Undecided nation

From a friend recently returned from working in Dubai: Some Filipinos there decided to go and register themselves with the Philippine consulate. They spent the day waiting, and ended up leaving after wasting the day trying to get themselves registered.

The latest Pulse Asia survey has newspapers looking at various findings in that survey. A sampling: Philippine Daily Inquirer: 3 out of 10 Filipinos want to leave RP; Malaya: Few Filipinos believe there is democracy; most see oligarchy in control; Business Mirror: Poll shows rising public pessimism.

In its editorial, the Business Mirror points to two sets of thought-provoking figures from the survey:

The message of the people is loud and clear: 41 percent of the Filipino people feel their destiny is controlled by an oligarchic few; 29 percent believe the mobs will soon rise in violent action after losing faith in democracy; 21 percent feel that the “country is hopeless”; and 30 percent would rather migrate to other countries if they had the chance…

Another disturbing aspect of the Pulse Asia survey result is the growing percentage of the undecided. The survey says that 41 percent is undecided on the issue on the oligarchy; 41 percent undecided on the prospect of Philippine democracy; 32 percent undecided on martial law; 30 percent undecided on whether or not “the country is hopeless”; and another 30 percent undecided on whether or not to migrate….

…A growing number of people simply don’t care about anything anymore. This is certainly bad for the future of democracy in this country.

Perhaps an equally important message the people want to send to the country’s political and economic masters lies in the historical trend of those who disagree with the questions raised in the survey. In July 2002, Pulse Asia said 68 percent of adult Filipinos disagreed with the statement “this country is hopeless.” Since then it has been on the downtrend, to reach 49 percent in July 2006. Meaning, fewer people disagree with the proposition the country is hopeless.

This figure seems to indicate that the country is suffering from what Rep. Teddy Boy Locsin of Makati City called a “declining capital of hope” in a recent commencement speech at the Ateneo Graduate School of Business.

Read the report on the survey for yourself:

Mr5 - Ub2006-2 Mr On Political Efficacy, Martial Rule, Etc (Final)
In other news: the House Committee on Justice declares 8th impeachment complaint sufficient in form. This, after hours of debate on the question of who should inhibit themselves from proceedings because of fertilizer scam allegations (seems hardly any congressman, from both sides of the aisle, would have been left standing). NPA attacks Mayon troops; a huge chunk of PLDT shares declared part of the ill-gotten Marcos wealth by the courts; and US House delegation arrives on Friday for talks. It’s led by Rep. Henry Hyde, chairman of the House International Relations Committee. Newsbreak on the general who took a nap.

It takes the average Filipino worker 81 minutes to work to earn enough to buy a Big Mac; the global average is 35 minutes.

Parliamentary maneuvers in Australia on the question of asylum.

In the punditocracy, my column for today is Bastusang Pambansa.

The Inquirer editorial says the proposal to dust off the controversial counting machines for ballots has a sneaky agenda behind it:

So what is Makalintal, with obvious encouragement from Malacañang, trying to do? It seems that after realizing that the main door is shut tight, he wants to sneak through the backdoor to clean up the mess using, as his broom, practicality, expediency and the need to make next year’s elections clean and honest. If he can persuade the Court to let the Comelec use those machines, the case against Mega Pacific and the Comelec crumbles.

Then it would be pointless for the government to try to get back what it has paid to Mega Pacific and it would be very difficult to prove that Abalos and company had approved a deal that was disadvantageous to the government. And then, of course, the Supreme Court would find itself eating its own words and effectively revoking its own order directing investigating agencies to pursue the case.

Connie Veneracion refuses to be drawn into the condemnation of “extra judicial killings” because the accusations are tainted by politics.

John Mangun: economic growth is like the Lotto, easily dissipated; economic development is like a job, the stuff on which the future is built.

Adrian Cristobal, Jr. on trade secrets.

Billy Esposo on how the President’s health has been mishandled by her handlers.

Tony Abaya on how the question of legitimacy should rightfully scuttle talks if the purpose of the talks is to sidestep the legitimacy issue.

A national malaise in Thailand? Sounds familiar.

In the blogosphere, after -what, nearly a decade?- seemingly unstoppable conservative influence by conservative bloggers, a victory for liberals in the American blogosphere takes place. William Saletan in Slate Magazine describes how Sen. Joseph Liebermann lost the fight for his party’s nomination. The issue became Libermann’s enthusiastic support for the war in Iraq. Liberal blogs fanned the flames of the issue; and the Liebermann fight to retain the party nomination flaming out was demonstrated by the candidate’s blog going kaput on election day. Michael Weiss, also in Slate, describes the reactions of American bloggers to the whole thing. Liebermann is threatening to run as an independent in the actual senatorial election.

During the American presidential election in 2004, Mystery Pollster came to prominence in the blogosphere. He’s a professional pollster and explains surveys to the public. He has a bunch of entries on the Liebermann primary election: A Lesson Learned the Hard Way, and Connecticut Epilogue make for interesting reading.

Moro Film: indigenous peoples declare unity; the country apparently chickened out of ratifying the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. For shame.

Parallel Universes: on the nursing exam leak and why something needs to be done soon.

down to the wire & squirming: people still read the news, but what the news is, and so forth, deserves examination.

Madame Chiang on how Filipinos adore humor -and code-switch when delivering the punch line to a joke.

My Life As A Nursing Student almost gave someone the finger.

Millard Fillmore’s Bathtub: today’s the 61st anniversary of the dropping of an atom bomb on Nagasaki.

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Manuel L. Quezon III.

53 thoughts on “Undecided nation

  1. Compare what the present day Foreign Minister of the U.S. Rice says about her job and her role with what former Foreign Secretary of the U.K. Jack Straw says about the Middle East.

    Yes, Condi, You’re a Student of History
    But that doesn’t let you off the hook.
    By Fred Kaplan

    “A lot of the problems we are having to deal with now – I have to deal with now – are a consequence of our colonial past,” he said.

    “The Balfour declaration and the contradictory assurances which were being given to Palestinians in private at the same time as they were being given to the Israelis – again, an interesting history for us, but not an honourable one,” he said.

    Mr Straw acknowledged “some quite serious mistakes” in India and Pakistan, jewels of the British empire before their 1947 independence, as well as Britain’s “less than glorious role” in Afghanistan.

    “The odd lines for Iraq’s borders were drawn by Brits,” he said.

    Today the present day imperium is having to resolve the continuing effects of the long defunct French, British and Turkish empires.

    It is simnply not true that this is a war of cultures, it is a civil war between the natives of the Middle East as to who will rule the territories of the Middle East. The U.S., French, Israel and the Christians in Lebanon created Hezbollah in the 1980’s.

    How people forget so soon.

  2. The fact that most of the country’s wealth and power is concentrated in Manila is proof enough, not only of an oligarchy, but of an antiquated colonial structure.

  3. On the issue of Automated Counting Machines, having it implemented is not to say we would already have an Automated Elections. It’s the counting ONLY that is automated!

    What if a pre-filledup ballots are switched in place of our ballots and fed into that counting machine, aren’t we just automating a Garcinous Elections?

  4. paeng, siguro naman. this is how the survey question was phrased, without resorting to the word “öligarchy”:

    “The nation is run by a powerful few; ordinary citizens cannot do anything about it.”

    akala ko nga “hellogarci”.

  5. they made the statement into “Ang ating bansa ay pinapalakad ng iilang tao na makapangyarihan; walang magawa tungkol dito ang mga ordinaryong mamamayan.”

  6. I think ‘Imperial Manila’, in the manner used by GMA in her SONA, is a manufactured issue to divide the people. It is a fact of life that labor tends to cluster to cities where there are more opportunities relative to the countryside in the same way that it tends to migrate to the richer countries where there are more opportunities relative to poor countries. The real issue is the inequality between the oligarchy (whether urban elite or rural warlords) versus the rest of population. Let’s not take a step backward and allow the politicians to use our regional identities to detract from our being Filipinos. We have to learn from the experience of Yugoslavia in the 90’s and Iraq today. Let’s focus instead on how to resolve the economic inequalities that hinder our democracy.

  7. I think ‘Imperial Manila’, in the manner used by GMA in her SONA, is a manufactured issue to divide the people.

    I agree. and last year, according to they hyatt 10, arroyo and her cohorts duterte and chavit were floating the idea of mindanao and other provinces seceding kung matanggal si arroyo. galing talaga ng arroyo team.

    It is a fact of life that labor tends to cluster to cities where there are more opportunities relative to the countryside in the same way that it tends to migrate to the richer countries where there are more opportunities relative to poor countries. The real issue is the inequality between the oligarchy (whether urban elite or rural warlords) versus the rest of population. Let’s not take a step backward and allow the politicians to use our regional identities to detract from our being Filipinos. We have to learn from the experience of Yugoslavia in the 90’s and Iraq today. Let’s focus instead on how to resolve the economic inequalities that hinder our democracy.

    word, cvj.

  8. Inudoro ni emilie

    Galing! Beautiful pun! Hellogarci .

    The old oligarchy will be replaced by the hellogarci.

  9. The rise of undecided in the latest survey may have mirrored the frustrations of the majority of the deteriotion of the political, economic and security conditions in the country. It seems that whateve answer they give to the survey and whatever the survey results were, nothing, obsolutely nothing were done about them. If i were the subject of the survey, my short answer will be “Bahala Na”, and follow with a curt question; does anybody cares anymore?

  10. “It’s a free country. Everyone is free to think what they want to think…In the Philippines you are free to be poor but you are happy,” he said. – A statement from Secretary Ermita..

    Even a Life Termer is free to think what he/she wants to think. “Free to be poor but you are happy”.. try it Mr.Secretary . Try to be happy when you are struggling to live day by day. Hopeless and looking forward to a hopeless, useless Arrogant Person like you Are who can’t say anything better, but insult the people who are already down. It is easy to say something like that when you are swimming in Luxury, while the rest can just be “Happy while being poor”.

  11. cvj, “Imperial Manila” is an issue that will fester unless it is addressed. It isn’t a ploy or a gimmick. The overconcentration of power and wealth in the capital is due to structural defects in our system. Why, for example, should industry be concentrated in the capital? Why not create policies that would disperse industries all over the country? Why is an inordinate amount of our taxes spent for services and infrastructure in the capital? Why are the provinces treated worse than colonies? Regardless of who is President, those are glaring inequalities that have to be addressed. The inequalities are on regional levels, not merely on social classes.

  12. I am a former Navy Seal. I behaved dishonorably in a battle involving a pajamas media blog called protein wisdom.

    my comrades have died to protect this country. by propagating a lie, i dishonor their memories.

    i must die too.

    peace, fellow pajamas media members.



    matthew heidt

  13. Whether or not an extrajudicial killing is tainted with politics, someone’s life has been snapped, and the case should have been pursued even with the help of the Media.

    Over where I am based, the political killings in the Philippines today would surely make the morning, afternoon and evening talk shows until the police are able to catch the culprit. It would be more sensational if there are politicians involved in the killings. The likes of Chavit Singson in fact would be in jail or kingdom come by now, for over here shamed politicians usually are preferred to commit suicide to save their name.

    Too bad that majority of Filipinos writing for the newspapers in the Philippines are known to be nothing but paid mercenaries bound to write only propaganda for their patrons!!! 😡

    I feel sorry for the people of the Philippines that they are not saddled with an inferior system run by people who deserve to be in jail.

  14. inudoro ni emilie,

    “old faces same feces.” It’s getting better. I have to find a way to string together all yoour great pns and use it in a column. With your permission of course.

  15. Carl, for historical and geographical reasons, development has been clustered around Metro Manila and to a similar, but lesser extent, Cebu and Davao. We have to recognize the reality of network effects and have to use this to our advantage. In terms of government appropriations and development funding, a balance has to be made between the multiplier effect generated by a peso of investment in a rapidly developing area and the need to be fair and equitable. It is at the level of a clearly thought out policy, and not at the level of emotional rhetoric (‘Imperial Manila’ and/or ‘Imperial Cebu’) nor political patronage that these decisions have to be made. Being a PhD in Economics, i would have thought Arroyo would have already known this. Instead, she has chosen to borrow the vocabulary of the Communists.

    We can argue about the policy details but divisive rhetoric (as employed by Arroyo) that only benefits the elite of each geographical location by pandering to regional identities is just a distraction and one more obstacle to further development of the Filipino identity.

  16. Carl:

    cvj, “Imperial Manila” is an issue that will fester unless it is addressed. It isn’t a ploy or a gimmick.

    I thought Arroyo was just pandering to his targetted audience, carl.

  17. Of course, CVJ has stated his case more eloquently than i have:

    Carl, for historical and geographical reasons, development has been clustered around Metro Manila and to a similar, but lesser extent, Cebu and Davao. We have to recognize the reality of network effects and have to use this to our advantage. In terms of government appropriations and development funding, a balance has to be made between the multiplier effect generated by a peso of investment in a rapidly developing area and the need to be fair and equitable. It is at the level of a clearly thought out policy, and not at the level of emotional rhetoric (’Imperial Manila’ and/or ‘Imperial Cebu’) nor political patronage that these decisions have to be made. Being a PhD in Economics, i would have thought Arroyo would have already known this. Instead, she has chosen to borrow the vocabulary of the Communists.

    We can argue about the policy details but divisive rhetoric (as employed by Arroyo) that only benefits the elite of each geographical location by pandering to regional identities is just a distraction and one more obstacle to further development of the Filipino identity.

    I agree.

  18. To mlq3
    I agree with you however, we have to recognize that there’s no such thing as Imperial Manila, it all boils down to information. Access to information and understanding what is good governance is all about are the things we still have to contend in the provinces even in metro manila. Most LGUS in the provinces are ruled by 1-3 political families for more than 5 decades despite the fact that they’ve done nothing (both from opposition and admin). The best way to prove it is to check the financial statements – almost 70-90% is allocated in infra –never ending road construction and overpriced barangay roads that never existed in the first place. Even in our beloved QC, 70% of its annual budget goes to infra -from barangay to City level, the rest upkeep of bureaucracy or charity and lip service. So much ado for sustainable dev’t. If everybody’s well informed including access to this kind of information as to where they put our taxes, then your blog will not be like this. Understanding the heart of the issues – specifically poverty should be given importance as it affects or clouds our view- that political bickering will not solve our problems ergo, let GMA rule with her promises. It is hard to participate when your first priority is to put food on the table. Poverty is not about food or more than food on the table. it is about access to institutions, basic information and basic needs, more than bare necessities – if there’s to change in the Constitution, it should be the language first. Print it in Filipino, Visayan and other major languages/dialects, then everything else will follow. No need to institutionalize People Power. You are from UP, and we cant deny that although most activists and NGO leaders are from UP, pero di naging parte ng curriculum or subject ang Phil. Constitution, mas nauna pang basahin si Marx at iba pang teorya ergo, mas issue oriented, mas reactive ang movement rather than solution oriented that explains why it lacked real support from the people and also explains why communism failed in the first place. This explains why the alternative remains “alternative.” Sila-sila or tayo-tayo lang and the non-reaction will tell us, that they dont want alternatives, they -we want it RIGHT. There’s a need to localize issues bec. Poverty is locally based and as national issues tends to blur the horizon. Too big for the common people. It makes us complacent and want to leave the country and be the best example of GMA’s vision of Supermaid.

  19. cvj, it is precisely clearly thought out policies we lack. Had our leaders and our elite been more thoughtful and less selfish and shortsighted, they would have given more autonomy to the regions.

    And the only emotion in play here is the passion for wealth and power by the elite in Manila who created a structure that centralized business, finance and government in the capital.

    If this were a non-issue, why is resentment against the centralized government so strong? Why does the idea of Federalism or Autonomy strike a chord? The idea of nationhood subservient to one particular region and kept together by force and by circumstance is no longer relevant. Even the once-mighty USSR, despite all the force and coercion, could not keep its artificial union together. And now, the former Soviet Union has several nation states vigorously pursuing their own future, independent of one another. Some have moved forward, while others have fallen back. But none of them will ever want to be tied to the aprons of Mother Russia again. Ironically, Russia, too, is beginning to move forward. Perhaps that is as it should be.

    As for the Communists, centralization is their credo. Although it may be a fact that some Communist fronts in Mindanao are articulating independence, that is only because some front leaders are aware of the strong sentiment for cutting ties with Manila. Like fishes in water (or politicians, too), these cadres will try to ingratiate themselves with the local folk. But even the local folk know that they are being humored, because Communism will never tolerate diversity. Incidentally, isn’t centralization your credo too, cvj?

  20. Carl, there are different ways to go about centralization / decentralization. Decentralizing into a network of political warlords which is embodied in GMA’s vision of federalization is not one of the better ones.

    There are policies where decentralization is good. For example, (as i have commented before) i’m in favor of making individual islands part of free trade zones. The south should be more closely integrated to the commerce of Malaysia and Indonesia while Luzon should be more economically integrated to China just as it was before the Spaniards came. Also, in the case of Palawan, i believe that they are indeed entitled to getting revenue from Maalampaya. Humanitarian and livelihood projects going to Maguindanao and the other poorer provinces should also be a priority. On the other hand, policies such as putting up an International airport in Bohol (as highlighted in Isolde Amante’s weblog) is pure pork-barrel and a waste precious funds. Because of the dominance of provincial warlords, our system of justice definitely has to remain centralized (following the French model instead of the British system of Common Law).

    The issue against a centralized government is an emotional one partly because there is some validity to it, but partly because of ingrained ethnic loyalties that as Filipinos, we have to transcend (not by denying our regional origins, but by acknowledging our sense of being Filipino.) We don’t need the alleged President of all Filipinos framing the issue in divisive terms. As for comparing ourselves with the USSR, i don’t think it’s applicable in terms of historical context and geographical scale. Let’s compare ourselves with the European Union instead. We’re closer to that model in terms of economic and political aspirations.

  21. Before Gloria Arroyo appropriated the concept of “Imperial Manila” in her recent SONAs, it had been in existence, mainly to capture the frustrations of the rest of the country which are indeed being left behind in terms of economic development. I think this is Carl’s point.

    What CVJ is complaining about is Ms. Arroyo’s hijacking of the concept and its perversion to preserve and perpetuate the status quo, built on the network of local officials who are propping up her regime.

    But then again to close our eyes to an Imperial Manila where decisionmakers and gatekeepers are based is to close our eyes to reality. The challenge for the opposition is to reclaim the higher ground and come out with a configuration of decentralization/devolution/deconcentration superior to that being peddled by Malacanang.

  22. jackryan68, as i mentioned above, there is some validity to this issue. However, once development starts in a particular locality, it tends to feed upon itself such that the more a region develops, the more people would tend to invest in that region. The cycle repeats itself until there is a noticeable disparity in wealth with the other areas. In a market based economy like ours, it is largely an impersonal process with a life of its own, and there is no need to attribute it to the intentions of imperialists residing in Manila. We can see the same phenomenon in Guangdong and other coastal cities in China or any other fast growing metropolis in the world.

    We can work to redress the inequalities but a responsible leader should dispense with the divisive rhetoric. IMHO, the proper level at which to attack the inequalities is to target the underprivileged classes by implementing land reform, micro-credit initiatives, and channeling funds via the NGO’s and, not the provincial oligarchs. Any devolution should still be centralized around urban and cosmopolitan areas (like Cebu or Davao) or else it would just be a return to previous feudal arrangements. It might even be worth exploring making Cebu City the nation’s capital to shift the center of gravity somewhat.

    You’re right about my complaint, but what i would like to emphasize (as John Marzan alluded to in his comment above) is that we have to be wary of leaders who incite belligerence just to preserve their hold on power. Arroyo has done this at the ideological level by resurrecting the Communist bogey. She also, as you said, hijacked ‘Imperial Manila’ as a rallying cry. I wouldn’t be surprised if, in the future, she resurrects the Sabah claim.

    Anyway, the topic seems to be a good candidate for a future episode of the ‘Explainer’.

  23. On her health, Gloria says “I’m fine. End of story.” The intended brevity of such a quip is pregnant with meaning. It means she’s hiding something. Therefore, it won’t end the story.

  24. Great exchange cvj, Carl, janv, jackryan68 and the rest.

    I can understand the apprehension of some of you about pursuing decentralization through centralizing methods as when the devolution process is dictated by imperial Manila in the first place.

    The effect is the same when local fiefdoms keep the process on a tight rein in their behalf to attain supposed local autonomy for in that case what’s likely to come out could be an imperium in imperio (an empire within an empire).

    I guess one federalism configuration that may be considered “superior” to that being peddled by Malacanang or the local warlords is something that is peopled-powered, which means that the locals (the sovereign particles) with the support of dedicated NGOs should be placed on the driver’s seat during the configuration (or thinking-out process). The community at the barangay level should believe in their capacity first before anything else. The big question is: are the present power wielders willing to join the experiment?

    Or can the governed actually take part in governing?

  25. Abe, i find that you have covered similar material in your book. (I also see that concerns similar to mine have also been raised by ‘shark’). In tackling these issues, i believe that the approach to Charter Change that you recommended in the book is all the more applicable now:

    Therefore, instead of merely focusing, for instance, on the parliamentary or presidential form of government, the proposed charter change undertaking should spend more time and effort to provide for the processes on how to institutionalize and facilitate people’s initiatives and referenda, effective recall devices, town assemblies or meetings, and other forms of grassroots consultation and people power mechanisms; and prescribe serious sanctions (penalties) in such cases as the stifling (by the government or its agents) of the lawful exercise of people power. The actual experiences of individual communities and the collective aspirations of the nation, not necessarily of some so-called experts, would be crucial in formulating these processes
    (Source: Build or Perish, Abe N. Margallo 2005)

    I agree that ensuring that power can be exercised at the grassroots level is a superior configuration to the present (or GMA’s proposed) system.

  26. The problem is that some of us are relating everything vis-a-vis Gloria Arroyo, without discussing the merits or demerits of each case per se. Gloria Arroyo, like most politicians (and some NPA fronts, as I mentioned), is riding on a genuine concern. Just because some opportunists are piggy-backing on an issue doesn’t make that issue less valid.

    I don’t subscribe to Gloria Arroyo’s version of decentralization/ autonomy. I am sure many don’t either, or at least are wary of its intentions. However, many will try to be realistic and take whatever is offered. It doesn’t mean that they totally agree with whoever is making the offer.

    As for making the USSR an example, it was only to show that not even a superpower is exempted from regional aspirations.

    If the European Union were to be a better example, witness Spain (which, ironically, set up our present centralized structure and which we never, after more than 100 years, changed or made more responsive). Modern Spain has evolved into a vibrant amalgamation of autonomous states with their own languages and cultures. Madrid, which was once the center of the world during the heydays of the Spanish Empire, still remains the capital. But Madrid has to compete with the vibrancy and creativity of Barcelona, Bilbao, Valencia, Seville, etc. This way, each region competes with the other, capitalizing on what each one has to offer. This may have initially been unsettling to those who were of a centralized mindset. But it has proven to be beneficial to all, including those in the Madrid region. Spain now has one of the most progressive economies and cultures in Europe.

    Other examples in the E.U.: the cases of Luxembourg, Switzerland, Monaco, Andorra, Belgium and the Netherlands. Each of these countries being very small, which well could have been annexed to any of their bigger neighbors. But they were allowed to exist and to thrive. These are now the richest countries in the E.U.

  27. Let me say that I agree with jackryan68’s statement:

    “The challenge for the opposition is to reclaim the higher ground and come out with a configuration of decentralization/devolution/deconcentration superior to that being peddled by Malacañang.”

    I am sure many will support the opposition if they can come up with more solid ideas/concepts. It is not to disparage the opposition, but the concept of Charlie Brown (where seemingly good intentions are everything) isn’t applicable here. People are much more cynical nowadays. The opposition not only has to compete in the arena of ideas in order to win the minds and hearts of the people, they also have to convince people that they can carry out these ideas.

  28. I have to disagree about Ms Arroyo, Carl. With the 2006 SONA, she is a major player in regard to the “Imperial Manila” issue, having hijacked it and is now, as you said, in a vantage position to make the offer which most practical politicians will probably take.

    Which is why if somebody does not agree with how Malacanang’s approach to addressing the issue, then it is incumbent upon him/her to offer a superior alternative. Otherwise, Ms Arroyo will win by default.

  29. who is the opposition? more and more, the people have come to associate the Left as the opposition, perhaps also by default. if the administration is listening in on this saturday morning conversation, i hope they realize that this is the kind of discussion that their top executives should be engaged in. i agree with you Carl. Very few among our national leaders can articulate ideas drawn from history and the evolution of systemic changes in countries around the world. Quite a few of our politicians prefer to dumb down the market because that’s the only way for them to project an air of patrician arrogance.

  30. No problem, jackryan68. I do agree that superior alternatives have to be presented. I also do not disagree about Ms. Arroyo hijacking the decentralization concept, although doing so still does not diminish the validity of that concept. She has touched a hot-button issue which could earn a lot of goodwill from provincial constituencies.

    While I have my own reservations regarding Ms. Arroyo’s vision of decentralization, I must point out that many will prefer a cup half full (or half empty depending on the point of view) to no cup at all. That is just the way things are.

    If any good can come from the current political crisis, decentralization may be one of them. While it may be true that people naturally gravitate to more developed areas, creating a cycle, it is also a fact that, historically, Manila was pampered by government with public works and infrastructure (roads, ports, communications facilities, etc.) which made it more suitable for industry.

    The real estate industry, which John Gokongwei points out to be the only industry in the Philippines that is thriving on a large scale, is practically centered in Metro Manila. And that is where the real estate magnates are based. And since our banking industry is principally composed of what may be called as real-estate mortgage firms, it too is principally centered around Metro Manila. Perhaps we have to rethink our concept of business and economy and our concept of wealth as primarily based on property. Perhaps we have to infuse our people with more initiative and creativity so that “a thousand flowers” will bloom in all parts of the country.

  31. Correction: Switzerland, Monaco and Andorra are not members of the European Union. They are, however, among the richest and most progressive countries in Europe despite their small size and population and being multilingual (they have no native language but have adopted French, German, Italian or Spanish – or combinations of these – as national languages).

  32. Let me weigh in, belatedly, with how I explain my enthusiasm for Federalism to people. To my mind, it is both an authentic urge, and a hard-learned corrective treatment.

    The urge has always been there, and so have the dangers that make some people skeptical about it. The Malolos Constitution provided for the widest autonomy and decentralization, but the practical experience of the generation that tried to establish the republic also had the cautionary tale of what some felt was the dangers of a premature federalism. Even as Visayans and Tagalogs were fighting a common enemy -the Americans- thy were negotiating with each other on the terms for the inclusion of Panay, etc. in the Republic. As for Mindanao, it entered into an entirely separate accomodation with the Americans and there are Muslims who resent what was to them, the forced inclusion of Mindanao into the Republic in 1946 (their resentment and reasons, I think, are best understood if one refers to the protests that arose when Britain, which had its own treaties and whose sovereignty was recognized on an individual basis by the Indian princely states, abandoned the Maharajahs, etc., to the emerging Republic of India, which set about absorbing them and systematically stripping the Indian princely families of their authority).

    The debate on the terms of inclusion could be boiled down to Mabini’s larger point about the kind of Republic established in 1899: premature, too flawed, and too easily held captive by the traditional ruling class.

    The Americans waited until 1903-1905 to begin establishing local governments, and while a very high proportion of the Malolos veterans managed to maintain their fiefdoms, by the time national government was established in 1907, the Malolos generation had lost their chance to rule and a newer generation took over.

    That generation, I’d argue, was more influenced by Mabini than say, Rizal: leaders like Trinidad H. Pardo de Tavera genuinely believed in the need for decades of autonomy before eventual independence, though a more permanent association under a protectorate would have been fine with them (as it was for Aguinaldo). Mabini had argued that the lessons of the Revolution and Fil-American War pointed out that independence was inevitable, and a reconciliation between Americans and Filipinos was preferrable if only to smoothen the inevitable outcome.

    Now if you were a Filipino leader at the time, seeing your Republic crushed, the militia destroyed, no distinctions made between an embryonic Republic and an embryonic Visayan Republic, and American sovereignty established through a similar process of negotiations with the Muslim ruling houses and then military suppression of whatever rebellions take place, you’d become obsessed with Mabini’s desire to establish a strong state, too.

    From 1935 to 1941 all these things came together with the creation of the transitional government preparing for independence: politically centralized, authoritarian by instinct, more interested in one party government; add to this the emergence of radical challenges at the threshold of independence, and there came the solution of restoring bicameralism, as a nationally-elected upper house would have two functions: it would strengthen party government (as a bloc-voted senate would be an impetus to party campaigns, while no such incentive existed for members of the House) and would serve as a conservative foil to radical infiltration of local representation (the validity of this argument was proven after the war, when the Huks and allies elected members of the House; except the more ham-fisted approach then was simply to expel the radical representatives, which closed off the avenue for integration and accomodation).

    But by the 1950s, the centralizing urge of the 30’s had given way to the dismantling of many things that served to foster centralization. This was for many reasons, but a major one was the danger of concentrating powers in the presidency, since presidents had proven too willing to recklessly exercise their powers. Block voting was abolished as an act to promote democracy, but its consequence was to help kill the parties; the power of the presidency to appoint mayors was eliminated; and from the late 50’s to the 60’s, the buzzword became autonomy and decentralization.

    This healthy process might have born positive fruit in the 1970s, when a more thorough reexamination of the positive and negative lessons of a generation of independence was supposed to take place. The problem was that even the reformists were on the defensive, squeezed between radicals and reactionaries. Marcos subverted the ConCon, and established, under martial law, a more concentrated government than the country had ever seen.

    So you have a process of evolution cut short by the need to centralize everything under an all-powerful dictator.

    The 1987 Constitution formally reversed the Marcos centralizing policies; it called for decentralization and autonomy. It made possible an under-appreciated law, which was the Local Government Code of 1991.

    There are those who say a full implementation of that law would provide and make possible many things that proponents of Federalism want: greater control over taxes and their spending by local governments; freedom from having to beg and pander Manila for funds that are rightly theirs; etc.

    Others want a more explicit change accompanied by a formal change in the political structure.

    What are the abuses that retard progress? First, that the presidency, while to my mind the best-suited political structure for our culture and society, has too many latent and potential powers to interfere where presidents should not: the governing and marshaling of resources in local governments. Second, that obviously, while the Local Government Code says taxes should be remitted automatically to local governments, the President can still intercept those funds: Ramos and Estrada did; Arroyo has been more permissive, but corrodes the process by making it appear she’s doing so as a favor and not a duty.

    Another abuse is the properietary feeling local leaders have over local governance. Dependent on the President for grace and favors, they insist the local electorate feels the same way about them; and their influence and thus electoral chances are based not on doing their jobs (in the case of congressmen, the twin duty of making laws and conducting oversight over the executive) but on delivering pork, which leads to a senseless competition between congressmen and governors: with the mayors seesawing their support.

    The third abuse is the feeling of hopelessness and dependency everyone has outside Manila but which they forget is shared by people in Metro Manila, too. Unresponsive, too heavily bureaucratic, extremely inefficient government is something everyone is enduring, regardless of where they are. The fears some people have about things spinning out of control under Federalism is best demonstrated by a couple of things: there is genuine progress and optimism in places like General Santos City, in Naga City, I’d even say San Carlos City, etc. But there is something interesting too, going on in Marikina, and even in Quezon City and Makati City. But they aren’t talking to each other as much as they should; and in places like Naga City: if the chief executive of the city were to vanish one day, could the advances survive him? Have genuine cultures of excellence been esablished? Perhaps not yet -but as one person put it to me, in these areas, they are already 30 years ahead of the rest of the country.

    So we have to examine why, despite the limitations of the present set-up, Naga, Cebu, GenSan, Capiz, etc. are moving forward and other places are not. My personal hunch is part of it is that they’re blessed with visionary leaders who are good enough managers to be able to select good people who use modern science and technology to deliver better governance. The other is the composition of the electorate in those areas: they perhaps are less feudal, less suspicious of business and thus more entrepreneurial, than other places: and this may be because they have a higher concentration of people from the outside (a place like GenSan like Davao has many new settlers and a constant influx of them), combined with a native population more exposed to the outside world (either from studying in Manila or abroad, or who have worked abroad and then come home).

    Now these success stories have obviously maximized use of the Local Government Code. They’re not satisfied. They want it more clearly spelled out. Too much is still left to the discretion of presidents, national government bureaucrats, and of Congress -which itself works at cross-purposes with local governments.

    The solution of the professional politicians is to entrench their positions first, and attend to the more basic changes later. My criticism of the Palace constitutional plans is that it is fake Federalism as it puts the interests of the ruling coalition first. Recall that Fidel Ramos has never been enthusiastic over Federalism, even though his Philippines 2000 was eagerly embraced in Christian Mindanao (my first travels to Davao were in the Ramos years, when people were brimming over with optimism). He was more interested in parliamentarism and unicameralism because of the trauma of seeing de Venecia lose to Estrada and how he himself was never too popular. His changes are premised on the electorate being untrustworthy and unmanageable.

    So what will take place is, to entrench the ruling party, keep them as the mediators between national government and local government, and only then, eventually, establish Federalism but it would a debased and limited kind, in which the control of congressmen over their districts would have a fighting chance against more dynamic and relevant governors.

    If we were serious about Federalism, we would examine Federalism first, and then see how it could be made to work faster and better by harnessing what’s familiar under the present system.

    My view on the presidency, for example, is that it is essential to nationa solidarity, but fatally flawed by the built-in need to divide-and-conquer all opposition by being the broker for the spending of funds. Federalism places funds in local hands first and foremost where it belongs; and then expenses for strictly national projects could be left to the Federal government, subject to two checks and balances: on the part of the House, representing strictly parochial interests, and a revised Senate, which maintains a more national or regional outlook. But you need both chambers of the legislature checking up on each other as much as they check up on the executive. A presidency with clearly defined national powers, elected through a run-off election, would be a way forward.

    The Presidency in a Federal setup attends to diplomacy, national defense, foreign trade, and broader federal policy: which is what the country should have since it’s much bigger and complicated than the country was, when our present political culture emerged in the 30s to the 50s. A clear deliniation of federal vs. local powers and responsibilities can help cut the gordian knot of problems we face: an unresponsive legal system, a red-tape infested bureaucracy, etc. And it allows local governments to finally just go ahead and do things, and see if they can manage it or not: a sense of empowerment more revolutionary than if we maintain a one-party status quo.

    The legislature has to be revised to place equal attention on oversight as much as law making, while eliminating the actual management of pork barrel funds. Congress can and should lavishly appropriate funds for areas that need to catch up -in Spain, which began the process of devolution, they made huge investments in the regions and it took decades for those investments to bear fruit.

    A reexamination of other representative structures has to take place. There’s that interesting book on the barangay system: it is inherently federally-oriented, according to the book; so how do we strengthen it, make it more relevant and accountable? None of the Palace proposals considers these ideas. Do we need councilors? Or, as Dick Gordon proposed, shouldn’t the barangay heads serve the purpose of the city council? And shouldn’t mayors then serve on the provincial boards? I’d even go further: what if the governors themselves composed the lower house, meeting for a fixed period? And you only had elections for the senate?

    What if we had single term limits for all officials, and we could only elect officials according to party slates? My misgiving is that it might lead to the Mexican one party dictatorship only dismantled a decade or so ago.

  33. Manolo,

    This latest survey of Pulse Asia is one of the most revealing, indeed. When already half of the population feel hopeless and already 3 out of 10 want to migrate, there can only be one conclusion. Things are getting worse and not better, contrary to what Malacanang claims. The results will certainly have great implications in the outcome of next year’s elections.

    No amount of spin and pep talk from the Malacanang talking heads will change this sentiment for as long as media and the opposition remain vigilant and rebut the lies and deceptions peddled by the Palace. And I’m betting my Pacquiao five peso bill, this Administration will now go on a more aggressive spin campaign and spend more and more of the taxpayers’ money to fool the taxpayers.

    Malacanang will not lack for funds. If they think that they will temporarily lay off dipping into taxpayers’ money because it is now being closely monitored, they still have the jueting money. Reports have it that the PNP is now actually the one supervising the jueting operations. Juan will still get hit. It’s his gambling money.

  34. mlq3, i agree with Carl on that. The points for consideration for moving forward are worth looking to as well. Certainly deserving more attention than the current GMA/JDV sponsored initiative.

  35. We’ve been discussing the benefit of decentralizations here, and in federalism, especially with autonomy granted to each member region or province, each and every province or an autonomous region will strive and try to monopolize all the economic benefits if possible and thereby attracting more population to move to the progressive regions where jobs are available and standard of living is higher. This is where the federal Government will get in and design an Economic Program that will utilize the economic potentials of each autonomous region to its fullest by developing what is abundant and available in said regions.

    The good example of this is the set up we have herein Canada. Back in the 70s when oil industries suffered a setback, Albertans by the thousands packed and moved to other provinces. The reason was the province economy at that time was dependent on Oil. Now Alberta is back with its booming Oil industry and had diversified to shield herself for another setback. But despite, the boom, and the right to mobility, people from other provinces don’t jam the highway to Alberta, because the Federal Government had already helped other provinces developed their industries to create jobs for their people. The Government attracted many foreign auto makers to set up shop in Ontario and Quebec with incentives, improve the fishing industries in the east coast and if possible subsiding farming.

    One of the tools the federal government uses to make this possible is to download the Federal tax collected to the regions where long term investments and developments are needed and job creations are the immediate needs.

    Some may argue that richer provinces will protest this uneven downloading of taxes, but they don’t, n fact because that will also help them to maintain their own healthy population rate and minimize the social cost for sudden influx of migrants of poorer provinces don’t get the preferred treatment.

  36. A reexamination of other representative structures has to take place. There’s that interesting book on the barangay system: it is inherently federally-oriented, according to the book; so how do we strengthen it, make it more relevant and accountable? None of the Palace proposals considers these ideas. Do we need councilors? Or, as Dick Gordon proposed, shouldn’t the barangay heads serve the purpose of the city council? And shouldn’t mayors then serve on the provincial boards? I’d even go further: what if the governors themselves composed the lower house, meeting for a fixed period? And you only had elections for the senate?

    How committed could we be to an open inquiry of the system in place?

    What is good about federalism is that experimentation to try novel social, economic and political arrangement is possible. Creativity may range from what Senator Gordon has in mind to borrowing from what Mayor Robredo is trialing in Naga. In this process, the systemic inquiry could become a continuing one.

    Endorsing a federalism solution to the Mindanao problem I have blogged in this manner:

    “Under the federalism option, the national government retains its sovereign power and substantially its present political structure, even as the component individual state is made to regain its own sovereignty within its own sphere.

    “As such, the states can create their own sources of revenues and finances, appropriate those monies pursuant to their own individual state plans, reinvent their vision and goals of economic development in a manner consistent with the needs of the local residents and of every particles of sovereignty therein, establish their own school systems according to the exigencies and aspirations of the local constituencies, etc., and as ‘laboratories of democracy,’ allow their people to self-define their self-determination taking into consideration the diversities, cultural, social, religious or otherwise, which obtain in their respective communities. And if the federal system is allowed to operate on a nationwide basis, the charge that one region or another is being granted a ‘privileged status’ could thus be avoided.”

    By comparison, U.S. has adopted federalism to empower the national government, the component individual states having preceded the federal state. In the Philippines, federalism could be the route to empowered and vivacious local communities as the touchstone for a strong national government.

    Manolo, while your aversion to elected office should be respected, you should at least consider representing your constituency as a con con delegate.

  37. Manolo, it isn’t accurate to say that we’re gonna lose our privelege to choose our leader directly in a parliamentary form of government. In UK, for instance, if want Tony Blaire, u’ll go for labor party. Parties anyway, usually disclose their candidate. Now, in case the parliament decided to replace the present leadership, this is the time you would wanna reconsider ur support for the party you had voted.

  38. mathew, you won’t be writing a name for president on your ballot. at best, you will be writing a name for assemblyman, in the hope your assemblyman ends up in parliament, and with the further hope he will vote the fellow mp that both (and the assemblyman) hope will be pm. that a couple of indirect steps away from where we are now, and where have been for 71 years. that’s a major change and certainly completely alien to what people are not only familiar with, but expect: that they get to vote directly, and not indirectly, for the head of government.

  39. Manolo, if i may add, your timely link to Blurry Brain’s post in your preceding entry (‘Over in Six Days’) expresses the danger of delegating our vote for head of government to the members of parliament.

    “… in Westminster-style democracies such as Australia and Britain, the people seem to have little say in choosing their leaders. In both countries long-serving prime ministers – Australia’s John Howard and the UK’s Tony Blair – are intent on staying in office and trying to line up their successors behind closed doors…… in a democracy, no one has a ‘right’ to office beyond that conferred by the people. In Australia and Britain, however, the people are not being consulted. Instead, the backroom dealing over the leadership of two nations looks more like Mafiosi choosing a new godfather than the mature exercise of democracy.

    If this tendency is present in these mature democracies where the MP’s are less corruptible, what more with our local politicians who, even in this Presidential system, have collectively demonstrated Mafia-like behavior?

  40. On the other hand, a weak party leader or one that cannot lead his/her party into heading the government, don’t last long. Howard and Blair are both popular within their particular party, and also the electorate of both countries sent the majority of candidates or each leader’s party to Parliament. That’s being how the parliamentary systems, where the party who won the most number of seats, has the right to form a government. The matter of leadership within the party is a different matter that is for the party’s membership to resolve.

    Another example of A Leader who refused to Step down as leader was Prime Minister Jean Chretien. With all the maneuvering by Paul Martin to take over the leadership and thereby the PM office, Chretien, even spite Martin and refused even after eleven long years, because of their personal feud. And Martin leadership after Chretien finally decided to step down, proves a disaster for the Liberal Party, that without hesitation, himself resigned the leadership. It Follows that the leader as long as good for the Party, may in his/her volition can stay or leave and leave it to the voters to decide his fate. Even in Parliamentary system, it is still a Democracy. And the voters, no matter how the processes go in electing their President or prime Minister, still have the final say.

  41. I think what advocates of a parliamentary system want to stress is that the electoral contest can be elevated to a competition of ideas, instead of a match of personalities. Platforms will take center stage, while individuals will simply be in a supporting position. This does not cancel out the possibility of attractive and popular politicians taking a major role. However, they would normally have to go through an “educational” process within their party before they assume positions of responsibility. Tony Blair was himself an attractive and rather popular politician (quite tarnished now by his association with George W. Bush).

    I think the case of Winston Churchill is appropriate to illustrate this. Just before World War II, Churchill was practically washed up. A political has-been. Everyone thought he had seen better days. But his very hawkish stand against Hitler, while initially rebuffed, later resounded with the public. Because of his ideas, which his party adopted, Churchill experienced a political renaissance and was swept into power just in time to lead Britain through World War II. It was probably one of the most incredible political comebacks in history.

    The case of Pierre Trudeau of Canada can also illustrate how even a brilliant and extremely popular politician can fall from grace when his ideas no longer resonate with the public mood.

  42. In the Philippine context, parliamentary elections would in all likelihood be no different from local elections. The current Party-list system of proportional representation under the present Constitution is a better mechanism for elevating electoral competition into the level of ideas, instead of a “match of personalities”.

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