Palawan, Jan-Jan and Dra. Honey | Inquirer Opinion
At Large

Palawan, Jan-Jan and Dra. Honey

BEFORE LISTENING to Gina Lopez address the “Bulong Pulungan sa Sofitel” media forum, all I knew of Palawan was that it was the country’s “last frontier” of exotic wildlife, a tourism destination, and a truly beautiful island.

But after listening to Lopez’s fascinating—and heartbreaking—“show and tell,” I now realize that Palawan is also an extremely fragile island beset by the threat of mining. Palawan, it seems, symbolizes the rest of the country, with mining firms eagerly lined up waiting for permission to despoil the environment to get at our mineral resources. But Palawan is clearly, especially vulnerable.

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As Lopez explained it: “Mining in island eco-systems is devastating.” Palawan is one such island eco-system, narrow in area and with a “very steep” topography. But even more important is the wealth of bio-diversity to be found in this island-province, with many unique, endemic (found only in the locality) flora and fauna. Lately, Palawan has also led the way in tourism, with gorgeous beaches and lagoons as well as dive sites that are among the world’s best.

But all these riches would be lost if miners have their way. There are currently 429 mining applications in Palawan, said Lopez, and both provincial and national authorities seem inclined to grant them. This Lopez can’t understand. Palawan—and the rest of country—she explained, stand to earn much more from tourism and agriculture than from mining, even if many of the new investors climbing onto the P-Noy bandwagon are mining concerns.

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TO REALIZE how much damage mining can inflict on an archipelago such as ours, Lopez said we need only witness the suffering inflicted by mining projects in Palawan. A video she presented featured men and women farmers recalling their “lost paradise” of fertile rice fields devastated when mine tailings and other runoffs from mine operations polluted their rivers and streams.

Photos of strip-mining operations also showed hellish landscapes of bare rock and crags surrounding sickly colored containment lakes filled with mercury, arsenic and other toxic runoffs.

To convince the Department of Environment and Natural Resources and the Palawan provincial government to halt the devastation of mining in the province, the “Save Palawan Movement” is gathering 10 million signatures to convince them to “Stop Mining in Palawan.” Since its launch, the movement has managed to gather 1.18 million signatures, and you are urged to add yours soon.

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THE parents of Jan-Jan Suan, the 6-year-old boy whose teary performance on a TV show ignited a firestorm over TV standards and child abuse, are suing psychologist Dr. Honey Carandang and several individuals for child abuse.

In their complaint, a supplement to their earlier complaint of libel, the Suan couple said the “undue publicity” over Jan-Jan’s TV appearance caused the boy and his family “grave emotional and mental distress.” They argued that Jan-Jan was “a cheerful and energetic boy before the negative publicity spread in the media” and that he was “proud” of his TV appearance. But since the negative reactions erupted, the boy has become “depressed,” the parents said.

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I wonder if Jan-Jan’s parents, before their lawyers ignited their lawsuit, ever felt any guilt about exposing their son not just to controversy but also to public ridicule. After all, as they claim, it was with their full knowledge and encouragement that Jan-Jan’s aunt brought him to the TV studio and caused him to dance a lewd “macho striptease” number, to which both the host and audience reacted with laughter, jeering and teasing. It was not so much the dance per se that got so many people riled up, but the reception to the tearful boy’s performance, which he was made to do again and again.

Hello?! Child abuse?! Who committed the original sin here? Who taught Jan-Jan to dance that way in the first place? And who egged him on to dance on TV in exchange for P10,000?  And you wonder why the boy is now upset and traumatized?

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THE suit of the Suan couple just goes to show how a law that was meant to protect children from abuse and exploitation could be twisted and perverted, such that it is now used to bamboozle concerned citizens who dare to speak out against an act of child abuse.

Doctor Carandang is obviously the main target of those stung by her criticism of the Jan-Jan episode. And her attackers, hiding behind the persona of Jan-Jan’s parents, hope to discredit her in hopes of destroying her credibility and authority as a defender of children’s rights.

One group that isn’t buying the attempt to turn public opinion around regarding Carandang is the INA Foundation. Standing for “Inang Nawalan ng Anak” or “Mothers Orphaned of their Children,” the foundation offers grief counseling to orphaned parents, and in this process of recovery, Doctor Carandang has, in the words of INA, “volunteered in helping us heal and cope with our pain … most sympathetic and generous with her already limited, precious time.

“It is unfortunate that recent attacks on her have become vicious and personal,” added the INA Foundation, since all the doctor did was “express her honest assessment of the incident as a professional.”

When a respected professional can no longer speak out when she witnesses an act of child abuse, that is the time when our country would have lost its soul. The quality of a nation is judged not by its strength, but by the way it looks after its weakest citizens, and no one could be weaker than a vulnerable child.

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TAGS: Child abuse, environment, mining, opinion, television
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