HE WAS ADVISED. HE JUST NEVER LISTENS.

On their radio program, anchors Anthony Taberna and Gerry Baja said the other day that only those who voted for President Duterte during the last election have the right to criticize him.

Duh! Seryoso ba ang dalawang payaso na ‘to?

Totoo nga that the President was installed into power by more than 16 million voters. Totoo rin that he won with a wide margin of victory over the other candidates. Subalit kahit na ang numerong ito constitutes only 15% of our total population, si Rodrigo Duterte, under our Constitution, ang kinikilala at dapat talagang kilalaning Pangulo ng ating bansa. Ang ibig sabihin, he is the president, not only of his 16M supporters, but of the 102M Filipinos in the country. And, as such, he is accountable to all of us.

If there’s one adjective that would fit President Duterte to a T, it would have to be “unpredictable”. And this unpredictability is what’s landing us to a lot of trouble these past 100 days.

During speeches, no one from the Presidential Communications Operations Office (PCOO) has any idea kung ano ang mga sasambitin ng Pangulo o kung kanino nakasentro ang kanyang hard-hitting commentaries and pronouncements. Tulad nating mga pangkaraniwang mamamayan, the PCOO people and the presidential spokespersons are nothing more than engrossed spectators. Nahihimasmasan lamang sila and are galvanized into action once the President is done with his tirades and they need to consolidate all their efforts to, somehow, weaken the adverse impact of Digong’s words.

Paano kamo? Ganito po.

They explain his latest pronouncement as something made in jest or due to the rush of emotion or heat of the moment.

They make his remarks more palatable for public consumption by deodorizing, sanitizing and sterilizing his words. If these do not work, they resort to sugar-coating or twisting.

They interpret his statements to ensure that they will not be misunderstood, misinterpreted, misquoted, taken out of context, or lost in translation.

They make appeals to the media and the public for deeper understanding for the noble motives behind those pronouncements.

They make people understand that those remarks could be adversely affected by the President’s foul mood, other human frailties, or even by the time of day the speech was made.

They introduce and acclimatize the people to Duterte speak and hyperboles, sarcasm and slips of the tongue.

They encourage people to learn the fine arts of reading Digong’s mind and deciphering his every word, and of using their “creative imagination” in interpreting his remarks. Sabi pa nga ni presidential spokesperson Ernesto Abella, “Let us not be literal.”

They make swift rebuttals to the criticisms made by the “yellows”, the “bleeding hearts”, and the “hypocrites”.

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The presidential apologists and interpreters. (PCOO Sec. Martin Andanar is not in the picture). Photo credit: professionalheckler.files

Pero sa maraming pagkakataon, all these efforts do not work.

With his dirty mouth and controversial stances, President Duterte has successfully antagonized the United States, the European Union, the United Nations, the Christians all over the world, the Jewish community, the human and women’s rights advocates, the local and international media, the Martial Law victims and their families, and pretty much the international community.

In this age of globalization, I dread the possibility of the Philippines being a hermit kingdom. Apparently, hindi ako nag-iisa. Marami pa rin ang naglalakas-loob na punahin ang Presidente sa kabila ng pag-aalala na sapitin din nila ang naging kapalaran ng mga kritiko ni Pangulong Duterte, kagaya nina Sen. De Lima, CJ Maria Lourdes Sereno, US Pres. Obama, UN special Rapporteur for summary executions Agnes Callamard, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, Commission on Human Rights Chairperson Chito Gascon, mga Obispo at kaparian, at marami pang iba. (I am still awaiting kung ano ang mangyayari kina Agot Isidro at Edgar Matobato.)

I read somewhere that in this world of Mocha Usons, we should salute the likes of Agot Isidros who stand up, speak up, and make sure that their voices are heard.

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Photo credit: newsfeed.ph

Here are the pieces of advice from some of the people who, like Agot Isidro, dared.

GMA’s Cabinet Sec. Ignacio Bunye: Please, Mr. President. Immediately renounce your Japanese citizenship. Stop being Rodrigo Nakamura. No more talk about abolishing Congress. No more talk about your dislike for Catholic prelates. And control that dirty finger.

Former Sen. and Diplomat Leticia Ramos-Shahani: We don’t need to make enemies to make new friends and that is the art of diplomacy. So I think, our President, if I may have to say so, has to take a beginner’s course in diplomacy.

Former National Security Adviser Jose Almonte: Based on what is done in the [present administration’s] last 100 days, I say it’s exceptional. [But] If he can make his colorful statements colorless, that’s a big change for me. [Also] The Philippines could remain as friends with our old allies like America, but at the same time, we can be friends with all others including enemies of America. This will be the best policy. Let’s maintain friendship with our allies but work hard to be friends to others.

Archbishop Socrates Villegas: There is virtue in silence. There is virtue in speech. Wisdom is knowing when it is time for silence and when is the timing for speech.

Albay Rep. Edcel Lagman: The President must avoid outlandish and provocative statements with detrimental consequences. The mouth must be the oracle of discreet and studied statements, not ill-conceived and outrageous utterances.

Sen. Francis “Kiko” Pangilinan: As President of our nation, he represents all 100 plus million Filipinos both here and abroad, including myself, my wife, and my children. Thus every time he speaks in public, depending on what he says and how he says it, all of us Filipinos can be affected either positively or negatively. We appeal to the President to exercise greater restraint and to choose his words carefully when he speaks out on various matters now that he is President of the entire nation and no longer just the Mayor of Davao City.

Vice-President Leni Robredo: Marami kaming mga personal na pakiramdam na hindi dapat sinasabi sa publiko dahil sa aming position. Kaya kay President, paalala lang siguro sa kanya na what he says is policy kaya maiging mas maging careful. As far as diplomacy is concerned, baka makakatulong na mas deliberate, mas pinag-iisipan bago nagsasalita.

Sen. Panfilo “Ping” Lacson: What is the point of saying sorry when, in the next vein, magsasalita ka naman ng ika-ka sorry mo? Dapat lesson ‘yan. How many times has he said sorry already? Marami-rami na rin eh.

Sen. Richard “Dick” Gordon: We have to protect the country from bad statements and the President has the duty to be a statesman. He must not be heard saying all [those] bad words.

Maingay ang Pangulo, sobrang ingay ng Pangulo. Tama lang na ipakita niya na galit siya sa droga pero huwag na siyang mag-ingay na ‘I will kill you. Hindi tama ‘yan. Kaya he is falling on his own sword, nadadapa siya sa kanyang espada dahil salita siya ng salita. Napagbibintangan tuloy ang bansa na ‘yan ang nangyayari.

Majority Floor Leader and Ilocos Norte Rep. Rodolfo Fariñas: I would advise the President, huwag na ho kayo magsalita. Magtrabaho na lang kayo. Siguro (he should not speak) until such time he gets to adjust.

Davao Archbishop Emeritus Fernando Capalla: Listen. Listen. Listen. I will tell him, “Digong, God gave us two ears and only one mouth. Which means that we have to listen twice as much as we speak. But it’s the reverse eh. That’s why we are in trouble.

I am worried about him as a friend. I think, he has a problem and we need to help him. He is in the course of self-destruction, without even knowing that he is ruining himself. If he can only listen and not talk too much, earn friends instead of enemies, he can become the greatest President of the Philippines.

[If I get to see Digong] I would say to him that what you are doing now, your mother may not like it. I’ll say also that this is not the Digong I knew.

Senate President Koko Pimentel: I won’t tell him to zip his dirty mouth entirely. He just needs to use it less often. I won’t tell him to eliminate cursing. Maybe just don’t do it 100 times. Be yourself, but everything in moderation.

Former President Fidel V. Ramos: I find our Team Philippines losing in the first 100 days of Duterte’s administration – and losing badly. This is a huge disappointment and let-down to many of us. Are we throwing away decades of military partnership, tactical proficiency, compatible weaponry, predictable logistics, and soldier-to-soldier camaraderie just like that? Ours is not to heap more brickbats on Pres. Duterte – because he has had more than enough already – but to help enable him to transform (thru his own efforts) from a mere provincial official to a capable international player at the head of 101 million multi-cultured Filipinos.

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Photo credit: eaglenews.ph

Ang sabi ng Malacañang, hindi raw bingi ang Presidente sa payo ng kanyang mga kaalyado. Subalit, bakit ganun? Matapos ang pagpuna sa kanya ni Sen. Gordon, ito  ang kanyang naging pahayag. “You say that my mouth is not for a statesman, whoever told you I was applying for a statesman?

Hay naku, bayan. Saan ka igigiya ni Pangulong Duterte?

He was advised – many times.

He just never listens.

EDSA at 31

As we celebrate today the 31st anniversary of the EDSA People Power Revolution, let me address these few questions to our beloved  millennials:

  • What would you feel if you can’t watch your favorite TV shows because all the media networks are closed down except for a few that are government-controlled?
  • What would you feel if all your activities on all your social media accounts are being closely monitored and censored by the government, or worse, if you’re not allowed to have any account at all?
  • What would you feel if you can’t stay out beyond 12 midnight because of an imposed curfew?
  • What would you feel if you are put behind bars if you so much as say, write or post something about your candid, but negative, observation about how things are run in the government?
  • What would you feel if you can’t openly meet with your classmates to discuss a school project for fear that your meeting could be charged as an illegal assembly?
  • What would you feel if your friend, after joining a rally, is found tortured beyond recognition?
  • What would you feel if your girlfriend, sister or mother is abducted and raped by a high-ranking official or his son or even his driver, and that perpetrator is walking around scot-free?
  • What if your father is sbrutally killed because he refused to sell his land to any one of the president’s relatives or friends?

I was just thirteen years old when the EDSA People Power Revolution took place in 1986. I, along with my parents, were monitoring the events unfolding in EDSA from our little home in Bataan through our transistor radio.

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image grabbed from the internet

I sat in rapt attention as June Keithley Castro reported over Radio Veritas and later on, Radyo Bandido, a  blow-by-blow account of the revolution — the official announcement of then Defense Sec. Juan Ponce Enrile and Armed Forces Vice Chief of Staff Gen. Fidel V. Ramos of their withdrawal of support of the Marcos regime; the crucial role that then Army Col. Gregorio Honasan and his allies at the Reform the Armed Forces Movement (RAM) played by way of rebellion; Butz Aquino’s decision to bring the August Twenty-One Movement (ATOM) leaders, members and supporters to Camps Aguinaldo and Crame to support the rebel soldiers; and, of course, the late Jaime Cardinal Sin’s historic call to the Filipino people to leave their homes and proceed to EDSA to support Enrile, Ramos and their troops in their fight against the dictator.

I sat in awe as hundreds of thousands of people came pouring in from both near and far to heed the call of the Cardinal until the part of EDSA from Ortigas Avenue to Cubao was filled with a multitude that reached an estimate of three million.

I sat in horror when I heard that Armed Forces Chief of Staff Gen. Fabian Ver sent armored tanks, carriers and heavily-armed soldiers to disperse the burgeoning throng in EDSA.

I sat in tears when, after Brig. Gen. Artemio Tadiar warned the crowd that he would open fire if they don’t disperse, people responded by singing “Bayan Ko,” praying the rosary, and offering the soldiers flowers and food.

I sat in immense relief when not a single shot was fired. The EDSA People Power Revolution — our revolution – was later hailed as the first non-violent, bloodless revolution that the world had ever witnessed.

I sat in excitement as the late Corazon Aquino and Salvador Laurel, in an inauguration at the Club Filipino, were sworn into office by Senior Justice Claudio Teehankee as the duly-elected President and Vice-President, respectively.

I sat in jubilation when the news broke out that, after the crowds stayed to serve as human barricades both in EDSA and Malacanang for four days, the Marcos family and their closest allies finally left the Palace and fled the country. The entire world rejoiced with us. Bob Simon, a CBS anchorman, even said, “We, Americans, like to think that we taught the Filipinos democracy. Well, tonight, they are teaching the world.

I sat in solemn silence when it was all over. Still overwhelmed with a myriad of emotions, I thanked the Almighty for His guidance and protection in allowing the voice of the people to prevail without bloodshed, in ousting the dictator that put us in hell for more than a decade, and in providing hope and a ray of sunshine for a nation that has been shrouded in darkness and misery for far too long.

During that entire time, I was just sitting within the relative safety of our home.

Listening.

Observing.

Learning.

But at that tender age of 13, I already knew what drove those hordes of people to EDSA.

The nightmarish tales of disappearances, tortures, killings, warrantless arrests, detentions and other horrendous acts of human rights violations and abuses against political leaders, student activists, journalists, church personalities, and virtually anybody who would dare challenge the people in power during Martial Law were my father’s favorite topic back then. (My father used to be an activist in Manila before my mother, afraid for his safety, whisked him off to the province.) He told me everything he knew about how the Marcoses and their cronies would blatantly and wantonly plunder the public coffers and ransack and sequester huge local companies until they had almost drained the country and its people of all their resources. He also introduced me to the tyrant’s insatiable greed for power when Marcos pressured the Constitutional Convention to replace the 1935 charter, which would have disqualified him from seeking another four-year presidential term. Marcos also made sure to maintain his tight grip on power when, during the snap elections a few days prior to the EDSA revolution, widespread practices of fraud, vote-buying, intimidation, violence and tampering of election returns were reported.

We, Filipinos, could be long-suffering and forgiving, oftentimes, to a fault. But there would always be that proverbial straw that would break the camel’s back.

In our case, it was the treacherous and ruthless assassination of Ninoy Aquino on August 21, 1983. That event, which triggered a series of civil disobedience campaigns that eventually culminated in the 1986 revolution, proved that a dead Ninoy could be a more formidable opponent to the Marcoses than the fearless, fast-talking, hard-hitting political leader that the former was when he was alive. Ninoy’s death inspired and empowered the masses to go out to the streets and shout, “Sobra na! Tama na! Palitan na!”  It resulted to public outrage that eventually put an end to Marcos’ 21-year oppressive rule. It changed our country’s history.

Today, exactly thirty years after that fateful day when democracy was finally restored, I have to ask myself. And again, you, my dear millennials.

Have we, as a nation, adequately learned our lessons from that dark part of our history?

Or are we like some people who try to bend history itself? To conveniently forget? To forgive the perpetrators without a single person held accountable for the atrocities of Martial Law? To reinstate the same people who had been principal players during the dictatorship?

If you want to hear it, in a nutshell, here goes.

According to the historian and writer Alfred McCoy, “the Marcos government appears, by any standard, exceptional for both the quantity and quality of its violence.”

  • 70,000 were incarcerated; 35,000 were tortured; 882 went missing; and 3,257 were murdered.
  • The country’s foreign debt of US$7 billion in 1965 when Marcos was first elected President ballooned to US$25 billion in 1986, the year he was ousted.
  • PCGG pegged at US$10 billion the total amount of the ill-gotten wealth amassed by the Marcos family during their 21-year reign. Of that amount, only US$4 billion had been confiscated and returned to the treasury. The remaining US$6 billion is yet to be recovered.

Despite all these glaring statistics, though, people, mostly those your age, are still singing a totally different tune. Many of our young voters are fooled into believing that the Martial Law era was the best part of our history, and that a Marcos scion should be catapulted back into power.

Ninoy and Cory Aquino, along with the thousands of Martial Law casualties, must have been rolling over in their graves right now.