#HindiManhid: Bring Them Home mission for stranded OFWs in Saudi

“Our kababayans are in serious crisis because their employers did not pay their salaries. They are also confronted by many difficulties caused by the expiry of their end-of-services benefits. Many were not given exit visas after they completed their contracts, and are being delayed for repatriation.”
Photo from abs-cbnnews.com
More than 11,000 stranded overseas Filipino workers (OFWS) in Saudi Arabia are the subjects of an urgent government mission to bring them home by September 10, according to Department of Social Welfare and Development Secretary Judy Taguiwalo.
Taguiwalo detailed her department’s participation in the multi-agency mission headed by Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello III as the latter announced a giant step in efforts to ease the crisis of 11,000 workers affected by setbacks in the Middle East country’s oil industry, the backbone of its economy.
Bello said the Saudi monarch has instructed the Ministry of Labor to waive immigration penalties for workers with expired working visas. The King has also directed Kingdom officials to provide food aid and start processing the money claims of the workers.
Taguiwalo said “Operation Bring Them Home” also aims to document situations of undocumented OFWs in crisis like women and children,  facilitate provision of appropriate services and referral to their respective regions for the needed services. The DSWD is earmarking P50 million to help the OFWs in crisis.
The labor secretary said the King has offered workers options: plane fare for those who want to return to the Philippines and re-employment aid for those willing to transfer to other firms.
Labor Secretary Silvestro III and Social Welfare and Development Secretary Judy Taguiwalo
Taguiwalo said the DSWD would provide psychosocial interventions like counseling and debriefing, help distressed OFWs in reintegration with families and communities and provide after-care and other material services.
The Foreign Affairs and Health departments are also part of the mission ordered by President Rodrigo Duterte.
Many Filipino workers have said they are willing to stay on and be absorbed in other industries to going home and facing unemployment. But complex legal requirements and unhelpful employers have made for a difficult process.
While Saudi Arabia has some of the most onerous labor policies in the Middle East, the government of President Duterte has managed to wrest concessions from the Kindgom, in contrast to the performance of former president Benigno Aquino III’s administration.
The Saudi labor ministry has confirmed the King’s instructions “to guarantee and protect the rights of foreign workers,” according to Bello.
Taguiwalo appointed DSWD Undersecretary Vilma B. Cabrera, Assistant Secretary Hope V. Hervilla, Social Welfare officers Perlita V. Panganiban, Mely S. Pangilinan, Teresita L. Valentino, Victoria N. NAvida, Marygrail B. Dong-as, Franco V. Lopez, Bienvenido V. Barbosa and Ali B. Namia to the mission
Urgent queries from OFWS in crisis. Photo by abs-cbnnews
The affected OFWs were  previously employed by three multinational companies: Bin Laden, Saudi Oger, and Mohammad  Al Mojil, as well as by six (6) sub-contracting companies.
“Our kababayans are in serious crisis because their employers did not pay their salaries. They are also confronted by many difficulties caused by the expiry of their end-of-services benefits. Many were not given exit visas after they completed their contracts, and are being delayed for repatriation,” she explained.
The focus of the mission is the stranded OFWs in three major KSA cities, namely Riyadh, Jeddah, and Dammam/Al-Khobar.
“This is not the first time that Filipinos working overseas such as in the KSA have experienced severe crisis because of questionable labor policies imposed by their employers and because of the neglect of their contracting agencies,” Taguiwalo said.
“The DSWD sees it important to take part in this humanitarian mission so we can gauge the impact of such policies on the lives and welfare of our OFWs. We hope to come up with findings that can help guide us in the future when it comes to the implementation of the country’s export labor policy,” she stressed.
“As the government agency that’s primarily tasked to look after the welfare of Filipinos, the DSWD wants to also provide assistance to our OFWs the same way we also aim to help their families here at home when it comes to their emergency  needs,” Taguiwalo said.

When tears are a badge of honor

neri crying
Neri Colmenares weeps. Photo by Darius Galang of PinoyWeekly

KAGABI: Di maiwasang maluha si Bayan Muna Rep. Neri Colmenares sa tila pambabastos ng mga kongresistang alyado ni…

Posted by Pinoy Weekly on Wednesday, February 3, 2016

The gods of Congress, those lapdogs of President Benigno Simeon Aquino III, did their best. As this Congress goes, their best often has to do with dastardly deeds. Pork for one, and then resurrecting a zombie twice killed by the Supreme Court, in a million and one mechanisms that scream “discretionary funds”.

They are at their best sitting on the corpses of what could have been landmark legislation. The first was the Freedom of Information bill. The other, a long-delayed, P2000-monthly pension hike for Social Security System (SSS) members.

Apologists of this administration will tell you that Congress is a co-equal branch of government, that it’s foibles should not be blamed on the executive.

That is theoretically correct, except that these very same people ranted and raved when Congress was a lapdog of former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo. They were also silent when Congress turned its back on the Mamasapano probe when that hacendero screamed, enough!

Night of dishonor

old folk by mon ramirez
Senior citizens lined up for hours on the grounds of Congress to push for an override of President Aquino’s veto on the P2000-monthly SSS pension hike. Photo by Mon Ramirez 


On Wednesday, February 3, the lords of lard were following the wishes of Mr. Aquino, who vetoed the SSS pension-hike bill that Congress passéd with overwhelming votes.

Congress guards tussled with senior citizens who came in the hundreds to see a showdown.

There was none. Faced with the spectre of a veto override, Mr. Aquino’s congressional henchmen cut short their last working day before this year’s electoral campaign period.

They adjourned early in the night, a far cry from other years when sessions lasted till dawn just to ram through administration legislation.

The cowards were so scared they wouldn’t even allow proceedings to start, following hours of waiting for a quorum. At least 57 legislators had signed a resolution to override the veto.

And when the main author of bill, Bayan Muna Rep. Neri Colmenares, stood up to demand a hearing, they cut off the microphones.

The SSS pension-hike bill is dead. Or so Mr. Aquino and millionaire executives hope.

The funny thing is, hardly anyone is boasting of their “victory”. But only madmen own to a massacre. The administration people aren’t mad, they’re craven; they can’t be bothered to even make a stand.

To mask the reality of SSS members sold down the river of dirty deals, they had to kill the pension hike. How many billions were lost to bad investments of friends? How many millions exchange hands yearly so that employers get away with non-payment of premiums already deducted from workers’ salaries?


The art of Noynoying

father and son
Stroke patient Renato and son and caregiver Racquel Montero were hoping for a small ease in their hardships from an SSS pension hike


It’s no use telling Mr. Aquino about the lives of a father and son who struggle with disease and a job that can’t even bring home the equivalent of minimum wage. They walked (and continue to walk) the straight path with premium payments. The son takes regular breaks from ferrying neighbors to check on a father laid low by stroke.

The crown prince of the kingdom of entitlement knows nothing about the daily travails of people. Nor would he care.

Mr. Aquino isn’t content with killing the SSS bill.

He wants the victims to kiss his hand as he scatters crumbs from his table.

Come, you unwashed hordes. Kneel at his feet and thank him for an offer of P500.

If Malacanang was really sincere about that, it could have negotiated while congressional hearings were going on.

Then again, if he couldn’t even be bothered doing that with the draft Bangsamoro Basic Law, he wouldn’t over the SSS bill.

You see, Noynoying isn’t just the art of doing nothing.

It’s pretending to do nothing while your peons do the dirty job. Purisima and Rico Puno taught us that Mr. Aquino is a master of this art.

Mr. Aquino’s bloated pets know what exactly they engineered on February 3.

The dictionary tells us:

“A Pyrrhic victory is a victory that inflicts such a devastating toll on the victor that it is tantamount to defeat. Someone who wins a Pyrrhic victory has been victorious in some way. However, the heavy toll negates any sense of achievement or profit. Another term for this would be “hollow victory”.

Old people shouted in rage. Old people cried.

Actor Robin Padilla narrated what happened on his Facebook page.

Nanay Salve, a retired school teacher, NGO worker and trainer of people disabilities, told Ted Failon about her experience.

They gave the elderly a hard time to get in hanggang nagkakasigawan na. They were under the heat of the sun, tired and hungry old people. Then when they were allowed to get in, they were prevented to enter the main session hall until after a few more minutes. They entered the session hall, only to wait for hours and watch legislators loitering abt. Session was suspended to wait for a quorum. Late afternoon, nagutom na ang iba, lumabas. Bumalik ng alas-6. Di nila namalayan, maya-maya, bigla na lang session was resumed and declared adjourned, when neri came running to the podium to speak and contest the adjournment. He got in a sentence or two before his mic was shutdown and he was told the session was closed.

One man in a barong tagalog wept.

Fighter Ng Bayan

This is what I love about Neri Colmenares: a fighter with the courage and heart to shed tears.

Because you do not fight for decades without feeling deep down, in your guts and in your soul, what it is that makes grown men and women cry themselves to sleep at night. (That’s Morris West, in “The Shoes of the Fisherman”.)

neri 2
Bayan Muna Rep. Neri Colmenares. For SSS pension hike warriors, miles and miles to go to win the war.

Episodes of defeat are nothing new to Colmenares, who is running for the Senate in the 2016.

You can’t have a life as student activist, human rights lawyer and militant legislator without knowing that some battles can’t be won.

Not immediately — as the ouster of a dictator and other major landmarks have taught us.

All the gains that we now take for granted were won because some people refused to give up despite the deaths, the blows, the harassment, the mighty forces arrayed against them.

All those gains because some people did the tasks we’re either too busy or too scared to do.

Aside from the line from West, there is another that forever sticks in the mind: “Courage is not a man with a gun in his hand. It’s knowing you’re licked before you begin but you begin anyway and you see it through no matter what.”

There are hard things you do even when soul weary. But you do it. Because it is right.
Hindi yan nababayaran. Nasa iyo yan o wala.

Sa lahat ng senior citizens at kabataan na naki-isa sa laban ni Neri, isang saludo at pasasalamat. PADAYON! ‪#‎KaraniwangTao ‪#‎FighterNgBayan

NO PARADISE LOST FOR LUMAD CHILDREN (on this 40th day of Grief and Rage)

The children will not forget. They will remember. They will march home — soon.

The 40th day of waiting for justice. The 40th day of outrage as eye witness reports belie AFP attempts to wash its hands of the atrocities committed by the militia it organised, trained and supervised.

Those who think the fever of elections will drown out the voices of lumad children, wives, husbands, fathers, mothers, friends have seen nothing yet.

We, in the comfort of urban centres, we. too, must not forget. We cannot be silent as the lumad struggle against the maws of death.

Dawn over Alcadev, Han-ayan, Lianga, Surigao del Sur. Paramilitary forces killed on Sept 1 the head teacher of the award-winning alternative school for indigenous children. (Photo courtesy of AlCaDev
Dawn over Alcadev, Han-ayan, Lianga, Surigao del Sur. Paramilitary forces killed on Sept 1 the head teacher of the award-winning alternative school for indigenous children. (Photo courtesy of AlCaDev

In the cramped tents of their evacuation camps, the children remember: 
How their parents built a school with their own hands;
How that school gave them the strength to unite in defense of their ancestral land;
How that school provided the technology and knowledge to fill their stomachs so that young ones grew strong and tall;
How that school nurtured youth who have in turn given their lives to serving their people, as agriculture technicians, health workers and teachers
How a community thrived and attained self sufficiency despite government neglect;
How that community flourished, enough that it could send seeds and crops and food stock and aid givers to victims of Typhoon Yolanda;

Art work by Alcadev students
Art work by Alcadev students

How those who want to see the lumad grovel for charity and patronage could not abide that strength and thus targeted their education and livelihood;
How men slit the throat of a loving teacher who made them his family;
How men mowed down their elders with a brazen glee that only impunity can give;
How men torched the cooperative that allowed them to pour back their resources into the land;
How soldiers ignored the cries that rent the dawn and then later laughed and mocked the grieving;
How the President dismissed their plight and the truth that his minions were laying waste to land and lives; and 
How those who had stakes in the primacy of the military and the rich patrons they protect tried to excuse the killings by tagging dissent a crime.
The children know how it is to be hounded. The children see what happens to the land when the lumad are made too weak to fight off the birds of prey.
And the children know that what they have, these gifts that allow them to speak with courage and eloquence before people who may have thought the lumad their inferiors, these gifts are beyond the reach of the avaricious.
Because education has seeped deep, because education has taught them pride. Because education has given them hope and a vision of what can be. The lumad children will reclaim their land.

Photo courtesy of Alcadev, words by author
Photo courtesy of Alcadev, words by author


Pope Francis and the Song of Apad

“Namulat sya sa kandungan ng mahihirap at sunog sa araw na mga magulang… Kaya malinaw nyang naintindihan at naranasan ang hagupit at dahas ng kahirapan… habang lumaki, kanyang nasasaksihan ang pagwasak sa ninunong lupa at kalikasan.”

“Parang kalayulayo ng pagkaiba ng salitang katutubo at aktibista, ngunit ang panlulupig, pangangamkam at pangalipusta ang sing bagsik ng bagyong nagtulak sa kanya upang sumanib sa kilusang layong ay lumaya.”

(He woke up to the world, in the embrace of poor, sunburnt parents. He learned to understand the cruelty and lash of poverty and, as he grew, saw the destruction of his ancestors’ lands. There is a vast difference between the word lumad and activist, but oppression and thievery, plunder and humiliation were storm winds that drove him to the movement of people who seek to be free.)

The middle class audience stirred at the start of this poetry of rage, discomfort clear as they listened to the slight, 12-year-old boy. But as Apad Enriquez went on, kerchiefs came out to wipe eyes filled with tears.

This was a child, talking about blood spilled on the land of his people, the Manobo of Surigao del Sur. This was a child who cried himself to sleep at night, wondering whether his father would be given one more night of freedom or be caught in the enemy’s trap.

This was a boy, the same age as their own children, who had just made a 300-km trek from the mountains of his hometown to the national capital.

“My boy complains that he lacks ‘load’ for his cellphone,” said Tess, a banker. “Apad talks of schools burnt and bullets raining on their homes.”

apad-011415Despite regular disruptions to his schooling, the son of wanted indigenous leader Genasque Enriquez chatted easily about math and science (the stars and planets and the universe) to his new friends in Manila. He and his cousin, Ben, and 14-year-old Angeline also got praise for their flawless English and Filipino.

They thanked teacher Anabelle Campos, with them on their Lakbayan, for her dedication.

Work exacts a tough price from Campos, who was also schooled in alternative learning centers managed by faith groups.

Manobo women at the funeral rites for New People's Army commander, Leoncio Pitao.
Manobo women at the funeral rites for New People’s Army commander, Leoncio Pitao.

Campos has been threatened with arrest. Whenever forced to evacuate to the town center, she faces a barrage of taunts: “There goes the teacher of the children of the NPA.”

The communist New People’s Army is strong in the hinterlands of Mindanao, as it is in the country’s poorest provinces. Other rebel groups, including the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), traditionally find recruits amid a vacuum in governance and the struggle over land and natural resources.

Children ask, ‘Why?’

Despite the poverty of their lumad community, Campos and children managed to keep tabs on Pope Francis’ January visit to the Philippines.

In havens for children of militarized communities, rooms fell silent as the Pope embrace Glyzelle Palomara, a former street waif, who broke down asking why God allows children to suffer.

Campos’ Manobo wards come from a different milieu but they, too, struggle with emotional scars from early exposure to violence.

Ben’s brother was tortured.

One of the children had braved interrogation by armed men on the hunt for his neighbor.

A few minutes after Angeline wowed her Manila audience with a lyrical Filipino poem, she learned that parents and siblings had fled their village for the nth time. She would be going home to an evacuation center.

Apad laughed when asked why he was on the streets, not in school.

“Bakit doon, bakwit dito, walang katapusan” he replied. (There is no end to our flight.)

Like Gizelle, like the indigenous people of South America forced into subjugation by colonizers, the children of the Manobo wake up asking, “Why?”

Why does death haunt their people? Why do strangers want their land?

Why do fathers have to leave and mothers have to weep when husbands and children are brought home bloodied?

Why do their calls for help, for justice go unheard?

Pope urges action

Mother and child at the Guindulungan Evacuation centre. Photo courtesy of Marian Ching
Mother and child at the Guindulungan Evacuation centre. Photo courtesy of Marian Ching

Nardy Sabino of the Promotion for Church People’s Rights (PCPR) says that in Bolivia, Pope Francis spoke to all the world’s indigenous peoples.

The Pope, he says, did not just call for a stop to injustice. He actually asked Catholics – and anyone who cares to listen – to actively work for change.

The Pope, he adds, was emphasized the need for a “preferential, evangelical option for the poor”.

The world’s first Latin American Pope traced his call for Mary, the mother of Jesus.

Sabino asks, “Will the faithful follow Pope Francis?”

Marian Ching, a young development activist who has worked with lumad and Muslims, says Filipino IPs need Pope Francis.

“Reading Pope Francis’ support for indigenous peoples in his second encyclical, where he says ‘for indigenous communities, land is not a commodity, but a gift from God, a sacred space,’ meant a lot to me given my work here in Mindanao, where indigenous peoples are among ‘the lowly, the exploited, the poor and underprivileged’ and constantly subjected to human rights violations as they struggle for land and their rights. “

Taking testimony of 'bakwit', people forced to leave their homes due to conflict, in Sultan Kudarat. Photo courtesy of Marian Ching
Taking testimony of ‘bakwit’, people forced to leave their homes due to conflict, in Sultan Kudarat. Photo courtesy of Marian Ching

It is important to heed the Pope’s call to recognize those of the faith who dedicate their lives to the people’s struggles, “often standing alongside the native peoples or accompanying their popular movements,” says Ching.

She cites the Social Action Center of the Diocese of Marbel that has “tirelessly supported the B’laan’s fight for land and rights in Tampakan, South Cotabato.”

That struggle against foreign corporation Glencore and its local allies has led to the murders of at least ten indigenous leaders in the area.

Ching also credits church leaders who “voice “their support for the peace process, which hopes to address injustices committed against our Bangsamoro brothers and sisters, who may also be considered a minority population in our country.”

Tradition of service

Clemente Bautista, the national coordinator of environmental group Karapatan has another question. “With the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) take up Pope Francis’ challenge?”

Philippine IPs face a crisis, say Bautina, Sabino and Ching.

Photo of Manobo elder courtesy at funeral honours for Leoncio Pitao of the New People's Army courtesy of Obet de Castro
Photo of Manobo elder courtesy at funeral honours for Leoncio Pitao of the New People’s Army courtesy of Obet de Castro

Karapatan reports that more than 30 of the 48 environmentalists killed in the last six years are indigenous leaders. The trail of killings sprawls from northern Luzon and Palawan and to the provinces of Mindanao.

In Northern Mindanao alone, 23 IP leaders have died since October 2014, according to the Rural Missionaries of the Philippines. That’s three IP leaders every month. In most cases, the suspects are big corporations or political clans out to wrest IP land.

Sabino believes Pope Francis will galvanize religious of all faiths and the laity.

The Pope apologized in Bolivia for the Catholic Church’s role in the subjugation of indigenous people’s. But he also took pride in clergy who risked their lives to serve oppressed communities.

“We cannot believe in God the Father without seeing a brother or sister in every person, and we cannot follow Jesus without giving our lives for those for whom he died on the cross,” Pope Francis said.

Photo by Obet de Ca
Photo by Obet de Ca

The Philippine churches have a rich tradition of serving the rural poor. Priests, nuns and lay leaders in basic Christian communities have all fallen to death squads while campaigning against human rights violations and other abuses.

“When we give succor to communities, we do not ask if people are Catholics,” says Spanish Claretian missionary Angel Calvo, who has spent decades in the island-province of Basilan.

Thirty years ago, Bacolod Bishop Antonio Fortich thundered at military officials who accused his priests of feeding communist rebels.

“A hungry stomach knows no color,” said the prelate who braved threats, and even a grenade attack on his residence, and succeeded in convincing the more conservative Pope John Paul II to confront the Marcos dictatorship on the issue of human rights.

Listening with his soul

The religious continue to serve and they continue to minister under grave threats in Mindanao. No less than the Philippine Secretary of Social Work, Corazon Soliman, has attacked their work with the IPs.

Seeing lumad children among a crowd protesting militarization in Talaingod, Davao Oriental, Soliman accused the church groups of violating children’s rights.

Piya Macliing Malayao, secretary general of the indigenous alliance KATRIBU), said the official was trying to gloss over the government’s responsibility for lumad children’s plight.

“The children were at the rally because they had lost their schools,” Malayao pointed out.

Pope Francis, a hugger to all comers, is very much a people’s prelate, eschewing abstractions for messages that reflect on people’s daily lives.

Campos earlier said the Pope seems to have the ability to listen “at the level of soul.”

In Bolivia, he spoke of names and faces, of hearts breaking because of sorrow and pain. Praising community organizers and those to live with indigenous people, the Pope stressed the difference between “abstract theorizing” and the empathy borne of seeing and hearing the pain of others and absorbing this as one’s own.

“That emotion which turns into community action is not something which can be understood by reason alone,” said the Pope. “It has a surplus of meaning which only peoples understand, and it gives a special feel to genuine popular movements.”

He could have been talking of Apad of the Manobo and other youth of other tribes and ethnic groups across the country.

Apad may never get the chance to meet this Pope. But in his pain-wracked nights, this young man can take comfort knowing that Francis believes in what little people can do.

This is a Pope who hears Apad’s song and understands that his people need to fight for their land – or die as slaves.

Celia Veloso’s righteous rage

The Philippine State owes Celia Veloso an apology celia veloso1

“Maniningil ako.”

Social media crucified Celia Veloso because she demanded accountability.

Now victims or would-be victims of Mary Jane Veloso’s recruiter are coming out to testify against Ma. Cristina Sergio. Law enforcers spit out details of Sergio’s frequent travels to countries known as hubs for narcotics smuggling. They reveal database inputs, harking four years back, tagging Sergio and her partner as suspected drug mule handlers and human traffickers.

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In the middle of an interview at the headquarters of Migrante, supporters relay to Nanay Celia the latest details on the Sergio case, including one victim authorities are still trying to trace.

Mary Jane’s mother wipes her eyes. She sighs. Her fists clench.

“Ilan pa ang mga biktimang di natin alam? Ilan pa ang nawawala?” (How many other victims are out there? How many more are missing?)


WATCH : NBI: Veloso may have been set up. 

READ: Mary Jane Veloso’s recruiters admit being part of int’l drug ring sergio - latest victim

Pacman: From Hero to Cheat?

With the blinding speed of a knockout punch, cheers for People’s Champ Manny Pacquiao turned into jeers.

INJURED. Manny Pacquiao failed to disclose his shoulder injury in a form required on the eve of his fight with Floyd Mayweather.
INJURED. Manny Pacquiao failed to disclose his shoulder injury in a form required on the eve of his fight with Floyd Mayweather.

A scheduled surgery for an injured shoulder has replaced the homecoming parade. Worse, Pacquiao faces an investigation by Nevada’s attorney-general for dishonesty on the matter of his fitness.

READ:World Boxing Federation General Medical Guidelines

 (Update: Koncz, not Pacquiao, filled up medical questionaire )  

For hours following his defeat, Pacquiao fans hailed his valiant, attacking style. They dumped on the American fighter for spending much of the fight dancing away from Pacquiao or hugging him to evade the Filipino’s powerful fists.

Complaints about the fight’s outcome – on points, a unanimous win by a big margin for Mayweather – continued even after computers spat out the numbers. Whether in attempts or landed blows, Mayweather led Pacquiao. But tell that to Cambodian Premier Hun Sen who refuses to pay his $5,000 (losing) bet.

Time running out? The world had been waiting five years for The Fight of the Century, and Manny Pacquiao or Floyd Mayweather are no longer at their prime.
Time running out? The world had been waiting five years for The Fight of the Century, and Manny Pacquiao or Floyd Mayweather are no longer at their prime.

The Filipino single-handedly supplied the drama and the flash. But analysts say the number of blows from Pacquiao was below his average performance. Most early criticism centered on his failure to pursue the advantage gained in the fight’s middle rounds, when he rattled Mayweather a couple of times.

Then the Pambansang Kamao (National Fist) came out with a stunner.

Pacquiao told media that he went into the fight with an injury that apparently diminished his lethal powers. Progressively, that story got stranger.


The world first heard of the injury when Pacquiao appeared post-fight with his arm in a sling.

Doctors discovered a tear in his shoulder muscle hree weeks before the fight, he said.

Immediately, critics pounced on him for justifying his defeat once charges that he was robbed of victory could no longer stand.

Then Pacquiao’s camp said they had sought permission for pain-numbing shots, a request thumbed down by the Nevada Athletic Commission. It became a full-blown conspiracy theory when Pacquiao claimed Mayweather knew of his injury and deliberately attacked his vulnerable point to wear him down. The American boxer, he added, had a spy in the Pacquiao camp.

“Alam niya, ito ang hinahawakan niya,” Pacquiao told reporters Sunday in Las Vegas (Monday morning in Manila), while grabbing his right forearm.

“I’m sure alam niya. Nag-leak ‘yun. Alam nila,” he said.

“Nakita mo ‘yung hinihila niya ‘yung kamay ko? Kasi alam niya. ‘Di ba, hinihila niya?” he also said.


Now, Nevada Athletic Commission chair Francisco Aguilar warns of a state probe.

“Pacquiao checked “no” a day before the fight on a commission questionnaire asking if he had a shoulder injury.”

It’s a serious threat.

“Pacquiao could face a possible fine or suspension for not answering the question accurately on a form he filled out just before Friday’s weigh-in,” says the Associated Press.

The mood has turned ugly.

People who placed bets on Pacquiao (despite bookies favoring Mayweather) are now asking if hiding his injury constitutes “fraud”.  There are insinuations that Pacquiao never intended to win.

There is little proof to back this up.

Other critics say Pacquai should have informed fans early on of his injury.  Some sports journalists have also raised the question of ethics — the subtext being, that neither Pacquiao nor his agent, Bob Arum, wanted to give up the big money that came with the Mayweather fight.

Journalists, on the other hand, have been chided for remaining oblivious to the reported injury. Indeed, as Pacquiao’s training progressed, there were only superlatives about his prowess, his strength, his return to former levels of agility, and that killer instinct coming back.

In fact, most of the questions about fitness were addressed to Mayweather, who was secretive about his regimen.  Pacquiao’s every training move, in contrast, seemed to be a party. Except for the real sparring – that was out of bounds to media.

It was the sparring that made the old shoulder injury flare-up on May 2.

Everything since then was bravado and grit (if you love Pacquiao) or a farce (to his critics).

“Naka-focus kami, right hook pero last 3 weeks before the fight, ‘di ko na na-ensayo kanan ko. Training ko bawat araw, kaliwa lang kaya wala pwede manood sa (training camp),” he said.

Spy vs spy

It’s hard to swallow the “Mayweather-had-a-spy” excuse. Every coach worth his title scouts the enemy long before D-day.

In elite athletics, a fraction of a second, a shot, a saved ball, or the ability to evade harm – and inflict harm – spells the difference between victory and defeat. Technique and strategy change with every opponent. S everybody spies on everyone and his mother. I’d be really disappointed if Roach did not attempt to hook a spy from Mayweather’s camp.

Everybody is also paranoid, as Pacquiao’s own evasive tactic shows:

“Doon na kami sa dressing room, ayaw nilang payagan na ma-injectionan… natunugan nila na iyun nga, may deperensya ako sa balikat, and then ang katwiran naman ng commission, is hindi daw namin finil-up-an iyung form which is nandon sa record nila eh. Iyung form na finil-up-an namin,” he said. “Alam nila iyon, nagbigay kami 2 weeks ago. Hindi lang sila sumagot.”

Mayweather can’t be faulted for targeting Pacquiao’s injury. Every boxer aims for the split eyebrow or lip or the black eye. Every ring gladiator waits for the first sign of weakness and then goes in for the kill. Mayweather was just more methodical, both in his attack (jabs) and defense (dancing, hugging).

Always a fighter with flair, Manny Pacquiao got big credit when he started boxing smart.
Always a fighter with flair, Manny Pacquiao got big credit when he started boxing smart.

I don’t blame folks for getting infuriated. But boxing has long ceased to be the exclusive turf of brawlers. Even Pacquiao’s rise to world-class level was credited to  a change of strategy – though he is loved because no amount of polish will ever transform him into a mere points-scoring machine.

Agony and Ecstasy

In the highest ranks of professionals, love for money is a given – as with an inability to handle money, except for the few shrewd ones.

The will and super ego that drives the champion athlete are the same things that also make us want to throttle him or her half of the time.

Stubborn, prideful, obsessive, superstitious, cagey; arrogant, boastful, manipulative, mercurial… the most beloved athletes are the champions with the most human of flaws.

There is a very thin line between brave and reckless.

Let’s face it: The reckless who wins reaps accolades. Those who fail make people wring their hands.

pacquiao_midbannerPacquiao was right to keep his injury from media, especially if his doctors, trainers and coaches had reassured him he’d be in top form by the Fight of the Century.

But it’s also unfair to expect the Nevada Athletic Commission to ignore his failure to be transparent with regulators. The commission and the anti-doping body would be crucified if they allow athletes access to painkillers and other meds without a full medical report to back up their requests. (The anti-doping body claims it was the duty of the Pacquiao camp to inform the commission about the medical background behind their request for medication.)

Aside from our jealous assertion of an audience’s right to entertainment, here’s the bigger issue: Non-disclosure of an injury could endanger an athlete to the point of no return. In any form, boxing is a dangerous sport.

Pain is an alarm bell. Any substance that hampers the conduct of pain increases the danger to athletes. It would also give them leverage against those without aids to block the natural pain of athletic exertion.

Many athletes, driven as they are, will try to understate injuries. Nobody wants to show the opponent any weakness. On the other hand, weasels will try to find an excuse for getting out of a contest they are sure to lose.  Regulators also have to guard against these cheats.

Athletes have a very short shelf life; top tennis stars Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovich are now considered as elders in that game.

Every postponement of a contest, every pull out from a tournament, can affect one’s place in the history books. It can also have immediate effect on ranking – and the accompanying clout for purse money or endorsements.

While not conclusive,some studies have tried to parse out why some athletes push themselves past breaking point.

In work with injured athletes, some sport and exercise psychologists have proposed that certain attitudes might predispose athletes to injury (7). According to this research, the attitudes that coaches often try to instil in their athletes can actually backfire with regard to injury risks. For example, the ‘no pain, no gain’, and ‘give 110%’ attitudes might unwittingly lead to athletes taking undue risks. In many sports, participants need to be assertive and play hard, but within safe limits, employing appropriate techniques and strategies. This doesn’t just apply to contact sports since many other exercisers attempt to go through the pain barrier and as a result suffer overuse injuries or over-train.

Much like artists, top athletes are high-strung individuals. Most rely on people to take up the slack on practical details, so they can focus on winning. They also constantly need validation and will come to depend on the wisdom of people who have accompanied (and survived) their rise to fame.

I don’t feel cheated by Pacquiao. I was dazzled. But then, I’m not a betting person.

Still, Pacquiao knows the rules. If he was caught violating one rule meant to protect fighters from unnecessary harm, then he must take the lumps.


President Benigno Simeon Aquino tells a gathering of "Christian leaders" that he was fooled by Special Action Forces (SAF) Director Leo Napenas. Photo by ANCAlerts
President Benigno Simeon Aquino tells a gathering of “Christian leaders” that he was fooled by Special Action Forces (SAF) Director Leo Napenas. Photo by ANCAlerts

President Benigno Simeon Aquino III snubbed the invitation of the Board of Inquiry created by the Philippine National Police. Instead, he chose to deliver his latest outrageous speech under very controlled conditions.

“Christian leaders” gathered this afternoon on the grounds of Malacanang to pray for the President’s deliverance from his critics.

This, as he added to the mountain of lies dished out since January 25, the day 44 Special Action Forces, at least 18 Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) rebels and six civilians died in Mamasapano town, Maguindanao.

His speech came just a day after the nation commemorated the 40th day of the Mamasapano deaths. His speech came a day after widows of the SAF’s Fallen 44 begged him to tell the truth, and days after a surviving SAF hero of Mamasapano said the only justice he wants is to know who allowed his comrades to die. (Read: ‘No One Asked For Coordinates’ )

Napenas, only Napenas

allan-purisima-and-pnoy-1-1What did Mr. Aquino have to say this time? That Napenas tricked him.

Just Napenas. There was very little mention of his best friend, disgraced Philippine National Police chief Alan Purisima.

Maraming wishful thinking si Napenas as opposed to reality. Maliwanag sa akin: binola niya ako … Sinolo ni Napenas. Siya ang nag desisyon at may times na yung desisyon niya palpak. Pag alis niya sa akin nung January 9, lumalabas ngayon na wala siyang intensyon na tuparin yung utos ko sa kanyang mag-coordinate.”

(Napenas was indulging in wishful thinking, instead of focusing on reality. It is now clear to me: he tricked me. Napenas operated as a lone wolf. He decided alone and those decisions were wrong. When he left me on January 9… I now know that he had no intention of obeying my order for him to coordinate.)

pants on fireMr. Aquino today claimed, that as early as the January 9 briefing in Bahay Pangarap, he already told Napenas that the SAF cannot deploy just 160 SAF troopers in Mamasapano to take out Zulkifli bin Hir, alias Marwan, and Basit Usman when there were 3,000-4,000 potential hostiles in the area.

“He told me: ‘Sir, mag co-coordinate kami on jump-off.’ Sabi ko: ‘Hindi pwede yung pagkilos dapat iposisyon yung kanyon. Kailangan iposisyon yung tangke. Kailangan iposisyon yung plano, yung tao, yung gasolina at yung bala ng kanyon, yung bomba ng eroplano.” Hindi mo magagawa yan ng 30 minutes.”

(He told me, we will coordinate on jump off. I told him, you can’t do that because you need to position artillery and tanks, personnel, gasoline, ammunition and bombs from planes.)

Desperate tack

Christian leaders, led by Eddie Villanueva -- father of the head of an agency that received plenty of pork from the President -- listen to his latest defense on Mamasapano. Photo by ANCAlerts
Christian leaders, led by Eddie Villanueva — father of the head of an agency that received plenty of pork from the President — listen to his latest defense on Mamasapano. Photo by ANCAlerts

Aquino betrays his desperation with this new tack.

The Commander in Chief now presents himself as a fool, just to evade accountability for the tragedy that has torn the peace process into shreds and sent tens of thousands of Maguindanao residents escaping from clashes.

It’s exactly what the #TruthAndAccountability Network forecast in its statement last week. 

“Various officials, from the Secretary of Justice to the Senate President, have tried to downplay the President’s role. Drilon has the gall to preempt the Senate’s investigative report, insisting no blame should be ascribed to the President.”

“Misguided, misled, misinformed. While he may have been all that, we warn lawmakers: Do not shield the President. Napenas answered only to Purisima and Mr. Aquino — because the President willed it.”

Pants on Fire

Simply put, the President lied today.

The lies are so bad they fly in the face of logic.

Today’s lies also show that he lied in his earlier speeches to the nation, when he claimed not to have dabbled into operational details about Mamasapano.

You wonder how his advisers – who must have monitored everything that has gone before – allowed him to mouth off in this fashion. Anyone can access news reports of the Senate Mamasapano hearings and related incidents.

But then accounts of the President’s willfulness are legion. Mr. Aquino has always had a problem dealing with reality – other than that which exists in his mind.

The fact is, the President is scared. Very scared. And he has a lot to be scared of, starting with the fact that the men he sacrificed in Mamasapano, and the men left holding the bag of blame, refuse to be silent.

The ship of state has so many leaks. Men in uniform themselves are punching holes in the President’s tall tales.

Time on target

What the Senate did not bring to light was leaked last week: a video of Napenas, the morning after the Mamasapano clash, briefing Interior Secretary Mar Roxas and Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin and a roomful of officers.

Napenas, in response to Roxas’ questions, said the President knew that coordination would be time-on-target. Did Napenas lie? If he did, so did BFF Purisima, who repeatedly defended to senators his concept of time-on-target.

  • This is the same Purisima who told Napenas not to inform PNP OIC Leonardo Espina and Roxas of the operation. He never denied Napenas’ story before the Senate.
  • This is the same Purisima who claimed the duty of informing the AFP chief of staff – and never did so.
  • This is the same Purisima who escorted Napenas to brief the President; Purisima who stayed behind for a private chat with the President, and then gave his orders to Napenas.
  • And this, by the way, was Mr. Aquino’s text mate as the Mamasapano tragedy unfolded.

Not Napenas. Only Purisima. (The President barely acknowledged Roxas’ text on the morning of January 25. And he did not bother to talk to Roxas – who shared the same Zamboanga City-bound plane – until things got so bad around noon.)

Pure Bull

The President now claims he ordered Napenas to preposition artillery and even mentions bombs from planes. That would have caused massive destruction on communities -- which did suffer from the January 25 clash. Photo by Kenneth Guda, PinoyWeekly
The President now claims he ordered Napenas to preposition artillery and even mentions bombs from planes. That would have caused massive destruction on communities — which did suffer from the January 25 clash. Photo by Kenneth Guda, PinoyWeekly

If, indeed, Mr. Aquino warned Napenas of the need to marshall all possible personnel and equipment for Mamasapano, then he lied earlier in denying any operational responsibility.

But did Mr. Aquino really play the general in advising Napenas of what was needed in an operation where the SAF could face 3,000 to 4,000 enemies?

That is pure bull.

  • Had Mr. Aquino warned Napenas of 3,000 – 4,000 enemies in Mamasapano, he would NOT have texted Purisima, asking why they left Marwan’s body behind, and then say the enemy strength was just over a dozen men.
  • Had Mr. Aquino, indeed, warned of the hordes of enemies, he would not have flayed the SAF survivors for the failure to get Basit Usman.
  • Had Mr. Aquino given the warning, Purisima would NOT have repeated again and again to the Senate, that time-on-target fantasy.
  • Had Mr. Aquino said all that, he would have tore at his hair and shred his barong during his first televised speech.

What commander in chief would ask a SAF director to initiate a powwow with the AFP chief of staff?

Had the Commander in Chief informed Napenas that thousands of enemies were waiting for the SAF, he would have at least checked with the AFP chief of staff and PNP OIC and DND secretary. (Never mind, Mar Roxas, whom he apparently blamed for Purisima’s woes.)

Killing his own legacy

Flaglets calling for Truth and Accountability during a February 25 event in front of Camp Crame.
Flaglets calling for Truth and Accountability during a February 25 event in front of Camp Crame.

Had Mr. Aquino warned of thousands of enemies, then he was was willing to risk peace talks with the MILF. The Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) do not have that many men in Mamasapano. Many of those thousands would have to come from the ranks of the MILF.

If Mr. Aquino ordered the prepositioning of artillery and bombs from planes, why was there no rescue of the hapless SAF? As a SAF survivor notes, they provided coordinates regularly. Every time they moved. They could have given the coordinates of the enemy had these been requested. There was no rescue until very late in the afternoon. (Read: ‘No One Asked For Coordinates) 

If the President was willing to pour fire and brimstone on the enemy, he would have told his AFP officers to bomb away. Those poor men, blamed for the deaths of the SAF, had the peace process in mind as they scotched tactics that would have scorched Mamasapano communities.

If the President was ready to sow destruction on those 3,000 to 4,000 enemies, why is he now appealing for the passage of the Bangsamoro Law? If the President was willing to bring that much destruction on the MILF, why is he asking Congress to reward them with the BBL?

(That is said with sorrow, because I truly believe the Bangsamoro deserve the right to self-determination. )

The Real Issue

Stop your lies. A message to the President from the #truthandaccountability network.
Stop your lies. A message to the President from the #truthandaccountability network.

All of Mr. Aquino’s lies are attempts to coverup the main question of accountability.

He has failed to answer this: Why did you insist on appointing a disgraced police chief to head such a sensitive operation (thousands of enemies!) with the potential to wreak death and destruction?

Purisima’s role was not limited to advise. He directed Napenas. He reported directly to Aquino during planning and as the bitter truth unfolded.

You lied, Mr. President. You deliberately created a shadow chain of command.

Spare us the old claim of having noble intentions. Even a global terrorist like Marwan is no excuse for whole-scale upending of systems aimed at defending our fragile democracy.

Shadow chains of command are the domains of tyrants and rogues. Especially when these are headed by people accused of serious crimes.

You betrayed this nation, Mr. President. Tama na, sobra na.