Mag-ingat sa tuso

By Ellen Tordesillas

Kayo ba ay naniniwala na talagang tatakbo si Gloria Arroyo bilang kongresista ng Pampanga sa 2010 eleksyon?

Malakas ang kutob ko na isa na namang pakulo niya ito at meron talaga siyang ibang maitim na balak. Suspetsa ko diversionary tactic lang ito.

Nakakapagtaka kasi sila mismo ang nagpapalutang. Si Arroyo mismo. Sinabi nya sa kanyang talumpati, “anong malay nyo, baka tumakbo akong kongresista sa Pampanga.” Ito ay sinundan ng mga pahayag ng kanyang deputy spokesperson na si Lorelei Fajardo na wala namang batas na nagbabawal na tumakbong kongresista.

Ang pinakahuli nilang drama ay ang ikinuwento ni Agrarian Reform Secretary Nasser Pangandaman sa mga reporter sa Cotabato City na sinabi raw ni Arroyo sa kanila sa miting ng Legislative-Executive Development Council ang kanyang planong pagtakbo bilang kongresista ng Pampanga.

Nang inilabas ng Inquirer, deny ang Malacañang. Walang sinabi raw si Arroyo sa miting. Atras din si Pangandaman. Ginawa pa yang iresponsable at sinungaling ang reporter. Ang kanyang plano raw na tumakbo sa pagka-kongresista ang sinabi niya sa mga reporter. Ha? Tatakbo siya (Pangandaman) na kongresista ng Pampanga?

Pasensiya na sa mga nagsasabi na sobra naman daw ang aking pagkamuhi kay Arroyo. Hindi ko makalimuntan ang kanyang sinabi sa harap ng puntod ni Jose Rizal noong Dec. 2002 na hindi siya tatakbo sa pagka-presidente sa 2004.

Naniwala at naging kampamte ang marami. Ang hindi natin alam, ginagapang na niya pala ang pagkukunan ng pera ng taumbayan na gagastusin niya sa 2004 eleksyon katulad ng pera ng para sa abono ng magsasaka na naging fertilizer scam at road users tax. Doon din niya kinuha si Comelec Commissioner Virgilio Garcillano.

Di ba sa “kasalan” ng Lakas at Kampi, sinabi niya na ang pagkakaisa daw ng dalawang partido ng mga maka-administrasyon na pulitiko ay patunay na may eleksyon sa Hunyo 2010. Pagkatapos niya sabihin yun, umakyat sa presidential suite ng Manila Hotel, ipinatawag ang mga kongresista at inutusang itulak ang HR1109 o Con-Ass. Siyempre may bonus ang mga masunurin- P20 milyon.

Lumalabas ngayon na kaya pinilit niya ang pag-iisa ng Lakas at Kampi ay dahil kung Kampi lang, na siyang sumusulong ng HR 1109 ni Camarines Sur Re. Luis Villafuerte, kulang ang kanilang numero. Kaya para talaga sa Con-Ass ang Lakas-Kampi merger.

Ang HR 1109 ay nagsusulong ng Constituent Assembly kahit wala ang Senado para ma-amyendahan ang Constitution. Gusto ni Arroyo amyendahan ang Constitution para maging parliamentary system at magiging prime minister siya o kung patuloy ang presidential system, ma-aalis ang term limits ay siya ay pwedend president habambuhay.

May suspetsa akong mas malaking operasyon ang niluluto nina Arroyo. Mag-ingat tayo sa emergency rule o martial law.


Imperial conquests

by Danton Remoto
Remote Control
Views and analysis
June 16, 2009

God’s Dust: A Modern Asian Journey
By Ian Buruma
Phoenix Books, London
2008 reprint, originally published in 1988

The last 20 years has seen an enormous rise in interest in Asia among travel writers from the West. Verily, it is a tradition that goes many centuries back, when the first Westerners set foot in Asia and returned home with fabulous tales about our “exotic” continent of legend and wealth. This kind of travel writing reached its peak in the 19th century, which was also the century when colonialism was most widespread. Western chroniclers sent home “travelers’ tales” that reported the strange customs, the different rites and rituals of the East. The general idea, of course, was that the people of the East should be saved from their backward and primitive lives, with salvation coming from the West. In short, these travel narratives provided a convenient weapon of words for the imperial conquests.

But such thinking was debunked by Edward Said in his highly influential book, Orientalism (1978). Professor Said pointed out that these Western books turned the East into an “Other” that is exotic, feminine, strange and different. Therefore, it is a land to be conquered, to be colonized, to be contained. It is a land to be turned into facsimiles of the West.

In general, Ian Buruma’s book tries to veer away from this “Orientalist” direction. Although born in The Netherlands, Mr. Buruma is the son of parents from different countries. He was educated in The Netherlands but writes in English, which is his mother’s tongue. He has lived one-third of his life in Asia, where he wrote for the Far Eastern Economic Review, the New York Times, and the New York Review of Books. This hyphenated writer spent one year traveling from Rangoon to Hiroshima to write this book. He focuses on “what happens to people when the loyalties and traditions of the village break down and are replaced by the complexities of the modern world.”

It seems like a burdensome thesis, but Mr. Buruma’s book is most illuminating when he writes about people – leaders and beggars, poets and peasants, prostitutes and monks – and spares no incident, whether big or small, as long as it throws light on his theme. He has the journalist’s nose for news and the fiction writer’s gift for the anecdote.

Mr. Buruma laments the Western cliché that one has to go outside the seemingly “Westernized” Asian cities to discover the “reality” about the country one is visiting. He is right when he said that one only has to scratch the surface of lives in Asian cities to find a “cultural sense of self.” Kampung Baru lies near the shadow of the Petronas Twin Towers in Kuala Lumpur, but when one has al fresco dinner in one of the mamak stalls selling nasi bubur, a Filipino visitor could feel in his bones that the Philippines must have been like this before the Spaniards came – a Malay society where neighbors were linked to each other by blood and social ties, where the way of life was slow and gracious, where nature shaped the gestures and seasons of rite and ritual, custom and ceremony.

Mr. Buruma also notes that although many Asian societies are torn by economic crisis and the crisis of identity, these twin horns of difficulty can also be sources of creativity. Verily, he alludes to the Chinese saying that a crisis creates its own opportunity. “The necessity to experiment, to redefine themselves, to find meaning in a world of conflicting values has made the capitalist countries of Southeast Asia extraordinarily dynamic. They are alive in a way that old Europe, complacently bearing the burden of its long, miraculously continuous history, is not.”

”The Village and the City” contrasts the neighbors Burma (renamed Myanmar by its military rulers in 1988) and Thailand. Because he had difficulty staying long in Myanmar, Mr. Buruma’s essay on the country is naturally thin, relying mostly on historical vignettes. I also have a problem with his dichotomy between the village and the city. I think it is too simplistic. Surely, in Asia today, the pace of development is uneven, such that some parts of the city still remind you of the village, while a few parts of the village seem so urban. Thus, the labels of “village” and “city” become slippery constructs when seen in this light. His essay on Singapore also suffers from the changes wrought by history, for what he calls the “nanny state” has changed in the last 10 years. It also focused too much on the “nanny state” image of the island-country, and he did not interview any artists who could have provided a cross-section of views about Singapore, the way he did with most of the other countries in the book.

His essay on Thailand offers more insights. “Patpong kitsch and Thai traditions coexist – they are images from different worlds, forms manipulated according to opportunity. The same girl who dances to rock ’n’ roll on a bar top, wearing nothing but cowboy boots, seemingly a vision of corrupted innocence, will donate part of her earnings to a Buddhist monk the next morning, to earn religious merit. The essence of her culture, her moral universe outside the bar, is symbolized not by her cowboy boots, but by the amulets she wears around her neck, with images of Thai kings, revered monks, or the Lord Buddha.”

And then Mr. Buruma goes for the jugular, showing the West for what it really is: “The apparent ease with which Thais appear able to adopt different forms, to swim in and out of seemingly contradictory worlds, is not proof of a lack of national identity, nor is the kitsch of Patpong proof of Thai corruption – on the contrary, it reflects the corrupted taste of Westerners, for whom it is specifically designed. Under the evanescent surface, Thais remain in control of themselves.”

”The Old Japanese Empire” deals with Taiwan and South Korea. The author twinned the essays in one chapter because Taiwan looks up to Japan as a model, while South Korea reviles Japan for its harsh colonial conquest.

Mr. Buruma’s essay on Taiwan is also rather thin. The essay on South Korea is more instructive. He points out “the complex and sometimes explosive mixture of shame and chauvinism in South Korea. The one, of course, stokes the flames of the other. There is a Korean term for pandering to foreign powers: Sadae chuui. And Koreans are forever accusing one another of it. These accusations are not without reason, for Koreans have a long history of using outside powers to fight opponents at home….”

This peninsula divided into two countries, this country located between China and Japan, is beset by an identity crisis. It seems to have an inferiority complex masquerading as superiority. There is a constant desire among the South Koreans to prove they are better than their neighbors – whether it is in the economy, in having “the most scientific and best writing system in the world,” and, yes, in the race for the slimmest cell phones and the most durable SUV. It seems, Mr. Buruma suggests, that “Koreans often can only define themselves in terms of a foreign civilization.” More so if they can prove themselves better than that civilization.

Mr. Buruma’s essay on Japan, where he lived the longest, is the best in the collection. “Arriving in Japan always fills me with feelings of ambivalence. It is like coming home to a country which, to me, can never be home. I spent my twenties in Tokyo. Everything is familiar: The language, the manners, the advertisements, the TV programs. Japan is part of me, yet I can never feel part of it. This may have something to do with me. But it is also in the nature of the most insular of nations. It fills me with love and horror, which alternate and sometimes even coincide, the one sometimes, in a perverse way, feeding on the other. Japan looks the most modern society in Asia, politically, culturally, aesthetically. It is also among the most archaic. It is one of the most open societies – foreigners can go there, live there, marry, and prosper. But it remains in many ways as exclusive as Burma. Japan is ‘Westernized,’ yet somehow, the country in East Asia least touched by the West. I am never sorry to leave, yet I always yearn to go back.”

Shrewdly Mr. Buruma points out what ails modern Japanese – the feeling that something has been irrevocably lost in Japan’s dizzying rise to progress and modernity. What has been lost is replaced by an uncritical acceptance of many things from the West. Urban Japan has become like a pastiche of many influences – a modern yet tacky Disneyland, if you will.

”But it is not so much the modern vulgarization of traditional forms that is disturbing, but the idea of tradition as just another transient fashion, another form without substance. One sometimes wonders whether anything in modern Japan has lasting value, whether anything substantial can visibly last. There is a rootlessness, a constant evanescence about Japanese sophistication which explains, perhaps, both the melancholy Japanese love for fleeting beauty, for visible decay, and the anxiety about cultural and spiritual loss.”

What has been lost is the Japanese spirit, the national soul – however you define it. Nihonjinron, or defining Japanese-ness, is a constant topic of best-selling books and top-rated TV shows. Sometimes, the form it takes veers dangerously close to ultra-nationalism. And here, Mr. Buruma engages in the history of Western ideas in a learned and admirable manner, comparing prewar emperor worship in Japan to “a kind of Bonapartism grafted onto Japanese traditions.”

If there is one flaw here, it is the hasty generalization that “Japanese intellectuals often seem marginal figures, writing for one another, respected as men of learning, but not taken seriously by the world at large.” Of course, in any society – I am sure even in London, where Mr. Buruma now resides – intellectuals are marginal figures. The same intellectuals write for The London Review of Books that the same coterie of intellectuals reads. He also failed to note that there are now public intellectuals – people in academe who write for newspapers and magazines and who appear even on TV talk shows, giving depth and illumination even if they are only allowed so many column inches or so many milli-seconds for their sound-bites. And I am sure Mr. Buruma has read the novels of Harumi Murakami, one of Japan’s best writers – and intellectuals – who dissects Japanese society with a pen as sharp as a scalpel, and as focused as a laser beam.

The essays on Malaysia and the Philippines are the weakest. Mr. Buruma scores some points with his brief discussion on the racial issue, but undercuts it with his shallow take on Malay architecture. Being an archipelago in Southeast Asia, Malay architecture is based on wood and other natural elements. But since Malaysia is also an Islamic country, the motifs of Islamic art – the onion-shaped domes, the curvilinear shapes, the ornate arabesques – have seeped into the country and have been grafted into the look and shape of the buildings. Therefore, I do not understand Mr. Buruma’s statement that the Islamic Center and other additions to the skyline of Kuala Lumpur are “alien forms [because they were] borrowed from the Middle East.”

Then he notes that “Food is one of the few instances of integrated culture: The delicious Nonya cuisine mixes Chinese and Malay dishes in ways that add an extra dash to both.)” But this assertion is only partially correct, because he does not say how. Baba Nonya-Peranakan cuisine has made Chinese food more spicy; it has also enlarged the repertoire of the traditional Malay cuisine.

However, aside from being a great leveler in Malaysian society, food can also be seen as a great divider. The Muslim notions of halal (food should be prepared according to Islamic adat – custom and tradition) and haram (the notion of evil or “sin”) – has served as an effective buffer for integration at the dining table. Only the people of immigrant stock – the Chinese and the Indians – happily eat in each other’s restaurants and stalls.

Mr. Buruma also flounders when he talks about the so-called Third World. He said “The Third World persona… is an image borrowed from the West, from social activists in Berkeley and concerned poetry magazines in London. The Third World concept is a product of post-colonial guilt….”

Again, this is only very partially correct. The concept of the Third World came not from Berkeley or London but from France. It is a literal translation of tiers monde, and was first used by the French economist Alfred Sauvy in an article published in the Observateur magazine on Aug. 14, 1952. Three years later, the newly independent countries of Asia and Africa held a landmark conference in the Indonesian city of Bandung, giving credibility to the idea of a cohesive Third World that was at once opposed to colonialism and aligned with neither the East nor the West. This group has grown into the Non-Aligned Movement, which held its 14th conference recently.

Indeed, the Berkeley intellectuals flirted briefly with the notion of the Third World in the late 1960s and early 1970s, as part of American protest against the Vietnam War. The London journals also dwelt on the concept of the Third World in the mid-1970s, when they were publishing protest poetry and trying to free writers hauled into jail by some of the despotic regimes in the Third World, including that of Ferdinand Marcos’s.

However, it is this, in the end, that mars the book of Mr. Buruma. If only he spent more time sitting down and reading more books on Asian history – especially books that give credit to what the East has done in the history of ideas or the turn of events – he would have avoided the historical gaps in his book.

The essay on Thailand also suffers from this gap. Mr. Buruma says that “The Thais have been both clever and lucky in their relations with foreigners. The Thais were lucky that the British and the French, the two major colonial powers, neutralized each other, so that Siam became a kind of buffer zone between Burma, Malaya, and Indochina….”

This is a flippant assertion; the events of history do not bear this out. A country is not simply “lucky” that the two colonizers around it “neutralized” each other. Saying so is to diminish the pivotal role played by King Chulalongkorn (known to the Thais as Chula Chom Klao or Rama V), who reigned from 1868-1910. Educated by European tutors and drawing inspiration from his father, the great libertarian King Mongkut (known to the Thais as Phra Chom Klao or Rama IV), King Chulalongkorn opened the doors of his country wider to the West. He also built railroads, established a civil service, and restructured the legal code. Verily, he brought his country to the 20th century.

But this was also the time when Siam was being threatened by two greedy colonial powers. How to ward off the might of these two empires—the British and the French? It is not a matter of luck, then, but shrewdness that saved the day for Siam. King Chulalongkorn and his emissaries negotiated with the French and British colonial powers. True, the King was compelled to concede some territory to French Indochina (Laos in 1893 and Cambodia in 1907) and to the British Burma (three Malayan states in 1909). But the fruit of these concessions was that Siam was never colonized, and a large part of its territory remained under Siamese hands. And to this day, the Thais are one of the proudest peoples in Asia, with dignity and a sense of national self intact.

Perhaps I am just a Filipino who is a student of his country’s history, but I found Mr. Buruma’s essay on the Philippines similar to a golf course – full of holes. In the first sentence alone, he calls Olongapo City a “typical Filipino town.” How could a town of 250,000, which hosted an American base, be called typical? Then and now, the typical Filipino town is a small, agricultural place where life revolves around the town square bordered by the church, the marketplace, the municipal hall, and the houses of the few elite.

Then Mr. Buruma also calls Ferdinand Blumentritt, the Filipino national hero Dr. Jose Rizal’s friend, “an obscure Austrian schoolmaster.” Blumentritt was a professor, yes, but he was also a doctor and a scientist renowned in Europe during his time. Then Mr. Buruma adds that Rizal had Japanese blood (not true; he had Chinese blood), had lived much of his life abroad (not true), and called the Propaganda movement Rizal’s movement (not true, it was started by the lawyer and journalist Marcelo H. del Pilar).

Moreover, Mr. Buruma adds that many Filipinos like to claim that Rizal and his fellow ilustrados (the Enlightened ones, the leaders) in the Propaganda movement “were the first modern nationalists in Asia. . . “ Filipinos never claimed that; perhaps Mr. Buruma’s informants did. But what many Filipinos claim is that the Philippines became the first independent republic in Asia in 1898 – a claim that is based on historical fact. Mr. Buruma also says that the Rizal millenarian cult is based in Mount Makiling when, in fact, it is based in the bigger Mount Banahaw. Mount Makiling is the small mountain that can be seen from the azotea (porch) of Rizal’s ancestral house in Calamba, Laguna, south of Metro Manila.

There are more. Mr. Buruma claims that “the typical hero [in Filipino movies] is a simple man who gets abused and humiliated, often sexually, all through the film.” I have been watching Filipino films for the past decades and I have yet to come across a Filipino film with this plotline. Then he said that “one Canadian Zen master set up a successful business in Manila by convincing Filipinos that they, as a people, are especially gifted for spiritual quests….” Filipinos need no reminders about these. The country is full of faith healers and espiritistas (spiritual mediums), from Luzon to Mindanao, who are more imaginative than a Canadian Zen master.

Moreover, Mr. Buruma claims that “Filipinos have no collective memory, no recorded history that precedes Spanish conquest….” The point is that history – or literature or other forms of culture – is not always recorded in print. Philippine literature, like the pre-colonial literature of its Southeast Asian neighbors, was mostly oral and handed down the generations by the centuries-old tradition of oral storytelling. The Philippines has a wealth of epics that are as larger-than-life than any Western one, and a trove of poems, riddles, and proverbs that have the lyricism and pith of the haiku, or of any poem written by Wang Wei, Li Po, or Tu Fu.

Then, Mr. Buruma notes that the education minister from Cebu (he was referring to Mrs. Lourdes Quesumbing) was not understood by the Tagalogs of Luzon when she spoke in Cebuano at the Rizal Park. But Cebuano and Tagalog are cousin languages, the way Tagalog and Bahasa Melayu and Bahasa Indonesia are cousin languages. This cluster of cousin-languages came from the Austro-Polynesian line of languages, such that when I speak in Tagalog now, my Malay friend in Kuala Lumpur can understand some of the words I use because they have the same meanings. Therefore, when a Cebuano speaks, a Tagalog could understand the gist of what he or she is saying because of more similarities between these two major Philippine languages.

Although Mr. Buruma is a fine and accessible guide to modern Asia, what we need at this point in our cultural history are writers who come from the continent itself. Steeped in the history of Asia and nurtured by its cultures, I hope that they will write the books that will finally give authentic voices to the complex and colorful continent we live in. A few of them have already done that. The real journey, then, has just begun.

God’s Dust: A Modern Asian Journey can be ordered from Powerbooks.

Independence Day

Head, ABS-CBN News & Current Affairs; Managing Director, ANC | 06/11/2009 1:42 AM
Views and analysis

You are powerful. You will make a difference. If we all come together now, we will reach the tipping point when change becomes inevitable and irreversible. These are the ideas behind Boto Mo, I-Patrol Mo: Ako ang Simula, and there is no better time than now.

When friends and family overseas ask me what it’s like to live in the Philippines today, I tell the story of a famous science experiment that’s been used to describe the Middle East, global warming, and in my book, Indonesia right before the fall of Suharto. It’s about a frog and its survival instincts. If you throw a frog in a pot of boiling water, it immediately jumps out. But if you put the frog in the pot on a burner with cool tap water, it stays there. Then you slowly turn up the heat. The temperature rises. The frog, which can jump out of the pot at any time, gets so used to the water that it doesn’t feel the gradual changes in temperature. Soon, the water is boiling and the frog dies in the pot, its natural instincts for self-preservation lulled into a fatal complacency. That is what is happening today.

When Congress passed House Bill 1109 calling for a Constituent Assembly without the Senate, it changed our society. The heat has been turned up, and despite assurances that we will have elections, yet another line has been crossed in the sand like Proclamation 1017 in 2006, the arrests of journalists at the Peninsula in 2007, the ongoing killings of journalists and activists – and just this weekend, the assassination of Sumilao farmer Rene Penas.

Along with the Constituent Assembly, congressmen also threatened to pass House Bill 3306, the right of reply – which if turned into law would put a sledgehammer in the hands of vested interests for the purpose of killing an ant. By using that hammer, it risks destroying the entire structure the ant is standing on. As it stands now, outdated Marcos-era laws like “obstruction of justice” and “wiretapping” are being revived and given new meaning to intimidate, harass and arrest journalists. But those “laws” pale in comparison to what can be done to stifle dissent and free speech with the right of reply bill.

Journalists, united across news groups, organized last week to protest. We called it unconstitutional, a form of prior restraint. The bill is incomplete, chaotic, impossible to implement and a throwback to an authoritarian past at a time when the rest of the world is embracing new media and technology. (It will affect bloggers and anyone else writing on the internet!) While it wasn’t passed, it continues to hang like a Damocles’ sword over our heads. The heat has been turned up again.

If you look closely, there are many instances like this affecting different groups – which ultimately change our society – and not for the better. The strategy is effective: focus on the details and parse the Truth. I recognize it from my days reporting on Suharto. When you parse the Truth, details – disconnected from a larger whole – lose their meaning, and it becomes difficult to assess exactly when the line has been crossed … or in the case of the frog, when it’s time to jump out. This is a time that requires vigilance and courage.

Last month (one year before elections), ABS-CBN and our partners, Globe, Bayan, STI, the Philippine Star, BusinessWorld, Comelec, PPCRV, Namfrel and YouthVote Philippines launched Boto Mo, I-Patrol Mo: Ako ang Simula nationwide – in Luzon, Visayas and Mindanao. In one day, thousands of people lined up in the hot sun, waiting for hours to register to vote and become boto patrollers – citizens who promise to use new media and their cellphones to patrol the vote and push for clean elections in May 2010. We held the first of our leadership series – with presidential candidates Francis Escudero, Richard Gordon, Ed Panlilio, Mar Roxas and Gilbert Teodoro – and we had to turn people away at the Ateneo auditorium! The enthusiasm and the thirst for new ways of doing things was palpable that night.

It was the unofficial beginning of election season. Comelec credited our aggressive registration drive for helping increase voter registration by 456% from April to May. We weren’t alone. We helped ignite a plurality of efforts – youth groups like First Time Voters, YouthVote Philippines and Ayala Young Leaders, along with politicians like Register and Vote (RV) and Kaya Natin. Even the sometimes controversial Ako Mismo campaign followed and pushed the same idea of individual will and effort.

This month, we take it a step further. On June 5, we held our second leadership forum, this time at the University of the Philippines with Jejomar Binay, Joseph Estrada, Bayani Fernando and Loren Legarda (Ping Lacson announced he would drop out of the race that night). Like the first one, students lined up and were turned away after the house was packed hours before the program was slated to begin. Despite the rains, they refused to go home, instead choosing to sit on the floor outside watching the monitors. Inside, the candidates and audience braved the barely functioning airconditioning for nearly three hours for a spirited, substantive and often funny dialogue. The forum aired on ANC live on June 5, on Studio 23 on June 6 and on ABS-CBN on June 7. You can watch online on

On June 11, ABS-CBN will take the signature drumbeats from 2007’s Boto Mo, I-Patrol Mo to form the foundation of our music video launch of Ako ang Simula, spearheaded by singer-songwriter Rico Blanco, Imago lead singer Aia de Leon and Sandwich frontman Raimund Marasigan. They are joined by Barbie, Sinosikat, Rocksteddy, Chicosci, the Ambassador, Salamin, Pochoy, AstroJuan, the reporters, anchors and managers of ABS-CBN News in a musical call for change: “Wag nang mahimbing sa sariling mundo/Wag nang iwaldas ang dekadang bago/Ako ang tutupad sa pangakong ito/Ako ang Simula ng pagbabago.” Watch it live today at 10 am on ABS-CBN, ANC and Studio 23.

June’s cornerstone is Independence Day, our effort to fast-forward its meaning to the twenty-first century. The core of our campaign is how traditional media can combine with new media and mobile phone technology to transform society and clean up our elections. In 2007, we empowered ordinary Filipinos and they rose to the challenge – 500 messages a day in the run-up to elections and more than 2,000 messages on election day! That is only a rehearsal for what we can collectively do in 2010.

On June 12, the full force of ABS-CBN kicks into high gear again nationwide – in Luzon, Visayas and Mindanao – and, this time, internationally – in the United States, Europe, the Middle East and Australia. Comelec works on a holiday so you can register to vote. Become a boto patroller in 19 ABS-CBN stations nationwide and with anchors Pinky Webb in Legazpi City, Julius Babao in Iloilo City and Ces Drilon in General Santos City. All day coverage begins at 5:15 in the morning and ends after midnight the next day.

The times, they are a-changing, and we are keeping pace. Millions of Filipinos are taking part in our efforts through traditional media, but new media gives a chance for immediate feedback and action. That is changing societies globally, and it is happening here. There are so many inspirational moments in the past month and a half – moments of yearning, anger, joy and tremendous patience from thousands of Filipinos waiting hours in lines – to register and vote, to become a boto patroller, to watch the leadership forums – which at one point had nearly 150,000 people chatting and tweeting (using twitter) on new media. On the first night, the number of people who registered using their mobile phones increased by 1,700% after a TV Patrol World story!

Let me end the way I began and come full circle. The heat is rising. What we choose to do is up to each of us. The core of our campaign is simple. You are powerful. You will make a difference. If we all come together now, we will reach the tipping point when change – real, positive change – becomes inevitable and irreversible. If you’ve had enough and want better, join us. Stand up and say AKO ANG SIMULA.

Papayag ba tayo?

By Ellen Tordesillas
June 9, 2009

Bukas, magkita-kita tayo sa Ayala ng ika-lima ng hapon.

Ipakita natin ang ating pagtutol sa panloloko na ginagawa ni Gloria Arroyo sa pamamagitan ng Con-Ass na kanyang isinusulong pra siya manatili sa kapangyarihan habambuhay.

Sabi ni Rep. Mauricio Domogan, isa sa may-akda ng nakakadiri na House Resolution 1109, na kahit mag-ngangawa ang mga tao sa kalsada, wala silang paki-alam. Itutuloy nila ang kanilang ilegal na gawain.

Sabi niya sa susunod na buwan bubuu-in na ng mga congressman ang Constituent Assembly. Sabi niya kina-calibrate o tinatanya nila ang mga pangyayari.

Tama yun, sa isip nina Gloria Arroyo, hindi na mangyayari ang people power. Magra-rally man ang mga tao, isang araw lang yun. Sa hirap ba naman ng buhay ngayon, sino naman ang magtityaga na magprotesta. Kaya, maari nilang gawin ang ano man na pambabastos ng batas, alam nilang hindi mangyayari ang nangyari noong 1986 kay Marcos at noong 2001 kay Estrada.

Hawak ni Gloria Arroyo ang military kaya kahit mag-rally at magsisigaw sa kalsada araw-araw, wala silang paki-alam.

Ano ba talaga ang gusto ni Arroyo? Klaro na ayaw niya bumaba sa puwesto sa 2010. Alam niyang kapag bumaba siya, sa kulungan ang bagsak niya sa daming krimen na kanyang ginawa sa bayan. Simula sa kanyang pag-agaw ng pagkapresidente noong 2001, sa kanyang pandaraya noong 2004 na eleksyon na narinig natin sa “Hello Garci”, sa fertilizer scam, sa NBN/ZTE at marami pa.

Ngayon halos pag-aari na niya ang Pilipinas sa pag-gapang niya ng mga malalaking kumpanya sa pamamagitan ng kanyang mga crony. Ngunit alam niya na hindi nya yun maprutektahan kapag hindi na siya ang naka-upo sa Malacañang.

Sa halagang P20 milyon bayat isang boto, ipinasa ng kanyang mga tuta sa House of Representatives ang isang ilegal na resolusyon na magbuo ng Constituent Assembly para mag-palit ng Constitution para mapalawig pa ang paghawak ni Arroyo ng kapangyarihan.

Ayon sa Constitution, ang Constituent Assembly ay dapat binubuo ng Senado at House of Representatives. Dahil alam nilang hindi nila makuha ang Senado para mambastos ng Constitution, sila na lang daw na kongresista.

Ilegal ang kanilang ginagawa at pambabastos ng Constitution. Ito ang ating tinututulan. Kaya tayo nagra-rally.

Dahil mukhang pursigido talagang itulak ang kanilang maitim na balak, siguradong magiging matindi ang protesta sa susunod na mga linggo. Nababahala ang mga lider ng simbahan at negosyo na baka kapag tumindi ang protesta ay gagamitin ni Arroyo ang kanyang mga loyalistang pulis at militar ay magdeklara ng martial law at emergency rule.

Yun lahat ay depende sa atin kung papayagan natin.

Tipping point for Cha-Cha

By Mon Casiple

The congressmen who voted for the holding of the GMA constituent assembly feel the universal heat. Putting up a brave face, many of them contemplate the possible impact of their decision on their candidacies and political future. Some even blamed the Senate (?) for the HOR Con-Ass decision.

There is a miscalculation of the public’s anti-GMA sentiment–it’s transferable. In the 2007 elections, it translated to losses of erstwhile high-rating senatorial candidates. It also led to Senator Trillanes’ victory who ran only on this single issue. The GMA kiss of death, despite Secretary Gilbert Teodoro’s optimism, is a major factor in the coming 2010 elections, particularly if GMA continues at the helm of the current government.

The congressmen went out on a limb when they–for their own reasons–chose to push forward with the Con-Ass initiative. In many places, even in their own dynastic heartlands, GMA is the current issue. Combined with the rising anti-trapo sentiments and various citizen’s initiatives in electoral monitoring, there is a greater chance this accommodation of GMA’s survival scheme will cost them their political influence, even their own seats.

This is still too early to see how the Con-Ass participation will actually impact on them. However, the trend is the widening and deepening of the opposition to the initiative. A defiant House of Representatives will increasingly be beleaguered along with GMA herself. The unconstitutional convening of the constituent assembly itself can tip the balance and send the whole thing spiralling into a constitutional crisis. People power is a distinct possibility in this case.

The worst-case scenario stares the congressmen in their collective faces. Charter change this late into the electoral scenario turns them into political pariahs–it may even lead to their political demise.

Weak congressional oversight facilitates corruption — Philippines Human Development Report

Focusing on the theme “Institutions, Politics and Human Development in the Philippines”, the 2008/2009 Philippine Human Development Report (PHDR) that was launched today says that weak congressional oversight on Official Development Assistance (ODA) transactions, in particular, and on overall spending by the executive, in general, facilitates corruption.

Loopholes in the current budget law give the Executive, and not Congress, the “power of the purse”, according to the report. It adds that the President can override congressional budget mandates in a number of ways, such as by not releasing or delaying the release of authorized appropriations and by using “savings” and other unprogrammed, discretionary, or confidential funds at will.

The PHDR mentions overwhelming amounts with savings between ranging from P11.4 billion in 2004 to P117.5 billion in 2007. Lump sums in the 2009 National Expenditure Program (NEP)—defined as one-liner appropriations amounting to P100 million or more—amounted to P224 billion, or 16 percent of the proposed national budget. Confidential and intelligence funds amount to another P1.12 billion. Presidents can and have restored programs scrapped by Congress by using “savings,” lump sums, or contingency funds.

The report points out that Congress plays a significant part in undermining its own powers. It says that when Congress fails to pass the national budget, the previous year’s budget is automatically reenacted. But there are larger-than-average savings when a budget is reenacted because of money reserved for previous year’s projects that might have been completed since.

Thus, according to the report, the reenactment of a budget even strengthens the President’s control over allocations owing to larger savings that can be disbursed at his or her discretion. There have been three fully reenacted budgets since 2000, 2001, 2004 and 2006.

ABOUT THIS REPORT: The 2008/09 PHDR is the 6th in a series of national human development reports (NHDRs) that have advocated the use of concepts and indicators of human development as a counterpoint to traditional measures like per capita income in development policy-making and practice. The first Philippine HDR came out in 1994 with the theme, “Human Development and People’s Participation in Governance”. Since this maiden issue, the human development framework has been applied to specific themes such as Gender (1997), Education (2000), Employment (2002) and Peace and Human Security (2005) gaining for the report a reputation of factually based, insightful and well-written analyses not just in the Philippines but also in the community of nations.

ABOUT THE HDN: The Human Development Network (HDN) Foundation, Inc. is a nonstock, nonprofit organization whose mission is to propagate and mainstream the concept of sustainable human development through research and advocacy. It is the main partner of the UNDP in the conduct of dialogue and discussions among relevant groups and individuals pertaining to the major findings and conclusions of the yearly global human development reports in the Philippine context. The HDN, through the auspices of the UNDP, facilitates the preparation of the national version of the Human Development Report (HDR). For more info on the HDN:
ABOUT UNDP: UNDP is the UN’s global development network, advocating for change and connecting countries to knowledge, experience and resources to help people build a better life. We are on the ground in 166 countries, working with them on their solutions to global and national development challenges. As they develop local capacity, they draw on the people of UNDP and our wide range of partners. The annual global Human Development Report (HDR) commissioned by UNDP, focuses the global debate on key development issues, providing new measurement tools, innovative analysis and often-controversial policy proposals. The global Report’s analytical framework and inclusive approach carry over into regional and national HDRs. For more info on UNDP:;