First article for Battle Briefings, my contribution to our decision to make lfs.ph a weekly internet magazine of sorts. We are still working on the technical, aesthetic and other details of the webstie remodelling so I'm going to post this entry here for a while. For want of something to post. Hehe.

This week, it was speeches that made headlines, the first, from an embattled house speaker, hours before he was ousted by Malacanang’s cohorts in Congress, and second, from the star witness in the continuing soap opera in the Senate, the ZTE-National Broadband Network hearings.

In a well-applauded speech that was supposed to last only ten minutes but dragged on for over an hour, (now former) Speaker Jose de Venecia raved about her past relations with Mrs. Arroyo and then “burned his bridge” to Malacanang. Speech here

Hours before the speech and the voting that put an end to JDV’s five terms as house speaker, the Palace in a press conference has already been calling him “the former speaker,” a reminder that lower house, after all, with a large majority belonging to the administration coalition is a mere stamp-pad of the Arroyos.

But the JDV's outbursts and his ouster was years in the making, with a widening rift between the Pangasinan Congressman and Arroyo, the gap between both factions being heavily widened after JDV’’s son and namesake testified in the Senate hearings on ZTE, naming former COMELEC Commissioner Benjamin Abalos and First Gentleman Mike Arroyo as brokers in the controversial project. “Back off,” continues to ring in our ears.

However, it must be noted that JDV did not tell us anything new. All he said were things that we already know. The only difference is the fact that this time, it is not an activist speaking but a long-time friend and (former) hard-ally of Arroyo. We already know that the Arroyo family has been running the government like a family business in a syndicate and mafia-like manner.
In fact, JDV’s speech was soft. He only gave us whiff of the foul-smelling Malacanang odor that he can open with what he knows about the dealings of Arroyo. Apparently, JDV has not yet given up full hope, and his speech was a vain attempt to blackmail Malacanang into not letting him go to the pits.

However, Arroyo, her sons, and their accomplices have other plans, knowing that there are other traditional politicians in Congress, hungry for power (and cash) that is willing to take JDV’s place as Malacanang’s speaker in Congress (pun intended).

And this is the major point in the JDV affair of the week. Of course, we know that JDV’’s speech and eventual ouster is an attestation to contradictions within the ruling class, even within the ruling faction of that class, to which progressives must grab as an opportunity to further isolate the narrowest target (the Arroyo family). But more than that, the ouster was another maneuvering of Arroyo to tighten her grip in Congress.

Arroyo knows that the ongoing ZTE hearings especially with a new star witness may provide another opportunity for an impeachment complaint which may fare better than its predecessors. She cannot have a rogue house speaker at a time like this.

Which brings us to the second speech that made this week’s headlines and removed JDV from the limelight was that of the ZTE star witness himself, Jun Lozada, who resurfaced after being incomunicado for some time at 2:00 am in La Salle, Greenhills.

Teary-eyed and between sobs, the long-time friend of fellow ZTE witness Romulo Neri recounted how the PNP forced him to sign an affidavit that would negate an earlier affidavit that began with the words “If you are reading this, I am probably dead.”

Apparently, the reports of how Lozada made an affidavit to safeguard himself from an assassination plot or threat to life is true. The very fact that he remains alive and that the PNP had to force him to sign the second affidavit would reveal how sensitive the contents of Affidavit A is.

In his speech, Lozada also linked Abalos and Mike Arroyo to the scandal, corroborating the earlier testimonies of ZTE scandal whistle blower Joey de Venecia III.

Hindi lang tumutukoy sa isang pamilya. Ang salitang Pilipino ay tumutukoy sa
isang bansa, isang bansang Pilipino.Sometimes it is worth taking a risk....
(sobs)... for this country. Maraming salamat po

This may very well be the quote of the week, for it sums up the frustration of all Filipinos to the Arroyo family syndicate.

Hopefully, CHEd Commissioner Romulo Neri and JDV would follow Lozada’s example and spill the beans on Malacanang and expose how rotten the rule of Arroyo is. And they better do it soon, because for all we know, Malacanang will be pulling another dirty trick from its sleeve.

Speaking of speeches, they may also like to learn a thing or two form US Presidential aspirant Obama, in his Martin Luther King-like speech, “Yes, we can,” turned into a song by Black Eyed Peas’ will.I.am and now being broadcasted in Youtube, and giving us the LSS.

Lahat ng lalake, baba.

Had a first hand experience with Arroyo's creeping Martial Law the other night, and it has become a personal reminder of the chilling and unnerving state that the country is in (other than my friend Karen Empeno's along with fellow UP student Sherlyn Cadapan's continued enforced disappearance).

I was with Vencer and Ian of LFS-UP, riding the flashy patok, enjoying emo-rock music blasting from the speakers at ear splitting volume and holding on for dear life as the jeep zoomed along Aurora Boulevard at a speed that would make Sonic the Hedgehog run for his money. We were on our way home to QC, after attending an education summit hijacked by us and turned into a discussion of the recession being experienced by the US and its effects on our neocolonial country (more on that on other posts here or in the LFS website), and an LFS all-leader's meeting at PUP.

All of a sudden, the jeep stopped. The flashing red and blue lights of a police patrol car parked on the side of the road was enough to tell us that something was up.

"Baka magtutulak tayo," said Ian, when suddenly, we heard a stern voice call out to us passengers from the jeep's window.

"Lahat ng lalake, baba."

Upon hearing those words, the "Is this it?" question immediately sprung to mind.

Of course, who were we to argue against around five police officers, one of whom I remember was carrying an M16 rifle?

As we went down the jeep, the same voice who called us to go out gave his second command. "Buksan mga bag. 'Yung mga walang bag, taas ang t-shirt. Bilisan 'nyo na para 'di na tayo maabala."

Shit. My bag was filled with LFS publications and a red LFS flag. I was with Vencer, whose shirt was screaming "Imperyalismo, ibagsak," and who is still hot in the eye's of Manila's Finest (Bastards) after two days of his making fools out of them in consecutive rallies at the Western Police District Headquarters.

Again the question, "Is this it?" Heartbeat racing to newer heights. Chest tightening.

After a split second of flashing a light at the insides of our bags, we were herded back on the jeep without so much as an explanation of why the search, even a token "Thank you for your cooperation and we are sorry for the inconvenience."

No. This is not a case of another paranoid activist, thinking that he is the next target of enforced disappearance. What this is is political harassment. An attempt to remind our country's citizens that "big brother is watching."

Then again, has not mass paranoia has become the norm of today? A reaction to an even more paranoid state and government, afraid that the people are becoming aware of how they are being fooled and hence have been resulting to fascist means at the mere sight of a red banner, or readily accusing anyone of being a "terrorist" or a "destabilizer" for the simple reason that one calls for national industrialization or genuine reform, which so happens to be the same program of the CPP-NPA-NDF, regardless of the fact that the individual whose back is behind a gun barrel is a simple student, critical, and the only thing he holds is a placard, not a rifle.

This same mass paranoia, along with mass hysteria brought about by bombings (perpetrated by no less than the military) etc. is actually being used by the government to further enact fascist policies being masqueraded as security and counter terrorist measures (national ID system and ROTC restoration now at front row, center in the long line of such policies).

That there was no sincere efforts from the police to do a thorough search proves that the entire purpose of the exercise was to harass individuals, reminiscent of checkpoints set up by the Philippine Constabulary during Martial Law. I would even go as far as say that it is another one of the government's "testing waters".

Does the people know that it is their right to refuse such a search, where there was no search warrant? And even if they did, would they demand that their rights be respected, with an M16 carrying policeman eyeing everyone. Even we were dumbfounded, our tongues caught in mid-air. These men (if that is what they believe themselves to be) who were searching our bags after all are wearing the blue uniform that has been stained by the blood of hundreds of dead activists, journalists and civilians, trigger happy who kill young children when they are drunk, who turn their weapons into noisemakers during New Year celebrations, who, a few days ago, beat the crap out of students (me included) and teachers whose only crime was to have the guts to speak out against another government farce.

Hell, if they have nothing better to do with the time that the people are paying them, they should have instead went to Gilmore, where a CRV crashed into a truck that was carrying two container vans which was then blocking both lanes of Aurora Blvd., and causing traffic. The truck was visible from where the search occurred.

kwentong rally No. 1

lintik lang ang walang ganti.

Dalawang araw na akong pagod, puyat, at halos hindi makalakad o makagalaw dahil sa sakit ng tuhod, binti at balakang, tulad na rin ng iba pang kabataang aktibistang aming nakasama sa dalawang-araw ng pagkilos bilang tugon sa Education Summit 'kuno ni GMA.

Hindi simple ang gumising ng ala-sais ng umaga (lalo kung ang sanay kang ang gumigising sa iyo ay ang ingay sa labas ng bahay 'nyo dahil magtatanghali na). Pinakamahirap na bahagi ng umagang rally-day ang pagpapasyang bumangon. Isang internal na istragel ito tuwing umaga (sa isang bahagi ay ang malambot na kama, ang katamaran ng isang peti-burgis habang ang pagkilala sa responsibilidad, tungkulin at pagnanais na mag-ayos ng sarili sa kabila). Pero dahil internal ang mapagpasya, kailangan pang magsulat, mag-email at magparepro ng Press Release, malayo at traffic ang biyahe, sa kabilang bahagi ng Maynila ang venue, at inaasahan na magiging ma-aksyon ang araw, nananaig ang ikalawa. (Buti naman.)

Nabanggit ko na dito na sa biyahe pa lang, kaba na ang mararamdaman mo. Lalo 'pag bumaba ka na ng bus at nagsimulang maglakad mula Taft tungong Kalabaw (statwa ng Kalabaw pagtawid ng Roxas Blvd. mula sa monumento ni Rizal sa Luneta. Buti na lang, nakasalubong ko si Anna ng kabataan at may kasama akong maglakad (kontra-aning, kontra-boredom).

Siyempre, dahil sa ilang karanasan ko sa rally sa Roxas Blvd. (kabilang na ang US Emba mob), at dahil inaasahan ang pagdalo ni GMA sa Summit, tiyak na ang dahas. Pordat, habang naglalakad, alisin na ang relo, at iba pang laman ng bulsa.

Extra tips:
1. 'Wag magsusuot ng skinny jeans at iba pang pantalon na mahihirapan kang gumalaw. Sa babae, bawal naman ang skirt at mga damit na kinulang sa tela kung ayaw mong mawalan ng dangal nang tuluyan.

2. 'Wag magsusuot ng sapatos na madaling maalis, masyadong masikip o maluwang. Baka umuwi ka ng nakapaa.

3. Magdala ng maraming tubig, alkohol, iba pang first-aid kit. (Hindi required, pero maraming magpapasalamat sa iyo kung sakali).

4. 'Wag kakalimutan ang prop materials.

5. Maging handa.

Minsan, nanakungkot talagang makita na pagdating mo sa kitaan, ilang piraso lang kayo lalo kung medyo delikado ang rally na pupuntahan ninyo.

"Wawalisin lang tayo nito."

Pero dahil bumubukol na at hindi na kaya pang itago ang mga tibak (na pare-pareha kung manamit kaya obvious talagang tibak) upang maghintay pa ng iba...

Asembol. Sigaw. Takbo!

Pagdating sa Manila Hotel, agad ang salubong ng halos 20 pulis, dala ang shield at truncheon (ang truncheon pala ay ang batuta at hindi ang shield). Walang negosasyon. Tulak na agad. Kinukuha rin ang mga streamers at placards na aming dala para magmuka sa media coverage na kami ay mga pasayaw at manggugulo lamang. Ilang segundo ng body-to-shield at tulakan, may ilang kasamang bumigay na at tumakbo. Siyempre, kahit anong pilit mong sumigaw na "walang tatakbo," may domino effect na magaganap. Lahat na, tatakbo. Salamat na lang sa iba na nakatingin pa rin sa likod, sinisigurong walang naiiwan o nadadakip.
Takbo sa Luneta.

"Freedom park ito. Hindi na nila tayo idedesperse at huhulihin."

Akala namin 'yun.

Nang mapansin ng mga pulis na lumalaki ang bulto at nakakakuha ng media coverage, round two na ng dispersal. Mas marahas. Pumapalo na sila ngayon. Nagtatarget nung mga nakatulak nung una, o kaya nung mga maaangas. Palo lang ng palo. Mumurahin ka pa.

Takbo uli. Pero siyempre, hindi every man for himself. Makinig sa komand.

Pagdating ng Taft, casualty report.

Nahuli: anim.
Nasaktan at nasugatan: 23
Nawawala: isa (baka dinakip na hindi kasama nung anim, baka umuwi, baka nahulog sa manhole) Walang kain, at sa kabila ng mainit na sikat ng araw, rali naman sa WPD. Masaya 'to. Agit ang lahat. Naghahanap ng magagantihan.

Inalog ng mga kasama ang gate. 'E bumukas. Naku, 'di alam ang gagawin. Di naman kasi inaasahang bumukas. Wala namang kumand na pumasok at sugurin ng tuluyan ang headquarters ng WPD.

Rally uli.

Nakipag-usap maga pulis. Kung aalis daw kami, palalayain na sila. Sige. Uwi muna, kami naman sa LFS, kuha ED. Tapos, malalaman mo na lang, hindi pa pala sila nakakalaya maliban sa isa dahil under-age.

Kinaumagahan, rally uli! Una, sa Manila Hotel para sa second day nf summit. (depensibo na ang mga pulis dahil maganda ang covergae ng media sa unang rally). Kahit masakit pa rin ang buong katawan, sige lang. Ahitado pa rin. Tapos, sa WPD uli para idemand ang paglaya nung mga nahuli sa naunang rali.

Matapos ang lagpas 24 oras, lumabas na sila. Ang mga kasama, nabuhayan ng loob. Handa nang umuwi para mag-organisa at maghanda para sa isang panibagong araw ng pakikibag-buno.
Ang mga balita hinggil sa naganap na rali ay makikita dito, dito, dito, dito, dito, at dito. (Ung iba' parepareho ang laman. 'Yung iba naman, iba ang anggulo).

May grabbed video rin ang arkibong bayan mula sa coverage ng dos. Click dito. Para naman sa coverage ng siyete, punta dito.

Ito ang unang post sa Kwentong Rally na magiging serye dito sa goodbye blue monday. Hindi lahat ng rally, pare-parehas. Bawat isa ay may katangian na puwedeng ikuwento. Ang ilan, tulad ng mga naganap nitong huling mga araw, tiyak na magiging subject ng kuwentuhan sa Vinzons, sa West 115, at iba ang tambayan ng tibak. Pakitaan ng battle scars, inggitan sa mga hindi nakapunta.