Here we talk about the tax evasion case versus Rappler, as an off-shoot of its defense versus the SEC order to close it down. Also whether or not the support for Rappler and Ressa have died down, whether or not they are being singled out by the Duterte government, and getting some perspective on the notion (spin?) of dissent that Rappler uses to fashion itself as hero. Part 1 is here.

Do you have any observations or reactions on how other local newsrooms have responded to the tax evasion charges against Rappler and Ressa? Do you think that they’ve lent enough support to them, or otherwise?

I do think the support for Ressa and Rappler has died down compared to early 2018 when the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) ordered its closure. I’d imagine this to have been brought on by a number of things. There’s the possibility that mainstream media entities feel they have no choice but to fall silent about freedom of the press issues lest they become Duterte’s next targets. I’d like to think that to some extent many media practitioners can see right through this spin that fashions Rappler and Ressa as heroes, even as so many others are doing the same work they are — if not better work than they are. I’m sure there’s also the part where media entities just make that decision about which issues matter more — after all in the time of Duterte, when impunity, oppression, misogyny, and incompetence are on the rise, what to use our energies on is the first decision we make. (more…)

At the end of 2018, Washington Post’s Regina Cabato and Kristine Phillips sent me questions about and Maria Ressa for a story they were doing. A bit of that long-ish set or responses landed in their profile on Ressa. I asked if I could publish their questions and my answers on my site, and they said yes.

I always welcome the opportunity to flesh out my thoughts, especially at a time when too much is happening, and we can barely keep our heads above water. This is Part 1: On Ressa, Rappler, mode of production, its claims of independence, and global attention.

One of the things you wrote was Rappler “has fashioned itself internationally as the bastion of independent journalism in the country,” and it is “seen by the international community as the only local media company that’s worthy of mention in the time of Duterte.” What makes you say this, and what are other local media companies that you think also deserve the spotlight?

Even before Duterte, and obviously ever since, the real source of independent reporting would be the alternative media of the Left: Pinoy Weekly, Bulatlat, Manila Today, AlterMedia, Kodao. These are media practitioners and writers who have been doing the stories that are not covered by mainstream media, across the different Presidents, and yes, mainstream media includes Rappler. Some of these alternative media sites were already online long before Rappler even went live, and are the true “independents” if we are to use the word at all: they are not funded by a huge capitalist, they are covering the stories of the people, the ones that don’t make it to TV or radio news, and they are on the ground covering stories that no one else is covering. (more…)

Where were the teachers?

My question really is to the teachers of those kids, both bully and bullied: no one noticed the dynamic was different in relation to that bully? No one saw how the other kids would react to being grouped with him for projects, or being told they had to partner with him for anything? No one saw how the other kids would avoid the bully, or would get nervous, or would not look him in the eye? No one saw that kid and thought, hmmmm, he seems to be more yabang than the others, we wonder if that means anything? No teacher, across all the subjects, discussed with the other teachers if they noticed anything in relation to the kid who turned out to be bully?

Halfway through a semester in a college classroom, you tend to already see the dynamic of the collective, you see the students who dominate the activities and discussions, as you see those who decide not to engage, as you see those who try with all their might to participate no matter how scared or insecure they might be. We’re talking seeing kids, twice, three times a week. I cannot imagine teaching in high school, where you see these kids day-in, day-out, and not be able to see the dynamic of power that exists among the students you gather in the classroom. (more…)

My bias against foreign theater works staged in the local has grown through the years. The possibilities for original theater work will never be realized if we don’t take the risk of staging it, more deliberately and consistently. On the upside, there is an untapped resource of a handful of people doing really good adaptations of foreign works, old and new, a productive and critical way of taking something distant and different, and making it familiar and relevant in this context. Done well, with a very clear sense of the value of the original, and how it can speak to a wider audience in the here and now, the adaptation cradles a creative spirit that is not only relevant, but can also be very powerful.
This is the inevitable context of Mula Sa Buwan, an independent production, being restaged in 2018, now in the context of a theater scene that struggles to deal with a state of the nation that allows little for leisure expenses, even less for theater. After all, when films remain as cheaper alternative and more accessible option, why would you spend on theater?
But maybe the question isn’t why, but when. It is when the theater production is originally Filipino, even as it is twice removed from an original, even when the original text seems so far gone from where we are. Mula Sa Buwan is a musical based on Soc Rodrigo’s translation into Filipino of Edmond Rostand’s Cyrano de Bergerac. What it remains is this: it’s the story of a protagonist who is on the one hand confident in his intellect, but insecure about his looks. Of course this means an unrequited love, as it does mean the ability to love so willingly and humbly, that life and limb don’t matter.
It is a love story. And it is no surprise that this is what is sold about this production — it is what will bring audiences in. But what should be said about Mula Sa Buwan is that it is more than that. 
Click here for the rest of this review.

If there’s anything we might all agree on in relation to how the Duterte government operates, it’s that it has taken spin and distractions, smoke and mirrors, to a whole different level. Sometimes it’s like they’re throwing in the kitchen sink for good measure, often enough there’s some sacrificial lamb.

It is of course the President’s big mouth which does the best job of disengaging us from what matters. Take all those instances when we should be talking about something important like the killing of farmers and peasants, the failed drug war, inflation, the excise tax on oil, China’s takeover of our seas, the entry of an unbelievable number of Chinese migrant workers, the militarization of government, and count the number of times instead that the president decides to drop a misogynistic statement here, or an expletive there directed at (a) the Church, (b) activists, (c) the poor, (d) human rights advocates and organizations, (e) “terrorists” (f) critics (g) all of the above.

Which is to say that at a time like this when we have so much on our plate of things to think about given the aforementioned urgent issues, it is also pretty clear that this government, along with its puppet (or puppeteer) Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, is banking on precisely these overwhelming, exhausting times so they can continue with their ChaCha moves.  (more…)