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Manila Deserves A Cleaner Underpass

This city has elected a mayor who they trust to bring his vision to life. We have seen too much of littered streets and congested passageways. The people are tired and so are you. We understand. I understand. But, I’m going to tell you something else.

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Manila, as part of its “culture”, has its walls decorated by graffiti. It is often commissioned by the passion of the masses. When accompanied by carelessness, it becomes vandalism. The city was almost born with this “birthmark”. It is like a memoir to its people – a diary to the current events today. The city walls have become a witness to the struggles of the masses. From traffic, to contagious diseases, and to the poor public transportation. The roads have seen the struggle of this rocky journey we, Filipinos, have taken. It is unavoidable, almost, due to the neglect of the ones who hold power. Promises were held up only as a false pretense to what the Filipinos wants the future to look like. Up until now, is it still a false pretense? Only the people on the seat could know. What is the answer of the people, then? Most likely, given the disposition Manila holds right now, it might as well be.

As we all know, Isko Moreno Domagoso is the mayor of the City of Manila right now. Isko looks and sounds like the epitome of an ideal leader that Manila was looking for. He is far younger than the previous mayors, all of which are near the age of retirement. Domagoso is a fresh face of hope, as to what we might have expected. In his first few months in office, one cannot deny that he has been a charismatic leader. He has ultimately been dedicated in developing the tourism of the city. Not only that, he also joins in cleaning the streets and as well as giving senior citizens allowance per month to help out with the costs of daily living. It was a beautiful sight, a breath of fresh air, almost. Until the people have started to uncover the mayor’s ulterior moves. 

They were nothing “diabolical” as to how the previous mayor allegedly spent the money of the government for personal leisures but he, however, removed the hope of the Filipino to eat at least once or twice a day. Domagoso was known to remove illegal vendors that sell various goods from general merchandise, fruits, books, clothes, and everything in between. There has been almost no sustainable solution offered to them by his office to get by. Many people here in Manila, especially the marginalized, have resorted to such means to survive. To think that they have been doing this for decades with almost no deviation on improvement, would say a lot about the government. This also speaks how the previous mayors and Domagoso himself has been handling the case. And speaking of the case, there has been a new vandal on the block, right at the newly painted underpass near the city hall.

This has brought much dismay to the mayor. Who would not be angry to see a newly painted wall to see it vandalized? It looked like a fresh face of hope. Isko Moreno happens to be one of them. Disappointed and frustrated, he said in an interview, “Huwag kayong pahuhuli sa akin. Sige, human rights… ‘pag nahuli ko kayo, padidila ko sa inyo ‘to. Buburahin niyo ‘to ng dila niyo”. 

He continued, “Kayo ang nambababoy. Hindi makatwiran ‘yan. We don’t deserve this. The people of Manila don’t deserve this.” 

Isko, you are right. The people of Manila do not deserve a vandalized underpass. A cleaner, more accommodating walkway is much preferable than one that is hot, humid, and dirty. Who would be pleased to walk there? No one, of course. This city has elected a mayor who they trust to bring his vision to life. We have seen too much of littered streets and congested passageways. The people are tired and so are you. We understand. I understand. But, I’m going to tell you something else.

The people of Manila deserve a government where its leaders do not alienate and discriminate them for their social class. It is already difficult to look at the marginalized. What more if you actually experience their day to day life? 

The growth and development of the city does not rely on its aesthetics. It does not rely on the cleanliness and the clear roads paved for its people. Growth and development means that everyone is given equal rights  and proper treatment – especially those who are greatly in need. If one would greatly depend it on the cleanliness of the city, then it is safe to say that Manila has been somehow progressive. But how about the people? Are they given fair compensation for what they work for? Are the people of Manila truly given the right avenue for them to be heard? The easy answer is yes. How so?

It is known that Domagoso is receptive on social media. He is prompt to answer messages immediately, to which many has caught the attention of. It is rare for a government official to be quick on its feet on social media, especially when it comes to hearing the concerns of its people. But if it already has reached to the point of getting the fight on the streets and in the underpass, then it simply indicates that there is something wrong with the system.

Some are quick to dismiss that the fight could only brought up in the streets. It has been said that it is counterproductive. At a certain extent, it is, but why do people resort to that? This is because the means how they could reach out have been exhausted. If the fight has been taken once more to the streets, then it simply is an indicator that the people have been struggling in a system straight-up blames the problems on the poor. You are not progressive if you continuously point fingers as you blind yourself from the root problem of it all.

Manila deserves a government that cares about its people and not only its aesthetics. The mayor is only doing the bare minimum here. There’s literally so much to fix beyond congested streets and vandalized underpasses.

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Opinion

It’s just a two-week event

On one side, you have a glamorous event with a 50-million cauldron and a “world-class” sports facility. On the other, you have the families displaced by these infrastructures, and the crisis faced by the Filipino people burdening their daily lives—transport problems, security threats, and agricultural problems among others.

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A 50-million cauldron. A multi-billion budget. This is how the government poured its resources in the 2019 South East Asian (SEA) Games. Last night, many of us Filipinos must be in awe of the spectacle brought by its opening ceremonies at the Philippine Arena in Bulacan and in New Clark City in Tarlac.

For a night, we may have been proud again as Filipinos after days of failures and mistakes brought by the government who organizes the major event. But did the glamour of the fireworks, lights and performances made us forget the major issues of our country behind this event?

Despite this huge budget for a third-world country, the event which has been in preparation for more than a year still faced a lot of mishaps and defects. From promotional materials like its mascot, the unfinished, rushed sports facilities in Manila, to the unpresentable innutritious food served to the athletes and members of the media, the first days of the SEA Games 2019 may have debunked the Filipinos being known for hospitality.

It may be good for boosting the country’s tourism and image, but should not our government focus first on solving the problems that burden many Filipinos?

It is also quite ironic for the country to host a major sports event when in reality it lacks proper support for its athletes and development of its sports facilities. Our leaders only express their support when an athlete is already at the podium with medals. But before those achievements, who are these athletes to them?

In fact, 2005 Karate gold medalist Gretchen Malalad expressed her frustration over the huge budget allotted for the 2019 SEA Games when their requests for budget and support from the government were frequently denied. 

This major event seems to be a move or a tactic of the current administration to cover-up the major issues plaguing the country. They are saying that our economy is booming due to the foreign investments, particularly from China, and this event, for them, is a reflection of where the Philippines stands.

Albay second district representative Joey Salceda, for example, said the 50-million cauldron is “reasonable” as it shows the country’s strong economy. The same goes for Senator Sonny Angara, who said that it shows the country’s ingenuity in hosting the event. 

Spending a sprawling amount of money have become reasonable for our politicians for just an event that will last for merely less than a month.

Building the New Clark City in the farm lands of Capas, Tarlac already has a price tag of around P9.5 billion. The P7.5 billion budget for the SEA Games event itself is controlled by only a single person, House Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano who also chairs the Philippine Southeast Asian Games Organizing Committee (PHISGOC), regardless of agencies concerned over the budget.

Not to mention the long-term drawbacks of the facilities built exclusively for the event which may cost more budget coming also from our taxes.

Questionable budget and corruption has been long entrenched in our government, and some of us may have become passive and just accepted it. It’s the normal for many of us.

On one side, you have a glamorous event with a 50-million cauldron and a “world-class” sports facility. On the other, you have the families displaced by these infrastructures, and the crisis faced by the Filipino people burdening their daily lives—transport problems, security threats, and agricultural problems among others.

Politicians may have thought that the people will only care about it for some time, for a week, and then they divert the latter’s attention to other things through unnecessary publicity stunts like media coverage of the President eating in a random restaurant or spreading false news in the internet.

In fact, those who criticize these questionable budget and events are treated with online spam messages of trolls, or served with threats to their life. Criticisms of the event are translated as crab mentality when people are only expressing what they actually see and feel regarding the event.

But is spending a multi-billion budget for an anomalous event which displaced indigenous communities, and caused an international attention for its mess acceptable for us? Is spending 50-million pesos for a torch cauldron that could build 50 or more classrooms has become normal for us?

Why not pour the same amount of resources in our lousy transport system or in our neglected healthcare system? Is this now the norm in the country’s government? Pouring resources to events which serve as publicity stunts to cover-up the issues plaguing our country?

The 2019 SEA Games opening really is a spectacle, but its fireworks did not cover the poor situation faced by many Filipinos. Its harmonious sounds did not prevail over the cries for help of victims of injustices and impunity and the call for better services and governance.

But it is clear for common Filipinos that it is not the reflection of where the country currently stands. The glory of this event lasts only for less than a month and after that, everything will be back to normal: the normal transport problems, the normal killings, and the normal plight of the Filipinos.

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Opinion

The Philippine National Anthem of Silence

Tito Sotto is now about to strum the final note of our farewell to freedom, and we are all happily singing along. The country is singing the prelude to its silence but many seem to forget that this is not some karaoke that every drunk uncles enjoy, this is our homeland—our freedom—and sadly, we still remain on the sidelines.

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Ever since we started our education, we are taught to take Lupang Hinirang deep into our hearts, even if we cannot fully comprehend its message when we were just 6 years old.

Now that I am 19 and have finally understood the hymn of the Filipinos, I’m terrified—for the freedom we sing proudly of is slowly slipping away from our grasp.

On the morning of 18th of June, my Twitter feed was peppered by the disgusted reactions of my peers because Senate President Tito Sotto has sent a letter to the Philippine Daily Inquirer where he “requests” the publication to take down Tito Sotto denies whitewashing of Pepsi Paloma rape case, The rape of Pepsi Paloma, and Was Pepsi Paloma murdered?

“I believe there was malicious imputation of a crime against me….These kinds of unverified articles have been negatively affecting my reputation for the longest time,” Sotto said.  

The articles in-question allegedly point to Sotto as the one who whitewashed the crime committed by the three comedy giants, Vic Sotto, Joey De Leon, and Richie D Horsie. Yet even after the publication of the articles, he remained docile.

Everything changed when Tito Sotto claimed his post last 21st of May. Only a week after his appointment, he sent the controversial letter to Inquirer.

It seems that more power comes with more privilege; and responsibility is quickly erased from the equation.

“You mean if I say that the people who are maligning me were paid to do so, that is freedom of the press? No. Original fake news,” Sotto said, instigating that he did not trample on the freedom of the media and that he filed the amendment of Republic Act No. 53 in support of the journalists.

However, why, in his long tenure in serving as a legislator, did he still let the propagators of “fake news” roam around the grand Malacañang halls? Why didn’t the incumbent Senate President ask Communications Assistant Secretary Margaux “Mocha” Uson to take down her post slandering the minor students of St. Scholastica who rallied against Marcos Burial? Why isn’t he condemning Presidential Speaker Harry Roque for invalidating the spread of fake news as mere “marketplace of ideas?” There’s already a list of fake news sites in the Philippines released by the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines in case he wants to check.

Disinformation and abuse of power combined is the favorite song the government likes to sing, and they are forcing the Filipinos to join its chorus. With the President conducting the melody with its frequent tirades against the media, wherein he demonizes the essence of the press—to inform the people—he and his blind followers are about to lead us back into the darkness, into oppression.

You may ask, how come a person like Sotto, who can’t even write his own speech and know the title of his country’s own national anthem, can force us into silence?

Because it is us who gave them the power. We are the ones who put them in that seat. And we need to stop putting the blame on the system because we are also to blame for we are part of the system, we propagated this injustice to plague our ailing country down to its core.

Tito Sotto is now about to strum the final note of our farewell to freedom, and we are all happily singing along. The country is singing the prelude to its silence but many seem to forget that this is not some karaoke that every drunk uncles enjoy, this is our homeland—our freedom—and sadly, we still remain on the sidelines.

Our ancestors spilt blood so we can sing Lupang Hinirang in liberty. Select your next song wisely.

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Ang kabataan ay lalaban

Ito ang panahon upang basagin ang takot, maghimagsik at kumilos, sapagkat ang magbalikwas ay makatarungan sa harap ng isang berdugo at pasista tulad ni Duterte.

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Malinaw sa atin ngayon na pinaninindigan na ni Pangulong Rodrigo Duterte ang pagiging pasista.

Makapal man ang piring ng kanyang mga sunud-sunuran sa kanyang walang-awang pamamaslang at patuloy na pagpapahirap sa mga maralita, magsasaka at mga katutubo, gayundin sa kanyang panunupil sa mga kritiko at mga mamamahayag, ang kabataan ay hindi mananahimik.

Ngayong araw, daan-daang mga mag-aaral mula sa iba’t ibang mga paaralan at pamantasan ang muling magmamartsa at magtitipun-tipon sa Mendiola upang ipakita ang kanilang pagtuligsa sa pasista at berdugong si Duterte. Nakasisiguro ako na ang kanyang mga kampon sa social media ay muli na namang babatikusin ang mga lalahok sa pagkilos na mag-aral na lamang sa halip na magprotesta sa mga lansangan.

Kung maari ko po lamang ipaalala sa mga nakatatanda, hindi na bago ang pagkilos ng mga mag-aaral at kabataan sa loob man o labas ng bansa—nasa tradisyon na ng mga Pilipinong mag-aaral at kabataan na tumindig laban sa mga manlulupig, mula kina José Rizal, Andrés Bonifacio at iba pang mga bayani ng himagsikan, hanggang sa mga mag-aaral na nangahas na lumaban sa diktadurang Marcos noong Sigwa ng Unang Kwarto at maging ang apat na araw na pagkilos sa EDSA na nagpabagsak kay Marcos na siyang gugunitain natin ngayong Linggo.

Handa ang kabataang Pilipino, kasama ng malawak na hanay ng masa, na lumaban at magbuwis ng buhay para sa kalayaan at makatarungang pagbabago. Ipinapakita lamang nito na, sa kabila ng lahat ng mga natututunan ng mga kabataan sa loob ng kanilang mga silid-aralan, hindi sila nagpapakulong sa intelektwal na tore ng akademiya at bagkus ay handa silang tumugon sa lipunan gamit ang kanilang mga natutunan.

Subalit, sa panahong ito, matindi ang hamon sa kabataan, lalo na sa harap ng laganap na indibidwalismo at pagkakanya-kanya, na magmulat, mag-organisa at magpakilos.

Napakadaling magbulag-bulagan, magbingi-bingihan, at patuloy na manahimik; napakadali ring magkunwari na may nagagawa ang pag-“like” at “share” sa social media na baguhin ang mga konretong suliranin ng lipunang Pilipino. Bagamat dapat nating gamitin ang social media upang ipahayag ang ating pagtuligsa sa pamahalaan, wala itong saysay at magiging mga simpleng salita lamang kung hindi ito tatapatan ng konreto at kolektibong pagkilos—isang pagkilos na nagpapakita ng pakikiisa ng kabataan sa pakikibaka ng malawak na hanay ng masang api na wala sa burgis na espasyo ng social media.

Sa panahong tumitindi na ang mga pasistang pag-atake ng pamahalaan sa mga aktibista, mga kritiko, at sa mismong sandigan ng demokrasya sa Pilipinas, ito ang oras upang kumawala sa tanikala ng ating pananahimik. Ito ang panahon upang magsalita. Ito ang panahon upang basagin ang takot, maghimagsik at kumilos, sapagkat ang magbalikwas ay makatarungan sa harap ng isang berdugo at pasista tulad ni Duterte.

Ito ang panahon upang muling magtungo sa lansangan, kung saan ang kabataang naglilingkod sa sambayanan ay titindig at lalaban.

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