Juan L. Mercado
Juan L. Mercado is a columnist for Philippine Daily Inquirer and Cebu Daily News. He writes a Sunday column for Sun-Star Cebu and its syndicated members, Bohol Chronicle and other community papers. He started his career in journalism in early 1950s and served as correspondent for foreign publications including London’s Financial Times and Honolulu-Star Bulletin. Mercado became the Philippine Press Institute’s founding-director. He also edited DEPTHNews, published by the Magsaysay Award-winning Press Foundation of Asia. Following the “People Power Uprising,” and after 19 years of United Nations service, Mercado returned to the Philippines to resume journalism work. He was cited for excellence in opinion writing by Society of Publishers in Asia. In 2005 and 2007, he received the “best columnist award” from the Catholic Archdiocesan Commission for Mass Media.
“Ah, the chill of consciousness returns”, the poetic drunk Uncle Seamus would groan after a bender the night before. Morning after the May 13 elections, what do we wake up to?
The wife and I glimpsed first outlines of reality emerging in Precinct No. 513A at Lahug Elementary School . This Cebu City classroom turned-into-voting booth is replicated countrywide
We’ve voted in this precinct since 1994, after retiring from United Nations posts in Bangkok and Rome . Grey hair and bifocals opened the senior citizens lane for us. After a 30 minutes, we shoved our filled ballot into a PCOS computer. It worked.
“Whenever I take up a newspaper, I seem to see ghosts floating between the lines.” Norweigian poet Henrik Ibsen’s remark came to mind on reading reports that former police Senior Supt. Cezar Mancao scrammed from his NBI cell. How? By ”using his own key” .
Mancao fled to the US in 2001, after being linked to murders of public relations man Bobby Dacer and driver Emmanuel Corbito. On November 24, 2000, Presidential Anti-Organized Crime Task Force agents, overseen by former Supt. Michael Ray Aquino, flagged down Dacer’s car at a Makati intersection.
Contrast is a compelling tutor. Compare the track records of talks for peace by Moro Islamic Liberation Front and Communist Party of the Philippines. Both were intractable insurgencies.
In Sultan Kudarat, MILF, World Bank and UN signed “Fasttrac” or “Facility for Advisory Support for Transition Capacities”. Based in Cotabato City , this three year project will pool skills, training, research and expertise for MILF and government. That’s needed in dismantling the flawed Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao.
“Hopes for calmer times under this year’s new management?” Economist earlier tacked that keep-your-fingers-crossed title on a “leader” for a 2013 Association of South-East Asian Nations summit. Were those “hopes” partly achieved Wednesday and Thursday in Brunei?
”The meeting "went well", President Benigno Aquino III told reporters, after an opulent working dinner at a vast stone-cum-marble building that Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah built just for the summit. Perhaps, the now decade-old proposal to craft a legally-binding code of conduct in the South China Sea could proceed?
ASEAN leaders agreed on a “two-step approach” :to deal with territorial disputes, the Brunei sultan said. Claimant states will deal with overlapping claims. . Asea and China wish to tamp down tensions “and to urgently work on the Code of Conduct”
As the May 13 elections campaign careens into home stretch, many candidates get strident. There are 18,053 posts up for grabs --- almost quadruple the number of office seekers.
Candidates of outstanding – or dubious --- credentials seek 12 Senate seats and 233 slots in the Lower House. Elective posts in 80 provinces, 143 cities plus 1,491 towns, are to be filled.
Add 58 “Party List” representatives. Wait. The Supreme Court just granted 54 petitions for inclusion, filed by party-list groups blackballed earlier by the Commission on Elections. And Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao elects a governor, vice governor and 24 “regional assemblymen.”
“We forget that the water cycle and the life cycle are one,” explorer-scientist Jacques Yves Jacques Cousteau badgered anybody within hearing distance. That fact underpins “Asian Water Development Outlook 2013”.
Published by Asian Development Bank, this study takes a hard look at water security. It uses five interlocking prisms: from erratic household taps, slumping water tables in cities to water-related disasters.
There is no substitute for water. Every man, woman and child needs almost four liters of water daily. “We drink it. We generate electricity with it. We soak our crops with it. Yet, we’re stretching supplies to the breaking point”, cautions the Pacific Institute for Studies in Development.
“I’ve reached the point in my life when, if somebody tells me to wear socks, I don’t have to.” Scientist Albert Einstein’s wry comment is relevant the April conference on “Ageing in Asia Pacific: Balancing the State and the Family.”
Convened in Cebu City , this 20th biennial conference of the Association of Asian Social Science Research Councils considered “myths about the elderly” to new scientific tools, like “ALE”.
ALE -- what?
‘”Heat stroke break” is shorthand for daily 30-minute “time-outs” that Metropolitan Manila Development Authority authorized Monday. Blistered by the sun, traffic cops to street sweepers may dash for the shade in shift.
Temperature peaked at 35.2 degrees celsius on April 3. That’s no “heat wave” --- yet, Pagasa says. To qualify, temperature should ratchet “3 degrees higher than average for 3 consecutive days.”
That hairsplitting meant nothing to an MMDA traffic cop who keeled over due to heat stroke. MMDA Chairman Francis Tolentino vowed he’d not abide a repeat. US Marine Corps and Dubai use heat stroke breaks, he said. US Institute of Occupational Safety and Health studies document “occupational illnesses” stemming from sustained exposure to heat.
“Follow the smell of money”. Investigative reporter Amitabha Chowdhury worked by that rule in his “Ananda Bazar Patrika” exposes of murky contracts in India. Chowdhury won the 1961 Magsaysay Award for Journalism.
Anna Politkovskaya marshalled “accountability reporting” in “Novaya Gazeta” exposes of Vladimir Putin’s regime and maltreatment of Chechen people. A bullet smashed into this 48-year old Russian journalist in 2006.
Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein's reporting on the Watergate break-in won the 1973 Pulitizer Prize for Public Service. Their reports led to US President Richard Nixon’s resignation.
“Watchdog journalism” can uproot deep-rooted malfeasance at national levels. What if journalists “follow the smell of money” across borders?
Pinabili lang ng suka sa kanto, pagbalik journalist na” (“Told to buy vinegar at the corner store, he trotted back a journalist.”) That put-down reflects a key concern of “Crimes and Unpunishment: The Killing of Filipino Journalists.” Unesco and Asian Institute of Journalism launched the book December.
It underpins weeding out of bogus journalists from the Bureau of Customs beat: 408, under the Arroyo administration, to 96 today.The “Customs press corps” then equaled 408 provincial newspapers (32 are dailies). That was about seven times foreign and local reporters accredited to Malacanang. Commissioner Ruffy Biazon pledged to continue to weeding out hao-siaos --- fly-by-night journalists who doubled as fixers or p.r. agents.