OPINION


EDITORIAL


Noise pollution


YOU go to bed late in the night to meet a deadline the following morning and only barely a quarter of an hour that you start snoring, out from your window comes the ear-splitting sound of a motorcycle blazing the main street of a residential district that you live in. Will you not blow your top and curse the heavens because for eons now nothing is being done to solve this simple problem of catching the perpetrator and show him the prison cell where he belongs, at least for the rest of the night?

For our policemen, our lousy law enforcers, to know, there is Ordinance No. 2008-053 authored by City Councilor Salvador M. Del Castillo, passed by the Sangguniang Panglunsod, and approved by then City Mayor Jesse M. Robredo, which until now has never been repealed, which means that it is very much in force. As early as in pre-Spanish times, when the natives of this land were far more civilized, it was a crime to whistle, or indulge in an activity that disturbs the silence and serenity of the night where the felon is meted with physical punishment, or extra work for the community the next morning.

The said city hall-crafted measure, entitled “An ordinance prohibiting noise in the City of Naga,” declares as a policy that noise is a public nuisance and poses danger to the health of the people.

Specifically, it disallows and deems as a violation of law, the use, among others, of modified motorcyles and modified mufflers that emit sound (noise) of more than 80 decibles while plying the streets of Naga.

A modified muffler, ironically, means a device attached to a motor vehicle, changed in form and character, on which a sound booster and other sound emitting devices are installed in order to increase noise volume. A modified motorcycle, on the other hand, is a motorcycle where the manufacturer’s original design is altered to produce unnecessary, discordant, and blaring sound which annoys, disturbs, distracts, or offends the senses. The same ordinance provides fines and penalties for violators with P5,000 and 60 days’ imprisonment as maximum.

One late night at a funeral parlor along Penafrancia Avenue here, while everyone was mourning, a motorcycle sped through with its blaring sound that seemed to have awakened the whole neighborhood. But that wasn’t enough because two other more motorcycles with its blaring exhaust systems soon followed. What was worse was that those motorcycles were passing through and back a police station which is only a few meters away from the funeral parlor. Was anyone apprehended? None. The cops on the block must have been deep in their sleep, or are simply ignorant of their duties. “Nagtuturog na naman sa pansitan”, an exasperated observer would say. Are there no other responsible officers or public officials ready to help curb this problem? For them to know, these modified motorcycles that continue to increase in number are plying night and day the many busy and crowded streets of the city. And we have over 200 cops to arrest them, including the hundreds more of barangay officials and tanods who are supposed to be on their beat – on the streets – to keep the city peaceful and safe.

Again, speaking of the local police, there have been confirmed and unconfirmed reports of young students being forcibly taken away by van-riding suspects. The recent incident was about a student of Naga Hope Christian School late last week. The report said a man in black van grabbed the student while about to cross a street toward a bank near the rotunda along Panganiban Avenue. In clear daylight, the little boy was pushed inside the van and punched out but was able to free himself by kicking the man who sat by the van’s door and made good his escape. Did you know where that incident happened? Yes, near the rotunda as mentioned, where a few steps away is a safely ensconced Police Station 1.

Indeed, when no police could ever catch an errant rider of a motorcycle with its blaring sound that puts to shame the wailing sirens of an ambulance, how could we expect them to collar a thief, a kidnapper, or a perpetrator of a more serious crime? Gee whiz, these lousy cops are so pathetic!


Dateline seattle | Greg S. Castilla, Ph. D.

Walk beside me and be my friend


This is my first article in Bikol Mail for 2017. For weeks I could not figure out what to write about because of so many pressing issues occupying my mind. They are mostly political in nature, ranging from the future of refugees and immigrants under the administration of the unpredictable Donald Trump to the proposed transfer of the US embassy in Israel to Jerusalem – a move that could trigger more bloodbaths in the Middle East. The ongoing extra-judicial killings in the Philippines and the possibility of Bongbong Marcos stealing the vice-presidency from Leni Robredo through legal machinations continue to bother me.

On a personal level, the thought of how my grandchildren will be treated in a society like America that appears to be getting more intolerant of diversity is a cause of concern.

Faced by these innumerable vicissitudes in life, I thought I would write about a topic that is “politically neutral,” something that is not offensive, yet strikes the heart of anyone just the same: Friendship.

For quite sometime now, I’ve observed how Facebook has redefined the meaning of friendship. With one click on the computer key board, one can easily meet new friends online. There is excitement in being able to chat and share experiences with another person one hardly knows, although at times information shared are not true but meant to deceive the other person.

With the amount of time that so-called friends spend on Facebook chatting, there is no doubt in my mind that these persons will develop a bond of sorts. But sometimes I wonder if the bond will last, especially if one is not even sure if the personal profile one posts on Facebook is real or not.

Sometimes, I am even surprised that by just one click, one can unfriend a friend. It tells me that they are not really friends but just pretenders.

The kind of friendship that the social media is promoting these days is a far cry from the kind of friendship that my generation has experienced.

It was the late Muhammad Ali who said that “friendship is the hardest thing in the world to explain. It’s not something you learn in school. But if you haven’t learned the meaning of friendship, you really haven’t learned anything.”

Indeed, friendship is the hardest thing to explain because it takes time to develop. It also takes patience and sincerity. It cannot be artificially created by some social media tools like Facebook, where one’s photos, status or personal updates are given more emphasis and importance than what really matters like personal disposition or personal values. Friendship comes with being open to all that could happen – good or bad. It is not, as someone anonymous said, “about people who act true to your face. It’s about people who remain true behind your face.”

Friendship is often based, or should I say, starts with common connections. Then it develops into what I can do for the other person. I call it a blessing if the doing-to-the-other-person stuff is mutual and lasts forever. But sometimes it doesn’t. There are the fair-weather friends who flee at the sight of any problems or difficulties. When you need them the most, they are nowhere to be found.

Some are lucky to have friends – childhood friends, high school friends, and professional friends – who have stayed with them through thick and thin. They have become their drinking buddies, wedding sponsors, email and text pals, confidants, and supporters in one’s advocacies. They are true and tested friends who are always there for you in the best of times and in the worst of times.

Some people become friends because they like each other’s company. Others become chums because of common experiences and interests.

Aristotle, one of the greatest philosophers, once said, “Without friends no one would choose to live, though he had all other goods.”

Back in his time, Aristotle had already thought about the power of friendship. Thus, friendship cannot be taken for granted. It serves like a well that one can draw support from. It can also serve like a spring that provides life, without which human relationship is devoid of meaning. Life without a friend is death without a witness, is how a Spanish proverb puts it.

During our golden high school reunion last year, I noticed with my high school friends their need to feel connected. They enjoyed talking about their shared values and interests. They enjoyed drinking together. It is as if they wanted to just hang out with one another and spend time together.

Laura Carstensen, a Stanford University psychologist, developed an influential theory called “socio-emotional selectivity”: As people sense that their time is near, they shed superficial relationships to concentrate on those they find most meaningful.

“They invest more in their remaining connections,” observed Gary Kennedy, director of geriatric psychiatry at Montefiore Medical Center. On a similar note, I am reminded of what Albert Camus wrote, “Don’t walk behind me; I may not lead. Don’t walk in front of me; I may not follow. Just walk beside me and be my friend.”

I am a witness to this truism as my high school buddies intensely talk of getting together more often, now that the members of our batch are nearing the “fields where roses fade.”



The Philippines on world’s stage


THERE’S no doubt that the recently concluded Miss Universe Beauty Pageant held in Metro Manila has catapulted the Philippines in the world’s stage. The pageant which was shown on television in more than 20 nations throughout the world has projected the Philippines as a tourist destination in this part of the Asia Pacific. The Miss Universe organizers should receive kudos for staging the preliminary events in Cebu, Boracay, and Bohol for all the world to see the Philippines as one of the best tourist attractions. Although Filipina candidate Maxine Medina did not make it to the three finalists, we should take pride in her being included in the Final Six. We know that she did her best even in the pre-pageant competition. I am sure that she and all the other candidates who participated in the event are now savoring the good memories they had in our country. We should also give kudos to the Duterte administration for the security measures implemented by the police authorities which rendered the event free from disruption and harm. Let’s look forward to another international event in our country like that of the Miss Universe Pageant in the near future.

Last January 20 to 24, my spouse Minda, daughter Gigi, and grandchildren Sam, Arlo and Tonie had the opportunity to have our family bonding at the exclusive Anvaya Cove Resort in Subic, Morong, Bataan. The place is facing the Pacific Ocean with white sandy beach and about five hours trip from Metro Manila. Although the place is open to the public, the resort is operated by a membership club and in order to be able to make use of the facilities of the club one should either be a member or a guest of a member. We were there as guests of Gov. Aurelio Umali of Nueva Ecija who is a friend of Gigi and we stayed at his Villa which is about five minutes’ drive from the beach resort. It was indeed an opportunity for family bonding and unwinding which I will forever treasure.


TRIVIA: Thanks to my AdeNU high school class ‘54 batch mates Rufo “Tuts” Tuy, Jr., Belindo “Endoy” Tordilla and Jose “Peping” Faviner for the fun and joy they shared with their batch mates and spouses on the occasion of their respective birthday anniversary last Sunday at the Bob Marlin Resto-Bar.


QUOTATION OF THE WEEK: “SOME MEN SEE THINGS AS THEY ARE AND SAY WHY. I DREAM THINGS THAT NEVER WERE AND SAY, WHY NOT.” EDWARD M. KENNEDY FOR OUR WORD OF LIFE: “THE JUST MAN’S SACRIFICE IS MOST PLEASING, NOR WILL IT EVER BE FORGOTTEN.” SIRACH 36:6




CHOSKO | Luis Ruben M. General

Lawbreaker gov’t no better than felon it wishes to get rid of

I’M sorry to admit that I didn’t get what lawyer Bryan Dennis Gabito Tiojanco was saying about lawyers not knowing that President Duterte “represents a legal principle that springs from a widely shared intuition” (“What lawyers don’t get about Duterte,” Opinion, 1/5/17). And that legal principle is necessitas legem non habet, meaning, necessity knows no law.

Although maybe this principle was “endorsed” by some of history’s great statesmen, what the author did not say is that it is a medieval concept, articulated first by St. Augustine, and debated upon by the philosophers of his time, including some popes, but made applicable not to state actors but to people who are precisely the victims of society’s injustice, if not government’s oppression.

A man whose family is starving can be justified under this principle to break into a house to steal food. Poverty knows no law, it is argued. Shades of Jean Valjean in “Les Misérables” which Victor Hugo made into a long-running argument for necessitas (but not anymore when he stole church articles from a convent for which he was nonetheless forgiven by the priest).

The principle somehow stayed as private law until Machiavelli made it as a recommended practice for his Prince, and which Hitler later made as his own justification in slaughtering Jews “to defend the Motherland”—the same words used by Tiojanco in explaining the principle which could as well be the same justification for Mr. Duterte’s “If you destroy my country, I will kill you.” Which then obviously makes the principle very dangerous if government, rather than its victims, invokes it.

Government then, contrary to its very nature, would be ironically advocating lawlessness. Even out of whatever necessity, grave or extreme, when government itself breaks the law, it would be no better than the criminal it wishes to eliminate. Government can never be justified to disregard the very laws that it has sworn to enforce or the Constitution that created it.

Necessitas was never intended for government or the powerful to appeal to. Law, or specifically the Constitution, grants power and at the same time limits it. While it is true that our Constitution recognizes necessity (not the necessitas principle though, which should be distinguished), it is necessity exercised within the bounds of the law, not necessity in defiance of the law. After all, the three inherent powers of government—police power, eminent domain and taxation—are all motivated by necessity. But limited always by constitutional precepts. Never the extrajudicial kind.

Even in the US war on terror, extrajudicial means have always been delicately approached, with former president Barack Obama insisting that “enhanced interrogation”—meaning, torture of suspected terrorists—must be avoided, and that government should not stoop down to the level of terrorists, necessity or even Donald Trump notwithstanding. Ever the constitutional law professor, Obama knew what Justice Louis Brandeis said of the government as “the omnipresent teacher” that teaches the people by example, and “if it becomes a lawbreaker, it breeds contempt for law, it invites every man to become a law unto himself, it breeds anarchy.”

Or do we rather welcome authoritarianism “with thunderous applause,” if that is the “shared intuition” or the popular demand?

Tiojanco knows that no dictatorship lasts, and eventually all responsible will face reckoning; and that’s probably the reason he calls on Congress and the Supreme Court to grant “legality” to Mr. Duterte’s extrajudicial methods in dealing with a perceived necessity. Indeed, after five and a half years, Duterte will be swamped with all the nasty cases, and that would include his PNP chief, some of his Cabinet members, etc. So the law, after all, which necessitas denigrates, will then be another refuge for scoundrels.

At any rate, our Supreme Court—when it was at its highest in the national esteem after its reorganization post-Edsa—(speaking through the revered Justice Pedro Yap) shot down all logic and practicality of the necessitas principle in a case (Aberca vs Ver) finding Marcos henchman, Gen. Fabian Ver, liable for damages to their victims: “In times of great upheaval or of social and political stress, when the temptation is strongest to yield—borrowing the words of Chief Justice Claudio Teehankee—to take the law of force rather than the force of law, it is necessary to remind ourselves that certain basic rights and liberties are immutable and cannot be sacrificed to the transient needs or imperious demands of the ruling power. The rule of law must prevail, or else liberty will perish. Our commitment to democratic principles and to the rule of law compels us to reject the view which reduces law to nothing but the expression of the will of the predominant power in the community. Democracy cannot be a reign of progress, of liberty, of justice, unless the law is respected by him who makes it and by him for whom it is made.”

The author is a practicing lawyer here in Naga City and is a columnist on leave of the Bicol Mail. He teaches constitutional law at the University of Nueva Caceres. This article was first published in the January 30, 2017 issue of the Philippine Daily Inquirer.




“With Autism,” not “Autistic”

“Misunderstanding is generally simpler than true understanding, and hence has more potential for popularity.” - Raheel Farooq


If you happen to be around downtown Naga or in any major city this Saturday, you may run across Angels Walk for Autism, brought together by Autism Society Philippines (ASP) and trod through main streets simultaneously in major areas across the Philippines. It is an annual advocacy event that has been held since 2007, with a growing number of participants. In Naga, it would start from Plaza Quezon; pass through Panganiban Drive, and culminate with a program at SM City Activity Center. “Over the last 10 years, it has become the kick-off event of the Philippine National Autism Consciousness Week”, which officially occurs every third week of January since 1996 by virtue of Presidential Proclamation 711, signed by then President Fidel V. Ramos, with the intent of increasing awareness on autism and its effects, as well as its early identification, and ensuring immediate intervention.

Now then, how much awareness does the public have of autism?

NO, Persons with autism do not live in a world of their own. Neither are they cold or lack empathetic feelings. They may be non-verbal (or they may not speak conventionally intelligibly), or have communication delays, or many of them may have difficulty engaging in conventional social interactions, but this does not mean that a person with autism is inevitably, helplessly oblivious to the concerns of the social environment. Although there is some difficulty and eccentricity, some persons with autism could engage in meaningful social relations. A person with autism expresses empathy, although it is channeled in a manner that is difficult to recognize. Freddie Odom is a person with autism, an American who in 2010, was elected to serve on the City Council, in Bluffton, Georgia. Prior to this, he had been an actor, author and teacher. (mentalhealthdaily.com) Now, does that sound like a person who lives in his own world?

NO. Persons with autism do not all have intellectual disability, or some sort of mental disability. “Autism is a complex neurobehavioral condition that includes impairments in social interaction and developmental language and communication skills combined with rigid, repetitive behaviors.” (www.webmd.com) It may or may not include a low level of intelligence quotient, which is associated with intellectual disability (for some of you who choose not to be politically correct, or just plainly lack information, that’s mentally retarded). Derek Paravicini is a Briton with autism (and with total blindness), who is able to “fully replay an entire song or musical piece after hearing it just once” Henriett Seth is a Hungarian with autism, a writer, poet, artist, and musician, who in 2001, won an International Literature Competition and International Alliance of Hungarian Writers award.” Jacob Barnett: is a Canadian with autism, who “by age 15 was accepted to a one-year master’s degree program at the Perimeter Institute in Waterloo, Ontario”, being the youngest student to have ever been accepted into the program. (mentalhealthdaily.com)

NO. Persons with autism are not violent. They “suffer from sensory integration disorder, where the brain has trouble receiving and responding to information that comes in through the senses. Common sounds may be painful or overwhelming and can trigger what outsiders would consider as tantrums.” (www.autismsocietyphilippines.org) Another cause of seemingly violent behavior is emotional distress. Think of it this way, they are more sensitive to sounds, light and images than the ordinary person is; and when sounds are too loud, and images are too glaring, won’t you behave erratically?

NO. Not all persons with autism look alike, or look a certain way. (You’re probably confused with another syndrome.) They “do not share any physical characteristics, in as much as they do not share the same developmental or behavioral patterns. The condition is also widely distributed across race and other demographic areas, making physical generalizations baseless.” (www.autismsocietyphilippines.org) In fact, a large majority of them (if not all) could be considered aesthetically appealing (or in other words, good looking). Yes, of course, appearances are subjective; but go have a look and judge.

When asked of what the public still needs to be aware of about autism, ASP Naga Chapter Secretary, and SPED teacher Rona Saulon stresses society’s need for consciousness to restrain from using the term, “autistic” as a derogatory remark. She notes that even some prominent personalities unmindfully and carelessly include the word in public addresses. ASP’s 1Pangako goes: “para mahinto ang maling paggamit ng salitang “autistic” bilang katatawanan o insulto.”

“So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you,” Matthew 7:12



Jomapa, Tomas, Ludovico


YESTERDAY (February 1) was the 154th birth anniversary of foremost Bicol hero Jose Maria Panganiban and we are glad and proud that the City Government of Naga, through its City Events, Protocol and Public Information Office, had once again spearheaded its meaningful celebration.

Jose Maria Panganiban was a propagandist, activist and essayist who advocated for reform in the then Spanish colony of the Philippines. He was a founding member of the propaganda organization La Solidaridad. His legacy is celebrated throughout the Philippines and the Spanish Filipino community.

Pepe, as he was fondly called, was born in Mambulao town that now bears his name in the province of Camarines Norte. His father was from Bulacan and his mother (nee Enverga) was from Tayabas (now Quezon), the latter was then part of the expansive See of Caceres, whose Diocesan seat was situated in then Nueva Caceres, which is now Naga City. At 4 years of age, his mother already recognized his genius as oftentimes he would be found ransacking his father’s books for additional reading materials.

At his tender age Pepe was already aware of the plight of his fellow Filipinos. At one time, he witnessed a Spaniard maltreating a native. He immediately rushed and begged the Spaniard to stop the cruelty. Whereupon, the Spaniard chased him but as he was a fast runner, he was spared from harm. In 1873, Panganiban went to Nueva Caceres and enrolled in the seminario (today’s Holy Rosary Seminary) where he surpassed all his classmates and showed his ability as an orator. Original copies of his report cards, all marked “sobresalientes” or excellent are on display at the seminary museum until this day. From the seminario, he went to the Universidad de Sto. Tomas in Manila where he completed his preparatory medicine with honors. In May 1888, Panganiban went to Spain to continue his medical studies in Barcelona but abandoned them after he made the acquaintance of a community of activists and became a member of the pro-Filipino organization La Solidaridad. Under the banner of the organization, Panganiban published, using the pseudonym Jomapa, essays critical of the educational, social and economic conditions of the Philippines under Spanish rule.

Although he remained an activist throughout his entire career, his life was cut short by tuberculosis at age 27 in a boarding house in Spain. His remains were returned to his homeland in 1985 and interred within the base of one of the many monuments in his honor. Unfortunately, the first monument erected in Bulacan by his father’s townmates is no longer existent, except for those found in Camarines Norte and one standing inside the Naga Central School campus, built by that school’s patriotic parent-teachers’ association in later time. Furthermore, an avenue that serves as the gateway to Naga’s business center was named after him. But while we honor Panganiban with all our heart, we never had chance to recognize the heroism and nobility of our two fellow bonafide Naguenos’ lives – the Arejola brothers.

Tomas Arejola was born in Nueva Caceres [Naga City] on Sept. 18, 1865. Like Panganiban, Tomas studied at the Naga seminary. In August 1888 he also went to Spain to study law in Madrid, where he became an active member of the Asociacion Hispano-Filipino. When the asociacion was dissolved, the Circulo Hispano-Filipino was founded with Arejola as president. He wrote articles about the plight of the Philippines in various newspapers in Spain, including La Solidaridad. On Sept. 4, 1898, he was appointed by Aguinaldo as representative to the National Assembly. In 1901, he went to Hongkong where he became a member of the Central Revolutionary Committee. During the American colonial time, he became a delegate to the First Philippine Assembly of 1907 and was re-elected vice president of the Partido Nacionalista de Filipinas.

He died in Manila in 1926 at the age of 61. His ancestral home, though it was henceforth acquired by a new owner, still stands today along Penafrancia Avenue, Born January 31, 1861, Ludovico like his brother Tomas, studied at the Holy Rosary Seminary. He took up Bachelor of Arts at Letran, and later pursued Law studies at the same college. Because of imposing resistance, he was arrested on October 10, 1896. With the other people who were arrested, he was tortured in Nueva Caceres. He was sent to Bilibid by ship, where he and his companions suffered terribly as they were put inside the place in the ship where cattle were also kept; their bound feet trussed to their tied wrists. He then returned to the Philippines after. He was appointed by President Aguinaldo to become the Coronel de la Milicia Territorial which had the responsibility of organizing the milicias in Ambos Camarines and Catanduanes. Later, he was promoted to the rank of General. He was also tasked by Aguinaldo for the solicitation of contributions for the Philippine revolution. General Arejola divided Ambos Camarines and Catanduanes into five military districts. He was offered the governorship of Ambos Camarines by Governor General Taft, but turned down the offer. He organized a large guerrilla army that fought the Americans at Agdangan, Baao. After that encounter, he and his men camped in the mountains of Minalabac and settled there for more than a year. Because of rampant sickness in the ranks, persistent and relentless American operations, battle casualties, acute lack of firearms and ammunition, and atrocities by the US soldiers on innocent civilians, the Bicolano general opted to surrender to the Americans. When he finally signed the peace agreement on March 1901, he and his 800 men marched to Nueva Caceres where they were accorded with full military honors.

As Naga historian Jose Barrameda wrote: These two Nagueños (Tomas and Ludovico), heroes both, one with a sword, the other with a pen, remain unhonored to this day in their own city.