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OPINION | A Long Zigzag Journey to Democracy

OPINION | A LONG ZIGZAG JOURNEY TO DEMOCRACY
by Salve Armada

On Peace Talks
The much-awaited results of the peace talks proceeded at a snail pace and nothing concrete had been gained except for the de rigueur pale affirmation of the latest Joint Declaration. Ah, it’s now practically dead, however. The inconsistent demands of the Government of the Republic of the Philippines (GRP) were complexified under Duterte. Those past consensuses were not sustained since the principle of stare decisis is not faithfully observed by the principal of the government.

Rodrigo Duterte as the current principal of the GRP lackadaisically flip-flops with his public words and commitments. Fondly listening to the military cabals on the peace talks, they unconsciously mimic the disastrous Chiang Kai-shek’s stubbornness in dealing with revolutionary forces. Without learning from China’s Tao-like realist orientation, the militarist hawks cannot grasp the adage, “water boring holes into the hardest stone”. Flip-flopping is no art of cunning but lousy self-conceit and a source of repugnance. Now, it’s the outdated anti-communism all the way: Duterte’s NTF-ELCAC painting the whole archipelago bloody red.

The revolutionary forces meanwhile had persisted for more than fifty years as the longest continuing insurgency in the globe. The CPP had disclosed that it had laid out well the age range of its cadres with sufficient numbers from the young generation to carry the struggle. Meaning to say, the touted “protractedness” of people’s war is not only in terms of situs/space (countryside to the city) but also in terms of chronos/time (before-now-near-future).

The prevailing climate of impunity does not advantage the status quo nor granted stability to the dialogue on peace. Only when the two parties reached obvious parity (i.e. the GRP and the revolutionary forces are in a balance) the more likely realistic and practical peace negotiations can come about. With the dissipating legitimacy (as distinguished from popularity) of the regime, the prospect of this future upended peace talks will no longer be historically remote.

A post-Duterte in 2022 elections?
This is a shared question wrapped in both hope and trepidation. Hope is that lone firefly that took off after the wings of pestilence, killings and chaos flew out to damage lives, health and livelihoods during pandemic time. Hope speaks in the language of the “new normal”. Trepidation is an acid that corrodes faith of claim “Filipinos are worth dying for” by our martyrs and heroes. Because hope and trepidation were both placed only in the single basket of 2022 elections, what obtains is the atmosphere of widespread precarity.

The unhealthy obsession with procedural democracy as though an ideology has blinded us Filipinos to imagine alternative means of regime change outside the frame of calendar elections. Are we not aware of the fact that elections are the game long monopolized by the politico-economic elite in our society? And that election in the country is really the election of new masters, but no end of master-slave hierarchy?

The majority failed to comprehend and embrace the thesis that substantive democracy is power directly in the hands of the underclasses. And it’s time the underclasses wrest power by and for themselves by whatever favorable means. Boldly put by Thomas Jefferson, “the tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots and tyrants. It is its natural manure”.

No wonder that the appropriation of substantive democracy is the spectre feared by the neoliberals. The neoliberals in our country are those politico-economic elites who subscribed to the scripts of global capitalism that exploit the underclasses. It must be noted that the spectrum of neoliberals in 2022 elections is occupied by the faction surrounding Leni Robledo on one side and those around Duterte on the other side, with the 1Sambayan coalition hilariously dances with Tweedledee and Tweedledum cotillon tune.

Fixation with the 2022 election merely maintains the empty ritual of voting but aborts the birth of the Jacobin cum Jeffersonian substantive democracy in our country.

People power on the horizon
Outside calendared elections, Filipinos have had a history of ousting authoritarian figures via gigantic mass mobilizations. The chief protagonists were organized groups and spontaneous masses conjoined. Congealed in the urban capital of the nation, such mobilizations were effective at a precise tipping point of the ouster moment. Yet thereafter such successful mobilization cannot inaugurate democracy amongst social classes. Forget not that traditional landlord power came back when Cory Aquino normalized the status quo after “EDSA revolution”. The elite reclaimed ascendancy since the political crown of the Jeffersonian tree of liberty has no Jacobinian social roots to sustain its growth and stability.

Next time perhaps when the proper moment comes, when the organizations of the underclasses possess unified agency and trajectory, substantive democracy will emerge. The elites can no longer darken the horizon when the power of once oppressed people reigns. This can probably come about when both open and clandestine oppositions in the city and the hinterlands coalesced as active agents of the shared historical project.###

OPINION | Between Responsibility and Freedom

OPINION | BETWEEN RESPONSIBILITY AND FREEDOM
by Salvador del Mundo*

Everyone in this country knows how difficult it was when ECQ ruled over us all last 2020. Travel restrictions, limited mobility and food purchase, public transportation down to zero, economic standstill, sudden retrenchment of workers, their sudden unemployment, physical dislocation, isolation and detention at home, etc. It was practically a lockdown politely termed as quarantine. Thereafter the rules and guidelines spelled out by the national government through its Inter Agency Task Force or IATF were forced upon every Filipino as a responsibility and to be irresponsible would mean definite punishment. Everybody had to toe the line or be verbally abused, physically mauled and worse dragged into jail. All these in the name of so-called public safety. Only the vulnerable sector of society suffered these punitive actions unlike those belonging to the moneyed class and the political elite who did transgress in one time or another the protocols and yet retired home without a scratch.

A disclosure here, myself was locked down in Cebu Province from March 15, 2020 to July 23, 2020. I was traveling on a transit flight from Tacloban to my home however on that fateful March 15th 2020, the second leg of my flight from Mactan Airport was suddenly cancelled. An ECQ had been declared in the whole Visayas Region and I was unaware of what was happening around me. It was disturbingly quick and caused an uproar in the airport as thousands like me got stranded in Cebu. Throughout the lockdown that went on for months, I experienced a load of anxiety and helplessness for I had realized that the State had deprived me of my right to personal mobility and freedom to travel. I had become one of the first prisoners of Duterte’s carceral regime.

The evening of July 16 2021, it was supposedly the first night of the ground level implementation of ECQ in Iloilo City and Iloilo Province which would mean border patrolling and checkpoints including prohibition of face to face dining, closure of shops that sell non-essentials, among other directives. But as an “act of civil disobedience” my colleagues, I myself and other friends had decided to push through with our dinner powwow in a restaurant overlooking the City’s River. There we traded and shared our forebodings about the politics-soaked implementation of the ECQ classification. Together we arrived at a common stand against this threat to individual freedom and economic security of citizens. No doubt at all that we all have our responsibility to observe the protocols set forth in the classification — but at what cost and who are paying? When the implementation of the rules become too militaristic, it only causes distrust, stigma, disempowerment, economic dislocation, impoverishment of the great majority. And instead of encouraging citizens to make healthy choices, the opposite happens — those who are vulnerable to conditions of despair spiral down to suffer more mental depression and breakdown and literal experience of hunger.

As of this writing Iloilo City Mayor Jerry Treñas finds the ECQ declaration of IATF as most unfair and unjustified. About “500,000 Ilonggos or a portion thereof will go hungry for the next two weeks. The city will try to give our food assistance in the meantime,” he declared. The Mayor and the residents of the City can no longer contain their frustrations.

Making quarantine classifications should be seen as a balancing act between respecting individual freedom and providing a scientific basis for the classification. The corona virus is the common enemy. The war waged against this common enemy should not arbitrarily trample the Iloilo City Mayor’s respected authority and definitely not the welfare of law abiding Ilonggos of Iloilo City.###

* Num-de-plume of a scholar in history who wrote an essay thesis on the Bureau of Science during American colonial regime in the Philippines.

– Photo credit to Mayor Jerry Treñas page.

OPINION | Maturity Not Greatness

OPINION | MATURITY NOT GREATNESS
by Salvador del Mundo*

Halfway towards the end of his inaugural speech in 1965, then newly elected Ferdinand E. Marcos in his first term as President of the Philippines proudly asserted: “This nation can be great again…the first modern republic in Asia and Africa. It is our nation. Thus Kawit and Malolos are celebrated in our history as acts of national greatness.” (www. officialgazette.gov.ph) And yet the Malolos Republic did not last a year for another imperial power never had any second thought in occupying our territory. Except for a few like Apolinario Mabini who did not swear allegiance to the United States, the rest of the Filipino elites capitulated before the American forces and for their collaboration, they were gifted with administrative positions in the new colonial civil government.

What was so great in that capitulationist government? A government that while it proclaimed independence, its substance remained on paper. A government that was divided by class interest and personal ambition. “Bayan o sarili” shouted Antonio Luna in that scene from the film Heneral Luna captured this dark predicament. A closer look at the events that transpired leading to the unnecessary and unjust execution of the Bonifacio brothers and the horrible, barbaric assassination of Gen. Luna simply shows us that nothing can be more sinister and evil than a Filipino murdering a kababayan with such barbarism and impunity. Impunity that victimized fellow patriots seems like an indelible curse in our nation. Rizal was more fortunate for he died in a manner worthy of the respect of the Spanish Empire and the world.

The victory of a populist candidate like Duterte last 2016 and his wayward authoritarian government confirms our nation was born not out of greatness of its political leaders as that Marcos’ inaugural address would want us to believe. The majority of those cabinet members of the Aguinaldo government and Emilio Aguinaldo himself were so unprepared for the daunting task of nation building that it took another colonizer molding us to fit its newly proclaimed propaganda of self government. Until now unfortunately we have not matured enough to get rid of the schizophrenic traces of our colonial political heritage. We became independent in 1898 but it seems we did not know what to do with it. As film artist Lav Diaz cogitates on our dilemma, “the era of martial law under Ferdinand Marcos — the Filipino nightmare” and Filipinos have not awaken to their power as a people. We still continue electing into office self-serving greedy scions of political families. Political dynasticism is that recidivist virus of our social system we long want to extirpate.

During election campaigns we are so caught in the middle of the meaningless spectacle of the boodle fight and Tiktok dance that we really have not come to a full understanding of what democracy is and the process which entails its best practices and relevance in our daily struggles in life so that we realize our collective potential. We are easily seduced by spectacle, favoring form than substance. With our country’s elite always ready with their bench of candidates, calendar elections are empty rituals of choosing new master oppressors.

Greatness is a Marcosian myth and a form of revisionist narration, nay, of historical distortion. There is no such thing as the Golden Age of a Presidency in our history. We all know the atrocities committed against a generation of Filipinos during Martial Law and the dark years of the dictatorship. What we badly need to attain as a people is maturity. Political maturity of people’s autonomous will power. Democracy requires it.###

* Num-de-plume of a scholar in history who wrote an essay thesis on the Bureau of Science during American colonial regime in the Philippines.

– Photo credit to Varsitarian

A Disturbing Silence: Tonguelessness of UP Miag-ao Administration

by: Jhio Jan Navarro

Silence is not always for comfort. It can be poisonous as construed by Nietzsche while to death camp survivor Eli Wiesel, it can kill. With me, as of the moment, silence is disturbing. In our time when the silence of the night usually precedes gunshots and death, I think I am justified. However, of all kinds of silence these days, I am most disturbed by the tonguelessness of the University of the Philippines Visayas Administration on the threats to life and welfare of its constituents. It got me into asking: am I entrusting my safety, my life to the “silent partners” of oppression?

On July 8, a malicious publication circulated online red-tagging Prof. Tomasito Talledo as a recruiter of the New People’s Army (NPA) and it blamed him for the demise of Malvin Cruz, an NPA cadre and former UPV student, who breathed his last in an encounter with state forces in Miagao, Iloilo. Days after, a Facebook account stole a UPV student’s identity to send threats to the Professor. It explicitly stated that his dead body will one day be strewn in the University for all his students to see.

The incident was then followed by another red-tagging spree by unknown entity/ies who stole the identity of another member of UP Faculty, of Ruchie Mark Pototanon. The fake account listed individuals it tagged as supporters of the underground CPP-NPA-NDF. On the list are UPV students, faculty members, and even alumni.

Progressive organizations (SAMASA, AUPAEU-Iloilo, Office of the Staff Regent, and CONTEND-UP, among others) and individuals alike, publicly denounced such red-tagging and malicious, unsubstantiated accusations. Groups described them as propaganda to tarnish the name of teacher-unionists and student activists as is habitually practiced by state forces now to produce chilling effects on dissenting voices. The fact that red-tagging more or less precedes cold-blooded murder under the Duterte regime were given due emphasis. Of late, Bishop Gerardo Alminaza from San Carlos, Negros Occidental has also issued a statement in support of the faculty members of UPV enjoining the faithfuls to be with him in calling for the end of the persecution of the educators.

Amidst the loud words of sympathy and solidarity however, the UPV administration was eerily silent. This is despite their expected responsibility to ensure and uphold the safety and welfare of their constituents. This is despite their supposed commitment to academic freedom and liberty of speech. This is despite the constant urgings of groups and individuals for their timely statement and measures of support. Almost, three weeks have lapsed yet not a word, nay, not an echo emanates from the Office of Chancellor Ricardo Babaran.

It is hard to comprehend how the UPV Administration can choose to turn a blind eye and be silent when threats ever loom close and sinister. When there are bangings on its door for help. When islands away, Church bells toll to denounce the regime of fear.

How should such silence from administrators of UPV be construed? Must it be taken as a consequence of the administrative burden the pandemic has forced upon their necks like a yoke? If so, must we then act like we have suffered social amnesia and forget that they have called for an urgent press conference when the University’s reputation is at stake because of the proliferating reports of sexual abuse purportedly committed by teacher and students? Oh, is the silence because the accusations are directed to individuals and the university’s repute, whether or not those threatened will be harm, will more or less come out intact? Is Prof. Talledo infallible when he wrote that the University bureaucracy with the administration in the helm is a “serpent that swallows its tail?”

Because, if so, then the silence must be construed as no less than a choice willingly taken after weighing the contingent consequences’ impact on the administrations’ business of self- preservation.

We may hope that the implication of the administration’s silence ends at self-preservation. But that would be wishful-thinking if not at all delusional because clearly, it has a far more insidious implication. Silence is an enabling indifference and those silent ones are accomplices of oppressors and tyrants guilty of a crime of omission. “Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented” and “it is not words but silence that kills,” as put aptly by Elie Wiesel, who has delved deep into the politics of silence and neutrality.

The search process for the new Chancellor of UPV or the possible extension term of the current one is now ongoing. As a student, I personally hold opinions about the search process and consider answers to questions I posed above. What remains however etched on me is never to fall into disturbing silence lest we be accomplices to the furtherance of authorities committed only to self-preservation and not to the welfare of its constituency nor to academic freedom and liberty of expression./PT

Dibuho ni: Justin Madriaga (Spokesperson, Anakbayan-Panay)

TEXTUAL/SEXUAL POLITICS

TEXTUAL/SEXUAL POLITICS
by Tomas T. Talledo

[Confer (cf.) Toril Moi, Sexual/Textual Politics (1986)]

I read various statements from different groups and line offices of UP Visayas-Iloilo. The statements poured out anger and anguish as provoked by the “ManyaksOfUPV,” an on-line niche where misogynist exchanges among members of the Scintilla Juris Fraternity were accessed. Sensational as it is this surfaced the scandal for public eyes and appeared in local and national news outlets. The likes of #Metoo victims’ disclosures flooded social media boldly naming the sexual predators.

The count of statements released were at scale of intensities in condemnation of lewd contents of ManyaksOfUPV leaks total to 20*. They’re from resident organisations in the university spanning from the disciplinal, interest, political groups of students and from the Alumni Association. The involved fraternity and sorority, Scintilla Juris and Stella Juris, released their respective apologetics. As expected by publics are communiques released by the bureaucratic line offices: the Anti-Sexual Harassment, Gender and Development Program and from the core of Administration officials.

On closer look, the various statements betray the distinguishable authorial framings of the scandal. The ubiquitous “statement of the problem,” its perceived source or “where it’s coming from” and the strongly suggested “disposition” of those guilty are only detectable to discerning readers. The framings are recognizable as they truly are: “different folks with different strokes”.

There are two broad views regarding the “nature” of the problem. One side submits that it’s traceable to despicable behavior of individuals, the other side points out the prevailing “macho-fascist” and/or patriarchal culture. But a few are not clear about by their mixing up of units of analysis or who/what is culpable party within the statement. And the “metaphysics” of guilt is often on the heads of individuals that in the long run spared the group affiliation. This metaphysics is shared by the statements of many groups in UPV.

Statements that deployed terms like “macho-fascist” and “patriarchal, misogynistic culture” seem to depart from individual blame. The accusing finger points at an overarching social-ideological structure that can only be grasped as an abstraction. However within the limitations of a statement form such abstraction, if not concretely defined or described, remains a nebulous abstraction. Thus, the sting of the message is dissipated.

Understandably, the involved fraternity and sorority in the on-line scandal released their apologetics but the arguments they marshaled failed to reach the level achieved by early Christian fathers as to be persuasive. Augustine’s Confessions is the widely accepted model of this genre. This is probably because the appeal of apologetics as genre is only fit in defense of serious remorse but not for petite contrition. With Augustine again, when libido is in question, the gravity of kenosis or self-emptying really matters!

What about statements emanated from line offices of the University? They were made public to preserve and to reiterate existing texts regulating the (mis)behaviours of the constituents. They’re speech elements of the school’s discourse on system maintenance. These statements cannot do without over emphasizing the penal portions of regulations and the wages of violations. Yet these officialese are blind in failing to see the overarching “textual-sexual” politics combination.

These official statements are circumscribed because they did not recognize the fact that the State University is in the final analysis always a state’s university. And that human libidinal energies were never shackled by the State nor by the educational institutions since then. An imperceptible truth to those intoxicated by their positions. For the university bureaucracy is like a coiling creature that swallows its tail: an uroboros, a self-preserving serpent.

Public scandals such as this is not singular nor novel in educational institutions. Sex scandals happened even in religious institutions as we knew now. What’s probably unique and jarring to many is the site where this scandal spread — as something trending in the cyberworld in real time. And that the dynamics of shame or “loss of face” operated overwhelmingly than the dynamics of self-guilt in a rural school like U.P. Miag-ao. For what is least expected teasingly comes unforeseeable./www,panaytoday.net
……………………………….
*Statements from groups (13 = All UP Academic Employees Union, UPV University Student Council, SAMASA Alumni, SAMAKA-KA, SAMASA-UPV, RedBolts, Hublag Dance Group, DUCES, Hamili Brotherhood, Sociological Society, Samahang Sikolohiya, UPV Alumni Association, Skimmers); from UPV line offices (5 = College of Arts and Sciences, Division of Humanities, UPV Administration – Information and Publications Office, Anti-Sexual Harassment Office, Gender and Development Program Office); from involved Fraternity/Sorority (2= Scintilla & Stella Juris).

Doing Our Best

By Hope V. Hervilla

COMMENTARY | When you are in government, you thought you are doing your best yet you are still bombarded by negative criticisms from the people you served.

You throw back negative criticisms and blame the people whom this government is responsible to serve.

Do not take this personally. This is nothing to do with you personally.

This is about how government’s policies and programs should served the nation as a whole especially during pandemic. How government’s leaders provide intelligent guidance and directions in solving societal problems both in collective and humane ways.

Government’s programs should unite rather than divide creating chaos among the people. Take the case of the Social Amelioration Program which should provide social protection both from economic difficulties and COViD-19 prevention.

However, on the other side this created chaos and violence because of exclusion and inclusion mechanisms that deprived legitimate ones. Full implementation was further delayed because of so many bureaucratic layers.

Why not listen to voiceless voices no matter how hurting it is? If you feel they’re unreasonable, teach them how to be one. Educate them what should be done in a scientific and proper way. Formulate and implement laws and programs that don’t invalidate, discriminate and divide them.

Why use intimidation and violence to control people for your own wishes and convenience when hunger is their worst enemy aside from COVID-19?

Why it is easy to generally blame and condemn the poor as undisciplined, lazy, criminals, gamblers, etc.?

In fact, only few of them behave this way compared to other millions of Filipinos who are also poor and struggling to survive.

Why it is difficult to accept criticisms and demand government officials’ accountability in their incompetence with their full powers to enact laws, formulate programs, policies and guidelines serving and protecting everyone especially all of the marginalized in a timely manner when it doesn’t?

Likewise, they hardly listen to the dissenting voices of powerless and the underprivileged.

Why blinded by powers and entitlements and point fingers and biases to the people and boast yourselves as heroes of the status quo?

Above all, as leaders, government servants, social workers, front liners or whatever we call ourselves, we should be always inward-looking and be critical , collectively analyzing of how society and powers made us to be.

Let us analyze and learn how we respond responsibly to the poor and helpless people in this time of uncertainties and hunger.

Let us put the accountabilities to those who have greater powers and access to resources rather than blaming the victims and justify the use of coercion to silence them.

Then, we can be true leaders and servants of our people./www.panaytoday.net

Hervilla was undersecretary of the Department of Social Welfare and Development from 2016 to 2018.

An Open Letter to Covidiot

By Prof. Ma. Arve B. Bañez

The COVID- 19 pandemic has transformed the world into a huge classroom and laboratory. (Intuitive to the truism, learning is not confined to the four walls of the classroom) Many of our assumptions have become contingent as new norms and cultural adaptions progresses daily. All of us became students and teachers, learning, teaching from our everyday ‘bare life’ experiences.

Lisa Heldke (1987)[1] proposed Coresponsible Option, a philosophy of education which I find relevant as we grapple with the COVID- 19 pandemic. The term coresponsible denotes the“communal aspect of inquiry” and suggests in conduct, ethical guidelines such as “…have responsibilities to each other” and “…have obligations to treat each other with respect and care” (p. 104).  The term option connotes, “provisional ground”, “springboards for future investigation”, “modification in the light of new evidence” among others (p. 105). The Coresponsible Option advocates for a critical, ethical, and democratic teaching and learning modalities.

We can spend the remaining months of the Academic Year 2019- 2020, writing, reading, and doing care work to help ourselves and our fellow humans to survive and live to tell the tale about this pandemic. Our students have narratives waiting to be written even published with our promptings and guidance. We can generate essays to express the singular and shared voices of lockdown and quarantine experiences, of everyday life adaptions amidst physical and social distancing.  We can write research proposals and our public service engagements shall be rife.  Under normal circumstances we can resume classes even tomorrow. However, we can also pass our students and end the semester even tomorrow? In times of precarity, we cannot speak in absolutes and certainties.

In my view, we cannot risk more lives, not in the name of productivity porn.  Unless, the national government presents a comprehensive plan how to level the contagion tomorrow.  A pandemic is in our midst, at this time, thinking only about metrics and rubrics for teaching and learning is insensitive (even insane). In solitude and in solidarity, let us reflect if we have regained our sense of humanity and community sans COVID -19.

The COVID -19 pandemic is the biggest lesson at the start of the decade. Let us not fall into the trap of myopia in the year 2020. A clearer vision of our philosophy of education must be anchored on buen vivir where humans and life- forms co-construct the post- development pluriverse./www.panaytoday.net

About the author:
Prof. Bañez is a feminist-activist and peace advocate. She is currently a faculty of UP Visayas, Division of Professional Education. She is also a member of Congress of Teachers and Educators for Nationalism and Democracy (CONTEND).


[1] Lisa Heldke, PhD is a feminist education philosopher. Heldke, Lisa (1987). Hypatia vol, 2, no. 3.

4Ps and Dependency

By Hope V. Hervilla

When I said the poor are not lazy, I didn’t mean I am for Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program (4Ps) as government’s long term solution in eradicating poverty.

Though, I fully agree that 4P’s is an immediate, short term palliative solution that at least provided immediate relief among the poorest of the poor who have no income at all making them country’s dependents. (This is not to mention the controversial problem of exclusion of deserving beneficiaries and inclusion of not deserving ones.)

POVERTY is a structural problem. This is not a personal problem that should be fully blamed to individuals nor can be solved by palliative measures such as 4Ps or being hardworking.

There are lots of Filipinos that are physically or mentally hardworking but they remain poor in their lifetime until their next generation. Yet, there are also hardworking Filipinos that have raise their level of income or economic status as middle class.

To enable everyone or the majority of us if not all to be productive, there should be government measures that provide sustainable jobs for us. Jobs that serve the country’s economy towards industrialization and agricultural sufficiency not an economy that is dependent on foreign loans, exportation of raw materials, importation of goods, and dollar remittances of OFWs. Jobs that made us human and dignified not slaves and milking cows of foreign countries and local big capitalists.

Everyone will then have decent jobs not dependent on government’s palliative measures such as 4Ps or measures anchored on political patronage.

If and when there will still be lazy people despite available decent and sustainable job opportunities, then it’s the individuals sole personal accountabilities. Consequently, they should be reoriented to be socially responsible individuals and should work depending on their capacities and skills.

Hervilla was undersecretary of the Department of Social Welfare and Development from 2016 to 2018.  

There is no curfew at sea

By Mirasol Guerrero de la Bahia

Disclaimer: This article is based on the field notes of the author originally published in Facebook Page Who Chews Katumbal.

“Give us this day our daily fish”
– Pablo Neruda, Ode to the Sea 1952.

The Philippine national government quickly responded with lockdown and enhanced community quarantine measures in the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic. My thoughts wandered off to our fishing communities … what will be the impact on the lives and livelihoods of fishers.

(Thought cloud: The artisanal fishers observe social and physical distancing as they navigated the sea alone or with one or two companions, akin to quarantine? On terra, they are more vulnerable to the virus.)  

I learned some answer to my curious question. The strict observance of the curfew (from eight PM to five AM) is ‘hurting’ fish capture. Below are stories from artisanal, marginal fishers of a coastal municipality in Southern Iloilo, Panay

Kuntani mga alas tres ukon alas kwatro sang kaagahon mapalawod na kami ugaling indi man pwede kay curfew pa. Ti mapalawod kami pasado alas singko, mabatak kami wala na kuha. Kung kaagahon manginaon ang isda kag damu ka makuha… Maka-ariya ka pila ka beses…

(About three or four o’clock in the morning we set out fishing but it’s not possible anymore because of the curfew … It’s already late if we sail after five in the morning, there’s no catch when we pull our nets. Early in the morning, there are many fishes when we pull our nets… We can cast and pull our nets, several times…)

Kuntani sa hapon halin pasado mga alas kwatro asta mga alas siete mapalawod kami para magbatak liwat pero nagahingagaw pa kami puli pa uma kay abtan kami curfew.

(At dusk until seven in the evening we set out fishing to pull our nets again. However, we are in a hurry to reach home to beat the curfew).

Kuntani kaagahon man kami masunod para nga makauna kami kuha sang isda para ilibud kag sa hapon makabaligya pa kami. Ugaling ga dali -dali kami panghimus sa hapon para magpauli sa uma kay maabtan basi kami sang curfew.

(Before dawn, we want to wait for the first catch of the day and be able to sell. But there is still the curfew. In the afternoon, we want to sell the fresh catch but we are in hurry to reach home to beat the curfew).

In this brief report exposed were several ‘blows’ to fishers due to the curfew. Fishers now spend shorter hours casting and pulling their nets, resulting in shrinking income from daily fish capture. A fish vendor’s access of the fish catch as well as her daily schedule of selling them encumbered by the curfew. Since the implementation of the lockdown and enhanced community quarantine measures, most households rely on the ambulant vendors’ delivery of fresh produce including fish. Apparently, the curfew from 8pm to 5am applies only to persons doing regular 8am-5pm office jobs.

There is no curfew at sea, the artisanal fishers’ working hours are well-adapted to the fishing season.

My urgent appeal to the Department of Agriculture- Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (DA-BFAR) is to issue a statement exempting fishers from the curfew. The fishers (and farmers) are frontliners in food production; they safeguard food sufficiency promoting the well- being of our communities.

There are over a million, and an estimated 800,000 small-scale fishers in the Philippines. The poorest of the poor were recorded to come from fishing communities. I wonder what health measures are available for fishers to protect them from the coronavirus disease. They have endured long enough the neglect by government of public health and other social services. Now, this leaves them more vulnerable to health hazards sans COVID- 19.

  “… we are lowly fishermen, men of the shore we’re cold and hungry…”

The author is an envi-activist, critic of the status quo, and friend of fishers women and men.

Teaching-Learning While on Quarantine: A Reflection

By Prof. Tomas T. Talledo

Truly education goes beyond schooling for the total number of hours a person stays in the classroom is shorter when compared with her entire lifespan. To live a meaningful life, education aims the becoming of a person. The person shapes herself into a beautiful project through education. The hubris of classroom teachers is in thinking that they are really significant, if not determinant in student’s life. Yet how come the teachers of Marcos were unnamed; the teachers of Duterte are unheard about; and who were the teachers of those who commit crimes against humanity? However, teachers of the famous and successful such as the Pope or of President Obama were sought after by the media to feature? Is this not spurious attention on a balance scale?!

The academic E.D. Hirsh tells of “school transmitted” values like civic consciousness, the sense of being a citizen of a polity, that school system’s values consciously conveys distinct from those conveyed by narrow entities such as family, church, peers. It is in this sense that schools are often exaggeratedly viewed as responsible in the transmission of values.

But currently, we catch values, skills and knowledge from various agencies of society itself. Thus again, education is broader than schooling: i.e. “we don’t allow schooling to interfere with our education,” seasoned activists remind us always.

If classroom teachers are by vocation not educators — as they behave like moviehouse clerks, fish technologists, unimaginative grammarians, frustrated beauty pageant candidates — they more likely lack solid philosophy of education. They don’t or can’t appreciate existential questions: “Who are we in this lifeworld?” “What’s our purpose in being here and now?” “What’s the meaning of being (evolved or created as) human in society?” May heaven have mercy on us as they now occupy high positions in our academe.

Philosophy of education refers to that human energies that are fully “life giving”.

Upon hearing that Sec. of Education Leonor Briones was tested positive of virus infection this news suddenly become the “Aha!” the Gestalt moment of those who are into teaching ang learning profession. It suddenly appears now that everyone’s chance of survival rumble at random with what class sessions remain in the school calendar.

Secretary Briones will now undergo her personal journey, her period of genuine education while in confinement, clarifying for herself what is most basic after all: for the school bureacracy finishing its work calendar or the ineffable revaluation of human life? Ah, the choice she will make marks her philosophy of education.

So, what for are the remaining months of the academic calendar in a government school? Shall its energies be devoted to catch up with the ASEAN Quality Assurance? To climb higher in the ladder of international ranking among research institutions? To aggressively wrestle and finally win as recipient of the highest PBB amongst other government institutions?

I am, however, convinced that our educational institutions convert itself into collectivities of self reflection within the remaining academic calendar. A spark of education finally happens in schools. To be the Symposium of human life’s ultimate sense. To become the human community of learning and teaching of commonality, of communion, of communism in order to survive the current Scourge./www.panaytoday.net

Prof. Talledo is a faculty of the Department of Social Sciences, College of Arts and Sciences (CAS), University of the Philippines Visayas (UPV) Miag-ao Campus.