Sunday, May 29, 2011

In Memory of Them, In Memory of HIM

Easter 6, A, 2011 (also Memorial Weekend) Homily

(Arlington National Cemetery)

First of all, I would like to greet you all a happy and meaningful memorial weekend. And tomorrow most especially, a happy and meaningful Memorial Day. Not being native of this great country, here only as transient (aren’t we all transient though?) it comes necessary for me to seek to know what the holidays, celebrations and traditions are about. I hope it would not be redundant for me to share what I have found out regarding the celebrated Memorial Day.*

I learned that Memorial Day marks the start of the summer vacation season, (and Labor Day its end). It is hence the day many begin prepping and putting to work their grills with hotdogs and burgers and steaks. It has also become a long weekend increasingly devoted to shopping, family gatherings, fireworks, trips to the beach, and national media events.

Over and above these, of course, I learned that this is a hallowed day. Now a federal holiday observed on the last Monday of May, it was formerly celebrated every 30th of May, honoring Union and Confederate soldiers following the American Civil War. It was first observed on 30 May 1868, when flowers were placed on the graves of Union and Confederate soldiers at Arlington National Cemetery, hence its old name, “Decoration Day”. After the First World War, the holiday changed from honoring just those who died fighting in the Civil War to honoring Americans who died fighting in any war. Today, it commemorates all men and women who died in military service to the United States. What began as a ritual of remembrance and reconciliation after the civil war, by the early 20th century, Memorial Day became an occasion for more general expressions of memory, as many people visited the graves of their deceased relatives, whether they had served in the military or not.

It is for me striking to note that this holiday is not just born of historical nostalgia, but that this holiday is hallowed (made singular, exceptional and yes, holy) by the memory of those who have lived and died in military service of the country, and by extension, all who have lived and died in service of the country. I find it striking to note that the remembrance is not of war, of triumphs over enemies, or of military strength and might, but a remembrance of valor, of bravery, of sacrifice. What is remembered is the sacrifice of men and women who loved and gave their life in service. I find it also striking that for many, this holiday, I know not only because it is a long weekend, has become an occasion for family reunions and homecoming. The remembrance of the dead becomes a celebration of life. The remembrance of sacrifice becomes a celebration of relationships which gives meaning to sacrifice. The remembrance of the loss of life of those who have died becomes a celebration of the gifts we have and enjoy now, so hardly earned through their sacrifice. And although not many of us had known, much less seen and interacted with these men and women in the flesh, we know we are one with them in our common values and aspirations. The reality of their absence becomes a celebration of presence. The nobility of men and women in the past makes us trust the goodness of men and women in the present.

There is indeed something powerful in remembering, in memory. Of course, some would be selective of memory, trying to obliterate those that are hurtful, and painful. But memory and keeping memory heals, renews, restores, unites, challenges, inspires. Memory, I would like to believe is a gift from God. What we do in the Mass is a memorial of the sacrifice of Jesus on the Cross. And in our remembrance, we do not simply wax nostalgic of his sacrifice. Rather we become one family of God as we remember. We are called to be in solidarity with one another as we celebrate, to be in solidarity with all else in the world who celebrate this memorial of Jesus, to be in solidarity with all for whom Jesus lived, suffered, died and rose again. And further, as wonderfully ritualized in the order of the Mass, when after recalling the Institution Narrative in the Consecration where and when the bread and wine become Body and Blood of Jesus, we are called to profess the mystery of faith, to proclaim the mystery we celebrate.

St. Peter in the Second Reading (1 Pet 3:15-18) reminds us of the character of this profession of faith that we are to make - “Sanctify Christ as the Lord of your hearts.” Christ suffered for us to lead us to God, to put death to the flesh and lead us to life in the Spirit. Because of this, we have hope. Therefor be ready to give an explanation to anyone who asks for a reason for our hope (need to have to confidence to speak of our faith, ergo, the need to study our faith). But do so of course, not with arrogance, but with gentleness and reverence (humility and charity). We will encounter opposition, so we are called to keep our conscience clear so that when we are maligned, those who defame our good conduct themselves may be put to shame. Suffer patiently. It is better to suffer doing good if that be the will of God than doing evil (which is often more comfortable and accepted, and tolerated, and has become the statistical norm.)

In the Gospel (Jn 14:15-21), as Jesus was nearing his suffering and death, he tells his disciples, “If you love me, you will keep my commandments.” In effect he was telling them, and us too, as he was about to leave, “when you remember me, remember me in obedience. To remember me is to keep my commandments.” The commandment of Jesus of course is, “Love one another as I have loved you. Love with a love that is willing to lay down your life for the beloved.” In love, Jesus is present – in love that is not merely affection, but love that is committed and obedient to God, love that is based on the truth of God, and keeps the truth – the truth that only in God can we have true life, true peace, the truth that only love that sacrifices and desires the true good of the other can bring true joy, true fulfillment, the truth that I am fulfilled only when I do not fulfill myself but when I seek the good of the other, the beloved. That is why we do not celebrate selfishness and arrogant self-preservation, or do we? No, we rather celebrate selflessness, for what is noble is bravery in sacrifice.

We often long for the nobility of the past, we long for heroic men and women to lead and guide us. We long for the prosperous and peaceful past and sometimes, looking at our present situation, realizing the dire state we are and could be in, we are tempted to despair and lose hope. Jesus in the Gospel tells us as he assured his disciples, we are not alone. He has not left us orphans. We are never forgotten by God. We say we remember the sacrifice of Jesus, but more than we can remember, God remembers. We are perpetually in God’s memory. Jesus asked the Father to send the Holy Spirit. And the Holy Spirit is with us. And with the Spirit, Jesus is with us, the Father is with us. This assurance calls us to a renewed hope for the future, and a strengthened vitality for the present.

This weekend, as we remember the men and women who lived and died in service of the country, let us remember too that our collective remembrance is a challenge and inspiration to ourselves be of service. In these difficult times, the temptation is to save ourselves. That will never work. As they say, we are all in this together. And as we are reminded of the faithful presence of the Holy Spirit in us and in the Church, let us be mindful of the power of the Holy Spirit, the power of the love, the power to take on the challenge of the memory of our faith – to love Jesus by obeying his commandment, to make him truly Lord of our hearts, our relationships, yes, of our country, and of all created reality.


*Memorial Day facts and meaning had been drawn from internet articles.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Ang Talinhaga Tungkol Sa Pastol At Ang Dumaraming Tupa

Napansin ng pastol na dumarami na ang tupa at humihirap nang ihanap ng luntiang pastulan. Marami namang pastulan, pero mahirap puntahan. "Bakit ako magpapakahirap? Ano kaya ang dapat kong gawin?" napaisip ang pastol. "Bawasan ko kaya ang mga tupa? Pigilan ko kaya ang kanilang pagdami? Ang hirap alagaan ang ganito karaming tupa."


Psalmo 23

Ang Panginoon ang aking pastol
Pinagiginhawa akong lubos.

Handog niyang himlaya'y sariwang pastulan.
Ang pahingahan ko'y payapang batisan.
Hatid sa kaluluwa ay kaginhawaan.
Sa tumpak (matuwid!) na landas, siya ang patnubay.

Madilim na lambak man ay tatahakin ko.
Wala akong sindak; siya'y kasama ko.
Ang hawak niyang tungkod ang siyang gabay ko.
Tangan niya'y pamalo, sigla't tanggulan ko.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011


P-Noy, sabi mo, "kung walang corrupt, walang mahirap." Did you merely state a fact you are just willing to accept...?

Mr. President (Aquino), you said it yourself - "kung walang corrupt, walang mahirap." Is the government doing enough to curb corruption, prosecute offenders, restore lost government (people's) money, revamp corrupt systems and agencies, and many other things that need to be done? Are you and your people doing enough? A lifetime is surely not enough to eliminate corruption, yes. But that was your mandate. Deliver.

Did you merely state a fact we all know too well? Are you appalled by this fact and are doing your utmost best to stop corruption and restore morality in government, and thereby deliver the genuine and true need of the Sovereign Filipino People? Or are you after all like the rest who had accepted the fact, allowed themselves to be swallowed by the system and again let down our hopes for a government, a country that is truly walking in the "daang matuwid" which is "matuwid" in the sense of "righteous"?

More Questions Worth Asking....

From Wikipedia (Yes, I know, it is Wikipedia. But there are other reliable sources for this too.)

WHAT DOES THIS MEAN? Come on. It is quite clear.

The article that should raise the questions:


National Security Study Memorandum 200: Implications of Worldwide Population Growth for U.S. Security and Overseas Interests (NSSM200) was completed on December 10, 1974 by the United States National Security Council under the direction of Henry Kissinger.

It was adopted as official U.S. policy by President Gerald Ford in November 1975. It was originally classified, but was later declassified and obtained by researchers in the early 1990s.

The basic thesis of the memorandum was that population growth in the least developed countries (LDCs) is a concern to U.S. national security, because it would tend to risk civil unrest and political instability in countries that had a high potential for economic development. The policy gives "paramount importance" to population control measures and the promotion of contraception among 13 populous countries, to control rapid population growth which the US deems inimical to the socio-political and economic growth of these countries and to the national interests of the United States, since the "U.S. economy will require large and increasing amounts of minerals from abroad", and these countries can produce destabilizing opposition forces against the United States. It recommends the US leadership to "influence national leaders" and that "improved world-wide support for population-related efforts should be sought through increased emphasis on mass media and other population education and motivation programs by the U.N., USIA, and USAID."

Thirteen countries are named in the report as particularly problematic with respect to U.S. security interests: India, Bangladesh, Pakistan, Indonesia, Thailand, the Philippines, Turkey, Nigeria, Egypt, Ethiopia, Mexico, Colombia, and Brazil. These countries are projected to create 47 percent of all world population growth.

The report advocates the promotion of education and contraception and other population control measures. It also raises the question of whether the U.S. should consider preferential allocation of surplus food supplies to states that are deemed constructive in use of population control measures.

Some of the key insights of report are controversial:

"The U.S. economy will require large and increasing amounts of minerals from abroad, especially from less developed countries [see National Commission on Materials Policy, Towards a National Materials Policy: Basic Data and Issues, April 1972]. That fact gives the U.S. enhanced interest in the political, economic, and social stability of the supplying countries. Wherever a lessening of population pressures through reduced birth rates can increase the prospects for such stability, population policy becomes relevant to resource supplies and to the economic interests of the United States. . . . The location of known reserves of higher grade ores of most minerals favors increasing dependence of all industrialized regions on imports from less developed countries. The real problems of mineral supplies lie, not in basic physical sufficiency, but in the politico-economic issues of access, terms for exploration and exploitation, and division of the benefits among producers, consumers, and host country governments" [Chapter III-Minerals and Fuel].
Whether through government action, labor conflicts, sabotage, or civil disturbance, the smooth flow of needed materials will be jeopardized. Although population pressure is obviously not the only factor involved, these types of frustrations are much less likely under conditions of slow or zero population growth" [Chapter III-Minerals and Fuel].
"Populations with a high proportion of growth. The young people, who are in much higher proportions in many LDCs, are likely to be more volatile, unstable, prone to extremes, alienation and violence than an older population. These young people can more readily be persuaded to attack the legal institutions of the government or real property of the ‘establishment,' ‘imperialists,' multinational corporations, or other-often foreign-influences blamed for their troubles" [Chapter V, "Implications of Population Pressures for National Security].
"We must take care that our activities should not give the appearance to the LDCs of an industrialized country policy directed against the LDCs. Caution must be taken that in any approaches in this field we support in the LDCs are ones we can support within this country. "Third World" leaders should be in the forefront and obtain the credit for successful programs. In this context it is important to demonstrate to LDC leaders that such family planning programs have worked and can work within a reasonable period of time." [Chapter I, World Demographic Trends]

The report advises, "In these sensitive relations, however, it is important in style as well as substance to avoid the appearance of coercion."


Questions worth asking...

Contraception: Genuine Solution or Foreign Machination?

I am posting a paper by
David Michael M. San Juan. It can be accessed at Scribd. I have pasted the whole article. To break the long paragraphs, I separated some lines.


Contraception: Genuine Solution or Foreign Machination?

(Some Notes on the Reproductive Health Bill/RH Bill)

David Michael M. San Juan De La Salle University-Manila

“Forget na lang the land reform/ forget the debt moratorium/

forget na rin the behest loan/ but don’t forget the condom.”

(“Just forget the land reform/ forget the debt moratorium/

forget the behest loan too/ but don’t forget the condom.”)

– From Gary Granada’s satirical song

“Kung Alam Mo Lang Violy” (“If You Just Knew It Violy”)

After being shelved out by the Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo regime, President Noynoy Aquino reiterated his support for the Reproductive Health Bill (RH Bill), which aims, among others, to provide free contraceptives to Filipino couples. The president announced such reiteration while on an official trip to the United States, and a few days after the Philippine government received a grant of $434 million from the Millennium Development Corp., a US government agency. This curious coincidence prompted Church officials to declare that US pressure bolstered Noynoy’s support and enthusiasm for the RH Bill. t must be noted that, as the Philippine Daily Inquirer reported, “until recently, the Philippines relied on international organizations, mainly the US Agency for International Development (USAID), to fund its population control program. USAID gave $3.5 million annually to subsidize condoms, birth control pills and injectable and intrauterine contraceptives.” Former Department of Social Welfare and Development Secretary Esperanza Cabral acknowledges that the USAID is an active DOH partner in the government’s family planning program (which includes contraception). Due to limited funding sources, USAID ceased supplying the Philippines with condoms in 2003, birth-control pills in 2007 and injectable contraceptives in 2008. Led by USAID, other international agencies formed the Global Fund for Contraception which was utilized to buy $84,237,070.95 worth of male condoms from 2005-2007 (not to mention the purchase of female condoms). Such amount is equivalent to P4,211,853,547.5 or around 140,395,118.25 kilograms of rice. Meanwhile, for a time, the World Bank supplied condoms for Uganda, a nation hard hit by an AIDS epidemic. The role of both the USAID and the World Bank in promoting contraception in the Third World is thus confirmed.

Pharmaceutical Giants’ Lobby For Contraception: Propagating A Myth for Profits Surprised by the sudden revival of the pro-contraception RH Bill, Pampanga Archbishop Paciano Aniceto asserted that some pharmaceutical giants are lobbying for the RH Bill, making it more difficult for the Church to lobby against the said bill. Ostensibly, pharmaceutical giants will profit from the government’s promotion of and funding for contraception. Almost all condom brands in Philippine markets are imported. It is this context that the current version of the RH Bill should be taken with a grain of salt: far from being an innocent document, the RH Bill is a dangerous ploy of foreign aid and lending agencies to further propagate the myth of so-called “overpopulation.” Reading the text of the RH Bill gives the reader the impression that “overpopulation” is the root of Philippine poverty, contrary to the saner perspective which emphasizes elite control on political institutions, land holdings and huge corporations as the main problem that automatically results to the huge income gap between the richest segments of society and its poorest members. Renewed Anti-Imperialism Among the Clergy The maintenance of such myth will necessarily benefit huge pharmaceutical companies interested in reaping profits on their surplus contraceptive products. At the very most, the RH Bill could be a smokescreen aimed at diluting the people’s aspirations to resolve the real causes of Philippine poverty by struggling for sweeping socio-economic reforms such as building a self-reliant economy, instituting land reform, jumpstarting agricultural modernization and reviving nationalist industrialization (considering that the USAID and the World Bank consistently campaign for contraception and the RH Bill). Thus, it is not surprising if the Church has adopted antiimperialist rhetoric in opposing the current version of the current RH Bill. Just like singer-composer Gary Granada, principled opponents of the RH Bill are wary of development programs that emphasize contraception while neglecting the implementation of sweeping socio-economic reforms that will upset the oppressive and unjust status quo where a tiny minority monopolizes the country’s wealth and political power. Guaranteed Funding for Artificial Contraception The whole RH Bill is replete with passages emphasizing the state’s responsibility to protect the rights of women and children but just the same, the bill’s overly procontraception stance puts clouds of doubts over its real agenda. The following provisions directly or indirectly promote the use of artificial contraception and guarantees State funding for such: Section 2. The State likewise guarantees universal access to medically-safe, legal, affordable and quality reproductive health care services, methods, devices, supplies and relevant information thereon even as it prioritizes the needs of women and children,among other underprivileged sectors. (listed as part of the Population Commission’s duties)

Section 5 d. To ensure people’s access to medically safe, legal, quality and affordable reproductive health goods and services;

i. To direct all public hospitals to make available to indigent mothers who deliver their children in these government hospitals, upon the mothers request, the procedure of ligation without cost to her;

l. To strengthen the capacities of health regulatory agencies to ensure safe, highquality, accessible, and affordable reproductive health services and commodities with the concurrent strengthening and enforcement of regulatory mandates and mechanisms;

m. To take active steps to expand the coverage of the National Health Insurance Program (NHIP), especially among poor and marginalized women, to include the full range of reproductive health services and supplies as health insurance benefits;

and SEC. 9. Hospital-Based Family Planning. -Tubal ligation, vasectomy, intrauterine device insertion and other family planning methods requiring hospital services shall be available in all national and local government hospitals, except: in specialty hospitals which may render such services on an optional basis. For indigent patients, such services shall be fully covered by PhilHealth insurance and/or government financial assistance.

(Listed as one of the matters to be discussed among students undergoing the madatory sex education:) Section 12 f. Use and application of natural and modern family planning methods to promote reproductive health, achieve desired family size and prevent unwanted, unplanned and mistimed pregnancies;

Section 17 All Collective Bargaining Agreements (CBAs) shall provide for the free delivery by the employer of reasonable quantity of reproductive health care services, supplies and devices to all workers, more particularly women workers. In establishments or enterprises where there are no CBAs or where the employees are unorganized, the employer shall have the same obligation.

To secure the cash-strapped government’s regular funding for costly artificial contraceptives, the RH Bill declares that contraceptives are essential medicines:

SEC. 10. Contraceptives as Essential Medicines. - Hormonal contraceptives, intrauterine devices, injectables and other allied reproductive health products and supplies shall be considered under the category of essential medicines and supplies which shall form part of the National Drug Formulary and the same shall be included in the regular purchase of essential medicines and supplies of all national and lord hospitals and other government health units. With these things in mind, one wonders how the acquisition of contraceptives will be funded.

Section 23 states that “The amounts appropriated in the current annual General Appropriations Act for reproductive health and family planning under the DOH and POPCOM together with ten percent (10%) of the Gender and Development (GAD) budgets of all government departments, agencies, bureaus, offices and instrumentalities funded in the annual General Appropriations Act in accordance with Republic Act No. 7192 (Women in Development and Nation-building Act) and Executive Order No. 273 (Philippine Plan for Gender Responsive Development 1995-2025) shall be allocated and utilized for the implementation of this Act. Such additional sums as may be necessary for the effective implementation of this Act shall be included in the subsequent years’ General Appropriations Acts.” With the mere mention of the General Appropriations Act (the national budget), it is possible that in the future, the government will be acquiring more foreign debts to fund the regular purchase of costly artificial contraceptives. No wonder the USAID and the World Bank are very supportive of contraception-inclined family planning.

Laudable But Suspicious Generally, the RH Bill is a laudable piece of legislation, especially when it comes to promoting gender equality, and broadening access to information on family planning and reproductive health issues. Unfortunately, the bill’s pro-contraception bias makes it a suspicious piece of policy, especially within the context of USAID and the World Bank’s prior and continuing support for such pro-family planning measures. The involvement of the private sector in “reproductive health care service delivery and in the production, distribution and delivery of quality reproductive health and family planning supplies and commodities” (e.g. contraceptives) further bolster the possibility that this bill might be exploited for private sector profits. While it is true, as Section 3.e of the RH Bill says that “sustainable human development is better assured with a manageable population of healthy, educated and productive citizens,” it is nevertheless doubtful if at this particular time, the Philippines can afford the regular purchase of artificial contraceptives. Moreover, it must be emphasized that the RH Bill seems to set aside the more pressing Philippine problems such as the lack of land reform and nationalist industrialization which virtually condemns our country to its current miserable state.

The Way Forward The overpopulation myth is misleading, as evident in China’s case: despite its massive population, it was able to achieve industrialization (and though they instituted a one-child-only policy, their population nevertheless remains massive). Also, it must be mentioned that historically, Europe was able to rapidly industrialize due to its then soaring population. Indeed, without huge manpower, any industrialization endeavor will fail. After these countries succeeded in their industrialization endeavors, their population growth suddenly steadily dropped. Their governments are thus now compelled to institute creative ways to increase the population. In some parts of Italy, they' now re giving free land parcels to couples who produce many children. In Taiwan, the government pays for the fertility treatment of couples. In many industrialized countries, people just don' like to produce children. Some governments literally beg their citizens t to reproduce! This means we don’t need to control population growth. We need to industrialize first and sooner or later, after industrialization, the population growth will steadily decline. How can we be so sure? To be sure, nothing is certain except the fact that since the time of Fidel Ramos, the government has been providing funds for contraception, and the reality that for the past more than 100 years of our independence, we never really tried to industrialize our country. Perhaps we need to jumpstart this process now through supporting land reform and agricultural modernization which will provide the backbone for any industrialization endeavor, instead of bickering over contraception. The problem is, land reform and nationalist industrialization are not exactly the things elite politicians and foreign aid agencies and lending institutions (like USAID and the World Bank) will prioritize. We’ll have to learn the value of self-reliance, after all...

End of Paper

Monday, May 16, 2011

Hawking on God

("Our glorious galaxy Milky Way - from the Kofa Mountains, Arizona", a picture from this site)

"What could define God [is a conception of divinity] as the embodiment of the laws of nature. However, this is not what most people would think of that God. They made a human-like being with whom one can have a personal relationship. When you look at the vast size of the universe and how insignificant an accidental human life is in it, that seems most impossible." - Stephen Hawking

Although this statement was made by Hawking as a refutation of the existence of God (the God "most people would think of" "with whom one can have a personal relationship"), this same statement makes all the more the Christian revelation of God more resplendent, unique and awesome.

That it "seems most impossible" given "the vast size of the universe and how insignificnat an accidental human life is" is precisely the point. The nature of God is love. God in his love became man – Jesus Christ – to show us the depth, breadth and height – actually infinitesimal. How can a God so great be mindful of an insignificant human life? The Psalmist (Psalm 8) asked this a long time ago –

Lord, our Lord,
how majestic is your name in all the earth!
You have set
your glory
above the heavens.

From the lips of children and infants
you have ordained praiseb
because of your enemies,
to silence the
foe and the avenger.

When I consider your heavens,
the work of your
the moon and the stars,
which you have set in place,
is man that you are mindful of him,
the son of man that you care for him?

You made him a little lower than the heavenly beingsc
and crowned
him with glory and honor.

You made him ruler over the works of your
you put everything under his feet:
all flocks and herds,
the beasts of the field,
the birds of the air,
and the fish of the sea,
all that swim the paths of the seas.

O Lord, our Lord,
majestic is your name in all the earth!

But God has loved us, and continues to love us, and has made us the crowning glory of his creation with his divinity shared to us - the dinivity of love.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

A positive and hopeful echo

On a more positive note, here are some hopeful echoes:

Ambition -, Philippine News for Filipinos

Theres The Rub
By Conrado de Quiros
Philippine Daily Inquirer

The text of the article:


MANG NESTOR used to scavenge in Smoky Mountain before the mountain of trash there was razed down. Driven to live in Bagong Silang, he tried to make ends meet doing this and that, but found it the hardest thing in the world with two kids. Though his wife helped by cooking and hawking food, his family was in constant want. His dream of being able to send his kids to school to help them escape his lot in life remained just that, a dream.

They lived austerely. During his kids’ birthdays, he worked longer hours to try to get them some noodles, but not always successfully. He could not comprehend how people could throw away food so easily, masasarap pa naman, in fastfood and restaurants. It was such utter waste.

What he particularly minded was that there was no toilet where he lived. To relieve yourself, he said, you had to hike for 20 minutes to the nearest public toilet and line up for your turn. A pretty trying experience when you’ve got to go, and which the more desperate solved by settling for the tabi-tabi. A brutish life, with no relief in sight.

But relief did come in the form of a newly opened Gawad Kalinga village in Bagong Silang. Mang Nestor’s was one of 30 families that got awarded a home in that village, a tiny house by the standards of the rich and middle class but a veritable palace in the eyes of the beneficiaries. It had of course the most wondrous thing in the world: a toilet. Or a CR, as Mang Nestor, like other Filipinos, referred to it. Nowhere did the term “comfort room” take on the most literal meanings.

This was one of the things shown in the Hope Ball in Las Vegas where I was last weekend, a fund-raising activity by Fil-Ams that managed to raise enough funds to build homes for 150 more families. A couple of things ran through my mind when I saw this, quite apart of course from the epic contribution GK has been making to solving poverty in the Philippines over the last several years.

The first was to get a glimpse of the ugliness and monstrosity of corruption again. Or to get a new appreciation for President Benigno Aquino III’s “’Pag walang corrupt, walang mahirap.” Corruption is not abstract, it is concrete—and cruel. Corruption is far more wasteful than throwing away barely touched food in Jollibee and Mang Inasal while the street children sniff rugby to forget their hunger pangs. The other side of things like the AFP spending P800 million to procure bond paper, a city hospital overpricing Mongol pencils 5,000 times, and a governor diverting P25 million to his kid’s wedding is a horde of Mang Nestors who have to hustle their way through life to treat a daughter to some pancit during her birthday or trek a mile or so to relieve themselves of their stomach’s contents and their soul’s cares.

Corruption isn’t just monies being lost God knows where, it is food being taken away from the mouths of the hungry, it is roofs being taken away from the desolate, it is comfort being taken away from the anguished and bereaved. Corruption crushes. Corruption kills. The corrupt and the desperate are to each other as cause and effect. Truly, where there are no pillagers, there are no paupers. Truly,’pag walang corrupt, walang mahirap.

The second thing that flashed through my mind was the grandness of spirit shown by the movement Gawad Kalinga—yes, it is a veritable movement now—and the hope it is giving us. GK’s professed goal is to eradicate poverty in this country by the next decade. That may seem like an impossible dream, a quest more admirable for the scale of its aspiration than for the possibility of its realization. Yet when you come right down to it, why should that be so impossible? Why should that be so quixotic?

Ambition, Shakespeare said, should be made of sterner stuff, and you can’t find sterner stuff than the tears of gratitude and joy streaming down the faces of those who have not only been given houses but communities to live in, who have not only been given a roof over their heads but a gladness in their hearts. You can’t find sterner stuff than the 30 families who have been plucked from utter want who now live like human beings in a spot of Bagong Silang, the 150 families who will live like human beings in other spots of Bagong Silang courtesy of what the Fil-Ams raised in just one event in Las Vegas, the hundreds of thousands, or even millions, of families that will live like human beings over the next several years in other Bagong Silangs in this country, in other New Births or New Days or New Lives in this country.

I don’t know how Manny Pacquiao’s fight will turn out (he was due to make a pitch for Gawad Kalinga earlier today), but I do know that somebody else has already won a far more magnificent fight for the country and will continue to win far more magnificent fights for the country in the coming years.

Ambition should be made of sterner stuff, and none comes sterner than the spirit shown by the people who have dedicated themselves to this. Men and women, young and old, Pinoys and Fil-Ams who have worked tirelessly, eagerly, joyfully to bring the vision of the Philippines freed from want a little closer to reality. It is the exact opposite of the baleful spirit of corruption. Corruption in the end is selfishness, an inability to see beyond oneself or one’s family, an overriding need to secure self and family beyond all others, at the expense of all others. Either the men and women of Gawad Kalinga have gone past that or they have extended the meanings of self and family to include the farthest of the far, the poorest of the poor. They too are self, they too are family, walang iwanan, you don’t leave them behind, you don’t leave anyone behind. That is grandness.

That is ambition.


Osama and the US on hindsight

This analysis makes a lot of sense - both on hindsight and hopefully insight and forsight.

Osama’s no Martyr, but the Man Prevailed -, Philippine News for Filipinos

The text of the article:


Osama bin Laden is no martyr. He is certainly no Che Guevara, whose fate at the hands of the Central Intelligence Agency was strikingly similar to his. But one cannot escape the fact that he succeeded in unleashing a chain of events that led to his nemesis, the United States, becoming a diminished power compared to what it was in the halcyon days of unilateralism at the end of the last century. One cannot but acknowledge that in the duel between Washington and Osama, the latter was, at the time of his death, far ahead on points.

Soon after the US went to war against the Taliban in pursuit of Osama in October 2001, I penned a widely published analysis that at the time provoked controversy. However, it anticipated the course of the titanic struggle between a global power and a determined fanatic over the next decade. I am reprinting part of that essay below:

"In the aftermath of the September 11 assault, a number of writers wrote about the possibility that that move could have been a bait to get the US bogged down in a war of intervention in the Middle East that would inflame the Muslim world against it. Whether or not that was indeed bin Laden's strategic objective, the US bombing of Afghanistan has created precisely such a situation…

The global support that US President George Bush has flaunted is deceptive. Of course, a lot of governments would express their support for the UN Security Council's call for a global campaign against terrorism. Far fewer countries, however, are actually actively cooperating in intelligence and police surveillance activities. Even fewer have endorsed the military campaign and opened up their territory to transit by US planes on the way to Southwest Asia. And when one gets down to the decisive test of offering troops and weapons to fight alongside the British and the Americans in the harsh plains and icy mountains of Afghanistan, one is down to the hardcore of the Western Cold War alliance.

Bin Laden's terrorist methods are despicable, but one must grant the devil his due. Whether through study or practice, he has absorbed the lessons of guerilla warfare in a national, Afghan setting and translated it to a global setting. Serving as the international correlate of the national popular base is the youth of the global Muslim community, among whom feelings of resentment against Western domination were a volatile mix that was simply waiting to be ignited.

The September 11 attacks were horrific and heinous, but from one angle, what were they except a variant of Che Guevara's "foco" theory? According to Guevara, the aim of a bold guerilla action is twofold: to demoralize the enemy and to empower your popular base by getting them to participate in an action that shows that the all-powerful government is indeed vulnerable. The enemy is then provoked into a military response that further saps his credibility in what is basically a political and ideological battle. For bin Laden, terrorism is not the end but a means to an end. And that end is something that none of Bush's rhetoric about defending civilization through revenge bombing can compete with: a vision of Muslim Asia rid of American economic and military power, Israel, and corrupt surrogate elites, and returned to justice and Islamic sanctity.

Yet Washington was not exactly without weapons in this ideological war. In the aftermath of September 11, it could have responded in a way that could have blunted bin Laden's political and ideological appeal and opened up a new era in US-Arab relations.

First, it could have foresworn unilateral military action and announced to the world that it would go the legal route in pursuing justice, no matter how long this took. It could have announced its pursuit of a process combining patient multinational investigation, diplomacy, and the employment of accepted international mechanisms like the International Court of Justice.

These methods may take time but they work, and they ensure that justice and fairness are served. For instance, patient diplomacy secured the extradition from Libya of suspects in the 1988 bombing of a Pan Am jumbo jet over Lockerbie, Scotland, and their successful prosecution under an especially constituted court in the Hague. Likewise, the International Criminal Tribunal for former Yugoslavia, set up under the auspices of the ICJ, has successfully prosecuted some wartime Croat and Serbian terrorists and is currently prosecuting former Serbian strongman Slobodan Milosevic, though of course much remains to be done.

The second prong of a progressive US response could have been Washington's announcing a fundamental change in its policies in the Middle East, the main points of which would be the withdrawal of troops from Saudi Arabia, the ending of sanctions and military action against Iraq, decisive support for the immediate establishment of a Palestinian state, and ordering Israel to immediately refrain from attacks on Palestinian communities.

Foreign policy realists will say that this strategy is impossible to sell to the American people, but they have been wrong before. Had the US taken this route, instead of taking the law--as usual--in its own hands, it could have emerged as an example of a great power showing restraint and paved the way to a new era of relations among people and nations. The instincts of a unilateral, imperial past, however, have prevailed, and they have now run rampage to such an extent that, even on the home front, the rights of dissent and democratic diversity that have been one of the powerful ideological attractions of US society are fundamentally threatened by the draconian legislation being pushed by law-and-order types…that are taking advantage of the current crisis to push through their pre-September 11 authoritarian agendas.

As things now stand, Washington has painted itself into a no-win situation.

If it kills bin Laden, he becomes a martyr, a source of never-ending inspiration, especially to young Muslims.

If it captures him alive, freeing him will become a massive focus of resistance that will prevent the imposition of capital punishment without triggering massive revolts throughout the Islamic world.

If it fails to kill or capture him, he will secure an aura of invincibility, as somebody favored by God, and whose cause is therefore just…

September 11 was an unspeakable crime against humanity, but the US response has converted the equation in many people's minds into a war between vision and power, righteousness and might, and, perverse as this may sound, spirit versus matter. You won't get this from CNN and the New York Times, but Washington has stumbled into bin Laden's preferred terrain of battle."

I take no credit for originality of the thoughts expressed in this ten-year-old essay. Many others who had studied the history of insurgent movements and imperial responses could have written the same thing then and anticipated the general thrust of events over the next decade.

Unfortunately for the world, hegemonic powers never, never learn from history, and Washington did stumble into Osama’s preferred terrain, with all the consequences of this move motivated by imperial hubris: thousands of lives lost, loss of credibility, loss of legitimacy, and a significant erosion of power.

* columnist Walden Bello is a member of the House of Representatives of the Philippines and a senior analyst of the Bangkok-based institute Focus on the Global South.

*end of article*

Monday, May 2, 2011

Dead but not quite dead

Bin Laden is dead.

I would have preferred for him to have been caught alive, and brought to trial. This I think would be serving justice. Just killing him does not serve justice - or yes, if justice is simply lex talionis. But justice is about truth and goodness, for peace and right order.

Bin Laden is dead. But not quite dead.

Killing the enemy does not destroy the enemy. Physically dead, yes. But in our minds and in our hearts he still is an enemy. And as long as he holds us in our hurt, anger and desire for vengeance, he has not been defeated. He actually, athough already dead continues to win over us.

He can no longer plot and scheme terroristic acts, but as long as we glory in feeding our desire for vengeance, as long as we glory in violence, unless respect of human persons becomes a reality in everyone, terror continues to be schemed and plotted in our hearts.

Bin Laden is dead. Let us keep what he seemed to have become a symbol of - vengefulness, violence, terrorism - dead.