MANILA, December 26, 2003  (STAR) HERE'S THE SCORE By Teodoro C. Benigno - As promised, we are now printing a cross-section of the avalanche of letters and messages this column received in the wake of the Nov. 20 launch of BANGON! at Club Filipino. There are some requests that we publish anew BANGON’s manifesto, a stirring, often passionate five-page trumpet call for the nation to wake up and punch a big hole out of the surrounding darkness. That we may do in due time. At any rate, the following, substantially chopped down, represents the sentiments of our readers here and abroad, largely abroad:

First on the line are old friends Fili and Naty Monserrat of Los Angeles, USA. By the way, Fili through FedEx sent over a natty sample T-shirt with the BANGON! logo. Fine. In due time, I suppose, we shall mass-produce that T-shirt. I would suggest to Fili Monserrat that he organize a Los Angeles chapter of BANGON!, an idea which can be replicated in cities abroad with large Filipino communities. In his missive, Fili writes BANGON! is a great idea and many be just the thing to jolt the Philippines out of its decades-long stupor. "We are with you all the way," he writes.

Because of the long Christmas and New Year holidays, we in BANGON! have yet to decide on the modalities of membership. Our apologies. That should be our top priority the moment we enter the year 2004.

Romy Tuazon, Tessie Palacios, and "friends and close associates" residing in Camelot, Daly City, write: "Great! Our support full speed ahead for BANGON!. Damn the torpedoes!" Last time I was there, we had long, steaming, scintillating discusssions on whether the Philippines could still be saved or simply lapse into the limbo that now enshrouds Burma, Cambodia, Laos, Sri Lanka. Now that BANGON! has been christened, there is my answer.

A. Sumague of Washington asks, with reason, if Brother Eddie Villanueva’s presidential launch under a new party called Bangon ng Pilipino is a BANGON! sally into politics. The answer is no. Brother Eddie, on the contrary, loses his BANGON! membership. We reiterate BANGON! is nonpartisan and that’s where our strength lies. As the republic, badly battered as it is, cracks up even more under the weight of next year’s elections, BANGON! expects to move to front and center to prevent a possible bloody smash-up where only the extremes of the Left and the Right will hugely benefit.

Ramon L. N. Lasol, professor at the University of Macau, China, says Filipinos residing abroad "are just too eager to see our motherland restored to some sanity and forge forward socially and economically. I sincerely hope BANGON! can be a rallying point. Count me in." The professor formerly taught at UP Los Banos.

Romivil V. Cayabyab (Telefax (034) 446-1361), resident of Bacolod City, volunteers to organize a BANGON! chapter "in my area". But qualifies he needs the requisite information. Hold on, Romivil, you’ll get your info soon.

Mike Enriquez of Pomona, California, also volunteers to organize BANGON! in his area. Go ahead, Mike, but you better wait for more specific instructions.

JDIC, who I presume is US-based, says the Philippines "desperately needs a Lee Kuan Yew. Good luck on BANGON! I hope you guys can find the God-appointed savior who can finally save our country. I will be praying for you and your group."

Rodolfo Gonzales, currently employed in Algeria, says to count his voice as a BANGON! member. A native of Bauan, Batangas, he says he "wants to make a difference" and suggests the setting up of a local chapter in Batangas. Fine. "Let’s keep the flame of change burning until we succeed, then hold on to it until we find the realization of our dreams. May you never get tired of inspiring people like me. Long live the motherland!"

Paul F. de la Cruz (Winston Churchill Blvd., Missisippi, Ontario, Canada) says he "remains a Filipino at heart" and is heartened that "people like you have braved the tempest to lead the Philippines through BANGON!. Please let me know how to be involved and maybe I could organize the community here, too."

John-John, writing from Pisa, Italy, wants to join BANGON and what he has to say is heartrending: "The sad reality is that Filipinos in Pisa, formerly teachers, accountants and even lawyers, would prefer to scrub toilets and clean the ‘behinds’ of the elderly segnora or segnore than for their families to face a bleak future in the Philippines. But I still have high hopes for the Philippines. Please, sir, give us something bearable to look forward to. I am one with other Filipinos abroad who wish you all the best for BANGON!"

Cesar Oandasan (HR director, Eastman Kodak Co. Greater East Asia Region) writes: "I hope BANGON! learns from the mistakes of Manindigan. After toppling Marcos, it became a movement in search of a cause and self-imploded due to internal bickerings. Please let us know how Filipinos who are working overseas can be of help." Organize, my friend, organize.

Rocky Aguinaldo (operations manager, Shanghai Jin Tsat Crafts Co. Ltd, Shanghai, China) writes: "BANGON! brings me a message of renewed hope. It is high time that a Third Force be established which will send the message the GOOD ones have organized themselves with the purpose of defeating the BAD and the UGLY. Please let me know how to go about joining BANGON. I wish to accomplish this task soon after my return."

Romeo A. Ramos (Data Resources, Morgan Stanley, 75 Vanic St. New York) writes: "I welcome BANGON! with so much enthusiasm and hope. I want to be counted in, and hopefully, be able to come back home, raise my children, and settle there permanently. God bless!"

Danilo Gorre (Vancover, Canada) writes: "Hindi pa tapos ang laban! Mabuhay ang BANGON! Sana ito na ang huling laban. Sa tagumpay! Di ko talaga maalis ang pagmamahal sa sariling bayan! Kung kailangan ng tulong mula sa Vancouver, handa akong magbigay ng suporta sa abot ng aking makakaya. Mabuhay, Mabuhay!"

Yong R. Uson of Los Angeles also wants to join BANGON! He writes that Pinoys in LA highly regard this columnist as unbiased and unprejudicial and, by extension, trust BANGON, its core leadership led by Vice President Teofisto Guingona.

Edgar C. Hapa (0919-877-7451) of Makati writes: "I feel so helpless and desperate... I hope BANGON! will let me and the rest of the people reaffirm our faith in the Filipino. I hope BANGON! will help make people realize that time is running out. I desperately pray that BANGON! can help us make people believe it is worthwhile dreaming again for our kids. Sir, I plan to invite my colleagues and some other young professionals to join BANGON! Please help us."

Rogelio Peña (1513 Loma Road, Montebello, California) writes: "I can only hope the nationalism you advocate would be pragmatic and materially helpful to the country... Be practical, we need foreign expertise, material goods and resources. I think of Lee Kuan Yew of Singapore and Mahathir Mohamad of Malaysia as pragmatic nationalists Filipinos can emulate. Charles de Gaulle when deciding on important matters considered only one thing: "Is it good for France?"

Constantino Chito Trillana of New York City likewise applies for BANGON! membership.

Solita Lim of New York writes: "Everything is not hopeless after all. BANGON! has certainly stirred many Filipinos here who had earlier given up. Now that we hope again, please do not dash that hope. Tell us how we can help." * * * Here, we cut of the deluge of letters and messages.

I would like to make some things clear however. Henceforth, I can only publish letters with full names (not just nicknames) and addresses in this space. And please do not write overly long. Now let me dwell on some specific matters and issues. BANGON! has been launched but it will take time before it is fully fleshed out, has a sturdy spinal column, muscles, and the philosophical guns that can take on the enemy full barrel. That should be soon.

I am amazed however and certainly deeply touched by the positive reaction to BANGON! particularly from Filipinos abroad. Theirs is a cri de coeur, a cry of the heart, a deep, intense yearning for the motherhood which remains the Philippines.

They left the Philippines because of despair and the belief there was nothing here for them and their families anymore. But given them a spark of hope and the deep longing is not only back. All the more we realize, we who conceived of and launched BANGON! that we have a great and tremendous responsibility. Soon, we shall wade into the darkness and that’s when the real battles begin.

We assure you. We shall fight and fight relentlessly. (Send reactions to

STAR EDITORIAL - Seeing Malacañang’s hand The Philippine Star 12/26/2003

The way the reactions are pouring in, it’s clear that everyone is convinced it was Malacañang that allowed deposed President Joseph Estrada to leave for the United States. And the emotional debate that has erupted shows the nation is a long way from healing the deep wounds created by EDSA II.

Here is a man charged with the capital offense of plunder, given leave by the Sandiganbayan to undergo knee surgery abroad, escorted by four police officers at taxpayers’ expense. He can very well subject his precious knees to surgery in his own country, but no, he has to spend at least two months in the United States.

On the other hand, here is a man who won the presidency by a landslide – the largest margin ever in the nation’s history – who was kicked out of office by an angry crowd because his political allies were perceived to be stonewalling in his impeachment trial. Does a former president, held without bail for massive corruption, deserve special treatment?

He does, as far as the Sandiganbayan is concerned. But there are Filipinos who aren’t so sure. These are people who see Malacañang’s hand in the decision of the anti-graft court, which overruled objections posed by government prosecutors.

The suspicion is as much an indictment of Malacañang as it is of the judiciary. No matter what the Sandiganbayan decides, some group will always accuse the court of acting at the behest of the Palace. But in this case, the timing and circumstances surrounding the court’s decision ring alarm bells among those who think Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo the presidential candidate is simply trying to score brownie points with Estrada and his supporters. Estrada’s furlough is also unprecedented; Philippine courts should prepare for similar requests in the future from people detained for capital offenses.

Estrada’s trial was supposed to be a showcase in the nation’s efforts to curb corruption. Three years after his indictment, however, the case appears to have stalled as the wheels of Philippine justice grind at the usual snail’s pace. People want the law to take its course, but can’t trust Malacañang to keep its hands off the judiciary.

Reported by: Sol Jose Vanzi

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