No Closure Yet Nor Goodbye To All That

By Elmer Ordonez

The disaster/tragedy in Mindanao struck about two weeks after Rony V. Diaz and other writers sounded the alarums about the apocalyptic effects of climate change at the Philippine PEN national conference early this month.

Many factors contributed to the rampaging floods that engulfed whole communities in Cagayan de Oro, Iligan City, and other parts of Mindanao along Typhoon Sendong’s path– something unheard of in the past. Among these factors are the results of global warming such as unseasonable or unpredictable weather conditions. Man-made factors such as such as burning of fossil fuels increasing carbon emissions that get to the atmosphere, deforestation as a result of logging and mining (legal or illegal) — depletion of natural resources that have disturbed the ecological balance. The wiping out of communities built on sandbars on mouths of rivers, riverbanks, under bridges reflect lack of government control of housing sites either due to corruption or political expediency (informal settlers can vote). Deficient warning systems also contributed in large measure to many dead, injured, and missing. The Department of Environment and Natural Resources has urged local governments to follow the geo-hazard map in urban planning. They also need to enforce the total log ban

We like to say that Typhoon Sendong disaster is a wake-up call. Didn’t we say this after Typhoon Ondong hit Marikina Valley/Greater Manila in 2009. There were other wake-up calls like the Bataan and Ormoc landslides and floods years ago. As Pete Seeger would sing, “When will we ever learn?”

Other notable events of 2011:

1) The case of electoral sabotage against the former President and her election commissioner. This should lead to prosecutions of more corrupt poll and military officers involved in the 2004 and 2007 elections as brought out in congressional investigations.

2) The impeachment of a chief justice whose “midnight appointment” by the former president he is close to has left a bad taste in the mouth of the incoming president who decided to take his oath of office with an associate justice instead. His sentiments for impeachment are shared by more than two thirds in the House of Representatives including militant party-list members.

3) The charging of retired general Jovito Palparan (lionized by the GMA Palace but called “berdugo” by many) and several other army officers for the kidnapping of two U.P. female student activists in 2006. Palparan was stopped by immigration in Clark International Airport as he tried to leave for Singapore, and has since disappeared evading arrest under court warrant. Palparan had left a lurid trail of human rights violations such as summary executions, torture. rape, forced disappearances of activists in the regions where he was assigned as military commander. He is now a fugitive belying his promise that he would not resist arrest. His successful escape would frustrate the hopes of victims of human rights violations for justice and for the end of the culture of impunity among violators under past and present administrations. Reports from the countryside are that the supposedly new “Operation Bayanihan” has spawned fresh human rights violations. Palace claims of “zero political prisoners” are contradicted by detainees like Alan Jazmines and Ericson Acosta (both poets); the latter recently went on hunger strike together with more than 300 political prisoners who were all charged with criminal offenses. Under unrescinded Marcos decrees, it is a standard way of denying the existence of political prisoners by simply having the military or police concoct charges of criminal offenses such as illegal possession of firearms or explosives, robbery, or murder against persons who otherwise are just liable for rebellion or sedition.

It is notable that the electoral sabotage and impeachment cases are basically manifestations of the rifts between ruling elite factions. This is not to deny the gravity and significance of the cases. Historically, rival ruling elites have a way of coming to terms. They may fight tooth and nail in the struggle for power but ultimately they do not annihilate each other. This was true during the time of Osmena, Quezon, Laurel and Roxas. Ninoy Aquino’s assassination need not have happened if Marcos, his frat brod, was not incapacitated at the time.(At least this is what their brods think.) Joseph Estrada, convicted of plunder, was pardoned by President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.

I still hope that the laudable though belated moves of the President and his Justice Secretary Lelia de Lima in pursuing the cases against GMA, Renato Corona, and Jovito Palparan would result in some reforms in government. We do need some relief before another set of self-serving oligarchs take over in 2016.


I started the “The Other View” in 2004 in the Sunday Times Magazine, writing on culture, education and the arts, but my column was transferred to the editorial page of the Saturday paper. I continued writing on the original topics but extended my views to include politics and governance.

As intimated in the last several columns, I need to take a break to attend to a deeply personal matter. As circumstances permit I will be writing pieces now and then.

Happy New Year!