“Sa kania’y utang ang unang pagtangap
ng simuy ng hanging nagbibigay lunas
sa inis na puso na sisingasingap
sa balong malalim ng siphayo’t hirap
(To her one owes the first kiss
of the wind that is the balm
of the oppressed heart drowning
in the deep well of misfortune and suffering)”—Andres Bonifacio, Pagibig sa Tinubuang Bayan (Love of Country) as translated by Teodoro Agoncillo
@mephenstalkmus' post reminded me of this song from the same album. It’s a good thing someone posted this here on Tumblr. This song and the others from the album bring back precious memories of high school.
Survival International reports of tribal communities in Palawan, Philippines, “some of whom have little contact with outsiders”, protesting against the joint venture of Lucio Tan’s MacroAsia Corporation and China’s Jinchuan Group Ltd; in a signed agreement “to extract up to one million metric tons of nickel ore a year from the tropical Filipino forest of Brooke’s Point.”
What is obvious and real is: the very existence of the indigenous peoples and the transnational corporations (plus petty politics) are incompatible presences. Both poses a question to human survival. The corporations have the legal mandate to pursue their selfish interests not withstanding the costs, human lives and livelihoods. The indigenous peoples’ right to self-determination and the protection and maintenance of their culture, tradition and customs while beautifully written on the paper of human rights are yet to be enacted and universally respected.
Must the natives always give way to “the pathological pursuit of profit and power” as the eminent Canadian legal theorist Joel Bakan correctly ascribes to the corporation, with the complicity of local politicians who themselves are landed proprietors?
The loss of lands (which includes culture, tradition and customs) is a dark history in perpetual process: a reality being lived. Societal indifference and political cowardice provides the means to sustain this reality, and the answer to the question we posed is incessantly denied to the victims.
The natives are but numbers and figures in an insidious economic theory the basis of which is self-interest. The cost is countermanded by the benefit. If advancing profits mean creating “development” refugees out of the natives and configuration of ancestral lands into cash pools, as the theory goes, the end justify the means, all is well.
“Why don’t you just kill us outright and be done with it!” says the native. “Why make us suffer a slow death of degradation, humiliation and starvation? Why entice us with your beautiful words, ‘progress,’ ‘development,’ ‘modernity,’? Do not tell us how to live!”
And I agree with @panchodelaluna's views on the struggle of the indigenous, and how their slow extermination by commercial interest and the apathy of greater apathy of Philippines can lead to losses beyond repair.
The italicized quote above on the sentiment of the indigenous is almost verbatim to what I have repeatedly heard from Aytas, Manobos, Higaonons, Subanons and Talaandigs then up to now. The most recent occasion of which was the conference last week in Cagayan de Oro.
The gathering last week was actually the third of a series of conferences which called for the recognition and proclamation of the indigenous communities’ conservation areas. Aside from the declaration of the territories as ancestral domain, a recent move initiated by the United Nations Development Programme, encourages the indigenous to have their sacred areas identified and recognized.
The move to have sacred grounds and conserved areas proclaimed and protected is one of the offshoots of the UN Declaration on the Rights of the Indigenous People, the others being the recognition of indigenous methods in environmental conservation are as effective as those of mainstream society and customary law within the ancestral domain must be respected by UN member-nations.
In a talk given by PAFID Executive Director Dave de Vera, he pointed out that huge portions of the key biodiversity areas in country are within the ancestral domain of the indigenous groups. And it is these areas which are now being eyed by logging and mining firms who have already exhausted the resources in other areas.
“The happiest moments of my life have been the few which I have past at home in the bosom of my family…. public employment contributes neither to advantage nor happiness. It is but honorable exile from one’s family and affairs.”—Thomas Jefferson
Ubay-ubay ang kabag-uhan akong nakit-an ug nasinati sa yutang akong gidak-an. Ang uban nagdala’g kalipay samtang ang uban makasubo, ug usahay, makapungot. Maingong galangkob kini tanan sa giingong pag-uswag sa yutang gidak-an. Apan, nanghinaut ako nga unta ang tanang mga kabag-uhan sa yutang akong gidak-an alang sa kaayuhan sa katauhan ug dili magdala ug kadaut ug kagubot
I have seen and experienced several new things in the land of my birth. Some bring happiness while others fill me with sadness and sometimes frustration. One can say that all these are part of the development of one’s hometown. But, I do hope that all the changes in my hometown would be for the better of the people and not one which shall bring destruction and chaos.
I spent the past few days back in the city of my birth - Cagayan de Oro. I was supposed to attend a gathering of indigenous communities who are planning to have their conservation areas recognized and proclaimed. Incidentally though, it is not the only gathering for indigenous people in the city, I was informed that there were also a couple of other gatherings being held in the city.
Much have changed in the city over the past few years, if not these past few months. Already I hear a lot of Tagalog-speaking people in local coffee shops, fast food outlets and malls. I also see a lot of new clothing and other shops as well as banks. New commerical buildings are also on the rise. These on top of the infrastructure projects which the local government has embarked into.
But while there is infrasructure development and an apparent inflow of financial capital, my observation was marred by the news reports of an old colleague who was shot by unknown persons. Bombo Radyo Cagayan de Oro reporter Michael James Licuanan (more popularly known as James Dacoycoy) was attacked after finishing his program in a local radio station. I have been told that he is now in the Intensive Care Unit of one of the city’s hospitals. I sure hope he recovers soon.
And the contrast between the visible development and the attack on Dacoycoy mirrors the challenges posed by the growth of cities in a supposedly democratic republic. And where the protection of civil liberties is threatened with the rise of development-related undergound interests.
The massacre that caught the world’s attention and gave the country the reputation as the world’s most dangerous place for journalists haunts Mindanao journalists two years later.
Asked to take pictures of the Davao mansions of the Ampatuan clan, a photojournalist who normally covers stories in conflict areas promptly asked, “Are there snipers there?”
A TV5 camera crew which had taken shots of the mansions during the day refused to film nighttime scenes in the area because of the reported presence of armed men in the buildings. “That is impunity,” said Jeffrey Tupas of TV5 Davao.
“It was an eye-opener,” said Art Bonjoc Jr., the area news manager of ABS-CBN news and current affairs in Northern Mindanao, when he talked about the massacre that killed 58 people, 33 of them journalists, in Ampatuan town in Maguindanao two years ago on November 23.
“It made me realize the Philippine press is not free at all; and if journalists are not free, then, Filipinos, in general, are not free. The more reason for media to be vigilant,” said Bonjoc, also chairman of Cagayan de Oro chapter of the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP).
“There is broad consensus on the critical role of free and independent media in a democracy. According to the architect of North American democracy, Thomas Jefferson, the accepted
axiom is that democracy is not possible in the absence of a free press. “Were it left to me to decide whether we should have a government without newspapers, or newspapers without
government,” he said, “I should not hesitate a moment to prefer the latter.” Adding, “But I should mean that every man should receive those papers, and be capable of reading them.”
In other words, it is not enough to consider the news media in the abstract, as if their mere existence were sufﬁcient for a free society. We must look at how the news media function,
their relationship to governing institutions and how the media are used by ordinary people. There is a positive responsibility, therefore, that the news media serve the needs of citizens that arise from democracy.”—Democracy and the Media: The Ineluctable Connection between Democracy and the Quality of Journalism
I woke up to this Facebook status update today from Mindanao-based photojournalist Froilan Gallardo:
LESS than 48 hours after we attended the End the Impunity march and concert, gunmen attacked Bombo radio reporter and anchor Michael James Licuanan or popularly known as James Dacoycoy after…
I would like to conclude that drug dealers listen to radio news and commentaries more than the government officials and national security authorities do.
I don’t think the issue here is about the threats being imposed upon the freedom of the press - the issue here is that people who have ill intentions use this to their advantage. Had the authorities listened to Dacoycoy and did something about whatever he was reporting, the story would’ve been different.
I personally tune in to Neil Ocampo on most of my weekday mornings, and I would’ve gunned him down if I were Herbert Bautista.
Yep, to some extent, it is not press freedom per se but more on the threats to it. The issue is impunity and why the government seems to do nothing.
In the case of Licuanan a.k.a. Dacoycoy, he was free in airing his tirades against groups and individuals until he attacked some who seem to resort to the use of intimidation and violence. And those behind the attack resorted to violence knowing that they will get away with it. Now that is impunity.
The use of violence against members of the press is an indication of how still semi-feudal our so called post-modern country really is. It shows how many among us, including the supposedly educated, privileged and powerful, resort to the satisfaction of their basest instincts instead of using the legal and civil remedies at their disposal.
People like Herbert Bautista, Gloria Arroyo and all of our public officials should always expect criticism from members of the media. That is the media’s obligation to the people. Of course, it goes without saying that they be praised for exceptional behavior, the operative term being exceptional.
It is the media’s duty to the public that their eyes should be trained upon those who occupy public offices, public business interests and public figures. The media are supposed to antagonize and scrutinize public officials, heads of corporations and suspicious individuals in an effort to ensure the extraction of unvarnished truth in the discharge of government powers, corporate practice and shady involvements.
Just a couple of days after the Maguindanao Massacre, armed men attack another journalist
I woke up to this Facebook status update today from Mindanao-based photojournalist Froilan Gallardo:
LESS than 48 hours after we attended the End the Impunity march and concert, gunmen attacked Bombo radio reporter and anchor Michael James Licuanan or popularly known as James Dacoycoy after he stepped out from his station in Cagayan de Oro City last night. Luckily, the gunmen missed Dacoycoy on their first shot. Dacoycoy fled to the nearest fire station in Cogon but was fired upon again. This time, the bullet found its mark, hitting Dacoycoy on his left buttock. The bullet exited through his stomach. He was still in intensive care as of 3am this morning.
Terror has struck the very heart of the free press in Cagayan de Oro. The attack sent a chilling effect to all its members. We believed the attempt on his life was made after Dacoycoy assailed the nefarious drug trade in the city. Two months ago, the NUJP had asked reporters what issue they think would pose a great threat to their lives. Their answer is unanimous: drugs. They said if they received reports that journalists would be killed if they would touch on the drug trade in Cagayan de Oro.
I never thought such things could happen in Cagayan de Oro. Not in the city of my birth. But it has and it must be condemned.
This comes a bit of a shock to the city, especially since the Cagayan de Oro press has always been proud to be free, even during the height of Marcos’ Martial Law. Several of its members even claim that the local media was among the earliest in the country which celebrated Press Freedom Day.
A few years ago, Cagayan de Oro RMN radio commentator and later city councilor Zaldy Ocon was also allegedly attacked by unknown men. But many in the local media community dismissed it as a case of “ambush-me” or self-orchestrated attack. Ocon has denied the accusations but the belief among local journos persisted.
In the case of Licuanan or Dacoycoy (as how many among us address him), it is very much real and serious. And this is something which as Froilan said above, would strike fear into the hearts of journalists in Ang Dakbayan sa Bulawanong Panaghigalaay (The City of Golden Friendship).
I had worked with James back then in the local crime beat. I was with the guy in several anti-drug raids, press conferences and special coverages. And the guy never fails to bring a few laughs to the group. Recalling his gregarious nature, I cannot imagine how someone would find reasons to kill him.
Aside from what happened to Dacoycoy, another journalist was also threatened in Butuan City just a couple of days earlier. ABS-CBN Butuan reporter Rodge Cultura was tipped off that some businessmen gave out a P 50,000 bounty on his head. Cultura’s reports on the illegal logging operations in the area apparently ruffled some feathers.
And so it would seem that the culture of impunity is very much alive in this country. Long live Philippine democracy!
The Surpeme Court, voting 14-0, has ordered the distribution of almost 5,000 hectares of land to some 6,000 farmer beneficiaries of Hacienda Luisita Inc.(HLI), the sugar plantation owned by the Cojuangco side of the family of President Benigno Aquino III.
In a 56-page decision, the 14 magistrates “recalled and set aside” the option given to the farmer beneficiaries — some of them members of Alyansa ng mga Manggagawang Bukid sa Hacienda Luisita (Ambala) and Farm Workers Agrarian Reform Movement (FARM) — to remain as stockholders of HLI.
While the timing seems suspect, especially after negative perception of the Supreme Court’s actions in the debate on former President Arroyo’s right to travel, I join the rest of the country in celebrating the settlement of this case.
The decision to give the land to the farmers is long overdue. And it is a landmark decision in the continuing struggle for agrarian reform in the country. At least, the high court got this one right.
“In going where you have to go, and doing what you have to do, and seeing what you have to see, you dull and blunt the instrument you write with. But I would rather have it bent and dulled and know I had to put it on the grindstone again and hammer it into shape and put a whetstone to it, and know that I had something to write about, than to have it bright and shining and nothing to say, or smooth and well oiled in the closet, but unused.”—Ernest Hemingway
Kung wala kayang mga mamamahayag na kasamang pinatay sa tinaguriang Ampatuan Massacre, ganoon din kaya ang lebel ng interes ng publiko at media hype tungkol dito? O ituturing lang na isa na namang ordinaryong patayan? Na kapag naglao’y agad ding makakalimutan? Tingnan mo ang nangyari sa Quirino Grandstand Hostage Tragedy, hanggang ngayon, wala pa ding nananagot. E paano kaya, mabuti naman at hindi, kung may isa o dalawang mamamahayag na nasa loob ng bus na iyon? Ano sa tingin mo?
Alalahanin ang mga namatay hindi lamang dahil may mga kasamang mamamahayag na namatay. Alalahanin dahil mga kapwa natin tao, mga kapwa natin Pilipino, ang nagbuwis ng buhay para sa pansariling interes ng iilan.
Wakasan ang kultura ng impunity. E ano bang Tagalog sa impunity? Ewan. Ito na lang siguro at mas madaling maiintindihan ng mga kinauukulan:
Hustisya para sa lahat ng biktima ng mabagal at kawalang hustisya!
- Mga bagay na napagtanto sa pagtambay sa Twitter
Emphasis on the first paragraph, mine. And apologies John but I disagree.
While I may have read and heard that opinion a lot of times since the massacre happened two years ago, I think it is a perspective which lack the appreciation of the role of the press in a democracy.
As a former journalist who used to report from Mindanao, I can tell you that even if there were no journalists involved in the massacre, the story would still have been reported by Mindanao journalists. Whether or not it would have been noticed by the national media organizations in Manila, and its coverage sustained, would depend on the trends or moods of the people in the national capital.
Take for example a tragedy least known in Luzon but very much widely reported in Mindanao and the Visayas: the Hubangon flash flood of 2001. When the flash flood and land slide hit Hubangon in Camiguin Island, more than 300 were killed and hundreds more were missing. This same storm also caused over a hundred deaths in nearby islands in the Visayan sea.
The disaster hit the headlines of the regional, national and even international press. But when news of Nida Blanca’s death, national media programs suddenly shifted their focus from the disaster that befell the island-province. All of a sudden, the national media forgot about the deaths of hundreds of Filipinos in far away Camiguin. And I bet, very few in the younger generation of Filipinos have actually heard of what happened to Hubangon.
From experience I would say that how newsrooms evaluate which stories to air and which to shelf, or as they say it in the newsrooms, embargo, largely also depends on what is perceived by some senior desk editors, producers and other executives as in the public’s interest. And in some cases, there are stories which are aired because they fit social trends or uso in the national capital.
The Maguindanao massacre should be viewed not only as a brutal mass murder of innocent civilians by armed agents of local politicians but also as the state of disrepair of our democracy.
I have been to several gatherings which talked about strengthening democracy and empowering the people and all of these have emphasized the important role of the press. And all those events have taught me that the measure of the health of a democracy is the state of being of its media. Which brings me to my second point…
It is the right of citizens to demand quality and truthful reportage from the media. The people and media must work hand in hand to, as what I said in an earlier post, check the excesses of the government. In a democratic society, media organizations, acting on behalf of the people, are expected to uncover the suspicious acts of its public officials, uncover shady deals and espouse the issues of the least, oppressed and forgotten segments of the population.
In a genuine democracy, the freedom of the press goes hand in hand with the freedom of expression and the freedom of speech. This means that the extent of the freedom of the press is the measure of the extent by which the citizens in a state can freely express themselves.
If media practitioners in a supposedly democratic country are silenced by the gun, the goons or the gold, then there is a culture of impunity in that country. Impunity, which is the state by which certain individuals are exempt from punishment, can be loosely translated in our languages as naghahahariharian in Tagalog and hawud in Cebuano. And yes, true enough, there are certain areas in the country where there are political families na naghahahariharian and mga hawud kaayo.
The Maguindanao massacre is proof that there are certain groups in the country who think that they are above the law. And whatever they do, even to members of the media who can divulge their acts to the rest of the world, is beyond reproach or penalties imposed by law. That such a massacre happened in a supposedly republican democracy should challenge us to look closely at our social institutions and ask if they mirror the ideals supposedly dominant in a democratic society.
“Live from the source.” CNN print ad campaign by DDB & Co. (Turkey)
I just really like this campaign so much. It made me laugh and die a little inside (since, you know, we’re still not getting the recommended news from the sources).
Yep, it is funny. But somehow, and I hope you’d forgive me, I have mixed feelings about it. While it is humorous as it is, I actually see something different beyond the faces of the political figures.
The use of the political leaders as reporters to me seem disturbing since it creates the feeling that the media is controlled by those in power. And not all of those in power actually speak for the people in their countries.
Like in the case of Putin above, I don’t think the guy will ever report the things he has done in the Russian economy to suit his political and commercial agenda. I also don’t think his government will report the continuing harassment media practitioners in Russia are subjected to.
If the reports on a particular country only come from those in power, then it will all be glossy and devoid of the pains that the least in that country’s population undergo. They will not reveal wide-spread poverty, unemployment, hunger, lack of housing, a spiraling economy or the summary execution of opposition figures and journalists.
I have always thought that journalism is the people’s counterbalance to the excesses of government and public personalities. It is supposed to bring to light what those in power would like to keep in the dark. It is supposed to reveal the true conditions of a state.
I see your point, but I did write that I did “die a little inside.” You know the saying, the rather unfortunate, negative and just plain sad saying: “He who controls the media controls the culture… or just about anything.” Interesting view raised, Kim.
In terms of creativity, it got to me as it was humorous, but the message is, as you said, misleading. I doubt that CNN made it with irony.
Honestly, were it not for Putin, it would have been arguably okay since all the other world leaders featured in the ads (see pictures in previous post) are not suspected as using state agents in silencing members of the press.
True, the ads were funny, and I did laugh when I saw Sarkozy, Merkel and Obama. But when I saw Putin, I started imagining Hu Jintao, Hugo Chaves and Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. Sorry Myts, I just read too much on the things I see.
MANILA, Philippines (AP) — Relatives of 57 people massacred in 2009 in the southern Philippines are suing former President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo over the killings, which they claim she could have prevented, a lawyer said Tuesday.
At least two Arroyo allies, including a former governor of an autonomous Muslim region, are among about 100 suspects being tried on murder charges in the country’s worst politically motivated bloodbath, which occurred two years ago Wednesday. The dead included 32 media workers, making it the worst single killing of journalists in the world.
Arroyo was arrested last week on charges that she ordered the former governor, Andal Ampatuan Sr., and another official to commit election fraud two years before the massacre. Arroyo has condemned and denied any knowledge of the killings, but lawyer Harry Roque said she should have known that Ampatuan and his son were a danger.
Roque said would file the lawsuit Tuesday, seeking 15 million pesos ($346,000) in damages.
Sir Kim, gusto ko lang kayong tanungin kung kumusta na ang insomnia nyo at kung nabawasan na ba ang tasa ng kape na iniinom nyo sa isang araw. lol random
Sir AJ! Kamusta? (spoken in the Mar Roxas fashion) Been a while since I heard from you.
The insomnia is always there. There may be times when it goes away for a while, but it comes back after a few weeks or so. It’s actually due to several experiences I went through. I guess I will always have that with me.
Coffee? Ganun pa rin! I still drink a minimum of five cups during daytime. Been a coffee addict since my high school days and I’ve never stopped since. I may drink tea and other drinks from time to time, but coffee’s a staple. They keep me going, especially on a heavy day at work.
*This has been a random post brought to you by @ethanolic*
Hi sir! ano masasabi niyo sa nangyayari kay Gloria ngayon? Happy sa naging outcome po ba?
Hi sir! Thanks for the question on a rainy Tuesday morning Rhadson! Happy? Well, not exactly.
While I had always hoped that Arroyo and her kamag-anaks would be made to face the accusations hurled against them, I hope the necessary processes for their proper arrest have been observed.
We should forget that under our laws, any defects or failure to observe the procedures might result in the dismissal of the case, and Arroyo and Co, set free. The accused and the rest of her family enjoy the same rights and privileges we all do.
I do join the rest of the country in expressing delight at her arrest. But we should not be too ecstatic. What we are seeing are just pitched battles where each side is trying to use every legal remedy or provision of law to their advantage. Simula pa lang to.
What we are seeing is just the start of a protracted war to exact accountability from Gloria and her family. It will a long struggle where we must all bear witness and be vigilant.
The basics: Syria is an Arab country with more than 22 million people; it borders many of the major players in the Middle East (Israel, Lebanon, Iraq, Jordan, Turkey) and is roughly the size of North Dakota. Syria famously lost the Golan Heights to Israel in 1967, during the Arab-Israeli war; negotiations between the two countries have been minimal in recent years. Like many countries in the region, Syria’s main export is oil. Unlike Saudi Arabia or Iran, however, Syria’s oil reserves are relatively small; it ranks 33rd in the world. Syria is home to a smorgasbord of ethnicities and religions: Arabs, Kurds, Christians, Sunnis, Alawites, and Druze. The capital, Damascus, is a bustling metropolis (many believe it to be the oldest continuously inhabited city in the world) but is not the site of the country’s most significant protests. That city, Hama, is the country’s fourth-largest, with fewer than one million occupants.
Who’s in charge?: Bashar al-Assad has ruled Syria since 2000. His father, Hafez al-Assad, a member of the Ba’ath Party, came to power in 1970 after leading a bloodless coup. Hafez Assad’s family came from a minority religious sect: the Alawites, an offshoot of Shia Islam. In 1982, Hafez Assad ordered one of the most brutal massacres in the recent history of the Middle East: His troops killed nearly 20,000 people in—interestingly—the city of Hama. In 2000, Hafez Assad died, and Bashar took over. To some, the shift from Hafez to Bashar suggested an opportunity (albeit limited) for Syria to become a more moderate country. Eleven years later, it seems Bashar is intent on following in his father’s footsteps. Of course, Vogue magazine, in its recent profile of first-lady Asma Assad, did say that Syria is “the safest country in the Middle East.” So, that’s something.
What’s happening? Since March, Syrians, especially those in Hama, have intermittently protested the Assad government. During the first week of August—which this year coincided with Ramadan, the holiest time in Islam—the Syrian army began a brutal campaign to control Hama, killing citizens in a seemingly indiscriminately manner. “People are being slaughtered like sheep while walking in the street,” one resident of Hama told the AP on August 4. Reports of the number of Syrians killed in Hama in the first week of August alone range from around 200 to 300 or more. On August 7, the Syrian army expanded its assault on protesters by reportedly killing 55 people in two other cities: Deir al-Zour and Houleh.
What is the rest of the world doing about this? On August 4th, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said that the United States believed that 2,000 Syrians had already died at the hands of the Assad government. The UN Security Council issued a statement saying it condemned the Syrian government’s “widespread violations of human rights and the use of force against civilians.” The United States, Germany, and France have recently discussed potential measures “to pressure the Assad regime and support the Syrian people.” Syria has also faced serious criticism from its neighbors in the Middle East. Turkey, a country that maintains deep economic ties with Syria, has repeatedly condemned Assad’s violence toward protesters. Elsewhere, Saudi Arabia recently recalled its ambassador from Syria. In a speech on August 7, Saudi Arabia’s leader, King Abdullah, said, “What is happening in Syria is not acceptable for Saudi Arabia.” The Arab League, on the other hand, still holds out hope for the Assad regime. The group has called for an end to the Assad government’s assault against protesters, but in the same statement, Nabil al-Arabi, the organization’s secretary-general, said “The chance is still available for fulfilling the reforms.”
How does this affect the United States? “It is no exaggeration to say that Syria holds the key for nearly all of America’s foreign policy goals in the Middle East,” says Reza Aslan, a professor at the University of California-Riverside and an expert on the region. “As Syria goes, so goes the region,” he adds. For years now, Syria has been an ally of several major US enemies in the region. Iran uses Syria to funnel weapons and resources to Hezbollah, the Shiite militia that dominates most of southern Lebanon. Without a strong relationship with Syria, Iran’s loss is twofold: a loss of influence on Israel and Lebanon via Hezbollah and a chink in the armor of its “influence” in the Arab world. Syria itself maintains political clout in Lebanon, too; it occupied the country until 2005. Syria also shares a key border with Israel. So far, efforts at influencing Assad have been fruitless. Visits from key US figures and the reopening of an embassy in Damascus have done little to move Syria toward reform.
So what should the United States do? Robert Danin, a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations, favors a two-pronged approach: First, “assemble a contact group, similar to the one that has been formed to deal with Libya” and then “target sanctions specifically at key members of the regime that have been involved violence against the Syrian people.” But does the United States really have that much influence? “We should not exaggerate significance or impact [of the United States], which is marginal,” Marc Lynch, a professor at George Washington University, has warned. “Unilateral oil sanctions will have limited effect. Magic words don’t work.”
How do I follow what’s happening in real time? For keeping up with what’s happening in Syria—as well as most stories unfolding in the Middle East—it’s a good idea to follow the Twitter feed of Blake Hounshell, Foreign Policy’s managing editor. Ahmed Al Omran, the author of the Saudi blog Saudi Jeans, and Borzou Daragahi, the Middle East reporter for the Los Angeles Times, are also good Syria tweeps. The hashtags to follow are #RamadanMassacre and #Syria. Al-Jazeera English, the New York Times, and the Guardian’sconstantly updated Middle East blog all provide good, up-to-date information on the situation in Syria too.
Mr. President, the Maguindanao Massacre was the result of an age-old war between the pen and the sword. Of all the things that compel a tyrant to face his or her fears, it is trough the pen by which weakness is exposed. And to expose is to, nevertheless, declare war. Voltaire couldn’t have said it better: “To hold a pen is to be at war.
This reminds me of what a Manobo leader Datu Makalipay said in a conference a couple of weeks back:
Ang pakikibaka natin ay laban sa sistema. Huwag tayong gumamit ng armas kasi systema ang kalaban natin hindi tao… Kahit saan ako pumunta ang armas ko ay ballpen (Our struggle is against the system. We must not use firearms because our enemy is the system and not the persons in the system… Wherever I go, my weapon is a ballpen).
Datu Makalipay is from the Manobo indigenous group in Agusan del Sur, Mindanao. The Manobos are one of the indigenous communities in the country which have been fighting for their ancestral domain since the Spanish colonial era. While his countenance (I think he is in his 60s) and words sound like those coming from a straight-faced warrior, his name actually means “one who brings happiness” in Cebuano.
Datu Makalipay is one among many in the indigenous communities who continue the struggle against political clans and armed groups in Mindanao. But unlike their adversaries, Makalipay has found a deeper faith in using the pen rather the sword. His conviction mirrors the idea of social responsibility supposedly embedded in the practice of journalism (and even literature) in this country.
The belief in the power of the pen has been in the country since the days of the propagandists who fought for representation in the Spanish Cortes. And it was the same belief which inspired Rizal to write the novels for which he was executed. It was also the same belief which fueled many of the patriots in this country who have paid the ultimate price for freedom and democracy.
The journalists who were massacred in Maguindanao were among those who thought that the power of the pen could make a difference. Several of the journalists who went along the Mangudadatu convoy believed that they would not be harmed since they were journalists, aside from the fact that they personally know the Ampatuans. Sadly, they thought wrong.
It is with incidents like the Maguindanao Massacre that we are reminded that our democracy is still a work in progress. It is with the culture of impunity that we face the reality of of a democratic revolution still unfulfilled. It is with words such as those of Datu Makalipay that we can hope in the strengthening of the power of the pen against the sword.
But we must not forget those who perished so that we may be able to express ourselves freely. We must not forget those who sacrificed their limbs and lives for us to enjoy the freedoms we now cherish. Let us not forget the threats against our freedoms which still abound in the dark corners of the country.
We should always, with pen (or electronic device in hand) remain vigilant. Or if the struggle is too great, maybe we must heed what Datu Makalipay suggested: use a Pentel pen!
If you can keep your head when all about you Are losing theirs and blaming it on you; If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you, But make allowance for their doubting too: If you can wait and not be tired by waiting, Or, being lied about, don’t deal in lies, Or being hated don’t give way to hating, And yet don’t look too good, nor talk too wise;
If you can dream—and not make dreams your master; If you can think—and not make thoughts your aim, If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster And treat those two impostors just the same:. If you can bear to hear the truth you’ve spoken Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools, Or watch the things you gave your life to, broken, And stoop and build’em up with worn-out tools;
If you can make one heap of all your winnings And risk it on one turn of pitch-and-toss, And lose, and start again at your beginnings, And never breathe a word about your loss: If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew To serve your turn long after they are gone, And so hold on when there is nothing in you Except the Will which says to them: “Hold on!”
If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue, Or walk with Kings—nor lose the common touch, If neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you, If all men count with you, but none too much: If you can fill the unforgiving minute With sixty seconds’ worth of distance run, Yours is the Earth and everything that’s in it, And—which is more—you’ll be a Man, my son!