Friday, July 28, 2006

Dictatorship as nightmare

And I mean that literally.

It was perhaps one of the weirdest dreams I've ever had. From what I can recall, the first scenes were of armed men storming a sleeping me in my house. The next scenes are held in a large complex that seems like a school and mall (in my Dreamscape, two regular areas I dream in is one that looks like the Ateneo, and another that seems to be a mall of some sort). Come to think of it, the layout appears to be similar to Ayala Alabang, although my spatial sense told me its somewhere in QC.

But more than the location, what bothered me, even after waking, was the palpable sense of... fear. Yes, fear. My dream-self was aware of the situation it was in - that of a dictatorship, or at least a regime under suppressed liberties - yet I could feel myself genuinely afraid. This isn't the common fear of dying (especially a potentially gruesome death) in nightmares. This is no "ordinary" nightmare horror but one that seems to cut deeper than the instinctive fear of the ending of one's life.

Understand that I have training to what some people might call as Dreamwalking. In most, if not all, my dreams, I am after a time aware that I am dreaming and can then exert a certain level of control over my dreamscape, although most times I let the whole dream be just to see where this latest story the supposed random firing of my synapses has made will lead to. Despite this, I've had really horrifying dreams but if anything I consider these nightmares as a "Danger Room" - in reference to the virtual-reality training facility of the X-men - where I can have a bit of training, at least in facing my fears and anxieties, so I let even these nightmares be and try to resolve them. Yet I have rarely been totally afraid in a dream or nightmare, and even rarer are the times when I resort to my training and wake myself up.

This was somehow... different. The... horror in the nightmare that was in the context of what may be Martial Rule stems, in my analysis, in the utter... helplessness in wishing to do or say something and not being able to do it for fear of the tools of a dictatorial state picking you up for transgressing its wishes. I wanted to scream. I wanted to rant at the state, to show my anger... but I couldn't. Something was holding me back. Something was pressing like a vise at the core of my soul and preventing me, somehow, even with the knowledge that it was a dream, from doing what I wanted to.

I think that is where the horror comes from. I wasn't born free, my mother having birthed me in 1977, or five years after Marcos declared Martial Law. But I did come of age in an era of democracy. One of my most vivid memories remains that of watching the Wall fall, and knowing at that moment, even as a pre-teen, how it felt, what it symbolized. I was a teenager in the time of the celebration of democracy and freedom, the first generation of Filipinos to know how it feels like to be free, and I became a young adult at a time when democracy and freedom seemed to be the common theme worldwide, despite all the troubles of the early 21st century.

The malls, the clubs, the coffee shops, the burning of our airwaves by celfones, our ubiquitous use of the internet, our generation's celebrated - and sometimes lamented - outspokenness and nature that abhors limitations and control, even our propensity to come home in the wee hours of the morning... these are all things that we take almost for granted as we do breathing, things that are only possible within the context of the democracy hard won against a two-decade conjugal dictatorship. Generation X and beyond cannot be what it is without these freedoms we enjoy and celebrate, even as some of us have joined official adulthood by having our own kids.

And that, perhaps, is what truly made my nightmare of a land under dictatorial rule frightening: the suppression of something that we have never experienced being without. I participated in the actions before, during and after the Second People Power. I have been with the youth movement at least since 1998. Yet in all this I remained operating within a more-or-less democratic system. We were free to raise our fists against the status quo. We were free to question and even take to task loudly those who rule us. We were even free to call the President of the Republic such horrid names that we wouldn't even use against our most bitter rivals.

True, for us who are active in the movement, who have the gall to call ourselves youth leaders, we know of those dark days of Martial Rule but we have known no other world except the one we came into consciousness. We were too young to have known the fear and anger and frustration of the dictatorship; all we know was we couldn't watch Voltes V nor play videogames anymore.

All we've ever known is a life where you can party till you drop the next morning (and on the streets, too!), play videogames until your eyes water, and watch all the animation, violent movies and adult flicks you can get your hands on. All we've known is a world where the worst we can get for speaking our mind and/or speaking out against our elders is a grounding or a slap on the wrist. Heck, it's even a world that encourages the young to speak out and challenge authority. Meek, silent and opinionless are just soo... uncool in the post-Martial Law Philippines.

But last night, confronted even with the simulacrum of the specter of despotism in a realm I was fully in control, I was powerless before it in fear despite my loathing and outrage at it. And all I could do, despite my training, despite all my experiences, was to press the mental equivalent of a reset button and wake up. Because I just couldn't imagine living in such a world where I was not free to do as I wish, when I want to.

I hope this is one nightmare that will not become a reality. For real life does not give you that option of waking up to a better existence, if the current one has become too horrible to live in.

Thursday, July 27, 2006

Essay writing contest on human rights and democracy

The Ateneo Human Rights Center and the Friedrich Naumann Foundation Manila Office are sponsoring the above essay writing contest. For the mechanics, click on the image above for the link to the details found in the FNF site.

As for the prizes...

The 15 best essays shall receive prizes as follows: the top 4 -15 essays will receive P3,000 each, the third prize essay will receive P10,000, the second prize essay will receive P15,000, and the first prize essay will receive a trip to Germany and a seminar on human rights at the Friedrich Naumann Foundation Leadership Academy. Winning essays will also be published in a book.

I hope a lot of people join. I want to see just where the discussion on the topic will go to. The contest wishes to answer the question, Does the universality of Human Rights require a particular type of democracy? Even an initial survey of the data on this topic showed a promising amount of issues that encourages a lively debate.

And there is the trip to Germany, hehe. I miss the Academy...

Monday, July 24, 2006

Some thoughts on SONA 2006

What an... interesting SONA.

The President appeared to be in an upbeat mood... and was probably a little bit too excited for her SONA, as she stepped up to give her speech even before the singing of the National Anthem. Whoops. I expect several Protocol Officers to get a really good tongue lashing later, as well this little incident getting blown totally out of proportion by the media and her enemies.

Quite a bit of names congratulated there, and not a few ribbing. She even took a playful jab at Makati Rep. Teddy Boy Locsin.

She rattled off quite a good number of programs, nearly all of it infrastructure in nature: roads, sea and air facilities, railways... In one sense, the construction of all these transportation infrastructure makes sense on a strategic level: roads, rail facilities, seaports and aerodromes are not called "arteries" for nothing. These are the essential pipelines through which a nation's economy and growth flow through, and development is usually interconnected, pun not intended, with the level of development of such. A bad road usually means less progress coming into a locale, just as a well-paved and maintained highway quite literally speeds up the flow of investments and people into a place.

Of course, as the Prez continued to rattle off all those projects - some of which, she said, are in place already - my mind had one question: where are we going to get the money for all this?

Is that why she started her SONA by saying we not only have money to pay off the national debt, but to build needed infrastructure?

And I don't think she should have spent the amount of time she did in praising Gen. Palparan. She's currently under flak for the disappearance and deaths of Leftists; heaping such accolades on the man regarded as the foremost hunter of the Left in the Philippines might not be good PR. People would say she's sancitoning extra-judicial killings now, straight from her own mouth, even if there really is no proof until now that the military, and Palparan in particular, are behind many if not all of the deaths and disappearances.

It's also good to see a new guy at the helm of the Senate. I have nothing against a Senate that is indepedent and even critical of the Executive Branch; the principle of the Separation of Powers only holds if all three branches are strong. But, given the context of Frank Drilon's actions since 8 July 2005, the Senate's activities appeared to go beyond mere fiscalizing.

Now that a man without (immediate) ulterior motives on the Presidency is at the Senate's helm, perhaps it would be a more productive one, and not just plain destructively noisy.

Thursday, July 20, 2006

Democracy and Stability Interrupted: casualties of the Israeli assault on Lebanon

I'm looking at the title right now and thinking, have I done a journalistic booboo? I've always hated titles that tend to titillate, but are so misleading based on the content and the context of the article it is heading. I try my best to teach people going into journ or writing to be responsible when it comes to heading their pieces.

But then, it is true: the assault by Israel on Hezbollah positions on Southern Lebanon is becoming a catastrophe. Far from destroying the militant group, Israel is actually making things more dangerous for itself because it may just have dealt a mortal blow to another developing democracy in the region.

I remember watching the return of democracy in Lebanon, and its slow, painful but sure steps to stability. Its cost was painful - the death of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Harriri was its catalyst, after all - but it proved that even in the war-torn and monarchy-controlled Middle East, there is a country whose people yearn for peace, stability and democracy, and who can cross religious lines to do what is right.

Lebanon is, after all, being touted as a showcase of not only religious tolerance but of harmony. Muslims and Christians live side-by-side there. They work, play and go through life without looking at each other with wary eyes and hidden weapons. Despite the presence of Hezbollah in its southern regions - admittedly a source of deep concern - Lebanon strikes one as a place not conducive to the growth of the extremist ideal. People here have long lived with people of other faiths beside them to be so easily hoodwinked by the fanatics.

I grieve for the Lebanese. Although I know the cause of the Israeli action, it is painful to see a people who have so recently won - on their own! - their right to democracy and to stability brought back to the nightmares of the past. And, like with the civil wars of 30 years ago, it largely isn't their fault. They were in the way. In fact, I am appalled by the amount of collateral damage the IDF is causing in trying to stamp out Hezbollah; it truly seems like the nightmarish realization of that age-old adage about using a cannon to kill a fly.

Have the Israelis not learned from America's mistakes? Did they not notice in Iraq what happens when you use an army to stamp out terrorists? Did they not know that the international community would be outraged at what appears to be a blatant disregard not only for the sovereignty of a state but of the callous disregard for the safety and security of that state's people? Or perhaps the leaders of Israel don't care anymore? But, truly, are the lives of three soldiers worth the stability of the region, the existence of a whole sovereign state, and the lives of millions of people in that state?

This must stop. There is so much potential for a stable and democratic Lebanon. It would be the fly in the fanatic's heady ointment, and a proof to the monarchies of the Middle East that democracy does work, even amidst the sands of Arabia. There are better, more effective ways to deal with unrepentant terrorists like Hezbollah than destroying half a country in the process. Because if Lebanon falls, then the Israelis may just have birthed a far bigger, nastier and deadlier monster than the one they currently are trying to kill

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Blood on the sand, once again

This is one of the things you fear.

What started as (a relatively simple) raid and hostage-taking has now escalated into a full blown invasion. I still don't call it a war simply because Lebanon, Syria or even Iran and Palestine has not retaliated with formal military maneuvers against Israel. But the whole situation is dangerously teetering on the edge of full-blown hostilities.

My first thoughts on the matter is how... wrongly Israel is going about the whole thing. True, the raid by Hamas-affiliated militants on an Israeli outpost in Gaza about a month or two ago was horrible - hello, the dug underneath the Barrier! - but Israel's response is equally alarming.

I can understand the concerns over the whole incident within Israel. The Barrier was meant to increase security along the border with Gaza, which is Hamas territory in fact if not name. That Hamas operates both as a legitimate political force - after all, it does have an overwhelming majority of seats in the nascent Palestinian parliament - and an armed force dedicated to the destruction of Israel is always a point of concern. Israel has every right to defend itself, regardless of what Hamas and its allies think, no matter how much they deny or refuse to recognize the existence of the Jewish state.

But Israel's heavy use of formal military power, largely against civilian areas... this goes against many tactical and strategic doctrines I was taught with. The use of overwhelming force appears as too much overkill, when surely the nation with one of the most elite intelligence corps in the world has the resources to do something equally or more so effective, with less complications? This only invites censure on the international scale, and paints Israel as the aggressor, regardless of who started the whole incident in the first place.

That they would attack with their full military might a country that is more or less leaning towards full democracy like Lebanon, is also the height of strategic incorrectness. The scenes broadcast over international television does harm to any justification the Israelis gave for their actions, and puts their allies in a tough spot indeed. Giving the United Nations the diplomatic equivalent of the finger also little helps their cause.

Yet there is also that fact: who started this whole thing in the first place? Before turning off the TV early this morning, I saw scenes from Iran and I think Syria over CNN. I was hearing things like how support should be given to the militants because they're Muslim, too, and how the killing of women and children by Israel must stop.

In every conflict that involves force in whatever form, this is one of the things that surprises me the most: the cry for vengeance for lives lost. This is, of course, a natural reaction. One of ours has been killed by them, and honor cries out for reparation. It comes as a surprise when soldiers and warriors say these things because our trade is conflict and death. Those who wield the sword, die by it (most of the time). As Gen. George Patton once said, the objective is not to die for one's country but to make the soldier of the other country die for theirs.

But most surprising in any conflict I have studied is the one on between Israel and the Muslim world. Of course there are a lot of mitigating circumstances and deep-seated reasons for the beginning and continual nature of this conflict. It is the behavior of Muslims over this issue, especially in the Middle East, that confounds me. Historical reasons aside, wasn't this latest chapter of the Arab-Israeli conflict started when several militants of Hamas tunneled underneath the Barrier between Gaza and Israel and attacked an outpost, taking one young Jewish soldier as prisoner? The effort alone involved in tunneling underneath that wall without getting noticed must have been immense. This was no spur-of-the-moment act of violence but a strike that was methodically and intelligently planned and executed. If warfare is murder, then this was as premeditated as it gets.

One scene last night showed a masked militant - and if he was so ready to die for his people and his faith, why did he hide his identity? - holding a gun and a copy of the Koran aloft. There is something frightening about that scene, something that elicits a reaction from one that, almost unconsciously, makes you want to draw your own weapon. It is the sign of the threat that wishes to do harm to you, akin to the chest-thumping and loud hoots of adult chimpanzees in displays of aggression. It is the clear indication of what the Other wishes to do to you and yours, and every instinct in your body and mind cries out for the proper response to such an overt implication of impending violence.

It was a clear symbol of what drives this conflict from the side opposite of the Israelis. Where the Jews are fighting for survival, especially in the context of the Holocaust and centuries of persecution after the Diaspora, their opponents are fired up by religious fanatics who have perverted the teachings of a religion that was designed to keep such aggression in check. Yes, there are other reasons behind the whole Arab-Israeli conflict - and some of them as much Israel's fault as any - but it has become nearly so impposible to resolve because religious fanatics from the Muslim world have so distorted the issue. You cannot reason out of something someone who was not reasoned into that something in the first place.

The Israelis must remember this. They have been so long without the overt manifestation of a massive threat to their survival as a nation and as a race that their numerous wars with the Arabs were, that perhaps they have forgotten what it is they face. Their enemies - and they are legion - are simply looking for the flimsiest excuse to call on holy war on Israel. No other religion than theo one the Israelis contend with has made such an... institution of holy war, that has made it so all-encompassing to make it so deadly.

This is no simple war for lebensraum or the ascendancy of one race over another. This is about a people who have been conditioned to think that any act against them is another in a long line of acts designed to keep them down and oppressed. This is a conflict that has been rooted by the leaders of a whole people in their religion, a faith that demands absolute belief in its tenets, and that any act of war from their opponents is also an act against God.

Israel must remember that, just like in a debate, when your opponent throws a holy book at you, then all discussions and debates end. And they, of all people in contemporary times, should know that when people start coming out in the streets with guns lofted alongside copies of the Koran, then the situation goes beyond a nation's need for security or justice over one trooper taken as an act of war.

To the opponents of the Israelis, this is no simple act of war on the mundane scale... but one that already involves God. And when God is part of the picture, how can one talk about securing borders and taking down militants? How can warfare be prevented from spilling into civilian areas and harming non-combatants? In holy war, there are no non-combatants.

Escalations are one of the things commanders try to avoid in warfare. As much as possible, a commander wishes to limit the factors and situations in a conflict into a more-or-less manageable system. Escalation in any conflict means more chances for the whole situation to go beyond one's control. And in warfare, once you have lost control, then disaster for your forces is not long in coming.

Israel must pull back, if only to consolidate and take a breather. Its initial anger is understandable, but to fight in the full of anger is also to invite disaster. They must exercise restraint, before this whole situation escalates beyond even their most worst-case scenario.

Monday, July 10, 2006

An interesting bit of news

Morning sometimes sees me doing monitoring. The advent of Net-based news, and the fact that Inq7 updates 24/7, means that something new might have come out that the morning newspaper's edition doesn't carry.

So I check. And I also check the blogs of note if I have the time (or inclination). And one of those I regularly check is Dr. Meinardus' blog, my liberal times. And he has this interesting post on something Prof. Mario Taguiwalo, President of the National Institute for Policy Studies (NIPS), wrote.

Actually, I was going to respond to the post, but it got long and rather, er, strong. So as not to put to risk Dr. M any further - some people in the other camp have been doing their damndest to get rid of him as Resident Representative - I have decided to make this post instead.

According to Dr. M, a commentary by Prof. Taguiwalo has appeared in a 4-page booklet entitled “Liberal Party on the Road not yet taken“. Dr. M quotes the following, and I extract this verbatim from his blog:

“Despite the fact that our shared position on GMA’s unfitness to remain president may have initially defined us (in contrast to other liberals who have a different opinion on this issue), being simply anti-GMA is not a fruitful, wise or sustainable direction for our political party. Being anti-GMA is not even the universe of liberal aspirations for our country. And worst of all, being anti-GMA is not the most productive way of applying liberal principles in serving our people at this time… Just as overwhelmingly being pro-GMA can warp one’s liberalism, being obsessively anti-GMA can pervert our liberalism.”

Well. That's interesting.

I've always said that what torpedoed the whole scenario the LP finds itself in right now was the rather intransigent position of some of those in the anti-GMA camp on the issue of July 8. They REFUSED to listen to the fact that so many of us who challenged the statement of July 8 weren't doing it on the grounds of whether we were pro- or anti-GMA but because it was a question of process, of the mechanisms for decision-making and consultation that is at the heart of what revived the LP in recent years.

If only the question of GMA's legitimacy could be divorced from that of what the Party did leading to July 8, then MAYBE we could get somewhere.

Seeing what Prof. Taguiwalo wrote gives me hope that some people, especially in Sen. Drilon's side, will start rethinking this whole thing. They HAVE to listen to Prof. Taguiwalo somehow.

My tirades against Sen. Drilon in this blog wasn't because I was pro-GMA (although I HAVE heard that some people in the Drilon camp are trying to paint it that way) - far from it: I DON'T agree with so many of what she has done since the Garci tapes came out - but because, as Staff of the HQ and an officer of the youth wing, I saw firsthand how this perversion of liberalism by some in Drilon's group happened. Heck, I AM, after all, a victim myself of this perversion.

When I speak out against Sen. Drilon and those around him, I don't do so because I am simply with the Atienza camp, but because I was taught one thing during my time with the LP and I saw another thing when 8 July 2005 happened and in the long months leading to 2 March 2006, how some of my elders acted contrary to what I was taught and made to believe.

I am in the Atienza camp not for anything some people - and they know who they are - say I am, but simply because I saw and experienced PERSONALLY how the values I was made to believe in as a member of this Party were twisted, manipulated and yes, perverted to support a particular action that has NO official sanction of the Party's majority.

You know, I was thinking this: those who went against GMA are the intellectual and moral elite of the Party. I have seen how they could tilt the balance in their favor during a NECO session simply by stating their case clearly and concisely.

I was thinking: what if Sen. Drilon, using his power and influence as LP President and Senate President, INSISTED to the NECO to convene on July 8, and allowed people like Mario Taguiwalo to present the case vs. GMA, allowed a full debate to happen? What are the chances they could have convinced a majority of the NECO to side with them?

How many were pro-Roco leading to the 2004 elections? Yet what happened after all the data came in from the process that was approved by the NECO in determining our standard bearer in the 2004 elections?

It's like what we said in KALIPI's position paper after July 8: who knows what the LP would have decided if we simply followed the processess we are known for as a Party? The anti-GMA group may just have won!

But July 8 had to happen. Even worse, they did nothing that could be termed as in keeping with the LP's traditions and processes in the months leading to March 2. Actually, much worse was the suppression, the cover ups, the PRs with so much false information fed to the media through our email and website. I think, if someone asks me why I posted all of those press releases in loudly proclaiming the LP's so-called stand on GMA, all I could answer is , it was my job to post them, and because my boss at the time said to put those up.

And then there's CALD. This is the most painful of all, because we had to include our sister parties abroad in this insanity.

You know, I wish COMELEC had asked for witnesses or some such. I wish my name had been called. I would have stood or sat there and told the Commissioners, your honors, do you want to know WHY March 2 happened? I would have answered, because Drilon and his people allowed it to happen. Because, contrary to the rules, traditions and ideals of the Liberal Party, they not only refused to convene the NECO for so long but did their damndest best to suppress anything that would have hinted at a division in the LP or a question from the ranks about July 8.

I would, perhaps half-rhetorically, ask the Commissioners... ask yourself, your honors: if Drilon had convened the NECO anytime between 8 July 2005 and maybe the anniversary of January 2006... do you think March 2 would have happened?

Like I have been saying for a long time now: was anyone suprised March 2 happened?

Unless, of course, Drilon and his people have started to believe their own propaganda. Now that is a problem, indeed. Because you cannot reason out of something anyone who was not reasoned into it in the first place. Or anyone who has deluded themselves into thinking that a particular position is the truth after telling a lie for so long.

And if you think my being in the LP's pro-GMA camp has perverted my sense of liberalism, then look here.

Thursday, July 06, 2006


Haha. Maybe I should write here, "Blogging fever grips Filipino young liberals!"

Although, when you think about it, it's rather ironic that KALIPI would just be one of the latest to have its own blog among the young liberals of the Philippines. I mean, compared to the blogs of, say, Donna and Tops, it really is lightyears behind.

And how come I can say stuff like that about our blog? Because I head KALIPI's Directorate for Communications and Public Relations (DCPR), and that little cybernook falls under my jurisdiction, wahaha!

Hey, it's my baby, too. And since we've been hyperlinking like crazy between all of our blogs, we hope to induce more netizens to start posting replies like crazy on our posts.

Anyway, click here to go to KaBlog!, the official web log of the Kabataang Liberal ng Pilipinas.

By the way: we have unconfirmed rumors - and, oh, how I wish I had not disbanded ISaAC; I miss my intelligence operatives - that the Drilon faction has formed its own liberal youth wing.

I have a lot of comments on this, but I guess I'll refrain going into details until I hear more. But, if this is true, all I can say in brief is:

A. They're certainly within their rights to make their own associations, but
B. Making another KALIPI - no matter the name - is rather:
C. Immature
D. Improper
E. Pathetic
F. Absurd
G. Really gets my blood pressure up

Whoops. Too much angst.

I'd rather they just continue with that "UMASA KA " thing that Chito and Rudy Santos thought about all those years back. Heck, I even gave them the concept paper for it. This, making their own KALIPI, is just soooo like spitting on our eyes.

Hey, whoever did this? If you can't stand KALIPI not going with what you want, then live with it! We are not your slaves, and we think, we discern, and we do not immediately jump to conclusions. Respect us, and we'll respect you.

Heck, what am I talking about? We've always respected them, eventhough they haven't us.

Okay. Stopping now. Angst level is getting high.

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

Getting past the Gatekeepers: Blogging and the reform of the Fourth Estate

Well, okay: mmmmaaaayyybbbeee not exactly the reform of the Fourth Estate. But media has been so much a Corporation these last few decades that they've seemingly forgotten why they heck the existed - and came to be regarded as a full "Estate" - in the first place.

Everytime I read , hear and/or see "mainstream" media, everytime I interact with media personnel, I always, always, go back to that one class in Journ 101 where Doreen Fernandez herself popped the bubble of idealism keeping afloat the rosy view of the media that we Atenean Comm sophomores still had. (Most) Media exists, even if they operate at a loss, not becuase of any idealism or even altruism, but because having your own media is having power. It would only be when P.R. class in fourth year started introducing us to Strategic Constituencies and the term Gatekeepers of Information that it all started to make sense, especially as it all dovetailed nicely into the modified Sender-Reciever models of modern communciations theory.

Blogging changed all that. Okay, that and the Internet. The former would probably have not flowered if not for the... insinuation of the latter in everyday human life. But no one today who has constant access to the Net can deny the... liberating power that blogging has brought to the whole system of information transfer that the 21st century is based on. William Gibson's near-prophetic vision of a humanity centered around information is here (albeit without the graphical complexity and granduer of a VR web, nor the dystopian atmosphere of his future. Well, not yet.), and now more than ever is the access to that information crucial to day-to-day living.

While channel surfing last night, I chanced upon an interview of Manolo Quezon on ANC, and he said there that he wishes more people would express their opinion. In a very real sense, this is what blogging does. Even those "simple", diary-like journals found among Friendster users are as important as the cutting edge blogs of known pundits simply because they add to the collective trove of information and experiences of the human race.

In essence, blogging is tantamount to staking one's very own real estate in the VR realm of the Worldwide Web and doing with it what you want, how you want it, and showing the rest of the world how you percieve reality. As a liberal, that is not only good, but truly astounding. Liberals revel in information. We seek the alternative viewpoint, no matter how offensive it can be to our sensibilities. We may hate what we see from someone's else's PoV, but at least we've seen another take on the issue.

And that's important. In an increasingly digital world whose backdrop is the increasing trend to security-over-freedom following 9/11 (augh! It's so... Gibsonesque! Why the hell must there always be some catastrophe or another that defines the future?! Can't it be something glorious instead like the Fall of the Wall? Why is Buffet's giving away NEARLY ALL of his money, and making a statement against "dynastic wealth" not as earth-shattering as the rise in oil prices?), keeping information from being interpreted by a single or select group of Gatekeepers is asking for trouble; in fact, controlling information is the true first step to the dark world Gibson portrayed in his books, most eloquently in the seminal Neuromancer.

Blogs - ironically, its rise is a by-product of the second Iraq war! - allow ordinary people to bypass an increasingly-monolithic Fourth Estate that is increasingly coming under the control of the First and the Third. As alternative sources of information to the traditional Gatekeeper that is mainstream media, they ensure that information stays free, dynamic and multi-facted. Sustaining a single worldview is Orwellian, just as the suppression of dissent and differing opinions (like some people I know and you know who you are!). Blogs - yes, even Friendster blogs - actually help keep Big Brother, in whatever forms or even gender it chooses to be, at bay through its affirmation of that essential cornerstone of demoracy which is the free access to information and the freedom to say what is in one's mind.

With increasingly-cheaper webspace available, and the blogging community not only constantly striving to better the medium but insistent in helping others get into this brave, new world, democracy has a new tool in its arsenal, one that is well beyond the capabilities of Government, Religion, Big Business and Mainstream Media to control.

And I don't know about you, but that is perhaps the best thing to happen since the Wall fell.

Blog owner's note: this post was inspired by the second seminar on blogging courtesy of the Friedrich Naumann Foundation's Manila Office. I was a participant in the first seminar they conducted last January, and although I have been blogging for quite some time now - two years this month! - it was only after the seminar that I started blogging seriously. Although many of the lessons I learned about blogging there were things I was doing for some time by then, the seminar gave me the drive and the confidence to at least be constant in posting.

I really owe a lot to the FNF and its wonderful Resident Representative, Dr. Ronald Meinardus, who's more like a mentor to me than anything else. Guess I never got around to thanking them fully for everything, so this is a nice opportunity to do so, hai?

Monday, July 03, 2006

An interesting view on the impeachment

Fr. Joaquin Bernas, SJ, presents an interesting view on impeachment that I never thought about before. Okay, fine: I did. Every person with a modicum of political training and exposure understands that impeachment is a political process.

What I guess most people, even pol ops, don't or vaguely know, is just how political the process is. Fr. Bernas emphasizes this when he said, "the impeachment process is not a judicial process but a political process. Its purpose is not to punish a malefactor but to protect the public from harm."

This has all been drilled into our minds during the impeachment of Erap in 2000-2001. Political, not Judicial. The way I understood this before, it meant that the processes of the judiciary would be utilized, but several principles don't apply. For one, if I remember my Erap Impeachment right, the principle of guilt beyond a shadow of a doubt that courts use for giving verdicts does not necessarily apply. All was needed, as I remember it, was enough information that would convict the accused.

Fr. Bernas further emphasizes the political nature of impeachment with two points: that it is partisan, and that "impeachment is political in the sense that what is involved is not just a legal decision but also a policy decision."

That's the new part for me. Impeachment as a policy decision. Quoting Fr. Bernas:

For that reason, the responsibility for impeachment has been given to a political (read: “policy-making”) body. When congressmen and congresswomen deliberate on whether to raise the complaint to the Senate, or when the senators deliberate on what verdict to support, the question they answer is not only whether there is evidence to support a “guilty” verdict, but also whether under the circumstances the preferred policy should be to remove the official on trial to allow someone else in. In other words, a verdict of “not guilty” does not necessarily mean “innocent.” It can also mean “guilty,” but keeping the person in is the wiser option now. What is often decisive is the legitimate gut feel or illegitimate interest of individual legislators.

Like I said, this is interesting. In the sense that the whole thing has been pursued under what is essentially the Black and White Movement's take on the whole issue: that there are no gray areas to the issue. It's either the President did wrong, or she didn't.

When Black and White came up with this kind of thinking, I thought they were missing the point. We would all love to have the utmost morality and integrity in governance. That is the ideal situation. But if anything my years in political operations has taught me, the world we all move in is far from being ideal. The same politicians who fight on either side of this issue were the ones who bandied around the term pragmatism as a justification to many (if not all) acts they have done in the political sphere.

I think that, given this way of looking at the whole impeachment process that Fr. Bernas illustrated, the anti-Gloria movement should think about revising their strategies and get down to the most fundamental of questions: if not Gloria, then who?

I would like to think that outrage isn't dead among us Filipinos, but because our political leaders have made pragmatism a byword in the public sphere, the public themselves have incorporated it into their psyche. So the president did wrong? Big deal: all you politicians cheat in the elections. It's like politician = cheater in this country. It's like the proverbial pot calling the kettle black.

If they look closely enough, the anti-Gloria people should have noticed that there is a shift in thinking in the public, that it is not anymore a question of impropriety and immorality, but whether a regime change would benefit the country more at this stage or not. The people are tired of regime change. They may not like Gloria, but the opposition to her has not even given clear alternatives to her. These are nearly the same people who ousted Erap and installed Gloria as an alternative. Now they want to oust her? To the rest of the public, this may sound weird.

Impeachment is not a contest of purely good vs. evil, moral vs. immoral, proper vs. improper, black vs. white. The most celebrated impeachment of the 20th century - that of Bill Clinton - should have taught everyone that. It is a question of whether, given the reasons for the impeachment, a president is fit to govern or not, or whether the removal of the current occupant of the Palace will make things better for the public.

Unless the opposition can fully appreciate this fact - they believe she should go, even to making her guilty in their minds sans proper, unbiased investigations, but have they been able to translate this belief into information that can convince the majority? - or the nature of impeachment change, then perhaps the opposition should just stop subjecting the Republic to more instability and just gird themselves to the electoral battle of 2007, where they have a better chance to change the dynamics of the situation to their favor.