Tuesday, June 07, 2005

Absurdity, Chaos, and the State of the Philippines Today

For, truly, is it not absurd?

Perhaps there is a truth in the analysis that, given the weakness of our fundamentals - economic, social, political - as well as the length, breadth and scope of the corruption of the system - again, economic, social, political and add to that cultural and religious - the Philippines is, to coin a phrase, in deep shit.

The thing is, is it, truly, as deep as either our so-called specialists and - eternally damn them to hell and the creatures that spawned them - the opposition paint it to be?

How much, truly, of the current mess is because Gloria screwed up bad - and, make no mistake, she did, has and still is, wonder of wonders for someone supposedly so brilliant - or simply because some certain of our good citizenry painted it so much worse?

Is there, truly, chaos? Are we as much on the brink as so many voices say these days, or are those same voices pushing us all to that edge?

It is so absurd: Filipinos are inherently hardy, but we all saw - twice! No, in fairness to Jerome, thrice! - what happens when hardship becomes too much. The Filipino's back doesn't get broken by the proverbial straw on the proverbial camel's back... we kick back at the oppressor. Hard. Where it hurts. Enough to bring our oppressor down.

So why are they not kicking back? Oh, c'mon: socio-civic fatigue? Give me a break. Does anyone, anyone, actually believe that, given all the shit the Filipino has gone through, that they'd just either bear with all this crap because there are no percieved options?

Just how much can our so-called "analysts" insult this great people?

Of course, it can't be denied that Gloria has made such a royal mess of everything. I can't think of what she or her surprisingly stupid handlers and advisers have not done wrong. I may not agree with a lot of what Lito Banayo says, but his description of Gloria and her troupe seems right on the money: punch drunk.

Or is this all one massive maskirovka? The little lady making it look like she's all vulnerable so her equally (or more so) stupid opponents would stick their heads out, literally volunteering to have them severed by the headman's axe...

I read the papers everyday. At least three of them. Because its my job. And aside from those columns written by priests, or those by socio-cultural and historical writers, everything seems to be about doomsday is coming. I don't have to read de Quiros' often seditious writing, or those obviously seditious ones in the Tribune to see all that.... negativity....

One of the things you aren't taught outright in Communications is the way anyone who knows information flows and processing within a society can manipulate that flow for a desired outcome. But its there. It is in the core of every theory and principle of communications, advertising, journalism and public relations. The Sender-Reciever Model, when expanded and properly appreciated, is like a manual for the Communications major on how to use that one powerful weapon of modern society: social engineering. You know how information moves from each factor in the system, and how it is processed. You can manipulate that information so that it becomes the stimulus for your intended effect. Isn't that, in its most rudimentary form, how advertising works? You implant a particular stimulus inside the target market's mind, so when he or she comes across the associated trigger, you might have the desired outcome.

I wonder if these columnists think they're doing a service to the Republic by crawing like stormcrows over a storm that, even it hits, may not be as bad as they say it is? Hurricanes happen despite our control of the atom, but when someone knows that a storm coming, what do most sensible people do? They make the ship or house as tight as they can so they'll have a chance to live through the experience. And if they're additionally responsible, they'll help their neighbors prepare.

All this... crawing... what purpose does it serve except to deafen the sound of the church bells calling the people to gather and prepare? Why don't they instead craw against the predators in the midst, those who wish to take advantage of the storm to rape, pillage and plunder once more? ALTERNATIVES! SHOW US ALTERNATIVES! Who, those cowards in the Netherlands? Those bloodthirsty, intolerant, godless lieutenants they left behind who sap the strength of our youth by hoodwinking them to the supposedly historical inevitability of their dead religion?

Who, the so-called "opposition"? Please. I can accept why many among the general public believes these jokers, but... really now. Isn't it soo obvious....


There is nothing that brings me down more than a people acting like... lemmings. Incredible, isn't it? Whatever the hell is happening to the Philippines now, it's not (a) something we can't fix because (b) it's never really too late. Not when a people can bring together their collective energy, talent and skill to put their house in order. Perhaps it is true that travelling gives you a new perspective, and what it has done to me is appreciate the fact, that, yes, God has been kind to the Filipino. We are not Somalia. We are not shattered Yugoslavia. We are not East Timor. We are not, most definitely not, Argentina.

Yet... there is this seeming battle of... perceptions. I can See because my Training allows me to, both that of a regular Communications Major and the more advanced ones of my Mentat protocols. It would seem that the First Estate has bungled badly, and the Fourth is making it look so much worse while elements of the First take advantage of the whole situation to make it look much worse so they can regain power. The Third... is still nebulous to me, which can be fatal for a Mentat. The Second... is everywhere and nowhere, putting fires out, while fanning others to a conflagration, singing hosannas to God all the while.

All this chaos.

Yet the people go on. They strive, despite their leaders, to make little islands of serenity, stability and hope. Despite all the crowing of the Fourth Estate, the people still hear music, still hear laughter. There is, beneath all this chaos... something else. Something, though not exactly the bright tomorrow, is at least a calmer space. A place where there is hope, where people build, or at least try to. Again, despite their leaders.

All this chaos. All of it so... absurd. Like lemmings leaping off a cliff.

Or... maybe not... sometimes, the Human spirit needs chaos in order to leapfrog its growth. It is like spiritual kaingin, burning the dry grass to give a chance for new life to grow.

But... it's all so... disjointed...

How can there be anger and chaos among people who just want to live in peace and security?

Monday, June 06, 2005

Import #2 from my My Space: Musing on the Canvass of Votes

Thursday, June 17, 2004, 3:55 PM

Musings on the Canvassing of Votes

Considering how the Canvass of Votes at the Batasan has been going, you'd think people would refuse to give it a damn. Yet, there ARE lots of people in that gallery who were not bussed in by any of the camps involved, and many still tune in either for the live coverage or the news updates. Heck, I even saw the piece CNN did on the Canvass, or rather the delay in the Canvass.

Perhaps, after so many political upheavals, the Filipino has developed a... rapt fascination for political absurdity. As a Communications graduate (who wants to do an MA thesis on political communications), I guess I can appreciate the fundamental aspects of this fascination: it's not something the general public sees everyday (and they should be thanking God for it believe me...), which makes it a novelty - no matter how absurd - and therefore merits the attention it’s getting.

While watching Part N of the Digs Dilangalen Show, I actually entertained thoughts of how that loud, LOUD person could be made to shut up; wasn't there a sanction or some such that can be thrown his way, I asked our political operations officer. Looking at it in another way, such... antics from the "Honorables" of Congress is perhaps part of the appeal of the damned spectacle to the general public. Especially "Shut Up Evening", the whole Canvass could neatly fall in the "Hwow" category of Things You Watch to Forget Your Problems. It's like the mental equivalent of an enema: hurts like hell (hello, you get something shoved up your butt), but you get relief from whatever your hurting from. Well, kinda relief. More like catharsis.

Because I'm coming off from an as-yet unknown-sourced depression, I've refused using my analytical protocols to getting down to analyzing the whole thing and its effects on the national psyche. I know, I know: what I'm doing, this refusing to act the Mentat that I am, is tantamount to gross negligence. But... the whole thing is stressful than an episode of your most inane telenovela!

Of course, since I'm a Mentat and I DO check most of my information sources nightly, some analyses can't be avoided. I guess I should start with the bad ones:

Analysis One: The Opposition. In more mature democracies, Oppositions play an important role as the natural fiscalizers of the Administration. They are and SHOULD be the Incumbent's worst critics simply because an Opposition's role is to provide alternatives. Options, and the freedom to choose from a, b, c, ad infinitum, is the essence of democracy.

To use a literary term, Oppositions are the FOIL of the Administration, which for purposes of literary analogy we are calling the "Protagonists" (certainly they see themselves that way). Foils are not necessarily Antagonists by definition: they are simply the obverse of the protagonists. I think a good example most Filipinos could relate to are the Noli Me Tangere characters Crisostimo Ibarra and Elias: one was a pacifist reformist, the other a revolutionary who didn't mind getting his hands wet with blood. But both wanted a free Philippines, or at least one that wasn't too oppressed.

The Opposition right now, led by such characters as Ed Angara, Tito Sotto, Digs Dilangalen and - horror of horrors - Nene Pimentel are acting more like the antagonists of the Filipino people than foils to the sitting government. I hope nobody believes their drivel that what they're doing is in the interests of a fair, clean elections. Even those ten they paraded in Cebu... we have reliable information that backs up the driver's story about the 10 being plants of the Opposition. How reliable? We know who the guy is, the one who "found" the 10.

Its one thing I have great difficulty in accepting: that there ARE people who would literally endanger the life of the Republic and its people for personal gain and survival. For make no mistake, the Elections of 2004 was about survival, political and literal. I can accept the right of any individual to see to his betterment and continued existence, but the minute that person would be willing to sacrifice the lives of 70 million or so people is the minute that person loses that right.

Which leads me to Analysis Two: The Pimentel Phenomenon. I think this can be best summed in two phrases: "Why?" and "What the Hell?" I voted for the man last May 10, considered him a Statesman for his conduct during the RIO. He just won, on the strength of being just that, a statesman in an opposition largely bereft of such. Yet... I remember watching that filibuster evening. First there was confusion. Then shock, as Pimentel began what would be the start of a four hour filibuster. Finally, anger and indignation. I read Manuel Quezon III's piece on the filibuster and generally agree with his points, that the filibuster serves a purpose in democracies and parliamentary systems of governance.

But what Pimentel did was utterly... horrible. It wasn't just about your tax pesos going down the drain (Goodness, but that was some very expensive saliva), but about political maturity. MLQ3 used as an example that episode in The West Wing where the filibuster was used. But there WAS a valid reason for that filibuster. I can't seem to find one in Pimentel's. Is he perfectly willing to subject the nation to a constitutional crisis just to salve his wounded ego? There are far more effective ways to redress alleged cheating in the elections other than delaying the canvass with full intentions.

There are two theories supporting the Pimentel Phenomenon. One states that he's acting this way because of his passionate denunciation of dagdag-bawas; the man knows how it feels, after all, to be at the receiving end of cheating. The funny things about Theory One is that (a) the persons responsible for HIS being the target of dagdag-bawas ran with him in the KNP ticket, and (b) he never addresses cheating that was instigated by the KNP side. It's all about the Admin. If he IS against dagdag-bawas, then shouldn't he just as passionately be admonishing his colleagues in the KNP for their own operations?

Theory Two was also applied to Digs: that Pimentel ACTUALLY believes his own group's propaganda. This is frightening because Pimentel is still rather credible. If it were Sotto, Oreta or Enrile who was leading the assault on the canvass, would you give it any worth? But if Pimentel is a statesman, and a brilliant one at that, a veteran politician, shouldn't he recognize party BS from Truth? Jovy Salonga is much older, but try to put a fast one on the Grand Old Man and be prepared to get screwed big time.

Analysis Three is a bit scarier: The Opposition's Plans to Be in Power. I think we can also call this the, "Screw the Elections, We Won Regardless of What the Ballots Say" scenario. The flag points are all there: psycho-emotional preconditioning for massive cheating through priming statements; allusions to EDSA I, where the popular will was used to invalidate the Dictator-dictated ballots; "special operations" to follow up the priming statements and allusions, like the bombing of Katipunan Ave. and the Cebu 10; Poe going around and saying "I, er, we, er, the people won!"

Sotto, speaking during the rather tense episode of 16 June 2004, of course denied the allegations that they planned a walkout. But even as he did, everybody knows that the threat of such - who's stopping them from doing so? - is the Sword of Damocles that the opposition has over the majority for dragging the canvassing this long. The chairs of the committee can't shut the opposition up because they CAN and WILL walk out. In fact, that's what they're waiting for, that moment either Kiko Pangilinan or Raul Gonazalez buckles due to sheer exasperation and uses the power of their position and the majority to stop all the debates.

The walk out is the trigger. The opposition, ala-1986, will claim that the admin has railroaded the canvass and will now bring the "battle" to a different field, that of mass actions. Our current analysis shows that the KNP camp lacks the numbers, but I think our analysis failed to account for one factor: the "mainstream" Left. The National Demcorats - Bayan, Bayan Muna, Gabriella, AnakPawis, Migrante, NUSP, CEGP, LFS, SCMP, etc. - whose disdain for GMA and long-term goals of establishing a Communist state in the Philippines made them ally, albeit hush-hush, with FPJ and the KNP.

Those monitoring the opposition currently believe that any such attempt at hijacking the elections results via mass actions will ultimately fail: the general public is tired of it all and the AFP and PNP are largely non-adventurist, post-Oakwood. There is no support from the Catholic Church or the Iglesia for such, and the Catholic Student Councils, under the lead of the
UCSC and CEAP, will not side with such an action by the KNP and its allies and will in fact most likely lead actions to defeat it on a civil society level.

But it will do damage. Lots of damage. Remember: the Philippines was well on the way to recovering from Martial Law when Gringo Honasan launched his nearly-successful coup in 1989. It was like a punch to the solar plexus for the Philippines.

But there are bright spots even in this dreary political landscape. For one, all this political activity is raising the political consciousness of the average Filipino. We've been tracking gestalts since the Estrada Impeachment up to the Davide Impeachment and it seems like Filipinos now think more on issues than gut-feel emotions when it comes to the political sphere.

And there's also the junking of People Power as a political tool. Of course, it will be used as such when the proper "ingredients" are there and the moment requires it, but nevermore like with May 1, 2001. Even as we used it in 2000, there was still the apprehension that certain groups could hijack it for their own purposes. People in mass actions are in an agitated state, and could be easily swayed by persons with the right training and skill. Besides, even then, we in KOMPIL II wanted to see the consti process of the Impeachment Court succeed. Mature democracies are founded on the efficacy of their institutional tools. People Power, as used in I and II and abused in May 1 2001, is still an extra-consti measure and therefore lacks the safeguards of democratic institutional processes. People Power is STILL a revolutionary action, albeit one without (much) bloodshed. And with the operators of civil society now in the employ of all sides, the chances of People Power being used for means other than what it should be for is higher than back in 2000.

In the end, no matter what happens in Congress or who gets sworn as President, the future of the Philippines still resides in its people. Sovereignty resides in the People and all government authority emanates from them. If this canvassing will serve to make the Filipino realize this, and use it responsibly to its fullest... then all this heartache and stress will be worth it.

Wednesday, June 01, 2005

Questions to Life

If I give up, will it matter?

If I go, will anyone come after me?

If I die, will anyone shed tears?

Must we who swore Oaths to serve and defend His people, to do His will, pay so high a price?

Do I have a right to be human when nobody, except one or two in my whole life, denied that right to me?

If I cry, is there anyone who will dry my tears?

If I scream, will anyone be around to fight my fears away?

Will anyone reach out for my hands when I am drowning?

What am I doing wrong? Why do bastards like Francis and Docefil rarely find themselves lonely? Why, by God's Most Sacred Light, am I lonely?

Why is it that when they need me to be there I can drop every fucking thing I'm doing but when I just need them to be with me, just so I can forget the sorrow trying to swallow me alive... it is sooooooo hard to find any of them?

What now?

Where to?

What is left of me?

Have we lost the war?

Do I even have a right to ask?

How - and why - can I love so much, care so much, when repeatedly it's been proven that, at the end of the day, those things don't matter?

Why do I even try?

Why am I still alive, then?