Willing to be Illuminated and Pierced

Archive for March, 2013

Vetoed

Pres. Aquino at the media press conference after his inspection of public terminals, Mar. 26, 2013. Follow-up questions on the Magna Carta of the Poor were released to him, following his confirmation of vetoing the law yesterday

Pres. Aquino at the media press conference after his inspection of public terminals, Mar. 26, 2013. Follow-up questions on the Magna Carta of the Poor were released to him, following his confirmation of vetoing the law yesterday

Pwede kong pinirmahan itong batas na ‘to, pogi tayo, pero alam ko hindi mami-meet ng gobyerno. (I can sign this law. I’d look good but I know that the government cannot meet this).”

Such was Pres. Benigno Aquino III’s honesty when he was asked yesterday on why he vetoed (or “voted against”) the Magna Carta for the Poor. He straightforwardly told us reporters that the law sounded good, but the government still does not have the means to meet its demands.

I’ve appreciated his stand on why he vetoed it. As he said, he did not do it because he was anti-poor. He cleared that the law was good, as it is his administration’s priority to look at the welfare of the poor. Only, he said, this law lacked “progressive realization.” Let me explain his take.

As the Philippines is a signatory to the International Covenant on Economic Culture and Social Rights of the United Nations, this treaty realizes that the government, if it can have the ability, to meet all the rights of the poor.

While leering over his copy of the Magna Carta of the Poor, the president read to us Section 4, which states:

“The poor shall have the following rights, the enjoyment of which is an essential step towards poverty alleviation:

a) the right to food

b) the right to employment and livelihood

c) the right to quality education

d) the right to shelter

e) the right to basic health services and medicines.

The government shall, as a matter of duty and obligation, provide the requirements, conditions, and opportunities for the full enjoyment of these rights of the poor and which the poor can demand as a matter of right.”

There’s just one problem — our budget cannot meet all of these rights. At this point, about 26 percent of the 95 million San Juan City-20121226-00480Filipinos belong to the poverty line.

In order to meet the right to housing and shelter alone, the president cleared that the government would need P2.320 trillion pesos to build housing units to every poor families.

This estimate is larger than the very national budget itself, which is at P2.006 trillion.

The president added that if he had signed it, it might end up government agencies being sued due to lack.

As I read and reread the transcript of his ambush interview, I appreciated how he had saved our fellowmen from another felony and from dire consequences.

Talking with fellow palace reporters, we agreed how this law would have been another burden to both government and the people. One of them said that government should not just give away “perks” to the poor easily to spoon feed them — it’s better to teach them to work for it.

And so, the saying goes, “Give a man to fish and you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime.”

This is not just said in schools. This should be true in our society. It’s easy to give to please anybody, but it doesn’t help all the time. Giving out these basic rights sounds good. Yet, there are setbacks in just distributing them without teaching society how to be good stewards of these rights. My fellow reporter even said that it would have better if the government uses the funds to focus on the education of every men. I agreed, adding that the mindset of many today is to depend on the feeder without getting off the table to get his own food.

Besides, what are your rights if you do not know how to use them? It’s like giving an extremely expensive, brand new toy to a reckless little kid who would just wreck it completely after a few hours. It would be a waste. Until all in society is ready to be responsible to these rights meant for them, the government should not succumb to the thought of giving it away.

After the vetoing of the law, the president ordered a social cluster group to study and come up with a substitute law for the poor.

A law may sound good, but it should be balanced with the realization of the targeted needs. The law is not meant to label one a hero, without realizing it would be a liability to many.

I just hope that the substitute law would be realistic and would be more strategic in meeting the needs of the poor without plunging anybody to the gutter. To make such a law is complex, and it would take a thorough study for an absolute poverty alleviation in our society.

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Society Construction

I wonder why there are a number of roads that are being fixed a few months before elections? I wonder what is there to improve, if in the first place, the road is ok and nothing needs to be fixed on it? Perhaps, the “lawmakers” did not know how to make use of their PDAF (priority development assistance fund) or pork barrel before a new congress emerges?

If that’s the case, shouldn’t they look at other factors that need more focus? Don’t we find that there are more schools that need fixing? More backlogs in education that needs to be addressed? More of unemployed people needing jobs? More assistance in our macro-business in every region? Let me say that the improvement of a society is not made through “re-fixing” our roads. It only happens when each people in society live in prosperity and fulfillment. Besides, the society is not made up of roads, it is made up of people.

"Road fixing" at my hometown that began just last February. Until now it's on-going. I'd accept it if what they're doing is a road widening project. But it's not. They're just wrecking a well-fixed road then making a new one again. The result? A good long traffic queue...

“Road fixing” at my hometown in Bulacan that began just last February. Until now it’s on-going. I’d accept it if what they’re doing is a road widening project. But it’s not. They’re just wrecking a well-fixed road then making a new one again. The result? A good long traffic queue…

The same "road construction" at Bagbaguin in Bulacan. With this project, it has caused inconvenience to the riding public. Besides, there is no given explanation to the public why this road should be "fixed" when we don't see any need to be fixed at all. We hold the right to know!

The same “road construction” at Bagbaguin,  Bulacan. With this project, it has caused inconvenience to the riding public. Besides, there is no given explanation to the public why this road should be “fixed” when we don’t see any need to be fixed at all. We hold the right to know!

Courtesy of my friend, Joash Bermejo. This "road construction" at Hipodromo St., Sta. Mesa, Manila has no start and end date for this project. A big no-no! Aside from bothering the normal flow of traffic, we should at least inform our citizens the timeline of this project. A waste of time and money, especially when this project is left unfinished after the elections.

Courtesy of my friend, Joash Bermejo. This “road construction” at Hipodromo St., Sta. Mesa, Manila has no start and end date for this project. A big no-no! Aside from bothering the normal flow of traffic, we should at least inform our citizens the timeline of this project. A waste of time and money, especially when this project is left unfinished after the elections.

 

 

Behind the Yellow Confetti

I know it’s a week late but let me share how memorable it is to be a part of another historic moment.

Twenty seven years after the first EDSA People Power Revolution, a law to compensate every human rights victim under

Pres. Aquino signing the Human Rights Reparation and Recognition Act of 2013 at the People Power Monument at EDSA last Feb. 25, 2013

Pres. Aquino signing the Human Rights Reparation and Recognition Act of 2013 at the People Power Monument at EDSA last Feb. 25, 2013

the Martial Law has been signed. The Human Rights Reparation and Recognition Act of 2013 has been signed by President Aquino at the very People Power Monument last February 25.

To give a brief description of this law, this enables the compensation of the human rights victims under the Marcos regime between 1972 to 1986. This is for thus to restore not only their memory but to recognize the agony they endured and for the later generations to remember the ordeals of this era. A more detailed description of this law can be found under the Official Gazette website: http://www.gov.ph/downloads/2013/02feb/20130225-RA-10368-BSA.pdf

I have heard various accounts of when the state was under the Martial Law. Some claimed tough and terrible times. Others said it was just as normal as it was. While there were people who claimed that being under the Marcos regime was peaceful and generally did not want to take into account the horrible part. I wouldn’t conclude at this point who’s right, though. But it was a privilege for me to have had a short encounter with the Martial Law survivors last Monday.

One of them was Boni Ilagan, vice chairperson of the anti-human rights violence group SELDA (Samahan ng mga Ex-Detainees Laban sa Detention at Aresto). For a short moment, I asked him to recount a bit what he experienced during the Martial Law. By 23, he was arrested, tortured, and kept in a secluded place in almost a year. He cried injustice on what was done, as he was not put in a regular detention facility, being an activist against the regime. Yet, what happened to his sister, Rizalina, was more tragic. After being arrested with ten others in Southern Tagalog, her body was never found. Some of those with her were found dead in separated areas in Luzon.

An army tank at the reenactment of the "Salubong", when civilians and soldiers "met" in a peaceful clash that made the 1986 revolution a memorable and a historic one.

An army tank at the reenactment of the “Salubong”, when civilians and soldiers “met” in a peaceful clash that made the 1986 revolution a memorable and a historic one.

Twenty seven years lapsed; the signing, Ilagan said, was a success. After the Marcos regime, four administrations passed and yet no such law was taken into effect. Ilagan mentioned to me that this act was filed in the legislative for more than a decade and only until now it was a dream for those who yearned justice. Yet, it was only the beginning, he said. There’s more to battle. This is just one step to end impunity and human rights violence.

Commission on Human Rights Chairperson and also former human rights victim Etta Rosales agreed with this statement. The Philippines is the first in Asia to sign such a law in recognition of human rights victims. She hopes this would become a model for the world to push through to end impunity.

As I then talked to young people after the celebration, I observed how most of the younger generation do not understand the ordeal that these older activists must have gone through. I asked a few (rowdy and pretentiously shy) students how would they fare if we don’t have this freedom we’re getting. I got generally general answers: we’re not free. They tried to get details on how it would have been but on the general note, they can’t move the way as they do now.

I don’t blame them. I don’t understand the Martial Law ordeal either. I was already existing on the face of the earth for only a year when the sea of yellow fighters stormed the streets ready to sacrifice their red blood for freedom. These young people are decades apart from the time a renewed constitution was forged for them.

I remember how bleak it was to “witness” history through textbooks (that keep on being updated) alone. Museums try to recreate accounts dramatically to make sure we will not forget. Survivors would tell us in pain and tears for us to feel what they felt then. But if we take our present for granted, we will never remember. It is up to our generation to remember and recount the ordeals of history.

History never repeats itself. It is up to us to repeat history. Most of us find this subject in school boring because we were not a part of it. Yet, we don’t realize that we are living in historical times. Historical accounts became legend because it was either destroyed or was totally ignored. If there’s one way to warn the younger generations of the mistakes of the past, it is only through a re-account of history. But it is up to us, and for the younger generation, to heed the cries of the past and those who lived in the past.

After the "salubong" took place.

After the “salubong” took place.

My heart felt bad for some of the young students who kept on picking flowers from the army tanks and taking pictures while Pres. Aquino was speaking. Perhaps, they were not briefed about protocols and respect to the leaders of our nation. I wonder what would it be if we were threatened by nearby soldiers to shut up and listen to the president? They must not have understood that this freedom should never be taken for granted to the point of showing nonchalance to figures of authority. I wonder what difference one would react if he came from a threatening environment to a freed atmosphere. What character he must have exemplified!

As the yellow confetti showered the streets of EDSA, I hope everyone would not think of the People Power as merely a celebration or a sensationalized propaganda. Behind the yellow brand that is being blasted in public every February 25 are stories doused in red blood. We celebrate so as not to forget. We celebrate so as not to repeat the mistakes of the past anymore. I hope every young person would realize this. I hope every young ones in my generation would remember and listen to the voice of the past.

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