Friday, December 11, 2009

Now Is The Time for All Good Persons to Dissolve into Hysterics

Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, has declared she would run for a seat in the House of Representatives.

I can see it all now. Nine years from now she will be barred for a third term and will run for maybe, mayor? Governor? How many elective positions can she run for before she runs out? Perhaps she will then enter the Guinness Book of Records when she finally becomes the first centenarian to run for barangay councilor.

On the day of her announcement, her election lawyer also described the motorcade to be undertaken to file her certificate of candidacy. Perhaps aware of the massacres that happen to people who oppose administration candidates, her erstwhile opponent Prof. Randy David, decided not to oppose her after all. Opposition motorcades are a bit dicey these days.

Being a women's advocate I noticed her say that she felt the need to, among other things, continue to contribute to the empowerment of women. I suppose she intends to consult her allies, the Ampatuans, on the matter. Or should she consult Chavit Singson?

On the same day, Press Secretary Cerge Remonde attempted to speak at a rally in Mendiola to protest the Maguindanao killings. He seemed to take it graciously when he was booed off stage. “Part of the job,” he said. I wonder what else he thinks is part of the job? Making us believe that now that they are prosecuting the Ampatuans ever-so-carefully, they were not trying to keep them in power barely two weeks ago? Having us believe that we are to sit back and be jolly after discovering that Gloria and much of her cabinet have been pals with mass murderers?

Oh, I can imagine it indeed. The hoopla that surrounds the President and her men wherever they go. The bowings and the scrapings of underlings and sycophants. The increasing arrogance that comes when one keeps power that you do not deserve. With such power you can buy either, by money or the promise of lucrative positions, any number of lackeys. In fact, with such power you have no choice but to surround yourself with corrupt, the corruptible, the mediocre or the deluded.

It is a common question people ask each other. A psychological one really: how do they sleep at night? Very soundly actually. They can no longer imagine a way of politics that is different from their shabby shenanigans. They can no longer afford to exercise their moral faculties if they had it in the first place. Ampatuan, Garcellano, Abalos. Bolante, Palparan, I could name many more. Arroyo's friends and allies. They are famous not just for their misdeeds but for the added venality of their downright refusal to be shamed off the national stage.

Megalomania, dissociation from the humbling dialectics of a normal social life, the inability to respect dissent, delusions that have them believe their own lies, isolation from the ordinary lives of the majority. It is a condition that beset the imperial palaces of the past when the powers of kings and
sultans were paramount. These days, we might think of describing it as a mass psychological syndrome affecting members of a depraved elite.

They are shaking their heads over the turn of events, wondering how such bad luck could happen to them. The death of Cory Aquino and the surge in Noynoy's poll numbers, the Maguindanao massacre, their low approval ratings, the mass desertions from their political fold. Note to them: it is called by some religions, karma. The impersonal law of moral balance that no amount of wealth or power can overcome.

To sleep at night, those who have enough brains to need rationalizations, call us communists, terrorists, agitators, naive, wooly academics, hysterical, or any number of things. Those who do not have enough moral or intellectual abilities, do not need to even think about the rest of the world. Indeed they may be untouchable in their safe places. But those spaces have only the size of their mansions and not the expanse of our communal acceptance.

We, blessed ordinary folk, shall laugh in the face of at their arrogance. We shall whisper our dissent against their imperiousness. We shall satirize their self importance. And, at their moments of greatest venality, we shall hysterically scream: NO.

No, you're not good people. No we don't buy your lies though you may get away with it all. No, we will not be dazzled by your illegally obtained wealth nor grant your children and grandchildren the status that wealth confers. No matter how many people you can buy, cajole or threaten into showing you acceptance and admiration, you stand condemned by us.

With laughter, in tears, with sarcasm, in full-throated dissent, with irony, in hysteria---we say NO. And we will not forget. I humbly ask the good people of Pampanga not to vote for Gloria Macapagal Arroyo.

(A slightly edited version of this post was published in the Yellow Pad Column of the Business Mirror last December 9, 2009. Yellow Pad features opinion pieces by fellows of Action for Economic Reform, a non-governmental organization.)

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Dear Blog: I think I just became a trans person who is gay

Dear Blog,

I am a bit confused about my sexuality these days. Fundamental changes have come so fast that I am feeling that I have lost control of my identity. My sexual orientation shifted 3 weeks ago and now my gender identity has changed also. Strangely enough, I am sure of my politics.

But let me recall events. We had a great forum last Tuesday, December 8. The University of the Philippines College of Law, the University of the Philippines Center for Women's Studies (UCWS), RainbowRights and Libertas held a forum entitled: "I am so gay for human rights: A forum on politics and identity". We had planned this forum in October to cap the meeting of all gender coordinators of the 9 UP campuses. The UCWS, of which I am Director, hosts this meeting yearly.

Last November 13, the second division of the Commission on Elections (COMELEC) decided to deny the application for accreditation of the LGBT political party Ladlad. The COMELEC stated that LGBTs were immoral (they cited the Bible and the Quran)as the basis for the decision. I was so upset, I declared that day, "I am gay until Ladlad gets accredited."

The UCWS, on the prompting of College of Law Dean Leonen, revised the format of the forum to include a discussion of the issues raised by the Comelec decision.

We had a great forum. I introduced the concept of identity politics, its usefulness as well as pitfalls. Dean Leonen recapped his lecture to the Supreme Court on identity, indigenous peoples and the law. Prof. Ibarra Guitierez talked about mraginalization, identity and the law on political parties. Germaine Leonin Trittle discussed Ladlad's accreditation process and it's petition for reconsideration.

Perhaps our session was blessed because December 8 is the feast of the Immaculate Conception. Perhaps it is also because December 8 is Philippine Lesbian Day. Maybe both.

The only sour note was that I realized that I had been guilty of not treating transgender people with equal attention. One of the audience pointed out during the open forum that the Comelec decision had ignored all the reports of documented abuse submitted with their petition. She mentioned that in truth, many of these abuses were committed against transgender persons. She mentioned that even in Philippine history, transgender people had been part of the resistance against invaders, if not the leaders, and had suffered at the hands of the colonizers.

Another member of the audience mentioned that we had to be clearer about the difference between sexual orientation and gender identity.

All these comments hit me hard. I knew in my heart that I was as guilty as the COMELEC in my lack of understanding for transgender persons.

So I announced that I was withdrawing my identity as a gay person. From that moment on, I announced, "I am a transgender person until Ladlad gets accredited."

The kind members of the transgender community seemed to welcome me and forgive my previous insensitivity. I thought this resolved the matter.

Until I got home. I realized I still had not got it right. I did not need to dissociate myself from my gay identity completely. After all, I could be a gay trans person. This is precisely what my trans brothers and sisters were trying to tell me when they were insisting that we be clear about the distinction between gender identity and sexual orientation.

But, dear blog, this is not why I am confused about my sexuality. The confusion stems from the fact that despite repeated promises to put Ladlad's petition for accreditation on the agenda of the COMELEC's en banc sessions, this has not happened.

Each time they delay deliberation and their decision, my sexuality hangs in the balance. I hope they decide soon. Then I can declare, "I am a gay transperson until the Supreme Court rules favorably on the Ladlad petition" or even, " I am a gay transperson until the United Nations censures the Philippine Government for it's violation of the human rights of LGBTI." As Prof. Guitierez mentioned, "we will take this issue up to the United Nations because some official body has to say it is wrong."

I teach my students that sexuality is very fluid and that identity is socially constructed.

I had not realized my life would be a case study.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

My Heroic Action at the Barricades (Or: Was I Keeping Watch on the Barricades or Were the Barricades Keeping Watch Over Me?)

Gloria Macapagal Arroyo was supposed to be in my neck of the woods today—the University of the Philippines, Diliman campus. So I decided to uphold a sacred campus tradition---I joined a rally. The more dignified members of our group would call it a protest. Personally, I just wanted to razz the woman. Call it my version of a protracted struggle. Someday she will be brought to justice. In the meantime, let's just try to irritate her as much as she irritates us.

I was determined to enjoy myself, and so I did. Speaker after speaker cursed her. I did my creative best to add to the general grouchiness.

We warmed up at the lawn of the building nearest the one she was supposed to inaugurate then attempted to move closer. We made it only to the curb across the street from the site she would have inaugurated. Initially we were face-to-face with unarmed cops. It was not too pleasant looking at them, but it was ok. We had some more great speeches to listen to. The Student Regent was a revelation. Big explosive rhetoric from such a petite youth. When I grow up, I wanna be like her.

Unfortunately, the unarmed cops soon got replaced by men with batons and riot shields. Bummer! We had some serious pushing and shoving. Really bad stuff. For one thing, the riot police were not our local UP police. We have fought long and hard to keep our campus free from that kind of interference. For another thing they were pushing at my friend, the Faculty Regent; my other friend, our former Dean; and some other friends from the College of Science and College of Arts and Letters. Normally unconvinced about the need to push-and-shove, I felt I had to at least talk to one of the policemen doing the shoving. As a scholar, I felt I must rise to the defense of our multidisciplinary act of expressing sentiments of deep disgust.

The cops then brought in metal barricades. This for me was the highlight moment. The minute the police tried to put the barricades in place, some brilliant and strong kids pulled them away towards the lawn we had just left. This is was the opportunity for my most heroic moment. I decided to leave the frontlines and command the rear. I watched the discarded barricades.

Those barricades are dangerous things. When they give way during stampedes, the people on one side get pinned down and the people on the other side get hurt by the stampede too. So I was pleased as an anarchist in a free-for-all, when the kids managed to frustrate the attempt to place them.

So there I was, manning (womanning?) the barricades by lying along one of them. Expressing my heroism, by cooling it in the shade. The police tried to make me give up my post by pretending they were going to take the barricades back to their station. BUT I STOOD UPON THE BARRICADES by lying down on them all the more. NO PASARAN, fascists!

As I always say, when your position is righteous (and kinda comfy and shady), you will have many allies. Soon, most of my colleagues in the College of Social Work and Community Development joined me on the barricades.

Having frustrated the policeman who, because he was from the campus police force, did not want to argue about barricades with Dr. Sylvia Estrada Claudio, Director of the University Center for Women's Studies (he did ask, so I did say), I wandered off every so often. Also of course, the barricades were well-guarded by then.

My wanderings were quite satisfactory. Some intrepid students attempted to get closer by taking a side route. I hear they had with them the tomatoes purchased earlier, so that we could talk about vegetables wit her alleged Excellency. The police caught them, beat some and handcuffed several. The Staff Regent and our UP lawyers led by their Dean, prevented their arrest and led them to safety.

I came upon the President of our workers union, a former Dean of the College of Social Science and Philosophy and a few others, razzing a policeman who had stepped out of his car with an armalite. The armalite was back in his car by the time I came. Having missed the main issue, I decided to become incensed to make up for my bad timing. I had barely started to lecture when the police car drove off to to a spot 2 meters away. It was a very good lecture on human rights actually, and they should have stayed to hear it all. Pearls after FASCIST swine.

And so it was. Them cats were trying to have their way, but us mice would not let them. The fascist pigs could not wallow in the mud of their authoritarian ways. (I know, I know, my metaphors are all over the place, but I think they sound nice.)

We broke up when it was announced that her alleged Excellency would not come after all.

I could give a lot of advice to our UP Diliman officials and our local police about how to best deal with the preservation of the sacred UP tradition of protest actions. For one thing, they could have negotiated the conduct of the affair with the 3 sectoral Regents. They could have deployed only our pussycat UP police to be in our faces. They should have kept the tigers of the Quezon City Police Force back, only to intervene if we broke the negotiated space. They should have also ensured that, having decided to invite the Quezon City police into the campus, that no weapons of deadly force like an armalite be part of their gear. (Good heavens what were they thinking?) Some of the better rallies I have attended in my long years of rallying have been like that.

But I digress. Far be it for me to give unsolicited advice. This morning I had great fun. On a cool December morning, at the dawn of UP's second century, in the Diliman campus where I grew up and now teach.

It said in the news that Gloria Macapagal Arroyo only managed to come to UP Diliman once in her 9 years as alleged President. Shucks. I hope she comes before her term ends. I had hoped that we could have stayed at that corner for a week and begin a new, improved, Diliman Commune for the 21st Century. I can see it all now...