I noticed that Christmas is becoming less and less interesting. I sort of no longer look forward to it unlike when I was younger. Perhaps it is true that Christmas is only for children. I remember that when I was a kid, I would be very happy if I would get presents for Christmas. I did not care if the gifts were cheap, so long as I got them because it was Christmas.

My writer-friend Santiago Villafania said that there is such as thing as “December Mood.” It’s kinda ironic really. The feeling of emptiness and loneliness while everybody around seems to be happy or at least trying to be happy. Christmas songs being carried by the cold winds would instead chill the soul instead of thrill it. When I was in grade school, my classmate Estelito Abonalla told me about this Christmas phenomenon experienced by kids–waking up at dawn to the sound of Christmas song coming from a passing vehicle, say, a tricycle. I could relate because I experienced it too. My heart would leap in excitement for the coming new day. A day that would eventually lead to Christmas day.

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Anyway, one memorable Christmas season for me was in the year 2000. I was then staying in Imus, Cavite and writing for The Daily Tribune. I was also trying to finish ROTC. I was “BS RO” so to speak. I would go to the Tribune office to get my money. They were so generous. I would even get my bonus! I was then reading “For Whom the Bell Tolls” by Hemingway. The coldness of the war scenario in the novel would creep up on me. I was after-all just like the characters in the story. I was alone in that flat, and the place felt like a bunker.

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Last night, I reread “Kirot ng Kataga,” a book of poems in Tagalog by Cirilo Bautista. You see, I bought the book in December 2000. It’s just a short book, more of a chapbook really. But man, it’s a classic! And the book calls to mind as I rewrite my poems in Tagalog. Let me post some excerpts here of my new poems. This one is from “City of Springs.”

 

Mga isda, ianod

n’yo ng huklubang ilog

ang huli kong pagdulog:

 

Ay! Aking sinusumpa,

kung lahat nang makata

ay bayad pag tumula—

Hindi s’ya matataga!

Hindi s’ya matataga!

 

I also wrote something about the death penalty. Of course, right now we have no capital punishment but just the same, I wrote about it. You see, it would really depend upon Congress if it would revive the same. The 1987 Constitution gives them such allowance. Here’s the last stanzas of “Bisperas (Awit ng Lalaki sa Bitayan)”:

 

Subalit ay sino itong paparating?

Huling pag-idlip ko ay gagambalain.

Nagmamadali pa’t nakabarong man din—

bagong abogadong sadyang matulungin!

 

Remedyo raw sana sa aking problema’y

automatic review ng Korte Suprema.

Ang aming kapatas na kasabwat pala,

lahat nang salarin ay kanyang kinanta.

 

Ang utak ng krimen ay ang aming meyor

na kulang ang pondo para sa eleks’yon.

Kunwari pa’y banal at suki sa Pasyon,

‘yun pala, tit’yempo saka mandarambong.

 

At dagling umalis itong si attorney.

Tatawagan n’ya raw pati Presidente.

Dapat daw ang husga ng aking ponente’y

swak sa absuwelto at hindi garote!

 

Ngayong hinahanda ng aking berdugo

ang kanyang ineks’yon at lasong likido.

Sa may isang sulok ay may telepono:

akala mo’y diyos na nakadek’watro.

 

I also worked on a poem about the poetic process itself. It even delves into the writer’s life and plight. Here’s the beginning stanzas of the poem “Pasada,” also included in my upcoming book:

 

Sinasabing kadalasan ay malalim na gabi

at ilang ang ruta ng makata.

 

Mga daliring tumitipa ay susi

sa makina ng makinilya at netbook

 

at makinaryang umaangil

ang daigdig sa loob ng bungo’t dibdib.

 

There you go folks. You can expect that I will labor some more for the next poems. I am actually working on a very long poem on my experience as an organizer of poetry gigs here in my locality. Things I do. I don’t expect to be rich by doing said things, but still, I do it. But does it mean that I will no longer do other things that could make me filthy rich? Legal and moral things? Nope. Not at all.

Until next time.

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ENTER THE 13TH

December 26, 2012

This is another year-ender essay. So, WTF happened this year anyway?

Well for sure, I am still in this country. I am still in Bicol even if there are more reasons to consider leaving. I need not enumerate them for it will surely spoil our New Year’s celebration. But this coming year, I am getting closer and closer to a Bachelor of Laws diploma. Never thought I would get this far, to think that I tend to be on the creative rather than the legalistic side. I have to admit that studying the law made me more humble and mature. It helped me to think straight and precise, using objectivity rather than ego and niceties. It inculcated in me an almost monastic reading lifestyle. Thanks to my “killjoy” law professors.

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My legal internship with SALIGAN-Bikol had its peak last summer during the immersion program. We had to go and live with our clientele, the marginalized and the oppressed—particularly the peasant-folk. I got exposed to their plight and problems, and the state of the land reform program in the country. Even wrote an article about the experience which I printed in this blog and the Bicol Mail (The Social Function Doctrine, June 8, 2012). I still drop by the Banasi farm to visit my host family from time to time. I might continue to do so if work does not bring me farther away.

2. Nightfall at the Kamalig

I revived the T-Bloc Workshop late this year, and named it Tarusan Bloc Poetry Class. We have had two sessions so far. It’s a way for me to share with like-minded Bicol-based young writers what I know about poetics. Things I learned along the way: From oral prose and poetic traditions and from writers’ workshops. We are using my book “Pagsasatubuanan: Poetikang Bikolnon” as main source. Our vantage point therefore in learning various aesthetics is Bikol poetics. The workshop is for free and is held every month usually in my apartment. It’s a chance for me to interact with young writers, know their problems and issues, to be a friend to them. I also learn a lot from during the exchanges.

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I also noticed that there are various writing groups here in Bicol. There’s the Kabulig-Bikol which is currently doing some revival efforts after being silent for quite some time. The Tabaco-based ABKAT is still so active, holding the Albay Writing Workshop every summer plus other arts event. There is the campus-based Ateneo Literary Association (ALA), and of course the Tilad group. I just hope that said groups would continue to thrive and be more project-oriented. It would also be wise for them to adopt an attitude of non-exclusiveness. New talents must be nurtured and welcomed. Failure to do this would spell doomsday for any group. But of course different groups and factions are very much normal, and even healthy for any literary arts culture. It’s always fun to have different groups who are adverse to each other, each following a literary school of thought. It ensures competition and quality production.

And of course, the publications. Let me again list my printed works this year, just so we have it on record:

1. After “100” (Poetry, Philippines Graphic, May 7, 2012)
2. And Home is Not What I Find Each Christmas (Poetry, FEU English and Literature Journal, Volume 5)
3. Ang Hula (Tula, Paper Monster Press, Asuang Issue, August 2012)
4. Fiat Lux (Poetry, The Sunday Times Magazine, April 8, 2012)
5. Fiat Lux (Poetry, FEU English and Lit Journal, Volume 5)
6. Getting Paid (Poetry, The Sunday Times Magazine, April 8, 2012)
7. Hagbayon (Tula, Talaang Ginto Anthology, Winning Works 2007-2010)
8. I Love You But We Have No Divorce Law Here (Poetry, The Sunday Times Magazine, March 11, 2012)
9. Not Your Usual Writer’s Trip (Essay, Bicol Mail, December 20, 2012)
10. Opera (Rawitdawit, Ani 37, November 29, 2012)
11. Opera (Tula, Ani 37, November 29, 2012)
12. Pagsilung (Rawitdawit, Ani 37, November 29, 2012)
13. Panonood (Tula, Ani 37, November 29, 2012)
14. Passing by Baao (Poetry, The Sunday Times Magazine, March 11, 2012)
15. Passing by Baao (Poetry, FEU English and Lit Journal, Volume 5)
16. Some Beer and Planet Niburu (Poetry, The Sunday Times Magazine, April 8, 2012)
17. Supermaids (Tula, Talaang Ginto Anthology, Winning Works 2007-2010)
18. The Price of (Dis)Trust (Poetry, Philippine Panorama, March 25, 2012)
19. The Reunion (Poetry, FEU English and Lit Journal, Volume 5)
20. The Social Function Doctrine (Essay, Bicol Mail, June 8, 2012)
21. The Walk (Poetry, The Sunday Times Magazine, April 8, 2012)
22. The Walk (Poetry, FEU English and Lit Journal, Volume 5)
23. This is a Dream (Poetry, The Sunday Times Magazine, October 28, 2012)
24. Uniberso (Tula, Talaang Ginto Anthology, Winning Works 1999-2006)
25. Versosimo: Where the Word Binds Them All (Essay, Bicol Mail, April 26, 2012)
26. Versosimo: Where the Word Binds Them All (Essay, The Daily Tribune, August 1, 2012)
27. Wanting to Write a Poem (Poetry, Philippines Graphic, May 7, 2012)

I also discovered just this year that the poems “Opera” and “Pagtatanghal” were printed in the Philippines Graphic on March 12, 2007. And that my essay “The Bikol Berso and Balagtasismo” appeared in the Volume 1 Number 1 2008 issue of the Mabini Review, the philosophical journal of the Polytechnic University of the Philippines. I hope to get complimentary copies soon.
I think that a writer must publish or perish. Hence my propensity for continually sending works to various publications. Still there is dearth of literary outlets in this country. The Sunday Inquirer Magazine still has not revived its poetry section. Good thing that we still have The Sunday Times Magazine as edited by Elmer Ordoňez. The literary section of Philippines Graphic is still there as edited by Alma Anonas-Carpio. And for writers in Filipino and Tagalog, we still have Liwayway.

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Panitikan is still the portal for Philippine literature online. And the Makata as edited by Santiago Villafania is still publishing poetry with international magnitude.

Winning awards is the least of my priorities of course. I see it as mere icing on the cake, a mere stroke of luck or accident. But it is a duty of every writer to join contests if he has the proper material. And this year, I still got lucky and got an ego-boost by winning prizes. My poem in Tagalog/Filipino “Sa Naninibago” managed to win Karangalang-Banggit (Honorable Mention) in the prestigious Talaang Ginto contest sponsored by the Philippine government via Komisyon sa Wikang Filipino (KWF), a Constitutionally mandated institution. Two of my entries also managed to squeeze themselves in the recent Dionatext Kontra Depresyon contest, winning Honorable Mention (as usual). Let me print them again here:

Pagkatapos gumapang
Ng uod, kaibigan.
Nagiging alibangbang.

Unos ma’y rumagasa
At bumaha ng luha,
Palad ko’y iyong bangka.

The theme for the contest revolved on depression and how to combat and triumph against it. And the recent knock-out loss of Manny Pacquiao in the hands of his Mexican rival, Juan Manuel Marquez sure placed the entire country in manic depressive mode. So here’s something for Manny:

Huwag mababagabag
Dahil lang napabagsak.
Pacquiao, bilog ang bukas,
Di ring na parisukat.

By the way, I am still wondering why the organizers for the 2011 1st Annual Bicol Bloggy Awards were not able to send me my citation for the “Best Literature Blog” award. They must realize that I am entitled to it as a matter of right and they are legally obligated to send the same to me. I have demanded for it so many times, and they have in fact incurred legal delay.

This year, I still found time to attend some literary events. On January 31, 2012, my band The Super Poet Genome Project performed during the Su’pay at Aquinas University. I noticed that poetry readings must really adopt a proper program more so when it comes to the open-mic. The same must be on a first to come-first to read basis. During said event, some writers were not able to perform when the AdNU contingent arrived much later than our group but was allowed to read first. The host merely wanted the leader of the group to introduce his companions but he proceeded in hosting the ‘Ateneo Segment’ and made them read. And after said ‘segment’ they hurriedly left, leaving us there with my band in mid-performance. So much that it looked like a walk-out. After we listened to them, they did not listen to us. They left as a group so the venue was almost empty and the main host did not bother to call the other writer-readers anymore and proceeded in ending the program. In the WG, we strictly observe a first to come-first to read serve rule except for the featured writer. So that error by the organizers was so obvious for us.

I heard that they were in a hurry to go back to Naga because of some permit constraints. We understand that but the funny thing is we arrived in Naga first. They could have waited for the program to finish because it was about to end anyway. If they were planning to leave early, then they should have arrived early, and not barge in the middle of the program, perform, and leave like some wannabe rockstars. My companions were really hurt by that.

Another literary event I went into was a blogging seminar at the Central Bicol State University of Agriculture-Calabanga College of Education on Oct. 5, 2012. I was asked to discuss the use of the internet in literary practice. I made it a point to share my research on the history of publishing in the Bicol region. I also shared the use of e-mail, e-groups, message boards, web sites, blogs and social-networking in my writing activities.

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Most of the WG was held at Sosimo Bar so we dubbed it as VerSosimo. We had a gig on February 21, March 4 (Anniversary Gig), March 25, and we supported the April-May Bikol Slam as organized by my writer-friend Ronel Amata. We also had a WG in June, but after it we have not scheduled a new gig as of late due to the decline in attendance.The usual reason is that they are busy. I think that a real writer is never too busy. But if busyness is the business, then so be it.

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But busy or not, I was excited to attend the ANI 37 launch on November 29, 2012. Just wrote an article about it. Just read it here. We sure loved the experience and the adventure.

Happy new year everyone! Please don’t fire guns.

Been thinking about name-calling as an element of power relations specially in the case of the Tsinoy. In the area of politics, opposing parties resort to name-calling to cut the opponent down to size instead of engaging him in a level-headed and head-on debate. And in the Philippine setting, it could even lead to disastrous consequences. One party might just decide to bring the animosity to a more physical level and resort to arms.

In political and literary theory, name-calling is seen as an articulation of power-relations. As early as the Spanish era, it was postulated that name-calling or “bansag” was a way for the subjugated to get even with the colonizers. There was even a “patood” that goes this way: “Duwang kastila/Nagboborobintana.”

The answer to that is of course mucus in a runny nose. It could be a way for the Bikolnon peasant folk to “hit back” at their Castillan hacienderos who would merely look at them from their windows while the former toiled in the farms. Name-calling is then a product of class struggle and an adversarial culture. In the realm of psychology, it could be a sign of immaturity on the part of the name-caller.

Being so, name-calling is a “no-no” in the academic setting. Aside from the aforementioned implications, it is tantamount to bullying and psychological violence. It results to animosities. It is also a hindrance to learning hence should never be resorted to by the students, and more importantly, by the teachers.

Our penal code has a provision on libel and slander, the former particularizing on written or published while the latter on oral defamation. Article 353 defines libel in general:

“Art. 353. Definition of libel.A libel is public and malicious imputation of a crime, or of a vice or defect, real or imaginary, or any act, omission, condition, status, or circumstance tending to cause the dishonor, discredit, or contempt of a natural or juridical person, or to blacken the memory of one who is dead.

Articles 358 and 359 provide for slander:

Art. 358. Slander. — Oral defamation shall be punished by arresto mayor in its maximum period to prision correccional in its minimum period if it is of a serious and insulting nature; otherwise the penalty shall be arresto menor or a fine not exceeding 200 pesos.

Art. 359. Slander by deed. — The penalty of arresto mayor in its maximum period to prision correccional in its minimum period or a fine ranging from 200 to 1,000 pesos shall be imposed upon any person who shall perform any act not included and punished in this title, which shall cast dishonor, discredit or contempt upon another person. If said act is not of a serious nature, the penalty shall be arresto menor or a fine not exceeding 200 pesos.”

Likewise, the Civil Code has a provision on the matter:

“Art. 26. Every person shall respect the dignity, personality, privacy and peace of mind of his neighbors and other persons. The following and similar acts, though they may not constitute a criminal offense, shall produce a cause of action for damages, prevention and other relief:

(1) Prying into the privacy of another’s residence:

(2) Meddling with or disturbing the private life or family relations of another;

(3) Intriguing to cause another to be alienated from his friends;

(4) Vexing or humiliating another on account of his religious beliefs, lowly station in life, place of birth, physical defect, or other personal condition.

And under Article 33 of the Civil Code cases of defamation can be subject of an independent civil action (from the criminal case):

“Art. 33. In cases of defamation, fraud, and physical injuries a civil action for damages, entirely separate and distinct from the criminal action, may be brought by the injured party. Such civil action shall proceed independently of the criminal prosecution, and shall require only a preponderance of evidence.”

Name-calling could fall under the purview of the above provisions and could be subject of a criminal and civil case. And under Art. 26 of the Civil Code, it falls within the purview of the fourth provision on vexing or humiliating on account of other personal condition, and could be a ground for damages, particularly moral damages and exemplary damages. Surely, name-calling could result to “mental anguish.” And said civil action could be proceeded with independent of the criminal case.

So how does name-calling affect Tsinoys? For instance, the teacher keeps on twisting the Chinese-sounding name of the student to make it sound ridiculous. It could humiliate the student for in our culture, one’s family name must be defended by all means being something we inherited from our forefathers. It could also have repercussions on racism. And as we said name-calling is merely a manifestation of power-relations which can be traced back to history.

CALABANGA LECTURE

October 5, 2012

Tired as a dog but to sleep as a god. Today was kinda tough. Had a case to report (Llorente v. CA), sample pleadings to submit and a blogging lecture to attend to. Needless to say, I spent the previous night working on the powerpoint presentation. I thought it would only take me a few minutes but I was wrong. I started to have these ideas, something natural to me, literary theories. Just had to start with oral tradition and how it interplays with print and electronic media. Also had to read “Cyberpoetry: Words in Battlefields,” an essay I wrote in 2000. And then I just had to add a blog-making demo.

Will have to catch up on the pleadings since I had to be at CBSUA-Calabanga by 2PM. I did miss the lectures of Jusan Misolas and Rea Robles, there was just too much work to be done. Besides I have never been to Calabanga, hence I could not make an estimate as to the travel time. I even had to ask around when I got there. But it’s nice to be in the countryside once in a while. The place should really have an agricultural college.

After class, the Muse invited me to her place. She cooked something, chicken adobo with diced bananas. One hearty way to spend the later part of the day.

CHILLING EFFECT

October 2, 2012

A law professor shared with us the contention of Fr. Joaquin Bernas with regard the RA 10175 or the Anti-Cybercrime Law. It confirmed my initial understanding that indeed, said law violates our rule on double jeopardy being that after being charged under said law, prosecution for RPC crimes are not barred. This, notwithstanding that conviction under said law would mean a penalty one degree higher than that provided for in the RPC.Our country is a signatory to a treaty that seeks to decriminalize libel. So with this law, we are in effect dishonoring said international agreement. The provision that provides for seizure of data based on a prima facie finding by the Justice Secretary without need for warrant was also reacted upon.

It is contended that only an amendment will cure the defects of RA 10175, and not IRRs from administrative bodies. But then again I ask: Is the chilling effect that it gives tantamount to “prior restraint”?

 

CURSORY READING OF RA 10175

September 27, 2012

I have been thinking of what constitutes “prior restraint”. I really have to read the RA 10175 in detail to make up my mind. Although my opinion would be just a speck of immaterial dust because it is the Supreme Court that is the final arbiter whether a law is constitutional or not. The findings of the High Court may not be law and a mere interpretation of what the law is, but still, it is part of our legal system.

I have been thinking that RA 10175 specialized libel, in the sense that there is now electronic libel. The thing is, since the passing of the electronic evidence rule, electronic libel has always been possible. Only this time, with this new law, it has become more specialized.

Since the Revised Penal Code provision on libel has always been there, will this new law constitute “prior restraint”? For one, our law on libel has never been seen as “prior restraint” at least, not according to jurisprudence.

You see in the Chavez case the DOJ and the NTC was warning media entities that continued airing of the “Hello Garci” tape would violate the Anti-Wiretapping Law hence they threatened said entities with closure and arrest. In that case, the “prior restraint” or censorship was the warning, while the threat of closure and arrest constituted “subsequent punishment”. We all know that the SC ruled against such “warning” even if it did not come in the form of official government issuance or order. It was after-all done in furtherance of government function and was threatening to violate freedom of the press. The Court even ruled that granting that the continued airing of the tapes could lead to a possible breach of the Anti-Wiretapping Law, said “warning” was never justified. It constituted “prior restraint.” The only justification would be if there is “clear and present danger”.

In other words, the Court was saying: “Let them do their job, and if they violate the anti-wiretapping law, then so be it. They could be prosecuted later. You just have no business telling them to shut up.”

Now we have to look at RA 10175 if it has the same effect as the “prior restraint” in the Chavez case which came as a “warning” from administrative bodies.

Now reading the RA 10175 itself, we can see that it has provisions on cybercrime offenses against the confidentiality, integrity and availability of computer data systems such as data interference, cybersquatting, illegal interception, etc. It has something on fraud, identity theft, cybersex, child pornography, and of course, libel.

The provision on libel reads: “Libel. — The unlawful or prohibited acts of libel as defined in Article 355 of the Revised Penal Code, as amended, committed through a computer system or any other similar means which may be devised in the future.”

You see, it specialized libel, in effect making it electronic libel.

And here is the provision that they say would make you think twice before doing an FB click or share: “Aiding or Abetting in the Commission of Cybercrime. – Any person who willfully abets or aids in the commission of any of the offenses enumerated in this Act shall be held liable.”

This one makes electronic libel a heavier offense than libel as a felony, or as punished by the RPC: “All crimes defined and penalized by the Revised Penal Code, as amended, and special laws, if committed by, through and with the use of information and communications technologies shall be covered by the relevant provisions of this Act: Provided, That the penalty to be imposed shall be one (1) degree higher than that provided for by the Revised Penal Code, as amended, and special laws, as the case may be.”

Hence if you commit Inciting to War and Giving Motives for Reprisals via FB by telling China to “Get it on! We are ready to slug it out with you. Our OFWs there will start the fight!” (Of course, I don’t really mean this. Just an example) the FB status will be the electronic evidence as saved via “print screen”. And you will be imposed a higher penalty if found guilty beyond reasonable doubt.

And of course, there is the warrant requirement (without prejudice to provisions of law allowing for warrantless arrests and searches, of course): “Exclusionary Rule. — Any evidence procured without a valid warrant or beyond the authority of the same shall be inadmissible for any proceeding before any court or tribunal.”

I agree that indeed many provisions are vague specially those pertaining to who aids or abets in cybercrime and how. Hence there is the provision on the IRR: “Implementing Rules and Regulations. — The ICTO-DOST, the DOJ and the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) shall jointly formulate the necessary rules and regulations within ninety (90) days from approval of this Act, for its effective implementation.”

Hmmm… So far there is nothing similar to that “warning” in the Chavez case. There is no warning for example, that if we post on FB scurrilous libels against China, tending to involve the country in a war with it and tending to expose our citizens there for reprisals on their persons and property, we shall be committing Inciting to War and Giving Motives for Reprisals hence we must be restrained from posting anything. Else, we will be arrested or our PCs or netbooks, confiscated. Nothing of that sort. Only that this law makes the law on libel so much fiercer.

How will the Court rule on the petitions?

Abangan ang susunod na kabanata.

THE PROBLEM WITH RA 10175

September 26, 2012

Too much law books made me forget about the news. It was only last night when I learned that RA 10175 or the CyberCrime Prevention Act of 2012 has been passed into law. I have been hearing about it and thought that it was only a bill. But mistaken I was, for it is now a law. And dura lex sed lex.

But Article 7 of the Civil Code provides that a law must conform to the Constitution else it could be nullified.

So many writers are questioning the validity of this law. I for one blogged earlier that the measure ought to be unconstitutional because there is a fundamental prohibition to any law that would violate freedom of speech and expression. True enough, there are now petitions calling for its unconstitutionality. From what I have read in one petition, RA 10175 makes the convict liable for libel both as a cybercrime and as a felony (as punished by the Revised Penal Code). There is definitely something wrong with that given our rule regarding double jeopardy. This is aside from the fact that the 1987 Constitution as explicated in the case of Chavez v. Gonzales provides for a two-fold rule when it comes to Freedom of Speech and Expression. Namely, there must be: 1.) Freedom from prior restraint, and 2.) Freedom from subsequent punishment.

And I learned that Sen. Guingona was the lone dissenter, invoking the above doctrine.

In my limited knowledge of the law, I know that with the RPC provision on libel notwithstanding, there is always an allowance for the so-called “Doctrine of Fair Comment.” Well-placed and well-constructed criticism is always welcome in a democratic society. The law on libel is there, perhaps just to discourage people from bringing the law into their own hands by verbally maligning those who have wronged them. It then prods people to use the machinery of the legal system to attain justice.

The more important issue now is what constitutes “prior restraint”? In the Chavez case, it was the Justice Secretary and the NTC’s warnings to the media that continued airing of the scandalous “Hello Garci” tape shall be a violation of the Anti-Wiretapping Act, hence a ground for closure and arrest. Would a duly enacted law on cybercrime or electronic libel constitute “prior restraint”?

But in the Chavez case the Supreme Court ruled that not every violation of the law will justify straitjacketing the exercise of freedom of speech and of the press. The government must prove “clear and present danger”. And there was no showing that the feared violation of the anti-wiretapping law clearly endangers the national security of the State. Hence the DOJ and NTC warnings constituted “prior restraint” as they were delivered as part of official government function. The act does not have to be converted to a formal order or official circular to be considered a breach of press freedom.

Is a possible commission of electronic libel enough to restrain bloggers and social networkers from printing strongly-worded statements on issues they care about? Is there “clear and present danger” that the government would collapse because of it? In the case of Chavez, it was a mere order and yet it was shot down. In the case of RA 10175, it is not just an order, but a law, for that matter. Definitely, it comes under the purview of official government function and inherent State power which is law-making or police power. And Article Three of the Constitution or the Bill of Rights is addressed to the State and its agents. It is a provision that would safeguard the people from possible government overstep on private rights.

CRAM SESSION

September 21, 2012

Something seems to be wrong with the wifi connection at law school. I cannot get in. Or maybe my netbook has a virus lurking somewhere. Good thing that Naga City has so many hotspots.

Been getting up early. I have so many things to read and digest. And I figure, getting up at dawn is the more poetic way of working on my laws.

All quiet at the Eastern part, to paraphrase a great novel.

Perhaps we will push through with the WG on the 29th. I was feeling kinda lazy because I have so much work. And there is this plan by Kabulig that there will be a performance poetry gig on the 29th, same venue as mine. I learned about it from the manager of Sosimo. He told me that someone’s arranging to use their venue also. I was thinking of consolidating the two events, but now I learned that the Kabulig event is postponed. So if things work out with the sponsor, we will have WG on the 29th at Almaree’s. Will update you readers.

I wrote this new poem entitled “Cram Session”. It’s about the Robredo tragedy. I sent it to a magazine for possible publication. I really hope it gets printed. Fingers crossed.

 

AFTERSHOCKS

September 3, 2012

Earthquakes everywhere. There was another one in Mindanao just after the Visayas episode. And also somewhere in the Middle East, in Iran, particularly. Shaking, shaking, the earth is shaking.

Freedom of Information Bill. Indeed it is provided in the 1987 Constitution that the law must provide for the right of the people to transparent governance. The people must have the right to check or investigate, if need be, the paper trail of government transactions except those provided by law to be really confidential such as things of national security or those covered by executive privilege. And of course, the ever-famous SALN. I am totally for this law.

But the anti-blogging law? A big no no. For one, it surely is unconstitutional. It is well-settled that freedom of the press is inviolable. There must be no prior restraint.

I really intend to attend the Ani 37 launch in October. I just hope that my schedule will permit. I miss the CCP complex. I should also like to see Mr. Hermie Beltran again. It has been three years since I submitted works for Ani. Also, I read in our exchanges at FB that Mr. Ariel Tabag will host our beermatch. I think other contributors will tag along. Perhaps it will be in some unassuming watering hole near CCP. Something to look forward to.

Palanca hang-over, yes. Congratulations to the winners this year. Perhaps I should prepare my entries early for next year, for soon it will be bar review. Cramming won’t be the rule. I have been really busy with other things except writing. My Talaang Ginto win last summer was totally unexpected. You see, I sent an entry only because Koyang Jess Ferrer of KWF sort of asked me to.  Besides, I have been writing English poetry again. I think I have enough works in Bikol-Naga, Iriganon and Filipino already. Besides, when I started writing, I wrote in English.

For me, literary practice must be compleat. Meaning, the task of the writer is to find his voice, philosophy and culture base. He must be a writer for the people, not some weird snob who avoids the crowd. He must be willing to share his skills with other writers, specially the young and upcoming. He must publish regularly in magazines, journals and anthologies. He must come up with books from time to time. He must think of unique projects to promote his art. He must write because he is a writer not because he wants to win awards. Such motivation is infantile if not self-serving.

Imagine the walk: The sharp air and scorching sun, the hot cemented road as mirror of heat, cheap rubber slippers almost melting. The cool wind and soft earth of farm life albeit slowly drifting away, could have been the only thing that provided for them a mirage of hope, at least in their minds. It was in December of 2008 when the Banasi Farmers had their 444-kilometer ‘Baklay’ or walk from Barangay Pawili, Bula, Camarines Sur to Malacanang. Four years hence, both the administrative case before the DAR (Department of Agrarian Reform) and the judicial matter before the RTC (Regional Trial Court) are still pending resolution. A reprise of the Sumilao Farmers’ walk, it also brought to public consciousness the same issue: The implementation of our Agrarian Reform Program.

“Sadi nako namulat. Ading baluy ko 1980’s pa di, alagad diri ko mapa-finising ta adi nganing kaso,” (I have always known this place. My house has been here since the 1980’s but I cannot do finishing touches because the case is still pending.) says Jesus Clavero, one of the farmer-beneficiaries of the Certificate of Land Ownership Award (CLOA) of a 123-hectare land in the Banasi area. The families are supposed to be given 1.7 hectare each. Their title however, is constantly being assailed by the Fajardo family.

Various non-government organizations supported them in their cause. They also found an ally in the person of the late “Ka Rene” Peňas of PAKISAMA who also led the Sumilao Farmers. “Maboot iyang tawo. Tatao makisama dawa kiisay. Tatao magseryoso, tatao magpatawa. Mahilig sa videoke. Kaya ku mabadil iya ku pag-uli niya sa Mindanao, namundo ako,” (He was a kind person. Able to adjust to people. He can be serious, as he can be funny. He loves the videoke. So when he was shot when he returned to Mindanao, I was saddened.) Jesus Clavero adds.

Communing with the Farmers

The SALIGAN-Bikol (Sentro ng Alternatibong Lingap Panligal) is also one of the NGO’s that are rendering support to the Banasi Farmers. The group serves as their legal arm, helping them on the side of litigation. This writer, together with two other SALIGAN interns spent four (4) days from May 20 to May 23, 2012 with the farmers, communing with them so as to understand their economic, social and legal standpoint. We ate with them, bathe in their water-source, experienced their daily farm-work, shared stories with them, advised them on legal matters when we can. We lived with them for only this way can we appreciate fully their legal standing.

The law protects the concept of property ownership, but likewise regulates it. This is due to the social function of property. Property ownership has a social function in such that property owners are obligated to maximize the use of their property not only for themselves but for others as well. National food security and social security are just some of the purposes of the agrarian reform program. Agricultural lands must be utilized to the maximum to ensure sufficient food production. Agricultural lands must be accessible to those who have talent in farming as not everybody is endowed with a green thumb. This also allows for farmers to have their own livelihood as giving them the opportunity to own lands would inspire them to produce more. But this must come with government support on infrastructure, credit, farm extension, legal assistance, electrification and development of rural institutions. The land owner is also justly compensated, and the farmer-beneficiaries disallowed from selling the land acquired through the program, but only with some exceptions provided by law.

Agrarian Dispute

The oldest of the peasant-folk in Banasi is Publio Clavero, now 85 years old. He was among those who joined the ‘Baklay’ of 2008. He was hospitalized when the group got to Lucena, but somehow, he survived the long walk. He lived to tell the tale that this legal battle started in 1972. But their story started much earlier, when the Fajardo family allowed the farmers, then comprised of only four families, to live in Banasi and till the land. When the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program was implemented, and with the Banasi Farmers as applicants, the relationship between the Fajardos and the farmers turned sour. Jesus Clavero, now 59, and son of Publio says: “Sabi kuno ku gurang na Fajardo: Ka ginibo ninyo, bagana ninyo ko sinuntok, kaya bumabalus ako kaninyo,” (The old Fajardo patriarch is said to have stated: Because of what you did, it is like as if you punched me. I will have my revenge.)

“Pero nguwan, maray naman kintana su mga Fajardo, kaya lang, ading Gaite na namanugang kanda ana desidido na ipadagos a kaso,” (But now the Fajardos have mellowed down, it is Gaite who married into the Fajardo family, who is determined to pursue the case) Jesus Clavero adds.

Currently, there is an ejectment case pending before the RTC against the Banasi Farmers. But the determination by the Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR) whether or not the Banasi farm is covered by the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Law (CARL) serves as a sort of a prejudicial question for the determination of the ejectment case. The Fajardos are contending that the Banasi farm cannot be covered by the agrarian reform law since they claim that said area is a grazing land for cattle. They appealed before the Office of the President for the purpose. The administrative case is still awaiting resolution. The law provides that agricultural lands are covered by the agrarian reform program, while grazing lands are not.

Farm Life

Life in the Banasi Farm is simple. The house of Jesus Clavero is near the ‘salog’ or river which runs down from Mount Isarog. You wake up early at around 5AM, drink fresh water from the earthen jar or tapayan, and go through the daily obstacle course of trees, grass and cascading path of earth and stones going down the river for a bath. Then there’s the farm work: The rice paddies, sugar cane plantations (Banasi is near PENSUMIL, a sugar factory), fruit-bearing trees and some livestock (goats and cows) and poultry (chickens, swans and ducks) to take care of. You will not go hungry there as high-grade rice is abundant as well as fruits and freshly-picked vegetables. Huge damulags or carabaos abound the place, but they are nice enough to give way when you are passing by the dirt road where they stand. Guard dogs keep their watch specially during the night when everybody has gone to bed and the place is pitch black. There is the kamalig and the farm hut where people do deskanso or take their break from farm work. It is also a place where they gather to tell stories and discuss social issues.

The Banasi Farmers are a socially aware lot. One night there was a thunderstorm and the lightning exploded near our roof. We were not sure if it was the lightning or the wind that broke the TV antennae down. But I saw the two old men, Manuy Jesus and his cousin Manuy Galdo seriously fixing the antennae the next day. So I approached them to offer help. Their backs at me, I heard the latter say in a soft voice, almost a whisper: “Mabayad ta sana si Corona.” (Just so we could see Corona.)