Editing this book (the second coffee table book on the Jesuits published by Monching Cruz and Manny Engwa, to raise funds for the Philippine Jesuit Aid Association) was a gift, a joy, an answered prayer—and a way to give back and to give thanks to the many Jesuits who served as mentors or colleagues.
Monthly Archives: September 2018
Another speech I thought I had already posted here. This one was from December 6, 2012, for that year’s Philippine PEN Congress. I ran excerpts in my column of December 11.
“Condensados en un libro”
Fr. Vicente Garcia, the Noli, and Rizal’s Theory of ‘Intellectual Tradition’
It is something, when you come to think of it: how many, and how often, priests and friars figure in Rizal’s life and work. The early champions, the first tormentors, the iconic characters, the dedicated enemies, the secret supporters; even, at the end of his life, the eager revisionists.
To discuss one aspect of our session’s theme, of the writer and the Philippine intellectual tradition, I would like to call attention to, or invoke the example of, one of Rizal’s secret supporters: the priest who was among the first to defend the Noli.
I would like to do so because, in Rizal’s extensive correspondence, the letter he wrote the priest seems to me to best sum up his theory of a Philippine intellectual tradition. The basic elements of the general idea weren’t new; they can be found in many of his other letters. But in this particular letter, from the beginning of 1891, we find the most felicitous phrasing of his theory.
First, though, I need to set the context of the correspondence; please bear with me.
ON OCTOBER 6, 1888, writing from Barcelona, Mariano Ponce brought Rizal some needed good news. He told the thrilling tale of “an illustrious fellow countryman, recognized in Manila as a profound theologian and great philosopher,” who had taken a stand against the hated Fr. Jose Rodriguez and parried the Augustinian friar’s attacks on the Noli. (It was well over a year since the first copies of Rizal’s first novel reached the Philippines.) Continue reading
A really late post. I thought I had already posted this speech I read at the annual national conference of the Philippine Association of Communication Educators, held on April 17, 2015 at De La Salle University Dasmariñas; I ran excerpts in my column on April 28, 2015, and then I guess I just forgot. On hindsight, the speech was, among other things, an attempt to understand pre-Duterte (levels of) trolling.
The Quality of Discourse in the New Media Landscape
I want to begin by quoting a comment posted online in response to my column last Tuesday [April 14, 2015]. It is a virtually anonymous comment, and I have mixed feelings about encouraging the practice of cheap, convenient anonymity by referencing it, but this coarseness is now an everyday part of the texture of new media, and you and I have to live with it. So we live and let live, and quote it.
After I argued that it was the PNP’s Special Action Force that should in fact “man up” about its shortcomings in the Mamasapano incident, a commenter using the name caricid wrote:
“Malacañang is very worried and has sent its paid hacks like John Nery to attack the SAF because Malacañang is afraid that SAF will expose the truth regarding PNoy’s issuing the stand down orders that condemned the 44 troopers to their deaths. PNoy and the AFP have involved themselves in this conspiracy to cover up the issuance of the stand down orders. Only the truth will set the spirits of those brave troopers free. Until then, there is no moving on. The likes of Nery and PNoy cannot just make this dastardly crime go away. Justice must be done. Besides, PNoy cannot escape the fact that he gave the green light to this debacle called Mamasapano.”
This is not exactly the kind of insightful response a columnist can’t wait to read over the breakfast table, but I do not know if communication educators like you know just how rampant, how prevalent, this category of response is, in the comment threads. Continue reading
“A great political lesson: that all repressive systems, all governments, legitimate or otherwise, all tyrannies, all foreign occupations are able to continue only because they receive the support of those they rule.” Practical wisdom from Gene Sharp, in my last column of 2017. Published on December 26.
“Your Program on Nonviolent Sanctions at Harvard has always aroused much interest but also skepticism. Much of the skepticism about nonviolent methods was swept away by the success of the Filipino people in obtaining elections, in unveiling the fraudulent methods to distort the popular verdict, and finally in ousting Marcos in February 1986. How do you explain this shift?”
In 1986 and 1987, Gene Sharp, one of the principal theorists of nonviolent resistance and the director of the Program on Nonviolent Sanctions in Conflict and Defense at Harvard University’s Center for International Affairs at the time, gave a wide-ranging interview to Afif Safieh, then a visiting scholar in Harvard.
His answer to the introductory question attempts an overview of the Edsa Revolution; it is largely accurate, and still makes for bracing reading:
“The Philippines struggle had a number of distinct features. It was a very good example of the withdrawal of the pillars of power. The Filipino people withdrew legitimacy from the regime when it became clear that the elections were a fraud. There were plans for economic resistance and noncooperation against the supporters of Marcos. Diplomats abroad began resigning. The population became nonviolently defiant. Finally, a major part of the army and its officers in effect went on strike. They did not turn their guns in the other direction or bomb the presidential palace. They went on strike and said that they were doing it nonviolently. So the army itself was taken away. Then the church called on people to demonstrate and protect the soldiers nonviolently. The civilian population formed vast barricades of human bodies surrounding the mutinous officers and soldiers, in a case that probably has no historical precedent: the nonviolent civilians protected the army. Finally Marcos was left with very little power. You take away the sources of power and the man who was formerly a tyrant becomes just an old man. His choice was not whether to remain in power, his only choice was how he was to leave. And so he left semi-gracefully.
“That teaches us a great political lesson: that all repressive systems, all governments, legitimate or otherwise, all tyrannies, all foreign occupations are able to continue only because they receive the support of those they rule. Even foreign occupiers are supported by their own people, and frequently receive international support. If you can withdraw those sources of power, then the regime is threatened.” Continue reading
Published on December 19, 2017. “Mr. Duterte, the first lawyer-president since Ferdinand Marcos, does not in fact believe in the power of the law; rather, he believes that law serves power”—I think Sen. Antonio Trillanes IV, the target of a synchronized abuse of the law, will agree.
Associate Justice Francis Jardeleza used last week’s House justice committee hearing on the impeachment complaint filed against Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno to deliver a counteraccusation three years in the making: He asserted that it was Sereno, not he, who had committed acts of treason during the preparation of the (successful) Philippine arbitral case against China. He was responding to Sereno’s erroneous claim, in 2014, that then Solicitor General Jardeleza’s policy position on the South China Sea dispute, specifically on Itu Aba in the Spratlys, was disloyal to the country.
Lost in this unfortunate “spectacle of diminishment,” as an Inquirer editorial described the sorry appearance of one retired and three incumbent Supreme Court justices at the hearing, is any appreciation of the present reality: Under President Duterte, and despite the sweeping landmark ruling of the arbitral tribunal in 2016 in favor of the Philippines, the country’s rightful claims to the West Philippine Sea, to parts to the Spratlys and to Scarborough Shoal are at their weakest in decades. Indeed, Mr. Duterte has deliberately weakened them. Clearly, both Jardeleza and Sereno (and Senior Associate Justice Antonio Carpio, who shared Sereno’s dim view of Jardeleza’s position in 2014) support the arbitral tribunal ruling and want to see it implemented. If they want to accuse anyone of treason, of yielding to the Chinese, perhaps they should point their finger at the President. Continue reading
Published on December 12, 2017—and even more relevant today.
How is it a young student can see more clearly than senators or Supreme Court justices?
“Today is a dangerous time to be a Filipino. The country is being led by a President who promotes a culture of killing and impunity — a President who encourages his people, not just the police, to kill drug pushers on sight, and has vowed to protect those who carry them out. More than this, we have a President who has chosen to consider innocent people killed alongside as ‘collateral damage’ and not as victims of murder who deserve justice.” Continue reading