Friday, November 30, 2007

Hero Complex

Manong Trillanes, kung ang pakay mo talaga ay isalba ang Pilipinas, hindi ka nasindak ng teargas at putok ng baril. Jusme. Kung gusto mo'ng magpaka-bayani, panindigan mo. Sayang naman ang machong tindig mo. Guwaping ka pa naman. Huwag mong hintayin ang pagdating ng mga tao, kasi kung ikaw lang din ang mamumuno ng "rebolusyon," huwag na lang. Ngayon, kung naglaban ka kahit man lang konti, pwede pa siguro. Pumili ka na kasi. Ano ka ba? Sundalo o Senador? Tagapagligtas ng bayan o mambabatas? Ano ba talaga kuya?!?

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

The Philippines' Low Intensity Democracy

Ha! In my paper on US foreign policy, democratisation and the Middle East, I stumble across this is article published in the Third World Quarterly journal. It was written in 1992 - fifteen years ago, but it could be describing what is happening this very moment.

By serependity (i.e. tadhana) this article is written by the co-author of the first ever book I've ever read on political economy - Barry Gills, and a Filipino scholar activist, Joel Rocamora.

The authors' case study of Argentina, Guatemala, the Philippines and South Korea show that the model of democracy as defined in the West is incompatible with "societies characterised by extreme concentration of wealth in the hands of a tiny elite (Gills & Rocamora 1992: 514)." Here are the defining characteristics of a low intensity democracy:
Low intensity democracy is a fragile political system. On the one hand, the new democratic order widens the space for popular mobilisation and therefore raises the possibility of increased social instability as radical demands threatening the establishment are articulated. On the other hand, the military hovers over the scene...always suspicious of the lessening of social control and the threat to the established interests this entails. The military wields a silent veto over the extent of change permissable under low intensity democracy.

The conservative leaders of the democracies must constantly look over their shoulders to the barrakcs of and the officers' club. Thus, the new democratic order is threatened with destabilisation from both the left and the right...Their leanings are, however, distinctively to the right and to ruling coalitions with the military. The civilian conservative government is usually a willing accomplice to the military. Together, they and the business elite form a hegemonic bloc. The difference between the previous dictatorships and the new 'democratic' regimes lies in the relationship between these three fractions of the elite (Gills & Rocamora 1992: 514).
Oh, and here's the money quote. Remember, this was written fifteen years ago.
Despite what may seem to be major changes, precious little real change occurs under a regime of low intensity democracy. The maxim of the 'enlightened' elite is that 'the more things change, the more they stay the same (Gills & Rocamora 1992: 519).'

Monday, November 19, 2007


Ang Kiukok, Idealist

Tuwinang nalalapit
Sa mga basag at kulang-kulang
Sa mga larawang mabigat,
Marupok ngunit malaman.
Mga multong naghahanap
Ng karamay sa dusa
Nananaghoy nang tahimik
Kay ingay ng pag-iisa.
Maliwanag ang dilim
Kaakit-akit ang timpla
Sa nais lamang magbahagi
Ng kaunting saya.
Bakit kaya kay igting
Ng pakikiramay sa salamin
Sa kung ano ma'ng nais kupkupin
Sa naglalagi sa lalim.
Marunong na mangmang
Mangmang na marunong
Mga basag na kalul'wang
Mas mainam na katuwang.


My notable quote for the day is from a Pakistani Muslim intellectual Egqbal Ahmad on negotiating Islam with Democracy:
“One must make an effort to understand the past, understand it with compassion, sympathy, and criticism. The reason I am stressing that is that many of us Arab and Muslim intellectuals, know more about the West, more about modern history, more about the ideas of the Enlightenment than we do about our own [history and culture]. No significant change occurs unless the new form is congruent with the old. It is only when a transplant is congenial to a soil that it works. Therefore, it is very important to know the transplant as well as the native soil.”
We Filipinos might take some pointers too, in our continuing search for ourselves as well as our place in the world. We must look back to see the future.

Thursday, November 15, 2007


Ang Kiukok, Mother and Son

Nais kong magbalik sa'yong sinapupunan.
Ang kalong mo'y 'di tiyak,
Ang yakap mo'y matamlay.

Kung maglalagi rito sa mundong ibabaw
Magbibilang ng araw
Ang katawan ko'ng nakaratay.

Iniluwal mo'ng bulag at pipi
Sa saliw ng naghihiyawan.
Paanong maglilibot ng palayo
Sa lingap ng 'yong kandungan?

Nais kong magbalik sa'yong sinapupunan
At na'ng sa loob mo ay hanapin
Ang nawawala, ang kulang.

Nais ko'ng imulat
Ang mga matang 'di sanay
At ibuka ang bibig
At magsimulang magsalaysay.

Sukubin mo ako ngayon
At iluwal kinabukasan.
'Pagkat 'di na kayang maglagi
Sa kalong mong mababaw.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

PDI's Leftward March?

Today's thought bubble: I can't help but notice that in the past year, the country's most popular newspaper among broadsheet-reading citizens has become progressively

First, notice the front page - the positioning of issues and even the pictures. The language they use has also become very strong both in the headline banners and in editorials.

Since I have been a long-time reader, I know that Inquirer columnists have been typically critical of any sitting administration, but since GMA...they seem to have lost all sorts of restraint (?).

I have noticed this trend for some time now, and it just makes me wonder, cynic that I am, what has possessed the owners, advertisers and staff of PDI?

Given that it is a corporation, it is still operating on principles of profit-making. Have they noticed that people buy more when the headlines are more "shocking?" The larger the market share, the more businesses will advertise. Since I left the telecoms usually have whole page ads every single day. I assume nothing has changed. So here you have a convergence of media outlets, which by their nature, influence how we communicate and what we think and talk about.

This is not to say that I disprove of what PDI is doing. I worry for the newspaper organisation and its stakeholders. If I were an aspiring dictator, PDI would be my enemy number 1. Which makes me wonder, if the powers that be at PDI are feeling invincible at the moment. Are they perhaps being a bit too cocky? Belligerent event? Do they know something we don't?

Just wondering out loud. *Chin stroke* Yun lang.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Infantilising, Infanticidal World

K is a 25 year-old Canadian. Perversely, his thinning blond hair does not quite match his surfer-toned body nor his penchant for t-shirt, shorts and sneakers. Living two units away, I often see him zip by on his skateboard. My friend M, with whom he lives, says he is never without his "boards." A 25 year-old man trapped in a 15 year-old's body, K is from a well-to-do family. Obviously, otherwise he wouldn't be able to afford schooling in Australia's most expensive university. Endless partying is the the refuge of the carefree. Rid of cares, rid of responsibilities, rid of worry. How infinitely banal life would be for those who have been liberated of need and want. Happiness is elusive, thus the constant need to be entertained.

"Pop culture," as it is sold in rich countries, is awash with the needs, wants and desires of youth. Deferred gratification is non-existent for the emotionally immature, and so children - regardless of age - make the best customers. Start them young and you can feed their infantile fantasies for a lifetime. The rich are so obsessed with youth, they must dress and look the part. Cosmetic surgery is improving as the quirks of demand must be satisfied by quality supply. No age in human history has been so afraid of death and growing old. We are doing criminally unnatural things to stem the natural cycle of life. 12 year olds are used to sell women's fashion. Clad in provocative dress, rouged lips are beacons of the wanton. Living for the moment in a country with an epidemic of pedophilia, the desire for youth equals cannibalising the young.

Youth is a luxury most precious. It should priceless but it is not. What does it cost to be young? To yearn for four o'clock in the afternoon for permission to play outside, safe from the harsh afternoon sun. To dread school chores, to worry about the monggo seeds, to pick which playmates would make the best patintero team. To fashion improvised drums and tambourines and count the treasures of karoling. To eat, sleep, play and agonise over Milo or Ovaltine. What does it cost never to have to worry for your family's livelihood, for your father or mother or siblings? What does it cost to lay safe in bed at night, thinking only of the the coming day to visit the next-door neighbours and their newborn puppies? What does it cost to be child?

Thursday, November 08, 2007

Full of Hope, Not Hopeful

Random ideas floating through the ether:

From Manong Abe Margallo, a comment on Manolo's blog:
After two upheavals, the expectations are greater (such as Leah’s?) that the next exercise of People Power would propel the transitioning into a “new qualitative state.”

The new state may be approximated by answering a few questions such as, off the top of my head, the following:

On the economic front (and this is directed more specifically to the country’s wealth creators): Why are we exporting people - teachers and young mothers like Marilou Ranario - instead of producing competitive goods and services that create value-added? Why has the Philippines been lagging behind its peers in the region or why a war-ravaged Vietnam is poised to overtake America’s first empire, once a regional powerhouse in the 50s and 60s?

On the political sphere: Should the process of building a working democracy be bottom-up or for the most part brought into being by the wise, the learned, the elites by the process of re-entrusting? If our borrowed democracy be redefined, should it continue to be based on some preconceived foreign notion or principally upon our own unique experience? How much power the sovereign people should retain and not delegate until public servants prove their worth?

And ultimately, the fundamental question: How much do we love our country?

So, People Power III should not just arrange to force a sitting president from power, it must “press on” to graduate from the same retrograde state the country is in.

A crucial part of the initial dialogue is the question of representation in governance where various interests should adequately be given a voice. So is the “to do list” during the first 30 – 60 days of regime change.

On the other hand, justice to those who breached the public trust should be swift, predictable yet humane but only after appropriate charges are substantiated by due process of law.

There’s plenty of work to do. Indeed, as the experience of People Power I and II tells us, removing someone from the seat of power could be the easy part.

No, EDSA is not dead. On the contrary, to borrow from Salud Algabre, each EDSA is “a step in the right direction.”
Manong Abe also refers to Randy David's column. I quote here some important ideas:
Realizing its marginal role in Philippine elections, the middle class, the harbinger of modernity, has favored non-electoral modes for effecting transitions -- people power, impeachment, coups, calls for resignation, etc. It is this class that gave the country its two women presidents: Cory Aquino and Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, both of them the beneficiaries of people power.

But people power is caught in a paradox, which limits its potency. Its spontaneous and unorganized character, driven by a strong moralism, is the source of its vitality. It is also its fundamental weakness. Middle class activism seldom leads to anything sustainable, like the formation of mainstream political parties. Even when, to its own surprise, it scores electoral victories, as in the case of Fr. Ed Panlilio’s successful run for governor of Pampanga province, the engagement tends to stop at the polls.

Without a party on which to anchor itself, the middle class espousal of modern governance is quickly drowned out by the pragmatics of political patronage. No wonder, in the end, “trapo” [traditional politicos] like Ms Arroyo and Estrada will always find it easier to deal with one another.

Save Marilou Ranario

Please take a moment of your time to sign the online petition addressed to the Kuwaiti Emir to pardon Marilou Ranario. She has been sentenced to death for the murder of her employer in 2005. Court hearings are currently ongoing and a final decision is expected by January or February next year.

From Bulatlat, some of the abuses Filipinas must suffer to provide for their families back home:
As a domestic worker, Rosebelle used to work from 4 a.m. up to 2 a.m. everyday. She barely had two hours of sleep daily, and had no day off. “Bawal umupo, tuluy-tuloy ang trabaho,” (I was not allowed to even sit down. I had to work continuously.) complained Rosebelle, adding that there was also not enough food to give her overworked body the strength for the whole day. She said she was allowed to eat only at 3 p.m., if there is left-over food. She said she survived on the biscuits that she brought from the Philippines otherwise she could have died of starvation.

In only a year in Kuwait, Angel, not her real name, had four employers.

Though she did not experience being beaten up in her 11 months of working with her first employer did not mean that she was treated any better, she said. Instead of giving her the left-over food, she said, her employer would take them all to their room upstairs. The left-over food would be left to spoil up to the next day, she said regretfully. She was not given any food and was also not allowed to go to the grocery to buy for her personal needs.

She was also prohibited to have a cellular phone. It was a problem for her because she had no means to inform her parents that she had remitted money or about her conditions there.

Because of these, she had an unpleasant relationship with her employer. She was sold to other employers. With her second employer, she was the only one doing the chores in a big house, plus taking care of the five children. Despite the workload, she was not fed at all.

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Protest Against Panggagago

Via Manolo, the Black and White Movement is arranging a mass post-card sending event on Friday, November 9 at the post office. They're also planning simultaneous symbolic gestures in key cities with Diasporic communities.

Again a minor caveat on this movement's slogans, I don't know if they are being self-consciously bourgeois (and thus inclusive) or they're making fun of the apathetic middle class. See, the message behind the postcard below:

Remember I didn't like their slogan "Patalsikin na, now na!" in previous mass actions. But really, this is just piss-poor translation of Lincoln's quotable quote. Sheesh. I humbly propose a better one, without (hopefully) losing the oomph:

Kayo mong linlangin ang lahat ng mga mamamayan sa ilang pagkakataon at ang ilan sa kanila sa lahat ng pagkakataon, ngunit 'di mo kayang gaguhin ang lahat ng mga mamamayan sa lahat ng pagkakataon.


Hehe, thank god the Pinoy Big Briber movement made some modifications to their translation.

Monday, November 05, 2007

Economia by Geoff Davies

Geoff Davies, geophysicist, on reviving the corporate contract:

"Commerce is not possible without an ordered and healthy society. Corporations exist because society created them and allows them to exist. Corporations are intended to facilitate certain kinds of commerce, which are intended to serve the interests of people and society…The social contract between corporations and society needs to be revived and redrawn. Ultimately, society owes corporations nothing, since corporations are creatures of society, created to further the public interest…Wealth is generated by a confluence of knowledge, initiative, effort and money…Yet in our economic system wealth accrues primarily to those who provide money. Those who provide knowledge and effort are regarded as a burden rather than as vital contributors, and paid as little as possible…Thus in our system wealth accrues primarily to owners and senior managers, and the main conduit for their rewards is the corporation (p. 175)."

Sunday, November 04, 2007


...ang aburido. :( Grrrrrrrrrrrrr.