1.3 meters of Panic

March 11, 2011. Japan was rocked by an earthquake that hit 8.9 on the Richter scale. Fires followed. Later, tsunami that reached up to 33 feet hit land.

An earthquake of that magnitude will certainly reach other lands and affect them in one way or another. So, some provinces in the Philippines were given an “Alert Level 2” by the PHIVOLCS. This list includes the place where I live. It’s not a time to start evacuating or to be doing forced evacuations, according to SOP, but some people from select places were told to evacuate.

See, according to a representative from PAGASA who spoke on the radio, the alert levels can be interpreted as “Ready. Set. Go!”. This relates to evacuation. On one, everyone should be ready for anything. On two, everyone should already be set and prepared to run, if the need be. On three, people should already be fleeing.

This is the information they kept on repeating during the radio program. At the same time, reminding people not to panic. However, there is this little curious information that I only heard once. It is about the estimated height: 1.3 meters.

Exactly how high is 1.3 meters? How much damage can a wave of 1.3 meters do? Why are we being given that much of an alert level?

This is not just some rant or an attempt to vent out the worry I’ve felt because of these alert issues. It is a call to the authorities to give accurate, proper, and complete information so as not to ensue panic.

What happened today was very similar, if not exactly the same, as what happened during the Haiti quake. An alert was raised, local government officials moved about to give out information, the police sirens were wailing about, and people were trying to get to higher ground.

It was midday when I got
Is this really something that people should be made to panic about? No matter how much you say, “Don’t panic”, there will always be people who worry too much. A worry which will soon spread like the domino effect.

If this will always be what we get at times like these, people might get tired. Soon enough, they might just stop listening altogether just like the ones the boy who cried, “Wolf!”, were calling to.

Adding Insult to the Injury

The sun is up again, the skies blue once more and it seems that the planet has begun moving on from the storms. Although, it seems to have moved a bit too far because of the heat being just a bit too much. However, let’s not talk weather this time. Let’s talk about how the local government responds to the tragedies that the world is trying to get through.

Homes, properties, and resources have been lost due to the typhoons and floods. A lot of communities were left with close to nothing and most of them does not have much to look forward to.

FM Romualdez on relief operationThe basic response to such tragedies are relief operations – be it from the government or the private sector. These include giving out groceries, clothing, and other necessities that would, most probably, not be available to the afflicted. Our community was hardly affected by the floods. We did have flooding during the rains and afterwards but it was very much minor compared to what other communities have suffered. Nevertheless, ours was one of those that the government attended to.

A few days ago, we received goods from either a senator or a city councilor. (The people here can’t seem to agree which.) The package was of rice, noodles, and canned sardines. But this didn’t make the people happy or as thankful as one who received some aid should have been. However, I can’t blame them. Neither can I blame myself. I might sound like I’m simply complaining. We may be called ungrateful but the goods we received might as well be taken as an insult to our situation. We may not be rich here but we intend to live decent lives and eat decent food.

I can say all those things because the rice we received was almost too close to inedible. It’s possible that the rice came from one of those NFA warehouses where they store rice imported at a very unreasonable price reeking of corruption and injustice to the masses. And, was it from two years ago already? It’s no good cooking and eating it pure. Even a 1:2 blend with commercial rice wouldn’t suffice to conceal its taste and smell.

Or, maybe, the person can’t care less about how the people will react to the goods received so long as he/she can have the claim to have given out relief goods to “aid the victims of the disasters”.

Today, we received more “tickets” to one of those operations. This time, it’s from the district representative. But it doesn’t look so good either. The sort of “informant” came around here this morning giving out the tickets. He also told us that “the goods are ready but we can’t start because the congressman is not yet yet here”. You know where he is? As we heard from the local radio news, he is at some subdivision enjoying the fiesta.

So, as of this writing, it’s already past lunch. People have begun flocking to the gym to line up for the goods. I expect they’d be the same goods, though, the amount may vary. We may receive the same kinds of things as that last time that the he gave out goods, plus the cloth bag with his name, title, and face printed on it. But that would be a good thing because the guy knows how to give decent food.

Update (February 12, 2011, 9:30pm): We did get the same things as from before: about twice the rice that the senator or councilor gave, twice the noodles, and half the canned sardines. And, yes, in a bag with the name, title, and face of the congressman in it. And it was decent.

But it’s not all good. The gym was too crowded and hot. Outside, it was even hotter. But that didn’t stop the people from staying and waiting for the representative. People started coming back at around 4 pm. It was a long wait in the heat. As an aftermath, someone was rushed to the hospital after an attack stroke.

Update (February 14, 2011): I still can’t get a final word as to whether it was the senator or the city councilor who sent us the goods first mentioned.

Update (February 17, 2011, 5:30pm): It can’t exactly be called a final word but someone informed me that it was actually both of them – the senator and the city councilor, that is.

On Death Penalty

The death penalty is one of the most controversial punishments for a crime. Some, most especially the church, are on the opinion that it isn’t humane and is rather a crime,  it’s just not right. While some say that it is only fitting to have those criminals executed.

A few years ago, the Philippines abolished the death penalty. All those who were on the death row were, instead, given a life sentence. Today, after the consecutive killings and burnings of some used car dealers, some people are petitioning for it to put back on the law. But what exactly are the merits, if any, of this kind of punishment?

The way I see it, the only good thing that can come out of it is that there will be less people in the prisons. However, some people think that the death penalty is a good way of scaring criminals and, therefore, there will be less of them. How true is that?

Anyway, if I were cruel enough and am sympathetic about someone who’s been murdered, I’d rather have that criminal rot away and suffer in prison. If I were so kind, I’d rather let that criminal live and think that maybe he can change and become a good person later. I do believe people are either one of two: one who sees evil in everybody else and one who sees good in every person.

But, lets go back to the question above. What are the merits of this thing in question? If I were to see it as a merit, then I should cite that, indeed, there will be a slightly smaller number of prisoners in jail. And, in consequence to that, there’ll be a smaller number of people to feed and secure. Second, maybe, just maybe, it is a form of kindness to end someone’s suffering. There was always that thing about death not being the worst thing that can happen to a person.

I guess, those are the only rather good things I can see about it. Do I have to look further? I don’t think so. I definitely cannot see it as a way to lessen possible crimes. “If there’s a will, there’s a way.” Most especially, if we are to speak of the hardened criminals. Or so, I think.

How about the demerits? Quite a few, I think. First, to counter one the so-called “merits” above, it will still cost to execute the people in the death row. No matter what method the forces will choose to use, there will always be expenditures.

Second, there is always the moral issue about it. Even if those are criminals who are sitting on the death row, those are still human lives which would have to be taken away by another human, be it by machine or poison. Someone’s death will still have to be in the hands of another person. I don’t think that the role of the executioner is such a sought-after job.

Another thing would be the possibility of an error. In every investigation –  hypotheses, deductions, conclusions – there is always a margin of error, isn’t there? Besides that, there will always exist the ministrations of the powerful and the influential. And how many innocent people have died for the crimes of others? I couldn’t tell.

Lives are always wasted for the wrong reasons everyday. This only alters the state of the minds of people in varying degrees. There was that time when the death penalty was in place. Then, people wished for it to be gone – for various reasons. Now, they want it back. Clearly, people are looking for the ‘perfect” justice system. Unfortunately, wherever you go in this world, such a thing does not exist.

The Open-Ballot System

Another round of elections. Another round of display of corruption that has already rooted in the Philippines.

See, vote buying is already a thing of the past. But I didn’t say so to mean that there is no more vote buying here in the Philippines. Quite the contrary, actually. It seems that vote buying has become an integral part of the Philippine electoral system.

However, as it is a given that vote buying has been existent for so long, people have already learned a thing or to on how to get around it – candidates and voters alike.

For the voters, there’s always the sure-I-will-accept-your-money-but-that-doesn’t-mean-that-you-have-my-vote technique. It’s what some people call “the right way”. To mean, “I will accept everyone’s money but I will still vote for my candidates.”

But the candidates have also learned to be smarter about vote buying. This time, they want to ensure that they get the votes that they paid for. It’s called the “open-ballot” system.

I, actually, have not seen it being done in a precinct, as I don’t linger after voting, but am pretty sure that ballots are supposed to be kept confidential so, it can only mean that whoever pushes for this strategy must have the support of the election council for it to succeed. It basically means that you have to show your ballot to your buyer’s inspector before dropping it in the ballot box.

Well, yes, it has to have happened in our place after I have voted as I voted right after the lunch break of the election council and local buzz about the operation grew at around 3pm.

You see, this, open-ballot, was the strategy that was employed by one of the local candidates here for barangay chairman. Saturday before the elections, this candidate has already given away an amount for some voters. Sunday, the other one gave thrice more than the previous candidate.

But Mr. Open-Ballot was very much determined to win the elections. So, some people, his followers, started the operation and went places to convince people to vote for him. The deal was simple enough: five times more than the amount previously distributed by Mr. Open-Ballot will be given to voter and all voter will have to do is show a ballot with Mr. Open-Ballot’s name on it to his inspectors before dropping it to the ballot box.

I so don’t know what to think.

Well, for those people who stood up and didn’t agree to the open-ballot, I can congratulate you for sheer nerve and self-control. As for those who gave in to the offer, I can’t blame you. Money is so hard to find these days.

K-12 and Funding

Education schmeducation!

Yes, I know, it’s rather harsh. See, according to Lemony Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Events, when there is something you just can’t care about, you use the word then follow it with about the same word except you replace the first letter or so of the word with “schm”. For instance, when you are not a fan of summer, while everyone is gloomy that it is over, you all tell them, “Summer schmummer”.

But not caring about education is just not good. It’s almost close to Count Olaf‘s indifference about the truth when he uttered, “Truth schmuth.” However, this seems to be the behavior that the Philippine government is displaying towards the Philippine education system.

From the previous budgets of the Philippine public funds, it is clear that education has not been a top priority in the Philippines – paying debts has always received the biggest partition of the public funds. But the recent budget cut on the Philippine state colleges and universities is such a big blow on the Philippine education. Ironically, the Department of Education is firmly proposing a revamp on the Philippine education system.

What I just can’t understand is why this administration has cut down budget for education while the DepEd is in the midst of trying to renew the Philippine education system.

Well, according to the DepEd, the Philippine education system is something that is rather past and that the Philippines should start following the lead of other nations citing a UK study that tells of the positive effects of longer school hours to a country’s GDP. True. But which one of them is overlooking the facts worse?

On one hand, there is the budget cut. On the other hand, there is the DepEd seemingly taut and in a rush on K-12.

It is a given that a cut on the already relatively low budget on education will adversely affect the already established system. This system is one that is still incomplete. All you have to do to see this is to visit a public school – elementary, high school, or college – take a nice look around and you will notice either a lack in teachers, classrooms, facilities, or the like.

Now, the new system that the DepEd is proposing will add three year levels to basic education. This will, of course, necessitate new classrooms, more teachers, more facilities. And how do they plan to fulfill these needs?

It’s true: planning always helps. However, both sides seem to be in a hurry. If important things are being done in haste by this administration, what good can we possibly expect out of it?

Wake Me Up When September Ends

Unbelievable how time flies by. The year was just starting. Then, it’s already the end of the third quarter. See, time waits for no one.

September 2010 closes with a rather gloomy Philippine atmosphere.

First, there’s the issue of the hostage taking at the Quirino Grandstand that was staged last month by no less than a former police officer. Yes, it is of last month but the issue has not yet been settled. China has not yet lifted the travel ban against the Philippines following their demand for a fair and believable investigation. As the report has not yet been reviewed by the president himself, there is no word yet about the future of the Philippine-Chinese relation.

Second, the bar exams this year ends tragically. It would have been a day of celebration after a week of very exhausting exams but someone just had to send a bomb to the area giving injuries to a number of supporters. The police seems to not have a concrete place to start investigations. There are two people who have attested to seeing a person send that bomb but for, the lack of evidence, the person is not yet being treated as a suspect. Like the previous issue, this one is far from settled.

Third, there is the president, Noynoy Aquino, facing the possibility of excommunication for his stand on the issue so-called “reproductive health”. The church is firm on their stand on the natural methods of family planning. The church blatantly disapproved of the DOH’s giving away of free condoms. They have stated that if the president will have his hands on this program, there is the possibility of him getting excommunicated.

As far as I am concerned, and, I daresay, a lot of other people too, this so-called “reproductive health bill” should not be in the priority list of this new administration. It is a given that, from the previous administration, Mr. Aquino have been a supporter of this bill – an evidence of which will be the banners of the Catholic church listing the candidates who support this bill, one of the names being Noynoy Aquino.

Somehow, stopping people from giving birth to children is not the best that this government can do for the population that is already in place. Or so it should not be.

If I may say so, corruption is still the number one problem in the Philippines. Yes, the president has said that he will give much of his efforts in the campaign against corruption. But saying so is never enough.

I believe, that instead of spending much of his energy in this reproductive health bill, he should divert it to issues with more substance – for example, he should instead try to help ease the distress of those who are suffering.

This is when I got reminded of that song by B.o.B and Hayley Williams,

Can we pretend that airplanes in the night sky are like shooting stars?

I could really use a wish right now

Yeah, we sure do need one these days. I can only hope for a bright October.