Tuesday, December 16, 2003


We all inevitably go through the point of seeing a relative or a friend depart, never to return. It is thus not difficult to sympathize with all who feel a sense of loss at the passing of Foreign Affairs Secretary Blas Ople two days ago.

But sympathy for those he left behind should not mean being deluded into believing the lavish tributes heaped upon him by many of our government officials as well as not a few personalities in the corporate media. The grief that his passing has caused his bereaved family and friends should not prevent the Filipino nation from confronting the truth about the man, for as the Good Book says, "The truth shall set you free."

The Philippine Daily Inquirer, in its report on the foreign secretary's demise, described him as a "passionate nationalist" and workers' rights advocate. In the same report it quoted House Speaker Jose de Venecia as saying that Ople was "one of the great foreign ministers of Asia and one of the four greatest secretaries of the Philippines," and ranking him with Apolinario Mabini, Carlos P. Romulo, and Raul Manglapus.

Mr. Speaker, it is the height of historical inaccuracy--at the very least--to mention Mabini in the same breath as the Romulos, Manglapuses, and Oples of this land.

The Sublime Paralytic was a paralytic only because he had the misfortune of contracting a crippling disease. But, as the F. Sionil Jose novel Po-on tells its readers, Mabini was certainly not a cripple in heart and mind. He had the sound judgment to know the value--both moral and practical--of independence, and the iron will to assert it at whatever cost. Thus he stubbornly refused to compromise the Filipino people's struggle for national liberation, which US imperialism had begun to usurp in his time, and continually defied American colonial authority come prison or exile. Not even the tempting offers of a position in the American colonial government could bend the man.

In contrast the Romulos, Manglapuses, and Oples would distinguish themselves for their enthusiasm in vouching for US foreign policy interests over the welfare of the Philippines.

Romulo was an unquestioning supporter of the US-led Cold War, which the Philippines had nothing to do with and from which it never benefited in any manner.

Manglapus was one of the most ardent advocates of American military presence in the Philippines. This, despite the fact that, as the very Dictionary of Military and Associated Terms of the US Department of Defense itself admits, "A base is a locality from which operations are projected or supported," meaning that hosting a foreign military base subverts a country's sovereignty as doing so automatically integrates it into a foreign defense network and inevitably involves it in military campaigns it may have no part in to begin with. Manglapus turned a blind eye to the toxic waste left behind by the former US military bases in Olongapo and Angeles, as well as the numerous victims of American military atrocities--which the US has yet to face justice for.

Ople, in similar fashion, sponsored as a senator in 1999 the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA), which paved the way for a return of US military presence in the Philippines, after the bases pull-out in 1992, and grants visiting US servicemen extraterritorial and extrajudicial "rights."

As foreign affairs secretary from 2002 to his death, Ople supported the Balikatan Military Exercises, which provides for joint "training" operations longer than those allowed by the VFA, and the Mutual Logistics Support Agreement which provides for "temporary" basing arrangements for US troops.

These agreements have been criticized by no less than Rene Jarque, a former army captain who authored the Defense Policy Guideline, and former VFA Commission chair Amado Valdez, for being lopsided in favor of the US.

Ople also was a drumbeater for the "terrorist" tag by the US and the European Union on the Communist Party of the Philippines and its founding chair Jose Ma. Sison and the New People's Army, as well as the near-branding of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front as a "terrorist" group. These severely endangered the peace talks aiming to end the armed conflict between the government and these groups, whose causes are acknowledged by no less than the United Nations--as well as respected leaders like former US Attorney-General Ramsey Clark, Philippine Vice President Teofisto Guingona, Jr., and Obispo Maximo Tomas Millamena of the Iglesia Filipina Independiente--as legitimate. By these Ople showed that in his book, "alliance" with the US was more important than a just peace in our country.

It is impossible to forget Ople's support for the US war on "terror," which has been proven baseless in Afghanistan and Iraq. This war which has claimed countless innocent lives has not yielded any trace of terorrist Osama bin Laden who was supposedly being coddled by Afghanistan, nor has it any weapon of mass destruction to show for all the havoc it has wrought in Iraq. Afghanistan and Iraq are both oil-rich countries whose dictatorial former governments had a falling-out with the US (which initially supported them) over economic policy issues.

While fiercely vouching for US foreign policy interests, Ople was never known to stand up for the welfare of abused Filipino migrants.

As a senator in 1994, Ople supported the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade, which paved the way for the entry of the Philippines into the World Trade Organization (WTO) and opened up the Philippine economy to "competition" with highly developed countries, in particular the US, without being allowed to develop--which, in the words of Bagong Alyansang Makabayan, Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas, and Anakpawis chair Rafael Mariano, "is like a boxing bout between Mike Tyson and Manny Pacquiao." Membership in the WTO has taken its toll on the Philippines in terms of the destruction of enterprises unable to withstand unfair competition and the consequent loss of millions of jobs, as well as the continuous increase in foreign debt, since 1994. Also, what used to be a marginal agricultural trade surplus before 1994 has since been transformed into a glaring agricultural trade deficit. Such are the horrors of globalization which the WTO has been promoting that even former President Fidel V. Ramos, who used to be one of its leading proponents, has criticized globalization for failing to live up to its promises--something which Ople never acknowledged to his last breath.

The only consolation is that De Venecia did not rank Ople with the nationalist old guard: Claro M. Recto, Lorenzo Tanada, and Jose W. Diokno.

Likewise Ople cannot be credited with advancing labor rights. In fact the Labor Code which he sponsored as Marcos' labor minister violated union rights by prohibiting strikes in "vital industries," imposing a one-industry-one-union policy, and treating unfair labor practices as merely administrative rather than criminal offenses.

While his name was never mentioned in connection with corruption, as the Philippine Daily Inquirer said, never did he speak against the rampant corruption in the Marcos and Estrada governments which he both served and faithfully stuck with to their last moments.

Vice President Guingona said that Ople died "with his boots on and in the service of the nation."

While we can continue to admire Vice President Guingona for his unfailing advocacy of nationalist, human rights, and anti-corruption causes, it is impossible to agree with what he said.

The U.S. military capture of Iraqi president Saddam Hussein is being trumpeted by the corporate media and the Bush administration as simultaneously a great victory, the start of a new era, and justification for the U.S. invasion and occupation of Iraq.

The seizure and public display of Saddam Hussein may be a propaganda victory for imperialism, but it changes nothing fundamental about the situation in Iraq, particularly the reality that the U.S. invasion and occupation of Iraq constitute a blatant and brutal violation of both international and U.S. law.

While hailing the detention of Saddam Hussein after an intense 8-month search, the current co-dictators of Iraq, L. Paul Bremer and Lt. Gen. Ricardo Sanchez, are expressing the hope of the Bush administration as a whole that this development will signal the beginning of the end for the Iraqi resistance.

But intensifying Iraqi resistance to the illegal and colonial war and occupation has not been primarily based - according even to the more knowledgeable corporate media journalists in Iraq - on loyalty to any particular individual. Instead, it is a response to the negation of Iraq's sovereignty and independence, as well as the increasing brutality of the occupying army.

Even supporters of Bush's war such as Sen. Jay Rockefeller, Vice-Chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee, are raising questions: "Given the location and circumstances of his capture, it makes clear that Saddam was not managing the insurgency. ... That is significant and disturbing because it means the insurgents are not fighting for Saddam, they're fighting against the United States."

There can be no question that the Iraq occupation is a colonial project in every respect. The U.S.-appointed "Iraq Governing Council" is headed by CIA asset Ahmed Chalabi, whose family was the richest in all of Iraq when the British-controlled regime was overthrown in 1958. All of Iraq's assets are being put on the auction block.

The U.S. is setting up colonial-style Iraqi police, intelligence services, and paramilitary death squads. It is taking and holding family members hostage, including children and grandparents, to force Iraqis to submit themselves for "interrogation." U.S. forces are using "Israeli-style" collective punishment and violence against the population as a whole in large parts of the country.

"With a heavy dose of fear and violence, and a lot of money for projects, I think we can convince these people that we are here to help them," stated a U.S. battalion commander in Iraq (New York Times, December 7, 2003). He was speaking from one of the many Iraq villages that the U.S. has wrapped in razor wire, holding entire communities prisoner. A sign on the barbed wire reads, in English only, "This fence is here for your protection. Do not approach or try to cross, or you will be shot."

The U.S. government has a long history of destabilizing and overthrowing governments and replacing them with brutal dictatorships. One need only look at Iran, the Congo, Guatemala, and Chile to know that the democratic or undemocratic character of the government targeted by the U.S. has never been the motivation for its actions. In that context the U.S. government has supported the most brutal dictatorships and military regimes.

The long-standing demonization of the former Iraqi government followed by the invasion and occupation of Iraq is part of a larger global project by the United States to militarily destroy any government that seeks to maintain even nominal independence from the dictates of Washington and Wall Street. The leadership of North Korea, Iran, Syria, Zimbabwe, Cuba, Palestine and others have been selected by the Bush administration for destruction. This stands in fundamental violation of the right of self-determination. Only the Iraqi people have the right to determine who their leaders will be.

People should keep in mind as they watch the forthcoming carefully packaged documentary of the "crimes" of the former Iraqi government, that the Bush administration has taken tens of thousands of innocent Iraqi lives, has plunged Iraq into chaos and anarchy, and has removed the essential features of sovereignty for the Iraqi people who struggled in the past for decades against colonial rule.

The occupation is taking the lives of Iraqis, U.S. and other "coalition" forces every day. While Halliburton, Bechtel and other U.S. corporations are reaping immense profits, the people both here and there are paying the price for Bush and his corporate friends' looting spree, in blood and money. According to administration figures, the cost of the Iraq occupation is 210 million dollars every day. The administration has stated that it need not bother to count the number of Iraqis that it kills.

We will continue and intensify our mobilizing work to demand: "End the Occupation, Bring the Troops Home NOW! Money for Jobs, Health Care and Education, Not for War and Occupation."

Email circulated by:
A.N.S.W.E.R. Coalition
Act Now to Stop War & End Racism

New York 212-633-6646
Washington 202-544-3389
Los Angeles 213-487-2368
San Francisco 415-821-6545

Sunday, December 14, 2003


Maging noong ako'y bago pa lamang na sumasabak sa mundo ng peryodismo, agad kong napagtanto ang malaking magiging halaga ng isang tape recorder sa aking hanapbuhay.

Agad akong napasabak sa pagdalo sa mga kumperensiya at pakikipagpanayam sa mga tao. Sa ganitong mga gawai'y napakahalaga ang isang tape recorder upang makuha nang eksakto ang lahat ng mahalagang sinasabi at maisulat ito nang eksakto pagkatapos.

Datapwat agad ko rin namang natuklasang hindi lang ang peryodista ang mahigpit na nangangailangan ng tape recorder.

Ako'y nakatira sa isang panlalawigang bayang direktang katabi ng isa sa mga lunsod ng Kalakhang Maynila. Dahil dito, kung kinakailangan kong dumalo sa isang kumperensiya o makipagpanayam sa Kalakhang Maynila ay bumibiyahe ako nang isa o dalawang oras mula sa amin, at pagkatapos ay ganoon din pabalik--bagama't madalas-dalas na ang isang oras ay nagiging dalawang oras at may mga pagkakataon pang sinasawimpalad ako nang husto at ang dalawang oras ay nagiging tatlong oras, dahil sa kahenyuhang iskemang pantrapikong ipinatutupad ni Bayani Fernando.

Bus ang sinasakyan ko sa mga biyaheng ganito. At karamihan sa mga bus na nasasakyan ko ay may mga radyo o telebisyon.

Salamat sa mga radyo at telebisyon ng mga bus, napagtanto kong maliwanag na kahit hindi ako naging peryodista ay mahigpit ko pa ring kakailanganin sa biyaheng pa-Maynila at pabalik ang isang tape recorder.

Nauuso ngayon ang mga walang kakuwenta-kuwentang tugtugin at panoorin: mga kantang kayhahaba ngunit wala namang katuturan ang paulit-ulit na mga liriko, mga disk jockey na kung magsipagsalita'y higit pang mahahaba sa mga kantang pinatutugtog gayong pulos na kaululan lang naman ang alam na sabihin; mga game show na patalinuhan diumano ngunit makikitang ang pinakahangal ay yaon mismong host, na bukod sa napahilig magmagaling ay kaysakit sa tainga ng boses na binabalutan ng labis na kaartehan sa pagsasalita, mga talk show na tampukan ng lohikang ikababangon nina Plato at Aristotle mula sa kanilang mga hukay, at mga soap opera na bukod sa kaybababaw ng mga karakter ay pinagpapasasaan na ng mga uod ang tema sa labis na kapanisan.

Sa kabutihang-palad, ganito ang karamihan sa maririnig o mapanonood ngayon sa radyo o telebisyon, at karaniwang sa isa sa mga ito nakatutok ang mga radyo't telebisyon ng mga bus. Paano, kung alin pa yaong napakayayamang istasyong may kakayahan sanang mag-alaga ng matitinong palabas ay sila pang nangunguna sa pagpapalaganap ng mga ito, kadalasa'y dahil sa magkahalong katamarang mag-isip at kagustuhang kumita agad nang limpak-limpak nang hindi man lang nagpapatulo ng pawis. Hindi ka naman makapipili ng panonoorin o pakikinggan kapag nasa bus ka.

Dito pumapasok ang labis na halaga ng isang tape recorder sa panahong ito. Sa pamamagitan ng isang tape recorder, matatakpan mo nang mahusay ang mga minatamis na katarantaduhang silang kalakhan ng ibinibigay ngayon ng radyo't telebisyon. Maaari mong patugtugin sa tabi ng iyong tainga ang ilang magagandang kaset na ikaw ang bahalang pumili.

Hindi maaaring tawaran ang tulong na naidudulot nito, lalo't karaniwan ang maipit sa matinding trapikong bumibilang nga ng oras. Higit na mabuti ang magbilang ng oras sa pakikinig ng magagandang tugtugin buhat sa mga kaset kaysa ilang oras na magpigil ng kamaong gustong bayuhin ang radyo o telebisyon ng bus.

Kung kayo'y regular na bumibiyahe nang mahaba at nasusuka kayo sa mga napakikinggan o napanonood sa mga radyo't telebisyon ng bus ngunit wala kayong magawa dahil hindi naman kayo ang may-ari ng sasakyan, magdala ng tape recorder. Malamang na may mahihiraman kayo kung ayaw ninyong bumili pa. Kung wala namang mahiraman, pagsakripisyuhan na ninyo at higit na murang hindi hamak ito kaysa ipambibili ninyo ng pamalit sakaling hindi kayo makapagpigil ng poot at mawasak ninyo ang radyo o telebisyon ng sinasakyang bus.