Of women, fire and rapists

The month of March this year may forever be ingrained in Philippine history as among the worst to ever hit Filipino women.

fireThough it is supposed to be “Women’s Month,” the string of events that unfolded recently made it a lot like the government’s so-called observance of “Fire Prevention Month” (which coincidentally falls on the same month as that of Women’s); a time where, quite paradoxically, incidents of fire happen to hit us most.

On the first day of March, I was awakened by a loud and seemingly unending blare of sirens. I think this was around 9 AM. I thought there was a fire nearby, so I hurriedly went up my roof to check if there is a cloud of black smoke in the vicinity. Fortunately, there was none and the entire ruckus was just a parade of fire trucks to warn us against playing fire – March being fire prevention month and all.

Seriously though, that earsplitting commemoration didn’t sink into me until I happened to open my TV and learned on the news that a fire has razed the Baguio City Public Market and an SM Mall in Cavite. “Ahh, Fire Prevention Month nga pala ngayon,” I told myself. “Kaya pala may parada ang mga bumbero.”

For me, the government’s, particularly that of the Bureau of Fire Protection’s (BFP) yearly commemoration of the “Fire Prevention Month” is just a smokescreen to hide their utter inability to protect us from fires in one of the hottest months of the year. We all know that the BFP is poorly equipped and undermanned. So I only have pity for those brave firefighters who regularly come to blows with major fires donning only tattered and substandard firefighting clothes while their bosses up the ladder have only grease lining both their mouths and pockets for eating lechon on a regular basis and for the millions of grease money forked from private companies who sell the same substandard firefighting equipment.

That, my friends, is my brief explanation why I think “Fire Prevention Month” is a joke.

nicole_smith1

And so when I heard of the news that a twenty one year old woman was brutally murdered and molested on the night of March Fifth in Davao; I thought this incident would surely solidify the women’s movement that’s set to march on March 8 for International Women’s Day.

Also, I knew this would be a setback to the peace process, considering that the victim is a daughter of legendary New People’s Army Commander Parago. The victim was elementary teacher Rebelyn Pitao.

And then, after an alleged and much touted “30 minute” phone call of US President Barack Obama to de facto Philippine President Gloria Arroyo recently, “Nicole” was reported to have suddenly “recanted” her story on her alleged rape by US Serviceman Lance Corporal Daniel Smith.

junk_vfa1Her so called “recantation” was widely seen by her lawyers and the women’s groups as an underhanded ploy to weaken the Filipino people’s movement against the lopsided Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA). They also asserted that the US government, with the help of the Arroyo regime, has pressured “Nicole” to issue her alleged “recantation” to weaken the rape case against Smith, thus making it possible to finally spirit him out of “detention” from the US Embassy.

Indeed, “Nicole’s” sudden turn around is suspect. Note that this happened at the height of clamor to have the VFA abrogated. And after the Obama-GMA phone chit-chat, note further that the Philippine government has resurrected from the dead moves to extradite police officers Mancao and Dumlao who is believed to hold the key in pinning the mastermind on the murder of PR man Bubby Dacer and his driver Emmanuel Corbito.

The Department of (In) Justice Secretary Raul Gonzales has publicly said that Mancao and Dumlao are ready to link opposition stalwart Senator Panfilo Lacson and former President Joseph Estrada to the Dacer-Corbito killing.

Ex deal? Probably. But one thing’s for sure: This government is ready to sacrifice the dignity, not only that of rape victim “Nicole” but the entire nation’s as well, for its own political survival.

PHILIPPINES-CRIME-POLITICS-JUSTICEAnd then the unthinkable happened. Former Congressman Romeo Jalosjos, who was convicted of raping an 11 year-old in 1996, was ordered released courtesy of an executive clemency issued by the de facto President. (Play Smoke‘s funny Jalosjos game here. I scored 185!).

The joke that is the annual “Fire Prevention Month” has indeed rubbed off to “Women’s Month” under Gloria Arroyo. To think that we have a woman presenting herself as President.

I sure dread the day when I’d be saying “Aah, Women’s Month pala ngayon. Kaya pala may nagahasa na naman.” I hope this would come not in my lifetime.

No time for Gloria

While Gloria Arroyo got repeated snubs from US President-elect Barack Obama, an eight year old Filipina girl living in Missouri is pen pals with the new leader of the “free world.”

Fourth grader Karina Encarnacion wrote Obama to suggest what type of dog he should give his two daughters once they move in to the White House. She also asked Obama if he could “make a law that requires everyone to recycle” and to “ban unnecessary wars.”

The young FIl-Am got the surprise of her life when Obama replied to her two-page handwritten letter.

“Creating change and making the world better is not always easy, and you will probably find in your life that it is more comfortable to ignore injustices that don’t affect you directly. Don’t take that comfortable road. Challenge yourself to make a difference,” Obama wrote.

“If you don’t already know what it means, I want you to look up the word ‘empathy’ in the dictionary. I believe we don’t have enough empathy in our world today, and it is up to your generation to change that.”

“I hope you will always be an active participant in the world around you, and that you will seize every opportunity to make the world better,” he added.

“Seeing young people like you who care about making things better inspires me and gives me great hope about the future of our country.”

Obama’s letter, which included an autographed picture that she requested, was sent to Karina’s home in Cedarbrook Lane, Kirkwood, Missouri.

Last June, Gloria Arroyo failed to meet then Presidential candidate Obama during her visit to the States. And when the news of an Obama win shook the entire world just recently, Arroyo tried calling the President-elect but only got to talk to a telephone operator.

Next week, Arroyo will again visit the US but again she won’t be seeing Obama. He’s got no time for her.

PS: I think Arroyo should also look up the word ’empathy’ in the dictionary.

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