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Back Opinion OP-ED Jose Ma. Montelibano
Jose Ma. Montelibano
Jose Ma. Montelibano

Jose Ma. Montelibano

12 Feb 2014
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My claim to fame in writing is grounded on the fact that I remember a lot of things, this despite increasing senior moments. One of my favorite topics, corruption, has long threads throughout post WWII Philippine history. These threads provide context, something that unfortunately many columnists would rather not refer to as context makes hot issues old issues. Context puts substance, too, and substance often makes sensationalism look trashy.

I remember Ramon Magsaysay. He was our hero, he arrested some untouchables, including our governor then, for the murder of Moises Padilla, a journalist. I had only started going to Grade School but remember my family campaigned for him in 1953 against a president accused of corruption. !953 was 61 years ago.

I remember the Garcia presidency, the Filipino First policy, and lost his reelection bid, presumably with the Americas helping his opponent, Diosdado Macapagal. I remember the reelection bid of Macapagal, his administration accused of corruption, and the victory of Ferdinand Marcos.

25 Jan 2014
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Without much attention from those not directly affected, tropical depression Agaton kills over 40 in Mindanao. And because the storm that has been bringing heavy rains hardly moves and has not yet exited, it can cause more deaths. I wrote last week that 2014 will not be a walk in the park, and Agaton is a precursor of things to come.

Climate change kills. A country with so many coastal areas will bear the brunt of rising water levels. Areas by the seashores will be inundated even without typhoons. These calamities will force Philippine society to confront a touchy issue. It is less about climate change killing people but that it unavoidably kills the poor first. Whether climate change will express itself through typhoons, floods, or landslides, the poor are most vulnerable and the first victims.

17 Jan 2014
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I start the year with a greater resolve to build in tune with people of like-spirit who see 2014 as the year of reconstruction. There will be serious distractions, I am sure, as Filipinos have finally found the impetus for change long evaded. My distractions will be somebody else’s advocacy, and change demands both dismantling and rebuilding. I will fasten my seat belts, tightly.

To those who care to listen, strengthen your resolve, too. 2014 will not be a walk in the park. The political upheaval that began in social media will be fed by more of the same. Corruption of decades that had never been effectively uprooted will expose more of its ugly transactions in every branch of government, in almost all departments. Many forget that there are two former Filipino presidents among the list of world’s most corrupt, and one more may soon be added as the most greedy. Their thievery was possible because they infected the whole system, making corruption the standard of government rather than its curse.

09 Jan 2014
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I was finally able to make it to Tacloban after almost two months of wanting to. Someone asked me what the difference was between Tacloban and other towns in Western Visayas that I had visited last November.  After all, the sight of broken coconut trees were common, as were destroyed homes that littered the sides of highways, or electric poles that were either down or a grotesque version of the Leaning Tower of Pisa.

Obviously, the key difference is death, the number of those killed, the grief of those they left behind, and the collective trauma of residents who went through hell and not yet back. Death has a look that is not easily forgotten. Death has a smell, too, that offends when left unattended beyond a day or two. Death leaves a memory that is almost impossible to bury. And Tacloban experienced death at abnormal levels.

Tacloban is not just one city, it is also a de facto metropolis of Leyte. Lesser known municipalities, Palo and Tanuaun, contributed substantially to the death toll that people outside think is only Tacloban’s. There might be a few other towns, but I am certain of Tacloban, Palo and Tanuaun, all of which I visited earlier this week.  The look, the smell, and the memory from the stories told me by survivors of the death experience struck me even after two months after Typhoon Yolanda.

03 Jan 2014
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It has been tumultuous year, 2013 was, full of so much drama. And Yolanda was a tragic year ender with its impact setting the pace for the new year. It seems to me that 2014 cannot but reflect a continuing catharsis. Too many firsts had begun in 2013, too radical have been the beginning of great changes, that to simply fade away would mean that the changes, too, would then be ningas cogon. I do not believe so.

The investment for change has been massive, maybe more emotional than physical so far, but that can shift pretty fast. The nature of change that has begun a journey of no return is that it can be exponential with little warning. Look at the PDAF issue. It may seem on the surface that the Napoles controversy caused the societal uproar about corruption at the highest level. But after Marcos, Estrada, Corona and Gloria, the PDAF is but the tip of the dirty cesspool.

27 Dec 2013
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We are celebrating the Christmas Season still, Christmas Day has come and gone, but not the spirit, not at all the spirit. Most Filipinos are Christian, and even the Muslim minority, and the Communist Left, have traditionally accepted this season as very special to Christians.

Pope Francis, too, gives Christmas and the Catholic faith a renewed spark. His personal actuation that has consistently translated to Papal action and exhortation may be shocking to some Talibans in the Church hierarchy but is causing many more Catholics more than just a sigh of relief. I personally believe that it is the authentic love for humanity, and especially for the poor, that serves as an armor for Pope Francis, that keeps him largely irreproachable by rightists and fundamentalists in the Church.

And as Pope, Francis does not pretend that he can understand and speak for the limitless of God’s love for the mankind He created. By putting no boundaries, or partisanship, in God’s love, Pope Francis veers away from judging, and being judgmental. Accepting his own sinful state (in other words, his humanity), Pope Francis places on a pedestal the importance of forgiveness, God’s forgiveness of man, and man’s forgiveness towards one another.

20 Dec 2013
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The list is long, that thread of dark issues that plagued us in 2013. From the top of my head, I remember the Sabah controversy, the Zamboanga fiasco, the Napoles scandal, PDAF, DAP, the Bohol earthquake, Yolanda and its relief aftermath. Truly, this list is not only long, it is deadly.

But as I write this article, I do not have mixed feelings, I am upbeat beyond belief. It is not as though I have sidestepped the controversial and belligerent issues. When one is as wired to cyberspace as I am, and frequently on the ground with fellow Filipinos in the city, in the provinces and abroad, it is simply not possible to avoid the darker side of Philippine politics and society.

13 Dec 2013
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Supertyphoon ‘‘Yolanda’’ is like tropical storm ‘‘Ondoy’’ in a very special way. As natural calamities, Yolanda and Ondoy affected a wide area that both rich and poor – and all in between – were adversely affected. Yolanda hit several provinces while Ondoy flooded Metro Manila – and Metro Manila as the imperial metropolis of the Philippines, is equivalent to several provinces in importance.

Most other times, natural calamities are quite selective. They hit mostly the poor, or only the poor. Remember the Ormoc flood, or typhoon ‘‘Sendong’’ at Cagayan de Oro and Iligan? Thousands died, but again mostly poor, maybe upwards of 95 percent. Only if a calamity covers a wide area, like Yolanda in the Visayas and Ondoy in Metro Manila, will there be a more proportional damage between the poor and non-poor.

22 Nov 2013
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There are special times when serious topics become hot subjects at the same time, like now. It is almost impossible not to mention Typhoon “Yolanda”. I am now two weeks working online 20 hours a day, taking short breaks for some meals with my family and mass on Sundays. The intense participation of my favorite non-government organization, Gawad Kalinga (GK), in relief efforts has stretched the capacity of workers and regular volunteers, and my assignment is to be one of a few connecting global GK advocates to current realities on the ground.

I may not have the power and the speed of physical movement as a senior citizen, but I have the key relationships with GK people in the US, Canada, Australia and Europe. And our brave workers and volunteers in the Visayas update our headquarters and me with photos, videos and short stories. The main theme always is heroism, the heroism of people who are battered but refuse to surrender, and the heroism of GK workers and volunteers who refuse to leave the victims by themselves.

14 Nov 2013
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Life swings violently at times, as is its pattern in moments of great change. The earth rocks, the floods surge, the slopes slide, and the winds howl. That is nature every so often. That is politics as well, when the time of cleansing and purging comes.

The 10-billion scam was the opening ante, so to speak, of the poker game called corruption. It is hard to say that , without the alleged kidnapping of Benhur Luy, the scam would have remained buried. Without speculation, though, with just the hard facts, an alleged kidnapping opened a closet door with skeletons tumbling out.

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