Empathy at Christmas, concerns in the new year

Mulat lantern installation in University of the Philippines-Diliman. (Photo by Fred Dabu)

Three Facebook postings I read on Christmas eve tugged at my heart and triggered in my mind parallel and kindred recollections and sympathetic responses.

First was that of Sonora, my elder daughter (Nona to her friends, Ningning to our family) who has lived in Sweden with her daughter Ariana since 1992. Addressing her friends “who carry the weight of grief this holiday season,” she sent them her prayers and some somber thoughts. She wrote:

“It is important to remember that not everyone is looking forward to Christmas. Some people are not surrounded by large wonderful families. Some of us have problems during the holidays and are overcome with great sadness when we remember the loved ones who are not with us. For many, it is their first Christmas without a particular loved one and many others lost loved ones at Christmas. Many people have no one to spend these times with and are besieged by loneliness.

“We all need caring, loving thoughts right now.

“May I ask my friends wherever you might be, to kindly post this status for one hour to give a moment of support to all those who have family problems, health struggles, job issues, worries of any kind, and just need to know that someone cares. Do it for all of us, for nobody is immune. I hope to see this on the walls of all my friends just for moral support. I did it for a friend and you can [do it] too.”

Deeply touched, I wrote to Ningning to say proudly that she has proved to be “a chip off the old (Macario Ocampo) block, indeed.” (I was referring to my late father, a humble tenant farmer who never failed to help those who came to him in need, however meager his means.) “We love you all the more for that,” I told her, “stay ever so loving and caring for others. We miss you and Yana. Merry Christmas!”

The second FB posting was of Elmer A. Ordonez, author of several books, essays, and columns. Now in his late 80s, he has been a revolutionary activist since the Marcos dictatorship. Greeting his relatives and friends, Elmer posted this brief but widely encompassing musing:

“Recollecting past Christmases, growing up in Paco and Pasay before the war, on the run during the Japanese Occupation, the euphoria of “liberation,” picking up the pieces of normalcy from the rubble of war and coping in a post-war world marked with agrarian unrest, Huk rebellion, and the McCarthyite witchhunting on [UP] campus and throughout the Cold War, the FQS [First Quarter Storm of 1970], martial law and forced exile, EDSA and the new and old oligarchies restored, corrupt regimes, and the prospect of another dictatorship in this accursed neocolony.”

Tongue-in-cheek, he ended his post thus: “We hope to say goodbye to all that in the new year.”

Elmer’s reference to the “prospect of another dictatorship” finds vibrant resonance in the FB post of feisty journalist-blogger Inday Espina-Varona. Here’s her defiant piece:

“Duterte accuses journalists of links to the New People’s Army using that sham argument of tagging legal groups as communist fronts. I stand with colleagues in the Cordillera and elsewhere who face this deadly threat, given his previous orders on the treatment of leftists.

“Mr. Duterte, I am leftist, no question about that. I am against the concentration of vast areas of land, and much of the wealth of the nation, in the hands of a few clans. I believe in giving workers their just due. I believe in protecting the ancestral lands, waters and air of our indigenous peoples and allowing them to live in dignity and freedom, not burdened with discrimination.

“I believe in a homeland for the Bangsamoro people. I believe in giving peasants protection from ‘free trade’ that is anything but free.

“That does not give your regime any right to deprive me – or anyone else of any creed or political belief – of constitutional rights. Ang dami mong sinabi – gusto mo lang ibigay ang bansa sa mga kaibigan mong oligarch at mga padrinong banyaga (You talk a lot – but what you really want is to hand over the nation to your oligarch friends and foreign patrons).”

Inday minced no words. She declared: “Hindi kami matitinag (We will not yield). We will resist tyranny. Bibiguin namin ang diktador (We will frustrate the dictator).”

This leads us to President Duterte’s contentious extension of martial law and suspension of the privilege of the writ of habeas corpus in Mindanao by a full year starting Jan. 1. His request was swiftly approved on Dec. 13 by the “super-majority” (240-27) in a joint session of Congress.

Beyond the reported latest SWS survey showing that 62 percent of Filipinos nationwide disapproved of the extension, the deeper source of concern, if not fear, is that the year-long extension can just as easily be extended indefinitely in Mindanao. Or worse, martial law coverage might be extended nationwide.

Why so? Consider Duterte’s rationale, in his Dec. 8 letter to Congress, for requesting the extension: “to ensure total eradication of DAESH-inspired Da’awatui islamiyah Waliyatui Masriq (DIWM), other like-minded local/foreign terrorist groups (L/FTGs) and armed lawless groups (ALGs), and the communist terrorists (CTs) and their coddlers, supporters, and financiers.”

And he re-stated: “A further extension of martial law and writ of habeas corpus suspension will help the AFP, PNP and all other law-enforcement agencies to quell completely and put an end to the ongoing rebellion in Mindanao and prevent the same from escalating to other parts of the country.”

Ponder these facts: The state security forces (AFP, PNP, and paramilitary forces) have dismally failed to defeat the NPA over 48 years of fighting. They have failed to wipe out the much smaller extremist group Abu Sayyaf in Western Mindanao, as targetted since 2002. So how can they achieve within one year the “total eradication” of any, much less all, of the above-cited “armed challenges to the state”?

Does this portend Duterte’s extending martial law indefinitely or making it permanent? Despite everything: A happy new year to all!

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Email: satur.ocampo@gmail.com

Published in Philippine Star
Dec. 30, 2017

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