Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Standing Rock and the Memory of Macli-ing

STANDING ROCK and the memory of Macli-ing Dulag. The Standing Rock protest in North Dakota sends memories of my long coverage and involvement (as journalist, NGO worker and activist) with the Kalinga people's fight against construction of a dam back home in the Philippines many years ago. The protest led to the assassination of Macli-ing Dulag, a Kalinga leader in the Cordillera Mountains on the island of Luzon. I grew up in the Cordilleras. Its central city, Baguio, is my family's second home-city. My dad and many relatives worked in mining towns up there and some kin dealt or collaborated businesses (fresh produce and farming) with most tribes--some of my brothers still do with a number of villages.

          Macli-ing was a Pangat (tribal chief) in the highland village of Bugnay, Tinglayan, Kalinga-Apayao. A farmer by profession, Dulag was also a road maintenance worker for the government. He staunchly opposed construction of the Chico Dam, a hydroelectric project along the Chico River proposed by the Marcos government and was to be funded by the World Bank. Indigenous peoples in the area, including the Kalinga and the Bontoc, resisted the project for three decades as the proposed dam's reservoir threatened to drown 1,400 square-kilometers of traditional highland villages and ancestral domains in the mountain region.
         On 24 April 1980, elements from 4th Infantry Division of the Philippine Army opened fire on Dulag at his home, killing him and wounding a companion. His murder unified the various peoples of the Cordillera Mountains against the proposed dam, causing both the World Bank and the Marcos regime to eventually abandon the project a few years after. The Kalinga People resisted the proposed dam project for three decades. The project was finally shelved in the 1980s and is now considered a landmark case study concerning ancestral domain issues in the Philippines. Yet even after the project was shelved, strife in the mountains didn't stop. The Marcos regime finally ended in 1986 following a people-power revolt.

          During the time of the ensuing Corazon Aquino administration, I immersed myself in advocacy work that led to the drafting of the local government code or devolution of powers from national governance to communities--which eventually ironed out in the amended Constitution that stipulates that local governments "shall enjoy local autonomy," and in which the Philippine president exercises "general supervision." Congress enacted the Local Government Code in 1991 to "provide for a more responsive and accountable local government structure instituted through a system of decentralization with effective mechanisms of recall, initiative, and referendum, allocate among the different local government units their powers, responsibilities, and resources, and provide for the qualifications, election, appointment and removal, term, salaries, powers and functions and duties of local officials, and all other matters relating to the organization and operation of local units."
          Pondering the memory of the Chico Dam/Kalinga protest and observing the current Standing Rock protest shudder my spirit. Indigenous peoples or tribes are peaceful souls who opt to live their lives apart from the mainstream--until their land/s are violated. The Standing Rock Sioux is against an oil pipeline that would run from the Bakken oil fields in western North Dakota to southern Illinois, crossing beneath the Missouri and Mississippi rivers, as well as part of Lake Oahe near the Standing Rock Indian Reservation. Although local government autonomy doesn't work in the US, Indian reservations do have similar treaties and agreements signed when the Indian Wars ended in 1924.
Like the struggle of tribal groups in the Philippines north and south, the conflicts in America were mostly local, involving disputes over land use. Particularly in later years, conflicts were spurred by ideologies such as Manifest Destiny, which held that the United States was destined to expand from coast to coast on the North American continent. In the 1830s, the United States had a policy of Indian removal east of the Mississippi River, which was a planned, large-scale removal of indigenous peoples from the areas where Europeans were settling. Particularly in the years leading up to Congressional passage of the related act, there was armed conflict between settlers and Native Americans; some removal was achieved through sale or exchange of territory through treaties.
          I just hope that the protest move (apart from what the Standing Rock Sioux started) doesn't   fizzle out like the fate of the Occupy protest. This time there is a clear objective or demand--unlike Occupy's abstract or sweeping demands for reform. And I hope a leadership talks and negotiates with government emissaries this time--than what it was when activists insist that "we are all leaders and we are all followers too." I remain positive that this cause will win. My spirit has subsided into a mere observer of life these days--and what I can do most is simply share some stories and wisdom that I lived through my life's journey.

Tuesday, November 8, 2016

The Assange Mystique and Mystery: Political Hacking is not Journalism. It is Trouble-making, Thievery and Espionage.

THE following are some of my Facebook posts on the subject of Julian Assange and WikiLeaks.

IT is amazing and also sad that many people hail WikiLeaks or Julian Assange. I am not saying that his hacks are untrue or truthful. They could even be 100 percent factual. When people hack you expect to get the full data, not just what your source (as a journalist) told you. What is bothersome to me is—why Mr Assange focuses only on Washington and/or his preferred “enemy” in the US? What about George Soros and his current brinkmanship waltzes in Southeast Asia? Or North Korea's nukes? Or Moscow's oil companies' boardroom chats? Or details of Beijing's bilateral agreement with Manila? Or Exxon's internal emails in re climate change and the Koch's new pipeline Congress lobbying strategies? More so, can he hack Ecuador's Rafael Correa's dealings with Chinese president Xi Jinping? Of course he can—but he won't. After all, China sunk $11 billion into road construction, mining works and sprawling hydroelectric dams in the tiny Andean country since 2008. 

          That's just some of what Ecuador gets from Beijing—and I am not talking about gluten free lo meins. Correa isn't buddy-buddy to Obama or White House at all. Meantime, Assange enjoys caviar and Dom Perignons at the Ecuadorian embassy in London. Now, need I talk more about Russia? Russia entered WTO in 2012—and they are toe to toe with Saudi Arabia as the world's #1 crude oil producer. Russia is not a member of OPEC. Figure that one out. If Assange wanna be the champion of press freedom (which he isn't a member), government transparency or whatever—then keep on hacking. But hack `em all, dude!

TO ME, what went on in the Oval Office or NSA boiler room or Washington's secured lines yesterday is pretty much what goes on today or tomorrow. Washington. Beijing. Kremlin. Pyongyang. London. Manila etc etcetera. NOT just White House. As a 56-year old journalist, there are still things that I wanna know that I believe are significant to survival of the everyday human and earth. At the same time, there are also things that I already know which others don't know—but then would that really matter much since at the end of the day, I only fed some people's thirst at prying open sealed cookie jars—as against the truths behind the poison in the cookie. As a writer, I want to give the people names of those who put poison in the cookie. What's the deal with the jar? That can be broken (as Assange did)--but I wanna know what's in that cookie, what makes that cookie different.
       I read through those WikiLeaks stuff from 2010—and most concerns US/Washington's meddling (via the shadows) and/or involvement in other countries' internal strife or affairs. Like Snowden's “expose” on government espionage upon its citizens. That's been happening since time immemorial—even before the internet. Washington's involvement in coup d'etats etc—that's been the name of the game of US foreign policy since time immemorial. Do I need to know who sent choppers atop Malacanang Palace to fetch the Marcoses on Feb 26, 1986? Does it matter? I know. We know. What point? These WikiLeaks distracts people from the very core or gut of what really affects them. Yes, maybe governments may put some politician/s in jail? Other countries do that already without help from Mr Assange's leaks. They know. Their media know. They don't need to go surf WikiLeaks. But we also know that taking out one two three hundred bad eggs in the government means a replacement of another set of bad eggs—since we haven't really touched the MIB that hatches the eggs. Meantime, these high-grade exposes distracts us from the truths of the matter—ie oil pipelining kills the earth, kills people etc etcetera.

After 9/11, after Katrina/Sandy, after all the shootings and massacres in the streets and public places—we are so hung up on NSA snooping and Washington's intervention in say Timbukseven? WikiLeaks knows a lot, that's obvious. What if what Assange knows gets into the hands of those who don't really care about collateral damage and stuff—in the name of their greed and global dominance? And what about Russia and China? Universal evil isn't just a monopoly of Assange's enemies in Washington. He knows that. Until he balances his ambition to be some kind of god, he is just one highly-paid, highly-sought out hacker—who knows how to play media, including social media, that as you said (and I concur) manipulate the language and make lies truthful. Moreover, superpowers should exchange infos for mutual/positive gains not sidebar comments in each other's meeting rooms—both camps wouldn't like that, TMI. “Sidebar comments” and governments' internal secrets are theirs. Expose them—they will only regroup and keep other secrets away. That's how things are. I am not saying that WikiLeaks' leaks could be fake, they could be factual. What I am saying is—it won't help the world in the long run if all you do is expose than present a bridge so that these powers could sit down and talk. But Assange wants to play god. He wants to police the US because he believes the US is the root of all evil. And in a way he said in a Time interview that Russia and China are easier to reform. Really? What a narcissist!

THIS is the time when many people desperately long for a hero. A hero that purportedly gives them the truth—no matter what the truth is and whoever gives it. That person is the hero. The “hero” who breaks the cookie jar that was sealed a long time ago. Hurrah! But do we know what really is that cookie? Do we really need that cookie? Who makes that cookie? More importantly, what is the real motive of the “hero” who broke the cookie jar? There will always be WikiLeaks in this world—yet when we look in the mirror? It's the same pair of empty eyes that channel a wounded soul, looking for answers yet unable to heal—because we don't really know the source of the pain. The truth should not just liberate us like--hey now we can fly like an albatross up the blue sky of enlightenment! The truth should also heal us and make us complete again. And keep our feet firmly planted on the breathing ground.

IF WikiLeaks “leaks” about lobbying machinations by the Koch brothers especially in regards pipeline/environmental issues on committee level hearings, or how Moscow's oil magnates and Beijing's banks plan out oil diggins in Antarctica, or how Washington lets loose George Soros in South Asia in the advent of Asean's tact vis a vis US, and so many more than ACTUALLY affect earth's population, Ecuador/China partnership in Mr Assange's continued so called journey, and the under the table deals that Snowden and Assange worked out with Moscow while they were on the run—instead of targetting US political personalities that only shake the global order in the name of the One Percent—then maybe I will believe Julian Assange. It is convenient for him to hack American politicians but not other major players. I see him as a (internet) terrorist in the mold of Carlos The Jackal, nothing else.

LET me share my $1 cent to the current Hillary email mishandling fiasco. I tend to ignore it as insignificant in my book without careening to either of the presidential candidate's fence. First, all these “email shenanigans” are sourced to Julian Assange and his WikiLeaks. I am not a tiny bit fan of Mr Assange. I've time and again refused to accept his so-called media credentials. He is a highly-paid international hacker left right and center. If all these leaks and exposes happened maybe 30 years ago or even in these current times but written/published by respectable media organizations, then we should pay attention.
          Hence, whatever WikiLeaks/Assange “exposed” against Washington and its officials remain dubious to me, irrelevant they were factual or not. Assange is obviously under Moscow's payroll and his continued stay at the Ecuadorian embassy in London reeks of Chinese coddling. Read Ecuador-China economic team-up. Be reminded that Beijing has been giving out loans all over South America—with Brazil, Argentina and oil-rich Venezuela as top beneficiaries. And where did Julian dude form WikiLeaks? In Iceland in 2006. One of few countries known for disregarding extradition treaty with the US. He had all these figured out from the get go. Why doesn't he leak pertinent info from Kremlin or Beijing or maybe the Koch brothers' pipeline-related Congress lobbying or maybe George Soros' shady designs in Southeast Asia? If you tell me Vladimir Putin doesn't have any interest in influencing the election, then you are not paying attention. Russia is currently #1 producer of crude oil globally. Enough said.

       Second, this is damn a week to election. A scandal before citizens cast their ballot? Many including US allies should smell “politically-motivated.” It's a no-brainer. Yes, it may influence voter attitude but what? Put her on trial? As I type this up, the Weiner angle came up. Of course. The latest emails came to light during a separate inquiry into top Clinton aide Huma Abedin's estranged husband, former congressman Anthony Weiner. What'd happen is, FBI director James Comey delays or holds up his inquiry's findings after the election. Then let's see.
Meantime, I suggest you vote smart—but beyond tabloid scandals. This is a nasty kind of election. But I believe the American people will go past this and decide wisely who should be their next chief executive.

OH well, this guy is a genius in shaking the power system that is Washington. Hillary Clinton emails? I don't think so—she isn't the main target. It's Washington that he is after. All his 2010/11 “leaks” too these current emails are all about the US or about other government's “secrets” that involve Washington somehow. Tunisia. Zimbabwe. Afghanistan. Middle East. And some media organizations of course picked them up—like a free jackpot bounty (sic). Scoops are cool in the newsroom. Now the dude has already given the world so many Washington-related leaks. Time to give us some about Beijing and Moscow. Assange once told Time when asked if he wanted to expose the secret dealings of China and Russia the way WikiLeaks has done with the US: “Yes, indeed. In fact, we believe it is the most closed societies that have the most reform potential." Yet he hasn't done anything to leak or expose wrongdoings in those countries. Meantime, he also pointed out that, today, China may be easier to reform than the US. Who does he think he is? God?

WITH the latest WikiLeaks Hillary email leaks Julian Assange starts to sound like a secret agent tracking down cheaters on Ashley Madison or a dad on the lookout for his teenage kids' internet shenanigans. Boring. He simply sounds like the Mother Superior of the Universe policing his Washington targets like the US is his classroom or convent. One day Beavis and Butt-head will kick his bored ass. Anti-Hillary/Obama people or pro-Trump voters should wake up that this dude isn't after politicians. He is after Washington--trying his mighty best to influence the juggling of key appointments or placement of elective officials in the White House and Congress. He is a danger to public safety and national security. I still vehemently stand my ground in saying he is NOT a journalist. He is a super brilliant hacker a.k.a. internet thief. That's what he is.
          And what I usually get or read in re pro-Assange people? "Read this link" "Have you read his leaks and watched the interview?" I get pissed. I wanna know what/how people think. WikiLeaks is not some Secret of Life book of enlightenment or the Kama Sutra of Politics or something. People refuse to dig in because probably, as in Matrix, the plug at the back of their neck is stronger than their mind. Some people even believe Assange should win the Nobel Peace Prize. WTF! ETs are laughing.