I wanted my year-end column to end on a happier note, but I cannot leave two upsetting pieces of news unaddressed. The first is about former Davao City vice mayor Paolo Duterte’s ridiculous but highly disturbing list of people allegedly planning the ouster of his father President Duterte. The second is about the project to expand the Kamikaze East Airfield Peace Memorial in Mabalacat, Pampanga. What the two pieces of news have in common is the blatant disregard for the truth.
Topping the list Vice Mayor Duterte posted on Facebook on Dec. 7 is Vice President Leni Robredo. She finds herself in the company of bishops, “mutant/cause-oriented groups,” leftist groups, journalists and private companies such as the food giant Jollibee.
Although the post has been taken down, it has gone viral on social media, at first mostly in pro-administration sites, and then picked up by mainstream media. I don’t know if I should just be amused or extremely worried that a public official could lie so blatantly and destroy lives so unconcernedly.
Robredo, tagged as leader of the “United Opposition” out to remove President Duterte from office, denied the accusation and slammed the release of the list as highly irresponsible. The list was obviously assembled by someone who failed to do even the most basic of research. Some of the bishops that were named are dead. The list also includes columnist Carmen Pedrosa who writes in support of Duterte and is critical of former president Benigno Aquino III. Her husband is supposed to be oppositionist Ramon Pedrosa, which is also wrong.
Robredo said she does not know most of the individuals and groups on the list. Moreover, she said she hasn’t ever been to most of the places mentioned in the list where she was supposed to have met with the different groups.
The National Union of Journalists of the Philippines pointed out the danger the list brings to journalists it named: Maria Ressa, Ellen Tordesillas and Ed Lingao. The three were already receiving threats even before the list was released. And the Palace? All it said was that the release of the list is an exercise of the freedom of expression!
It’s great that Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana has declared the list a piece of “fake news.” The Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines is on the list. The CBCP leadership and Manila Archbishop Luis Antonio Cardinal Tagle have come under fire from the clergy for keeping silent over the inclusion of bishops and other religious leaders in the list, as well as on the President’s continuing blasphemy and threats against the Roman Catholic Church.
Where is our dignity?
Kaisa Para Sa Kaunlaran’s past president Aquino Lee sent through Viber photos of the Kamikaze Shrine in Mabalacat, Pampanga and a message expressing alarm over a plan of the local government to expand it. The shrine honors Japan’s kamikaze pilots and has become a popular destination for Japanese tourists. Its entry is through a torii traditional Japanese gate. In the center of the grounds is the life-size statue of a Japanese kamikaze pilot standing atop a tall pedestal.
Lee’s urgent note to the Flowers4Lolas Campaign Viber group reads: “While we were all so tied up with the removal of the Comfort Women commemorative statue (in Manila), a plan to expand the Mabalacat Kamikaze Shrine is in place. There is a huge tarpaulin that shows the project perspective saying: ‘On this site will rise a new Kamikaze shrine.’”
A phone conversation with the staff of Mabalacat’s tourism office reveals that the shrine is not going to be expanded but it is up for renovation. A resolution signed by Mayor Marino P. Morales and Mabalacat Tourism Officer and World War II researcher Guy “Indra” Hilbero reads in part:
“Whereas, the once dusty and serene town of Mabalacat is recorded in the annals of war in the Pacific during the Second World War as the birthplace of the kamikaze phenomenon;
“Whereas, the people of Mabalacat were innocent victims caught in a senseless war between foreign powers of world supremacy;
“Whereas, the cause and demise of the kamikaze pilots is an important part of the liberative struggle of the Mabalaqeunos and the entire Filipino nation to unchain the fetters that bind them;
“Whereas, the establishment of the Kamikaze monument which would not only serve as a cruel reminder of the horrors and senselessness of war, but is likely to boost tourism and sense of history in the area; and
“Wherefore, the declaration of Clarkfield-Mabalacat, Pampanga on October 1998 as ‘A City of World Peace’ is a continuing effort to secure lasting and enduring peace for all mankind throughout the world irrespective of nations and races.”
I was informed by the Tourism Office that both Mayor Morales and Tourism Officer Hilberto no longer hold office in Mabalacat. I called the attention of the Tourism office that the contents of the resolution is blatant historical revisionism which Pampangueños cannot and should not allow.
The wording is poor. For me, the Kamikaze “cause” is to be condemned, their “demise” to be celebrated. What do they really want to say? That having those pilots and the rest of the Japanese military in town fuelled local economy and therefore the memory should be honored?
How can Mabalacat, Pampanga continue to pay homage to the Japanese kamikaze pilots who bombed, maimed and killed men, women and children during the Japanese occupation? In nearby Mapaniqui, Pampanga was the Bahay na Pula, the Red House where comfort women were kept, beaten and forced to service the Japanese soldiers. The east and west (now Clark Airbase) airfields were where the Kamikaze Special Attack Corps first took off in WWII.
The kamikaze was founded in the town on Oct. 20, 1944, and had 23 pilots whose first missions were to hit American targets. This they did successfully, sinking or seriously damaging at least seven American carriers. The last mission from Pampanga attacked the United States landing armada at Lingayen Gulf in Pangasinan.
How can Pampangueños forget this part of their history? Or are they bent to forever keep the stigma that their own, the makapilis, betrayed Filipinos and in fact sided with the Japanese in the darkest hour in Philippine history when we fought the war against fascism? What incensed me further were the words in the resolution: “… cause and demise of the kamikaze pilots is an important part of the liberative struggle of the Mabalaqeunos’ and “…people of Mabalacat were innocent victims caught in a senseless war between foreign powers of world supremacy.”
How can the local government agree to this? Have they been misled by their own history researchers? The kamikaze pilots died because of their suicide missions, not the struggle of the Mabalazuenos. Likewise, didn’t they know about Japan’s imperialist Greater East Asia Co-Prosperity Sphere? Or maybe they are just blind and cannot see? Or they read but did not comprehend the contents of the resolution?
In Manila, we cannot spare even one square meter of land to remember the comfort women who suffered at the hands of these Japanese soldiers. We are busy working to restore the Comfort Woman statue to a proper place after its removal by the government from its location on Roxas Boulevard along Manila Bay.
Meanwhile, Mabalacat honors the same people who shamed our lolas. Where is our dignity as a nation?