Before anything else, here’s a glimpse of our national tastes as reflected in the TV ratings. See abscbnfan. And to inspire you even further, the blog’s lists of Upcoming ABS-CBN and GMA Shows Until 2009. Speaking of television, the recent weekend blockbuster provoked two noteworthy comments. First, Howie Severino’s Thank you Darlene for beating Pacquiao and a recent Business Mirror editorial, A plea to temper network greed:
For viewers, commercial overkill is just an inconvenience. However, for advertisers who pay ad agencies and the networks to have their messages formulated, packaged and delivered to masses of consumers, it ultimately amounts to a waste of money.
When you come right down to it, advertisers are the real victims in what amounts to a sting pulled every day by GMA 7, ABS-CBN, et al. The networks promise advertisers their commercials will reach x-number of viewers. But because commercial overload turns away growing numbers of viewers, those expensively made – and placed – ads never get to reach their target audiences.
According to a content analysis of the two leading networks’ programs conducted by students of De La Salle University, GMA 7 has an average commercial load of 30 minutes per hour and ABS-CBN some 15 to 20 minutes per hour.
According to Abrera, the local advertising industry has prescribed a limit of 18 minutes of commercials per hour of broadcast, which is already the highest in the region. In other Asian countries, TV ads are limited to between 12 and 14 minutes per hour.
Notwithstanding the generous latitude that the advertising industry allows media outlets, the two biggest networks continue to flout the commercial-load limit with total impunity. And that is just for regular programs.
During a special broadcast, like last weekend’s much-awaited prizefight, the networks invariably lose all sense of decency and run amuck. No wonder the world’s greatest religions uniformly classify cupidity as a sin.
As on the individual level, corporate avarice is, in the final analysis, counterproductive.
Thank God for cable?
My column today is Sulpicio Lines as political decoy.
In it, I mentioned Marichu Lambino’s blog entry, The President: correct legal advice in 2 instances. Other Suplicio-related articles I looked at were Asia Sentinel’s Philippines Ferry Disaster, and the Inquirer editorial, Sulpicio’s gamble. While now they’ve been forced to relent, the moment news came that ‘Sulpicio nixes ship refloating, wants full insurance claim’ you could see that they’d thoroughly gamed their scenarios and had settled on a lucrative one. Not to mention steely bargaining for some sort of quid-pro-quo, which they got: Arroyo orders Sulpicio cargo operations resumed. In At Midfield, you can find more on Sulpicio’s latest shenanigans.
Other helpful references for my column: Manuel Buencamino’s column, Saving for a Rainy Day , which begins with this gem:
When Executive Secretary Eduardo Ermita said, “The visit of the President has been scheduled, and when the President left, the situation, as far as the typhoon is concerned, was still in its development stage,” was he lying?
I’ll let Justice Secretary Raul Gonzalez answer the question.
In his column on Monday, Gonzalez wrote, “I was thankful to be there when Frank came and left behind a trail of destruction and misery, and to experience and see the extent of the damage. After the winds and rain subsided, I was one of the first passengers to leave Iloilo to make my report to the President personally before Her Excellency left for that very important state visit to the US.”
Gonzalez wrote it, I didn’t. I merely brought it to your attention.
And this entreaty, by way of a comment in my blog from smiling buddha. The media, he said, was focusing too much on the Sulpicio tragedy, to the extent that other tragedies were being sidelined. And this got me thinking…
There’s little the government can crow about. It’s getting chaotic and ridiculous. On one hand, Food shortage looms in Western Visayas while on the other, Arthur Yap has to declare (in response to his administration colleague’s alarums), — No WV food shortage, prices shouldn’t go up’. Yet 3% of farm output lost to Typhoon Frank is no light matter. The latest is Diarrhea, tetanus outbreak feared in typhoon-ravaged areas.
Since media also takes its cues from the authorities, it seemed to me worthwhile to examine if the administration didn’t find it convenient to focus on Sulpicio, too, to the exclusion of the ongoing problems in the provinces. My view, is that Sulpicio’s handy that way. But continued focus on that issue will, inevitably, harm the government.
If you let people zero in on the President too much, it just gets spookier and spookier. Or simply turns into a bungled effort a media management. Case in point: Sobriety for the Philippines recalls, as many did, the recent anniversary of the “I Am Sorry” debacle, and it only underlines news like this: Arroyo allies linked to ‘Garci’ behind mystery firm in Pagcor ‘Tourism City‘ . Another case in point: even a glowing account of the President’s arrival by RG Cruz can’t help but bring up the administration’s penchant for nocturnal derring-do (the proclamation of the President, for example). Though RG Cruz does slip in this telling little bit o’ speculation:
3 reasons why Gloria just couldn’t come home.
Bush. Obama and Mccain.
All 3 are insurances for her poltical present and future. Vows of support from all 3 give her a strong pillar for the remainder of her term as whether we care to admit it or not, the Great White (Black in Obama’s case) Father still holds some sway in this country. Even Obama’s alleged snub – giving her just a phone call is cannot be discounted as it came with the most important statement of all, “I look forward to working with her in the years to come.”
In his column, Tony Abaya tartly observed,
Good for her that the exiting Bush was gallant enough to give her 50 minutes of his time. Not quite the two hours that Malacanang had said had been allotted for her. But those 50 minutes should assuage her bruised ego for earlier snubs and earlier 20 minute one-on-one ‘summits’ that were unilaterally cancelled by the Americans or had inexplicably shrunk to seven-minute pull-over photo-ops.
But John McCain, the presumptive Republican heir to the presidency, who has been adopted by the neo-cons, gave President Arroyo only 15 minutes of his time, according to the Inquirer, in a hotel lobby in Washington on June 28, which should be considered a measure of the low regard that the neo-cons have of her
At this point, it has to be assumed that both McCain and Obama have Fil-Ams in their staffs, and that both candidates know all about the 2004 elections, the Hello Garci tapes, the ZTE contract, the Spratlys oil, the Chinese connections, plus revelations from electronic intercepts of the National Security Agency, Joc Joc Bolante and FBI-spy-turned-double-agent-for Erap, Leandro Aragoncillo.
[As for Barack Obama] In fact, she did not get the chance to meet with him at all. He was a no-show at their only scheduled ‘possible’ meeting. And he kept on being somewhere else whenever she went to New York or to Washington.. Was he avoiding her? But he did call her on the phone and they talked, according to Malacanang, for 30 minutes…
But from the geo-political perspective, I would say that if her goal was to protect her flanks in 2009 or 2010, as I had speculated last week, the bare-bones welcome that she got from McCain and Obama suggests that neither The Great White Father nor The Great Black Brother will look with favor on martial law in the next two years.
So, anyway, rather than keep the spotlight on the President, new distractions have to be found.
Presto! New plot to topple Arroyo gov’t bared, what does it mean? Is there a plot, and is it serious or inconsequential? If serious, is it better to advertise its existence to spook the plotters? Maybe. If inconsequential, why bother bringing it up at all? Patricio Mangubat sarcastically points out that if anything, imagining’s become a crime.
Over at Mon Casiple’s blog, he puts it all of the above context. The President is fighting on two fronts: against her critics, and, potentially, an insurgency mounted by her own people, to jettison her as they begin to worry about their political prospects come 2010.In the process, he paints a (sadly, truthful, to my mind) unedifying picture of the swirling ambitions and self-interests of the big players:
President Macapagal-Arroyo had left herself wide-open to scenarios of intimidation and threats. Her unsullied reputation as the most unpopular president ever has been compounded by perception of callousness and insensitivity regarding the plight of typhoon Frank’s victims. Politicians know that the president — if she still sits in 2010 — will be the number one issue of the presidential elections.
Ironically, it will be the opposition (defined as the anti-GMA coalition) who would be interested in letting her stay until the elections. GMA as an issue can only benefit their own presidential candidate — single one, that is. It will be the people in the ruling coalition who would dearly love to see her as a non-issue come election time.
If GMA is out of the presidential seat of power, the whole elections will be a whole new show. Both the ruling coalition and the opposition will disperse and realign into new coalitions around serious presidentiables. This scenario, in a sense, is preferable for many on both sides. In the same sense, everybody is suspect in trying to set aside GMA well before 2010.
Assuming the veracity of the stories that have come out about an “Ides of July” (thanks to Julius Caesar, an innocuous 15th day of a quarterly month becomes a sinister sign of regime change), it can only be within the context of either an outright military-assisted takeover or a deep operation calculated to force a presidential resignation. The rest of 2008 is the only window of opportunity for these type of political initiatives before the imperatives of 2010 elections set in.
What is sure is that the GMA administration is vulnerable to these pressures. As her grasp on the power weakens by the day, and she continues to fail in maneuvering either for an immunity guarantee or for a constitutional extension of stay in power, she becomes increasingly incapable of influencing the political events leading to the 2010 elections. For some, she then becomes increasingly a liability. Removing her from the scene becomes an option, even a necessity.
Economics hogs the headlines, because of the escalating price of oil. A couple of weeks ago, the Financial Times reported Spectre of inflation over global economy. By yesterday, news was Asia stocks tumble; stagflation hits outlook.
While John Mangun believes the cost of commodities (from oil to metals) is bound to start going down, Rene Azurin, in his Business World column (sadly, the paper’s still stuck in the Pay-for-access Age), thinks otherwise:
René B. Azurin
Don’t look now but our lifestyles are changing. At $200 per barrel of oil, regular unleaded gasoline will be P90 per liter and LPG for cooking will be P990 per 11-kg cylinder. (These figures come from a pricing model developed by Energy Consultant Marcial Ocampo.) At those prices, I will have to shelve plans to tour the country by car — visiting long unseen relatives from Aparri to Davao — and acquire a taste for uncooked fish dipped in Silver Swan soy sauce. (Kikkoman will be too expensive.)
The march toward $200 per barrel oil seems inexorable and trends indicate that it will be here in a short thirteen months. Some oil industry observers have been attributing the skyrocketing oil prices to speculative activity and are suggesting that this speculative “bubble” will burst soon and oil prices will fall to a more “normal” level of $80 to $110 per barrel. Well, this bursting is not likely to happen anytime soon if we are to believe the president of OPEC, the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries, when he said the other day that oil prices should rise to “between $150 and $170 a barrel” by summer this year. That means August or September, the European summer.
Personally, I think whatever flurry of activity now being seen in commodity markets is based on the sudden, somewhat delayed realization by traders that fundamental changes are taking place in the oil demand-supply picture, prompting them to scramble to adjust their oil positions for the future. I think global oil production has more or less plateaued while world oil demand cannot help but continue to rise. It should be pointed out that the per capita consumptions of energy in developing countries are still ridiculously low in comparison with the rich industrialized countries. The imperative of raising the living standards of very large groups of people in the developing world to acceptable levels will obviously exert enormous pressure on available energy supplies and this pressure cannot be expected to be relieved for quite some time.
In any event, the era of cheap oil is — we better believe it — gone forever. That means that you might not be able to give away your gas-gulping SUV in the used vehicle market. That means that those of us who still own cars will have to take them off the road and rediscover the communal joys of public transportation. That means that working from home will now become the norm and the main office space inhabited mainly by racks of remote-access servers will become the general case rather than the exceptional one. That means that, instead of lunch or dinner meetings with friends and business associates, we will have to make do with video conversations via Skype or Yahoo messenger. That means that we will have to forego traveling for pleasure and be content with watching the National Geographic channel. That means that, in the end, we will have to consume less and make what we use last longer.
There’s a bright side to this: development of the cleaner, more climate-friendly sources of energy that environmentally-conscious consumers have long wanted is going to finally become profitable for investors. The Philippine Energy Summit last January in fact identified the development of renewable and alternative sources of energy as an absolutely essential component of what must be the country’s logical response to rising oil prices. Thankfully, legislators — even if the huge transportation and travel allowances they pay themselves are paid for by us — seem finally set to pass “An Act Promoting the Development, Utilization, and Commercialization of Renewable Energy Resources.” Its avowed objects are to “accelerate the exploration and development of renewable energy resources such as biomass, solar, wind, hydro, and ocean energy” and to “increase the utilization of renewable energy by institutionalizing the development of national and local capabilities in the use of renewable energy systems and promoting its efficient and cost-effective commercial application.” Great. It’s about time. Let us hope that these easily distracted legislators do not find their attention drawn elsewhere before they vote on this.
Still, new renewable energy options will require two to five years to implement and we need to cope with escalating energy costs now. At $200 per barrel oil, annual inflation is estimated by the University of the Philippines-based Institute for Development and Econometric Analysis Inc. (headed by Dr. Cayetano Paderanga) to hit 14.6% as a result of the oil price’s combined impact on both basic consumer products and the peso-dollar exchange rate. That, I fear, may even be optimistic. Today, according to the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas, the year-on-year inflation rate is already at 11.2%, which is a 14-year high, and oil is only at $143 per barrel.
Realistically, the only thing we can really do at the moment in the face of high oil prices is to cut down on our use of energy and make our consumption of it more efficient. In that connection, participants at the Energy Summit urged also the immediate enactment of a comprehensive Energy Conservation Act that would provide incentives for energy conservation activities. That law would “encourage the development of energy efficient technologies” and “remove barriers to the effective promotion of efficiency initiatives in the energy market sector.”
Even without such a law, however, a multi-sector task force for energy conservation has already been mobilized by Energy Secretary Angelo Reyes to flesh out and implement the nuts and bolts of a national energy efficiency and conservation plan. That plan includes, for example, the total replacement of the 68 million incandescent bulbs now in use in the country with energy-efficient compact fluorescent lamps, the development of energy-efficient standard labeling for all industrial equipment and home appliances, the implementation of a major retrofitting program for local government units, commercial establishments, and industrial firms, the building of more and better mass transport systems for moving people and goods, and the provision of funding support for energy efficiency and conservation projects. We should all support these initiatives.
But, whatever, changes in the way we live can no longer be avoided. We must brace ourselves for new realities. I only hope I won’t have to start biking to my classes in Diliman. I really don’t have the energy for that.
There is very little by way of a concerted effort by the authorities -on both sides of the aisle- to focus on food security, energy conservation and alternative sources of energy, and the improvement of efficiency, say in the improvement of public transportation. This is not to say steps aren’t being taken in that direction, they are, as Azurin’s column details.
There is much the citizenry can do on its own, or the lower levels of the bureaucracy can do in partnership with the private sector, but government still needs to take the lead in many respects, not least in identifying the priorities in terms of necessary investments, now or in the near future, in cost-saving devices and equipment and improved standards and specifications (an end to building airconditioning-dependent buildings, for example, and the installation of windmills, solar panels, etc. on a scale that makes it possible for government, for example, to make it feasible -because affordable- for home-owners and commercial buildings to adopt these technologies, too). This is in addition to the investments required to lift the country out of poverty: RP needs P39.7T from 2007 to 2015 to finance MDGs.
Mong Palatino in Global Voices has an excellent roundup of regional initiatives in this regard, and again, government has to take the lead in ensuring the country’s part of these regional undertakings (an ASEAN consensus on nuclear energy, for example). And past issues that bedeviled development projects need to be addressed (opposition to power plants, including geothermal plants, even nuclear energy, etc. among others).
Overseas, in our part of the world, Malaysia’s Anwar Again Accused of Sodomy. See blogger-turned-parliamentarian Jeff Ooi’s blog here and here for a closer look at how things are playing out, politically, for Anwar. The latest in the Asia Sentinel is Anwar Tries To Face Down His Accusers:
Anwar, the opposition coalition’s most charismatic figure, had expected to stroll through a by-election for parliament sometime in the next few weeks and be handed formal leadership of the opposition. The next step would be a no-confidence vote to sink Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi and the ruling Barisan Nasional, a move that would give Anwar the top job and cap a remarkable political comeback for the high-flying politician who was derailed a decade ago by sexual abuse and corruption charges. Now he first has to clear up allegations, justified or not, that have dogged him for a decade…
…However, Anwar must not just win that as-yet unnamed by-election but win it by a landslide. He might already have been facing political headwinds over the fact that the government is attempting to cushion the effect of the removal of petrol subsidies, a major thorn in the side of the public. A highly-publicized attempt to push through a no-confidence motion by the Sabah Progressive Party, a presumed ally, against Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi fizzled, with members of the party accusing the leadership of selling out.
Certainly Anwar’s difficulties give the BN some badly needed breathing space after it lost its two-thirds majority in the March 8 elections for the first time since independence. The defeat came after the once-impregnable political machine suffered through a marathon series of scandals, several of them involving Deputy Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak, who is under fire for unsubstantiated claims over his and his wife’s supposed involvement in the gruesome 2006 murder of Mongolian translator Altantuya Shaariibuu and for reports of profiteering on defense contracts. There have also been persistent and convincing charges of endemic corruption in the country’s judiciary.
In the meantime, as for the beleaguered government of Badawi, Malaysia Plays the Illegal Immigrant Card Again.
In Thailand, a commentary, Democracy in Asia? Beware of Thailand, by Francesco Sisci in La Stampa, views People Power from the prism of his country’s experience with Mussolini’s March on Rome:
Massive protests sometimes can push governments to send citizens to the ballots at an earlier date, but this is the exception to the rule. Governments brought into power by the shouting of a mob may be revolutionary, but they are not democratic.
That situation seems to occur in Thailand, where street protests have cried for new elections three times in as many years. However, the government won the elections each time and belied the protesters, who then proved to represent only a minority of society.
When a minority imposes its will on the majority, it is not a democracy – it is a dictatorship. In fact, in September 2006, after months of loud demonstrations, the military staged a coup d’etat in Thailand that did not punish the protesters but banished the ruling party, Thaksin Shinawatra’s Thai Rak Thai (TRT). The military set new rules, disbanded the TRT, forbid Thaksin from taking part in campaigning, and called new elections for December 2007. Once again, Thaksin won the elections, with a new party that backed him, the People’s Party.
This should have settled once and for all the situation: If Thaksin managed to win an election held under rules designed to his disadvantage, certainly most Thais wanted him – or his fellow party members – to rule.
Yet, a month ago, protesters took to the streets once again, demanding the government resignation – just six months after last elections!
It is absolutely clear: The protesters represent a minority. As such, they should be allowed to voice their grievances but only as far as they do not interfere with the government functioning.
Moreover, as in any democratic country, demonstrations have to be authorized and otherwise must be forcibly removed. This is necessary to prevent the minority from prevailing on the majority and establishing a dictatorship.
This is not happening – the police seem powerless, the military refuses to intervene, and the demonstrations grow bolder by the day. The protesters insist on the same old thing: The prime minister must quit. Why should he quit? Because a mob said so. Then who should appoint the new government? Who knows. Or does somebody?
But this is not democracy. This is, once again, a coup d’etat. It does not matter whether the military rolls out tanks to banish the prime minister; it is bad enough that they tolerate a situation where a democratically elected government is held hostage to a rabble shouting empty slogans.
Not only that: Last month, the Thai generals publicly announced on television that “they did not want a coup.” This sounded like a threat – so much so that American Secretary of Defense Robert Gates immediately reacted by saying that the U.S. wanted democracy, not a coup, for Thailand.
For a few days, the generals stepped back and the protesters grew silent. But then, the escalation started all over again.
What’s at stake? The power to change Thailand’s old ways. A group of entrenched interests opposes the radical reforms brought by Thaksin. He wants to foster new entrepreneurs, create new small and medium enterprises, give credit to new companies, and let old inefficient ones go bust. But those old companies hate to lose their privileges to newcomers and are trying to cling to their monopolies by any means. Three elections prove that the majority of Thailand is with Thaksin.
His commentary provoked commentary, in turn, from Bangkok Pundit and Jotman who points to a piece by Shawn Crispin in the Asia Times, who says the recent protests lack the essential ingredient of succesfull protest actions: the engagement of the middle class.
Since the Philippines and Thailand seem to be operating on parallel political tracks, what’s going on in Thailand should be of great interest to Filipinos. While the Italian pundit believes Thaksin represented modernity, this update on Thailand’s goings-on isn’t so sure. See A Carnival of Reaction paralyses the Thai political process by a Thai reformist:
On the one hand we see the deterioration of Thai Rak Thai from a modernizing capitalist party with pro-poor policies, but a dreadful human rights record, into the Peoples Power Party, headed by ultra Right-wing Prime Minister Samak Suntarawej. His cabinet is staffed with gangsters and sleazy politicians.
On the other hand, we see the so-called Peoples Alliance for Democracy (PAD), which organized large demonstrations in 2005 and 2006 to oust Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra. The movement started as a coalition between Peoples Movement leaders and the right-wing royalist businessman Sonti Limtongkul.
This movement was never particularly progressive in its demands, but it has now degenerated into a proto-fascist organization. First they called for the king to sack Thaksin and appoint a new prime minister back in 2006. Then they supported and welcomed the military coup. They supported the idea of appointed senators, rather than elections for the upper house. They backed, and continue to defend, the military’s anti-democratic constitution.
Now they are raising the ultra right-wing slogans of “Nation, Religion and King” while playing fascist nationalist songs from the 1970s. In late June they started a row to try and whip up crude nationalist sentiment over the Khmer temple Preah Vihear…
…The reason the PAD felt the need to use demagogic nationalist politics was because they have tried all means to get rid of Thaksin’s Thai Rak Thai party which was transformed after the coup into the Peoples Power Party. Repeated demonstrations, a coup, a court-inspired dissolution of Thai Rak Thai and a military constitution have all failed to dent the electorate’s support for the parties. That is why the PAD have now suggested that parliamentary elections be scrapped for 70 percent of MPs. The poor obviously “cannot be trusted with the vote”.
The opposition Democrat Party under the twin leadership of young, Oxford educated, Abhisit Vejjajiva and Korn Chatikavanij, also favors authoritarian means. Its extreme neo-liberal policies are not popular with the poor who are the majority of the population. They supported the 2006 coup and the PAD and want though Internet censorship on alternative news websites like Prachatai. Recently they spent much time in their parliamentary debate attacking the government for “selling Thailand’s sovereignty” down the river over Preah Vihear. The adoption of infantile chauvinism comes from having nothing of substance to say…
…How did it get to this stage? One important reason is the lack of independence among peoples’ organizations, NGO networks and social movements. This lack of political independence stems from a refusal to take political theory and party building seriously.
The concentration on single issues and political lobbying means that the people’s movement has sought one white knight after another, rather than building a party of the left.
I leave it to you to find the parallels with the administration and opposition here at home.
In Europe, the wave of migrants from East to West seems to be receding, see A turning tide? in The Economist.
In America, Cindy’s fortune: An asset and a liability looks at how Republican’s focusing on the fortune of Heinz heiress Teresa Kerry is now biting them in the ass. In the meantime, McCain game plan worries insiders. And here’s a fascinating look at Late-Period Limbaugh and the American radio talk industry. On the other hand, check out BuzzMachine, who looks at how Obama’s supporters have harnessed his internet infrastructure to pressure their own candidate. And Lilly Gorren looks at The Importance of the Angry Voter in 2008:
Scholars studying political psychology have concluded that the angry voter is a potentially swing voter. According to many of these scholars (George Marcus, Ted Brader, W. Russell Neuman, Michael Mackuen, etc.), enthusiastic voters are more likely to continue their established habit and vote for the same individual or party that they previously voted for or supported. Whereas the voter who has become anxious or angry during the political process – anxious because of some of the issues that have been raised or the way in which they have been raised; angry because they are unsatisfied with their options or they do not like the current state of affairs or the direction that the country or party is following, etc. – is more open to considering other options, options outside of their normal habit. Marcus, Neuman and Mackuen explain (in Affective Intelligence and Political Judgment) that “anxious voters are more open minded for having set aside their dispositions.”
Many angry voters here at home in 2010?