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Jun 06

The wisdom of crowds

It’s hard to imagine it’s been a mere two years since rumors began to circulate that there was a tape –a dangerous tape. Then Jove Francisco wrote When does “Hello” mean goodbye? And the PCIJ wrote The Palace and the Tape, and I wrote The “Hello” heard ’round the world, beginning a personal odyssey (see Media can’t be held liable for releasing tapes and A happy shrewdness, Machiavelli suggests; and recall the two truncated versions of the tapes and the eventual full, three-hour version) that culminated in my online manifesto, Where I stand, on June 16, 2005. From there, it was, perhaps, inevitable that I’d decide on the course of action I proposed in Redemption, June 30, 2005,when I added my voice to those calling for the President’s resignation.

Last year, my reflection on the sad Sixth of June was What we’ve learned: the tapes. This year, I only want to offer up a brief reflection. It’s really one involving the clash of two book ideas. On the one hand, there’s the quest for, and expectation of, The Tipping Point; on the other, the idea of The Wisdom of Crowds. For those of us who took sides, particularly in 2005-2006, it was always a tipping point that was the Holy Grail; but as things turned out from 2005, culminating in the May 2007 elections, what’s been demonstrated is the wisdom of crowds -the whole, comprising the partisan and the non-partisan.

As always, we have to keep looking back to what’s happened in the past: back in 2000-2001there were those who called for Joseph Estrada’s resignation; but the majority of Filipinos preferred constitutional options and to wait-and-see, specifically, public opinion weighed heavily on the side of acting as juror-spectators as the senate took on its role as senator-judges in the impeachment. May 2001 and May 2004 also saw the passions of Edsa Dos and Tres channeled to the preferred arena for settling political combat, as far as the public’s concerned: elections.

From 2005-2006, even as many groups sought a tipping point, the public, in survey after survey, expressed itself, on the whole, firmly on the side of constitutional paths. Impeachment was the majority-preferred option, just as, at one point in 2005, resignation (a thoroughly constitutional option, we forget) was the preferred solution of a majority of the public. What the public expressed itself against was a purely military solution, or even the revival of People Power on the streets; but also, later, it would express itself as firmly against extremes even within the constitutional system: against a Senate that investigated but didn’t legislate, against a presidency that claimed too much power and ignored other branches of government.

This is what I mean by the wisdom of crowds. Those of us who took partisan positions have a role to play, but in the end -and it’s at times breathtakingly beautiful to me, to pause, take stock, and realize this- the devotion of our country as a whole, is doggedly, unbudgingly, sensibly, for the democratic path. Partisan lines came closest to blurring in December, 2006, when it seemed elections themselves might be postponed if not canceled; and we’ve seen the May elections finally settle what the public opinion polls could only hint at: where does the country, as a whole, stand? On the whole, not even for or against the President, but firmly on the side of checks-and-balance. And we can even expect a certain kind of renewed stability, if only the powers-that-be could read this message. Sad to say, I think what we have ahead of us will be government-provoked destabilization, as today’s Inquirer editorial spells out.

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  1. Nick

    Johnphil,

    I was merely pointing out the flip-flopping that is already taking place in the Senate. Just to caution anyone who may have believed the overly-hyped-up campaign promises of the Senate Candidates.

  2. benign0

    Raul Pangalanan wrote in his 08 June 2007 Inquirer.net article:

    ============start quote
    […] domestically, Filipinos love to classify themselves according to wealth and class, and delight in pecking orders: who went to the classiest schools, wear the flashiest clothes, drive the fancy cars and other preoccupations of the Filipino petty bourgeoisie. Yet, once they stand at immigration counters abroad, they suddenly recognize what they all have in common: their Philippine passports.
    ============end quote

    How’s that for a reality check?

    The not-worth-the-paper-it-is-printed-on Pinoy Passport is the closest we will ever get to a collective national character. And the way this document is regarded abroad speaks volumes about who we really are as a people.

    Tough luck is all I can say (at least until we can get past the utter pettiness of the prevailing debate).

    It’s Week Four since the last Fiesta Election folks, and the news papers and news programs are still filled with post-election posturing and petty debates about who will go on to impeach the president, change the charter, or who will pair up with who to do the next song-and-dance for the next Fiesta Election.

    What is wrong with this picture?

    Firstly, one just gotta step back from the noise to answer the above simple question.

  3. Jeg

    DJB: All the people who had impeached Erap could not afford to lose.

    But that includes me and you and everyone else who took part in EDSA2. We had to see it through to the bitter end. Erap was going to be acquitted and we couldnt have that. We were used as cover for the coup. Davide merely formalized it but all of us who impeached Erap had a share in the blame. Do you honestly believe we wouldve accepted acquittal at the time? The fires were burning. Davide had to step in and break the law because he didnt like where it was all heading.

    Hindsight is always 20-20, DJB. We’re as guilty as Davide, probably for being so stupid or idealistic or ill-informed that we didnt see what was being hatched by Mike Arroyo and wife behind the scenes.

  4. UP n student

    The newly-elected (or who thinks they’ve been elected) for the Philippines huffs and puffs about blowing the GMA-house to smithereens… while Sarkozy of France proposes tax-relief for all French homeowners (tax deduction for mortgage interest payments) and no-tax on overtime pay.

  5. jonphil

    I get what you mean, Nick. Similar to chiz/cayetano, trillanes’ script , impeach-GMA-at-all-cost, is a no-brainer.

    Even my helpers can recite those lines.

    Would you hire someone just because he claims he can turn around your organization?

    We’ve heard that from the likes of honasan & lacson.

    Hope we learn from our mistakes.

  6. Bencard

    The wisdom of crowds? I think the crowds can show their wisdom not only by questioning the honesty, sincerity, and motives of the government, the politicians, and the church, but more so the media whose “reputation” as paragon of truth, fairness and “public service” is always taken for granted. In a society where distinctions between “news” and propaganda are so eroded to a mere blur; where “opinions” are designed to hoodwink the gullible and unsuspecting; where perceptions are presented as facts
    without substantiation; where speculations and fantasies
    are foisted on the public as basis for condemning the
    object of dislike, a more assertive and questioning
    crowd is imperative to demand a reality check and challenge and expose any attempt at disinformation for unsavory purposes.

    Trite as it may sound, we cannot believe everything that we hear or read. We have to consider the motive, character, and integrity of the source.

  7. mlq3

    bencard, i had no idea you were so skeptical of fox news!

  8. mlq3

    james i don’t know if bringing up france is a good idea. you know their historical solution to legitimacy problems.

  9. Bencard

    Bafill, I understand you were trying to be sarcastic but can you tell me the difference between “Congress” and “House of Representatives”? I thought they are one and the same in the Philippines (as distinguished from the Senate, the upper house), as pointed out to me by a commenter in this blog some time ago.

  10. cvj

    Vic, yes we should be so lucky. At least Japan (probably inadvertently) left an industrial base for its colonies which the latter were able to build upon. The Americans did no such thing and if we are to believe the nationalists like Alejandro Lichauco and Hilarion Henares (as i’m inclined to), actively prevented us from industrializing. Other Latin American States who are not American colonies but within the United States sphere of influence suffered similar fates.

    Bencard (at 10:50am), i believe what i told you last October was that the definition provided by jm is more in keeping with the 1987 Constitution:

    Article VI, Section 1. “The legislative power shall be vested in the Congress of the Philippines which shall consist of a Senate and a House of Representatives…”

    So Bafil’s understanding is the correct one.

  11. justice league

    DJB,

    “The most remarkable recent example of Mob Rule was Edsa Dos, in which a single person DECIDED events. That was Hilario Davide, because if he never showed up at the Edsa Shrine and just continued with the Impeachment Trial as was his sworn duty, the event called Edsa Dos would never have happened.”

    Sometime on the 3rd day of EDSA 2, the military and the police authorities withdrew their support to Ex-Pres. Estrada.

    On the morning of the 4th day, a part of the EDSA crowd/mob had marched towards Malacanang and eventually reached its outskirts all of which BEFORE the ex-Pres. was deemed to have resigned and before CJ Davide swore in PGMA.

    The Police authorities who had withdrawn support however gave instructions not to allow the crowd/mob near Malacanang to get closer while the Ex-President was still in the premises.

    Police Official Maganto made a mistake however and allowed the crowd/mob nearer. He got berated for that.

    I surmise they knew that the PSG would defend the ex-Pres. to their last bullet as well as their last breath. I would EXPECT NO LESS even should higher authorities order them to abandon him so he can be fed to the crowd/mob.

    But eventually he left Malacanang.

    On May 1, 2001, another crowd/mob had gotten close to Malacanang. Only this time there had been no withdrawal of support by the police nor the military yet the crowd/mob was preparing to rush Malacanang just the same. Moments later, blood was shed as the crowd tried to push through.

    With no support from the police nor the rest of the military, a crowd/mob preparing to overwhelm Malacanang; you seem to be under the assumption that CJ Davide could prevent Malacanang from being penetrated had he not sworn in PGMA.

    And had a bloodbath occurred; what would have been the fate of the Estrada Presidency when he had no support from the Police and the rest of the Military?

    Would the Estrada Presidency have survived or would we have a new ruler anyway?

    Or is the absence or presence of bloodshed the determining factor of calling an event EDSA Dos or not, albeit with practically the same outcome as Estrada would have been an ex-President anyway?

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