eastwind journals 86 – BROWNOUTS TO SUPPRESS PROTESTS / Nazareno Negro

eastwind journals 86


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By Bernie Lopez


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While Manny Pangilinan of Meralco beefs up his equity in Philippine Star, it has come out with front page propaganda articles defending the interests of Meralco and the power oligarchs. The gists of the articles are 1) power rates increases are inevitable based on legitimate industry conditions (reply of consumer advocates – legitimate increases are okay but do not justify the illegitimate which they want to sweep under the rug); 2) future brown outs are inevitable (reply of consumer advocates – this veiled threat is a psyche-war tactic to suppress legitimate protests; Meralco has the gall to increase rates even as it has the highest rates in the world currently).


Would-be concessionaire San Miguel Energy Corporation (SMEC) made a FORCED ENTRY of the compound of the Albay Electric Cooperative (ALECO), breaking through a barricade. Protest against the SMEC takeover is due to consumer fears of 1) perceived runaway rate increases, 2) evident from a one-sided concession contract where SMEC can pay ALECO’s P3.7 debt ONLY IF IT IS CAPABLE. The contract was kept secret for ten months, then released recently with amendments. The SMEC takeover is supported and facilitated by Legazpi Mayor Noel Rosal and Albay Governor Joey Salceda, who had protégés in the previous ALECO board accused of amassing a P3.7 billion debt. SMEC was also endorsed by Bishop Joel Baylon of the interim ALECO board which took over, under protest from Redemptorist priests and the Albay Multi-sectoral Stakeholders Organization (AMSSO).


Boycott in reply to SanMig’s ALECO Takeover
To pressure ALECO to award concession to SMEC, SMEC’s generator allies have announced a threat to plunge Legazpi and parts of Albay into total darkness within 36 hours, if it does not pay its P3.7 billion debt, which was incurred by the previous ALECO board accused of massive corruption. NEA, which controls ALECO and failed to monitor and regulate the massive debt, is accused of being a partner to the corruption.


SMEC has done the same for CASURECO 3 in Camarines Sur. SMEC has an ambition to take over concessions in the entire Bicol. It is dangerous even for a powerful conglomerate to toy with cut-off as a tool for power monopoly, as it invites people-power protests. Is it legal to deny the rights of paying consumers based on the sins of corrupt cooperative officials, who are protégés of the Governor and other elected officials?


True enough, SMEC has triggered people power in Legazpi. Consumer leaders, led by Dante Jimenez, and the Albay Multi-Sectoral Stakeholders Organization (AMSSO) recently launched a massive campaign to boycott San Miguel beer, hotdogs, and PAL. If the campaign succeeds and spreads across the entire Bicol, what SMEC can gain in power would be dwarfed by losses in sales. Even if the boycott fails, this leaves an indelible corporate scar whose impact is unknown.


Dante Jimenez, of VACC fame, and active consumer advocate in Albay and Camarines Sur, says, “If they hurt us, we will hurt them back.”


SMEC’s allies in PSALM and PEMC-WESM, to whom ALECO owes, all of whom have connections with power politicians in the LGU pyramid, hint of a massive invincible all-powerful mega-syndicate behind unjust rate increases, a disease spreading across the nation today. Similar protests are mushrooming, as in Pangasinan. Greed has overtaken our grids. The mega-syndicate has tentacles reaching up to Malacanang, which defended Meralco rates as ‘reasonable’, “TROed” in turn by the Supreme Court. Malacanang is a puppet through election campaign funds from the corporate-based oligarchy.
Only people-power and the Supreme Court can neutralize this powerful energy oligarchy. Consumers will be victims if they remain indifferent. The only radical way to neutralize the force is to –
Overhaul our power policies and laws, such as amending EPIRA to be truly anti-monopoly, and somehow clipping the clout of oligarch corporations;
Abolish the ERC, PESM-WESM, PSALM, NEA, whose officials are members of the mega-syndicate, and replace them with consumer-represented institutions;
Empower electric cooperatives to be truly independent from the clutches of the NEA;
Ban LGUs from getting their protégés into the cooperative boards through a consumer screening committee;
Ban government equity in power firms;
Teach people-based cooperatives to take control and put up their own generating firms; as paying consumers, they have the capital which is milked by the mega-syndicate.


Only people’s intervention and massive policy reform can destroy the greed of the oligarchy-government-World Bank/USAID/IMF partnership in our power industry. eastwindreplyctr@gmail.com
Fanaticism or Authentic Devotion?


To lure the Indios of Mexico into Christianity, the Spanish frailes made the images of Jesus and Mary look like them, dark and with kinky hair. These found their way to the Philippines via the Manila-Acapulco galleon trade, manifested to today by devotions to the Black Nazarene of Quiapo and Our Lady of Antipolo, which have persisted through the centuries to become world famous through media coverage.


The resilience of these two devotions surprised even the frailes themselves. One has to witness the violent crowd of the Black Nazarene procession, which women do not dare join, to discern the powerful faith of the Filipino masses. Just watching makes one pray. The faith of devotees is mysteriously contagious. Everyone tries to reach Jesus. Towels are thrown to the carousel, wiped on His hand or face, and thrown back to the devotees. Some crawl on top of the crowd to get nearer. To be able to get a meter from the carousel is an almost impossible feat, an obsession, a vow. Everyone is barefoot because slippers will get lost and shoes will hurt others. The two to three-kilometer procession inches across the narrow alleys of Quiapo the whole day. An ambulance is on stand-by.


The panata (vow) is the driving force of the devotion. Every year, devotees, relating the forgiveness of their sins to joining the violent procession, flock from every nook of the city every second Thursday of January to fulfill that vow. There is a Church controversy over the Nazareno Negro. One side says this folk devotion is plain blind fanaticism. The other side asks – who are we to judge what is in the hearts of devotees? Who are we to suppress such vibrant faith based on a mere suspicion that it is misplaced? Listen to logic of theologians, but also listen to the hearts of devotees. For the heart discerns what astounds the mind. The Black Nazarene defies logic because faith transcends logic. It is the symbol of true Filipino Christian spirituality.


Fr. Catalino Arevalo, SJ, sums it all, “Looking at how deep the devotion of the people are to the Black Nazarene, we can really say, it is real and the people’s devotion is an authentic faith experience!”




Lord, give me the wisdom
to discern Your will
and the grace to follow it


the heart is the right brain
the mind is the left brain
there is often wisdom
when the heart dictates to the mind
folly when the mind dictates to the heart


the heart discerns mysteries by intuition
the mind is often confused by intricate logic
the wisdom of the mind is full of folly
the wisdom of the heart is flawless




those who know are not learned
those who are learned do not know


lao tsu, tao


faith knows without proof
faith sees without reason
faith learns without reading
faith loves without question




forget about your eyes and see with your heart
forget about your ears and listen with your soul
only then can you discern
what you have known all the while
which wise men cannot comprehend
but children can see so plainly


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