Continuing contentions

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 President can create all the “new” and “powerful” commissions it wants, but it ignores the central point, as Luis Teodoro points out:

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).

The Palace’s attempt to bargain with the Senate seems faithless in the wake of the attempt to send cops to arrest a member of that chamber (police brass do a Pontius Pilate).

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:

Intro To Italian Edition Of - A View From The Eye Of The Storm
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.

UK experts to examine oil spill (which may get worse); the disaster only one part of the problems faced by Philippine coastline.

Newsbreak on how a bombshell proved a dud regarding witnesses said to be poised to emerge to prove the administration cheated in 2004.

Thoughts on Ninoy Aquino from Raul Pangalanan and Edwin Lacierda.

Amando Doronila tackles Seymour Hersch on Lebanon.

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?

In Politics Central, a fascinating interview with Dave Winer, major mover in the online world. Electric Journal of Adel Gabot points to how books can be made from blogs.

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.

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Manuel L. Quezon III.

23 thoughts on “Continuing contentions

  1. Quoting Teddy Boy Locsin: “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.”

    I agree with that totally when it applies to those who grew up here. That is probably why people like Imelda Marcos and Danding Cojuangco came back, despite being able to live abroad in opulence. However, for Filipinos who were born and grew up abroad, adjusting to our ways may not be as easy.

    Teddy Boy can really write stimulating speeches. Hope is indeed scarce capital these days. And so is vision. The examples of Pondo ng Pinoy and Gawad Kalinga are inspirational, indeed.

  2. If you were in the Waffen SS, would you brag about it? I think the fact that Mr. Grass came out with it now is an act of courage. He has done his penance long before this public confession.

  3. Possibly in retaliation for the recent bombings and invasion of Lebanon, terrorist threats have again come to haunt the world. Although Lebanon may be out of sight and out of mind for most of us, terrorism threatens to engulf us into the crisis.

    In Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Seymour Hersh’ article mentioned above which, not surprisingly, Washington has distanced itself from, he warns of a bigger conflagration if the Cheney clique of neoconservatives have their way.

    Hersh, who incidentally is Jewish, makes a detailed case, citing various sources, to make the following allegations:

    1. The recent attacks on Lebanon were “more focused on stripping Hezbollah of its missiles, because, if there was to be a military option against Iran’s nuclear facilities, it had to get rid of the weapons that Hezbollah could use in a potential retaliation at Israel.”
    2. President Bush and Vice-President Dick Cheney were convinced that a successful Israeli Air Force bombing campaign against Hezbollah’s heavily fortified underground-missile and command-and-control complexes in Lebanon could serve as a prelude to a potential American preemptive attack to destroy Iran’s nuclear installations.
    3. Israel had devised a plan for attacking Hezbollah—and shared it with Bush Administration officials—well before the July 12th kidnappings.
    4. The U.S. was assured by Israel that bombing Hezbollah would be “a cheap war with many benefits”. It would also be a demo for Iran.
    5. Some prominent Republican advisers, foremost among them former Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage, opposed the invasion of Lebanon. He has also warned about invading Iran, saying: “If the most dominant military force in the region—the Israel Defense Forces—can’t pacify a country like Lebanon, with a population of four million, you should think carefully about taking that template to Iran, with strategic depth and a population of seventy million,”
    6. Hersh says that “Israel believed that, by targeting Lebanon’s infrastructure, including highways, fuel depots, and even the civilian runways at the main Beirut airport, it could persuade Lebanon’s large Sunni and Christian population to turn against Hezbollah”.
    7. Hersh adds that “the long-term Administration goal was to help set up a Sunni Arab coalition—including countries like Saudi Arabia, Jordan, and Egypt—that would join the United States and Europe to pressure the ruling Shiite mullahs in Iran. But the thought behind that plan was that Israel would defeat Hezbollah, not lose to it,”
    8. Hersh further says that “the surprising strength of Hezbollah’s resistance, and its continuing ability to fire rockets into northern Israel in the face of the constant Israeli bombing is a massive setback for those in the White House who want to use force in Iran. And those who argue that the bombing will create internal dissent and revolt in Iran are also set back”.
    9. A European intelligence officer tells Hersh: “The Israelis have been caught in a psychological trap. In earlier years, they had the belief that they could solve their problems with toughness. But now, with Islamic martyrdom, things have changed, and they need different answers. How do you scare people who love martyrdom?”
    10. Officials serving with the Joint Chiefs of Staff “remain deeply concerned that the Administration will have a far more positive assessment of the air campaign than they should”. An official is quoted as saying: . “There is no way that Rumsfeld and Cheney will draw the right conclusion about this. When the smoke clears, they’ll say it was a success, and they’ll draw reinforcement for their plan to attack Iran”.
    11. A high-level American military planner tells Hersh, “We have a lot of vulnerability in the region, and we’ve talked about some of the effects of an Iranian or Hezbollah attack on the Saudi regime and on the oil infrastructure. We have to anticipate the unintended consequences. Will we be able to absorb a barrel of oil at one hundred dollars?”
    12. The military planner further adds: “There is this almost comical thinking that you can do it all from the air, even when you’re up against an irregular enemy with a dug-in capability. You’re not going to be successful unless you have a ground presence, but the political leadership never considers the worst case. These guys only want to hear the best case.”
    13. John Arquilla, a defense analyst at the Naval Postgraduate School who has been campaigning for more than a decade, with growing success, to change the way America fights terrorism, tells Hersh: “Strategic bombing has been a failed military concept for ninety years, and yet air forces all over the world keep on doing it. The warfare of today is not mass on mass. You have to hunt like a network to defeat a network. Israel focused on bombing against Hezbollah, and, when that did not work, it became more aggressive on the ground. The definition of insanity is continuing to do the same thing and expecting a different result.”
    14. Finally, Hersh warns, expect the crisis to start bubbling over by the end of August when the Iranians refuse to follow the United Nations deadline to stop uranium enrichment.

    Should we be concerned? We should, when we face the twin whammies of high oil prices and terrorism.

    These are truly trying times, all the more reason that we should reach out for Hope.

  4. rep teddy boy gives it to us straight in his witty, thoughtful style. thanks, mlq3. we do need a strategy for hope in an environment ruled by fear.

  5. Maybe enough has been said already. It’s TIME FOR ACTION. Look at the effect of the WAVING OF WHITE ENVELOPES? Na apekto yung mga GORILLAS!!! CIVIL DISOBEDIENCE! Fr. Dizon gave a few examples. He said, ““Those who make purchases and don’t need receipts, should not ask for receipts. When Arroyo is talking on radio, switch off the radio. Those who are playing darts, use Gloria’s face as a target,” Dizon said in Filipino at a press conference.”

    Any more suggestions?

  6. That Nueva Ecija thing reminded me: While having a beer in a local pub in Utrecht, I mentioned to my colleagues that the EU classified the CPP as a terrorist organization and were trying to expel Joma. “Is it?,” they asked. I said, I dont know but once when I was assigned to a remote village in Mindanao, and the people there were more afraid of the military than they were of the communists. So in that part of the country at least, it wasnt the communists that were the terrorists.

  7. civil disobedience? wish you luck. despite anc, despite gimmicks by your representatives in the house, despite the partisan bishops, despite the convenient alliance with the communists has there been popular support from the majority of the filipinos?

  8. Locsin is right, we need to be inspired. But the only inspiration this adminstration has to offer is that there are greener pastures ouside the country. So brain drain and migration of the disillusioned continues. What a waste.

  9. Locsin is right, we need to be inspired. But the only inspiration this adminstration can offer is that there are greener pastures ouside the country. So brain drain and migration of the disillusioned continues. What a waste.

  10. You cannot stem the growing tide of this disillusionment..

    if people have to find their hope and future be it.

    Many are just sick of the lack of opportunity in these shores.

    Many new grads are just sick of the politics…and I would not be surprised– of this administration in particular.

  11. Well, I grew up and live in the Philippines, fell in love with a nice girl here, got busted and split up with her just last week. Along the way, I ate suman, pinakbet, lechon, etc.etc. Played patintero, piko, sipa, etc.etc. Learned history, and the pain and sacrifice that our past heroes went through. There is a lot of things to love and be inspired about here in the Philippines.

    It’s the big picture that’s so rough. On the plus side, if we get our acts together, it’s not so bad. It’s so easy to see negativity all around, but I refuse to give in to that, and I think we should, too, no matter how hard it is.

  12. my idol macho Isagani Cruz said – for the impeachers of
    gma to think they can change the outcome in congress in their favor -“they were not only too optimistic but supremely and irremediably idiotic.”

    life goes on in this country- the peso has bounced back erasing some 15 B in interest of debr payment, export has increased by more than 50%, easing of budget deficit etc., its not really that hopeless despite the noise of few crabs in imperial manila. the situation is the best argument for federalism. let manila self-destruct!

  13. Rep Locsin maybe partly right, that to the eyes of those who are here, we amount to nothing. Really? And what would we amount had we stayed and become the victims of Political Assassinations? Unemployment? If we get sick and can’t afford the treatment, because we could even hardly afford our daily sustenance? He was talking to the Ateneans. Mostly, the very rich and wealthy among the society. But unknowing to the Honorable Representative there are a Lot of us who amount to something in the eyes of our neighbors, our employers, our leaders, and our fellow citizens who for reasons of their own, left their own native land and homeland and never look back.

    Some of us may go back home and see our last days in the arms of our beloved Philippines. Some for the reason that we left a few or many family members we want to spend the twilight years of our lives. Some for the reason, that with the pension in dollars and the benefits we can carry all over the world, it is much, much cheaper to live there than in our adopted country. Some for the reason, that Rep. Locsin himself, has beautifully articulated in his speech.

    And then for our children, who other than the color of their skin, can no longer consider themselves the nationality of their parents, but of the land they were born. That someday they will grow up and come to realize that they are equal to men and women of all colors, race, original nationalities and opportunities in life. Then and maybe then, we will amount to something wherever we are…Thank you Representative Locsin for letting us know who we are..

  14. vic has a point. For those who left the country because they had nothing to lose, the dignity of gainful employment and a decent life makes them amount to something. If not, as Teddy Boy puts it, “in the eyes of those out there”, at least in their own eyes and in the eyes of their family (especially those who receive those dollar remittances).

    As for Filipinos born and raised abroad, the experience I have with my own relatives is that they generally prefer to stay there. More opportunities and more things to do. And, like Koreans, Vietnamese or Indians, 2nd generation Filipinos do well abroad. There are esceptions, of course. For example, Fil-Am basketball players who can’t really make it big out there because the competition is too stiff. They come back because they can be stars out here, while they would just be run-of-the mill out there. The same goes for models, actors and singers, especially those with good looks. Many of them find out that they can become stars here just because they are good looking. Nevermind if they are mediocre talents. Out there they would be nobodies. To rattle off a few examples: Fil-Ams like Anjanette Abayari and the Montero brothers, Troy and Casey. Vanessa del Bianco and Nancy Castiglione (who I believe are Canadian), Brad Turvey (who is Australian). Then there’s a very long list of Fil-Am basketball players whose names can fill a very, very long list. And athletes like David Bunevacz.

    In the case of prima donnas like Imelda Marcos, she would have been ignored or ridiculed abroad, despite her wealth. Here, at least within her circle, she is a star. And often in the limelight. Danding Cojuangco also missed being in the circle of power while he was abroad. Even in Australia, where he enjoys a reputation for fabulous wealth, he wasn’t accepted into the inner circle. Here, he runs the biggest conglomerate in the country and is much sought-after by the rich and the powerful.

    Even Ninoy Aquino missed the limelight back home. Before he was killed, he had this famous quotation about preferring to die a meaningful death back home than to be run over by an insolent cab driver in Boston.

    That is why, for those who toil in anonymity abroad and persevere despite the loneliness, they deserve all the respect and honor they can get.

  15. Jim Paredes gave up on the Philippines?? That headline is misleading. Jim may have moved to Australia for a host of reasons, but I will never believe that he will gave up the Country, that he had done more fighting for. The corruptions maybe; maybe he wants a brighter future for his family in the land where he can be assured that wheter he be around or not, they are safe and secured. And maybe like most Idealists, finally got exhausted, fighting the fight that’s impossible to win. Inquirer, I believe owes Jim a sincerest apology, for the headline that does not do justice to the man.

  16. From all practial purposes, I don’t think we can bank on the Atenean graduates to stay. To mitigate the loss of experienced personnel, especially in critical sectors like health services, the government needs to seriously look at importing labor. For example, why not encourage Indian or Cuban Doctors to fill the gap in health services? Also, why not encourage Chinese and/or Vietnamese entrepreneurs to set-up shop here? Immigrants are normally a more hopeful bunch. Maybe some of that hope would rub-off on the locals. From an economic standpoint, the outward flow of Filipino labor would not matter that much if there is a corresponding inward flow of foreign talent.

  17. “. . . I don’t think we can bank on the Atenean graduates to stay. To mitigate the loss of experienced personnel, especially in critical sectors like health services, the government needs to seriously look at importing labor.”

    Ateneo, La Salle, UP, UST, etc. . . . the concept of a liberal arts education, which once upon a time was seen as necessary to a well-rounded background, is now being severely tested. Vocational and specialized courses are seen as more practical ways to attain a profession and jobs (especially abroad). Nursing, physical therapy, caregiving, culinary arts and teaching are seen as quicker ways to gainful employment.

    The idea of importing labor and professionals deserves to be looked into. It will stimulate us from any complacency and should inject fresh perspectives into the way we routinely do things.

  18. Quote Vic: “Jim Paredes gave up on the Philippines?? That headline is misleading. Jim may have moved to Australia for a host of reasons, but I will never believe that he will gave up the Country, that he had done more fighting for. ”

    You appear to be right there Vic.

    Here’s a response straight from Jim’s blog where he takes the Inquirer (and its writer Gerry Lirio) to task:

    I am in agreement with Mr. Paredes on the concept of the global Filipino.

    You can take the Pinoy out of “Pinas” but you can never really take “Pinas” out of the Pinoy.

    Director Joey Reyes refelects the growing pessimism that is reflected in that recent poll..

    To the question: if (some of) the very anchors of the industry have passed solid judgment of the incurable ills of our society, what alternatives are there left for ordinary Filipinos?

    Reyes curtly responds: “There aren’t”.

    He sums it up for many who want to leave: “”Sana isang umaga paggising ko, hindi ko na kailangang umalis. Kaya lang hindi ganon. Pero naniniwala ako na kahit sa North Pole pa ako itapon, Pilipino pa rin ako. Hindi dapat nawawala ang pagka-Pilipino mo at iyon ang mahalaga.”

    The drain continues.

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