Monthly Archives: August 2014
A number of schools every summer would indulge their students, mostly those enrolled in the field of Criminology, to visit, ogle and take a trip to the national penitentiary. For their mentors, the idea of accosting their students in the facility may bring their heart on the discipline but for the college student, it was a throwback experience similar to their grade school excursion to the zoo. Indeed, in zoological garden, animals are caged like those found in prisons. The only difference is that in zoos, jungles or the habitat are simulated. In prison, where human beings are temporarily lodged and made to adjust to a condition where human spirit is tested for its resolve.
The difference is not without basis. While it is true that exotic animals are given a treat to live in a condition much like where they came from, the fact that they are restricted and have committed no offense is tragic. For man in prison, it is different since the law not only presumed but convicted the person to suffer the pain of segregation through incarceration for a period.
And so an artificial environment is created for offenders as if they are a sector different from that of humanity. They are pushed to the limits of their sanity, forced to live in a congested enclave mixed with all types of persons with extreme expression of behavioural excesses.
Death and fatalities as consequence of massive uprising in the prison community would define what imprisonment was during the 60s. There was no period which would allow a prisoner to see the light of his release, unless he becomes despondent and eventually become insane in the process. Prison was for a time a hopeless place, a step closer to cemetery, a pseudo hospital where those terminally ill were confined subsequently dream of that time when they are about to expire.
The entry of political prisoners in bulk during the Martial Law years remarkably changed the complexion of imprisonment. Suddenly, the prison community would find voices, courageous spokesmen, those who can also write, petition and make redress, fool hardy enough to confront administrators, stare them directly in the eye and seek relief. Suddenly, the prison community would pulsate with life and a social direction in life. Suddenly, the world view for violence would be transformed into a spiritual, nay, a philosophical one. And then, the prison volunteers who were once activists would find solace visiting their peers and friends. And then a representative or two from the organization, trained in a militant university would acquire a post within prison administration. The combination of all these traits would result in the humanization of the prison community.
Those with criminal proclivity would be sent into a period of contemplation. Abuses at times would be curved and a set of fundamental tack would be introduced into the consciousness of the prison community. The adage “honor among thieves” would evolve into single attribute that would further enhance interpersonal relationships among prison denizens. It would also lay the foundation of a decent bond for collective maturity and peace. Respect would be born and introduced into the language of the prison community. Being disrespectful means being subjected to mob justice.
With this communal development is the humanizing condition of the correctional environment. Even if government is lacklustre in its role to sustain the infra and facility requirements of the prison community, It is the prison community itself and what was retained as an influence by progressive thinkers who were once upon a time a denizen in the field of incarceration that made prison a part of humanity.
The so-called “Ice Bucket Challenge” is an informal dare consisting of pouring cold water on one’s head for a cause. It began in North America where one is tasked to donate money to cancer research or jump into the cold river. Hence, it began as “Cold Water Challenge” before it evolved to what is promoted to by social media and which went viral in cyberspace sometime in July and August, 2014. The idea was to pour iced water or water with ice or donate 100 US Dollars to research on the treatment of ALS (Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis), a debilitating disease that affects nerve cells in the brain and the spinal cord. The progressive degeneration of the motor neurons, those nerves from the brain to the spinal cord, in said ailment leads to death.
Note that A-myo-trophic is derived from the Greek language “A” means no or negative. “Myo” refers to muscle and “Trophic” means nourishment, hence, “No muscle nourishment.” When a muscle receives no nourishment, it emasculates or waste away. “Lateral” means the areas in a person’s spinal cord where portions of the nerve cells that signal and control the muscles are located. When this area degenerates, it leads to the hardening (“sclerosis”) of the region in the body thus affected.
This is an unheard of ailment and its name is even unpronounceable. It has often been referred to as “Lou Gehrig’s disease, after the famous baseball player Lou Gehrig, who publicly revealed his diagnosis in 1939. Since then the cure for the ailment remained a mystery.
The disease has no known treatment and whatever it is that would lead to treatment requires a very expensive research procedure. The medical study is extremely sensitive to the point that it even collided with certain moral issues since the only optional management of the disease requires a heavy dependency on stem cell therapy using embryonic cells in its formulation. The Church would frown on this development since the use of embryo as component of the treatment is human life in its initial stage.
The “ice bucket challenge” has spawned a similar movement and has amused netizens no end. As such, there is the “Lift a Sack of Rice Challenge.” And then, there is “Rice Bucket Challenge” where a person is required to share a bucket of rice to the poor. There were even political columnists who would advance a variation of the challenge addressed to their target personalities. An Inquirer columnist even recommended that corrupt politicians should be given a “Boiling Oil Challenge.”
Whatever it is, whether it is frowned upon or just a sudden fad, the challenge is educational and an instructive forum leading to a general awareness of certain diseases or practices which otherwise would have been ignored.
If a person is lucky enough to be known in his community, he can easily hear impressions on what he wanted to be remembered for. Life is just a short composition of fading years wrapped in a dumpy generation. Either he is ignored and easily forgotten or respected and instantly idolized. Ironically however this theory is shaky. Kings in olden times were the most powerful and respected but after a few hundred years, they were consigned in the dustbin of history. Those completely ignored, at times humiliated and even punished, living a life without mercy and in pain, were catapulted and even held in awe and honoured. Such were the fate of Saints and Sages.
Of course, it is not a personal business to know how we wanted to be known or remembered for but at times it matters when contemplating on how we intend to lead our respective lives. Robin Williams, Ernest Hemmingway, Sigmund Freud, Virginia Wolf, were famous individuals in their respective craft and were recipients of various accolades for perfecting their accomplishments only to be remembered as human beings who committed suicide. Siddhartha, Moses, John the Baptist, Jesus, Francis de Assisi were considered derelicts and bums, rebels and outcasts during their time but they are at present considered prime examples of greatness.
There seems to be no formula on how to be what we wanted for in the first place. It is not actually how we intend to live or how we wanted to die that could solve the riddle of our life although to a certain extent there are some questions which we ought to understand before we ever try to craft an answer. I recall a conversation in the classic Iliad where Neried Thetis summoned her son Achilles who was in a dilemma whether to join the army to invade Troy or not. She submitted her thoughts on her son this way: “You are a beautiful young man, strong, gifted, brave and resourceful. You can just stay, get married and live a blissful life. Once you are gone, your wife will definitely miss you, your children will long for you, their children will likewise recall those days when you walked the earth. But that is all. But when you go to war, you will immediately perish. Those at the front will however marvel at your courage, at your strength, at your greatness as a warrior. And they will talk and remember you for years, for thousand of years. It is your choice son, you decide on what you intend to do.”
Achilles, as the story goes, went into war.
When the war in Troy was over, Homer, a literary artist during that period, wrote about how Achilles almost single-handedly engaged thousands of seasoned warriors and almost won. It was the greatest battle a combatant can ever get into. He was a warrior of irresistible prowess. It was a classic story and Achilles was at the center. Achilles died in that battle but his name remained at the centre of military history for all time.
The message is clear. Let us love our work and let history determine how we will be remembered for lately.
I find everything that I could lay my hands on, even on matters which my mind could reach as something funny. I get amused at how people react, how they walk, how they speak, how they think and even how they emote.
I get my ounce of laughter on almost everyone especially from my friends, mostly those closest to me. And every time I have this conversation with them, I cannot control myself. Every occasion I have with them is a treat. I get all the hilarity I expect just having them beside me.
There was Tolayts, a serious looking figure, who took care of a talking bird, a black mynah sometime ago. He got it from a bargain store and he was promised by the keeper that constant prodding, usually by rote, the bird could mimic a human voice and replicate repeatedly what has been heard. And my friend, one night, decided to check on the mynah which was about to dose off. He covered the cage with a black veil and in a slit whispered “Tolayts, handsome, handsome, handsome.” It took him an hour for the exercise, and thereafter, closed the veil and went over to us, myself and a group of security personnel, excusing himself to retire.
After we heard the closure of his door, we tip toed and went to the covered cage and unwrapped it. We encircled the cage and repeatedly chanted our version and after two hours, covered the cage as if nothing was conducted.
The morning after, Tolayts went straight to the cage, folded the veil, smiled heartedly to greet the bird, as the bird began to recite “Tolayts, UGLY,UGLY,UGLY!” The bird never reached noon!
I will not forget a loyal friend, Ka Romy, may he rest in peace. He was my constant companion whenever I eat in my favourite resto somewhere in the suburbs of Metro Manila.
One day, he ordered a “Tapsilog”, a combination meal comprising of fried egg, a spliced fried beef mutton and garlic rice. I ordered the same. But he was fuming mad because, the fried yolk had black corners. He yelled at the chef and exclaimed, “ You burned my friend egg! I want another!”
The cashier checked the plateful and expressed dismay too. I also checked it and calmed down my friend. I said, “That is okay. It’s not burned. It may have fallen and it was only mud.”
And he had this habit of grabbing the wheels so that he could drive for me. But I would frustrate him every now and then. I would rather drive myself than meet an accident because of lousy driving by another.
One day, while driving and Ka Romy was on passenger side, I complained that my migraine was manifesting and I needed to doze off. He immediately volunteered and told me, “Better leave the driving to me and you can sleep.” Knowing that Ka Romy was not my kind of a good driver if I was the passenger, I merely remarked, “You just stay where you are and if ever I fell sleep, for you to wake me up!”
Ka Romy was flustered, “What if we get an accident!!?”
I softly replied, “I am a good driver brod. I asked you to wake me up because if I fell asleep, we may overshoot and reach another province!”
There is laughter when you treat your friends like a fellow idiot. I would always punctuate with a punch line whenever they would advance an idea. And that is where the guffaw is. They may look like smart at the onset but whenever I remind them that they look more of a faggot that is when the house goes down.
Some of my close friends were a collection of characters. One of them simply cannot resist scamming another. The other would just build a flourishing business of influence peddling using my name as front. There are others who would use proximity to my office to earn their upkeep. There are those who would outsmart another and leave them behind enemy lines. There are those who would sit around and take note of the foolishness around which becomes a ready topic for our amusement.
Had I the misfortune of not having them, I would have been the Secretary of Justice long ago.
But there is a twist of fate somewhere.
I had this luck to have friends who accompany me in my dreary days, translating the monotonous period into feats of humorous instances.
Life, indeed, is better that way.
Since 1954 up to the present, a good 60 years, there were about 6,000 memorable music that had passed through the air and had captured the hearts and minds of a generation. This is to account around 100 musical scores that had achieved quite a following based on the top 100 in the billboard. This is but a conservative production of musical numbers composed and played during the period. I would even venture to say that on the average, there were 200 songs arranged, composed and played on the air every year or a staggering 12,000 compositions in one lifespan.
From the top 100, there was the so called 10 top hits for every year. Or, 600 after six decades. These 600 melodies comprise the so called retro music replayed every now and then expressing nostalgic ambience wherever it is played and heard.
The top ten hits in 1954 were the following:
- Little Things Mean a Lot by Kitty Kallen
- Wanted by Perry Como
- Hey There by Rosemary Clooney
- Sh Boom by Crew Cuts
- Make Love to Me by Jo Stafford
- Oh! My Papa by Eddie Fisher
- I Get so Lonely by The Four Knights
- Three Coins in the Fountain by Four Aces
- Secret Love by Doris Day
- Hernando’s Hideaway by Archie Blever
- Maybellene by Chuck Berry
- Rock Around the Clock by Bill Haley
- Tutti Fruit by Little Richard
- Speedo by The Cadillacs
- The Great Pretender by Platters
- At My Front Door by El Dorados
- When You Dance by Turbans
- Ain’t A Shame by Fats Domino
- I Hear You Knockin’ by Smiley Lewis
- Pledging My Love by Johnny Ace
- Hound Dog by Elvis Presley
- Long Tall Sally by Little Richard
- Blue Suede Shoes by Elvis Presley
- Don’t Be Cruel by Elvis Presley
- Be-Bop-A-Lula Gene Vincent
- Roll Over Beethhoven by Churck Berry
- In the Still of the Nite by Five Satins
- Blueberry Hill by Fats Domino
- Please, please, please by James Brown
- I Walk the Line by Johnny Cash
This was one period when blues and jazz singers would predominate the air waves, when their looks and clothing would become basis for fad and would be cloned. It was a period when mass media and communication began to technologically improve and would reach a greater mass base. Several artists would be benefited in the process and the likes of Chuck Berry, Platters, Elvis Presley, Johnny Cash would likewise become the template for style and projection of succeeding musical artists. Rock and roll would become a fad from where modern music would evolve from.
Ten years later, in 1966 the following were heard blaring on radio and in every teen party during the period:
- Good Vibrations by Beach Boys
- Woman Percy Sledge
- Reach Out, I’ll be There by Four Tops
- Gimme Some Lovin by Spencer Davis
- Ain’t Too Proud to Beg by Temptations
- Eight Milies High by Byrds
- For what it’s worth by Buffalo
- Paint it Black by Rolling Stones
- You Keep Me Hangin’ On by Supremes
- Wild Thing by Troggs
Another good ten years later in 1976, the following songs would capture the hearts and minds of a younger generation, the children of the so called baby boomers, the activist generation. During the inclusive period (1966 to 1976), the Beatles predominated the musical landscape and influenced the foundation of musical bands, blending and philosophical treatises as inspiration for lyrics and various experimentation in mixture of blended instruments. It was likewise this period that proved fatal for artists since their inspired pieces were conducted with such mind bending drugs and substance abuses.
Philippine music industry achieved quite a following during this period too. Various local artists would compete with their foreign counterparts and would win in the competition. The birth of OPM or Original Pilipino Music would graduate into the stage of nationalist consciousness. While Martial Law suppressed social consciousness among political lines, music succeeded in bringing to the fore.
- Hotel California by Eagles
- More Than a Feeling by Boston
- Anarchy in the UK by Sex Pistols
- Dancing Queen by Abba
- The Reaper by Blue Oyster Cult
- Kapalaran by Rico Puno
- Bato sa Buhangin by Cinderella
- Manila by Hotdogs
- Awitin Mo by VST
- Ako ay Pinoy by Florante and a lot, lot more.
I love retro music if only because it served as background music for the youth during those tumultuous days on school campus, on demonstration camps, in unexplored hills and mountains, in every conceivable corner of the neighbourhood, when youth was youth and life was as exciting and awesome for everyone. It gave color, emotion and significance that defined a specific moment in life.
It served likewise as a time when everything was done manually, when digital instruments were still unheard of, when there were no internet connections, no personal computers, no gadgets that would render holders as dependents to an abnormally fast pace planet of technology; when we could reach out easily to the world.
When I was a toddler, I used to brandish a sword and almost became a whizz in using it against imaginary enemies. Then plastic gun toys became my favourite as I grew older. When I reached tertiary level, I opted to join the Rangers instead of the usual drills I would be subjected to in the regular ROTC course. As a ranger, I was oriented on battlefield manoeuvres. I would eventually become an expert in close quarter combat, a specialist in explosives and handling any type of firearm, authority in strategic planning and skilled in survival techniques, I was trained to ignore pain and to endure every sting of a challenging mission in an unforgiving terrain. That was the military training I received.
My honeymoon with matters pertaining martial discipline however was cut short after my completion of the sophomore year. How I wish to enter the Philippine Military Academy but academic life was also an exciting field. Besides, like Napoleon Bonaparte, I was physically challenged standing an inch taller than diminutive Jose Rizal. I would never make it in the Academy no matter how assiduous and competent I was in combat education.
Not until I graduated that I longed to get conscripted in the military establishment even as a constable. But at that time, there was Martial Law and the excesses of the military could not escape my sensitive perception. I would rather join rebels in the mountains and be part of their armed militant movement than be a regular of an abusive military sector.
After receiving my graduate school credentials in the State University, I settled to get my employment in then Bureau of Prisons (now Bureau of Corrections) instead. I preferred professionalism in the civilian outfit tasked on a mandate of criminal justice administration, than engaging fellow nationalists in a genocidal mission. Officers in this organization have a similar principle and discipline like the Military anyway. It has an armed and uniformed component too. Ranking is almost perpendicular with that of AFP.
Years later, I would be promoted until I reached the rank of Penal Superintendent IV. In the government grading system, it is of equal rank to that of a Chief Superintendent in the National Police and that of a Brigadier General in the Armed Forces. Lo and Behold, finally at 33 years old I felt that I have made a difference. There I was in command of a prison establishment carrying the rank of a General. I had an immodest understanding that time that I was the youngest general in the career plank of government service.
From there I made a pact to myself. Government service will be my main focus, everything, including family and personal safety is secondary if not relegated to a corner. Sacrifice should be my main consideration and heroism would be my main instinctive world view. I could see myself standing tall along with generals in the military establishment. I could sense that I have also a similar ruthless vein running in my system when it pertains pursuing the ends of my agency’s vision. I was proud to be a part and within the ranks of generals in the country.
Not until I heard one of them would be charged for a violation. A retired general was heard to have said in the course of projecting himself in the court of law, thus: “I have no regrets of what I have done because what I did was for the good of the people. Why should I regret? One the case filed against me, it’s only natural for them to file one because they think, with all modesty aside, maybe in their minds, I was so successful in my campaign so they have to put me down they to put a stop and to add to that, nobody else can do what I did to them.”
These are brave and courageous statements coming as it were from a seasoned warrior. But wait.
The former military general was charged with Serious Illegal Detention and Kidnapping. Instead of facing his complainants and a host of aggrieved parties who were affected by his zeal in the performance of his duties, he hid.
“I went into hiding for self preservation. I fear the Reds are still out to kill me!”
Cowardice punctuates ever word this fellow is mouthing. A true warrior never relents, never retreats in any engagement. A true warrior is worth his salt if he is alone.
In the case of this officer, he was valiant, he was full of braggadocio and bold if only because he was secured by the machinery of power. Removed of such habiliments of force, the person is seen for what he is. In this case, the officer is merely an empty can pretending to be full.
Is this the kind of officer the military is projecting as their poster boy for courage? Has the military shrunk so low as to defend an officer who is afraid to die?
Let us listen to his fellow generals.
“The AFP is not abandoning a fellow General without violating regulations, we are willing to provide all the help he needs in terms of security.”
Although while on the lam, this general never for a while thought that he would be safe in their supervision.
The military academy sadly never trained their students to be warriors. Their graduates turned out to be better comedians.
I was correct all along. The military establishment is not where I wish to belong.
My prison quarters is situated a few meters away from the imposing perimeter fence of NBP maximum security compound. Across the road, the frontage of my quarters is directly facing Post Tower number 10. Sometime in the early 1980s, a number of military six by six trucks would park along the road in front of my quarters and the entire stretch of Post Tower number 10 would be taken over my military personnel. I was then a senior psychologist in the diagnostic center of the penitentiary.
The military operation on that part of NBP perimeter fence took sometime. The area was covered by a long stretch of nipa as if there was construction going on. The guard was not allowed to be posted at the tower so I presumed that the activity had permission from NBP leadership.
Not until one of the labourers in the “construction” site would knock at my quarters to ask for water that I realized what was going on in that covered area. Accordingly, the fellow is one among several construction labourers contracted to bore a hole at the base of the perimeter fence. The labourer added that as soon as they get through a tunnel, another group would take over their function.
The entire operation took three months with several military trucks coming in by day and moving away every dawn as if silently they were carting off something valuable. Except for a hunch, the impression of those in my neighbouring quarters was mainly on the amusement side. Majority of them would quip that it was one of those desperate treasure hunting operation of government.
At that time, there were rumors that the fabled Yamashita loot comprising of gold and jewelries were neatly stacked on the criss crossing of tunnels beneath NBP. Historically, NBP was once upon a time a Japanese sentry outpost and garrison. As a matter of fact, a good half a kilometre away from the NBP maximum facility, there was even a Japanese cemetery.
A decade later, after a series of promotion, I was appointed as Prison Superintendent. My first command assignment was to be in charge of NBP. As administrator, I summoned the chief engineer of my agency to my office and asked if he has a blue print file of NBP’s buildings. Either the Engineer was incompetent in his office or he was just too lazy to check out, he never gave me anything except for some electrical lay out plans for the facility.
To satisfy my curiosity and be competent on my environs, I required the elder officers and even took time out to visit retired ones who were assigned in the area if only to ask if they have personal knowledge on the purported tunnels beneath NBP. I got a handful of information. These were enough data for me to explore the entire NBP facility. I checked the tell-tale signs whispered to me by retired officers like a pathway using the former armory stockroom. And true enough, there was indeed a gangplank several feet below leading to a well constructed tunnel. The underground corridor however was blocked by a wall, a recent construction, based on the way the hollow blocks were cemented.
Sometime past, according to some retired prison officers, no prison personnel can be seen walking inside the prison camp. Posting duties were conducted using underground pathways or tunnels. Either a security personnel would walk on top of walls leading to the upper deck and onwards to post towers, or, descending from the main door, passing through underground corridors to reach the middle security center post.
I never had the occasion to explore these alleged tunnels though because after a few months, I was transferred to a regional prison establishment but my understanding was that during the time the Japanese Imperial Army’s occupation of the prison facility, the built in tunnels were even expanded and additional ones constructed using prison manpower, mostly prisoners of war, where several secret crevices beneath the prison camp were made in the process. Tunnels that would lead from outside were also constructed if only to use the same route for purposes of ingress and egress for safekeeping alleged war booties. There were still areas near the prison camp where concrete slabs and tunnel markers predominated the landscape of the prison reservation.
These tunnels made use of steel matting to prop the sides of manholes and iron tracks (riles ng tren) on which all additional tunnels were installed. After World War II, these underground easements were covered. That explains why there were stacks and abundance of steel matting and iron tracks almost everywhere in the prison reservation during the early 1960s onwards.
Years passed with different administrators at the helm, changes in security conditions and conflicting administrative policies were issued and applied. There were times when security was foremost; a time when rehabilitation was a focused activity; a period when infrastructure was pushed; another period when nothing but factions overrules all professional career considerations. Consequently, that which has been there beneath the facility, at the underbelly of NBP, had been lost in the security consciousness with all the intramural of factions in the organization and worst, had virtually been ignored as a consequence of prison congestion.
Tunnels are suspect whenever there is a prison facility. But during the time when it was used by an invading army, tunnels also became a safe place for keeping precious loots.
Prisoners may dig for freedom. Government may want also to dig for some treasures.
Life takes on many forms. In man, it is predicated on consciousness. To achieve what it takes to live, science and philosophical understanding dictate that there would be awareness, a conscious appreciation of everything that affects life. And the truth is: All living things have their respective consciousness. Whether this is anchored on survival or based on the preservation if not in the pursuit of procreation.
It is consciousness that dictates the presence of life. In the spiritual or philosophical sense, it is referred to as the soul, that inner force which makes life pulsate in a specific direction, according to a set or pattern. Clinically, it is sometimes called an instinct. Or character. Or essence. Or psyche.
In any metaphysical discussion, life is said to reincarnate; others believe in resurrection, and in some conversion. Once there is life, it continues without a break to sustain nature. Life indicates proportion; nature on the other proposes balance.
Man’s knowledge of life is limited and merely based according to what is measured and understood in science. Unable to pierce the veil of mystery, man concludes his belief within the parameters of available facts. For him, life begins at birth, then it towards adulthood, old age, sickness, then death.
It is the same cycle observed by Prince Siddhartha until finally he was convinced that it was what was in store for mankind. In appreciating the ambiguity, he founded meditation and became The Buddha, or the Enlightened One. Buddhists are known to be fanatical in respecting life—whatever its forms.
500 years after the death of Buddha (he died at the age of 80 as a consequence of food poisoning), another great historical figure would be born of similar supernatural background, when during birth angels were said to be hovering. Jesus of Nazareth, believed to be a member of the Essence tribe would have major influence and would become the icon for Christianity. Jesus’ take on Life can be summed up in his message:” I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he dies, yet shall he live.” (John 11:25) Unfortunately for his disciples, all of them, except for Luke, passed away under the most painful way. But for Christians, life as seen ordinarily is temporary and that life in heaven is the most rewarding. Like the Buddhist, Christians are zealous too in respecting life.
Anything that animates nature, anything found in nature supports life. A withered leaf falling from a tree may be seen essentially as a dead mass but looking up close, it is a bearer of life if not virtually alive. In the dictionary of life there is no term called death. Life is perennial and perpetual. There is no end to it. Death in the way, or on how humanity understands it, is not even an end or loss of life. Biologically, it is merely a shift in form, a change of perspective, a transformation. It is still life in all its glorious beginnings.
A plant or even an animal may not have the same facility as that of man in expressing the conditions of life but it is alive and co-existing in a sentient world. Plants and animals below the human specie have their respective consciousness too. It may not be as complicated but it is complex and sophisticated to a large extent. Plants and animals may rely mainly on advantages brought about by evolutionary functions but their capabilities at times transcends the best man could offer.
Life and nature are inseparable. One cannot exist without the other. Each complements another and in their natural discourse, both are enhanced and sustained. Both have its limitations and extent of its sphere of power. Notwithstanding boundaries it overlaps and has a tendency even to blend as if just a singular entity.
Life cannot defeat or overrule nature and so does nature on life. Everything proceeds into a cycle. At a glance, the movement is cylindrical and would continue in its spiral flow in perpetuity or for as long as nature and life share in its movement.
In this planet we call Earth, there is only one singular issue that permeates all through out its universe and that is LIFE within its sphere can only be explained through NATURE. And there is no end to it until the earth ceases to exist.
Rejoice! In the dictionary of nature, there is only Life and no death.
The main argument for a constituent assembly aimed to amend the constitution specifically for an extension of the term of the Presidency, and greeted warmly by the legislature because in the process, their respective terms will likewise be extended too, is self serving and bordering on self preservation. The amendment, which the President does not mince words, intends also to clip the hands of the judiciary especially on matters where other branches have made a decisive pitch.
As it were, even if the intention of the Chief Executive or that of Legislature is beyond reproach but if the Judiciary in its estimation is erroneous, heaven falls, the axe drops on the very face of the two branches. The result is an embarrassing route towards judicial punishment for those who transgress the law, whoever they are.
These are limitations addressed in the 1987 Constitution largely influenced by Senator Benigno Aquino and institutionalized during the presidency of Cory Aquino. The constitutional restrictions were designed that way. It was there to clip and weakened the powers of the Chief Executive. It was a response to a powerful and largely unchecked powers wielded by President Marcos who used every provision in law to stay in power and dictate society in every way he can.
No way can this situation be obtained in the new Constitution unless we intend to slide back into the dark corners whence democratic challengers challenged its persuasion. The residual powers of the Presidency are still there, it can still be applied by any leader with a reasonable mind. That is one power which can be equated with that of England’s King or Queen, Prime Minister, Emperor or Sheik. It has all the hallmarks of authority and control. But of course, when it is checked, the impression is that the character of the leader has been undermined.
President Noynoy Aquino inherited this weakened post and his allies wanted a remake of the same powers that made Marcos a powerful leader. The presidents under the new constitution tried their level best to have lasting imprint on their administration but saddled with numerous provisions in law that would make them incapable to transcending into heights of greatness.
Presidents Fidel Ramos, Joseph Estrada and Gloria Arroyo had to contend with whatever powers they could use. Exceeding it would definitely invite prosecution. Ramos nearly was hailed in court for his Amari deal projects. Joseph Estrada was not lucky enough. Worst, for Arroyo, she is still in detention for what has been seen as committing acts violative of laws.
This is the same ghost that haunts present day national leadership. If the constitution could not be amended, after the presidential term comes the time of judicial reckoning. Meaning, PNoy may as yet be brought to the bar of justice, this time without immunity anymore, the suffer the same fate of his unfortunately detained predecessors.
For someone who literally dedicated his term with the purity of a monk, to be hailed and questioned before the bar of justice by people unabashedly with corrupt and questionable credentials, is the height of irony. PNyoy accepted the mantle of leadership to improve governance and bring to the fore the consciousness of righteous administration as a dedicated act hewed closely according to the principles of his heroic parents as his guide, only to be sidelined and later be charged for desecrating the same cause. These are all mind boggling and stressful a situation. A man with an exceptional intellect can ride on it and succeed in the process. Less than that would be tragic.
Let history therefore divine the succeeding events.
Philippine Star Columnist Alex Magno’s article “Omission” (PhilStar, August 16, 2014) is quite revealing. It virtually answered the woes and difficulties of present day living in the country. A paragraph in his column described in no uncertain term the basis of difficulties the people are experiencing to date. Consider this:
“In order to pool mammoth amounts of ‘savings,’ the Aquino administration cancelled infra projects wholesale. The Belgian-assisted dredging of Laguna de Bay, the French-assisted construction of modern ro-ro ports, the Chinese-assisted Northrail project, the rehabilitation of our airports, the Japanese assisted flood control and many others were arbitrarily junked. The massacre of major infra projects in 2010 and 2011 resulted in a sharp drop in our GDP growth rate in 2011.” (Underscoring supplied)
While it was suspected that these major infra projects could have been conceived by previous administration with kickbacks in mind, it could have been revisited instead and changed the terms that would create a clean contract without dropping the whole idea of enhancing public sector engineering. This could have been done unless there is a hidden agenda or a shift of concern.
As it were, we literally have on our hands the possibility of uplifting and upgrading our society but here we are saddled because projects that were meant precisely to improve life have been disregarded. And what for? According to columnist Magno and he was stating a suspicious fact, “The DAP mechanism converted economic investments into politically configured consumption. The money taken from infra projects was converted into pork barrel slush funds designed to strengthen the grip of the Liberal party over our politics.”
Pray tell me it’s a wrong assessment. I wished to be convinced that it is not true. Why sacrifice development in favour of politics? This is malicious. It could never be done, not under the term of a popular, pedigreed Chief Executive, who was elected because of his bloodline with Democracy’s finest heroes. It could never be done even under any imaginary nightmare. I would even insist, call me uninitiated or idiot, that it is not happening in our midst.
Despite my protestations however, in my local travels, I would encounter poor ro-ro ports, as if I am traversing during the time of my forefathers. The ports I have been to are decrepit, unmaintained and the ambiance of indifference all over. It could however be renovated and brought to the fore near world class. A French assisted investor is willing to construct a modern facility for us. But the contract was way laid. Funds for said project are needed somewhere. And so, the ro-ro ports remained as it were. Poor travellers like me.
And so, no more travels by land. Better through the air. And so, I went to the travel agency and procured a ticket for Mindanao. I have travelled by air since I was a budding bachelor and I have as yet to see improvements in the terminal. The comfort rooms are still despicable, the air conditioning fledging, the procedures too manual at the time when the world is already digital. In other words, everything that surrounds me in the area is pure indifference. I understand that government has contracted a firm to rehabilitate our airports but the funds intended for the purpose are needed somewhere. And so back to the same situation.
I thought that I would not travel again. I would just stay in my town and appreciate whatever is there to tinker about. And then true to the prognostications of weathermen, storms of gross magnitude effect bearing tons of rainfall is about to pour down. There were floods everywhere. My town was inundated. Luckily it was not a storm surge. But government has a program for flood control assisted by a Japanese conglomerate. Flood control mechanisms could have been completed but of course the funds for that purpose have to be redirected to more important measures. Floods still continue to dampen my living room and haunt in my dreams.
I convinced myself to just visit colleagues in the North to exchange pleasantries and evade from the nightmare of floods. After all, floods are never a daily fare. I thought that the Chinese-assisted Northrail system has been completed and that it would be a breeze to hop from one place to another. To my astonishment, it was not so. The project has been cancelled since the funds are needed for something else.
I retired in my room instead and downloaded the life of The Buddha—he who is patient, meditative and prayerful. I just wanted to be lost in my thoughts. Everywhere seems unresponsive to my requirements already. I must transcend those things that make me unhappy. I do not want to infuse malice on my environment much more so believe that there is no government at all. I want to subscribe that everything good is happening and that government through DAP is the saving grace, the symbol if not the emblem of “Daang Matuwid.” I am an ardent believer of this despite the hassles, despite the difficulties and hardships I have undergone.
Oh, yes, you can also call me a nut.