The Indelible Marks of August 21

For all the “mamamayang Liberal,” what is the significance of August 21? We all know, of course, that it is a special non-working holiday in commemoration of the death of Ninoy Aquino.

But, is that all there is to it? What change did Ninoy’s death bring about for our country?

C’mon, let us take a quick look back at history and, together, let us find out how August 21 has figured in the most critical periods in our annals and how it has managed to change the course of our history.

Photo credit to and editing to Pinoy Ako Blog  


1971 – Plaza Miranda bombing

On the evening of August 21, 1971, at the height of the Liberal Party’s miting de avance at the Plaza Miranda in Quiapo, two hand grenades exploded at the exact time that then LP Pres. Gerry Roxas was proclaiming on stage the senatorial and Manila local candidates that the party was fielding for the oncoming midterm elections.

It was an attempt to decimate the LP senatorial slate.

9 died and 95 got wounded as a result of that nefarious incident.

Among those who were seriously injured were then Senators Gerry Roxas and Serge Osmeña Jr., LP senatorial candidates Jovito Salonga, John Henry Osmeña, Genaro Magsaysay, Ramon Mitra Jr., Salipada Pendatun, Melanio Singson, Eddie Ilarde, and Eva Estrada-Kalaw (a Nacionalista guest candidate of the LP), and Ramon Bagatsing, the LP’s Manila mayoral candidate.

A few days after the grim and bloody Plaza Miranda bombing, Marcos assumed emergency powers and suspended the privilege of the writ of habeas corpus.

During the November 1971 elections, Marcos’ senatorial candidates experienced a terrible and unexpected defeat — a sign that Marcos was losing his political grip on the nation that was beginning to turn against him.

In September of 1972, Marcos declared Martial Law.


1983 – Ninoy Aquino assassination

After three years of self-exile in the US, and in spite of then First Lady Imelda Marcos’ prophetic statement that “If Aquino gets home, he is dead,” Ninoy decided to go back to his beloved country. His decision was prompted by two factors:  the declining political situation in the Philippines and the deteriorating health condition of Ferdinand Marcos.

Despite all the possible safety precautions that Ninoy took (he used a passport bearing a different name, he took a circuitous route, he wore a bullet-proof vest, and he was escorted by several international journalists during his flight home), Ninoy was gunned down at the tarmac of the Manila International Airport.

In the back of his head.

At close range.

In broad daylight.

With 1,000 soldiers supposedly sent for his security.

Ninoy Aquino, Marcos’ staunchest opponent and most vocal critic, was groomed by LP to be its standard bearer in the 1973 presidential elections that never took place because of the Martial Law declaration. He was referred to by Sen. Jovito Salonga as “the greatest president we never had.”

The cold-blooded murder of Ninoy sparked widespread outrage among the Filipinos previously cowed by Marcos’ tyrannical rule.

Two and a half years later, further galvanized by the victory of Marcos in a snap election that was marred by blatant fraud and violence, hundreds of thousands of people from all walks of life trooped to EDSA in what was to be known as the People Power Revolution.

The 21-year reign of the Marcoses and their cronies came to an end when the first family fled Malacañang and was flown to Hawaii.

I didn’t think I would ever resort to this but, to conclude, I am hereby quoting Rigoberto Tiglao (yes, the same Rigoberto Tiglao who serves as the Gloria Arroyo apologist and attack dog that all democratic warriors regard with disdain!).

The tragedy on August 21, 1971 “triggered the events that led to the imposition of martial law and the start of Marcos’ 13-year dictatorship.” The tragedy on August 21, 1983, meanwhile, “triggered the events that led to the fall of that dictatorship.”


2019 – ?!!!

Under the present administration, our democracy is under attack. Sen. De Lima is languishing in jail for 2-1/2 years now due to trumped-up charges, CJ Sereno had been illegally removed from office, and most of the prominent voices of the opposition are now facing sedition and other charges based solely on the testimony of a convicted criminal that Spox Panelo himself once called a liar cum information peddler. The press is threatened, the Church is relentlessly trashed, and the women and the LGBTQ+ community are constantly subjected to disparaging remarks. Thousands have already been murdered – the poor, minors, human rights defenders, farmers, and IPs alleged to be drug users/peddlers/pushers or communists/insurgents. The culture of impunity is back with a vengeance. The administration is also treacherously turning us over to China –on a silver platter, no less. Most importantly, the very fiber of our values as Filipinos is now weakened, damaged or flawed.

In order to restore everything that we have lost, we need to effect genuine change.

Are you now ready to take on that task as part of our responsibility as citizens of this country?


Two days before President Duterte is set to deliver his 4th State of the Nation Address (SONA), more than 40 mostly young people participated in a meaningful discourse to discuss the state of the nation “from the lens of the Filipino youth.”

Through the initiative of Rappler’s MovePH, in partnership with Dakila #WeTheFuturePH, most important issues affecting the lives of ordinary Filipinos – labor rights, environment and climate justice, press freedom and freedom of information (FOI), road safety and transportation, gender equality, and education – were tackled in a huddle called “SO ano NA?”.

photo credit to Move.PH

Among the interactive activities prepared for the participants was to describe the country’s current state in one word. The most interesting answers included crisis, precarious, shit, pathetic, lost, abhorrent, impunity, bullshit, joke, grim, and wasak.

The second activity involved Mentimeter, Rappler’s mood meter, and seven attention-grabbing headlines that the online news website had released recently. The aim was to feel the pulse of the participants when the following headlines were shown on the screen:

  • PH among worst countries for workers – global index
  • This March 2019, the youth of Negros successfully campaigned towards a coal-free Negros
  • 14 media practitioners have been killed, and 128 cases reported of attacks and threats during the Duterte administration
  • Over 10,000 road-related deaths have been counted since 2016, with the most frequent victims – youth aged 20-24
  • 70,000 strong tayo, mga mahal! #ResistTogether
  • Kolateral is a 12-track album featuring various Filipino artists, where each track is backed by real data and narratives on the Philippine Drug War
  • Deped orders temporary closure of 55 Lumad schools in Davao region


After each headline was flashed, the participants were asked to click any of the eight moods to see which emotions the particular story was able to evoke from the group. Thankfully, nobody showed apathy to any of the headlines by clicking the emoticon for “don’t care”.

The third and last interactive activity required the participants to group themselves into five (all had to come from different groups/advocacies) and submit a presentation of their consolidated vision for the next three years, complete with specific and feasible solutions to the key issues plaguing the country today. That particular activity proved to be the most challenging one considering the limited time allotted to the groups to come up with a decent presentation and discuss the same in front of everyone – not to mention that that task had to be accomplished by collaborating with virtually complete strangers. The participants, however, were able to demonstrate their exemplary ability to rise to the challenge.

Based on their presentations, most of the country’s problems basically boil down to lack of education, discipline, and involvement. Thus, their proposed solutions were aligned with efforts and initiatives to ally themselves with individuals of the same advocacy, to educate communities and target groups on various key issues, to lobby and pressure the power wielders to genuinely represent and work for the interests of the majority, and to initiate the changes they want to see in society from the most basic level –  themselves.

The huddle, which was held right in the newsroom of Rappler, was an engaging and fruitful endeavor, so much so that a mere two hours was not enough to discuss each and every topic as extensively as each rightfully warranted. So, hopefully, Rappler and their partner organizations will continue to come up with lengthier activities of the same kind that will be participated in by more people of various orientations, and will give birth to ideas that will translate into progressive, sustainable and inclusive actions.


Philippines is one of the world’s biggest markets for goods sold in small quantities. To cater to the majority of Filipinos who live on limited budgets, almost all consumer products are made available in sachets (small, single-use packets that are mostly made of plastic), thus the rise of what is known as “sachet economy” in the country.

This kind of economy is most beneficial to the consumers that belong to the financially disadvantaged or those who cannot afford to buy goods that only come in bulk or big packages. However, it has increasingly become a source of grave threat to the environment.

Everyday, you see people indiscriminately throwing their trash –candy wrappers, water bottles, disposable cups, plastic bags, containers and, yes, sachets! — on the streets or in vacant lots. Most families living along creeks, lakes, riverbanks and beaches toss their garbage into the water bodies with reckless abandon. Many households hardly reuse and recycle their consumed plastic products. Neither do they practice proper waste segregation.

As a result of these actions that reflect people’s gross lack of awareness and discipline, waterways and coastlines get clogged. In the aftermath of typhoons and floods, the shorelines are littered with mounds of trash. (Un)sanitary landfills and open dumpsites become inadequate and overfilled, making solid waste management one of the country’s major environmental challenges.


Image grabbed from


Hard Facts

According to the study of Jambeck Research Group, 192 coastal countries cumulatively produced a total of 2.5 billion metric tons of solid waste in 2010 –275 million metric tons of which was plastic. An estimated 8 million metric tons of mismanaged plastic waste managed to enter the ocean.

Based on the same study, the Philippines was the top 3 producer of mismanaged plastic waste. Today, the country continues to generate an estimated 43,684 tons of garbage daily, including 4,609 tons of plastic waste, according to government data.

The volume of plastic debris present in the oceans is so enormous that, carried by the strong currents, these float, dwell, migrate and help form any one of the 6 known massive swirling gyres – the East and West Pacific Gyres (these two make up the Great Pacific Garbage Gyre), the South Pacific Gyre, the North and South Atlantic Gyres, and the Indian Ocean Gyre. These gyres are sometimes referred to as the “Traveling Continent,” the “Seventh Continent,” or the Garbage Patches.

According to a United Nations report, if the alarming trend by which the mismanaged plastic waste ends up in the oceans persists, the world’s oceans will have more plastic than fish by the year 2050.


The Detrimental Effects of Plastic Pollution

In March of this year, a dead whale was washed ashore in Compostela Valley. 40kgs of plastic was found in its stomach. In the seas of Verde Island Passage, the center of the world’s marine biodiversity, a crab trapped inside a disposable cup was recently documented. And in Davao Gulf alone, three whales and a dolphin have already been found dead since the start of this year. Their bellies were full of plastic.

Plastic is a substance that the earth cannot digest. It is a strong and durable material that does not completely biodegrade, and takes a thousand years to break down. But, even then, it won’t decompose into useful nutrients; it just turns into infinitely small pieces of plastic which act like magnets in the water, attracting toxic substances.

To a sea turtle, a floating plastic bag may look like a jelly fish. To seabirds, plastic pellets look like fish eggs, small crab and other prey. Birds, fish and mammals get ensnared in drifting heaps of plastic. Seals and whales can get caught in translucent nets and drown.


Being Part of the Solutions

For citizens: Use “bayong,” fish nets, woven or cloth bags, and other eco-friendly, reusable grocery bags when shopping or doing your groceries. Practice waste segregation. Dispose of your garbage properly and observe solid waste management. Try composting. Reduce your daily use of plastics by looking for alternatives (reusable water bottles, to-go coffee mugs, steel straws, eco-friendly decorations, matches instead of disposable lighters, glass and reusable food containers and utensils, solid toiletries, bamboo toothbrushes, DIY cleaning products, menstrual cups, etc.). Buy in bulk if possible. Join beach or community cleanups. Reduce, refuse, reuse then recycle.

For the government: Participate in global and national efforts to put an end to plastic pollution. Encourage mangrove planting that would help in filtering the waste in the sea. Strictly implement Republic Act 9003 or the Ecological Solid Waste Management Act; Sponsor regular beach and coastal clean-ups. Launch a massive educational campaign about marine debris to bring about voluntary compliance through awareness. Institute Zero Waste programs. Compel companies to acknowledge their liability for plastic pollution. Establish materials recovery facilities all over the country. Institute comprehensive national plastic bag ban and regulate other single-use plastic products. Mandate companies to redesign products, packaging and delivery systems. Strengthen the ban on waste incineration.

For the commercial establishments and manufacturing corporations: Markets and grocery stores should stop using single-use or “sando” bags and, instead, should resort to the use of abaca, banana leaves and other sustainable materials to wrap their products. Restaurants and cafes should use straws made of eco-friendly materials such as coconut leaves (lukay) and refrain from using serving dishes, cups, bowls and utensils made of plastic and styrofoam. The manufacture of toiletries containing microbeads should be completely banned. Refilling stations for basic commodities and personal care products should be set up in all supermarkets and sari-sari stores nationwide. The consumer goods companies, named the top polluters responsible for a quarter of the branded throwaway plastic driving the plastic pollution crisis in the Philippines, should stop producing single-use plastic altogether. They should also acknowledge their great liability for plastic pollution.

According to the report released recently by the environmental organization Global Alliance for Incinerator Alternatives (GAIA), Filipinos use more than 163 million plastic sachet packets, 48 million sando bags and 45 million labo bags daily. Over 90% of the plastic ever produced has not been recycled.

It is time that we stop feeding and actually slay the #PlasticMonster that is destroying our planet. And that can only be possible if we all do our part. Now.


*This article first appeared here.




Ito si Chel.

Ama niya si Jose “Ka Pepe” Diokno, isang dating Senador, statesman at democracy icon.

Tinagurian ding Father of human rights advocacy sa Pilipinas si Ka Pepe.

Naging biktima ang pamilya nila ng Martial Law nang ipinaaresto at ipinakulong ni Marcos ang kanyang ama without charges and a warrant.

Siya ay may dugong Batangueño: dugo ng matapang, dugo ng matapat, at dugo ng makatao.

Honor student at recipient ng Gerardo Roxas Leadership award noong high school.

Gradweyt siya ng Philosophy sa UP Diliman, kung saan siya naging honorary member ng Creative Writing Center.

Nagtapos ng Law bilang magna cum laude sa Northern Illinois University.

Bumalik sa bansa upang magsilbi sa mga kababayan kahit na pumasa siya sa bar exam sa Illinois.

Naging kilalang human rights lawyer at defender.

Naglingkod at ngayon ay chairman ng Free Legal Assistance Group (FLAG), na itinitag ng kanyang ama.

Nagsilbi sa Commission on Human Rights sa ilalim ng dalawang administrasyon.

Tumayong team leader sa impeachment proceedings against Erap Estrada.

Naging General Counsel ng Senate Blue Ribbon Committee during the 13th Congress.

Itinayo ang Diokno Law Center na nagbibigay ng legal training sa iba’t-ibang ahensiya ng gobyerno, private organizations, at mga eskwela.

Founding Dean ng De La Salle University College of Law.

Integrated Bar of the Phils. Presidential Adviser for Human Rights.

Tatlong dekadang nagsilbi bilang tagapagtanggol ng mga naaapi sa batas.

Naipanalo ang kaso ng 4,386 victims ng MV Doña Paz tragedy.

Isa sa mga FLAG lawyers na umusig sa mga pulis involved sa Kuratong Baleleng rubout case.

Legal counsel ni Jun Lozada, ang NBN/ZTE whistleblower noong panahon ni GMA.

Lead witness ng Ombudsman sa mga kaso laban kina NEDA head Romulo Neri at Comelec chair Benjamin Abalos.

Matagumpay na naipetisyon sa Supreme Court ang kauna-unahan nitong pag-iisyu ng Writs of Amparo para sa kanyang mga kliyenteng magsasaka na tinorture ng mga militar.

Nahatulan si Jovito Palparan sa naturang kaso.

Napalaya ang Tagaytay 5, isang grupo ng mga magsasaka, na ikinulong illegally ng PNP.

Matagumpay na naipagtanggol ang mga inosenteng hinatulan ng death penalty.

Isa sa mga legal counsel ni retired SPO3 Arturo Lascañas, ang nagbunyag sa Senado ng Davao Death Squad ni Duterte.

Kinwestyon sa Supreme Court ang constitutionality ng Oplan Tokhang.

Kasapi siya sa “Manlaban sa EJK,” isang koalisyon na nangangampanya laban sa extra-judicial killings sa bansa.

Sumulat ng mga librong may kinalaman sa batas at karapatang pantao.

Kasama ang buong pamilya Diokno, patuloy na lumalaban sa historical revisionism at sa mga pang-aabuso sa lipunan.

Isang political neophyte.

Bilang senatorial candidate, social media favorite siya during televised forum at debates dahil sa kanyang matapang, matalino at witty remarks.

Adbokasiya niya ang pagpapatupad ng mga reporma sa sistema ng hustisya.

Matapang na nilalabanan ang double standard ng hustisya sa bansa.

Naniniwala siyang dapat ‘pag may sala, may parusa.

Ang pangarap niya bilang Pilipino at future Senator ay patas na batas para sa lahat.

PILOpino Tayo! (Filipino version)


Ito si Pilo.

May pagmamalaking tinatawag ang sarili na “Anak ng Tundo.”

Ina niya ay dating kasambahay.

Ama niya ay dating tindero at mensahero.

Sipag. Sikap. Talino.

Ang kanyang mga naging sandata sa paggapi sa kahirapan.

Iskolar at working student.

Gradweyt siya ng Economics sa UST.

Nagtapos ng Law sa UP College of Law.

Bar topnotcher noong 1999.

Kumuha ng Masters of Law sa Yale Law School.

Hindi nagpayaman bilang Abogado de Campanilla.

Sa halip, pinili niya ang maglingkod sa bayan.

Nagtrabaho siya sa Bantay Katarungan, isang anti-corruption group.

Nahasa siya sa ilalim ng statesman na si Jovito Salonga.

Nagtrabaho siya para kay retired SC Justice Vicente Mendoza, isang magiting na Constitutionalist.

Nagturo ng Batas sa UP sa loob ng 18 taon.

Itinalagang Solicitor General noong 2014.

Ipinagtanggol ang Reproductive Health Law sa Supreme Court.

Nabawi ang P71-B coconut levy funds para sa gobyerno.

Pinangunahan ang legal team na nagpapanalo ng ating arbitration case vs China over the West Phil. Sea.

Legal counsel nina Sen. Leila de Lima at Sen. Sonny Trillanes.

Walang takot na kritiko ng mga polisiyang anti-people at anti-law.

Ngayon ay kumakandidato para sa Senado.

Walang pera. Walang koneksiyon. Walang impluwensiya.

Hindi sikat.

Hindi galing sa political family.




Tinig ng mga api at ng mga nasa laylayan.

Kalaban ng korapsyon.

Bantay ng Konstitusyon.

Kampyon ng sobaranya.

Para kay Pilo Hilbay, walang pangarap na imposible!

PILOpino Tayo! (English version)



This is Pilo.

Proudly calls himself “Anak ng Tundo.”

A son of a househelp and a messenger.

Hard work. Perseverance. Intellect.

Those were his stepping stones to success.

A scholar and working student.

Graduated with Economics degree from UST.

Earned his Law degree from the UP College of Law.

1999 Bar Topnotcher.

Obtained his Masters of Law degree from the Yale Law School.

He did not accept the lucrative job offers that came his way.

Instead, he opted to serve the country.

He worked for Bantay Katarungan, an anti-corruption group.

A protégé of Jovito Salonga, the statesman he wants to emulate.

He worked for a great constitutionalist, the retired SC Justice Vicente Mendoza.

Taught Constitutional Law in UP for 18 years.

Was appointed Solicitor General in 2014.

Defended the Reproductive Health Law before the Supreme Court.

He pushed for the return of the P71-B coconut levy funds to the gov’t. coffers.

Led the Phil. contingent that successfully fought for the West Philippine Sea.

Lawyer for detained Sen. Leila de Lima and embattled Sen. Antonio Trillanes IV.

A fearless critic of anti-people and anti-law policies.

He is now running for the Senate.

No money, no connections, no influence, no fame, no political name.




A voice for the oppressed and the downtrodden.

A warrior against corruption.

A custodian of the Constitution.

A champion of the Philippine sovereignty.

Pilo Hilbay, a visionary dreamer.



A friend messaged me today. Mas okay daw ang mga fb posts ko dati noong puro about family, parenthood, marriage at nakakatuwang mga kwento ang isini-share ko. Tigilan ko na raw kasi ang politika. Kung hindi, dadami lang daw ang wrinkles (at kaaway!) ko.

Ang sagot ko sa kanya?

Bes, nami-miss ko na rin ang time when I was always inspired to write and share articles about the joys of being a mom, a wife and a woman. Nami-miss ko na ang panahon when days would pass by na walang malaking ganap sa paligid natin. Nami-miss ko na ang pakiramdam na paggising sa umaga, I wouldn’t have to wonder with dread, “Ano na naman kaya ang mga mangyayari today na hindi kagandahan?”

Ngayon kasi, bes, the time demands na magbasa, magsulat at mag-share tayo para makapagmulat ng mga kababayan natin na walang alam, walang pakialam, o pinipili pa rin ang maniwala sa mga kasinungalingan.

Look around us.

Tuloy-tuloy pa rin ang pagpatay in the name of a fake drug war.

Wala pang nahuhuling drug lords. Yung mga umamin, pinakawalan. Yung mga convicted, ginawang witnesses laban kay Sen. De Lima, at pinawalang-sala.

Bilyun-bilyong halaga ng droga ang hinahayaang makapasok sa bansa.


Ang mga mahihirap, lalong napapahirapan dahil sa TRAIN law.

Bagsak ang ekonomiya natin.

Mahal ang mga bilihin.

Ang mga trabahong dapat nakalaan sa mga Pilipino, sa mga Tsino ibinibigay. Kaya ang mga OFWs, patuloy na nagpapaalipin at naaabuso sa ibang bayan.


Mas grabe ngayon ang korapsyon sa gobyerno. Harapan at walang pakundangan. Nariyan ang magkakapatid na Tulfo, sina Lapeña at Faeldon, si former DOJ Sec. Aguirre, si Bong Go at ang pamilya nya, si Solgen Calida, ang mga Villar, ang pamilya ni Sec. Diokno, ang mga Konggresista with their budget insertions, at marami pang iba.


Tinatakot at pilit na pinapatahimik ang mga personalidad at institusyon na lumalaban sa mga abuses ng administrasyong ito. Binabaluktok nila ang batas, at ginagawang tama ang mali at mali ang tama.


Pinipilit baguhin ng ating mga politiko ang Saligang Batas upang maproteksyunan nila ang kanilang pangsariling interes.


Ang mga kilalang plunderers, pinalaya na at ngayon ay mga kumakandidato para makabalik sa kapangyarihan. Habang ang mga batang paslit, gusto nilang gawing criminally liable at makulong kapag lumabag sa batas.


At ang mga teritoryo natin sa West Philippine Sea? Hayun, pinapabayaang kamkamin ng China. Bes, ilang taong ipinaglaban ‘yun ng Pilipinas sa The Hague. Naipanalo na natin ‘yun. Pero ngayon ay isinusuko ng administrasyong ito ang ating karapatan at pinapayagang i-harass ang ating mga mangingisda sa ating sariling katubigan.


And that poor excuse of a man na nakaupo sa Malacañang? Wala siyang ginagawa kundi bigyan ng kahihiyan ang Office of the Philippine President that he should be representing! Ang mga ipinagmamalaki niya lang na accomplishments ay ang kanyang mga fake wars.

Fake war against illegal drugs.

Fake war against corruption.

Fake war against poverty.

Fake war against oligarchs.

Fake war against incompetence.


Ngayon, bes, sabihin mo sa akin. Dapat ba akong manahimik? Baka naman panahon na para imulat mo ang iyong mga mata, pakinggan ang hinaing ng mga kababayan nating namatayan at naghihirap, at gamitin ang iyong boses upang kundinahin ang mga hindi makatao at hindi maka-Pilipinong nangyayari sa bayan natin.

Samahan mo kami, Bes.

Make a stand.

The way I see it, laban na ito ng mga tunay na nagmamahal at nagmamalasakit sa bayan versus mga traydor sa bayan. So, ang laban namin ay laban nating lahat. At kailangan nating maipanalo ang labang ito.

Bago pa mahuli ang lahat.