Ordering our outrage

It has been difficult to avoid succumbing to the atmosphere of anger and despair that has developed in the wake of the havoc wreaked by Typhoon Yolanda, internationally known as Typhoon Haiyan, especially when, by most accounts, relief and rescue operations led by the present administration have been and continue to be slow while thousands of people starve, sicken, suffer, and die in the devastated areas of Visayas. The frustration and resentment have been particularly pronounced among users of social media, who, prior to the current crisis, had already been up in arms for weeks on end over the Priority Assistance Development Fund (PDAF) scam involving several legislators and its most prominent—thus, most hated—face, businesswoman Janet Lim-Napoles, and had more recently been in anguish because of the effects of the 7.2–magnitude earthquake that had hit Bohol, Cebu, and their neighboring provinces.

Even after we had heard from our relatives in Kalibo, Aklan, which, though not as badly ravaged as other places, has certainly seen its share of death and destruction, I continue to feel weighed down by elemental helplessness, and it has been tempting to yield to the impulse to contribute to the rapidly rising tide of recriminations that I have observed among my colleagues, friends, and other contacts. There can, after all, be no denying that the response to Yolanda so far signals immense, perhaps criminal, failures on the part of the government, both at the local and national levels, in terms of disaster risk reduction, mitigation, and management, and therefore scrutiny and censure are more than called for. (In line with this, I would particularly like to know whether charges of treason would prosper against local officials who, despite being safe and sound, chose not to reach out to their constituents, but to ensconce themselves in Manila and issue statements to the press.)

The problem with social media, however, is that it can perpetuate a vicious cycle of validation rather than allow for catharsis: when we vent in Twitter, Facebook, or similar platforms, there is a distinct possibility that our fury and despondency may not drain away to create a space for clear, intelligent thought, or convert itself into energy for deliberate, effective action. Instead, it may simply go round and round and round, accumulating intensity and power while destroying our ability to ask ourselves what has so provoked our emotions and to consider if our reactions are still commensurate to the matter at hand. I do not wish to suggest that indignation cannot be productive—a cursory survey of our history as a people would prove otherwise quite easily—but any expression of such ought, I believe, to be accompanied by a strong sense of proportion, of responsibility: the best instances of criticism contain within them not only an invitation to dialogue, but also a commitment to it. Engaging in vituperation helps nothing and no one, as this reduces us to mere cogs in a mindless machine of rage.

If we are to converse on Yolanda and its aftermath in a manner that is meaningful and can lead to vastly improved disaster response in the future, I suggest that we begin with the following considerations:

First: Yolanda was one of the most powerful typhoons in the recorded history of the world—the fourth strongest, in fact, according to the Joint Typhoon Warning Center in Hawaii. While the Philippines is battered by about 15 to 20 typhoons each year, it does not seem reasonable to suggest that this has given us sufficient experience to face a monstrous weather event like Yolanda, which had one-minute sustained winds of 315 km/h, a speed that would enable one to traverse a traffic-free EDSA from end to end in less than five minutes. Prior to November 8, when it first made landfall in Guiuan, Eastern Samar, it is difficult to imagine any individual or institution being able to extrapolate from available data and set a baseline for preparations that would be good enough. How does one prepare a nation for a natural disaster of this magnitude?

The initial plans that had been made—and it must be acknowledged that plans were in place—were based on assumptions that Yolanda, precisely because it was so unprecedented, easily blasted, ripped apart, and destroyed. The excruciatingly sluggish pace of the response is not necessarily a function of ineptitude, but it is definitely a function of lack of information: how can one plan when one does not know the reality on the ground? And how can one know what is out there when communication lines, roads, bridges, seaports, and airports are out of commission, wrecked, or otherwise unusable owing to safety and security concerns? Such situation has begun to be addressed, but repair and recovery work takes time. Anecdotal information may come in from several sources, but these reports still need to be collated, arranged, and made sense of from a broader perspective to facilitate the conduct of aid that is as efficient as can be, in light of prevailing constraints.

Second: Much of the rage that I have seen (hardly representative, admittedly) appears to be based on the heavily sensationalized—or, to use John Crowley‘s term, “catastrophized“—stories and images of agony that the media, especially parachute journalists like CNN celebrity anchor Anderson Cooper, can capture: as of this writing, various news entities have collectively served up seven days of post-apocalyptic poverty porn for the combination of the 24-hour news cycle and Web 2.0 that has proven so menacing to journalism and so soporific to the general public. The latter was something that cultural critic Neil Postman had warned about as early as 1985, in his book against television, Amusing Ourselves to Death:

In both oral and typographic cultures, information derives its importance from the possibilities of action. Of course, in any communication environment, input (what one is informed about) always exceeds output (the possibilities of action based on information). But the situation created by telegraphy, then exacerbated by later technologies, made the relationship between information and action both abstract and remote. For the first time in human history, people were faced with the problem of information glut, which means that simultaneously they were faced with the problem of a diminished social and political potency.

Cooper et al. may not be malicious—a contentious point that I will leave on the table for now—but that does not mean they are not guilty of imperial and imperious condescension: a number of commentaries, academic and popular, have underscored the problematic, even racist, rhetoric of Western media when their reporters cover Third World events, as in the case of the 2010 earthquake that struck the Carribean nation of Haiti. Here, for instance, is Rebecca Solnit on the coverage of that specific tragedy:

The belief that people in disaster (particularly poor and nonwhite people) are cattle or animals or just crazy and untrustworthy regularly justifies spending far too much energy and far too many resources on control — the American military calls it “security” — rather than relief. A British-accented voiceover on CNN calls people sprinting to where supplies are being dumped from a helicopter a “stampede” and adds that this delivery “risks sparking chaos.” The chaos already exists, and you can’t blame it on these people desperate for food and water. Or you can, and in doing so help convince your audience that they’re unworthy and untrustworthy.

As well, it may be useful to remember that no less than the United States of America hardly seemed like the global superpower it styles itself to be following Hurricane Katrina, as evidenced by this timeline, or by this clip, in which Cooper interviews Louisiana Senator Mary Landrieu:

(None of the foregoing, by the way, should not be understood as a tacit defense of broadcaster Korina Sanchez, who I understand has been pitted against Cooper in many discussions given her reaction to the coverage of CNN. As far as I am concerned, Sanchez, given that she is the wife of Department of Interior and Local Government Secretary Mar Roxas, should not be associated with any outfit that purports to report news.)

Third: Whenever we are moved to slam the government, we must remind ourselves that “government” is not a faceless, monolithic entity or an arena populated entirely by corrupt, greedy, and incompetent officials who are hell-bent on looking after their interests, preserving their prerogatives, and perpetuating their political careers at the expense of lives.

The government is also made up of the tired, hungry, overworked, and utterly courageous police officers, soldiers, doctors, nurses, drivers, pilots, clerks, technicians, engineers, and aid workers who are contributing to the relief effort. The government is also made made up of people who have lost their possessions, their homes, their relatives, and their friends to Yolanda, and yet they are out there in Eastern Visayas, sifting through the ruins of various cities, towns, and barangays, to save who and what they can. The government is also made up of people who need to know that we completely support what they are doing, and that our appreciation and gratitude for their vital work are boundless.

Finally, the government is also made up of us—we who are, in ways large and small, inextricably bound to and complicit with the system as it exists, and if said system needs to be renovated, refurbished, or razed to the ground so as to establish a better one, then this could be the moment to seize and to shape, not by way of ire-driven status updates, but by sustained, collaborative action beyond the screen, in the real world for which the digital one, for all its attractions, will always be a poor substitute.

Within the reach of our arms*

Good afternoon, everyone.

This is a literature class, which is to say that we are primarily concerned with literary texts, but I have always tried, to one degree or another, to situate our discussions squarely within the so-called real world—to underscore that, the “talismanic world” of the work of art, to borrow a phrase from the poet Marjorie Evasco, is not a self-contained space detached from, and therefore irrelevant to, our daily lived experience. Whether I have been successful is a matter of debate, of course, though my hope that I have been so, however marginally, springs eternal.

By now, I am sure that you have heard about the tragedy that took place last 15 March 2013, Friday: 16-year-old Kristel Pilar Mariz Tejada, a first-year student at the University of the Philippines (UP) Manila, apparently took her own life by ingesting silver nitrate, a toxic, corrosive substance. Unable to pay the tuition fees for her education, Kristel had had to take a forced leave of absence in observance of UP Manila regulations, and this has been identified as the event that likely triggered her suicide.

Perhaps the only authority on the motives behind such a deadly decision by Kristel is Kristel herself, but we can be certain that her passing, far from a painless one, should never have happened.

As we are not members of the UP Manila community, or indeed of the UP system, there would appear to be no reason at all for us to contemplate her suicide beyond the performance of the obligatory tongue-clucking and head-shaking that the daily pornographic coverage of hardships, misfortunes, and disasters has tended to reduce us to—a performance that we have probably already rehearsed a number of times over before moving on to other matters. “What,” you may ask, “does Kristel or her death, heart-breaking as it is, have to do with me?”

What, indeed?

One aspect of Kristel’s death that has so far not received much serious scrutiny is the possibility that she might have been afflicted with clinical depression. Depressed people are not always suicidal, but depression is definitely a significant risk factor for suicide, which should be understood as a fraught phenomenon that cannot be shrunk down to a single cause.

We have abused the term unto meaninglessness, but depression is not just about being melodramatic or “emo”—it is a serious issue that requires professional attention and care. We may be more used to asking for intervention only for physical illnesses, but we must remember that we are not our bodies alone: our minds need nurturance as well, and as embarrassing or as distasteful as it seems to us, there should be no shame in acknowledging that we need the support and the expertise of others when our mental health is compromised.

Depression is defined by the World Health Organization (WHO) as follows:

Depression is a common mental disorder, characterized by sadness, loss of interest or pleasure, feelings of guilt or low self-worth, disturbed sleep or appetite, feelings of tiredness, and poor concentration.

Depression can be long-lasting or recurrent, substantially impairing an individual’s ability to function at work or school or cope with daily life. At its most severe, depression can lead to suicide. When mild, people can be treated without medicines but when depression is moderate or severe they may need medication and professional talking treatments.

Depression is a disorder that can be reliably diagnosed and treated by non-specialists as part of primary health care. Specialist care is needed for a small proportion of individuals with complicated depression or those who do not respond to first-line treatments.

If you suspect that you are suffering from depression, I urge you: please reach out for help as soon as possible. Should you feel uncomfortable talking to your family members or to your friends, there are other ways to get assistance.

On campus, you may wish to approach our counselors or our chaplain. Off campus, you may consider contacting the following organizations:

If you know anyone whom you feel may be depressed, then I ask that you bring up the foregoing options gently and carefully—force will do no one any favors.

Allow me to emphasize some parts of the WHO definition: depression is a common condition that can be treated even by non-specialists. In 2004, the Philippines was found to have 4.5 million cases of depression, nearly 6% of the total national population at the time, and the highest rate in all of Southeast Asia, no matter how much we may like to think of ourselves as a happy people. Unfortunately, according to the Department of Health (DOH), for every 90 Filipinos who suffer from depression, only one-third seek help. The remainder, either ashamed to ask for aid or unaware that there is something wrong with them, simply suffer through the symptoms. DOH assistant secretary Paulyn Jean B. Rosell-Ubial has observed that health care professionals, not to mention the general public, need greater literacy in matters of mental health, and that the stigma surrounding mental illness needs to be reduced.

There exists no evidence that the situation has vastly improved over the past nine years; our country was ranked among the least happy in the world late last year, for example.

The numbers are likewise grim with regard to suicide—in fact, Rosell-Ubial considers depression leading to suicidal behavior to be a major public health problem. Just consider what took place during the first quarter of this very year: last January 3, a 28-year-old woman attempted to kill herself by jumping onto the tracks of the Metro Rail Transit at Shaw Boulevard Station. A few days later, a man hanged himself from a nylon cord inside his rented shanty in Tondo, Manila. In early February, a 21-year-old female student fatally stabbed herself with a kitchen knife in her bedroom in Quezon City. A few weeks later, a car executive leapt to his death from the tenth floor of condominium building in Makati.

These incidents—which we know about only because they caught media attention; others may have not—reflect the disturbing upward trend in the number of deaths by suicide in the Philippines: according to data culled from the National Statistics Office (NSO), the suicide rate for men from 1984 to 2005 rose from 0.46 to seven out of every 200,000, while the rate for women over the same period rose from 0.24 to two out of every 200,000. Dr. Dinah Nadera, a psychiatrist and an associate professor of the University of the Philippines Open University who has been working on a suicide prevention strategy, has said that suicide rates have been climbing particularly among young people. Philippine Daily Inquirer cites Nadera as saying that the increase in suicides is particularly pronounced among young people aged between 5 and 14 years, and between 15 and 24 years, while InterAksyon.com quotes her as stating that the greatest proportion of suicides are committed by people who are between 20 and 29 years old. In other words, you and your peers are, statistically speaking, among the most vulnerable.

On a related note, the WHO reports that around one million people worldwide kill themselves every year, which means that one person commits suicide every 40 seconds.

It is all too easy to make fun of the idea of mental illness—to say that people who are afflicted with such disorders are simply maarte, pathetic, or weak. The mentally impaired or ill person is often a figure that draws ridicule rather than understanding or compassion. For instance, shortly after the woman whom I mentioned earlier jumped onto the MRT tracks, disrupting mass transit services along the southbound line for over an hour, some online commentators railed at the woman’s lack of consideration, as her suicide attempt had inconvenienced a number of passengers, while others suggested that she could have resorted to more effective, that is, more lethal, means. Look as well at popular representations of mental illness on television, in film, and even in our political institutions.

To my mind, this appallingly facile dismissiveness is rooted in part in the notion that mental health is a purely private realm that each person is expected to administer and manage by himself or herself. But we fool ourselves with such thinking. Why do we keep track of diseases like hypertension, diabetes, cancer, or HIV/AIDS? Because we realize that these illnesses are indicative of larger social problems, which is to say, public problems, among them poverty, malnutrition, lack of education, inferior health care infrastructures, and the generally inequitable distribution of resources. By the same token, the inability to imagine alternative futures that are more compelling than death, which I think is at the heart of suicidal ideation, should not be understood as symptomatic of merely individual, idiosyncratic misery, but of wider structural issues that need to be addressed. The personal, as the feminist saying goes, is political. There is, then, a need to re-evaluate and re-vision not only our attitude towards mental health, but also our attitude towards the society that we are part of.

The fact that you are here today, able to afford several times more per academic unit than Kristel ever could—she had been charged, and could not cover, PHP300 for each one—is as obvious a sign as any that you are beneficiaries of immense privilege. To have been born and raised in privilege were not things that could have been chosen and should not be things to feel guilty about. The crucial question has to do not with privilege as such but how one is using it.

Ensconced behind these immaculately white walls, with nearly every amenity imaginable at your disposal, and safe even from direct sunlight—one could conceivably spend his or her entire day here without having to be hit by a single ray—it is easy to lose sight of the bigger world that we inhabit. One reason that you are required to take subjects such as this—subjects outside your field of specialization, and subjects frequently thought to be bothersome and extraneous, and occasionally, “pa-major”—is to mitigate such a situation by showing you that there are many ways, critical and creative, to define yourselves and to make your lives matter beyond the narrow constraints of the careers that you wish to carve out for yourselves once you graduate. The raison d’être of this school, after all, is not to become a leading employee factory, reliably and efficiently churning out skilled workers term after term, year after year. Incidentally, I am willing to bet that, ten years from now, at least a third of you will be engaged in something that has no relation whatsoever to your present course—just think of how you, as a child, used to answer the question, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” and you will understand why I am so confident about my wager: your degree is not your destiny.

I would like to believe that all of us are interested in making the world a better place—that such an aspiration can, sadly, strike us now as a cliché does not drain away its potency or its urgency. We do need to make a better world, and I don’t mean better only for ourselves. As comfortable and as prosperous as each of us can become, we will not truly have accomplished anything if we fail to think of and uplift others, for we are all intimately, intricately, and inextricably connected. We ignore, tolerate, or abet systemic injustices at our own peril, for the day will surely come when these same injustices are visited upon us.

Our university declares that it develops achievers for God and country, and these words should not be taken as empty ones used for decorating classroom walls, official documents, and promotional materials—these words constitute a challenge for us all to take on the responsibilities of social transformation, to swear to ourselves that, in the words of the novelist Thomas Harris, “The world will not be this way within the reach of my arm.”

There is something deeply and fundamentally wrong with a nation when more and more of its people, especially its young people, are killing themselves, and such is the desperate state of our nation. The world, as we know it today, cannot—must not—be allowed to remain the way it is within the reach of our arms.

* This was written as part of an introductory discussion on poetry and its capacity to bear witness to human suffering. (Slightly edited on 20 March 2013, 12:42 AM GMT +8.)

On Youth and Social Media: A Deck of Practical LOLcats

Fresh Look: The Role of Youth in Nation Building
Public Relations Student Society of the Philippines
August 29, 2012, 1:00-4:00PM
NTTC-HP Auditorium
University of the Philippines Manila

[SLIDE 1] Members and officers of the Public Relations Student Society of the Philippines, fellow speakers, students, teachers, and friends, good afternoon.

I’m from The Pro Pinoy Project, and we run a commentary web site that we envision to be a kind of global community center for all things Pinoy. I’ve been asked to speak a bit about “how the youth is utilizing social media […] in nation-building and how it is used as a medium to promote nation-building in social youth”. As the title of my presentation indicates, I’ve decided to structure my talk today around a series of image macros that are called LOLcats, which ought to be familiar to you. For the benefit of those who might not be, a LOLcat [SLIDE 2] is a picture of a cat accompanied by text that is usually wrong in terms of grammar and spelling—at least in standard English. In kitty English, which has its own rules too, the caption is perfectly correct.

Lest you be tempted to not take any of this seriously, LOLcats have already become the subject of critical academic attention in the form of a dissertation submitted to the London School of Economics. Media planner Kate Miltner, who wrote the study as part of the requirements for a Master of Science degree in Media and Communications, says, “Even if LOLCats were just a collection of silly cat pictures, they would have value simply because they, as [one of my study participants] said, make life easier. [SLIDE 3] But, as this study has shown, LOLCats are much more than that. They are a venue through which people express their emotions, connect to their loved ones, and define group identity. This not only gives them value; it makes them important.”

According to Miltner, the LOLcat is widely considered to be the “archetypal Internet meme”, and its enduring appeal, if nothing else, makes it remarkable, considering how short-lived its siblings tend to be. The LOLcat has been around for nearly a decade, and its origin can be traced at least as far back to the 2005 tradition of “Caturday” that was propagated by users of the imageboard 4Chan, the source of numerous other Internet memes. The main idea that I would like to put across with my use of LOLcats today is that the Internet functions as both a condition and a limit for human ingenuity, especially when we consider the Philippine social media situation—an idea that I will build on over the course of this presentation by making six key points. I don’t imagine that any of them will be especially original or surprising, but there is value to be had in reminding ourselves from time to time about what we already know—even, perhaps especially, the patently obvious.

[Read the rest in The Pro Pinoy Project.]

Risk and responsibility

While his assassination, questions about which remain open to this day, has transformed him into a martyr of democracy, Benigno “Ninoy” Aquino, Jr., the scion of a prominent clan in Tarlac, was by no means the passive or peaceable figure that the idea of martyrdom tends to conjure up—he was very much the opposite, in fact. As Cory, his own wife, once wryly remarked: “I know he’d die if we led a quiet life.” When he first entered public life as an assistant to President Ramon Magsaysay, he was, as he recounted to National Artist for Literature Nick Joaquin, a “siga-siga“: cocky and tough, believing that offense was the best defense.

Such an attitude would serve him well as he rode his vaulting ambition all the way to the Senate, where he occupied a seat that was initially perilous. On account of his youth—at the time that the 1967 elections were held, he was 17 days short of 35 years, the minimum required age for a Senator—a protest was lodged with the Senate Electoral Tribunal in order to remove him from office. The tribunal eventually decided that the proper reckoning of age ought to begin on the day that the “the expression of the popular will” was ascertained—that is, the day that the final poll results were announced—and allowed him to keep his post. Long before the ruling was handed down, however, Ninoy had already formulated a strategy: attack President Ferdinand Marcos. “If I kept hitting at Marcos, any effort to get me kicked out of the Senate would become political persecution, pure and simple,” he said.

[Read the rest in The Pro Pinoy Project.]

Journalism as barbarism

The furor that continues to rage around the Cultural Center of the Philippines (CCP) exhibition “Kulô”, and specifically Mideo Cruz’s installation Poleteismo, one of the works featured in said exhibition, has taken the form of a battle between blasphemy and censorship—an unfortunate development, in my view, as both positions seem predicated on a clear-cut, straightforward duality between how the public has responded to the work and how it ought to respond to the work. Whether the situation will shape-shift into something more capable of accommodating a greater, more complex range of possibilities remains to be seen, but that it has been reduced to such crude terms can be attributed in part to the manner that the mass media thoroughly maltreated the relevant issues.

It is highly likely that this ruckus would not have swelled to its current proportions—might never have happened in the first place—had Pinky Webb, host of the ABS-CBN current affairs show “XXX”, refrained from framing Poleteismo, diminished to its details, as a commentary on the contentious RH Bill. (The sense of the verb “frame” as pertaining to false incrimination is useful here.) As someone who has seen Poleteismo for himself, I find that interpretation completely untenable: the only element of the work that could be said to have a connection to the bill would be the condoms, and I saw no compelling reason to draw that connection—not least because the proposed measure is concerned with more than just prophylactics.

But the burden of the blame for the frenzied character of the dispute is not only for Webb, “XXX”, or ABS-CBN to bear. Understanding, no doubt, that anything related to the controversial piece of legislation would serve as a reliable magnet for rapid, even rabid, reactions, which would then translate into increased ratings, several prominent members of the fourth estate wasted no time jumping into the fray in order to whip the public into a state of hysteria.

[Read the rest in The Pro Pinoy Project.]

Mulling over “Kulô”

Art, all art, as the British writer Jeanette Winterson would remind us, is a foreign city, which is to say that it is fluent in tongues and steeped in traditions that inevitably require no small degree of adaptation and acclimatization on the part of those who seek a meaningful encounter with it. To behave as though art bore the onus of conforming to and confirming beliefs and expectations long held and cherished is to act like the boorish tourist who assumes, nay, demands that the locals speak his or her language, indicating a fatal combination of arrogance and ignorance that ought to be despaired at and deplored. And yet it is that very combination with which the past several days have been marked when one examines the clangorous—I hesitate to use the word “popular”—discourse that has erupted around the now-closed Cultural Center of the Philippines (CCP) exhibition “Kulô”, which, in addition to 31 other works of art intended to play off the convergence of the sesquicentennial of national hero Jose Rizal and the quadricentennial of the Pontifical and Royal University of Santo Tomas, features Poleteismo, an installation by Mideo Cruz that is both fulcrum and field for what been not so much a debate than a protracted shouting match, with terms yanked out of context for maximum incendiary effect: “blasphemy” and “terrorism” on the one hand, and “moralist hysteria” and “religious myopia” on the other.

[Read the rest in Interlineal.]

Pacquiao: Putting the ‘twit’ in Twitter?

The nominally honorable Emmanuel “Manny” D. Pacquiao, officially elected Representative of the sole district of Sarangani, was conspicuously absent from the House proceedings on the impeachment of Ombudsman Merceditas Gutierrez, who has been charged with betrayal of public trust. (The House, as reported elsewhere on this site, eventually voted in favor of impeachment by an overwhelming majority.) The world-renowned boxer, however, was apparently monitoring the action on television, as he announced via his official Twitter account (@CongMP) that he was “watching the impeachment trial” and thought that it was a “very interesting topic”.

Twitter / Emmanuel D. Pacquiao

When he was asked by a couple of citizens to explain why he was not at the session, Pacquiao resorted to what might be magnanimously referred to as attempts at wit.

Twitter / Emmanuel D. Pacquiao

Twitter / Emmanuel D. Pacquiao

Pacquiao later took a stand on the impeachment issue, declaring, “I vote NO! and I can give my explanation thanks“.

Twitter / Emmanuel D. Pacquiao

In all likelihood surprised by the flood of criticism he received for his unbecoming online behavior, Pacquiao then bid Twitter good-bye, an act that, according to Cocoy, only befits a wuss. (The account is still active as of this writing, and the post pictured below has been removed.)

Twitter / Emmanuel D. Pacquiao

Precisely why he had refused to perform his sworn duty of representing his constituents and giving them a say on an issue of national importance is unclear—not to mention moot and academic. It may well be that he was training in Baguio, but Baguio is merely six to eight hours away from Metro Manila by land. What is certain is this: Pacquiao’s absence from the impeachment proceedings is utterly irresponsible, a fact that his inappropriately flippant—even scornful—tweets serve only to underscore, and which does not augur well for the rest of his political career. If the pugilist conceives of Twitter as an informal forum intended for casual banter, then, at the very least, he should consider restricting his updates to inconsequential banalities, instead of setting the stage for being remembered as a laughingstock of a solon.

Meanwhile, Pacquiao ought to be condemned not only by the people of Sarangani or civil society as a whole, but also by his colleagues, for surely his disdainful disregard of parliamentary procedure, to the point of voting via a micro-blogging service, besmirches the House of Representatives as well.

[This also appears in The Pro Pinoy Project.]