Tuesday, November 17, 2009

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, The Manila Forum

The University of the Philippines Administration, through the Office of Student Affairs, invited us to go to the US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, The Manila Forum, mounted by ABS-CBN in the historic and scenic University of Sto. Tomas in Manila.

We left the University of the Philippines using the new Varsity bus of UP at around 5:30am to reach UST around past 6am. The bus went through Gate 10. We were asked to dislodge from the bus for the first line of security clearance. We were asked to line-up alphabetically, and were each called, our ID's checked, went through body search, by UST security.


After that, we were asked to proceed to the venue proper, the UST Medicine Auditorium, where heads of states, including Pope John Paul II, gave talks before. At the entrance of the building, security and PNP were stationed, we were checked using metal scanners (the ones you see in the malls) and were rechecked and searched by more security and US embassy personnel before we entered the auditorium at the topmost floor.


Admittedly, it's a nice experience, and truly a once in a lifetime opportunity. A lot were excited, some, restless because it was held early in the morning. Before it started, the crew ran us through practices (cheering, clapping, cheering for our schools, again, and again, and again).

It wasn't very funny, because it was like we were being in the noontime show Wowowee. The difference between the two, however, is that at least in that show, people receive prizes.


Maria Ressa, Ricky Carandang and Pinky Webb the lucky anchors of the forum. They were joined in by ABSCBN News bigshot Charie Villa and Ging Reyes in the audience. Also, Tony Velasquez and Ces Drillon joined in via video-patch in Visayas and Mindanao.


It was quite frustrating to note that the discussion wasn't that beefed-up with issues the Filipino people were dying to ask and know the real deal. It wasn't as straightforward and juicy as I would like it to be. Of course, Madame Secretary answered all the questions well, as expected. She cleared up some issues, but stuck to those we already know.


It was just sad that we were sort of paraded in the forum, and didn't get to ask questions that matter, questions millions of Filipino people are dying to ask, dying to know the real score. As a law student said in his facebook wall, "Policy issues were not discussed (why the US hasn't ratified the Rome Statute nor signed the Covenant on the Protection from Forced Disappearances). More intelligent questions, please. All gloss, no grit." Well, I think I expected too much from the forum.

In the end though, I still congratulate ABS-CBN for mounting such a forum - for the chance given to us to be recognized internationally once again.

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