Category: OFWs

inquirer’s himala moment

… after “killing” Mary Jane Veloso in its headline and story of April 29, and its less than perfect “apology” of the 30th, the Inquirer followed up the fiasco with “A miracle happened” on the front page of its April 30 issue. In the same issue, another story quoted the Indonesian Attorney General as declaring that Mary Jane Veloso’s reprieve was “due to P-Noy plea.” Not satisfied with that, the fourth line of the same headline opined that “credit grabbing (was) in full swing,” in another swipe at those groups and individuals most media organizations habitually refer to as “militants.”

that’s from the may 11 post of melinda quintos de jesus’s center for media freedom and responsibility (CMFR), Reporting the Veloso Case: Biased, sensationalized, tasteless.

earlier, in social media, UP masscom deans, present and past (roland tolentino, nicanor tiongson, luis teodoro, georgina encanto), had released “Fact or Fiction? UP deans on Inquirer’s Mary Jane Veloso coverage,” also questioning the broadsheet’s competence and integrity, and its obvious bias against the left, including migrante and the lawyers org.

… on the front page of the April 30 issue, the PDI followed up that initial error of April 29 with an article entitled “A miracle happened,” as if human intervention had no role in keeping Veloso alive. Moreover, in the same issue, another story quotes the Indonesian Attorney General as declaring that Mary Jane Veloso’s reprieve was “due to P-Noy plea,” a diplomatic statement obviously made for the sake of courtesy and to preserve Indonesia’s good relations with the Philippines.

i would have let it all pass me by except that john nery, inquirer columnist and editor-in-chief of the broadsheet’s online operation, responded to the UP deans yesterday, may 12, basically calling out them out on their anti-administration bias.  which is par for the course.  naturally nery would rise to the challenge, defend the paper that has been home to him for the last 15 years even if only in a personal capacity, even if only to pit pro-admin opinion against anti-admin.

but nery astounds when he insists that “A miracle happened” and even cites mary jane’s mother celia as primary source sort-of.

… the four deans overreach, and betray their religious illiteracy. They seem to think that miracles happen in a vacuum, rather than precisely through human action. Of course humans intervened, starting with Indonesian President Joko Widodo’s decision to grant a temporary reprieve. That does not make the reprieve at the literal last minute any less miraculous in the eyes of many Filipinos. The deans’ criticism of the use of the word “miracle” is what is called cavilling, and (as I hope to show) cavilling of the partisan kind.

wait.   when i hear talk of miracles i think of the dead raised, water turned into wine, fish and loaves multiplied, all in a magical wave-of-a-wand kind of sequence.  are we talking the same religion here?

… The word “miracle” resonated with the public because that’s exactly how the last-minute reprieve appeared to many Filipinos: as an extraordinary fact, not easily explainable by the circumstances. Was there interpretation involved in the choice of the headline? Of course. Journalists are supposed not only to report what they see, but to interpret it—in part by offering the necessary context. I submit that “A miracle happened” offers exactly the right kind of context; in fact, Mary Jane’s own mother Celia is quoted in that story as saying, “Miracles do happen.”

well, that’s a little too convoluted for me.  but yes, i suppose, like EDSA 1986, a miracle!   but a “miracle” only in the sense of unexpected and wonderful, certainly not in the sense of unexplainable or unfathomable.  as with EDSA, and with elsa, walang himala.  it is obvious that there is a rational explanation for widodo’s change of mind, and media’s job is to work at ferreting that out instead of going for the easy way out.  a miracle, my foot.

there is no distracting from the original sin: that damning headline.  unlike many many others here at home and around the world who didn’t stop hoping for a last-minute stay of execution, inquirer had given up on mary jane by press time.  i wonder what they hoped for, whom they prayed for, in those pre-dawn hours.

ingrata! is so konyo

iyan na mismo ang mindset that feeds the patronage system that keeps the poor poor and the rich rich.  those who call mary jane veloso’s mother celia an ingrate for speaking out against the government rather than singing its praises are the ones who are showing their true colors — mga matapobre rin lang, as in, the poor should know their place, the poor have no breeding, the poor do not know any better than to be brainwashed by leftists, so why bother with them, ibitay.

it’s all very depressing, this backlash against the backlash.  it’s down and dirty and ugly and offensive, and i wonder if the palace truly thinks it will help elect pnoy’s annointed in 2016.

the poor are not so dumb anymore, especially about the OFW route.  decades of experience in dealing with recruiters of all kinds and with government and its regulations have raised awareness: the system sucks, it is stacked against the poor.  and when, like mary jane, the poor get into trouble, wala lang, wala man lang benefit of the doubt, malamang kasalanan nila.  it should not surprise that the hinanakit goes deep.  deep enough and painful enough to cry out, in the name of every poor and oppressed OFW.

but if we can’t deal with that and choose to continue arguing instead over who changed the indonesian president’s mind, then what i’d like to see is a credible master timeline, perhaps authenticated by president widodo mismo.

meanwhile, sharing this facebook status (public) by herbie docena that puts veloso bashers — both the masters and the servants — in their place.

Dapat kasi, pagkagaling sa airport mula Indonesia, dumerecho na si Celia Veloso sa Malacanang, lumuhod sa harap ni P-Noy at hinalikan ang kanyang mga paa. Aba, pasalamat nga sya P-Noy even bothered to lift a finger to help her daughter–nevermind that he could have done so much more in the last five years to prevent her from being condemned to death in the first place, nevermind that he was only forced to do so because the issue has become so explosive that it could further erode his remaining legitimacy, and nevermind that he actually refused to do what the French or Australian leaders actually did to back their appeal: they actually threatened to break relations with Indonesia. Eh sino nga ba naman si Mary Jane to expect more: isang kutong-lupang muchacha na eengot-engot pa!

This outcry over Celia’s criticism of the President speaks to how pervasive the submissive-slave mentality remains. It’s Typhoon Yolanda all over again: “Aba, sino ba naman yung mga taga-Tacloban para mag-demand ng mabilis na tulong mula sa gobyerno nila? Pasalamat nga sila may ginawa pa yung gobyerno eh.”

Tapos usually may ganito pa: “All my pity or support for this family just disappeared!” In other words: “Pasalamat nga sila pati AKO naki-simpatiya sa kanila eh! Eh sino ba naman sila!”

I imagine a Downton Abbey scene: The lord of the realm does something–something really effortless, something he was only forced to do for fear of social unrest–to help a lowly servant. But the servant, instead of bowing before the lord and and instead of praising him to the high heavens, complains that the master should have done so much more to help. The ladies and gentlemen, gathered in the salon, burst out in anger: What an ingrate! How dare she steps out of bounds! But so do all the servants gathered in the basement. Conditioned all their lives to accept that the only way they could climb the social ladder is to grovel before and kiss the asses of the master, they too burst out in anger: What an ingrate! How dare she steps out of bounds!

This, essentially, is what we’re witnessing today on our Twitter and Facebook feeds: servants and masters crucifying Mary Jane’s mother for breaking social expectations, for stepping out of her assigned place in the social structure (“wala sa lugar”), and, by so doing, attempting to repair and uphold that social structure –to keep people in their places (“ilagay sa kanilang lugar”)–through their anguished expressions of moral indignation.

But we all know how the kind of social order depicted in Downton Abbey will–or should–end.

For my yaya and all our OFWs

By Nicole del Rosario CuUnjieng

… Ana is but one of the now overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) whom our country has failed. Our political-economic system has not provided adequate resources and support to make upward mobility possible, so those without opportunity have voted with their feet and left our country. Invest Philippines writes: “Remittances from the nearly 10 million Filipinos abroad are the biggest change of the past decade in the Philippine economy…Remittances from Filipinos working abroad have become the economy’s second largest source of foreign capital…They have created an underlying floor for the economy that some economists believe accounts for about 4% annual economic growth and shielded the conservative Philippine elite from pressure to reform the status quo.”

Given the continuing and egregious inequality in our country, we likely would have already had a revolution had employment abroad not created a valve to release such social and economic pressure. Yet, even as the sweat of our overseas workers—who endure predatory exploitation and sacrifice their lives—provides crucial ballast to our economy, inclusive economic growth eludes us. The government hails the OFWs as the “bayani” of our country, and they truly are, yet such heroization of and support for the massive exportation of our people does not absolve our government and society from their duties to provide opportunity for Filipinos in their own country.

A friend in Hong Kong calculated for me what her maid earns working 4-5 days a week for her there. After subtracting the cost of her Hong Kong rent, she has approximately P42,000 a month. A public school teacher in the Philippines teaching two shifts of kindergarten students for 12 hours a day may make as little as 6,000 pesos a month. No wonder our country’s teachers, nurses, and even doctors continue to prefer to live as second-class citizens in Hong Kong, Qatar, and still more distant shores. They live their whole lives away, in the borrowed quarters of somebody else’s life, with somebody else’s family, taking care of another’s baby, while their own children grow up not knowing their mothers. We cannot continue to allow them to prop up our country while domestic corruption and indifference to the plight of our impoverished both at home and abroad squander their sacrifice.

The elite get off easily in this. The poor just want to get by, and so the rich feel no true pressure from them to implement socially progressive reforms or to create the conditions for others to share in their good fortune. Some anomalous examples of wealthy, self-made professionals exist, but largely what we have seen over the last half century in terms of change and of true wealth creation are merely the up-and-down movements of those who already had some kind of foot in the game. The idea of doing well for oneself here–of becoming wealthy in a legal and plausible way–does not exist for the vast majority of our people. While I understand that the reasons our economic growth has largely been jobless growth are myriad and complex, and that a deepening manufacturing sector portends more inclusive growth in the coming future, our measure of success as our economy grows must be our ability to lift people out of poverty and to create opportunity and possibility here at home. This is particularly owed given the painful source of much of the economic growth enjoyed over the last decade, and the lives that were sacrificed for it along the way.

pinoy education: from bad to worse, k-12 and all

read conrado de quiros’s Making the grade, part of which dwells on the allocation for debt payments being 3 times larger than that for education:

… our schools are getting worse. Only the University of the Philippines remained among the top 100 of 300 schools in Asia. Ateneo de Manila University, De La Salle University and the University of Santo Tomas, though still in the middle ranges, slipped during the past year. Specifically, UP improved from 68th to 67th while Ateneo fell from 86th to 109th, La Salle from 142th to 151th, and UST from 140th to 150th.

Rep. Luz Ilagan, a former university professor, says this is due to schools preferring quantity to quality. Many universities are really just diploma mills offering popular courses based on public demand. Poor-quality elementary and high school education lead to poor-quality students entering college. Some of them have barely passable comprehension and writing skills.

Rep. Antonio Tinio says it’s funds, or the sore lack of them. “In Asia, public universities rule. In order for our higher education sector to become competitive, the government must drastically step up its funding and other support for our state universities and colleges. Unfortunately, government higher education policy over the last two decades has gone in the other direction, towards budget cuts, contractualization of faculty and commercialization.”

Ric Reyes of the Freedom from Debt Coalition puts the case of lack of funds for public education more forcefully. Last year, the budget for debt payments was P739 billion, three times more than the budget for education, which was only P224.9 billion. The latter was only 2.2 percent of GNP, well below the world benchmark of 6 percent. Unesco notes that the Philippines has the lowest expenditure for education in proportion to total budget. Since 1955, education has dropped from 30.78 percent of the budget to 15 percent post Edsa. This year’s education budget at 14.97 percent is lower than the post Edsa average of 15 percent.

I share their sense of apprehension, if not alarm, at the state, and future, of our education. With some caveats.

Certainly, I agree that we need to revise the budget and give education the utmost, ultimate, first-and-last priority it deserves. Which, not quite incidentally, the Constitution decrees. Debt payments are not the national priority, education is. Which, not quite incidentally as well, shows the continuing horror of martial law: To this day we are still paying for the Marcoses’ debt. Next time Imelda throws a party, know that you and your children are paying for it.

I don’t care if government makes all sorts of excuses to defer payment (“Sorry, but we have mouths to feed and minds to open”), or more conciliatorily negotiates to restructure payments again and again, but education should be three times more than debt payments. Hell, education should have half the budget, if we are going to have half the chance to curb, if not eradicate, poverty….

and read ben kritz’s Expanded program getting off on the wrong foot, mostly about k12 and how it’s meant, not to improve the quality of education, but to prepare students for overseas foreign work.

Rep. Luz Ilagan of Gabriela party-list criticized the government for “only adding quantity, not quality” with the implementation of the K-12 program, in reaction to a recent ranking that placed only five (down from 14 a year ago) Philippine universities among the top 300 universities in Asia. Ilagan’s contention is that the quality of Philippine higher has declined because of the poor preparation of incoming freshmen students and a fixation “on getting many students to graduate from popular courses that markets demand”; not nearly enough attention has been paid to improving the quality of the primary and secondary curriculum, in Ilagan’s view, therefore the K-12 program as it has been presented will have no real positive effect in improving the Philippines’ al reputation.

Ordinarily I regard the viewpoints of acknowledged leftists with a high degree of skepticism, particularly those expressed by the Migrante group, which has the seemingly incompatible objectives of promoting the interests of overseas workers while working towards eventually ending the labor export phenomenon. Over the weekend, however, I attended the annual parents’ orientation meeting at the private school where my three children are enrolled, and I was surprised, to say the least, at the “official” point of view towards the K-12 program. The academic director of our school—which already had a robust academic and extra-curricular program, as well as a good reputation for producing college entrants—in addressing the K-12 program offered the opinion that it “would better prepare students to find work overseas because of its focus on vocational training, and the fact that the students will be 18 [years old] [and thus legally employable] when they graduate high school.”

Knowing how diligently our school’s administration coordinates its management with Department of (DepEd) policy, it would now appear as though the complaints of Migrante’s Martinez and Ilagan have considerable substance. And if, in fact, the enhancement of the Philippines’ human export resource is a priority of the K-12 program, then the fears of many that the extended curriculum was implemented for all the wrong reasons are completely valid.

back in july 2010, then ateneo president fr. bienvenido nebres criticized the aquino admin’s k-12 plans, recommending instead that extra years be added to “select college courses”.  fr. ben was ignored, of course, as the agenda, it would seem, has always been to perpetuate the pretense of “sound economic fundamentals” via OFW remittances.