Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Drawing a Line on the Concrete. With my blood, if necessary

Just in case I didn't make myself clear with the previous post (I guess I didn't), then let me make it clear, especially to my old comrades in the UCSC, and to its current generation if they are still inclined to listen, even for a bit, to the ranting of an old man:

First, I do not agree with violent overthrow of governments. Corollary to that is my disagreement with military juntas or any similar systems. Liberals are supposed to be process-oriented, yes? The ends can never justify the means, and if someone will tell me that they have to burn the house in order to save it from termites, then I definitely have a problem with that. The same with authoritarian regimes: so long as individual and human rights are being curtailed in any way, then I am also very much against those.

Which leads me to my second point: the rampant and brazen assault of the Macapagal-Arroyo government on the Bill of Rights. Dammit, Madame President, but one does not need to be a lawyer to understand what Sec. 18, Article VII means in its entirety. Nothing, absolutely nothing justifies the government's actions at the proclamation of 1017. In many cases, it was not only illegal but indecent, too. The best example is the way Randy David and Argee Guevarra were picked up. Or how about the way those poor people who were at Karingal with Prof. David were treated? Dammit, Madame President, but those were women and children! On the way to EDSA to celebrate People Power I! Not only did your men deny them their constitutionally-mandated right to freedom of speech and assembly, but your men also treated them- especially the children! Good God, those poor children!- harshly, as if they were hardened criminals!

Illegal? The way government has been comporting itself since Proc. 1017, it has been nothing but barbaric. Inhumane, even.

Let me level-off here: as someone who has experience and training in security matters, I can understand and even appreciate the situation that can make a President of a democracy call on the extraordinary powers granted him or her by their constitution. Until the brazen disregard for the Constitution by the Macapagal-Arroyo government, I was ready to argue to anyone that, given the possible threat posed by disgruntled members of the military, government's declaration of a State of
Emergency is valid. There is - again - another attempt at a power grab, and this time seriously involving members of the AFP and the PNP, the Scout Rangers and Special Action Force no less, two of the most elite security forces in the country.

Government has a right to defend itself. That I can understand. If some soldiers and policemen get the short end of the stick (or, in this case, the very hard end of one) for actions contrary to their standing orders and the chain of command, then tough luck. The military is not a democracy, and going against the chain of command outside normal channels can really get you into a lot of heat. But even if the military is not a democracy, there should be other ways, other means, because the country they serve is (supposedly) a democracy.

I'll also argue against those who could so... carelessly endanger the Republic through actions like this. This is not Martial Law (well, at least until last Friday). This is not the Erap years. This is a country we built together, at least until
8 July 2005. I know so many are dissatisfied at GMA's governance, but if I find out that some of my Mentors, and those few elders I still respect, are part of the "plan" (if there ever was one) last Friday, then my idealism will most certainly take a fatal blow. I think what defines us in the Center from those of the radical Left and Right is that we do not subscribe to the adage, "the ends justifies the means." That is perhaps the one single thing I hate about Communism, its willingness to engage in whatever means necessary to achieve its revolution. In all my encounters with the radical Philippine Left, this has always colored my perception of them. But we are of the Center. Some of us are even proud to call ourselves "Moderates." Aren't we then supposed to be process-oriented? When we engage in warfare - whether it be on the literal, physical level, or the metaphorical, socio-political one, or both - shouldn't we comport ourselves in a way that our actions do not condemn us as well?

Yet... I cannot sit here and say I agree with what has been done to our rights in the last few days. Disagree? No: I am horrified. I am indignant. I am shocked. I am outraged.

Yes, I know what the Tribune and
Malaya have been doing. Yes, I know what ABS CBN really subscribes to. But, to quote the '87 Consti, "no law shall be passed abridging the freedom of speech, of expression, or of the press, or the right of the people peaceably to assemble and petition the government for redress of grievances." (Sec. 4, Article III)

As the Tribune petition to the Supreme Court said, Proc. 1017 is not even a law, so what right does government have to do what it did? Sec. 18, Article VII? Bullshit. Again I quote Par. 4, Sec. 18, Article VII: "A state of martial law does not suspend the operation of the Constitution, nor supplant the functioning of the civil courts or legislative assemblies, nor authorize the conferment of jurisdiction on military courts and agencies over civilians where civil courts are able to function, nor automatically suspend the privilege of the writ of habeas corpus."

I don't like the Tribune. I believe it's too biased a paper for its own good, or even to be regarded as serious journalism. I believe it's just propaganda on print. The
Malaya is little better, although Lito Banayo is good for a couple of politically-accented laughs.

But those two were newspapers. Legit newspapers. Members of the Press. Government has no right to even threaten media nor tell it what to do because the fundamental law of the land says so.

I don't like rallies all that much, in the context of so much democratic space. I believe they serve a purpose, and are a necessary part of civil society's toolkit, but a functioning democracy should have other, more effective avenues for addressing the issues confronting its citizenry.

But rallies are expression both of free speech and assembly. In a democracy, we, the people, should be able to gather where we choose and say what we want, observing only the natural laws of decency and reason. The people - on whom, as the Preamble to the '87 Consti states, resides all powers and emanates from them - should have a right to complain about a President they think has been failing them. Why? Because the fundamental law of the land says so.

And no one, most especially the President who swore she'd defend that Constitution, nor the military and police who said the same oaths, is above that fundamental law.

Y'know what? I helped kick Erap out in '01. But in fairness to the guy, he gave us this much: the right to assemble and speak. Even if it cost him so much after.

I wonder, if the current President could (continue to) do worse than that?

No, this is wrong. I may not agree with the way Black and White has defined the whole issue that began with the Garci tapes, but in this I will agree: there are just some things that are downright wrong. And government’s actions since Proc. 1017 have been nothing but wrong.

The Bible says that when your brother offends you, the first thing you do is point it out to him. If he still doesn’t get it, you bring a friend along who will witness to his wrongdoing. If he still thinks otherwise, then the Bible was clear on how such a person should be treated.

If the Macapagal-Arroyo administration continues to think it’s not doing anything wrong with Proc. 1017, then we have a problem here.

And then, I think, it’s time to once again draw a line on the concrete with our blood, and tell those who would trample on our hard-fought rights that enough is enough, and that we’d be damned if we let another dictator rise and put us and the Republic in chains again.

Sunday, February 26, 2006

Dangerous Times

When that aborted coup last Friday happened - along with the reaction of the Palace to it - I was very little, if any, perturbed. I even had a bit of stress from my own father because he was so worried and wanted me back at the house. I guess his statements - if I didn't want to listen, that was my problem, or something like that - rankled me because of his four children I was the one who was part of one revolution and helped stop another. I've seen my share of conflict and recieved training to handle it and myself. I wanted to tell him that, if I wasn't worried about a few tanks then he shouldn't.

Yet, with tonight's news of the takeover of the Daily Tribune, my anxiety over the state of emergency has heightened.

Part of me understands the action: the Daily Tribune has done nothing but castigate the Arroyo administration since 2001. The Tribune, after all, is an Erap paper, in much the same way Malaya is an Angara or Lacson paper. I don't know to whom Abante belongs to. These three were supposedly some of the first... "institutional" casualties of Proclamation 1017. Oh, wait, I'm wrong there: uber-pundit Randy David was picked off during the EDSA rally last Friday, along with lawyer Argee Guevara. Rhealeth told me that former UP President Francisco Nemenzo has also been picked up, but that guy also kind of had it coming, being one of the most vocal of critics calling for Gloria's overthrow.

Of all the classes I had with journalism institution Doreen Fernandez, one has remained etched in memory. We had her as our prof during soph year Intro to Journ. We weren't freshies anymore, wide-eyed and in awe of our status as Atenean college students, but I think we still had a bit of the naivete of our age. Doreen's class would show us a little bit more of the world we were going to confront and hopefully change. That day, she posed us a question: why did we think some newspapers still operate eventhough they are losing money for their publishers? No answers from the class, so she answered her own question for us: because it gives one power. Having one's own media gives one the power of a Gatekeeper of Information, the ability to influence the thinking of large segments of the population. And in a society that trusts media more than government, that can be quite the power indeed.

As a longtime media operator, and for a major political party no less, this lesson given to naive little soph me is something I can fully appreciate. I've seen it in action. In fact, it's one of the beginning exercises I give my trainees in KALIPI's media directorate, that of identifying which media is with which faction or interest group. There is no objective media. The first rule of media ops brings home the point: do not piss off media. If media were objective, they wouldn't mind being dissed by media ops like me if they can get the Truth, whatever the hell that is in a post-July 8 Philippines.

But, if the press is such a pain and does take sides in a political contest, is that any reason to take such radical, punitive action against a segment of it?

I'm looking at the 1987 Consti right now (thank you, Chan Robles). First, let's look at the provision that Gloria invoked:

Section 18. The President shall be the Commander-in-Chief of all armed forces of the
Philippines and whenever it becomes necessary, he may call out such armed forces to prevent or suppress lawless violence, invasion or rebellion. In case of invasion or rebellion, when the public safety requires it, he may, for a period not exceeding sixty days, suspend the privilege of the writ of habeas corpus or place the Philippines or any part thereof under martial law. Within forty-eight hours from the proclamation of martial law or the suspension of the privilege of the writ of habeas corpus, the President shall submit a report in person or in writing to the Congress. The Congress, voting jointly, by a vote of at least a majority of all its Members in regular or special session, may revoke such proclamation or suspension, which revocation shall not be set aside by the President. Upon the initiative of the President, the Congress may, in the same manner, extend such proclamation or suspension for a period to be determined by the Congress, if the invasion or rebellion shall persist and public safety requires it.

The Congress, if not in session, shall, within twenty-four hours following such proclamation or suspension, convene in accordance with its rules without need of a call.

The Supreme Court may review, in an appropriate proceeding filed by any citizen, the sufficiency of the factual basis of the proclamation of martial law or the suspension of the privilege of the writ of habeas corpus or the extension thereof, and must promulgate its decision thereon within thirty days from its filing.

A state of martial law does not suspend the operation of the Constitution, nor supplant the functioning of the civil courts or legislative assemblies, nor authorize the conferment of jurisdiction on military courts and agencies over civilians where civil courts are able to function, nor automatically suspend the privilege of the writ of habeas corpus.

The suspension of the privilege of the writ of habeas corpus shall apply only to persons judicially charged for rebellion or offenses inherent in, or directly connected with, invasion.

During the suspension of the privilege of the writ of habeas corpus, any person thus arrested or detained shall be judicially charged within three days, otherwise he shall be released.

Gloria quoted the first sentence of Section 18, Article 7 as justification for Proc. 1017, and is presumably the operating “law” for any and all actions being taken in accordance with the State of Emergency. But as one person pointed out before, and from what I can see up there, (a) State of Emergency was never mentioned in Sec. 18, Article 7, and (b) paragraph four is very, very, clear about what remains “in operation” and not.

This is because of certain provisions that come before Article 7, some of the most important provisions of the ’87 Consti:

Section 1. No person shall be deprived of life, liberty, or property without due process of law, nor shall any person be denied the equal protection of the laws.

Section 4. No law shall be passed abridging the freedom of speech, of expression, or of the press, or the right of the people peaceably to assemble and petition the government for redress of grievances.

Section 12. (1) Any person under investigation for the commission of an offense shall have the right to be informed of his right to remain silent and to have competent and independent counsel preferably of his own choice. If the person cannot afford the services of counsel, he must be provided with one. These rights cannot be waived except in writing and in the presence of counsel.

(2) No torture, force, violence, threat, intimidation, or any other means which vitiate the free will shall be used against him. Secret detention places, solitary, incommunicado, or other similar forms of detention are prohibited.

(3) Any confession or admission obtained in violation of this or Section 17 hereof shall be inadmissible in evidence against him.

(4) The law shall provide for penal and civil sanctions for violations of this section as well as compensation to the rehabilitation of victims of torture or similar practices, and their families.

Section 13. All persons, except those charged with offenses punishable by reclusion perpetua when evidence of guilt is strong, shall, before conviction, be bailable by sufficient sureties, or be released on recognizance as may be provided by law. The right to bail shall not be impaired even when the privilege of the writ of habeas corpus is suspended. Excessive bail shall not be required.

Section 14. (1) No person shall be held to answer for a criminal offense without due process of law.

(2) In all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall be presumed innocent until the contrary is proved, and shall enjoy the right to be heard by himself and counsel, to be informed of the nature and cause of the accusation against him, to have a speedy, impartial, and public trial, to meet the witnesses face to face, and to have compulsory process to secure the attendance of witnesses and the production of evidence in his behalf. However, after arraignment, trial may proceed notwithstanding the absence of the accused: Provided, that he has been duly notified and his failure to appear is unjustifiable.

Section 15. The privilege of the writ of habeas corpus shall not be suspended except in cases of invasion or rebellion, when the public safety requires it.

Section 16. All persons shall have the right to a speedy disposition of their cases before all judicial, quasi-judicial, or administrative bodies.

Section 17. No person shall be compelled to be a witness against himself.

Section 18. (1) No person shall be detained solely by reason of his political beliefs and aspirations.

Section 19. (2) The employment of physical, psychological, or degrading punishment against any prisoner or detainee or the use of substandard or inadequate penal facilities under subhuman conditions shall be dealt with by law.

Those provisions are from Article III, more commonly called the Bill of Rights. And if Gloria wants to use the Consti as justification for Proc. 1017, then she'd better read it again. Because even with Proc. 1017, she can't have opposition papers closed, or highly critical media organizations like, say, ANC, because Sec. 4, Article III says so. And she can't have... "inconvenient" people like Nemenzo and Randy David, nor Anakpawis congressman Crispin Beltran picked up because so many Sections in Article III says so. She can't do what she wants because the very same Sec. 18, Article VII that she quotes says so. And it holds even if she had the gall to declare Martial Law.

I read somewhere - I think it was a column in the PDI about freedom of the press - that any opinion or statement that elicits strong reactions (or something like that) is precisely what the right to freedom of the press and speech protects. Because it is precisely strong words that create debates that should be the basis of a functioning democracy. A true, strong and vibrant democracy must not be scared of high-handed criticism; in fact it should encourage it. Because the essence of a democracy is about people having their own opinion and not being afraid of it being heard, especially if it concerns the powers-that-be. Yes, there is a fine line between freedom of speech and sedition but wouldn't it be better to err on the side of democracy?

Gloria's people should have seen from last year that what we have now is a people that thinks. Otherwise, the little lady would've been out since, say, July 8. But because the Filipino people refuse to be so easily hoodwinked to any faction, we all still sit and wait for more proof to come out.

But what is going to happen now, that Gloria is appearing like some dictator in all but name with her recent actions?

This a very, very dangerous time. People probably would have understood some of the measures taken to secure the Republic last Friday. Some probably didn't do more than shrug when they heard the President read Proc. 1017. But a lot of people will look with growing alarm at her recent actions. And coming as it is during the celebration of the First People Power... Gloria and her people couldn't have chosen a worst time to act the dictator.

Dangerous times indeed. Marcos was able to put the country under Martial Law because he moved fast, and the people initially thought it was for the best. I think the Filipino is wiser now, despite all those surveys that say people wouldn't mind another dictatorship if it'd clean everything up. And Gloria's people have not moved with the speed and efficiency that Marcos did.

How absurd. As Tin said in a text a while ago, she's just comitting political suicide.

We'll see. The Filipino people are very patient and forgiving, but a lot of dictators and corrupt leaders found out the hard way not to tempt fate when it comes to trampling the Filipino's rights and sense of right and wrong.

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

People Power at Twenty

Bandwagoning again, goodness... But, then...

It’s funny how I reacted to the articles on the First People Power that have been coming out of PDI. Ha, ha: they actually bring a tear or more to my eyes.

I belong to the generation who fought on the Second People Power. And before. I can still remember those days of the Resign-Impeach-Oust (RIO) Initiatives against Erap. All those meetings. All those street actions and forums. More meetings. More actions, some of them really big ones like the Impeachain, the Jericho March (and its near-disastrous security lapse by yours truly that allowed those damned NDs to overrun the K2Y positions, grr), and the first gathering at EDSA on November.

Even those of us who were at the forefront of the RIO and the Second People Power still stand in awe of those who made the First possible. Men and women like Dinky Soliman, Butch Abad and Jovy Salonga were our idols, men and women who literally faced the guns and goons of a dictatorship and won.

Yet, I think we who stood against Erap, and tried to maintain what little sanity (and security) could be maintained in a crowd of up to a million in those days of the PP2, can appreciate what went on in the First. In fact, I think it was also the answer of my generation to our elders', that, yes, we can make a difference, too.

Still, PP1 awes me. True, I had a cannon barrel facing me squarely during the Second, but I knew there was little to no intent of its use, at least immediately. So when I see pix or vidcaps of those people who literally stood against those tanks in the First... awe is the least thing I would feel. These were ordinary people. These were the kind of people you meet everyday on the streets or at work. These were people who didn't have an ounce of training for operations in the public sphere, not the people who usually waved flags or shouted slogans. How many of those standing on EDSA in 1986 were part of the First Quarter Storm? How many of them, at least before 1983, participated in rallies and other actions against the dictator?

Yet they were there. For four glorious days the people we call "ordinary" flocked to EDSA and stopped the tanks and heavily-armed troops. They came there not with red-colored flags but with rosaries and packets of food and drinks that they eagerly shared with the soldiers they came to stop and could have rolled over them anytime. They came not to shout slogans but to pray and talk with the soldiers, and to peacefully demand a change in government.

Now, People Power is twenty years. All I can remember of that date was my parents debating on whether they would get my grandparents from Manila and bring them to us at Muntinlupa. I was too young then, to appreciate what was happening, and I can't recall my parents telling me things like "malaya na tayo, anak," after Marcos left. And growing up with a grandmother who's a Blue Lady can really screw up your appreciation for the Martial Law years and People Power. Add to that one's distressing memories of the Blackout Years (imagine being one of the first families in your community with a PC - this was 1990, okay? - and not being to use it with impunity because there's no electricity for, say, half the day), and things really get kind of muddled.

But, yes, I can appreciate it now; after all, I've been serving as part of Civil Society since the formation of the UCSC in 1998. And I wish that the government could've done a better celebration of this landmark date. Or if government won't, maybe CivSoc should. Proper remembrances of dates like this are important to the rebuilding of a nation. People need to properly remember what happened and why it happened. We need these stories to remind us of a time when we were better. Or rather a time when the Filipino acted the way the should. Filipinos need to remember how and why the First People Power happened, because we just might find in the experiences of those four days the answers for many of the questions we've been asking since the Second.

Sunday, February 12, 2006

Faith in the People

Mass, at least where I regularly go to, has been quite... routine for me, most days. I rarely hear one at the Gesu, since the ones there are usually held at 10:30 in the morning, and I oversleep a lot during weekends, and I also rarely hear Mass at Greenbelt.

This Sunday's Mass, though, was rather different. You see, at Pandacan's Sto. Niño Church, there's this elderly beggar who attends the 3:30 p.m. Mass. Not always, but regularly enough. He has this kid he lugs around, a big kid, obviously unable to move on his (her?) own.

Even in a Parish Church for a community that's essentially "middile-Middle," the pair are, well, a sight to behold. 3:30 in the afternoon is the Children's Mass, but the priest who used to celebrate it, Fr. Romy de Castro, has quite a bit of a following from the parishoners that many of the attendees to the Mass are adults, or young people.

One time, the old man sat on the center-left aisle area. You could see the way people... moved away from the pair. It wasn't even that subtle. And the looks they gave...

This afternoon was different. I arrived late, and the new, young priest was already well into his sermon; it would seem the Gospel for this Sunday was about the leper (lepers?) that Jesus cured, and the young priest was telling his flock about how we would feel if we were lepers - whether physical or something else - and people would shy away from us, ostracize us even. Because that's what Jesus thought and felt, and which was why he acted as He did and cured the leper(s). The young priest said that with that single act, Jesus changed the way society viewed its outcasts, calling on the people to shun the practice of shunning, that we should bring everyone into the community especially those that most need our love and care.

The pair of beggars at that time were sitting in the third-to-the-last pew of the rightmost aisle of the Church. There was the... expected space around them, and I was observing how the people around the pair would react. To tell the truth, I was expecting more of the shunning of this pair, and was quite ready to feel bad throughout the whole Mass.

Then, one of the people nearest them stood and gave a small amount of money to the old man. Then another. The next thing I knew, nearly everyone beside them gave them money. Even in farther pews. There was even this young woman in front of me who chased after them just to give a few pesos. If i remember correctly, the first to give was this young couple, who had their baby with them.

To say my heart was touched is to give an understatement. This was totally unexpected. But maybe I should have. As a Guardian, I have seen the worst and the best in the Filipino. And this is but a simple expression of the best in the Filipino soul: that, regardless of all the things that has bowed down this once-noble race, we have not forgotten what we are. And what we are is a people whose hearts are so big that, no matter how small, we will extend help to our fellowman.

I said in an earlier post that this country has stood countless trials not because of its leaders or heroes or martyrs, but because of its people. This magnificent, brilliant, beautiful and deeply-spiritual people. When disaster strikes, we don't abandon each other but pick one another up, and the rule always is women and children first. We give so much to charities and to worthy causes, not out of a sense of noblesse oblige - how can that be the case when many of those who give are not of the "noblity" of this country? - but out of a genuine desire to help others. This charitable and helpful aspect of the Filipino spirit is I think part of the reason why the NGO culture is so much alive here, why volunteerism is a living, changing force in this country.

Perhaps we are apathetic, young and old alike. Perhaps that new, ugly word of sociopolitics - pragmatism - has buried the Filipino soul under so much muck. But the FIlipino soul is a resilient and powerful force that cannot be broken nor buried for so long. It cannot forget nor deny for long what it truly is. It yearns to shine forth. That was what both People Powers were all about: the Filipino soul blazing forth in all its majesty and glory to show the world that, yes, there is another, better way. That the world need not be about darkness and pragmatism, that reality can be soo much better and sweeter.

And, yes, that's why you fight on, even as your idealism flutters in tatters in the cruel winds of Philippine politics. Because you have faith in the Filipino, and that its true worth will once again shine true.

Thursday, February 09, 2006

The End of the Reform Age

Okay, before people react too adversely to the title, let's level-off here: yes, this is not based on any "scientific" proof, like demographics or even statements from the people involved. But, I do speak from my long experience and association with the civil society movement, especially with its more younger generation, who are essentially my comrades-in-arms if not close friends.

I think it all started sometime in the early nineties. There's this local band that has a song entitled, "para sa mga namulat sa dekada sitenta," or "for those who became aware in the '90s." For, truly, the call for deep-seated reform had its beginnings with the awakening of the Filipino youth in the administration following Cory Aquino's. We were the last children of Martial Law and the youth of the new democractic era that was ushered by the First People Power. We were the young who saw the Wall fell, who witnessed despotic governments - whether Right or Left - fall one by one as a wave of democracy swept the globe. Many older people regard my generation with a certain level of approbation, muttering beneath their breaths that we who came of age after 1986 never had it so good and that we never had to fight for anything more than parking space, a table during lunch and dinner at some snazzy resto or cafe, or for a place up front in some concert.

Of course, we proved the damned elders wrong when the student movement picked up in the mid-90s. I still remember my first mass action: it was over the Ramos initiative to amend the consti, and the usually Ivory-towerish Ateneans joined their rivals from UP Diliman and the also-resurgent ladies of Miriam College to form a chain protesting the thinely vield attempt by Fidel Ramos to extend his term via concon. I don't know about the others who were there that day, but it felt... good to do something like that, to shake a fist at Authority that thinks it can get away with abuses to power. We were young, we were Aware, and we were Active, and we were going to shake the corridors of power! And shake them we did in 2000 and 2001, as everyone whose opinion is worth something agrees that the success of the Second People Power was due to the millions of young Filipinos who turned out to protest the blatant display of trapo politics at the Senate's refusal to open the Second Envelope. It was the young who started it all by showing their indignation with the flash street protests that followed the refusal. And it was the young who, in the words of my generation, "put paid" to a regime of corruption and immorality by coming out in the millions to show the powers-that-be that they may hold the levers of power in society, but if nothing then through sheer numbers the young will trample their sorry trapo ass.

It was a good time, wasn't it? And a good time to be good. Despite everything our elders would like us to believe and accept, we showed them all that idealism, especially when backed by determination, dedication, defiance - three Ds to combat the three Gs? Hmm... - and a lot of creativity - the celfone as a weapon for a revolution; who'd have thunk? - can move more than one mountain. We dreamt, we acted on that dream, and we made that dream a reality.


Has it really been just six years since PP2? But so many things seem to have changed, and many for the bad. What better way to... destroy the forces of reform than to drain them out of the country or co-op even their best and brightest? How many young people took up nursing even if their skills and talents are better served for other fieldds? How many even of the young leaders who fought on the Second People Power now work for the call centers? Heck, even my contemporaries who went to "traditional" corporate jobs have been eaten by their work. Back then, when there was a cause to fight for you didn't need to call twice; sometimes, we even went around looking for causes to espouse. Now, it seems so hard to gather people even for a simple get-together because of work. Hah, even those in civil society and government are eaten by work.

I don't know. Who's to blame? Gloria? C'mon: like what I've always said since the Garci tapes surfaced, she only acted the way we expected her to act so what's to be disillusioned about Gloria? To blame Gloria for all the ills of the Philippines is a gross reduction of the problem. Yes, she is part of the problem, but not the only factor in the equation. No: like the stuff you see in some astrophysicist's whiteboard, the equation is far more complex than adding one to one and getting two.

In the National Youth Commission, there is a changing of the guard that I think is significant, regardless of other opinions. Bam, despite a good chance of being retained for another term as Chairperson, has decided not to. In his own words - we got to chat today at his soon-to-be-former office, after a long while - "it's time to move on to other things." And he was saying the same thing to his longtime EA, Saira (also a good friend and adviser of mine, one of only two women who can give me a scolding and get away with it), and he was telling me the same thing. Cel Aves and Cris Arnuco have also moved on from the Commission. It's hard to find a team in the premier youth institution of government that is more reform-oriented than the one Bam led and had the likes of Cel and Cris.

This to me hammered the point that, perhaps, the "Age of Reform" that started with the Awakening of my generation in the 1990s has, at least for now, come to an end. The grand experiment of Generation X with trying to change society before we're 40 is over, and... we've lost. In one sense I can understand the Ostrich-like actions of many of even my colleagues in the old UCSC because the last few years have been a trauma bordering on fatal for our idealism. Our elder leaders have not only betrayed our confidence in them but also in many cases abused us, seeing us as no more than pawns in their power games. Our icons have failed us, whether to serve as a continuing inspiration or to reach the lofty goals and image they portrayed when they came out to challenge with us the demons plaguing this country and its people. And the values that we held dear have not only been broken by our elders - so blatantly in many cases! - but what's left has been dragged through muck and mud that we can't recognize what's left of our hearts and souls anymore.

Given the context following the mad clash for power unleashed by the May 1 Mayhem - civility between the contending political forces died on the bloodied streets of Mendiola that day, alongside propriety and a modicum of pakitang-tao among the trapos - how can we bring about change? Whatever little hold we had on the levers of power and influence now fade with the exit of Bam, Cel, Cris and the others in the NYC. The national-level youth organizations are either compromised, marginalized, or engaged in inter-org and inter-ideology rivalries to become as effective as we were in 2001 (but then, given the propensity of the NDs to stick to their overarching goal - the success of their Revolution and the installation of a communist government in the Philippines - who can blame the others for becoming so paranoid and going on the defensive?). The leaders who rose during the Second People Power are lost in the corridors of career and corporation.

Gawad Kalinga shows that hope still exists and that there still is something we can do. And there is Rock Ed. But unless GK and Rock Ed have a strategy in mind - I'm actually hoping the two are some part of one big strategy, a last attempt by the remaining reformist forces to bring about positive change, but maybe I hope too much - then all these "tactical" moves can do little the way they are now to effect change. It's like standing on some beach and trying to send the ocean back using only a pail, when you need a dike to hold back the stormy seas. And lots of people. But the strategy appears not there, and the people scattered.

I have a fear. Sometime when I'm ten years older, someone who is a kid now will be in their late teens or early twenties, old enough to understand the world he or she is moving in. And then that young person will ask me, why is the world a darker, crueler, messed up place? What did you and your fellows did to prevent this?

I could probably give a dozen excuses, but perhaps there isn't. Because we who will succeed those in power faltered sometime in the first decade of the 21st century. Because we were swept under by the forces of reality and pragmatism - the newest ugly word of Philippine politics, a convenient replacement for Trapo, since it sounds far more real and palatable than the latter but actually connotates the same - and were unable to put up a unified enough stand.

So there ends the Age of Reform.

Well, who knows? In Tolkien's Silmarillion, the forces of Good, represented by the Eldar and the Edain, were decimated. Yet one couple won over to the Powers and got them to rescind their Ban and thus Evil was defeated. I love that book, Silmarillion. It's one of my all time favorites. Who knows, someone or someones will be our Earendil and Elwing, find the way to our Aman the Blessed for us, and bring us the necessary reinforcements to end this age of darkness that has swept the country once again.