The charge of the Palace brigade

Last week I attended a conference on the peace process, put together by the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process. Obviously the media was highly critical in terms of the killings of journalists impeding the ability of media people to report actual conditions in the provinces. And there is no progress in terms of the peace process with the CPP-NPA-NDF although prospects with Muslim rebels seems a bit more promising. As I understood it, though, the biggest obstacle is the “ancestral domain” issue: the demand of some Muslim groups for compensation of some kind, for natural resources in parts of Mindanao now within Christian-settled areas. The biggest breakthrough, though, in broad strokes, is a willingness to discuss a setup for Muslim areas that is, for all intents and purposes, Commonwealth status for Muslim Mindanao.

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Sec. Dureza, nonetheless, was optimistic about the peace process (as he has to be) and pretty forthcoming with information, both on and off the record. He seemed unaware, however, that the government’s “left hand” and “right hand” policy for achieving peace is highly ironic, to say the least. He expressed regret that the national budget wasn’t passed, and tried to lobby for acceptance of an allocation for 600 barangays that he says are no longer war zones: however such allocations were immediately suspected of being thinly-disguised pork barrel projects by government critics. His remarks were quite helpful in understanding both the potential and the limitations of the peace process. He explained how much of the work is done behind the scenes, and that announcements of formal meetings suggest the hard work’s been done -but that it’s also difficult to remain tied to timelines as the peace process is a fluid and dynamic one.

An interesting tidbit from another official I talked to on the sidelines is that the success rate for rebel returnee programs is a miserable 30%. That means efforts to reintegrate rebels to society and provide them with a livelihood fails 7 out of 10 times. The reasons, according to the official I talked to, are many: some rebels are impatient; others belong to groups that are too small and isolated to sustain a livelihood program. Where there’s success, it’s due to funding being on a scale big enough to make an impact, on a community large enough to make a go of things. The official did say, oddly enough, that the failure of livelihood programs wasn’t held against those attempting to set them up: but that doesn’t compensate for the depressing failure rate. The dilemma is really that increased funding would open up new charges of pork barrel spending.

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Paulynn Paredes Sicam, veteran journalist, sits on the panel tasked with negotiations with the CPP-NPA-NDF and readily admitted that the talks are to put it mildly, in limbo. Unlike Durera who, as a member of the cabinet, has to be a loyal partisan, she speaks her own mind. On the sidelines, I asked her why she continued to be engaged in what seems to be an exercise in futility. She replied by saying someone has to try to keep reminding the powers-that-be that peace is a priority, and not surrender the field to the hard-liners. She observed that the past twenty years has seen the disappearance of a “peace constituency” and that the urgent task at hand is to rebuild one. To this end, she appealed to the media to devote attention to peace developments, and to bear in mind that sensationalistic, or utterly cynical reportage can have a tremendously harmful effect on the prospects of peace, and be quite damaging to peace prospects in particular localities. She also said tere are many inspiring stories that are never reported or superficially reported: cases where communities rise up, and basically tell both government and rebel troops to get the hell out and leave them in peace -and then, maintain that peace.

My reaction followed hers, and I limited myself to making a few observations (our topic was, how peace reporting and commentary can best be carried out by media, including new media). If what’s needed is a peace constituency, as Sicam said, then I suggested we begin with understanding how print, radio, TV and new medias are increasingly targeting niche audiences, and how media outfits now operating on a 24 hour news cycle and with cross-platform content use in mind, have even less time and resources for reporting stories that could use depth -such as the peace process.

Government has resources that, if properly used, could help dispel the traditional -and increasing- mistrust between media and government and government and the public and the public and media. It all boils down to government providing less propaganda and more useful information, even if the information is temporarily embarrassing or inconvenient. If everyone in the news and media food chain feeds off reporters, then government should do all it can to provide useful, concise and freely-available information to reporters first, and the public second, as more and more media consumers double-check the reports they read, hear or view.

For example, the peace process involves its own language, and I had to wonder if, in the rush to hold pro- and con- press conferences, the players and reporters were all using the same language. Are the terms being flung about all understood in the same way by everyone involved? And where would one go, to find out generally-accepted definitions? A glossary of peace process related terms is something government’s in a good position to provide, and that includes contending definitions by other parties, which would help explain why negotiations bog down. Another thing is that a visual language is just as important as precision in written and oral language: where are the useful maps, and charts, to show peace areas, conflict zones, proposed autonomous or other areas?

Government has a tough job to do, because whatever happens at the top, the process has to be kept going by the bureaucrats and others who’ve made a commitment to the process. Going back to the peace constituency idea, government has to abandon the 9 to 5 mentality and realize that even as it has to analyze and break down the many fragmented but not necessarily mutually-exclusive constituencies it has to court, it also has to be make information available in a sustained and credible manner. What coordination exists is for propaganda purposes and this mentality has to be changed.

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Philippine Daily Inquirer publisher Isagani Yambot then gave an impassioned plea for reporters to be spared from harassment and intimidation in conflict-ridden areas, and spoke up for the profession, which he says has become a target.

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Over the weekend, a splendid evening with Dr. Victor Somsky, a far-ranging discussion on the conference he attended and his observations as a returning visitor to the country. He hopes to secure some sort of support for his two-volume work, Fiesta Filipina: Reforms, Revolutions and Active Nonviolence in a Developing Society. (Moscow, Vostochnaya Literatura Publishers, 2003). It’s a chicken and egg situation. While he has a precis of sorts, it isn’t enough for anyone to be able to decide if the book should be published in the Philippines, or not; showing the actual two volume work, complete with some highly interesting maps (something I think our books on history constantly fail to use to full advantage). Talking to him, though, quickly reveals how thoroughly he’s delved into the question of reform versus revolution, and he has some challenging views that are quite engrossing.

Particularly interesting, for me, is that most historians who tackle Philippine history come from the the United States or the Philippines; there are only a few who bother to tackle the country’s past and who come from other parts of the world (though I understand there’s a growing number of Japanese scholars who tackle some Philippine-related matters). Somsky brings to the table a European orientation and the benefits of Russian scholarship, which is rigorous and makes use of developments in Marxist and other thought in the wake of the collapse of the Soviet Union. At the very least, it’s an interesting challenge to the flavor of Marxist orthodoxy that emerged among many Philippine scholars in the 1960s and which continues to be the dominant way of interpreting things. A Russian scholar, of course, knows a thing or two about how revolutions actually take place, what the different forces involved are; and well, when you have a scholar who has studied Indonesia in depth, and then turned his attention to the Philippines, the comparisons and contrasts can be quite engrossing indeed.

One suggestion he made was that the standard view of the masses versus the elite could stand improvement by being more nuanced. He said a revolutionary situation, when it emerges, involves the interplay of contending forces, of which there are really, three: the radicals, who push on ahead, often without having fully planned out what they want to accomplish, because the situation is necessarily so dynamic and fluid; the middle, represented by the principalia (provincial political bosses, not all of whom were ilustrados, who were more urban and cosmopolitan in orientation and origin) who are in the worst position, so to speak, because they are trapped precisely in between the others; and the counterrevolutionary forces, which, however, should not be confused with purely reactionary forces.

As I understood it, Somsky views Bonifacio as the archetype of the revolutionary element; Aguinaldo, of the middle; and the counterrevolutionaries are the ilustrados. What he finds remarkable is not that the radicals precipitated the revolution, or that the ilustrados fought it tooth and nail, but that it was the middle, represented by Aguinaldo, who prevailed for much of the revolutionary period. What defeated Aguinaldo was the United States, which Somsky described as a kind of enforcer of the ilustrados’ will. However, the ilustrados’ alliance with the United States resulted in their repudiation by popular opinion, and resulted in the provincial, political principalia becoming the dominant players in the development of the Philippines as a nation.

Somsky discussed how radical movements, in a sense, by force of shock and awe define the agenda, leaving all other contending groups to adopt -and adapt- the ideas and even rhetoric of the radicals, although the radical weakness is precisely that while they can harness the growing, explosive momentum of a revolutionary situation, they arent necessarily equipped either to fully articulate, or accomplish, where the revolution is headed or what its terminal point should be. Counterrevolutionaries, on the other hand, know what they don’t want -the chaos and anarchy of a revolution- but they lack the numbers to oppose the radicals. Everyone, then, is scrambling for allies and in the Philippine context, from 1896-98 the principalia allied itself with the radicals and the counterrevolutionary ilustrados were cornered. However, the limitations of the revolutionary leadership began to take its toll: those best equipped to define what should emerge were sidelined (Mabini) or rubbed out (Luna) even after Aguinaldo had his showdown, as inevitably happens in revolutions, with Bonifacio.

He argues that the ilustrados came to the conclusion that Aguinaldo was neither equipped, mentally or politically, to establish a viable state; that therefore, since the radicals had already articulated independence as the ideal, then independence had to be achieved as the counterrevolutionaries best preferred it, in an evolutionary and not revolutionary, manner. American involvement gave the counterrevolutionaries what they’d lacked, which was, as Somsky bluntly put it, “muscle.” But at the cost of their standing before the people. I didn’t mention it at the time, but this was precisely Mabini’s thesis when he looked back at the failure of the revolution.
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By 1907 the ilustrados were discredited and the principalia, ascendant, where they’ve remained until the present. Somsky’s thinking (recall his papers on Rizal and reform vs. revolution I posted last week) fully discusses how radical notions continue to have echoes in the present day, but how the dominant theme has been a kind of tie between the two ideals, which has resulted in the country being stuck, never fully achieving either. How to break the logjam? My impression is that the inability to achieve a resolution lies in the much-vaunted masses not being given enough recognition for their basically conservative, and principalia-oriented instincts, which means both the radicals and ilustrados have been frustrated in their efforts to mobilize them. Time and again, the ones who mobilize the masses are neither radicals nor ilustrados, but the principalia. And during the rare periods when a kind of national solidarity is achieved, it’s been principally along the lines of peaceful, non-violent change.

Somsky says the Philippines has made a profound impression on the world twice: in 1935, with the establishment of the Commonwealth, and in 1986. The Commonwealth, he said, came as a profound shock to the Colonial Powers who devoted great energy and resources to making sure their colonial subjects didn’t hear of it. He pointed to an interview of Mahatma Gandhi by Carlos P. Romulo (which I’d never heard of) in which Gandhi said he would be delighted with a Tydings-McDuffie Act for India! What has served to make people under-appreciate what a significant development that was, was the transformation of the United States, after World War II, from the image it had acquired because of its Philippine policies, as a “benign hegemon,” as Somsky puts it -a transformation that had its most immediate and traumatic effect in the Philippines, which was unprepared to understand the sudden shift in American policy during the Truman administration.

1986, to his mind, inaugurated an era that is still ongoing -the People Power era, which is facing its own problems as what are often unique situations end up being forced into what he calls the manufacturing of a “technology for regime change.” But as Edsa Dos showed, it’s not a method that is applicable all the time, or which will always be successful.

I do hope his views get discussed more and that his books end up published here at home.

Today, the President’s medical check-up aside (and lurid speculation; how’s this for an ambiguous statement: Arroyo as healthy as economy), and the Secretary of Justice showing the government’s nervous about protests in Cebu City during the Asean Summit, and a former Imperial Japanese Navy medic admits he conducted vivisections on Filipino prisoners.

the news is that the Speaker is dangling regional representation to entice senatorial support, and that the President is going hell-for-leather to force constitutional amendments through: regardless of public opposition as shown by the surveys. She presides over a council of war today (note prominent seat at the table for the Legion). Plan A being dead, Plan B (a Constituent Assembly) or a new Plan C (a people’s initiative path, but this time proposing simply the abolition of the Senate) are on the table:

Meanwhile, Ulap Spokesman and Eastern Samar Gov. Ben Evardone said they were prepared to embark on a second round of signature drive if their second motion for reconsideration before the Supreme Court was rejected.

He said they had already informed Mrs. Arroyo of their plan to gather again 5.6 million signatures, but this time focusing only on the shift from a bicameral congress to a unicameral congress.

“We have already told the President about this. We said that if our second motion for reconsideration is denied, then we are left with no choice but to gather again signatures, but this time avoiding the pitfalls raised by the Supreme Court when they called our signature campaign a grand deception,” he said.

Evardone said they would no longer ask in their questionnaire if people were supporting the shift to a parliamentary form of government since the Supreme Court had said the issue was so complicated for laymen to understand given the short period of time that the signatures were collected.

“We will stick to the question of whether Filipinos still want the current bicameral or if they want a unicameral Congress. I think we will in fact surpass the number of signatures we have gathered for the first petition because this time, the issue is very clear given the constant gridlock between the Senate, the House and Malacañang,” he added.

The Palace missed out on its window for opportunity: had it pushed for simply a unicameral National Assembly instead of going whole hog, it would probably have fared better and been accepted by the public. But not now.

Which brings us to a tale of two surveys: Pulse Asia released it’s latest senate race rankings, and Social Weather Stations released its findings on Constitutional change.

Nov 26 - Voting To A Plebiscite  Media Release
The Sept. 24 to Oct. 2 Third Quarter 2006 Social Weather Survey has error margins of ±3% for national percentages and ±6% for regional percentages .

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It says a majority (67%) of Filipinos would still vote “No” if a plebiscite to approve a proposed new constitution were held today, unchanged since the previous quarter,

A solid majority of 85% in Metro Manila will vote “No” in a plebiscite for a new constitution, similar to 83% recorded in the previous quarter. The “No” vote is 68% in the rest of Luzon, 65% in Mindanao and 56% in the Visayas.

Four out of five (80%) of class ABC, 70% of class E and 64% of class D will also vote “No” if a plebiscite to approve a proposed new constitution were held today.

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Seven out of ten (69%) reject the idea of allowing President Arroyo to become head of government even after 2010, up from 44% recorded in March 2006.
Half (51%) oppose the idea of having only one chamber of Parliament elected in each district and from Party-list, up from 38% in March, implying that most Filipinos would rather continue having a Senate.

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A majority (68%), compared to 50% in March, reject the idea of holding the next elections in 2010 and extending the terms of all officials. Opposition to the idea of letting the head of government be elected by legislators instead of directly by voters likewise increased from 56% in March to 65% in September.

Two out of five (43%), compared to 25% in March, oppose lessening restrictions on foreign participation in the economy.

The other survey is the topic of my column for today, They’re making a list.

Mr2 - Ub2006-3 Mr On Senatorial Preferences Final
The Pulse Asia survey results has some interesting things.

At present, 19 personalities — mostly from the political opposition — have a statistical chance of winning with the following being declared winners if the May 2007 elections were actually conducted today: (1) former Senator Legarda (52.9%); (2) Senator Panfilo M. Lacson (41.1%); (3) Senator Francis N. Pangilinan (36.6%); (4) Senator Manuel B. Villar, Jr. (31.4%); (5) Taguig-Pateros Representative Alan Peter S. Cayetano (30.5%); (6) former Senator Vicente C. Sotto III (30.3%); (7) Senator Ralph G. Recto (28.7%); (8) Ms. Korina Sanchez (27.0%); (9) Atty. Aquilino Pimentel III (24.8%); (10) former Senator Gregorio B. Honasan (24.1%); (11) San Juan Mayor JV Ejercito-Estrada (22.1%); and (12) Senator Edgardo J. Angara (20.3%).

Given the survey’s margin of error of +/- 3 percentage points, the following individuals also have a statistical chance of winning: (1) Tarlac Representative Benigno C. Aquino III (19.3%); (2) House Minority Floor Leader Francis G. Escudero (19.3%); (3) former Senator John Henry Osmeña (17.8%); (4) Muntinlupa Representative Rozzano Rufino B. Biazon (17.8%); (5) Ilocos Norte Representative Imee R. Marcos (17.6%); (6) Senator Joker P. Arroyo (17.0%); and (7) Senator Luisa P. Estrada (16.9%).

In the punditocracy, Amando Doronila reacts by saying what’s being ordered by the Palace is a suicide charge. Billy Esposo points out why the suicide charge is taking place. Fr. Joaquin Bernas, SJ says the way to bring back sanity to the Charter Change debate, is to pose a plebiscite question next May: does Juan de la Cruz want a Constitutional Convention, or not?

Bong Austero is shocked, shocked! By recent adverts.

Read an interesting white paper on the Thai coup.

The blogosphere buzzed in response to the passing of Max Soliven, most people like Ellygears registering shock at the news. Ruth recounts with an observant -and mordant- eye for detail, how students reacted at the school owned by Soliven’s wife. QueenBee and eLLe knew his family, personally; and he had his fair share of admirers, such as I am your THREAT and sunshine as well as cholo_the_man.

Comelec AKO pays an image-based tribute. Rodel Bañares and Toots Ople pay tribute, too. And catinthehat26 reproduces a snippet from an interview.

The Bunker Chronicles and Daily Musings and Purple Phoenix and An OFW in Hong Kong take a less adulatory look at Soliven’s passing.

History Unfolding observes that the era of large-scale industrial war has passed, and that Americans haven’t come to grips with the fact:

Vietnam was the last major industrial-age war (although the Soviets also gave something similar a go in Afghanistan), and the reaction against it has effectively ended that era, beginning in 1973 with the end of the draft in the United States. (No western nation still has conscription, although China and India do.) Personally I am inclined to regard this, on the whole, as a good thing. The wars of the 1861-1973 period were enormously destructive and their results were often equivocal and disappointing. The Civil War ended slavery, but not white supremacy; the First World War had no good long-term results and led to huge setbacks to European civilization; and even the Second World War spread Communism around much of the globe. The world’s peoples have much less to fear from war today (although Iraq is showing how destructive civil conflict can be), and that, it seems to me, is a good thing. But it means that we must acknowledge our limitations as well.

Tomorrow, on The Explainer on ANC, part 2 on the topic of automating elections. It’s really difficult trying to balance the orientation and even content of a show. There will be viewers like beabear who will like the choices made by the show, and other viewers like CAFFiend, who will detest it. Others, such as Philippine e-Legal Forum and comelec AKO find it provokes thinking further on a topic. All I can say is we’re trying our best and learning through trial and error. MakingAPoint! has a nice definition to bear in mind, though. Needless to say all observations -good, bad, constructive, dismissive- are appreciated.

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Manuel L. Quezon III.

95 thoughts on “The charge of the Palace brigade

  1. mlq3, very interesting post. Your interaction with Somsky yields many insights i need to chew on. For now, the observation that…

    Time and again, the ones who mobilize the masses are neither radicals nor ilustrados, but the principalia.

    …seems about right considering that Cory, Erap and FPJ can be considered part of the ‘Principalia’. It also explains the general poor showing of the Left or those with a radical agenda in elections up to now.

  2. cjv, that observation ties in with some “inconvenient truths” proposed, for example, by glenn may (whose arguments regarding bonifacio somsky doesn’t agree with otherwise), who researched ther katipunan and argued that in the provinces, at least, the katipunan was composed of principalia leaders who then mobilized their tenants, in contrast to the composition of the katipunan in the metropolis.

  3. I’ll be watching, mlq3. but, how do i comment on-line? it doesn’t seem like comments made on the explainer blog reach your program, and i’m hopeless with texting.

  4. So it seems the middle class will still make or break this country. However, the middle chose to be in the sidelines, leaving us with the mess that they have created in the first place.

    But I feel what’s worse is a variation of a joke about three people who went to hell. A Christian, a Jew, and an atheist all went to hell. Each asked the other why they were there, and the atheist answered “This is not hell and I’m not the least bit warm”.

  5. MLQ3,

    Refuting the Left is the central intellectual challenge of our time, because the Communist Insurgency is the single biggest reason the Philippines has not made Democracy and Capitalism work to their full potential. These two things, in my view, are like Diet and Exercise to the Body Politic–democratic elections and free enterprise take a long time to work, but once they do, you get a happy, prosperous, strong thing like America. It can happen here too! But the communist insurgency is like an HIV infection or tuberculosis. Of the Brain. They are not interested in peace. They are interested in Victory. Mental Victory. What they really want is for everyone to agree with them about how gloriously right they are about imperialism, feudalism and the rest of their holier-than-thou cant.

    Theirs, is the invincibility of ideology raised to the level of religious truth. Thus, they are only refutable in the same sense as the Jehovah’s Witnesses can be refuted…by the fact that the neither the End of the World nor Joma’s Great Proletarian Victory has yet transpired. And the stunning similarities.

  6. The communist insurgency will never be solved for the following reasons:

    1. it is a lucrative business for people dealing with black market of arms and weaponry.Create war not peace. See oil prices go up whenever there is tension in the war-torn countries. War is not only the game of rich country.

    2. It is a multi-million “cash cow” because of the “extortion”
    ermmmm revolutionary taxes collected from businessmen.

    3. the high profile LEFTs who “left” the organization are now resting in peace courtesy of assassins. Message?

  7. DJB: I agree with you. My perception is that the insurgency in the Philippines is not interested in peace. But my perception is that their goal is not really victory, but their own status-quo. They are the worst of trapos, and polluters — wanting to remain “big fish in small pond” and damn what happens to the other fish or even to the pond. The adrenalin-rush of being leaders of a small group of armed men, the excitement of very infrequent firefights, and the feeling of accomplishment when their coffers get refreshed after a round of extortion. The reason for their “holier-than-thou” rant is that without it, they, too, are emperors without clothes.
    Like all gangs, the 3-pronged approach is needed. Step-1 is from Martial arts Bruce Lee — strike the head of the snake whenever the opportunity arises. Step-2 is to maintain the health of the pond so that the other fish (which is the majority of the populaiton of the pond) thrives despite the pollution of the insurgency. Step-3 is education/”proper nutrition” so that as pockets of insurgency are closed off, that there are no new infections to arise.
    But the message remains — the leaders of the armed insurgency are among the worst of trapos and polluters who want to keep their “position in the hierarchy of the pond” and, despite their rhetoric, they have llitle little interest in the health of the community.

  8. What they really want is for everyone to agree with them about how gloriously right they are about imperialism, feudalism and the rest of their holier-than-thou cant.

    I dont see the difference then as their opposite numbers also want everyone to agree with them. The debate isnt over. One can’t point to the fall of the Soviet Union and say, See? Because theyll point to Venezuela and also say, See! For the record, I think the Left is wrong, btw.

    (And what in Hades is an “executive” checkup the newspapers are talking about? What exactly do they execute? Or do they mean it’s a checkup for executives? For workers, it’s a proletarian checkup? 😀 )

  9. DJB, the two fastest growing economies right now (Vietnam and China) are run by the Communist Party. In Latin America, a wave of leftists or left of center governments are being voted into power. Before we think of discarding leftist thought, we first have to see what the other countries have done right so we would know which aspects to discard and what to retain.

  10. The doctors pronounced the President as Healthy as the Economy!! Of course these doctors are making a whoppee, especially the specialists at St. Luke Hospitals and the Girths of the First couple are showing as the symbol of the Philippines Economy, very unhealthy. What the country economy needs is a lot of Diet, Exercise and perhaps a little medication, same as the First couple.

  11. cvj: I am leery of the leftist movements of Latin America because they are not mature yet, and hence, the leadership gets elected based on populism and promises made. Leftist movements from Latin America also seem to have an extra-baggage — periodic anarchy and bomb blasts. Vietnam, for some odd reason, also does seem like a good role model for the Philippines.
    So is it colonialism if we look for ideas from the more mature leftist movements of Europe? Their platforms and programs may have more appeal both to the masses (populism mantras) and the middle class (less chaos, even if there may be higher taxes)? I suspect this will grate on you, but also attractive are many of the offerings of the US-of-A Democratic Party (e.g. minimum-wage, universal health care, equality-before-the-law, LGBT rights and government-out-of-the-bedroom, less $$ to war-economy/more to education, insular-trade, environment).

  12. Latin America leftist movements not yet mature — many promises made, a number of promises not kept. [Their leftist leaders, I suspect, will have a bunch of “trapos”, too.
    [and Vietnam—does not seem like a good role model for Philippines. The centerpiece of their recent history is the Vietnam war and North unifying with South, an experience with no similarity for the Philippines.]
    As for China history — “let’s imitate China” may sound like “Mao, now!” or “let’s do the Joma dance” to some while others will say “YES, let’s do Deng!”, so you get 39%-approval rating, at best.

  13. “An interesting tidbit from another official I talked to on the sidelines is that the success rate for rebel returnee programs is a miserable 30%. That means efforts to reintegrate rebels to society and provide them with a livelihood fails 7 out of 10 times.” I am surprised. This is an important part of the rebels’ rehabilitation program. Apart from provoding adequate resources, the government must be able to manage the expectations of the rebels. Hasty promises will come to naught.

    The Malayan Communist Party members fought the Malaysian army for years, often retreating deep into the jungles at the Thai border where they were accorded better sympathy. When they finally laid down their arms, they formed a co-operative with some land planted with rubber trees. They also created a tourist destination using the tunnels they created in the fight with the Malaysian army. There were guided tours, sale of souvenirs and a cafeteria, all manned by their members. They are doing reasonably well, I must say. I am sure there are resources for similar initiatives. The rebels must see meaning in their transition and a good chance to integrate into the mainstream.

  14. UPn Student, if i’m not mistaken, the Leftward turn in Latin America (which has largely driven out the ‘Centrists’) started eight years back with the election of Hugo Chavez. Since then, like dominoes, successive Latin American countries have moved leftward, the latest being Nicaragua with the return of Sandinista Daniel Ortega and Ecuador where the BBC reported today that a leftist economist is poised to win the run-off elections.

    So far, despite your valid concerns about the dangers of populism, none of the Latin American states seems to have gotten into any sort of fiscal trouble that has led to bouts of hyper inflation in the past. President Lula de Silva of Brazil has just recently been reelected to another four year term. In terms of lawlessness and violence, it is the rightist governments of Columbia and Guatemala that seems to be plagued by violence either from rebellions, drug cartels or death squads.

    There seem to be two flavors of left, the moderate type as exemplified by Lula of Brazil and Bachelet of Chile and the ‘hard left’ of Chavez of Venezuela and Morales of Bolivia. I think the reason these batch of leaders have so far not gotten into trouble is that both camps have developed a healthy respect for the market – a sign of maturity.

    We need to study these two flavors of Latin American leftist thought for applicability to our own situation. The nuanced and informed outlook in Latin America is in marked contrast to the debate over here which is stuck in pre-1989 talk of the communist bogey.

    On the other hand, following the example of Vietnam (or China) means implementing a two phase development process:

    Phase One: A revolutionary/nationalist phase (spearheaded by our version of Ho Chi Minh or Mao) where we get rid of the oligarchs (i.e. counter-revolutionaries and reactionaries) as well as US influence followed by,

    Phase Two: A reformist phase (spearheaded by our local ‘Deng’) where market-based reforms are introduced. These reforms should *not* follow the IMF-WB Washington Consensus model.

    From the lessons of Vietnam, China, South Korea and Taiwan – Phase One seems to be a prerequisite to reaping the most out of Phase Two. I don’t think we can have one without the other.

    As to your recommendations to look to USA’s Democrats or Europe’s Left, being neo-liberal by disposition, i’m ok with that as well, although i don’t think these address the development imperatives of the majority.

  15. cvj: I read your words “get rid of the oligarchs” as code-speak for purge. The state of affairs in the Philippines must really horrendous to you with a seeming willingness on your part to throw out the baby with the bath water. My expectation with the purge will not be conducted with surgical precision and mini-vendettas will add to the casualty list.
    I still hang onto that most weird of principles — a right against the tyranny of the majority.

  16. UPn Student, objectively speaking, that’s how things panned out in Vietnam and China -> revolution followed by purge followed by market reform leading to spectacular economic takeoff. It’s clearly a package deal, but those who extol Deng’s reforms frequently ignore the Maoists revolution that made the subsequent reforms possible. Personally, i wouldn’t want us to follow in the footsteps of Vietnam and China’s revolutions as it goes against the principles of democracy and human rights. However, since there seems to be a strong undercurrent of support for some form of dictatorship or some form of ‘managed democracy’ (e.g. by Arroyo supporters as well as the Austero middle) to move the country forward, it then becomes our obligation to point out how to make the most out of this type of coercive political arrangement.

    If we go by the lessons of history, the best use a dictatorship is not the preservation of the oligarchy which seems to be the goal of Arroyo and her reactionary and counter-revolutionary supporters. This would just result in more of the same. The most productive dictatorship would be one aimed against the reactionary and counter-revolutionary forces, one that abolishes inequality. As shown by the example of China and Vietnam, this would pave the way for future economic takeoff brought about by subsequent market-oriented reforms.

    I suppose you are against the ‘tyranny of the majority’ because you rightly believe that you are in the minority. Well, the best way to avoid the tyranny of the majority is to build up social capital by showing empathy and treating the majority with respect. Right now, the middle class’ lack of regard for the voting rights of the poor majority is one clear sign of disrespect. When the wheel finally turns sometime in the future, the middle would no longer have the moral force to counteract any tyranny and it would only have itself to blame.

  17. MLQ3,

    Your show wasn’t replayed in the early morning of Sunday as far as I know. I hope ANC shows info on such changes. There are just times when one needs to catch up.

  18. cvj… I disagree with Filipino-Christians telling atheists what to do on Sundays, or Saudi Arabia banning minority-Christians from displaying their Bibles. I felt it a loss to civilization when the Taliban blew up centuries-old Buddha images carved on an Afghan mountain. I disagree with the “poor” and “poor-symphathizers” being judge/jury on what is the proper amounta person is obliged to give to charitable donations.
    I do not understand your statement about the middle class’ lack of regard for the voting rights of the poor majority. 80% turnout means the class-E group are having their votes counted. Plus, the minority middle-class and the minority minority upper-class agreed to the people’s choice – Erap — as president.

  19. And my perception of Deng-economics is his understanding of human-nature based economics. While Mao’s blindness to communism and collectivization was resulting in famine, Deng believed that the better solution to feeding the people was to use the wisdom of the people (not Mao’s). “It doesn’t matter whether the cat is black or white, as long as it catches mice” was Deng’s quote as he ordered the turnover of collective lands to individual peasants to help relieve the famines of 1959-62 that resulted from Mao’s failed Great Leap Forward that began in 1958.
    Deng Xiaoping’s greatest contribution to modern China came when this veteran revolutionary was well into his 70s. Agains the backdrop of a failed Cultural Revolution in 1978 (after surviving several “re-education” purges), Deng ridiculed the Cultural Revolution slogan that held it was “better to be poor under socialism than rich under capitalism.” Deng offered instead: “Poverty is not socialism” and he encouraged the creation of a market economy (human-nature based economy where some get richer than others) plus capitalist-like enterprises, and by the early 1990s his reforms had helped lift an estimated 170 million peasants out of extreme poverty. Yes, the inequity of some getting way much richer than the majority is a problem (the solution to which is law-enforcement and progressive taxation). Not to be forgotten — it is a legitimate, intellectual and a properly-commendable challenge (to those inclined to dabble in these matters) for a person to aim to join the ranks of the minority-rich. It is a waste and patronizing to tell the young people that opportunities have been closed and that their destiny is to remain poor.
    The goal is not to prevent people from creating wealth; a legitimate (and better) goal is to have as many people as possible be wealthier three years from now compared to their pocketbooks of today. Wealth, like happiness, is not a zero-sum game.

  20. UPn Student, i agree with everything you say in the first paragraph. However, while no one can be compelled to give to charity, the ‘poor’ (and the ‘poor sympathizers’) are well within their rights to support legislation for progressive taxation in the interest of social welfare. Most of the first world countries have such laws and it is hardly considered ‘tyranny of the majority’. It is the same line of reasoning that allows for progressive legislation such as land reform that was fully implemented in the East Asian economic success stories. Whether such redistributive policies are ultimately counterproductive is a separate matter that needs to be considered as well.

    Just to clarify, on the matter of lack for regard for the voting rights of the majority, i was referring to the Presidential election in 2004, where Gloria was proclaimed President, and the subsequent revelations in 2005. In any other civilized society, the President would have had to resign. Over here, all sorts of reasons are given by otherwise decent citizens to preserve the status quo. Since Gloria’s ascension to power in 2001 is a product of a People Power revolt by Civil Society (belonging to the Middle Forces) in the name of good government, the silence of the same EDSA 2 crowd in the face of such a transgression is hypocritical and inexcusable. It is an affront to those who supported FPJ for President and to the principles of democracy in general.

    I also have no disagreement with the comparison you make between Deng and Mao. Deng’s successful pragmatism and Mao’s brutal mistakes because of his dogmatism is, after all, a well known story. I also accept that capitalism is, more often than not, a positive sum game. However, it remains true that Deng’s reforms could not have been accomplished without the original revolution of 1949 as the Chinese warlords would have stood in the way of reform. As it happened, the warlords were driven to Taiwan where they also had to implement their own reforms in order to survive. This effectively means that the Chinese Communist revolution of 1949 has eventually given rise to two economic success stories. By contrast, we Filipinos haven’t gotten rid of our warlords so it’s premature to embark upon Deng-style reforms.

  21. Speaking of Hell, there is one place that is hellish for jews, Christians and atheists alike.

    And that would be the metropolis.

    Since water authorities have seem to have dilly dallied on this problem till it hit us, maybe local authorities should consider desalinating the manila bay or sprinkling Natto into the pasig river so we the Metropolis can have other sources of water.

  22. Fascinating exchange of views, cvj and UPn student. I hope it doesn’t prove me schizophrenic when I find myself agreeing with both of you in each successing post of yours.

    I will say this though: I also believe that the oligarchs need to have their wings clipped for the benefit of the society. It can be done either in a nasty way like what Putin does in his “new Russia” full of bogus trials and forced national takeovers of private companies (oil, media etc.) or in a rational, consensus-seeking way like the land-reform which was done in the early days of newly born Czechoslovakia where aristocracy was limited to certain land holdings and whatever was exceeding the limit went to the government which then further redistributed it.

    It might sound scary to some, but believe me, it worked wonders and Czechoslovakia soon became a success story, eventually a lone island of peaceful democracy in increasingly militarized and mad Europe and later on a prey for Nazis and communists. However, until today, most people consider the golden days of the short-lived Czechoslovak First Republic to be perhaps the best period in the history of our (Czech) state.

    Well, just a little something for the discussion. And thumbs up for MLQ3 and the overgenerous portion of the food for thought he gave us this time. I suggest we keep on returning to some of the points he raised on the topic of the peace process in the RP as well as Prof. Somsky’s views on the Phil. revolutions including the one which is still in the waiting as he suggests.

  23. Fascinating exchange of views, cvj and UPn student. I hope it doesn’t prove me schizophrenic when I find myself agreeing with both of you in each succeeding post of yours.

    I will say this though: I also believe that the oligarchs need to have their wings clipped for the benefit of the society. It can be done either in a nasty way like what Putin does in his “new Russia” full of bogus trials and forced national takeovers of private companies (oil, media etc.) or in a rational, consensus-seeking way like the land-reform which was done in the early days of newly born Czechoslovakia where aristocracy was limited to certain land holdings and whatever was exceeding the limit went to the government which then further redistributed it.

    It might sound scary to some, but believe me, it worked wonders and Czechoslovakia soon became a success story, eventually a lone island of peaceful democracy in increasingly militarized and mad Europe and later on a prey for Nazis and communists. However, until today, most people consider the golden days of the short-lived Czechoslovak First Republic to be perhaps the best period in the history of our (Czech) state.

    Well, just a little something for the discussion. And thumbs up for MLQ3 and the overgenerous portion of the food for thought he gave us this time. I suggest we keep on returning to some of the points he raised on the topic of the peace process in the RP as well as Prof. Somsky’s views on the Phil. revolutions including the one which is still in the waiting as he suggests.

  24. Mlq3, re Regional Representation:
    I had suggested in your “Four points for discussion” thread for the position of regional representatives to act as the hub in the lower house as district representatives are devolved to the city/provincial LGU’s, in effect, removing the redundancy of local legislative work, down-sizing the lower house (trimming the fat), besides addressing the problem of absenteeism (and Congressmen maintaining multiple staff/households/mistresses); representatives of city/provincial councils are called to Congress only as needed :

    “The Legislative Branch ( holding offices at Batasan)
    The Upper House: 24 nationally elected senators. (Batasan)
    The Lower House: 15 Regional Representatives (Batasan), Sectoral Representatives (Batasan), Representatives of provincial councils (LGU’s).

    – Regional Representatives are regionally elected to be the regional representative in the lower house, a regional congressman. (Not more than 24 seats)
    – Sectoral Representatives are nationally elected as party list representatives. One seat per sector: disabled, youth, senior citizens, farmers, fishermen, urban poor, indigenous people, ecology conservation advocate, consumer welfare advocate, health care advocate.( Not more than 12 seats)
    – City/Provincial Legislative Council Representatives- Councilman with the highest vote or elected by city/provincial councilmen from among themselves. (Not more than 150 seats)”.

  25. “You don’t outfight the insurgent. You outgovern him.”

    T. X. Hammes, a retired Marine colonel, is author of “The Sling and the Stone: On War in the 21st Century”

    Weak and corrupt governments are perfect breeding grounds for insurgencies. GMA is the perfect oxygen for it.

  26. mlq3,

    With the very ‘loud and clear’ public repudiation of Cha-cha shown by the surveys, I wonder how a survey on a Snap Election or PI for Snap Elections would turn out?

    Fr. Bernas suggestion for a referendum on Con-con is the more reasonable and responsible way of posing the issue to the people.

    How about a survey: “Do you want Charter change or Snap Elections?”

    For GMA’s health (mental and physical) a new mandate or an ‘early vacation’ must be a valid prescription worth considering by our leaders on all sides.

  27. Yes, Some/many of the Filipino oligarchs need to have their wings clipped, but who will play judge/jury and executioner? I thought cvj actually wrote that he wished for GMA to wield the power, but I don’t think cvj meant it.
    Another possibility is revolution — unleash the mob for three or six months. I suppose mob-action is surgical and the process completes with only fifty unnecessary victims. Or maybe not. And if not the undisciplined mob, maybe a disciplined military following orders from an enlightened colonel or general will do the trick. And then, when all the dirty deeds have been done and the last purge-victim has been dealt with, the heavens open up and balmy winds from the Pacific blow into the metropolis because the God up high has heard the prayers of the majority. The orchestra plays (just like in the movies) as the mob (or the putschists), along with the relatives of the victims of the purge, return to their daily lives.
    ..Don’t get me wrong. I have not yet done the cost-benefit analysis so it is possible that six months of chaos and another six months of “mopping-up” operations plus a year of revenge-“activities” may still be worth it. For the greater good.
    .. But if, for a brief moment, you think like a rich oligarch, what you may expect is the following scenario. Two days BEFORE chaos descends on the Philippines, Danding will be landing in Melbourne where he can tend to his farming interests in Australia as he waits for the scene to play out in the Philippines. And when the action has settled, he’ll unleash money and lawyers to get control again of the properties to which he has ownership papers to. Hacienda Luisita will probably follow the same script as the Cojuancos unleash lawyers and lawsuits to have the ownership matters handled according to the laws of the nation. Easy come (confiscation) easy go, and I expect Torrens titles to be honored.
    The reason that Mao was able to execute what he did in China whre the oligarchs never returned to reclaim their property is because Mao was Dictator for generations after he grabbed control of the government with his Great Revolution.

    I know I am using only one observation — Marcos — but my premise is that Filipinos are lousy at becoming dictator-for-life.

  28. cvj,

    How do a successful revolution achieve revolutionary outcomes, “following the example of Vietnam”? Let me try to count the ways:

    1. Collective leadership based on consensus
    2. Vigorous entrepreneurship (more than 20,000 new enterprises were established just during the first half of 2006)
    3. Tapping the ethnic Chinese (they have taught the communists from the North Chinese capitalism)
    4. Seriously stepping up fight against corruption (they locked up a deputy minister and other top government bureaucrats involved in a high-level scandal)
    5. Growth is driven by robust and diversified manufacturing industries (as a result the gov’t has more to spend for physical and social infrastructures)

    By contrast, here’s the Philippine example:

    1. The trapos are leading the charge through cha-cha miracle dance, while the economic elites conveniently insulate themselves from blame
    2. Domestic investment is the lowest among larger economies in Southeast Asia (where are the market-dominant minority parking their wealth that they have not rented out?)
    3. The ethnic Chinese are content with rentier schema (about half of public debt is owed to them)
    4. Joc joc pussyfooted off easily (and of course Lucio Tan got away from a tax evasion entanglement involving a scandalous sum huge enough to rehabilitate Mindanao)
    5. Growth is driven by the industry (and loneliness) of heroic OFWs.

    In the end, there may be no need for a violent revolution to achieve revolutionary outcomes. A Bayanihan Pact is enough, I guess. This could happen once the Philippine middle class get more restless as they feel more amd more deprived (Somsky’s view or Tocqueville’s?) and the Oligarchs begin to see it coming through People Power manifestations.


    It seemingly doesn’t make sense to blame the Left either. Isn’t the Philippine Left a spent force at this point?

  29. cvj,
    The Left is not a spent force. Though they cannot win, they also cannot lose without a conscious effort by the patient.

    But our general philosophy ought to be that ANY ideology is allowed, left, right or center, unless of course people take themselves so seriously that they decide to back up their ideology with GUNS and proclaim perpetual revolution.

    It’s not specifically about being “Leftist” as much as it is about being violent but hypocritically denying it.

    I would feel exactly the same way if the Jehovah’s Witnesses decided to arm themselves against Christianity and seek the overthrow of the Pope.

  30. Sorry to disturb the debate on the left in the Philippines, but I thought mlq’s description of Dr Somsky’s views on the Philippine revolution worth commenting on.

    It suppose it is natural for a historian from a Soviet background to look for explanations in the structure, rather than the culture, of Philippine society. It’s also fairly common for analysts to argue that their view is “more nuanced” than that currently prevailing. Dr Somsky has come up with three “contending forces”–no doubt in a few years someone else will break down his three categories further to come up with an even more “nuanced” view.

    But where does all this dialectical thinking get us in understanding the Philippine revolution or in the hundred or so years since? Not very far. I think it is much more productive to look at some of the common features of Philippine society in 1898 and today.

    One reason the revolution failed (and that the current opposition to an unpopular president is so ineffectual) is surely the national tendency towards schism rather than concord.

    The Katipuneros might never have prevailed against the American “muscle” but they would have stood a much better chance if they were not continually stabbing each other in the back and breaking into splinter groups. Anyone who has lived and worked in the Philippines and been involved in some sort of political organization here will surely see contemporary parallels. Look at the current opposition coalition, the Black and White movement, One Voice, Laban ng Masa, and so on and on.

    All revolutionary movements are liable to be composed of different groups (the October revolution featured not only the Bolsheviks, but the Mensheviks, the Anarchists, and various other groups), but in successful revolutions contending groups tend to coalesce around one leading faction and to establish some organizational infrastructure (e.g., the Petrograd Soviet). Yet, when one looks for a similar organizing principle in the Philippine revolution, one finds instead the Tejeros convention, a disputed election (another parallel with today), and the alienation and eventual execution of Bonifacio. Once cannot, it seems to me, divorce this development from certain cultural traits that most of us see every day in the workplace and the formal political arena.

    There is a place for structural interpretations like Dr Somsky’s but they tend to get bogged down in debates about whom to include under what category (Aguinaldo and Bonifacio may be relatively easy to classify, but what of Mabini or the del Pilar brothers?) and, in the Philippine context, to ignore the fact that that the number of active players was actually very small. When we situate an individual as part of large “class” (as Marx did), their personal motivations diminish in importance beside the broader sweep of history; reduce the number of members of the group and they become magnified. All the main characters in each of Dr Somsky’s groups no doubt had a range of personal, familial, and ideological imperatives (in addition to their roles as members of the principalia or other socio-economic groups). Which brings us back to the personal jealousies and rivalries that played such an important part in the revolution.

  31. Abe… San Miguel provides an example of money flow. San Miguel is a multinational company with profitable operations in Hongkong, Thailand, Indonesia, Australia. J. Boag & Son, the company’s Australian brewer (bought in 2000 for A$96M), is a leader in the fast-growing premium beer segment with James Boag Premium lager, while Anker Bir is the second largest-selling beer brand in Indonesia. San Miguel paid $97 million for Thai Amarit Brewery Ltd. and $35.5 million for food processor TTC (Vietnam) Co. in 2003. In 2004,it bought 51 percent of Berri Ltd., Australia’s top juicemaker, for $97.9 million. In 2005, the company made its biggest purchase with the takeover of National Foods Ltd., Australia’s largest publicly traded dairy, which it bought for P80.38 billion. That was followed later in the year with its $420-million purchase of Singapore-based Del Monte Pacific Ltd., the world’s largest pineapple canner. San Miguel dividends do get used as additional retirement funds by some individuals.
    By the way, OFW money is good — dinars, dollars and euros, upon landing in the Philippines, generates economic activity as the money gets used to buy consumables and assets. I have not seen statistics on the number of jobs (or enterprises) created by OFW-money.

  32. Bafil, thanks for your input on land reform in Czechoslovakia. Looks like that’s turning out to be a common element across many of the economic success stories. (I agree that this time around, mlq3 has provided us with an overgenerous portion.)

    UPn Student, apologies for the confusion but setting up Arroyo as dictator would be inconsistent the positions i have taken. If we were to map the various combinations of democracy/dictatorship and elitist/populist arrangements, i would rank the following from best to worst (with corresponding role models identified) as follows:

    1. Populist Democracy – the ideal arrangement from a political and economic standpoint. Possible Role Models: India, Brazil, Chile, Venezuela, Bolivia etc.
    2. Populist Dictatorship – good track record for economic take-offs Possible Role Models: China (Phase 1 Mao’s revolution, Phase 2 Deng’s reforms) and Vietnam (Phase 1 Ho Chi Minh, Phase 2 ‘Doi Moi’ Reforms). Negative Role Model: Zimbabwe under Mugabe
    3. Elitist Democracy – where we are now. Other countries: Russia
    4. Elitist Dictatorship – where Gloria and her middle class supporters want to take us. Role Model: Singapore. IMHO, this option sucks.

    Abe, i agree that a revolution does not have to be a given. Personally, i think such a cataclysm would set us back a generation. Unfortunately, only an enlightened elite and middle class can guarantee against this from happening. We don’t have that now.

    DJB, with the current inequalities, i think the potential for a popular armed revolution is there with or without the Communists. It could even happen under an ultra-nationalist ideology and be led by idealistic foot soldiers of the AFP.

    Torn, you have a point. I think one reason why Filipinos shine overseas is that we’re diluted by other nationalities. In that respect, we’re like the Sith. To be fair, the Singaporeans can be as factional and divisive as any Filipino, but they usually fight about work matters and not petty nonsense. In a previous post, i suggested building up history’s number 2’s like Doy Laurel and Sergio Osmena as role models to nurture the bayanihan spirit.

  33. Squeezing the usual suspects won’t yield the anticipated benefits. As it is, the ones who pay their taxes as dutifully as possible are already being squeezed. The BIR and local governments are already taking their pound of flesh. On the other hand, the hard-core tax cheats won’t be as easy to nail down. Or could buy their way out. So it will only be beating a horse that may be halfway dead.

    If the economic pie hardly grows, there will be more and more people fighting over scarcer pieces of the pie. The economy has to grow robustly so that there could be more to be divided. And it has to be guided by policies which have to be implemented rigorously. Poor policy choices have been a hindrance to our development. Protectionism and the creation of monopolies hindered our competitiveness in the past. Failure to develop agriculture kept our rural areas in poverty and created urban sprawl.

    When corruption is added to myopic policy choices, the result becomes even more combustible. Attempts to put up a steel industry were marred by kickbacks and overpricing, making the plan unviable. The laudable project to construct a nuclear plant to save on petrodollars was also marred by severe fraud, costing the country billions and with nothing to show for. Agriculture, mining and tourism were encouraged thru government-backed loans extended to grossly overvalued sugar and coconut mills, mining companies and hotels, making them unfeasible projects from the very beginning.

    To add insult to injury, much of those kickbacks and loans found their way to foreign shores. To havens like Switzerland, Austria, New York, Texas, California, Hawaii, Australia, Hong Kong. And that money isn’t coming back.

    What to do? We can still try to find ways to grow the economy and create policies that will lead us to the path of progress and give a chance to everyone. But as torn points out, we need concord to do that. Social engineering and trying to settle old scores won’t do the trick. It will probably lead only to more chaos and more polarization, without uplifting most of us.

  34. Squeezing the usual suspects won’t yield the anticipated benefits.” – Carl

    Actually, the example of China, Vietnam, South Korea, Taiwan and Czeckoslovakia above show that radical wealth redistribution was part of the formula for economic takeoff and the subsequent trickle-down windfall.

    The pain [for everyone] depends on whether or not this is done willingly.

  35. cvj, I beg to disagree. Radical wealth redistribution per se wasn’t the impetus for economic takeoff in any of those countries. In China and Vietnam, the change towards a more capitalistic outlook has been the catalyst. South Korea and Taiwan built up their industrial strength by sanctioning chaebols who could become big and financially sturdy enough to compete with multinationals. But I certainly agree that the majority of the people have to be economically empowered. It is not only just, it is also logical. Because in order to have an industrial and commercial base, there must be a market that has adequate purchasing power. This can be done by more enlightened policies that level the playing field.

    Nelson Mandela could easily have succumbed to the urge to allow the blacks to pillage the whites in South Africa. But he chose to take a more pragmatic, albeit less radical course. He allowed the white industrialists to continue provided they worked to provide jobs and paid their taxes. The greatness in Mandela is such that he even eulogized PW Botha, the man who once led the government that had Mandela locked up in chains, upon his death. He acknowledged Botha’s contribution to industrializing his country and for contributing to the upliftment of the economy.

    Luiz Inazio Lula da Silva of Brazil is another man who never yielded to his baser instincts. Despite his working class background, the man never sacrificed the goose that lay the golden egg. He has shed the radical politics that once sorrounded him and has presided over an excellent economic period for Brazil.

    On the other hand, people who attempted radical redistribution, like Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe, have only brought famine and extreme poverty to their country. The same for the likes of the Kims of North Korea. Old radicals like Mao Zedong also met the same hapless fate.

  36. Carl, i agree that it is the capitalist element that is the key to high growth, but what distinguishes anemic capitalist economies from the high-growth ones is the element of wealth redistribution, particularly land reform, that preceded it. As i mentioned in a comment previously, Deng’s reforms in China also started with land distribution:

    The big change was eliminating the commune as a political, social and economic structure. Ownership of land reverted to the government, meaning, practically, the local government. The use of the land was contracted out to individuals or families or small groups…

    [Source: Watching China Change, Robert Cosbey]

    The above policy would not have been possible if the land was still in the hands of the oligarchs (or the Church). We also should not discount Mao’s contribution in setting the stage. To cite Cosbey’s book again:

    Under Mao the nation had built up the infrastructure and the economy that made an outpouring of consumer goods finally possible. To cite just one example, China under Mao developed the fertilizers that made agricultural modernization possible…
    We need not repeat Mao’s mistakes (‘Great Leap Forward’, ‘Cultural Revolution’) in the process, but we have to study his part in laying the groundwork for China’s progress.

    For Korea and Taiwan, land reform also preceded industrialization. What Hernando de Soto calls ‘dead capital’ was freed up for investment in industry.

    Of course, execution matters. In Zimbabwe as you describe, land redistribution has plunged the nation close to famine because, in the process, Mugabe destroyed the productive capacity of the farms.

    It’s good that you mentioned Lula of Brazil as the labor union leader is one of those moderate leftists who could be a role model for our own aspiring leaders.

    Your example of South Africa is instructive. Over there, their elite composed of the white minority voluntarily agreed to dismantle apartheid and grant one man one vote to the black majority. The result of the productive partnership between Mandela and de Klerk is the peaceful transition that you describe. Over here, our elites and a segment of the middle class have begrudged the masses their vote and are right now conspiring to permanently stack the deck in favor of the oligarchs. Rather than trying to construct an electoral apartheid for their own benefit, the Filipino elite should be racking their brains to figure out a soft landing, the kind that was successfully pulled off in South Africa.

  37. now i know what you – cvj – means about the middle class disrespecting the class-E and -D segment of the population. A few enough times (on this blog and others) I have seen blame laid on the masa for being fools to pick Estrada or for selling their votes to the trapos and even proposals to disenfranchise them — the poor. [My position is that the poor did not vote like the middle class because the middle class failed in their attempts to have the “enlightened view” understood and embraced by the masa.]
    To be fair, though, I do know a lot of blog-posters to this site believe that to lift the masses (economically) is to lift the middle-class, too. [And then, there are some who want economic progress except for the upper-tier.]
    It takes all kinds and shades of temper to make a nation.

  38. UPn student, i view the proposals to disenfranchise the masa either directly by introducing educational or tax paying qualifications, or indirectly by delegating the vote for the national leadership to the legislators as the height of arrogance, hubris and stupidity. How dare they call themselves enlightened.

    Erap was elected in part because the middle forces opposed him for the wrong reasons. They harped on his inability to speak proper english and his mistresses, rather than on the fact that he was a traditional politician. I still remember the 30 businessmen who announced support for Erap (just because he was the ‘sure thing’) and the banners congratulating him in front of the Chinese-owned houses in Wilson street in Greenhills. These are the people who need to be enlightened.

    Of course, if JDV were really smart, he should have supported a Constitutional amendment for run-off elections back in FVR’s time. That would have been simpler and more doable. Since he came in second in the 1998 elections, given the widespread aversion to Erap, he could very well have won in the run-offs.

  39. When discussions are centered on micro-analyzing the state of countries based largely on their governments and politics, I believe we disregard a major component of the entire equation – the structure and components of their economies.

    The health of a country’s economy I would advance trumps questionable or unacceptable conditions of its government and/or politics. This is why praises are deservedly heaped on still communist countries like Vietnam and China, whose economies are capitalist-leaning, while global apathy is exercised toward North Korea and Cuba, the other holdouts of old-time Communism.

    And I would further advance that all these tumultuous political discussions in the Philippine context would not be as vociferous and contentious if the overall health of its economy could be given a clean bill, particularly in the area of wealth/income distribution.

    Unfortunately, like many troubled economies of the world, the Philippine economy suffers a very grave lopsidedness that needs rectifying. While unacceptably large numbers of the very dominant ethnic population wallow in poverty, a very small market-dominant ethnic minority unconscionably holds much of the economy. Vietnam and Indonesia used to have it. Mugabe of Zimbabwe tried to eradicate it. This definitely is or was the situation in many of the “new” Europe and of course, much of the rest of the African continent.

    Thus, even the universally acceptable democratic ideals cannot stand, much less grow, unless the economy is both stable and healthy. Either the penurious majority violently reacts or the market-dominant minority attempts to shunt aside many of the traces of true democratic ideals to exercise control and protect its interests.

    Mugabe unsuccessfully tried to correct it in formerly prosperous Rhodesia. Slow-growing South Africa is experimenting with the welfare-state program amidst a condition where about a third of its population does not have any means of getting any income.

    Radical wealth distribution? BTW, is this a euphemism for private wealth divestment or confiscation by the government? But what about some kind of effective but benign “affirmative action” programs to level the playing field?

    We may have to aim our spotlight on the Venezuelan “experiment” under Mr. Hugo Chavez, where as reported as high as 80% of its population lives in poverty and “reported” unemployment in double digits.

  40. According to the Center for Economic and Policy Research (CEPR), the number of people in Venezuela living below the poverty line went down to 43.7% in the second half of 2005 an improvement from the 62.09% poverty rate in the 2nd half of 2003.

    [Source: Poverty Rates in Venezuela: Getting the Numbers Right By Mark Weisbrot, Luis Sandoval, and David Rosnick

    The cited article above also highlights the non-cash income component to poverty alleviation which is not reflected in the poverty statistics:

    In Venezuela, since 2003 a series of programs have been established to provide health care for the poor, subsidized food, as well as increased access to education. For example, an estimated 14.5 million people, or 54% percent of the population, now receives free health care through the Barrio Adentro program.14 An estimated 40 to 47 percent of the population (around 10.7 to 12.5 million people) buys subsidized food through the Mercal program, at discounts averaging 41 to 44 percent.

    So far, the Venezuelan ‘experiment’ seems to yield at least some positive outcomes.

  41. cvj, please note that venezuela is a “rich” country with a lot of cash from oil compared to rp which i think imports most of its oil and more than half of the country’s income goes to debt repayment.i wonder what will happen to our health, education, etc. if we are in the same financial situation.well, i hope corruption will not eat up all the extra cash

  42. Is it wealth distribution or asset distribution? You must first create the wealth first before you can re-distribute it. Reminder to the extreme left in the Philippines, you cannot socialize the re-distribution of ‘tuyo.’

    It is very amusing to read people in the papers talk about competitivenes, capitalism and such bizspeaks.

    There was a very good piece on Stock Market 101 done in the Philippine Star just recently in the column PhilEquity Corner by Gimenez. The hard copy of the paper had a breakdown of the list of companies in the PHISIX. It reflects the reality of how capitalist is the Philippines reflected in the value (market valuation) of actual capital assets of the major corporartions in the stock market index.

    The toal market cap of the companies listed are worth less than $20 Billion dollars. (Php800 billion +)That reflects the value of capital assets of the major corporations in the Philippines.

    If the extreme left were to take over there is not much in capital assets built to take over. PLDT has the biggest share of the Index.

    The index shows how narrow and miniscule the core of the Philippine capitalist economy truly is. An economy for the few by a few and of a few. That is the core of an economy that is supposed to make a country of 85 million people reach first world status by the year 2020.

    It took hundreds of years for industrialized economies to develop capitalism. GMA believes that you can legislate it.

    How dumb can Pinoys be?

    Bills Gates shares in his Microsoft is more than twice the value of the PHISIX.

    “It is a leading indicator for the economy — The stock market index is a barometer of investor sentiment on the state of the economy. It usually mirrors the economy six to 12 months ahead.”

  43. tbl… 35 to 40% of Philippine budget (about P350B) goes to debt repayment. Twenty-plus percent of the yearly budget “disappears” into the black hole of graft/corruption. If the national and provincial governments can cut corruption by 20% or 30%, a number of initiatives (faster debt repayment, health/education initiatives, etc) can be funded.

  44. UP, that’s what i was thinking, corruption is the greatest culprit in rp. that’s the reason why from the start, i was advocating the abolition of PORK BARREL/ear marking, the enactment of viable anti dynasty law and strict imposition of term limits. they should start the “line item budget/veto”.

  45. Natural disasters, calamities, etc. take a heavy toll on the natl budget too, year in, year out.

    After money is spent for debt repayment, dispappears into corruption (private pockets and to offshore banks), poured into natural calamities, there’s nothing left.

  46. anti dynasty law ….should not allow any relative to be in any elective position up to second degree consanguinity while someone in their clan is in elective office.

    term limits….anyone can have only up to 3 terms in the same position except the president who is allowed only one 6 year term. Once you finished that three terms, that’s it. That is all you are allowed for the rest of you life.

  47. Btw, here’s excerpts from GMA’s interview (lifted from when she visited Europe in Sept. Actually, what caught my attention is her declaration that the govt has loads and loads of money to spend on infrastructure developments, etc. (think of the millions of jobs infrastructure building will create!) Anyway, Based on what Gloria said herself, RP should be very well off, so what’s all this talk about 26 millions of Filipinos living below poverty level?


    “She also reiterated that measures are being undertaken by the government with regards the streamlining of bureaucratic red tapes which European investors and potential partners have found daunting when doing business with the Philippines.

    “”We have recognized that and is why I have formed a task force headed by Trade and Industry Secretary Peter Favila to cut down red tape and with the very active participation and membership of the Export Development Council and the Phil Chamber of Commerce and Industry,” Mrs Arroyo said.

    “”In fact, we’re going to have a competitiveness summit at the end of this month and there are five areas which will be addressed at the summit,” Mrs Arroyo added.

    “”One is making food plentiful and affordable to the workers so there would be no great pressure in the wages to keep the wages competitive, the other one is to reduce power costs, then the other one is infrastructure which, now we have money to spend on because of our tax reforms, we’ll be able to spend 100 billion pesos a month more from government coffers not to mention our government corporations and private sector interest and local government because they are very dynamic,” the President announced.

    “Arroyo added the fourth is making technology the foundation of the country’s development saying, “We are strong in technology related fields. Fifth is red tape. That is recognized, there is a task force working on it and if and when they meet with me on September 28, I will tell them specifically add the cost and length of time of setting up business in the Philippines.””

    My question: Where is the “100 billion of pesos a month” going?

  48. cvj, land reform per se won’t solve our problems. Just like attempts at asset redistribution. As you point out, land reform failed in Zimbabwe because factors of production were not in place. In our context, we only pay lip service to agricultural production. We have the land, the climate. But we generally don’t have the will to till the land. Most wants to be part of the urban middle class instead of quietly farming in the rural areas. Many only see the rural areas only as a cheap source of food and househelp or for some cash during harvest time. There is no real love for the land. Because of this condescending attitude toward the rural, we never really developed agriculture properly. We don’t have proper farm to market roads in many places (except for those that are close to urbanized areas). We don’t have proper post-harvest facilities. We don’t have credit facilities and farm-gate market mechanisms that will prevent farmers from being cheated by usurers and middlemen. Unless these are in place, farming will never be a viable way of life and farmers will always be exploited. No amount of lip service regarding agrarian reform will help the conditions of our rural people. That is why agrarian reform has been a failure here, too because it has been all talk and nothing has really been done on the ground.

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