Emil Guillermo: Before the Clinton vs. Trump "Super Bowl" of Presidential Debates, will you kneel with Time cover boy Colin Kaepernick?
September 24, 2016 2:31 PM

I've had pneumonia before, and it knocked me on my butt for nearly two weeks.

So to see Hillary Clinton bounce back to continue her presidential campaign has earned her "Iron Woman" status in my eyes. 

But I've seen her in action and bounce back all throughout her career. There was the stinging setback in her drive for health care reform as First Lady. The countless attacks on her character from the media and right-wing partisans. The fundraising scandals with Asian Americans. The personal scandals throughout the Clinton Administration. The stunning rebuke in the 2008 campaign. 

Hillary Clinton has weathered it all. 

And here she is again for the American people, the top surviving politician vying for the highest political office in the free world, battling an opponent who, by choice, is running an anti-political campaign to appeal to voters who have given up and are willing to throw their votes away.

It's made this the most frustrating campaign ever, and now the two candidates will be side-by-side for easy comparison.

I don't expect Hillary to wither on Monday for the biggest debate of her political life.

One hundred million people are expected to tune in for the high point of a campaign that has been less on the issues and more on the visceral appeal of the candidates. 

The polls suggest these are the two most disliked candidates ever to run for the presidency.

It's the Nose Clip Presidential Debate of 2016. 

The big question to ask as you watch: Who comes out smelling best? 

Who will allow the majority of Americans to breathe freely about the future of our democracy and our country?

It would be great to look at a list of issues and check them off.

But the issues seem to matter less than ever before.

For Clinton, the key visceral issue seems to be her "likeability." 

Maybe that's why this week, the most engaging thing to come out of the campaign was Hillary's participation in the satirical talk show, "Between Two Ferns" with comedian Zach Galifianakis.

And why not? 

The thing that made Donald Trump famous was a primetime reality show.

If you doubted Clinton's sense of play, watch the short segment. 

It shows the Hillary that the media, the stump speeches, and the Trump portrayal don't let you see.

She's no liar. She's no buffoon. The talk show may have been scripted, but it shows Clinton as a woman who can take a joke, have fun, and still look like the leader of the free world.

Real issue-wise, people I know are still concerned about Hillary's e-mail issue. But they're feasting on thin, watered down gruel, which one does when there's nothing else. 

More substantial concerns are raised by those who actually like Clinton, but watched the Sanders-Clinton debates and saw big red flags when she mentioned former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger as a mentor. It further cast Clinton as a war-hawk in a time when war and terror can disrupt life at a moment's notice.

Still, compare her to Trump, whose reactive stances are so unpredictable. Again, ask yourself, who would make you breathe easier in these tense times?

Domestically, it's not even close. 

If you're an Asian American or person of color, Hillary has reached out. DAPA and DACA under the Obama plan would not be endangered. But Trump has defined the perimeter for our country. He's ready to put up a wall of any kind, literally or metaphorically, at any time, anywhere, most likely with you on the other side.

And when there are no walls, Trump is all for invading your private space. His response to the recent outcries against violence and terrorism has been to suggest a law-and-order approach that has already been declared unconstitutional by a federal judge when it was implemented in New York.

Trump's advocacy of stop-and-frisk shows how quick he is to throw out the Constitution and restore his own reign of terror in urban America. But stop-and-frisk just doesn't work. 

CNN reported that between 2004 and 2012, out of 4.4 million stopped, 87 percent were African American or Latino.  

Only 12 percent were charged with crimes, meaning a whopping 88 percent were needlessly harassed.

In a constitutional democracy, you can call that unnecessary uber-policing.

You'd expect a leader of the United States to have more respect for the Constitution. 

But time and again, Trump, the anti-politician, has shown a profound misunderstanding of the foundation of our country and the civil liberties we all have.

For example, here's Trump on the peaceful protest of Colin Kaepernick, the NFL's kneeling Gandhi/MLK hybrid: "I think it's personally not a good thing. I think it's a terrible thing. And you know, maybe he should find a country that works better for him, let him try. It won't happen."

Because Trump apparently believes an America without constitutional rights to dissent and free speech should be just fine for those of us like Kaepernick---people of color concerned with their civil rights and issues like police brutality. 


I live relatively close to where Kaepernick went to high school in California. Once a beloved NFL hero, his demotion has actually been a good thing. It's allowed for the rise of his self-identity, not just as a person of color, but as a person of conscience as well. It's earned him his place on the cover of Time magazine.

But as we come to the presidential campaign's big debate, the coincidence of the police shootings in Charlotte and Tulsa should make us all understand how Kaepernick's stand is more relevant than ever. 

And it provides yet another way to view Monday's debate.

Ask yourself which candidate sees America the way it should be for all.

And before the debate starts, as it likely begins with the playing of the national anthem, as is often done at public events, don't rise reflexively, as if it doesn't matter. 

Think about it. Wherever you are. Rise if you must. But kneel, if you feel, and pray for the better America we want for all of us.

Your candidate should be the one who doesn't make us hold our breath to see what happens next.

Likely, she'll be the one who will allow us to breathe more freely in our democratic society.

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Emil Guillermo is an independent journalist/commentator.
Updates at 
www.amok.com. Follow Emil on Twitter, and like his Facebook page.
The views expressed in this blog do not necessarily represent AALDEF's views or policies.

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Emil Guillermo: "Master of None" Emmy winner's message to Tiger Moms--Don't let your babies grow up to be violinists
September 19, 2016 10:28 AM

Producer/Writer Alan Yang had the answer to Asian American invisibility in all of Hollywood. And he said it on the Emmys telecast live before millions watching around the nation. 

He had just won the comedy writing Emmy for co-authoring the "Parents" episode with comedian Aziz Ansari in the Netflix original series, "Master of None."

It was the first Emmy win for both. Since it was early in the show, and perhaps anticipating future blessings later in the program, Ansari, the star, deferred to his co-writer and producer Yang.
And Yang delivered the jab and the knockout message. 

"There's 17 million Asian Americans in this country, and there's 17 million Italian Americans. They have 'The Godfather,' 'Goodfellas,' 'Rocky,' 'The Sopranos,'" Yang said. "We got Long Duk Dong. So we have a long way to go."

It got a modest laugh. 


But Yang, a Harvard grad and a former member of the school's humor organization, the Lampoon, wasn't done with the thought.
"I know we can get there, I believe in us. It's just going to take a lot of hard work," he told everyone in TV Land. "Asian parents out there, just a couple of you get your kids cameras instead of violins, we'll be all good."

That got the big laugh, so big it drowned out his faint apology, where Yang sounded like he was saying, "Just kidding."

Perhaps that was for all the parents who pre-paid for the Suzuki lessons. 

Or for the ones who preferred their kids become a cellist like Yo-Yo-Ma, or a concert pianist like Lang Lang.  

But Yang's point was clear for the one-dimensional thinkers out there who put Asians in a familiar takeout box.

To paraphrase the venerable country music outlaws Willie Nelson and Waylon Jennings, "Tiger Moms don't let your babies grow up to be stereotypes."
Go ahead. Break the mold. You don't have to be traditional Asian anything in America anymore. 

You've got Snapchat now.

There is another way. The world doesn't end if you're third violin, third chair.

There are Asian American inroads being made in just about every field imaginable. Even those that involve imagination.

You no longer have to push your kids sadistically into the STEM fields. 

Now there's the HAHA fields, humanities and the arts, squared.

Yang has made a healthy living since his days as a writer at "Last Call with Carson Daly," "Parks and Rec," and the venerable "South Park."

But it wasn't always clear he'd allow himself that path after graduating from Harvard. (Oh, he's one of those.)

Yang grew up typically Asian American in Riverside, Calif. His dad was a physician and his mother taught high school, according to the website Harvardwood. Comedy wasn't in the cards yet. "I majored in biology at Harvard, because I figured I could keep all my options open," Yang told the website. "I could go into business, medicine, law or whatever."

Because that's what Asians did, right? Bring that keen sense of biology to anything they do.

But then Yang competed for and won a place on the Harvard Lampoon, and there he found his comic calling.

"When I got on the Lampoon junior year, I felt more at home," Yang told Harvardwood. "[It was] people who just wanted to do comedy all the time. It was unbelievable. It was a huge change."

After Yang graduated in 2002 and moved to Los Angeles with two fellow 'Poonies, the showbiz path had begun.

In truth, the path to a real career in show business had been well worn since my own years at the Lampoon during the mid-to-late '70s when the club's president, then Jim Downey, a senior majoring in Folklore and Mythology, proclaimed to me in the actual castle that is the organization's club house, that he wanted "to make television."
Of course, that's what Folklore and Mythology majors do in the modern day. They make the new fairy tales. And Downey became the first from the Lampoon to become a producer/writer at "Saturday Night Live."

It was just the beginning of a comedic supply-chain that lasts to this day, populating writing staffs on shows like "Late Night with David Letterman," "The Tonight Show," and "The Simpsons."
Of course, I thought that was all easy for Downey to aspire to.
He was a white guy from Joliet. Me, an Asian American of Filipino descent?

When I gave the funny speech, the Ivy Oration, as class humorist during my own graduation week, I, too, thought about showbiz. 

But it was still early in the game. And most of my classmates were still thinking about business school and law school and dreamed of their goal of joining corporate America. 

That all seemed like the "good" dream, or, at least, the safer bet.

Many of them made it. Me, I found a glass ceiling of my own design. I went into television journalism, even though there were probably just as few Asian Americans in that business as there were in the TV and movies of Hollywood.


But I could imagine being a TV reporter. I'd never seen many Filipinos or Asian Americans on primetime TV shows, beyond a guy named Poncie Ponce on a show "Hawaiian Eye." Or Leon Lontoc, who played a limo driver on "Burke's Law." 

And then there were the white guys with the bronzer sticks.

Filipinos like me? We were invisible.

I just thought it would be easier to be the first Asian American in TV or radio news somewhere, rather than being a pioneering Asian American in a Hollywood anything. You won't say no to me if I can tell you which public official is siphoning cash, or burning damning documents in that suspicious 3-alarm fire. Film at 11.

Remember, this was a few years after Bruce Lee began making his impact in his Hong Kong movies like "Fists of Fury." As Lee's widow claimed, Hollywood had taken his idea of selling kung fu as a concept to American audiences. But it cast the white actor David Carradine instead.

About 40 years later, I admire what Yang has done in collaboration with Ansari, winning an Emmy for the episode that defined "Master of None." 

The win was for penning the series' great "Parents" episode, which honors the immigrant, their struggles and sacrifices. 

They told their stories.
It's the stuff of comedy because laughter is the only antidote for the pain of being less than what we all could be if only our choices were based on equal access and opportunity.

In that way, the "Parents" episode is emblematic of all our Asian American stories. It was a comic, mini-"Roots" moment for all to see.

Jimmy Kimmel joked about the Emmys being so diverse this year. Only it wasn't a joke.

"There are more shows and more roles than ever before, and more diversity than ever before," Kimmel said. "This year's nominees are the most diverse ever. And here in Hollywood, the only thing we value more than diversity is congratulating ourselves on how much we value diversity."

Yeah, funny how they're actually doing something about it.

But then Kimmel got in his needling reality check. 

"In all seriousness, this is a very positive thing and people must take a moment to appreciate how far we've come," he said. "In fact, if you're a person of color in our audience tonight, especially if you're a nominee, find a white person right now, it shouldn't be hard. There's a bunch of them right here. Just take a moment to reach out and say thanks for your bravery."

Ansari, seated in the front row, got up and demonstrated how TV brings people together. He started hugging people around him.

But the truth is "Master of None" didn't take much bravery--not on the part of the major networks. 

It wasn't made for the big network audience. It was made for the digital subterranean streaming world of Netflix, where audience size isn't as critical and doesn't determine or water down an artistic message.

Maybe that's what hinders good shows like "Fresh Off the Boat" and even "Dr.Ken."  At least Constance Wu and her FOTB co-star Randall Park got some Emmy face time, if not a statue. But as good as their show is, going down a mainstream network, geared for the Peorias and the Joliets, is more restrictive than the auteur visions that one finds on an HBO or Showtime, a Hulu or Netflix.

That's where we find the "Master of None" shows. Not on the not-so-brave main networks. Not yet. 

But as the storytelling medium changes, where television, movies, cable, and digital all seem to blend, and as the audience changes, demanding new stories that reflect them, Emmy-winning shows like "Master of None" will begin to open eyes.

It took nearly two generations, and there's still a way to go. But with emerging Asian American producers and writers like Yang and Ansari, telling it like we exist, Hollywood stories are starting to include us.

Now, if only Asian Americans give up a few violins in order to discover their own voices.

Readers know in the last two years, I've been on my own personal storytelling trip about being a Filipino American in the media and U.S. history with my one-man show, "The Amok Monologues: All Pucked Up." I've performed excerpts of the show in San Francisco and New York. There's just something about the Asian American story that still remains under wraps, and it's time to unravel it and tell it all now.

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Emil Guillermo is an independent journalist/commentator.
Updates at 
www.amok.com. Follow Emil on Twitter, and like his Facebook page.
The views expressed in this blog do not necessarily represent AALDEF's views or policies.

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Emil Guillermo: Post 9/11, President Carter's Sunday complaint, Hillary Clinton's pneumonia, & Sunny Wells turning 40
September 12, 2016 1:48 PM

Plains, Georgia...In the land of presidential peanut farmers, I found myself to be the only full-blooded Filipino in the room at Maranatha Baptist Church, the spiritual home base for No. 39, President Jimmy Carter. 

And when the president looked into the pews and asked from where people hailed, I proudly declared, "California," where the most Asian Americans live.

President Carter looked fine on Sunday in Plains. But especially fine for his job on that day-- Sunday school teacher on the 15th anniversary of 9/11.

Carter, you'll recall, made headlines about a year ago when he disclosed having both brain and liver cancer and thought he had just two or three weeks to live. After treatments, Carter's forecast turned out not to be true. This past weekend, the second oldest living president, 111 days younger than President George H.W. Bush, seemed spry and quick-witted as he began his talk with an update.
Carter said he'd just returned from San Francisco where he had "supper" with wealthy tech giants, including the widow of Steve Jobs, Laurene Jobs, as well as the first Asian American power couple of the world, Facebook's Mark Zuckerberg and Priscilla Chan.

"She's Chinese," Carter said to his 99 percent white audience.

And then he said how the Facebook couple planned to give away 99 percent of their $50 billion fortune to charity.

"Only gives them $500 million for personal expenses," Carter joked, drawing a big laugh from the crowd.

It was just the warm-up for his Sunday school talk, something Carter started this month at Maranatha and intends to continue through November. 

Sunday, coincidentally, was also National Grandparents Day, and it was hard not to see the former president, wearing a bolo string tie anchored by an eight-stone turquoise clasp that dangled below the neck, as the nation's grandpa. 

Carter began his lesson's general theme on dealing with grief by mentioning his tough year that included not only his health news, but the death of his 28-year old grandson. Drawing from scripture (on this particular day, a passage on the persecution of the Thessalonians), Carter said such moments of grief were simply tests of one's faith, endurance, and hope.

He said overcoming all that was a matter of self-confidence and relying on our god-given talents, but that it was difficult in all phases of life.

"We lack inspiration, we lack the idealism to set our goals high. We've been satisfied with mediocrity. And I include myself," Carter said. People want an average life, instead of aspiring to be, "outstanding, or superb or brilliant or exceptional. And that is a problem we have," said Carter. "We set our goals too low, we're complacent, we're satisfied with where we are."

And then he applied the lesson to the historic day of 9/11. We're diminished as a country, and our goals for our nation's future are set too low.

"I'm afraid that our country and its effect on people of other nations has suffered from the aftermath of 9/11," Carter said. He "didn't want to brag," but said his goal for the country was always to be "superb and be a country that promoted peace and human rights. . .While I was in office, we never dropped a bomb, lost a missile, or fired a bullet."

Too much has changed, he said.

"Since 9/11," Carter said, "we've pretty much abandoned our commitment to human rights as we reacted to terrorism." He lamented that Afghanistan has become the longest war in American history, a direct outcome of 9/11, as well as the invasion of Iraq, which Carter called "unnecessary." 

Carter, whose administration took us out of an energy crisis, also pointed out how the U.S. is still suffering from a financial crisis that has exposed a deep inequality that has divided us as a people.

"We've become distrustful of people who are different from us," Carter said. "We used to be a proud heterogeneous nation. . .and now we are fearful. . .and we've become poorer as a country."

In the pews, along with my mixed-race family (Asian, white, Latino), was another Asian American family, Tim Phan and his three-generation family of Vietnamese Americans. Phan, a computer engineer with the Air Force, came as a refugee with his sister, Heidi Phan, and his mother, Ha Ly. The native of South Vietnam was with her four grandsons, natives of the American South.
Phan pointed out that Carter won a Nobel Peace Prize in 2002, a fact that belies how many conservatives see his efforts to find a peace in the Middle East as "anti-Semitic."

Jimmy Carter's sense of America and the world requires open minds to come together. 

Too often these days, that seems near impossible.

Carter's complaints spread to politics, in general.

"When I was president, I got as much support from Republicans in the Senate and House as I did the Democrats," Carter said. "Now if you're a Republican, you don't speak to Democrats, or support a Democratic president, or vice versa. And many Americans are embarrassed by the presidential election this year."

Carter's Sunday School lecture was turning into a mini-State of the Union address.

"We've had a deterioration in the quality of life and the relationship between different people that now has become almost acceptable," said Carter, who added the nation had changed so much it would be near impossible for the current Republican and Democratic candidates to declare their top priority to live in peace or to promote human rights.

"That was my inaugural speech, I only spoke 15 minutes," said Carter, who noted that this vision wasn't just his but shared by the American people who had "idealism and high standards and moral values. . .and now we've lost that."

Of course, in Sunday School, you know how all that can easily be found again.

As Carter ended his lesson, the service with all the hymns and the doxology began.

And the promise was simple. 

Stay and pray, get the photo op.

So this suddenly Filipino Baptist praised and was justly rewarded.

During the service, the news broke that Hillary Clinton had left the big 9/11 ceremony in New York, due to "overheating."
Clinton will be 69, October 26. Carter will be 92, October 1. (I'll be another year older on October 9, but I'm not running for or from anything).

Having watched Carter, the surviving cancer patient, take charge all morning, I hadn't been as concerned for Hillary at first. But now that we know she was diagnosed last week with pneumonia, we have a new campaign issue.
A would-be president's health. 

I've had pneumonia in the past. It was one of the worst bouts of sickness I've ever had.
For me it was like a 10x flu, accompanied with a sharp pain that felt like your favorite Major Leaguer had just applied the sweet-spot of a Louisville Slugger to your ribcage.

Clinton shouldn't be campaigning until she's well. And that could make pneumonia the pre-October September surprise. It doesn't disqualify her from running. But a president's health should only be a concern when he is in his 90s and out of office. Not when he's trying to make a critical decision.
It also means Trump won't be able merely to go on Dr.Oz's show to get a clean bill of health. Mr. Non-Transparent will have to come clean about his health and his taxes.

In the meantime, Clinton surrogates will have to battle the sickness that is Trump. Tim Kaine, your real life pre-veep close-up has arrived.

It was somehow fitting to find myself so deep in the South, I could drive down the road, count to ten, and not see a Waffle House. 

I was so far south, seeing Jimmy Carter as a civilian/reporter made perfect sense on 9/11.

I always dread that day, our national day of mourning, when the shock that has faded comes back in new and different ways without benefit of a Lee Greenwood song.

But it also brings back memories of the closest we've ever felt as a nation. We were all on the same team on those extraordinary days after 9/11.

Fifteen years later, before a critical presidential election, no one likes anyone running, nor does it seem that anyone likes anyone other than their spiritual and political clone.

Fifteen years later, before a critical presidential election, this is the time we need the kind of unity we felt after the rubble of 2001more than ever. When I visited Ground Zero in 2013, I stood by the memorial waterfalls there and picked out a particularly diverse section of names.

Hogan. Johnson. A Jose, a Kip. And a Chin Sun Pak Wells.

Sunny Wells, as she was called by her friends, was born in Tongduchun, Korea, but her family moved to Lawton, Oklahoma when she was a child. She was on the honor roll in high school, worked for a few years at Wal-Mart, then joined the Army. After a tour of duty in Korea, she wound up an administrative assistant to the Deputy Chief of Staff for Personnel at the Pentagon.

But she knew she wanted to study medicine in her life after the military.

So as 9/11 turns 15 this week, a teenage milestone, we recall how the honor society teen Chin Sun Pak Wells might have been Dr. Sunny Wells.

On Tuesday, September 13, Sunny Wells would have completed a Jimmy Carter-esque 39th year and celebrated her 40th birthday, if only for that other momentous day in September, 9/11.

Post-9/11, her memory may help lead us to a sunnier America.

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Emil Guillermo is an independent journalist/commentator.
Updates at 
www.amok.com. Follow Emil on Twitter, and like his Facebook page.
The views expressed in this blog do not necessarily represent AALDEF's views or policies.

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Emil Guillermo: Debate over Marcos burial a red herring for Duterte's Marcos Lite
September 6, 2016 2:59 PM

On Sept. 7, there will be protests at every Philippine Embassy and consulate throughout the world, including New York and San Francisco, as part of a massive global demonstration against the proposed hero's burial for the late dictator Ferdinand Marcos. 

Will it match the kind of anti-Marcos fervor the U.S. and the world saw in the 1980s? The kind that brought on "People Power" 30 years ago?

If it does, it could be enough to sway the Philippine Supreme Court, which has heard petitions both for and against the issue and is expected to make a ruling before a planned burial date later in September. 

But I think the burial issue is just a cover for a real second coming of Marcos, only this time it's in the form of the country's new president, Rodrigo Duterte.

That would make this week a great time to reawaken the kind of Filipino American activism the world hasn't seen since the fervor of the Marcos era.

What better way to show Duterte and the world that Filipino lives matter, past and present.

I've always said Filipino Americans suffer from general anonymity in the U.S. because the leader of their ancestral home has been nothing quite like the old dictator of the '70s and '80s.
Marcos kept Filipinos on the radar everywhere.

When the Marcos regime was linked to human rights abuses ranging from political torture, disappearances, and deaths, few could ignore the news. Except, of course, the Reagan and Bush administrations at the time, which continued to support Marcos.

That disconnect kept Filipino issues alive in the U.S.

But since Cory Aquino's "People Power" toppled Marcos in 1986, the Philippines lost its newsy buzz. 

What people know or don't know about the Philippines is astonishing. More astonishing is that things have seemingly gone on without much change in the Philippines, and people outside the country barely seem to care anymore. 

"Isn't that the way it always is in the Philippines?" seems to be the prevailing attitude. And American Filipinos, the vast majority of whom are immigrants who left the country because of Marcos, are just happy to smile and move on.
Except now.
And it's all because of the new president Rodrigo Duterte--the man who initiated the proposal for Marcos' burial and is paving the way for a new kind of martial law--likes to stay in the radar.

Though Kim Jong Un would probably give Duterte a run for his money, some call Duterte the Trump of Asia, a man who will do anything or say anything just to get a rise. 

You mean like calling President Obama a "son of a bitch"? He did that on Monday.

"Who does he think he is?" Duterte said in a speech responding to White House officials saying Obama would confront Duterte on his handling of drug dealers and extrajudicial killings--essentially government executions without judicial proceedings--that have taken place during his short presidency.
"I am no American puppet. I am the president of a sovereign country, and I am not answerable to anyone except the Filipino people," Duterte said. "Son of a bitch, I will swear at you."

Duterte later regretted his comments after the White House cancelled its planned meetings with Duterte on Tuesday.
But this is how tough guy politics works in the Philippines. 

Walden Bello, a Philippine scholar trained at Princeton, a professor at  Kyoto and at SUNY-Binghamton, and a former member of the Philippine House of Representatives, said Duterte is Trump to a point.

"Yes, there are parallels," Bello told me in an interview. "But though Duterte's actions may strike some as spontaneous and not well-thought-out, my sense is that they spring from conviction, and it's just the timing and crude expression that are off. The decision on Marcos was not impulsive; he had given that some thought and he meant it to honor a role model."

And that's an even better reason for the global protest this week.
It's really the first time the world can send a signal to Trumpy Duterte that he may have gone too far.

Or that he needs a better role model.

Bello told me the tragedy of the post-Marcos era is that the oligarchs failed to educate the public, specifically a new generation of Filipinos, on the human rights abuses of Marcos. 

He also blamed the elites for doing nothing to alleviate the great poverty and inequality in the country. They left a struggling democracy like the Philippines susceptible to Duterte's trumpiness.
"This near absence of social reform is one of the reasons that so many people voted for an authoritarian messiah like Duterte, who might end up scrapping the current system, bringing us full circle to 1972," said Bello.

Ah, 1972.

The year President Ferdinand Marcos first instituted martial law in the Philippines, Sept. 23, 1972.

Now 44 years later, after bombings killed 14 people over the weekend in the Philippines, Duterte has signed a formal declaration that his country is in "a state of lawlessness."
What's that mean? Is it one step away from martial law? Duterte said it's his "invitation" for the military and police "to run the country in accordance with my specifications."

A large global protest this week over the rehabbing of Marcos' image would show Duterte the world is watching the evolution of his own image as "Marcos Lite."

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Emil Guillermo is an independent journalist/commentator.
Updates at 
www.amok.com. Follow Emil on Twitter, and like his Facebook page.
The views expressed in this blog do not necessarily represent AALDEF's views or policies.

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Emil Guillermo: The day the Philippines first stood up to Marcos
August 31, 2016 7:37 AM

I had never been to the Philippines ever, or since.

But I was there in the homeland of my parents on one of the most important days in the history of that country--Aug. 31, 1983.

As a young American Filipino reporter for the NBC affiliate in San Francisco, I had convinced my bosses that the death of Sen. Benigno Aquino, the main rival of the dictator Ferdinand Marcos, was not some remote international headline. 

No, this was a big story for the more than 300,000 Filipino Americans living in the Bay Area. 

With many Filipino immigrants originally from the Ilocos region of Ferdinand Marcos, and the rest of them either in the U.S. because of Marcos martial law as immigrants or exiles, the Philippines story was as local as a five-alarm fire.

There was also the special relationship between the U.S. and the Philippines, the former colony made up to be a replica democracy in brownface.

Never mind the dictatorship part. 

The Reagan and Bush administrations had given its blessing to the Marcos regime. Remember Vice President Bush's infamous praise for Marcos and his "adherence to democratic principles"?  

You mean, like human rights violations and torture? 

Yes, and ultimately, the assassination of one Sen. Aquino, who was killed upon his return from exile in the U.S. to Manila on Aug. 21.

I had arrived in the country in time to make it to the Santo Domingo Church in Quezon City, to see Aquino's widow Cory give the eulogy, and then to see the massive funeral procession--1 million strong throughout the streets of Manila. 


In part, it was an adoration of Benigno Aquino, the chosen anti-Marcos, the man Filipinos had hoped would lead them to freedom. 

But it was also the first healthy public condemnation of Marcos, the man who had sucked the life, liberty, and riches from the country under his repressive martial law regime.

It was the beginning of the end. 

Within three years, in 1986, the country's resentment of martial law would reach amok levels, and with the help of the military, Marcos ultimately would be forced to flee the country.

And it was the funeral procession on Aug. 31, 1983, that let everyone know it was all coming soon. 

So imagine the irony of today, Aug. 31, 2016. 

On this day, the Philippine Supreme Court officially began hearing oral arguments for and against a plan to give Marcos a hero's burial in the Philippines' national cemetery, the Libingan ng mga Bayani.

The proposal made by the newly-elected Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte, the authoritarian tough guy who has been likened to Donald Trump, has split the country and Filipino diaspora community around the world (which incidentally exists mostly because of Marcos).

You either see Marcos as a former president who deserves to be taken out of cold storage and buried on hallowed Philippine soil. 

Or you simply can't forget the long list of human rights abuses of political opponents, Benigno Aquino chief among them. The disappearances and executions of thousands of political foes. The estimated $10 billion stolen from the country for his family's personal gain.

U.S. federal court judgments in 1994 and 1995 awarded martial law victims nearly $2 billion, of which payments were first made in 2011. 

A wall-like monument like the Vietnam Memorial has been erected near the University of the Philippines-Diliman campus is a constant reminder of the names of those victimized by Marcos' 20 years of martial law.

And yet 33 years after the Aquino funeral procession, when the country first expressed mass outrage over Marcos, a new generation of leadership is considering honoring the Filipino tormentor.

I talked to one Filipino immigrant, who had come to the U.S. during martial law and was now an American citizen. He was all too willing to forgive and forget. 

"Well, even the Germans have forgiven Hitler," he said.

I quickly corrected him. "No, they haven't."

Many still see Hitler rightly as evil incarnate. 

But I don't want to elevate Marcos to Hitler status. The Philippine dictator's actions weren't fueled by the belief of the racial superiority of Filipinos among, say, all of Asia, or above all ethnicities.

Marcos wasn't anti-Semitic.

He was just anti-Filipino.

Marcos simply saw himself as superior to other Filipinos. He subjected his will over lesser Filipinos, which actually made him a whole lot worse than anyone can imagine.  He perpetrated the crimes against his own people. His own country. There's nothing heroic about that.

And yet, oligarchs will do as oligarchs will do. Forgive each other and hope that a new generation of ignorant millennials will help them form a new majority of revisionists. They have all been subjected to very little education on the human rights abuses of Marcos. 

They only see the dictator as the man who ushered in the "Golden Age" of the Philippines. 

Public education! National highways! Flush toilets! Ah, modernity and selective amnesia. 


On Sept. 7, Filipinos globally who have memories that won't quit, as well as a strong sense of history, have planned demonstrations at Philippine embassies around the world to express their anger at the thought of a hero's burial for Marcos. 

It should be a loud and vocal outcry. 

I can't imagine it collectively being much louder than what I saw Aug. 31, 1983, when a million people thronged the streets to follow the casket of Aquino.

But it very well could be--a protest against a hero's burial for Marcos, the man many feel responsible not just for Aquino's death, but for the current fate of the Philippines.

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Emil Guillermo is an independent journalist/commentator.
Updates at 
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The views expressed in this blog do not necessarily represent AALDEF's views or policies.

Posted by:Emil Guillermo | 0 comments