Another reason to go out and register

KAYA NATIN
Eirene Jhone Aguila
Manila Times
August 28, 2009

Nine weeks shy of the October 31 deadline for registration, sadly, the new registrants turnout has so far been alarmingly too few to realize the mantra—the youth is the future of this country. With the youth not all flocking to the registration stations to register one can suspect that indeed the face of the Philippine electorate will not change much this coming elections. And without this much needed infusion of idealism and change in the profile of our voters, non-traditional politicians will continue to remain a rarity. And if those who endeavor to line up for hours to register are not processed well or encouraged with assistance in the exercise, they will most likely not bother to vote on election day.

This is very unfortunate. Without this new wave of Filipinos entering our political arena, the new future we hope to see where good governance, ethical leadership and people empowerment are the norm will forever remain a dream.

Common reasons my many unregistered friends give for not registering are:

• No good apples to choose from, all rotten tomatoes

• What’s one vote?

• Too much hassle for a day plus I lose a day registering and another day voting then get stuck with mediocre politicians for three or six years (at least no hassle for not registering and a three-day vacation weekend if I don’t vote)

After asking, I usually get a “why do you still participate: register and vote, Eirene?” Truth be told, with every opening of the newspaper and with surveys showing the usual top six or ten names for President, it becomes more difficult to enthusiastically respond with my usual—“there is hope! We are that hope and it is our vote that helps realize the changes we wish to see in this country.” My cynicism would have long overtaken my feeling of hope and pride in our Filipino public officials had it not been because partly of my exposure to Kaya Natin! Getting to know the Kaya Natin! champions has given me actual reasons to say that there are good politicians worthy of our vote and the hassles that go with it—helping our country means helping get them elected which means my going out to register and casting my vote.

Nestled far-away in the mysterious Cordillera region is one such Kaya Natin! champion. You would think that nothing much happens up north, but in his recent state of the province address (SOPA), Gov. Teddy Baguilat Jr., gave us a peek into the dynamic province of Ifugao and the promise that having good leaders brings even to a place so far-away from Metro Manila:

• Gawis-Haggiyo mechanism, a first in the country, between Ifugao and Mountain Province for joint border operations against malaria

• Creation of 185 AYOD Community Health Teams: composed of male volunteers to ensure male involvement and local government support to community health and nutrition services (besides the usual women and health-care workers)

• Setting-up inter-local health zones for health sector cooperation among the municipal and provincial local governments (sharing of resources, technical expertise and best practices)

• More than P160-million assistance in health infrastructure and equipment (Ifugao General Hospital P50-million grant)

• United Nations Fund for Population Activities’ (UNFPA) expansion efforts throughout the province due to the good track record in reproductive health programs and the AYODs

• Setting up of Ifugao Land Management and Development Task Force providing legal framework and logistics for the IPs to get titles

• Second lowest poverty incidence in the Cordilleras at 33 percent

• Haggiyo Enterprise Development Program’s introduction of 20 Ifugao products into the market (has helped 36 organizations composed of 1,684 beneficiaries through training, equipment, promotion and exhibits and technical assistance)

• Organizing a network of organic producers with a P10 million pledge for agricultural research

• P4 million from the Bureau of Agricultural Research for organic vegetables, tilapia production and organic chicken raising

• Repairing irrigation systems and restoring collapsed terraces walls coupled with teaching indigenous knowledge to younger Ifugaos led to the steady stoppage of the deterioration of the terraces and loss of the Ifugao culture

• Support Infrastructure: Department of Agriculture for farm-to-market roads (P20 million), National Irrigation Administration (P50 million), Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources for fish tanks at the new Fisheries and Aquatic Research and Development Center (P1 million), National Economic and Development Authority’s P1 million for Ifugao breeding center, Department of Labor and Employment and Food and Nutrition Research Institute (P4 million) for various livelihood projects

• Multimillion projects CHARMP, Makamasang Tugon, ARISP III and climate change mitigation are coming in

• Fruitful fully sponsored official foreign trips—4th Asia-Pacific Conference on Reproductive Health in Hyderabad, India (result: UNFPA expanding program to entire province), United States Ifugao Reunion in California (result: facilitation of the release of donations from the Ifugao Association in California for the Ifugao General Hospital), dialogue with Norwegian energy officials (result: SN Aboitiz, the joint Philippine-Norwegian corporation gave CSR funds—now used for construction of senior citizens’ center) and Cinque Terre, Italy (result: twinning agreement—sharing of several forms assistance and tourism)

A month ago, I had a dare to our public officials—come out with your accounting. Tell us, your constituents, what you have done for your province, town or country. What have you done as a legislator? As a local chief executive? Especially for those who intend to seek reelection or make a bid for another office, instead of your multimillion ads and fancy show biz gimmickry, tell us what you have done to promote good governance, ethical leadership and people empowerment. Perhaps, that will give us the youth, a renewed sense of hope and will encourage us to go out and register (here’s hoping your silence will fire us up to register and vote to make sure and get you out).

Comments are welcome at eirenejhoneaguila@gmail.com. To learn more about what other Kaya Natin! Champions are doing, check out http://www.kayanatin.com.

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Who Will Be Their Cory?

By Adel A. Tamano
Philippine Daily Inquirer
First Posted 23:05:00 08/16/2009

TWO WEDNESDAYS ago, in alternately pouring rain and humid heat for two and a half hours, I waited in line with students of the Pamantasan ng Lungsod ng Maynila (PLM) to pay my last respects to former president Cory Aquino.

Being the president of PLM and one of the department heads in Manila, I could have cheated and skipped the queue, but it would have been contrary to the things that Cory stood for – equality, fairness and democracy.

In fact, the little inconveniences of waiting in line and the erratic weather made perfect sense to me: I wanted to suffer a little, as a thanksgiving gesture to a woman who had lived a life of sacrifice for my country and so, logically, suffered for me as well.

But it was not logic – at least not the cold, impersonal kind that we associate with the term – that brought thousands of people to line up to pay honor to their Tita Cory. Logic would have dictated that these people stay in the comfort and safety of their homes and watch TV to get their last glimpse. Certainly, rationality was not what brought us there. It was emotion and compulsion. For me specifically, a sense of duty and gratitude.

Deep sadness

Days after, I was still in an emotional funk. I was deeply sad but afraid to articulate it, not even to my family and friends. I feared I would be scoffed at: There goes Adel being overly dramatic and self-indulgent about the demise of Cory.

The problem was, the sadness was there, palpable and real. It was a feeling that the country had become a less noble place because of her passing.

In fact, having stood in line with PLM students, I could not help but wonder: Who would be their Cory?

These young men and women were born after the Edsa Revolution, and what they knew of Cory, particularly the years when she had to make the courageous and painful transition from homemaker to national leader, was secondhand at best.

They knew Kris – Cory’s daughter who is a popular media personality but not a political or social leader in the classic sense – but were only vaguely familiar with Cory. They knew Cory was at one time the country’s President. They knew she was the wife of assassinated opposition leader Ninoy Aquino but they had not been made aware of the struggles she had had to face and overcome.

In contrast, Cory was a touchstone and a benchmark for my generation – an icon of inner strength, spirituality and, most of all, decency.

I started to worry for the students. Who would be their Cory?

Days after that rainy Tuesday, I realized that perhaps the answer to that question consisted of two seemingly incongruent ideas: One, there will never be another Cory and, two, the next generation will have to create their own Cory.

Cory was, in the truest sense, sui generic – a unique person made for a specific time and context. Some have suggested that she was a blessing from the Creator sent to the Philippines to guide us through the dictatorship. Consequently, there can never be another one like her. The mould, which was cast for that specific and unique purpose, would not only be broken but could not be remade because the times – and the needs of our nation – have changed.

Need to inspire

Time and context will change but the need for genuine leadership, for role models, and for people to inspire our country to move forward, will not. Our PLM students and their generation will need their own version of Cory, one who will fit the needs and the challenges of the times. Or, even better, they will take the braver step and be their own Cory.

The idea of stepping up to the challenge was for me the greatest lesson from Cory Aquino – that even the most seemingly ordinary Filipino, one whom many called a mere housewife and a know-nothing (“walang alam”) – could rise to the challenge and lead an entire nation back to democracy.

So who will be their Cory? Students, please raise your hands!

Ninoy, Cory, Evelio

By Ellen Tordesillas
Ang Pahayagang Malaya

WHEN I passed by the Evelio Javier monument in front of the provincial capitol in San Jose, Antique last Monday, I noticed he was holding a yellow ribbon.

Antique Governor Sally Perez said the yellow ribbon on Evelio’s statue was part of their tribute to former President Aquino. Rightly so because the heroic lives of Evelio and that of Sen. Benigno Aquino, Jr. and President Cory Aquino are inextricably twined.

Although I was born and grew up in Antique, I personally met Evelio Javier when I was covering the Cory Aquino for President Movement in 1985. He and Sally, on loan to CAPM from the University of the Philippines where she was in the staff of UP President Edgardo Angara, were active in soliciting one million signatures prodding Cory to run for president in the 1986 presidential snap election.

At that time, Evelio, former governor of Antique, had a pending protest against the election of Arturo Pacificador as member of the Batasan Pambansa in the May 1984 polls.

The 1984 election was bloody in Antique. On the eve of election, the leaders of Javier and Enrique Zaldivar, the opposition candidate for governor who won, were ambushed at the foot of Pampang bridge in the town of Sibalom by men suspected to be aligned with Pacificador. The tragedy became known as the “Pampang Massacre.”

Evelio, like Ninoy Aquino, represented enlightened politics at the time when everything in the country revolved around the Marcos dictatorship. Against guns, goons and gold, Evelio, had an army of young campaign volunteers. He would take the banca in visiting the province’s coastal towns. He was a Jesus-like figure as he waded to the shore to his adoring supporters.

***

As governor, he made Antiquenos, many of whom had developed an inferiority complex because of the province’s reputation as land of the sacadas, rediscover their proud heritage by initiating the “Binirayan” festival.

Evelio eventually won his election protest after the 1986 People Power revolution. But it was too late. On Feb. 11, 1986, Evelio was gunned down in front of the provincial capitol while he was overseeing the canvassing of votes in the snap polls between Cory Aquino and Marcos. Again, Pacificador, a Marcos loyalist, was accused, but he was later acquitted.

The assassination of Evelio, done in broad daylight, gangland style, helped spark the outrage that led to first Edsa Revolution.

Sally and I were talking about the many similarities of Ninoy, Evelio and Cory’s funeral, like the coffin being carried in a flatbed truck and the outpouring of grief by the people.

From Antique, Evelio’s remains were brought to Manila. At the Baclaran church, it was the first time foreign diplomats addressed Cory, who led the mourners, “Mrs. President.”

I remember foreign embassies calling up Malaya, which was then providing the alternative to the Marcos-controlled establishment newspapers, patiently spelling out the ambassadors’ name in their condolences to Evelio. They wanted to put on record their governments’ outrage over the killing of Evelio.

At the funeral march of Cory two weeks ago, people along Sucat road were holding lighted candles. I was reminded of the funeral march of Evelio from Caticlan in Aklan to San Jose. I don’t remember anymore if it was a 15- hour procession. What I remember was people lining the streets in the evening with lighted candles. It was awesome.

Evelio was buried Feb. 20 amidst calls of Cory for civil disobedience in protest of massive election fraud. We all rushed back to Manila. Feb. 22, then Defense Secretary Juan Ponce Enrile and Gen. Fidel Ramos, chief of the Philippine Constabulary, declared their withdrawal of support from Marcos.

The rest is history.

Today, we remember the martyrdom of Ninoy Aquino. On Aug. 30, we pay tribute to our heroes, who dedicated their lives to the cause of peace and freedom for Filipinos.

Intimate partners now in danger of HIV

BY Danton Remoto
Remote Control
Views and analysis
http://www.abs-cbnnews.com

BALI, INDONESIA – If you think that having an intimate partner will always keep you safe from contracting HIV, better think again.

More women from the Asia-Pacific region – housewives and career women –are contracting HIV from their intimate partners. These women are either married, or have long-term relationships with men who engage in high-risk sexual behavior. These behavior are found in men who have sex with men (MSM), injecting drug users, and clients of female sex workers.

These findings are contained in a new report by UNAIDS, its co-sponsors and civil society partners entitled HIV Transmission in Intimate Partner Relationships in Asia, released at the 9th International Congress on AIDS in Asia and the Pacific, being held in the island resort of Bali until tomorrow.

Men who buy sex are the largest infected population group. Many of them are married – or are about to get married. This puts a significant number of women, often perceived as “low risk” because they only have sex with their husbands or long-term partners, at risk of HIV infection. In the Philippines, data from the AIDS and HIV Registry of the Dept. of Health show that male Overseas Filipino Workers constitute one-third of reported HIV infections every month. Some of them have infected their home-bound wives as well.

The United Nations report estimates that more than 90% of the 1.7 million women living with HIV in Asia got it from their husbands or partners in long-term relationships. By 2008, women constituted 35% of all adult HIV infections in Asia, up from 17% in 1990.

“HIV prevention programs focused on the female sex partners of men with high-risk behaviors still have not found a place in the national HIV plans and priorities of Asian countries,” said Dr. Prasada Rao, Director, UNAIDS Regional Support Team for Asia and the Pacific. “Integration of reproductive health programs with AIDS programs and the delivery of joint services to rural and semi-urban women is the key to reducing HIV transmission among female partners.”

To prevent HIV transmission among intimate partner relationships, the UNAIDS report outlines four recommendations. First, HIV prevention interventions must be scaled up for MSM, injecting drug users, and clients of female sex workers, and should emphasize the importance of protecting their regular female partners.

Second, structural interventions should address the needs of vulnerable women and their male sexual partners. This includes expanding reproductive health programs to include services for male sexual health.

Third, HIV prevention interventions among mobile populations and migrants should be scaled up and include components to protect intimate partners. And last, operational research must be conducted to better understand the dynamics of HIV transmission among intimate partners.

In the Philippines, men who have sex with men (MSM) who practice unsafe sex alternate with OFWs as the groups most vulnerable to contracting HIV. This situation is also found in the rest of Asia, where 90% of MSM in the Asia-Pacific have no access to HIV prevention and care.

If nothing is done about this situation, the spread of HIV in this vulnerable population will escalate sharply in the very near future. Moreover, legal frameworks across the region need a dramatic and urgent overhaul to allow public-health sectors to reach out to MSM. The consequences could very well go beyond MSM to affect the general population.

This warning came at a high level symposium, “Overcoming Legal Barriers to Comprehensive Prevention Among Men who have Sex with Men and Transgender People in Asia and the Pacific” held at the 9th ICAAP. It was co-hosted by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and the Asia Pacific Coalition on Male Sexual Health (APCOM).

“In order to achieve universal access to HIV prevention, treatment, care and support and realize the Millennium Development Goals, we must facilitate an enabling legal environment and human rights based HIV policies and programs for MSM and transgender (TG),” said Jeffrey O’Malley, Global Director of UNDP’s HIV Group, among the speakers at the symposium. “This will mean stepping up our investment in legal and social programs that address stigma and discrimination directed at MSM and TG.”

Professor Vitit Muntharbrhorn of Chulalongkorn University and one of the convenors of the 2006 Yogyakarta Principles of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) Rights said: “One of the challenges for overcoming barriers to prevent HIV is to promote the formulation of humane laws and policies that enable people to participate in addressing the disease in a cooperative manner, rather than driving those living with HIV underground. The latter approach is counterproductive, since it makes the disease more difficult to control. Thus, it is essential to advocate the adoption of laws that do not lead to discrimination and marginalization, and to provide space to respect sexual activities between consenting adults in the private sphere in their diversity.”

Currently 20 countries in the Asia-Pacific criminalize male-to-male sex, and these laws often lead to abuse and human-rights violations. Even in the absence of criminalization, other legal provisions violate the rights of MSM and TG along with arbitrary and inappropriate enforcement, thus obstructing HIV interventions, advocacy and outreach, and service delivery.

Happily, the Philippines is not one of these countries, since its criminal codes are silent on male-to-male sex. But as one Filipino participant in the international conference said, “But silence does not always mean consent. Sometimes, it can be like the silence of the lambs.”

Half a lifetime ago

Remote control | Danton Remoto | 08/04/2009 12:05 AM
http://www.abs-cbnnews.com
Views and analysis section

Half a lifetime ago, I was working as an Editor in the Secretariat of the Batasang Pambansa. I edited the plenary sessions, correcting the unforgettable grammar and idioms of assemblymen. One of them rose one day and said, “Mr. Speaker, I want to declare ______ Air Lines a persona non grata, because their planes always collapse.”

A day later I went to him, with transcripts in hand, and told him that an airplane cannot be declared a PNG and that planes crash, but never collapse. Mr . Assemblyman rose to his full height of five feet, looked up at me (I am 5’ 11”) and barked: “And which school did you come from? The nerves to correct my English.”

When I told him where I studied, he smiled, showing teeth stained with nicotine, then mumbled that next time, I could just correct his startling ways with the English language, since I already have his “approbation” to do so.

I was slaving there when President Marcos declared in the Ted Koppel show that he would call for a snap election. The fragmented Opposition (they are always fragmented, then and now) cobbled together a presidential team. The green of Doy Laurel gave way to the yellow of Cory Aquino, whose words then and more so, now, still ring in my ears.

“Courage,” she said, before blessing the body of her dead husband in the casket, clad in widow’s weeds, the day of her arrival from Boston, “courage is as contagious as cowardice.”

Short and sharp those words, like bullets exploding in the air. And now, the woman was running for President. Speaker of the Batasan Nicanor Yniguez was a gentleman of the old school. He gave us our 13th month pay that December of 1985. Then he followed that up with a 14th month, and why, even a 15th month pay. He did not say he was giving us that largesse to vote for Marcos. He said the Batasan had some savings (it did) and these savings could be better used if given away to the employees.

And so my 13th-month pay went to a new set of contact lenses, which in those days cost an arm and a leg. My 14th-month pay went to my mother. And my 15th-month pay I brought to the Cory Aquino for President Headquarters in front of Santo Domingo Church on Quezon Avenue, and gave it to them as a donation.

The Batasan then was a cool place to be. Stickers of Cory and Doy would mushroom in the bathrooms, to be scraped away the next day. And then they would be there again. The young employees were openly campaigning for Cory and Doy. I attended all the rallies, giving away campaign leaflets to jeepney drivers and sidewalk vendors. Their stickers I pasted in our gate in our house in Antipolo; their banners I hung in the branches of the star-apple trees in front of our house, incurring the ire of my father – the military officer – who was a red, white, and blue fan of Marcos, the hero of the Second World War and a bright lawyer.

We campaigned, we voted, we guarded the vote. However, the Batasan where I worked proclaimed Marcos, to our great and utter embarrassment, such that I applied for work in the so-called mosquito press then (Malaya, Inquirer), only to be told there were no openings. We continued attending the massive rallies of Cory Aquino, where you counted people not in the hundreds of thousands, but in the millions. Cory then, alive, and Cory now, dead, always crunched numbers.

And then February 23 happened. I had just watched a movie in Remar Theater in Cubao and was eating donuts in the basement when I heard in the transistor radio the voices of Enrile and Ramos, crackling in the dry air, saying they had just withdrawn their support from the Dark One. The Coke nearly spilled out of my nose. I rushed home, only to find my father already watching TV and telling us never, never to go out. “There might be trouble,” he said, “you will be safer at home.”

Of course we did not. My two sisters and I went to EDSA, on the pretext of buying books at National Book Store in Cubao. We saw an old woman waving a big Philippine flag in the corner of P. Tuazon and 20th Avenue in Cubao. People cheered and sang and danced on the whole length of EDSA. Cars were barricaded in front of what is now the POEA. A mass was going on, while vendors plied their trade. It was like a fiesta. When we went home, my father remarked tartly how hot it must be in the bookstore, since our skin turned brown from buying books in the bookstore. We just kept silent.

When Marcos was speaking on TV and he was cut off in mid-sentence, I knew his end had come. The baritone voice that echoed, and sometimes still echo in my ears, was gone. A few days later, he flew away, with his family and their loot, in the dead of night.

And Cory became president in February of 1986. A month later, I had two letters in my hand, telling me I had been accepted into two M.A. programs of Creative Writing in American universities, on scholarships. It was an easy decision to make. I stayed in the Philippines, took my graduate studies in Literature at the Ateneo, and taught.

Three years later I was taking my second Master’s, this time in Publishing Studies at the University of Stirling on a British Council grant. I took Publishing Studies because Marcos had destroyed the country’s publishing industry, and I wanted to help the Ateneo’s then-fledgling Office of Research and Publication produce textbooks and literary titles for the next generation of readers. In December of 1989, I was about to go to sleep when Ricardo, my Brazilian flat mate, knocked on my window. I opened it, and the cold wintry air stole into my room. “There is a war,” he said in his Portuguese-accented English, “there is a war going on in your country.”

“Shut up, Ricardo,” I said, “the last coup d’etat was in 1987.”

But he said there was a new one. So I turned on my Walkman radio, and there it was, in the clipped, terse English of the BBC journalist in Manila, reporting on the latest coup d’etat led by Colonel Gringo Honasan. A day later, I was on the train bound for London. I was going to the U.S. embassy in Grosvenor Square, to get a visa for my holiday visit to my sister in the U.S.

Outside the train, winter had turned the landscape into the color of bone. I listened again to the BBC, where the same journalist reported that he was somewhere in the Atrium in Makati, and gunfire was exploding all around him. I could hear the machine guns, and saw the rectangle of Atrium rise in my mind, and for the first time thought of the possibility of living in exile. But the rebels lost after the American jet fighters flew over them, spraying a ricochet of bullets as warning shots.

Three months later, in February of 1990, I had two letters in my hand, telling me that I had been accepted into two Ph.D. programs in Creative Writing in American universities, on scholarships. I agonized for days on what to do. My sister living in New Jersey was telling me to accept the offer. She was so lonely there and wanted me to join her, and added I could write more books if I stay in the USA. I had just been to the USA for the Christmas holidays and surely, she added, you must have enjoyed your stay here.

But do I really want to be a writer in exile? That romantic notion of making it in the publishing houses of New York, reviewed by the New York Times, and read by Americans? Or do I want to return to take care of my two parents going into their sixties, pick up a promising career in writing in the Philippines, and publish books that would be sold at the local bookstores?

I did return, taught for 22 years at the Ateneo, and published eight books of poetry and prose. And last Saturday, when Cory Aquino died and she was shown on TV in an earlier interview saying, “I am honored to be a Filipino, to be like all of you,” I finally knew that I made the right decision to come home, half a lifetime ago.