Saturday, December 22, 2007


The prevalent practice of contractualization has been the main culprit in the reduction of union membership on a national scale. Without a union, workers’ rights are easily violated.

Vol. VII, No. 46, December 23, 2007 – January 5, 2008

The Ilaw at Buklod ng Manggagawa (IBM or Workers’ Light and Unity) –- the union of workers of the San Miguel Corporation (SMC) conglomerate, the country’s largest food and beverage corporation –- used to be a showcase of what being a strong union was all about. As recently as during the early 1990s, majority of San Miguel’s then 39,000-strong workforce were members of IBM, which is affiliated with the Kilusang Mayo Uno (KMU or May 1st Movement).

Today, the composition of SMC’s workforce serves as a showcase of what contractualization can do to a union.

Based on an item on the SMC website (, the company now has 26,000 employees. “May 1,100 na lang sa mga ‘yan ang regular” (Only some 1,100 of them remain as regulars), said Ka Neri, 33, a full-time KMU organizer working with the IBM and himself a former contractual employee at SMC, in an interview with Bulatlat.

Ka Neri said SMC was able to reduce the regular workforce through attacks on the union and department closures.

“Kinasuhan ang mga lider ng unyon at tinanggal, para humina ang unyon” (The union leaders were slapped with charges and dismissed to weaken the union), the union organizer said. “Nagsara rin ng mga departamento at natanggal ang mga dating nagtatrabaho doon” (There were departments that were closed down, and workers were laid off.)

Aside from these, Ka Neri said, the company was also able to ‘encourage’ a number of the older employees to accept “early retirement” packages. To ‘encourage’ old employees to avail of the early retirement option, attractive compensation packages are offered while at the same time managers approach employees and tell them that they should avail of these otherwise they might end up getting less if retrenched.

“Y’ong mga natanggal o naalis d’yan ay pinalitan ng mga mas bata...mga kontraktuwal na mas mababa ang suweldo” (Those who were dismissed, got laid off, or had availed of early retirement packages were replaced with younger ones, contractual employees with lower wages), Ka Neri said. “May iba na pinagkontrata na lang ng bago” (Some were rehired as contractuals.)

The Philippine Long Distance Telephone Company (PLDT) is another showcase of the effects of contractualization on unions. In an interview with Bulatlat’s Karl G. Ombion earlier this year, PLDT Union Council member Ronnie Gedoria said that from a 16,000-strong regular workforce (of which majority were union members) before 1995, the PLDT now has only about 3,000 regular employees.

While before regular employees are divided into departments corresponding to the different processes such as telephone line installation and repair, and maintenance and repair of underground cables, the remaining regular employees are now forced to do all kinds of jobs, under the multi-skill, multi-task scheme for employees, and with higher workloads.

Added to this, certain processes are already contracted out. For example, installations of new telephone lines are now being done by contractuals who are hired by agencies. These contractuals are paid by piecemeal, meaning their pay depends on the number of telephone lines they installed: no installation, no pay.

Contractualization and unionism

Ombion, citing data from both government and labor sources, wrote that between 1995 and 2005, the number of contractual workers in the Philippines soared from 65 percent to as much as 78 percent of the country’s employed labor force.

Companies in the Philippines started going on an orgy of contractualization in the years following Department Order No. 10 of the Department of Labor and Employment (DoLE), which was issued in 1997 by then Labor Secretary Leonardo Quisumbing.

The Labor Code devotes only a small section to provisions on contractual employment, and gives the Secretary of Labor the leeway to restrict or even prohibit the contracting-out of labor “to protect the rights of workers.”

But the apparent shift of government policy from its bias towards regular employment, as reflected in the Labor Code, to “flexible” work arrangements can be seen in the issuance of one whole department order, DO No.10, for the purpose of legalizing and legitimizing contractualization. DO No. 10 reads, “Contracting and subcontracting arrangements are expressly allowed by law…”

DO No. 10 also declares, as part of its guiding principles, that “flexibility for the purpose of increasing efficiency and streamlining operations is essential for every business to grow in an atmosphere of free competition…”

While DO No. 10 professed to protect workers’ rights, including the right to self-organization and social benefits, the experience under a regime of contractualization has been that contractual employees are barred from joining unions and are denied the social benefits that are supposedly due them even under DO No. 10.

DO No. 10 opened the floodgates to the mass lay-offs of regular workers, which included the dismantling of unions, and their replacement with contractual workers.

DoLE DO No. 3, issued in 2001 by then Labor Secretary Patricia St. Tomas, revoked DO No. 10 but honored all contracts entered into during its effectivity. The Department’s DO No 18-02, issued the next year also by Sto. Tomas, practically restored DO No. 10.

The prevalent practice of contractualization has been the main culprit in the reduction of union membership on a national scale.

Based on data from the Bureau of Labor Relations (BLR), there was a sharp slide in union membership from 2001 – when President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo was catapulted to power through a popular uprising – to 2002. Union membership decreased in the said period from 3.85 million to only 1.47 million. The number of union members decreased by almost half from 2001 to 2002.

From 2002 to 2005, there seems to be an encouraging picture of union membership, as there was an increase from 1.47 million to 1.91 million. What appears to be an upward trend would be broken again in 2006, with union membership decreasing to 1.86 million. From 2006 to June 2007, union membership would rise to 1.89 million.

As of June 2007, union membership in the Philippines has yet to reach even the 2-million mark since 2001.

The sorry state of unionism in the Philippines is further emphasized when looked upon in proportion to the 33.33 million-strong labor force as of June 2007. The total union membership of 1.89 million as of June 2007 means that only 5.68 percent of the country’s employed labor force is organized.

Unions and workers’ rights

This does not bode well for the defense of workers’ rights. Without a union, workers’ rights are easily violated.

All these notwithstanding, those in the unions still suffer the atrocities of violence and harassment. The vulnerability of unions to these atrocities has no doubt been exacerbated by their weakening owing to the bane of contractualization.

Data from the non-government organization Center for Trade Union and Human Rights (CTUHR) show that from January to August 2007 alone, there were 59 cases of union and human rights violations involving a total of 829 victims. These included the killings of two labor leaders, violent dispersals of picketlines, illegal arrest and detention, torture, grave threats, and enforced disappearances.

CTUHR’s data further show that from 2001 to August 2007, there have been a total of 1,167 union and human rights violations, all in all involving 14,623 victims. The killings of union leaders Renato Pacaide and Charlie Solayao this year have brought the total number of workers extrajudicially killed under the Arroyo administration to 85.

Meanwhile, the economic rights of workers are also not faring well.

Recent data from the National Wages and Productivity Commission (NWPC) show that the national average family living wage for a family of six, the average Filipino family, now stands at P664.87 ($15.91 at an exchange rate of $1:P41.80 as of Dec. 21).

Conversely, the highest regional minimum wage –- which is “enjoyed” in the National Capital Region (NCR) – stands at only P325-362 ($7.78-8.66) daily. The biggest gap between the family living wage and the minimum wage is to be found in the Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao (ARMM), with a family living wage of P1,087 ($26) as against a minimum wage of only P200 ($4.78) daily.

Resisting the bane

The onslaught of contractuazation since the 1990s has done a lot to weaken unions in the Philippines –- which at various points in history were major forces in fighting authoritarianism.

Last year broke what seemed to be an upward trend in Philippine union membership since 2002. While union membership has risen since last year, an increase of about 30,000 from last year’s 1.86 million as of June 2007 is by no means a drastic leap.

With the present weakness of unions compared to their strength a decade ago, the defense of workers’ rights has become more and more difficult. For this year, there has been no improvement in workers’ economic rights, while union and human rights continue to be violated with impunity.

But not only workers are affected by the trend of contractualization. The trainings contractuals undergo are many times less than what regular employees underwent in years passed. This lack of training plus the pressures being exerted on contractual workers who have no rights and are paid less, sometimes on a piecemeal basis, is already taking its toll on the quality of services of companies such as PLDT and Meralco.

Thus, contractualization is a bane not only to workers and their unions but to consumers as well. Bulatlat

Monday, December 17, 2007

Alexander Martin Remollino

Alay sa mga magbubukid ng Sumilao, Bukidnon

Hindi na "diyan lamang" ang kanilang nilakad
kahit para sa mga paang matagal nang nasanay na magturing
na "diyan lamang" ang tatlong bundok na lakarin.
Hindi "diyan lamang" kundi sanlibo't pitong daang kilometro --
magkabilang dulo halos nitong kapuluan --
ang itinakda nilang haba ng kanilang lakad
sa pagitan ng pag-asa't kawalan ng pag-asa.

At bakit naman hindi?
Layang magtanim at umani --
layang huminga nang maluwag sa kasariwaan ng hangin --
ang katarungang mailap na kanilang tinutugis.

Subalit ang dulo ng kanilang paglalakbay
ay tila lakbayin pa ring higit pa
sa sanlibo't pitong daang kilometro:
lakbaying kung saan dudulo
ay walang nakababatid.

Samahan natin sila sa kanilang paglalakbay,
gaano man kalayo ang lakarin
at saanman umabot ang ating mga talampakan
sa pagtugis sa layang magtanim at umani --
layang huminga nang maluwag sa kasariwaan ng hangin.

Sunday, December 16, 2007


The income of jeepney drivers has plunged miserably since the advent of the Oil Deregulation Law, and more miserably this year owing to the recent wave of oil price hikes.

Vol. VII, No. 45, December 16-22, 2007

The income of jeepney drivers -– the Philippines’ so-called “kings of the road” -– has plunged miserably since the advent of the Oil Deregulation Law, and more miserably this year owing to the recent wave of oil price hikes.

Erelito Mendoza, a jeepney driver plying the Cainta-Taytay-Angono-Tanay route in Rizal province, east of Manila, knows this well.

He has been a driver for 30 years. For most of the last 30 years he was able to make a fairly decent living, and did not particularly mind that to be able to do so he had to be awake even before the sun rose and it would be dark by the time he could go home.

But the last six years have been particularly difficult for his livelihood, he said.

“Dati, malaki-laki pa’ng kinikita ko” (I used to earn considerably well), he told Bulatlat in an interview. “Ngayon, halos wala na akong maiuwi sa pamilya ko. Gasolinahan na lang halos ang binubuhay ko” (Nowadays I end up taking almost nothing home to my family. Almost all of my earnings go to the gasoline stations.)

Mendoza is one of the millions of ordinary Filipinos –- drivers and non-drivers alike –- who are reeling from the effects of relentless oil price increases particularly in the last month. The oil price increases are particularly hard for him, since one of his children –- all of whom he is sending through school as the family’s sole breadwinner –- is now in college.

World oil prices surged to $96 at the New York Mercantile Exchange (NYMEX) last month before settling at $95.59 per barrel.

With this, the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) was urged to intervene by increasing world supply. But OPEC refused, saying there was no oil supply shortage and blaming speculation for the price jumps.

The deregulated oil market in the Philippines makes the country all the more vulnerable to world oil shocks, as local subsidiaries of oil giants are able to pad pump prices.

The banner story of Business World’s Oct. 31, 2007 issue, citing a recent study by the United Nations (UN), shows the Philippines to be among the countries most vulnerable to oil price jumps -– along with Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Cambodia, Fiji, Laos, Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan, Samoa, Solomon Islands, Sri Lanka, and Vanuatu. In the report the Philippines’ heavy dependence on imported oil and its high level of poverty and inequality were cited as the reasons for its vulnerability.

Deregulation, oil price hikes, and drivers’ earnings

Based on data from the socio-economic think tank IBON Foundation, pump prices have increased by as much as 535 percent since Republic Act No. 8479 or the Oil Deregulation Law – a brainchild of then Sen. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo along with other laws pushing for the Bretton Woods agenda of liberalization, deregulation and privatization for Third World Countries -– took effect in April 1996. Under the Oil Deregulation Law, premium oil prices have soared to P45.18/liter ($1.10 at an exchange rate of $1:P41.14 as of Dec. 14) from P16.56/liter in 2001 ($0.32 at the 2001 average exchange rate of $1:P50.99), while diesel prices have climbed to P35.95 ($0.92) in 2007 from P13.82/liter ($0.27) in 2001.

IBON data also show that pump prices have been overpriced by as much as P4.55 ($0.11) per liter since 2000.

This year alone, oil prices have increased more than 10 times, with the price of diesel -– which jeepney drivers use -– hiking by P6.50 ($0.157) a liter.

Ordinary drivers as well as transport-sector leaders interviewed separately by Bulatlat over the past three years have said that a jeepney driver, on the average, takes in some 300 passengers and consumes around 30 liters of diesel a day.

Before this year’s wave of oil price hikes, diesel cost P31.45/liter ($0.76). With the diesel cost increases amounting to P6.50 ($0.157) this year alone, jeepney drivers of late have had to shell out P37.95 ($0.92) for every liter of diesel.

With the minimum fare at P7.50 ($0.18) and an average of 300 passengers a day, a jeepney driver usually earns a gross of P2,250 ($54.69). Taking away the total diesel expenses of P1,138.50 ($27.67) at P37.95/liter and the boundary fee of P900 ($21.87), the driver would be left with P211.50 ($5.14) at the end of the day.

Before this year’s wave of oil price hikes, a driver would usually be left with P406.50 ($9.88) on the average after a day’s work. With the slide in jeepney drivers’ earnings from P406.50 to P211.50 a day, we can see that their daily income has decreased by P195 ($4.739) due to oil price increases.

Data from the National Wages and Productivity Commission (NWPC) show that the national average family living wage for a family of six, the average Filipino family, now stands at P664.87 as of July 2007 ($16.70 based on the current exchange rate of $1:P41.14).

Jeepney drivers’ current daily earnings are P453.37 ($11.02) below the national average family living wage.

This is a far cry from what jeepney drivers earned before the implementation of the Oil Deregulation Law.

Sarbing Repaso, a jeepney driver interviewed by Bulatlat in 2004, recalled that in 1996, just before the passage of the Oil Deregulation Law, diesel cost only P5.50 (then $0.21) a liter. At the end of each day’s work, a driver paid P400 (then $15.38) as boundary fee.

Taking in an average of 300 passengers a day at that year’s minimum fare of P2.50 (then $0.10), the driver was earning a gross income of P750 (then $28.86) daily. Taking from that the P165 (then $6.35) spent on diesel daily (P5.50/liter of diesel multiplied by 30 liters a day), as well as the P400 boundary fee, a driver was left with P185 (then $10.58) a day. This was P128.38 below the then national average daily cost of living of P313.38 (then $12.05).

Things today are vastly different from how they were when he was just starting out as a driver, Mendoza shared.

“Noon, hindi problema ang pag-aaral ng aking mga kapatid” (In those days, I had no trouble sending my siblings through school), he said. “Ngayon, iisa ang anak kong nasa college, hirap na hirap kami” Right now only one of my children is in college and still we are having a very hard time.)


Drivers under the banner of the Pinag-isang Samahan ng mga Tsuper at Opereytor Nationwide (Piston) have held two protest actions in the last three weeks against oil price increases –- a rally last Nov. 26 and a transport strike last Dec. 13.They demanded the following: government control of oil prices and a moratorium on oil price hikes; removal of RVAT (Restructured Value-Added Tax) coverage on oil to effect a P4 rollback in oil prices; and the scrapping of the Oil Deregulation Law and state control of the oil industry.

A few days before the Dec. 13 transport strike, Energy Secretary Angelo Reyes announced that there would be no further oil price increases until the end of the year.

In an interview with Bulatlat, Piston secretary-general George San Mateo said Reyes’ announcement is proof that the government can intervene in the oil industry if deemed necessary.

“They can do it, and this is proof,” San Mateo said. “But what they don’t want to do is institutional intervention, which would mean the junking of the Oil Deregulation Law.”

San Mateo said that if the government fails or refuses to heed all the demands of the Nov. 26 and Dec. 13 protests, Piston would not hesitate to stage other actions come next year. Bulatlat

Monday, December 10, 2007

Alexander Martin Remollino

A final tribute to Monico M. Atienza

Your passing opened up the road
to a convergence of contradictions.

It seems as though the entire human race
was there for your stopover
and the march to your final destination.
So many mouths claimed
to have been friends with you,
it seemed like a contest for pouring out
the best testimonial.

Such is the glory of your greatness
that all wish to bask in it,
and the sole consolation lies in this:

that merely doing so does not make them
a single inch greater.

If the land and the wind
that you not just once serenaded with your poems,
the walls and floors and ceilings
of the classrooms and offices and meeting places
that you graced with your presence --
the mute witnesses to your struggles and sufferings --
could speak,

they would cry out one by one to the high heavens
the names of your true friends.
They know that your true friends are they
who fully live the convictions
you embraced to the end.

Friday, December 07, 2007

Alexander Martin Remollino

Sa alaala ni Rene O. Villanueva, 1954-2007

Sa dakong huli, naubusan din ng tinta
ang panulat na tila hindi kailanman mauubusan.
Kayhirap isiping yumao na siya:
paano mamamatay
ang panulat na isang buong panitikan yata
ang naiakda?

hindi niya hahangaring ipagpatayo siya ng monumento.
Ang hindi niya alam ay may monumento na siya,
buhay pa man siya, at ito'y ang katotohanang
napalapit man siya sa mga "nakasuso sa bulok na sistema"

ay manunulat siyang hindi nagbili ng kaluluwa,

hindi kailanman.

Thursday, December 06, 2007

Alexander Martin Remollino

In memory of Monico M. Atienza -- revolutionary, writer and teacher (1947-2007)

Death tried thrice to take him:
the first and second attempts were failures,
and the third was the last.
He vehemently refused to just let go of life like that:
twice he stubbornly resisted Death's attempts on him --
even as he had a wound that refused to heal,
even as his consciousness refused to return.

And rightly so, for his
was a life that was worth fighting for to the death.
In a nation grown enamored by the glitter of foil,
his life was not glitter but light:
a bright star, steadfast amidst the dark sky and long night
in this "country of our sorrows."
Alexander Martin Remollino

(Delivered at “An Eye for I: The State and Practice of Investigative Reporting in the Philippines,” a forum organized by the UP Department of Journalism and the UP Communicators for Good Governance and held Dec. 5, 2007 at the College of Mass Communications Auditorium, University of the Philippines)

How best describe the state and practice of investigative journalism in the Philippines?

This is a question for which there are no easy and clear answers. It is a lot easier to try to answer the question of where those who disappear in the Bermuda Triangle end up, or of what happened before the Big Bang.

This is because the very mention of the term “investigative journalism” summons a whole wealth of other thoughts or observations.

First things first: just what in the world is investigative journalism?

The Collin-COBUILD Dictionary of the English Language defines investigation thus: “If you investigate an event or situation, you examine all the details, in order to find out what has happened or is happening.”

This is certainly the method which anyone who can be called an investigative journalist uses to come up with those in-depth reports that are characteristic of the branch of journalism they chose to specialize in.

But with that, should not all journalism, in thrust if not in methodology, be investigative — since the task of any journalist at any time and place is to ferret out and expose the truth about what is happening in the world, that people may be accordingly guided to respond to the challenges of the times? The existence anywhere of a journalistic category described as “investigative” (as distinct from the other branches of journalism) thus sheds light not only on the state of investigative journalism, but on the state of journalism itself.

Jaime B. Ramirez, author of the Philippine Journalism Handbook among other works, defines investigative reporting as “the disclosure of information that is of public value where the subjects would prefer not to be disclosed.” He further observes that

Every reporter should be an investigative reporter — by his or her own instincts and by leave of the publisher. If a reporter is on the trail of a good story, the necessary time should be made available. A serious commitment to investigative reporting is one of the best investments a publisher can make. This will surely and simultaneously benefit a newspaper’s prestige and its readers’ interest as well…

With that, how fares investigative journalism in the Philippines, and how has it been practiced here thus far?

The reports of the PCIJ do not always get to be published in all of the major periodicals. On the small screen, investigative programs like I-Witness, Reporter’s Notebook, and The Correspondents are usually shown in the most ungodly hours, when for the most part the nation is in such deep sleep that a comet could pass by largely unnoticed.

And yet investigative reports always have considerable impact in the country’s public discourse. Though not everyone gets to read investigative articles or view episodes of investigative programs, the revelations made and the questions raised by these get talked about for days — sometimes weeks — on end.

Take for instance the ruckus provoked by PCIJ’s exposes on former President Joseph Estrada’s “Boracay Mansions,” or Bernadette Sembrano’s report on Pagcor chief Ephraim Genuino’s unexplained assets.

The same goes for other publications or outlets in the Philippines that have been identified as placing emphasis on investigative journalism — like Newsbreak or, I could say, the publication I write for — the online magazine Bulatlat.

That investigative journalism exerts such impact on the Philippines, even with its limited exposure here, takes us to one of the glaring characteristics of what poet and literary scholar Gelacio Guillermo has called “our basket case of a society”: that this is a society with a whole universe of secrets waiting — nay, clamoring — to be revealed. It is a society where there are a few who wield vast power — both in the public sphere and in the private sector — who use this power to perpetrate excesses and with the resources at their command strive mightily to keep these from the knowledge of the people.

In any such society, there will always be a considerable portion of the reading and viewing public eager to read or view in-depth reports on the latest scams and scandals, and an even bigger public discussing the contents of these with prolonged interest.

Former UP Mass Communication Dean Luis V. Teodoro describes thus the importance of investigative journalism in the Philippines:

The investigative report is the most logical form for the need to demonstrate and document in all its painstaking detail and sordidness the political and social realities that still define Filipino existence today, towards the historic end of arming the people with the consciousness that will mobilize them. It is also the one form that can repudiate the martial law legacy of secrecy that still haunts us all. Of all the journalistic forms it is the investigative report — with its demand for consummate research and precise attribution — that lends itself to the deepening of public understanding of the way the political, economic and social systems work for the benefit of a handful and to the detriment of the many.

Thus far, the practice of investigative journalism in the Philippines has for the most part limited itself to exposing the scams involving government officials. Because of this, investigative journalism has come to be commonly understood in the Philippines as that branch of journalism that uncovers corruption and other government scams, and seeks to make government accountable to the public.

The Philippine journalistic landscape is thus not wanting in investigative reports on such topics as the fate of the sequestered Marcos billions, or of Corazon Aquino’s so-called “Kamag-anak, Inc.,” or of the anomalous infrastructure projects during the Ramos administration, or of Estrada’s involvement in illegal gambling, or the numerous onerous contracts entered into by the Arroyo regime.

To be sure, corruption is not the only issue for which high government officials should be held accountable to the people.

The nefarious dealings that the Philippine government goes into with its former colonial and now neocolonial string-puller, the U.S., also deserve to be pried into by the investigative journalist.

How complicit, for instance, was the Arroyo administration in the influence-peddling of the U.S.-based and USAID-funded lobby group AGILE (Accelerating Growth, Investment and Liberalization with Equity) on Philippine policy-makers in 2003?

Or where in hell now is L/Cpl. Daniel Smith, who was convicted last year of raping “Nicole” two years ago? Is he still in the custody of the U.S. Embassy in Manila, as Amb. Kristie Kenney claims, or has he been spirited out of the country like many a U.S. serviceman who committed similarly heinous crimes against Filipinos in the heyday of Subic Naval Base and Clark Air Base?

While at that, is it true that the U.S. presently maintains secret basing facilities in Subic, Angeles City, Mactan City, and General Santos City — even with constitutional provisions expressly prohibiting foreign military presence on Philippine soil?

These deserve to be looked into, as does government policy on recognizing — or the refusal to recognize — human rights, which are protected by no less than the Constitution and the various international instruments which the government is constitutionally bound to recognize as “part of the law of the land.”

Beyond that, there are not so many investigative reports, for instance, on the 2001 allegations that the owners of what is now the Power Plant Mall at Rockwell Center buried toxic waste from what was a real power plant under land forming part of Brgy. San Joaquin, Pasig City.

I also do not remember seeing any investigative report on the allegations a few years back that then Labor Secretary Patricia Sto. Tomas went on an all expense-paid trip to Nestle’s main office in Geneva, Switzerland at the height of the strike by the unionized workers of its branch in Cabuyao, Laguna in protest against CBA (Collective Bargaining Agreement) violations. The trip, it is alleged, was for the purpose of striking a deal between Sto. Tomas and the company’s top-level management to ensure that the company’s local branch would be favored over the striking workers in Cabuyao.

Without passing any judgment on whether the allegations were true or not, I still say that these nevertheless deserved to be probed.

The issue of how big landholders in the country have gone around the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Law of 1988 — taking advantage of its many loopholes to evade having their lands subjected to agrarian reform — is another one that has yet to be probed deeply enough by investigative journalism. Investigative reports on such a topic would be timely today, considering that the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program’s second 10-year extension ends next year.

While it is very much laudable to use investigative journalism to help in disclosing corruption and other government scandals, we must never for a moment construe this as the only task of the investigative journalist.

I cannot stress too much my premise that it is power-wielders from both the public and private sectors who typically have skeletons in the closet which investigative journalism may and should unearth.

It is not just high government officials who have those dark secrets that are crying out to be brought into the open; but also, for instance, the big bosses of corporate giants and the landed aristocracy. Investigative journalism in the Philippines has made some attempts at probing the skeletons hidden by entities other than high government, but the secrets of big business and the landed aristocracy are still uncharted territory for most Filipino investigative journalists.

The big bosses of corporate giants and the landed aristocracy, as much as high government officials, deserve to be subject to the intense scrutiny of investigative journalism — since they, like high government officials, affect to a great deal the life of the general public — who are, in the final analysis, the ultimate beneficiaries of the successes of any investigative journalist.

Any issues involving them and how they impact on the lives of the people are necessary subjects of investigative journalism. As Teodoro said:

Whether at the community or national level, all issues that touch upon the way people live are people’s issues. These issues range from the need for day care centers for working mothers to the undeclared martial law in Jolo. Whether by documenting corruption or environmental degradation, child labor or the manipulation of the stock market, the investigative report can help put an end to both the ignorance as well as the legacy of secrecy that are among the instruments that help keep Philippine society what it is for the overwhelming majority of the people — a society of vast injustice and even greater misery…

That having been said, high government, big business and the landed aristocracy are but part of a larger organism which goes by the name Philippine society.

Investigative journalism, therefore, should go beyond uncovering their dark secrets and must also probe into the dynamics of the social forces that make the power-wielders what they are, and that keep them as such. Investigative journalism, in the words of former Bulatlat executive editor Bobby Tuazon, “should be honed and advanced as a tool for social transformation,” and “(should) not confine itself to reporting about corruption and other scandals but (should delve) into the bigger, more socially-relevant issues of the poor and the oppressed.”

To summarize: Investigative journalism is needed in any society like the Philippines. It has to some extent been responsive to the social conditions that make it a necessity in this country, but its practitioners here can and would do well to do more.
Alexander Martin Remollino

Matagal na mula nang maimungkahi sa amin ng kaibigan naming si Axel Pinpin na maisalin namin sa Ingles ang ilang tula niya, lalo na ang mga nasulat sa bilangguan. Ngunit nito lamang naituloy, sa panig namin, ang pagsasagawa sa naturang mungkahi.

Narito ang isang munting koleksiyon ng mga salin ng ilan sa kanyang mga tula. Ang paglalabas nito sa Internet ay nagsisilbi ring ambag namin sa komemorasyon ng International Human Rights Day (Disyembre 10) sa taong ito.

Bago mabilanggo at mahabla sa diumano'y salang rebelyon, nagkapangalan na rin naman si Axel sa larangan ng pagtula. Naging fellow siya para sa tula ng UP National Writers' Workshop noong 1999; at nakapaglabas na rin ng isang libro ng mga tula, ang Tugmaang Walang Tugma.

Habang nagsusulat, aktibo rin si Axel sa aktibismo bilang isang mananaliksik at konsultant para sa Kalipunan ng mga Magsasaka sa Kabite (Kamagsasaka-Ka). Sa ganitong kapasidad ay naging masikhay siya sa mga kampanya laban sa imperyalistang globalisasyon at para sa tunay na repormang agraryo.

Noong Abril 28, 2006 ay dinukot siya ng mga pulis at militar -- kasama ng mga aktibista ring sina Riel Custodio at Aristedes Sarmiento, ng dating seaman na si Rico YbaƱez, at ng kristo sa sabungan na si Michael Masayes -- sa Tagaytay City. Silang lima'y patungo sa Maynila para sa paglahok nina Axel, Riel at Aris sa rali ng Mayo 1: napakiusapang magmaneho para sa kanila si Rico, na sinamahan naman ng kapitbahay nitong si Michael.

Ilang araw silang hindi malaman kung nasaan at pinaghanap nang husto ng mga kamag-anak at kasamahan at kaibigan. Di nagtagal ay napilitan ang Philippine National Police (PNP) na ilitaw sila't iharap sa midya -- bilang mga "rebeldeng komunista." Ang paratang sa kanila: sila raw ang nag-ayos ng kanlungan ni 1Lt. Lawrence San Juan, pinuno ng rebeldeng Makabayang Kawal Pilipino, sa Padre Burgos, Batangas at sila raw ang nag-ugnay sa kanya sa pamunuan ng Communist Party of the Philippines-New People's Army (CPP-NPA).

Bago mahuli ang lima, abala sina Axel at Riel sa kampanya para ipagtanggol ang mga magsasaka sa Cabangaan, Cavite na inaagawan ng lupa ng mga Revilla.

Mahigit nang isang taon ngayong nakakulong ang tinatawag nang Tagaytay 5 sa Camp Vicente Lim sa Calamba City, Laguna.

Marami-rami na ang tulang nasulat doon ni Axel, at sa koleksiyong ito -- na ang disenyo'y kagagawan ni Jason Valenzuela -- ay nilalaman ang mga salin sa Ingles ng ilan sa mga iyon.

Ilan kaming nagsalin ng mga tula -- bukod sa akin, "idinamay" ko ang aking kapatid na si Aris (Carlo Aristotle, hindi Aristedes); samantalang dumating naman sa akin ang ilang salin mula kina Gang Badoy at Melflorence Aguilar. Si Axel mismo'y may salin ng tula niyang isinalin ni Gang, at ang dalawang salin ay isinama sa koleksiyong ito.

Ang mga tula sa partikular na koleksiyong ito ay naglalarawan ng buhay sa bilangguan.

Download: verses.pdf

Wednesday, December 05, 2007


By Lira Dalangin-Fernandez
Last updated 08:31pm (Mla time) 12/05/2007

MANILA, Philippines -- Philippine arts and letters lost two stalwarts on Wednesday with the deaths of Rene Villanueva and Monico Atienza, both writers and professors.

Villanueva, a professor at the University of the Philippines (UP) and an award-winning writer of poems, children's stories, and essays, died at around 2 p.m. at the Philippine Heart Center after suffering a stroke on Tuesday. He was 53.

Atienza, who also taught at the UP, was also known as an activist. He died in his home at UP at 5:20 p.m. after being comatose for almost year. More known as “Ka” (Comrade) Nic, Atienza was president of the First Quarter Storm (FQS) Movement, an organization of activists from the 1960s and 1970s.

Bonifacio Ilagan, FQS Movement chairman and one of Atienza's closest friends, confirmed his death to

Friends sponsored a mass for Atienza Tuesday in what Ilagan sensed could be the last for his friend. He said Atienza's health had been deteriorating very fast over the past two weeks.

Ilagan said they are still making arrangements for the venue of the wake which could either be at the UP chapel or at the faculty center.

Atienza has been comatose since December 23, 2006 after an undetected mass in his throat gradually blocked his air passage, leading to successive heart seizures, according to an entry by Ilagan in the website

"His friends and relatives described Monico Atienza's stubborn will to live, in the face of a most life-threatening debilitation, as very characteristic of the man. This kind of courage, they say -- together with the man's extraordinary conviction and abilities -- enabled him to live the kind of life he has chosen, unmindful of the obstacles that came his way," wrote writer Alexander Martin Remollino in his blog

The had this entry on Villanueva:

“…Villanueva, a playwright, was among the leading figures in children's literature in the Philippines. He was in the hall of fame list of the Don Carlos Palanca Memorial Awards for Literature. He graduated with a degree in history at the Lyceum of the Philippines in 1975.”

According to his profile on Villanueva was awarded the Gawad CCP Para sa Sining (Literature) in 2004 and the Gawad Chanselor sa UP in 2005.