It doesn’t compute (revised)

My column for today is An unnecessary breakdown in distribution. I have been trying to keep up with The Rice Problem ( has a microsite going, too, The Price of Rice). See in particular, Long lines for rice not the first time in RP history.

But (as an unpublished entry for this blog, postponed and repeatedly revised indicates) it’s tough going. Maybe mañana! For now, what puzzles me is that the government, according to some people who formerly served in it, engaged in mapping the poor areas of the country, with food and patronage in mind. Why then, has government been stumbling around since the Rice Problem began?

Right now, as the Inquirer editorial for today, Immediate need puts it, the political pressure’s increasing for wages to be raised, in response to the Rice Problem.

At the sidelines of the conference I attended, people were quite curious about the Philippines and quite surprised to hear such a big percentage of the population was abroad.

“Why?” they would ask.

“Poverty and the absence of social mobilty,” was my short answer, which would then lead to a longer answer (if there was time).

On to something that occured in my absence.

I read with interest in Ambeth Ocampo’s column, that Rizal translated Déclaration des Droits de l’homme et du Citoyen de 1789 (Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen) into Tagalog. This is of course one of the great historical documents of Western (and World) civilization and brings me to a question asked by in frustration in reaction to my recent column, Resistance isn’t futile.

In his entry Because We Can in, cocoy (big mango, a blog I’ve often referred to), speaks of the need for a “New Political Party.”

This is, to my mind, actually the formation of a Reform Constituency, which I’ve discussed at some lengths in my March 4, 2008 entry Dodging concrete demands, (see, in addition, Minimum and maximum from February 20, 2008) to wit:

I believe, in light of the above, the urgent need is for:

1. The middle forces to consolidate and pursue a consensus;

2. And having forged that consensus to consider that while some are more focused on the President, and others on longer-lasting and more wide-spread reforms, the two are not incompatible if their goal is a Reform Constituency that can challenge the Right and the Left not just now, or 2010, but beyond.

(And reference to John Nery’s column, as to the role protest, etc. plays in building this constituency; as well as links to the constituencies other people have identified; see also Randy David’s What Among Ed’s victory means -and it did not mean a grassroots revolt; the danger is it might represent the Last Hurrah of the old elite and middle class of Pampanga).

I mentioned the need for a Reform Constituency in my column, The civic imperative: a reflection (which appeared during Holy Week, oh well) on March 19, 2008:

The challenge proposed in the pastoral letter of Gaudencio Cardinal Rosales is whether citizens can cultivate the kind of civic spirit that keeps up the fight day in and day out, and turns a temporary victory in the streets into a triumph of the public good.

In other words, the cultivation of a Reform Constituency, which helps officials by keeping them on their toes, protects gains achieved for the public good, and offers up prospects of preserving what has been built, but extending and enlarging those gains, as well…

The clarion call of our times, then, unites faith with reason. To rebuild a civic culture. To have a common ground in shared values based on a shared belief in how the system ought to work. Our particular political objectives are secondary to this. It is our generation’s mission.

And as I discussed in a reply to a comment also on March 19, 2008:

those who want the president to go, but do not accomplish it before 2010 -but along the way, make it impossible for her to perpetuate herself in office beyond that, then that is an achievement that makes the vigilance from 2005-2010 worth it. if it results in lakas-kampi being trounced at the polls, better yet, come 2010, or if it results in the beginning of the end for them, politically, and the rise of a reform constituency that may not win in 201[0] but begins to flex its muscles and does even better by 2016, then that’s great, too.

If this requires refighting old battles and re-stating old issues again and again, even if it drives some people up the wall, because some things have to restated until properly internalized, then so be it. One big difference in perspective: in his April 18th, 2008 5:42 pm comment, cocoy speaks of “aging 20th century playbooks,” and if your perspective believes a mere 100 years is, indeed, enough to make ideas obsolete, then of course the frustration will be intense. But a few centuries here or there don’t invalidate ideas, to my mind, just as generations passing serves to underscore certain basics about human behavior -including the behavior of those with power and those challenging power and the way it’s wielded.

But it may be that the battles that need to be fought today -and they need to be fought, sometimes along tried and tested lines but also, recognizing that people change and what worked yesterday won’t work today, I’ve also pointed out often enough why this is happening- make some people think that the Reform Constituency isn’t coming together.

It is, and there are tangible signs.

The most tangible of which is Anti-graft bloc, law schools to catch big fish (this effort goes beyond catching big fishes; it’s also establishing the good will and sense of a common cause that will bear fruit in other projects, too; I’m involved in a sub-project that aims to produce charts and diagrams that will help make sense of evidence as its gathered, and also, help illustrate to school kids and citizens how government institutions and procedures ought to work, and show cases where they haven’t worked, or have been subverted by officials).

The Jester-in-Exile has more about it (well, the launching activity, at least) in The Right to Know - Shall We Exercise It, or Shall Our Blindness be Voluntary? and with videos, too, in Filipino Voices — Speak Up. Be Heard. (Else, remain silent and be damned yourselves thereby.)

Responses to my column include The Marocharim Experiment writing of “hinanakit,” but it’s cocoy who really got people thinking: see The Jester-in-Exile’s Because We Must, and Rom’s (aka smoke) Must we? Which, in turn, led to a riposte by cocoy in Because We Can Change the Dynamics of the Game. cocoy expands his views on a New Political Party in Empower Tomorrow (essential, accompanying reading in this vein is A Comprehensive Proposal for an EDSA Reform (edited) by Writer’s Block). As a side note, perhaps we also differ, deeply, in our attitudes towards parties. By instinct, I oppose the idea of political parties, period, because I believe by their nature parties exist to secure jobs for their members, and you have centuries of human behavior and party histories to prove this. In the Philippines’ case, see my Arab News column, The Same Mistakes Eventually. I am more inclined to Making political parties obsolete and exploring Partyless Democracy as a concept (as some people from India are doing), and tying it all together as much as possible, see Politics is a continuum:

1. Politics is a continuum.

2. Politics is about both issues and personalities.

3. When an government is subjected to a referendum the totality of its actions are what’s being judged.


The differences in opinion, I’d suggest, boils down to whether cocoy’s belief that old methods must simply be scrapped, or whether the reason they exist points to their efficacy and efficaciousness; and whether the priority can be binding the nation’s wounds, on the basis of letting bygones be bygones because a larger, more abstract, problem needs to be attended to. The abstract problem, after all, has a pretty big consensus behind it: that it exists, and that what exists is a political system out of whack because society’s out of whack. Can you nudge it back into shape? There’s the rub. Of course the most extreme view, and a large part of the problem, are those expounded by New Philippine Revolution: that elections are a sham, that no change has taken place; the justification for revolution by insisting there’s no such thing as evolution.

Or we can simply Blame it on the heat.

In other matters,Conrado de Quiros calls attention to Chess prodigy Wesley So, and how we do well in only three sports: boxing, billiards -and boxing. So three cheers for Wesley! Note how Chess is a popular pastime among many Filipinos, even if public attention isn’t paid to that fact. I admire Chess players, particularly since I’m extremely lousy at it.

Why the Pope wears red shoes was quite unsatisfactory. An infinitely better read is Vintage Vestments: The Philosophical Threads Woven Into Papal Garments or From the House of Benedict, Tradition as Chic in The New York Times (2006) and the full summary of the source, The House of Benedict: The Full Summaries (see older entries still, like Camauro Here Often?) from the must-read blog on everything Vatican-related, Whispers in the Loggia.


Manuel L. Quezon III.

129 thoughts on “It doesn’t compute (revised)

  1. yannow, much as we all end up getting each other’s goat here sooner or later, and much as benign0 is particularly adept at getting people’s goats, and much as readers tend to project things on to writers that may surprise the writer, you gotta ask: is benign0 heckling purely for the fun of it?

    i read his book and it seems to me it’s the product of tough love -for the country. everything then should be taken in that context and is therefore, for effect.

  2. mlq3:

    i won’t venture or posture as to speak for anybody else but myself here, but to answer your question re: democracy:

    malcolm x once said in a speech, “democracy is hypocrisy… if democracy means freedom, why aren’t our people free? if democracy means justice, why don’t we have justice? if democracy means equality, why don’t we have equality?” regular elections do not make a democracy. paved roads and more classrooms do not make development.

    we need more than a “definition” right now, sir. i think it behooves us to restore a pride in our country, for all the “faults” in its culture and its people. we need something to look forward to. resistance, to me, is that “something” we need. many of the faults and shortcomings of this nation are caused by the powers-that-be, the powerful and their greed for power.

    we need to give the power back to the so-called “powerless” – that resistance is itself power – and with a powerful and proud people, then surely the philippines can plot its own course for freedom and development.

  3. to marck: why again are you not proud of this country?
    Fallows did report — In 1982, in a survey, 207 grade-school students were asked what nationality they would prefer to be. Exactly ten replied “Filipino.’

    Nowadays, that question has become : “what country would you prefer to be working in?” And because job opportunities — in salary, if not job satisfaction — is overseas, then “not here” is the reply by many.

    I’ve posted elsewhere — it’s the economy!!!! The disdain for Pinas democracy becomes more acute when a Filipino see that their power to vote a congressman or a governor into office somehow does not translate into 85% or higher becoming gainfully employed.

  4. UPn student, instead of formulating it as you have done:

    economic achievement —> love for (or pride in) country

    …what i think the Korean and Indian letter-writers say is that (based on their respective country’s experience) that it should be the other way around..,

    love for (or pride in) country —> [makes possible] economic achievement

    Beyond that, i believe that once started, pride in country and economic achievement are mutually reinforcing virtuous circle (aka positive feedback loop).

    As for the ‘disdain for democracy’, concrete proposals to limit democracy usually come from the elitists Washington Sycip (and Benign0)-types who look down on the masa so they either want to limit its scope of action(in the case of Sycip) or its franchise (in the case of Benign0). I also concede that such talk also comes from those who advocate ‘Transition Councils’ which i believe is elitist in its own way in that it favors a vanguard-party approach.

  5. @ UP n student: I am proud of this country.

    There are some things about this country that I do not agree with, and yes, the economy is one of them. A solid economy is, given your response, the basis of restoring pride to the many Filipinos who have sought – and have probably already seen – greener pastures abroad. There’s a lot going on for this country if we have food on our table, if we have money in our pockets, if we have something to look forward to.

    Which is a shame, since the apparent leader of this country is actually an economist. If the power Constitutionally granted to the people to vote for somebody to represent them does not translate, then the power does not translate.

  6. cvj: benign0 has posted many times his answer to “…what is wrong with Pinas democracy”. And I think buried in Sycip’s response to “what is wrong with Pinas democracy” is that the wrong leaders are getting elected into office, and in particular, the policies and practices of the elected leaders create hindrances to economic activity and jobs generation. I think that from the many responses by the regular person in the street will contain the theme. Marck above says it. Leytenian says it. No matter who gets voted into office – McCoy, Cory, FVR, Erap, GMA, governor-this or mayor-that — that there is abysmal economic opportunity — no gainful employment — for the bottom 30% of the Pinas population.

  7. The greatest historical event that had the most unintended consequence (unless one is a true Christian)was the invention of the steam engine. Some would point out to the Copernican discovery.

    The split between science and religion. Reformation and enlightenment.

    Today once again the digital revoltuion is being compared to that first seminal event in human history – the industrial revolution. Division of labor and specialization.

    The division of labor and the specialization of it is now mobile and flexible.

    Plus today we have the strains of the Bretton Woods System that had collapsed since 1972 and allowed to fester into what could become the mother of all economic downturns. Principally caused by the lack of a neutral international currency.

    James grant a fiancial analyst correctly pointed out recently that the United nations is an oxymoron and all States wish their currencies to be weak. (It serves them well in international trading) Except for the Phjils. which is still stuck in the ways of the gold standard.

    Governments, businesses and the labor force which are essentially economies that fail to recognize and adopt will be obliterated. That is the inevitability of history.

    The comparativwe advantage of the pinoy is that he is flexible but he has no self esteem as he has no history to ground him.

    There is no WE…..

    The two most important documents of the U.S. experiment in the practice of representative government has the word WE…. There was no broad based plebiscite/referendum to decide on the Declaration of Independence and the Constituion. It was the plutocracy that decided on the two documents.

    However they were (not all them) smart enough to know the limits of absolute power and initiated for themselves a system of checks and balances on absolute power and diluting that power amongst the representaives of Congress.

    There would be no tyranny of the majority nor of the minority that would be allowed to stand. That was the basic principle and ideals behind the documents.

    That was their basic theoretical belief. The practice turned out to be problematical but the same abiding principles bound up the union time and time again.

    Today the U.S. is a bi-polar reluctant empire. If it wants to remain number one it has to remain an empire.

    The strains of their unitary imposition of monetary imperialism is now rocking the planet. The perversion of the Keynesian based national financial system has been extended by pure political will and off course their military force onto the world by the forced acceptance by the underdeveloped and emerging economies of the dollar standard. The word’s of former Treasury Secretary of the U.S. John Connally ring out today as never before.

    “The dollar is our currency but it is your problem.”

  8. economic achievement —> love for (or pride in) country

    This makes sense because, it is EASY to be proud when you ACHIEVE.

    But this…

    love for (or pride in) country —> [makes possible] economic achievement

    … is utter nonsense.

    Are you able to form a logical causal chain between the first half of the above statement to the second half of the statement?

    I’m sure given your psychedelic reasoning faculties, you can come up with something on the convoluted side — the same way creationists come up with their quaint theories to backward-engineer a theory of why we are from Scripture.

    But usually it is the simplest and most elegant theory that is closest to the TRUTH, and the first statement fits this criteria.

    Tough luck again!

    – 😀

  9. UPn student, if Sycip’s diagnosis is that ‘the wrong leaders are getting elected into office’, why then does he propose consolidating more power to those same set of leaders? Isn’t that inconsistent?

    As to your reference to ‘abysmal economic opportunity…for the bottom 30% of the Pinas population‘, i believe tht is because, as Ricky Carandang commented (in his own blog) an hour ago:

    …the Philippine economy is a precision machine that extracts value for the fewest number of people.

    That’s as good a characterization of the Philippine economy as i’ve come across.

  10. Are you able to form a logical causal chain between the first half of the above statement to the second half of the statement? – Benign0

    If you refer back to the excerpt to James Fallows’ Damaged Culture that i quoted above (at 5:06 am), he did establish one such a causal chain when he wrote:

    “There is not necessarily a commitment by the upper class to making the Philippines successful as a nation,’ a foreign banker told me. “If things get dicey, they’re off, with their money.’

    If the members of the upper class loved the Philippines and was committed to its success, then they won’t just pull out their money when ‘things get dicey’.

  11. If the members of the upper class loved the Philippines and was committed to its success, then they won’t just pull out their money when ‘things get dicey’. – cvj

    Is that the way you pick up a chick, cvj?

    Go up to her and tell her “hey babe, please love me right now so that you will say yes and not laugh at my dicey face when i ask for your phone number!”.

    You’re a real winner indeed, dude.

    – 😀

  12. I think, Mr. cvj, the best way to win hearts for the long haul is to prove first how stable you are. That takes time and certainly cannot be achieved by “religious edict”. 😀

    Otherwise all you get is a one night stand (which you probably won’t even get if you prove to be quite dicey on the first date).

  13. Benign0, it is clear from the above that when James Fallows wrote about our ‘Damaged Culture‘, he was referring to the kind of fair-weather Filipino mindset that you have been promoting.

  14. “shouldn’t we try to distinguish between democracy as a system, and how one generation’s definition of it can be different from anothers, and how one sector of society’s views of what constitutes it may be different from others? and how the definition that crosses class and generational barriers has to be the simplest, e.g. democracy = regular elections?”

    This is the problem with the democratic question. Who cares what democracy really is. Everyone has his own set of priorities. That’s why Bill of Rights is the only perpetually relevant question. Its definition is eternal, or so we assume, and unlike “democracy” it’s perfectly measurable.

  15. Benigno,

    Don’t skewer the focus with your irrelevant rant. Your erroneus lover analogy was shot down because it was erroneous. Ha, well what if I go to ellen’s blog? I would feel at home there as much as I would here. You feel so superior thus because you post in Manolo’s blog is that it? Why don’t you go there at ellen’s site. Scared, Benigno? I bet you are.


    You say Benigno’s love of country should be taken in context in his by product, his book. No problem there. My goat is that oftentimes his arguments are not logical or irrational and thus open to attack. Kinda hypocritical because he so oftentimes say that he is scientific minded. Not to say he goes overboard with his unfair comments. And lo, he is so proud that he is here in your blog because of the quality of debates here.


    Fyi, the Madonna Decena is the current internet sensation kuno at YouTube — of yet another singing contest — in Britain. I don’t really get all these fuss about Pinoy singers abroad. Heck practically everyone in this country can sing. Charice Pempengo is not even that great in my opinion. Just another kid with over the top vocal chords. Now she’s set to appear in Oprah.

    By the way, Madonna is not even my first name. LOL. And I don’t know anyone personally with a family name of Decena. But I guess there are a lot of Decenas in Albay or Cam Sur. God bless your teacher.

  16. madonna, it’s simple, really. they don’t like the heat, so come here to bitch about the other kitchen. i’m glad people like it here but well, again, de gustibus…

  17. Actually I was kicked out of Ellen’s blog (do a bit of research on her archives c. 2005 to 2006). I’d go back and post there if she and her flock decide that they can handle moi. 😉

  18. Ms Madonna talaga. Still fixated on the love angle?

    I’ll do the Pinoy thing and speculate a bit that there may be some Freudian undercurrents here…

    – 😀

  19. Benigno,

    So na kick-out ka pala kay ellen. It figures.

    Fixated? HAHAHHAHAHA. Twisted mind you’ve got there. LOL! In any case I prefer Jung over Freud thank you.

  20. So na kick-out ka pala kay ellen. It figures – Madonna

    That’s right. It figures talaga.

    What’s your point? Because if you don’t have one, I certainly do. 😉

  21. Kinda hypocritical because he so oftentimes say that he is scientific minded.

    for someone who constantly commit ecological fallacy, is that being scientific? just asking.

    Between the Philippine Government and the Australian Government..

    no argument there benigs. haven’t we been ranting about how inutile our phil govt has been all the time?

    again, happy anzac day benigs. make sure to wave your getrealphilippines flag on friday.

  22. “heck practically everyone in this country can sing.” madonna.

    not quite, madonna. everybody THINKS he/she can sing. no wonder people get killed in karoake bars for singing “my way”. abs-cbn put on shows where actors/actresses try to croak…er, sing and make a fool of themselves. sometimes, politicians too (lol).

    btw, just trying to lighten it up, guys.

  23. Philippines, a failed democracy?

    Not at all. It has been working great for the wealthy congressmen and senators, as wells as for the clannish mayors and governors. You and I can afford an expensive rice.

    It is only seen as a failure by the majority disenfranchised poor who are worried when they can have a subsidized rice on their table.

  24. Mind you, the people running the democratic system, getting the perks of ones position can attest well of benefits democracy has offered. Same is true with middlemen, rice traders including hoarders who are beneficiaries of democratic institutions. The bishops wield tremendous influence in democracy against population control ensuring steady income from surely increasing population.

    The point is, those who think Philippine democracy is a failure has little or no influence on the system. Or, powerless to make any significant change.

  25. The point is, those who think Philippine democracy is a failure has little or no influence on the system. Or, powerless to make any significant change.

    oh boy.. you will hurt a lot of feelings for this statement..

  26. Liam Tinio on, “oh boy.. you will hurt a lot of feelings for this statement..”

    That is nothing compared to what is going on in our country today. More Filipinos are sinking into poverty unless they opt out and seek opportunity abroad.

  27. UP n student..

    sure i am street smart… I agree with employment. But can you share in your own experience and observation, how can our government create employment? If you are running the show… what would be your advice to the current situation. please consider initial investment or financial capital of your plan. Nothing is for free. Please also consider interest rates, Rice inflation and overpopulation. let’s start from here. Who knows… they might be reading.

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