Grappling Rappler

‘The question then is: Will they let their names be dragged into a pit of shame by illegally operating or by cheating the Filipino public? Will they directly sell their integrity to foreign influence? Is it worth the risk after their years of “bar none” services?’

IT’S FRIDAY and the company where I was working was on dress down. I chose to wear a pair of jeans and a black shirt. But as I was riding the northbound MRT-3 train, I looked around and wondered if there were other passengers wearing the same colour of shirt as I do. There were few of them and I sensed that they were also curious. Yes, curious if my wearing black is a form of support on the Black Friday Protest for Freedom action organised by the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP). The NUJP earlier severely criticized the Securites and Exchange Commission’s (SEC) decision revoking the registration of the leading news website Rappler. 

In their website, it’s indicated that Rappler comes from the root words “rap” (to discuss) and “ripple” (to make waves). Without a doubt, they are making waves these days not of stories of various personalities they cover, or of news reports about other entities, but the legality of their existence. When the SEC and Rappler issue broke, I sulked. I couldn’t believe that such incident can happen to one of the media organisations I look up to. Some of the most respected, prominent, and award-winning journalists and writers I know work for or are connected with Rappler. Maria Ressa. Marites Vitug. Chay Hofileña. Glenda Gloria. Patricia Evangelista. 

The question then is: Will they let their names be dragged into a pit of shame by illegally operating or by cheating the Filipino public? Will they directly sell their integrity to foreign influence? Is it worth the risk after their years of “bar none” services? 

While the SEC decision was not final and executory, with the political climate the Philippines has, the possibility for the case to reach the halls of the Supreme Court is not startling. But online forums and the comments section have been filled with opinions. For them, Rappler has reached its final destination.

“Maria Ressa is wearing a victim’s cloak” a netizen commented. “In need of attention just like the previous president.” Some of my Facebook friends also despised Rappler for their alleged violation. Suddenly, constitutional experts rose on the occasion. They are doomed, one added. But did they first read the 21-page decision of the SEC before expressing their thoughts online? Did they examine the facts before judging those who side and believe in Rappler as ‘Yellowtards’ and fools?

I’ve seen it before and I am seeing it again. In our attempt to simplify things, we resort to one-liners, labels, and generalizations. These do not accomplish anything but create more divisions. 

In his book Blink, renowned journalist and author Malcolm Gladwell wrote: “We have, as human beings, a storytelling problem. We’re a bit too quick to come up with explanations for things we don’t really have an explanation for.”

When Rappler published my opinion piece about the subpar MRT-3 train services, some of the commenters were quick to assume that I was a paid writer whose objective was to discredit the actions of the government in addressing the transport system issue. They even judged me as just another Rappler writer who doesn’t see the good in the current administration, its achievements. Without conducting a simple Google search or patiently reading the whole piece, they came up with their own conclusions. These are classic examples of false and uninformed accusations online. 

Because the truth is I care about my country. We write because we believe that something can be done, that there’s still hope, and that those in power didn’t fully shut their ears to listen to another point of view, to fresh perspectives. For a democracy to work, there should be checks and balances and the media play a valuable role in guarding and being the platform for people to practice their right to speech and expression. Yes, they put their lives, their principles on the line. 

With everything’s that’s going on, it’s easy to be swayed by the popular, the majority opinion. Some choose to stay silent because of fear and inconvenience. If indeed Rappler intentionally committed grave contraventions against the provisions of the constitution and that they should be held liable, let the courts decide about it. If they published malicious articles beyond the ethical standards of journalism, which are meant to degrade or disparage a public official and put him or her in bad light, file cases. Let’s recognise the proper forums backed by existing laws and give emphasis on due process. 

Opposing opinions can coexist without us losing our humanity in the process with respect. It can be done without grappling the pens and the mouths of our fellowmen who cry for truth, freedom and justice whether we agree with them or not. Because in the end, while we are busy figuring out how others are different from us with all their ideals and perspectives, we forget to listen, to read, to research, and ultimately, to convince ourselves that in times like this, it’s best to pause and pray for our country with a black shirt on or whatever colour we believe we represent. 


Challenge me in ways that I’ve
never been challenged

Show me things – grand and minute,
subtle and bold, and let’s get drunk
on each other’s fascinations

Let’s not be mediocre, forever
threading what the men and women
before us built for themselves

Be mad at me, really mad,
to the extreme extent not
brought by hatred but
of love

Love me, show me, tell
me every day, every
hour, every time
the sun’s rays
visit your lips

Stay while the storm
displays its wrath, the
noise around us, all the doubts –
be with me still

For you’re my hiding place,
my refuge, the light in
a world that has gone crazy –
sit next to me.


Peace will smile at her someday and she’ll try to resist how she feels. But she’ll smile back anyway.


“When you close and seclude your country from international trade, can you expect economic growth? Can you expect your people to think critically in a global scale for them not to depend on what you feed them every day of their lives?”

IF YOU want to start a war and destroy a territory of your adversary, you don’t divulge your plans. You just do it. No threats. No clamor for the world’s attention. No senseless imaginary epistles to the media.

The North Korea’s leadership in its desire to infiltrate the world over the past few years have been doing unspeakable things. Labeled as a rebel to a world where the international police is the United States, they continuously terrorize the psych of those who wanted to keep the current order.

Can you imagine being one of the more than 160,000 people living and working in Guam with a looming threat for you to be vanished on the surface of the Earth? Can you imagine attempting to sleep at night before the deadline thinking that you might no longer see tomorrow with all its beauty and grace? I can’t.

I still wonder what’s really going on in North Korea. There were reports of starvation, deprivation, and abuse towards its citizens. When you close and seclude your country from international trade, can you expect economic growth? Can you expect your people to think critically in a global scale for them not to depend on what you feed them every day of their lives? I pity those people: brainwashed, ignorant of the outside world, walled literally by the selfishness of those who call themselves leaders of the new world.

The coming days will be interesting. The hype is here.

North Korea succeeded in getting the attention of all of us. The next question is, what now? According to the latest report, they delayed the launch of the missiles to pulverize Guam as an ally, a forward fortress of the United States in Asia-Pacific. But for how long? Is it just a stunt, a publicity, a tiring move of North Korea for it to test its presence in the political arena?

I hope that no war will emerge in the coming decades between countries. We’ve all seen and read how destructive and pointless wars are to those involved: lost lives, gone dreams, and endless call and cry for help.

We are all different. We are diverse. We all want to move forward, to be in a better position, to be great. But again and again, we have two options on how we can achieve these: to promote life and peace or to be catalysts for destruction.

They say that history dictates who the heroes and villains are; books marvel the real ones and forget the pretenders.

But today, all we can do is to keep believing. To believe that the threat to our lives will no longer be there; that they managed to escape from us.

Finding home

There is hope in me that the people in Marawi City, as soon as the war ends, will receive the help they need to start over; that the aid from the government and international community to rebuild their lives will not be put to waste; and that the appeals for donation to those who have been displaced will be heard. There is hope in me because the President of this country came from the south and because he made a promise that their voices will be recognized. There is hope in me because in one way or another, we know how it feels like to be locked up in a challenging situation. It must be difficult to accept the reality that you have to all of a sudden evacuate from your comfort zone with no extra clothes, toothbrush, or other personal belongings to bring with due to threat to your life. I hope that the war would soon be over. I hope that they find their way home again, our fellow Filipinos – the civilians, the police officers, and the soldiers.

I hope.

Photo credit: AFP Getty Images

Invisible or not

“Who would want to forgive those who betrayed, abused, and beguiled us? Who would want to forget the hardships some of us had to endure or our loved ones had to experience?”

TODAY, WE celebrate the 119th anniversary of the declaration of our people’s emancipation from Spain. But are we truly independent?

In the clash in Marawi City between the government forces and the Maute Group carrying ISIS flag and ideologies, the President did not know of US help beforehand. He was surprised like a child despite being the head of the state who has access to every sensitive information and channels regarding national security. How about China’s irrefutable bullying when it leisurely transformed some of our territorial islands and islets in the South China Sea? But in addition to these, I believe that the invisible wounds in the past still haunt us: the declaration of Martial Law at the latter part of the Marcos regime, the death of Ninoy Aquino, Jr., the decay of the people’s trust and confidence to some government officials because of corruption, the unsolved crimes, the human rights violations, the forced disappearance of activists like Jonas Burgos, the Maguindanao Massacre where 58 people have been killed, the failures in the justice system, and the insensitivity of the machismo-laden Congress and Senate to children’s and women’s rights. We remember one or two of these every now and then not because we want to but because similar things happen or intertwined events surface on the news that hinder us to forgive and to forget. Who would want to forgive those who betrayed, abused, and beguiled us? Who would want to forget the hardships some of us had to endure or our loved ones had to experience?

Maybe, we need this moment to know how we should move forward as a nation. Maybe, just maybe, today, we’ll understand the true meaning of independence that the dignified and brave Filipinos in our history fought for that we may live in a country that’s unchained, unlocked, and free from elements of oppression and suppression; that we may continue to be vigilant with a peaceful heart not with rage or with the spirit to destroy; and that we may transform this unhappy country together against the 15th to 18th century Spain’s variations today – invisible or not.

Beyond “The 44”

“If only we make reforms in the education system for children in the young age to achieve a better understanding for the biases and differences and practices of all groups, ethnic or local, religious and political, we may have a better future.”

HOW MUCH does peace cost? Does it require the displacement of more than a million families or the deaths of thousands and the revision of a Constitution even before you and I probably were born?

I am always curious as to how beautiful Philippines is. More than its scintillating and 7 Wonders of the World caliber spots, the smiles of its people, Muslim or Christian, I wanted to discover its cultures no matter how diverse. I wanted to know their stories. However, the line that divides its people became more evident now more than ever. The Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL), or what others call it, “the sole key for peace in Mindanao”, is still in the air but nobody seems to have the will to have a grip of its wings, for now.

Six years ago, 58 trembling souls had departed, one by one allegedly because of those who are seeking political immortality in Maguindanao. And just over a month ago, still in Maguindanao, on January 25, 2015, Clash of Mamasapano happened. At the height of passing and pushing of BBL a tragedy surfaced. There was a news-break “44 elite Philippine National Police – Special Action Force (PNP-SAF) combatants were killed. The best of the best were massacred”. The day the news broke, the country was saddened. There were angry, dismayed, and emotional senators, congressmen and government officials on TV giving interviews. A proposition of “all-out-war” against the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) and Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF), a breakaway group of the MILF, has been the subject of discourse. Professors of universities and the intellectuals of the different sectors of societies were debating whether BBL is the real answer for peace in Mindanao or not. And there were “instant experts” in the peace process as well in social media.

But the truth is, according to Rappler, “…the number of fatalities in the day-long clash to at least 68. The incident also claimed the lives of at least 7 civilians, including a 5-year old girl.” There were Muslims or Moros and civilians who were killed, but the “44 PNP-SAF” combatants were those highlighted because they are from the government. They are regarded as “heroes” and the other victims of the clash as shadows and smokes and dusts of the “misencounter” (a new term used to describe what happened; it is not found in Merriam-Webster dictionary).  It is not that I do not feel the sentiment of the families of the PNP-SAF commandos; it’s just that equality is nowhere to be found by observing and listening to every word that comes out of the mouth of non-Muslim government officials.

As a country with the majority of its people calling themselves Christians, we know a little about those we call our “brothers” (a description we remember during Ramadan). Here are the limited facts that I know about Muslim or Islam or Moro.

“Moro” is a political or cultural term that refers to a society of people or an individual which are mosly living in Mindanao. “Muslim” on the other hand is a “faith-based” term that refers to a society of people or an individual who believes in Allah (their God) and has “Islam” as his or her religion. We usually see them selling DVDs, cellular phones, and other gadgets in malls. “Bumili ka sa Muslim” is a generic phrase being used by those living in the metropolitan areas whenever they have to transact to “Muslim” people in the market for cheap goods. We enclosed them in a box of identity just like this. These people are usually wearing long, white clothes. Some have their faces covered. They are unusual for first timers and for those who are used to seeing women wearing short “shorts” and fitted shirts and pants for men. There are communities of Muslim people in Taguig City and at the southern part of Visayas and most are living in Mindanao. They have structurally elegant Mosques where they practice their Islam beliefs. In elementary, we tackled Islam as one of the religions in the country and that there are different identities of Muslim in the Philippines, politically. Tausug people are the more famous. They live near the seas and known as “the people of the current.”

At the dark side, they are referred to as “terrorists” by some governments which in my opinion is improper and unethical for there are billions of Muslims all over the world and attaching the term to these people or even to make it sound synonymous for those who listen is injustice, unjustifiable and racist. Their argument is that most of the terrorists in the world are Muslims.

If only we make reforms in the education system for children in the young age to achieve a better understanding for the biases and differences and practices of all groups, ethnic or local, religious and political, we may have a better future. Once we understood and built respect on one another, bullying in the grade school level related to differences in religion will just be part of history. Not only that, we can have leaders who are sensitive enough, objective, and who will not let events aggravate their emotions and destroy the very mantle of the long history for peace process and goodwill in that part of this nation.

I hope that positive change happens sooner to save another family from being displaced in their homeland, or for a child to continue to have the education and learning environment and basic rights he or she deserves under the Constitution and for Christians and Muslims to finally meet half way and make an understanding that is more important than any resources this world has to offer.

In an interview by Boy Abunda (in his show The Bottomline) with a representative from Mindanao, he asked, “What it’s like to be in that place (in Mindanao)?” Then she answered, “It’s such a nice place”. Being the second largest island of the Philippines, Mindanao has resources that we should have been utilizing for the growth of the country. Malacanan boasts an average of 7% economic growth. But the reality is, this growth is only felt by those in classes A, B, and C. – the rich and middle class. How about the masses, those in classes D and E? We are an archipelago and we need every help we can get to alleviate the sufferings of the greater number of people from inside.

The Nobel Peace Prize is still in the horizon for the president, if indeed he is running after it as a seal to his legacy. And yes, it is not commensurate to the gravity of loss of lives we have witnessed in the past decades because of this conflict. I hope that that glorious day would come that Christians and Muslims go hand in hand in fighting the more aggressive demons of humanity like poverty, corruption and the inability to weigh things that are of greater value for the afterlife. After all, we all want peace and everyone loses in wars. Our eyes may not see it but at least, our children will. We have to give them a blood-cleansed land where they can go visit the provinces in Luzon, Visayas and Mindanao without any troubles in mind that one of their own can change it in a blink of an eye. We can weep. We can blame everybody. But looking at the bigger picture of things, there is no better alternative.

There are different paths for peace. The only question is what path to choose and if we will take the first step to attain it today and beyond.