• For whom the Balangiga bells toll

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    RENE SAGUISAG

    OUR proud and profane Prez is said to aim for “a comfortable life for all.” There was discomfort a year or so ago in navigating Metro Manila’s traffic. Do we find such traveling “more” comfortable today? Where is his unquestioned bravery in, say, proposing no-garage-no-vehicle; or decreeing that vehicles more than two decades old may not be registered, etc.? Anti-poor? Or having plutocratic enclaves open up for the public to use its roads? Anti-rich?

    Valid constitutional issues would arise. How would a bullied, terrorized and terrified Congress respond? Last Saturday, it in effect gave Digong the power to declare martial law in Mindanao for as long as he wants and asked “what else can we do for you?” A carte blanche from the other branches, and now, the extermination of the Commission on Human Rights, for which he finds no place in our police state.

    He has not convened the National Security Council (NSC). We do have one, I think, but he may not be certain about its predictability. The NSC should have been the more appropriate resource entity instead of, or in addition to, the singers the Palace sent to join the congressional chuwariwari choir. In perfect, or dismaying, harmony.

    How to sing anthem

    What else happens in the Bigger House? One listed accomplishment, House Bill 5224, reminds me that on November 24, 2006, I wrote the following in this space:

    “Manila has Ordinance No. 8099, `requiring all operators of business establishments to play the Philippine National Anthem every opening and closing of the daily business hours…The Anthem shall be played either as instrumental music or with lyrics in Filipino in accordance with the musical arrangement and composition of Julian Felipe. provided, that all persons within the premises of the aforementioned business establishments shall stand at attention upon the playing thereof, sing the anthem with fervor and salute by placing their right palm over their left chest.’

    “In Nevada last Sunday, we again heard one way of singing the ‘Star-Spangled Banner’ with the enthusiastic crowd yelling, whistling, etc. In Manila, anyone found violating or infringing the above Ordinance could be imprisoned for six months or fined P6,000.

    “Thus, if I sing off-key, or another way, or with not enough fervor, or do not place my right palm as required, I could be jailed for six months. If a baby, Cebuano or an alien tourist could or would not obey, again, six months? This represented the best thinking of Manila’s officialdom, then headed by my pal, Tolits Atienza [now in the Bigger House, where he raised some intelligent questions last Saturday].”

    How to measure fervor

    From parochial to national. May I thank a long-time and valued friend, compañera Lorna P. Kapunan for writing about the arguable inanity in her Business Mirror column last Monday.

    “The singing, under House Bill No. 5224, ‘shall be mandatory and must be done with fervor.’ How would one measure fervor?” Would not the right to sing include the right not to, in the same manner, the right to speak includes the right not to? A basic human and constitutional right. But under the bill, we would be mandated, “[a]t the first note [to]salute by placing [our]right palms over [our]left chests.” Remember, prison and fine await the non-compliant.

    In the US, the “Star-Spangled Banner” is sung differently in many ways, say in sporting events. Casually accepted in that democracy, save when Roseann Barr sang it in a very controversial manner in 1990. Others have also mangled or bungled the hymn. Pro football players, led by quarterback Colin Kaepernick, kneeled in protest, some making the human rights salute of the two Black American medalists in the 1968 Mexico Olympics.
    Brickbats, but no talk of jail time. HB 5224 imposes imprisonment of a year and fine of not less than P50,000.

    In church, one of the few remaining thrills I have in my sunset years is guessing to what tune “Our Father” would be sung. Some sing, off-key, but there is no penalty for being sintunado, tone-deaf or unable to carry a tune.

    Bothering with trifles

    OK, rookie lapses for the Prez and Congress but shall we avoid a sophomore jinx? Certain laws may need clarification. Such as, Sec. 13 of RA 7166 of 1991, which states in its last paragraph that I introduced: “Any provision of law to the contrary notwithstanding, any contribution in cash or in kind to any candidate or political party or coalition of parties for campaign purposes, duly reported to the Commission shall not be subject to the payment of any gift tax.” There is nothing wrong or taxable it seems in donating to Veep Leni Robredo to preserve her proclaimed victory, in Bongbong’s pending protest, as part of the campaign todetermine and reflect the voters’ true choice in 2016. An investment in democracy, as I see it. The campaign I read about is Piso Para Kay Leni. The Comelec should remember, de minimis non curatlex. The law does not bother with trifles.

    Among Leni’s ardent supporters I hear of is Celeste, who helped in my 1987 Senate run. As it happens, she’ll have a concert at Solaire on August 5. I have read that she will sing La Vie en Rose in French, English and Tagalog. This trifecta of sort should be more than worth a ducat for admission, a reminder of young love.

    There is a saying that we were all young once but some may remain immature forever, of which Digong reminds me, from time to time, such as when he rants against human rights activists. But, I liked what he said loud and clear about the Bells of Balangiga. There are three, two in Fort Warren just outside of Cheyenne in Wyoming, which I saw in 1993 (with a third in Korea, with a US military unit there). They are ours in the sense that the war trophies were stolen or taken in 1901 from the Catholic Church, to which the bells should be returned, as owner. It should be up to the church what to do with the bells, like donating same to some museum.

    The Wyoming diocese and Veterans Commission are for the return of the bells, echoed by our Catholic Bishops Conference, and such diverse personalities as FVR, Nene Pimentel, Manny Villar, Rodel Rodis , Buddy Gomez, Manny Pacquiao, Chavit Singson, Warays Rolando Borrinaga and Raul Daza (forebear Captain Eugenio Daza was a leader of the attack that killed 48 Americans – The Balangiga 48), among many others. A rainbow coalition. Time to re-show Joey Gosengfiao’s Sunuginang Samar! starring macho Ramon Revilla, and beauties Pilar Pilapil and Au Pijuan.

    But, are we getting back the Bells only to toll for our loss in the West Philippine Sea? Will Digong jet-ski there to watch a Chinese film in a Chinese theater? Our Chinese friends even have missiles aimed at us. Friends kuno, susmariano! – who will blow us out of the water?

    Our announced inability to host the SEA Games today is another blow. I am reminded of our 91 in 91 feat—91 gold medals in 1991. We should not retreat in sports.

    ‘Unrelenting’ war on drugs

    I note that the war on drugs would be “unrelenting.” I again submit that a bloody, messy hardline policy has not worked anywhere and has earned for us widespread criticism. Tried in Colombia, Thailand and Myanmar, government backed off from a failed policy. Even in Bilibid, the drug trade has reportedly resumed. The root cause is the profit motive.

    Digong should follow the debates and developments in the UN General Assembly special session on drugs and look at Portugal’s experience and at the ever-widening decriminalization of marijuana, both medical and recreational, a rampant source of skullduggery by rogues in uniform who go on missions with elements from the Bureau of “PLANT” Industry.

    Again, may I pray that the Bigger House approve Cong. Rudito Albano’s medical marijuana bill, before proceeding to recreational, now decriminalized in many places, generating substantial taxes? Again, Bill Clinton, Dubya Bush and Barack Obama all experimented with marijuana, not conclusively established as toxic. Hence, its decriminalization in many places.

    Family values

    Another retreat is arguably in our morals and family values. In our Jurassic age, mistresses and kulasisi were hidden. Now, Speaker Bebot asks who among us have no kulasisi? And fretted who would be left in the legal profession if lawyers were disciplined for amorousness. I dunno if he was alluding to Kamandag Digong, Jojobama Binay and heavens, Senate Prez Koko Pimentel. “Partner” is the new felicitous word. (Me? I am on record that when once I was asked by a stunning sweet young thing, “sir, kailan po ninyo ako babastusin ?” – I was tongue-tied. Speechless. Tameme, taught Good Manners and Right Conduct in Makati Elementary School. Here, tsikboys are not harmed by tales of multiple “partnerships.”

    In the US, presidential hopeful Gary Hart withdrew from the 1988 campaign after rumors of an affair with model Donna Rice merely surfaced. Sen. Robert Packwood resigned in 1995, on sexual harassment allegations (and by resigning, he was entitled to a Senate pension, for life, unknown here; when I was in the Senate I took home monthly, P14,612.50). The case of Strom Thurmond differed; he was a US senator known for his pro-segregation policies who retired at 100. In the Senate elevators, the nonagenarian was celebrated as a groper. But kilabots Bebot, Tonyboy, JoJobama and Koko are too young to be seen groping, and forgiven, by amused observers, as in the case of nonagenarian Strom. Harmless, but not armless.

    Not to forget Tiger Woods, who had sex addiction therapy, after he was supposedly chased by a jealous wifey, with a wedge and a nine iron. The ensuing negative publicity amounted to a death sentence.

    Here, I commend Senate Prez Koko for not giving priority to death by public hanging till dead, another atavism of Digong who should be leery that he is not recorded in history as leading an administration of sex addicts, as bad as the drug variety. Again, family values, which he may have harmed, along with alleged sex addict Trump.

    Healing will have to wait

    To stress the unnecessary, we were all young once but some may remain immature forever; Digong may be fated never to understand human rights, to life, dignity, etc.

    Good that RA 10368 was passed during PNoy’s term (2013). We could not do it before him and we could not have done it now. We did it for an amalgam of reasons: to vindicate the victims and collect damages, to expose the violators and deny them safe haven anywhere, to deter future wrongs, to have a deposition for history, and most of all, to start the final healing possible only when human rights violators are brought to justice. But, Digong vows to pardon them.

    The healing, I see, will have to wait. No comfort at all provided by our proud and profane Prez going to human rights violation victims. But, he told Joma Sison: “Kill yourself,” avoiding the F word. There’s hope then.

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