Tuesday, December 08, 2009

Dy Political Dynasty Back in Power

COMELEC just removed Grace Padaca from the governorship of Isabela Province, Philippines, and claimed that Benjamin Dy won by 1,051 votes in an election that saw hundreds of thousands of votes cast.

The Dy clan has ruled Isabela for three decades -- 30, as in THIRTY, years.

Talk about the Manila government encouraging clan and warlord dynasties. COMELEC had absolutely no compunction about turning over an entire province to another warlord clan dynasty. Shameless. Truly shameless.

Btw, the Ampatuans in Maguindanao reportedly own 28 mansions in an area characterized as one of the most impoverished in the whole country. Arms caches unearthed consist of the most modern and most expensive in the world.

Where is the money coming from? Where did it come from?

An unremarked news report about the US suspendings its development programs in Maguindanao provides a clue.

Check out www.philippines.usaid.gov/programs_usaid_mindanao.htm. which lists all of said agency's programs in the area, including Maguindanao.

Here's a quote from its listing of "successes:"

4,500 disputes settled by community-based volunteers
81 clan conflicts settled in rido-prone provinces

Who are these "community-based volunteers" and how did they settle those disputes? Through heavier firepower? -- #

Monday, December 07, 2009

A Propensity for Tyranny

De-Facto POTP Macapagal-Arroyo tends to overreact to events. Her Presidential Proclamation 1959 imposing martial law on Maguindanao echoes the hysteria of her PP 1017 which imposed a state of national emergency on the country in 2006.

PP 1959 nullifies the lesson of the Maguindanao massacre, which killed not only 57 people locally but also seriously crippled civil liberties nationally.

A wise government would move heaven and earth to revitalize the processes and observation of civil liberties – not impose a higher dimension of armed might and capability for violence on the people of Maguindanao.

The Philippine military is no respecter of the Philippine Constitution. It owes its allegiance to whoever funds its various departments and divisions and personnel – from warlords to the US government.

The Philippine military does not see the Filipino people as its ultimate commander-in-chief. As a matter of fact, it does not see one commander-in-chief but rather a whole ladder of commanders-in-chief, from political clan dynasties down to the corner sari-sari store owner who gives the soldier free drinks.

Military rule over Maguindanao will bring no relief against warlordism – just as military presence in the rest of the country brings no respite from warord clans.

That said, the lessons of the Maguindanao massacre appear to have been thoroughly lost on the political system itself. The senatorial slates of mainstream political parties are so heavily peppered with “names” – daughters of, sons of, cousins of…

Mac-Arroyo herself, not content with heading the government since 2001, is running for Congress and doing so virtually unopposed. Hoy, ale, tama na; mayaman ka na; mayaman na kayo. Ano ba? Will someone please run against this woman?

Shameless. Kapal-muks and, in the aftermath of the Maguindanao Massacre, intolerable.

We must see this burgeoning of political dynasties as part of the re-feudalization of the political system that imperialist globalization has wrought in the country. The latter destroys not only national economic borders but also the national sense of one-ness and identity.

One can only hope that the Filipino voter will respond in a tremendous backlash of disgust and vote for the unknown, unfamiliar and for programs rather than names. One can only hope, likely in vain, that such votes will be counted accurately -- or just counted. -- ##

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Homicidal Maniacs -- OK; Gays- NOT

It is preternaturally absurd of the Philippine Commission on Elections to refuse accreditation to ANG LADLAD, representing gays, lesbians, transgenders, etc., ostensibly because homosexuality is "immoral" even as the Maguindanao massacre reveals how homicidal maniacs are actually embedded in, part of, and, likely, standard bearers in various territories, of various mainstream election political parties.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Maguindanao Update

47 people dead, bullet-riddled, some beheaded and/or mutilated; the women sexually molested... the kidnappers are said to be police and CAFGU (paramilitary); according to one report, Ampatuan, Jr.,allegedly led the ambushing 100 men...

Here's a statement:
Please forward...
November 24, 2009
Jollene Levid, GABNet Secretary-General
Tel: 323-356-4748


AF3IRM/GabNet condemns the murder of some 50 persons in Maguindanao, Philippines, including some 14 women, who appear to have been raped as well, and scores of media people. It is ironic that at the start of 16 Days of Activism against Violence against Women, the Philippines should once again make news around the world for an act so vile it boggles the mind.

AF3IRM/GabNet condemns the continuing tolerance of and for petty feudal clan dynasties which are antithetical to the country’s claims of democracy. Feudal clan dynasties make a mockery of the Philippines’ self-characterization as a republic and reveal its barbaric political structure as nothing more than fiefdoms controlled through violence and suppression.

AF3IRM/GabNet holds the administration of Gloria Macapagal Arroyo responsible for this climate of impunity toward the murder of journalists, political rivals and political critics. This administration has become the quintessential expression of lawlessness, power-addiction and violence that characterize puppet governments who rule through violence and against the consent and allegiance of the people. Warlordism has become rife in the country as Macapagal-Arroyo continues to allow her allies to build private armies, steal and loot from the public treasury, kill all those who dissent and consider themselves so coddled by the Macapagal-Arroyo administration they deem themselves to have the divine right to power by virtue of violence. OUST GLORIA NOW!

AF3IRM/GabNet demands absolute justice for the victims and punishment for all those responsible, including members of the Ampatuan clan who have been named as having committed and/or ordered this massacre. Let us not tolerate once again the historic pattern of political killings in the Philippines where masterminds get away scot-free while the hirelings are thrown under the bus by their overlords.

AF3IRM/GabNet notes that this unprecedented act of murderous barbarism occurs at a time when the United States has entered the Mindanao region in support of the Macapagal-Arroyo government, and that violence has escalated in the region since this incursion. US HANDS OFF MINDANAO AND THE PHILIPPINES!

And lastly, AF3IRM/GabNet reminds our Filipino brothers and sisters of the Islamic faith of this verse from the Holy Qu’ran: “And the servants of Allah… are those who walk on earth in humility, and when the ignorant address them, they say ‘Peace.’”
Jollene Levid
Email: secgen@gabnet.org
Website: www.gabnet.org
Association of Filipinas, Feminists Fighting Imperialism, Re-feudalization and Marginalization/GabNet

14 Women Killed in Maguindanao

It’s around 3 a.m. and I am looking at a photo of Maguindanao 9-year governor Andal Ampatuan, who reportedly wants his son and namesake to succeed him in office, and wondering whether the flesh eventually comes to mirror the essence of the soul.

A hundred men – and the word "men" is used with deliberation – stopped a convoy of around 40 relatives and associates of Esmael Mangudadatu and media people covering the filing of his candidacy for governor. Survivors say that the men were Ampatuan's.

Twenty-four bodies thus far have been found, fourteen of them women with their pants unzipped, according to investigators on the scene.

How much will you bet that these hundred men will be thrown under the bus by their rich and powerful boss – for a short while, anyway – while he evades accountability? It's happened before, through the years, all the way back to the Aquino assassination.

Jeez, and this is the start of the 16 Days of Activism against Violence against Women. So now add "lady-killers" to the woman-batterer in the Arroyo government. Way to go, Gloria!

Zen and the Art of Disaster-Preparedness

When the sea, propelled by back-to-back typhoons, flowed into Manila, I confess I was less than enthusiastic in responding to alarums about the destruction. Islands and people lying in the path of 22 typhoons annually should know after a thousand years how to deal with such disasters. Unfortunately, uncountable has been the number of times overseas Filipinos, friends, allies and even total strangers have been asked to respond to disasters in the Philippines: earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, typhoons, earthquakes, typhoons and more typhoons… Each disaster is followed by a surge in sentimental patriotism, inspiring a near-orgasmic mobilization to “help our compatriots, we are one nation, one people, etc., etc…” --which of course leads to the inevitable after-glow of self-satisfaction that makes tolerable the sight of people gyrating once again in wa-wa-wee or whatever those abominable shows are called.

I had hoped sitting on my hands would convey the message that “you’re on your own, with the leaders you have chosen, on islands afloat the vast Pacific Ocean; you do have to grow up” and thereby inspire a quiet but firm determination among the typhoon-battered, who would thereby organize themselves into delegations and visit each government agency responsible for the mess and demand that whoever heads it commit seppuku. And if he/she does not, then a good medieval stoning would be most efficacious.

The ability to respond to disaster should be of Zen-alertness, 365 days a year – not a quick blowjob that temporarily takes away stress but resolves nothing. Focus, as the yogi would say; do not be distracted, said the Dalai Lama. Disaster-preparedness is Zen-like in its awareness of Time – of the past and the lessons thereof, of the present and what can be done today and of tomorrow and the probability waves that can come crashing down on one’s head.

Time, I must say, is one element we barely think about; our national ADD kicked in eventually, with the Pacquiao-Cotto fight as the lethean digestif – for which the Special Public Reconstruction Commission established by the Arroyo government should thank the heavens with great fervor as public attention was diverted from its apre-typhoon plans. The effing Commission would get down, it claimed, to removing water lilies from waterways, treating the leptospirosis victims and repairing school buildings. The Commission members do not appear to be struck by the absurdity of removing water lilies when the sea is surging in. Oi! I suppose that each removed water lily would cost $10000 in donated reconstruction and rehabilitation funds. I had just finished a short story about a retiring guerrilla, giving it the title of “In the Season of Water Lilies” and wondered briefly whether I should send it to the Commission. But then do the members thereof even bother to read? I say, a good medieval stoning. A really good medieval stoning, I say. -- #

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Warehoused Relief Goods

Relief goods donated from Asia, Europe and other parts of the world are said to be stockpiled in the Philippine government's Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) warehouses. Meanwhile, I am getting email about people starving, falling ill, sleeping in the streets, and girls signing up with traffickers.

The photos above were sent to me via email. Other photos show the pathetic bucket of soap, two thin mats, etc., which comprise what are actually distributed to the flood victims. Next year being election year, one can only assume that the undistributed goods are being held back for the campaign. There was one report of campaigners pasting the name of their candidate on relief goods. Eh, what else is new?

Friday, October 16, 2009

4th Typhoon

Typhoon Lupit to possibly hit the Philippines on Oct. 21st, likely as a Category 4 storm. Lupit means cruel in Pilipino -- as in napalupit, kuya eddie... I'm trying to make light of a really bad karma for the country. Jeez, four typhoons in 30 days!!! Must be some kind of record.

Monday, October 12, 2009

The Foolish Old Man & One Smart Girl

For GabNet’s 20th Anniversary Celebration in San Diego, California

The parable of the Foolish Old Man Who Removed the Mountains was made famous by the late Mao Zedong. It goes like this:

An old man living in Northern China with his two sons found his way to the south blocked by two mountains. Irritated, he decided to dig up the two massive peaks and set to work with his two sons and some hoes. A neighbor asked what they were doing and upon receiving the reply, said that that was silly; the old man would die even before a dent was made on either mountain. Whereupon the foolish old man said that when he died, his sons would carry on; and then his sons’ sons, and his sons’ sons’ sons… and so on to infinity until the mountains were leveled. Mao used this to as a metaphor for the effort to remove imperialism and feudalism from China.

But that was only Part I of the parable. Here’s Part II:

As the foolish old man and his sons spent 10 hours each day digging up the mountains, their wives and daughters had to look for food to cook; to wash clothes soiled by the digging, to make beds so the men could recover energy for the next day’s dig and to generally keep homes in order and operating. Then there was the matter of the sons’ sons and sons’ sons’ sons, so the women also bore children, found other women to bear children, raised them, cared for them, taught them how to hoe and dig up the mountains. This went on for centuries.

One day a little Chinese girl looked at the path being made through the digging up of the mountains, looked at the women and said to herself: “This road will be of no use to me. I will have bound feet, a baby strapped to my back and pots and pans hanging from my left and right arms.” She went into the untouched forests and found a river that flowed southward. She returned to her home and told her mother. “If we built a boat,” she said, “we would get there sooner.” And thus the women, along with some men, built a raft and sailed southward.

The first 20 years of GabNet’s existence correspond to Part I of this parable, when we enabled other movements to endure, survive and achieve victories big and small. No one can beggar that record.

The next 20 years of our existence, whether under this name or another, will now correspond to Part II of the parable, when we enable our own movement to come to fruition, survive and endure, and achieve victories big and small.

Filipinos may leave the Philippines for economic reasons but their objective is not simply to get a job but also to build a life, to find a home, a community and a nation.

Twenty years are but the wink of an eye in the vast historical terrain of womankind’s struggle for emancipation and liberation. The next 20 years will be another wink of an eye. But if we find the southward-flowing river, we can likely make the way easier and achieve the dreamt-of society sooner, with no backward sliding.

Let us begin. -- #

Sunday, October 04, 2009

For what?

Eight US troops killed in Afghanistan; two in the Philippines. The latter was characterized as an "isolated incident" by a Philippine military general.

Events are usually "isolated" until an increase in frequency renders them commonplace.

As we all know, the occupation of Iraq started with hardly anyone among US/Coalition forces injured. Ditto with the invasion of Afghanistan. - #

Saturday, October 03, 2009

In San Diego

October 8th -- 11th. I'll be attending the 20th anniversary celebration of GabNet. See y'all there.

Friday, October 02, 2009

Victim Registration Blues

Philippine Government dole-out to victims of typhoon Ketsana:

Three (3) cans of sardines
Two kilos (4 pounds) of uncooked rice
Four packages of noodles
One bottle of mineral water...

To be received after hours lining up.

Government now wants to separate child victims of the typhoon from their parents.


Contact secgen@gabnet.org to send direct help to the victims.

Thursday, October 01, 2009

Supertyphoon -- Bad Karma

Supertyphoon Pharma, with winds up to 147 mph (seven short of a category 5 typhoon) will hit the Philippines this weekend, scything through Bicol, which still hasn't recovered from the last typhoon that leveled its villages. Photo of Pharma from NASA.

Meanwhile, the Philippine Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) has decided “to register typhoon victims,” for fear that some receiving aid were “bogus victims.” Hai, how this government distrusts its own people, even the afflicted!

Meanwhile as well, typhoon orphans are missing. Fears are that they will have no recourse but to join hundreds of thousands of street children into petty crimes, drugs and prostitution. Meanwhile, the contraceptive ban remains.

GabNet is raising donations for Operation Sagip-Bata (Children Rescue). Please contact secgen@gabnet.org if you wish to help. And hey, you must help; otherwise, this bad karma will go around. -- ##

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Mother of All Floods

The first appeal letter to reach my desk from the Philippines was from CONCERN, which describes itself as a service-oriented disaster response institution and as the Secretariat of Oplan Sagip Bayan (OSB), a loose network advocating for preparedness against the impact of disaster…. The OSB convenors are: Fr. Albert Suatengco, Bishop Deogracias Iniguez and Atty. Jose Suarez.

Part of their letter follows:

The tropical storm Ondoy which entered the country on September 26, 2009 severely affected NCR, Central Luzon, CALABARZON and Region IV leaving 183 dead, 29 missing, 86,313 families affected and 23,126 families in evacuation centers. The scope and severity of the disaster were so massive that up to this writing, the rescue operations and interventions are on going in these areas.

In Metro Manila, Ondoy dumped 13.4 inches of rain in just six hours compared to 15.4 inches of average rainfall for the entire month of September, which caused the worst massive flooding in more than 300 barangays. The floodwater rose to 10-15 feet which practically made major thoroughfares non-passable and affected more than 86,313 families or 435,646 individuals.

In Central Luzon, the heavy rains were aggravated by the breaching of two dams to its maximum spilling capacity submerging 13 towns in Bulacan and affecting 24,301 families. In Pampanga, 19,687 families were affected in 11 towns. Pampanga River and Gugu-Dolores creek overflowed breaching bridges, while 30 meters river dike eroded in Apalit. The heavy rains had also caused landslide in San Juan Bano, Arayat burying 100 houses with reported 12 deaths.

Zambales, which still has to recover from the wrath of two successive typhoons Maring and Kiko, was further devastated by Ondoy. There are more than 4,100 families affected in 3 towns while 200 families had to be re-evacuated from an evacuation center in Botolan which was destroyed by the flood. The national road was submerged to 4-6 feet making it non-passable to all vehicles.

Meanwhile, in Northern Quezon, 180 families from 4 barangays in Infanta and 231 families from 5 barangays in Nakar were affected by the flood water. The bridge connecting the South and North Barangay Minahan of Nakar town were washed out.

In Pampanga alone, the damage to agriculture and infrastructure are estimated to cost 213.7 million pesos. The cost of damages in agriculture and infrastructure in Central Luzon and the other three regions are expected to increase.

Since then I have received appeals from about a dozen organizations and passed them on to various organizations and people in the US and elsewhere in the world.

GabNet has issued a call to all members, alumni and allies to respond with donations of goods, especially for children, and cash to help alleviate the misery of this typhoon, which was not even a strong storm. The disaster was caused mainly by the continuing lack of water-consciousness in an archipelago that floats on the sea: no drainage, canals paved over, trees cut down, an incredible population density in cities and towns, a government more concerned with power politics; and politics more concerned with power than the language of survival. As they say, hay buhay nga naman, parang life.

Another storm is brewing over the Pacific. If you want to help, please contact secgen@gabnet.org. -- #

Tuesday, September 01, 2009

Celia Pomeroy, RIP August 22

Am not exactly sure what to say about Celia Mariano Pomeroy -- one of the few women’s names prominent in the Philippine struggle, first, against Japanese occupation and later, against US imperialism. She had been with the Hukbo ng Bayan Laban sa Hapon (People’s Army Against the Japanese)during WWII and after, with the Hukbong Mapagpalaya ng Bayan (People’s Liberation Army) -- the Huks, as I've heard Americans call them. She was a member of the politburo of the PKP, the old Communist Party established by Crisanto Evangelista. Not too many remember her but as a child, I had seen a rather poignant photo of her and husband, William Pomeroy, in some newspaper. They were both in shackles and exchanging an awkward kiss. This must have been at the time of their capture. They would spend the next ten years in separate jails.

Peace, sister; some remember you did your share.

Thursday, August 27, 2009


I can't verify but picked up some chatter about the 600 US Special Forces stationed permanently in the Philippines -- one of the reasons for their presence is a reported plan to move Guantanamo prisoners or maybe Guantanamo itself to the archipelago.

Frankly, I wouldn't be surprised since the prison facility was constructed by Filpino carpenters under contract to KBR and it's still being reportedly maintained by Filipino custodial workers.

Does anyone have the capacity to verify?

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Tech stuff

I'm supposed to paste this on this site. I have no idea who did this.

Monday, August 17, 2009


Big brouhaha over health care and a public option for medical insurance. I’m wondering why no one has pointed out that the fear over “socialized” medicine is actually corporate fear of losing one of the shackles that keep people at wage slavery. One memorable moment I had in Holland was talking to this 40-year-old fan of John Cheever (he was fascinated that I had met Mr. Cheever) who was preparing to quit his job to contemplate “serious questions about life.” Having a public option might just tempt so many people to forgo work designed to enrich CEOs and retire to contemplate the meaning of existence.

My doctor is so overworked I try to make appointments only once every two or three years. It’s because he accepts the cheaper kind of medical insurance, so his office is always full of “ethnics,” as it were. His doctor-partner just left, he tells me with sorrow; and did I know any doctor who would be willing to partner with him? His home, he tells me, is on the other side of the city but he opened his clinic close to my neighborhood because he wanted to serve his people. He is Argentinean. I tell him I had a friend who was a “disappeared.” He says me, too. Eight of the medical personnel rounded up with him during the bloody coup were killed.

So I tell him about being in Camp Crame during the Marcos dictatorship. Then, as I was leaving, having completed my check-up, he says, I’m pleased to meet you. He’s been my doctor for a while but I knew what he meant.


Big brouhaha over the $20,000 dinner hosted by de-facto President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo at Le Cirque on 58th Street, Manhattan. The dollar amount translates to some one million pesos – quite a price for a country where four of ten Filipinos go to bed hungry. My response is a little off; I keep wondering what the hell they ate – human flesh? Was Hannibal Lecter the chef?

In any case, the gustatory connoisseur among us go to Shanghai Joe’s in Chinatown, where the soup dumpling tastes like it’s worth its weight in gold but considerably cheaper.

The $20T dinner made me feel so embarrassed over my preferred comfort food, arroz caldo – eaten when I’m distressed – which cost like $5.95 in any Pinoy joint here that I uncorked a bottle of ice wine, a gift from the last time I lectured in Canada and which I’d learned since then cost $50 for the equivalent of two glasses of wine. Ice wine comes in teeny-weeny bottles. As it went down my gullet, I thought: well, jeez, I worked so very hard for this ice wine, I might as well drink the thing, considering that those who don’t work as hard spend $20T for a meal.

Conspicuous consumption being contagious, it was a good thing there was only one bottle of ice wine. Do you now understand why the Philippines is always in massive debt?

Monday, August 10, 2009

A Cory Moment

The 1987 Philippine Constitution is Corazon C. Aquino’s legacy. Any dismantling and/or revision of that Constitution would be a direct nullification of her post-Marcos leadership and thereby erase for all of history what she had wrought.

Beyond that, there’s nothing else to say.

I did have a “Cory Moment,” though it had nothing to do with the former president. It was some sort of epiphany, albeit the wrong kind.

After the January 22, 1987 Mendiola Massacre – Cory’s troops fired on a rally calling for agrarian reform and killed 13 peasants and wounded more – an “indignation rally” was called.

This “indignation rally” was front-lined by a virtual who’s who in the anti-Marcos movement. In front of the presidential palace, Cory’s top aides also lined up, blocking the road; they too had been heavyweights in the movement to overthrow the Marcos dictatorship but they wielded state power at this time.

A tense moment ensued as the two groups eyeballed one another. Then they broke ranks, threw arms around one another, shook hands, etc.

I realized then that at a certain level, politics were a matter of “entre nous,” just among the likes of us, etc.

A more cynical moment I had not had. Nor have had since.

By the way, no one was held liable for the 13 peasants killed at Mendiola.

Perhaps, unbeknownst to us, this moment helped define or move the boundaries of what were acceptable in terms of compromise, alliance, paths to state power, etc.


Friday, July 31, 2009

SONA, etc.

State of the Union Address 2009 by Gloria Macapagal Arroyo -- YAWN, as in 2008 SONA.

Meeting between POTUS Barack Obama and de facto Phil. Prez GMA -- The latter traveled 10-15 hours by air over the Pacific and half-way across the US continent for a 30-minute conversation. What? Not even a beer? Press conference afterwards: statements were a total YAWN from both sides. Let's face it; Philippines just too insignificant in world affairs, mainly because its foreign policy is predictable, as in whatever POTUS wants, POTUS gets.

Beer summit lasted longer.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Prostitution Issue -- 2

Or to put it more bluntly:

decriminalization is about the right to engage in prostitution;
legalization is about the right to open brothel houses...

Friday, July 24, 2009

Should Prostitution Be Legalized?

More than a decade ago, this question was raised by a global organization funded by the same instrumentalities acting as the advertising arm of economic globalization. We opposed it then as now, opting instead for decriminalization. Though they are close in goals and objectives, fine distinctions still exist between legalization and decriminalization.

The most important of these is that legalization would institutionalize and codify one of the pillars of women’s oppression: the ideological perspective that they and their bodies can be bought and sold.

Those in prostitution represent a small segment of the female population, even though women – and poor women of color – comprise roughly 95% of the global sex trade’s commodity. Yet legalization would establish a social and economic principle for ALL women… namely, that they and their bodies can be. should be, a commodity.

Corollary to this social principle underlying legalization is the perspective that even the most intimate of human relations can be reduced to the cash nexus – and hence ALL human relationships are reducible to cash and commodity trading.

It is the ultimate expression of women’s oppression and exploitation under capitalism.

It is also the ultimate affirmation of the patriarchal principle, embedded in all of class society, that women are not human beings.

Make no mistake about it; this struggle is an ideologically defining one for what should comprise women’s liberation. -- #

Monday, July 06, 2009

Mother Burning

Aum, shantih, Isabel. Safe return.

A hundred years contained in a foot-high urn of white marble.

Pale Journey

Her body finally decided to follow her migrating soul. She stopped eating. Organ by organ, her internal system shut down, until the last ember of life winked out. It was a week of deaths, big and small – Julius Fortuna, whom I’d known in college, passed away, Farah Fawcett succumbed to cancer, Michael Jackson’s heart stopped and the rosemary plant on my kitchen window sill turned gray.

So it was that I found myself tossing clothes into a suitcase, harrying friends and the Internet for a plane ticket, handing the ewok Guapo II to Chevy, the apartment keys to Mona and making futile attempts to impose order upon my residence before I took the bus to La Guardia Airport, on the start of a 22-hour flight back to the archipelago where, last time, I had found myself on a black-cum-hold-order list, fighting for constitutional rights, even as all of GabNet was being betrayed.

The airport’s international gateway was festooned with signs about swine flu (A-H1N1) and over the public address system, a voice repeatedly admonished the listener to wash hands and cover one’s mouth when sneezing. Staff and some passengers wore gauze masks.

Most of the 22 hours I spent sitting next to a very pink, very large Caucasian male. He came in drunk, fell asleep, woke up to eat the served meal and to order wine. Asleep, his head lolled toward mine, his pink and hairy arm dangled from the seat rest to occupy half of my space. Hey, I paid as much for my seat as he did for his, probably more because Mirk had to book me two days before the flight. I slid a pillow between his elbow and my ribs and pushed back. Didn’t work. In desperation, I sneezed three times in his direction; that made him sit straight up. Cover your mouth, he said; stay in your space, I responded. Good thing cold air tickles my nose.

A wake is akin to a Book of Numbers session, all about who begat who upon whom. When a young man approached, took my hand and touched it to his forehead, in the feudal sign of respect, I blurted out, “who’s this?” Oh, the eldest son of so-and-so. Ah. Later, he sat beside me and asked how old I was. In the clarity of death’s presence, I saw his script unfolding. He would say oh, you look so much younger than my father! And what could, will, I say to that? That’s because your father is an alcoholic and a fool to boot. So I looked him straight in the eye, grabbed a number out of thin air and replied: 45 – which, of course, was impossible. That rendered him non-plus. Kiddo, you don’t eff around with the family black sheep.

No one spoke about the dead, only the line of antecedents stretching from her to time’s beginning. My maternal grandfather’s name, I finally found out, was Enrique Villarica; my grandmother, Josefa Pilapil – a curious thing, since only a certain stratum of “natives” had been allowed by Spanish colonizers to keep their indigenous names, all others having to Hispanize theirs. Pilapil in Tagalog means the small soil embankments that define a rice field, dikes to hold water in and allow farmers to walk from one rice paddy to the next. We knew nothing about this grandmother; we knew a lot about Enrique, begat by a Spanish priest upon a 15-year-old bought with two bags of gold from her husband, the church cook. This happened in Majayjay, province of Bulacan, where years later, the Philippine Republic would be founded, the first Constitution approved by anti-colonial revolutionaries.

Enrique was a drunk (a family male tradition which made all the women shy away from alcohol) and drove his daughter, my mother, into extreme angst each time he passed out over the tram rails. Mother, seven years old, hiccupping with sobs, trying to drag her father off the rails while screaming for the trolley to stop, madre de dios, anak ng pating... Maman was third to the last of seven siblings – five females, two males; in a pattern that would repeat itself, the youngest, a male named Celin, would be the first to go; he killed himself. Then, the other male. Maman was the last, having survived her sisters, all of whom lived to their ninth decade. She was 100.5 years old.

Then, my scalp jumps with surprise when I am told that our great-grandmother’s name was Ana – a name that had not, until now, appeared in our book of numbers. This was my lelang… I had used the name Anna for the final character of the novel State of War. What kind of coincidence was that?

I wondered what Ana and the priest would think of their descendants, this motley assortment of tribes gathered, still warring, in this funeral parlor. Few now carry the priest’s name; that has been left to the descendants of a small town who, because the priest excused them from one yearly tribute to the King of Spain when the crops failed, took his name in gratitude. Likely, of Ana’s and the priest’s progeny’s progeny, I am the strangest – the earliest to run away and to run farthest from the family but who remains, paradoxically, the most driven by family history.

The casket lay on its stand, in its own ambience of entropy and time. Her caregiver of five years wanted my mother barefoot inside the casket – that was tradition, she said, so should the dead come visiting, the living won’t hear the footsteps. I looked a wordless reply at her: Oh my dear, we were born with the footsteps of the dead already echoing in our ears. -- ##

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Staying Too Long

She should be watching the events in Iran -- de-facto Philippine president Gloria Macapagal Arroyo should, really. She who is now trying to change her country's constitution -- which would be what? the fifth, the sixth, change in less than a hundred years? -- so she can continue to occupy the post of boss of bosses.

There's no exception to the rule that those who overstay will be thrown out. I'm sure that there will be "high moral grounds" used to justify her continuing in office beyond what is Constitutionally mandated -- as in, "the country needs me," etc.

Big difference between service for life and leadership for life. The first is selfless; the second is mere self-indulgence.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

From Code Pink

The (Ahava) company’s main factory and its visitors’ center are located in the Israeli settlement of Mitzpe Shalem in the Occupied Territory of the Palestinian West Bank. Ahava products are labeled as of 'Israeli origin,’ but according to international public law, including the relevant UN Security Council Resolutions, the West Bank cannot be considered to be part of the State of Israel. Not only does Ahava profit from the occupation by locating its main plant and store in an illegal Israeli settlement, it also uses in its products mud from the Dead Sea, excavated in an occupied area, and thus it exploits occupied natural resources for profit. The fourth Geneva Convention explicitly forbids an occupying power from removing the captured natural resources for its own use, and we see this as another charge for which this company should be held accountable.

Going through my medicine cabinet; throwing out all Ahava products, OMG!

Thursday, June 04, 2009

Nice Book Cover

Click on photo to supersize.

Life or a Lifetime of Pain

There’s one in practically every village of the Philippines: a child handicapped, genetically malformed, misshapen or “soft in the head,” as they say; the butt of jokes, of exploitation, of abuse – physical and sexual – and no one seems to know what to do about it. The child is often the eighth or ninth or twenty-fourth pregnancy, born of an exhausted uterus, in a country where pre-natal care is largely absent and where services for those not fully equipped to deal with life’s vagaries are non-existent, for all practical purposes. And every Sunday, millions of women go to a church where women’s reproductive rights are abhorred, where the primary mission, for which millions of pesos in donations are spent, is the maintenance of massive churches, of converting the heathens, of ensuring the well-being of less than 20,000 priests.

Such children come to mind when I read about the murder of Dr. George Tiller, whose vilification by anti-women fascists is proceeding apace. The rhetoric is amazing; he is called a “mass murderer” – a label the same people would not apply to those who launched the Iraq war that killed over a million Iraqis and over 4,000 Americans. He is called a “late-term abortionist” – without the necessary explanation that such abortions were done because the fetus was severely malformed, genetically handicapped and/or threatened the mother’s health. He is said to have “reaped what he sowed” -- a justification of his murder, with nary a second of compassion for the women whose health and lives he saved, for the families he spared from a lifetime of onerous burden, for the children who otherwise would have lived decades of a mindless and painful existence.

Only once in my long life have I seen an abortion done; a friend in her 50s had gotten pregnant and decided she had neither the will, resources nor the courage to continue with it. She asked me to accompany her. The experience was so traumatic that I gained new respect for the women who have to face such a decision. Considering that this was at a Park Avenue clinic, I can barely imagine what back-alley abortions must be like.

That women will be the last to achieve liberation is a statement often made by political pundits. We never quite understand why.

It will take a lot of work and study and willingness to think before we see how women’s oppression comprises the bottom rung of this hierarchy of oppressions within which we live. The threat of women becoming equal, in ways big and small, is so general, so profound, so alien to even the way class society thinks that the response to it is vicious, vehement and volatile. Be aware. -- #

Saturday, May 02, 2009

May Day Rallies

Only photos: New York, Los Angeles, San Diego. Waiting for more photos. Enjoy. Click on photo to supersize.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

On Torture

It is impossible to mock torture because torture itself is derision. It repudiates our commonly held value of physical sovereignty. Such antics as Limbaugh slapping his face and calling it torture, or Hannity offering to be waterboarded for charity are simply of the ignorance of those who have never felt powerless, hapless and without recourse to any manner of relief from being brutalized.

Torture never takes place in the sanitized atmosphere of the torture memos’ “calibrated waterboarding.” Torture sessions are never clinical. Torture takes place in a climate of lewdness, accompanied by jeers, sniggering, sweat, yelling and small and large acts of verbal and physical humiliation. Torture is of the cesspool of human pleasures; it shares the same fountainhead as slavery, serial killing, pedophilia, rape and battering, as well as the financial indifference that does not spare a second of concern over a widow on a pension whose savings will be dissipated in a ponzi scheme. Torture destroys what is supposed to be the inviolate link of human to human, that which makes us one species.

The perfect illustration for torture is the photo of the female soldier delighted by a wall of naked buttocks at Abu Ghraib. No pain here; just the destruction of the human sense of self-respect – both of the tortured and the torturer.

Torture survivors can tell you how a perfectly calibrated double open-hand slap over the ears can burst eardrums. Torture survivors can tell you how many mild open-hand slaps on the cheeks will ultimately bruise the jawbone, dislocate the jaw or shatter it into 14 small fractures. Torture survivors can tell you of the intense pain caused by irrational act of torturers plucking one’s eyebrows and eyelashes, a hair at a time. Torture survivors can tell you of the incandescent pain of hot candle wax dripped on the fingernails. Torture survivors can tell you of how the whole body convulses, the brain clamps down in panic over 15 seconds of water in the nose and mouth and lungs. No air, no air – your entire body screams. And if the dead can speak, they will tell you how difficult it is to calibrate human pleasure at such sessions of sadism, and of how an un-calibrated half-a-sec can lead to death.

Torture is derision. One cannot scoff at it. -- ##

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Data of Interest

From a GABNet Youth statement on sexual violence among US young people: Over 1 in 5 female students between the 9th and 12th grade reported physical or sexual violence, or both, from a dating partner. Between 30-50% of Latina, South Asian, and Korean immigrant women have been sexually or physically abused by an intimate male partner - a percentage well over that for the general national population of women. Women and girls living in poverty are twice as likely to be raped than those who are not. Despite this, only 2% of rapists are convicted and imprisoned.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Smith Acquitted by Appeals Court

Lance Cpl. Daniel Smith was acquitted by the Philippines Court of Appeals. Are you surprised? The decision was penned by three women judges. Are you surprised? Stand-in women are used throughout the political spectrum. I believe the other term Lerner uses for them is "deputy husbands."

The majority of humanity -- women -- have been trained by various political systems NOT to bond with one another and have thus failed to develop a sense of their collective self. Women have learned that to advance through any system sodden through with patriarchal values, they have to step on women who try to break through the construct (see The Matrix to understand this).

Events like this underscore the national demoralization that feeds the Philippine government's labor export program. Women are leaving by the hundreds of thousands, in the belief that whatever Elsewhere is, it's better than the situation at home.

Having spoken to hundreds of such migrant women, I have come to see how women see themselves faring in the Philippines (the subjective factor)impacts as strongly as the poverty blamed for migration (the material factor). Their constant mantra is simple: there are no possibilities and therefore no hope over there.

There will be virulent reactions to this post, I am sure. Actually, the foul-mouthed vitriol emanating from some males have been quite amazing (see comments on the Nicole post below). In a way, it explains why murder is the #1 occupational hazard for women in the US and why 51% of women killed here by their husbands are foreign-born. The compound of sexism and xenophobia is infinitely murderous. -- #

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Petition for Journalist

Please sign the Women's International Media Foundation petition to free US journalist Roxana Saberi who is imprisoned in Iran. The petition is at www.wimf.org. Or click on the title of this post to access the website. Thank you.

Friday, March 27, 2009

An Enduring Act of Political Violence

As we close Women's Month, let us revisit these words by Gerda Lerner: Women have always made history as much as men have, not 'contributed' to it, only they did not know what they had made and had no tools to interpret their own experience. What's new at this time is that women are fully claiming their past and shaping the tools by means of which they can interpret it.

Denial of the right to historical signification is an enduring act of political violence against women, who ironically actually comprise majority of the world's population. It occurs again and again, throughout historic time, with impunity. No one calls authority to account for the crime, because it is more comfortable to be a stand-in woman than a liberated one.

To appreciate the irony, consider that of the 50 persons designated by the Financial Times as framers of the debate on the future of capitalism, 5 (as in FIVE) are women. Meaning women have little or no say at all as to the shape of the future; they should only suffer in silence.

This denial of the right to history loops women's development into repeated beginnings -- because liberation for women is not possible while preserving, at the same time, patriarchal dominance. Hence, women's social and political evolution must be truncated again and again, the knowledge they accumulated through experience declared untenable, "out of line," wrong, etc., so that they can never reach that eureka moment of understanding that oh, liberation is comprehensive -- i.e., not only in terms of production but also reproduction; not only in terms of production relations but also in terms of social, political and gender relations.; that historically, women's experience of class itself has been arbitrated by gender; that there are specific characteristics of women's class oppression.

This act of political violence against women erases their history often at the instant of its making -- all words, all acts washed away upon the dictates of those who have arrogated unto themselves the right to decide what is history and what is not, what is significant and what is not. And their prime weapon in this act of political violence is the stand-in woman.

Remember this, if nothing else, about the 31 days of this month, March, in the year 2009. -- ##

Thursday, March 19, 2009

An Open Letter to President Obama on the Nicole/VFA Case

I understand this was sent today. -- N

March 18, 2009

His Excellency, Barack H. Obama
President of the United States of America
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW
Washington DC 20500

Cc: Secretary of State Hillary Clinton; Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi

Dear President Obama:

We write to you because we are disturbed and anguished by reports that the U.S. government was complicit in the attempt to frustrate the course of justice with regard to the rape conviction of Lance Cpl. Daniel Smith in the Philippines.

A majority of our members are women of Philippine ancestry who already have to contend with the persistent reputation of Filipinas as among the most trafficked women in the world, both in the international labor and sex markets, and as among those so victimized by sexual and domestic violence.

Nine of the eleven women recently killed by intimate partners in Hawaii were Filipinas, who also comprise 40% of women killed by intimate partners in San Francisco. Filipino-American communities, from New Jersey to Honolulu, suffer a high rate of violence against women. This perception of Filipinas as "fair game" for sexual and other forms of violence was created, among other causes, by more than a hundred years of being prostituted to the U.S. military.

Enabling a member of the U.S. military now to avoid legal repercussions for having sex, to the rowdy cheers of his fellow soldiers, with an indisputably intoxicated 22-year-old woman, who was then tossed out of the van in a state of semi-undress and semi-consciousness, is certainly not the change we have been waiting nor looking for. These facts were not disputed at the trial in the Philippines that convicted Lance Cpl. Daniel Smith in 2006.

Many states in the United States itself accept by law the fact that an inebriated woman cannot consent to have sex. This inability to give consent supersedes any other circumstance that may appear to encourage sexual attention, like wearing a short skirt, being flirtatious, or even kissing the violator. In those states, what transpired between “Nicole” and Cpl. Smith would be considered rape, especially as nothing was brought forth at the trial that would imply consent on Nicole’s part.

We worry now that because of this bargain between the U.S. and Philippine governments, U.S. military personnel may return to the U.S. believing that soldiers have the right to force sex upon women in whatever circumstance. No doubt you are already familiar with the unconscionable rate of sexual harassment, rape and violence against women suffered by female soldiers and military wives. This will but add to the U.S. military’s mistaken impression that war, occupation or just being more powerful and with more weapons than anyone gives them the right to defy U.S. laws, host countries’ laws and international law.

The Nicole incident happened in November, 2005 and the following year, in September, 2006, 14-year-old Abeer Qassim Hamza was gang-raped and murdered, along with her parents and younger sister, by U.S. troops in Iraq.

If, way back in November 2005, the U.S. government and the U.S. military had taken a strong stand against our troops inflicting sexual violence/violence upon women in general and upon women of host countries in particular, then we would not have this spectacle of avowed “liberators” gang-raping and killing those they purportedly “liberate.”

Instead, the U.S. military threatened the Philippine government with cancellation of humanitarian aid, with cancellation of joint military exercises, and the U.S. Embassy in the Philippines did everything possible to frustrate the carrying out of justice for the rape of Nicole.

This is not the change we waited for.

In this era of change you vowed to bring with your inauguration as president, at the very least, we are asking for specific provisions protective of women, and against violence against women, trafficking and prostitution in each and every military agreement, every Status of Forces and Visiting Forces Agreement, that U.S. enacts with another country.

This would help institutionalize, on a global scale, the pro-women stance that your administration made visible through your signing of the Ledbetter Act and the creation of the White House Women’s Council.

Thank you. We await your reply – preferably with action.

Respectfully yours,

Annalisa Enrile (interim Chair) Candace Custodio (Chair-elect)
Jollene G. Levid (Secretary-General)


Wednesday, March 18, 2009

On Nicole

Suzette’s (aka Nicole) sworn affidavit was carefully crafted to provide “mitigating circumstances.” It is possible for this to become the basis of a reduction in sentence (like "time-served" in the U.S. embassy; or the 30 days in a Makati jail) or a presidential pardon for the convicted Lance Cpl. Daniel Smith.

It’s a shadow-play which solves nothing regarding the one-sided Visiting Forces Agreement and the underlying U.S. military’s perception and treatment of Filipinas in general as five-letter women good only for prostitution.

Remember the U.S. troops' statement that they thought Suzette was "a professional." -- ##

Monday, March 09, 2009

The Washing Machine Liberated Women

So said the Vatican, in its first International Women's Day message.

What do you make of that?

Women's Day in the Sun

March 8th – and looks like the 20,000 words per day women use (as opposed to men’s 7,000) were all deployed to celebrate IWD. A few men did use their 7T to say something about women but by today, 09 of March, they have likely forgotten all about us, except in terms of – ah well, you know what.

In any case, silence was my choice for IWD. Went here and there, was impressed by many talks, speeches, statements; savored every dish in the usual wall-to-wall buffet of the migrant workers who will open their first training on gender rights for domestic workers next month (email gabnetnynj@gmail.com or call 212 592 3507, if you want to participate). Checked the Internet, radio, TV, for news of marches, demonstrations, tried to respond to questions verbal, email and otherwise, and was assailed by an unbearable mood, suddenly recalling driving through the redwood forest of California with Mirk and telling her, if we don’t make it this time, let’s just come back and do it again and again and again, to the end of time – it being women’s liberation.

Looks like we might just have to be reincarnated, because though IWD is 100 years old in the US and 98 for the rest of the world, the questions, doubts and hesitancies remain the same, as though women’s history and women’s struggles lie outside the pale of dialectics and must loop back to square one, hit the re-set button periodically, so we do Herstory every 20 years or so, re-inventing the wheel, as it were. It’s enough to cause us to tear our hair and call ourselves WMD (women of mass destruction) as we lay down the narratives created out of women’s blood, sweat and tears to the god of amnesia as demanded by patriarchal authority.

This is the only history I know of that is perceived as without a continuum. In other words, the questions and discourse remain the same, hay naku!

Isn’t asking for women’s equality under this exploitative system simply asking for the right to be equally exploited? Yes, if one believes that equality can be achieved under an exploitative system (which is of course ridiculous); no, if one knows that no exploitative system can provide complete equality because it is organized on the basis of disenfranchisement, deprivation and marginalization. Hence complete equality demands the dismantling of the system of exploitation. However, it is important to ask for equality under any system because doing so is part and parcel of the historical process of women developing a sense of their collective Self as women.

If this were the argument, that equality is simply the right to be equally exploited, what was the point in asking for the right to vote? Only the ruling class and its minions prevail in the electoral process, anyway. Or for the right to go to school? Or even the right to drive a vehicle? Why bother fielding such campaigns as “take back the night” in the face of the nihilistic argument that there’s no point to being safe from rape and assault in a society maintained by the violence of exploitation?

On the other hand, the last two decades showed us that trying to develop a non-exploiting system without working toward women’s equality is NOT possible -- as so many ambitious experiments in re-organizing society discovered to their own chagrin when their societies collapsed. And there’s a historical reason for that.

More next time. -- ##

Friday, February 27, 2009

SIGI Website Launched

The Sisterhood Is Global Institute just opened its website: www.sigi.org. I have a piece there, under Global Voices. Robin Morgan and Simone de Beauvoir founded this institute 25 years ago. I read Simone's (yup, in my mind, we're on first name basis, though she died before we could shake hands, as it were) book The Second Sex in my teens and it marked me for life. -- ##


Well, what d'you know? The Obama government took a 36% stake in Citibank. They should've taken more and do the same for Bank of America, etc. As promised, I'm on my feet applauding.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

The First Speech

Frankly, I was waiting for President Barack Obama to announce “we’re taking over the banks.” I would’ve been perkier than Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi in applauding.

What intrigued me the most actually was the Republican's response, delivered by Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal.

One cannot help but dislike the almost cynical use of the marginalized as the Republican Party’s new public face. There was Sarah Palin, who functioned as the party’s attack dog during the elections; then the African-American head of the RNC and now Jindal.

I don’t know if people of color find this edifying, As a woman who’s been mistaken for either Chinese, Vietnamese, Korean, Chicana (when I have curly hair), Romanian (because of my last name) or someone from Kyrgyzstan, and who had been told to her face by an INS agent “I can’t tell you (Asians) apart,” this use of minority bodies to channel neo-conservative anti-people, anti-minority thoughts, reducible to the phrase “let them eat cake,” is extremely repulsive.

It assumes we are stupid enough to fall for the old-message-new-messenger deception.

Btw, Republicans are really trying to make it to the digital age! This blogsite got an invitation to cross-link with one that praises Fox News and attacks the Dems. It was tempting; unfortunately, I wouldn’t have been able to watch their readers’ faces when they start perusing this blog. -- ##

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Stats on Trafficking

Sometime in the 1990s, we wrote a statement that was distributed at the UN World Conference on Human Rights in Vienna, Austria -- the first time that trafficking was characterized as a "modern form of slavery." Since then, the phrase has entered the lexicon of the cause-oriented.

The UN Office on Drug and Crime has issued these new statistics on trafficking:

... the most common form of human trafficking(79%) is sexual exploitation. The victims of sexual exploitation are predominantly women and girls. Surprisingly, in 30% of the countries which provided information on the gender of traffickers, women make up the largest proportion of traffickers. In some parts of the world,
women trafficking women is the norm.

The second most common form of human trafficking is forced labour
(18%), although this may be a misrepresentation because forced labour
is less frequently detected and reported than trafficking for sexual

Worldwide, almost 20% of all trafficking victims are children.
However, in some parts of Africa and the Mekong region, children are
the majority (up to 100% in parts of West Africa).

These figures are important in the current tendency to consider women's issues as secondary, and gender as less important than class or race or sexuality.

Here in the US, we're beginning to see trafficking via the "seasonal worker visa" whereby batches of 30-50 men and women are brought in to work for approximately 10 months at labor-intensive, manual jobs. Living conditions are execrable, with one instance of 27 people living in one house. The workers are not paid directly by the companies they work for; instead, they receive their wages from the agency that brought them here -- with all kinds of deductions. On the average, they receive between $400-$600 a month.

The usual offshoot is that these workers run away and join the millions of undocumented -- largely because they are unable to earn enough to pay back what they borrowed to make the trip to the US.

What happens to the women -- well, every step is fraught is peril. -- ##

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Solidarity Statement for Filipino Hanjin Workers

Filipino Americans Call on the Philippine Government to Protect and Render Justice to the Hanjin Shipyard Workers in Subic

We, the Filipino American community in the United States and our allies express our militant solidarity with Hanjin Shipyard workers in their struggle to unionize and thus end their deplorable working conditions which has led to at least 24 deaths. In January of this year, two more were killed while just as February began, 24 were hurt when a bus carrying workers to the shipyard overturned.

We are appalled by the slow response of the Philippine Senate and the Executive branch and their failure to act on the continuing fatal accidents and deaths of workers at Hanjin Shipbuilding.

While we hold Hanjin, a South Korean transnational corporation employing 15,000 workers in the Philippines, directly accountable for the extremely unacceptable living and working conditions of Filipino workers, we equally hold the Philippine government complicit for acting against the country's national interests and against Filipino workers interests. We demand that the Philippine Government compel the Hanjin Shipyard company to clean up the docks and work areas, ensure worker safety, enforce environmental laws and provide just wages and benefits to Filipino workers.

The Philippine Government of Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo should hang its head in shame for allowing foreign-owed companies to treat Filipino workers like slaves and peons, their very lives sacrificed for corporate profits which redound to South Korea, not the Filipino nation. Any government that does this is worthless.

We, overseas Filipinos and progressive allies in the United States, strongly condemn the Philippine government for its inaction in holding Hanjin responsible for the poor working conditions, continuing accidents and deaths of its workers. Indeed, the Department of Labor and Employment has absolved Hanjin and shifted the blame to Hanjin's subcontractors of other nationalities, instead of holding both accountable. Such a Department of Labor and Employment is inutile.

While the Korean-owned Hanjin may be the fourth largest ship-building company in the world, it is also true that Filipino labor is among the finest and most skilled in the world. It is not as though the Philippines brings nothing to the table for Hanjin. No ship can be built without workers, no matter how brilliant the blueprints and management. It is therefore crucial to any enterprise that workers are treated well and recognized for their contribution to production. We therefore support the workers' struggle to unionize. The right to self-organization and collective bargaining is a human right, not simply a labor right.

In this we join our Canadian brothers and sisters who had met with some Hanjin Shipyard workers in 2008. At these meetings, they learned that many workers, labeled "trainees," make less than the Philippine-legislated minimum wage. They are often brought in from outlying provinces and end up living in nearby make-shift barracks that are in very poor condition (plywood shacks that are the size of a common bedroom with bunk beds and a burner), housing fourteen young men at a rental cost of Php600/month each. They also suffer from many forms of harassment, including physical harassment, from Korean supervisors.

Unfortunately, union organizers expect strong negative reactions to the unionization effort from both the Philippine and Korean governments, as well as Hanjin's own management. It is therefore imperative that Filipino workers overseas, as well as compatriots of Philippine ancestry and comrades in the labor movement, provide a counter-pressure to the efforts of the murderous Hanjin Shipyard, in collaboration with the Philippine government, to frustrate the Subic Bay workers' dream of a union.

Stand up and demand that the Philippine Government support its own workers!

Stand up and demand that the Philippine Government stop foreign corporate bullies from emasculating Philippine labor, environment and occupational safety laws.

Stand up and support the Hanjin Shipyard workers!

Stand up and support the labor movement which is integral to the global struggle for justice!

Alliance Philippines(AJLPP)
Kabataang Maka-Bayan (KmB)
Ecumenical Fellowship for Justice and Peace (EFJP)
Philippine Studies Collective-Bay Area
DAMAYAN Migrant Workers Association -New York
Pilipino Workers Center of Southern California (PWC-SC)
Echo Park Community Coalition (EPCC)
Justice for Filipino American Veterans (JFAV)
Faith, Workers For Justice and Peace-San Francisco
Free Palestine Alliance

Contact: Rev. Richard R. Bowley
email: richardrubio59@yahoo.com

Saturday, February 07, 2009

Fair Pay and Equal Value of Work

Before anything, attention must be paid to what’s happening to the workers at the Hanjin Shipyard in Subic, Philippines.

Since this shipbuilding site opened, 24 workers have died from various causes – accidents, disease, etc. – and scores more injured. Last week, a bus ferrying workers to the workplace overturned and 24 were hurt. The Philippine Department of Labor has exempted Hanjin, the world’s 4th largest shipbuilding company now employing 15,000 workers in the Philippines, from culpability, blaming instead “subcontractors.” Hanjin is South Korean-owned and as we pointed out in a previous post, there are roughly 100,000 South Koreans studying in the Philippines, part of a slow process of turning the archipelago into suzerainty. This seems inevitable, considering the inability of Gloria Macapagal Arroyo’s government to protect its own constituency from economic subjugation by foreigners. Indeed, threats have been made about “political repercussions,” if the Philippine Senate perseveres in its decision to hold investigative hearings on this continuing worker deaths. The workers are trying to unionize. Hanjin is set to build another shipyard, this time in Mindanao – so it seems shipbuilding in the Philippines is that profitable.

Now to the US scene where even within the women’s movement, the response to President Obama’s signing of the Ledbetter Act -- his first law, nine days after his inauguration – was muted.

The law reverses an artificial statute of limitation established by a US Supreme Court decision denying Lilly Ledbetter her discrimination suit against her employers who hired her, 18 years previous, at a salary lower than those of her male counterparts. The Supreme Court decision considered the original act as the only act of discrimination; the Fair Pay Act signed by Obama considers every salary thereafter that’s below par with male counterparts as part of a continuing act of discrimination.

A small hurrah – because in these times of CEOs getting 400 times the pay of the average worker, we realize there’s another question we should be asking – as in, what kind of work is really vital to production?

When the carmaker CEOs appeared before Congress, flying in on separate corporate jets, the longer lasting outcry was against the $70 per hour wage unionized auto workers were supposedly making versus the $59 per hour that non-union workers made. The argument was that a melt-down economy cannot afford the current cost of labor. It would take more spendthrift scandals and $16 billion in Wall Street bonuses before we wised up and began asking whether we could afford the entire managerial sub-class, members of which are paid around $23,000 to $28,000 per hour ($59-$70 X 400).

I can’t imagine doing anything so significant as to be paid that much – except perhaps working to lop off the entire managerial class.

Which, of course, leads us to ask if workers can put together a car in the absence of management? Conversely, can management put together a car in the absence of workers? Because the product is the end-all of production, isn’t it?

Let us ruminate on this and allied issues as we contemplate the $500,000 cap on executives’ salaries that this administration is proposing and the shrieks from execs that they wouldn’t be able to attract talent at that pay rate. Talent? It takes talent to run down a multi-trillion dollar economy? It takes talent to make the wrong decisions and waste money?

It takes major effort to wrap one’s mind around that.

And by the way, the male-female wage gap has been narrowing – it’s now $1.00 - $.78 -- not because women’s wages have risen but because men’s wages have fallen.

Our view of what's important work is so skewed that, in the stimulus package, it seems like anything that redounds to the benefit of women has been cut, deleted, thrown into the ash-heap. Hey, remember the definition for the work done mostly by women, household work -- the work that makes all other work possible. ##

Thursday, January 22, 2009


Some GABNet members braved Washington DC weather to deliver their message. Here are two pictures. Click on them to supersize. That's Olivia and Catherine, likely the youngests in our sisterhood.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009


After Barack Hussein Obama said “so help me God,” I went outside to check if the earth had been rent asunder, trees had fallen, buildings had sat on themselves and the sky had cracked open.

Nothing. Traffic was normal; children were still running around and dogs had their noses to various small shrubs. All I could think of was: well, Saddam, are you roaring with laughter? Huge karma joke, this one…

Then I watched as George W. Bush was led to a helicopter and flown away – which was a relief, considering how much of the past week had been spent spinning his “legacy.” I’m inclined to believe that people who do this are trying to cover up the inescapable sense that they had made a mistake or something had gone wrong with what they’d done.

People who hold power convince themselves it will last forever. They should read Shelley's Ozymandias: Round the decay/Of that colossal Wreck, boundless and bare/The lone and level sands stretch far away… #

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Gazing On Gaza

The pale moon ruled over my last three nights in Hawaii, laying a magical veneer over an already perfect landscape. As I watched it from the 25th floor lanai (balcony), I wondered if it was refusing to shine over Gaza, so as not to witness a continuing inhumanity of human beings upon human beings.

Years ago, I used to wonder how Israel could do what it was doing to the Palestinians, or even to ally itself with the apartheid government of White South Africa – but since then, I’ve seen the abused take on the persona of the abuser – prisoners doing the guards’ work, women maligning other women – all to align themselves with brute authority. Underlying the repetitive cycle of violence is survival at all costs – and Israel has bluntly used and overused this to justify the most extreme measures taken against a people whose land and patrimony it expropriated in successive acts of violence.

The siege of Gaza underscores the senselessness of what has gone on with the Palestinians: the assault began for no reason, continues with no clear far-reaching objective and ends without any goal reached. Population control, perhaps?

For the last 50 years, Israel has gotten away with this by stoking the guilt feelings of the West by elevating victimhood as the hallmark of its history. The Germans, if for nothing else, owe the Palestinians a great debt of gratitude for having taken their place as villains in Israel’s self-image as victim and for enduring collective punishment for a Holocaust they did not commit.

Deeper still, behind all these surface relationships, lies the Bush administration’s determination to leave as much of a mess as possible for the new political leadership. Make no mistake about it: this was Bush’s last war. Israel would not have embarked on this silly adventure without a go-signal from the US government. It was a last flip of the finger to the people of the US – to the millions who marched against the invasion of Iraq and those who now march against the siege of Gaza.

There are those who leave an office or a residence neat and clean, ready for the next occupant; there are those who improve on what they find and leave behind potential for even greater achievement; and there are those who make sure that they’ve thoroughly messed up the terrain so that it would be impossible to accomplish, much less change, anything. Legacies are determined not simply by accomplishment but what doors have been opened, what new pathways have been created, what possibilities have been made clear… Bush’s legacy is a complicated political terrain that leaves his successor very little maneuverability.

The old leadership refuses to let go while the new hasn’t crystallized a vision for how it will govern. And we are all held hostage at this between the intake of breath and its release.

Does the moon also shine over Gaza? -- ##