The weekend’s big news, of course, was the large pro-President rally (read Amando Doronila’s analysis) and the resignation of Silvestre Afable, Jr. from the Cabinet, in order to focus on Teresita Deles’s job (update: Vicky Garchitorena and Corazon Guidote have just quit). Perhaps the real news was a clarification from the bishops that their pastoral letter wasn’t pro-President. Oh, and the text message claiming Garcillano left Subic on Thursday on a Lear jet bound for Singapore.
Today’s pundits (print and blogosphere) present:
JB Baylon calls for reexamining all our institutions; Ellen Tordesillas reports worries of state-sanction secession; Jove has some scoops: first, the President headed off an attempt to remove her from office by her cabinet declaring her as incapacitated; second, that this effort fell apart because while many sympathize with those that resigned, they also feel sorry for the President; third, he surveys the people now surrounding the President. Afable, according to him, is simply miffed over new appointments; best to watch, Jove says, are Defense Secretary Nonong Cruz and Labor Secretary Pat Sto. Tomas (at the time of the resignations, not a few journalists who have come to respect Cruz, wondered why he didn’t quit, too; I had a chance to work with him briefly and do admire him). Let me tell you, this blog entry of his is really juicy.
The Inquirer editorial and Torn and Frayed (who wins the prize for most colorful descriptions of the President: first it was the President-as-barnacle, now it’s the President-as-Thunderbirds puppet) seem to be on the same wavelength: the President is campaigning for office, again (at the last public event I saw her at, someone there was disappointed because the President was quite remote and unapproachable; someone else sniffed, “well, she’s no longer in campaign mode, you see.”). Newsstand makes a pointed reference to that stupid “the Philippines is lousy” e-mail rant.
The late Stephen Jay Gould, the author of such best-sellers as The Panda’s Thumb, once wrote an essay in which he argued there was no contradiction between science and religion. An opponent, in attacking his essay, did summarize its essential argument well:
Stephen Jay Gould makes the extraordinary claim in March’s Natural History Magazine that there is no conflict between science and religion. According to Gould, science and religion occupy distinct domains or magisteria. Science covers the empirical universe; religion deals with questions of moral and spiritual meaning and the search for ethical values.
Unfortunately, all I can find online are attacks on Gould’s arguments, although this is a very good, ultimately critical, but balanced, discussion. but I myself think the idea has great practical merit. In observing, and commenting on religion, one must approach religion according to its own rules, and accept its own, inner, logic. That is why, in tackling anything Catholic bishops say, for example, I strongly feel one has to begin by looking up relevant terms and ideas in the Catholic Encyclopedia. To do otherwise would lead to a flawed understanding (for example, in discussing the law, one must understand what lawyers mean, and assume others to understand, when they use legal terms).
Newsstand, for example, does precisely this both in a published revision of a blog entry, and the explanatory blog entry. His view is that it is wrong to view the recent bishop’s statement as merely the result of politicking by the Papal Nuncio. He arrives at this conclusion by looking at the workings of the hierarchy, and by the methods the hierarchy has resorted to in dealing with politics, according to a moral framework, over time.
In my column today, which is a revision of a blog entry, I try to look at the question of secession from the point of view of those using it as a means to exact leverage in the ongoing national crisis. As we spend the coming weeks, even months looking at events, we have to try to understand the players according to their own world-views.
Lawyers, for example, are bound by the law, though there are some that will tend to have a more restrictive interpretation than others. A good demonstration is the consistent manner in which Sassy Lawyer has espoused a contrarian position to some other lawyers; no better demonstration exists than the difference between her views (which I respect, though I disagree with them), and that of a former Justice of the Supreme Court, who has come out in favor of resignation in his Sunday column. Other lawyers, like Edwin Lacerda, advocate other views in the present crisis, such as his assertion that a Truth Commission is a Trojan horse. Punzi also has a skeptical take on a Truth Commission. Fr. Joaquin Bernas, SJ, on the other hand, is both a lawyer and a priest, and makes use of both vocations in his column today (he concludes: no revolution, at least, not now).
A sociologist like Randy David will use the theories and methods of his discipline to make sense of events. Journalists, of course, will have a different take on events, including going against the lawyers, if necessary, to achieve what they view as an end in keeping with the ultimate aim of their profession. The readers of journalists, in turn, can take either whimsical or grim views of what the journalists are up to. A fact: journalists naturally gravitate toward widening the boundaries of discourse, creating new definitions for applying media ethics (Jove and Tina are good examples of this phenomenon, because unlike myself, Jon Neri or Howie Severino, they didn’t begin in the print media). Billy Esposo tends to view things from a marketing angle. Belinda Aquino uses an academic’s perspective (with a fresh take on an old theme: instead of a revolution eating its children, we now have a people eating their leaders). Newsbreak has an article on the proponents of Federalism. And do check out the Institute for Popular Democracy, it has essays that are thought-provoking.
Individuals who seek to understand what others say, and who seek out a common ground, limited as it might be, are engaging in the ultimate aim of politics, which is consensus. Sylvia Mayuga says the process of communication, which is the bedrock of both politics and consensus-seeking (and achievement) is healthily underway.
Incidentally, Edwin Lacierda has an interesting entry on the Chief Justice’s role in a future impeachment case (and beyond: he brings up the tantalizing possibility of the President’s Cebu bailiwick being co-opted by a Davide-led revolt). The more I look at the impeachment option, the more I understand why it’s such a booby-trap for everyone concerned. La Vida Lawyer, though, thinks the case against the President has gotten stronger.
Here’s my preliminary score card:
Vote to Convict
Franklin M. Drilon
Francis N. Pangilinan
Aquilino Q. Pimentel, Jr.
Rodolfo G. Biazon
Luisa P. Ejercito Estrada
Jinggoy Ejercito Estrada
Panfilo M. Lacson
Alfredo S. Lim
Jamby A.S. Madrigal
Sergio R. OsmeÃƒÂ±a III
Ralph G. Recto
Vote to Acquit
Edgardo J. Angara
Pia S. Cayetano
Juan Ponce Enrile
Manuel M. Lapid
Ramon Revilla, Jr.
Miriam Defensor Santiago
Manuel B. Villar, Jr.
Juan M. Flavier
Joker P. Arroyo
Ramon B. Magsaysay, Jr.
Manuel A. Roxas II
Don’t impeach: 8
Not Sure: 4
Needed to convict: 16
Votes to go: 5
Votes needed to prevent: 9 (Angara, Cayetano, Enrile, Lapid, Revilla, Santiago solid: 6; Gordon, Villar, soft: 2); 4 unknowns most likely will tend toward “no”; so let’s presume against impeachment at the start are 12!
Blocs to watch:
a) Drilon: will influence Pangilininan, Biazon
b) Arroyo: will influence Recto, Villar
c) Magsaysay and Flavier: studiously ignored by the President (until the recent crisis), will vote similarly
d) Gordon and Santiago are essentially wildcards
Postscript: I’m appending an e-mail from reader Erineo Cabahug, who argues for Mindanao independence. I don’t agree fully with him, but he has put a lot of thought into his points.
Dear Mr. Quezon,
History and economics weigh heavily in favor of Mindanao independence, making its occurence inevitable. Even though Gloria Arroyo’s spin doctors are making a travesty of this noble aspiration by implying that such an event will only materialize if she is ousted, Mindanao independence makes too much sense to be trivialized by political gimmickry. Some Mindanao leaders may allow themselves to be used by a beleaguered President for selfish and myopic ends, but most Mindanaons know that this issue is far bigger and more important than President Arroyo. It defines themselves and their future. Please allow me to explain as briefly and as candidly as possible:
A) History –
1. The concept of the Philippines as a state is a colonial creation. The Philippines, under its present borders, never existed in pre-colonial times. Visayans had their own language and culture, apart from Luzon. Mindanao was more closely linked, culturally and linguistically, to Borneo and her southern neighbors. The borders of the Philippine archipelago were created by the Spanish colonizers. Taiwan and Palau may have even been included, had they not been ceded or sold to other colonial powers. The Philippines is an artificial state, composed of several ethnic groups or nations that were lumped together by colonial powers. Because there is no inherent bonding between the major ethnic groups, there will be an increasing tendency towards partition.
2. The name, “Philippines”, is an insult. It brands the country as the legacy of a colonial monarch. It suggests vassalage and obeisance. No wonder that Muslims, who were never subjugated by the colonizers, find the appellations “Filipino” or “Pilipino” degrading.
3. The excessive centralization of power and wealth in Manila is a colonial legacy. Spanish colonizers, lacking funds and manpower, found it more convenient to rule the archipelago from a central seat of power. The islands were left to fend for themselves with token support, battling marauders and disease, while still remitting produce and tribute to the central government. This concept was continued by the Americans and, upon independence, appropriated by Manila’s elite. External colonization was replaced by internal colonization. Mindanao suffered the most from this historical injustice. Landless peasants from Luzon and Visayas were dispatched to Mindanao to take land from the natives. Political cronies were granted vast logging concessions, indiscriminately cutting down huge forest reserves. Multinationals set up large plantations in the island, paying their taxes and duties to the central government. Mindanao was seen as a convenient source of food, raw materials and export dollars. And a captive market for Manila’s factories and business enterprises. Colonialism was supposed to be an anachronism. But it exists in modern-day Philippines via an overcentralized structure of government which concentrates power, wealth and privelege on only one region. This unjust and discredited system is what makes secession so appealing.
B) Economics –
1. Years of corruption and mismanagement have brought the Philippines into severe economic distress. It is saddled with a tremendous debt burden that barely enables government to keep operating. It can only survive if it keeps on borrowing, sinking it further into debt. It is a vicious cycle at best, spinning uncontrollably towards disaster. When the central government is unable to satisfy the most basic demands of the regions, dissatisfaction turns into mutiny. This is beginning to happen. It can only deteriorate further. Economic fall-out leads to disintegration. Not even the once-mighty Soviet Union could prevent itself from breaking up after its resources were strained by the cold war.
2. Regions like Mindanao are self-sufficient, with economically sound fundamentals. Food is not a problem and agricultural exports can provide much-needed dollars. Resources for energy and power are available. Mindanao will not only survive by seceding from the central government, it will flourish.
3. Mindanao needs to conserve and maximize her resources. After her forests were denuded, with nothing to show for it, measures like the Mining Act threaten to deplete mineral resources, with little compensation. While investments in mining are encouraged, there must be sufficient revenue to compensate Mindanao for the loss of resources.
4. Secession is a way out of bondage to the national debt. Mindanao will not have to totally renounce debt, but it can demand for a fair accounting of its share. Mindanao’s debt load will surely be disproportionately smaller than the rest of the country’s. After all, Mindanao had nothing to do with white elephants like the mothballed nuclear plant and the behest loans of Presidential cronies. Liberation from debt is, by itself, enough impetus for Mindanaons to demand independence. They will free their children and grandchildren from being indentured to poverty. There will be hope instead of despair.
In trying to be brief, I cite only some of the reasons why Mindanao will someday achieve independence. These reasons are based on sober observations of the past and the present. The objective and logical conclusion is that Mindanao will be much better off if it breaks away from the Philippine Republic. The Left, most notably the National Democratic Front, will denounce my assessment. But they have another agenda, which has nothing to do with hope and upliftment, and everything to do with imposing a foreign ideology which will not flourish in an independent, prosperous Mindanao. The Right, especially the neo-colonialists from Manila, will deplore the loss of a convenient milking cow that a subservient Mindanao represents. However, to the average Mindanaon, the question now is no longer, “Can we afford to be independent?” but, “Can we afford not to be independent?”.
Thank you for your time.
Nell Ave., Bronx