In his column yesterday, Vic Agustin pointed to an ongoing crisis in The International School Manila. A website has even been set up. Now normally, this drama would be of no interest to non-I.S. alumni and parents (and only marginally interesting to the alumni of other international schools, such as myself). But what is interesting is the debate on accountability going on among parents, teachers, and supporters and detractors of the controversial board of the school. Going through the various letters posted on the site, I noticed many echoes of debates going on among Filipinos, particularly those who share the same kind of background (or at least, aspirations of shared values) as the parents and teachers engaged in the fierce debate in the school.
Some letters, in particular, bear reading: a board member’s decision to resign; a parent’s appeal for the board to resign or seek a new mandate; the decision of teachers to engage in collective action; a letter on the implications of “neutraliity” during a controversy; a student disgusted by both sides (among the parents); a parent’s explanation to students as to why there’s trouble going on; an employee discouraged by “divide and conquer” tactics; an attempt at a constructive set of solutions; a student worried over what’s now a two day strike. Perhaps the genesis of it all was a strong speech by the school’s headmaster, who recently ended up unceremoniously expelled from his position. It all sounds strikingly familiar, to my mind, because accountability is always an issue in human institutions -just as politics, and taking sides, is inevitable (see here for the report in today’s newspaper, which highlights how the internet is part of the field of battle; the teachers have decided to extend their mass action by one day).
As the Analects of Confucius says,
Tzû Chang asked Confucius, saying: What are the essentials of good government?” The Master said: Esteem the five excellent, and banish the four evil things; then you will become fit to govern.” Tzû Chang asked: What are the five excellent things?” The Master replied: The wise and good ruler is benevolent without expending treasure; he lays burdens on the people without causing them to grumble; he has desires without being covetous; he is serene without being proud; he is awe-inspiring without being ferocious.” He is benevolent without expending treasure: what does that mean?” The Master replied: He simply follows the course which naturally brings benefit to the people. Is he not thus benevolent without expending treasure? In imposing burdens, he chooses the right time and the right means, and nobody can grumble. His desire is for goodness, and he achieves it; how should he be covetous? The wise and good ruler never allows himself to be negligent, whether he is dealing with many men or with few, with small matters or with great. Is this not serenity without pride? He has his cap and robe properly adjusted, and throws a noble dignity into his looks, so that his gravity inspires onlookers with respect. Is he not thus awe-inspiring without being ferocious?” Tzû Chang then asked: What are the four evil things?” The Master said: Cruelty: “leaving the people in their native ignorance, yet punishing their wrong-doing with death. Oppression: requiring the immediate completion of tasks imposed without previous warning. Ruthlessness: “giving vague orders, and then insisting on punctual fulfillment. Peddling husbandry: “stinginess in conferring the proper rewards on deserving men.
(speaking of Confucius, see this article in an official Chinese newspaper on cultural symbols; and please note this blog is blocked in the People’s Republic of China)
But all’s not cozy in the House. Rep. Pichay, it seems, is trying to sweeten things by giving incumbents an additional six months in office (here’s an experiment: see the Philippine Star report, and whether it’s still a working link tomorrow). I’ve described Pichay as a Speaker-in-waiting before, and it seems his sweetener might be more delicious to congressmen than what the current House leadership’s proposing:
…the term extension is outlined in House Resolution No. 1285 authored by Surigao del Sur Rep. Prospero Pichay, an administration ally.
The resolution, the report said, appears to have more support in the House than Resolution No. 1230, which was approved by the Committee on Constitutional Amendments on Tuesday.
Based on Pichay’s version, an amended Constitution would call for the election of an interim parliament and local officials. The polls, the resolution said, would be scheduled for the second Monday of November 2007. At present, the Constitution mandates that elections be held on the second Monday of May.
Interim parliament members and local executives elected in November next year would assume office on Jan. 2, 2008, the resolution said. Their terms are scheduled to end on June 30, 2010, which is also the date of expiration of the tenure of President Arroyo and Vice-President Noli de Castro.
Pichay’s measure would add months for the terms of congressmen, governors, mayors and other local officials. It could also possibly extend the terms of 12 senators elected in 2001 by six months, from June 30, 2007, when their terms are to expire, up to the end of next year.
Rep. Teddy Locsin is miffed over Resolution 1230. He says provisions magically reappeared in it:
Makati Rep. Teodoro Locsin Jr., chairman of the House of Representatives Committee on Constitutional Reform, said the changes were made shortly before the committee passed House Resolution No. 1230 on Tuesday. The resolution proposes the convening of a constituent assembly to amend the Charter…
He said several recommendations that were removed but later restored in the approved version of the resolution include the adjustment of the retirement age of Supreme Court Justices from 70 to 75, the holding of national elections if the planned interim parliament pushes through and removal of the prime minister’s power to acquire foreign loans without permission from the Bangko Sentral Monetary Board.
The thing is, what’s been whispered about for some time finally pops up as a trial balloon: Palace eyes ConCon as an option. I’m not the only one who smells a trap.
Cedulas-on-demand in Nueva Vizcaya, too.
The President: “Guimaras can be great again!” And issues a gag order while she’s at it. Also makes new appointments, including Cerge Remonde to anti-povery commission (as blogged by Banketa Republique weeks ago!)
The President’s husband and in-laws: expel Cayetano. It’s their right to complain (and get cranky), and the House Committee on Ethics is as good a forum as any; let’s hope Cayetano puts up a good defense.
Overseas, Tony Blair fighting for his political life (again). In Taiwan, People Power looms in Taipei. In Thailand, Thaksin crisis begins to spill over to the military; and, even if Thaksin wins re-election, could he govern? Again, it seems an alternative universe for Filipinos:
Unless the populace is assured of a free and fair election, Thaksin’s insistence that the next election’s results will put an end to all opposition against him will only stir his critics into invoking British historian John Acton (1834-1902)’s famous quote:
“The one pervading evil of democracy is the tyranny of the majority that succeeds, by force or fraud, in carrying elections.”
For Thaksin, surviving the current self-inflicted political turmoil until election day already seems an insurmountable challenge. But more agonising for him is to discover the growing consensus that even if he manages to win big in the upcoming election, he won’t be able to govern this country ever again.
He has, despite his vehement protestations, become the embodiment of that “tyranny of the majority” phenomenon. The stigma has stuck. As a local pundit put it the other day, “The next time Thaksin gives you that civic bull…. about voting, keep in mind that Hitler was elected in a full, free democratic election.”
A male heir is born in Tokyo.
The Arab News has an editorial on President Arroyo and everyone else:
The recent war in Lebanon showed just how vulnerable these Filipinos are. Philippine television showed horrific pictures of several maids beaten black and blue by their Lebanese employers when they tried to leave to return home. Two Filipinos even returned home in coffins.
These facts point to twin dilemmas that Arroyo faces: How to reconcile with a wary opposition in order to get important projects done at home, and how to improve the caliber of Filipinos being sent abroad to work so that they will be less vulnerable to abuse and exploitation. The Philippines should aspire to be more of an exporter of scientists and other professionals rather than of maids and drivers. It would of course be better if the Philippines could do without having to export its best and brightest to the Middle East and America. There is already a formidable braindrain of Filipino doctors downgrading themselves to become nurses so that they can get higher paying jobs abroad.
Lito Banayo is quite optimistic about how the 2007 elections will go. I often hear that the country won’t tolerate a rigged election. I’m not so sure anymore. Although what I am increasingly convinced of is that it will be a thoroughly rigged election.
Tony Abaya praises Tony Meloto.
In the blogosphere, Singapore Election Watch on how government statistics aren’t trustworthy anymore. Politics Central points to a poll and views, on the poll: Americans believe 911 more significant than Pearl Harbor.
John Silva takes Justice Isagani Cruz to task:
Did you read that comment about how he takes accusations in good grace and that he does not “…scream and faint like a woman spurned?” Aside from being a sexist swipe at women isn’t that comment so out of context? So Victorian? Women these days dump uncooperative boyfriends, find mates who’d treat them fairly, and take virile and abusive men to court. Fainting women, Isagani, went the way of smelling salts.
village idiot savant is happy officials are starting to pay attention to IT professionals who work from home.
i’m a devil in haste on one’s level of engagement -and one’s compensation, salary-wise.
ExpectoRants on why it’s important to consider the otherwise impractical. Cafe of the Village Nut has an interesting entry on why she keeps a journal (a paper one!) but I can’t figure out how to link to individual entries in her blog…
CAFFiend on Westerners’ humbug.
Help nocturnalangel with her grandmother’s school reunion.
OK, I like this: new airline strictly for smokers to open.