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A Parliamentary form of government is the “best” option for the Philippines…the only question is “When?” [Part 1 of 3]

I think it’s been awhile (heck, probably years) since I got to write a political piece once again. Admittedly, most of what I’ve written in the past sound more like rants than an intelligently, well-researched commentary. So, I guess let me begin by begging for your forgiveness in behalf of my ‘young, dumb and broke’ self.

Second, I can’t claim sage-like wisdom and political maturity with this article. I’m simply a typical working girl from a middle-class family who spends so much time sitting on her ass going through the hellish Manila traffic everyday, thus giving her ridiculously large amount of time to think of silly stuff….like the circus that is Philippine politics, I must say.

I know you’re probably getting annoyed that it’s already the third paragraph and I haven’t written any substantial yet, but please let me state this plainly. I am not a rabid Duterte supporter, nor am I a rabid Duterte critic. Sure, I admit I didn’t come as far as to think it was the end of the world when he got elected. Honestly, I found it funny how his critics reacted on social media feeds. But looking back now, I guess I can say their fears are not without foundation. Like, their reasons are terrifyingly real and they are unfolding right in front of us.

Now you might ask, how all of this leads me to talk about, in my opinion, the best form of government in the Philippines. If I’m wary and guarded of Duterte administration, why am I supporting a form of government that moves all focus of power to one institution in a political scene where most legislators are so balimbing to the incumbent president so they can carry out their own ambitions?

Simple. Because the present form of unitary democracy is failing us.

Not that the practice is failing. Theoretically, it’s actually effective in some countries with healthy democracy. The thing is, our Philippine-version of democracy is far from that.

Allow me to discuss what the setup will be if the Philippines adopted a parliamentary form of government. I’m no political analyst nor I claim to be an expert I’m just a temperamental brat, but I’ve observed and researched that this setup is common to democratic countries with a duly-elected Parliament.

I’d like to demonstrate the difference between the two systems with three scenarios: Electing the Head of State, Passing a law into practice and the Party-System. Bear in mind that the government is beyond this three but for the sake of simplicity, let’s focus on these.

First, the election.

Presidential

Why the Parliamentary form is better? 

Face it. Election in the Philippines is a circus. One’s platform is always second to popularity. These past presidential elections show us how emotional we can be. I think the reason why Duterte won is because Filipinos are simply fed up with Noynoy’s ‘softness’ and seemingly bias towards the rich. Never mind that Duterte is a tough-talking, gun-loving, vigilante justice advocate. He gets things done anyway. Screw foreign policy and common decency. They ain’t gonna feed us anyway.

And this problem is not only evident with presidential elections. From the local office to the Senate, campaigning is simply selling yourself to the people. Emphasize the ‘yourself’ here. Never mind if your family is waddling through corruption and graft cases, never mind that you received suspicious funds for questionable government projects in your last term in office, never mind that you did not attend a single assembly in Congress for the whole year, never mind that you are once an action star and found yourself wearing Senatorial robes without any degree in public governance or a college diploma.

With a Parliamentary style of government, anyone who wants to serve as Head of Government has to work him/herself up to the ladder. You just don’t get elected in a snap. With hard work, commitment and good credentials under your belt, your political party has to believe in you and your platform enough to elect you as their Chairman. The other members of the Parliament has to believe in your party and its platform enough to elect it as the ruling party for that term.

As Prime Minister, you are accountable to the Parliament and the Parliament is accountable to the People.

A Parliamentary style of government does not divide the people, just as what we are witnessing right now. There’s so much mud-slinging and ad hominem going on between the pro-admin and the critics that the more pressing national issues and the present situation of the country are set aside just to prove to the opposition that they are right (vice versa). In a Parliamentary setup, if the Prime Minister and the Parliament did not do their job properly, the People can rally together because essentially, each and everyone is in the same boat. Everyone is affected. There won’t be any blame games among the people.

Why the Parliamentary form won’t work right now?

With a parliamentary style of government, the Upper and Lower house will be fused into one. In short, the Senate will be dissolved. And c’mon, can you see that happening in our lifetime? Hardly. There are too many trapos in our current legislature to let that happen.

With the Congress voting to give the Commission on Human Rights a measly budget of Php1,000 (20 USD) on year 2018, there’s no way in hell I would let these people decide how my country will run. On top of that, most people in office are the living proof that political dynasties are still rampant in the government while most are elected because they are simply popular. No, the current government is still infested with turncoats and snakes, backed by oligarchs and the rich. The only thing they care about is furthering their own political ambitions.

I can understand why some youth groups and activists are so wary of Charter Change and Constitutional Reform. The people elected in office are too untrustworthy, too greedy. With how the past administrations have failed us, we have every right and reason to be.

 

Still, I would continue to fight for better governance and accountability. My idealistic self may be gone after college but that doesn’t mean I have to give up. I still have trust on people in my generation of leading this country to a better future. What I can do right now is to do my part in helping people understand that this current system is failing us and the current government is not that different to the ones before. That the few good ones in the government are often ignored and discouraged to give the service we Filipinos deserve. That we deserve better than this, but we can only get what we think we deserve.

And we deserve better. Gosh, we should start thinking, no…demanding that we do.

 

***

This post is the first part of the series: A Parliamentary form of government is the “best” option for the Philippines…the only question is when? For the 2nd part, I’ll be comparing how policies and laws are implemented between the Presidential and the Parliamentary government. Why are we experiencing so many delays in implementing laws and why the Supreme Court has the power to hold it off, sometimes for an indefinite period of time? Is the Parliamentary government more prone to an authoritarian regime and dictatorship? 

For further reading, please check out the links below:

 

All thanks to www.canva.com  for allowing me to create the infographic 🙂

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To My President Madame Miriam

To my president, Madame Miriam.

Less than two weeks before the elections, I have made my decision. I will vote for no less than you.

My decision has not been an easy one. It took me awhile to think it over. It’s not that I have second thoughts about your qualifications, Madame. God knows how you passionately served the three branches of government in your decades of experience in public service.

Yet, issues like your health and your choice of Vice-President made me re-consider my option. Having known and respected you from afar, I wasn’t also able to delve deeper into your motivations for running. Surely, an esteemed, hard-working lady such as you deserves a happy and peaceful retirement with your loved ones, not the unpleasant duty of carrying all the problems of the country on your shoulders.

You are a cancer survivor, Madame. This job may prove to be more exhausting and draining to your health, and with the added frustration of the people, frankly I felt you wouldn’t handle it. When I watched the last presidential debate, I couldn’t help but to notice your lapses of silence, awkward pauses and moments to catch your breath. Truly, you weren’t as feisty as you were once been. Some friends who have been rooting for the other side remarked how disappointed they are in your performance. “Miriam isn’t up for it”, they say. “She’s not strong as she is before.”

But it was on the last debate, I was suddenly overwhelmed by emotions of how unfair it all is. There she is, the most qualified candidate of them all – standing on a podium after keeping an illness at bay, ready to serve once again. Offering herself for the people. I simply couldn’t understand why you decided to run  – you have already made your mark in governance, most people admire and respect you and you will be forever remembered as the Iron Lady – the feisty senator from Iloilo.

Then it struck me how simple it all is. Instead of spending your retirement days with your loved ones, instead of spending your energy with the people closest to you, instead of doing things you want to do and relishing the fruits of your labor, you chose to sacrifice your life for the country once again.

By declaring to run, you allowed yourself to receive some unnecessary stress from other people. You opened yourself once more to the public, to black propaganda and insensitive rumors. To hurtful statements of you dying or for your lack of mental soundness. To people actually calling you a hypocrite after you declared BBM as your running mate.

Yet, you still continued. You still plow on. Despite what the “surveys” say. I wouldn’t be gushing about your achievements or how qualified you are (Goodness knows how many of your supporters have done this already) I wouldn’t be gushing about the bills you authored – or your brilliant moments during Corona’s trial.

In the end, you eventually won my vote with your drive – your relentless passion.

Back in 2010, most Filipinos chose PNOY as the leader, brought out by the emotion of Cory’s loss and EDSA Nostalgia. I often criticized the reason for that vote – a baseless emotion and nothing more. My friends and I lamented for six years how most Filipinos vote due to emotion – not reason, and that explains why we’re still here.

Personally, my vote for you is more of an emotional one, and I like to think of it as a good one. I can tell you are sincere and you’re as equally as frustrated of this country’s cancer just as I am, but your way of doing things is rooted on the law and Constitution. You are not serving anyone’s interest apart from the youth’s, you are a ‘green-minded’ individual and you have always been a consistent advocate of women’s rights.

Heh, my vote doesn’t sound emotionally stupid now, is it?

Back in 1992, the year I was born, I heard you also ran for president but was ‘cheated’ by your opponents. You were branded as a lunatic due to your high intellect and temperament. I couldn’t help but to wonder if you won that year and how it must have turned out for the country.

On May 09, I will vote according to my conscience. Not because of cold logic. Not purely out of emotion. It’s because for me, you are the right person to lead us out of this misery.

Even if you lose or if the candidate/s I’m not fond with eventually win, I won’t leave the country. After all, this is what you fought so hard for, isn’t it? To never give up fighting for your country.

And this is what you inspire me to do, Madame President.  What you inspire all of us to do.

Fight the good fight.

Yours sincerely,

A random Millenial

 

 

BALAng Araw…

Nitong mga nakaraang buwan, medyo nag lay-low na din ako sa pagiging critical sa gobyerno, tutal two months na lang naman si PNoy. He’ll be out of our hair soon and we’ll be out of his hair na din (pardon the pun) Na-realize ko, nakaka-stressed lang maging reklamador. Balewala din naman sa mga taong tinitira mo.

Medyo positive na nga ako ngayon. Nageeffort na ako maging optimistic at hopeful sa magiging future ng ating bansa. Alam kong mapupunta din tayo doon. BALAng araw…

Pero pagbigyan ninyo na ako. Tutal two months na lang. Pagbigyan ninyo ako, kahit isang hirit lang.

Isa lang naman ang  masasabi ko tungkol sa administrasyong ito: BALA.

Nitong huling taon ng 2015, Nobyembre. Lumantad ang isyu sa publiko na may nagtatanim ng BALA sa NAIA. BALA sa NAIA. Only in the Philippines! Sadyang may mapaglaro lang talagang engkanto sa airport na nagtatanim ng bala sa bagahe mo. Ang nakakatuwa pa, malalaman mo lang yun pagkalabas ng bagahe mo sa X-ray machine. MAGIC! May bala ka palang souvenir mula sa pinanggalingan mo?!

Hindi lang ikaw ang biktima e. Pati mga turista galing pang ibang bansa, hindi sinasanto. Na-feature na din tayo sa CNN, Fox news at iba pang international news dahil dito. May Amerikano pa ngang nag-publish ng blog post on “4 Effective Tips to Curb Laglag Bala in NAIA”

Collective shame natin ‘to. Kahit Ninoy Aquino International Airport ang pangalan niyan in honor of our president’s late father na namatay dahil sa bala sa ulo, pero para sa ibang bansa, ito pa din ay kilala bilang airport na nasa Pilipinas.

Ano’ng nangyari? Pakinggan mo na lang ang mga salitang ang sarap pakinggan. Probe. Investigate. “Watch the Watchers”. Pero hanggang doon lang tayo. Di na siya mainit. Di na siya trending. Siguro dahil lagi tayong sawi sa ating mga lovelife at madalas nating pinipilit ang sarili na mag-move on, mas mabilis na din tayong mag move-on mula sa mga isyung pa-tungkol sa lipunan.

April 01, 2016. Kidapawan. Nag-protesta ang mga magsasaka, ang mga magtatanim ng ating bigas, dahil wala na silang pangkain sa kanilang mga pamilya. Ano ba ang laban nila sa Kalikasan? Ano ba ang naging paghahanda natin sa El Nino? Sa halip na pakinggan ang kanilang hinaing, BALA at dahas ang sumalubong sa kanila.

April 01. Nakakalokong isipin. Ang mga “nagtatanim” ng BALA sa NAIA, sindikato o opisyales, hindi man lang nakasuhan. Walang nasibak. Wala man lang pray-over kung engkanto ba yan o ano.

Pero ang mga totoong nagtatanim ng bigas na nagiging kanin na kinakain mo ngayon,  pinaulanan naman ng BALA.

Kidapawan. Hacienda Luisita. Lupao. Mendiola.

Ani ng iba, komunista ang nasa likod ng mga yan. Etong mga NPA na ‘to. Mga balakid sa pagbabago. Hindi ninyo sana sila makukumbinse magprotesta kung wala silang hinaing at pangangailangan sa simula pa lang. Hindi ninyo sana sila ‘maloloko’ na ibuwis ang kanilang buhay sa pagpoprotesta kung sila ay ‘kuntento’ na sa kanilang pamumuhay. Bakit ba kasi kayo mga sawsawero’t sawsawera?

Anim na taon. Simula pa lang daw ang Tuwid na Daan. Madami pa tayong kakaining bigas para makamit ang tunay na ginhawa. Sana hindi lang pinagpapapatay ang ating mga magsasaka.

Mr. President, narerecognize ko naman na mabuti ang iyong intensyon *hindi na ako sarcastic at this point on* Pinilit ka nilang tumakbo, kahit ayaw mo naman sa simula, at ginawa mo naman ang iyong makakaya. Na-appreciate ko yun at kinikilala ko naman ang iba sa mga magaganda mong ginawa, ang pagiging masipag at mahusay ng ibang kawani ng iyong gobyerno.

Nakakalungkot isipin na nabalewala ang competence nila dahil sa gross incompetence ng iba. Dahil malambot ang iyong puso, kahit alam mong may pagkukulang sila, hinahayaan mo lang na sila na ang bumitiw. One More Chance, nga diba?

BALAng araw, sana ma-realize mo…hindi lahat makakamove-on sa mga isyu na ‘to. BALAng araw, sana hindi maabutan ng mga magiging anak ko ang ganitong klase ng pamumuno.

hindi bala

ASEAN: Building a sense of community

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How do we fit the concept of ASEAN identity in our warped sense of nationalism?

We Pinoys have the strangest sense of nationalism there is. It’s quite a study, really. We display pride over our history, heroes, resources, food, culture and even talented individuals with even the slightest pint of Filipino blood in them. Our sense of tribalism (or regionalism) is so great that when a foreigner shows even a slightest sign of disdain over our glorious land or to even one of us, we grew collectively angered as if we are the ones who are offended in the first place. It’s literally us against them.

That was my prevailing mindset too, minus the whole bordering-to-stupid Pinoy pride thing. I love my country, I recognize its milestones in history as well as its failures. Needless to say, I relate more to my fellow Filipinos. I dreamed of becoming part of a change to help my less-privileged countrymen. It’s like I live in this dilapidated house filled with different kinds of people – though some of them I can’t stand, but they still remain as part of a family – and I dreamed of a mansion for all of us.

But when you open the windows of your house and sneak a peek outside, you’d realize that you are surrounded with other houses, all roughly the same size, its occupants as boisterous and vigorous as your own.Though strong fences were erected throughout the years, there is a subtle sense of community – a fact that you belong in the same neighborhood battling the same elements. Suddenly, it’s not about just your house anymore. Whatever happens in the neighborhood will affect you in some extent, whether you like it or not.

Back in 2012, I joined the ASEAN Community Facebook page, the largest Facebook community for ASEAN back then. Because I don’t have resources for travel back then, I gained knowledge and perspective about my southeast Asian neighbors only from snippets of trivia and photos shared by the moderators who took turns on posting information each day. (Monday is Malaysian-related info and photos, Thursday is Philippines). As a student who had nothing better to do that time, I spent countless hours scrolling the page, reading the comments and conversations (sometimes, flame wars), and noting with great amusement how similar we are. Joining the community expanded my view of what ASEAN really is and like many others, I look forward on the future where we can form a sustainable economic community.

But we all have to open our eyes to the reality. The Facebook page celebrates the idea of oneness and shared culture, but it also highlights the overwhelming differences. There’s still some degree of distrust and suspicion hinted between countries (or governments of that countries) and many even resort to racist remarks. I have seen my fellow Filipinos commenting about our ‘superiority’, like how we are the only Christian country in the whole region, or how we stand as a landmark of democracy, or even how ‘blessed’ with talent and diligence our race is. Some of us don’t mean it at all or are expressed in jest, but our remarks are on a public site, free to be interpreted by anyone with a smartphone and a high-speed internet connection (one thing most of our Southeast Asian counterparts enjoy now but one we don’t presently have)

In addition to that, we are focused in our own tracks of growth and development. We view the future from our side and we are only concerned of our own statistics and figures – what is our latest GDP, how are we faring versus the dollar, are we receiving more tourists per year, etc. Of course, it’s only natural to be happy for your own progress but if we only focus in that aspect, we’re missing the big picture. Competition with each other is healthy but our myopic sense of nationalism would never prepare us to handle future problems in the long run, much less, help us recognize opportunities along the way.

So far, the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) are currently doubling its efforts to increase the awareness of a southeast Asian community. Conferences are organized, various international exchange programs are amplified, and even the country’s respective governments are providing their support. Youth leaders and youth organizations were also quite involved and with the social media as a powerful tool, the call for an integrated regional cooperation would spread like wildfire.

Having spent the last two years working for a non-government organization, I would always imagine how an ordinary Filipino from a farming village could receive the idea of an integrated regional community. No doubt, the information will reach him. Someone would enlighten him about the other countries. He would be informed of how the integration can affect agriculture, in particular, and the opportunities he may get as a farmer. The farmer would be pleased of this, but at the end of the day, he knew words from actions. Until tangible efforts were made, he would just return to the field and focus on more important matters of his work. Life goes on.

The monumental shift of ASEAN from a body of policy-makers discussing issues behind locked doors to an acting, living organism of concrete actions and plans recognized by all its member-states is an important factor in instilling a sense of community. Civic organizations, community leaders, youth organizations, the local government, schools and the media can make ASEAN relevant, but not for a long time. ASEAN is founded in the principle of non-interference and this allowed its member-states to focus on its own national growth and development, but if it can implement action plans that would encompass every sector – from an ordinary farmer, student, historian, academician or doctor –  regardless of which country he/she is from, then you would be exploiting one thing these people have in common with for good use. You are enticing them to be part of a community that transcends beyond cultural and historical differences. If you present a unifying goal shared by all, people would look beyond their own differences and hopefully work together for that goal.

And what goals are those? Plenty to choose from.

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You can only build a sense of community if you involve everyone, every country and sector, to a cause that would benefit all, not just for a specific few. The concept of ASEAN identity may be too hard to grasp for others now, but if you utilize a Goal, a vision, and share it with others who care enough for it, you are off to a good start.

And slowly, over the passage of time, you’d realize that the fences separating you from your neighbor’s weren’t that high anymore.

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Last December, I joined the Association of ASEAN Youth Leaders – a band of bright-eyed folks, students and young professionals, movers and dreamers, who envisioned a future of regional integration for sustainable development. It was one of my highlights for 2015. I learned so much from my fellow youth and felt so inspired to join the movement for regional collaboration. You can find more information in our Facebook page here: https://www.facebook.com/AYLA.Philippines

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Cheers to us: the ones left behind

 

OFW-4

For the most part of my life, I’ve always watched people come and go…and there’s nothing I can say or do about it. I don’t want to sound like I’ve been abandoned many times in my life and being whiny about it, but I often pause and wonder how it would feel if it’s the other way around. What does it feel to be the one who’s leaving, instead of the one left behind? What does it feel like to be the one pushing the luggage cart to the terminal reserved for international flight instead of the one waving goodbye through glass doors?

Last January 18, a dear friend of mine left for the States for greener pasture. She wasn’t the first one in our immediate circle to leave the country for a job. Another friend also left the country two years ago, but she’s in contract and she’s going to return every four years. Now this one, she left for good. She’s going to apply for an American citizenship. She’s the good, hardworking daughter who wants her parents to grow old in the States. And frankly, her decision has left me questioning my own life choices at this point.

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Yours truly and my friend

My life choices are determined by what I want, not what I should do. I know there’s no problem with this. What’s wrong with pursuing what you love? Still, I’m burdened by the knowledge that I’m the first born of the family. I graduated college first. My grades were okay. I’m burdened by the knowledge that my mother placed all her hopes and aspirations, all these expectations of being the future breadwinner, on me. Better pay, better job security, and definitely a better life for my mom and two brothers.

To be fair to my mother, she has always supported me in whatever I want, despite the shortcomings and failures. I guess she is just worried I haven’t decided a proper course of my life yet. Perhaps, I’m burdened by the knowledge that I’m making her worry. She has supported my decision to stay here and not go abroad. She is now supporting my decision to go back to school.

I wish I can give her a better life in just a snap of a finger, especially after what she had gone through in the past years. The thought of going abroad crossed my mind many times and even my aunt overseas offered to take me in. In the end, I decided to stay to pursue law school but the feeling of guilt remained. It would take another four years for me to have a proper job, and I would have to endure another four years of watching my peers build their career, go overseas, get married, have a family or just travel around the world for fun.

Making a decision is like popping a gum into your mouth. Sticking by it is chewing it for many years to come (gross – but it depends on how long you should chew it) and NOT wondering about the flavors of gum the others are chewing, then spitting it out before you can taste the real flavor of what you chose. If you can have one gum or more, that’s alright but remember that you cannot just bite off more than you can chew.

I made a decision and that is to stay in this beleaguered country of ours. I’m open to studying abroad but I will always go back here. You may be thinking, ‘You’re still young. Your decisions may change’ and I guess I’m a fool to declare avowals of love of country at the prime of my youth, where I’m unabashedly thinking I can grace the world with my passion and drive for social change.

And that’s the point: I’m still young. I’m still in the intersection of choosing what path should I take to serve my country. I still have the energy to do what I can and I’m still brimming with the prospect and ideas of contributing to the change. It might not be amount to much, but hey, it’s the thought that counts, right?

A day before my friend left, I told her that our country isn’t as hopeless as she think it is. That when day, when she decided to come back for vacations in-between applying for her immigration status, she will see the change, eventually. It’s not about having foolish expectations or having blind hope, but being optimistic to what lies ahead, to what this generation can do. And yes, the ones left behind, the ones ‘foolish’ enough to stay despite the system, the burden of making it possible falls mostly on our shoulders.

While our modern heroes are working hard on other countries, ploughing through the loneliness, homesickness and discrimination just to send money here, it’s up to us, the ones left behind, to make their sacrifice worth it.

 

Because we ourselves have sacrificed comfort and security, the pleasure of having turkey dinners on Thanksgiving Day as snowflakes dance outside our windows, the efficiency of medical services provided by other countries we cannot afford here, and the overwhelming difference of earning dollars instead of pesos, we might as well be all-out in making this country worth returning to.

If we’re going to stay here for good, we might as well change this country for the better.

A Duterte style of Leadership: Can Filipinos Stomach it?

When Davao City Mayor Rodrigo Duterte, also known as ‘The Punisher’ of Davao City, finally announced that he has closed his doors to presidency, a lot of netizens had their hearts broken. Some even go as far as calling him ‘the best president we never had’.

Is he?

Davao City Mayor Rody Duterte on his badass ride

Davao City Mayor Rody Duterte on his badass ride

Let’s start with the basis of the notion first. Most Filipinos, especially the middle-class and our hardworking kababayans abroad, are fed up with the government. They are fed up with transportation inefficiency, astonishingly high tax rates, corruption and graft cases allegedly committed in top-to-bottom rungs of the government, flood projects and traffic schemes that are seem to be going nowhere (ironically), nepotism, high rates of crime, uncontrolled boom of population, poor urban planning schemes, strife in underdeveloped parts of Mindanao, and most importantly, the slowest internet connection in Southeast Asia.

I can understand the public clamor of Duterte running. Unlike most public officials, his experience and political will has concrete evidence. Like how the late DILG Secretary Jessie Robredo changed Naga City and how the former MMDA Chief Bayani Fernado transformed Marikina City, Davao City has Duterte. Let’s take a look at Davao City and its humble yet tumultuous beginning.

Davao town in 1930s

Like the major cities Manila and Cebu, Davao was heavily affected by World War II but recovered eventually. In 1967, it was recognized as the second largest city in the Philippines and many people from the neighboring regions settled there, making it an ethnic melting pot. By 1970, it became the regional capital of Southern Mindanao and eventually the regional capital of Davao Region. The highly-urbanized city became a home for people of various faith: Christians, Muslims and the Lumad tribes (natives of Mindanao) 

But in 1980s, the city plunged into a crisis. It is caught in the middle in the conflict between criminals, communist rebels and leftists. Murders in the street became a norm. A story my aunt shared is that, as a little girl in Davao, people carrying guns and arms while buying bread or walking down the streets are a common sight. She remembered that her family used to bring food outside the house and if they did not, some men with guns would knock on their doors to demand why they didn’t give their share for the ‘revolution.’ As Luzon and Metro Manila is busy struggling to restore democracy during the Martial Law, Davao has its own war within. 

Because the capital has its own conflict, locals of Davao decided to take the matter into their hands. Civilians form vigilante groups such as ‘Alsa Masa’ (People’s Rise) to drive out criminals and rebels. There was no day without someone killed. It earned the nickname, the country’s murder capital. 

A young boy who is part of the Alsa Masa Anti Communist Group patrolling Davao’s slums

When Rodrigo Duterte assumed office on 1988, it took a tremendous effort and drastic measures in his part to make the city livable again. In his tenure, strict laws are implemented. A curfew on minors is enforced. Bars and Disco are ordered not to sell alcohols by 1AM. Smoking policies are enforced in public areas. Motorcyclists without helmets and defective lights are not allowed to go to the city. Once when I came to Davao, the shuttle van we are riding stopped at a checkpoint before entering the city. I thought the officer would just poke his head inside, check the bottom of the car, and signal us to move, just like in shopping malls or subdivisions in Manila. No, he made ALL the passengers alight the vehicle so he can conduct a thorough search inside. Before we climbed again, he checked our bags. Guns are definitely not allowed in the city. 

And if you’re a drug addict, drug pusher or a drug lord in Davao City, you might as well leave a will or a suicide note behind because the Davao Death Squad will be knocking on your doors anyday. No due process of law. No time to say goodbye to your friends and family. It remains inconclusive whether Duterte is connected the DDS or he has nothing to do with it but the vigilante group acts as the present-form of Alsa Masa, this time battling crimes and drugs in the city. 

(To be fair, Duterte ordered the establishment of Drugs Rehabilitation Center for the Youth in Davao City.) 

Present-day Davao

Take note, social stability in Davao wasn’t restored in a single day, technically, in a single term. Of course, many initially refused to live with it. Many defied the city’s laws. Many accused Duterte for nonchalantly dismissing human rights just like that. He had to stay in power for more than a decade to give birth to the Davao now. Anyone who can’t stomach his leadership are either forced to flee out of the city or laid buried somewhere.

Are you prepared to live with this? No smoking in public areas. Liquor ban after midnight.

How about this in major roads and highways?

This will be the setup if we change into Federalism. Each state will have their own finance and budgetary departments. Two senators will represent each state in the Senate.

Many Duterte supporters like to apply his leadership in a national level. As I said before, we are fed up with government not doing anything. But did many of you ever stop and think this: It took more than two decades, more or less, for a no-nonsense, mercenary-like Duterte to change Davao and its image. For a country of 7,107 islands and more than 100 million people, can you imagine how long it will take for the whole Philippines to follow Davao’s stead?

And given how the Filipinos often complain about anything, how they insist and push the candidates they like to run and then after a short while (maximum of two years),  they felt that this person is not doing enough and they would now raise the cry for this person to resign. If Duterte does run, Filipinos have big expectations around him. If he gets elected, he will overthrow the present system and build a revolutionary government. He will change the Constitution. Goodbye, Centralism. Hello, Federalism. It will take an awful lot of work and time for the people to accept and adapt by it. And I’m not even talking about the laws and regulations we all have to live with yet.

SIDENOTE: In Marikina City, when Bayan Fernando was the mayor, people were fined and had to be part of community service when they are caught throwing candy litters on the street. Many were outraged and thought it as OA. But BF has to do it and grudgingly, Marikenos accpted it and lived with this. Now, we are known for being one of the most disciplined cities in Metro Manila. This didn’t happen overnight. 

I understand his reason for not running. He’s too old. All he wants is to enjoy the results of his work in the city. Let him. For those people stamping him as selfish, using Heneral Luna’s ‘Bayan o Sarili’ lines to taunt him, you’re not doing any much good. Please, just please, respect this man’s decision. If you want to make this bayan good, start with your sarili

If Duterte intends to change the system fast, to be compressed within the six years of his time or before he dies, and given the ‘Let the government do all the work’ mindset that we have, it will be like Martial Law once again. And admittedly, I would oppose that. Due process of law is a basic human right. It raises a disturbing and sad rhetoric that in order for all the Filipinos to get their, pardon the expletive, shit together, the authority must strike fear on their hearts. No, we, as a people, are capable of more than that.

We have to develop a critical mindset of what we need as a country. If presidents are assessed and are subject of critiques, why not ourselves too? If someone like Duterte is elected in national office, do we have the capacity to accept and cooperate with his style of leadership?

And in my opinion, given the present maturity that we have, most of us will not be able to. It will be messy, it will be bloody. We still have a long way to go. Before then, we have to evolve as a people. Understand that governance is a collaborative act and it needs your participation, cooperation and constructive feedback. It’s not a play that should satisfy you while you’re just there watching and doing nothing.

Hopefully, by then, we can finally choose the leader that we don’t only want, but the leader we need.

Are you sure you’re ready for this?

How to build a training ground for rebels: #StopLumadKillings

How can you build a training ground for rebels so that the strife in Mindanao will continue and the rest of the Filipinos will be convinced that military presence is necessary in the area?

Simple. Just follow this simple solution devised by the Philippine military.

  1. Occupy their communities. After all, what do they know? They are just illiterate, ignorant Lumad. Indigenous people with a different language and culture of their own, alien to yours and to the civilized world. If operatives have informed you a rebel sighting near a Lumad community, immediately presume that these rebel scums are just manipulating their little minds and you must put an end to this. By occupying their communities and imposing military rule, you are preventing them from being influenced by rebel scums. After all, what do these poor indigenous people know?
  2. Shut down their schools. Knowledge and education is a powerful thing. Education opens their eyes and makes them aware of the situation, their ancestral land, their rights as a citizen of this nation and their inherent human rights. It is in your best interest that they go on without knowing anything. Those rebel scums and communists are enough. If they are uneducated, they will bow and submit without question. If they uneducated, they are powerless.
  3. Incite fear through summary executions of their tribal leaders and educators. This is how you make it known to them that you mean business. By killing their own kind and their leaders without due process of law, you are making it clear that their lives don’t mean anything, that they remain an insignificant sector of the society in an island that has always been riddled with strife, violence and exploitation. After all, they are nothing but pawns and supporters to those rebel scums. Better silence them off before they become a threat to society.
  4. Displace them. Let them live like homeless nomads they are. They will only get in the way in your mission to eradicate all the rebel scums. Who cares if their properties and their means of livelihood are destroyed? Who cares if their children cannot go to school? Make them feel that that their lives aren’t worth anything.
  5. Watch the world forget. The media will later feature their stories and condemn the killings anyway, especially with the advent of social media, news will spread everywhere, to Luzon, to the Visayas and to the world. But the spotlight will not focus on them forever.  People will forget as easily as they know. Let their stories be buried under the piles of showbiz news, variety shows, election campaigns and the mere trivialities in the life of an average Filipino. They will soon forget and move on with their lives. After all, what can the Filipino people do? What can the whole world do?

Those rebel scums don’t have to do anything to incite people to join to their cause. With just these transgressions, you are now effectively turning them into the enemies you want them to be. The Lumad boy whose father and relatives were killed before his eyes will be the young man who will stalk you in the belly of the jungle of Caraga, eyes leveled on the gun pointing at the camouflaged uniform that is supposed to be a symbol of safety and security for the citizens of this country.

Under the shadow of the forests of war-torn Mindanao, let the dance of violence and death continue.

BACKGROUND: Last September 2015, uniformed men occupied and shut down ALCADEV, or Alternative Learning Center for Agricultural and Livelihood Development built by an international NGO for the indigent Lumad youth in Surigao, Mindanao. They soon executed tribal chairman Dionel Campos and his cousin, Bello Sinzon, around dawn. The executions are witnessed by the teachers and students of ALCADEV. 

The school’s executive director, Emerito Samarca (Tatay Emok for the students) was found dead in his room, his throat slit open, his hands and feet bounded with rope. 

The ongoing military presence and the string of murders by unknown gunmen forced some 300 Manobos to leave their villages for fear of their lives. Among the incidents are the brutal massacre of five Manobo clansmen in Bukidnon, including a blind 72-year-old man and his grandson, a 14-year-old boy. 

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