Yesterday I had a couple of interesting conversations with people during a Kilosbayan forum at Jose Rizal University.
The first concerned the President. The person I talked to, a former cabinet member in the Ramos administration, said his impression was that the President is setting the stage for a permanent stay in power. He recounted a conversation he had with a former Marcos cabinet member, who said all the signs were there, and familiarly so: that what we are experiencing is the flexing of muscles and a prelude to even more forceful policies. He also said that what was going on in Central Luzon and other areas struck some people who had experienced the military’s mishandling of the anti-insurgency drives of the Quirino years as depressingly familiar.
The second concerned developments in Nueva Ecija (where the military demands people produce cedulas) and other provinces. Soldiers dropping in on homes in the early evening, to count household residents, and dropping by again early in the morning: if the count’s different, then people are hauled off by the military. The climate of fear is total and unimaginable, even to those used to harassment at the hands of the military: at least under Marcos, the person I talked to, involved with farmer’s causes, one could rely on officers who would intercede to find the location of abducted people; now, the military is hostile to any and all inquiries; at least in the past, the person said, the military was inclined only to go after the politburo or other leaders of rebellions; now, no distinctions are made, and merely on someone’s say-so, people disappear or are killed. Piteous stories of farmers abducted from their fields, people being slapped around, etc.
The irony is that there are simple lessons in these wrongful assumptions a less intellectually challenged regime, and a brainier police and military, would have learned from the martial law experience. These are — repeat after me, now — that (1) attacking the very population whose hearts and minds you claim to want to win will win you only a harvest of resentment, hatred and further rebellion, and (2) the only way to compete with community activists is by serving the community rather than slapping residents around.
Reactions to the impending final dismissal of the impeachment complaint against the President: the Inquirer editorial says it was a planned funeral; An OFW Living in Hong Kong, as well as big mango and Comelec AKO and The Philippine Experience have different views; while stepping on poop, pointing to past proclamations of moral victories, says the opposition, like Hezbollah, tends to snatched defeat from the jaws of victory.
My view is more similar to this Thai view on Thaksin: the writing’s on the wall, and the President is Nebuchadnezzar.
The result, considering even members of the majority had urged that the evidence be reviewed, but even such loyal appeals were rejected, is that battle lines will, again, harden. The President can insist she will not be a prime minister; the majority can appeal for cooperation from the minority; but as one opposition bloc points out, having closed the door, everyone is left cornered. By refusing to place legitimacy on the table, even the generally-cautious bishops see little point in discussions that aren’t characterized by an openness to tackle central issues. (BTW, this error message is priceless).
And anyway, the signal’s been given: Palace tapping its foot impatiently over the lack of progress of the “people’s initiative.”
Discussions on the Anti-Terror bill in Philippine Commentary; meanwhile, particular provisions sparks debate: mandatory registration of cellphones opposed; my question: why not a law that requires the periodic re-evaluation, and re-passage of the law, every year or so? Also, a reader sent me an essay by Haim Hariri on terrorism:
Viewers react to Che-Che Lazaro’s Media in Focus show which tackled Justice Cruz’s column. Read what Couch Kamote and baratillo@cubao had to say. Red’s Herring and ExpectoRants also weigh in on the ongoing discussions. To those who think I’m overreacting, pardon my paranoia but here’s what I don’t want to have to be in store for us here at home.Sen. Jovito Salonga was very kind to me when I saw him at the forum yesterday: he took me aside. “I see you gave Justice Cruz hell,” he said. Expecting a reprimand, I simply nodded and said, “yes, I did.” Salonga smiled, and said, “You were right.” The Manila Times editorial says they’re right, too.
A cautionary tale comes from Elegant Variation, who looks at the problems of German author Gunter Grass: he hid the fact he was in the Waffen SS.
Newsbreak on how a bombshell proved a dud regarding witnesses said to be poised to emerge to prove the administration cheated in 2004.
The Prime Minister of India marks the 59th anniversary of independence (the Indians aren’t confused about such dates, unlike us) with a sobering analysis of his country.
In Vanity Fair, an examination of the Bush administration’s attempts to target The New York Times, and the vulnerability of the paper.
Should media make amends for slandering the parents of a murdered American girl, now that a suspect’s been apprehended a decade after the crime? Or was it also partly the parent’s doing they were long considered the prime suspects? In Mediashift: what to do about doctored news photos?
Finally, something people often complain is lacking -a vision that shows a way out of the mess. Rep. Teddy Locsin Jr. delivered an address, The key to the wealth of nations, at the Ateneo de Manila University that makes for thought-provoking, inspiring, reading:
These experiences point up how far successive governments have failed to inspire a similar endeavor in nation building on the part of our people. And, for all the time and talk academe invests in values formation, it has failed to inject charity where it is needed, enterprise where opportunity beckons, self-respect whose lack the worst poverty cannot excuse, social responsibility that goes with great wealth, and nationalism, which has been — conventional wisdom about free trade and globalization to the contrary — the real engine of economic growth in modern times.
The gloomy truth is that there is virtually no movement in capital formation in the country. We’re not talking hot money speeding through the stock market but productive investments you can touch without getting burned.
The President’s State of the Nation Address, outlining an extensive though hardly massive infrastructure program, admits the problem. Budget targets were being met thanks to severe under-spending. Not surprisingly, the country’s commitment to the United Nations Millennium Development Goals, which seek to halve poverty by 2015, cannot be met because government isn’t spending enough.
The critical response to the speech, on the other hand, shows the root of the problem, as I explained: fear of the possibility of national progress if it spells political defeat for her enemies; and a jealous regard for the new revenues that won’t go only to the banks but also to public works; and won’t be returned to the oil and power companies by the repeal of fiscal reforms.
Meanwhile, foreign investments remain negligible as ever and are in fact declining, despite fiscal incentives so generous, compared to neighboring countries, as to give away the store….
To those back home, a man might seem to have amounted to something abroad; but he will never really amount to anything in the eyes of those out there. That is why we all come home — from rebellious youth and wanderlust — back to our original faith and native country; to die in their arms at last; but, before then and better yet, to amount to something as only we can in the estimation of our own kind.
…Let me say that investing in our country, be it money, muscle or skill, is the best investment we can make — for ourselves and our posterity as Filipinos, because nowhere else is the payback as satisfying as in the only country where we can feel safe, respected, and authentically ourselves.
Perhaps for a start, our businessmen should stop looking at our people as just another cost item, another cog in the wheel. They should make them feel as stakeholders… investing in one’s own people — with better wages, working conditions and genuine concern — is the best way to keep them.
Of course, all this is easier said than done, but we have to start somewhere, and the ones who solved their problems are those who thought hard about them. They understood that problem solving is not about knee-jerk finger pointing, but about a brutally honest assessment of situations, and the willingness to craft new responses, and not always about throwing good money after bad.
Blurry Brain has contrasting thoughts to Locsin’s.