POSTSCRIPT / September 19, 2017 / Tuesday


Opinion Columnist

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Martial law: If not ready, don’t do it

WHILE some disgruntled elements are girding for a protest rally on Sept. 21 to challenge the Duterte administration, a 10-year-old Filipino-American girl is determined to sing her way to the top of the “America’s Got Talent” competition finale in Los Angeles tomorrow.

Our fearless forecast for the two contests on both sides of the Pacific:

> The competition is stiff, but Angelica Hale, a little girl with a powerful voice, may just romp off with the $1-milliion top prize on her way to fame and fortune. Her mother Eva Bolando-Hale is from Iligan, while her father James, a financial accounting consultant, is reportedly half Pinoy. They reside in Georgia.

> The anti-Duterte rally, set tomorrow at the Rizal Park, promises to be inflammatory enough to spark martial law being declared. But based on what we know as of yesterday, President Duterte is not about to be provoked. His calling out the armed forces will be enough to suppress any lawless violence.

Still, speculation persists that Mr. Duterte has been laying the basis for martial law as part of an ulterior agenda.

The Commander-in-Chief has been going out of his way to secure the support of the armed forces and the police upon whom he would have to rely heavily under martial law. Even if he has to starve other agencies, he piles up funds and incentives for soldiers and policemen in a bid to cement their loyalty.

In the civilian sphere, Mr. Duterte has been consolidating power by assailing other branches of government, and intimidating key sectors and problem personalities. The media themselves have not been spared from pressure.

Media control would be crucial, but the government should be cautious about wading into the worldwide web to tame social media and regulate information flow. Ill-prepared to enter this area, it is risky dabbling in censorship under martial law.

As we who lived through the dark night of Marcosian military rule can attest, martial law is no picnic – even for the dictator himself. It is not as simple as issuing a proclamation, rounding up all those who resist, and padlocking media refusing to join the chorus.

It takes more than a year to prepare the martial law apparatus. Judging from insider information and remarks of Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana, the armed forces that would take the brunt of enforcing martial rule are not looking forward to such a crisis.

Will Mr. Duterte gloss over his limited experience in administering martial law in Mindanao and jump to a nationwide ML experiment? Will he insist on militarization despite the economy’s not having been fattened enough to survive the shocks of martial law?

Mainly because his apparatus is not yet ready, I do not expect Mr. Duterte to respond to a massive multi-sectoral protest rally by declaring martial law. But it won’t be surprising to see him bullying all sectors standing in the way to authoritarianism.

• FilAm girl wows ‘America’s Got Talent’

BORN in Atlanta, Georgia, on July 31, 2007, to James and Eva Hale (née Bolando), Angelica appears to have been destined to be a singer. When just two years old, she was already singing along to popular songs on the radio.

At four, she contracted a serious bacteria infection in her lungs that turned to double pneumonia. With her kidneys also failing and her lungs bleeding, she was put on a ventilator, then an oscillator. She had multiple blood and platelet transfusions. She was moved to a hospital that had a machine that performed her heart and lung functions.

Although plagued by kidney problems, at age of five she began taking singing lessons. Competing for the first time in 2013, she sang “Part of Your World” and “Reflection” and won.

On Friday the 13th in September 2013, at age six, her mother donated her kidney to end her suffering.

America’s Got Talent, hosted by Tyra Banks, has four opinionated and insightful judges: model Heidi Klum, TV host Howie Mandel, recording artist Mel B and executive producer Simon Cowell. The show features singers, dancers, magicians, comedians, among other performers.

At age nine last June, Angelica had her AGT audition. Her rendition of Andra Day’s “Rise Up” got the four “Yes” of the judges, sending her to the Judge Cuts, where she sang Alicia Keys’ “Girl on Fire.” Moved by her performance, guest judge Chris Hardwick pressed the Golden Buzzer for Angelica, sending her straight to the Quarterfinals.

“You open your mouth and it’s like ‘How do those pipes fit in that tiny little body?’” Hardwick exclaimed. “I just feel like, Angelica, you are the chosen one!”

In one of her performances at the Dolby Theater in Hollywood, an exuberant Angelica told the judges: “I want to be the next Whitney Houston. I want to be a superstar… I’m so happy to be here, because I’ve been watching your show on Youtube and now I’m like, in it! And I’m so awestruck!”

On stage, a confident Angelica exudes a vocal range and quality unusual for a girl her age. She reminds me of Lea Salonga (then at about her age) whom I watched sing “The sun’ll come out tomorrow” (from “Annie”) to thunderous applause at the Honolulu convention of the Pacific Area Travel Association in the 1970s.

At the Week 1 Quarterfinals, Angelica sang Zedd’s ‘Clarity.” The four judges gave her standing ovations. She was voted to advance to the Semifinals. At Week 2, she sang David Guetta’s “Without You,” after which she moved to the Finals, set tomorrow.

(First published in the Philippine STAR of September 19, 2017)

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