Missing the point in the hostage crisis

First published in Blogwatch

PNP

Throngs of police form layers of barricade to block protesters from getting close to Batasan during President Aquino's first SONA (taken July 26, 2010)

Certainly, the police got many things wrong during Monday’s bloody hostage-taking at the Quirino Grandstand in Manila. It would be remiss, however, to simply cite the lack of equipment and training for the major blunder, as what foreign security experts, the Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) and the police are saying in chorus. The problem actually runs deep at the institutional level: local police forces are trained and oriented to merely hunt and kill perceived enemies of the state, not to save innocent lives.

This underlying question should be asked, since there is a huge difference between the two basic tasks mentioned. The Philippine National Police’s (PNP) slogan “To Serve and Protect” painted in their headquarters now paradoxically questions their orientation and preparedness to actually do so. Does the PNP exist to serve and protect the people? Or is it there to merely serve and protect the powerful few?

Special Action Force sniper

A sniper from the elite PNP-Special Action Force

The PNP, which has been around for 19 years, actually has the necessary equipment in handling the hostage crisis. Every year, it has been showcasing its firepower at anniversary rites (it even boasted a new V-150 Commando tank this year). It has around 4,000 elite Special Action Force (SAF) units, who are armed with high-powered assault rifles, submachine guns and sniper rifles, aside from its Special Weapons and Tactics (SWAT) unit.

PNP SAF members, who also train SWAT members, actually received training from the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI)’s Hostage Rescue Team (HRT), an advanced counter-terror tactical team of the FBI. SAF members in turn conduct related training such as airborne forces training and military diving for other policemen.

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Winner si Joi Barrios

Bulaklak sa Tubig

Si Joi Barrios habang nagbabasa ng ilang tula mula sa "Bulaklak sa Tubig: Mga Tula ng Pag-ibig at Himagsik." Si Bienvenido Lumbera ang nasa kanan

Nitong Sabado, mistulang saling-pusa ako sa ginanap na book launch ng “Bulaklak sa Tubig: Mga Tula ng Pag-ibig at Himagsik” ni Mam Joi Barrios, kilalang progresibo at makata, sa Solidaridad Bookshop (na pagmamay-ari ng isa pang manunulat na si F. Sionil Jose). Inakala ko na bukas sa lahat ang book launch. Pag-akyat ko sa ikatlong palapag ng bookstore, tumimo sa akin na mga piling makata at progresibo lang pala ang target na dumalo. Nakita ko sina Bienvenido Lumbera, F. Sionil Jose at si Neil Garcia (na minsan ko nang binato ng kritisismo sa isang klase sa Unibersidad sa Pilipinas).

Saktong pagpirmi ko sa isang sulok ng makipot na kwarto, sinimulang basahin ni Mam Joi ang tula niyang “Syento Beinte Singko” na tungkol sa pakikibaka ng mga manggagawa para sa signipikanteng dagdag-sahod.

Gasino na ang syento beinte singko?
Apat na kilo ng bigas,
ilang saing sa hapag ng mahirap.
Anim na pirasong galunggong,
Simutin mula ulo hanggang buntot,
at nang makatawid gutom.
Kahit noodles ay laman na rin ng sikmura
at sa limang pisong pakete mula sa pabrika.
busog ka sa asin at betsin, paalam na sa sustansiya.

Gasino na ang syento beinte singko.
sa kapitalista’t may kuwarta
isang tasa ng kape sa Starbucks,
isang hiwa ng kesong maalat,
isang espesyal na ensaymada
na ihahain na pang-meryenda.

Syento beinte singko lang ang dagdag na suweldong
hinihingi ng manggagawa.
Syento beinte singkong walang dantay
sa mga guhit ng timbangang sumusukat
sa agwat ng kapitalista’t manggagawang naghihirap.

Pagkatapos, binasa naman ni Mam Joi ang isang tula tungkol sa Botox, popular na lason na itinuturok sa mga mukhang nagnanais mabanat.  Sa tula, inilarawan ang pagpapaturok ng isang dalaga para mapansin ng kanyang iniibig. Humirit ang mga makatang dumalo na basahin pa ang ibang tula hinggil sa pag-ibig.

Pero piniling sarhan ni Mam Joi ang maikling programa sa pamamagitan ng tula hinggil sa himagsik. Binigkas niya ang tula hinggil sa Oplan Bantay Laya, kontra-insurhensiyang programa ng gobyerno, at ang nagpapatuloy na laban ng sambayanan.

Mamayang hapon, ilulunsad ang bagong koleksyon ng mga tula sa Recto Hall, Faculty Center sa UP Diliman, 4-6 n.h. Ito na yung bukas sa publiko na book launch, hindi iyong dinaluhan ko nung Sabado.

***

Matapos ang tulaan at merienda, ipinakilala ako ni Ka Bong, tagapangulo ng Kilusang Mayo Uno, kay Mam Joi bilang manunulat para sa kilusang paggawa. Ang tanging reaksyon ni Mam Joi: Winner!

***

Aquino deceitful like the Luisita deal

for Blog Watch

Noynoy Aquino, Hacienda Luisita massacre,

Families of slain farm workers commemorate the Hacienda Luisita massacre in front of the sugar estate's gates (Photo taken on Nov. 16, 2009)

There is simply no need to debate as to whether the compromise Luisita deal, which gave farmers the absurd choice to retain their shares in Hacienda Luisita Inc.(HLI)  through stocks or to own land, constitute land reform or not. By all indications, the settlement was orchestrated with the help of fake union leaders to shield the vast sugar estate from distribution, contrary to what HLI claims as a sign of a “new beginning.” The president’s family has really no plans to leave Luisita – that is the bottom line of the spurious deal.

The same sugar barons – the Cojuangco-Aquino clan – have just consolidated their grip on the Hacienda Luisita, while the majority of farmers who chose to retain their shares remain landless at the end of the day. Perhaps this explains why HLI spokesman lawyer Tony Ligon insists that they are workers, not farmers. HLI really wants them to be landless stockholders with only fictitious paper to own.

Contrary to HLI’s claim that the compromise deal will uplift the lives of Luisita farmers, the signed agreement actually prolongs the impoverishment of farmers under the skewed Stock Distribution Option (SDO) scheme. The distribution of the initial P20-million aid to farmers gives us a glimpse: some received P347 while others received only P1, depending on their shares. These amounts are merely crumbs but are simply too attractive for farmers who receive P9.50 as weekly take-home pay in the previous years under the same SDO scheme. Continue reading