POSTSCRIPT / October 31, 2000 / Tuesday

By FEDERICO D. PASCUAL JR.

Philippine STAR Columnist

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Babae sa kangkungan: Sandali ng pagtutuos!

TO his critics, Erap Estrada belted out last week a boastful “Sa kangkungan kayo pupuluting lahat!” (You’ll all end up in the kangkong patch!)

Here’s a reply written and emailed from Japan by feminist writer Joi Barrios and read in the Makati rally last Wednesday by Ma-an Hontiveros:

Mula sa Kangkungan
(Sagot kay Erap)

Mahal na Pangulo,
Kumusta na kayo?
Mabuti’t nabanggit niyo ang kangkungan.
Mainam nga iyang tagpuan.
Ang kangkunga’y lunang aming kilala,
Higit na kilala kaysa sa inyo.

Hindi kami natira sa magarang mansiyon.
Hindi kami nakain ng matabang litson.
Ang aming dampa ay katabi ng pusali.
Ang aming ulam ay kangkong sa tanghali’t gabi.

Sa labanang marangal, sa labanang patas,
Di mo kami maririnig na bumigkas,
“Sa kangkungan kayo pupuluting lahat.”
Ito’y banta lamang ng siga ngunit duwag.

At huwag, huwag sabihing naglilingkod sa mahirap.
Ang aming pangalan ay huwag gawing kalasag.
Kung dukha man ang sa inyo noon ay nagbigay lakas
Dukha rin ang magtatakda ng iyong wakas.

Magmasid. Mangilag.
Pagkat mula sa bukid, mula sa pabrika,
Mula sa mga gusali at paaralan,
Ay nagtitipon ang taumbayan.
Ito’y sandali ng pagtutuos,
At aming ipapangako,
Hindi namin uurungan itong pakikipaghamok.

Sumasainyo,
Ang Babae sa Kangkungan

Note: Barrios is a professor of the UP Department of Filipino and Philippine Literature, and is now visiting professor at the Osaka University of Foreign Studies. She is author of two collection of poetry books: Ang Pagiging Babae ay Pamumuhay sa Panahon ng Digma, and Minatamis: Mga Tula ng Pag-ibig. She has won several Palanca awards for poetry, essay and drama. She was formerly secretary-general of Concerned Artists of the Philippines.

* * *

AS if to validate the consensus that hard times are upon us and that crimes against property are on the rise, while we were in Cebu on coverage over the weekend, thieves stole the side mirrors of our car left in the parking area of the NHA Pagasa condominiums in Quezon City behind SMCity.

Residents have told us that such thievery, vandalism and even carjacking are rampant in the area without National Housing Authority officials lifting a finger to restore order and secure the community.

In fact, NHA officials have allowed the originally upscale project to go to seed. Garbage has piled up. Vandals have destroyed the perimeter fence. Robbery and burglary are committed with impunity. Concerned residents complain of drug pushing and pot sessions in some units.

First class amenities (such as a clubhouse, swimming pool, tennis courts, gyms, etc.) put up during the time of former Metro Manila Gov. Imelda Marcos have been destroyed by NHA over the objections of residents and never restored.

* * *

THERE is an obvious security breakdown and management failure in this NHA project, presumably an offshoot of the Estrada administration’s losing control of the general situation and the erosion of respect for authority, not to mention the pressure of the hard times.

With the police being either indifferent or in cahoots with thieves operating in the NHA project and the SM City beside it, criminals have become brazen. We were told that they vandalize and forcibly open parked vehicles despite the presence of residents and passers-by.

We have been informed that Mayor Mel Mathay is not excited enough to act on the mess, because unlike big-time vice in the city, there’s nothing to earn from acting on what he probably thinks is petty crime.

We were told that the mayor and his son are interested only in looking into the operations of vice lords who seem to enjoy unusual influence at City Hall.

* * *

TALKING of the NHA, it is highly anomalous that while there are millions of Filipinos who are homeless, housing authorities have allowed foreigners to occupy choice units in government projects that should go to qualified Filipinos.

The encroaching by aliens into government dwellings built for Filipinos from public funds is presumably with the knowledge and consent of NHA officials. Why do they continue to tolerate this irregularity?

The mess at Pagasa dramatizes the hypocrisy of government housing policies. This is aside from the other glaring anomaly of the masses being crammed into shanties while mistresses of the President pad around in fabulous mansions.

* * *

IN a related issue, a Quezon City resident, Dionisio C. dela Serna, questions another NHA project involving Erap Estrada’s award to squatters of home lots taken from 37 hectares of North Triangle originally reserved for public parks.

In his desperate attempt to rally support from the masses, Erap has been frantically giving away lots to squatters in what his critics call is a case of brazen bribery.

Dela Serna, a former housing official of the Ramos administration, said that the North Triangle property being given away by Erap is already contracted by NHA in favor of two big real estate developers — Robinson Realty and New San Jose Builders — for conversion into an integrated commercial complex and theme park.

He said the development contract was approved by President Ramos and continues to be valid and binding until now.

* * *

DELA Serna also reported that the prevailing price of the North Triangle property runs close to P25,000-P30,000 per square meter.

He noted: “To award the same as home lots to the residents, some of whom, regrettably, are professional squatters — for free or at socialized rates — will be grossly disadvantageous to the government, and expose implementing NHA officials to a charge of violating the anti-graft and corruption act.”

He said that about 15 hectares have been cleared after some 3,000 former squatters agreed to be relocated to a resettlement site in Montalban, Rizal, at government expense.

With President Estrada’s public promise to give way the lots, Dela Serna said that there is a strong likelihood that most, if not all, of those already relocated would return and demand that they be given the same privileges as those who stayed behind.

* * *

MEANTIME, the people should be told why Erap Estrada and the Radical Left both want to discredit and even destroy the Vice President mandated by the Constitution to become President in the event the latter dies, resigns, is impeached or is permanently incapacitated.

In the case of the President, one way of derailing moves to oust him is to show the public that there is no viable alternative, that there is no qualified official to replace him, and that there is no assurance that things would be any better under a new President if he goes.

So, Malacañang propagandists work overtime to portray Arroyo negatively, in other words, not any better or even worse than the President. This desperate demolition job is actually a subversion of the legal and orderly transition of power envisioned by the Constitution.

* * *

FROM the point of view of extremists and anarchists, the removal of both the President and the Vice President, and if possible other officials in the line of succession, would be a perfect scenario for chaos.

A power vacuum would result from the wholesale removal or disqualification of top officials who can assure an orderly transition. Such a vacuum would be the perfect setting for trouble and possibly a forcible grab for power.

Such a dangerous hiatus is precisely what the Constitution wants to prevent by defining a line of succession and laying down a process for an orderly transition of power in the event of a vacancy.

We must not allow the subversion of constitutional processes – be it by the President himself or the Radical Left.

* * *

WHILE the nation gropes for a way out of the crisis, some of us are interested in having a televised debate between the President and the Vice President. A multi-media group can work on this idea, with the help of civic organizations.

Instead of luring Arroyo into a power-sharing scheme that would just bury constructive idea and blunt initiatives for reform, we should set up a public debate that would unleash creative thoughts and help crystallize an informed consensus.

That blockbuster show could be a first step toward a more constructive dialogue. Both sides could follow up with more discussions at different levels.

* * *

SUCH a debate would also answer questions over the competence of the two top officials of the land. By thinking on their feet and articulating their clashing thoughts before the public, they would be able give assurance that they could indeed lead the nation out of this mess.

We have not asked the Vice President, but an aide said she is likely to agree to a debate. As for the President, we hope the growling macho won’t be afraid to face the diminutive Arroyo in a TV debate.

We hope influential sectors would pick up this idea of an Erap-Gloria grand debate and help arrange it.

* * *

(First published in the Philippine STAR of October 31, 2000)

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