Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Martial Law - Again!

Finally, President Duterte has declared Martial Law in Mindanao after threatening to do so several times since last year. He said he is thinking of extending it to Visayas  or even the whole country. There is no doubt he will do it when he find the excuse. Apparently, this is what he always wanted to do which is consistent with the only leadership style he knows - autocratic. This is the model used by tyrants and dictators including his idols - Hitler and Marcos.

Was declaring Martial Law in Mindanao (with a land area of 105,000 sq km) necessary when the only place affected was Marawi City (land area 33 square km)? The Maute group which expressed allegiance to ISIS does not even have a sizable force and mass base.  What has been happening is neither a rebellion nor an invasion.  It was a PNP/AFP operation to arrest ASG Isnilon Hapilon that had gone awry and which transmogrified into the hostage-taking of Fr. Chito Suganob together with some parishioners and the burning of the cathedral and other buildings to evade capture.  The report that the hospital of Amay Pakpak was taken over was false, so was the supposed beheading of  the chief of police. These were cited as part of the justification for Martial Law. 

The Secretary of National Defense denied that he recommended the declaration Martial Law and  he admitted that the situation can be resolved even without Martial Law.  It appeared that the president made the decision to declare Martial Law all over Mindanao while he was  far away  in Moscow lacking due consultation and deliberation. Meanwhile, there is a humanitarian crisis as thousands of families have fled their burning city that has been bombed. Meanwhile the PNP chief is echoing the president's story that the Maute group is being supported not just by ISIS but also by drug lords.

Majority of the senators and representatives have expressed their support for Martial Law and did not convene as a joint body as commanded by the Constitution to discuss and debate the validity of the martial law declaration. This can give a signal that the president can freely expand Martial Law over the whole country without any opposition. He has vowed to defy the Supreme Court should it rule against Martial Law. In the absence of check and balance, the country is sliding to another dictatorship.

This president behaves as if he is above the law - that he is the law. He has ignored the rule of law, and  human rights, which has led to Extrajudicial Killings of over 10,000 people, mostly users and majority of them from the lower class. He promised that the killings will continue and will reach 50,000. He threatened to behead human rights advocates. These are not empty threats or jokes. 
Meanwhile, the peace negotiation with the NDF has been suspended as the CPP  ordered the NPA to step up tactical offensive as a response to Martial Law. The MILF is still waiting for the implementation of the peace agreement. Unless this is implemented the armed conflict will persist and drive more Muslims to the side of the more radical and extremist Moro groups like the BIFF and Maute. Martial Law cannot solve the Mindanao problem.
As in the past, the Church remains the only institution that can stand up against this  autocratic rule.  Will it continue to do so?  Can the new CBCP  leadership that will be elected and soon take over have the courage to be prophetic in this dark period of our history as a nation? Will the clergy, religious and lay people overcome fear and apathy and speak out?
  We who survived and struggled to end the Marcos dictatorial rule cried out: Never Again!  Will this be an empty  wish?

Sunday, April 30, 2017

The Nature of Addiction

I've been trying to understand the nature of  addiction. The most helpful, so far, is a book written by Dr. Gabor Mate - In the Realm of Hungry Ghosts: Close  Encounter with Addiction. 
Here's a poem I wrote based on  insights I gained from the book and my own reflection on the “War on Drugs” waged by the present government.

 
Addicts

You lurk in the shadows
craving for your next fix,
filled with terror
knowing the death squad/police
will finally find you and end your misery.
But you cannot help yourself
even if you have already surrendered
because your name is on the list.

You must have your fix.

Are you still human?
They say you have lost your right to life.
You will kill, steal, rape, and push
just to get your next fix.
Isolated, rejected, hunted,
you have lost control of yourself.
You must be stopped, neutralized
eliminated, terminated
like the zombies in the movies
because you are a threat to all of us.
This is war. You are the enemy.
That's what we have been made to believe.
 Are you really the enemy?

What kind of  pain & stress does your drug
try to alleviate or soothe?
What childhood trauma keeps haunting you?
What abuse was inflicted on you?
Why couldn't your parents provide you
with their consistent loving care & presence?
Why do you always feel anxious and insecure? Why the emptiness?
What effect did poverty and violence have on you?
Or even if you lived in comfort &  luxury why still the pain?
Is this why  your brain can’t produce your own endorphins and dopamine to soothe  the pain, and make you feel loved, alive and be energized?
 Is this why your cortex that regulates your impulses is impaired
 that you can no longer say NO and stop your addiction?

Do you really deserve to die?
Or  languish in a stinking, overcrowded prison cell?
All you need is to experience mercy and compassion,
to be healed, to feel alive, to be accepted, loved, embraced, fed
as brother, sister, part of the family.

You are not the enemy.
You are us.
You are our shadow.
You are our dark side and our mirror.
You remind us that we too are like you
or can be like you.
The only difference is our drug of choice.
Cocaine? ShabuFentanyl? Rugby?
Alcohol? Nicotine? Gambling? Sex?  ?  Food? Sugar?
Shopping? Power? Killing? Stealing? Accumulating wealth?
Your condition reveals to us the nature of our society:
a society that breeds addicts to numb the pain that it inflicts.
That is why many - especially the president and his minions - hate you.
You remind most of us of who we really are or can be.
Addicts.


  The reason why the War on Drugs is bound to fail is ignorance about the nature of addiction. Unless we know what addiction really is all about, we will not be able to deal with the problem. The “War” metaphor is the wrong approach. Drug addiction is just one form of addiction. The War on Drugs is based on the presumption that drugs – such as shabu, heroin, cocaine and even marijuana -- cause addiction which is regarded as the main cause of criminality – murder, theft, rape, etc. Thus, the main targets of the War on Drugs here in the Philippines are drug users and pushers – most of whom are poor. In other countries, the drug lords and their minions are the key targets but not here in the country. It seems that the War on Drugs is being used to satisfy one man’s addiction to absolute power. This War also feeds on the addiction of many police officers to the accumulation of wealth. They, together with politicians and drug lords, are making a killing from this War on Drugs. This War brings out the worst and the dark side of every one – especially those in power and authority.

The drug trade follows the so-called “law of supply and demand.” The War on Drugs does not address adequately the “demand” side – the addiction itself. It is based on the fallacy that addicts will stop using drugs out of fear of being killed by the death squads, imprisonment or the scarcity of supply due to interdiction or elimination of pushers.  The fear and anxiety heighten the cravings and they will continue using drugs since the impulse control of the cortex is impaired, and the root cause of addiction is not addressed – which is the pain, trauma and stress which increases the need for endorphins and dopamine that drugs provide. For as long as there is widespread demand for drugs, there will always be drug lords in connivance with the politicians and police that will take care of  “supply.” 
The “War on Drugs” metaphor – which is a brutal and ineffective approach --  should be abandoned and replaced with the “Healing” metaphor which is more holistic and radical. What is needed is a more compassionate, communitarian, scientific and spiritual approach to the problem of addiction. This should not just focus on the problem of drug addiction but all forms of addiction caused not by drugs or any substance and behavior but by the trauma and stress of the prevailing social environment and condition – such as poverty, breakdown of the family, inadequate nutrition and parental care, violence, sexual abuse, individualism and lack of solidarity. A community-based rehabilitation program should therefore be adopted that should include poverty-alleviation, counseling, a sense of belonging or communion, friendship, physical exercise, prayer and meditation. All of these can help overcome addiction by increasing the endorphins and dopamine levels in the brain without drugs or destructive behavior. What is most important is to transform communities and society that will no longer be a breeding ground for addiction. The antidote to addiction is communion -  the experience of belonging, friendship, support and loving care.