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February 10, 2008

Miss Lulli Macapagal Arroyo
Daughter of Her Excellency, President Gloria Macacapagal-Arroyo
President of the Republic of the Philippines
Malacañang Palace, Manila

Via The Honorable Marciano Paynor, Jr.
Consul General of the Consulate General of the Republic of the Philippines
San Francisco, California

Dear Miss Arroyo:

I am writing in connection with that National Broadband Network episode, a series of events that could rend our society asunder.

Frankly, I think you are one of the hopes of the Motherland. You have not been corrupted by power and authority. I saw you on TV almost crying when relationships and friendships ended among your social network, i.e. your Nanay and that Harvard Ph.D. Dr. Juliana “Dinky” Soliman, among others, your Nanay and the Inay of that famous movie star who is so pretty that her martyred father could be squirming in heaven, if there is a heaven.

I am writing this letter to you because I believe that among all the members of your family, you are the only one left who appears to have a sense of personal pride, integrity, and honor. I might be wrong, but the impression I get is that your Nanay, your Tatay, iyong mga kapatid mo, have become so insensitive to the sentiments of ordinary people like me. And considering iyong constant na atake sa kanila, I don’t really believe that they still read letters like mine, or periodicals that do not support their position.

I am coursing this through the Consulate General of San Francisco para naman they can have a sense of the sentiment of some Pinoys in their jurisdiction. I have been extolling their performance to high heavens. I tell the world that the San Francisco Consulate represents the best in the Philippine governmental and administrative system. And knowing the staff’s sincere commitment to our homeland and our people – you should see them work nights, weekends, holidays and you will not disagree with my assessment of these civil servants – I don’t think they will just basura this letter to you. They know that at the moment, it is just the young boys and girls who are not afraid to die who are massing every now and then on Sutter Street where the Consulate is located. Inevitably if the situation becomes unbearable for many of us, they will be joined by hundreds, perhaps thousands of Filipinos and their supporters, reminiscent of those perilous days of February 1986 and January 2001.

Incidentally, I voted for your Nanay for President as against a high school dropout. The decision was a no brainer. When she took over from that poor President who was elected with the highest number of votes in Philippine electoral history by our miserable, ignorant, and fickle-minded people who have a penchant for instant gratification – excluding the exercises foisted on the people by the No. 1 U.P. alumnus who was supported by the PMA, the U.P. Vanguards and technocrats, and the Pentagon – and then later on abandoned by the very Mahirap for whom he was supposed to be fighting for, and then convicted for plunder but who might be pardoned by your Nanay, I was musing to myself that your Nanay was not afraid for her life when she was going to the known lairs of the Abu Sayyaf in Mindanao. After all, I told myself, she is the daughter of a nationalist President, and I don’t think she wants to be judged by the future generations of Filipinos as one of the most maligned leaders of our land. Whatever scale of values she subscribes to, that conceivably might include Niccolo Machiavelli’s, malaking tragedy naman iyon. Di ba?

But so much water has flowed under the San Francisco Golden Gate Bridge since then. Now, fast forward to this National Broadband Network (NBN) Project that in theory will allow our people from Batanes and Sitangkai to communicate with each other and with us in the World Wide Web so that we can lift ourselves from the morass of national dishonor, massive poverty, and a hopeless future, through e-mail. This is great, of course, in this age of Globalization and instant communication, assuming e-mails are not going to be moderated by alumni of the U.P. College of Engineering.

There are many, many of us in America, who had to study computers because we could not be employed. At the moment, you must be aware of the thousands and thousands of Filipino discussion groups, nag-metas metas na sila.

But in our case, we try to go beyond sending e-mails to ourselves which do not interest many. We have used e-mails and the Internet to beg the U.P. Staff Chorale Society to perform a mini concert for the children of Payatas, something that the many world famous U.P. choral groups have never done before. We donated the extra amount to help the RVM sisters in their microfinancing projects in Payatas and provided some assistance to the disabled in Tahanan Walang Hagdanan (TWH). We have used e-mails also to sell Walis Tingting in the Internet to help the disabled in TWH. We have used e-mails to appeal to the World Wide Web to help the victims of the landslides in Luzon in November 2004, in Southern Leyte, the Guinsaugon tragedy, the victims of the killer typhoon in the Bicol Region last year. We used e-mail to purchase school materials for the children in Hacienda Luisita after that bloodbath.

Through e-mail, a kind doctor in America coordinated with a young woman in Bulacan to construct artesian wells in Sulu and prevented the selling of one kidney of a former domestic helper who was fired by her employer in Singapore because she was devoting so much of her time helping the needy in Pilipinas.

Kaming taga Samar Miss Arroyo, through e-mail, among others, we have initiated the construction of a toilet and bought school materials for an elementary school in San Jose de Buan in the interior of Samar where the soldiers of the government and the guerillas of the National Democratic Front want to kill each other. (Sometimes innocent children become collateral damages.) Kasi walang libro ang mga taga-bundok. Baka ninanakaw ang pambili ng libro sa Divison Office. Through massive use of e-mail also, we have solicited funds and cement so that we can repair and cement an 8-km public road in Villareal, Samar, which has been a lucrative source of corruption and kawat by our leaders. This has never been done voluntarily in the history of my land. Your Nanay incidentally, has danced the curacha in that historic town of Samar.

Miss Arroyo, kung mayroon pang awa at budhi ang mga makapangyarihan diyan, maiiyak sila sa aming ginawa sa Bayanihan Road na ito. Pati mga toddlers, kapit-kapit sa tagpi-tagping saya ng kanilang mga Nanay habang nagpipintakasi sa public road na ito. You don’t believe me? Ask one of your many chulalays to Google SamarNews.com, then click on Gugma.

We have used computers and e-mails to organize a Caravan through the Hell Roads of Samar to dramatize the misery of the Samarnon and Filipino travelers who have to go through that portion of our highways. Buti kayo, you use helicopters and planes when traveling all over the 7,107 islands. Courtesy of our people.

At the moment, we Filipinos in the Internet are using computers and e-mail to provide chairs and possibly other school equipment, such as second hand computers, for the high school kids in Patikul, Sulu. We were told that the Muslim high school boys and girls still attend classes even if they have to stand during class hours for lack of chairs. The girls write on their notebooks on their laps kasi iyong sirang mga upuan ay walang arm rests. You know what? We Filipinos who are linked together through the Internet are doing this with the Marines in Patikul, Sulu, the Marines who really believe that their lives are sacred offerings for Inang Bayan and those in Government, kahit kasuklam-suklam at kamuhi-muhi iyong iba sa Government. We are working together with the high school teachers in Patikul, Miss Arroyo. Iyong mga titsers na posibleng hindi nakakatanggap ng sahod, according to future Presidentiable Senator Richard Gordon.

So Miss Arroyo, we know what computers can do. Many of us were able to survive with dignity in America because of computers. We chat on real time with our relatives, friends, fellow Filipinos in the Philippines, in Hongkong, in Singapore, in Japan, in Africa, in Malaysia, in Brunei, Arabia and all over the world. We hold “conferences”. We exchange pictures, those pictures taken when we were in high school. We appeal for help. We do research. We vote on vital issues affecting our groups. We send massive e-mails to each other. We do all of these without the benefit of a Broadband Internet connection. Given our limited resources, I believe that we have been able to accomplish so much for our people.

How much more if we have a National Broadband Network? Perhaps, we would not feel frustrated, angry, and toxic anymore because government officials, especially provincial officials, congressmen, senators, and the Office of the President of the Philippines, where your Nanay is ensconced with her entire caboodle of advisers or captors as the case maybe, will now be courteous, polite, and gracious to us. They will now respond to our inquiries and appeals for clarification and assistance. We would then be better connected to each other. We would be empowered.

But $329 million dollars for this National Boadband Network Project! And millions in alleged proffered commissions -- $10 million for Mr. Joey de Venecia III and P200 million or $4.4 million for NEDA Director General Romy Neri. Nakakarimarim, mind-boggling, nakakarindi, obscene ang mga amounts na ito Miss Arroyo.

At hindi lang itong ala Smokey Mountain na kutong ang nakakarindi Miss Arroyo. Okay lang sana kung ang mga pampalubag loob na ito ay galing sa sariling pera ng mga super-yaman diyan. Hindi e. Isasanla ang buhay ng mga kawawang Pilipino na hindi pa ipinanganganak. Hindi pa lumalabas sa sinapupunan ng kanilang mga malnourished at tubercular na mga Nanay, nakala-an na silang magiging domestic helpers sa World Wide Web para tayo makabayad sa uutangin to pay off this contemptible National Broadband Network Project.

Habang ako ay nag-e-emagine how it feels to have $10 million or $4.4 million in my naghihingalong bank account dito, nagkokotikutitap naman sa aking isipan ang painting ni Joey Velasco, “The 12 Children of Hapag”. (I-Google mo Miss Arroyo. You will know what I am referring to.) In addition, nagliliparan ang visions and images ng mga Pilipino who are subsisting on garbage in Payatas, fighting each other over “Pagpag”, sleeping with the dead in the graveyards, making babies who will pay the Philippine public debt (including this NBN sana) in their pushcarts, emaciated and tubercular mothers singing lullabies of “Tulog na Bunso” in their picturesque, quaint and fairy-tale houses made of cardboard, very young children subsisting on rugby to assuage their hunger, that 8-year girl who was periodically being raped by a 16-year old boy in one of the cemeteries, going home to their mansions under the bridges, young mothers who are being raped and brutalized and killed in Arabia, Canada, and other parts of the world.

Sana ipahiwatig mo sa Nanay mo at ang kanyang mga kasama na kung itutuloy itong National Broadband Network sa Bangsa Kasuko-an, pakiusapan niya iyong mga Pinoy na magagaling sa IT at computers, like Dr. Diosdado Banatao, one of the icons of the Silicon Valley in Northern California. Seguro nabasa mo diyan that Dr. Banatao donated $400,000 to the U.P. sa halip na kukutongan ang Gobyerno at U.P. Ang grupong maaring ma-organize ni Dr. Banatao may bintaha sa mga taga ZTE sa China. For one, hindi lang sila lagi kakain ng siomai. Kakain sila ng Pancit Luglug na itutulak ng Buko Juice, sabi ng isang Tausug, para makatulong sa pag-unlad sa ating ekonomiya. At kung hindi tayo mga “abno”, we can tell the world that iyong gumawa ng NBN natin mga Pilipino mismo, hindi mga taga Timbuktu or Ulan Bator. And what’s more, hindi sila manlilinlang at hindi isasanla ang buhay ng future generations of Filipinos para magkamit ng limpak limpak na salapi. Makabayan si Dr. Banatao at ang kanyang mga kasama.

For someone in your situation, you must be an avid student of history. Perhaps, one thing that we can remember is that nothing lasts forever. Even the oppressors, the exploiters, and the plunderers. And if one is a believer, we know that God will definitely punish them. They will be counting their limpak limpak na salapi for all eternity.

Salamat Miss Arroyo.

* * * * * * * *

[Originally published in the October-November 2007 issue of the San Francisco-based Filipino Insider. The author was a former faculty member of the University of the Philippines Department of Political Science. He can be reached at Cesar1185@aol.com.]

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