Thursday, September 06, 2007


In the wake of last post's rather... barbaric interlocutor, I have decided to migrate this whole blog to my Wordpress account.

This is my first blog, and I've been using it since before the blogging craze caught on here. Sadly, Blogger seems to have few of the features I want for my blog, while Wordpress seems to offer more.

I think I'll keep Novus War Journal V.2 here in Blogger, since the setup for this blogging provider is better for that kind of blog, the one that might eventually have graphics and all.

But, in order to ensure something like with the last post doesn't happen, without me instituting security measures I abhor, I'm transferring Phoenix Eyrie to Wordpress.

I'm deactivating all comment capability here. The whole blog has been transfered there, so all comments should be made at Phoenix Eyrie, Reloaded.


Friday, August 31, 2007

Funny Morality

I just came from looking at one of's blogs, the one called Current. As usual, it's such a nice place to get grist for one's blog, especially given how long ago the blogger stopped writing.

On the post regarding Migz Zubiri and his redemption via politics, John Nery reiterates his position (as opposed to Manolo's) that Migz can never be able to redeem himself because of the context in which the Gentleman from Bukidnon got elected, and most especially given Migz recent filing of a counter-petition vs. rival Koko Pimentel at the Senate Electoral Tribunal. According to Nery, the move was designed to turn the Tribunal into the electoral equivalent of the Energizer Bunny in that it will just go on, and on, and on, putting Koko's supposedly righteous pursuit of his case into electoral limbo.

I will not contest John Nery's analysis of Migz' actions; whatever the reasons of the Gentleman from Bukidnon for filing a case, that's his problem and, lest the pundits and public forget, he is certainly entitled to it, just like everyone else. Nowhere it is said that someone the public perceives as one of Gloria's boys is denied his constitutional rights, just because he happens to be in the little girl's camp.

But, see, that's my longstanding issue with the anti-Gloria crowd: they're such aces in the practice of selective morality.

I will repeat myself: what is so wrong with Zubiri filing a case with the SET? Isn't he entitled to do so?

Seeing the comments all over the post, I decided to add my two cents worth by posting what I called a "Point of Information": if Zubiri should be denied a Senate seat for cheating, or Escudero impeached for betraying the ideals of the Opposition... then shouldn't someone who threatened to blow up buildings and people be all the more denied that privilege, regardless of how many... misguided people voted for him?

I mean, look at it. How can people even go to the lengths of actively advocating for Trillianes to sit in the Senate while denying a (supposed) cheater and an alleged betrayer the same things? Which one is the greater sin to the Republic? Heck, which one has proof?

That's why I was just so incensed at de Quiros when he lambasted the judge who denied Trillianes his supposed right. In case he and other anti-GMA pundits have forgotten, there were LIVE FEEDS of the Oakwood Mutiny. Their bloody friggin' hero himself read the bloody friggin' demands, and what would happen if those weren't met.

And that's why I am just so... irritated at a public that would call for the ouster of an alleged cheat, while putting into office a confirmed terrorist. The same public that elected a non-performing, human rights-abusing person to City Hall on the basis of his closest rival being the son of the man who was a solid supporter of the alleged cheat. Never mind if the Atienzas were largely responsible for reviving the moribund capital into a shining city once again. I mean, get rid of your anti-Gloria lens and look at what Manila was in the last nine years.

Don't you think there's just something wrong with this picture?

If people have the gall to demand morality and ethics from its leadership, then this should be a blanket demand, not a flavor-of-the-month, apple-of-the-eye thing. If you're going to apply strict standards against the little girl, than do so for that terrorist. If you're going to take the AFP to task for the alleged abductions of political activists, then do the same for the CPP-NPA for its well documented torching of cell sites and industrial centers, as well as its owning up to the killings of Lagman, Kintanar and that other RJ leader.

Bakit kayo namimili? Para naman tayong nag-gagaguhan nito eh.

And people wonder why our Public Sphere is such a mess?

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Reasoning with the enemy

I've always said that what made me an effective intelligence officer for the Catholic Student Councils was that I knew for a fact that the "other side" - meaning the radical student/youth organizations - plays dirty.

It's not actually as... negative as it sounds, since we're talking about moral relativism here: for them, everything was justifiable if it advanced Joma's revolution. Nothing was exactly "wrong" for them if it advanced their agenda. We Catholic SC leaders just happened to operate under a different set of rules.

But then, that's where the problem arises.

Henry Kissinger's book, Diplomacy, is truly teaching me a lot. True, I already knew that there was a high level of relativism in the realm of political action, but its fascinating to see it happen on the level of historical figures. Because, this way, it drives the point home: the person you are negotiating with in good faith might not be dealing with you in the same terms.

Take for example all those concessions and negotiations with the North Vietnamese. The Americans - as portrayed by Kissinger - were giving so many concessions on the basis of building a level of confidence between them and the communists. The Americans were acting and negotiating on the basis of resolving an issue not only through force of arms, but through the redress of what to them are the outstanding issues of the Vietnam War.

But as Kissinger pointed out, the North Vietnamese were operating on the premise that nothing short of conquest of the South, the imposition of communism throughout the whole of Vietnam, was the goal. There would be no compromise, no peace, no concession. As Kissinger said, Hanoi was happy to pocket everything that Washington gave, but never gave back. That the United States continued this line of engagement for four Presidents astounds me.

This is but one illustration on how important it is to know the context of the person(s) your dealing with. Some say that the reason why Gandhi's style of revolution worked was that he was dealing with the British and their long tradition of liberal democracy; Imperialists as they British were, they do regard themselves as democratic, God-fearing creatures. It is a very interesting thought experiment to substitute, say, the Nazis to the equation and see how even a non-violent protest fares against history's worst authoritarians.

I saw on the banner of PDI that the AFP is considering a long ceasefire - three years! - with the CPP. Given this, I am seriously thinking of sending the Chief of Staff and his Commander-in-Chief a copy of Kissinger's Diplomacy so that they remember context, and who it is their dealing with.

Peace talks are wonderful things, I would concede. Woodrow Wilson's ideals for a peace that allows even the defeated to keep a large measure of dignity is a very ideal outcome. But, again, this is falling into the trap of regarding one's antagonists as beings who think the same way as you do. They don't. There is a world of difference between a communist, especially one who has gone up a mountain, and a liberal democrat. The value systems are just too different to reconcile, especially since the former is all-too-willing to kill you if you won't agree to their ideology.

Again, I'm not saying peace talks shouldn't be pursued; they should, in fact. All I'm saying is that there's a danger to thinking that people who have pursued an ideological rebellion for nearly four decades, who were not above culling their own ranks in order to maintain ideological purity, would suddenly begin thinking the same way as we do.

There must be no illusions here: the CPP-NPA-NDF has as its goal the supplanting of all our liberal democratic traditions and institutions with the monochromatic systems and beliefs of communism. The communists have said time and again that they are willing to do everything - everything! - to see this goal achieved.

The AFP and our national leaders must never forget this fact, even if our civil society leaders seem to have done so.

Friday, July 06, 2007

How hate blinds

The recent statement by former VP Teofisto Guingona regarding Erap and his impending judging by the Sandiganbayan is perhaps, in my opinion, the most... eloquent testimony to how the hatred of Gloria's enemies for her have blinded them.

Consider the Message and the Messenger. By October of 2000, Erap had managed to stave off one challenge after another. True, the Inquirer had also defied his pressure over it, after a successful campaign against the Manila Times, but it was like a Dunkirk or a Battle of Britain amidst the fall of the whole Western Front in World War II. It was like the Filipino public, although turning up an eyebrow over the... shenanigans of the Chief Executive, done so brazenly in public, was willing to live and let live.

Even at the start of his "I accuse" speech at the Senate, Guingona had waded into dangerous waters. He was up against a President whose mandate was the biggest in history, had an extremely loyal following amongst the masses, and possessed a powerful majority in both chambers of Congress. Like I tell people, it was just not popular in October 2000 to go up against Erap.

But Guingona did. Almost all by his lonesome.

That the Messenger of the corruption of Erap would say something like, “He is a man who has found a new light and a new life. In his own private self, I think he has found the answer; he has new values and he is now a new man,” lends to me a certain sense of the... surreal to this seemingly final chapter of a fight that started almost seven years ago.

Why this kind of a statement from someone whose only selling point has been his moral ascendancy over other politicians? Guingona had pitted himself against the woman he helped propel into the Presidency first out of differences in foreign policy principles and later on for other things. He had gone against the Erap juggernaut, plunged the country into seven years of unrelenting, unforgiving political warfare, because, supposedly, the casus belli was about truth, justice and the restoration of nobility in public office.

Filipinos are a forgiving lot; its partly in the nature, partly in the more than three centuries of Catholicism. We are quick to anger, quick to retaliate when our pride gets pricked, but a handshake and a round of drinks later we're all good buddies once again.

If the issue was simply about the values of one man, then perhaps the statement by Guingona wouldn't sound so... absurd. Erap, per se, was never the issue (at least for me and many of my colleagues in the UCSC and KALIPI). Oh, sure, in principle the student councils of the Catholic schools should have protested - as we were already doing for some time - his wanton disregard, in public no less, of the traditional values of our Christian faith. We were outraged at his penchant for booze and gambling, even as he was already the President of the Republic. But these... sins are all subject to change, if we profess ourselves as Christian, and most certainly eligible for penance if the person has shown sufficient proof of a change of heart, what might be called a genuine desire to turn away from sin.

But the issue, in case anti-Gloria forces forget, isn't about whether Erap has "found a new light and a new life." We went to the streets from October 2000 to January 2001 because we believed that our own President had so dirtied the highest office of the land that he had to go or the Philippines will. We fought against his massed thousands on May 2001 because we believed it was a brazen attempt to use the masses to bring him back to power. Goddamit, some of my people in the UCSC almost died that morning! The radical Left had seemingly disappeared as the tide of humanity closed in on Mendiola, leaving the Catholic schools to hold the line. We fought and bled for this "post-Erap" world, all because we were made to believe by our LightForsaken elders that this was the right thing to do and that the man - Erap - was guilty to the bone.

And now Guingona has the gall to tell people that Erap should go under the premises that (a) he's a changed man, and (b) Malacañang is pressuring the Sandiganbayan to rule guilty?

I'm sorry but... what the hell is wrong with him?

Guingona says further: “And so I say, let us give justice to Erap now that he is down. I hope the court will acquit him. Let freedom be for Erap.”

Okay. Give justice to Erap now that he is down. Uh-huh. But, Mr. Guingona, do you remember the stuff you said in that speech of yours nearly seven years ago? Those were no simple accusations: to claim that the President of the Republic was no less than the leading protector of an illegal numbers game is a serious challenge not only to Erap himself but to the persona of the Office he held. I mean, we knew the man to be ammoral at the very least. But to have actual proof that he was using his Presidency to illegally acquire wealth and power?

For that speech, Teofisto Guingona began what would be a vicious, uncompromising, no-holds-barred level of political warfare in this country. The move to oust Gloria, and the viciousness in it, can be traced all the way to that day Guingona gave his "I accuse" speech because it simply meant that the old rules were out of the window. Seven months and one ouster later, the political opponents of the new regime - Erap's supporters - would heartlessly throw thousands of poor people against the might of the State. In the two elections that followed, political warfare would alternate from the subtle to the obvious, but it was always high-intensity, culminating in the latest episode of the whole war, this time with Gloria on the defensive and Erap on the offensive.

I've been reading Henry Kissinger's Diplomacy. It's a fascinating read, to be sure, but for someone like me who considers himself a student of history, its quite a treat to hear from a person so in to the events that shaped the last half of the previous century what went into the decision-making processes of leaders in those events. It was quite interesting to find out that, had Churchill not been alone in demanding the Western democracies stand forcefully against the Soviets as the Iron Curtain was dropping down on Eastern Europe... the Cold War might have been over rather quickly. Or that if the fear of another Great War had made Great Britain and France issue a sterner challenge to Hitler early on, the Second World War might have been averted.

Perhaps the most fascinating to read in the book is how leaders measure the costs and benefits of going into a conflict. According to Kissinger, warfare was, quite truly, as much an instrument of a nation's foreign policy in the old, pre-World War I days. Negotiations were made in order to prevent war, and a nation would emphasize its demands with the rattle of a saber. In fact, it was precisely this kind of... threat behavior that allowed Stalin and Khrushchev to stall the West, even if the United States alone had superiority in both its conventional and nuclear arsenal that early in the Cold War. It was only after the horrors of the First World War that nations started, uh... negotiating first, even to the point where it was absurd, just so they could avoid conflict.

I would like to believe, seven years after the fact, that we overturned the existing order on the streets of EDSA and on other places nationwide, on the basis of a change infinitely being better than allowing the status quo to go on. It was more a battle begun on the premise of change than anything else. The young had rediscovered the fire of activism, and there was a very, very, very big dragon to slay. We were fed by our elders in civil society the thinking that Erap, even before he began his Presidency, was unfit to be the country's Chief Executive.

But the dragon that was Erap, and all he represented, were protected by a subservient Congress and a million plus votes from the country's disenfranchised that saw in the gambling, womanizing, mostly-drunk former moviestar their hero and savior. There were many reasons to go to war with Erap, but where do you get the proper, outrage-inducing justification to challenge the guy when it seemed like issues of morality weren't sufficient?

But suddenly, on October 2000, Teofisto Guingona gave us the casus belli.

It was a long fight, to be sure. The economy suffered like no other, and we were even lambasted in the foreign press for using extra-constitutional measures yet again to solve the country's political issues. But we reasoned that he issue, as Teofisto Guingona laid out in his "I accuse" speech, were so fundamental that there was very little room for institutional remedies, and that the one available option had been so brazenly denied, with matching jig from one of Erap's supporters as taunt to civil society that the impeachment was dead and gone.

How would we, the young men and women who acted as the shock troops and "mid-level officers" of that movement, know that it was all just the start of a long, protracted political war, one in which the old rules of engagement were gone? How many of my colleagues among the "moderate" youth leaders have abandoned the cause out of attrition and disillusionment? What is the cost of this war, truly? Do our elders realize yet that one of its biggest costs is a generation of disillusioned, cynical young people who are now rearing their own families? What will we teach our children and what world will we give them when, because of the caprice of our elders, even we with our immense powers and clout cannot bring order to the chaos they have wrought?

Because caprice it would seem with Guingona's statement. You go to war, bear its costs, for reasons that justify those costs. Guingona's statement tells us that the reasons for starting a still-ongoing vicious political war was meaningless. If he, the Messenger of juetengate, could so easily call for Erap's release under the inane pretexts of the man having "changed" and because of pressure from the Administration, then what the hell did we fight for? What the hell did we sacrifice for? Is he telling us that Erap's sins to the Republic are so light that they can be washed away so easily by a (seemingly) contrite heart? So what if the Admin is pressuring the Sandiganbayan for a guilty verdict; wasn't Erap guilty, anyway, based on his (Guingona's) "I accuse" speech all those years ago?

I am telling you right now: if the country is a mess it's NOT because of Gloria. Okay, not just. It's the whole friggin' lot of them. Only elders like the ones we have right now, who can so easily change their minds and even HEARTS based on their current pet peeve, could plunge the country into one conflict after another, damn the costs. I am seriously doubting their commitment and desire for a better Philippines since it would appear, with all their inconsistencies, that its all about the Agenda - their Agenda - and not what is truly best for the country.

And most certainly its not about truth, nor justice. The former, I saw for myself how easily they dismissed it, from the paragons themselves of the once-mighty Liberal Party itself, beginning that morning of 8 July 2005 up until today. The latter, well... you have Tito Guingona to thank for the trivialization of justice. It was he who laid down the facts for Erap's crime. And now he trivializes all our struggles, the reasons for the protracted, no-holds-barred, 7-years-and-going-strong political war we are all in, because Gloria's the evil lord now and Erap's such a poor, poor victim of that evil little girl in the Palace.

Monday, June 25, 2007

Libel and the freedom of the press

Why this of all issues to discuss here in Phoenix Eyrie, you ask? There's so many more that demand comment, like the upcoming stance the Supreme Court will be taking with regard to extra-judicial killings, the deathwatch on the LP and my thesis that the Republic will soon face its last "wake-up call", albeit this time without any Guardians because all of those sworn to defend the Philippines have either gone abroad, gone corporate, or gone call center. Or gotten so horribly disillusioned that slitting one's throat might be a much better option.

Perhaps because the above are... far too "tactile" for me right now. "Tactile" as in "dama"; they are issues far too close to my Soul that my BP goes up at the slightest thought in that direction. Well, except for the extra-judicial killing part. I've always said that people who take up arms against the State lost the right to complain about rights and the protection of any law the minute they made that choice to rebel. Besides, why is no one taking the NPA to task for its massacres and salvage operations?


Let me state it now that I find it galling for Media to complain about libel laws, and that its somehow rather obscene for the Philippine Daily Inquirer, the country's leading newspaper, to call that as "antiquated." What, has the Philippine Press, of all those in the world, suddenly found its sense of responsibility and maturity that no safeguards are necessary to curb their excess?

I remember the thoughts and feelings I brought to Gummersbach more than four years ago when I met journalists and other media practitioners from other parts of the globe. Nearly all of them were complaining at the lack of freedom for their country's respective press. I, on the other hand, came there telling them that my country's problem is that we too much freedom for our media, and that any attempt to put restraints, no matter how logical, always end up with Media coming down hard on the poor twit who broached the idea.

When Dax Manacsa first introduced the slander and libel provisions in the Revised Penal Code to us all those years ago in PolSci 101, what immediately caught my attention was the term in the provisions that said libel and slander could be charged on somebody regardless of whether the statement under question was true or not. To the law, it didn't matter whether what you wrote or said about the person is true or not; it was the intent of the act that mattered. If one's verbal or written statement directed at another had the intent to harm that person's honor and dignity in public, it becomes slander or libel.

Media is claiming that libel is an abridgment of the constitutional guarantee to Freedom of the Press, along with that for expression and speech. It is presented as some sort of sword of Damocles, a threat to every journalist that they should tone the language and criticism lest they get slapped silly with libel cases, with their attendant demand for the payment of damages, often in ludicrous amounts of money.

But in my mind, this option is the one thing that actually protects the Philippine public from a rapacious Fourth Estate. And rapacious it is, as well as irresponsible and lacking sorely of the objectivity required of true journalism.

If Doreen Fernandez' statement to us Comm. Sophies in journ class holds true, than what media organization can claim moral ascendancy enough to say that, yes, it does give reportage that is responsible, factual and above reproach? Because even the PDI And PCIJ are guilty of slanting news reports and in-depth analysis.

To be fair, there is a certain standard on when you file libel, especially against agents of the Fourth Estate. An expose can be done with it being so factual and thoroughly done that there is no hint of malice involved in the reportage. The presentation of information on the shenanigans of a person should be enough indictment, as we must believe that society's public facade has a shared set of values that punishes certain... deviancy in behavior (like too much corruption, say).

But the media Philippines has been so stuck in the presentation of data as sensational as possible that its almost obscene. For example, who do you know really likes Mike Arroyo? The guy is, perhaps, the symbol for all that is wrong in Philippine politics. Yet, if you closely at all the reportage done on him, particularly the Jose Pidal thing, is there, really (anti-GMA sentiment aside), any solid evidence of his corruption?

All media presented, again and again, were the stuff their darlings were spoonfeeding the various press corps and reporters. I know of no single media organization that did the nitty-gritty of actually doing an in-depth investigation on whether or not there was actual merit on the accusations of the First Gentleman having spirited away more public money than all the corrupt leaders from Ferdinand Marcos to Jose Velarde. And when Ping Lacson went into that thing on Arroyo's supposed mistress, to me that was just too much. It was like vaudeville.

Or what about stuff, say, Billy Esposo and Conrado de Quiros writes? There is that argument that democracy allows you - in fact, encourages you - to engage such vitriolic and biased writers in public debate. The clashing of opinions is the bedrock of democracy, the key to its survivability and dynamism.

Yet there must be at least a fair level of parity between contestants in order for this to work. But how do you challenge the likes of Esposo and de Quiros? How do you question a post over at PCIJ made by Alecks Palabrico, or those made by Manolo Quezon in his various blogs? I've seen PDI post "opposition" (meaning, pro-Admin) Letters to the Editor that actually enhanced the criticized writer's position because the L2E writer was made to look stupid. Or they printed a L2E that was stupid in the first place. I've seen PCIJ not ask the other side of a story.

We must remove from the discussion the pretensions of morality that we have so long adopted. If only media were as truly moral as it PRs itself to be, then perhaps there is basis in demanding for the rescinding of libel from our laws. But the truth of the matter is our media has been so drunk in the immense level of freedom given it by the post-Marcos milieu that it refuses to acknowledge that it has done much harm in its claim of the public needing to know.

Reporters ask for money and/or favors, and Editors can and do keep certain information from coming out. Columnists - the vanguard of the so-called "punditocracy" - can say anything and everything they want regardless of fact or propriety. There are tricks in the trade that allow us to make you look and sound the way we want whether on print or on screen.

Media has such immense powers it can be so overbearing at times. As the self-appointed guardian of democracy and the public - they need to know, after all! - Media has forgotten that every right has a corresponding responsibility. Just as freedom of expression, speech, religion and the press are bedrocks of democracy, so too is the demand of democracy from its adherents that there must be responsibility in the exercise of these rights.

What power does a single human being have against that of the monolith that is the Fourth Estate? Media can display all your dirty, disgusting laundry to all 80 million Filipinos and then some, since new media allows you to reach farther than ever before, and in real time too. All in the spirit of democracy and the "right" of the people to know.

Given such a power, what recourse does an individual, no matter how highly placed in government or society, has if the libel laws are rescinded?

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Selective morality and the aftermath of the 2007 Elections

I'm... amazed at the statements and reactions following the 2007 elections. Of course, dominance in the Senate by Genuine Opposition (GO) candidates was expected; it wasn't as if there were better choices in Team Unity, yes? Haha, in fact, my top choice for Senator - Majority Leader Kiko Pangilinan - ran as an Independent. Come to think of it, my top three "assuredly-I-shall-vote-for-them" candidates had one in GO (Chiz Escudero) and one in TU (Mike Defensor).

From what I can glean from stuff going around post-elections, many of the Republic's citizens voted not along GO or TU lines, but rather on a criterion that included the perception that this person will do his/her job in the Senate as well as their track record of service. I guess it really just so happened that many of the candidates who could claim such were in GO, partly because of the successful media-created perception that any candidate under the Administration is there simply to keep Gloria in power.

Besides, it really DID look as if TU had a trapo lineup, didn't it? Its hard to sell something that doesn't look good, and Reli German's campaign style wasn't able to get past the perceptions. I was there during their kickoff and my thoughts as the 12 TU Senatoriables were presented was, well...

It's the "hardliner" comments, though, that astound me. People who claim to have voted straight GO say they did so on the basis of a rejection of corruption and all the evils of politics. For me, this best illustrates a phenomenon in the Philippine political sphere that has caught my attention since July 8: selective morality.

I find it astounding that people, and especially the so-called leaders of the equally so-called Civil Society , could claim that their GO votes were based on the principles of morality and "good politics", of reform-oriented politics. It clearly shows how much people would go to just to give their actions a veneer of justification.

Take Trillianes for example. I saw some of the posts in one of the Inquirer blogs, and due to outrage I just HAD to post in response to them. People so quickly forget that Trillianes acted not like the hero they say he is but like some common bandit or terrorist by rigging explosives around Oakwood and essentially holding a lot of people hostage, all to demand reforms from the AFP and make Gloria step down.

There is nothing that could ever justify these kinds of acts in a democratic country from its own military. If his grievances were legitimate, there were several dozen avenues for him to take. He could have taken it to the JAG. He could have gone to Opposition members of the House and Senate Committees on National Defense, especially in the Senate since a former AFP Chief of Staff in Pong Biazon is there. And if all avenues within the system of the AFP and government fails, then he should have resigned his commission out of disgust and went to town; the media would have made him their darling with such juicy accusations, and him being oh-so-pretty and all.

But more than a million people still voted for a clear-as-day rebel. I told them, so now we're telling our kids its ok to resort to such extreme measures just to air our grievances? That one can break the law and not only get away with it but be rewarded handsomely as well? If it was a statement against Gloria, then there were better ways to make one than legitimize rebellion, lawlessness, violence and a disdain for our Constitution.

Or what about the likes of Allan Peter Cayetano and Koko Pimentel? How can such upstanding gentlemen do something so crass as running for the Senate when they have 1st-degree relatives there?

Okay, maybe it should have been expected of Cayetano. Like with Raul Roco, I never saw the guy as the paragon media made him to be. You can see if someone is taking stands because they genuinely believe in what they're fighting for and someone who's doing it simply for something else. I'm not saying Cayetano doesn't exactly believe in the causes he purportedly espouse. But if he's such a law-abiding, exemplary citizen of the Republic, he should have adamantly said no to running for the Senate while sister Pia is there. It leaves a bad taste in the mouth, you see.

As for Koko doing the same... I knew the man, back when he was one of my bosses in the National Youth Commission, being Commissioner for Mindanao. In a sense, he reminded me of Mar: smart, well-educated, comes from a well-known and respected family, comes across as more academic than bureaucrat. Essentially, he was someone who you expected to do the right thing, given his credentials and background.

So I just couldn't understand whatever the hell possessed Koko to run while his sainted father still held a Senate seat. Or, come to think of it, why Nene Pimentel would give his imprimatur to such a move. No matter how you spin it, such a move as that of Koko and Cayetano reeks of "dynasticism." Although there is no law written to enforce it, our Constitution I think was clear about this issue. If families holding onto elective key positions in a whole province is a travesty of democracy already, then two persons of first-degree consanguinity sitting in the Senate is something like spitting on democracy's eye.

And people have the gall to justify their votes given these realities?


Make no mistake: I am actually impressed at the gains responsible politics has made this last elections. Grace Padaca managed to still beat the Dys in Isabela. A priest managed to beat the Pinedas and Lapids in Pampanga. Mayor Jesse is still Naga City's mayor. These and others nationwide show that the Filipino electorate is slowly realizing its stakeholdership.

But perhaps the biggest threat to the emerging maturity of the Filipino voter is media itself. If one can dispense even for a while his/her knee-jerk disdain for the little girl in the Palace, you would notice that media has not been all that responsible in its coverage. There is already a pre-set bias versus Administration bets. There is the presentation that any Opposition bet that wins is for good governance, and that no Admin bet could win if the fight were fair.

One of our pol ops here in the HQ pointed out the question of Maguindanao and the 12-0 for the TU that happened there. Although shocking, he had a point when he said it was possible. In the first place, not everyone subscribes to the views and opinions of Imperial Manila. It is remotely possible that, somewhere, somehow, people just don't like the GO. That they'd rather have peace and stability and whatever little progress there is.

Actually, the question is: if the GO managed to blank the TU anywhere, would Media bring it to the public's scrutiny with the same suspicions as when the TU did it in Maguindanao?

No. Because our media organizations have switched from being Informers to Agenda Setters, to Strategic Constituents aware of their power to influence the public's positions and opinions.

Our media orgs have forgotten that their sacred duty as society's Fourth Estate is to allow people in a democracy to make decisions, on their own, based on as complete a set of data as possible in a given issue. Both sides must get equitable airtime and print space. Remarks from facilitators and hosts must be unbiased.

Even the vaunted PCIJ has fallen into the StratCon trap, perhaps due to the acknowledgement of its blog as one of the key sources of information by the online public on any issue. PCIJ has been relentless in its questioning of officials and in the presentation of condemnations by groups - regardless of how small it is or irrelevant - of Admin bets. But did PCIJ even once make a post questioning Cayetano and Pimentel? Was there a "reflection" piece on the implications of a Trillianes victory in the polls? And what about the fact that people who were adamant to see Erap go and get convicted were all smiles and filled with pride as the former President raised their hands during their "proclamation" at Tanay?

This, sadly, is the milieu post-Garci. Our political landscape is a moral desolation. It seems as if the Communist ideal of "everything for the revolution" has dominated even those who supposedly lead us in reforming the whole system. And many of us blindly follow them because of "pedigree politics," where actions, no matter how contrary to the values and principles we believed in, are justified or at least unquestioned because of the person espousing the cause.

The Drilon wing is recognized by people, especially civil society, simply because the "names" of the LP are there. No one even questioned whether the acts done from July 8 onwards are liberal and democratic in nature, simply because the likes of the Abads, the Acostas, the Aquinos and the Tañadas are there. Every action of theirs is mantled in purity and justification because of pedigree even if it has become quite despicable already. I bet no one asked Noynoy how he could make democracy as the cornerstone of his campaign when he himself has denied the LP the surcease from its suffering that adherence to the democratic process would have given.

But that's how it is now, I guess. Its hard to look deeper into the dynamics of an issue, its context, to get a clearer picture of what really is happening. Most people would rather depend on "known variables", like an advocate's pedigree, to help them determine what is right or wrong, who is good or evil.

Which only shows that a little bit more maturity is needed by the public. They must learn to ask the hard questions, even to those considered as heroes. Back then, pedigree counted for something because you never expected your paragons to do anything that would severely compromise of contradict the ideals they embody.

But after showing that even they could sacrifice the truth and democracy even if their backs weren't to the wall, and do so for so long that I think they themselves believe their own propaganda now, then we should be worried. Who watches the watchmen? Who will bring them to task?

In the pre-21st century Ateneo, it is said that you would know an upperclassmen if he scoffs at any intensive praise of Rizal. It is not about disrespect to the national hero - who is our schoolmate, after all - but about context and backgrounds. Ateneans at Junior year are presented not just with the grade school depiction of Rizal but an in-depth look at the way the man lived and thought. There is a high degree of deduction involved as to what motivated Rizal to do this and that. There is a particular emphasis on the "historical" Rizal, the one who had a temper, picked fights with his fellow heroes and had a girl in every port or city he went to. We intentionally demystify the "mythical" Rizal, not to take him down from his perch but to both gain a better appreciation of the person - that despite his legend, he was, refreshingly, human, too, and therefore it is possible to achieve what he did - and to further teach the Atenean to not only place things in their proper context but also to question our beliefs to see which are worthy and which are junk.

That's what the Filipino public needs now, I think. We question, yes, but stop when confronted with what I call the "Sedmak Conundrum." We are faced with the prospect of accepting Truths we don't want suffer the Consequences for, and thus we cease questioning. We are happy at this level of inquiry.

But if we don't question further, actually demand more from our paragons when they go against the values and ideals they had the gall to represent, we might just end up replacing one tyrant for another. Enlightened, perhaps, even benevolent, but democracies abhors tyrants.

Friday, May 11, 2007

Eve of Elections

This coming Monday, the Filipino people will be coming out to vote for 12 Senators and all of their local officials except for those useless things called Barangay Captains and Councilors.

Traditionally, we Pinoys have taken to elections with a passion and interest reserved only for fiestas. We may bitch and gripe about our elected officials but the same people would cheer and wave and shake the hands of any candidate that would pass by, especially the national ones. Well, okay, unless they really despised the candidate, but I haven't seen nor heard of one being chased out of anywhere.

Ever since actively participating in political action when I joined the LP in October 2000 - about a week or so before the start of Erap's juetengate - I've seen quite my share of electoral exercises. So far, the two I've been in were quite... memorable. 2004 was still the best since we planned for that as early as the summer of 2003 and came out as the biggest victor. It was sweet vindication to all we've worked for during what I call the "Liberal Family" era of the LP. Which is, thanks to Drilon and friends, all gone now.

Somehow, I don't feel the elections this time around. Maybe because of a decidedly muted campaign; walls and gates are relatively pristine this time around, with COMELEC Chairman Benjamin Abalos being quite insistent that candidates follow the rules on the posting of campaign posters. And since most of my house time has been done in the virtual worlds of the two MMORPGs I play, I've seen blessed little of the political and campaign ads.

I do remember being at the Team Unity kick off at Manila, the one held at Tamayo's (that place behind the Cathedral in Intramuros), and I remember quite well what were my thoughts during that time but I'll keep those to myself for now.

Will I be exercising my right to vote this time around? I think so. I'm an officer in a political party and its youth wing; it would be rather contrary for someone in my position not to vote, especially since I've been bugging the kids to cast their ballots on May 14. If taxes give one the right to complain about government service, then the vote allows a citizen of the Republic to bitch at government when it screws up if you voted for the one who won, or to make your point if you voted for someone else.

At the very least, votes are statements; even a losing candidate can make the Powers-That-Be sit up and take notice given a certain level of performance in the polls.

What about allegations that the vote doesn't matter anymore since its the Canvassers who've been bought? Then all the more one should exercise suffrage. A blank ballot is a recipe for disaster, as evil people will just use your unused vote to justify their cheating. If you cast your vote, and feel - or better, know - that enough of you voted the same, yet your candidate lost, then you have a legitimate reason to complain.

Also, Ping Lacson had it right: the person who cannot protect his vote has no right to complain about cheating. If the Filipino people want their vote to count, then perhaps its time to go out and not just vote but help in protecting the ballot by volunteering for electoral watchdogs. In fact, we in KALIPI have been encouraging young people to do so. I miss that, actually: I remember my first - and, it seems, my last - NAMFREL in 1998. It was one of the coolest things I ever did and I wish I could do so again but membership in the LP precludes being part of NAMFREL again, other than getting an ID as a "Party Watcher" to NAMFREL.

As for candidates... So far, my Senatorial list includes Kiko Pangilinan (my reasons mentioned in an earlier post), Chiz Escudero and Mike Defensor.

I'm voting for Chiz because of the consistency in his being Opposition, and my impression that this is one person that you can still reason with. At the very least, Chiz could claim to having stuck to his guns through it all, and engaged us not in a contest of vitriol and mudslinging but in how politics should be fought: through a debate on issues and the issue. If there would be one person leading the Opposition in the Senate, it should be this guy.

Mike gets my vote because, despite his uber-tarnished image with the public, I've known the man differently. Yes, he may have been one of the staunchest defenders of that little girl who sits in the Palace, but that's also one of the things you have to give him credit for. I've interviewed him several times both for Liberal Philippines and The Liberal, and he's come across as someone who, contrary to the public perception, knows what's he's doing in the position he's in. He had his "moments", yes, but I think if I was going to add to the Administration's numbers in the Senate, I'd rather it be someone I know.

Hm. I still have nine slots to fill. I could just write a long line on the remaining slots (so as to prevent the evil people from tampering with my ballot), but that's a waste of a good vote. So who else can I put in?

In our discussions here at the HQ over who to vote for, the names of Ed Angara and Tessie Aquino Oreta have been bandied about, both because, despite their notoriety, have been consistent performers in past Senates. I think I can be convinced to put Angara's name on my ballot, but the image of TAO dancing after our "defeat" during the 2001 impeachment is somehow still fresh on my mind.

Manny Villar... Maybe. So far, he's performed too. And say what you will of that little act of his when he was Speaker of the House - the now-legendary "Prayer-Transmission" - but that required guts, timing, and a certain level of chutzpah to pull off. Yes, I know he wants to win big this time so he can make a case for running for President in 2010, but, hey, at least he delivers. And he takes a stand. Heh. Maybe I'll vote for Villar if only to twit someone who I once admired but now finds rather unworthy of the highest office of the land simply because he lacks the balls to make a stand on very important issues, playing safe so as not to alienate anyone in his quest for the Presidency.

I don't like it when my leaders play safe. I want vision. I want someone who can capture my imagination and show me a path to take, the kind who'll tell you, "See that mountain, young man? If we can't get around it, we'll go THROUGH it!" and by God I'll be one of the first to take pickaxe to mountainside to help us get through that mountain.

Too bad for that politico I once admired; he seemed so much like a man of vision when I first saw him, but years of working with him and observing him... so sad.

Tito Sotto? Maybe. I remember when he was being touted as VP-material. His sudden fall was one good example of a black propaganda PR campaign that somehow clicked, given the resources at Sotto's disposal and the generally-good image that had been spun for him.

I know, though, who I won't be voting for:

Noynoy Aquino is one. If I don't like it when my leaders lack vision, then I abhor those who are hypocrites. I saw his add about fighting for democracy and I shouted at the TV, "democracy? you have the gall to talk about democracy when you denied the Party that?" Hah. He was it that gave out that memorandum, post-7/8/05 that justified the Drilon-led usurpation of the LP's democratic processes. That would have been fine, if he had insisted to Drilon that, as per his memo, the NECO should have been convened post haste so the Party's leaders can vote on ratifying the "stand" they made that July 8 afternoon.

But no: Noynoy was one of the most avid supporters of the suppression of dissent and democracy in the LP. He even tried, several times, to win over the young leaders who were heavily critical of the July 8 incident and were moving to pressure the leadership to convene the NECO.

Even worse, he's now with the Erap camp. ERAP! Good God and a Half! Did you know that the reason for the rift between Noynoy and Mayor Atienza was the latter's support of Erap during what would lead to the May 1 Mayhem? I even heard of those heated discussions where Noynoy and Chito took LA to task for this support of Erap. Yet look at him now. Sheesh. He was even all smiles when Erap raised their hands during that trip to Taytay.

In an era of shifting political loyalties and principles, consistency is the one thing that should determine whether a leader is true to his or her word or is just wagging your tail. Which is why Kiko and Chiz and Mike D rank high in my list. Especially Kiko. That took a LOT of courage to go independent, rather than compromise his position and principles and I salute Kiko for what he's done.

But Noynoy? *shudder*

Has he - and his family - forgotten that Erap was one of the people that defied Cory at the start of the New Order after the First People Power?

And in that same vein I am not voting for Alan Cayetano and Loren Legarda.

Cayetano is such a... jerk. Nothing else describes him best. Ok, maybe retard. If corruption is the issue, why the (censored) hell is he in the Erap camp? Tactical alliance? Sheesh. And is he not even fazed by the fact that, in case he wins - and God forbid he does - he'll be sharing the same chamber with sister Pia? Does he not find anything wrong with that? Does the 1987 Constitution even ring a bell to him? For somebody who insists on the law, he sure is ready to break them.

Legarda is the quintessential turncoat. If I remember TAO's "Dancing Queen" routine back in '01, then I remember Loren's little "Crying Lady" trick. And now she's one of Erap's leading supporters. Hah. There was this adage of old that Tigers don't change their spots. Well, it appears it doesn't hold with political animals like the ones we have here in the Philippines.

And did you know that one of the biggest unofficial bets in the Senate was on the longest serving staffer of Legarda? Watch where you put your celfone too, when the good former Senator throws a tantrum.

I will also most definitely not vote for Trillianes. The guy's a (censored) rebel, for God's sake! I saw how some people in civil society said they'll vote for him and I wanted to scream, good God, people, are we teaching our children now that its okay to use armed force to express one's grievances to the President? The man led in taking hostage several dozen people - many of them expats - and threatening to blow up a landmark of the financial district! It wasn't even a rebellion but an act of banditry, nay, terrorism! Soldiers who engage in a coup do so in military maneuvers, fighting loyalist cadres in street battles as part of a revolt. Trillianes and company went to Oakwood and HELD PEOPLE HOSTAGE. That's no different from any group who took over an airliner demanding things. He should be meted out capital punishment, not given a seat in the Senate! He has grievances? Then he should have aired them out to his commanders! He's in the military, Light's Sake, and the military is not a democracy. If he couldn't get to air his concerns there, then he should have left and then gave presscons on the state of the military today, not take over a residential area in the heart of Makati.

If these people in civil society who are supporting Trillianes take the time to think and not let their hate for Gloria cloud their judgement, then perhaps they'd remember that such acts remove any legitimacy to one's grievances. The Philippines is a democracy; anyone who believes otherwise is a Communist rebel. It may not be a perfect democracy - far from it - but it still is because, at the end of the day, you can tell the Supreme Court that the 1987 Consti says so. And in a democracy, there are avenues to airing grievances against government. Taking over a residential facility and threatening to blow it up is not one of these avenues. That is terrorism. Regardless of your grievances, you have broken the law and you must be made to answer for that.

There. Hopefully I'll get to complete even at least half of the 12 slots. Maybe some of the independents will look promising.

But this has got to be the shallowest elections I have seen. If this is the best both camps have to show, then we as Citizens of the Republic of the Philippines should seriously start asking really, really hard questions to our leaders as to what the hell is going on.