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BLIND SPOT: A 2017 Yearender

“Wise is the one who flavors the future with some salt from the past.” ― Curtis Tyrone Jones Now, let’s look back. Early this year, parents were pained with paranoia of alleged child kidnappers on a white van hunting for juvenile internal organs. Schools were alerted. Authorities dismissed the issue to be a hoax. The reports seem to have dissipated in time. Where could have they gone? Long-time Baao, Camarines Sur Mayor Mel Gaite was dismissed by Ombudsman Conchita Carpio Morales in April; for administrative offenses of grave misconduct and conduct prejudicial to the best interest of the service in a 25-year lease deal for the town’s public market. ( Former Caramoan, Camarines Sur Mayor Constantino Cordial, along with individuals from Legazpi City, Catanduanes and others from outside Bicol, were implicated behind the “operation of a mega shabu laboratory dismantled in Virac, Catanduanes in November 2016.” In a congressional committee hearing in August. However, congressmen were skeptical of the testimony; suspecting the affidavit to be fabricated. ( In October, former Garchitorena Mayor Jesus Rico Sarmiento pleaded guilty to a criminal case over his use of luxury vehicles of a private contractor with which the municipality had transactions in 2014. ( Edwin Pura, a paralegal staff of a human rights lawyer, a former leader of Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (BAYAN) a transport leader, member of the Quick Reaction Team in search of missing farmers in Quezon province, and a strong organizer of transport strikes, was shot dead by suspected military operatives in Sorsogon in October. ( And there’s the sporadic shootings attributed to the New People’s Army here and there, every now and then. On a relatively lighter note, students and employers were treated to additional holidays due to transport strikes against the “modern jeepney and unpredictably moving typhoons. Heavy traffic in Naga seems to be becoming the norm as this curtailment of convenience continues even on days when roads are expected to be less congested. Robinson’s Place opened along Diversion Road in Naga City; causing curiosity and congestion (at least, for a time). Towards the end of May 2017, Marawi joined the ranks of Aleppo and Mosul as ISOL leaning Maute group attacked and ravaged the city, with the military engaging them in battle which ended in favor of the state ending exactly to the date five months after. Juxtaposed with it is the smuggling of Php 6.4 billion worth of shabu to the country under the watch of now former Bureau of Customs Commissioner Nicanor Faeldon, which exposed a tradition of corruption and its culprits. But despite the arrows of responsibility pointing to particular individuals, the polemic found resolution in Faeldon’s resignation. The extra-judicial killings controversy hit its ugliest climax with the chain of murders of adolescent males (remarkably and interestingly seemingly concentrated in the city of Caloocan) which opened a can of worms which would ensue a drama which include the Philippine National Police, the Die hard Duterte Supporters (or the Duterte Defense Syndicate), the United Nations rapporteur and the European Union. The trail of tragedy was stopped on its tracks when the “drug war” mandate was delegated to the PDEA from the PNP, and news reports were overshadowed by the Atio Castillo hazing controversy. The year started with threats of impeachments against President Duterte and Vice President Robredo, which later in the year found its way against Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno. As if all these are not disappointing enough, Manny Paquiao lost to Australian Jeff Horne in July; a defeat which no matter what analysts would say, is well… still a defeat. We find ourselves as spectators of a tug of war between development and dishonesty with the former inching some and the latter pulling a great deal to its favor. There may be efforts towards economic progress and peace and order yet the scenes are marred of exposure of corruption. If mayors have been found to be guilty of irregularities, there is some probability that these same practices have been traditionally occurring and still flourishing at present. (Is that a novel realization or am I just too naïve to make that statement?) There exists the noble aspiration to purge Filipino society of the debilitating disease and disaster of substance abuse; yet it is so smudged with personal interest and procedural inefficiency. In the late 90s, I used to watch “Celebrity Deathmatch” a stop-motion animated series produced by MTV network, which depicted “various celebrities engaging in highly stylized professional wrestling matches”. It featured popular celebrities (in the form of dolls) slugging out in a professional wrestling ring. (So, imagine, you could have a Donald Trump doll fighting a Kim Jong-un doll with “large amount of bloody violence, including combatants employing different abilities and weapons to deliver particularly brutal attacks, resulting in exaggerated physical injuries”) It was outrageously hilarious. (I wonder why it was canceled.) Why did I bring that up? Because a typical Celebrity Deathmatch scene figuratively sums up the Philippine socio-political milieu in 2017. “Now these things occurred as examples to keep us from setting our hearts on evil things as they did.“ 1 Corinthians 10:6

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