Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Posts of the Decade

The 21st century hasn't been kind to many of us. My blog isn't quite a decade old yet, but since everyone is doing lists for everything, here are my top posts of the decade. These were chosen not because they were particularly well-written but because they stood for the things I've learned.


Maligayang Pasko ...in which I deal with my father's passing.


Of Deaths and Wakes ...in which I deal with a few more deaths.
Puppy Love ...in which I feel sympathy from a non-human being.
I Heart Manila ...in which I unearth good in all the dirt.
Of Postmodern Sex ...in which I give up on cybersex.


Worthless Filipino ...in which I learn all about public finance.
Transitions to Adulthood ...in which I realise my own mortality.
Baptism of Fire ...in which I feel genuine outrage.
Driving While Female ...in which I celebrate womanhood in a naughty way.


Dialektik ...in which I write philosophy in poetry.
In a Wowowee State of Mind ...in which my brows hit the roof at another blogger's condescension.
Communists are dead ...in which I bemoan the lack of some serious scholarship of Marx.
On Bilingualism ...in which I show off my skillful tongue.
Justice Cruz just doesn't know when to quit ...in which I enjoy the first newspaper columnists smackdown of my lifetime.
Social (Cyber)spaces ...in which I come to fully appreciate the power of the world wide web.
Rape, Hypermasculinity and Philippine-American Relations ...in which I write my first gendered politics post.


I love America, I hate America ...in which I fully understand the extent of our Americanisation.
In Manila ...in which I miss Frenetic Manila.
Peeling Boredom ...in which the Philippines transforms into paradise.
The Philippines as Open Pussy Country ...in which I feel for the first time what its like to be the 'Other.'
Excising Cinderella, Maria Clara and Inang Maria ...in which I first realise the import of the femininity of motherland.
Freudian Sleep ...in which I realise I am my parents' daughter.
Putting on the Other's Shoe ...in which I learn empathy is what makes us human...which makes Malu Fernandez bovine.


Our (Post)modern Revolution and the Tyranny of the Apolitical ...in which I call on the blind to see.
In Defense of the Public ...in which I see the importance of public spaces.
Are We Poor Because We're Lazy? ...in which Gramsci mediates between Hegel and Marx.
Deconstructing Celine Lopez' Book Report ...in which I realise Philippine 'elites' are losers.
In Defense of the Truly Talented and the Merit of Merit ...in which I bemoan the state of our culture.
Seduction ...in which I realise my brain was in danger of draining.
Pieces ...in which my body and soul were cleaved apart.
De-Everything ...in which I re-learn the skills needed to survive in Manila.
Meaning ...in which I cope with a student's suicide.
I am Harvey Dent ...in which I don my superhero cape.
The Depoliticisation of the Filipino and the Marketisation of Everything ...in which the postmodern has truly arrived in the Philippines.


The Authenticity of Mar Roxas ...in which I am severely underwhelmed by an otherwise okay politico.
Myth-making in a time of Fragmentation ....in which I realise the power of myths.
Fruits of her Labour ...in which I was I help usher in a cultural revolution.
Order, Politesse ...in which I spit on the well-behaved.
Doomed to Leisure ...in which the soul of Jean Baudrillard inhabits my shell of a body.
Blogging at Pulitika ...in which I fight for the right to speak regardless.
A Hope-full Encounter with Bernard Bernardo ....in which I see hope in the young.
Tendre ...in which I have my heart broken.
Beaten Black and Blue ...in which I witness carnage.
The Yellow-toothed Woman and the Book Blockade ...in which I do not champion books.
Roses and Other things that Wither in the Night ...in which I see the ghosts of Malate.
Castrated by Vacuous Argument for the Sake of Vacuous Argument ...in which the rabid democrat in meet is let loose.
Clarity from the Left ....in which I still bemoan the lack of serious scholarship on Marx.
Unpacking Choice and Reproductive Rights ...in which I learn to hate the clergy.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Avatar's Fantasmagorical, Hegemonic Apologies

In the year 2009, the peoples of the Earth convened in a country called Denmark. Over one hundred world leaders met to save the world's atmosphere from man-made pollutants. Due to much dickering, short-sightedness, pride and old-fashioned greed, the climate summit failed. Peoples of Earth carry on as they have for over a hundred years. They continue to reproduce their ways of living on carbon-based energy.

It is the year 2154 in James Cameron's cinematic tour de force. Human beings have gutted the world for all it's worth and is exploring the universe for resources. A mining company from Earth is on planet Pandora to harvest a 20-million dollar per kilo mineral called 'Unobtainium.' The only catch - the planet has a resistant indigenous population.

Ten minutes into the film, I thought, no American will have written this movie. "Is James Cameron Australian?" I whispered to my friend. "I'm not sure. Or Kiwi," he whispered back. True enough, later I found out Cameron is Canadian. And much of the CG work is done by a Kiwi visual effects studio WETA (of Lord of the Rings fame).

The film is a thinly veiled self-recrimination over America's imperial posturings this past decade. Had an American made the film, he'd have been accused of treason. Had this been 2003 instead of 2009, this film would never have been made! As the corporate suit, played by Giovanni Ribisi, coldly explains, the mining company isn't on Pandora to make nice or to bring enlightenment. They are there for the precious mineral unobtanium. In case the audience don't catch on, Cameron uses the terms 'pre-emptive strike' and 'shock and awe' near the end of the film, evidently alluding to the decision to invade Afghanistan in 2001 and Iraq in 2003.

Avatar is a social artifact of the times, much as the Star Wars trilogy was a product of the Cold War. This time however, Cameron's evil empire is not another country, but greed in the heart of the rich industrial West. The green message is also pretty clear. As my friend says, the humans are plugged-in to machines while the Nabi are quite literally plugged-in to nature.

And because this is the age of the 'glocal' (global + local), the film also reminded me of the uphill battle being waged by the Mangyan in Mindoro against evil Norwegian mining company Intex. The animated version of lead character JakeSully resembled Mangyan leader Kuya P., long braid and all. Like the film, their story has so far ended happily.

The film is over two hours long but one never notices. A visual feast, the film's narrative grabs viewers and never lets go until the very last bombastic end. One almost forgets those are moving pixels 'acting' on the screen. I particularly loved the voice acting of Zoe Saldana. I even shed tears during a moving moment. The only false note was the love scene between the animated characters. I wasn't the only one who snickered. In all, I recommend you see this film. Even if the geo-political (over?)undertones escape you, Avatar is a rip-roaring fantasmagorical extravaganza.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009


When I was in sixth grade, I remember students from UP coming to speak with us on the issue of the Philippine debt. At the time, they said the sum was one trillion pesos. To a twelve year-old, that amount was unimaginable.

This last quarter, Philippine debt hit P4.338 trillion. This is an all-time high. The number is expected to increase next year. Each Filipino owes about P47,000+ to creditors. Each Filipino incurred this debt without so much as a by-your-leave from government. This simply means that the incumbent's choices in economic managers (those charged with budget and finance, banking and fiscal policies, NEDA, government financial institutions) are crucial because they make big decisions with long-term effects and work largely away from the public gaze. We don't get to vet who they are. Their assignations are entirely up to the caprice of the Executive.

See the history of Philippine debt from 1995 here.

Read also:
Third World Financial Crises
Dependency, Debt and the End of Resistance
World and Philippine Debt Figures

Thursday, November 26, 2009

In a Benign0 State of Mind

Cynicism is a function of alienation. When one no longer considers oneself part of a something, when one no longer has or no longer cares to have a stake in a system, then one can afford to be cynical. In the cold embrace of cynicism one is insulated from dashed hopes and impossible expectations. Cynicism is the complete and utter destruction of hope. Viewed this way, it is frightfully easy to see that idealism and cynicism are end points of the same trajectory.

The best idealists make the worst cynics. Pragmatists, those who see the world in shades of gray, probably have plenty more room to accommodate failure, inconsistencies and illogic. Pragmatists order the world by taking the good and the bad to incorporate into her worldview. Idealists aim for the normative – what should be. An exercise of idealism then is ordering the world based on what does not yet exist. It is placing faith in the cusp of what could be, in the glimmer of something in the horizon, in the intangibles. Idealism can often be a fruitless exercise, a constant anticipation, a breathless waiting for signs of what one desires to come in fruition.

I returned to the Philippines a year and a half ago full of hope, my mind filled with notions of right and justice. I had not been gone that long, but I was far away enough to have forgotten what it was like, the chaos and the madness. In my mind’s eye, home was a damsel in distress waiting to be rescued. And there I was, her gallant knight. Not all believe themselves to be heroic. It takes a certain kind of conceit and delusion to believe that what one does matters in the larger scheme of things.

Since my return I made a conscious decision to climb down from my ivory tower. Ensconced in the private spaces we inhabit, we can afford to tune out the undesirable public. What we all possess in our private spaces – our families and friends, work – we have in our immediate control. The public – that jungle of common rules, common values and common spaces - are owned by no one and everyone. Here it isn’t easily discernible who are responsible, where our interests lie, what we have at stake and what we can and cannot control. Because the rules that dictate the public are arbitrary and because enforcement itself is arbitrary, it is easy to feel helpless. In such a system it often seems it is each person for herself.

A year and a half ago, I climbed down my ivory tower, afraid of the ugliness that I would see. Called to duty, the knight errant wanted to come to the rescue anyway. And here I am, a year and a half later. I have not quite earned my battle spurs. All I have are a few scrapes. I have had but a glimpse of what teems underneath our public skin. I am at once amazed and disgusted. This is my country. This is my people. This is me.

With one eye to the horizon, I ask myself these days whether these exercises in fruitlessness truly matters. Or that they work in bringing the normative in fruition. I am but a gnat, cowed by the mountain. Perhaps it is me who needs rescuing.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Republican Skin

This veil of civility
A masquerade
Grand displays of law
Morals in tomes of books
A collection of dust
Borrowed traditions
Alien yearnings
Discordant ambitions
Lay dreams to end
Round, round
Go the wrap, trappings
Of civility intact
Yet a single scratch
The seething morass
Of yet bleeding entrails
A pound of blood
Makes just.

Sunday, October 04, 2009

The Philippines in the Red

This is a map showing areas in Southeast Asia most vulnerable to climate change. The mapping study was commissioned by a Canadian research center and was published last January.

Surprise surprise the whole country is in the red. Click the image to enlarge.

Friday, October 02, 2009

On Volunteerism: A Response to Luis

Ideological blinders lead one to strange conclusions. If we were the rational automatons my ol' pal Luis would have us be, then we would find sense in his call for developers such as himself devoting time instead to doing their work and making more money than volunteering.
Instead of under-utilizing himself at the cost of US$125 per session, the developer should just donate that US$125 to the relief effort. This money can be converted into goods, thus maximizing its benefits. In fact, if the developer is serious about helping, the best thing he can do is to work longer hours at his job every day so he can earn more money to donate to the cause.
In Luis' view, value can only be expressed in monetary terms and all human activity has one such value. From this ideological assumption, he notes that actual volunteering is a waste of value expressed in the income of developers. If we take this assumption and apply to all other things we do, then a whole array of activities will seem value-less if they do not generate monetary income. Individually, what is the use of reading for leisure? Listening to music? Looking at paintings and works of art? Relating to other individuals, what is the use of comforting a friend? A parent? A neighbor?

If he assumes that all human activity must be motivated by some sort of gain, then, that may be true. But "gain" cannot always express itself in monetary value. Sometimes, as he writes, in this follow-up, making human connections, assuaging the feeling of guilt and feeling useful - can be reward enough. For all these - there is no equivalent value expressed in money.

Luis, my friend, I suggest you diversify and stop exclusively reading the disciples of Hayek and Friedman. Start with Keynesians and Neo-Keynesians. I swear, they'll make you feel more human.

Monday, September 28, 2009

People in Charge: A Letter to the Filipino

It is perhaps part of our culture to have blind faith in many things, not least faith in two social forces that most shape our collective lives – god and government. This weekend has clearly demonstrated that our faith can only take us so far. God only helps those who help themselves. And government will only help itself unless pressured to do otherwise. We should perhaps take stock of what burden, what “charge,” we should place where appropriate. We cannot have blind faith that god will provide and succor. We cannot have blind faith that government will govern.

Of force majeure Ondoy, we have no control over. But we need not remain resigned to the caprice of nature and fate. Civilization tells the story of man’s battle to tame nature. All of science is a monument to this undertaking. For each difficulty posed by nature’s tyranny, humankind has dreamed of and fashioned solutions. Why can’t we? Typhoons, harbingers of disaster, come and go like the tide. Yet all these years, all these decades, we succumb blindly to fate. Fatalism is a condition that belongs to olden days. If there is progress, then there is no room for blind acceptance of what becomes of us.

And government – oh government. As we see names and personalities play their roles before us on our TV screens, we ask ourselves where the make-believe ends and where reality begins. The President wades in water in her pink boots while her son searches and rescues booze in a liquor store. Our leaders, ourselves? I despair. Yet perhaps this statement is unfair. Government or no, we have seen stories of people who help themselves. There is heroism in grand scale committed by humble nobodies. There are unknown soldiers who have gone beyond the call of duty. There is that 18 year-old construction worker who has saved thirty lives only to lose his. There is that father who mourns the computer for which he scrimped and saved to gift his son. His house and all he owns buried in mud, he endeavors to go on.

And so, here we are. The people we put in charge, the people to whom we entrust our monies and our fate. There is so much we do not know, so many questions to ask about the nitty-gritty of governing. For now let us ask this question, where did it go, our P5 billion supposedly spent on “flood control projects” last year?

The people we put in charge, bearer of public monies and public trust. Our state of affairs need not perennially begin in helplessness and end in tragedy. In 2010, when we choose people to put in charge, let us have faith in ourselves - that we deserve so much more than we have been given. And if we believe we so deserve a rational, functioning and clean government, then so must we exact.

Volunteer Clean Up!

This is to inform everyone that the Loyola Schools, headed by the Office of Administrative Services (OAS), will go on its first trip tomorrow, 29 September, to help clean-up the houses of those who have been affected by the flood. There will be two volunteer groups, one will proceed to Dela Costa 5 in Montalban and the other in Ateneoville. The groups will meet at Xavier Hall for their expected departure at 8:00 am and to arrive back, hopefully, by 3:00 pm. Should there be anyone who might still be interested to join tomorrow's brigade, please send a text message to Ms. Lucia Chavez of OAS or you may email her at lchavez@ateneo.edu, to be able to include your names.

OAS will be bringing with them some cleaning aides but volunteers are encouraged to bring their own as well. Below are the following things needed:

1. shovel (only if you can)
2. detergent soap
3. scotch brite
4. cleaning brush
5. walis tingting
6. pail (timba) and/or tabo
7. rugs
8. please bring your own food and water to drink

Everyone is advised to wear shorts and slippers or perhaps, boots (bota).

The second round of visit will take place on the following day, 30 September. Volunteers from the faculty members and staff are being encouraged to join the clean-up brigade to be able to help our friends.

An update on tomorrow's trip will be given out before the day ends.

Ateneo Task Force Ondoy

The Ateneo is accepting donations, both in kind or in cash/check. The center
of relief operations is the Ateneo College Covered Courts. Most needed are
ready-to-eat food, canned goods, drinking water, clothes, mats, and blankets.
Those who wish to donate or volunteer for Ateneo Task Force Ondoy are welcome
to go to the College Covered Courts, where they will be directed, assisted,
and briefed.

For cash donations, direct deposits can be made to:
Bank of the Philippine Islands (Loyola-Katipunan Branch)
BPI Peso Checking Account Number: 3081-111-61
BPI Dollar Savings Account Number: 3084-0420-12
Checks may be addressed to Simbahang Lingkod Bayan as well. For GCASH users,
you may send your donations by typing: DONATE__<4-digit>_SLB and
send to 2992.

Operations start at 6AM daily, and deployment to the areas start at 1PM. Volunteers are welcome to help by signing up for three-hour shifts each, starting at 6AM ending at 12AM. For easier monitoring, people are highly encouraged to come at the start of the three-hour intervals. For volunteers, please wear comfortable working clothes. Bring umbrellas, jackets, extra shirts, and water. Please wear blue.

We are also consolidating a list of missing people and evacuation centers around
Metro Manila. Please visit and update http://ateneotaskforceondoy.misa.org.ph.
If you know people who are missing or who are at evacuation centers, please
add their names and contact information at the website. The site is currently
still down, but please check back in an hour or so. We are still finishing
uploading files into the site.

Just today, September 27, we were able to raise Php 83,000 in monetary donations
to aid the relief victims. 3,000 packs of relief goods have also been sent
to Upper Brangka Bliss.

For inquiries, please contact Gio Tingson at 0917/880-7427 or Kacci Morales
at 0927/981-8811.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Pregnant Expectations

Humidity never goes well with smoking. I glance over my shoulder at the other smokers, taking a break from their commute to and from somewhere. I take a quick puff and exhale. The smoke disappears in front of my face. I wonder why I bother, as I inhale the smoke of the passing cars below anyway. The volume on EDSA says it is a busy Saturday.

I take a look at the little girl from whom I bought my cigarette. A pink t-shirt and blue jogging pants. She looks seven or eight, but probably older. She would be inches taller had she been born in a family who didn’t work her on weekends. Her eyes have no business looking so tired early in the day, early in her life. I gave her ten pesos for my reds and a mint candy. I moved over to the smoker’s corner when she said “Ate may sukli.” I shook my head. I see her sister and somebody who looks like their father come over. He, a slight man in a flowery button-down. He gestures to somebody sitting on the steps, a woman in her thirties. So, some families spent their Saturdays this way. Selling cigarettes on MRT station walkways.

My friend of fifteen years lost her baby last year. Spotting she said. All her baby was blood. I look across the table and scan her smooth face. She is pregnant again. Three months. I tell her I think it’s a boy. She laughs and tells me I’m mean for saying so. I know I look ugly, she half-laughs, half-exclaims. I reassure her she looks fine. Our meatball pasta finally arrives, a hot and sour dish of delight. Her eyes brighten and I remember the countless times we have gone over this ritual. So many meatball pastas in the last decade and a half. I hardly ever see her these days. Time is a precious commodity, effort and money more so. She is the same as I remember her when we were fourteen, except more blunt and tougher from pummeling through life.

She tells me she quit work for the baby, a difficult decision. She says she got depressed at work because she couldn’t function as quickly or as well as when she wasn’t pregnant. She says it is literally an emotional rollercoaster ride, weeping madly over certain triggers. I sat wondering what it was like to have a human being form in one’s body. Your body, a lifeline to another. I suspect I won’t understand until it happens to me. My friend is happy but her voice and her eyes tell me she is scared shitless. Reproductive health advocates keep saying pregnancy truly puts a woman’s life at risk – always and each time one foot in the grave. We have a sanitized version of what pregnancy entails. Women were built to make babies, it is but natural. Sperm meets egg cell and mother nature takes care of the rest. I look to my friend and see it is a battle that will not be won until her child draws his first breath outside her womb. And then - parenthood.

Everybody had counseled her not to quit so early – her family, her husband, her workmates. She recounts a phone conversation with a common friend. He told her to quit anyway, it was for the baby. He told her she had to convince herself she did everything possible to make she sure did not lose her baby again. It was a decision only she could make. Her body, her well-being. So she quit. I tell her I thought she made the right choice. This motherhood business, what a wonderful, lonely thing.

Friday, September 18, 2009


We had agreed to break it off, if only to keep our sanity. We scared each other shitless, so that morning we'd decided to scurry back behind the line separating friends from lovers. He pushed all the wrong buttons. I made him think, he made me laugh. Suddenly he had an Asian fetish and suddenly I didn’t think Spanish was so harsh and noisy. But the power of self-preservation is a foolish a thing.

China, what was it about the Chinese banking system? For the better part of the day I couldn’t really concentrate. Holed up in the ‘bat cave,’ the basement of the library, that magical journey the written word makes between page to eye to brain wasn’t working. My deadlines were fast approaching.

He sent me an SMS late in the afternoon. Did I want a beer and dinner he said. I was lonely and missing him, so I texted back yes. That was one of the longest text message my thumb had ever had to type. I’m not hungry, erase, No thanks, erase, I don’t feel like having a beer, erase, Sure, erase, Ok, 10 second pause, 20, 30. Was it 5 minutes that went by before I hit the send button? All the while, in my head, the night before was on replay.

He came for me in the library, looking disheveled as always. He didn’t like to iron his clothes. He didn’t like to fix anything really. The genius rebel who topped his country’s high school college aptitude exam but could not be bothered to crack open a book. I hated him so much for being brilliant without trying. For not giving a shit about grades. For initially being dismissed for his height, then commanding the attention of a crowd of ten for the smarts and the funny. I hated him.

He was already a little drunk. He proudly announced having downed four bottles on Prof. Murray’s tab. Man, why did I miss that one class where he treated his students to alcohol?

He said to go to the bottle shop at Market Square for the booze and maybe take-out dinner at the fish place. He didn’t ask what I wanted. A man’s decisiveness, to me, was unfamiliar territory. Growing up, it was men who took instructions from women, not the other way around. How dared he not ask, I thought. And secretly thrilled to it.

The trek to Market Square was quick and woozy. Those short legs maneuvered the asphalt and grass as easily as mine. We made small talk about Murray’s class. I was worried he idolized him too much, the xenophobic, homophobic, woman-hating prick. But he was a cool and hip teacher. Even if I didn’t agree with his politics, I could see why girls positively vibrated around him. And, too, I could see why my would-be misogynist thought Murray was ‘the best.’

We split a pack of six Pure Blondes. I’d never liked beer ‘til I got to Australia. If the national pastime was drinking, then it made sense all sorts of alcohol would be great. We sat near the ‘lake’, an off-shoot of the waterways dotting the small city. Between the walk from the library to buying food and booze, it had gotten dark. The lights from the apartment across twinkled on the water. It was all the light we had, the nearest lamppost was busted. On the grass we sat, opened the twist cap of our beers and ate quickly.

He was spoiling for an argument over climate change. Mankind was a virus he said over and over. The misanthropy made sense because he’d spent two years as a volunteer ranger in the Amazon. I’d called him Mowgli for his distaste of civilization and his constant yearning to be out in the wilderness. He’d make a terrific, credible greenie, I thought. But there was nothing for us to argue about as I shared his opinion on the matter.
On my second bottle and on his sixth, he said for me to lay my head on his lap to look up at the stars. Unthinking, a little tipsy, I did has he asked. Imagine the skies covered with smog you can no longer see that, he marveled. He was talking with his hands, gesturing up at the constellations. Then he was palming my right breast. I gasped, but said nothing. He squeezed and kept talking about climate politics and the on-going conference in Bali in a hushed, unhurried voice. I wondered why his words didn’t slur. Drunk, he only got more insistent, his voice more passionate. I said nothing.

When he noticed I was quiet he looked down at me. In the darkness I couldn’t quite make out his features, but the stars twinkled behind his head. In the silence, his hand snaked into my blouse. What are you doing, I said. “We agreed to stay friends but a few hours ago,” didn’t come out as indignantly as I’d wanted. He said not a thing and kept stroking. “People will see!” But there was nobody near the lake. The nearest building was twenty meters uphill and there were people inside.

“Let’s go back to your place,” he said. He never asked. Oh, the thrill of capitulation. Like children, our trek back to my house was quick and exhilarating. Both housemates weren’t in. Conspiracy of fate. My rational self was performing somersaults getting my attention. It was holding a one-person picket in my head, damning me for looking over the cliff about to jump. Yet I kept walking.

He put on his earphones and started humming a song in Spanish. Something about the devil. Bemused, I listened to his voice grow louder as we neared my house. What is that, I said. He gave me one of the earphones and rock music blared into my eardrums. A song about the devil, he said. I wanted to wipe off the smug look in his eyes. I hated him so.

The house came into view. It was dark, as were the neighbors’. Gloom never looked so enticing. “Are you sure about this?” I said. “Why, aren’t you?” he fired back. I bet him I could hold off when he couldn’t. He muttered a Spanish expletive and said he bet he could too. Oh yeah? Yeah. “Ok let’s turn back right now,” I dared. Fine. I motioned to walk back. One, two, three steps was all I managed when he pulled my arm so hard I whipped around.

Up the hill we walked, me taunting and laughing at him. He promised to make me suffer. I did.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

The Will of the Frailes vs. the Will of the People

Now that Speaker Nograles has signaled a call for a debate and a vote, the CBCP has called on its legion of rabid fanatics to punish members of Congress who are supportive of the Reproductive Health Bill. This is to be expected of course, given that our sainted frailes have closed their eyes and ears to the plight of the common tao.

What I do not understand is why they are singling out Noynoy Aquino for having co-authored the Senate version of the RH bill. The CBCP is playing favorites. To be consistent, they should also call on the unthinking faithful to pillory ALL candidates seeking public office. Let me be of assistance to our esteemed frailes and list down these condom-loving sinners.

Sec. Gilbert Teodoro has expressed his support of "freedom of choice" in this Radio Veritas interview last May:
Well ako po ay for freedom of choice informed freedom of choice ng mga tao. Ako personally ay meron akong paniniwala that I am for freedom of choice na yan ay sang-ayon sa ating Saligang Batas na my freedom of thought ang freedom of religious na Religious Freedom na tinatawag.
In this article that came out in Malaya last July, former Health Secretary and staunch RH advocate Alberto Romualdo also lists Sec. Teodoro as among the decisive supporters of the RH bill. This same news article is on Sec. Teodoro's website. His wife, Rep. Monica Prieto-Teodoro is also a co-author of the bill.

The same article names Senators Manny Villar, Mar Roxas and Chiz Escudero as 'neutrals' because they have not given unequivocal support nor have they expressed rejection of the bill. Perhaps they are afraid of the consequences of standing up to the frailes? Sen. Escudero is a particular disappointment because his father Rep. Salvador Escudero is co-author of the HB5043. And so is Sen. Villar since his wife Rep. Cynthia Villar is a co-author and vocal RH advocate.

Vice-president Noli de Castro has been mum on RH, as he has been on anything else really.

In the Countdown 2010 Presidentiables Forum held recently, Mayor Jejomar Binay and ex-President Joseph Estrada both categorically expressed support for the bill.

Sen. Loren Legarda is co-author of the senate version of the bill.

The panel debates should have started today but has been postponed til Tuesday next week. As has been the trend the past few weeks, the House adjourned early for lack of quorum. Forgive me then for coming to the conclusion that the postponement could not have been because our hard-working members of the lower house are up to their ears drowning in work. So what is the cause of delay? To give the CBCP 5 more days to pummel Noynoy on this issue?

I think Sen. Benigno Aquino III should be awarded laurels for remaining steadfast to his commitment to women and to the Filipino family. He has been a long-time advocate of RH, even when he was in the lower house. Unlike his mother, he owes no debt to La Iglesia Katolika and her sainted clergy. Balls you say? Step out of his parents' shadow you say? Be his own man you say?

9 out of 10 Filipinos support the RH bill. I am calling on all members of Congress to heed the will of the people.

And to our religious hierarchy - a shame. You would doom your flock to Bayani Fernando, the only presidentiable who blindly follows your call.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

The CBCP Threaten Noynoy on RH

Cardinal Vidal threatens to wage war on Noynoy's campaign based on his RH support. In that case, they should wage war on pretty much all the presidentiables. Really, what douchebags are our church leaders? I'll write a proper blog post once I've calmed down some. I'm just mighty pissed off right today.

From the Bandila newscast last night.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Sparkast 3: "Corruption and Poverty: Barking Up the Wrong Tree?"

This podcast has me reading some salient points from Walden Bello's 2009 edition of The Anti-Development State: The Political Economy of Permanent Crisis in the Philippines.

From Chapter Seven entitled Corruption and Poverty: Barking Up the Wrong Tree?:
Corruption discourse becomes very handy for elite factions wishing to discredit the ruling faction and to present themselves as the alternative. Implicit in this discourse is that all will be well if only the voters remove those who are corrupt and replace them with other elite factions. All that is needed is a replacement of personnel, not the arrangement in place.

If anything, the prevalence of the corruption discourse, or what one author calls "scandal politics" only serves to underscore the deliberate shutting off from public discourse discussions on any other real political and economic alternatives. The ease by which politicians rattle off corruption charge against their enemies only highlights the lack of any real meaningful difference among political and economic programs of the competing parties and personalities.

The more convincing explanation for the country's poverty and underdevelopment lies more with the ruling elite factions' control over people, production, markets and resources and the successful subordination of the state to their interests. The country has failed to develop and so many of its people are mired in poverty because the state, strangled as it is by competing factions' demands, has been rendered too powerless to even chart the country's direction, mcuh less subordinate ruling elites under its control.
The podcast is 30 minutes long. Download here. Listen to the stream here.

Is it Good vs. Evil?

I am squeamish any time somebody brings up "good" versus "evil" in politics because in this context, the Church pretty much has a monopoly on ascribing what either one is. In the classic binary of black-white, devil-satan, there is little acknowledgment of the gray in between. Randy David rightly cautions Noynoy Aquino's camp from overtly framing his candidacy along these lines:
For, such moralistic formulations preempt and disparage the need for a careful and reasoned analysis of the problems that confront us as a nation. They tend to focus on the character of the doer than on the origins and consequences of the deed. They ride on unexamined moral prejudices, and simplify the search for political solutions into a quest for heroes. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo may be the most despised president in the nation’s history, but instead of ascribing to her sole authorship of everything that is bad in our government, I find it more arguable to think of her as a reflection of our society’s basic problems, or the street-smart personification of a dysfunctional social order.
Perhaps because I have seen what 'evil' professional purveyors of morality can and do perpetrate up close, I share David's opinion. The Church has called pro-Reproductive Health advocates 'evil.' There is no reasoning with anyone who thumps the bible and calls on God as final arbiter on affairs of humankind. There is no room for debate and no room to unpack and balance ideas on what it means to be a mother and what a woman's rights are vis-à-vis her husband, her family and the State.

There is no question that the Church played a significant party in the first People Power. Then, they also framed the Marcos regime as the evil empire to be toppled. Here, let me say I understand where Conrado de Quiros is coming from when he says the battle is that between good and evil:
The people who criticize Good and Evil presume completely unsophisticatedly and plain ignorantly that we think only with our conscious abstract mind, not with our unconscious image-making mind. They’re so busy looking at logistics, figures, organizational charts, they cannot appreciate the power of myth, symbol and archetype. Or the power of the storyline the ad agencies of the “presidentiables” are so desperate to find and mine for their candidates. The phrase “Good vs Evil” is merely a symbolic, mythical, archetypal, shorthand for a situation where the choice has become so stark, so life-and-death, it cannot be captured by trite and sullen articulations.
It was linguist George Lakoff who said our brains are structured to process information and to find meaning in metaphors. The human mind organizes thought by creating categories. For political purposes, Lakoff, a democrat, has written literature on how Republicans have successfully used language to frame many policy issues. It is understandable, then, that De Quiros is hammering the Good versus Evil frame. On the surface, this is a metaphor that has rung true among homo sapiens since they started walking upright. We categorize things as 'bad' or 'evil' if they harm us and 'good' if they don't. In discerning the difference, we act accordingly.

Let me suggest then that David and De Quiros' seemingly opposing views need not be irreconcilable. For the purposes of elections in these extraordinary times - the good versus evil frame will be useful. But for the purposes of governance, the day-to-day nitty-gritty of running a country, we might want to heed David's appeal to careful reasoning.

And since history has shown we have no problem fighting the battle of Good verus Evil, then we might want to shore up our collective capacities to fight the more protracted battle of figuring out how we can function as a just and prosperous nation.

Wednesday, September 02, 2009

Mikey Arroyo BBQ

Winnie Monsod skewers Mikey Arroyo on his US properties.

For the latest Philippine news stories and videos, visit GMANews.TV

In case GMANews takes down their video clip, here is the same interview on Youtube.

Oh...I love this. Thanks E.P.!!

Tuesday, September 01, 2009

Imagining a President, Making a President

The thought has been percolating in this writer’s mind since that first column by Conrado de Quiros on Noynoy. For the past three weeks we saw how the idea has simmered, and today has culminated in an announcement by Sen. Mar Roxas that he is giving way to Cory and Ninoy’s only son.

Skepticism has come from all quarters. They question Sen. Aquino’s competence and record as a public servant. They question the unsavory elements of his heritage, that of being a descendant to the land-owning Cojuangcos. But De Quiros makes a convincing argument. Noynoy has no ambition to be President – and that is what separates him from aspirants yipping at Gloria Arroyo’s heel. Like his mother in 1986, he has no greed for power. He perches on the shoulders of giants. This alone, De Quiros asserts, would make it difficult for the son to dishonor the heroic memory of his mother and father.

Because all through his career he has not been the media whore his little sister Kris is, we know very little of the man. His legislative record isn’t impressive, but it doesn’t count for nothing either. Those who have rallied behind Noynoy these past few weeks saw a glimpse of grace under pressure, maybe a hint of a quiet kind of spine, in his time of bereavement. And character matters as much as qualifications, if not more. Gloria Arroyo’s experience is impressive – and look where that got her. Look where she has dragged all of us.

The idea that tantalizes is Noynoy’s blank slate. And on this blank canvas, we the people are free to write the narrative. On Noynoy we can inscribe our dreams as a nation. On Noynoy we can ascribe our will to heroism. Noynoy is an idea whose time has come. Like his mother and father, he must find it in bones to answer this call to duty. And like the generation who first wielded People Power, we must find it in ourselves to answer ours.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Pass the RH Bill Now!

The window is getting narrower and we have until October to have the bill passed before Congress adjourns.

In this TV spot are:

Dr. Junice Melgar of Likhaan
Former Pres. Fidel V. Ramos
Beth Angsioco of the Reproductive Health Network
Alberto Romualdez, Former Health Secretary
Dr. Grace Cruz, UP Population Institute
Lea Salonga-Chien, Artist
Amina Rasul, Muslim Women Leader
Dr. Jondi Flavier, C-Men
Ben de Leon, Forum
Katwo Puertollano, Artist
Carlos Celdran, Blogger/Artist
Tado, TV/Radio Personality
Cesar Virata, former PM
Bishop Rodrigo Tano, Interfaith Partnership for Responsible Parenthood & Family

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Out of Date

The prince says
His mother's dignity rests
On dining at our expense
I say, neither position
Nor birth confer
Dignity, its dearth
Rather lies
In simple transgressions
Committed nonetheless
In such grand scale.

The poodles say
There are things
More important
Than dinner tabs or jet planes
I say, what is ever more
Important than querying
The whereabouts of an hour's worth
Of my labor, I proffer
To state coffers?

In days of old, dignity roots
From position
In society
Here today, dignity roots
From possession
Of self-worth, in merit
And hard work.

Out of date, these leaders
Need be led.

Monday, August 17, 2009

You Troublesome Middle Classes

Bad behavior inspires bad poetry. What can I say?

Oh you troublesome middle classes
Why must you always raise hell
Over every little thing?
Know your place, like the masses
Here it is, the order of things
When the boom comes a-swingin'
They know to duck and huddle
Waddle, roll over and play for dead
It is wisdom to know ahead
The rulemaker will not sway.

Oh you troublesome middle classes
Why must you constantly put up a fight?
With your quaint little ideals
And other inedible quibbles
Like justice and freedom and ethics
What useless calisthenics
Of words and ideas, they hold no sway
Over the real dynamics of powerplay

But then all you really have
Are words and a voice
When the true powerful and rich
Play with their currency of choice
So go ahead, raise a ruckus
Over every perceived slight
Because, in the end
The only language understood
Is might

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Mental Health Break: Pussy Love

Tinay likes to get drunk on strange things. My shoe...


and little sis Molly!

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Honor, Shame

Along with the quaint idea of delicadeza, this country is now in dangerously short supply of honor and shame. Palace apologists are turning the tables on the media, with GMA lawyer Romulo Macalintal claiming the media is just as immoral as his boss.

What the fucking hell is going on? In a nutshell Macalintal is arguing - yeah, well everybody's morally bankrupt anyway, so sod off?

On Filipino Voices some people are also arguing, "well, its not taxpayers' money, so what's the big deal?"

First, whatever these public officials do once they finish their terms is their business. As private citizens they can do whatever the hell they want with their money. But President Arroyo is the highest (elected?) official in the land. She is the supreme holder of public trust. We also take in context the many, many allegations of corruption that has plagued her administration. And lately, there's the PCIJ report on the Arroyos spectacular amassing of wealth.

And here you tell me, there's nothing wrong with GMA spending almost 2 million pesos on 2 meals that we know of?!?!?

I repeat, what in the fucking hell is going on?!?!?!?! Is this some alternate universe where up is down and left is right? Excuse me while I vomit, I'm losing my bearings here. Before we completely lose sight of what is right and wrong, let me cite recent instances of normal reactions to allegations of wrongdoing.

In other countries the slightest hint of malfeasance has top officials on explanation mode. Let me cite Benign0's Prime Minister Kevin Rudd's car-dealership imbroglio. Rudd even goes so far as to guest in a popular talk show to air his side.

In South Korea, former President Roh Moo-Hyun committed suicide when his good name was sullied with corruption allegations.

And here our Speaker Nograles is telling us to move on, Rep. Romualdez who reportedly paid the bill is avoiding reporters and the President is essentially telling us to "Fuck Off"?????

Moderate the Feed

Upon learning of yet another thousand-dollar meal, my friend was so pissed off last night he made this:

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Cerge Remonde's Circus Tale

Cerge Remonde can't seem to keep his story straight on the details of President Arroyo's New Yawk dinnah. Others who have spoken up to ostensibly aid the press secretary are in fact giving information that do not coincide with his narrative.

On August 7, Saturday Remonde confirmed the dinner did in fact take place. He said it was Rep. Romualdez who paid for dinner and denied knowing how much it cost.
It was Congressman Martin Romualdez who invited the First Couple to dinner at Le Cirque in New York. As to how much the dinner costs, Malacañang does not know as it was the host who chose the menu and picked up the tab...
On August 9, he said the amount was exaggerated and said there were 15 to 20 people in their retinue. He also downplayed the "ritziness" of Le Cirque. I guess he forgot the a few clicks on the internet would disprove his claim. The dinner was not only "simple", it also lasted for "one hour." Exhibiting ignorance over who broke the news, Remonde conveniently pins the blame on the "communist front" Bayan "which has never ceased in its agitation propaganda against the government."

Sen. Miriam Santiago, who was with the Philippine delegation, was quick to say she did not join the Le Cirque diners. She even reproached the Palace:
Ang payo ko lang sa kanila ay huwag nang pagtakpan at sabihin ang totoo at mangako na hindi na uulitin. It was a mistake in judgment...
Sen. Santiago also said Sen. Lapid, who was one of the diners, did not enjoy the meal. [ETA 8:07 @popisunga on twitter also pointed out that Lapid saying "
Sabi niya, grabe naman itong restaurant na eto, katagal tagal dumating ng order" contradicts Remonde's claim that the whole shebang was over in an hour.]

On the same day, another Le Cirque diner Rep. Suarez also says it was Rep. Romualdez who paid for the bill at the invitation of the latter's brother who is an architect based in New York. But his story recounts 50 diners instead of the original 15-20.
We were more than 50 in our group, the President’s security and the secret service joined us.
Today, Rep. Romualdez' staff Nick Esmale denies it was the congressman who made the payment, but his architect brother.

In the past few days the story has changed but one thing has not been denied by the Romualdez camp, the amount of $20,000.

Maybe tomrrow will yield new information...abangan!

ETA 8/11:

The day isn't yet over and we already have new tidbits. Rep. Villarosa of last-minute-call-to-Speaker-Noggie-to-halt-transmission-of-the-Magna-Carta-for-Women fame said they also ate at Wolfgang Steakhouse and Rep. Mandanas recounts eating at Bouley's.

ETA 8/12:

As she trail-blazed through les États-Unis, GMA left thousand-dollar meals in her wake...and here they come a-haunting. The Washington Post reports GMA's retinue had a $15,000 meal at Bobby Van's Steakhouse. Hat tip to Manolo for breaking the news.
The group took over one of the restaurant's private rooms and dined on lobster, steak and fine wines; at the conclusion of the meal, an unidentified woman opened a handbag stuffed with cash, counted out bills and paid the $15,000 tab -- which included a generous tip. The Philippine Embassy did not return calls for comment Tuesday.
The NY Post does a follow-up, also reporting this other meal.

The wonders of globalization. Hayluveeeet.

To Get Rich is Gloria-ous!

The PCIJ reports Gloria Arroyo's wealth increased by the 2,000 percent in her incumbency from Senator in 1992 to President.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Pièce de Résistance

I laud Press Secretary Remonde for his keen powers of observation and commendable leaps of logic to explain to us, the hapless public, the ominous plot behind the news of President Arroyo's million-peso dinner.

In an elaborate scheme to sow the seeds of destruction of this country's democratic institutions, the communist front Bayan Muna has unleashed the world-renowned, and perhaps the most popular Filipino blogger, Bryanboy to sow black propaganda against the well-loved President of the Philippines.

In a seemingly harmless tweet at 8:04 am on August 7, Bryanboy reports: "from my friend in NYC: President Macapagal-Arroyo's dinner at Le Cirque here in NY cost the taxpayers of the Philippines $15,000 !!!

The New York Post would later report a bigger figure at $20,000. Profuse denials of using taxpayer money quickly ensued, with Rep. Romualdez reportedly picking up the tab.

And just like that, news of this million-Peso New York meal spread like wildfire in the blogosphere, eventually picked up by the mainstream media.

Press Secretary Cerge Remonde is right on the money when he said this report “is the fruit of a poisonous tree, coming as it does from Bayan, which is a communist front organization dedicated to the overthrow of democratic governments in the Philippines...(It) will never cease spreading agitation propaganda against the administration of President Arroyo or any administration for that matter for as long as that administration is not headed by a communist president."

This elaborate, transnational conspiracy to destroy the Arroyo government spans the globe and intersects the worlds of the local, authentic revolutionaries, the cheeky tabloid New York press and the glamorous, gliterring espace de la haute couture mondiale.

Be vigilant, people. Be alert. Be afraid.

Sunday, August 09, 2009

The Return of Delicadeza

Such a quaint word, delicadeza. In Spanish it can mean many things – ‘delicacy’, ‘kindness’, ‘tact.’ There doesn’t seem to be an equivalent in Filipino or English, but the word evokes a sense of propriety (what is proper and improper) as the situation calls for. The word implies a care for what others think and the accordant behavior this requires from us.

When one does not exhibit delicadeza then one does not care what others think and will behave despite what has been deemed ‘improper.’ Delicadeza, in this sense, can be seen to underline a sense of community - a device to identify what is indelicate, unkind or tactless – things that are harmful to societal harmony.

Digging deeper, why is there need for delicadeza? And why does the community, offended at improprieties, call for it? A harmonious society implies freedom from strife. This, in turn, implies a just community - where a person, ensconced in the networks of family, workplace and the public sphere – is treated and treats others fairly. Otherwise there is injustice, there is disharmony, there is no delicadeza.

These days hardly anyone uses the term. My generation certainly has no use for it. Our Anglo-Americanized culture now puts premium on absolute individualism. The care for community, for what others think are ‘traditional’ views, relics of the past.

But there are limits to the wants and will of the atomized individual. While Anglo-American culture has no word for ‘delicadeza’ it has other cultural devices designed to create the same kind of societal harmony. There are ‘limits to liberty’ and principles of not doing harm to others. There is ‘rule of law.’ The Anglo-American culture also has a deep well of tradition on what comprises ‘justice,’ that is, what is fair and due to each individual within a community.

I am afraid the past few months, if not years, has resurrected the call for delicadeza. I hear it now in response to the National Artist controversy and most recently the 1 million Peso dinner of President Arroyo and other government officials in New York. I am hesitant to attribute the death of President Aquino to the belated calls of propriety, of what is just and fair, especially of high-profile leaders of the country. But remembering Cory and her sense of delicadeza, I suppose it is not out of place to compare.

More importantly, I think the call for delicadeza is a sign that as a collective, we have allowed our leaders and each other to push beyond limits of basic decency. That is, beyond bounds of what is proper, what is just and what is fair.

If we talk of morality, let us talk of these values. I personally, shy away from talk of god. The deity is such. And we, we are human.

Saturday, August 08, 2009

To the Trough!

This news inspires poetry.

Behold the little pig
And her retinue of piglets
Come pour le dîner in the circus
Drunk in pompe et circonstance

Sip the skeins of success
In expensive bouteilles of power
Madame la Présidente,
A million clinks of shame

Friday, August 07, 2009

Kultura ng Korupson, Korupsyon ng Kultura

Marahil isang bagay ang naging maigting ngayong linggo sa diwa nating mga Pilipino – kung gaano kahalaga ang pagkatao ng ating mga pinuno at ang epekto nito sa pangkalahatang saliw ng buhay publiko.

Sa isang bahagi, ang pagkatao ng Pangulo ay produkto ng kulturang kinagisnan niya. At sa kabila naman, ang Pangulo ay humuhulma sa kultura ng kasalukuyan dulot ng kanyang impluwensya sa ating mga kinatawan at sa iba’t-ibang kagawarang pampamahalaan. Higit sa lahat na marahil, ang Pangulo ay ang pinakamaigting na personalidad ng ating pampublikong buhay. Siya ang tampulan ng parangal o kutya, depende sa galing o tumal ng kanyang pangangasiwa.

Ang kontrobersya ukol sa National Artists Award ay hindi kagulat-gulat. Ito ay umaayon lamang sa estilo ng pamamalakad ng Pamahalaang Arroyo. Sa Media in Focus kagabi, nabigyang diin ang pagsawalang-bahala sa proseso sa pagpili ng mga alagad ng sining na karapat-dapat parangalan. Sa pitong napili ng National Commission for Culture and the Arts (NCCA) at CCP, isa ang tinanggal at apat ang idinagdag ni Pangulong Arroyo.

Ayon kagabi sa isang tanyag na manunulat at miyembro ng NCCA na si Butch Dalisay, halos dalawang taon ang prosesong ito. Ang parangal na ito ay galing mismo sa mga kapwa alagad ng sining. Totoo nga namang ang mga ibang artist din ang maaring makasukat ng galing at kalinangan ng isa’t isa.

Ipinagtanggol ni Carlo J. Caparas kagabi ang kanyang sarili sa matinding kritikong natamo na’ng siya’y pangalanan ni Ginang Arroyo. Dalawang bagay ang mensaheng pinariinan niya. Una, binalewala niya ang pagtutol ng ilang miyembro ng NCCA at CCP sa pagbigay ng parangal sa kanya. Mas pinahalagahan niya ang pagpili sa kanya ng Pangulo. Pangalawa, inakusahan niya ng pagiging elitista ang mga tumututol sa kaniya. Aniya, ang sukatan daw ng galing ay sa takilya. Ipinamukha niya na tila siya’y minamaliit dahil siya’y pinarangalan sa komiks at ang komiks ay maka-masa.

Mali ang ganitong mga argumento ni Carlo J. Caparas. Sa larangan ng pelikula na halimbawa, hindi maaaring akusahan si Lino Brocka, isa nang National Artist, sa pagiging ‘elitista’, kung ang ibig sabihin ay hindi maka-masa. Ang mga pelikula ni Brocka ay walang tawad na tumutuligsa sa sistemang lumilikha ng api sa ating lipunan.

Isa pa’ng ibig sabihin ng ‘elite’ ay pinakamagaling. Hindi ba tama’ng piliin at ipagpugay ang pinakamagaling sa larangan ng sining? Sa gayon, ang standard ay mataas at ang mga nanalo ay maaaring magsilbing halimbawa sa iba pa’ng mga artist? Sa kahit ano’ng larangan, hindi ba’t tayo’y humahanga sa mga taong sa tingin natin ay magaling?

Ikalawa, tumaas ang kilay ko na’ng sinabi ni Caparas na mas pinahalagahan niya ang pagpili sa kanya ni Ginang Arroyo. Para ito’ng sampal sa mukha sa kapwa niya mga artist. Para nga namang nawalang saysay ang kategoryang ‘National Artist.’ Ang mensahe nito ay - ang parokyano ni Gloria Arroyo at nagsilbi ka sa kanya ng mabuti ay sinusuklian. Kung gayon – kung gusto mo’ng umasenso, tumanyag at gawaran ng parangal bilang artist – hindi mo na kailangang magpakadalubhasa. Lalong hindi mo kailangan ng respeto ng mga kapwa mo artists. Ang kailangan mo lang ay basbas ng Malacañang. Iba yatang set of skills ang kailangan mong hasain kung ganyan ang sukatan.

Ginawaran si Carlo J. Caparas ng award sa kategoryang “Visual Artist.” Pagkat may ibang umani ng parangal sa “Film”, hindi ito dahil sa sining ng kanyang mga massacre movies. Ito ay dahil sa kanyang gawa sa komiks.

Sa video na ito ipinaliwanag ni Gerry Alanguilan, isang comic artist, na hindi si Caparas ang “visual artist” ng mga komiks na pinatanyag niya. Iba ang mga nag-dibuho o nag-drawing. Si Caparas lamang ang nagsulat. Kung sa gayon, dapat siya’y pinarangalan sa kategoryang literatura.

Hindi sa pelikula, hindi sa visual arts at hindi sa literatura. Hindi tuloy maikaila na isiningit lamang talaga si Caparas at ang tatlong iba pa sa listahan ng mga nanalo. Ayon kay Dalisay kagabi, hanggang ngayon ay hindi pa rin lumalabas ang komite umano ng Palasyo na nagdagdag ng apat na ito.

Bilang isang ordinaryong mamamayan na wala’ng alam sa mundo ng sining, ito ang ilang obserbasyon ko. Walang sinasanto ang “executive privilege” ni Pangulong Arroyo. Ultimo National Artist award, pinapatos. At huli, kung hindi nangingiming magdagdag-bawas sa National Artist Award, lalo na siguro sa National Election ano?

Thursday, August 06, 2009

RIP President Arroyo

This is too good to pass up. Thanks to Ade for the head's up! On top of the multiple slips yesterday by news anchors, uttering GMA's name instead of Cory's....we have this on Manila Bulletin today. Ano 'to? Collective desires of our id?


Aaaaand...courtesy of E.P. LOLZ

ETA again:

They keep pouring in. Yahoo News

ETA 8/7

Via Nash

Monday, August 03, 2009

That Infallible Heart

I have searched for words to describe my reaction upon learning of Cory Aquino’s death. Days before, knowing she was terribly sick, I did not feel anything. Not grief nor sadness but a sense of inevitability. Nothing is finite and all beginnings must have an end. Since I do not have a god to which to pray, I had no recourse to the usual avenues of comfort.

On Saturday morning a friend alerted me to the news before I could plug in. The whole weekend I searched for a way to articulate my feelings and the thoughts in my head. I watched a few of her speeches on YouTube and sat teary-eyed every so often. I remembered what I had said earlier when the false news of her death had leaked, I’d said “Her death will mark a sunset to many things.”

Cory was our neighbor, my playmates said. She lived a few dozen meters down from my home in Kalookan. My playmates and I would come to her house and steal glimpses of her from outside her gates as she moved about her home preparing meals or scolding her children. We all wondered why she did not wear her trademark yellow. We reasoned, it must only be for her public appearances.

Much later I would realize that this woman was not in fact the new president of the country, as older folks would tell me. “No, that is not the President!” they would insist, but rather a look alike. My little heart was crushed as the reality dawned. And here I thought we had something special in our sleepy little neighborhood.

She has been described as many things – the mother of democracy, the homemaker, the politician’s wife, the reluctant president. As a child, she was an enigma, a leader so charismatic everyone spoke of her only in reverence. I would later come to know her politics in adulthood. I would know that she did not in fact deliver us from evil, that her constitution was a compromise, that the restoration of democracy would also restore the old power alignments peopled by old and new faces. Power alignments that had and indeed continue to threaten our fragile democracy. It is the same kind of realization one has when one realizes one’s parents are not infallible, that they in fact are human beings replete not only with strengths but also with weaknesses.

In adulthood we take responsibility for the successes and failures of the past. As our young nation gropes its way through the dark, we too make mistakes. We must all grow up one of these days.

Corazon Aquino’s death marks the sunset of the struggle against the Marcos dictatorship, where the people’s yearning for order gave way to the rot of centralized power and of centralized greed. That was the struggle of our parents and grandparents.

On Wednesday Corazon Aquino will be laid to rest. I can only hope that as any good daughter, we take with us the memories of her infallibility as child and what made her fallible as a grown-up. Our country’s democratizing project is far from over. It has only begun. Laban.

Saturday, August 01, 2009

Corazon, Good Journey

Sparkast 1: Transformism

I am starting a series of podcasts reading sections of books and/or journal articles I think are worth sharing. I hope you like my first offering.

Taken from Chapter 2 of Eva-Lotta Hedman's In the Name of Civil Society: From Free Election Movements to People Power in the Philippines:

Transformism, Crises of Authority and the Dominant Bloc in the Philippines.

Download here.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Number Crunching, Lying and Arroyo’s SONA

Palace poodle Alex Magno, minutes before yesterday’s SONA predicted the President will make a “very detailed, specific, technical report.” Indeed, the President is counting on most Filipinos not being able to make heads or tails of her laundry list of statistics. After all, these are the numbers she collated from the various departments. Who can dispute official government data?

Others have pored over the coded political messages couched in her hour-long speech. While remaining coy about perpetuating herself in power, Mon Casiple points out that Arroyo is not likely to leave the political scene. Manolo Quezon summed in three brief sentences the President’s core messages:

1. Don’t count me out.
2. Cha-Cha is a go.
3. We will mobilize vs.certain presidential candidates.

Popoy De Vera makes a quick assessment of GMA’s so-called accomplishments. Of eight points: balanced budget, education for all, automated election, transportation and digital infrastructure, terminate hostilities with milf and npa, healing the wounds of EDSA, electricity and water for all, opportunities for livelihood and 10 million jobs, decongest Metro Manila, develop Subic and Clark, only one item is a clear fact. The other are either complete fiction or deserve qualifiers.

While there may be no ‘smoking gun’ to tie the President to the graft and corruption scandals that have plagued her stay in power, Rep. Mong Palatino reminds us of human rights violations and the undisputed (missing) body count of militant and journalist desaparecidos.

Sassy Lawyer makes the obvious point that the President will strive to make her last address optimistic. Why indeed would she talk about her failures? Because the SONA is a highly publicized event it is a good opportunity for the president to legitimize and deodorize her incumbency. Nobody expected an inspirational tale from her. Nobody expected a rallying cry that would capture the Filipino nation’s imagination. So yes, her SONA, like her previous ones, was short on rhetoric and long on numbers and cheap shots at ‘opposition’ players.

Let us go back to the outrageous claims on the economic front. Gloria Arroyo PhD’s number crunching deserves some demystification. Aside from outright lies, they also betray false assumptions that result to her claiming the country’s ‘economic fundamentals’ are sound.


Watching her speech yesterday, my eyebrows shot up the roof when she said she had “exorcised” the demon of foreign debt.

Far from Neutral uses IBON data to illustrate that Arroyo said an outright lie when she said that she has “exorcised” Philippine debt. By March 2009, government debt has nearly doubled from P2.17 trillion in 2000 to P4.23 trillion.

In a roundtable discussion organized by the Freedom from Debt Coalition, former Budget Secretary Boncodin presents us more hard data on the government's budget deficit and debt.

Debt owed to domestic lenders rose from P1.06 trillion in 2000 to P2.4 trillion in 2008. Debt owed to foreign lenders rose from P1.09 trillion to 1.8 trillion in 2008. And the President, dear beloved President in pink, has the gall to say she has "exorcised" debt???


Arroyo also generously gave herself credit for ‘accomplishment’s in which she had no direct hand.
“In 2008 up to the first quarter of 2009 we stood among only a few economies in Asia-Pacific that did not shrink.”
Dr. Josef Yap of PIDS observes the drop in GDP growth rate in 2007 is consistent with the onset of the global financial crisis. And the Philippines is not unique in weathering the financial storm. He credits this to the following:

- the very limited direct exposure of the region to subprime and other related securitized products
- relatively strong bank balance sheets with a return to profitability—as impaired loans from the 1997/98 Asian financial crisis have been worked off
- improvements in risk and liquidity management
- strengthening of supervisory and regulatory systems
- moves by banks into new and profitable domestic business lines such as consumer lending.

The country has escaped the worst of the crisis because of the conservatism (dare I say backwardness?) of local financial markets. This meant financial players preferred to keep capital at home rather than play high stakes in the global casino. This conservatism probably has more to do with hard lessons learned in the 1997 financial crisis than excellent forecasting by Arroyo’s economic team.

In the same FDC roundtable mentioned earlier, another former Budget Secretary, Benjamin Diokno, presents data on falling exports.

He expects these figures to worsen in 2009 as the economies of the top 10 destinations of our exports, accounting for 84 percent of the total, are also expected to weaken.

The President was triumphant in proclaiming yesterday:
Our reforms gave us the resources to protect our people, our financial system and our economy from the worst of shocks that the best in the west failed to anticipate.

Cash handouts give the most immediate relief and produce the widest stimulating effect. Nakikinabang ang 700,000 na pinakamahihirap na pamilya sa programang Pantawid Pamilya.

We prioritize projects with the same stimulus effects plus long-term contributions to progress.
Early in the year the administration announced a P330 billion stimulus package that was supposed to target spending to save the economy. This just means the government (instead of the private sector) will spend money to promote economic activity. For example, if it commissions public work projects - this will create employment and business opportunities for construction workers and contractors.

Since the President makes no mention of the results of her stimulus package, did she plunk all P330 billion in her “Pantawid Pamilya” program?

Former National Treasurer Prof. Briones notes that of the P1.4 trillion 2009 budget, only P10 billion was allocated for the “Economic Stimulus Fund” and the rest were from normal government spending.

So, did all P10 billion go to Arroyo’s “Pantawid Pamilya” program?


Another outright lie is her claim that poverty has gone down during her watch.
“Bumaba ang bilang ng mga nagsasabing mahirap sila sa 47% mula 59%. Maski lumaki ang ating populasyon, nabawasan ng dalawang milyon ang bilang ng mahihirap.”
Not less than the government’s NSCB data disproves her claim! While the data may be dated at 2006 stats, the numbers categorically show a worsening of poverty incidence between 2000 and 2006 and more people now fall under the poverty threshold.


The World Economic Forum is a pow-wow of the most powerful business actors in the world. Yearly they compile a report called the “Global Competitiveness Report.” This signals to businesses where they may invest profitably. Last year, the report categorically states that foreign businesses have been avoiding the Philippines like the plague for these reasons:

1. Corruption
2. Inefficient government bureaucracy
3. Inadequate supply of infrastructure
4. Policy instability
5. Government instablity/coups

Somehow, I doubt that Speaker Nograles’ proposal to amend the constitution, supposedly to encourage investments, will attract these businesses. They will have to eliminate themselves first.


Many experts now agree that GDP is not a sufficient measure of a country’s economic welfare. As the adage goes, if you cut trees the GDP goes up. If you have two cars smash into each other on the road, the GDP goes up. This is because GDP accounts for activities that go into producing products (things) and services. It is an ‘amoral’ measure in that it posts a plus for trees cut but cannot measure the costs of the same. Obviously, we all need trees for clean air.

Nevertheless, let us try to unpack the mystery that is Gloria Arroyo’s bullish GDP! Yesterday she happily announced:

“…our economy posted uninterrupted growth for 33 quarters; more than doubled its size from $76 billion to $186 billion. The average GDP growth from 2001 to the first quarter of 2009 is the highest in 43 years.”

Looking at the UPSE Economic Database, the figures seem to confirm a continuous upward increase in GDP from 2001 to 2008. The thing that puzzles though, and what ultimately makes experts scratch their heads, is why the so-called growth does not match other indicators to measure the over-all health of the economy.

This paper written by former NEDA head Felipe Medalla and Karl Robert Jandoc note that while GDP growth rates are on the up and up, other indicators do not go up along with them.
"We ask why is it that if economic growth is being correctly measured, many indicators and data sets are at odds with the supposedly high economic growth. Moreover, we find that Philippine growth patterns—shrinking growth of domestic absorption, exports, and imports accompanying rising output growth—do not fit the pattern in other Asian economies."
Pattern One: GDP went up even as imports contracted. These economists note that the pattern for other Asian countries show that both indicators go up at the same time. It makes sense, if the local economy is making more goods and providing more services, it will need to import materials - the most crucial of which that we lack, I think, is oil.

Pattern Two: GDP went up even as exports also contracted. Among the nine Asian countries surveyed, the Philippines again miraculously bucks the trend! There were more goods and services consumed...but we didn't export any of them?

So if GDP has enjoyed a consistent upward trend since Arroyo took over, and the products and services the economy produced were not exported, this must mean that Filipinos themselves did most of the consumption.

Medalla and Jandoc express serious doubts about the government's statistics on the strength of the Filipino's buying power. They make mention of many other inconsistencies, and here I will only mention that between Gloria's Statistics and the Family Income and Expenditure Survey.
"Now, if the obvious fact that the FIES and the NIA begun to diverge after 2000 is accepted, the question is which data set should given more weight for assessing what happened to the economy after 2000. As already pointed out, the incredibly high growth of food consumption and personal consumption growth that far exceeds the growth of purchasing power as estimated in the NIA itself already casts strong doubt on the claims that the economy has grown the fastest in recent years."
So, the GDP grew even when the Filipino's buying power did not. Allow me then to paraphrase their conclusions without jargon - something is wrong with Gloria's number crunching.


After all this the President concludes: “The state of our nation is a strong economy.”

The President is not coy about her administration’s engines of growth. Her castle rests on our young and talented serving BPOs and the export of more of the young and talented to all corners of the world.

Why I do not think this is sustainable and will hardly earn us First World status by 2020, deserves another blog entry.

For now, let me just say, I am not looking for a visionary come 2010. I am looking for one who will at least not lie so audaciously.

Gloria Arroyo's SONA 2009