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Rise up Marawi City

Published in Editorial & Other Articles

After five months of fighting, President Rodrigo Duterte finally declared Marawi City liberated from the terrorists following the death of Abu Sayyaf leader Isnilon Hapilon, Southeast Asia’s most notorious Islamic State-linked terrorist leader and the so-called “emir” of the IS in the region, and Maute group leader Omar Maute, in a dawn clash.


Over 1,000 perished, 162 of them soldiers and policemen and 37 civilians, during the fighting which also displaced over 200,000 residents. Moreover, many buildings, commercial and residential, were pulverized while some schools, hospitals and mosques were damaged in the incessant bombings that followed the siege by terrorists starting on May 23 while the President was in a state visit in Russia.


While remnants of the terrorists have remained cornered in the city, the Duterte declaration signals a start of a massive clearing up by the military, the local government, business and religious sectors and the citizens in the battle zone and the city. This will then pave the way for a massive repair and rehabilitation which by experts estimate could run into hundreds of billions of pesos and will take at least three to five years to complete. Already, the government has set aside at least P8 billion for the short term and permanent work.


With the cooperation of everybody, including the international community, Marawi City, the center of Islamic faith in the country, will surely rise from the rubbles of the war. But what is more important is that the attack will not be repeated and that all sectors should unite to ensure that the city and its people will no longer suffer.


Published in Editorial & Other Articles

by Belinda Olivares Cunanan


When I was entering the UP’s Liberal Arts College decades ago, the university was rocked by the death by hazing of a scion of a prominent family, as well as by wars between the Upsilon and Sigma Rho fraternities. That was my first exposure to the terrible reality of hazing.  Congress was up in arms and efforts were made to prevent its recurrence.


Since that time, however, and up to now, the evil of hazing, conducted in utmost secrecy under the iron-clad oath of “Omerta,”  has reared its ugly head from time to time---such as what happened to freshman Horacio “Atio” Tomas Castillo III of the UST Law fraternity, the “Aegis Juris” who died from violent hazing, and who had dreamt of being a lawyer. Unfortunately, however, the uproar and the national breast-beating subsides---until another victim dies.  


Police investigations reveal that Horacio Castillo died from a heart attack after severe beatings with thick wooden paddles on his body. At the funeral mass at the Santuario de San Antonio Church yesterday, the mass presider,  Fr. Winston Cabading, stressed that “A brotherhood that seeks to harm does not come from God, but from the devil.”  Calling on the young victim’s man’s parents and friends,  he begged them “not to be buried in darkness when we are filled with anger and hatred.” Fr. Cabading admitted, however, that to the question of the meaning of young “Atio” Castillo’s death, “There is no easy answer.”




When I was a literature student at the UP long ago, we studied a short story titled, “The Use of Force” by American author William Carlos Williams, which narrated in first-person how a doctor, treating a young  child of suspected diphtheria, sought to get some specimen from its mouth. When the child resisted, the struggle became rather ugly, with the doctor this time inserting a spoon into its mouth with more force than seemed needed and still the child refused to cooperate.  At that point, author Williams, himself a doctor, clearly portrayed how the doctor in the story (was it Williams himself?) transformed “from cool professional to animalistic assailant.”


In seeking to make sense of the various hazing episodes that resulted in unintended deaths, should we theorize that there is perhaps this same element, whereby, even among friends, there is transformation from being friends to being “animalistic assailants” who lose control of themselves.


This could be the case especially if the hazing rituals are conducted under the influence of liquor and very likely even drugs in isolated places like a remote beach resort---plus very little supervision from the frat's elders and the school.




Consider all the accidents from hazing:


* State-run military academies such as the elite Philippine Military  Academy in Baguio, the Philippine Marine Academy and the Philippine National Police Academy all had their past share of hazing victims. At PMA, plebe Monico de Guzman was believed to have died from “beat attack” upon seeking entrance in the boot camp. The premiere military academy continued with hazing in secrecy.


* In some secular schools, hazing continued to take place as well, and what focused national attention in February 1995 was the death of a neophyte of the Aquila Legis Fraternity at the Ateneo Law School named Lenny Villa. His mother carried a brave campaign against hazing from then on.  


* It should be noted, however, that brutal hazing occurs too in the Ivy League schools in the US. I read an account by a student of Dartmouth University who spoke not of physical brutality, but of being sadistically forced to imbibe excrement of all sorts during hazing.




The rash of deadly violence due to hazing prodded Congress to react in the '90s.  Following the huge uproar over the death of law student Lenny Villa in initiation rites, Sen. Joey Lina, then chair of the Senate Committee on Youth and Sports,  authored R.A. 8049, “An Act Regulating Hazing and other forms of initiation rites in Fraternities, Sororities and other organizations, and providing penalties thereof.”  Prior to the passage of R.A. 8049 what was operative on student organizations was the Revised Penal Code.


 As former Sen.Lina  recounted to Cecile Alvarez and myself during our dzRH program, “Radyo Balintataw” last Sunday, hazing is absolutely forbidden under Sec. 2 of RA 8049, the Anti-Hazing Law.  In fact, MERE PRESENCE at such forbidden rituals is enough to implicate a person as an accomplice to the crime. Punishment includes life imprisonment or reclusion perpetua;  reclusion temporal (17-20 years) and the lightest, 4 years and one day imprisonment for mere presence at such ritual.


The Supreme Court upheld circumstantial evidence as stiff in its landmark decision in Dungo vs. People of the Philippines 2015, raising  punishment to nine years.




Obviously, however, the current law punishing hazing is still deemed very weak, as physical violations continue to exist. There is now a clamor to enforce more safeguards in fraternity initiations, to ensure that physical violence is not resorted to, and elements of the community, the police, the fiscal’s office and the courts are enjoined to attend and monitor fraternity activities closely. Cecile Alvarez and I opined that officials of the school where the fraternity members are enrolled have to be present at initiation rites.


Morerover, I proposed more creative ways to undertake initiation rites such as for example, making neophytes dress like garbage collectors and actually sweep trash in the Luneta or by Manila Bay, or have them garbed in beggar’s clothes and actually beg by Quiapo Church, the begging proceeds to be donated for soup kitchens.


Any initiation ritual except violence which kills. 


(Belinda Olivares-Cunanan is a veteran journalist with 25 years of experience writing a political column for the Philippine Daily Inquirer. She is a Rotary Club of Manila Hall of Fame awardee for journalism. She has also received the Distinguished Alumna Award from her elementary and high school alma mater, the College of the Holy Spirit, and the Alumni Association Professional Award for Journalism from the University of the Philippines (UP).}

CA rejects Ubial’s appointment as DOH secretary

Published in Latest News

(Photo from Philippine Daily Inquirer)


MANILA — The Commission on Appointments (CA) has rejected the appointment of Health Secretary Paulyn Ubial.


The CA’s decision was reached through secret voting in an executive session. The CA committee on health conducted three hearings on Ubial’s nomination, which was met with several filed oppositions.


Ubial is the fifth Cabinet official appointed by President Rodrigo Duterte to be rejected by the CA. The other four are Agrarian Reform Secretary Rafael Mariano, Social Welfare Secretary Judy Taguiwalo, Environment Secretary Regina Lopez, and Foreign Affairs Secretary Perfecto Yasay, Jr.


During the CA committee on health hearing, Ubial was emotional as she was asked whether she still wanted the job despite the oppositions filed against her.


“I know there are a lot of opposition and manifestation that are before you about my not being capable and to be the secretary of Health, but your honor, I stand by my commitment to the President,” Ubial said.


“He appointed me as Health Secretary and whatever happens today, I will serve at the pleasure of the President,” she added.


Former Philippine Health Insurance Corp.(PhilHealth) interim president and chief executive officer (CEO) Hildegardes Dineros attended the hearing to manifest that Ubial “peddled” lies before the CA when the Health Secretary claimed that he resigned from his post.


“She lied. I did not resign but ousted upon the instigation of Sec. Ubial… I was forcibly ousted,” Dineros said.


Dineros claimed Ubial called for a board meeting, a day before he was ousted from his post.


Ubial, Dineros said, has poor management skills, has a habit of lying, and lacks direction in the health sector.


Ubial denied Dineros’ claims, as she read minutes of the said board meeting. Ubial said Dineros voluntarily resigned as he felt that his colleagues no longer had confidence in him.


“Dineros said he is resigning as PCEO (PhilHealth CEO) just to give the Board all the allowance to choose,” Ubial said.


“I asked him ‘are you sure you want to resign?’… Upon a motion duly seconded, the board accepted the resignation of Dineros,” she said.


Dr. Celestina Ma Jude de la Serna has since been elected as interim/officer-in-charge PCEO.


Maria Fe Francisco, one of the 150 employees who signed a manifesto against Ubial, also attended the CA committee hearing to oppose the Health Secretary’s confirmation.


Francisco said Ubial committed “grave abuse of power and usurpation of authority” and violated the rights of PhilHealth employees to due process when the Secretary abritrarly suspended allowances and salary adjustments due to a notice of disallowance issued by the Commission on Audit (COA).


“The decision of the PhilHealth Board on the suspension of salaries were all done arbitrarily,” Francisco said. “The decision of the PhilHealth Board resulted in extreme demoralization and has in turn, affected corporate output.”


Ubial said that while it “pains” her to remove the compensation and allowances of PhilHealth employees, she had to “follow the law.”

(Photo from PCOO)


Look who is in Manila enjoying the sight of beauty queens and beautiful places – it’s Hollywood action star, producer, director, and martial artist Steven Seagal.


Seagal, 65, a native of Michigan but holds American, Russian and Serbian citizenship, flew in to be one of the judges of the Miss Earth pageant on Nov. 4 at the Mall of Asia Arena in Pasay City.


While in the Philippines, Seagal, who is an expert in Aikido, Karate, Judo, Kendo and Shito-ryu, will be scouting for locations for his new movie.


It is not actually the first visit of the Hollywood actor. More than a year ago, he was in Manila on a “business trip” details of which to this day has not been made public.


Seagal’s first visits to the country were during the time of President Ferdinand Marcos and then President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.


As was in his last visit, Seagal was again welcomed by his friend, former Ilocos Sur Gov. Luis “Chavit” Singson, who accompanied him to the welcome party hosted by the Miss Earth Organization for the international delegates of the Miss Earth pageant at the Carousel Mansion in Mandaluyong City, reported Edwin Sallan of


During the event, Lorraine Shuck, executive vice president of Carousel Productions which runs the Miss Earth and Miss Earth Philippines pageants, announced that Seagal will be a judge at the 17th edition of Miss Earth pageant on November 4.


Philippine television networks showed Seagal with the Miss Earth candidates in a visit in  Manila’s former Spanish district of Intramuros.


Lately, Seagal hogged the headlines when former world boxing champion George Foreman challenged him to a boxing bout.


It was not known if the actor accepted the challenge.


Seagal is best known for a string of blockbuster action movies from the late 1980s to the early 1990s, which included “Above The Law,” “Hard to Kill,” “Marked for Death,” “Out for Justice,” “Under Siege,” and “On Deadly Ground.”


He was one of the world’s top action stars until the late 1990s when he started to star, producer and sometimes write films that were released direct-to-video and more recently as video-on-demand.


Hollywood reports showed that this year, Seagal has two films already in post-production, “Attrition” and “Above The Law 2,” a sequel to his 1988 debut blockbuster.


Last year, the American actor who now lives in Moscow flew to Manila, Cebu and Boracay purportedly to look for location sites for the filming of another movie.


Seagal flew in via a Cathay Pacific Airlines flight and was welcomed at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) Terminal 3 by then Terminal Manager Octavio “Bing” Lina and former Ilocos Sur Governor Chavit Singson, his host.


The actor described former President Arroyo as a friend and was disheartened when he learned that she was at that time under hospital arrest at the Veterans Memorial Medical Center in Quezon City.


A Cebu paper, The Freeman, reported that the actor made only a brief stop in Cebu as his party eventually proceeded to the island resort of Boracay.


The Freeman reported that Seagal and company went straight to Chibori, a Japanese restaurant at Cebu IT Park. The group reportedly left before midnight and were driven to Shangri-la’s Mactan Resort and Spa where they spent the evening before flying to Boracay.


The Freeman’s account executive Vicky Vencilao revealed that Seagal appeared tired and jetlagged since he flew in to the Philippines from Moscow, Russia. She added that the hulking American-Serbian rarely broke into a smile and seemed “strict.”


Seagal did oblige answering a few questions, describing Filipinos as “very gentle and very musical,” the Cebu paper stated.  


Noting that he was also a musician, Seagal said that he shared a special affinity with Filipinos since “so many of my Filipino friends are great musicians, they are into singing and playing instruments.”


Seagal is also a screenwriter, film director, Aikido instructor, martial arts expert and reserve deputy sheriff. He first began teaching Aikido in Japan, later moving to Los Angeles, California, where he worked as a martial artist instructor on the James Bond film “Never Say Never Again” starring Sean Connery.

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