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Sep 06

Increasing inability to express ourselves

The Press reports on the approval of a charter change resolution by the House of Representatives: see the Philippine Daily Inquirer and the Manila Standard-Today version of events. RG Cruz was surprised at how expeditiously things were done.

Meanwhile, the debate is set at the Supreme Court concerning the so-called “people’s initiative.”

What’s going on in the Department of Foreign Affairs? Was Romulo out of the loop?

The Department of Foreign Affairs yesterday reversed its statement that Secretary Alberto Romulo had been informed of the decision to abstain in the voting in Switzerland on a UN Human Rights Council resolution condemning Israel’s gross human rights violation in attacking civilian targets in Lebanon.

“The secretary was not consulted on the vote,” DFA spokesman Gilbert Asuque said.

Asuque on Monday said Romulo, who was in Myanmar when the voting took place on Aug. 11, knew of the abstention which sources have said disappointed Lebanon and prompted Ambassador Francis Bichara to consider resigning from his post.

Asuque declined to explain the circumstances on why Romulo was kept in the dark.

He also refused to identify who issued the instruction to abstain, which sources on Sunday said came from Malacañang.

The same paper, Malaya, in its editorial, opines that Romulo’s been jerked around. The editorial bluntly suggests the Secretary, if he’s an honorable man, should quit.

What’s the big deal? The question seems to revolve around the process followed to decide on what the Philippine representative in the UN Human Rights Council should do. As I understand it, the process should go something like this: the UN desk in Manila instructs the Philippine representative in the locality to vote a certain way. Manila does not explain to the foreign service officer(s) concerned why they should vote a certain way.

How did the UN desk, in turn, decide on what instructions to give? Presumably, on the basis of a directive, whether written or oral, from the Secretary of Foreign Affairs, who in turns gets his authority from the President of the Philippines. The voting of the Philippines is generally determined by policy (set by the President with or without the approval of the DFA). And policy can either be upheld, or reversed, on the basis of voting patterns on those issues.

I’ve heard it suggested by DFA observers, that the Philippines’ abstention was pleasing to American interests but represented a reversal of our policy up to that point. It seems unlikely the UN office would have issued any instructions without clearance from above. Which means, the whole brouhaha concerning Sec. Romulo could be an attempt to wiggle out of consequences of the country reversing its previous policy.

President goes to Guimaras for the third time. Coast Guard had rough sailing in the House: there was news last night the President’s issued a gag order preventing more Coast Guard statements, but I haven’t seen any news reports on that yet, if true (update: well, there’s manila needs dextrose). What the President is saying is that she intends to spend trillions on infrastructure (considering our crumbling infrastructure, that’s not a moment too soon!)

Gen. Jovito Palparan steps down on September 11 and it seems the New People’s Army can’t wait -to get even. Newsbreak reports on Palparan’s replacement, apparently a much more moderate fellow.

Pasay City Mayor says his suspension’s meant to eliminate him from next year’s polls. Speaking of elections, see Slate’s Election Scorecard in the run-up to the November American elections. Hopefully Philippine media outfits or concerned political organizations will organize something similar.

Winner proclaimed in Mexico’s contested presidential election -but is it all over? Thai retailers protest huge supermarkets.

In the punditocracy, my Arab News column for this week is Filipinos Losing Out in Job Market Because of Inability to Express Themselves. (on a slightly related note, see this letter to the editor in a Korean paper, which defends “Konglish,” or Korean English. Would we be better off abandoning our pretensions about being an English-speaking nation, and start teaching it as a foreign language?).

Hilarious send-up of the Legion: Manuel Buencamino on political zombies.

Billy Esposo examines what a Philippine parliament would be like. Edgardo Espiritu wants a review of political party and economic provisions of the Constitution.

The Inquirer editorial seems a veiled “I told you so,” concerning Elmer Reyes Jacinto. When the paper criticized him for deciding to leave the country, it ignited a firestorm of protest from similarly-minded people.

The Nation of Thailand editorial ponders mass transit and political patronage-based meddling in its planning.

Tulsathit Taptim has ten questions for Thaksin.

Hizahiko Okasaki says concerns over Japanese prime ministers paying their respects at the Yasukuni Shrine shouldn’t be confused with anti-Japanese sentiments stirred up for economic reasons by other countries.

John Mueller asks if there is still a terrorist threat.

In the blogosphere, Mamutong (pointing to Percolation, who is less harsh on the PDI) says the Philippine Daily Inquirer’s been caught lying, and tried to cover it up with an editorial. He wonders just how much more hammering the paper’s reputation can take.

Red’s Herring issues an appeal to the Supreme Court regarding the “people’s initiative.”

Newsstand thinks that Rep. Cayetano should have apologized to the First Gentleman (but Cayetano refused).

Another Hundred Years Hence continues his look on electoral reform, from a mathematical point of view here, and here, and here. Someone please explain to me what it all means.

My Liberal Times goes to Taipei for a blogging blabfest, Yuga in tow. And look at another blogger convention, in Cambodia!

Journal explains why oil prices are going down, and incidentally points to the Venezuela-People’s Republic of China’s cozy, oil-lubricated relationship.

Tambayan ni Paeng returns to blogging.

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12 comments

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  1. cvj

    I think Hundred Years Hence is trying to model the incumbent politician’s advantage in terms of ‘number of voters(v)’ and ‘political power (r)’. Incumbency tends to increase political power ‘r’ over time which means that the cost to acquire one voter ‘c’ (as computed by dividing the number of voters ‘v’ over political power ‘r’) decreases for incumbents. A challenger would start from a position of low political power ‘r’ which means that the cost of acquiring a voter ‘c’ is higher. This constitutes a barrier to entry.

    Efforts at electoral reform have so far focused on trying to limit resources spent per voter ‘r’, but he points out that these have so far been futile. He says that it is better focus on the number of voters per candidate where differences in political power ‘r’ are lesser when computed in terms of absolute numbers.

  2. vic vic

    It is fairly unusual for the Secretary of Foreign Affairs not to be consulted in a vote in an international forum such as the United Nations. True, the Secretary of Foreign Affairs is a mere instrument of implementation of the President, the architect of foreign policy, and whether or not he/she agrees with the decision, will have to abide by it as it is their job to do so. I therefore find it strange that no consultation was made with the Secretary and that a decision to abstain was made behind Mr. Romulo’s back. In diplomacy, niceties should always be practiced. In this case, it seems not to be the case

  3. Jeg

    I think Sec Romulo should resign. Such disrespect means that his input is no longer needed by the Palace.

    That said, I think the Philippines is right in abstaining, since as I read it from the above clip, Israel alone is to be condemned without any mention of Hezbollah which deliberately targetted civilians, and have been doing so for years, even before this incident with the border crossing and kidnapping of the 2 soldiers. If we are to hold Israel to a moral standard, then this standard should be held for all. I would have abstained unless the wording of the condemnation included Hezbollah, too.

    (Whatever happened to Israel’s former policy of targeted assassinations and surgical commando raids? They took a page right out of Uncle Sam’s book this time, lobbing bombs on buildings and shrugging off ‘collateral damage.’ At least in their targeted assassinations, civilian casualties were kept to a minimum.)

  4. Schumey

    Poor Romulo, another figurehead. Ermita should have acorded him the courtesy and informed him of the chang of stand.

  5. manuelbuencamino

    Romulo, at the House appropriations committee hearing this morning, blamed a director level guy at the Home Office for the snafu. He said he was in Myanmar incommunicado so the midlevel officer took it upon himself to set policy for the country.

    The Philippines was one of the 23 nations who called for that resolution so there was no excuse for it to abstain for something it sponsored.

  6. jackryan68

    What I am sensing from Urbano de la Cruz’s current series is that it will be much better to limit the electoral battleground to a more manageable size (eg local) where voters are electing candidates they know very well, than at the national level where most often, decision are based on the candidates’ soundbites.

    On first glance, it may seem to argue in favor of a parliamentary system, where district representatives are more of a “known quantity” than senators elected nationally whose election can be the outcome of a well-coordinated and funded media campaign.

    But then again, to achieve maximum effect, I think this should be taken together with Lito Banayo’s proposal to do away with councilors and board members. By attacking the system’s supply side, lesser elective positions up for grabs would force the really competent ones to run against the more moneyed incumbents, unlike now where there are “safer” options available, but whose downside is to actually limit voters’ choice.

  7. jackryan68

    Another probable upside would be the emergence of a class of professional local government administrators/managers, which will be indispensable if mayors and governors were to exercise dual functions as executives and legislators.

    In the New Public Management Paradigm, this can lead to the so-called “separation of decisionmaking levels,” where politics decides the what, administration the how.

  8. cvj

    Jackryan68, as you mentioned, the line of reasoning that limiting the size of the electorate per given candidate makes for better decisions is based on how well the voters know the candidates. In reality, that’s not the only factor that influences the quality of the voters’ decision. Other factors would be the ability of the candidate to intimidate the voters to vote against their interests and/or otherwise unduly influence the election process in a given locality. Yet another thing to consider is whether the electorate is homogeneous or polarized as far as interests are concerned. In the latter situation, a fragmented but nevertheless nationally significant minority needs the system of proportional representation for it to be adequately represented. Also, delegating the choice of national leaders to a small group of people relative to the entire population does have its disadvantages foremost of which is that the chosen leader may not represent the interests of the people at large. I’m waiting for Urbano’s exposition of the voter (v) portion of his equation to see how he is able to address the above concerns.

  9. Gloria d'Macapal gal

    Maybe, just maybe, stinkhead Mike Defensor wants to serve Romulo’s head on a silver platter for the midget Jezebel in Malacanang.

  10. Gloria d'Macapal gal

    Maybe, just maybe, stinkhead Mike Defensor wants to serve Romulo’s head on a silver platter for the midget Jezebel in Malacanang.

  11. jackryan68

    I see your point, cvj. In fact, the agency problem is, from the perspective of political economy, an inherent flaw of democracy if I recall our class discussions right. So it is a challenge that Urbano will also have to address in his next posts.

    Going by the same logic, it also makes sense to elect senators by region. For instance, we in Bikol will be better positioned to decide whether it is in our best interest to send Chiz Escudero to the Senate. This might pose a problem though with Sonia Malasarte-Roco, who I think has a better chance with a national rather than regional contest. But then again, we will have to apply the full rigor of the formula regardless of the personalities involved.

    Which is why I will still argue for improving the stock of our choices from the supply side, augmented by term limits. In Camarines Sur, for instance, if the congressional districts are eliminated and the provincial governor will also represent the province in the lower house, then the election will be more competitive among the incumbent governor and congressmen who can no longer opt to field in their relatives when term-limited. Unfortunately, the advantages arising from incumbency remains.

  12. cvj

    jackryan68, thanks for bringing up the agency problem. That’s a matter that needs to be studied. As you pointed out, Urbano’s line of reasoning seems to make a good case for electing Senators by region. In terms of improving the supply-side, i believe you are right to consider restructuring the playing field. In addition to this aspect, the matter of government (i.e. taxpayer) funding of election campaings has also been brought up (by Jeg in the previous thread) to deal with this issue. In another earlier thread, i also suggested some ways in which we can better track the spending and compensation received by the politicians to try to discourage politics as business:

    http://www.quezon.ph/?p=1002#comment-35132

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