Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Why the DRUG AGENT reacted that way....

The question is why?

In journalism lingo and understood by ordinary laymen nowadays, what happened was indeed a "kuryente" story. But a "kuryente" only in a sense that the source of the news interpreted an incident or reacted to an incident in a way that sent shock waves---or let's say more like electric waves to those who learned of the incident.

The newspaper who reported it was not charged with high voltage---in the way we understand "kuryente"---for the story was written based on an official source, recorded---just so we are clear in putting context to what happened to the story.

Yes---this piece is about the story that shocked us all---including Malacanang---but turned out to be something else, different, devastating still, but of a different kind.

But before rushing to condemn the agent in the center of the controversy here...let me offer some insights about the present situation in life of this agent. It's easy to simply conclude that he should at least be reprimanded for coming up with a scenario that jolted every senses of even the most insensitive person there is.

He will not speak this time---not yet. And with all good intent, I am hoping he would not rush to talking before the media to defend himself or what he did or why he concluded the way he did.

Yes, I know him. The truth is, he's a good friend of mine. Our friendship dates back from the time I was in the thick of coverage of kidnapping and military operation in Muslim Mindanao.

Let me make it clear that this piece does not seek to defend him. I will simply try to put context to what happened and why---taking off from the point of view of a father.

I was not the one who wrote the story for the Inquirer. It was a colleague who based the report on an on-record interview with an official source, in this case, the head of the agency which the agent is attached to, the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency or PDEA. But I did a follow-up, based on an interview with Representative Roquito Ablan Jr. who heads the House Committee on Dangerous Drugs and who also knows the agent personally and also because, Ablan was among those contacted by the agent in the hours of confusion and uncertainty last Saturday when his only daughter went missing...or the be exact, failed to come home on schedule or at the expected time.

That Saturday night---I was not among those whom he called. I cannot say I am relieved that he chose not to contact me that night for I may end up writing the story myself. In retrospect, I thought, he should have called me so that I could offer him some advise. I could perhaps told him to halt, don't panic and to evaluate the situation first before making calls---that eventually led to the attention of the president of the Republic. But of course---that's easier said than done.

Any parent would panic. Any mother. Any father. And certainly, I am not the authority to advise him at that time not to panic had he called me that Saturday night, knowing fully well how I react when it comes to the safety of my kids.

That night, my friend contacted other reporters, some of whom, also covered him in Mindanao some years back. All his text messages were saved and recorded, providing the basis that the flow of information came from him directly, raising the alarm, suspecting that something bad may have happen to his kid, and then later when his kid finally showed up at the main gate of the compound where their house is located, the physical state they found her bolstered their fears, he and his wife, that something bad happened to his daughter.

He told me that one TV reporter whom he contacted apologized to him for using the text messages he sent him in his broadcast report. It was private communication to a friend who just happened to be a reporter he told me, but I tried to defend that reporter, colleague of a TV network, saying that he was not identified and that the reporter was left with no choice but to put into context and lay the basis of the earlier report he aired especially so that the information made it as a banner headline in the Inquirer last Monday.

The agent's fear about the safety of his daughter was without basis. It was not just a product of a wild imagination. In the past, he too reported to his superiors that some group tried to abduct his kid, the same 13-year old daughter, in the center of this story--or as others have referred to it---a "non-story".

But come to think of it. Is it really a non-story minus the sensational angle of a drug syndicate kidnapping the daughter of an anti-narcotics agent, drugged her, raped her and then dumped her to send the strongest message to the agent to "BACK OFF!"?

In the landscape of human relationship, parent to kids, kids to parents, mother to daughter, daughter to mother, father to daughter, daughter to father---considering that we all see the signs of a decaying moral foundation in our own society that is supposed to be founded and grounded on the strength of the family as a basic unit of society, this to my mind is still a big story---a real big story that speaks volumes about the truth that reflects what exists in our society right now.

I had a very long conversation with him yesterday on the phone and just like the common friend who passed the cellular phone to me, one of the advises I gave him was to take a breather with his family, relax for a while and reconnect with his loved ones---his children in particular and his only 13-year old daughter most especially.

"Talk to her, hug her, tell her you love her and that she's very important to you," these words I told him, hoping that somehow this will allow him to open up more, break-away from his defenses as a man in uniform and be just one person -- a father this time, present and willing to listen to whatever his daughter wanted to say.

On the phone, his voice sounded low, sad and confused. The truth is---he has yet to have a heart to heart talk with his daughter whom he said, is still in the state of shock, crying most of the time.

He told me he believes something bad really happened to his daughter even if the PNP Cordillera already released the medical findings on his daughter, declaring no sexual abuse took place, in line with the official statement that no abduction and no drug syndicate involved in this case, stressing that what happened was the agent's kid was with some friends, on a drinking spree of GSM-blue.

On the phone he told me, "May mga kaibigan akong nakita siya nang ipa-check-up namin sa ospital, at nakita nila na hindi lasing ang bata, at nakita nila ang shock sa kanya, kaya hindi nila matanggap ang sinabi ng PNP-Cordillera na sa inuman galing ang (name of his daughter)."

He wanted to prove his suspicion. He wanted to investigate further. He wanted to raise a point.

I listened to every word he said, allowing him to expand his thoughts, his fears and his leads ---sensing that at the back of his mind, he is worried on how this incident will impact on his professional career. Without telling him, I was crying on the other end of the line. I feel the unspoken and the real fear that he continue to conceal and shield up to this time.

For how can any person accept that in his dedication and passion to serve his country and people, flag and nation, he neglected his family? Not seeing them for 2, 3, sometimes even 6 months because he was so engaged and so focused on the mission assigned to him as a man in uniform?

How can a father easily accept that perhaps what the incident really means is that his own daughter is crying for help, attention and fatherly love?

As I write these last few paragraphs, I am reminded about the speech that Michael Jackson delivered at Oxford University in 2001, the one posted by colleague and fellow journalist-blogger Ding Gagelonia, wherein in he said, that in the world today, there exists a crisis, the missing link and the long forgotten relationship between parent and child.

In essence what MJ said was---"it's time to reinforce that bond. It's time to go back to basics and the basics dictate that parents nurture and love their kids with the highest priority and to allow them to be kids, to be loved without any condition, so that when their time comes as parents, they too would continue the cycle of parent and kid bond, so that finally, finally, the world will heal."

A non-story?

Yes when taken into consideration the parameters by which headlines are weighed and evaluated in every newsroom or editorial room.

But in the confines of human relations, in the seclusion and in the privacy of ones home---this is the biggest story we could all learn from.

To my friend and his family, I repeat my advise, uncalled for and unsolicited--"take time out to be with each other. Hold each other. Feel each other. Listen and speak your heart out. Let go of the shields and free yourself, say the words---I LOVE YOU MY CHILD." (end)

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

ONE LAST TIME....thank you Michael Jackson!!!!

One last time, tears and farewell for the one person who have touched the lives of many generations.

We need not know him the way Brooke Shields knew him. They were childhood friends whose celebrity status bonded them together as icons of their generation.

They were so close then that many thought it was a fitting progression in their relationship that they end us as husband and wife. What could be more ideal than marrying your best friend?

But forever friends they are---they were...

In her eulogy at the Memorial Service at the Staples Center Brooke said, "To the outside world, Michael was a genius with unchallenged ability. To the people who were lucky enough to know him personally--he was caring and funny, honest,pure, non-jaded and he was a lover of life. He cared so deeply for his family and his friends and to his fans."

What Brooke probably did not know is that while many fans loved Michael Jackson from a distance, miles and miles of distance for millions---the millions who loved him knew in their hearts that he is one caring and funny individual. One who radiates and love life.

The songs he gave his fans told us so. His music became our window to his soul, he allowed us into his private world through the music he shared with his millions of fans.

"Wacko Jacko"--this was one of the many ugly titles attached to his name, unsolicited and very undeserving. He never defended himself, he allowed it, because the truth was---even though millions now realized how deeply hurt Michael Jackson was for most part of his life, he decided to keep it to himself.

His journey into life was something that is inspiring to say the least. He went through pain like millions of ordinary individuals---but with dignity and with a very brave face, one that smiles, one that radiates, one that tells you, life is beautiful and that life is a gift from God.

Brooke also said something about her best friend's favorite song. She said, "Michael's favorite song was not one of the countless masterpieces that he gave us, but was a piece that Charlie Chaplin wrote, for the movie Modern Times, it's called SMILE---there's a line in the song that says, smile though your heart is aching, smile what's the use in crying...Today although our hearts are aching...we need to smile..."

Born January 4, 1970--I am one of the millions of Michael Jackson fans who grew up loving and learning lessons of life through his music.

One of the songs I memorized as an aspiring child singer was his song "BEN". "I'LL BE THERE" was also a song of my youth, one that talks about a very vital human relationship: the value of friendship.

Family, friends and millions of fans paid tribute. This one is mine.

We maybe outsiders, not family, not in his circle of friends, not part of the privilege few, but Michael Jackson will stay in our hearts because he was part of us.

For those who cried buckets of tears watching the memorial, it was not because the world lost a music icon for as the final curtain call in his life came, Michael Jackson thought us one great lesson that would inspire many to journey into life the way he did.

With a smile...for life is ours to cherish, a gift that we must protect and treasure everyday of our lives, for as long as we have it.

Let the child in all of us journey life with a caring and pure heart...then it would not be hard to simply do just that---SMILE.

The song lingers on my mind...

"Smile, what's the use of crying/You'll find that life is still worthwhile/If you just smile." (END)

Monday, July 6, 2009


This may sound a little insensitive---questions that maybe misinterpreted as a justification of a violent action. But just the same---these questions were raised in the midst of the recent bloody bombing in Cotabato City yesterday.

What about the attacks on civilians in evacuation center? Is that not a cause of alarm for government? Who will investigate these attacks?

The one who raised these questions was Eid Kabalu, spokesperson of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) reacting to the bloodiest bomb attack that hit Mindanao in recent weeks killing 5 people and wounding 45 others last Sunday at a lechon store outside the Cotabato Immaculate Concepcion Cathedral.

According to police investigators the bomb that exploded was homemade and that the explosion was triggered by a cellular phone. Immediately after the bombing, two people were taken in for questioning and is now still under tactical interrogation.

The Armed Forces of the Philippines had pinpointed to the Special Operations Group of the MILF as the perpetrator of the Sunday bomb blast in Cotabato.

“We condemn the bombing and we are confident that if only police investigators will stick to the evidence they gather on site, they will come to the conclusion that the MILF is not behind the bombing.There is a bigger agenda here and Mindanao is just a take off of that plan, designed by others and not the MILF” said Kabalu and even referred to a statement made in the media by former House Speaker Jose De Venecia that the recent bombings could be the handiwork of government itself, as a preliminary scenario to the declaration of an emergency rule or Martial Law.

“Si De Venecia nga yun ang sinabi, pero kami, hihintayin namin ang resulta ng opisyal na imbestigasyon and we are confident we will be vindicated in the very irresponsible allegations made by the AFP that the MILF are the ones behind the bombings in our own area.”

It doesn’t make sense explains Kabalu and raised the question What they will gain from launching a bomb attack?

In an interview with this reporter adding that the unfortunate incident near a Catholic Church in a way eclipsed another issue of atrocities directed towards the civilian population of many provinces in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao especially in the province of Maguindanao.

“Nobody seemed to take notice about the fact that civilians in evacuation centers are crying for help, complaining that they are now direct targets of the military,” Kabalu lamented.

In one evacuation center in Maguindanao last June 30, in the remote part of Libutan town to be exact, journalists from Metro Manila and various cities in Mindanao discovered the case of 7-year old Fahidza Kajar, who according to her family and the evacuees was a victim of a shrapnel of a 105 Howitzer Bomb of the Philippine Army.

According to Fahidza’s brother Mario, her sister was sleeping at around 8 in the evening, tucked in bed in a makeshift shelter they occupy at the Libutan Evacuation Center when the bomb exploded just a few meters away from the camp itself, shrapnel hitting the girl in an instant.

With her right leg and foot bandaged, Fahidza was carried by her elder brother Mario who was visibly surprised and thankful when he saw two elf-trucks full of members of the media and some human rights workers from various non-governmental organizations numbering to almost 60 arrived in their remote evacuation site.

In Filipino Mario said,” Mabuti nakarating kayo para makita ng gobyerno ang kalagayan namin dito, lalo na yung nangyari sa kapatid ko. Sana maipagamot man lang siya ng tama, hindi na kami umaasa ng hustisya, magamot lang ng tama para maligtas sa impeksiyon, okey na sa amin.”

The incident according to Mario took place eleven days prior to the media visit in their evacuation camp in Libutan.

On the verge of tears, Mario clutching Fahidza on his arms asked the military if they have now become the targets and not the MILF. “Bakit nasa evacuation na kami, binobomba pa rin kami?” Not used to seeing strangers and her first time to see cameras focused on her, Fahidza did not say a word and hid her face most of the time by burying it on her brother’s chest.

On the same day, June 30, a media briefing to the media by the 6th Infantry Division of the Philippine Army provided the answer as to why the civilians in evacuation centers feel they now have become direct targets of the military.

In a briefing recorded by the NGO workers and media, the 6th ID through its spokesperson Col. Jonathan Ponce said they “consider and look at the civilians in the evacuation centers as reserve forces of the MILF, in other words, part of the MILF itself.” Ponce during the briefing even said that some MILF fighters pretend to be evacuees.

Evacuees in various parts of Central Mindanao still number to more than 300,000 individuals have been living in makeshift camps, schools turned into a mini-community for more almost a year now when the encounters between the MILF and the military erupted beginning in August of last year following the Supreme Court’s rejection of the legitimacy of the Memorandum of Agreement on Ancestral Domain signed by representatives from the Government of the Philippines and the MILF.

In the last quarter of 2008, the number of internally displaced persons in the Philippines at 600,000 plus individuals, many in the Central Mindanao provinces like Maguindanao even surpassed the number of evacuees in countries like Sudan and Kenya based on the April 2009 Report of the Geneva-based INTERNAL DISPLACEMENT MONITORING CENTRE (IDMC).

Amina Anuka, one of the elderly women evacuees in Datu Gumbang in Piang Center told this reporter doesn’t know how old she is but thinks she’s probably 70 years old plus and that most of her years were spent running away from war.

Her greatest fear she said in her native dialect in Maguindanao, translated by another evacuee in Filipino, was that she would breathe her last in the evacuation center, not seeing the end to the conflict she experienced all her life.

While fear remains in her eyes, there is also that look in Anuka's eyes that conveys the reality that she has embraced everything as her fate, her life--her destiny.(end)


Saturday, July 4, 2009

Praying for Tita Cory in these times....

Just a short note before I go to my Saturday radio program on RMN-Manila-DZXL today, a thought that was bursting since last night.

A note about the country's Tita.

She's the only president whom everybody called Tita, Tita Cory to be exact, a term of endearment that symbolizes how the nation looks up to her, not just the country's leader in those very interesting and trying times in our history as a nation, but also as an extended member of the Filipino family's home, an aunt, a Tita, whom everyone can rely on for love and inspiration.

Former President Corazon Cojuangco Aquino was the widow who emerged from her cocoon to lead a nation in gaining the grounds of democracy. But as the nation prays for her recovery, it is also acknowledged that she was more than a symbol of leader to us. She was part of our homes, our lives, proof of the Filipino's commitment to the preservation of the family as the basic unit of society.

I was still a high school campus journalist when Tita Cory was President.It was time of a battle between yellow and red or red and yellow. The Laban sign and the Victory sign.

It was also a time when Press Freedom in the country was slowly regaining its strength, functioning the key role of exposing the truth amidst many lies hidden through the years.

When I became a reporter professionally, she was two years away from the end of her term but I also had the opportunity of covering some of her official events as Chief Executive then. It was a thrill to cover the Tita for she would always have that demure smile, one that will definitely caught you off-guard, specially when that smile was directed to you. She was charming in person and she probably doesn't even know how powerful that charm was for there were even times, she would come across as shy--a shadow of the simple housewife that she was before she became the leader of a nation wanting CHANGE in those trying times.

CHANGE is a word we embraced then with Tita Cory as the symbol.

SOBRA NA TAMA NA---that was the clamor of an aching nation wanting so much to be healed from the political, economic, social and even cultural illness.

CHANGE is a word we long to claim these days.

It's interesting to note that in the midst of our common clamor for CHANGE, Tita Cory is in our hearts and in our minds again---a subconscious reminder that it is indeed time for the Filipino people to come out and do their part in effecting that change.

In her sickbed, Tita Cory is once again the one person who is leading us to take seriously the task of building a nation through meaningful reforms and genuine CHANGES.

Just like in '86, when the time comes, when no one is expecting, when the experts are saying, the Filipino people will not find it in them to rally again for truthful CHANGE--I trust that they will---WE WILL.

As we pray for the recovery of the Filipino people's TITA CORY---let us again reflect and ponder on what it really takes for a nation to CHANGE its course in history. (end)