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EDITORIALS & OPINIONS OF THE WEEK:
(Mini Reads followed by Full news commentary)
FROM THE INQUIRER

EDITORIAL: WORLD ON EDGE


SEPTEMBER 15 - THE TEMBLOR felt in parts of northeast China last week wasn’t due to natural causes. It was the result of an underground nuclear explosion over the border—the latest test blast by North Korea, coming only eight months from its last test in January. This one, according to experts, appeared to be the most powerful yet with an explosive yield estimated at about 10 kilotons, enough to trigger a quake magnitude of 5.3.
The first North Korean nuclear test in 2006, from what was thought to be a 2-kiloton bomb, had a quake magnitude of 4.3. The latest developments show that the reclusive country with a penchant for bloodcurdling war rhetoric is fast gaining the technology to arm itself with nuclear weapons, despite the multiple sanctions the United Nations has imposed on it to contain its ambitions. After the fifth test, North Korea said the nuclear warhead it detonated was designed to be mounted on ballistic rockets to produce a “variety of smaller, lighter and diversified nuclear warheads of higher strike power.” A North Korea achieving that kind of capability would be a nightmare scenario for the planet. The country remains a highly secretive, volatile entity with a poor track record in adhering to international agreements over disarmament and disclosure of its nuclear activities; the more powerful its technology becomes, the less incentive it would have to scale back and be curtailed by yet one more round of economic and political sanctions by the international community. READ MORE...

ALSO: EDITORIAL - In the rabbit hole
(But herein lies the central paradox of our times: The demand for fairness and due process is quickly made when it applies to the powers that be; there is no question, of course, that they deserve it. Those killed so far in the war on drugs—the padyak drivers, the petty pushers in fraying flip-flops, the denizens of dark alleys yelling surrender—did not have the luxury of being afforded the same. And here Philippine society is today, in an ever-deepening rabbit hole of national cognitive dissonance.)


SEPTEMBER 17 -
As allegations go, the ones made by confessed hitman Edgar Matobato at the Senate hearing last Thursday are extremely serious. Claiming to be a former member of the so-called Davao Death Squad, Matobato accused President Duterte of carrying out or instigating heinous crimes when he was mayor of Davao City. These activities supposedly involved kidnapping, murder, terrorism, attempted assassination. The most widely reported case Matobato brought up was that of broadcast journalist Jun Pala, a vocal critic of Mr. Duterte whom the mayor allegedly ordered killed. From 1988 to 2013, said Matobato, he and other DDS members killed more than 1,000 persons, who were buried in quarries, dumped on roadsides, or, in one case, fed to a crocodile. It would take some time, if at all, to verify these allegations. Even during his incumbency as mayor, Mr. Duterte routinely dismissed and refused to cooperate with outside observers such as Human Rights Watch and the Commission on Human Rights which had tried, without much success, not only to get to the bottom of the killings but also to persuade witnesses and survivors to talk publicly about what they knew. A few brave souls spoke before a camera, such as the mother of three minors reportedly rounded up and summarily killed. READ MORE...

ALSO: EDITORIAL - Cleaning up Marcos


SEPTEMBER 14 -ON SEPT. 11, the Official Gazette of the Philippines decided to mark the 99th birth anniversary of the late dictator Ferdinand E. Marcos, by releasing a graphic. What could possibly go wrong? As it turns out: Almost everything. The graphic produced by the Gazette carried a photo, a quote, and a caption. Under sustained social media criticism, the caption went through three editions—each one deeply problematic both because of what was included and what was left out. The first version stirred controversy because it failed to describe Marcos for what he was, the architect of what he himself was proud to call “constitutional authoritarianism.” In other words, there was nothing in the graphic to suggest that Marcos was an authoritarian who changed the Constitution to entrench himself in power. Instead, we got euphemisms like this: “He was the longest-serving President of the country for almost 21 years.” Withering feedback on social media channels was quick to point out that Marcos had engineered the declaration of martial law in 1972, just before his second and final presidential term under the old Constitution was up. THAT was the reason he became, in the new Official Gazette’s view, the “longest-serving President.” READ MORE...

ALSO: EDITORIAL - Show of faith
(How admirable is a sincere show of faith. It becomes more so if it informs one’s daily life and moves one to aspire to be like the one being honored and revered: virtuous and devoted, merciful and compassionate, strong and committed.)


SEPTEMBER 19 -Faith is on full display in the Bicol region, where the feast of Our Lady of Peñafrancia is being celebrated and oncludes today with a fluvial procession on the Naga River. Devotees throng the ceremonies to venerate the ancient image, such as Emelita Bagamasbad, who has made the 6-hour journey for almost two decades to pray to Our Lady and seek protection for her loved ones. Interesting and poignant, the stories of miracles tell of simple people with simple lives on which blessings rain: Army Cpl. Edwin Sto. Domingo, for example, who believes that his prayer was granted for a second son, born during the week of Our Lady’s feast, or Lt. Col. Michael Buhat, who is sure that it was Our Lady’s intercession that saved two of his men from death in a battle in Camarines Norte. They consider these blessings rewards for their devotion, as do the pilgrims and especially the voyadores, the barefoot men who bear on their shoulders the carriage bearing the image of Our Lady for the 3-kilometer traslacion from the Peñafrancia Shrine to the Naga Metropolitan Cathedral. Over 300 years of devotion to Our Lady has resulted in a hybrid celebration that begins on the first day with the traslacion and ends with the fluvial procession that brings the image of Bicol’s patroness back to the Basilica Minore (which is adjacent to the Shrine) over the Naga River, accompanied by voyadores in boats. “Viva la Virgen!” the devotees cry. Long live Bicol’s beloved Ina. READ MORE...


READ FULL MEDIA REPORTS HERE:

EDITORIAL: World on edge

MANILA, SEPTEMBER 19, 2016 (INQUIRER) @inquirerdotnet 12:15 AM September 13th, 2016 - THE TEMBLOR felt in parts of northeast China last week wasn’t due to natural causes. It was the result of an underground nuclear explosion over the border—the latest test blast by North Korea, coming only eight months from its last test in January. This one, according to experts, appeared to be the most powerful yet with an explosive yield estimated at about 10 kilotons, enough to trigger a quake magnitude of 5.3.

The first North Korean nuclear test in 2006, from what was thought to be a 2-kiloton bomb, had a quake magnitude of 4.3. The latest developments show that the reclusive country with a penchant for bloodcurdling war rhetoric is fast gaining the technology to arm itself with nuclear weapons, despite the multiple sanctions the United Nations has imposed on it to contain its ambitions. After the fifth test, North Korea said the nuclear warhead it detonated was designed to be mounted on ballistic rockets to produce a “variety of smaller, lighter and diversified nuclear warheads of higher strike power.”

A North Korea achieving that kind of capability would be a nightmare scenario for the planet. The country remains a highly secretive, volatile entity with a poor track record in adhering to international agreements over disarmament and disclosure of its nuclear activities; the more powerful its technology becomes, the less incentive it would have to scale back and be curtailed by yet one more round of economic and political sanctions by the international community.

READ MORE

In fact, the current punitive measures in place appear not to have deterred Pyongyang. Following North Korea’s announcement last January of a nuclear test involving what it claimed was a hydrogen bomb, the usual condemnations from the UN Security Council and countries such as the United States, Japan and South Korea made the rounds. Even China, North Korea’s staunchest ally, said it “firmly opposes” the test and that North Korea should “stop taking any actions that would make the situation worse.” For good measure, China joined a UN Security Council decision imposing a new set of sanctions, including “banning Pyongyang from exporting most of its natural resources, prohibiting the supply of aviation fuel and the sale of small arms to North Korea, and requiring the inspection of all North Korean planes and ships carrying cargo abroad,” according to a CNN report.

But all for naught so far, it appears—just as all the other previous talks and deals with North Korea have fallen by the wayside. In 2005, America, Russia, China, Japan and South Korea negotiated with the country for a suspension of its nuclear activities in exchange for badly needed food aid. North Korea complied for a while, even publicly dismantling a nuclear facility in Yongbyon to show that it was fulfilling its part of the bargain.

But in February 2013, whatever thaw was achieved evaporated once again when North Korea conducted its third nuclear test, which had a quake magnitude of 5.1, bigger than its last nuclear blast in May 2009 at 4.7. The implication was clear: Despite ostensibly agreeing to disarmament, or at least a slowdown, North Korea simply went ahead with its clandestine nuclear activities.

Three years and two more nuclear tests later, each one more powerful than the last, North Korea is in a position to once again rattle the world and, worse, leave it with dwindling fresh options toward a less dangerous pass. China has once again joined the chorus of condemnation against the latest test. But that would be as far as it would go, based on the strategic calculation that an erratic North Korea that is nevertheless dependent on it for aid and resources is preferable to the specter of Kim Jong-un’s regime falling and the two Koreas reuniting as a democratic, Western-oriented country, which would then pose a challenge to Beijing’s own dreams of domination in this side of the world.

In response to this latest provocation, the UN and America say they are considering a new round of sanctions—a threat North Korea has dismissed as “meaningless” and “highly laughable.” South Korea, in turn, has ratcheted up its own rhetoric, saying it has in place a plan to annihilate Pyongyang if it is attacked: The North Korean capital “will be reduced to ashes and removed from the map,” it vowed.

This is a dangerous escalation all around. The world is on edge, and living on a prayer that North Korea will see the light and ease up on its game of brinkmanship. 


EDITORIAL - In the rabbit hole @inquirerdotnet Philippine Daily Inquirer 12:28 AM September 17th, 2016


As allegations go, the ones made by confessed hitman Edgar Matobato at the Senate hearing last Thursday are extremely serious.

Claiming to be a former member of the so-called Davao Death Squad, Matobato accused President Duterte of carrying out or instigating heinous crimes when he was mayor of Davao City.

These activities supposedly involved kidnapping, murder, terrorism, attempted assassination. The most widely reported case Matobato brought up was that of broadcast journalist Jun Pala, a vocal critic of Mr. Duterte whom the mayor allegedly ordered killed. From 1988 to 2013, said Matobato, he and other DDS members killed more than 1,000 persons, who were buried in quarries, dumped on roadsides, or, in one case, fed to a crocodile.

It would take some time, if at all, to verify these allegations. Even during his incumbency as mayor, Mr. Duterte routinely dismissed and refused to cooperate with outside observers such as Human Rights Watch and the Commission on Human Rights which had tried, without much success, not only to get to the bottom of the killings but also to persuade witnesses and survivors to talk publicly about what they knew. A few brave souls spoke before a camera, such as the mother of three minors reportedly rounded up and summarily killed.

READ MORE...

However, not one case was filed in court. Mr. Duterte has denied responsibility for the alleged mass killings, while claiming credit for the street cleansing that made Davao a showcase city. But he is a voluble man, and on a number of occasions he had no qualms about advocating killing.

Last May at his miting de avance, he said: “If I make it to Malacañang, I will just do what I did as mayor. You drug pushers, holdup men and do-nothings, you better get out because I’ll kill you.”

A year earlier, in May 2015, he directly associated himself with the Davao killings, saying in an interview on his regular local TV program: “They say I am the death squad? True, that is true.” And, just last Aug. 31, with the extrajudicial killing of alleged drug users and pushers in full swing, he appeared to sanction the bloodbath with this statement about the difficulties of rehabilitating junkies, spoken before members of the Volunteers Against Crime and Corruption: “Where do I get the billions [of pesos]? My budget is only this much… That’s why in the meantime you have them killed.”

These are startling statements, staggering in their import. But none has dented the President’s popularity, much less led to any serious inquiry into the nature of the killings—now about 3,000—during his watch. Will Matobato’s allegations bring about a change? The Philippines is chafing under the searching gaze of the international community.

Surely Matobato’s allegations, by dint of their grave nature and the sheer preponderance of names, places, details and circumstances that he disclosed, deserve to be looked at—not just with seriousness but also with objectivity. The burden lies on the accuser, no matter how lopsided the setup may be in this case with an admittedly borderline-illiterate hitman ranged against the legal firepower of the administration.

Caution and skepticism are required in weighing the allegations and whatever evidence may be gathered in their wake. As many of the President’s supporters were quick to say, not one of these incendiary claims is worth anything until it is proven true in court—until the proper charges are filed and due investigation is made. Until then, the President enjoys the presumption of innocence, as he must.

But herein lies the central paradox of our times: The demand for fairness and due process is quickly made when it applies to the powers that be; there is no question, of course, that they deserve it. Those killed so far in the war on drugs—the padyak drivers, the petty pushers in fraying flip-flops, the denizens of dark alleys yelling surrender—did not have the luxury of being afforded the same. And here Philippine society is today, in an ever-deepening rabbit hole of national cognitive dissonance.


EDITORIAL - Cleaning up Marcos @inquirerdotnet Philippine Daily Inquirer 01:44 AM September 14th, 2016

ON SEPT. 11, the Official Gazette of the Philippines decided to mark the 99th birth anniversary of the late dictator Ferdinand E. Marcos, by releasing a graphic. What could possibly go wrong? As it turns out: Almost everything.

The graphic produced by the Gazette carried a photo, a quote, and a caption. Under sustained social media criticism, the caption went through three editions—each one deeply problematic both because of what was included and what was left out.

The first version stirred controversy because it failed to describe Marcos for what he was, the architect of what he himself was proud to call “constitutional authoritarianism.” In other words, there was nothing in the graphic to suggest that Marcos was an authoritarian who changed the Constitution to entrench himself in power.

Instead, we got euphemisms like this: “He was the longest-serving President of the country for almost 21 years.” Withering feedback on social media channels was quick to point out that Marcos had engineered the declaration of martial law in 1972, just before his second and final presidential term under the old Constitution was up. THAT was the reason he became, in the new Official Gazette’s view, the “longest-serving President.”

READ MORE...

The first version referenced the military rule that allowed him to “serve” until 1986. “In 1972, he declared Martial Law to suppress a communist insurgency and secessionism in Mindanao.” This is only partly true. The communist insurgency he used as an excuse was but an incipient movement; by 1986, the insurgency had spread throughout the country and grown to 24,000 regulars. The Mindanao secessionist movement was provoked by Marcos’ own interventionist plan. Marcos’ own diaries revealed that he was planning the imposition of martial law from the start of his second presidential term, all the way back in 1969.

The first caption also offered a version of history that manages to praise the dictator. “In 1986, Marcos stepped down from the presidency to avoid bloodshed during the uprising that came to be known as ‘People Power’.” This is the exact opposite of what transpired: Marcos did not try to avoid bloodshed. In fact, he called on the military to attack the mutineers and their civilian supporters on Edsa. Also, he did not step down, but was—in the chaos of a Palace surrounded by protesters and enveloped by panic, on the long night of Feb. 25, 1986—ousted.

The second version of the caption removed the mention of avoiding bloodshed (perhaps because the video and documentary record is clear that Marcos gave orders to attack). But this attempt at airbrushing history was seen, too, and denounced.

Finally, a third version of the caption was tried; the second paragraph on the declaration of martial law supposedly to suppress the communist insurgency and the third paragraph on “stepping down” from the presidency were deleted. The first paragraph was tweaked to include the following last sentence: “He was the longest-serving President of the country for almost 21 years, declaring Martial Law in 1972 then went to exile to the United States in 1986 at the height of the People Power Revolution.” And a new one-sentence paragraph was added: “He was succeeded by Corazon Cojuangco Aquino.”

The third version managed to correct one error present in the two previous versions. Marcos started his first term as president in 1965, not 1966. (In those days, elections were held in November and presidential terms began on Rizal Day, Dec. 30.) But other infelicities remained. The main problem persisted, too: The Official Gazette had failed to take the full measure of the Filipino politician characterized in both law and jurisprudence as an authoritarian leader, whose regime was marked by thousands of extrajudicial killings, tens of thousands of human rights abuses and the wholesale plunder of the economy. The neutral-seeming language the Gazette chose to use is a clumsy way to clean up Marcos’ image: He was not the longest-serving President, but rather a dictator who kept his grip on power; it is not true that he “went to exile to the United States (sic),” he was SENT into exile, by a popular uprising.

Now why would the Official Gazette under an administration that seeks to remember the atrocities of the Americans a hundred years ago attempt to cover up the atrocities of the Marcos regime—when these happened only a generation ago?


EDITORIAL: Show of faith @inquirerdotnet Philippine Daily Inquirer 12:30 AM September 18th, 2016

Faith is on full display in the Bicol region, where the feast of Our Lady of Peñafrancia is being celebrated and concludes today with a fluvial procession on the Naga River.

Devotees throng the ceremonies to venerate the ancient image, such as Emelita Bagamasbad, who has made the 6-hour journey for almost two decades to pray to Our Lady and seek protection for her loved ones. Interesting and poignant, the stories of miracles tell of simple people with simple lives on which blessings rain:

-Army Cpl. Edwin Sto. Domingo, for example, who believes that his prayer was granted for a second son, born during the week of Our Lady’s feast, or Lt. Col. Michael Buhat, who is sure that it was Our Lady’s intercession that saved two of his men from death in a battle in Camarines Norte. They consider these blessings rewards for their devotion, as do the pilgrims and especially the voyadores, the barefoot men who bear on their shoulders the carriage bearing the image of Our Lady for the 3-kilometer traslacion from the Peñafrancia Shrine to the Naga Metropolitan Cathedral.

Over 300 years of devotion to Our Lady has resulted in a hybrid celebration that begins on the first day with the traslacion and ends with the fluvial procession that brings the image of Bicol’s patroness back to the Basilica Minore (which is adjacent to the Shrine) over the Naga River, accompanied by voyadores in boats. “Viva la Virgen!” the devotees cry. Long live Bicol’s beloved Ina.

READ MORE...

The striking history of the wooden image began in 1710, as traced by Inquirer correspondent Juan Escandor Jr. From accounts, a Spanish friar introduced Our Lady of Peñafrancia to the cimarrones (African slaves who had escaped their cruel Spanish masters and lived as outlaws) as a patroness to venerate. An artisan carved the image out of a santol tree, copied from an image of Mary and her Child Jesus kept by the friar. A dog was killed so its blood could be used to paint the image, for which the cimarrones built a chapel. The story goes that the dead dog was thrown into the Naga River, but miraculously came back to life.


THE "INA" OF BICOL  -According to locals, a Spanish government official from Peñafrancia, Spain, a native of San Martin de Castañar,settled with his family in Cavite in the early 1680s. One day, Miguel Robles de Covarrubias, a son of that Spanish official and a seminarian studying at the Universidad de Santo Tomas, Manila became seriously ill. He found a painting of the image found by Simon Vela, and would place the painting on whatever part of his body that greatly pained him. This gave him relief from his suffering. “So many are the miracles that have happened that I cannot count them. All I could say is that I am the miracle of her miracles.” Miguel said. He and his family prayed to Our Lady of Peñafrancia whose picture he clutched to his breast as he hoped for recovery. Miguel vowed that if cured, he would construct a chapel on the banks of the Pasig River in Manila, in gratitude to Her, Miraculously cured,he built a small church made of nipa at the small estero near pasig river containing the first copy of painting of Penafrancia,done in canvass in 1690s. After that,he was ordained a priest in Manila but he was destined in the Ciudad de Nueva Caceres (now Naga City) by Bishop Andres Gonzalez.

Folk customs have inevitably been incorporated in the rituals to honor Ina, such as the traslacion that approximates the tumultuous January procession of the Black Nazarene in Manila, a heaving sea of men dressed in purple and fighting for the privilege of pulling on the rope that tows the carriage bearing the image of the suffering Christ to and from Quiapo Church. In Naga, Our Lady’s voyadores have developed a tradition of getting drunk before lifting her carriage on their shoulders, as though high intoxication were a requirement to commune with the divine. (The posting of soldiers and policemen has thus been deemed necessary to maintain order.

A liquor ban has been put in place, as well as a gun ban. Other prohibited practices are the throwing of confetti and the use of water hoses on the voyadores. The carriage itself has been modified to make it easier and safer to transport the much-loved image—a modern touch that contrasts with the ancient traditions of faith that surround it.)

Also, in Naga as in Quiapo, the male devotees take the active part and the women are in the sidelines—doubtless as a precautionary measure, the ardor of faith often intertwined with the notion that vigorous physical participation, to the point of risking life and limb, is an act necessary to show deep faith for the grant of petitions.

Our Lady of Peñafrancia has become an inextricable part of the history of Naga, once named the Ciudad de Nueva Caceres and one of the first four colonial cities in Southeast Asia. A highlight of Naga’s history is the revolt in

Nueva Caceres, “which brought the proud Spanish government to its end in [Camarines Sur]” on Sept. 18, 1898, and “signaled the end of Spanish rule in the whole region,” Bicol historian Danilo Gerona said.

In 2010, Caceres Archbishop Leonardo Z. Legaspi said Ina had healed him of lung cancer. In his homily after the traslacion, the archbishop said: “It is almost impossible to speak of Bicol without referring to Ina. To be a Bicolano is to be her son or daughter.”

How admirable is a sincere show of faith. It becomes more so if it informs one’s daily life and moves one to aspire to be like the one being honored and revered: virtuous and devoted, merciful and compassionate, strong and committed.


Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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