Sino ang Bayani?

bayaniMarami na ang nasabi tungkol sa 13th month pay. May mga pabor kay Marcos at may mga pabor sa mga Aquino. Ngunit tila may nakaligtaan ang parehong panig. Basahin hanggang dulo bago magkomento.

Ang 13th month pay ay minungkahi at inakda ni Zoilo de la Cruz, isang abogado galing Bacolod. Ito ay nilagdaan at isinabatas ni Ferdinand Marcos bilang Presidential Decree (PD) No. 851 noong December 16, 1976. Kung mapapansin, ito ay tinawag na Presidential Decree at hindi Batas Pambansa o Republic Act dahil ito ay isinabatas noong panahon ng diktadurya — panahon na tanging ang Pangulo ang may kapangyarihan na magsagawa ng batas dahil ipinasara nya ang Kongreso. 

Ayon sa PD 851, lahat ng manggagawa na kumikita ng hindi hihigit sa P1,000.00 bawat bwan, kahit ano ang katangian ng trabaho, ay dapat bigyan ng 13th month pay.

Matapos ang People Power Revolution, iprinoklama ang Freedom Constitution kung saan ang Pangulo ay patuloy na magsasagawa ng mga batas hanggang sa ang Kongreso ay maihalal at magtipun-tipon sa ilalim ng bagong Saligang Batas.

Sa bisa ng nasabing Freedom Constitution, binago ni Corazon Aquino ang pamantayan ng PD 851 sa pamamagitan ng Memorandum Order (MO) No. 28 kung saan itinakda na lahat ng “rank-and-file” na mga manggagawa ay dapat bigyan ng 13th month pay. Sa madaling salita, tinanggal ang kondisyon na para lamang sa mga manggagawa na hindi kumikita ng P1,000 bawat bwan ang 13th month pay.

Noong 2014, ipinasa ng Kongreso at nilagdaan ni Benigno Aquino III ang Republic Act (RA) No. 10653 kung saan itinaas ang tax exemption ceiling ng mga bonus at 13th month pay mula P30,000.00 hanggang P82,000.

Kabayan, ito ang pinakamahalaga:

Mula PD851 hanggang MO 28 at RA 10653, ang 13th month pay ay ginagawad para sa mga “rank-and-file” na manggagawang Pilipino na nagtrabaho sa loob ng taon ng pagkakaloob.

Ang 13th month pay ay hindi abuloy kundi umento. Hindi bigay kundi pinaghirapan. Kaya kahit ang isang anti-Marcos ay may karapatan sa 13th month pay gayonlamang sa isang anti-Aquino kahit pa ang 13th month pay ay ibigay na tiglilimandaan (may mukha nila Ninoy at Cory, dilawan!)

Sino nga ba ang bayani: si Marcos o si Aquino? O ang uring mangagawa na patuloy na nakikipagdigma laban sa kahirapan at kawalan ng hustisya?

***

With contribution from Atty. Nes Patrick K. Señor. Readers are encouraged to conduct their own fact-checking.

A Call for Referendum

When we continuously protest against the burial of Ferdinand Marcos at the Libingan Ng Mga Bayani even after the Supreme Court dismissed the petitions seeking its inhibition, we are neither disregarding the rule of law nor disrespecting the high court; we are actually heeding it.

The Supreme Court did not say that Marcos is a hero. It simply said that no grave abuse of discretion was committed by the President because no law prohibits the burial of Marcos at the heroes’ cemetery; in as much as the issues involved are moral and political, not legal. In fact, Justice Brion said in his concurring opinion that majority of the justices merely exercised “judicial restraint.”

Thus, we continue to shout for the voiceless victims of oppression because the Supreme Court itself said that it is not the proper judge of the issue. We respect, and ought to respect, the Supreme Court and the rule of law in as much as we must uphold the bedrock of our democracy: sovereignty resides in the People (including the lost, the last and the least).

Hindi ang Pangulo, hindi ang Kongreso, hindi ang Korte Suprema kundi ang taumbayan ang dapat magpasya sa anumang bagay na magbabago sa ating pagkakakilanlan bilang Pilipino.

As suggested by the late Senator Miriam Defensor-Santiago, submit the issue to a referendum. Let the people decide once and for all whether we should #MoveOn or we should #NeverForget.

Dahil hindi ba dapat merong tamang closure para humilom ang malalim na sugat? But then again, some wounds never heal.

Indio of the Past, Stupid of the Present

Short, flat-nose, dark skin, pouf hair, large lips – most likely features of a Filipino, a race that was once tagged by the Spaniards as “Indios”. After a century, Filipinos have gradually evolved physically out of inter-marriages. However, nothing much has changed.

Looking at the world at large, a social pyramid exists. As Karl Marx wrote in his political book “Communist Manifesto”, the elite few control politics and the economy, while the proletarians (the commoners) are at their mercy. In the Philippines, this is evident. However, the elite few have something else that it controls – education. But then again, these elite few may be educated, but they can be very stupid.

Stupidity is the only segment that does not take part in the social pyramid. Yet, it is strangely shared by the powerful and the powerless, the political and the apolitical, and the wealthy and the impoverished. To many, its opposite intelligence is a question of academic attainment or academic qualifications.

However, reality tells us that it is not so. One’s diploma does not guarantee that one is intelligent. Beneath an impressive exterior there may exist an embarrassing stupidity. Take for example, this person who holds a powerful position in the government. He was a valedictorian in his secondary education at a prestigious exclusive school, he was a consistent dean’s lister in a university abroad, he graduated Magna Cum Laude in college, and he obtained a master’s degree and then later a doctorate degree. Yet, with all these accomplishments, he is stupid. He does not understand the meaning of the word: “resign”.

Some of us are not different from this politician whom many love to hate. Why do you think I wrote this article in English? It is because I know that many readers confine themselves to the superficial. There is an unspoken rule in our country that if one wants to earn attention, more so appreciation, one must speak in English (or any other foreign language, for that matter). I do not deny the importance of the English language. It is, after all, the universal language. However, language is not and should never be the basis for intelligence. I do certainly hope that people will soon realize that language is only an appetizer and that the message is still the entrée.

When I mentioned Marx and his political book, I did not wish that I would be identified as a communist. I am not. I still prefer democracy. It is quite unfortunate, though, that the present government has become identical with the colonizers who called us Indios. What it is doing at present is reminiscent of what these colonizers did. Like a scene from “Noli Me Tangere” or the “El Filibusterismo”, the government tags its critics as communists, terrorists, political destabilizers, dissenters…enemies of the state.

I remember before the devastation that was Reming, Legazpi City was over-protected by Public Safety Officers. A man, who judging by his looks, seemed to be from a far flung area, was fined for smoking. Not far from him were government employees/officials who were smoking, but somehow they were not fined. The man was obviously ignorant; the employees/officials were aware of the law. While it may be true that ignorance excuses no one, the man still had an excuse. The employees/officials did not have an excuse. Now, tell me, who is stupid?

There is indeed a need to remind the government of its purpose –to protect and defend the people, the people who are neither indios nor stupid!

(Originally published in the Monitor, the Special Magazine Issue of the Pegasus- The Official Student Publication of Aquinas University of Legazpi, Vol. I No. II, April 2007 Issue)

Faceless, Nameless… Like Them

When supertyphoon “Reming” struck the Bicol region, it left our place cooler and darker, literally and figuratively. I could not immediately adjust to the darkness. I couldn’t clearly see what came before us. When I was able to adjust, I saw sorrow sweeping the land. I tried my hardest to avert my eyes, but I simply couldn’t. I became noisy.

Then I heard on the radio a call for volunteers to do something for a relief center our school put up. Out of curiosity, I braved the mud-covered streets strewn with service poles and cables of all sorts. I was directed to report to the Fra Angelico Building. There I found a group of students I have never met before; strangers, I was disposed to say.

White Cord, Green Cord

I hesitated for quite a while. I saw that they all had green cords for their IDs. Nursing students, I muttered. I saw no other color. Mine is white, CAS’. I felt like a different specie. I felt like OP (out of place, dude!) I then started asking what a Political Science student is doing here. I do not know how to dress wounds. In fact, I could not bear the sight of wounds. But I  got attracted to the glow on the faces of those around. I liked the coy smiles which seemed to tell me to stay on. Curiosity got the better part of me. I enlisted as volunteer, whatever that may mean.

The first night that I had to sleep in the Center was simply agonizing. There were no lights, no beddings, not even a mat. And the food! Since that night and until the end of my volunteer work (with some days as exception) we survived on over-cooked rice and “karnenas.” “Karnenas” stands for “karne” (actually corned beef, carne norte, that is) and sardinas” (canned sardines). If there is any better definition for agony, then this must be it, I thought. But when I saw what other people in the communities were going through when we went to Camalig up to the poblacion of Polangui in the company of Sir Jude, Sir Abe, Dean Chie Muñoz, Kuya Leo, and Kuya Kaloi, I felt ashamed. At least I had food to eat, there is a roof above my head, I can lay my back on a dry place. The people I saw had none of those. Walking under the scorching heat of the sun, getting exhausted for a day’s work, bad food, whatever, no longer became my concern. That I must be able to do something became a consuming thought.

Days and nights passed like seconds. We would pack relief goods at night, lie down wherever sleep overtakes us, wake up as the sun shines, feast on instant noodles for breakfast, load what were packed the night before, distribute them to people in places I have never been to. Back at the Center, we would enjoy a bit of rest, then join the late afternoon feeding program in a nearby community, have dinner of “karnenas,” and then find some time to jam with fellow volunteers.

Because we were together 24/7, I was, unconsciously, beginning to establish very strong bonds with the other volunteers. We started to become as close as siblings. Certainly, we had some instances of misunderstanding, as would siblings. But these didn’t cause our bond to break. Girlfriends, Paksit, Needles (noodles mispronounced), Bip Stick (Beef steak), Tuna (a surrogate name for sardines) are now words of lingering happiness. And so are Bonjing, Boy Rason, Boy Ludog, Boy Dasmag. We entertained ourselves by spoofing TV shows such as “Goin Bulilit” (of Kuya Reku) and “Mr. Bean” (of Whey). One time we had a kind of a cultural night with Father Mon. Everyone had to show his “talent.” Eventually, I felt belongingness.

The Road Not Chosen

Things have an uncanny way of becoming routine. But when we went to remote areas in Polangui in the company of some AQFI staff for relief operations, I discovered that life can get us into some surprising turns. We took a road that many would choose not to travel—distant, macadam, jarring. With that kind of terrain, it would be foolhardy to punish our already battered school bus doubling as cargo truck for our relief operations by taking all of us in one punishing ride. So we separated into two groups. One group, to which I belonged, would be for relief distribution; and the other would do medical mission.

As soon as we reached Cotmon, the first barangay, I saw smiles of people waiting for us. It has become a common scene in our relief operations. As relief distribution was finished, I saw a woman picking up spilled grains that would not even fill a cup. I thought that she must be in dire need that even if these were dirty, she still picked them up . . . grain by tiny bit of grain.

Saving a Child

After Cotmon, we proceeded to Danao, one of the farthest among the barangays, nestled at the slopes of Mt. Malinao. There we found a child whose life was in peril. Because it was already getting dark and we haven’t been to the last barangay yet, an argument ensued between us. We had to make a decision: Whether to help the family of the child who does not have money to pay for hospitalization or give priority to time for our own safety. “An oras yaon sana, an buhay nawawara.” We chose to help the child. Good thing Engr. Virgilio S. Perdigon, Jr., OIC Vice-Rector for Administration, was with the medical mission group. We decided to ask help from him. He and some of the AQFI staff brought the child to a clinic then to the Aquinas University Hospital while we continued to distribute the relief goods in the last barangay.

After serving our purpose in the last barangay, we bade farewell to the barangay folks. They replied with a hearty “Merry Christmas.”

Merry Christmas

Our Christmas was merry, indeed. We had a Christmas not just for a day but for the entire time that we were in the Center. Sure enough, we didn’t have ham and keso de bola but “karnenas” for our meals; we did not decorate our Center with blinking lights, not even with a Christmas tree, but ours was a genuine Christmas.

Two days before Christmas day, it was Father Senen’s birthday. We took the day off and had an excursion in the beach. There we found time to practice the song “Hawak Kamay.” We were to present it to Father Senen as our gift. When it was our turn to present it, we did not expect much because we only had a couple of hours for practice. As we reached the chorus, we literally had hawak kamay and invited all the guests to join us. Our eyes and those of the visitors and guests became moist. Dr. Walter Jalgalado would later comment that it was the first time the volunteers became very serious. But it was great, he said. Later that evening, “Boom Tarat Tarat” was played, we shouted names of different administrators, including Father Mon’s, and requested them to dance. To our surprise, they did. I used to think that our administrators can never go along with our generation’s culture; I was proved wrong.

After two days of Christmas break, we resumed our relief work. When we went to Malinao, I met an old lady who came for her supply. That time we distributed five (5) kilos of rice to every person. I know that the old lady could not carry that weight. I asked her if she had a companion who could help her. She had none, she said. I then asked if she has money so that she can just take a ride home. Again, she answered in the negative. I asked her how much the fare would be and gave her the amount. Suddenly, tears rolled down her cheeks. “Makasupog man. Ako na ngani an naghagad ki bagas, tinawan mo pa ako ki pamasahe,” she said. (I am ashamed. I have asked for rice and you still gave me fare money.) Then a man came saying that it was nice of me to give the old lady fare money because her residence is kilometers away. He then asked (in Bikol), “Isn’t it that Aquinas was battered by ‘Reming’?” With the sweetest smile I could summon from my lips, I answered, “Yes, Aquinas was battered, but not in spirit.” He then commented, “Aquinas molds students into the best persons that they can possibly be. Too bad I didn’t finish my studies there because of poverty. I hope and pray that my children can go there. But I guess It will only be a dream. We barely have enough money for food; we don’t have anything left for education.”

It was like cold water splashed on my face. I have repeatedly asked myself what a Political Science student is doing in a relief operation and I had the answer: To personally witness the depressing condition of our country. And, it made me love the very institution that I used to dislike. I’ve always asked why I am not studying in Manila when I passed the requirements needed to be there. TaSaTû became the first satisfying answer. I always thought less of Aquinas University and there’s this man in front of me telling me that I am part of an institution that creates dreams across the region. I never thought that this will happen but TaSaTû did change my perspectives, as it changed lives of different people who we’ve helped. And those people who we have helped may not have known our names, and perhaps they never will. They may forget our faces and the date and time we went to them. But they will never forget that at one time in their lives, there were people who reached out their hands to help ease their hardships. This must be a treasured memory of events that happened . . . unscripted.

*The writer is a second year Political Science student. He was a very active TaSaTû volunteer who also doubled as video documenter. – Ed.

Originally published in the Special Magazine Issue of Gimata- the in in-house newsletter publication of Aquinas University last March 2007-house

Wanted: volunteers

IT IS VERY EASY TO GIVE WHAT YOU HAVE IN EXCESS, but can you give what you need and what you want?”

This is the question one has to answer before one does volunteer work. At first I thought that it was easy to answer with a yes, but when super-typhoon “Reming” struck the Bicol Region and left us in darkness, literally and figuratively, I had second thoughts. However, when I thought of my responsibility, I joined the relief and rehabilitation operations of our University called “Anduyog AQ: Tabang Sa Tugang.”

Anduyog AQ endeavored to help the victims of Reming by distributing relief goods, providing psycho-social therapy like stress debriefing and other services. I felt out of place in our group of volunteers because more than half were nursing students (nursing is the most popular course in our school). I kept asking myself, what is a political science student doing here? I did not know how to dress a wound; I actually hated to see the wounds of other people.

The first night that I had to sleep in the relief center, I felt very uncomfortable. There were no lights, no beddings, not even a good bed. The food that we had to eat was a foretaste of what we would be eating for the next few weeks: mostly overcooked rice and “karninas” a combination of “karne” (meat) and “sardinas” (sardines). That time, I thought of only one word: “agony.” But when I remembered what I had seen when we went around Albay right after the typhoon, I stopped complaining. At least I have food to eat, I told myself. Having to walk under the blistering sun, to work until I was exhausted, to eat the kind of food I would not normally eat and to sleep without comfort hardly mattered anymore.

The days passed very quickly. Everything became routine: pack relief goods at night, then sleep. Wake up earlier than usual and eat instant noodles for breakfast. Distribute relief goods, take a bit of rest, take part in the feeding program. Eat dinner and jam with fellow volunteers.

Because we were together 24/7, I was unconsciously beginning to connect with the other volunteers. We developed our own vocabulary: “paksit” (a meaningless expression), “needles” (“noodles” mispronounced). “bip stick” (beef steak), tuna (sardines). To entertain ourselves, we spoofed some television shows, such as “Goin’ Bulilit” and “Mr. Bean.” One time we had some kind of cultural night with Father Mendez, O.P., our rector and president, and everyone had to showcase his talent. I felt like I belonged to the group.

When we went to Malinao, Albay, I met an old lady who came to get some relief goods. We were distributing five kilos of rice to every person. I knew the old lady could not carry her share. I asked her if she had a companion and she said she didn’t have anyone with her. I then asked if she had money so she could take a ride home. She again answered with a no. I gave her money for her fare.

All of a sudden, tears were rolling down her cheeks. “Makasupog man. Ako na ngani an naghagad ki bagas, tinawan mo pa ako ki pamasahe (I am so ashamed. Your group already gave me relief and still you gave me fare), she told me.

A man who heard our exchange said it was nice of me to give the old lady some money because she live several meters away from the relief center. He then asked, “Wasn’t Aquinas battered by ‘Reming’?”

I smiled and said, “Yes, Aquinas was battered, but not in spirit.”

He then said, “Your school molds students into the best person that he can possibly be. Too bad I didn’t finish my studies there because of poverty. I hope and I pray that many children can go there. But I guess it will only be a dream. We barely have enough money for food. We don’t have some extra money for education.”

I felt as if cold water had been splashed on my face. I had been wondering what a political science student was doing in a relief operation and I had found the answer: to see the depressing condition of our country.

Now I am frightened. Four months have passed since Reming devastated our region and the rehabilitation work is far from complete. And another super-typhoon threatens to devastate us once again. This time it’s no longer natural. It’s mad-made and it’s called elections.

Relief operations are still going on in Albay, and it’s all because national and local politicians want to promote their own selfish ambitions. They distribute goods on board trucks covered with their pictures on tarpaulins.They claim to be the messiah who will deliver the people from their misery. They promise to attend to their needs for food and clothing and teach them to be dependent on them.

Some of them are actually the same politicians who had promised education to the man I met in Malinao, and maybe thousands of others. Perhaps they have forgotten it or they have no time for it because they are too busy helping themselves. They would never give anything without pictures being taken as they embrace the poor victims, their very own victims. They will do anything and say anything just so people will write their names on the ballot.

Albay only needs time to be rehabilitated physically. On the other hand, our country needs more than just time. What our country needs in order to achieve peace and economic progress is a psychosocial, political and moral rehabilitation.

For this, we do not need politicians. What we need are political volunteers.

__________

Gideon V. Peña, 17, is an Anduyog AQ Volunteer and a second year Bachelor of Arts Major in Political Science student at the Aquinas University of Legazpi, Rawis, Legazpi City.

Originally published in Youngblood- Philippine Daily Inquirer, A1, last March 29, 2007 (Thursday)

Justice for Ambo!

August 1, 2006

It has been very unfortunate that under the Arroyo administration, political killings continue unabatedly. In almost 6 years, 716 civilians have been victimized by extra judicial killings. Most of them are members of the progressive organizations advocating social justice and empowerment for the people.

Added to these unsolved crimes was the murder of Rei Mon M. Guran who was shot dead by unidentified assailant last July 31, 2006 in his hometown in Bulan, Sorsogon while on board a bus going to Albay. He just turned 21 a day before the incident.

Fondly called “Ambo” by his classmates, friends and fellow students, Rei Mon immersed himself to varied issues concerning the poor and the disadvantaged. As a provincial coordinator of the League of Filipino Students in Albay where he is taking Political Science in Aquinas University, he joined hands with the studentry in pushing for a moratorium in tuition fees and other democratic rights in campuses. But fully aware of his potential to be of help to others, putting his Christian faith into action, as a youth leader of United Church of Christ in the Philippines’ Christian Youth Fellowship and a member of the Anduyog Youth Volunteers, he spearheaded the mobilization of students on opposition to the reopening of Lafayette Mining Corporation, he was ever present in dialogues, pickets and mass rallies condemning the destructive and greedy operation of Transnational Mining that would put in peril the lives and health of Rapurapu residents and nearby provinces.

We mourn with indignation the murder of a loving friend, kuya, son and a good servant of the people and of God.

As lives of social activists are reduced into mere statistics of killed persons day by day, and having a government and a military that tags political dissenters as enemies of the state, thus making them the legitimate targets for liquidation. We must not falter in searching for justice and defending human rights!

We schoolmates, colleagues, friends and relatives of Ambo have formed the Justice for Ambo Movement to drum up the issue of unabated political killings in the country and to call for justice to the murder of the likes of Ambo.

We knock at your doors for help and assistance (financial and, or in kind) to sustain this advocacy and assist the family. Knowing fully that our prayers, discernment and collective action in search for justice will one day be fulfilled.

For justice and long lasting peace,

(SGD.) GIDEON V. PENA
President, Political Science Society
Aquinas University of Legazpi