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Editorial

Are you standing behind the right line?

Our heroes died fighting for our freedom. But Rodrigo Duterte kills our freedom by drowning out the critical voices of the media through its relentless attacks against the freedom of the press—and even going as far as weaponizing the law.

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Art by Jessica Lopez

Jose Rizal died fighting for our freedom. Andres Bonifacio died fighting for our freedom. Our heroes died fighting for our freedom. But Rodrigo Duterte kills our freedom by drowning out the critical voices of the media through its relentless attacks against the freedom of the press—and even going as far as weaponizing the law.

Ripping off from Marcos’ playbook, Duterte drowns the independent and critical voices who can destabilize his kingdom of bones and blood.

The online news site, Rappler, has been very critical of the administration, noting the brutal bloodshed in the name of  War on Drugs, the dominance of internet trolls, and his anti-poor projects such as the TRAIN Law to name of a few of his list of sins.

And just last week, an arrest warrant has been issued against Rappler’s CEO, Maria Ressa for cyber libel charges pertaining to an article they published way back in May 2012. The complainant, Wilfredo Keng, has been allegedly linked with the late Chief Justice Renato Corona who was undergoing an impeachment trial during that time. However, the cyber libel law was not yet in effect until October of that same year. And in addition to that, Keng had only filed the complaint on October 2017 which was five years too late. Yet despite the discrepancies of the case, an arrest warrant was given to Ressa, and was forced to post bail amounting to P100,000 the next day. At least eight charges has been filed against the online news site ever since last year, and was forced to bail for six times already.

With the State using the law to its advantage, they flaunt their powers to silence the critical. Their oppression trickled down to various university and college publications, who are now on the verge of shutdown due to censorship, and even alternative media who openly lambasts his bloody regime.

This is not just a battle between the warring factions of the DDS Army and the Dilawans, this is a battle under the banner of the three stars and the sun. The enemy does not lie with us, it sleeps inside the grand facade of the Palace. This regime knows that the people hold the true power—and it terrifies them greatly that they try to divide us by spreading distrust and false propaganda.

We are one in holding the line. And we will hold it until we taste the freedom our heroes have died for.

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Editorial

The mockery of Filipinos’ agony

Many actions and policies of the current administration not only fail to respond to the real needs and difficulties of Filipinos, but also reduces their daily agony to mere ‘challenges’ and experiments. 

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Photo by Miguel Yap/TomasinoWeb

The transport crisis in the Metro greatly showed its harsh realities in the past weeks. Aside from the horrendous traffic, the long lines in terminals, and the difficulty of hailing a spacious jeepney, the sudden malfunction of LRT-2 added up to the long list of problems and challenges many commuters have to endure. And yet, we can hear and see apathetic solutions from our leaders which are deemed to be ineffective and lacks the true intention of solving the country’s transit problems. Many actions and policies of the current administration not only fail to respond to the real needs and difficulties of Filipinos, but also reduces their daily agony to mere ‘challenges’ and experiments. 

Last Friday, we have seen Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo took a commute to his work from his home in Marikina to Malacañan. For him, this is to show those who challenged him that there really is no transport crisis. Hence, he said in his presscon that day that Filipinos only need to be creative in the traffic and commute problems in the Metro, and to “be creative” for we are known to be tough amidst difficulties. His creativity in his commute to the Palace took him almost four hours after three jeepney rides, an LRT ride, and a motorcycle ride, a struggle which could have been avoided if only there is a reliable public transport system in the Metro. 

Meanwhile, Senator Grace Poe also suggested having exclusive VIP MRT train coaches which will cost around P150-P200 per ride to ‘encourage’ especially upper class people to take public transport. The bill requiring government officials and leaders to take public transport every week has been filed again by Iligan Representative Frederick Siao in the Congress. Instead of providing legitimate solutions to address the transportation crisis, MMDA rides the publicity train by having its spokesperson Celine Pialago to steer the wheel, only to find her suing satirical social media pages instead of representing the struggles of daily Filipino commuters. 

To add to the burden, the current administration also seeks to respond to its traffic problems through neoliberalization of transport system in the country. Among this is the plan to phase out old, traditional jeepneys in 2020 as a response to its traffic problem with modern and eco-friendly ones. Although the proposition sounds good in theory, its effect on public transport and livelihood of jeepney drivers are worse than expected with costs that will surely bury many jeepney drivers and operators in huge debts and loans.

These actions and statements show that the big problem in the country’s transport system. The frequent denial and media publicity will never address these problems effectively but only shows the lack of empathy for the real needs of Filipinos, and mocks the burden they have to endure as a consequence of the selfish acts of many of our leaders.

Commuting from Manila to nearby provinces like Bulacan and Pampanga only takes around one to two hours. Meanwhile, commuting to Fairview in Quezon City, Las Piñas City, or to the nearby City of Antipolo takes a minimum of three hours especially during rush hours. To add to that, commuters have to endure long lines and poor facilities in trains and terminals, and the difficulty of hailing a jeepney or bus ride. As a consequence, many resort to bringing their own cars or using car hailing apps like Grab which only adds to the traffic on the road instead of its one to four passengers joining other commuters in jeepneys, buses or trains which can accommodate a minimum of 20 passengers. These scenarios only show that commuters and public transport is still not the top priority of our government despite other developed countries giving much of its attention to it.

Imagine also the burden of those who have no other option in their daily transport but to take public transport for it is more affordable than getting a taxi, a Grab booking or bringing and having their own car. Many of them are students and workers who experience the terrible transport crisis the most. This problem does not only tire them physically but also affects their performance in their schools and in their jobs, preventing them from reaching their full potential. They are also being deprived of having quality time with their families or with themselves or to manage other responsibilities and jobs they have. In fact, our leaders will not be required to take public transport through a law if only there is a quality, affordable and accessible mass public transport system in the country. Again, all these are the consequence of inefficient policies of our government which should be the one to provide those mentioned basic services and needs to the people it serves. 

Filipinos have long endured the long lines in terminals, hospitals and other governmental institutions. Their true welfare has long been sacrificed and neglected and our leaders seem to be unbothered of the fiasco burdening the country and its people. The government should divert its priority on the real needs of the people it serves and put an end to all its inefficient and elitist policies that only mocks and prolongs the agony of Filipinos.

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Editorial

Of Tragedies and Dictators

For unlike Oedipus and Sisyphus, the masses write the history—and dictators, no matter how often they change their masks, should be put into their place: into the dustbin of history.

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Artwork by Tricia Soto Jardin

Oedipus was said to have been destined to live an awful, tragic life. No matter how much change he makes in his choices, he is bound to do the exact, same routine: to fail, falter, suffer, weep and cry, and back again. The same is with Sisyphus, who is punished to roll a boulder up a hill, only to watch it fall down again but in joy, in Camusian rebellion, out of amor fati.

But the Greeks had it all wrong, slightly; for and however, tragedy is but a mere entertainment for Sophocles and his clique. Faced with recent events and far back, tragedy seemed to have been engraved in the Filipino disposition in the face of dictators and an inhumane structure—this time, not out of destiny, but an effect of a popular, ill-intentioned, and brutal governance.

In the last three years, and even beyond the Duterte administration, we have witnessed the implementation of unjust policies—all imprudently executed out of selfish interests, submissive military mindset, or even out of sheer ignorance of the bigger picture. The last three years is an aggravation, unsurprisingly, of crises endemic in a decadent society which fancies itself in turning values into currencies, people into objects.

The problems that have long burdened the marginalized sectors have now reached and poked the privileged bubbles of the middle-class. From the continuous extrajudicial killings, arbitrary arrests, the shameless rice tariffication law, and the lack of support for anti-discriminatory bill and an end to contractualization, it can be said that those in power are making the people more divided and powerless as a means for them to gain more power—all these done in broad daylight.

Forty-seven years ago, Martial Law was declared. When the “old ways” were not enough to quell the cries of an oppressed people, a strongman boasted with an iron fist, worsening even further a collective cry of justice. Forty- seven years later, as the “new democracy” numbed the Filipino until it shows its true colors, and a cheap dictator comes in in obnoxious cajolery, an echo is slowly shattering its shackles.

Undeniably, the cheap dictator Duterte is using the Marcosian playbook. With Martial Law still in effect in Mindanao, and the de facto Martial Law in effect nationwide through the illicit consolidation of power in the lower and upper houses of Congress, the tightening of grip on the Highest Court, and the junta-like appointments of officers of government departments are all slowly curtailing democracy and the freedom the Filipino People has, and continues to fight for.

Deceitful as it is, the current administration says that its key policies aims to support the Filipino people. But behind the press briefings and media exposures of those projects like the “Build-Build-Build”, those who are truly benefitting from the anti-poor clearing operations, displacement of communities, militarization in the grassroots are the big compradors and landlords who have long been exploiting the potential of the common Filipino. The ironic title of the recently implemented Tax Reform for Acceleration and Inclusion only made the burden for the poor families heavier while the upper class benefited more.

While many of the leaders and wealthy people wrestle for power, the government relentlessly kills the powerless like drug victims, and now, farmers. The administrationʼs Oplan Sauron—a Negros-exclusive version of Oplan Kapanatagan, AFPʼs whole-of-nation counterinsurgency program, is one of Duterteʼs tricks on his sleeves. With a civilian body count of more than 80 and numerous incidents of lawless violence and baseless arrests, what was once considered the “sugar bowl” of the country is now drenched in blood.

Despite the huge number of civilian deaths and the long stretch of kilometers travelled by displaced indigenous people, martial law in Mindanao is repeatedly extended in the guise of “quelling terrorist groups” such as the New Peopleʼs Army and the ISIS-sponsored groups. What Duterte and his cronies donʼt realize is that the Filipino people is not ignorant of the fact that places where injustice and impunity lingers, there goes his platoon of puppets; where the cry for genuine reform is raging, there is counter-resistance. Instead of addressing the root causes of armed conflict, the trigger-happy Duterte hides under the guise of counter- insurgency programs to silence dissidents and just causes.

There is a culture of death and silence in our country. From people spreading hate on the LGBTQIA+ and impeding their basic right in the Sexual Orientation Gender Identity and Expression bill, to many of us not even raising an eyebrow to the thousands of unjust deaths in just three years. We are moving again in a circular motion of tragedy.

Oedipus might not have had control over his fate, but we are not living in the guidance of mythological gods; Sisyphus might have had internalized the famous “resiliency” the Filipino is known for, but one thing is clear: we have a long history of oppression, but we have proven time and again, that dictators have no match against a people collectively fighting for their rights.

For unlike Oedipus and Sisyphus, the masses write the history—and dictators, no matter how often they change their masks, should be put into their place: into the dustbin of history.

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Editorial

Not just mere collaterals, not a laughing matter

In the past three years of President Duterte’s administration, we have seen a lot of collaterals—be it a victim of his bloody war on drugs or his anti-poor policies—done just so that he could finally say that “change has come,” that he has succeeded. But what we have observed, so far, is a regression of what has been achieved, a degradation of democracy, a propagation of the culture of violence and impunity, and we are waiting for him to look us in the eye and convince us of what change has really been done, for better or worse, in his first three years.

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“We cannot drive the [Chinese] away because they insisted it’s theirs.”

Weeks after the Recto Bank incident, President Duterte has this to say about what the Palace deemed to call “a maritime incident” in which a Chinese vessel hit a Philippine boat carrying 22 fishermen and left them there to the “mercy of the elements.”

“Tanong sila, ‘Will you allow the Chinese to fish?’ Sabi ko, ‘Of course. ‘Yan ang pinag-usapan namin noon, kaya tayo nag-uusap eh. And that was [why] we were allowed to fish again,” Duterte said in his speech at the anniversary of the Presidential Security Group last Wednesday, June 26. “Ngayon, sabi nila, ‘You have to ban China. I-prohibit mo.’ Kung i-prohibit ko, how do I enforce my desire?”

Duterte is talking about a supposed ‘mutual agreement’ the Philippines made with China (which Panelo said “was more of an informal agreement” and by word) through a bilateral talk in which DILG Secretary Eduardo Año and Secretary of National Defense Delfin Lorenzana, and other cabinet members were said to have attended.

Meanwhile, Duterte, the Chief Executive who vowed to enforce the Laws of the Land and who himself proudly proliferates the doctrine that obedience to law will entail peace and order, continues to contradict himself by making a folly out of the Philippine Constitution.

Article XII, Section 2 of the 1987 Philippine Constitution states that “The State shall protect the nation’s marine wealth in its archipelagic waters, territorial sea, and exclusive economic zone (EEZ), and reserve its use and enjoyment exclusively to Filipino citizens.”

Further, the Philippine Fisheries Code of 1998 also bans foreign fishing vessels in Philippine waters. The Hague ruling declared that Recto Bank is part of Philippine waters, therefore Chinese vessels fishing in the area would be a violation of our exclusive rights.

But it seems that the President doesn’t find urgency in this; he surrendered our sovereignty the moment he agreed in the bilateral agreement with the superpower up until now that he remains complacent.

With an estimate of 5.4 billion barrels of oil and 55.1 trillion cubic feet of natural gas in our EEZ, it is no more obvious that the gas-rich West Philippine Sea is an investment paradise for imperialists since it is booming with natural resources. Recto Bank’s Sampaguita gas field alone has up to 4.6 trillion cubic feet of natural gas and 115 million barrels of oil.

Further, China has already expressed its desire to fund Duterte’s Build, Build, Build fantasy. Infamous for its debt-trap policy, China interests itself with the West Philippine Sea.

Last March, Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo said that there is nothing wrong with Recto Bank as collateral for a loan agreement with China. “For me [China seizing Reed Bank should there be a default in the repayment of the loan] is… not a possibility because we never reneged,” he told reporters. “We are known for paying our obligations.”

This is alarming, no more than how analysts were alarmed after Senate President Sotto’s “fish” remarks. Malacañang should be reminded that our sovereignty is non-negotiable.

In the past three years, we have seen a decline in the rule of democracy: a senator got jailed and another is being threatened with incarceration just for being a critic of the administration; a Supreme Court Chief Justice was ousted, backed by the Chief Executive himself; and a government agency that checks on executive power was threatened.

There is a culture of violence and impunity manifested by the rising death toll of Duterte’s War on Drugs, the recently recorded 209 dead farmers under this administration, the continuous crackdown on human rights defenders and activists, violent dispersals of striking workers across the country and union busting, and the ongoing Martial Law in Mindanao.

These—after attacking press freedom, making rape jokes and misogynistic and homophobic statements, disrespecting religion, and allying with known plunderers and tyrants—have all been done just so that Duterte could finally say “change has come.”

Just last Tuesday, July 2, a three-year-old girl has become the latest victim of Duterte’s drug war. Senate-elect Ronald Dela Rosa dismissed the incident by saying “Sh*t happens.”

It is high time to respond to these attacks and say enough is enough. The President must be reminded that we are not mere collaterals in his dreamscape and that we know it when actual sh*t happens: It is when tyrants get more power and the failure of democracy becomes a laughing matter.

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