Last night, we paid tribute to a fine young man who has gone to the West: Atty. Kissack Batong Gabaen. He was known for his staunch defense of human rights especially of indigenous peoples. People came from as far as Palawan to express admiration for this great man. Yes, he had personal flaws, but no one can question his track record as an activist and his dedication to stand up for the marginalized and oppressed and to fight for justice.

In his lifetime, I was blessed to have him as a brother, friend, and comrade all rolled into one. We handled human rights cases together. We participated in the human rights education of communities together. He counted me as one of his mentors. During our two last speaking engagements as a team, one in the Benguet State University and another before a community in Ifugao, he publicly acknowledged me as his mentor. On both occasions, I thanked him for the honorable attribution which I found humbling. But actually, I am now his mentee. His life of service to the people is worth drawing inspiration from.

The last time we saw him conscious was on June 28. I told him jokingly, "Kissack, NUPL-National has a meeting today and I committed to be there (This was true.). But today, something was telling me this might be my last time to see you like this so I chose to be with you and asked Edre Olalia to excuse me." (As an aside, I also sent a message to Grace Saguinsin explaining my non-attendance. I told Grace my inner fear: That Kissack might give up the ghost). He laughed and said, "Aye, I will outlive you."

The next time I saw him on June 30, he was comatose in the ICU. I told him, "Wake up. Today, the man you vigorously campaigned for took his oath as President. Change is coming. Let us help Duterte. Wake up and pay your dues to your children. Watch them grow up. Wake up. There is still a lot we need to do." His partner, Shen, exclaimed weeping, "Look, his tears are rolling." I really hope he heard me.

I am physically alive. Kissack is now a cold, hard body which will be cremated at 9:30 AM tomorrow. But he is a memory, too. He is a beautiful, powerful memory that will indeed outlive me. The things we do for the weak and oppressed in the name of justice, the things we do for humanity will stay in the memory of the present and the future---bigger than us, more than us. They will inspire people, they will inspire movements. Today. Tomorrow. They will change the world.

Today, we say our final goodbyes to him.

Au revoir, Atty. Kissack Gabaen, President, National Union of Peoples Lawyers-Baguio. Long shall you live.


When I watched the video of PaDi Mayor Digong Duterte's press con where he whistled apparently at Ms Mariz Umali, I felt not only uncomfortable. I was incensed. I thought Ms Umali was a random media person PaDi did not know but whistled at. But I did notice that she seemed to  enjoy a banter with PaDi and did not at all appear repulsed. I googled about her and that incident.. I discovered she issued a statement  that said in so many words that she did not take offense. She merely found his catcalling "maybe improper." I thought, "This woman is internally oppressed. How could she dismiss catcalling by someone to whom she is a stranger inoffensive? Or is it because her offender is the incoming President?"

Whether Ms. Umali was offended or not, I felt that what PaDi did was very improper. I became Mariz Umali. I felt the victimization  she could not feel. I posted a call-out on Facebook.

Next, I read my newsfeed.

There was hatred, even bloodlust, for Duterte. I could gather this from the irrationality of people's strong statements. There were voices of people stuck on May 9 unable to move on from the defeat of Roxas. You could tell from the fact that they suddenly became advocates for women's rights. I did not hear them say anything about women's rights in the past. In fact, they never reacted to that tasteless virtual sex act onstage during a birthday party of a Liberal Party stalwart. This also angered me. The Yellow Kingdom was, to them, all sunshine and, despite situations needing voices, they kept quiet. I thought, "These people, noisy as they are now, are not really speaking for women; they are using a women's issue only to advance political vendetta or promote hatred of PaDi."

And then there were people drumbeating for vigilance; they never called for vigilance before. I thought, "They were simply apathetic - or apolitical might be the politically correct word. Now, they have become politically involved." This to me is a very positive development - that the foul mouth of a President unprecedented in our history is jolting people and getting them out of political apathy. Even PaDi Mayor must be happy.

Thankfully, I could find sincere rebuke as well.

The amusing thing is that when I said on FB that PaDi should not whistle at a woman in public even if she seems not to take offense, some reacted in a way I understood to mean they thought they discovered women's rights before I did or they cared more for women than I did. I sort of ...uhmmm... got annoyed. I became historical. "Hoy, you think only your hearts bleed for women? For decades, I have been fighting for women's rights and even devote free legal services to them. Blah, blah." Then it dawned on me that they did not expect the call-out from the Dutertard that I am. Well, not every political supporter is like many supporters of the Yellow Army who condemn injustice only when it is not attributable to yellow hands. The Dutertards I know do not pay blind obeisance.

Much later on, I saw this video of Ms Umali and PaDi interacting in a private atmosphere. He was humble, friendly, and patient despite the shallowness of her questions. In fact, I felt that she was assaulting his privacy and he was not really relishing  the intrusion. But who am I to arrogate unto myself the license to squirm in discomfort on behalf of the country's incoming President?

They were on their way to dinner - the supposed future sexual harassment victim and the supposed future sexual harassment offender.

After watching the entire video, I began to see the catcalling in a different light. I got convinced that when Ms Umali said she was not offended, she was not offended. She and PaDi Mayor had a "history" before that controversial press con and that was the reason why she   took  his whistling with a grain of salt.

And so two hours ago, I said on someone's wall that in sexual harassment cases, while the nature of the act is important, so is context. Catcalling may be an act by which sexual harassment is committed, but in what context is it done? Also, sexual harassment is a subjective offense. It is not the offender's intent but the victim's feeling that is relevant. Ms Umali was not offended. Please let us not insist she was. Your feelings do not define the crime, OK? Neither does your political frustration or hatred, OK? Let us not reduce  Ms Umali into an object and take her place as the subject.

I still think Duterte should not whistle as he did. It is unpresidential. It is. Unpresidential. I do not look forward to it.

But I look forward to the presidential things he promised to do, a few of which are:

1. Bring the Lumad home;
2. Create a committee to investigate killings of journalists;
3. End PDAF and DAP;
4. Enforce simplicity among government officials;
5. Review K to 12;
6. Cleanse NLRC;
7. End contractualization;
8. Legalize medical marijuana;
9. End the drug trade;
10. Resume peace talks;
11. Appoint pro-people officials to deliver social services; and
12. Make justice accessible.

I am happy the unpresidential President has less than a month to vacate the palace and the more presidential one will take over.


Image result for duterte middle finger

What is in a moniker or monicker? A lot. Remember how Sen. Gordon's supporters would say, "Ipasok si Dick sa Senado! (Let Dick penetrate the Senate!)" Mar Roxas as Mr. Palengke became very popular that he topped the senatorial race not a long time ago.

Recent history tells us that a presidential moniker helps build the image of the President to the public. It can make or unmake this image.

Tita Cory made Pres. Corazon Aquino appear warm, motherly, and reliable. To her detractors, Tita Cory symbolized a person who could do humanity a favor just by being everyone's favorite aunt but, puleez, get out of Malacanang already and let someone with the mettle run the government.

Erap made Pres. Joseph Estrada appear accessible or approachable as though he was everyone's buddy. To his detractors, Erap was just the perfect nickname for a gangster, a lackadaisical (non)leader who would stay awake until the wee hours drinking booze and playing poker in Malacanang. It was Fernando Poe, Sen. Grace's father, who gave him the nickname.

PNoy made Pres. Benigno Aquino appear like he was every Filipino who understood every Filipino. Because he was PNoy, people forgave him for the Luneta hostage-taking fiasco. They forgave him for the ineptitude of his dispensation during the Yolanda tragedy and flagellated Mar Roxas instead. When he strayed from Daang Matuwid by protecting his buddies committing shenanigans and by being callous to the abject conditions of the poor "every Filipino," PNoy began to stand for someone with the compassion of an egg or whose IQ is measured as an egg. When we get zero in exams, we normally say, "Itlog ang nakuha ko (I got an egg)." Penoy is duck egg.

Now, the political discourse includes the question of what monicker Incoming President Rodrigo Duterte should use. There are several suggestions, two of which are PDut (for President Duterte) and PDig (for President Digong).

If you understand Iloko, PDut does not sound good. A kleptomaniac is called "agpidut." My friend Bayan Muna Congressman Karlos Ysagani Kaloi Zarate does not like it either. He did not tell me his reason. He does not like PDig. He also did not tell me why. Maybe, it is because PDig is close to Pig.

This early, Kaloi is calling the incoming President PaDi for Pangulong Digong. He is quick to point out that PaDi means Tatay, the Filipino word for 'dad.'

PaDi does sound good, perfect in fact.

PaDi will soften the reputation of Mr Duterte as Mr Tough Guy. As I keep saying, people who know him really up close and personal like Kaloi swear by his soft and compassionate heart. When Kaloi asked me how PaDi sounds, I told him that in the Cordilleras, we use Apo Padi (Reverend Father) to address people of the cloth with reverence. There is a play called Padi Igorot about an Episcopalian priest named Clifford Nobes who lived among Igorots in the mid-20th century. Rev. Father Nobes was known as a dedicated and respectful missionary among the Igorots. Apo Padi is a man of compassion and service. And Padi Rex is not just a priest. He is a people's priest who lived and, despite health issues, continues to live a religious life dedicated to uplifting the condition of the oppressed. Like Apo Padi, every good father will do everything to protect his children from harm.

Like the proverbial/traditional father, though, PaDi captures Mr Duterte's strict side. No smoking except in the few designated areas. Be home early, young man. If you drink, don't drive. No jaywalking. No littering. No peeing against the wall. No petting and necking in the corridors. 
Cong. Karlos Ysagani Zarate just coined the perfect monicker for the incoming President!

Here is looking forward to 6 years of PaDi's presidency. I am hoping it will be a sheltering presidency as it will be an empowering one.


Now, I can reveal this.

Last 24 March 2016, a month after I wrote my Why Rody Duterte article which would eventually become viral, I received an email from a friend expressing his disconcert over my support for Rody Digong Duterte.

My friend is an Amnesty International leader based in the USA who, along with some others I count as friends, has been working indefatigably on human rights issues in the Philippines for decades dating as far back as the Martial Law Years. These people put up the Ecumenical Advocacy Network on the Philippines (EANP). Among the members are Prof. Tim McGloin and his wife, Linda, Prof. Paul Bloom of Amnesty International and his wife Meg Layese who is also President of the Philippine Study Group of Minnesota, Gary King who is Group 37 Leader of Amnesty International, Brian Campbell, and John Sifton of Human Rights Watch. I know how sincere and dedicated EANP is in watching actions of the US government that have an impact on human rights in the Philippines.

In 2013, I joined them in lobbying the US Congress to reduce if not eliminate its aid to the Armed Forces of the Philippines because of human rights violations the AFP committed -by itself or through paramilitaries- especially against indigenous and environmental activists. They asked me to articulate indigenous issues to offices of Representatives and Senators of the US Congress which I did. The efforts of EANP paid off. This was the same group that asked the Lantos Commission to look into the human rights record of the Arroyo administration with the same call to review the military aid. Hearings were conducted by the Commission. Since 2012, the group has been lobbying that the Commission would convene again to look into the human rights record of the Philippines and to give a critical look into its military aids to the government. They also sent Pres. Aquino a signed petition published in the Philippine Daily Inquirer to stop the X-strata Mining in Tampakan. On my request, they sent a letter to the Korean government to stop the Korean Exim Bank from lending P9B for the Jalaur Megadam Project which would displace the indigenous Jalaudnon-Bukidnon. Because of this and efforts of the mass movement of which Jey Aye Alenciaga, John Warner Carag, and Malaya Pinas are part, a fact-finding mission was launched to look into the concerns of the affected indigenous community. They also worked to stop the possibility of Pres. Aquino being given the Nobel.

I am so proud to have been working with EANP and hope to continue doing so in the future.

Anyway, my friend must have been very disappointed in me when he learned I was supporting the Mayor of Davao City. This was his email:

Chyt, I thank you for the plan about a counter-petition to prevent ‘injustice’ in the case of Palparan. He clearly has been a monster, and has motivated many persons in the military, paramilitary and government to torture, murder, (and) (d)isappear people.

I have sent it to my usual 250 friends who do Amnesty International work on the Philippines. Numerous ones have told me they signed the petition you sent.

I have heard you support Duterte. We know about 800 persons murdered by the Davao Death Squads. And he made horrid statements in the past endorsing and promoting it. Conceivably, this rate of murder is comparable to the sins of Palparan himself. And then they started in Cebu City, another 200 murdered.

Has Duterte said anything of repentance, and a desire to deliver law and order without EJE? If there is no change of his heart, I fear he will allow paramilitary groups to thrive, and death squads will proliferate.

Why can we expect these things to diminish under Duterte?

Warm Regards,


As soon as I read the mail, I replied:

Hi, Xxxx,

How are you?

We really do find ourselves in a difficult position. I do support Duterte and I am not the only one from the left... I must be breaking your hearts but do hear me out.

We are aware of Duterte's HR record. We will always condemn him for that and will continue trying to make him account. But we are also aware- and have personal knowledge-- that he has a track record of supporting sectors we represent. I do know that he has been supporting the Lumads and has always been one with them in rejecting corporate plunder of indigenous resources. There are almost a thousand evacuees in the UCCP Haran Compound right now. They were internally displaced by the AFP and paramilitaries acting for extractive corporations, some of which are supporting Roxas. Duterte and his family are very protective of the Lumads. Sr. Stella Matutina, the Redemptorist nun given a German recognition for her HR work last year, told me that Duterte's family are giving logistical support to the evacuees and have been rallying local business to contribute to their daily needs. This was confirmed by Cong. Karlos Ysagani Zarate of Bayan Muna and other Mindanao fellow HR workers. What is more, he has consistently opposed US military presence in Mindanao and rejected drone testing. And only he has a clear stand on the coco levy funds--give them to the farmers.

The other candidates do not have the same positions; neither a heart for IPs and basic sectors whose issues we passionately stand for and feel strongly about. Roxas is too oligarchic and too pro-mining. Binay is too corrupt which Duterte is not known to be. Poe is supported by Danding Cojuangco. She already announced she would make Col Ariel Querubin, a San Miguel officer, a cabinet official. She said she would open the Philippine economy to foreign ownership. She promised to appoint PNoy as anti-corruption czar. Claims that she is PNoy's other anointed is not hard for me to believe.

Duterte did kill hundreds. This is not right. But at least- and this is not to defend him-- he did not kill activists from the left unlike Palparan. His death squads do not touch the progressive groups. He seems to limit his bloodlust to his perceived criminals. We fear Duterte's death squad but what about PNoy's and the mining sector's paramilitaries? I believe Roxas will not deviate from PNoy's policy on paramilitaries. Shall I support Binay just because he has no paramilitaries? Shall I support Poe for the same reasons?

Moreover, since the 1990s, Duterte has been working with labor organizations (though I do note what he said about KMU). He is actually credited for many Davao initiatives on women, LGBT, children, and other vulnerable sectors. And it is a fact that he donated an inherited property to the government for the construction of a children's hospice. I know people who attest to his simplicity. Yes, he is a man of contradictions: a man with an iron fist but he is also a man with a soft heart.

For me, personally, choosing to support Duterte was not an easy one to make. I cannot vote for the three others. I have hopes that Duterte will make life less harsh for the Lumads and ease the country from corporate stranglehold. I could be wrong. But I have hopes that this man, despite his flawed character, is not as bad a choice as the others.
“I hope you understand my decision.

Find here my statement issued last February explaining why I decided to go for Duterte. I entertained the idea beginning 2013 when it looked like only he was speaking for the Lumads, and while my mind was then made up, I was ready to be flexible should a better or less bad candidate run. The alternatives then were Roxas and Binay. None of the above. Poe? No , because I have not heard her say anything about IPs. In my statement below, I spared Poe from diatribes out of respect for others in the progressive left who support her.

Best regards,


Well, Duterte won by a landslide. I still have to hear from my friend. I know he will never stop fighting to protect human rights in the Philippines and other parts of the world. I know EANP will never rest.

Here I am, very elated that my candidate won. Those days of speaking in caucuses and rallies and other meetings to promote Duterte’s candidacy have contributed even if little to Duterte’s victory. For that, I, as the millions of others who fought for his candidacy despite all odds, claim the right to be part of his conscience, to speak out when he deviates from respect for human rights, and to stand by him when he eases the burden of the impoverished, toiling masses.

I have high hopes in the incoming presidency. I, however, do not believe that elections will fundamentally change things. The mass movement, the different sectors, and the new President must work together to dismantle the oppressive structures.

I hope my friend will eventually tell me, “Chyt, you made the right choice.”


Leni Robredo made me very happy today.  She said something not expected from the yellow slate. In fact, she said something contrary to the yellow slate rhetoric.

“It’s not the time to accuse the drought-hit farmers who lost three of their colleagues during a violent police dispersal in Kidapawan City on April 1, Liberal Party (LP) vice presidential candidate Leni Robredo said on Wednesday.
The Camarines Sur congresswoman once again made clear her disagreement with her running mate Mar Roxas on the issue after the latter suggested on Tuesday that the protesting farmers were being used for political reasons by certain groups.
“Let’s not mind the accusations at this time,” said the widow of former Interior Secretary Jesse Robredo, directing her comments at “government and the other stakeholders.The important thing is first to respond to their grievances and to show that government is doing something for them,” Robredo said.
She said playing the blame game would accomplish little: “Let’s look first at the plight of the farmers and their families because everyone knows that they have been hit hard by the drought.”
The neophyte lawmaker earlier urged the suspension of officials directly involved in the dispersal operations for the duration of the investigation.
In contrast, Roxas’ position has been more circumspect, saying that while he strongly condemned the bloodshed “both on the law enforcement side and on the side of the protesters,” he felt a full investigation was necessary to ferret out the truth.
“This may have been instigated by politicians who wanted something to happen to heighten the issue or raise their ratings,” said Roxas, a former interior secretary who once exercised administrative control over the national police.

Let me be clear: I never considered her before as a good choice. As a developmental lawyer, she was expected -by me, at least- to articulate in Congress the issues of the poor and oppressed. She did not, perhaps because of her yellow shirt. When she ran for VP, the only thing she kept saying that I agreed to was "Never again" to Martial Law. But it is precisely because she kept saying "Never again" that I expected her to speak out against the all-too evident and huge remnants of the Reign of Terror in the present. Probably, again, she was limited by that yellow shirt covering every inch of her political skin. "Never again" is the only good thing Roxas has been saying to woo voters as if he was even a warm body on the streets during the Reign of Terror. To me, Roxas' oligarchic view of development is on my "Never again" list. EDSA was not just about ousting A Man; it was also about ousting the structure he put in place. Of course, Roxas' principal slogan is "Daang matuwid," a road that is crooked but where bad guys not allied with the yellow army are slain. His VP keeps saying it, too.

She was not Roxas' first choice; Grace Poe was. She was a reluctant candidate. She said yes after what people say was a calculated pause. She became such an even bigger disappointment because in her campaign, she still would not say a word about the sectors developmental legal advocacy serves--the Lumads in Mindanao harassed by the military and paramilitary groups, other indigenous peoples and the mining communities opposing corporate plunder, the farmers struggling against hacienderos, the poor being swept away to make way for high-rise enclaves of the rich. You'd expect a veep wanna-be from the alternative law practice to highlight the issues of these people. And then she said there was no point in reopening the investigation of Mamasapano bloodbath. Bang! I could no longer imagine her in a place outside of Roxas' armpits this election.

Now, the widow of the well-loved Jessie Robredo is slamming the government for the Kidapawan massacre while Roxas, that phlegmatic guy with a midget heart for the poor, is asking who financed the protesters. I think she is finally letting her heart take over. I think she is struggling to get back to her roots. Will she be able to before May 9?

Ahh, Leni, you allowed yourself to become a deodorizer. I wonder if you can really leave Roxas' armpits.

Now let me go back to the K-to-12 memorandum. Good thing Rody Digong Duterte is with us in opposing this ill-conceived, anti-poor program. Neri Colmenares is one of the petitioners before the Supreme Court seeking to have the program scrapped.