Etc.

Why Teddy

ImageThey say it is Teddy Day, a day to talk about, and generate online interest in, the only Makabayan senatorial candidate this coming election. Here is my modest effort to add to the discussion.

The senatorial contest, I think, provides for us an example of how limited the election (the type that we do in the country) is as an exercise of democratic will. People vote for a senatorial candidate mostly based on his/her track record, promises and personality. Sometimes, though very rarely, people vote for a candidate because we think he/she stands for something, and we adhere to that something. For instance: With all due respect to his supporters, what does Escudero stand for? He has a track record as an oppositionist, he supported and passed some good, progressive bills and laws. He kinda looks good. But does he stand for, say, genuine land reform? Not necessarily. Does he speak in behalf of the youths of marginalized sectors? I don’t know. For all I know, he does stand for something. I don’t know. Same for the others.

What do they usually say they stand for? Most of the candidates would say they stand against corruption. It is the least controversial among “issues”. Noynoy Aquino says he is against corruption. Who would say they are not? Even Gloria Arroyo said it. Even Estrada. Or Marcos. Standing against corruption — however the candidate defines the term – is certainly the “safest” advocacy for candidates, probably next to the “environment”. (But ask those who say they are for the environment if they would campaign for a repeal of the Mining Act; I doubt if they would categorically say yes). Same with “pro-women”, or “pro-poor”. Or even those who say they are for entrepreneurship (*cough* Villar, *cough* Bam Aquino): are they for building of basic industries? Are they for passage of a non-neoliberal mining law that prioritizes our own need for industrialization while protecting indigenous communities from plunder? When they say they want to give jobs to the poor, they don’t say what kinds of jobs, or if those jobs will be there after six months or if the salaries are enough to sustain a family. They don’t say that, because saying that, explicating issues, going for the concrete, would make them less appealing to the least common denominator. Doing so would mean they would really have to stand for something.

Politicians are great talkers. Politicians from the ruling class much more so. They are populists, they speak plainly, dance, sing. But very rarely do they stand for something, and stand consistently for something. We saw that rare moment of standing for something when senators like Salonga, Guingona and Tanada voted, against all odds, to reject the US bases extension in September 1991. It is supposedly an issue that one can easily see where right and wrong are. For one thing, permanent US military presence is something that the Philippine Constitution expressly forbids. Fast forward to 1999, and many of the senators who voted to reject the US bases begin mouthing the “need” to have the US military back. Enrile, for one, voted in favor of the RP-US Visiting Forces Agreement. So did Honasan. Even Nikki Coseteng, the star of the anti-US bases film, “Sa Kuko ng Agila”. Her leading man, Joseph Estrada, signed it as president.

So pardon if I have little faith in politicians from the ruling classes (landlords and–Google it–big comprador bourgeoisie). Even Hontiveros—or rather, especially Hontiveros—who often claims of being the nontraditional candidate, but whose actions and whose party’s actions loudly speak traditional, old, reactionary politics.

Pardon, too, if I approve of only one candidate, Teddy Casino. Not because he is a good guy (although he probably is), or because he is articulate or he is an eye candy (sorry, I don’t get this). I go for Teddy because he stands for something, for things noble and important to the majority. I know because he represents, and brings with him, the mass movement that has been fighting for things noble and important for decades now. Genuine land reform (not just the deceptively bad law called CARPER). National industrialization (you don’t need to be NDF to see the need for this). Immediate significant wage hike for workers. Consistent respect for human rights. Mass access to basic social services. Many, many more.

And mass empowerment, not just through elections, but through organizing ourselves, speaking and acting as one voice for our interests and aspirations. Nowadays, and during elections, we always hear the TV networks and civic groups harp about the need to participate in the electoral process in order to have a voice in politics. Well, we don’t see them producing nice TV ads about the need to participate in rallies, in exercising the right to protest, to peaceably assemble. Protesting is a high form of democratic participation; it is, among other things, a direct action to influence policy-making. Protest is as important as—in my view, even more important than—the vote. Activists who study the issues, organize themselves, unite with other sectors, defy their own limitations (physical, financial, etc.) to participate in an exercise of freedom of speech and assembly, of protest, express political maturity that cannot be seen among mere voters. During times when we don’t have the power of the ballot, or when we are effectively marginalized by the ruling classes, people can only count on their power to disrupt and hoist banners and make noise and burn effigies. We can only count on our unity, on ourselves.

This unity, this high level of political maturity of people from hitherto marginalized sectors, is the very foundation of Teddy’s Senate run. The campaign, as it stands now, is already a huge success. Teddy and his (and the movement’s) platform of government have now reached more people than any time in history. A Senate win will surely add a progressive voice to mainstream politics. But it will also expand the reach of Teddy’s and the movement’s platforms, until majority of oppressed people are reached, united and enjoined to act.

The Senate, already reeking in traditional politics and dynasty-building, badly needs someone like Teddy Casino. The movement where Teddy came from and continues to be part of does not necessarily need the Senate to effect the changes it fights for. But it sure as hell helps if Teddy Casino is there.

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Armed conflict, Human Rights

Pahimakas ni Rambo

Rei Mon Guran (Larawan mula sa Facebook page para kay Rei Mon)

Kaarawan ni Rei Mon “Rambo” Guran ngayon. Araw ng pagkamatay niya bukas. Si Rambo ay isang lider-estudyante at mahal na anak. Isa rin siyang iskolar ng bayan. Naging aktibo siya sa League of Filipino Students. Noong Hulyo 31, 2006, walang awang pinagbabaril si Rambo, habang nakasakay sa bus, papuntang eskuwela. Isa siya sa mga biktima ng ekstrahudisyal na pamamaslang noong panahon ni Pang. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo. Hanggang ngayon, hustisya pa rin ang hangad ng mga kaanak ni Rambo, hindi lamang sa mismong kumalabit sa gatilyo ng baril na kumitil sa buhay niya, kundi sa mga arkitekto ng mapaniil na mga polisiyang kontra-insurhensiya na pinupuruha’y mga sibilyang tulad ni Rambo.

Narito ang kuwento ng pagpaslang kay Rambo, unang nailathala sa Pinoy Weekly noong Nobyembre 2006.

Pahimakas ni Rambo

Bakit pinapaslang ang kabataang tulad ni Rei Mon Guran?

Kenneth Roland A. Guda
Pinoy Weekly, Nobyembre 22-28, 2006

Kahit napuyat sa salu-salo noong nakaraang gabi, pinilit pa ni Rei Mon Guran – kilala rin bilang “Rambo” o “Ambo” — na gumising nang maaga para makapasok sa eskuwela noong umaga ng Hulyo 31. Tatlong oras ang biyahe mula sa Bulan, Sorsogon patungong Legazpi City.  Kaya alas singko pa lamang, nagpahatid na si Rambo sa amang si Mang Arnel sa terminal ng bus.

Noong nakaraang gabi, lubos ang saya ni Rambo sa pagdiriwang ng 21-taong kaarawan. Ilang buwan matapos mapaslang ang kaibigan at kasamahan sa LFS (League of Filipino Students) na si Cris Hugo sa Legazpi, maraming kaibigan at kamag-anak ang nagpayo sa kanya na maghinay-hinay na muna sa aktibismo.

Ito mismo ang payo ni Mang Arnel sa anak. Bilang lider ng LFS sa Aquinas University sa Legazpi, may kutob si Mang Arnel na isa ang anak niya sa maaaring sumunod na target. Alam ng ama kung paano mag-isip ang militar, dahil minsan na siyang naging sundalo.

“Pero naging matigas si nonoy (tawag sa anak na lalaki sa Bikol). Sabi niya sa text: ‘Kung pagkamatay ko ang ikaliligaya ng mga kaaway, bahala na sila sa akin.’ Sabi ko sa kanya, ‘Huwag naman ganyan, anak.’ Marami ka pang magagawa,” kuwento ni Mang Arnel.

Maraming plano sa buhay si Rambo, at handang isakripisyo ni Mang Arnel ang lahat para matupad ang mga iyon. “Gusto kong maging abogado,” wika minsan ni Rambo sa ama.

“Sige, anak. Pagretiro ko, may makukuha akong pera. Puwede mong gamitin.”

“Pero,” pahabol ni Rambo, “huwag niyong asahang yayaman tayo, dahil walang human rights lawyer na umaangat ang kabuhayan.”

Sa ika-21-taong kaarawan ni Rambo, ibinalato ni Mang Arnel ang traysikel sa anak. “Gamitin mo na ito. Kung wala kang masyadong ginagawa, puwede kang mamasada dito sa atin. Dagdag sa allowance mo,” sabi ng ama.

Si Rei Mon, mukhang pagtapos niya sa elementarya. (Larawan mula sa Facebook page alay kay Rei Mon)

Matalino at madiskarte si Rambo.  Nag-aral siya sa Unibersidad ng Pilipinas sa Los Baños, Laguna, ngunit napilitang bumalik sa Bikol dahil nagkaproblema sa karelasyon. Pero kahit noong nasa UPLB, aktibista na siya. Mahilig din siyang magsulat. Katunayan, nang makialam ang administrasyon ng UPLB sa pagpapatakbo ng Perspective, publikasyon ng mga estudyante,  isa si Rambo sa mga nagtaguyod sa paglalabas ng alternatibong pahayagang Rebel Perspective.

Nang malipat sa Aquinas University sa Legazpi, ipinagpatuloy ni Rambo ang pagiging aktibo sa LFS. Kahit delingkuwente sa eskuwela, naging paborito siya ng mga propesor at kaklase dahil kenkoy at mapagkaibigan. Nitong unang semestre ng 2006, pinasok ulit ni Rambo ang peryodismo. Nag-aplay siyang correspondent ng pahayagang pangkampus, ang Pegasus. Madaling nakapasa si Rambo. Kahit bago pa lang, marami siyang naisulat  – kadalasa’y pampulitikang analisis sa mga isyung pambayan. Dahil dito at sa kanyang pagiging tagapagsalita ng LFS, tumanyag nang husto si Rambo.

Noong gabi ng kanyang kaarawan, bago siya bumalik patungong Aquinas, pansin na ng mga kaibigan ni Rambo ang matitikas na lalaking umaali-aligid sa labas ng bahay. Katunayan, nang dumaan sila pauwi, binati pa sila. “Naki-bertdey kayo kay Ambo?” Kumaripas sa takot ang mga kaibigan ni Rambo.

Kinaumagahan nga, nagpahatid si Rambo sa ama sa terminal. Naghihintay ang eskuwela, ang mga aralin, ang mga gawain sa LFS: Dapat na maagang masimulan ang linggo.

Sa pinakadulo ng bus, iniupo ni Mang Arnel ang anak. “Low profile ka lang sa biyahe,” tagubilin ng ama kay Rambo. Iniwan ni Mang Arnel si Rambo na nagbabasa ng librong Harry Potter at nakikinig ng musika sa kanyang I-Pod habang naghihintay na pag-alis ng bus.

Kararating pa lamang sa bahay ni Mang Arnel nang ibalita sa kanya ng mga kapitbahay: Pinagtatadtad ng bala si Rambo sa loob ng bus! Takbo siya pabalik ng terminal, kasama ang dalawa pang anak. Inabutan ni Mang Arnel ang duguang si Rambo, lupaypay sa upuan.

“Ano ang ginawa ninyo sa anak ko?” tanong niya sa isang pulis na nagbabantay. Gusto pa ng mga kapatid na itakbo si Rambo sa ospital, ngunit nang makita ni Mang Arnel ang dalawang tama sa dibdib, sa panga at sa likod, alam niyang wala na ang panganay na anak.

Sa pakikipag-usap sa mga saksi, napag-alaman ni Mang Arnel ang mga pangyayari: Isang matikas na lalaki ang umakyat sa bus, tumungo sa kinauupuan ni Rambo, tumango sa matikas ding lalaking katabi ng anak, at saka tinadtad ng bala ang aktibista. Pagkatapos, tahimik na bumaba ang lalaki, pati ang tinanguang lalaki, habang nagsisigawang pababa ang mga pasahero.

“Nakapanghihinayang ang buhay ni Rambo,” ani Mang Arnel. “Pero ipinagmamalaki naming nagkaroon kami ng anak na tulad niya. Masaya kaming nagkaroon ng anak na di namin ikinahihiya, na itinuturing ng marami na bayani at huwarang kabataan.”

Note: Matapos lumabas ang artikulong ito, lumabas din ang artikulo ko sa PW hinggil sa paggawad diumano ng “rebolusyonaryong hustisya” sa isang yunit ng Army na diumano’y may kinalaman sa pagpaslang kay Rambo.

Kuha ang mga larawan sa itaas mula sa Facebook page na alay kay Rei Mon.

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Armed conflict, Culture, History, Human Rights

A dad’s day offering

Special father’s day offering: You can watch the entire film by Costa-Gavras, titled “Missing”. The film is about a father’s search for his missing son, one of many who disappeared after the right-wing coup in Chile in September 11, 1973. This film stars Jack Lemmon, who starred in another father’s day film, “Dad.” I like this Costa-Gavras film more, though. Happy dads’ day to all dads. [To watch the rest of the film, you can go to the part 2 of this film: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wmNKBhvcn0Y&feature=related, then search for the rest in YouTube.]

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