Tuesday, March 31, 2009
As a short background, the Baselines Law was passed by the Philippine Congress and signed into law by President Arroyo as compliance to the requirements of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) to which the Philippines is a signatory. Under that convention, we had until May of 2009 to comply or otherwise, be left behind in the discussions on maritime laws and implementation of the same.
The Baselines Law provided the basics of our existence as a country, in that it defines where our sovereignty begins and ends, where we can exercise the enforcement of our laws and where we can take full advantage of natural resources for our country’s welfare.
Therefore, the Baselines Law’s passage is of utmost importance to us, one that Congress and the executive branch has taken seriously. On a personal note, it is one agenda that I closely followed in Congress, recognizing the need for us to institutionalize a policy on the matter.
It is already expected that China will react negatively once we pass the Baselines Law. Indeed, China immediately made us feel its displeasure through the diplomatic channels. Our envoys were called by the Chinese authorities to explain the Philippines’ action. They then sent one of their “state of the art” ships to the Spratly Islands area, an obvious flexing of muscles, although they explained it was not a warship but just a ship of some benign nature ( a fishing or research vessel).
So it would be perfectly acceptable and even expected if Mr. Tsao will slam the Philippines on its policy of passing the Baselines Law. After all, China is claiming the whole South China Sea. The Spratly Islands alone has at least six claimant countries, including the Philippines.
But what seemed to be a dig at Philippine foreign policy quickly turned into a racist slur when Mr. Tsao’s article then focused on his Filipina domestic assistant. His writings betrayed an apparent disdain for Filipinos, which is distant from the subject of a foreign policy in the South China Sea.
That’s where he earned the ire of the Lahing Kayumanggi, myself included.
While his style of writing is said to be satirical, it is quite evident that his particular article was not meant to question the Philippine Baselines Law but to take the opportunity to shame the Filipino people.
The label “Nation of Servants” which he used to refer to Filipinos was not meant as a compliment (which it actually should be) because of the context of what he wrote. By emphasizing that his Filipina domestic assistant was a holder of a degree in International Politics while she works 16 hours a day cleaning his toilet bowl, he condescendingly portrays Filipinos as good for nothing else than being subservient to a master.
Indeed, he implied that since our Overseas Filipino Workers are earning a living in their country, our Foreign Policy should not go against their interests, the “Masters”.
In fact, Mr. Tsao even portrayed them as “hostages”, reason for us not to offend them lest they terminate the employment of the OFWs.
In his article, he even wrote that he showed his Filipina employee a map and berated her for the actions of her country’s government. Let’s assume that Mr. Tsao really had a Filipina employee and that he really did that (because he might just be writing fiction aside from a satire), I am pretty sure that if he pointed out where the Spratly Islands are in relation to where the Philippines and China are, he would have to accept that the Spratly Islands are much, much closer to the Philippines than it is to China, even if he uses Hong Kong as a reference point.
That by itself will support the logic of our claim which is in compliance with the UNCLOS. So while China is entitled to howl in protest over our claim to the Spratlys, we are not claiming it from an impossible and indefensible standpoint.
Historically, those islands in the South China Sea belonged to us, such as in the case of the Treaty of Paris, when Spain ceded the Philippine Islands to the United States. This was not disputed back then by China. After the Second World War, that area was pretty much left as international waters, which emboldened the Filipinos to lay claim to it, owing to the close proximity it has with the Philippines.
Perhaps that is why Mr. Tsao simply chose to pick on his Filipino employee. He could not tackle the wisdom and logic of our claim so he simply insults us as a nation, using satire as an excuse.
Are we to take his attacks sitting down? Of course not!
But how are we to respond to his tirade? I chose to give him a dose of his own medicine. A satire, he says? Well, a satire, I say.
I have received varying responses to the blog entry I wrote, which I specifically described as being personal. Some said I should have acted in a more “noble” and “dignified” manner befitting my position as a congressman. One even described my blog entry as pathetic and ridiculous.
But I say return the trash to the one who gave it.
Some are proposing that we file a diplomatic protest with the government of China. I say why bother? Why waste the talent of our skilled foreign service on someone like him? He is just a writer scrounging for some attention. Why involve the Governments of two sovereign nations? He is not worth the paper that our diplomatic protest will be written on.
Someone suggested we file a complaint with his publisher. I say not. We will just be giving him the prestige that he longs for, having compelled a government to take action against him. He might even ask his publishers for a raise in talent fees for having stirred up international fame for their magazine.
Another suggestion was to simply ignore him. Well, that doesn’t sit well with me because to remain silent will be to abandon the dignity of our Filipino Overseas Workers who toil hard abroad, are called the Modern Day Heroes by a grateful nation and just have some crappy, ignorant bigot demean them.
I may be stooping down to his level by dishing out the same garbage he did, but I believe that as a representative of the People, I am not limited to doing my job to defend my nation through classy and elegant means. My response to Mr. Tsao may be seen by some as juvenile, ridiculous, pathetic, or even uncouth, but I think he deserves what he got from me acting as an individual, proud Filipino.
The article entitled “War at Home” written by Mr. Chip Tsao who used the satirical blanket to cloak what seems to be his disdain for Filipinos (after all, it wasn’t the first time that he took a shot at Filipinos) certainly generated a lot of noise from both sides of the fence. In fact, even those sitting on the fence were driven to make their own pitch. For that, Mr. Tsao must be flashing his pleased smile, proud of his work.
I am one of those who reacted to his article, matching his professed Chinese patriotism with that of my brown-skinned love for my country and countrymen. As a representative of the people, I have sworn to defend my nation, which not only means the Philippines as a country, but also the Filipinos as a People. I have to do this duty to stand up for my nation, warts and all.
All the hype generated by the controversy has gotten everyone to boot up their computers and scour the internet for anything about Mr. Tsao. Many have come across my blog entry, and many have responded with their own comments. With the diversity of ideas out there, some have agreed and some have disagreed.
In this free world (most places in the world are free), everyone is entitled to their opinion. As there are those who take Mr. Tsao to task for writing his article, I was sure even before I clicked the “Publish” button to post my blog that there would be those who would take me to task for writing it.
And indeed, some have taken me to task about it. I’ve given respect to their comments by publishing them in my blog. No editing or censorship. After all, they took the time to write, so their opinions deserve to be shared.
I purposely wrote my blog in my own attempted satirical manner as a reciprocation of his actions. It was meant as my personal response to something that I had personal feelings about. That’s why I published it in my personal blogs and not in my official website.
But what was the fuss all about?
Well, I was deeply incensed and insulted by the condescending manner in which Mr. Tsao wrote about the Philippines as a nation. While I do appreciate satire, there is a line drawn between criticism and insult. I am one of those who believe that the only way one will solve a problem is for one to recognize and acknowledge the problem. Indeed, we should take criticism as a mirror where we can see the dirt on our face so that we can wipe it off.
Mr. Tsao’s article did not dwell on the issue of the conflict between China and the Philippines but it more focused on his Filipina employee and how he treats her, which was reflective of how he looks at Filipinos. Was there anything in his article which somehow gave an explanation as to why the Philippines is wrong in passing its Baselines Law? Obviously, there was none.
His mention of the Philippine claim to parts of the Spratly Islands was a mere excuse for him to proceed to rant and rave against the Filipinos as a nation. Bigotry hiding under the guise of patriotism. That’s why my first response was a personal one. I made that clear in my blog…it was personal. It wasn’t about the Filipinos versus the Chinese but the Filipinos versus Mr. Tsao.
One commenter said that my mention of melamine and lead-laced toys was a racial slur. I don’t see how the mention of melamine and lead-laced toys make a statement a racial slur. The inclusion of melamine and lead in consumer products is a result of poor quality control in manufacturing. It may be committed by anyone from any race. So how can it be a racial slur?
Of course, it just so happened that the world was scandalized by melamine-laced milk and lead-coated toys produced from Chinese factories.
As I said, my blog post was personal and it had nothing to do with any person or any race aside from the Filipinos and Mr. Tsao.
Another said that I shouldn’t be “petty and stand up with some nobility”. Well, reacting to an insult to my nation certainly isn’t petty. With regard to nobility…well…I do stand up for ladies and give due respect to persons who deserve respect. But for Mr. Tsao, he deserves what he gets from the Filipinos.
One reader, a Dr. Gustilo from Texas, sent an email directly to me, and said that “While I enjoyed reading your response to the article of Tsip Tsao, I would really like to ask you to respond within the dignity of your office thru a more logical and scholarly approach to the matter discussed by Tsao”.
Now that I have dished out what I think Mr. Tsao deserves from me, I will offer to everyone else the reasons why the Philippines is justified in making those claims in the South China Sea (which Mr. Tsao miserably did not elaborate on).
(to be continued)
Sunday, March 29, 2009
I do not know if Mr. Tsao is on the brink of turning this into a Filipinos vs. Chinese conflict, but before that happens, I would like to caution our countrymen to not fall into this trap. It’s not really about the Filipinos vs. the Chinese.
It’s about the Filipinos vs. Mr. Chip Tsao. Let's make it personal.
But still, I would still give Mr. Tsao the benefit of the doubt. Being the patient and understanding man that I am, I am trying to see things from where Mr. Tsao is coming from. I am trying to rationalize why he wrote those things and why he has that point of view.
I have come to some theories why I think he wrote that article. If you have any other explanation in mind, please try to add through your comments.
My theories are:
1. His mother fed him milk which had melamine, produced from their country’s factories that have very low quality control standards.
2. As a child, he chewed on his lead-paint-coated toys also produced from their low-quality factories.
3. As he grew up, he always had siopao which were filled with imitation meat made of cardboard.
4. He was supposed to be aborted by the State, but somehow, the abortion tool only managed to tear off half his brain and he survived.
5. He had psychological trauma because he wanted so bad to join the Chinese Olympic Gymnastics team but he was rejected by the State because he couldn’t tell which was right and left (owing to having only half a brain)
6. He harbors ill feelings towards Filipinos who are given worldwide recognition for being good English communicators while he, even though being educated in a British colony, is still asked to repeat over and over again what he is saying because of the heavy Chinese accent in his English. So, he tries to prove his worth by writing.
7. He has an insatiable lust for Filipinas but he keeps getting turned down because of his revolting facial features, incurable halitosis and extremely small penis.
8. He is trying to gain attention because as a child and even up to his teenage days, he was so insignificant that nobody noticed his existence.
9. His own country ignores him, so he takes a shot at the Filipinos in the hope that we would react to him, finally gaining recognition for his pathetic existence on Earth.
10. He was bullied when he was a kid and always pissed and shit in his pants out of fear but never had the chance or even the courage to fight back. So he picks a fight with his own employee, or people who live overseas, confident that he will not get a fist in the eye for doing so.
Sunday, March 15, 2009
The highlight of that phone call was President Obama's message to "affirm his country’s alliance with the Philippines and its commitment to the controversial Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA)", as the newspapers reported (http://newsinfo.inquirer.net/inquirerheadlines/nation/view/20090315-194199/Obama-calls-Arroyo-on-VFA)
But Malacanang's ecstasy over President Obama's phone call is disturbing, since it appears that the US President's statement that he is committed to the Visiting Forces Agreement is interpreted by Malacanang as being favorable to our national interest.
While it must be acknowledged that the Armed Forces of the Philippines derives benefits from the VFA, it must also be admitted that the US interpretation on how the VFA is implemented, particularly the Cpl. Smith custody issue, is clearly one sided.
Obama's statement is not a commitment to respect Philippine sovereignty but a commitment only to US interests. It is sad that Malacanang got so excited with the phone call itself and failed to discern what the message was.
Instead of asserting what the Philippine Republic's Supreme Court said about the custody of Cpl. Smith, Malacanang got star struck and said, "You had me at hello!"
Sunday, March 08, 2009
There seems to be something wrong with the Public Attorney’s Office taking on the case of the PNP personnel involved in the EDSA shooting as their legal counsel.
First, the PAO’s mandate is to “Provide the indigent sector access to counsel at the time of need” and this is elaborated further in their Mission, which states, “Provide indigent litigants free access to courts, judicial and quasi-judicial agencies by rendering legal assistance in consonance with the constitutional mandate that says ‘free access to courts shall not be denied by reason of poverty’.”
The PNP personnel do not fall into the category of clients that the PAO is supposed to cater to. They are not indigents who do not have free access to the courts, judicial and quasi-judicial agencies and they are not unable to avail of the services of counsel to assist and represent them during litigation.
While some may say that a policeman’s salary prevents him from availing the services of top notch lawyers or law firms, the policemen involved in the EDSA incident are not totally defenseless.
The policemen are being accused of violations of human rights and proper rules of procedure while in the performance of their duty. The Chief Public Attorney herself concurs with this, since she is arguing that the policemen were in a legitimate police operation. If that were the case, then it is clear that the policemen should be defended by the PNP’s own Legal Service, which is primarily tasked to serve the police’s legal counsel.
In fact, the PNP Legal Service’s Mission Statement says, “To provide quality, efficient and effective legal services to the Philippine National Police (PNP) and legal assistance to its members and their legal dependents.”
Another fact is that a policeman may avail of the service of the PNP-LS even if his case is not connected to his official duty, as listed in the PNP-LS functions, which specifically says that that the PNP-LS will “Provide legal assistance and advice to PNP members and their legal dependents regardless of whether or not the legal issue arose from the official functions of the member concerned.”
In the performance of this function, the PNP-LS is not even alone. As listed in their functions, the PNP-LS will “Serves as legal counsel of the PNP. Represents the PNP and/or collaborates with the Office of the Solicitor General in all civil actions before the regular court and quasi judicial bodies where the PNP is involved or has an interest to protect.”
So it is very clear that the policemen involved in the EDSA shooting do not qualify as clients of the PAO. Ironically, it may even be the suspects, who are unfortunately now dead, who may be qualified as clients of the PAO.
Second, it is disturbing to see the Public Attorney’s Office castigate the Commission on Human Rights for performing its constitutional mandate to defend the rights especially of those who may be victims of the State’s use of power and means of violence.
The PAO’s mistaken assumption of the role as the policemen’s counsel has placed the two agencies on a collision course, while the PNP, which is responsible as an institution and equipped for the purpose to answer for their personnel’s actions stands aside and be detached from the fray.
It really disconcerting to hear the PAO even moving for the CHR to cease and desist from investigating what clearly is a question of human rights.
What the PAO needs to do is cease and desist from being the counsel of the policemen because it is not within its mandate of providing legal assistance for the indigent and deprived. The PNP is perfectly capable to legally defend itself.
What the PAO should be doing instead of taking the airwaves to defend a case that is not within its mandate is to do an inventory of the thousands of indigents who are presently rotting in jail without the benefit of counsel. The precious time of the PAO spent in media castigating the CHR is best spent in defending those are suffering incarceration and litigation without a counsel to speak in their behalf.
In my nearly 40 years on this earth, few deaths, aside those of whom I know personally, have had relevance to me. I am referring to people who I have no personal connection with, people who I have not even met personally but somehow made a lasting impression on me.
It is one of the ironies in life, where sometimes people who are near you don’t have as much an impact or influence on you than someone who is so distant from you they might as well be in another planet.
Take for instance Ninoy Aquino. I never met the man nor had the chance to even see him in person while he was alive as I was still too busy with the concerns of an early teener than the affairs of the state. But his life, work and ideals have an impact embedded in my own consciousness that as I now perform my duty as a public official, I look to his ideas and principles as model for my own.
One of those whose death, but most of all, whose life, has etched a mark in my yardstick of life lessons is Francis Magalona--- the Master Rapper, The Mouth. His passing came as a reminder to me that our time on this earth is not ours to waste but is lent to us in order to contribute to the rich color of what FrancisM called the Kaleidoscope World.
We do not know when our lives will cease but we should be aware that we only have one life to live, and it is our duty, even our obligation to make that life productive and relevant. No matter what status in life we are in, we are all called upon to make full use of the time allowed us on earth.
Francis Magalona did just that. Although he has left this world at the young age of 44, it cannot be said that he lived a mediocre life. Perhaps one may even look at it as if he knew that his time on earth will not be long since he was able to make his life relevant to the world at an early age.
At an age when many have not even realized the purpose of their lives, Kiko had already distinguished himself and inspired others with his talent in performing. There are not a few in my own generation who developed their own talents because of what they saw in The Man from Manila. He gave Filipino culture a fighting chance against the onslaught of foreign pop influence, making a mark in the genre of rap, rock and hip-hop.
But he did not stop there. Taking it a step further, he used his talent to promote nationalism and Filipino pride by taking on themes which highlighted social, cultural and national issues which affected and afflicted Philippine society.
I would say that his work as an artist, which was actually a social commentary, had a profound influence in my own thinking as I was maturing during that time. Music and pop culture always has a big influence on the youth. In other countries, artists who sing about hate, racial tensions, addiction and depression contribute to the high rates of drug use, suicide, violence and spread of anarchy. But Francis’ themes of national pride and patriotism somehow kept the Filipino youth in check, and instilled in their minds and hearts the love for our country, its culture and its heritage.
Even when death seemed to catch up on him, he kept his performance level in high gear and lived a fulfilled life. In the homestretch, he still found the desire and drive to prove his love for the country and inspire others to do the same.
In yet another creative endeavor, he found a way to promote nationalism through fashion, by launching a clothing line which bore the symbols of our country, the Three Stars and a Sun.
It gave me such pleasure to see people, young people at that, proudly display the Three Stars and a Sun on their shirts, caps, keychains, etc. For me, it is a great statement of nationalism for one to be proud to wear the Three Stars and the Sun, in the same manner that Americans show their pride with the Red, White and Blue or the Stars and Stripes incorporated into designs.
Once again, Francis Magalona showed how to live the one life he was given. While we mourn his loss at a young age, I also think that we should celebrate his life which was lived not only for himself and his family, but for a country that deserves more patriots like him.
Farewell, Francis. And Thank You!
Wednesday, March 04, 2009
Attributing the impeachment case against Ombudsman Merceditas Gutierrez to the Liberal Party and former Congressman Nereus Acosta and making it appear as a partisan act is obviously an attempt to muddle the issue by politicizing the whole affair, which is actually a matter of the Ombudsman’s public accountability.
Portraying the Liberal Party as being behind the impeachment raps with only political motives to fuel it is an insult to the distinguished members of civil society who have initiated the filing of the complaint. With the exception of former Senate President Jovito Salonga who acted as head of Kilosbayan and Bantay Katarungan, those who filed the complaint do not belong to the LP and they acted on their civic duty and conscience to hold the Ombudsman accountable for what they see as failures of the one tasked to go after corrupt government officials.
While members of the Liberal Party have spoken out in support of the complaint, it s not because of partisan interest but in pursuit of the public interest in the cases that were mentioned in the complaint. It may be in line with the party’s principles of transparency, accountability and oversight, but definitely it is not for political gain.
In fact, those who speak in favor of the impeachment complaint may even be subject severe backlash and retaliation such as the case of former Congressman Nereus Acosta whose case was suddenly brought forth to the public attention after leaders of the LP put the Ombudsman to task for not acting swiftly on celebrated cases which involved allies of the administration.
The Liberal Party members, particularly those in the House of Representatives, are still in the process of individual assessment of the complaint, since they will cast their vote as individuals in the impeachment process.
It is consistency with party principles, not partisan persuasions, which compel LP members to speak out and seek answers to the charges filed against the Ombudsman. It is public interest, not political favor, which the party looks after in its position not only on this case, but in all issues it confronts.
In the face of attempts to confuse the people in this issue, what the public should understand and focus on is that this affair is not a political swordfight and partisan maneuvering but instead, it is about the people exacting accountability from an official who was tasked by the Constitution to go after violators of the law.