President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo presents a Presidential Citation to former Mayor Willie Lewis Brown Jr. of San Francisco, California, USA, after conferring on him the Order of the Golden Heart with the Rank of Grand Cross following a dinner Sunday evening (Nov. 13) at MalacaÃƒÂ±ang’s Aguinaldo State Dining Room. Brown, who is married to Filipino-American Blanche Vitero, served as San Francisco mayor from 1996 to 2004. (Benjamin Basug – OPS-NIB Photo) What is wrong with the picture? No. 1, the presidential seal is the wrong one, not the one clearly laid out in the President’s Executive Order No. 310 (for the right presidential seal, see the illustration here). No. 2, the breast star of the Order of the Golden Heart should be pinned beneath, and not on, or above, the breast pocket. No. 3, the President’s own Executive Order No. 236 (along with Memorandum Order No. 128) stipulates that the sash of the Order should be solid Philippine red, and not red, white, and blue.
In recent days, CNN and other media outfits have covered squatter shanty demolitions in Metro Manila. I am reminded of an article in Fortune challenging conventional attitudes towards squatters. Since you have to subcribe to read the article, here’s Community Involvement, which is a paper focusing on an example given in the Fortune article, the manner in which squatter colonies in Turkey have become thriving communities with their own local governments and tremendous strides in self-improvement. Generally, governments view squatting as a problem, and focus on evicting squatters to relocation sites, resulting in violence and corruption-prone urban housing projects. A more recent trend is to adopt Hernando de Soto’s view that squatters can be empowered (and made part of the Capitalist world) by parceling out lots and giving squatters titles to their tiny properties. In Slate Magazine, John Gravios challenges de Soto’s ideas. On the other hand, Tom G. Palmer defends and praises de Soto as having done “more than any other person… to increase our understanding of the nature and causes of the wealth of nations.” (both links from an entry in squattercity, a blog dedicated to the squatter issue).
What struck me about the Fortune article was the argument made by those who have studied the past (London and New York as squatter-dominated cities at one point in time), and the present (Turkey, Africa, etc.), and who have concluded that the goal should be to help squatters transform their neighborhoods into functioning communities, with their own economies and self-government. In Turkey, for example, economic growth among squatters has led to the tackling of compensating the original owners of the land, at a point when so many other lives have improved.
I am against squatter shanty demolitions because it is a cosmetic approach to the problem. People choose to live in a location for a reason: convenience, accessibility to work, etc. National and local government should accelerate the transformation of squatter areas into well-governed communities, the question of who holds the title to the land being the last priority. As it is, many squatters do pay rent, but the rent they pay is all they can afford, for locations only they are willing to put up with for the same reasons. Government could facilitate the direct payment of rent to the land owners, cutting out the squatter middleman, or simply embark on a policy of eventual compensation for land owners, from government coffers that benefit from the economic growth derived from steadily-improving squatter communities.
The Manila Times reports that the Palace has hired McCann-Erickson to manage its image in expectation of a “big push” against the adminstration in December. Things like spending 27 billion pesos out of the 35 billion pesos in recovered Marcos funds can’t help. Then there’s ABS-CBN, which clears Julius Babao. The Daily Tribune thunders that US Intelligence says the administration’s let two terrorist suspects off the hook.
In France, President Chirac asks for emergency powers to be extended; the dissection of events continues with Vatican Watcher comments on the response to the troubles by French bishops; BuzzMachine comments on the involvement of blogs and even manipulating search engine results in the whole thing.
The punditocracy has Max Soliven going great guns for Mercedita Gutierrez, the President’s Chief Legal Counsel, as the next Ombudsman. Dong Puno continues his criticisms of the Philippine National Police.
Tony Abaya continuing his analysis of where Communists have led the country astray, and takes particular delight in pointing out the late Renato Constantino and others viewed North, not South, Korea as a model of “development” for the Philippines. (The morbid joy evident in Abaya’s column are best balanced with the grisly outrage shown by My Favorite “Progressive” Blogger, who points to workers dying of overwork in factories as one reason she and others oppose foreign investments.)
Connie Veneracion has a thing or two to say about the tactical effectiveness of promoting causes such as the environment: when foreigners participate in protest actions, do they know what they’re doing, or are they just being used? Chin Wong has a meaty column on what the case filed against PCIJ and the Temporary Restraining Order on its blog really portends:
Whichever point of view you take, the wheels are already in motion. The online world, for years ensconced in relative obscurity, is being pulled into the limelight, a move that may soon set boundaries in a virtual world that once had none.
Oh, and a sports column. Recah Trinidad compares the President to De La Salle University and finds the President wanting.
The bLAWgs have Edwin Lacierda defending the wide-reach, particularly in the economic sphere, of Supreme Court decisions; JJ Disini, on the other hand, discusses decisions he objects to. An entry in the Philippines Free Press blog, concerning how cases were handled in 1939, might interest the bLAWggers.
BuzzMachine reports Andrew Sullivan has been absorbed by Time.com (and objects), cyberbaguioboy announces the Asian Gaming Journalists Association blog.