The Inquirer editorial yesterday (Queendom for a horse) took a critical look at AFP chief’s term extended.The editorial says the possibility that Esperon will serve longer than an additional three months should be considered. The editorial cites the following laws and decrees: Presidential Decree 1638 as amended by Presidential Decree 1650, and Republic Act 8186 as amended by Republic Act 9188, as well as the provisions of the Constitution (since Esperon term extension possible only in case of war – Palace). It also makes reference to GMA’s speech during the AFP Change of Command Ceremony, November 28, 2002.
Today, the news is Esperon: 4 months ahead may be bloody: General expects stiff NPA resistance. Whether this is posturing or Esperon’s real intention, remains to be seen. But if he really does believe the AFP is capable of liquidating the NPA in the hills, what would be his basis for this?
Randy David gives us a clue. In The tragedy of the rural poor, says something unprecedented is going on. We’re used to the sight of people moving to the city from the province, attracted by the glitter and opportunity of life in the big city. David says what’s going on today, though, is that people are moving to the city not because they are attracted by opportunity, but because they are fleeing the collapse of rural life in the provinces. There is a difference, he says, and it is troubling -an unintended consequence, he says, of defective land reform. This reminds me of an assertion by the economist Mike Alba who pointed out no one is quite sure, because the government mechanisms for monitoring it have broken down, of how much formerly productive agricultural land has been converted to real estate and other purposes. He also points out, and if he knows it the military knows it, too, that efforts to organize the peasantry are at their lowest ebb since the 40’s and 50’s.
On a related note, see Solita Monsod’s Two challenges, where she says the ranks of the truly poor have shrunk while most Filipinos have become slightly poorer across all classes.
Politically, the weekend had news that Arroyo douses plot vs Speaker via phone call — Ermita and that as Congress resumes session, GMA tells Rainbow Coalition to stand by JdV. The scuttlebutt, however, is that the changes in the executive and legislative departments are scheduled for later this year. Among the targets are Lakas stalwarts. Supposedly Executive Secretary Ermita will finally be eased out around May, to be replaced by the current DILG Secretary, Puno. Speaker de Venecia, on the other hand, will be removed from the speakership near the end of the year. Meanwhile, attempts to amend the Constitution will gather pace in the middle of the year.
Now this is what interests me about the other big weekend news, Melo named Comelec chair. His appointment, to my mind, can’t be evaluated properly until the other presidential appointments to the Comelec are announced. And even then, it all depends on whether the administration will then send signals it wants stability until 2010 or will pursue constitutional amendments aggressively. If it pursues amendments then the first task of the new Comelec Chairman and the new commissioners will be to preside over a plebiscite that will be manned by the same mid and lower level Comelec people tasked with the 2004 and 2007 elections. Which means individuals like Christian Monsod, groups like the PPCRV, and even the Cardinal Archbishop of Manila (who strongly backs the candidacy of Howie Calleja, for example, for a Comelec commissioner slot) might find themselves quite disappointed with their nominees, after Appointment of Melo as COMELEC head welcomed. But if constitutional amendments don’t take off, there is room for moderate optimism for 2010.
My column for today is Individualistic yet part of the whole. One of the books I mentioned, Profiles Encourage, is reviewed by Rodel Rodis. See also two commentaries in the papers: Filipino Diaspora as a Form of Revolt and Going beyond ‘Same same’. You may also want to participate in Janette Toral’s Important Issues on Philippines 2010 Election.
And for future discussion: Parag Khanna’s Waving Goodbye to Hegemony:
At best, America’s unipolar moment lasted through the 1990s, but that was also a decade adrift. The post-cold-war “peace dividend” was never converted into a global liberal order under American leadership. So now, rather than bestriding the globe, we are competing – and losing – in a geopolitical marketplace alongside the world’s other superpowers: the European Union and China. This is geopolitics in the 21st century: the new Big Three. Not Russia, an increasingly depopulated expanse run by Gazprom.gov; not an incoherent Islam embroiled in internal wars; and not India, lagging decades behind China in both development and strategic appetite. The Big Three make the rules – their own rules – without any one of them dominating. And the others are left to choose their suitors in this post-American world.
The more we appreciate the differences among the American, European and Chinese worldviews, the more we will see the planetary stakes of the new global game. Previous eras of balance of power have been among European powers sharing a common culture. The cold war, too, was not truly an “East-West” struggle; it remained essentially a contest over Europe. What we have today, for the first time in history, is a global, multicivilizational, multipolar battle.
In Europe’s capital, Brussels, technocrats, strategists and legislators increasingly see their role as being the global balancer between America and China. Jorgo Chatzimarkakis, a German member of the European Parliament, calls it “European patriotism.” The Europeans play both sides, and if they do it well, they profit handsomely. It’s a trend that will outlast both President Nicolas Sarkozy of France, the self-described “friend of America,” and Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany, regardless of her visiting the Crawford ranch. It may comfort American conservatives to point out that Europe still lacks a common army; the only problem is that it doesn’t really need one. Europeans use intelligence and the police to apprehend radical Islamists, social policy to try to integrate restive Muslim populations and economic strength to incorporate the former Soviet Union and gradually subdue Russia. Each year European investment in Turkey grows as well, binding it closer to the E.U. even if it never becomes a member. And each year a new pipeline route opens transporting oil and gas from Libya, Algeria or Azerbaijan to Europe. What other superpower grows by an average of one country per year, with others waiting in line and begging to join?
With the new Big Three, the author then says the task is to identify the “Second World”:
To really understand how quickly American power is in decline around the world, I’ve spent the past two years traveling in some 40 countries in the five most strategic regions of the planet – the countries of the second world. They are not in the first-world core of the global economy, nor in its third-world periphery. Lying alongside and between the Big Three, second-world countries are the swing states that will determine which of the superpowers has the upper hand for the next generation of geopolitics. From Venezuela to Vietnam and Morocco to Malaysia, the new reality of global affairs is that there is not one way to win allies and influence countries but three: America’s coalition (as in “coalition of the willing”), Europe’s consensus and China’s consultative styles. The geopolitical marketplace will decide which will lead the 21st century…
Second-world countries are distinguished from the third world by their potential: the likelihood that they will capitalize on a valuable commodity, a charismatic leader or a generous patron. Each and every second-world country matters in its own right, for its economic, strategic or diplomatic weight, and its decision to tilt toward the United States, the E.U. or China has a strong influence on what others in its region decide to do. Will an American nuclear deal with India push Pakistan even deeper into military dependence on China? Will the next set of Arab monarchs lean East or West? The second world will shape the world’s balance of power as much as the superpowers themselves will.
As for our part of the world,
America may seek Muslim allies for its image and the “war on terror,” but these same countries seem also to be part of what Samuel Huntington called the “Confucian-Islamic connection.” What is more, China is pulling off the most difficult of superpower feats: simultaneously maintaining positive ties with the world’s crucial pairs of regional rivals: Venezuela and Brazil, Saudi Arabia and Iran, Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan, India and Pakistan. At this stage, Western diplomats have only mustered the wherewithal to quietly denounce Chinese aid policies and value-neutral alliances, but they are far from being able to do much of anything about them.
This applies most profoundly in China’s own backyard, Southeast Asia. Some of the most dynamic countries in the region Malaysia, Thailand and Vietnam are playing the superpower suitor game with admirable savvy. Chinese migrants have long pulled the strings in the region’s economies even while governments sealed defense agreements with the U.S. Today, Malaysia and Thailand still perform joint military exercises with America but also buy weapons from, and have defense treaties with, China, including the Treaty of Amity and Cooperation by which Asian nations have pledged nonaggression against one another. (Indonesia, a crucial American ally during the cold war, has also been forming defense ties with China.) As one senior Malaysian diplomat put it to me, without a hint of jest, “Creating a community is easy among the yellow and the brown but not the white.” Tellingly, it is Vietnam, because of its violent histories with the U.S. and China, which is most eager to accept American defense contracts (and a new Intel microchip plant) to maintain its strategic balance. Vietnam, like most of the second world, doesn’t want to fall into any one superpower’s sphere of influence.
It’s a lengthy article but well worth a read.