Thursday, February 5, 2015

Give peace a chance: Statement of the University of Mindanao on the Mamasapano clash

Words are probably not enough to comfort the grief-stricken families and friends who lost their loved ones in the recent encounter between the Philippine National Police-Special Action Force (PNP-SAF) and Moro rebels in Mamasapano, Maguindanao. While we commiserate with them for having lost a son, a brother, a fiancé, a father, or a friend in that bloody encounter, we cannot, however, join the call to scrap the peace process in general and the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) in particular.

The skeptics among us are now wary of the entire peace process because of what happened in Mamasapano. They’re saying it's pointless to negotiate with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) anymore. They don't honor their commitments anyway, so why continue with the peace talk? Some are even so extreme as to suggest that the government should wage an all-out war against the MILF. If we continue to hold peace talks with the MILF and then pass the BBL, the popular sentiment goes, there’s no guarantee that incidents like the Mamasapano clash will not happen again.

But can an all-out war prevent another bloody encounter from ever happening again?

Neither can there be a guarantee that an all-out war will achieve the end we all aspire for the longest time. Nonetheless, the passage of the BBL must not be stopped altogether. We believe that doing so will only worsen the situation. The BBL is no ordinary piece of legislation. It may not be a panacea to the problems in Mindanao, but the BBL is a seed that must be sown so peace starts to blossom.

We concede, though, that the investigation over the killings in Mamasapano must be concluded first before we begin talking about BBL’s passage, so that the people will know what went wrong, who the real culprits are, and in the end, justice will prevail.

In the meantime, while we await the results of that investigation, let us be prudent in our reaction, though hard as it may be in these sorrowful moments. We cannot put out fire with fire. An all-out war is the last thing we need.

We have already been through so much and have lost so many lives in pursuit of peace. The recent Mamasapano encounter demonstrates yet again that our peace-building efforts are sometimes fraught with difficulty and uncertainty.

Even so, let’s give peace a chance.

Sunday, August 31, 2014

Is domestic violence a private matter?

Why is it that the alleged wife beating of Davao City police director Vicente Danao did not generate as much indignation as the “hipon” joke of Ramon Bautista?

I posed that question on my Facebook status wall. A former classmate of mine commented. He said that the difference between the two is that Bautista’s case happened in public, while Danao’s case is purely a private matter which should be best left for the family to resolve.

Taking that argument to its extreme, it would seem that violence against women is justified as long as it happened inside the house. Indeed, domestic violence, because it is domestic, is often seen as purely a private matter. Thus, cases of wife beatings and other forms of violence against women often go unreported.

But the case of Marivic Genosa, a battered woman herself, made the people realize the obviousdomestic violence may be domestic, but it is violence nevertheless. They started to see domestic violence in a different light. They no longer stopped at the domestic aspect of domestic violence, but now they placed more emphasis on the violence.

Marivic Genosa was convicted of parricide for killing her husband. Her case reached the Supreme Court. There, she argued that she did it only to defend herself. She anchored her defense on “Batttered Woman Syndrome.” The Supreme Court was not altogether convinced.

The Court said, “She is not entitled to complete exoneration because there was no unlawful aggressionno immediate and unexpected attack on her by her batterer-husband at the time she shot him” (People v. Genosa, GR 135981, January 15, 2004).

But because of the unique circumstances of her case, the death penalty imposed on her was reduced. The Court said, “The acute battering she suffered that fatal night in the hands of her batterer-spouse, in spite of the fact that she was eight months pregnant with their child, overwhelmed her and put her in the aforesaid emotional and mental state, which overcame her reason and impelled her to vindicate her life and her unborn child’s.”

In her dissent, however, Justice Consuelo Ynares-Santiago said Marivic Genosa must be acquitted. She said, “The danger posed or created in her mind by the latter's threats using bladed weapons, bred a state of fear, where under the circumstances, the natural response of the battered woman would be to defend herself even at the cost of taking the life of the batterer.” Three more justices, including then Chief Justice Hilario Davide, Jr., joined in her dissenting opinion.

Barely two months after the Supreme Court promulgated the Genosa case, Congress passed R.A. 9262, the Anti-Violence Against Women and Their Children Act (Anti-VAWC) of 2004.

The Anti-VAWC Act made into law the Baterred Woman Syndrome as a defense. Section 26 provides, “Victim-survivors who are found by the courts to be suffering from battered woman syndrome do not incur any criminal and civil liability notwithstanding the absence of any of the elements for justifying circumstances of self-defense under the Revised Penal Code.”

The law repudiates the notion that domestic violence, which is just one form of violence against women, is a private matter. Ample provisions of the law actually allow outsiders to intervene even if the parties involved are spouses, or are in a sexual or dating relationship.

For instance, Section 9 allows, among others, “At least two (2) concerned responsible citizens of the city or municipality where the violence against women and their children occurred and who has personal knowledge of the offense committed” to file a petition for protection order.

Section 25 provides, “Violence against women and their children shall be considered a public offense which may be prosecuted upon the filing of a complaint by any citizen having personal knowledge of the circumstances involving the commission of the crime.”

In Section 30, one of the duties imposed upon the Barangay Officials and Law Enforcers is to “respond immediately to a call for help or request for assistance or protection of the victim by entering the dwelling if necessary whether or not a protection order has been issued and ensure the safety of the victim/s.”

And in Section 34, the law exempts persons intervening from any liability: “In every case of violence against women and their children...any person, private individual or police authority or barangay official who, acting in accordance with law, responds or intervenes without using violence or restraint greater than necessary to ensure the safety of the victim, shall not be liable for any criminal, civil or administrative liability resulting therefrom.”

Despite the passage of the Anti-VAWC Act, however, there are those who still cling to the long discredited idea that domestic violence is a private matter. Indeed, defenders of Danao say that the incident between him and his wifea video of which wasuploaded on YouTubewas merely “away mag-asawa.” One should not meddle with it. 

That smacks of insensitivity. To dismiss domestic violence as a private matter despite evidence to the contrary deserves more the civilized society’s contempt than Ramon Bautista’s “hipon” joke. As Rowena V. Guanzon argued, “violence against women in the context of intimate relations is a serious human rights violation; it is not a private matter, it is a crime.”

I can't help feeling worried that he who should enforce the Anti-VAWC Law is he who violated it.

Sunday, May 11, 2014

My Mother is a Martyr

My mother is the type of person you wouldn't want for a company. She gets impatiently easily. She dislikes waiting for a long time, queuing for a long time, standing for a long time, or walking for a long time. She also cannot stand people who can't get her right and fast. Once we went to a mall to look for a pair of gold-colored shoes she could wear for my grandparents' golden wedding anniversary. My mother asked a saleslady if the store has one that's fit for the occasion. The saleslady asked her back, "What's the motif of the wedding, Ma'am?"

 Mama didn't bother to hide her frustration, so she told the saleslady sarcastically, "Gold, alangan!" as if every golden wedding anniversary's motif must be gold.

Yet as I look back on how she raised our family and how she valiantly mend it when it's almost shattered into pieces three years ago, I realized she isn't so impatient at all. Quite the contrary.

Born and raised in Pantukan, Comval Province, Mama came to Davao City to study for college. She got a government scholarship which enabled her to enroll at the Ateneo de Davao University. She took up BS in Biology. Back then, tuition fee at ADDU was a measly 17.00 per unit. Even so, Mama could barely pay off her boarding house, so she eventually had to stop.

By the time she's out of school, she had already been dating my father. Soon they lived as husband and wife. They cohabited for a few years before they finally got married. That marriage produced four children, seven if you include the three miscarriages Mama suffered. Well, those unborn don't have civil personality, so let's settle for four.

Both my parents were poor, not below-poverty-line poor but everything they had screamed lower middle class. So to help Papa feed the four of us, send us to a decent school, and keep us from degenerating into flat worm-stricken malnourished kids, Mama tried her hand at a number of jobs. She delivered lumber, sand and gravel to construction sites.She put up a karinderya. She peddled cheap detergent soaps like Rinso door-to-door . She sold  native delicacies like suman, puto rice, biko, and kutsinta outside the church. Until now when only our youngest brother has yet to get his college degree, Mama showed no sign of letting up. Today she has a small laundry business that is about to die but still miraculously manages to stay alive.

Perhaps the biggest scourge she had to endure came in 2010. It was my graduation day. Visitors had already left. I don't know how, but she confirmed what she had suspected all along---my father was cheating on her. He has an "other woman," a mistress, a kabit. From then on, the situation only worsened. Their hushed confrontations turned into violent episodes of fistfight, hair-pulling, face-scratching, and head-banging-against-the-wall.

Call her naive, but Mama didn't just watch while the family she helped build crumble. She knew our family was falling apart. So why try to build it one more time? She did try anyway. She did some things people told her not do. She searched for Papa when he left the house. She went so far as to confront face-to-face the woman who seduced Papa. She mixed in Papa's coffee that potion which the quack-doctor whom she consulted gave her.

If I were a Pope, I would canonize my mother at once. If not, I would be the first one to scream "Santo Subito!"

I'm not sure if it was her dogged determination to rebuild our family, or her stubborn love for Papa, or the quack-doctor's potion, but after three years of coming home on-and-off, of promising to never leave again but welshing on that promise, Papa finally came home and never left anymore. Our family was whole again. Mama succeeded.

Then on December 4, 2013, Papa died . Upon his death, the wounds we've been nursing seemed to have been obliterated. Of course, Mama still longs for Papa. Before she didn't know Papa's whereabouts. Now she knows where to go. The chase is over at last.

Mama may not be the most patient mother in the world. She may hate waiting, queuing, standing, or walking for a long time. Yet she knew what all great mothers know---love takes time. No wonder she takes time in washing my clothes, sometimes including my underwear.

Friday, April 25, 2014

Nasarapan ngunit Nakulangan: Our Camiguin Trip

Our Camiguin trip was like a quickie—instantly gratifying. But precisely because it’s so quick and gratifying, one is satisfied yet is left feeling “bitin,” as we put it in our vernacular.

Camiguin is a small island. Despite that, volcanoes are crammed in this island―there are seven active volcanoes in Camiguin. People who have gone there said that since the island is so small you can actually go around the entire island in just a day.

So we set out on a trip to Camiguin for a day. We were a mixed group of eleven, twelve if you include the driver. Most of us used to be colleagues at work. A few were friends of a friend who were just invited the last minute because some backed out. At the end of the trip, however, we all simply became friends who shared the same harried and hurried trip.

We left Davao City on the 23rd of April at 2:30 in the morning. The plan was to get to Camiguin via Cagayan de Oro, head to Balingoan Port, then take a ferry boat to Benoni Port in Camiguin. It’s a butt-numbing ride that takes us almost twelve hours, including meal and pee stops.

It was around 1:30 in the afternoon when we reached Camiguin. We took a lunch at an eatery near the San Nicolas de Tolentino Church. After our lunch, we immediately headed to the destinations found on our list: Sunken Cemetery, Old Church Ruins, Walkway to the Old Volcano, White Island, and Ardent Hibok-Hibok Spring Resort where we slept overnight.

The next day, we managed to see the San Nicolas de Tolentino Church, Katibawasan Falls, and that unnamed store where you can buy Vjandep Pastel―that soft bun with yema filling for which Camiguin is also known.

We dropped some places on our list. Had we the luxury of time, we could have visited them all. And since we have a very stringent self-imposed goal—to see as much as must-see tourist spots in Camiguin in a short period of time—what we did was mostly to take pictures, pictures, and more pictures. We neither had time for exploration nor education.

At around 9:30 in the morning, we left Camiguin. My feeling was one of ambivalence. I wasn’t sure if I was satisfied or not.

Perhaps that’s what makes Camiguin enticing to tourists even if it has none of the throbbing nightlife of Boracay or the diverse attractions of Palawan. 

Camiguin gives you the feeling of satisfaction of being able to try it, but at the same time leaves a hollow feeling in you that can only be fulfilled by trying it one more time.

Pay Now, Resign Later: The Dilemma of Private School Teachers Applying in Public Schools

It is but normal that newly licensed teachers seek employment first in private schools before moving on to the public school. This is I think a better move because one might gain professional experiences that cannot be had if one were to apply immediately in public schools. Besides, teaching experience is given a certain point in the recruitment of public school teachers.

Private school teachers who apply in public schools sometimes encounter a problem. For instance, the recruitment process in the public school is long in that one has to wait for months before the result is released. So in the meantime they remain teaching in the private school.

But things get complicated when, in the middle of the school year, the teacher gets appointed to a public school and yet he cannot just leave because the employment contract he signed says he shall pay a certain sum of money once he resigns in the middle of the school year.

Is this allowed under the law? If so, what options do you have when faced with such a situation?

Yes, it is allowed under the law. The obligation arising from that contract is called “obligation with a penal clause” (See Art. 1226, New Civil Code). Its principal purpose is to “ensure the performance of an obligation.” In the case of private school teachers who leave for the public schools, the purpose is to ensure that they remain in the school all throughout the school year.

It is understandable why private schools do this. Private schools, especially those that offer basic education, operate by school year, beginning in June until March. If a teacher leaves in the middle of the school year, it will trigger a series of events that, in the end, will hamper the welfare of the students. The Principal will have to look for a substitute teacher. The substitute teacher will have to be trained anew. She will have to adjust to her new workplace. The students, too, need to adjust to their new teacher.

That’s perfectly right when the Principal can immediately look for a replacement. But worse things happen when she cannot. Students will have to wait for a week or two before their substitute teacher arrives. In the meantime, they must endure a few days of doing seat-works facilitated by someone who knows next to nothing about the subject she’s obligated to take over.

Yet if you feel that you urgently have to leave lest your dream of teaching in the public school will be jeopardized, what you may do?

Of course, the most obvious move is to pay forthright the amount. That is if you have the means, but most often than not you don’t

My proposal is you try to talk to your employer. Your contract is not a petrified document whose terms cannot be changed or eased. Talk to your employer. Tell him the situation. Your employer might refuse to let go of you to avoid the hassle of looking for a substitute teacher. Some employers would even present you with a black-and-white option: either you stay or leave but pay.

Persevere. Negotiate some more. For instance, you can ask your employer that you be given enough time to pay and that you will assist her in looking for a substitute. Trust me. There are employers who prefer to be told frankly about their employee’s plans than to be kept in the dark.

No one has the right to force us to stay in a workplace we don’t want anymore. Employers cannot even prevent their employees from resigning. But let’s remember, “Every person must, in the exercise of his rights and in the performance of his duties, act with justice, give everyone his due, and observe honesty and good faith.”