The Power of YouTube

By Danton Remoto | Remote Control | 03/30/2009 11:22 PM
Views and analysis section
http://www.abs-cbnNEWS.com

YouTube has brought the power of vivid images right in your very face. I’m sure many of you have now seen the horrible video where the very obscure Boyet Fajardo ordered a cashier at Duty Free to kneel in front of him. Reason? The poor man did not know Boyet and asked him to show another ID to verify his identity, since Boyet’s credit card was unsigned.

And Boyet, puffed up with wounded pride because he is not known at Duty Free, ordered the hapless man to supplicate. Last I looked there were 600 comments to that video uploaded in You Tube. Rightly so, they skewered Boyet for his crassness and arrogance. But I take issue with some comments who said that Boyet is like that because he is gay. Hello? Where did your logic go? One is not connected to the other. I’ve known gays who used to be as poor as Boyet but infinitely more famous than him now – like my dear friend, Boy Abunda – who have remained humble. The ancient writers are right again, when they said that lucre did not lead to the deepening of one’s wisdom, or the expansion of one’s soul.

Well, the last words I can say about Boyet is that his manners are as bad as the clothes he makes.

And now for another case of YouTube as wielder of power. Another friend of mine, a lawyer, fired off this letter against Bayani Agbayani and his alleged homophobia. Here is the letter, the Taglish translated into English, then edited for clarity and brevity.

“I was watching Showbiz News Ngayon (SNN) when Kris Aquino said that Bayani Agbayani was featured in a YouTube video because of a bout with another person, a guy who supposedly bumped his car. Apparently, Bayani was dead drunk, and recognizing this, he tried to settle with the other man to the tune of P6,000. But the latter’s companion intervened and allegedly hurled invectives at Bayani, whereupon, Bayani did likewise.

“Of course, the unprintable expletives were substituted by special characters in SNN’s subtitles, but Bayani was heard shouting, “Bumalik ka dito, bakla ka, bakla ka! (Come back here, gay! gay!)” repeatedly, after he challenged his opponents to a fistfight. But they simply ignored him and went about their way. Bayani even tried to pursue them, saying, “Naka X5 ako, naka- motor(cycle) ka lang.

“When asked to explain the video, Bayani clarified that the video only showed him saying the cuss words, excluding what the other two guys said. And then he added, matter-of-factly: “Lalaki lang ako. Kahit naman siguro itanong niyo diyan sa kung sinong lalaki, artista man o hindi … magagalit or gagawin ang ginawa ko (or something to that effect). Translation: “I’m just a (straight) man. If you want to ask any other guy out there, movie star or not, they will also get mad and do what I did.

“Kris Aquino lost no time in appearing as an official apologist for Bayani. She, who had been a woman-victim of violence herself, said that what Bayani must have meant when he said “bakla!” was actually “duwag” (coward). But she did ask Boy Abunda to issue the caveat that not all gays are cowards. Then, Kris added that Bayani should have just ignored it, since his reputation could be destroyed.

“I was infuriated and wanted to react immediately, although at the back of my mind, I also did not want to dignify the incident with an extended discussion on Bayani’s (and what a name he’s got!) political incorrectness. His political incorrectness may have its genesis in his ignorance. Then again, letting the matter pass without any comment normalizes machismo and the prejudice not only against gay men but against all people (including women) in general. While it is true that worse things could have happened, or have happened in the past, it is the subtlety of the lack of physical violence that should alert us. This is what is ignored, even by law-enforcement agencies like the Philippine National Police, which are supposed to have already been instructed in gender-sensitivity and towards objective first-line-implementation of national policies.

“Regrettably, we have a long way to go in our pursuit of genuine equality as to sex, gender and orientation. Perhaps it entails the saturation of media with accounts like this that could bring the issue into national consciousness. Celebrities and media personalities should become aware, get involved and participate in raising gender awareness, because they are seen and heard on TV by millions of people.”

I don’t know what my friend, college classmate at Ateneo Batch ’83, and newly-appointed ABS-CBN Entertainment head honcho Cory Valenzuela-Vidanes will say to this. But I’ve known Cory to be a just and fair-minded person, and I’m sure if apprised of the situation, she would act accordingly.

But what about me? Well, I’ve never been amused – not even by a millisecond – by Bayani Agbayani. Tange, Balot, and Ponga were comic geniuses compared to him. And Bayani’s case in this accident was pure and simple drunken driving, which is punishable by law. Those two guys (or gays, who cares) should have brought the matter to the police. Ang Ladlad would have brought one of our ace lawyers and we could have thrown the book at the drunken man with the middling talent.

And then we will see who will have the last laugh.

Lorele-ing

Editorial
Philippine Daily Inquirer
First Posted 00:24:00 03/27/2009

The President of the Philippines expresses her contempt for public opinion by deputizing the most ill-informed, the least knowledgeable neophyte politician available to speak on her behalf. We mean, of course, Lorelei Fajardo, one of two deputy presidential spokespersons.

Her role is lip service, in a deeply literal sense. Fajardo makes herself available to the media for comments on various issues, ostensibly on behalf of the President. But what insipid comments! Even critics of President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo will acknowledge the strength of her work ethic and the quality of her intellectual equipment. But Fajardo is the complete opposite; she is obviously out of her depth.

But she has a task to do, and she does it. By engaging the media, she allows the Arroyo administration to reinforce its claim that it respects the role of a free press in a democratic polity. By offering jejune commentary and sophomoric statements, however, she and the administration she works for undermine both the work of the press and the object of democracy.

How can the consent of the governed be informed, when the government only wants to pretend to inform the public? Call it Lorelei-ing (or Lore-lying).

The ideal approach is to ignore her, and to wait for more authoritative statements from Anthony Golez, Cerge Remonde, Eduardo Ermita or the President herself. Last Monday, however, she said some things in reaction to the news that Fr. Ed Panlilio, the priest-governor of Pampanga province, was considering a presidential run, that made us sit up and take notice — but for all the wrong reasons.

“It’s easy to talk, that’s rhetoric, but what about performance? We should look at performance, because we are already talking about the highest leader of the land,” Fajardo told reporters.

Her emphasis on performance seems to be yet another of those unexamined motherhood statements she was hired to spout. The deputy presidential spokesperson may be incapable of phrasing the thought felicitously, but who can argue with the idea that “performance” is an essential criterion for choosing the next president?

She dismissed the whole notion of “reformist” or value-based politics by asserting that the only — or the main — thing that distinguishes politicians is performance. For instance: “You are a traditional politician, and your performance is good, [then] I think performance should be the basis [for voters to choose you again].”

So far, so party-line. It is no secret that President Arroyo justifies her long tenure in terms of performance. Forget all the political noise (which in a moment of greater candor Ms Arroyo once admitted she was in large part responsible for); the important thing is that the economy is growing, poverty incidence has fallen, tourism is booming, and so on.

But Fajardo did not leave well enough alone. She also said running a province (a jab at Panlilio) was different from running a country. “If your performance is not good in a lower position, let’s say as mayor or governor or any position for that matter, how can you lead the entire nation? That’s what we have to be careful about.”

First things first: The implied criticism of Panlilio is part of a long-term Palace strategy to weaken his chances of reelection. Despite what Panlilio has done to stop corruption in Pampanga, the Arroyo administration has found excuses to get in his way: by refusing police support for the fight against the illegal numbers game “jueteng”; by organizing resistance to Panlilio among town mayors; by marginalizing the governor’s influence in the President’s home province. Fajardo’s dig at Panlilio’s record should be seen in this highly partisan context.

But, more important, let’s examine the assumption behind Fajardo’s blithe putdown of other offices. By her own logic, only four politicians are qualified to seek the presidency: the three former presidents, and the incumbent herself, all of whom are disqualified from running again.

Of course, running a province is different from running a country. But no one disputes that a state governor in the United States can become commander in chief, or a mayor of Paris an effective president of France. Why should Fajardo suggest otherwise?

The easy answer is to suppose that she wasn’t thinking. But the scary possibility exists that, on this point, the spokesperson is in fact reflecting the views of the person she speaks for.

‘Transgender women are not gay men’

By Danton Remoto | Remote Control | 03/24/2009 12:03 AM
Views and analysis section
http://www.abs-cbnNEWS.com

My transgender friends in Society of Transsexual Women of the Philippines (STRAP) met with me for coffee one night in Makati and told me they want to write a rejoinder to my column about our common friend, BB Gandanghari. I was glad to listen to them and learn more about the transgender experience.

I attended a four-hour-long session with them two years ago about the transgender experience, but I guess I still have a lot to learn. I also admitted that, like many others, I was confused with the beautiful and effervescent BB Gandanghari. In “Pinoy Big Brother” two years and in some of her magazine interviews in the past two months, she confessed to being “a gay man” and not once did she use the word “transgender” to identify herself.

Be that as it may, I now give the floor to Dee Mendoza, Chairwoman of STRAP, who wrote a reaction letter to “articles written about and comments given to BB Gandanghari and to all women of transgender experience.” We learn something new and something true every day. My warmest thanks to my friends in STRAP, who by the way are also active members of Ang Ladlad, for setting things right.

***

As the country’s limelight shines ever so brightly on BB, the issue of transgender has come to the surface. A lot of incorrect information has been expressed about her and, therefore, about others like her.

To err is human. But ignorance? Not bliss for all. Willful ignorance, or judgment in ignorance, should not be treated so lightly or be easily dismissed because of the harm it can cause.

A number of misunderstandings about transgenderism have recently been displayed in print and on the television by both the unlearned and the experts alike. Sadly, even some of those in the LGBT community have contributed to this confusion. Well-intentioned articles that result in harm simply because of the clear lack of knowledge must be rewritten to reflect only the facts and the truth.

Here is a fact and the truth: Transgenders are not gay men who think and feel they are women born in the wrong body. They are not, as stated by one so-called expert, merely people who suppress their sexuality for a very long time.

“Transgender” is a term that has emerged fairly recently and is used to describe anybody who feels their gender identity and expression is different to that which was assigned to them at birth (based only on the viewing of their genitalia). A transgender may be a woman or a man, and like any woman or man, they can be heterosexual, homosexual, or bisexual. Therefore, their sexuality is not their gender.

To clarify and emphasize this point, gender is who we are – it is ourselves, our person. Gender is not our body, not our genitals, not our clothes, not even our names, not our hormones and not our sexual preference.

A newborn who is pronounced male by the doctor or midwife may not necessarily identify as male when that child grows up. This person must have every right to choose to live his/her life the way s/he needs it to be lived. This person who was born male may live her life as a woman. Because she expresses and identifies as a woman, then she is a woman.

One’s gender has nothing to do with the absence or presence of a specific genitalia. Gender must not be imposed on us. Who, then, has the right to determine the gender of a person? Is it the church? Is it the doctor who inspects the baby’s genitalia upon birth? Is it the psychiatrist? Surely, it is only that person because only s/he alone possesses and has innate knowledge of his/her self.

Furthermore, a person need not make any change in order to be the gender they are. Feeling is being. No genital or cosmetic surgery, hormone replacement therapy, nor any other intervention is a prerequisite to being oneself. A man is a man and a woman is a woman not because of their genitals. We are not walking penises and vaginas. We are living beings who happen to have a certain kind of genitalia. Surely, we do not want to reduce ourselves to mere organs. Our being is a determinant of who we are, not what’s between our legs.

Man or woman. Hetero-, homo-, bi- or pansexual. These are only words, and words are only inventions. Sometimes, words are ambiguous. Sometimes, their meanings change over time. Sometimes, new words are invented as our knowledge and understanding evolves over time. It is not surprising then when sometimes, writers publish a piece that contains inaccurate and misunderstood use of certain words. Words, which in this case, are crucial to the understanding and description of other people. Words that can confuse, harass, demean and disrespect people. Hence, a writer must take it upon themselves to be vigilant in ensuring their thorough understanding of all words before going to print.

As for BB, let us respect her freedom of expression. Let us graciously accept what she tells us because only she has the right and ability to assert her own identity. Only she can truly know herself. If you don’t understand, ask her. If you can’t ask her, then it is best not to comment with so much certainty. Opinions are one thing, statements are another.

_________

STRAP (Society of Transsexual Women of the Philippines) is the first and only support, contact and information group for girls and women of transsexual experience in the Philippines. For more information, visit http://www.tsphilippines.com.

India leaders blog, text to plug in to young voters

Reuters | 03/18/2009 5:59 PM

MUMBAI – Video clips on YouTube, updates on Facebook, blogs, and an online voter registration campaign.

Welcome to a newly-wired India, where political parties are using text messages to send updates and leaders are sprucing up their pages on social networking sites in an effort to connect with the country’s growing young and plugged-in generation.

With nearly 700 million people eligible to cast their votes in an April and May general election, the ruling Congress party and the main opposition Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) are devoting more time to first-time voters and the tech-savvy middle class.

The reasons are not hard to find: a booming economy that grew at about 9 percent in the last three years encouraged rapid penetration of Internet and mobile phone ownership, giving politicians tools to connect with even far-flung areas.

“We have 100 million first-time voters in the age group 18-24, and they are all most likely connected via the Internet and mobile phones,” said Diptarup Chakraborti, a principal research analyst at Gartner consultancy.

Now, after a successful presidential campaign by a youthful, tech-savvy Barack Obama, as well as the Mumbai attacks last November, a groundswell of activism and political awareness among the youth is apparent, particularly in the cities.

Both Congress and the BJP’s prime ministerial candidates are elderly, but that has not stopped the parties from reaching out to the youth, using text messages, campaign tunes and videos.

L.K. Advani, the iPhone-carrying, 81-year-old leader of Hindu nationalist BJP, has posted his own blog (http://blog.lkadvani.in).

“In my own political life spanning six decades, I have enthusiastically embraced every new communication technology — from the early simple Casio digital diary to iPod and iPhone,” he wrote in a blog that drew more than 100 comments.

BJP teams have made YouTube campaign videos and their election offices in New Delhi are packed with youngsters glued to computer screens to update campaign websites.

“There are emotional and functional reasons for using technology: functionally, it is more cost-effective and more participative than say, a rally or an advertisement,” said Kiran Khalap, co-founder of brand consultancy Chlorophyll.

“And emotionally, they want to be like the cool urban youth they want to connect with,” he said.

A young Gandhi

The BJP’s main competitor for the youth vote may be Rahul Gandhi, 38, son of Congress party chief Sonia Gandhi and head of the party’s youth wing. He is tech-savvy, and has been doing the rounds of colleges, mingling with students and posing for pictures taken on camera phones.

Gandhi has thousands of supporters on Facebook and his portrait dominates many election billboards, even though it is Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, 76, who is the party’s candidate for the top job.

The Congress party has bought the rights to Oscar-winning anthem “Jai Ho,” whose title is Hindi for “Let There Be Victory,” from the movie “Slumdog Millionaire.”

But the two main parties’ reach may pale with the 55,000 YouTube views of Omar Abdullah’s rousing speech in parliament last year in defense of secularism and a civil nuclear deal.

Abdullah, 38, the youngest chief minister of restive Jammu and Kashmir state and seen as a rising political star, has a Facebook profile and also wrote a blog.

One-fourth of the electorate is below the age of 25, but in previous years few parties courted this segment because it was not so politically-inclined.

Now, an ad for a mobile firm shows a leader using text messages for feedback from her constituency, while a campaign (http://www.jaagore.com) aims to persuade urban youth to vote.

Only about 10 percent of urban youth voted in the last general election in 2004, said Sangeeta Talwar, an executive director at Tata Tea which is running the Jaago Re campaign.

“If the youth are made to feel they have the power to influence the outcome of the election and the future of the country, that’s a very powerful motivator,” said Talwar.

But a hit song and blogs alone can’t do magic, said Khalap.

“Awareness may grow, but whether it will change attitudes and behavior of voters and politicians remains to be seen,” he said.

TAÑADA ON THE PASSAGE OF THE SSS BILL: “IT’S A MINI-TRIPLE STIMULUS PACKAGE”

Rep. Lorenzo “Erin” R. Tañada III (Liberal Party, 4th District, Quezon) hailed the passage on third reading in the House of Representatives HB 5922. This bill, authored by Tañada together with Representatives Raul del Mar and Amelita Villarosa will grant the Social Security System a one-time authority to condone the penalties slapped on unpaid employers’ remittances.

He called it a triple mini-stimulus package because first, it provides a strong incentive for companies that have been in arrears on their principal payments for their employees’ contributions to immediately settle what is due and overdue, minus the huge burden of dealing with the delinquency penalties that have been slapped on them. According to Tañada, the 3 percent a month penalty is indeed burdensome and once in arrears and not quickly addressed, it can really pile up. So this is a stimulus package for these troubled companies, companies that, by and large, do not want to be delinquent in the first place, but because of the series of crises that hit our country, failed to remit what is due as the employers’ share for their employees contributions to SSS.

Second, he said that by providing this breathing space for troubled companies, we are actually helping SSS to immediately collect about P57 billion of the P95 billion overdue principal payments which would otherwise be difficult to collect. A lot of troubled companies choose not to pay what SSS demands of them because the penalties that have accumulated are actually bigger than the principal that they should have been paid. Of the P325.5 billion that is collectible by SSS as of 31 May 2008, P230.82 billion is accounted for by penalties and only P94.6 billion is accounted for by the principal payments that are due. Past SSS condonation experience shows that on average, 60% of those which have accumulated principal payments chose to settle what is due in outright cash. Sixty percent of P94.6 billion is P57 billion which could easily beef up SSS’ coffers. That is the stimulus package for SSS.

Third, Tañada thinks that this is the most important and immediately needed stimulus package directed at ordinary, privately employed individuals. “With collected and settled principal payments for the SSS members’ contributions, they can now avail of the privileges of a good standing SSS member – claim benefits and get loans – benefits that would otherwise not be available had their principal payments remain unsettled. That’s the stimulus package for ordinary, privately employed individuals.”

Tañada who chaired the technical working group of the Committee on Government Enterprises that prepared the draft substitute bill shared that the TWG was quite conscious in finding a middle ground so that they are able to help companies which have been unable to settle obligations with the SSS without sacrificing SSS’s financial viability and actuarial life.

“We were also quite conscious that we do not unduly reward those who have been remiss with their obligations to the disadvantage of companies who have been very diligent in making timely payments to the SSS. Those who have been remiss with their contributions would still have to pay penalties but not as huge as what the SSS charges them. The bill provides a sliding scale of condonation depending on the mode of settling the overdue SSS contributions. Those who choose to settle the principal payments even before this bill is passed into law will only pay one percent of the penalties that are being charged by the SSS. Those who choose to settle with outright cash payment the principal that is due to the SSS after this is passed into law will have to pay 5% of the penalties being charged them. Finally, those who choose to pay the principal on an installment basis will have to still pay 15% of the penalties that is due,” he described.

The 2010 polls and the youth on ‘The Correspondents’

abs-cbnNEWS.com | 03/02/2009 3:54 PM

The youth’s 11 million votes can elect a president, but are they ready to use their right to vote? This Tuesday, March 3, guest correspondent Nadia Trinidad answers this question with a preview of the 2010 election from the eyes of the young Filipinos on “The Correspondents.”

Kent, a first-time voter, is preparing for 2010 by participating in the campus elections in UP Diliman. He believes he can make a difference by exercising his right and responsibility to vote as a citizen.

Miguel, on the other hand, believes in change like his look-alike US president Barack Obama. An out of school-youth, he believes he can change his life by using his vote wisely.

However, not all young Filipinos are determined to vote like Kent and Miguel. That is why various campaigns have been launched to get the youth to register for the elections.

Nadia Trinidad will hear out the insights and sentiments of the Filipino youth about the 2010 elections this Tuesday night, March 3 on “The Correspondents,” after “Bandila” on ABS-CBN.