‘ILOVEYOU’ – not as a virus, but as a creed - BY THE WAY by Max V. Soliven

It’s too late to undertake any sermonizing or lecturing about today’s elections. Those among the 37 million voters (the government hopes that 80 percent will go to the polls) who’re going to cast their ballots have already made up their minds.

It’s even too late to hope that the elections won’t be marked by violence and death. Already 64 have been killed during the campaign – and the death toll is certain to rise. The latest outrage was the cold-blooded murder of Quezon Province’s Rep. Marcial "Jun" Punzalan at a rally in Tiaong, Quezon, last Saturday night. To nobody’s surprise, the hit squad of the New People’s Army (NPA) Melito Glor command claimed credit for the assassination, further blackening their victim’s name by alleging he had been struck down for his "crimes against the people."

With the NPA gunning down so many candidates in the current election, why on earth is the GMA Government still talking "peace" with Joma Sison, Luis Jalandoni, and the big chiefs of the NPA, the National Democratic Front, and the Communist Party? In faraway Oslo, Norway , at that! Let Joma come here if he wants to parley, so he, too, can risk his life within gunshot-range of his enemies like the exposed candidates and ordinary folk who’re participating in the present election exercise. The NPA has made the current polls a "shooting gallery." Don’t you think it’s time we shot back?

Today’s balloting will, of course, be crucial. But let’s not forget that the entire week or two weeks to come will be equally critical, if not more fraught with danger and skullduggery. It’s when the ballots are being tabulated and canvassed that fraudsters, cheaters, manipulators, and bullies can influence the outcome by disruption, coercion, bribery or threat. It’s embarrassing that in the last elections it took the Comelec more than two weeks to declare the winners, which some officials dubbed as "progress" since in previous elections it had taken a month to a month and a half to promulgate victory for candidates from top to bottom. The vaunted "automation" and computerization of the electoral process is still, alas, far in the future, for all the Comelec’s upbeat prognostications. Why are we as backward in our "hand count" as African nations and other backwaters of the Third World? Lack of funds? Rather, I’d say, lack of will. It’s more than just a suspicion that many politicians don’t want the exercise to be streamlined. Oh, well. If it’s only for consuelo de bobo, just look at Florida.

In the meantime, let us pray. If that sounds naïve or corny, can you suggest some better way?
* * *
President Arroyo said the right thing when she was interviewed by the Cable News Network (CNN). In response to a query, she replied that previously, "the upper and middle classes wanted retribution…now, this is a time for healing."

That remark of hers can be interpreted in a number of ways. It can be said, with an overtone of malice, that the "upper and middle classes" (that phrase doesn’t sound nice, but how else could GMA have put it?) were in a revengeful mood towards the fallen ex-President Estrada, but they were shocked to discover that their hate-object Erap still had such substantial grassroots and masa support that the outcry for harsh measures against him could provoke not just class war but a "revolt of the masses."

If you ask me, I’m happy to see the starch taken out of the holy-moleys, the sanctimonious acolytes of the Uncivil Society, the KOMPIL, and the smug "People Power Dos" crowd, particularly when they found that Erap and his bunch could muster an equally large, if not more boisterous and unruly, "EDSA TRES" multitude.

The moral of this rude happening, including the terrible May Day assault on Malacañang, is that if you keep on glorifying "People Power" as a means of toppling governments and putting the fear of God and whatever in the minds of politicians (I won’t say "hearts" for these may be non-existent), you don’t know what kind of People will rally next to manifest their Power. So, enough of that conceited bullshit. Let’s get real. Only by working together and curbing all that arrogant bitching and name-calling, and our stupid propensity to call on the Cardinals, bishops, and saints to exorcise our personally declared "devils" will we be able to move forward in harmony and goodwill.

Would you believe? One of the conceited leaders of the EDSA DOS Rah-Rah confraternity wanted to form a human barricade on Mendiola street in the wee hours of the morning of May 1 to prevent any anti-Gloria and pro-Erap horde from marching on the Palace. He had declared to the "faithful" that if they planted a statue of the Blessed Virgin Mary in the center, and held their rosaries up high, they would face down the mob.

Fortunately, when the huge mob of shouting pro-Estrada masa demonstrators swept down on the thin line, the more sensible in the group herded the panicked "barricaders" into the safety of the San Beda and Holy Spirit compounds where they huddled while the mob howled past them, armed with stones, dos por dos clubs, sharp slingshot darts, and – would you believe? – cannisters of tear gas. By scampering to safety, none of the pro-administration stalwarts (the swagger frightened out of them) were compelled to face instant "martyrdom". They’ll live, it can be said, to... well, fight another day.
* * *
Before we leave the subject, the attack on the Palace was no "spontaneous" thing. It had obviously been well-planned. The assault was spearheaded by six large dump trucks, filled with demonstrators, carrying caches of stones, molotov cocktails, pill-box "explosives," and – I repeat – cannisters of tear gas which the "attackers" hurled at the astonished and confused defenders of the Palace.

The dump trucks ploughed through the flimsy barricades. The mob went right up to Gate 7 and Gate 6 of Malacañang, shaking the gates, some going over the walls. If you ask my opinion, the police contingent (only 200 of them) and the Presidential Security Guards were taken by surprise. Indeed, if the intent of the assault wave was to crash into the Palace and assassinate Mrs. Arroyo and her family, I’ll have to remark that the "plotters" almost succeeded.

Who was asleep at the switch, then? For example, why was the "build-up" of the attackers in the streets near the Chino Roces (Mendiola) Bridge not detected? Were no police patrol cars or Armed Forces vehicles surveying those darkened access-roads and avenues? The first wave of attackers, surely, could not have come all the way from EDSA. The onslaught was just too swift.

President Arroyo would do well to do an earnest review of who were with her at the Palace the preceding night and early morning, offering her worthless advice and telling her they would "organize" a capable defense. Those are the people not to listen to. If there’s a next time, and the President is still depending on those dumb-dumbs, then she might not be so lucky. It was, sad to say, "amateur hour" all the way. And that’s what hampers President Arroyo’s administration today: Too many amateurs claiming to be experts.

The President is right to assert that this must be "a time for healing." Put all that pugnacious rhetoric away. Reach out. We might be able to unify this nation yet. But it won’t happen if those who huff and puff, believing only they are right, have their stubborn way.
* * *
Close on the heels of the elections, the Commission on Higher Education (CHED) will hold its 4th National Congress this Thursday (May 17-18) on the theme, "Higher Education in a Knowledge-Based Economy."

The congress, scheduled to take place in the Manila Midtown Hotel, is intended to attract policy decision-makers, researchers, managers and all involved in Higher Education, in cooperation with the Coordinating Council of Private Education Associations (COCOPEA), the Philippine Association of State Universities and Colleges (PASUC), and Congress of the Philippines, says CHED Commissioner Mona Valisno, chairman of the gathering.

The President, of course, is supposed to be the keynote speaker and guest of honor. I’m sure her speech and those of the distinguished panel of speakers invited to discuss higher education will be excellent. Our problem in this country is that we’re so eloquent in speech that we tend to forget that "action" is what counts, not empty rhetoric. Naturally, everybody will perorate that we need better teachers and a better curriculum, more funding for schools, and so forth. Then everybody will go home, and nothing will be done until the next speechifying occasion.

Where is that so-called "knowledge-based" economy we’re always talking about? We refer to 11 percent unemployment and even worse "underemployment." We bewail the lack of job opportunities for our graduates. And yet, there are millions of job openings for men and women with the right training. To cite just one example, the United States annually calls for 200,000 computer-programmers from the Philippines, but we can’t supply more than a few thousands. Whenever epidemics rage abroad, there’s suddenly a call for more Filipino nurses, as when a horrible flu epidemic hit London and Great Britain. Visas were hastily issued and scores of nurses recruited to be "air-lifted" literally to England. Why? Because Filipinos still are noted for their diligence, their "caring", and their eagerness to perform even the most menial tasks. Instead of being "insulted" by our having such an image, we ought to take advantage of it.

Higher education, I submit, should emphasize inculcating the right values in our college and university level students. The process, it must be said, ought to have begun in pre-school and grade school, and continued on through high school. However, remedial courses in ethics, manners, and right conduct ought to be made available even as late in the day as the college level.

A couple of weeks ago, I saw CNN’s Larry King "live" interviewing America’s First Lady, Ms. Laura Bush, on his famous talk-show. I’ll have to remark that I was never so impressed with a US First Lady as I was with the comparatively "unknown" Laura Bush, a refreshing contrast to the brilliant but brittle Hilary Rodham Clinton, now a US Senator. Laura was soft-spoken but bright, her replies and observations almost perfect in their clarity of thought and sincerity of approach. She said that she was "proud to be a teacher." She had taught grade school for years, she recalled, before becoming a librarian and researcher, and her priority, insofar as she could influence things as First Lady, would be education. "How many times have people said," she reminded Larry King, "that their lives had been changed because of a teacher?" She went on to declare: "I believe that being a teacher is the noblest undertaking in life." (I quote only from fickle memory, so please don’t hold me to the exact phraseology, but you get my drift.)

Right on, Laura Bush! Now that we’ve seen you in action and heard you, I’m confident the United States is in good hands. It’s said, cynically, that "when at first the Devil doesn’t succeed, he sends a woman." Pardon me for sounding like I’m gushing (an unaccustomed state), but here we have a woman who’s apparently God-sent. And so must be the "teachers" of our nation.

Yesterday was Mother’s Day. May I say it belatedly: Mama was my best teacher. And she didn’t hesitate to raise her hand when we were wrong.
* * *
In its Monday (May 7) issue, a week ago, The Asian Wall Street Journal ran a fascinating lead article in its Networking section headlined: Trend Micro Targets Viruses.

The Journal’s staff reporter Chen May Yee, in a piece datelined "Manila", recalled how a year ago, at around four in the afternoon, Richard Fernandez was handed a sample of a new computer virus by his supervisor. "The 23-year-old software engineer began systematically listing the virus’s nefarious traits. It spread through e-mail. Once open, it overwrote computer files and made them inaccessible. It sent copies of itself to everybody on a recipient’s electronic address book. And the subject line was irresistible: ‘ILOVEYOU’."

As reports of the May 4, 2000, virus attack streamed in from the Philippines, Australia, Europe and the US, "following the path of the sun as people awoke and began to open their e-mail – Mr. Fernandez and other engineers raced to devise a solution, which they uploaded to a server for customers to access. Colleagues scrambled to send warnings to major clients who hadn’t yet been infected. The upshot was that Mr. Fernandez’s employer, Trend Micro, Inc., became known as the first antivirus-software company to find a cure for the software code, estimated to have cost up to $10 billion in damage, mostly due to lost work time."

That’s high praise coming from the Journal.

This should get us to thinking. It was a bunch of young Filipinos in their early twenties, who devised the "ILOVEYOU" virus which so devastated the world, shutting down even the computers of the White House, US Congress, the National Security Council and the Pentagon. It was 23-year old Fernandez and his group of Katzenjammer Kids who rushed in with the first antidote to it.

In other words, to resurrect that almost trite expression but so pertinent to the day: We can do it, Filipinos! We can do terrible damage (including to ourselves), but we, too, have the genius and the ability to do much good.

The next time we use "ILOVEYOU" then, let it be our credo, not a computer virus. With love as a weapon, there is no obstacle that cannot overcome.











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