"What will I do if I stop writing?"
I have often been asked by relatives and friends why, at the age of 91—I will be 92 this year—I have not retired. But what will I do if I retire?
I love what I am doing, pounding on my manual typewriter three times a week to meet my deadline. Secondly, if I retire, I will have nothing to do because I have no hobbies. I don’t garden or tinker with anything. I will die of boredom. I will become a pest and a useless entity to my wife.
There are other reasons, of course, like money. My wife and I spend no less than P50,000 a month for maintenance pills—I take a dozen of them every day, and so does my wife. Where will I get that kind of money if I don’t work?
Actually I feel fortunate because my memory is still intact. Others my age are already on a wheelchair, or are afflicted with dementia.
This is why I admire former Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile who still wants to serve at the age of 94. He is my idol.
Another reason I cannot retire is that journalists like me have no pension and retirement plan. When journalists retire, they just fade away. Journalism is regarded more as a calling than a profession. We are often a forgotten breed unlike in other countries where journalists are members of cooperatives who also own the newspapers.
It’s really tragic that despite the risks we take as messengers of the truth, this is the fate that awaits us. Some are killed or sued for libel.
As for me, retirement is not in my vocabulary. I will end up as a pest who will be cared for by my wife who is five years younger than I am, and by my daughter who was kind and blessed enough to take us in. She built for us our own part of the house and gave us our own household help. Thank God we don’t yet need our own caregivers.
To me, life is just a journey where the road never ends.
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Another reason I cannot retire is the fact that I co-founded the Standard with my good friend, the late Rod Reyes.
It was during the first weeks of February 1987 that the late Manda Elizalde, who was on self-exile during the martial law days, decided to come home. Manda called up Rod and said he would like to put up a newspaper upon his return. He mentioned me as being part of that publication.
I have been with the Standard since then, as a columnist and as first chairman of the editorial board. I am now its chairman emeritus.
I used to publish many exposes. For the record, I am the only journalist convicted twice by the Supreme Court. First, I exposed the unpromulgated Supreme Court decision dismissing the charge against then Defense Secretary Juan Ponce Enrile because the crime of rebellion with murder was an impossible crime. Rebellion already included murder.
Santa Banana, since I could not be charged with writing an exposé under the freedom of the press doctrine, the justices convicted me as a lawyer and an officer of the court. I was found in contempt. My case became a landmark decision and was made into a Bar question under legal ethics.
The other case of my conviction by the Supreme Court was when I exposed the fact that a high court justice was given a trip to Hong Kong by Chinese druglord and gambling lord Sy Pio Lato of Binondo, Manila. I have receipts to prove it. But the Supreme Court deemed it important to convict me to protect their own.
I have been invited to write for other newspapers, but I did not want to leave the Standard. I like its vision and the people I have been working with, more so now that the paper is owned by the sons of my good friend, the late Kokoy Romualdez.
I guess I will continue writing for the Standard until I write “30.”
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I share the pessimism of former Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile that there will be lasting peace in Mindanao with the ratification of the Bangsamoro Organic Law creating the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao to replace ARMM.
Santa Banana, there are the IS-inspired rebel groups who want to put up their own caliphate in Mindanao. The recent bombing of a church in Jolo, for instance, is an example of what terrorists are capable of doing. When and where they will strike next is anybody’s guess.
I am pessimistic for many reasons. The BARMM is a creation of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front, a breakaway group from the Moro National Liberation Front.
Sulu did not vote “yes” to join the BARMM. Its governor filed a petition before the Supreme Court challenging the BOL’s constitutionality. That petition is now pending.
And then, there is the fact that Misuari’s MNLF did not participate. This is why like Enrile, I am not convinced that the ratification of the BOL will usher in peace, order and development of Mindanao and Sulu.