Sunday, January 27, 2008

Kotong is dead. Long live kotong!

I was contemplating for a month to write about it, but I could not. It’s only now that I got the nerve because I was already suffering from stomach cramps just thinking that the Gloria Macapagal Arroyo administration was again able to make a fast one on us, the people, by lulling us into believing it was serious on this one. I mean, if it’s all “drowing”, then something must be said about this abominable crime that has become official business.

I refer to mulcting which in Manila’s street lingo means delihensya, lagay, or kotong.

It’s everywhere, and happening from Malacanang up the Pasig River down to the jeepney stop along Buendia Avenue near Taft.

In the middle November last year, in response to public clamor for lower bus and jeepney fares, Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, instead of conducting a dialogue with the concerned sectors, made a stroke of genius. She created a task force called Kontra Kotong at Kolorum (KKK), with her factotums saying that this was the answer to higher transport fares resulting from surging oil prices.

Ang gagaling ng mga tinamaan ng lintik! Can you imagine that? It’s like burning down an entire house because it is infested with termites. Ang layo sa bituka ng naisip na solusyon.

Naghasik ng lagim ang pagkakatatag ng KKK. The mainstream media wrote about it and it made headlines. The head of the task force, retired general Roy Kiamco, even got himself interviewed on television. He boasted he will end extortion on the streets after a month. Naturally, drivers of kolorum vehicles shuddered at the thought. Police officers who were on the take wrung their hands in despair, for if they can no longer extort bribes from truck, bus, taxi, jeepney, tricyle, and tri-sikad drivers because Kiamco’s KKK will apprehend them, magugutom ang kanilang MGA pamilya. Talaga. Ang dami yatang binubuhay ng ilang pulis.

In the meantime, the unknowing public applauded. “Yehey, matitigil na ang kotong!” they said. “Mabuhay ang Pangulo ng Pilipinas!” said the Palace’s palakpak boys. “Mabuhay!” the paid supporters responded in unison.

Over a week of media fanfare made many believe that the government was serious. Kiamco and his task force members were seen around the metropolis, making arrests, as well as press conferences hyping up their new-found zeal in ending delihensya, lagay, and kotong.

But while Kiamco and his KKK army were in serious work, the big-time collectors, most of whom are high and powerful officials of the administration, went about their normal ways, making deals, collecting huge sums, and cooking up some more fabulous transactions. They collect not delihensya, lagay, or kotong, but commissions in fat amounts, away from the media’s prying eyes and the attention of the salivating public, of course. Kiamco cannot touch them. They were not covered by his mandate. They are not kolorum. They are “official”, with fine demeanors complementing their expensive business suits. They were not on the streets, but can be seen dining in fine restaurants and sipping lattes and margaritas in hotel lobbies.

A month after, or on December 15, the KKK’s self-imposed deadline, nothing was heard from Kiamco about his task force’s accomplishment or performance. But here’s a terse news about it in the Philippine Star:

“When it was launched last November 14, the Task Force Kontra Kotong at Kolorum promised to eradicate the problem on kotong (extortion) and kolorum (unregistered vehicles) by December 15.

“Last December 7, a total of 160 unregistered vehicles have been impounded as part of the inter-government agency campaign to finally stop kotong by some police officers and traffic enforcers and kolorum vehicles, which cost an ordinary taxi or jeepney driver P7,000 a month.

“But drivers said they hardly felt the campaign as unscrupulous traffic enforcers from different government agencies continue their illegal activities to the detriment of the jeepney drivers and operators.”

Ano ba yan? We thought KKK is for real. 'Yon pala, press release lang.

Kotong is dead? Manigas kayo.

I was in Nigeria, says this thief of my e-mail password

Today, January 25, I lost my e-mail account without really trying.

Early in the morning, Ellen Tordesillas, a friend who writes opinion pieces in Malaya and Abante newspapers, called to ask if I am in Nigeria.

Surprised, I told her no, I am in Manila, and that I was preparing breakfast. Then I asked her why.

She said I sent her an e-mail frantically requesting for help; in that e-mail, I allegedly said I was in dire need of US$680 plus plus for my expenses as I was said to have lost my passport and money in a cab and that I had been stranded in some decrepit hotel in Lagos. I was allegedly in Nigeria on the way to some civil society conference in Ghana.

I laughed out loud, and said that if ever I would travel at this time of the year, it would not be to Nigeria, but to South Carolina to observe the presidential primaries.

Be serious, Ellen said, for I might not be the only one who received your e-mail call for help. That my friends to whom I might have sent the email might really send me money through Western Union (Ellen said "my email" has instructions to send the money through Western Union!).

True enough, my next caller was another friend who asked where he can send the money. He also received the email Ellen T. received. Then another call from Jun de Vera, then another call from Jing L. All were worried and were asking how I am.

I said I am alright. That I don't need dollars (I need pesos), but I am not one to molest my friends through email. May delicadeza naman ako, no! What I'd do, I told these friends, if ever I need money, I will send a collector from the BIR. Or travel with them to China ala Abalos and then and there demand that I be paid commission for an overpriced project. Ha ha ha.

It was when another friend called up telling me that he is at Western Union to send me US$133 that I sensed something has gone awfully terribly wrong; that some recipients of that fictitious e-mail are believing the email that I am in dire straits.

Oh, no, I told myself. What if the nasty, wayward email (a scam actually) was received by the wife and she actually sends me US$680? I haven't seen her for a day and she might suspect I have a girlfriend. Lagot ako.

So what I did, after realizing how serious this scam was, was to run to the nearest Internet cafe to read my e-mail for the day. When I got there, I could no longer open my mail.

What happened? I don't know. Somebody must have stolen my password and used my Yahoo account to solicit money, just what Ellen T. and the rest who received the email have said.

Then, I remember that a friend of mine, OWWA Director Vivian Tornea, was victimized in the same manner last year. It was actually I who called her attention about it, asking if she was in Spain where "her SOS email" said she was stranded and hospitalized and that because she had no money, she summoned the courage to ask help from friends.

Now, I have lost my old account. Goodbye, Whoever stole you, I am sure of it now, will have pink urine and have rubber bands in his/her waste every morning. Akala nyo, hindi kayo tatalban ng kulam ng Taga Masursor? Wait until you see it.

My new email is From hereon, email me in this address. will not be stolen, I hope. I have entrusted my password for this account to the Bangko Sentral.

With this, may I request for your help by disseminating my new e-mail address to friends. Why this request? Bacause my yahoo directory also got pirated. So be warned. Any email from hereon emanating from is not mine. It comes from a phantom robber who must be suffering from stomach cramps as I write this.

Postscript: Three days after I was able to e-mail again using my new e-mail address, I still received calls asking if indeed I am in Nigeria. I had to repeat my story.

This sorry episode in my "online life" keeps me wondering how in the world the thief of my e-mail account did it. If you have some explanation, I would welcome it. Again, please send it to, not to

Thursday, January 3, 2008

Why did Trillanes do it?

(Published by The Manila Times on 26 December 2007)

Less than a month after Senator Antonio F. Trillanes IV and Brig. Gen. Danilo Lim walked out of a court hearing at the Makati City Hall and trudged off to the Manila Peninsula Hotel to demand, in full view of the media, that Gloria Macapagal Arroyo resign from the presidency, only to be arrested later in the day as common criminals, many Filipinos have become familiar with how such incident happened, but could not still get a sane sense of why it happened.

Well, an excess of epithets, tons of it, had been thrown during the last four weeks, against Trillanes, wrapped in gilded gift boxes by GMA partisans, traditional politicians, and kibitzers and delivered through the mainstream media, but these were expected. In carrying forward his revolution to oust Arroyo to be able to effect genuine systemic change in the country, Trillanes recognizes the important and legitimate role of the media in society but had never engaged—will not engage—in traditional means to ingratiate himself or his cause to the “fourth estate”. In Trillanes, WYSIWYG.

Thus, nary a whimper or whine has been heard from the Trillanes camp, even if it knew that the painful truth has been buried deep under an avalanche of lies. Thus, when the barrage of criticism, most bordering on calumny, started streaming in immediately after the Peninsula incident, Trillanes could only chuckle, his faint smile hinting that he was satisfied that one of the many steps toward change has been accomplished. “We were defeated in this one, but we have not failed,” he told me. “Deretso lang tayo. Let us do our duty,” he added.

Such is Trillanes’s conviction, his undiluted courage, that one was wont to entertain the hope that had he had a plan to forcibly takeover the government on November 29, as the Arroyo administration now wants the public to believe, that plan would succeed. Then victory would have sired a thousand fathers, with the onrush of arm-chair revolutionists and “I-told-you-so” siguristas planting stakes to own part of the revolution they themselves should have initiated, but did not because of their cowardice.

As a young change advocate, Trillanes knew that charlatans inhabit the country’s political spectrum. They are all over, occupying positions of power and possessing filthy wealth that could be used against him and his horde of believers. He knew that paid hacks in the media could continue to paint him in a bad light, ridicule him even. But have these facts deterred him from pursuing his cause? The Peninsula incident showed that not even handcuffs, police boots grinding on his hands because of hate, and the prospect of long incarceration, can douse the burning fire of his desire to reform Philippine society.

The debate on the Trillanes “caper” had focused on his alleged method. “I agree with what he wanted to accomplish but am against his means to achieve it,” was the familiar chorus heard. This debate can go on and on, yet it will not settle matters. For Trillanes’s method is to act, not to fence-sit and be co-opted, as most who criticized him do—and did on that fateful day.

I even now suspect that most of the calumny heaped upon Trillanes was a result of the nagging feeling of guilt that the critics felt for themselves: that unlike Trillanes, they don’t have the capacity to stand-up against Gloria, like what police Gen. Geary Barias did, who employed the sociological method of transference by venting his barbaric anger to Trillanes’s wrist and by hauling him off to the bus in his trousers. In short, it’s the feeling of supreme inadequacy—ok, the lack of balls—that ignited the extreme criticisms.

The hoped-for focus of the national discussion on why Trillanes did what he did should be on the action, for at the end of the day, it will boil down to the oft-repeated admonition of President John F. Kennedy: “Ask not what the country can do for you. Ask what you can do for your country.”

Trillanes is a fool, said Sen. Juan Ponce Enrile, but who believes a public official who faked his own ambush to entrench a dictator? In saying he himself contemplated killing himself had he failed in the EDSA Revolution, Enrile knew that this was a comfortable option than the AFP’s dark and cold torture chambers where Marcos critics were conveniently herded and isolated.

But of all the silly comments thrown in after the November 29 incident, the one that provoked incredulity was the statement of a Malacanang factotum that Trillanes was the cause of rising LPG prices. Hep-hep, hooray! Macapagal Arroyo, who claims to be an economist, should have squirmed at this comment, bud did she? She must even have delighted in such inanity.

Then, there was the criticism of a non-entity that became fleetingly one after the November 29 incident, obviously upon the prodding of Malacanang. The non-existent group said Trillanes was un-Filipino.

Arroyo’s hirelings have used this line before, in the election of 2004 (remember “Hello, Garci?”) against the late Fernando Poe, Jr. They even filed a disqualification case against FPJ, alleging he was not a Filipino. Well, the court said he was a Philippine citizen, but he was dead. Trillanes, like FPJ, is a Filipino and he is alive, thanks to the tender mercies of his guards who refused to follow the alleged order of Gen. Esperon to waste him during the Peninsula incident.

The African writer, Chinhua Achebe, was it who said that a tiger need not proclaim his tigritude. Trillanes need not proclaim his “Filipinoness” to be considered a Filipino. He won by 11 million votes during the May 14, 2007 elections despite of the efforts of this administration to repeat “Hello, Garci?”

But why did Trillanes attempt a failed revolution? Because it was there, in the first place, to be waged, like a mountain waiting to be climbed.

The objective conditions to dislodge a corrupt despot are ripe. It’s not only the surveys which say so. Even the traditional politicians from both sides of the fence and who will be the first to become unhappy ones once genuine systemic change takes effect, say so. Even the soldiers, who are gagged by Esperon, say so. The teachers, the OFWs, the farmers and fishermen say so. The Church . . . well, forget the Church in the meantime. My daughter, Lara, says so. Only the paid hacks and the bribe-able politicians, the local government officials, the crony-authors of ZTE and Transco, and cyber-ed ad nauseam, say GMA must be president for life.

In short, ramdam na ramdam na na kailangang patalsikin sa puwesto si GMA dahil puro kasiphayuan ang dala sa sambayanang Pilipino.

And how should this be accomplished? Armed insurrection? People Power? Election? Cha-cha? Impeachment? Refer back to the statement of Gen. Lim at the Peninsula on November 29.

The revolution that we ought to wage is a work-in-progress. It is not correct to say that our national cancer is curable only by an election in 2010, although that is a prescription that, as 2008 enters, is becoming a remote possibility, given Gloria’s gluttony for political power. Paging Mar Roxas, Manny Villar, Loren Legarda, Richard Gordon, Noli de Castro, and Panfilo Lacson. Tell us if there will be a 2010.

Trillanes did what he did because a revolution never waits for timing. A revolutionist who waits for favorable winds before he sails faces the unintended consequence of getting suffocated by the short bursts of wind that come between a real storm and a perfect calm.

A writer, said Nadine Gordimer, writes because he or she doesn’t want to be suffocated by the demons inhabiting his or her soul. A revolutionist wages a revolution because he doesn’t want to get waylaid by stifling concerns and worries of who’s on his side and what do they bring upfront. He only keeps worrying if his revolution is on the side of the people. Once he is sure of it, he tries to know and to understand that whatever the outcome of his revolution, a correct step is taken.

The Philippine Revolution of 1896 was not a single act of settling societal contradictions. It was a series of steps, of bloody wars, of defeats and victories, of retreat and consolidation that dates back to Lapu-Lapu in Mactan.

The revolution Trillanes is waging is only one of those steps, yet because of the dire predicament the Filipinos are in, they dare look at it as if it is the final chapter of the effort to free them from the malice of misgovernance and from the claws of a corrupt government. We cannot blame them. They have been waiting for redemption since 2001.