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Dec 11

Brainless in the battle

It’s official: One more time for ‘Cha-cha’: House committee revives talks on Charter Change. Once more unto the breach!

Similar points were apparently raised a year ago, see Information Processing, but here’s an article that caught my eye: The Battle for Brainpower. And serendipitously, after encountering the article in Fortune this appeared in Inquirer.net: World’s leading schools set up campuses in Singapore. And to think that last year, at a discussion in Miriam College, Atom Henares Araullo lobbied against constitutional amendments because it would open up Philippine schools to foreign ownership (the students, to put it mildly, gave Atom skeptical looks).

We’ve made some modest gains in terms of attracting Korean students, but have obviously lost out in that our neighbors used to send their talent to Philippine schools in the 50s to the 70s but don’t do so, now; I understand the Asian Institute of Management, a pioneer in MBA’s in our region, is faring pretty badly because Singapore can boast of tie-ups with foreign schools and (for a time, though I suppose, not now) the weakness of the peso versus the dollar.

Schools are shutting down long-established departments, many survive on the cash cow that is nursing or IT; others have trouble keeping faculty though I suppose it isn’t as bad as grade school and high school, where in too many cases teaching is a “those who can, do, those who can’t, teach” option.

Update on the signature campaigns: Expel Tonyo Trillanes From The Senate (42 on December 3, and 154 today); Condemn the Mutiny at the Manila Peninsula (132 on December 3, and 193 today); Calling for the immediate resignation of Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo and Noli de Castro and for the Holding of Special (“Snap”) Elections within 60 days (3,469 on December 3, and 3,500 today). This is interesting to me, because efforts have been made to get those anti-Trillanes campaigns to snowball -but why haven’t they?

Conrado de Quiros, who writes,

They didn’t particularly like Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, they said, but surely better to have civilian rule than a military one?

My answer then, as now, is that I’m not so sure that Arroyo naturally represents civilian rule and the restive sectors of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) the military one. At the very least, my impression is that there has been a sea change in the thinking of rebellious military groups since 1986. I have no doubt that had military rebel group RAM won in the latter half of the 1980s, RAM leader Gregorio Honasan and company would have held the reins of power. I am not so sure Trillanes and/or Lim would have done the same thing. RAM labored from a praetorian mentality — one that said the military should take over to end corrupt rule — while the “Magdalo” (a loose term for a loose association) labors only from the belief they can midwife a civilian regime that would end corrupt rule. At least, their articulated sentiments proclaim so; whether you believe them or not is another matter entirely.

More importantly, while that may be debatable, another point is far less so. That is the question of whether the Arroyo government represents civilian rule or not. My contention has always been that it does not, and the real danger is to imagine it does. No wolf has more successfully worn sheep’s clothing. That regime is the product of a seizure of power, defended by the military top brass against those sectors within the AFP that have tried to protest it.

And Filomeno Sta. Ana III, who says,

The train of thought from these two statements troubles me. My fear is that the ideas they disseminate can be more dangerous to democracy and its institutions than the action taken by Mssrs, Trillanes and Lim and their civilian supporters.

Let’s return to the Satinitigan statement that the rule of law should prevail.

In invoking the rule of law against Trillanes, Lim, Guingona, et al, he reveals his bias. His concept of rule of law is no different from GMA’s rule of law. And why not state explicitly that GMA has to be punished for breaking the law?

The action taken by the Peninsula actors cannot be separated from the stark fact that GMA has broken the rule of law–the Garci tape speaks for itself. GMA, too, has committed numerous impeachable acts. But the impeachment attempts could not prosper because of sinister reasons: the insidious filing of weak complaints by shady characters like Lozano and Pulido and the overgenerous bribes given to the members of the House of Representatives.

To quote the psychologist Steven Pinker, “we frame a situation in different and incompatible ways.” For George Bush, US presence in Iraq is to liberate the country. For the majority of peoples all over the world, it is an invasion. For neoliberals and conservatives, higher taxes are confiscatory. For progressives, higher direct taxes are redistributive.

For some, GMA is the president of the Philippines. For many, she is an illegitimate leader who should be made accountable for impeachable offenses.

It was GMA who committed the original sin of flagrantly breaking the rule of law. It is her illegitimacy that leads to militant acts of defiance like the Peninsula episode. And GMA has continually violated the rule of law. By doing so, the rules of the game have changed. Anyone is justified to pursue his own set of rules.

And it is this frame that GMA opponents can invoke what my colleague Manuel Buencamino describes as the “fountainhead of modern democracy,” found in the American Declaration of Independence. Mr, Buencamino, in his BusinessMirror column (Unbowed and undefeated, 5 December 2007) quotes an important passage in this Declaration: “But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security.”

make similar points. I find my article Who Will Use the Filipino Soldiers First? from 2005 validated, though.

People in business I’ve talked to say the Peninsula caper has had absolutely no effect on business, which is good. But, Net FDIs fall 77.3% in Sept, dragged by US credit woes. Good news, though: October merchandise exports up 10.5% on electronics rebound. Oh, and RP living standards below Asia’s.

A sobering reflection in “A nation of highwaymen” by Juan Mercado.

Overseas, Thousands in emotional farewell to daredevil Evel Knievel (I didn’t know he was still alive; as a kid I had an Evil Knievel lunch box). The Costs of Containing Iran: Washington’s Misguided New Middle East Policy. A truly appalling development is this: Ifs and Buts: If the CIA Hadn’t Destroyed Those Tapes, What Would Be Different?

That means the two biggest terror trials we’ve had since Sept. 11 were predicated on torture evidence that was then destroyed. The government has argued that al-Qaida operatives cannot be tried because the evidence against them is secret and threatens national security. But the real rationale is much worse: The evidence against them is wholly unreliable…

…Kevin Drum started asking the questions we are posing over the weekend. He pointed out that the tapes would have revealed “not just that we had brutally tortured an al-Qaeda operative, but that we had brutally tortured an al-Qaeda operative who was (a) unimportant and low-ranking, (b) mentally unstable, (c) had no useful information, and (d) eventually spewed out an endless series of worthless, fantastical ‘confessions’ under duress.” Those confessions, and others like them, have been the underpinning for much of the government’s legal assault on the rule of law in recent years, from free and open trials, to secret expansions of executive powers. Certainly Drum is speculating, just like we are. It’s impossible to say for sure what the tapes would have revealed, much less how such revelations might have changed all these recent events. But it’s worth trying to refit the pieces, because this evidence was deliberately obliterated. Otherwise, the CIA’s act of destruction wins.

Closer to home, India’s Press Comes Under Fire. In our region, Malaysia Gets Tough. And all isn’t hunky dory in virtual worlds: Computing: Virtual worlds are being put to serious real-world uses–and are starting to encounter some real-world problems. This part of the article is very exciting:

With the popularity of virtual worlds such as Second Life and games such as “World of Warcraft” and “Sims Online”, companies, academics, health-care providers and the military are evaluating virtual environments for use in training, management and collaboration. Superficially, such uses look a lot like playing a video game. “The thing that distinguishes them from games is the outcome,” says Mr Wortley. Rather than catering to virtual thrill-seekers, the aim is to find new ways for people to learn or work together.

Imagine a virtual Congress, or baranggay! This reminds me of proposals in the past that local government officials be required to play SimCity. But then, there’s this:

Bad behaviour is not the only problem. The growing value of commerce in virtual worlds has provoked interest from the taxman, too. Governments in America, Britain and Australia have all said they are considering a new tax on real-world profits from virtual trade. Mr Castronova is aghast. “Monopoly is not a very fun game if I have to pay a tax every time I buy Boardwalk,” he says. South Korea actually imposed such a tax in July.

One way to deal with unwanted activity, in virtual worlds as in the real one, is to decriminalise and regulate it, rather than trying to outlaw it altogether. That is the approach taken by Sony Online Entertainment (SOE), the company that runs “EverQuest II”, a fantasy world of dragons and busty blondes. It found that some 30-50% of customer-service calls concerned scams relating to real-world trade in virtual items. So it divided the game world in two and made trading legal in one part but not the other; players can choose which to play in. As a result, says Greg Short of SOE, the share of calls relating to scams is now less than 10%.

I wonder: there’s surely a large Filipino presence in such virtual worlds, and we have our domestically-popular games like Ragnarok. What sort of participation is there, by Filipinos? Serendipitously, here’s an article giving an overview of the Philippine gaming industry: IP e-Games sees growth, consolidation, in RP online gaming:

Citing industry figures, Tsao said that about 23 to 25 percent of the Internet user base in the Philippines is now playing online games. He stressed that the number could become higher next year since growth is now coming from outside Metro Manila and other key cities in the country.

For IP e-Games, Tsao said it has about 5.5 million subscribers to its online games and about 2.5 million active users. It currently has more than 50,000 concurrent users for its various online games in the Philippines.

In 2007, most of the games that were launched in the Philippines have become free-to-play, which means people could play games for free and pay only if they want to buy items and other in-game requirements to “level up” characters.

And happiness is a Majestic ham! Happiness is also the Christmas bonus, but as quintessentially I blogs, not if heavily taxed.

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114 comments

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  1. Bencard

    beancurd, what kind of native dialect do you speak? it could be in the tongue, twisted by constant enunciation of words a certain way (lol).

  2. Bencard

    abe, thanks for your response. i’m not sure if we had discussed this issue before but have you considered whether the primordial element of actus reus (overt act) was ever present in the “planning” described by abaya? granting the existence of mens rea (criminal intent), i’m sure you know the crime of rebellion or inciting to rebellion cannot be accomplished without overt act, in addition to the essential elements of the crime itself. please correct me if i am wrong.

  3. Abe N. Margallo

    Ben, here’s one of my posts here on July 4th, 2007 at 9:48 am addressing a comment of yours:

    ———-

    Bencard, the Court may have the final say in a particular case but not the political forest of which the case forms part. A recent good example is Estrada v. Desierto wherein the Court, to preserve, among other things, its own place in the existing legal order, has taken the audacity to decide that President Estrada during EDSA II, unlike Marcos during EDSA I, was talked out rather than forced out of office in a rebellion (what occurred according to the Court was not a rebellion or revolution but an exercise in free speech). Estrada v. Desierto is a horrific case law that will not see its finality in the immediate future. It is bad precedent because if the legal order has remained intact despite the EDSA II uprising, then President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, former supreme court chief justices Davide and Panganiban and former AFP Chief of Staff Angelo Reyes, to name a few, are as liable today as Trillanes et al for the crime of coup d’etat and/or rebellion, or if at all for conspiracy to commit those crimes (up to the present the criminal action against Arroyo et al remains viable since rebellion like coup d’etat prescribes in 20 years and conspiracy to commit the same crimes prescribes in 10 years). To exempt the EDSA II rebels from liability while the state prosecutors are being hard today on Trillanes et al is to trample equal justice.

    The Javellana decision, which declared that “there is no further judicial obstacle to the (Marcos constitution) being in force and effect,” is another example proving that the Court is neither final or infallible. By direct action of the people, the infamous brainchild of Marcos was ultimately consigned to obloquy with him.

    Needless to state, constitutional values are also shaped by non-judicial forces (yes, plebiscite is one avenue, but even small exchanges like this by ordinary people also count) as the development of those values are not linear but rather circular, the process ratcheting back on itself again and again (the persistence of DJB on the EDSA II issue is possibly a case in point) until the people accepts the outcome.

    ———

    Coup d’etat, rebellion or insurrection are among the very crimes in the Revised Penal Code where mere conspiracy or proposal to commit them (without overt acts) are punishable.

    Also, in almost all of the crimes punishable under the RPC, criminal intent is presumed from the commission of the crime.

  4. Abe N. Margallo

    I mean “. . . rebellion or insurrection are among the very FEW crimes . . .”

  5. Shaman of Malilipot

    Bencard,

    Come to think of it, why did I have to bother myself with the likes of you?

    Now, since I used some of the words that you used, I’m sure you’ll accuse me of plagiarism.

  6. Bencard

    shaman, ask yourself. i was minding my own business with mlq3 and the plagiarist/cum parodist when you barged in like a bad air from the dumps. your deduction is very apt for your kind.

  7. Bencard

    abe, then why doesn’t anyone force the issue officially, at least with respect to the indictable personalities. the country is not lacking in gung-ho, desperate gma-haters and with deep pockets too.

  8. Shaman of Malilipot

    Bencard, hugs and kisses.

  9. Bencard

    same to you. btw, are you really a shaman or a babaylan?

  10. Shaman of Malilipot

    Now, Bncard, you’re being provocative again.

    Let me explain to you where I came from.

    It was not exactly just you minding your business with mlq3 and DarkPitt. Manolo was already trying to enjoin all of us to follow a rule specially crafted for you, a rule that would avoid offending specifically your feelings. Very much like, (how do you call it in your “rule of law”?), ah, yes, “class legislation”.

    Well, sorry if I breezed in (not from the dumps, not from left field) from right field.

    I know the “ignorance” bit hit you between the eyes (knowing your very high self-regard). So, let’s just say you momentarily forgot the difference between parody and plagiarism. Okay?

    Come on, be kind. Manolo said it’s X’mas.

  11. Bencard

    no, shaman, i’m not provoking. just curious if you are a male, female or in-between. maugmang pasko!

    btw, i’m not a pinoy for nothing, so i still think it was plagiarsm, not parroting, i was “cheated”…waaaa!

  12. Bencard

    p.s., i don’t know how to put a smiley after the last sentence.

  13. Shaman of Malilipot

    Bencard, I assure you I’m as male as one can get.

    Everybody said it was parody. And I think it would not be the last.

    No need to put a smiley. I know you’re all smiles and I’m all smiles, too.

    Maogmang pasko man saimo asin sa pamilya mo.

  14. Mita

    what is with shaman’s relentless persistence about being “male as one can get” – does it really matter???

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