Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Old Power, New Power

A man enters a crowded bus in Manila and then, after several stops, politely taps the shoulder of the guy in front of him. "Excuse me sir, but are you related to the Marcos family?" No, no, the man answers. After another stop, the man taps the shoulder again. "Excuse me sir, but are you related to anyone in the Marcos cabinet?” Negative, the guy says. After another stop, the man asks again. “Sir, how about anyone in the military?” “No” again was the irritated reply.

“Hey, why are you asking me all these personal questions?” The guy wants to know.

“Because, gaddamit," the man replies, "you've been standing on my foot for the last 30 minutes! Move, now!"

Jokes like this one abounded during the Marcos martial law regime. Behind the humor was always a kernel of truth and in this one, it was that powerful members of the Marcos family, the Marcos cabinet and the Marcos military were all untouchable and beyond the reach of the law.

For example, it was whispered in those martial law years that the son of a prominent Marcos cabinet member had killed the supposed “boy friend” of his sister who had allegedly mistreated her. The son was never charged nor prosecuted for murder and the incident was nev er even reported in the Marcos-controlled press.

Now, close to 23 years after Marcos was deposed, the press is free to report about such incidents. But there are new ways to control the news.

In a development that may or may not be connected to that whispered report, on May 27, 2002, Fr. Robert "the running priest" Reyes, was arrested by Quezon City police authorities and charged with libel for accusing Cagayan Rep. Jackie Ponce Enrile of killing his nephew, Ernest Robert Lucas, during the martial law years in 1975. Fr. Reyes was released two days later, after his parishioners at the University of the Philippines Diliman campus posted his 10,000-peso bail.

In the martial law years, Filipinos were powerless to deal with the abuses of those in power. Today, those in power still abuse their authority with regularity but Filipinos are not quite so powerless now.

The prime example of this old/new paradigm occurred on December 26, 2008 at the Valley Golf and Country Club in Antipolo, Rizal where 56-year old Delfin De La Paz and his 14 year old son, Bino, were savagely beaten by Mayor Nasser Pangandaman, Jr., Mayor of Masiu City, Lanao del Sur, and his bodyguard goons. The mayor was playing golf with his father, Secretary Nasser Pangandaman, Sr. of the Department of Agrarian Reform, when Delfin complained that they had breached golfing protocol by moving on to the next hole ahead of them.

Mayor Pangandaman was enraged by Delfin's temerity and punched him in the face and his goons joined in ganging up on him. The man's daughter, Bambee, and son, Bino, rushed to his aid but they were no match for the golfing goons. The 14-year old son knelt in front of the mayor and pled with him to stop beating his father. "Sorry na po, sorry na po...tama na...tama na po..." (We’re sorry sir, we're sorry sir. Please stop, please stop sir”) he begged. The man looked at the pleading boy and smacked him in the face, sending him reeling to the ground.

After the parties were separated, Delfin and his kids went to the clubhouse. As he awaited medical treatment, the mayor's group arrived and saw them. As Bambee reported "Once again my brother pleads, says sorry, and is crying. He was crying, for crissakes. But no. The relentless mayor still punches him in the face, and then sees my dad and goes after my dad again. Him and his friend pull my dad to the ground, pulls at his feet, and steps on him like he's dirt... I didn't even see my brother getting beat up."

When Bambee's mother and older brother arrived and rushed to help Delfin, the mayor's bodyguards pulled out their guns waiting for any excuse to fire. The clubhouse receptionists implored the family to leave "Maam, umalis na po kayo, may mga baril sila...Maam. ..umalis na po kayo please..." (Please, Maam, leave, they've got guns).

The De La Paz family left the golf course and after getting medical attention, filed a police complaint against the Pangandamans who, predictably, filed a counter-claim alleging that they were the victims of the de La Paz family.

This might have all been filed and forgotten except for one thin g. Bambee happens to be a blogger (viccisitude-decidido.blogspot.com) and she wrote of her horrifying experience and what her father and brother suffered. In a matter of hours, the blogosphere erupted with rage (she received 1172 comments).

Bambee’s report was emailed to thousands of Filipinos throughout the world and recipients emailed it to their own email lists. The major press got wind of the rage in the Internet and reported and commented on it. ABS-CBN even interviewed Delfin, along with his daughter and son, and he showed the bruises and welts all over his face and body and described their savage beating (check out youtube “Pangandaman”).

An online petition calling for the resignation of DAR Secretary Nasser Pangandaman, Sr. drew 1000 signatories immediately. An on-line game where you get to kick the Masui mayor in the butt (my highest total was 38,780 feet) was set up and became a popular hit. Google "Pangandaman" and you get 80 pages of references to the golfing incident.

There is no place in the Philippines or in the world where the Pangandamans can go now without being confronted by an outraged global Filipino community. They may have the old power at their beck and call but the De La Paz family has the new power of the blog.

This is Bambee’s plea to all: Please pray for my dad, my brother and for my whole family. Please pray that we get JUSTICE. Oh God, please, give these people what they deserve.

We hear you loud and clear.

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