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Towards a Nuclear-Free Asia Pacific: Life-affirming challenges and opportunities by Roland G. Simbulan

 Filipino People's Campaign Against Nuclear Power Plants  Comments Off on Towards a Nuclear-Free Asia Pacific: Life-affirming challenges and opportunities by Roland G. Simbulan
Jan 142017

Keynote Address





Roland G. Simbulan*


(Keynote address before the 2017 Asian No-Nukes Forum Against War and Poverty, Paradise Adventure Camp, San Jose del Monte, Bulacan. January 7, 2017)




Thank you for again asking me to give the Keynote address to your conference. It is always an honor to share my views at the beginning of the year in front of an audience of Japanese and Filipino advocates for peace and a nuclear-free Asia Pacific.


I do not want to spoil what is usually a time of the year for HOPE and GOODWILL with a gloomy report. But we are descending into dark and dangerous times, with terrible implications for so many.  In a recent interview last Dec. 9, 2016, Noam Chomsky spoke about two of the most dangerous threats our human species is facing today:

  1. the terrifying possibility of a nuclear war, and
  2. the accelerating destruction of human-fueled climate change.


Chomsky said that the world is in its most severe threat to its existence in human history. Maybe Chomsky said this in the aftermath of the unexpected victory of the extremist Donald Trump, who as U.S. president will now be given the nuclear codes and power to launch one of the largest nuclear arsenals in the world – estimated to be the 7,000 nuclear weapons of the United States.


But as long as we are alive, there are always opportunities in the problems that we face in life no matter how dangerous and terrifying, that give us life-affirming hope and opportunities.


TWENTY ONE YEARS have passed since the Southeast Asian Nuclear Weapons-Free Zone Treaty (SEA-NWFZT) was signed, on Dec. 15, 1995 in Bangkok by all the ten members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations or ASEAN.  Designated as the “Bangkok Treaty”, the Southeast Asian Nuclear Weapons-Free Zone Treaty was entered into force (EIF) on March 28, 1997.


The first Nuclear Weapons Free Zone Treaty after the Cold War, the Bangkok Treaty is considered a model for regional de-nuclearization.  According to Dr. Hiro Umebayashi, Director of the Research Center for Nuclear Weapons Abolition of Nagasaki University, this is because “it applies not just to territories but includes in its coverage Exclusive Economic Zones and Continental Shelves.”  It also prohibits the dumping or discharge of radioactive material or nuclear waste in its area of coverage. This is why, predictably, even today,  all the five Nuclear Weapons States( NWS) which include Russia, the U.S., China, U.K. and France  refuse to sign its Protocols. But are the states of Southeast Asia, genuine Nuclear Weapons-Free states today?


The Bangkok Treaty emphasized ASEAN’s desire in signing and ratifying a formal treaty against nuclear weapons with the following goal: “Towards general and complete nuclear disarmament of nuclear weapons and the promotion of international peace and security.” The Treaty, in its preamble, proclaimed “ASEAN’s aims to protect the region from environmental pollution and the hazards posed by dumping of radioactive waste and other radioactive materials.”


The concept of a nuclear weapons-free zone was explored in the mid-80s by ASEAN on the assumption that they will have “mutual assurance that member states do not acquire nuclear weapons in the future.” This was to be an internal goal of ASEAN. On the other hand, as an external goal, “ASEAN wants to prevent the Nuclear Weapons States to introduce nuclear weapons in the area.”


Despite its existence for the past twenty years since 1995, we can identify three provisions and issues in the Bangkok Treaty why Nuclear Weapons States (NWS) have refused to sign the Protocols to the treaty:


  1. Transit rights and port/airfield visits thru compliance mediation;


  1. Sovereignty of states over EEZs and continental shelves;


  1. Negative Security Arrangements by NWS treaty protocols.


In principle, all of these issues pertain to the non-access to be given Nuclear Weapons States of their military forces with nuclear weapons and nuclear propulsion in the territories and waters as defined by the SEA-NWFZ Treaty.


The groundwork for the SEA-NWFZ Treaty was done when the original five ASEAN countries (Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines, Singapore and Thailand) met in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia on Nov. 27, 1971, and signed the ASEAN’s Zone of Peace, Freedom and Neutrality (ZOPFAN). Inevitably, in a nuclear-armed world, the target of ZOPFAN was to have a nuclear weapons-free zone in Southeast Asia. The ASEAN then agreed that “denuclearization effectively should ban all nuclear weapons in the region.”


Since the late 60s, the concept of Nuclear Weapons-Free Areas hasbeen developed internationally through the Treaty of Tlatelolco (LatinAmerica and the Caribbean), the Treaty of Pelindaba ( Africa), the Treaty of Rarotonga ( South Pacific)), the Central Asian Treaty which covers five independent states of the former Soviet Union, the Seabed Treaty and the Treaty Banning Nuclear Weapons in Outer Space. A Northeast Asian NWFZ Treaty has also, long been proposed by peace movements and academics in Japan and South Korea to ease the tensions in the Korean peninsula.


IN many ways the SEA-NWFZT was inspired by the Philippines’ prohibition of nuclear weapons on its territory in its fundamental law. This is expressed in the 1987 Philippine constitution which was drafted and ratified by the Filipino people after the 1986 People Power Revolution.  It was therefore not a coincidence that on Dec. 12, 1987 during the ASEAN meeting in Manila that the ASEAN Declaration to establish the Southeast Asian Nuclear Weapons Free Zone was first made. And it was also in Manila on June 2007, that the first SEA-NWFZ Treaty Review Conference was done.


On Feb. 2, 1987, The Filipino people – with 76 percent of the 25 million voting population ratifying, overwhelmingly voted for the new post-Marcos dictatorship Philippine Constitution. It was a strongly pro-life Constitution with specific provisions on human rights and social justice. But there was something game-changing in the new Constitution. It had in its “Declaration of State Policies” (Sec. 8, Article II), a provision banning nuclear weapons in Philippine territory. That section reads: “The Philippines, consistent with the national interest, adopts and pursues a policy of freedom from nuclear weapons in its territory.”  This made the Philippines one of the very few countries in the world — at that time with Belau (or Palau) and later Mongolia was added to the list — with a nuclear weapons-free provision in its Constitution, the fundamental law of the nation.


Like the foundation and building block towards a self-determined foreign policy, this constitutional ban on nuclear weapons was soon to be enforced with consequences on the future of the sprawling U.S. military bases in the Philippines, the largest overseas naval and air force bases in the world.  The constitutional ban on nuclear weapons became the key legal instrument for the Philippine Senate resolution on Sept.16, 1991. The Senate Resolution rejected the renewal of the treaty that would have extended U.S. military bases in the Philippines for another ten years, and subject to further renewal. During the time of the Philippine Senate’s ratification process, U.S. officials insisted on their “neither confirm nor deny” policy with regards to the deployment and transit of nuclear weapons on their bases in the Philippines; thus, the Philippine government assumed that they kept and transited them there, in violation of the Philippine constitution.


According to a now declassified but previously “TOP SECRET”  Memo dated 1969 of the U.S. State Department, “Divulgence of the fact that nuclear weapons are stored in the Philippines, and have been there for many years without prior consultation with the Philippine government, would greatly jeopardize U.S.-Philippine relations, particularly on the eve of presidential elections.” This Memo came from a State Department official Robert McClintock who was reminding the Acting Secretary of the U.S. State Department that the storage of nuclear weapons everywhere “would be covered by executive privilege and not divulged to the Symington Subcommittee on overseas commitments.”


ANTI-NUCLEAR  movements, NGOs and civil society organizations played a significant role in the Philippine Constitutional ban on nuclear weapons. So, regionally too, NGOs and civil society played a key role in the realization of the SEA-NWFZT. From the perspective of the Southeast Asian peace movements, the SEA-NWFZT was a major victory towards demilitarizing and de-nuclearizing the territories and seas in the region. It is also seen as an important step in denying the United States its military and nuclear infrastructure in the region, or in weakening it, since the U.S. uses its bases and “access” to countries in Southeast Asia as a springboard for aggression and destabilization against the Middle East, if not Asia itself. In short, the SEA-NWFZT will hamper the “freedom of navigation” of interventionist aircraft carriers, nuclear-armed ballistic submarines and other U.S. warships in the area.


There is relevance in connecting the assessment of the enforcement of the SEA-NWFZT with explaining the Philippine 1987 Constitution’s nuclear weapons-free policy. For in suggesting ways to effectively enforce the nuclear weapons-free policy in the Philippines, would also be a way of setting the example for the entire ASEAN. Its enforcement could also set itself as a model for a Northeast Asian Nuclear Weapons Free Zone Treaty between Japan, South Korea, and DPRK – a grand initiative to de-nuclearize the entire East Asia.


Closer home, it would also be relevant if there was a discussion among ASEAN member states as to why ASEAN – with its NWFZ Treaty – has been consistently riding on the international bandwagon in protesting the testing of missiles by North Korea, but is so quiet about the test firing of ICBM Minuteman III missiles by the U.S. from its continental mainland into the Pacific Ocean. Here, the U.S. target was the Kwajalein Atoll in the Marshall Islands in the South Pacific, 4,000 miles away from the launch, and which is part of the coverage of the Treaty of Rarotonga, a nuclear weapons free zone treaty for the South Pacific.  Do we not see any inconsistency here, and double standards, in terms of the letter and spirit of NWFZ and nuclear disarmament?


There, is among certain ASEAN states during SEA-NWFZT Commission meetings, the unnecessary discussion on the pros and cons of the member country’s nuclear energy programs for setting up nuclear power plants. This is not directly relevant to the issue or NWFZT treaty at hand, which is all about freeing the region from nuclear weapons or their components. Anyway, any country legally constructing nuclear power plants and using radioactive material or uranium/plutonium for peaceful uses are already automatically subjected to the protocols of the International Atomic Energy Agency or IAEA.  Unless there is an implied suggestion by some ASEAN members that nuclear power/energy be likewise prohibited outright even for their civilian utilization since this could lead to the development of nuclear weapons. This author believes that ASEAN should focus first on effectively and fully implementing the nuclear weapons free policy in the region, rather than taking up issues not directly included in the treaty.


The debate on the above issue is irrelevant in the Philippines since even the Philippine Constitution does not prohibit nuclear power or nuclear energy per se, but just nuclear weapons, to wit: “The Philippines, consistent with the national interest, adopts and pursues a policy of freedom from nuclear weapons in its territory.”  In its Constitution,  the Philippines does not prohibit nuclear-powered vessels such as U.S. submarines, aircraft carriers or naval vessels with nuclear propulsion.  Likewise, the Bangkok Treaty is not a nuclear free treaty; it is a nuclear weapons-free treaty.


BILATERAL security agreements between the United States and the Philippines like the 1999 Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA), the 2001 Mutual Logistics Support Agreement (MLSA) and the new basing agreement signed in 2014 – the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement  (EDCA) — for example, were entered into after the NWFZT was signed.  This is despite the constitutional prohibition on nuclear weapons, which weakens both the Philippine municipal law and the regional treaty. While EDCA categorically bans the storage of U.S. nuclear weapons on Philippine soil, it is quiet with regards to visiting U.S. aircraft and naval vessels. These are not even challenged on the possibility of the nuclear weapons contraband that they carry when they visit and transit in and out of Philippine territory including its territorial waters.


Would it be a problem if ASEAN states were informed of the movements within the region of nuclear-armed and even nuclear-propelled vessels or fleets — whether they belong to the U.S. China, France, U.K., Russia — whenever such vessels enter ASEAN territorial waters and their Exclusive Economic Zones in compliance with the treaty?  This is to ensure the spirit of the Treaty and to secure maritime security and safety from radioactive material of nuclear armed and nuclear-propelled vessels plying the ASEAN seabed and marine life.  Many ASEAN peoples depend on fishing resources for their livelihood. Of course, the big powers would always invoke “freedom of navigation” and such preposterous unilateral claims such as the Nine Dash Line of China in the  South China Sea.


The question is, if you are banning something from your territory, do you negotiate the terms with the potential violators or drug lords, or do you ban it outright with your enforceable laws in your territory?  This can be compared to the standard customs requirement to declare that they are not bringing contraband, and with an option to inspect. Can the ASEAN state parties not require the Nuclear Weapons States entering the nuclear weapons free zone to certify that they are not carrying nuclear weapons, similar to a situation when a visitor traveling to one’s territory is made to certify as part of customs requirements and procedures that he or she is not carrying prohibited narcotics or contraband material?  If the possession of nuclear weapons are indeed now considered illegal in the ASEAN region, state laws and municipal laws of ASEAN state parties may in fact utilize this to see the NWFZ treaty effectively enforced.  As a matter of fact, a visiting foreign traveler or tourist cannot declare that ” I neither confirm nor deny” that I am carrying narcotics or contraband material upon entering a foreign territory, including its territorial waters.


Ironically, the ASEAN inspiration for its NWFZT –the Philippines — was also the last to ratify the SEA-NWFZT on June 21, 2001 almost four years after the other nine ASEAN states had collectively ratified it in 1997. Was this perhaps a reflection of its vacillating attitude because of U.S. pressures and also because it had forged a bilateral agreement with the United States — the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) which was inconsistent not only with its own national constitution and with its regional commitments in the SEA-NWFZ Treaty?


In 2014, at the meeting in Manila for the ASEAN Commission for the NWFZT, the Ministers reviewed the progress of the implementation of the 2013-2017 Plan of Action to strengthen the SEA-NWFZ Treaty, while reaffirming commitment to preserve Southeast Asia as a Nuclear Weapons Free Zone. It is significant to note that the SEA-NWFZ Treaty seeks “to prevent in the territory of States Parties the stationing of any nuclear explosive device” but gives States Parties the discretion in their respective territories. Documents of the ASEAN Commission to implement the SEA-NWFZ Treaty describe “Zones” covered by the treaty as “territories of ASEAN states and their respective continental shelves and Exclusive Economic Zones (EEZs).


EXPECTEDLY, the strongest objections to the SEA-NWFZ Treaty’s Protocol under which the five Nuclear Weapons States are asked to respect the Treaty and not to violate it, have come from the United States. The United States Navy and U.S. 7th Fleet is one of the most active users of the South China Sea, long treated by the United States as part of its “American Lake”.  And with the global economic rise of China especially in ASEAN, the United States and China are today, jockeying for dominance of the South China Sea. All the more terrifying is the possibility that U.S. president Trump will scrap and tear up nuclear arms agreements and commitments of the United States.



The U.S., which is the noisiest in objecting about North Korean nuclear weapons development is also the  strongest objector to the ASEAN countries’ assertion of their territorial sovereignty in terms of security assurances over their own territory including EEZ’s and continental shelves. In short, the U.S. objects to “the ambiguity of the treaty language concerning permissibility of port calls by ships which may carry nuclear weapons.” A high-ranking official of the Philippines’  Department of Foreign Affairs whom I interviewed said that from the very start, the U.S. has vehemently opposed this anti-nuclear weapons treaty for Southeast Asia. This is because, long before China began its recent fantastic claims to sovereignty over the entire South China Sea, the U.S. perceived this treaty as restricting, if not challenging, the unhampered operations in the region of the U.S. Seventh Fleet.


The South China Sea is now a regional if not a global flashpoint vis a vis China’s assertiveness on the seas surrounding this global economic colossus, and the rebalancing of U.S. military forces through its “pivot in Asia”.  Thus, can we blame the ASEAN countries for being concerned about the South China Sea when this is an active lake for the Russian, American, Chinese, British and French navies which have, according to the 2014 Federation of American Scientists, the largest nuclear arsenals in the world? Among NWS, only China has verbally committed to sign the Protocol but this has not happened yet; to this day no NWS has signed the Protocols of the Bangkok Treaty.


IN 1994, the Nuclear Free Philippines Coalition (NFPC) which I chair  recommended the following proposals to the  ASEAN Commission for the SEA-Nuclear Weapons Free Zone Treaty through the Philippines’ Department of Foreign Affairs:


First, ASEAN should seek concrete steps and measures to enforce and effectively implement the spirit and letter of its NWFZ treaty and put more muscle into the SEA-NWFZT Commission which ASEAN established precisely to put teeth to the treaty. As the treaty was signed by ASEAN 20 years ago, yet we still have to see it enforced. In 1988, the Philippine Senate by a vote of 19 “yes” votes versus 3 “no” votes, passed Senate Bill No. 413, “Enforcing the policy of freedom from nuclear weapons provided in the Constitution and declaring unlawful certain acts in violation of the said policy, and for other purposes.” This was to be the Constitutional directive that would guide the Senate in its eventual rejection of the U.S. bases treaty in Sept. 16, 1991, because of the U.S. insistence “to neither confirm nor deny the existence of nuclear weapons” in their bases in the Philippines.


Second, being the only state with a nuclear weapons-free Constitution, the Philippines, following the spirit of the SEA-NWFZT which it inspired, should encourage the nine other ASEAN states to adopt nuclear weapons free policies with implementing rules and regulations in their Constitutions (like the Philippines), or through parliamentary legislation (like in New Zealand).  Why would the State enforcer be burdened with transit rights and port/airfield visits, with sovereignty issues and zones of applications, when Nuclear Weapons States treat these as natural rights in their respective territories, but does not apply it to others?  The Negative Security Assurance is a necessary assurance that we will not be targets of nuclear retaliation when Nuclear Weapons States submarines/vessels launch missiles from the ASEAN zone.


Finally, to make an enforceable and effective NWFZ Treaty, we should consider a situation where ASEAN can tap the expertise of its very vibrant civil society organizations, especially non-state entities and non-government organizations in monitoring and implementing the SEA-NWFZ Treaty.  The ASEAN region today has a wide reservoir of NGOs and civil society organizations which have developed sufficient expertise in monitoring an implementing an anti-nuclear weapons treaty — nationally as well as regionally.


Only then will ASEAN’s nuclear weapons-free zone treaty make an impact on efforts to attain genuine regional peace and security, secure environmental security in the region and contribute to global nuclear disarmament.



The spirit behind NWFZs – which is to significantly contribute to efforts to reduce the role of nuclear weapons in security policies — has been well defined by the United Nations’ Disarmament Commission when its declared in 1999:


“Each Nuclear Weapons Free Zone is the product of the specific circumstances of the region concerned and highlights the diversity of situations in the different regions. Moreover, the establishment of NWFZ is a dynamic process.  The experience of existing NWFZs clearly shows that these are not static structures and also in spite of the diversity of the situation in different regions, highlights the feasibility of establishment of the new NWFZs.”


With these nuclear weapons free zones in place, is it still relevant to have bilateral or multilateral military alliances like the Ampo between Japan and the United States, or the Mutual Defense Treaty between the Philippines and the United States which has branched out into other agreements like the Visiting Forces Agreement and the Enhanced Defense Security Agreement?

Are these not directed against other nations, or considered as hostile war-preparations and belligerent acts?


Perhaps, we can also learn from our European counterparts in the anti-nuclear campaign to focus on financial institutions which have large investments in the nuclear industry – for nuclear power development and indirectly, for nuclear weapons. This is to say that the discourse and conversation on our nuclear weapons campaign must also deal and target the financial sources – nuclear power investments. It is said that the biggest investors in the Asia Pacific on nuclear power and indirectly, on nuclear weapons development are in Japan and India: the Mitsubishi UFJ Financial (Japan), and Sumitomo

Mitsui Financial (Japan); and the Life Insurance Corporation of India. The 15 thousand nuclear weapons that is in the hands of nuclear armed powers relies on the banks, financial funds and insurance companies which have financial relations with companies involved in nuclear production companies which are also involved in other weapons of mass destruction.


Ultimately, there is only one way to stop nuclear-armed countries from using nuclear weapons, or for terrorists from getting a nuclear weapons: Keep the fissile material out of their hands. There is no such thing as a “safe” application of nuclear technology as the case of Fukushima in Japan shows. In a recent official estimate of the Japan Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry, it was admitted that the cost of the Fukushima nuclear disaster has reached 20 Trillion Yen, or US $126 Billion. A safe and secure world has to be completely nuclear- free without nuclear power plants that breed nuclear weapons. International cooperation and solidarity also has to be strengthened, as well as the rule of international law.


As the Philippines is the only country among ASEAN that has adopted a nuclear weapons-free policy in its national constitution, it is no small feat that its policy has now become not just a regional aspiration, but a reality as expressed in a formal treaty signed twenty years ago by the 10-member ASEAN. It is therefore imperative for ASEAN member states to now take the next step to enforce the spirit and letter of the Southeast Asian Nuclear Weapons Free Zone Treaty. This means to put more collective muscle through the Commission on the NWFZ Treaty, a mechanism which ASEAN established in 2014 in Manila. It has been observed that this “Commission” does not even have a secretariat of its own.


This collective endeavor will go a long way in easing the current tensions in the South China Sea, a sea that embraces almost the entire Southeast Asia. It may get us closer to sustaining regional and global peace and economic prosperity.





Gerson, Joseph. 2007. Empire and the Bomb: How the U.S. Uses Nuclear Weapons to Dominate the World. London, UK: Pluto Press.


Lutz, Catherine, editor. 2009. The Bases of Empire: The Global Struggle Against U.S. Military Posts .London, U.K.: Pluto Press.


National Security Archive, George Washington University. http://www.gwu.edu/-nsarchiv/NSAEBB/NSAEBB197/nd-17c.pdf


Umebayashi, H., Maclellan, N. and Willis, P. 1989. Nuclear Oceans. Melbourne: Victorian Association of Peace Studies.



* Roland G. Simbulan is Professor in Development Studies and Public Management at the University of the Philippines. He was the National Chairman  of the Nuclear-Free Philippines Coalition(NFPC), which succeeded in lobbying for the freedom from nuclear weapons provision in the 1987 Philippine Constitution, leading to the removal of U.S. bases from the Philippines. Email: profroland@gmail.com

A Tribute to Genuine Heroes and Martyrs by Roland G. Simbulan

 Editorial Archive  Comments Off on A Tribute to Genuine Heroes and Martyrs by Roland G. Simbulan
Dec 162016


Volume 88 – December 2016

(This editorial is based on the author’s response on behalf of the families and friends of MEDIA AND PROFESSIONAL honorees – including the author’s late wife Chit Estella-Simbulan – who were recently included in the Wall of Remembrance of Martyrs and Heroes who struggled against the Marcos

Martial Law Dictatorship, Bantayog ng mga Bayani Memorial Center,

November 30, 2016)

by Roland G. Simbulan


It has been a cliche to refer to departed friends and loved ones as having lived “a full life.” Yet one cannot think of any easy way to describe the lives of beloved icons who are also freedom fighters: the three from the media sector namely Letty Jimenez-Magsanoc, Chit Estella-Simbulan, and Tony Zumel; an actor/director Behn Cervantes; a feminist teacher Maita Gomez; and a soldier of the people Dan Vizmanos. They have contributed in no small way to this country’s history in its struggle against dictatorship and tyranny.


Martial law brought out the worst in the Filipino that inflicted great suffering, cowardice, and fear as we would never forget. But it also brought out the best in us, Filipinos.


When many journalists during martial law became its cheerleaders, others showed phenomenal courage and bedrock devotion to truth. It is the storms, and contrary winds that bring out the strengths of individual character that has made the difference. Even in the “praise release” newspapers and magazines controlled by the martial law regime to revolutionary underground mimeographed newsletters, they took great risks and became the voices of truth in exposing the Marcos dictatorship where the only thing that made it look good was the absence of a free press. They were among the best mold of journalists to confront martial law repression during those dark years.


They showed us with their writing and their example the kind of integrity journalism is all about: a commitment to human rights, exposing injustices and manipulation and muckraking, digging, ferreting, carefully researched writing that gets at the hard facts. The media honorees Letty Magsanoc, Chit Estella and Tony Zumel personified the fierce independence of journalism from the unquestioning acceptance of government spin. During those times when limitations to civil liberties were justified and compelling arguments for their suppression were made, these journalists and editors took a stand. As Chit once told me,” it was the only right thing to do.” For them, repression of dissent is repression of press freedom. They fervently loved our country, viewing freedom of the press as crucial for keeping it true to its ideals. They taught their colleagues that real objectivity is when reporters dig into documents, find a credible whistle-blower source in the bowels of government where the real good sources are, or learn things on their own and verify them.


In the case of the professional honorees, Maita Gomez, Behn Cervantes and Dan Vizmanos, one would expect that their militance during their youth would evaporate as the realities of adult life an raising a family set in. These professionals chose the road less taken and with their courage and brilliance, resisted the Marcos dictatorship during our nation’s darkest years. Their torches have inspired others.


They have now passed the torch to us, the living and the young generation of millennials. Rest assured that we will not allow the flame to be extinguished. We will hold it high to our last breath. To the honorees whose spirit I am sure are with us today: your names will be etched not only in granite, but in our hearts and will always remain a symbol of commitment to achieve a better life for our people and nation.


I would now like to speak of the honorees as part of a wider family, both at the political and personal level. We, as family, especially those nameless among our people they have touched with their lives and example, stand here together to say to all of you people of this beautiful land. Thank you.


On behalf of the families of the media honorees and professionals, we thank Bantayog ng mga Bayani for this honor they have given to our loved ones who braved the storms and contrary winds and whose lives have made a difference. Their spirit will never die, even more so in contemporary conditions which show ominous signs of resurgent fascism. Their memory hold a steady course of inspiration in all seasons, and we now know that there are many-millions of kindred souls who will be the keepers of the flame.


And we, are so grateful for this honor.



To view more articles in this catagory click on the Image.

ALON AT HABAGAT ni Roland G. Simbulan

 Poetry Revived  Comments Off on ALON AT HABAGAT ni Roland G. Simbulan
Dec 162016

Note: This poem, composed by the author on Feb. 28, 2009 while observing the sunset at Masinloc Bay, Zambales, was first read by the author at Conspiracy Cafe, April 7, 2009.

Roland G. Simbulan

Umaalon sa tabing dagat
Sa ihip ng hanging habagat
Kasalukuyang sumisiklab ang araw
Iniilagan ng tanikalang
Nakasakal sa atin.

Ang hanging habagat ay dumadampi
Sa mga pisngi ng niyog na tabingdagat.
Sa VFA, dayuhang barko’t eroplano
Ay gapos sa taumbayan
Nagpipista sa kamunduhan.

Bakuran man nila ang lupa
Bakuran din nila ang ating paligid-dagat
Angkinin man ng sundalong dayuhan lahat lahat
Binubugbog ng tadyak, palo ng agos
Baya’y ginagahasa ng armadong dayuhan.

Gobyernong bugaw
Alipin ng tropang dayuhan
Kaalinsabay ng pagkawasak
Parang kahoy na nabubulok

MAGALIT KA, BAYAN by King Rodrigo

 Poetry  Comments Off on MAGALIT KA, BAYAN by King Rodrigo
Dec 032016
Magalit ka, Bayan, at ipagsigawan
Na di ka papayag ng ang kasamaan
Ay muling maghari sa iyong lipunan
At ang mga anak'y makitang luhaan.

Magalit ka, Bayan! Angkang pinatalsik
Sa kapangyarihan ay nais magbalik
Sa panunungkulan at muling maghasik
Ng dilim at lagim sa lupang tahimik.

Magalit ka, Bayan! Ang iyong Libingan
Ng mga Bayani ay nilapastangan.
Ang isang anak mo nasa 'yo nag lilo
Doo'y inilibing ng angkang palalo.

Magalit ka, Bayan. Tila nilimot na
Ang 'yong kasaysayan ng pakikibaka
Sa mga diktador, kabaya't banyaga,
Na nangagsinais na sa 'yo'y banyaga,
Na nangagsinais na sa 'yo'y dumusta.

Magalit ka, Bayan! Ang nakatatanda'y
Di nagpapamalas ng kabayanihan
At ng kagitingan upang pamarisan
Niya ring kabataan ngayong kadiliman
Sa ating lipunan na nalalabuan.

Magalit ka, Bayan! Gisingin mo'ng tanan
Sa pagkakatulog sa gitna ng laban
At baka pag gising sa kinabukasan
Ay wala na'ng layang di ipinaglaban.

Nobyembre 27, 2016


 The Online Chit Estella Reader  Comments Off on NOTES ON EDITING AND HEADLINE WRITING by Chit Estella
Dec 032016


by Chit Estella




  1. Life as a reporter is exciting, but life in the newsroom can be just as so. Newsroom work, in fact, can even be more stressful because it involves: copy editing, headline writing, sometimes layouting.
  2. But work is mostly editing: an editor edits the copy (that is, the story submitted by the reporter), looks at the text once it is printed out, and then looks at it again when it appears in the newspapers the following day.
  3. Editing is a never-ending work of improving a story. A story is often never perfectly edited. It can only get better with each editing. But because of the time constraint imposed by deadlines (in the case of The Manila Times, 8p.m.), one has to do the best within a limited time.
  4. Who can edit? How does one edit? Not everyone can, and not everyone knows how.
  5. The editing process does not – should not – begin with the editor. It should begin with the reporter himself/herself. A reporter who submits a copy (i.e. story) with corrections gives the impression that he/she has looked at her story before submitting this. It means, that just like a person who is about to leave the house, he/she first checks if he/she looks alright. If he/she sees that something is amiss (like a thread dangling from one’s shirt, a lock of hair out of place, an unbuttoned shirt, or an unzipped zipper, etc.) he/she does something about it.

Submitting a story without editing it is like leaving home without looking at the mirror to see how you look.  Just as leaving home without looking well-groomed gives a bad impression to people who see you, submitting an unedited story leaves a bad impression on your editor.

  1. Formal editing work happens, however, in the newsroom. First, by the desk persons, and then by the editors in charge of a particular page (front page, metro page, hometown, sports, opinion, business, entertainment and style).
  2. Editing involves two things: grammar and style.
  3. Grammar involves mostly what you have learned in school. A student who did not do well in his/her grammar classes should not enter journalism; he/she is not likely to be a good grammarian when she enters the newspaper. A good foundation in English is needed to be a good editor. The capacity to edit is developed over a long period; one cannot have a crash course in editing.
  4. How does one develop editing skills?


First, by reading broadly and well. Good readers get to hone their grammatical skills and develop an ear for the language. They become familiar with the many ways that a word can be used and the ways an idea can be expressed.  It develops good vocabulary and superior spelling skills. Reading well also develops in a person the ability to learn the nuances of a word or a phrase.  One finds out why using one word is preferable to another in a particular context.  One doesn’t get stuck with the same words, day in and day out, for the rest of one’s life. (For example: when does one use the word ‘politician’ and when does he use ‘political leader’ or ‘statesman’?  What is the difference between a girl and a woman; and a woman and a lady?)


Second, y writing as much as one could.  Writing is a good exercise; it gives you a feel for the work; and it makes you empathize with people who write. Chances are, it will make you a more sensitive editor.


Third, by developing patience.  Good writers do not always make good editors, if only for the fact that writers are not always known to be patient people.  One must be willing to go through details and to let a person look better, more intelligent, and more interesting than he/she actually is — and have no credit at all for doing these. (Many reporters are able to build careers on the skills of the unknown deskmen and editors.  Only after employers have hired these reporters do they realize how well – or badly – the famous reporters actually write.)

  1. One also edits for purposes of style. By ‘style’, we mean the newspaper’s style. All newspapers have their own styles which they develop according to their own notions of brevity and accuracy.


Questions of style involve, for example, the way that the titles and positions of officials are written.  Do you spell out President in President Ramos?  Do you still mention his first name? When referring to him, do you capitalize it or not?


An editor must be familiar with the style of his newspaper. Otherwise, the newspaper will suffer from inconsistency and cause confusion among its readers.


In a way, style means rules.  It tells you which way to go and how to go about it.

  1. Problems in Editing


For an overwhelming number of Filipinos, English is but a second language. We need to study to be familiar with it, to know the rules and develop, as what was said earlier, an ear for it.


The way we say things in Pilipino is different from the way we say these in English. In fact, some Pilipino expressions can never be translated into English and retain the flavor of the original form.


While both languages have some similarities in their rules, there are just as many differences.  Very often, you would find in English newspapers in the Philippines mistakes such as : her wife, his husband, simply because in Pilipino or Tagalog, we simply say, kanyang asawa or asawa niya.


Subject and verb agreements also become a problem in English when one thinks with a Pilipino or Tagalog frame of mind. For example, ‘is’ and ‘are’ are often interchanged, overlooked or misused; in Pilipino there is no problem because we simply say ‘ay’ .

  1. Editing, while done sitting down, can be a very exhausting, tedious job. Ater some time, one becomes less alert, less sharp. It is for this reason that editing is best done by at least two persons.




  1. Headlines are the first things that attract us to a newspaper. The banner headline, more than the picture, makes us decide whether to buy a newspaper or not.


  1. What is a good headline?


*It is attractive because:

– it is immediate

– readers easily relate to it

– using very few words, it says what the story is all about.


* It is accurate because:

– it delivers exactly what it promises: no sensationalism, no exaggeration

– it is free of misinterpretation or double meanings.


  1. It takes time before one becomes very skilled in writing a good headline. And even with sufficient experience, there are just some occasions when writing the perfect headline becomes impossible.


  1. The length of the headline depends on a newspaper’s layout. Its appearance must blend with that of the overall design. A two-deck headline, for example, must be of equal length or proportions: one cannot have the first deck much too longer or short compared to the second deck.




Editor’s Note: This was written by Chit Estella when she was the

Managing Editor of The Manila Times from 1997-2001.

Book review of Whose Side are We On ? by Dr. Jaime Veneracion

 Book Reviews  Comments Off on Book review of Whose Side are We On ? by Dr. Jaime Veneracion
Nov 162016

BOOK REVIEW OF DANTE SIMBULAN’S WHOSE SIDE ARE WE ON?: Memoirs of a PMAer. (Quezon City: CenPeg & the Center for the Study of Social Change, 2016)


Reviewed by Dr. Jaime Veneracion, former Chair, History Department, University of the Philippines during the Central Luzon booklaunch at the Holy Angel University, Angeles City, Pampanga. Sponsored by the Center for Kapampangan Studies (CKS). Oct. 25, 2016.



When we were students, Prof. Teodoro A. Agoncillo would remind us that in a range of one to ten, memoirs should be considered in the second range in terms of relativity, behind its cousins such as diaries and letters.  At that time, we were analyzing the memoirs of General Emilio Aguinaldo whose testimony on the Bonifacio and Luna killings served as their litmus test and subjected to various conflicting accounts by some of his men.  As a recently published memoir of the enforcer of Martial Law in the early 1970’s, now a centenarian senator would show, the testimony on what made Marcos justify martial law put some cloud of doubt on his whole opus. Thus, the proviso of Prof. Agoncillo on how to test the reliability of sources especially of a Memoir, usually written years after many of the events being remembered, rests on HONESTY. Honesty can be tested by putting the memoir against other memoirs or by documents still available to the reader.


Although I am a friend of Dante C.Simbulan, I can only affirm what his memoirs says through what is known as resonance.  A document is honest when it resonates to you personally. Did the contents of Dante Simbulan’s memoirs resonate to what I knew as a near-contemporary?



This one word, a favorite of postmodern writers, has this dictionary (Merriam-Webster) meaning: RESONATE, “…to continue to produce a loud, clear, deep sound for a long time; to have particular meaning or importance for someone…to affect or appeal to someone in a personal way.” As a reviewer, I can only say that there are many things in this book that resonates with my own experience.


  1. a) Early Childhood.

He said his contact with peasants in his barrio as a small kid exposed him early to social awareness. But having patrons from some rich landlords with some of their children for playmates, I thought Dante was even more lucky than us.  Having been born to a purely tenant farmer family to the biggest Church landed estate or Hacienda de Buenavista, I can vouch for this feeling especially when we transferred to the urban schools where we were described as “taga-bukid”.  My parents would likewise recall how an abusive encargado of the hacienda would come unannounced during harvest time, at night, together with his band and terrorized their own parents by gathering them and did violence on persons they just picked out from the crowd.


  1. b) Japanese Occupation.
    I think the description of the Huk-USAFFE relations as recounted by Dante (intended to provide context to his experience during the war) needs a more nuanced appreciation of the historical facts. For this, we can read the Jesus Lava ‘Memoirs of a Communist’ where the author described his experiences with the various groups fighting the Japanese.  After all, one such leader of the USAFFE was the labor leader and later, a fellow partisan, Amado V. Hernandez. The USAFFE had special meaning to our family because our ancestral house was the headquarters of the food brigade bringing rich and stuffs to the Sierra Madre.  My mother had the recollection of the Japanese Occupation as a time of plenty as there were so many willing to do the planting and harvesting in a collective way.  The evacuees from the city and the Bataan escapees converged and transformed the barrio into a happy place where there were no Japanese, the men wooed the women and the girls and had harana and dances during some occasions. The Buenavista Regiment, some of whom came from our barrio fought in Imugan, Nueva Vizcaya near Dalton Pass in pursuit of Yamashita.  At least six of them, some relatives of my father, never returned.


  1. c) College.

Dante’s early struggle to decide what course of life he had to take resonate as well in my own early career, making some serious thought about the PMA as a possibility.  To acquire free board and lodging, I attempted to enter the varsity gymnastic team with no success because as Prof.Evangelista our coach had said, my physique should be in the Filipiniana Dance Troupe.  But the teacher in charge was a very strict woman by the name of Lydia Buendia, who counted as absence a five-minute tardiness in the practice sessions.  Finally, my friend Clodualdo Francisco convinced me to try the COCC (Cadet Officers’ Candidate Course) program preparatory to a career in advanced ROTC leading to an enrollment at the PMA later. Our COCC was a mini version of what Dante Simbulan described in his book about the hazing at the PMA.  But more than the hazing was the immoral behavior of the upperclassmen who asked us to do some personal errands for them such as buying and delivering flowers to their girlfriends, or as one officer asked to buy a Mickey Spillane novel to complete his collection of that spy series.  Another classmate who was an upperclassman asked me to write his term paper. These practices led me to abandon any ambition for the honorable career although my friend Clod Francisco, when he pursued his PMA career graduated as baron of the graduating class (perhaps in 1965 or 1966).


But the real deal in resonance was when I read in Dante Simbulan’s memoirs their experience as OJT with the 7th BCT (Battalion Constabulary Team), or Nenita Unit, ‘Markang Bungo’ , with Lt. Col. Napoleon Valeriano.  My wife comes from Plaridel, Bulacan which was the location of Camp Oliveros and the Airport which served as the HQ of the 7th BCT. The shocking show of impunity, the butchering of Huk suspects detained at the camp during the so-called welcome party for the PMA graduating cadets was so shocking, yet it was not part of our local narrative.  In fact, I have researched and published a local history of Plaridel.  In the Lumang Bayan Plaridel where Camp Oliveros was located, what they know was that the 7th BCT used the airport to land smuggled “blue seal” cigarettes in connivance with local politicians.  The BCT made possible the rise of local strongmen such as the one in Plaridel who ruled the town with his private army for 21 years.


  1. d) BCT experience.

Dante Simbulan’s assignment as commander of a BCT unit fascinated me and brought memories of my experience as a grade school kid when our barrio lived in terror for the visits of the BCT. Our town of San Ildefonso was just at the edge of the Candaba swamps which was the area of Dante’s military operations. I remember how at one instance when my younger brother and I were picking locusts and grasshoppers for food in the open fields, we were caught in the middle of a Constabulary-Huk encounter.  The small band of Huk guerrillas were able to proceed and hide among the bamboo thickets along the river. After which, the mopping up BCT troops shouted at the inhabitants to make themselves visible within their view, asking everyone to stand at the open fields as the Constabulary would shoot at anyone hiding among the bushes and bamboo thickets.


When Dante Simbulan mentioned Rafael Ileto in one context, it made me remember town mate Reynaldo C. Ileto, the famous international scholar, his son. But more than this famous town mate, the Iletos brought memories of the uncle, Jaime Ileto, who was our mayor during the time when Ramon Magsaysay became defense secretary and late president of the republic.  Not included in Dante’s memoirs was this aspect of military operations.  For the mayor’s army called Civilian Guards were dreaded by small pupils like myself even more than the BCT, whenever they descended upon our barrio.  I remember one time when upon reaching the school grounds, the Civilian Guards fired widely their garands and carbines to signal the call for a barrio meeting among the residents, oblivious of the chilling effect the firing had produced among the children.



If I may suggest, the book of Dante can be improved through the nuanced understanding of the historical background upon which he situated his personal experiences.  I thought the USAFFE-Huk relations ca be one of such contexts.  Perhaps in general, we can talk of Tulisaffe in some situations but in order to see the more nuanced estimate of the situation, we can read other memoirs, among them Jesus Lava’s ‘Memoirs of a Communist.’ Lava had some good relations with guerrillas especially in Southern Tagalog where he met Amado Hernandez, a labor leader and one of the USAFFE. Even in Bulacan where the BMA of Alejo Santos operated, he had some good word on the leadership whom he considered patriots, in spite of what happened later, with the emergence of abusive local politicians – strongmen – who became the heads of the dreaded Civilian Guards cum private armies.  The USAFFE was particularly important to my parents because our ancestral house was the headquarters of the food base of the guerrillas fighting the Japanese.


The Buenavista Regiment to which my father belonged had a unit from our barrio sent to Imugan, Nueva Vizcaya in pursuit of Yamashita in 1944. At least six from our barrio perished in that Battle of Bambang (Dalton Pass) and never returned, among them, relatives of my father. A casualty of the war was my Lola who was accidentally shot by a guerrilla, indeed an unexplainable loss which created rifts within the guerrillas themselves.



As I ponder on Dante Simbulan’s life, I was reading Howard Gardner’s book, THE LEADING MINDS, whose interesting thesis may be used to frame the subject memoir.  Gardner says that humans had a primate heritage which they carry along even as they mature.  In the world of the orangutan, the newborn already knew how to place himself in the hierarchy of power — he knew early on how to satisfy the basic needs such as the food and security of being with the mother. As he grows up, he knows his identity, in relation to the strongest and the biggest orangutan.  For Gardner, this self-consciousness of the adult orangutan is equivalent to the mind of a five-year old child, a consciousness most people retain throughout life.


In making differentiation among leaders of society, this primate heritage is factored in.  A leader of the nation can be successful if he understands that he addresses the mind of the five year old, meaning the least common denominator among the population. Leading an educational institution is an entirely different ball game since the community of professors and students are imbued with ideals that go beyond the SELF. It is not enough to satisfy the basic needs of food, clothing or the security inherent in belonging to a herd. For given the complex organization of an institution such as a university, people are exposed and take as modality of life, the development of a critical mind. The community is disciplined to think greater than the SELF by instilling the value of a higher order of thinking, that of the OTHER (Kapwa) which is synonymous to raising the bar of integrity, virtue, justice, in short, the belief in civilization and the sharing of a common destiny of HUMANITY.


If I were to summarize Dante Simbulan’s lasting legacy, it is this: that he had developed his sense of self quite early and had been exposed to the OTHERING of his father. Hence, at PMA, he was thinking of it as an educational institution only to discover to his dismay that what was being taught was institutionalized violence, the degradation of the person, the development of a five year old mind. PMA, instead of raising the bar in the development o a true man, was in fact the institution that reinforced what may be called the primate heritage. When Dante was exposed to a truly educational institution, he developed a higher order of thinking and the appreciation of refined values that truly reaffirmed has sense of humanity.


It is to the credit of Dante and his colleagues that he introduced the Humanities and the Social Sciences in the academic curriculum of the PMA.  Although this could not have been enough, considering the fossilized values that were then prevailing, the process of transformation of the military school had began. The test was that during the closing years of the strong man’s rule, when there as a test of restraint that had become when confronted with People Power, the military did not act like robots.


Hopefully, in the era of a strong man copycat, a more humane military leadership will not follow illegal, unconstitutional orders from above. If such would happen at that point of crisis, we can only have Dante and his colleagues to thank for and remember with fondness.