Ultima building and Towers 1 of Crown Regency Hotels  towering above the uptown skyline. Nearer the skyscrapers at the Fuente Osmeña circle, one further sees the zipline cables connecting the top floors.

That'sAlya, Potpot, Andre, Nicole, and JL.
That’sAlya, Potpot, Andre, Nicole, and JL.

But up at the 39th floor we — the kids with close friends and yours truly — went to again experience what is billed as the world’s only rock climbing wall atop a skyscraper.

The zipline and climbing wall are two of the exciting features of the Sky Experience Adventure. There’s the Edge Coaster, Sky Walk, Sky Lift, Tower Zip, Paramount Wall, Cliff Hanger and Vertex. Club Ultima chairman and CEO Richard L. King described this as a “must experience.”

“Not only do you get to do this on top of the city’s tallest building. You also get to challenge yourself to scale heights you never imagined,” Mr. King wrote in his message in the publication “Ultima Matters.”

While it is usually windy at the top floors, I noted early that morning, the weather bulletin placed Cebu under signal number 1 because of typhoon Caloy. Hmmm. Scary.

It was also past 6 pm when we arrived. The panoramic evening view of the city was breath-taking. And the group could enjoy climbing up to 1 am, that’s if you  have the energy for several climbs up a rather challenging wall.

Haha. No, I did not climb. I am only the stage father or yaya or photographer accompanying Alya Simone, Natasha Nicole, Andre Sandino, Potpot, and JL. Somehow, Alya convinced them to climb what she described as the best climbing wall in the Philippines.

alya1 alya2

Former child rock-climbing champ of Cebu Alya Simone Mongaya conquering the world's only rock climbing wall on top of a skyscraper.
Former child rock-climbing champ of Cebu Alya Simone Mongaya conquering the world’s only rock climbing wall on top of a skyscraper.

The now 21-year-old Alya should know. She began climbing at six years old and participated at that young age in a national competition at the Glorietta in Makati City. After winning several competitions, she received a “Garbo sa Sugbo” award from then Gov. Gwen Garcia. When she stopped joining competitions when she reached high school, she has already tried going up different rock climbing walls in the country.

That Saturday was not the first the kids tried the wall and definitely not the last. Thanks to my good friends Guido Tabañag and Mr. Richard King.

And I thought, why not a rock climbing competition atop a skyscraper, guys?

Newbies Natasha Nicole and JL Escatron.
Newbies Natasha Nicole and JL Escatron.
bordi1
That’s Bordi in action.
jl1
Go JL, go!
nicole1
Natasha Nicole, the beginner.
pot1
How’s the climb, Pot?

Related story

First rock climbing experience on top of a building

 

Rizal during the days of social media


Downloaded from Twitter

Seeing “#Happy Rizal Day” trending in Twitter today gave me mixed feelings. This means many still remember Dr. Jose Rizal. But why say “Happy Rizal Day” to commemorate the day he was killed?

I find it quite ironic though that Filipinos 115 years after he was shot to death at Bagumbayan (now Luneta) by Spanish authorities would now greet each other “Happy Rizal Day.”

Do we tell each other “Happy Good Friday” to commemorate the day the Romans crucified and killed Jesus Christ?

Perhaps, we say “Happy Halloween” when we party on the eve of All Saints Day and All Souls Day. But never do we utter “Malipayong Kalag-Kalag” especially when we visit the burial place of our loved ones on November 1.

Why say “#Happy Rizal Day” on Twitter then?

Are we happy that Rizal’s death on December 30 some 115 years ago triggered the Philippine Revolution that led to freedom from Spanish colonialism?

A photo engraving of Andres Bonifacio, founder...
Image via Wikipedia

History books tell us this was same revolution that Rizal repudiated because he preferred more peaceful means of change. This was also the same revolution that killed its own leaders like Andres Bonifacio. This was likewise the same revolution whose victory the Americans snatched away from us because we were supposedly not ready for freedom and independence. This was the same revolution that the Americans suppressed brutally and killed hundreds of thousands of Filipinos.

In Manila, the Americans did not grant their erstwhile allies — the Filipino revolutionaries who just declared Philippine independence on June 12, 1898 — the benefit of victory. The Americans declared victory against the Spaniards in the mock battle of Manila bay.

Cebuano revolutionaries fared better then. On December 24, 1898, the Spanish governor left the provincial government in the hands of a Cebuano caretaker governor — Don Pablo Mejia.

To me, saying “#Happy Rizal Day” only means the present Twitter generation vaguely remembers Rizal as a Philippine hero. They don’t anymore recall that December 30, 1896 was the day the Guardia Civil shot him to death.

Well, in a way, the killing of Rizal convinced Filipinos then that the days of peaceful struggle for reforms within the Spanish colonial system was over. The time for revolution has come. They began singing “ng mamatay ng dahil sa iyo” as they fought for independence.

English: Photo of Jose Rizals execution (1896)...
Image via Wikipedia

Years before his death, Rizal wrote in his essay “The Philippines — A Century Hence” the following passage:

“Very likely the Philippines will defend with inexpressible valor the liberty secured at the price of so much blood and sacrifice.  With the new men that will spring from their soil and with the recollection of their past, they will perhaps strife to enter freely upon the wide road of progress, and all will labor together to strengthen their fatherland, both internally and externally, with the same enthusiasm, with which a youth falls again to tilling the land of his ancestors who long wasted and abandoned through the neglect of those who have withheld it from him.  Then the mines will be made to give up their gold for relieving distress, iron for weapons, copper, lead, and coal.  Perhaps the country will revive the maritime and mercantile life for which the islanders are fitted by their nature, ability and instincts, and once more free, like the bird that leaves its cage, like the flower that unfolds to the air, will recover the pristine virtues that are gradually dying out and will again become addicted to peace — cheerful, happy, joyous, hospitable and daring.

These and many other things may come to pass within something like a hundred years …”

Unfortunately, the new Filipinos today — more than a century after Rizal’s death — don’t anymore posses a clear “recollection of their past (as we) … strife to enter freely upon the wide road of progress.”

It seems Filipino during the time of Twitter and other forms of social media are more content with mere exchanges of “Happy Rizal Day” to commemorate our country’s historic turning points.

A call to consumers: Join the ERC hearings on October 8


Electricity consumers in the Visayas and the rest of the country were urged to participate in the Energy Regulatory Commission’s (ERC) virtual hearings on two rate petitions of the National Power Corporation (NPC) on October 8, 2020 at 9:00AM and 2:00PM.

What are these petitions?

1. Approval of a P20.7B Universal Charge for Missionary Electrification (UC-ME) for 2021 (ERC Case No. 2020-011RC)

2. The recovery of an alleged P5.9B 2018 UCME “revenue shortfall” (ERC Case No. 2020-004)

Anyone may be allowed to join by simply sending his email address to legal.virtualhearings.erc.gov.ph@gmail.com

Increase Monthly Power Bills

Romeo L. Junia of the United Filipino Consumers and Commuters (UFCC) said approval of the two petitions could raise the monthly bill of a 200kwh-household by as much as P52.92.

The cost would even be higher when the on-going Automatic Cost Recover Mechanism (ACRM) charge of P0.0219 pkwh is added. The UCME is collected from “all electricity end-users” under Sec. 70 of the Electric Power Industry Reform Act (EPIRA) to pay for the high cost of diesel and bunker fuel plants that supply power to Small Islands and Isolated Grids (SIIG).

UCME was supposed to “be phased out in a period not exceeding three (3) years” under Sec. 74 of EPIRA, with a one-year grace period added. However, the subsidy thrives 19 years into the power reform law. For the current year, UCME is P0.1561 pkwh. This is about P15.6B on annual energy sales of 100B kwh. However, that is set to increase by 33% next year, to a staggering P20.7B.

“We have to see where that increase will go, let alone ask why that subsidy persists up to the present, in spite of the mandatory phase out under EPIRA,” Junia said.

Situation in Cebu

Junia pointed out that there are two UCME coops with pending rate applications at ERC – Camotes Island Electric Cooperative (CELCO) and Bantayan Island Electric Cooperative (BANELCO).

In the case of CELCO, it is a 15-year Power Supply Agreement (PSA) which Primewater Infrastructure Corp. obtained thru an Unsolicited Proposal. Meanwhile, BANELCO, is a negotiated 12-month Interim Power Supply Agreement (IPSA) with Isla Norte Energy Corp. (INEC). INEC is a subsidiary of the Vivant Consortium that was awarded, separately, a 15-year PSA a year ago, also by BANELCO.

While they may not be emblematic of UCME, they are nonetheless instructive and illustrative of how the subsidy scheme works, Junia explained.

My observation: suffice it to say, the subsidy should not be imposed on us, power consumers, but on the power companies.

What DOE is doing?

In 2016, the Department of Energy (DOE) adopted a Missionary Electrification Development Plan (MEDP) to “graduate” these coops from the subsidy regime to commercial viability. Another path is inter-connection so that the coop becomes on-grid, from off-grid. 

The policy of ‘tariff differentiation’ where UCME subsidy will be targeted to residential and marginal coop members so that commercial and industrial customers will not be unduly advantaged made so much sense, Junia said, but it has not been implemented.

According to Junia, the ‘graduation’ strategy of MEDP is not evident, at all, in the NPC petitions. In fact, there is no perceptible shift to indigenous fuels that could avoid and minimize the use of expensive and environmentally-critical diesel and bunker fuels, he noted.

Junia emphasized that United Filipino Consumers and Commuters (UFCC) does not oppose the concept of a subsidy or help to bring the unserved or underserved areas to the economic mainstream, and reliable, affordable power supply is key to that.

The cost, however, should be borne by government, not the “electricity end-users” who are already burdened with excessive and outlandish charges under the present rate regime, he said.

Taxes power consumers pay

According to Junia, for every P1,000.00 an electricity consumer pays today, about P100.00 to P110.00 goes to taxes.

Every item is VATted, including the System Loss, senior citizen discount, lifeline rate, ACRM, even the Local Franchise Tax.

Government must undertake countryside electrification so that all Filipinos will get electricity, 24-7. But the cost must be borne by government, not the overbilled and overtaxed consumers, he emphasized.

Junia said, in a 300-kwh household that paid a total of P2,801.00 on which he paid P300.00 in taxes and P55.16 in UCME. If government heeds our suggestion and pays UCME out of the taxes we ourselves pay, Junia said, government will still have a net tax take of P245.18 for that month, for that account.

“We hope consumers will look closely into the fine print in their monthly power bills. At the household level it’s just a few centavos but in the aggregate, the numbers are staggering. And as UFCC has shown in helping institutionalize the Competitive Selection Process (CSP) in the landmark Supreme Court decision in May 2019 on Meralco’s Midnight Contracts, consumers can also score winning blows and make a difference, UFCC said.

To intervene and participate in the hearings, consumers can email their interest to: records@erc.gov.ph, records.erc.gov.ph@gmail.com , copy furnish legal.erc.gov.ph@gmail.com.

#########

Ref. ROMEO L. JUNIA, Mob. No. 0917 521 5611

Email: philconsumerforum@gmail.com

Philippines joins race to make COVID-19 medicine


A Filipino-American led biotechnology company with a global team from the
United States, Europe and the Philippines, has taken new approach towards the development of a COVID-19 treatment.

Tests for the drug called RelivirTM will be held in the Philippines, said Rogelio “Vonz” Santos, Jr., chairman and co-founder of Nucision. Santos is the Philippines’ first US born Filipino-American to receive the TOYM (Ten Outstanding Young Men) Award, the highest honor given to a Filipino citizen.

According to Santos, RelivirTM is the first-of-its kind nanomolecular compound
engineered to specifically “cut” the RNA of SARS-CoV-2 (COVID-19) and disrupt viral replication.

The RNA or Ribonucleic acid is a polymeric molecule essential in various biological roles in coding, decoding, regulation and expression of genes. A polymer is a large molecule, or macromolecule, composed of repeated linked units, each a relatively light and simple molecule.The RNA and DNA are nucleic acids.

Nucision has taken a different approach in developing RelivirTM to combat COVID-19. The focus of most COVID-19 efforts of the biopharma industry today, which is on
vaccines, antibody treatments or repurposing existing drugs on the market.

However, RelivirTM has a different specific effectivity towards the target virus. Its effectiveness is not directly dependent on eliciting any host-mediated responses, as is seen in the majority of immunologic-based development tracks right now.

Its researchers believe that this treatment method should be safely applicable at various stages of the viral infection.

Conventional methods like vaccines or antibodies are a discovery process—they design the vaccine in hopes to discover the right combination of components or antigens to elicit an effective response.

However, Nucision’s therapeutic approach is based less on discovery and more on active invention.

Santos said, “Beyond a targeted therapeutic for COVID-19, what we have created is a platform. This means that we will be able to rapidly react to new or mutated viral targets by ‘reprogramming’ our platform in a process that takes weeks, not months or years.”

Nucision’s unique antiviral framework that combines cell penetrating peptides with customized RNA targeting enzymes originated over two decades ago from research that targeted HIV.

Dr. Stanley Stein co-developed the first Interferon based therapeutic for Hepatitis-C.
Stein is also the chairman and CEO of Amylex Biotechnology Corp. that accomplished the first FDA Commercial Approval in the Philippines for a synthetic nano-molecular medical treatment called BETACLEARTM.

BETACLEARTM is part of a treatment model that rapidly reduces beta-amyloid levels in the body which has long been the primary target to address Alzheimer’s Disease.

With this background, Nucision followed an aggressive development path in its anti-COVID-19 treatment. The company already initiated compound manufacturing in preparation for animal studies and product development activities.

Nucision has already engaged in communications with Philippine agencies connected to the IATF (Inter Agency Task Force for COVID). It plans to begin human clinical trials for RelivirTM by early next year.

According to Santos, “This unprecedented time requires creative solutions and bold leadership. The world will emerge transformed. I am proud to work with a talented and dedicated team from across the globe that, despite these challenging times, is giving their all to find a solution.”

Googling “No Time to Die” singer Billie Eilish


Why get an 18-year old to sing James Bond’s “No Time to Die” theme? asked this boomer. The thought got me to Google ‘Billie Eilish’ and spent hours enjoying her songs on an EDSA anniversary afternoon.

From the silent whispers to the full orchestra and guitar riffs of  the James Bond piece, I drifted towards a concert set and watch Billie Eilish dance on stage, the very silent “I Love You,” and a priest reflecting on her emotionally searing “Everything I Wanted” suicide track.

Perhaps, the subject brought me far from thinking again about the first EDSA uprising in the Philippines some 34 years ago. Reading in Facebook about Marcos loyalists foster the lie that martial law prevented communists from taking over in 1972 depressed me.

And I wandered into the silent, still depressing tracks of Billie Eilish.

Azalea, my 15-year-old youngest daughter, obviously found it disconcerting his nearly senior (I’m 59) dad liked listening to Billie songs.

“That’s not your crowd,” she flatly said when I shared about a Billie Eilish concert in Manila this September 2020.

However, I’m certain Billy Eilish would gain a huge following by then after the showing of 25th Bond movie “No Time to Die.” Eilish is the youngest artist to perform a James Bond theme.

Wikipedia says the world premiere at the Royal Albert Hall in London is set on 31 March 2020, followed by its theatrical release globally from 2 April 2020 in the United Kingdom and on 10 April 2020 in the United States. Theaters all over the Philippines should be featuring “No Time to Die” in early April.

From a marketing point of view, Billie Eilish singing for the latest James Bond movie sought to hook the Gen Z crowd to the 25th Bond movie.

On the other hand, the sad Eilish track sought to hook generations of boomers. And, judging from my reaction, she nailed it.

I could still remember Sean Connery saying “Bond. James Bond” in the reruns of Dr. No and “Goldfinger” in double offerings at Mansion Theater in Junquera Street in downtown Cebu City as a high school student. I recall entering the theater after lunch with just 50 centavos and come out at nearly 5 pm dizzy after watching two Bond movies.

Now, I’m dying to see Daniel Craig in his last appearance as James Bond as she gained a boomer fan.