The President wears Prada

Last night I finally got to watch “The Devil Wears Prada “and its Imeldific wisdom: “They all want to be like us.” The movie reminded me of what it was like working for the President. And why I was happy to leave.

London Prayer Vigil
Prayer vigil in London for victims of political killings in the Philippines

A friend tells me that Makati Mayor Jejomar Binay expects to be suspended from office at anytime, together with his vice mayor and the entire city council. Surely the government can find a turncoat or two to man the New Order in Makati? Or can the Department of the Interior appoint an officer-in-charge for the city?

In the forum in which he spoke, Binay also predicted that the Supreme Court will decide in favor of the so-called “people’s initiative,” by a vote of something like 8 for and 7 against, with Justice Puno being the ponente: a prediction that did, and didn’t, surprise me.

The same friend asked for my comments and I said well, the other scuttlebutt is that only two justices feel strongly about the case, and their feelings are strongly against the so-called initiative. The same scuttlebutt assumes it would be easier for the Justices to go along with the two who feel strongly about things. But while the Supremes might be inclined to vote against the Palace in the case of signatures and the House’s desire to ignore the Senate, they would be willing, as they always have, to delay their decision in order to buy time for the Palace.

This is the problem with speculating about the Supreme Court: who can really say what they have in mind, and who can say, with conviction, that certain assumptions really hold water? We will know, when the Supremes decide, and probably never know for sure why they decided the way they did.

Anyway, I told my friend, my view since last year has been pretty simple. The real fight will begin after 2010. Everything going on now is a skirmish. So I’m willing to hold some of my fire and even go into hibernation, advocacy-wise, after the plebiscite (which the government can be expected to win, unless something unexpected happens) for a couple of years. Who knows, we might actually get a better government, or at least, a few years of quiet and growth, just like after martial law was imposed. But it will start to fray at the edges and the fraying will start when the President’s expected to step down, and doesn’t; and when her husband starts muscling in on the rest of the Polo Club set.

Is she riding the tiger, then? My friend asked. I explained to him that it’s more like Chiang Kai Shek’s era, at least in the beginning. The warlords (whether provincial bosses like Chavit Singson, etc.) have been confirmed in their turf and rackets; the soldiers given carte blanche in theirs; the technocrats enough room to cling to the illusion they’re allowed to meaningfully tinker with things, and the upper and middle classes kept happy enough so that they can pack their bags for emigration abroad in peace. But eventually the different factions will begin to irritate each other… She isn’t riding the tiger, she is one of the tigers.
Anyway, in today’s news…

A new pastoral statement by Catholic bishops, in which they advocate a constitutional convention:

It is said that the presidential form of government is a source of corruption among other things. We should ask a different question: Is it the presidential form that is the source of corruption, or the people in authority who corrupt and abuse the system? Any form of government will have its positive and negative characteristics; but the people who run the government are very crucial; they can either corrupt it or make it serve the common good. Any system or form of government in the hands of honest, just and incorruptible people will be a source of good for the governed. Will the parliamentary- unicameral form of government not be corrupted by the people who will create it?

It is in this light that we have made our position clear on Charter Change from the moral standpoint, and we reiterate it:

“Changing the Constitution, involving major shifts in the form of government, requires widespread participation, total transparency and relative serenity that allows for rational discussion and debate. This is best done through a Constitutional Convention.” (CBCP, January 2006)

Heeding the exhortation of Pope Benedict XVI in Deus Caritas Est that the Church “is called to contribute to the purification of reason” (# 29), we would like to ask these and similar questions to guide the discussion, discernment and debate on the charter change. Are you convinced that the Charter Change as presently presented by our governing politicians is really for the common good? Are you convinced that the “people’s initiative” is genuinely the people’s activity, and has its real source in the people? Do you want our legislators to convert themselves into a Constituent Assembly where they alone will rewrite our Constitution, and have it only approved by us in a plebiscite? Is it enough to say YES to Charter Change?

We are in a democracy. Should not then the citizenry be made to participate by electing their delegates to a Constitutional Convention?

The Palace insists it’s not interested in a constitutional convention, even as it continues to set the tone for things to come: parliamentary elections next year, which prevents a senate debacle. Where does that leave people regaining their citizenship, or who are being encouraged to register to vote abroad? It prepares their votes to be used in a constitutional plebiscite. After which, their vote becomes academic, unless overseas Filipinos will be allowed to vote for party-list candidates (but nothing else).

Supreme Court intervenes in PCGG-Senate spat; other commissioners hunker down; according to Vic Agustin, it’s all an unseemly fight over corporate perks. The House is freaked out over the Senate’s aggressiveness.

What’s interesting in this news item on the President giving Palparan a job is not that she’s clinging to him, but the other details: that Sec. Arthur Yap was surprised Palparan believes in a civic component to anti-insurgency efforts; that National Security Adviser Norberto Gonzales is being groomed to be the next Secretary of National Defense, with current Sec. Avelino Cruz due to be kicked upstairs somewhere (my personal theory, which is just a hunch, is that Cruz hasn’t been calling the shots at DND since February last year; there is no civilian supervision over the AFP, which knows exactly how much the President owes the generals).

Bolante’s bail bid turned down. Is the Palace helping him?

The MT Solar was overloaded, among other things. Remedial measures proposed.

In Thailand, professors and students continue to push for Thaksin to quit.

In the punditocracy, the Inquirer editorial argues a kind of separate, military, republic has been established. This reminds me of a passage from the Analects of Confucius (Lionel Giles translation):

Tzû Kung asked for a definition of good government. The Master replied: It consists in providing enough food to eat, in keeping enough soldiers to guard the State, and in winning the confidence of the people. — And if one of these three things had to be sacrificed, which should go first? — The Master replied: Sacrifice the soldiers. — And if of the two remaining things one had to be sacrificed, which should it be?— The master said: Let it be the food. From the beginning, men have always had to die. But without the confidence of the people no government can stand at all.

Rasheed Abou-Alsamh says the First Gentleman is running wild, and justifies his call for nursing students to retake portions of their qualifying exam.

Dan Mariano wonders if the Solicitor-General should be lawyering for proponents of Charter change.

JB Baylon defends the Senate as an institution.

Maya Baltazar Herrera wonders if there’s a generational vacuum in leadership.

Overseas, the Sydney Morning Herald on the cozy relationship between government and the broadcast media;

What happens when zoo animals get depressed.

In the blogosphere, southeast asian press alliance points to Singapore’s Lee dynasty fetish for defamation suits (and since the First Gentleman possibly likes banking there, maybe that’s where he got the idea of filing suits left and right). Bryanton Post on the consequences of law pay for Filipino journalists (I’m for opening up media to foreign investment).

In Malaysia, the Prime Minister’s expenses for a security system gets scrutinized; and the ruling party leads for fighting to take place behind closed doors.

blurry brain finds a copy of the recently-signed Free Trade agreement between the Philippines and Japan.

chizjarkace is skeptical when it comes to a future parliament:

Others may argue that people may change members of the parliament if they are not satisfied with what their representatives are doing but is that really possible? Maybe in the imperial manila that is possible but I doubt if it is in other parts of the country where patronage politics and political warfare is very much evident. Granting that the members of the parliament in the greater manila are changed constantly, still that cannot be assured in distant provinces. In the provinces, most of the public facilities such as hospitals and schools belong to the incumbent politician. And unless the people support that politician they can never use those facilities without any unwanted hindrances. It is a given fact in the land that in the rural areas politicians is giving the needs of the people but only some of them is giving it without expecting any in return, and that return will only be acknowledged if it is given in a form of a vote. Do the people there have a choice? Of course they don’t unless they are willing to sacrifice the lives of their children. Even if how much wicked their politician is, they wont dare challenge him if they don’t want to suffer any unwanted consequences. So in the end the parliament will be the having the same people again and again until the time we’ll never know when.

Victory Gardens for Naga: A Nagueño in the Blogosphere on urban agriculture.

I’m a Baby condemns Catholic schools that discriminate against the children of single or separated parents.

debatista irritated with a news report on LPG-fueled cars.

Tagged by Lonely Vampire Chronicles:

Seven Songs

List seven songs you are into right now. No matter what the genre, whether they have words, or even if they’re not any good, but they must be songs you’re really enjoying now. Post these instructions in your LiveJournal/blog along with your seven songs. Then tag seven other people to see what they’re listening to.

Well, here goes:

1. Little Boxes, Pete Seeger
2. I’m Sitting On Top of the World, Bobby Darin
3. Clarinet Polka Yodel, Mary Schneider
4. Happy Days Are Here Again, Max Bygraves
5. We’ll Meet Again, Johnny Cash
6. Brother Can You Spare A Dime, Chad Mitchell Trio
7. I’ll Be Seeing You, Iggy Pop

Tagging: Fool for Five, Pinay in Barnsley, Maimed by Rock and Roll, Filipino Librarian, Gigi Goes Gaga, Currystrumpet’s Collage, Madame Chiang.

Technorati Tags: , , , , , , , ,

Manuel L. Quezon III.

85 thoughts on “The President wears Prada

  1. Anyway, allow me to answer your “no-brainer question” with a straightforward answer: NEITHER!

    Neither in a country that is fundamentally Christianofanatical (thank goodness, there is no such country today even if the US has a leadership which can be called Christian fundamentalists, the US of A is not peopled by Christianofanatics or fundamentalists) nor Islamofanatical, of which, sadly, there may be today.

    But definitely the answer is a no, no!

  2. But I don’t believe Tony is the same blogger – basically, the blogger I’m referring to knows that I’ve been to Cuba and would not have entered Cuba for a wager with me.

    But it’s extraordinary that they have the same way of looking at things at some point so simplistically, eg, world is either Christianofanatic or Islamofanatic. Ugh!

  3. Tony, if you plan to enjoy the freedom that can be found in United States, the least you can do is try to understand its origins so you’ll be better able to protect it. The Progressive aspect of the US Constitution does not come from its ‘Christian’ orientation. Rather, it is a product of the 18th Century Enlightenment, itself a part of the struggle against the Church during that time. George W. Bush represents a reversal of that tradition. How many Bush-type presidencies do you think the US can survive before it loses its progressive values? Today in the US, proposals to allow torture and Soviet-style Kangaroo courts is now on the table. What was unthinkable before Bush is now pending legislation.

    Anna, i think that’s the standard Neocon line of thinking. What’s dangerous is that, under Bush, they are railroading their agenda of starting a war with Iran thereby making their ‘Clash of Civilizations’ thesis a self-fulfilling prophecy.

  4. cvj,

    How so extraordinarily un-Christiani! “…in the US, proposals to allow torture and Soviet-style Kangaroo courts is now on the table.”

    When Neocons hark on their belief their leadership is basically Christian, I wonder if they’ve read the same Christian Bible! I have a feeling that they didn’t get past the Old Testament.

    That is just not the Christian way of doing things, is it? Or am I wrong?

    Anyway, difficukt to be Christian in Christ’s terms, that I must admit but there’s such a thing as decency and respect for the next being no need to be Christ like at all to know right from wrong – torture is certainly not the work of a decent man, least of all tabling torture to become law! How on earth could you defend that in the court of world opinion?

    Oh well, come to think of it, since when did Bush respect world opinion?

  5. Anna, I also get the impression that the average American Christian Fundamentalist’s Bible is missing the Gospels. It seems that they have read the Old Testament then skipped directly to St. Paul’s epistles and on to Revelation. That’s why they have no knowledge of the Beatitudes and are unaware that ‘an eye for an eye’ has already been repealed in favor of ‘turn the other cheek’.

  6. Absolutely Anna, I suspected that too.

    Turn the other cheek is Christ’s ultimate teaching.

    Now, I don’t wanna be a hypocrite so I must say, I ain’t capable of turning a cheek (if anyone did that to me, I’d probably break his wrist) but I certainly am not into torture nor into this simplistic way of life: one’s got to be either a Christian fundamentalist or an Islam fundamentalist.

    Perhaps they memorized passages and passages of stories of Ruth in the Old Testament.

  7. No worries, they do have a way of getting to you. ‘Turn the other cheek’ would not have sold well on Ground Zero shortly after 9/11, but it would have made better policy than the one that Bush chose to follow.

  8. cvj and Anna…. I was, indeed, very focused on, to use your terms, Christiano-fascist and Islamo-fascist. I had an agenda. I had hoped that by now, cvj would relent and see that it is probably wrong when he puts Bush and Bin Laden on the same plane — “same tag team”, cvj says.

    That’s a shame.

  9. And if I remmeber rightly, he’s living in a fundamentally non-Christian country; a technicality really because the country he is in might as well be Christian – they are quiet, hardworking, reliable, not corrupt and mind their own business.

  10. Tony, ok let me relent a little. Bush is more like you and me, and the reason he is that way is because he still lives in a secular society. However, the values and beliefs he holds happen to be in opposition and is detrimental to the health of such a society. The continued existence of the free and secular USA that we’ve grown-up to admire depends on Bush and like-minded people not having their way. As for that ‘same tag team’ remark, I consider Bush and Bin Laden as being in the same team because their actions feed off each other. Their ideologies are mutually reinforcing. (I work in Singapore.)

  11. I have to take my hat off to you people. You’re all amazing. Such talent and capacity to write and communicate at such a high level and depth. So knowledgeable. Makes one proud to be a Filipino. Wish all Filipinos were as erudite as you.

  12. In my opinion, 9/11 gave Mr. Bush the perfect excuse to declare war on the Islamist fundamentalists. Mr. Bush isn`t guided (I believe) by his own doctrinal beliefs but by the teachings and lessons his father bequeathed to him. If one can remember, it was during the term of the elder Bush (the father) when US first declared war on an Islamic country. The 1991 Gulf War heightened the rift between Christian and Islam fanaticals. And while the elder Bush succeeded in forcing Iraq out of Kuwait then, he failed in neutralizing Saddam and that I guess proved crucial to the decision made by the younger Bush (the current president) in declaring war over Iraq after 9/11. The younger Bush feels that a score needs to be settled against Saddam, so despite the lack of factual evidence to back up his claim that Iraq has WMD`s, he pushed through with his plan to attack Iraq and get Saddam because his father might have told him to finish what he (elder Bush) started.

  13. Artz…. thanks for your thoughts re elder-Bush/current Bush/Saddam. Some of the things you say, though, don’t match what has been written in newspapers and other websites. This Wikipedia link is an example:

    It mentions that the 1991 Gulf War objective was FOR KUWAIT (who Saddam invaded) / also FOR SAUDI ARABIA, thus the anti-US slogan “No Blood For Oil”. Later justifications for the war included Iraq’s history of human rights abuses under President Saddam Hussein, the potential that Iraq may develop nuclear weapons or weapons of mass destruction and that “naked aggression will not stand.”

    The elder Bush chose not to enter Baghdad nor to overthrow Saddam. This is what Dick Cheney said about the elder-Bush strategy:

    I would guess if we had gone in there, I would still have forces in Baghdad today. We’d be running the country. We would not have been able to get everybody out and bring everybody home.

    And the final point that I think needs to be made is this question of casualties. . . the question in my mind is, how many additional American casualties is Saddam (Hussein) worth? And the answer is, not that damned many. So, I think we got it right, both when we decided to expel him from Kuwait, but also when the President made the decision that we’d achieved our objectives and we were not going to go get bogged down in the problems of trying to take over and govern Iraq.[15]

  14. What is exactly your point, Tony? I mean, you’re going about in circles here. (Gosh if you were a military officer on a battlefield, your men would have been killed several times over!)

    Pray, tell us what you would like to happen or wait, do you think that a “holy” war, a modern crusade of sorts, some kind of a head-on confrontation stand (against people of the Islamic faith) should be the order of the day?

  15. Anna… Take a hint from cvj and keep your poise even as things get fast and furious and people throw tidbits here and there that seem to confuse you.

    Cheers! And hope the you don’t have encounters with Muriel Degauque-think-alikes or Flemish separatists.

  16. Anna.. point out where you got this “…going about in circles” impression and I clarify things better for you.

    By the way… I’m curious how “moderate” you are in regards condom-use. The United Nations supports distributing condoms in regards HIV/AIDS programs, while the Philippines Catholic Bishops’ steadfastly opposes condoms. Where do you stand on this item?

  17. Tony, thanks for the article as it provides a window to their day to day religious concerns, although i admit that i fail to see the human rights angle. I have spent quite sometime in Malaysia and Singapore and apart from their ‘kebaya’ or ‘tudung’, the Muslim women i’ve met seem to behave no differently from the typical Filipina woman. I think the various degrees of conservatism among people also stems from the difference in culture e.g. Arab vs. South East Asian.

    Re: your question to Anna on condom-use, i think the Bishops are being irresponsible in opposing condom distribution. They should have learned from the lesson of the sub-saharan counterparts where AIDS is currently decimating the Catholic flock (among others).

  18. Tony,

    I think, the question I posed here is a lot more poised than your previous rant about me and my “idiot friends” (according to you) so, let’s not go about in circles, shall we?

    Answer my question – it’s perfectly simple and straight to the point, don’t you think before we get distracted by condoms and what not – oh well just so we get it out of the way, let me tell you if you really must know, I think the Catholic Church errs in not allowing condoms, etc. – I don’t know why this is important to you but there you are, so now your turn?

    “Pray, tell us what you would like to happen or wait, do you think that a “holy” war, a modern crusade of sorts, some kind of a head-on confrontation stand (against people of the Islamic faith) should be the order of the day?”

  19. Oops, I didn’t realize that cvj had answered the question for me – but I share exactly the same thought on the issue of condoms, completely irresponsible to oppose its use when it could very well help in avoiding the proliferation of aids.

    The Catholic Church (Roman, that is) is behaving absolutely unreasonably in this sense!

  20. Anna and c-jugo, Whether or not the war has religious connotations, and even if he was a mass murderer of Iraqi citizens, I believe that Saddam is an issue to be settled by Iraqis and that Dubya Bush should not have gone into Iraq. As logical follow-up, US troops should withdraw out of Iraq — next week if possible, but July 2007 at the very latest. Hopefully, the Iraqi government will have organized enough when US troops leave Iraq. But July 2007 should see no more US troops on Iraqi soil, even if Iraqi-on-Iraqi bloodletting continues.

    The both of you have a lot of passion about Christiano- and Islam-fundamentalists. I would have thought, though, that the close-to-the-Philippines issues (Abu Sayyaf and terrorism ala SuperFerry14 AND public health/condom-vs-AIDS and sex-education) would concern you more than, say, whether American Christian fundamentalists match your understanding of the Old and New Testaments.

    Anna, I thought, would have related to unequal treatment of women, be it educational opportunities or worship-rituals, that was raised in that Arab-newspaper article.

    And Anna.. I put effort in words I write. I did not call any of your friends idiots. What I said was that neither you nor any of your friends can start a war (whether or not any are idiots). And neither of you asked, but my thought is that Iran should hold the West hostage and get as many nuclear reactors as it/Iran can get, but that Iran should not have nuclear weapons. Similar thought regarding North Korea. And Bangkok is a superior to Marikina as a retirement city for US-of-A citizens.


  21. Anna and cvj… I don’t know if the thought has occurred to you, but Philippines — today, this very minute — is one of the more Christian-fundamentalist oriented countries ever, and the result is not just “living in a repressive society”, what is being impacted is public health. Here are the top-5 issues for American Christian-fundamentals:
    – women’s access to abortion services/ Roe-v-Wade
    – birth control pills
    – separation of Church and state (e.g. displaying the Crucifix in public buildings; religious instructions inside public schools)
    – LBGT issues

    The two of you will not affect Jerry Falwell, Gary Bauer, much less Texas-based preacher Michael Evans and any other American Christian fundamentals, so why not invest your spit towards lessening the power of Christian-fundamentals over Philippine public policy?

  22. Tony, like many others, i comment on matters i feel strongly about. I normally don’t use any other criteria besides that. Anyway, if you scroll back, this topic was touched upon as a by-product of a discussion on the need for blood to be shed in the Philippines. In earlier comments in this and other weblogs, i have also expressed my views on matters related to the Catholic Church and its influence.

  23. Who says about affecting Jerry Falwell, Gary Bauer, much less Texas-based preacher Michael Evans and any other American Christian fundamentals,

    if they mind their own business and do it in america thats their problem

    they do it in europe theyre own lookout we dont appreciate troublemakin pseudo christian preachers around here

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