Monday, August 29, 2005

Tracking the storm before the vote
(Ode to the Esatern Wind)

O Wild Reming, thou bad breadth of being,
Thou whose unwelcome presence leaves dead
Scores of downtrodden, as if laid for Halloween.
Now come yellow, and black, and pale
(and hectic red's herring?),
Pestilence-stricken multitudes. O no!
Wild as beer-gin-coke, nauseating yet liberating,
Destroyer and preserver. Can’t you see, can you see?

O Uncontrollable! Just as the wave of ’86,
Uplifting as a cloud,
Shower of shredded yellow pages
Like withered leaves strewn
To quicken a rebirth.
But the black rain old and mighty
Lingered—tameless, and swift, and proud.

Thou wild dream of Summer, impetuous one!
Driving my dead thoughts,
Tumults in harmony;
Scarce seemed a vision. Scary.
Echoes of “Cory! Cory!”
“Laban! Laban!”
Now, “Glory! Glory!”
“Resign! Resign!”
Now, the foliage of thy voice
Suddenly grow gray with fear,
While the comrades of thy wanderings
Fall upon the thorns of life; the Nation bleeds—
Its daily bread; hear, O hear!

Ah, nostalgia lapsing, like a soul forgiving
Affecting my reality (as this pediculous parody).
Can’t you see, can you see?
Now where are we? O yeah,
Leaves are falling like my verse
Despoiling themselves
In a vast sepulcher of doom,
Fire and hail will burst. Wow! And . . .

That maize has sprouted, those streams are flowing!
Can’t you see, can’t you see?
My foot, my foot.
Yeah, be through my foot to my unawakened land
The trumpet of prophesy! Now Wild Seniang,
If EDSA II comes, can EDSA III be far behind?

Thursday, August 25, 2005

If not GMA, who? And what’s the alternative?

Part I

The mother of all our problems

Former President Fidel Ramos Ramos speaking before the Makati Business Club on August 27, 2003, cited the “unholy alliance” and “perverse symbiosis” between politicians and a few families, powerful, wealthy and “greedy rent-seeking,” to whom many of the former are beholden - which makes the unequal alliance and symbiosis doubly unholy and perverse - as the “mother of all our problems” throughout history.

The sad state of affairs looks more to be a present-day embodiment of the same friar system Spanish era reformists like Dr. Jose Rizal intended to dismantle: a network of entrenched power relations among the friar surrogates, mostly landowning families of Chinese descent who originally had served as stewards for the estates of the monastic orders, morphed into hispanized hacienderos, then transitioned as mutually-buttressing guilds or factions of Marxian bourgeois and cosmopolitan elites.

At the turn of the last century, oligarchy was re-imposed upon the Filipinos after the Americans, in the Madisonian tradition, had recycled the role of the ilustrados plucked out of the ancien regime upon the racist pretext that the Filipinos in general were not fit to govern themselves. The Americanized system has dominated Filipino nationhood ever since down to what it has become today.

Not too long ago, or in December 2003, Romulo Neri, the Philippine government’s chief economist, described the current form of the “unholy alliance” and “perverse symbiosis” as “booty capitalism” (a derision first coined by American Paul D. Hutchroft) practiced by a well-ingrained oligarchy that invests in politicians to curry policy favors and “capture economic power.”

Neri certainly was then apprehensive this oligarchy would again control the outcome of the May 2004 elections.

People Power Democracy instantiated

When institutions (civil society), which mediate between families and the State, assert their primacy, the result could be their collectivization into Civil Society. Whereas elitism is the rule of the privileged minority, civil society governance is the rule by minorities. Civil Society, on the other hand, is a monopoly of the legitimate use of power by the great majority. In this context, Civil Society equates with the sovereign will - supreme and absolute. Therefore, Civil Society, theoretically, no less than People Power, empirically, is the conception of the State itself.

To illustrate this, the political system instituted in the American constitution by its founding fathers was a compromise, based on distrust, between, on the one hand, the numerical majority (the masses) together with the minorities (some idealistic elites and middle-class Americans who supported the “leveling” sentiments) and, on the other, the privileged minority (the merchants, financiers, manufacturers, and certain wealthy landholders) as to who, what and when to exercise the monopoly of the powers of Civil Society. The paramount question then was whether to vest the monopoly of those powers in the many at the expense of the few or vice versa.

People Power democracy, on the other hand, is the exercise by the people - the Civil Society - of the republican principle of the last say which may result to replace (as in People Power I) or keep (as in People Power II) the existing system. It does not decide particular issues for that would notionally be direct democracy. The triumph of People Power democracy should be measured not upon its physical manifestation that successfully brought about the immediate change desired, which is an end in itself, but when the consensus formed by civil society or civil societies - those politically informed, active and diverse minorities groups such as the business sectors, political alliances, labor unions, religious organizations, and the like - is brought to be reckoned with by those formally vested with policymaking. It is thus a continuing transformative citizenship. Whenever civil societies are marginalized in the governance process, the result could either the rule by the privileged minority (or the oligarchy) or by the multitude, irrespective of the agreed upon formalities of governance.

In another breadth, the conception of people power represents a critical challenge from civil society groups who have asserted their misgivings with inefficient and ineffectual institutions in our version of democracy and with the rank subservience of those institutions to the dominant segments of our society. In such regard, people power configures an oppositional culture that has affected a broad spectrum of the civil society. The dimension of the challenge is as significant as that of the threat of a rival ideology such as communism or authoritarianism or as real as the menace of terrorism. The concomitant fear that it is a malady in the body politic rather than a curative force in a dysfunctional structure is then understandable from the standpoint of status quo defenders.

Writing more recently about the state of affairs of the “politicized middle class” in the Philippines (, January 10, 2004), Prof. Randy David has deplored that its “activism is however weakened by the lack of sustained follow-through . . . (folding) its banners as soon as a crisis has passed, leaving the traditional politicians to mismanage the political investment they have made.” Prof. David however believes that the “politicized middle class could be the key to the transformation of the poor into a potent force for peaceful and meaningful change. And this can happen, in Randy David’s opinion, “(t)hrough popular organizing and education, and through the formation of mass-based political parties . . . (to)help the poor recover their voices and expand their participation in the nation’s life.”

Tracking the political storm

For the purpose of tracking the political storm that is perilously brewing in the Philippines, knowing the difference between the two most recent people’s movements, People Power II and EDSA Tres, is both critical and essential.

Whereas the People Power II coalition made a judgment call only after thoughtful deliberations and reflections among the various groups and individual participants, EDSA Tres was sired through manipulation and instigation by some people who had no intention of treating themselves as co-equal partners with the Lumpenproletariats in their contrivance. People Power II was an exercise of empowerment, EDSA Tres, unfortunately, was a sad shrill of powerlessness.

However, far from being unsettling, insurrections of the EDSA Tres kind are on the contrary stabilizing. It is only when repressed that such movements could become liable to boil up into dangerous intensity.

Today, the GMA regime must not be lulled into believing that a “people power” that might have fizzled out is less harmful than the eruption that was EDSA Tres. Remember that having spent its steam during the Palace siege, the EDSA Tres “hothouse” has cooled off relatively uneventfully. In fact during the assault, the EDSA Tres horde has become as rudderless as a decrepit craft and ultimately petered out. Nonetheless, now as then the state of being of the EDSA Tres “rebels” has remained within the tradition of their powerlessness, and kept within that bound, they pose no threats of exploding like Mayon any time soon.

The volcano theory

In the Philippines, the poverty or volcano theory has been often cast, and quite unwittingly, to justify the clamor for societal changes that directly affect the health, safety, property, liberty and general well-being of those who are ensnared in the “hothouse of rebellion” of PCIJ’s Sheila Coronel. At a closer look, those political and societal anxieties thus trapped are no more those of the “cultured” people’s than of the Great Unwashed. Thus, as long as the beautiful ones don’t start preaching armed revolutions, such a clamor could only be taken as earnest attempts to maintain order, not to sow anarchy, and therefore similarly tranquilizing.

It is when cultured people found themselves “at the end of (their) tether” that worries about Sheila’s hothouse would make some sense. Otherwise, there would have been nothing to deprive those, as former Manila Times editor Ms. Malou Mangahas puts it, “toothless, shoeless and shirtless” people, whose mode of survival is “scavenging through other people’s trash,” to incense them to launch a great social revolution.

Didn’t Alexis de Tocqueville warn that “generally speaking, the most perilous moment for a bad government is one when it seeks to mend its ways” and in the process creates unfulfilled promises and expectations?

Part II

The Promise

Just to revisit, the promise was that after Marcos things would be better. Cory Aquino, although given the benefit of the doubt perceived as she was by many to be just a transition leader, was not spared of coup attempts precisely due to the failure of the People Power revolution to meet the expectation. Then President Ramos began to deliver. NIChood was at hand under his leadership but the constitutional term limit prevented him from going further. The constitutional water was in fact tested possibly at the thought his most likely successor, Erap, would be unable to keep the benefits he had the best momentum to pursue. Ramos, a good soldier that he is, did not think of himself to be indispensable. Upholding the rule of law, he stepped down at the height of his achievements.

Erap promised to let market and welfare improvements go hand and hand. There was also the perception he would assume rather a rubber stamp than a “directing” role to give his team of experts a freer hand to manage the economy and continue the Ramos’ initiatives.

The loss of “moral ascendancy” of Erap’s government abbreviated GMA’s route to the presidency. But, not wanting to be a magician, the explicit promise of GMA was first to restore moral authority in governance.

After EDSA Tres, there was also engendered an implied promise on the part of GMA’s government to institute social and economic reforms for the benefit of salus populi.

The breach of the promise

While not as severely damaged by the Asian crisis as Thailand, Malaysia, and South Korea, Philippines was slower to recover. Even politically torn Indonesia was not far behind. Meanwhile, the ghost of Marcos was back in Eduardo Cojuanco, Lucio Tan and company.

Erap also foolishly courted a near shooting war with China, cheapened the nation’s morale with jueteng and other indignities, allowed his official family to stab each other in the back, and “Binabalaan ko sila” became a part of the Erap jokes. Erap paid dearly for the breach.

As the specter of the jueteng controversy (confounded by the more serious charges of tampering with the electoral will) is cast upon the doorsteps of the First Family of GMA, a direct breach of GMA’s express promise is inescapably perceived to have taken place. On the other hand, four years of peripheral economic and poverty alleviation programs from a leader who professes to know her economics has been clearly emerging as constituting relative deprivation not on the part of those whose violent expression of powerlessness the GMA government had easily quashed during EDSA Tres but of those who would continue to see others being forever rendered powerless.

More and more the country looks like a laughingstock again.

Under the theory of “accelerated relative deprivation,” both expectation and capabilities increase at a steady course, but the former outpaces the latter. A breach of the promise is thus implied from the relative deprivation.

Upheavals happen as a result of relative deprivation.

The Jury is out

Just as reciprocal checks and balances within government are required in a procedural democracy, so also are social checks and balances (upon governmental decisions) within the larger society in People Power democracy. Hence, “manufacture of consent” by the power of suggestion, sinister or otherwise, through television and media politics or through “legal gobbledygook” can claim success only when society acquiesces in it as a rational one.

Therefore, in the current crisis, it is not enough for GMA to tell the people that her opponents are engaged in “dirty politics.” The allegations of her regime’s wrongdoings or “betrayal of trust” in the constitutional sense are very specific. She must in turn disprove them in specific terms. The accusations unanswered, the legitimacy of her government - just as that of the regime of Marcos’ notwithstanding the attempt to legitimize it by the Philippine Supreme Court and the U.S. support - will remain badly tainted to say the very least.

It should be remembered that as the process of legitimization of Macapagal’s ascension to power had taken its course (eventually, it became the subject of the first impeachment against Chief Justice Davide and seven other Supreme Court justices for allegedly conspiring at the height of the EDSA II uprising to put the first legitimizing imprimatur by swearing in Macapagal as Estrada’s successor), people power practitioners like Cory Aquino and Jaime Cardinal Sin began to warn against the habit of resorting to people power. Aquino and Sin conveniently reversed themselves and invoked people power in defense of Chief Justice Davide.

Bad habit or not, people power is intently watchful, impatient and alive.

To preserve the Constitution and to spare People Power from being sullied unnecessarily, GMA either must seriously consider the still patriotic option of resignation (if not out of sheer Filipino delicadeza) or like Estrada (but unlike Davide) she must submit herself to the constitutional process of impeachment in deference to procedural democracy. However, unlike Estrada, GMA must complete the task of proving her innocence in such a process that also puts on trial the very system in place.

All participants in the constitutional process are called upon to exercise no less than their Solomonic wisdom. If recent experience is any measure, a reasonable perception of failure of the process is likely to oblige the Ultimate Arbiter to weigh in the facts by itself and render its verdict accordingly.

A constitutional coup d’etat

The purpose of impeaching a president is to override his election. It therefore assumes a political dimension beyond mere legality. As a legal process, the procedure and the grounds for impeachment as provided in the Constitution must be complied with. Otherwise, an impeachment is no more than a coup d’etat, albeit a constitutional one.

The political legitimacy of an impeachment process thus rests in the justification of what in effect would be the annulment of the election of the impeached president. Hence, in order for an impeachment to be both legitimate and politically correct, not only that the legal grounds for the impeachment must be proved, it must also be shown that the president no longer deserves the election she is supposed to have won.

Like any democratically elected president (assuming arguendo now that GMA has been democratically elected), GMA (as Erap then) is charged to lead the nation and serve as a symbol of national unity and stability. As such a symbol, the Filipino people look up to her as the national embodiment to inspire confidence in the authority and legitimacy of the political system; she is also expected to marshal her influence within the system in order to initiate the public policies she promised she would do when elected president; and as chief executive, the people conferred in her the trust that he has the competence to supervise the conduct of the government and the economy, and in time of crisis, to reassure and calm the citizenry.

The political goal of a potential impeachment proceeding is also to answer whether the President, given the seriousness of the allegations involving her government and her family, can still effectively discharge the high office of the presidency? If not, then un-election through impeachment must carry on.

What’s sauce for the gander is sauce for the goose

The test given by Jaime Cardinal Sin was simpler: Had President Estrada lost the moral ascendancy to govern?

Even more specifically: Was GMA involved, directly or indirectly, in fixing the results of last presidential elections? Did her family receive jueteng payoffs in a manner reasonably knowable by her? These are matters that GMA can easily refute if she is squarely standing on the side of truth. Wiretapping is technically illegal, but are the contents in the tapes substantively true?

Once again, if the impeachment process is pursued, the members of Congress must remember that the Great Beast enters the public arena when procedural democracy fails. Hence, permitting legal technicalities to derail the search for truth is likely to trigger a constitutional breakdown potentially similar, as many now appreciate, to the Dirty 11’s refusal to open the infamous envelope during Erap’s impeachment trial.

It goes without saying that when it comes to the exercise of People Power, the people has the last and final say, not the media, the military, Congress, the President or the Supreme Court.

Part III

Beyond a business-as-usual approach to change process

The Philippines is essentially a modern nation and by sheer instinct for growth, it cannot possibly remain a basket case forever.

However, to author its own destiny, the nation has to look into the inner structure of its being: as a community, by rediscovering the public realm that informs it and the strands of solidarity that hold it together; and the individual member, by defining the tasks he assigns to himself, his goals he aspires for, and the values his life rests on, and then determining how his tasks, goals and values are identified with the public.

Historical accounts abound about how societies perished or self-destructed when those in a position to exercise the power of governance, by deliberate intent or sheer imprudence, had failed to act, or if they had acted, to account for the consequences of their actions.

Well-meaning citizens normally rise to the occasion and raise fundamental issues directly challenging the underlying assumptions of the established political and economic order when lapses in governance threaten the very existence of a nation. These citizens, sometimes operating inconspicuously, are often perceived as change-agents.

The threshold question on personal leadership and the power of consensus

On the matter of personal leadership the threshold question is: Who among those eagerly waiting in the wings to assume the national leadership has the singular qualification of the power of the will to break up the long-standing “unholy alliance” and “perverse symbiosis” of the wealthy and powerful without breaking the nation apart?

The crossroad issue is not so much about the potential of another transition political leader of a third-rate caliber as the lack of will of any leader to confront the continuing crisis of citizenship among those whose decisions really matter to take the risk of transforming the nation into an economic powerhouse, thereby allowing the country’s full potential to compete with neighbors in the region and in the other regions of the world. If the Philippines needed such a leader at all, she must be one of nearly mythical character and empowered by the people’s faith in her to whip up the wealth producers of the nation; and reining them away from unproductive rent-seeking economic activities, to get all the needed capacities they could muster dedicated faithfully to an economic development plan, strategy and ambition upon being so forged in a broad national consensus.

On the other hand, unquestioning reliance upon the “directing class” has muffled any such an idea of attempting to reach a national consensus (in which the voiceless, through their genuine representative, should be granted a voice) as to what the country really needs to accomplish in order to compete.

In the context of communicative people power, one possible alternative proposition is: Whether the gateway to equitable accumulation and ultimately national development could also be accessed by way of the power of consensus of people power democracy that’s willing to learn from the best practices that work and, based on ongoing experience and rising above ideologies, eschew things that don’t, or change even established notions and practices when concrete realities and the complex necessities for change in the service of the common good require.

The Taiwan example

The Taiwan model is an excellent case in point. At the time Marcos placed the Philippines under martial law supposedly to address what the dictator declared was a national emergency and to create a New Society, Taiwan was also struggling to exorcise the twin demons of imminent international eschewal (having lost its seat to the UN) and the crippling energy crisis, and appeared on the way to economic catastrophe. Taiwan emerged triumphantly after both government and private business intensified efforts to implement on schedule economic grand designs first by launching development projects aimed at energy production and creating an efficient transportation infrastructure network, while continuing to stimulate the growth of SMEs (Small and Medium Enterprises). Specifically, the projects were for: the development of an integrated steel mill, a shipyard and a petrochemical complex; the building of highways, railways, waterways, airports and harbors; and the construction of nuclear power plants. On the other hand, Taiwan Industrial Technology Research Institute was established in the same period as a non-profit R&D outfit for the purpose of handing down its data and findings for commercial use by private enterprisers.

What’s more, both the government and the family in Taiwan have always believed in investing a great deal in education. Taiwanese are among the best educated people in Asia second only to the Japanese, with only about five percent of the population being considered illiterate, mostly the elderly. The persistent pursuit of universal education and the adoption of flexible and continuing educational policies to meet changing requirements accounted for much of Taiwan’s economic growth.

The elites of Taiwan opted to take enormous risks and bring on ambitious projects because of their will to develop driven in large measure by the exigency to showcase the Nationalist regime’s nation-building ability in the midst of the Communist specter from the mainland.

Accelerating the economic development efforts in the following decade, Taiwan targeted the machinery, equipment and information sectors as strategic industries. And through the Industrial Development Bureau, substantial R&D subsidies were directly provided to selected firms while others that did not allot and invest on R&D a prescribed percentage of their annual earnings were penalized. The elites offered real opportunities to the Taiwanese.

What had been earlier treaded as a re-distributional path through broad distribution of land ownership and via the so-called decentralized industrialization approach (the latter, as a late-industrialization strategy, being in stark contrast to the high aggregate concentration of the South Korean chaebol model), providing high returns to labor (and consequently household savings and capital accumulation) initially in agriculture and then in countryside export-oriented industries and by what’s now known as singular, solid and sustained efforts in the direction of technology-intensive industry, proved to be the major reasons for the “miraculous” transformation of Taiwan into an economic powerhouse. Even so, Taiwan’s trajectory to pursue “accumulation” ahead of (political) “participation” was essentially in line with the course taken by the other tiger economies in the region.

Other neighborhood paradigms

It seems that the problem today in the Philippines is rather behavioral (especially on the part of private business) than fiscal, bureaucratic or anything.

The Japanese, to cite another neighborhood paradigm, have clearly defined national purpose. Economic growth ranks high as a national goal in Japan to which labor and business are expected to subordinate their private interests. Japan’s MITI is the agency primarily responsible for this coordinated arrangement to ensure the attainment of the industrial development objectives vis-à-vis other economic and social goals.

The South Koreans have the same high sense of national purpose. While business conglomerates were allowed by the State to thrive in protected domestic markets, they also strived to produce for the export market so that during the giant stride by South Korea toward industrialization, which was heavily bankrolled by foreign loans, the ratio of foreign debt to GNP remained virtually the same.

Building a strong republic through entrepreneurship

To build a strong republic the atavism of the political class must be consigned to their caves to make way for the entrepreneurial zeal to take the lead in the pursuit of aggressive growth-oriented strategic goals. Specifically, such goals are: aspiring not only for the short-run objective of a domestic market patronizing Pinoy products but for such products with fewer export components to attain the competitive edge for the export market; taking the risk to explore the nation’s great potential for sustainable alternative sources of energy to produce those products without undue reliance upon imported sources; investing enough in our human capital, through quality training and education, as part of the goods of the future; or essentially, producing the right goods the right way doing the best with what we have or potentially should have so that the national vision informed by the consensus upon such societal aspirations as decent standard of living for the greatest number, supported by high-income employments that keep our “best and brightest” home, could come into fruition.

Once again, the goals and vision afore-cited demand high levels of capital, human, social and cultural investments and vigorous entrepreneurship with a great sense of national purpose on the part of the economic elites, first and foremost.

(NOTE: For a lengthier disquisition on the subject, please check out WANTED: Empire builders .

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

More salutes to due process

MR. RICARDO SALUDO (one of President Arroyo’s spokespersons) in a Newsstand post titled The challenge of due process writes:
Given the way due process evens the odds for the accused, it should surprise no one that some accusers once so eager to hurl charges with little challenge now think twice about testifying in impeachment proceedings. Yet the odds are far from even for the President or for due process itself. Millions of Filipinos have already judged the First Family without the benefit of a fair trial, if recent surveys reflect public opinion. Due process too may have credibility problems, not because it is flawed, but because its even-handed proceedings and strict rulings will surely present a very different impression of what happened than the largely unchallenged accusations aired (in the) current controversies.

One thing is therefore imperative for the impeachment and its rulings to win wide acceptance and to bring stability, not further unrest. Proceedings should not only be conducted with unassailable fairness, but also be clearly explained and justified to a public already steeped in months of allegations and materials intended to incriminate. These claims have faced hardly any opposition from lawyers of the accused who have rightly kept their counter-evidence and arguments under wraps until due process begins.
At the time when Senator Lacson was the one at the receiving end of a congressional investigation, I have written a piece on due process to argue in favor of the investigatory power of Congress versus the right of Lacson to resist it on due process ground, as follows:
One of the main objections to the conduct of the congressional hearings about the possible involvement in what could potentially be some polity-shattering high crimes (which include drug trafficking, kidnapping, political assassination, murder, and money laundering) of newly elected senator Panfilo Lacson, and other personalities several of them are high ranking officeholders, was the supposed violation of the due process requirement. The other concern was that the hearings were taking time away from the Legislature’s task of lawmaking.

My observation about the due process issue being raised is that it is more or less based on the procedural aspect of the requirement. By Daniel Webster’s definition, procedural due process is “a law which hears before it condemns, which proceeds upon inquiry, and renders judgment only after trial.” It also requires that, by a widely acceptable standard, the judge should be indifferent and upright.

I believe invoking the application of procedural due process requirement at this stage of the (Lacson) inquiry is premature. As it is, the investigation is being conducted by the appropriate congressional committees not with a view to depriving those involved of their life, liberty and property but only “in aid of legislation.”

The more relevant issue to consider therefore is whether the Senate committees conducting the inquiry are pursuing the matter “in aid of legislation” within the context of the Constitution (Article VI, Section 21 thereof) or for other purposes that infringe upon the fundamental concept of fairness or substantive due process.

Substantive (as opposed to procedural) due process—straining what I, as student, have learned from then Justice, and later Chief Justice, Fernando—is not a narrow or pedantic concept. As a restraint on official action, it is more or less rooted on societal values rather than technicalities. While it is also a check on both the means used as well as the ends sought to be accomplished, it does not however bar fresh approaches to solve problems menacing the very foundation of society. If both the ends and the means do not “outrun the bounds of reason,” to quote exactly Fernando’s favorite phrase from Cardozo, as the community understands them, the requirement of substantive due process is met.

It is noteworthy that Justice Fernando’s framework of substantive due process is in terms of individual rights’ protection. That is to be expected, Justice Fernando being first of all a civil libertarian. It should therefore be distinguished from the inaugural logic of the development of substantive due process in the United States whereby the unelected US Supreme Court has infused laissez-faire arguments to protect economic rights of big business and use judicial veto of social and economic legislations enacted by the people’s representatives—however skewed the representations might be. [The birthstone of substantive due process in the United States is thus shoddy at best.]

Is it unreasonable or oppressive on the part of the Senate committees (and hence violates due process) to conduct the inquiry on Lacson under the claim of “in aid of legislation”?

The scope of policymaking by Congress, the most representative of the three branches of the government, is exceedingly immense. National security and defense, economic development, environmental protection, health, education, foreign relations, world trade, peace and order, social justice, terrorism, insurgency, public morals and ethics, social welfare, poverty alleviation, graft and corruption, and many others.

In the name of legislation, Congress can also examine power and resource distribution such as the proper role of civil society and progressive groups, and the clout of well-entrenched factions in governance or, under pressure of the loudest, go as far as to strike at the core of the system and the ideological assumptions upon which it is based.

In sum, the purpose of legislative power or policymaking is the preservation of the commonwealth itself and of every person in it, which is the first and fundamental natural law. The entire legislative process thus provides an avenue where the conflicts of public life or of society itself are debated and deliberated in public view even without making laws . . ..

There is no question that as an express grant of constitutional power, legislative inquiries “in aid of legislation” are subject to the requirement of due process. However, legislation per se could also be an exercise of the “power of doing public good without a rule” except, possibly, the law of preservation of the society. In the latter instance, it is in the nature of the Lockean prerogative in aid of the nation.

In a nation badgered incessantly to founder on the rocks by widespread graft and corruption, military mutiny, and subversion, procedural due process—which includes the full opportunity to avail of the technical rules of procedures such as to exercise the right to bail, have access to competent counsels, or basically not to be condemned without proper hearing—could increasingly become a luxury. As such, the right is available only to those who could afford it. If a society caves in totally, individual liberty could be rendered meaningless as it becomes exposed to the invasion of others in a natural state where “man is equal to the greatest, and subject to nobody.”

As the Senate investigations of Senator Lacson unfolded, there were telltale signs we could have trifled with this dreadful state of societal enfeeblement. Fortunately, no one has come forward to claim that the extent of the drug menace in the country as thus far unveiled was nothing but a product of an “overactive imagination.” While much remains to be desired in terms of pinning down individual culpability, the magnitude of the problem of narco-politics in the Philippines could downgrade the conflict in the South, the presidential plunder trial, or the country’s economic woes, to play second fiddle to such a monstrosity as has been creeping insidiously into the national physique and psyche.

TODAY, there are grave parallel concerns that “this dreadful state of societal enfeeblement” threatening to turn upside down the very system in place itself - such as the full consequences to Philippine society and its body politic of the accusation about conspiracy (involving the Office of the President, the COMELEC and the Military) to subvert the sovereign will caught in audio tapes - could be trifled with by the sheer powerplay of numbers of the dominant legislative coalition and by callous resort to technicalities in an equally vital and constitutionally committed legislative function called impeachment.

Hence, it may be apropos to refer once more to the constitutional meaning of substantive due process as adhered to in the Philippines. It is, according to then Justice Fernando in J. M. Tuazon (1970), “a mandate of reason. It frowns on arbitrariness, it is the antithesis of any government act that smacks of whim and caprice. It negates state power to act in an oppressive manner. It is, as had been stressed so often, the embodiment of the sporting idea of fair play. In that sense, it stands as a guaranty of justice. That is the standard that must be met by any governmental agency in the exercise of whatever competence is entrusted to it.”

Now, President Arroyo facing impeachment is not a defenseless underdog or a pauper litigant who deserves extra Parens Patriae due process protection. She comes to the proceedings as the all-too-powerful symbol of the government with all the resources her high office can command. Indeed, she could afford to wait “until due process begins” because she has other megaphones (Bobi, Mike and Ric, to name a few) at her disposal to confront or discredit mounting reports of her alleged impeachable offenses. She cannot possibly pretend or assert (as a poor peasant like Hauchecorn in Guy de Maupassant’s Piece of String rightfully could have claimed) that she has been deprived of any crucial opportunity to “even the odds.” For, if Arroyo’s high-powered defenders “rightly kept their counter-evidence and arguments under wraps” it is quite reasonable to deduce that such a recourse was more of a strategic choice on their part than anything else. (True, we are riven at the thought that Maupasant has chosen to condemn Hauchecorne shorn of substantive due process until his death.) Arroyo is not a poor girl from Lubao, moreover. She is one of the most powerful women in the world.

But Mr. Saludo bewails:
Opponents of due process can exploit the public’s limited legal knowledge to cry injustice over hard-to-explain rulings. Some issues that may be controversial: Should congressmen consider only one complaint, and leave the others for next year? Can the impeachment include actions and events prior to the current term of the President? Can electoral fraud charges and the validity of the results of the May 2004 elections be covered, or should these be left to the Presidential Electoral Tribunal, the sole body empowered to rule on election contests over the top elective posts?
The only question of the hour at this preliminary stage of the impeachment proceedings before the House Committee on Justice is: whether the impeachment complaints filed are sufficient in form. Supposedly, there ought to be yet no substantive inquiries involved, not even the question of whether “probable cause” exists. Sufficiency in form, it has to be stressed, is not a statutory, much less a constitutional, requirement.

If President Arroyo is interested in constitutional redemption and in summoning up her moral ascendancy to govern the nation, it is to her advantage to lead the way to clear all the roadblocks leading towards those goals.

Anyway, the matters specified above by Saludo have been amply touched upon in Is Arroyo really interested in the Rule of Law? which, one believes, is the true challenge at hand, not the suggestion of a poor girl’s culpable deprivation of due process.

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

People Power: watchful, impatient, alive

What is beginning to come to light from the impeachment saga against President Arroyo is that intra-governmental checks and balances (e.g., the impeachment mechanism) are not sufficient to prevent the tyranny of a group of individuals (the anti-impeachment faction in the House) over a numerically smaller group (the pro-impeachment group), so that if unrestrained by external checks, a minority of individuals in the House will ultimately tyrannize over a majority (about 80 percent who favor the impeachment process as a peaceful regime-change alternative, according to reliable surveys) of the Filipino people.

Arguably, the chaos in the House today reflects both the symbolism of democratic impulses and the unabashed powerplay - bordering on sheer callousness to the depth of the current national anxieties - of various political forces at work. This is the kind of procedural democracy Filipinos borrowed from the Americans, a sort of “democratic elitism” centered on the goal of preventing majority control – what critical scholars call as Madisonian democracy.

Madisonian democracy “enshrined” in the U.S. Constitution is anti-democratic. Madison and his colleagues believed that People Power of the American revolutionaries, the unpropertied and the uneducated Americans, was nothing but “imprudence of democracy.” As the architect of the U.S. Constitution, Madison had less fear of centralizing power in, say, the Executive, than in “elective despotism,” referring to the potential “One hundred and seventy three despots” in Congress at that time. (Congressional politics, one must concede however, is most proximal to the Athenian ideal of democracy.)

To Madison, the goal of the American Constitution is the establishment of a non-tyrannical republic, non-tyrannical against the wellborn, the wealthy and the privileged like himself. The centralization of powers in the American elites was thereupon reinforced by the invention and investment of the power of judicial review in an unaccountable U.S. Supreme Court beginning with Chief Justice Marshall’s exposition in Marbury v. Madison. The doctrine in Marbury was but an echo of Alexander Hamilton’s counter-majoritarian bent. If he had his way, Hamilton would have established a “constitutional monarchy” in the United States. He convinced no one but himself at the Philadelphia convention, luckily for the next generations of Americans.

Filipinos, on the other hand, have of late realized, not once but twice, that there is an antidote to “political warlordism” (Philippine oligarchy’s version of democratic elitism) whether in the Presidency, in the Supreme Court or in Congress. They are proud to call it People Power. This powerfully liberating political phenomenon, uniquely Filipino, may also be christened as Filipinos’ People Power democracy. Today, it is intently watchful, it is impatient, it is alive.

Sunday, August 21, 2005

Hindi ka nag-iisa

During one of the darkest moments of our history, I was privileged to be given by Ninoy’s sister, Lupita, a white T-shirt with Ninoy’s face printed on it. Below the boyish, chubby face of Ninoy read “Ninoy is my hero”. I’d worn the shirt to office on occasion, especially during Saturday dress-down, and often people looked at me with some sense of awe. I understood them, the time was quite perilous then. The shirt was so precious to me but a buddy of mine asked for it. Well, I told my friend you would have it but with one condition: Don’t be afraid to wear it proudly. He said, Yes. I gave the shirt away.

After the military tribunal had sentenced Ninoy to death, he calmly accepted his fate in the hands of Marcos. Ninoy then asked for his favorite outfit to wear before the firing squad. But the dictator backed off. Most of the events that followed have more or less been recorded, including what could be a deja vu when Ninoy was grabbed by the arm inside the airline, absent that respect from the officer Ninoy as a popular senator had been used to. This is it, Ninoy probably thought.

Hey, I gave away a shirt, Ninoy his life. What’s the big deal?

I probably wanted to change a friend and make him believe in my hero. On the other hand, Ninoy aspired to transform a nation and make his people believe in themselves.

Arguably, Cory was among the first to be transformed by Ninoy from a housewife to a transition leader. During an interview in the U.S. a couple of days after Ninoy’s murder, she exhibited the equanimity of a leader. The Filipinos then saw more leadership qualities inhering in her and asked her to lead them. But like many of us, I saw Cory’s leadership as a failure. Expecting her to lead and me to follow, I demanded that she create the vision for our future and us to be dominated by that vision. I didn’t see myself contributing to that vision. On the fifth year of her presidency, I wrote the following

Cory! Cory!
Glory! glory!

Sorry, Ninoy
Bye-bye, Pinoy.

But Cory could not go it alone as Hindi ka nag-iisa became an empty slogan, a broken promise--from us.

My heroes today are not as big as Ninoy anymore. I also don’t expect to find them during an event as great as the EDSA revolt. My heroes today are the faceless men and women who see the children fleeing from war-torn Mindanao, those abandoned in Payatas or in hospice care, the half-naked Dumagats, the “blueseals” in Olongapo and the Dodongs and Tanias in the street, as their children too. They are the same grassroots leaders who out of their own time and out of sheer labor of love, are looking for the best possible way to transform our nation into productive communities, if not today at least for the next generation. The transformation will require deep caring, creativity, exchange, perseverance and the will to change not only on the part of our bigger-than-life leaders in the public and private realms and the government itself, but also on the part of many, many people. One individual at a time, if need be.


(*In August 2001, this message was posted in one of Pinoy-rin’s folders. On September 2, 2002, reposted it on its website with slight modification to celebrate Ninoy’s martyrdom. It is being re-published on this blogsite to commemorate our everyday heroes on this historic event.)

Thursday, August 18, 2005

The duty to impeach

Alex Magno appeals to the notion of tenure to deride what he seems to imply as a partisan, nay, whimsical impeachment supposedly based on a “passing scandal” against President Arroyo. Bewailing that it is agitative, rather than educative, he demands to “End this carnival soon.”

He is the same Alex who has also written that the “epidemic” attendant to the congressional inquiry “in aid of legislation” on the Jose Pidal controversy is “(harming) all institutions.” As an activist who has slipped through the cracks to become, in many ways, as one of the community’s elites (at least in political punditry, anyway), it is easier to discern how the elite value system has been brought to bear upon his political perspectives.

If he has not forgotten (or suppressed) his “mass” perspective on politics, one would expect Alex to articulate that the antithesis to security of tenure is frequent elections, or for career civil servants, removal for cause.

In a presidential system, annual election (where all votes have to be counted as equal to be considered a fair one) is a bit too frequent (although non-national organizations elect presidents annually, generally speaking) but a president for more than five years might be rather too long.

During the impeachment of Estrada I have written the following:
The Impeachment provisions of the 1987 Constitution has assumed a graver dimension when the term of office of the president was fixed to a six-year term without re-election. With re-election after a term of four years under the 1935 Constitution or with the process of withdrawal of confidence in the Prime Minister (the equivalent of the President under the 1935 Constitution) by the National Assembly under the 1973 Constitution, the political accountability of the President through the electoral process or the peoples’ representative was then better assured.

There has been a reasonable apprehension that the presidential term of six years without re-election fixed by the 1987 Constitution could result in the country being stuck with a bad president or a president with bad programs or policies. But such is the risk (in electing a president) taken by the people who may not remove him during the term thus fixed except by impeachment. There is thus more cogent reason anchored on fundamental ground that when the conduct of the President constitutes “culpabale violation of the Constitution, treason, bribery, graft and corruption, other high crimes, or betrayal of public trust,” impeachment as a constitutional remedy must be sought with greater zeal and exigency.

The Constitution does not leave to the whim of the Legislature this check and balance mechanism called impeachment. The duty to impeach is at the core of the governmental system established in the Constitution. It is not intended to be politicalized according to the will of the dominant legislative party. The impeachment process as an earnest obligation on the part of Congress is akin to the duty of the Supreme Court to say what the law is in appropriate cases brought before it. When the ground therefore for impeachment exists against a president, Congress is under solemn obligation to stand in for all the people and remove him whose continuation in office poses a serious injury to the Republic. In this context, when the people’s alter ego fails the people, the people have the right to use extra-constitutional means in self-defense. This is the basis of People Power.

Now, who benefits from the circus atmosphere? Is it agitative or educative? I have attempted to answer these questions during Erap’s impeachment, thus:
. . . the experience of the Filipinos during the impeachment proceedings is one that truth has not been compromised in the course of the national engagement in civic-spiritedness, a socially energizing force which contrasts to America’s problem of parochialism. Truth would have been so imperiled had the people, denied their constitutional right to information of great public concern, been restricted to look at it through the prism constructed by the powers that be.

The national experience during the impeachment trial confirms yet another salutary constitutional value so essential in participatory democracy and the unique ability of the Filipinos to expediently withhold at the apposite time in order to keep people power from turning into the “despotism of the crowd.” The Filipinos is just about to master this political culture (in their unconscious) and bequeath it to other peoples of the world who desire to respect the supremacy of the sovereign will.

Sunday, August 14, 2005

Is Arroyo really interested in the RULE of LAW?

(The unedited original of this piece first appeared in PCIJ this morning in a spontaneous reaction to Aleck Pabico’s scientific disputation of DENR Secretary Michael Defensor’s “dagdag boses” theory)

President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo (GMA), invoking Rule of Law, has told her detractors “Impeach me!”

Then one Oliver Lozano, a lawyer, filed on June 27, 2005 an impeachment complaint, endorsed by a member of the House apparently to comply with the requirement of the Constitution.

Lozano has filed seven more complaints to supplement his original complaint. On July 4, 2005, another lawyer, Jose Lopez, also filed an impeachment complaint against the President. And on July 22, 2005, the “Opposition” filed an amended complaint (amending Lozano’s original complaint).

GMA, through her lawyer Pedro Ferrer, wants all complaints dismissed or stricken off except Lozano’s original complaint and the first supplemental complaint filed the day after the original complaint.

Considering the gravity of the whole range of complications attendant to impeaching a president (as the whole nation already realizes), the Lozano complaint as well as his first supplemental complaint - the only impeachment complaints GMA is willing to confront - is a joke.

Anyway, GMA justifies her position (to ignore the other complaints, especially the rather well-honed amended complaint filed by the Opposition) upon the following grounds:

1. The other complaints violate the one-year bar rule on initiating impeachment proceedings;

2. The impeachable offenses (prominently, the ones based on the “Garci Tapes”) were committed during GMA’s first term (referring to the unexpired term of Joseph “Erap” Estrada, who was deemed “constructively resigned” by the Supreme Court);

3. The supposed impeachable offense, the “election fraud” in particular, is a matter that only the Supreme Court, sitting as Presidential Electoral Tribunal (PET) can try and decide on;

4. The “Garci Tapes,” even if true, are inadmissible in evidence because the phone conversations between the President and a COMELEC commissioner about altering election results are private conversations;

5. If at all, only the original complaint should be entertained because the other complaints were filed without the permission of the “court”.

Let’s tackle the FIRST ground now because GMA considers it as highly prejudicial.

The Constitution provides that “The House of Representatives shall have the exclusive power to initiate all cases of impeachment.”

The Supreme Court has once grappled with the term “initiate,” as used in the above provision, in Francisco vs. House of Representatives, during the attempt by Congress to remove from office Chief Justice Davide by impeachment.

The Court, adopting Father Joaquin Bernas’ logic (Bernas arguing as amicus curiae), ruled that: “. . . initiation takes place by the act of FILING of the impeachment complaint and REFERRAL to the House Committee on Justice . . .” (Capitalization mine.)

I have carefully analyzed the Francisco decision in The gang hails the Chief, the pertinent portion of which reads:
Article XI of 1987 Constitution specifically provides for certain modes to prepare the impeachment case. The preparation process is referred to therein as the impeachment proceedings. Basically, there are two modes provided.

The FIRST MODE is covered by paragraphs (1), (2) and (3) of Sec. 3 of Article XI which is somehow the equivalent of the preliminary investigation stage of a criminal prosecution in the Philippines (or the grand jury trial in the US) where the object is to reach the prosecutorial decision to charge or not to charge, what acts to charge, and whether a case can be won based on the verified complaint and certain evidentiary matters that might be gathered in support thereof. The impeachment proceedings, instead of being considered as providing undue opportunities for harassment, are in fact a buffer to protect the public officer being investigated from harassment or from unfounded accusation especially where the complaint is filed by a private citizen. It is thus a mechanism by which the impeachment process at this stage is commenced leading up to the charging or indictment of the public officer in the impeachment complaint or articles of impeachment that completes the preparation process. It sounds oxymoronic but the decision to charge or not to charge (which takes place when at least a vote of one-third of all the Members of the House of Representatives is obtained) COMPLETES the “initiation” earlier STARTED by the filing of the verified complaint (either by any individual member of the House of Representatives or by any citizen with the endorsement by any such member). The intervening steps between the starting and completion of the “initiation,” which includes the referral of the complaint to the proper Committee and the action taken by the Committee thereon, are integral parts of the entire process of INITIATING IMPEAHMCMENT PROCEEDINGS. xxx

The conclusion by the Court, with due respect, is constitutionally without any basis because the first mode of initiating impeachment proceedings covers and extends up to paragraph (3), Sec. 3 of Article XI which prescribes the prerequisite vote of the House. Without compliance with the said paragraph (3), the “initiation” is incomplete and unconstitutional.

By contrast, the provision of the House Impeachment Rules (Rule V, Section 16) [declared unconstitutional in Francisco] is squarely in compliance with the procedure prescribed by the Constitution because pursuant to it, it is only upon obtaining the prerequisite vote of the House either affirming or reversing the Committee’s resolution that the proceedings is “deemed initiated.”

In the case of the impeachment filed by President Estrada—the first attempted impeachment against Chief Justice Davide (and seven other Associate Justices)—the vote by the House of Representatives had never taken place pursuant to paragraph (3), Sec. 3 of Article XI; hence, the multi-step initiation process had not been completed or ended.

Hypothetically, if the initiation of the first impeachment proceedings is considered completed upon “referral” to the Committee, as the Court held, and hence a bar to any subsequent initiation against the same official within the one-year prohibition, then it would be quite tempting for one conceiving of some kind of impeachable acts of adventurism—let’s say with the backing of certain members of the High Tribunal constituting the majority—to contrive first a weak impeachment strawman against her. Then, once the put-on is disposed of for being what it was intended to be, sans the examination and vote of the House, she executes within the same year her true sinister plan, now fully insulated from the impeachment process by virtue of the time bar. That scenario, if subjected to the rather expansive scrutiny by the full House or at least by a greater number of gutsy and conscientious members thereof, in the tradition of the Davides of the old Congress, could certainly be obviated more “effectively” with the application of the House Impeachment Rules, which requires that to be “deemed initiated” it should go beyond the Committee referral phase of the “initiation” and up to the House vote as the Constitution prescribes.

The SECOND MODE of initiating impeachment proceedings is covered by paragraph (4), Sec. 3 of Article XI. All that is required under this mode is that the verified complaint or resolution of impeachment be filed by at least one-third of all the Members of the House; then the complaint or resolution shall constitute the Articles of Impeachment. This is rather an abbreviated procedure (there being supposedly no “complexus of acts” involved). This is also the mode pursued in the second impeachment, this time only against Chief Justice Davide.

It should be noted that pursuant to the exclusive character of the power of the House of Representatives to initiate the impeachment process, BOTH the first and the second modes of initiating impeachment proceedings require the vote of at least one-third of all the Members of the House of Representatives. The Court offered no clear and principled reasoning why such requirement by the Constitution should not be followed. xxx

By declaring the pertinent provisions of the House Impeachment Rules unconstitutional, and barring the second impeachment by virtue of such declaration, there could be no doubt the Supreme Court did so without clear or appropriate constitutional authorization.
The hurried and careless reading by the Supreme Court of the impeachment provisions in Francisco (bordering, as almost it seems, on culpable violation of the Constitution) could not properly be relied upon by GMA, and Congress, if it has the spine, should ignore and perforce correct the same under the principle of coordinate interpretation of the Constitution by a co-equal branch having the exclusive authority to initiate and then the sole power to try and decide impeachment cases.

The SECOND argument of GMA to the effect that assuming, arguendo, the act of betrayal of public rust (i.e., “election fraud”) was in fact committed by her, the impeachable offense was however perpetrated during an office term already bygone, ignores what is obvious: The betrayal is continuing up to the present.

If the sovereign will has been abused on or about the last presidential election, the Filipino people will continue to be betrayed each day the President holds on to the highest office of the land she is not entitled to. And even if she actually won the elections, her “lapse in judgment,” not fully and wholly explained up to this date, will remain as careless and callous trampling and trifling with the sovereign trust clearly amounting to an inexorable case of betrayal of public trust.

Under the THIRD argument, GMA claims that the principal charge, “election fraud,” is in the nature of an election contest and therefore the Supreme Court, sitting as Presidential Electoral Tribunal (PET) should try and decide the matter to the exclusion of the impeachment power of Congress (Note: The election contest filed by FPJ has already been dismissed by the PET following the untimely death of FPJ).

Nice try. The impeachment is not about GMA’s election. It is about her un-election (removal from office to pre-terminate her tenure upon specific grounds enumerated by the Constitution) because she cheated, as alleged, during the election. One is apple, the other is orange, to put it simply.

It is claimed in the FOURTH argument that the “Garci Tapes” even if true, are inadmissible in evidence because the phone conversations between the President and a COMELEC commissioner about altering election results are private conversations.

The president talking to a COMELEC commissioner about elections a private conversation? Private as a frog, maybe. Besides, if GMA is really interested in the truth, it is her high duty to waive her supposed right to privacy at this crucial juncture. GMA owes it to herself to prove her innocence once and for all and then, if successful, resume forthwith her governance responsibility. To say the very least, it is not very pretty for her to hide behind some technicalities while the nation is in crisis.

The FIFTH argument stretches the realm of legal gobbledygook. It claims that, if at all, only the original complaint should be entertained because the other complaints were filed without the permission of the “court”.

Whew! Even at this stage the President’s smart lawyers are already treating the House Committee on Justice as a court. In fact, somewhere in the Motion to Strike, if you read it but have not noticed it, the Committee has been addressed as “the Honorable Court, sitting as an Impeachment Court.”

Even a cursory reading of the pertinent impeachment rules of the House indicates that the impeachment proceeding is only at the stage now where the Committee on Justice is supposed to determine only whether or not the impeachment complaints are sufficient in form and substance. Of course, the House of Representatives - not a private individual, a member of the House, or the Committee on Justice (as explained above) - has the EXCLUSIVE power to “initiate” impeachment cases, but it is the Senate, and no other, that sits as the Impeachment Court.

The purpose of initiating an impeachment case, to reiterate, is to determine whether there exists a “probable cause” to charge the public official, in the instant case GMA. I will hazard to say that PCIJ’s analyses of the “Garci Tapes” are sufficient probable cause. Why is the Committee on Justice not issuing the proper process to compel the production of those analyses?

What then is the logic (or the illogic) about the insistence by the GMA lawyers that the pleadings sought to be stricken off should be stricken off because they were filed without leave (permission) by the court, hence dragging early into unnecessary legal fray what the lawyers wish to be the strict (yet supplementary) application of the Rules of Court?

I will venture a guess. They are baiting the unwary to go for an early application of the Black Robe Theory. Hey, the gang hailed the Chief before, why not Madame President?

Is President Arroyo really interested in the Rule of Law ?

Thursday, August 11, 2005

WANTED: Empire builders

(This essay has first appeared in the moribund The updated version is now Chapter VI of the UST publication of BUILD or PERISH!)

Where is the business class?

Filipinos are seemed conditioned into thinking that the government is both the problem and the solution, and the people deserve only the government they create. What seems to be excluded from this equation of blame is the immense and intricate involvement of the private sector (principally the economic elites or the “entrepreneurial or business class”) in the governance system. But former President Ramos speaking before the Makati Business Club on August 27, 2003, seemed to have clarified the slipshod cliché. Ramos cited the “unholy alliance” and “perverse symbiosis” between politicians and a few families, powerful, wealthy and “greedy rent-seeking,” to whom many of the former are beholden—which makes the unequal alliance and symbiosis doubly unholy and perverse—as the “mother of all our problems” throughout history. On the other hand, Romulo Neri, the Philippine government’s chief economist, has described (December 2003) the relationship as “booty capitalism” (a derision first coined by American political scientist Paul D. Hutchroft) practiced by a well-entrenched oligarchy that invests in politicians to curry policy favors and “capture economic power.” Neri certainly was apprehensive this oligarchy would again control the outcome of the May 2004 elections. If Filipino politicians and government bureaucrats are mere errand boys of the business class and the ordinary citizens are no more than unenlightened accomplices in the political process, shouldn’t the inquiry and criticism be centered more on the performance of the business class rather than the grandstanding politicians, the messianic mutineers or the mobocratic street marchers?

The competitiveness of a nation’s economy, for example, largely depends on the competitiveness of the businesses that operate within and export from the country. Therefore, if our business class are inept in the way they invest and innovate, or to make use of the technology developed elsewhere, could they remain blameless themselves by simply putting the blame—often through the mass media they control—upon the corrupt politicians, the bungling bureaucrats, and the ignorant masses?

Governments, of course, can destroy competitive advantage, or the dynamism of businesses within their national boundaries, due to inconsistent policies, whether self-inflicted or externally exerted. But it takes more than a “level playing field” to build and compete. It requires patriotism, national pride, and the will to develop in the first place.

The elites of strong republics

The ruling elites of the infant American republic readily responded to the call of Alexander Hamilton to lend their prestige and credit in the securitization of the Revolutionary war debt and then in aggressively risking into manufacturing ventures in the early phase of the American economy. The Japanese samurai who laid down the foundation for the industrial economy of Japan from scratch, drawing on their strong sense of social obligation, put the development of the nation ahead of short-term gains. Only recently during the Asian financial crisis, the South Koreans were said to have lined up for miles to give their jewelry toward the country’s dwindling foreign exchange reserves. The Americans, the Japanese, and the South Korean did what they had to do in the name of national pride.

Indeed, crucial to the nation’s economic take off is patriotic elitism (or what Philippine Inquirer columnist Conrado de Quiros calls a “sense of country”) not necessarily on the part of the seemingly hopeless trapos but of the business class. Economic growth and development demand the calculated sacrifice of the economic elites to bear risks, to accumulate not only for their family’s empire but for the Empire of the Nation, through innovation and experimentation, vigorous investment expenditures in high-valued productions, and pursuit of entrepreneurship not otherwise shielded from international competition, instead of minimizing risk and optimizing gains by simply playing safe in some underhanded rent-seeking activities or securing their resources and wealth in safer havens in other climes, all at the expense of the many who are not so endowed.

A redemptive changeover

More significant therefore than the presidential bold assertion that “unbridled globalization is no longer in vogue” is the redemptive changeover manifested by GMA in her post-Rizal Day pronouncements (at the Philippine Stock Exchange on January 10, 2003) when directly she challenged the country’s business elites. GAMBLE, she demanded. Take risks as “I (have taken) the plunge” (apparently alluding to her announcement not to run in 2004, a decision she has reversed, quite ceremoniously, nine months later). The call couldn’t be any more propitious for, critical to economic development is, to repeat, the will to develop on the part of the captains of the industry or the nation’s empire builders, if you will, who want it so badly to attain national development. It was as if GMA’s call has made the renewed rumblings for charter change look more like an unintended diversionary tactic of political louts and troglodytes or an offer by a highway mechanic to repair a totaled car along EDSA.

From a cautious start

As part of the nation’s transformation, the system in place nurtured in elitism and market-democracy must therefore give way to experimentation and adventurism, something that GMA cautiously shunned a couple of years ago and just days immediately following the People Power II uprising.

At her first Vin D’Honour on January 23, 2001, GMA, opting expressly for a business-as-usual approach to govern the nation, announced what was then perceived as her governance vision that “During my administration democracy and the market will be the guiding principles of my domestic and foreign policies.”

Reacting to GMA’s speech, we submitted in our web forum the proposition that democracy and market alone, without social justice, will not succeed to “Advancing the Welfare of Filipino People” (the title of her Vin D’ Honour speech).

Social justice defined

Instead of strict adherence to the market paradigm, we called for the balancing of the market forces with the pursuit of social justice as postulated by Justice Jose P. Laurel in Calalang vs. Williams (70 Phil. 726). About 65 years ago, Justice Laurel in Calalang wrote:
Social justice is “neither communism, nor despotism, nor atomism, nor anarchy” but the humanization of laws and the equalization of social and economic forces by the State so that justice in its rational and objectively secular conception may at least be approximated. Social justice means the promotion of the welfare of all the people, the adoption by the government of measures calculated to ensure economic stability of all component elements of society, through the maintenance of a proper economic and social equilibrium in the interrelations of the members of the community, constitutionally, through the adoption of measures legally justifiable, or extra-constitutionally, through the exercise of powers underlying the existence of all governments on the time-honored principle of salus populi est suprema lex. (Underscoring supplied.)
If GMA’s accession to presidency has been justified by Chief Justice Davide on the principle of salus populi est suprema lex, reliance upon the market and formal democracy alone without social justice and stewardship on the part of the nation’s patricians would look like a policy disconnect to the rhetoric of advancing the welfare of the Filipino People. For, social justice, the main tool for the advancement of its cause being state intervention through “the humanization of laws and equalization of social and economic forces,” is traditionally antithetical to free market that follows, first and foremost, the dictates of “rational self-interest.”

Empowerment liberates

On the other hand, we pointed out that limiting the conception of democracy to nothing more than a citizen’s choice in the ballot box, which encapsulates an illusionary empowerment, has been proven, more and more, to be rather a disincentive to responsible citizenship.

Empowerment, one which allows people to be as best as they can be, change circumstances, and develop alternatives, in itself, as the Filipinos now realize in two great people’s upheavals, is an engine of profound transformation that releases liberating individual energies and initiatives in any organization, both public and private, as did such great forces as the industrial revolution at the turn of the last century. This is an irreversible truism that will continue to pervade the Information Age. The “text gen” that swamped and swarmed EDSA II and the virtual participants in the revolution from around the world are proofs of the potency of people’s empowerment. (By the estimate of some industry experts, there are now about 100 million text messages circulated in the Philippines on a daily basis.)

The pressure for radical transformation notwithstanding, and just two days after the upheaval of People Power II that swept her to power, GMA did not equivocate, in her first chance to articulate her vision, to say her “administration will resist the temptation to take (adventuristic) initiatives and directions for the sake of appearing to be innovative.”

That was unfortunate, we thought.

The real political, social and economic challenges of GMA’s administration, we contended, would be how to balance the market prescriptions (freedom from state interference) with social justice (freedom to self-realization) on the one hand, and, on the other, how to marshal and factor democracy, expressed in people power through consultation and consensus, in bureaucratic efficiency. We feared that GMA was about to lose one great window of opportunity by balking to fully legitimize People Power II and to venture into a fresh start, preferring to look backwards to the status quo ante, a situation her predecessor ousted by the revolt has continued to exploit. Thus we urged her to welcome and take the path of adventure, of being a visionary and a revolutionary, not just a “good president.”

No magic

But GMA has insisted: “I have no grandiose ambition of being great. I just want to do my work well. I don’t want magic. I just want to be 100 percent right—morally right.”

That last one was GMA’s explicit promise: to restore moral authority in governance. By swiftly paving the way for Erap’s arrest, GMA has shown her great resolve to fulfill that promise, an opportunity that somehow had eluded Cory as to her own Ninoy’s tormentors.

Before the start of the plunder trial we had noted that the ball even at that stage was on Erap’s court given the scope and weight of the evidence adduced during the impeachment hearings; that whether Erap would then be placed on house arrest, detained with special privileges appropriate to a former head of state, or allowed to exit via exile, the nation would do well if it would accord GMA abundant discretion to exercise her presidential prerogative; and that the exercise of such a prerogative would become more significant if weighed as a necessary precondition to the fulfillment of her implicit promise for social and economic reforms.

After two uprisings, one, that had toppled an illegitimated government, and the other (EDSA Tres), that sought to express violently the powerlessness of the poorest of the Filipino poor, one would have expected that the logical path of the new leadership would be toward radical rather than gradualist reforms. Quite unfortunately, GMA has opted for incremental solution having thus eschewed any “grandiose ambition of being great.”

During the early phase of GMA’s administration and certainly before the July 27 (2003) mutiny, we had exchanges about GMA’s route to achieve fundamental restructuring one of which was in terms of reforming the wretched state of the electoral process. We argued that if a “failure” of an honest and peaceful election is perceived again as too likely to occur in 2004 owing to the same official neglect to reform the process now, it could trigger to test anew the breaking threshold of the silent middle, which already evinced its agitated state in People Power II. A gradualist approach to this acute political, nay, social malady might end up inadequate to fulfill the explicit promise of moral uprightness. Therefore, we contended, should a conciliatory approach to Erap’s case (a plea of guilty, presidential pardon and then exile) be pursued thereby saving the government precious resources, a redirected or rather intense effort towards electoral reforms could prove in the long term to be more salutary than the clamor for retributive justice. A later editorial of Philstar (January 2, 2004) was equally foreboding:
The presidential elections in May (2004) will be the first since EDSA II. The same camps are once again facing off, and emotions are running high. Less than credible elections could trigger an upheaval that the country can’t afford. The stakes are unusually high in seeing to it that the elections will be clean, honest and orderly, but developments at the Comelec are far from encouraging.
Poverty alleviation

Poverty alleviation is yet another case. The poor are just poor. But most of the time, contrary to the assumptions of many, they are not dumb. They will temporarily allow themselves to be lulled or entertained by the promises and antics of the politicians who condescend to them during elections or will even sell their vote twice, one to each warring camps. At the end of the day, the poor will lump election dole-outs and symbolic social justice officially endorsed by the state as one and the same entitlement. Long accustomed to inherited injustice, their plaints could lay as torpid as the inaudible tremor of a long dormant volcano. But like EDSA Tres, the stupor could be tilled or goaded into violence by some “enlightened” provocateurs or charlatans. And since they are only poor not dumb, they know all too well the difference between their caste and those of their pseudo-leaders. In the event of a successful power grab, the strongest of them will likely keep the power to himself. A triumphant “rebel without a cause,” while too hard to come about, is likely to sow anarchy when he does.

Filipinos’ most recent experience has shown that both electoral and socio-economic problems have now risen to a well-nigh calamitous proportion. But while, it is believed, electoral issues could still be righted just by doing things right, socio-economic reforms will require “grandiose ambition,” highly viable design, and broad consensus to accomplish. Hence, as to the latter, a business-as-usual approach might not be enough to contain a potential seismic eruption however its occurrence is still perceived by some to be remote for now.

The business class, a political animal

What is the crucial role of the business class during these trying times? The Filipino business class, by Harold Lasswell’s standard, is as political an animal as any trapo. Business leaders are power players in essential policy formulation and implementation as to who gets what, when and how. Business decisions or non-decisions (e.g., to rightsize the workforce, build or shutdown a factory, own a “privatized” national airline, or engage in corporate citizenship) are ultimately political decisions. Without therefore the active participation and cooperation of the private and business sectors in any well-intentioned allocative program through job creations as well as in productive-capacity building, it is destined to founder again. But even as the saliency of the issues—raised by EDSA Tres, by the July 27 mutiny, or by what some well-meaning political observers consider as threats of potential civil war—is reaching its high point, we have yet to hear any meaningful offer of leadership role and spirited involvement from the business oligarchy of the Philippine society.

Arguably, it is conceded, initiatives that seek to bring about radical changes are not easy to carry out because they involve similarly fundamental changes of behavior among the participants, particularly of those who would be asked to share more. One such behavior we are pounding on is national pride above self-interest. Another is over an innovative and possibly innately Filipino economic arrangement that takes into account the guiding framework Justice Laurel postulated in the Calalang case, versus a system dominated by the Bretton Woods triplets (IMF, WB and WTO) and foreign creditors.

Tripartite power sharing proposed

At the height of People Power II and before Erap abandoned the Palace, we have fiddled with the idea of a tripartite power sharing among: GMA, representing the People Power II coalition, FVR (former President Ramos), the civilian representative of the military, and Edgardo Angara, then Erap administration’s executive secretary. The trio would exercise revolutionary powers largely to put the house in quick order for needed economic reforms but only during the unexpired term of Erap and until normalcy would be returned in 2004 in time for the constitutionally prescribed presidential elections. Obviously that wishful thinking has been overtaken by several events. With little time before another deadly national elections traumatize the nation (or a vicious destabilization plot succeeds), it is only hoped some “magician” could do the tricks.

One magic trick that comes to mind is the one South Korea successfully pulled. South Korea, a highly homogeneous society, took the innovative route of embracing crony-capitalism while subjecting it to strict discipline by imposing performance standards, down to the activities in the shop floor, upon business recipients of state largesse. The chaebols then assumed industrial leadership by risking into productive enterprises instead of simply preserving their rent-seeking activities. The state subsidy (from borrowed foreign funds) for diversification into new industries proceeded in tandem with the decision to invest heavily in education. Official cronyism and education, while still conforming to market mechanism, lay at the heart of the late-industrial expansion of South Korea. With fewer multi-national corporations in Korea than in any late-industrializing countries, its economy took off on the basis of nationally owned firms.

Taiwan took a different route to do the trick. Through broad distribution of land ownership and capital, and high returns to labor, the individual Chinese was greatly motivated to produce much of the rapid growth of Taiwan’s economy. Taiwan’s small-scale capitalism as a base for industrial development can serve to Filipino economic planners as just another model for accumulation.

City-state Singapore, on the other hand, has placed economic pursuits, via a domestic economy dominated by foreign affiliates, above political ideology (in a highly regulated society). The result is per capita income of a First World state.

There certainly are other economic models that could be investigated for best practices. But the ones that appear to stand out as common denominators for the success of the three countries above mentioned are: 1) the reciprocal relations between the state and businesses, 2) extensive investment in education and 3) the grandiose ambitions of their pioneering leaders.

GMA transformed

On January 10, 2003, before the Makati businessmen, the President, who 10 days earlier had stunned the nation upon announcing she’s relinquishing her bid to extend the tenure of her presidency, sounded transformed as she challenged the rich to take a similar plunge:




Free market called to task

It is apposite to listen at this point to the voice of Christina Morales, a lecturer from the Department of Economics of Ateneo de Manila University. She may neither be the nearest nor the loudest, but hers could be one of the sanest propositions for an accumulation model that calls to task the orthodoxy of free market. As a reaction to GMA’s speech at the Philippine Stock Exchange, Ms. Morales wrote “that coherence and completeness of a country’s industrial promotion strategy” proves to be “the most resonating lesson of the East Asian Miracle.” Hence,
rather than taking liberalization alone or protection alone, the strategy should be to customize industrial policy according to the specificities of each industry, guided by a realistic assessment of their competitiveness, potential and viability in the medium term. (Italics mine.)

Given the limited resources and skills in the government and the economy at large, it is best to adopt a targeted and selective approach. This strategy should clearly be developed after a close study of and in collaboration with the industrial sector [as well as civil society, I should add], and should be pre-announced so that enterprises [and other sectors such as labor, I should add further] will have time to adjust. This should perhaps be Economic Secretary Romulo Neri’s top priority. Moreover, once the program is announced, the government must not consent to backsliding that will only allow inefficient performers to survive indefinitely and create room for rent-seeking and corruption. (Italics mine.)

An important caveat, though, is that interventions have to be designed flexibly and monitored constantly so that mistakes can be rectified as they become apparent. Finally, this industrial promotion program must be situated within a broader, long-term development framework that is cognizant of social considerations other than competitiveness and efficiency. (Italics mine.)1
Ms. Morales took further note of the apparent tentativeness of the government of GMA “to play a more activist role in industrial promotion beyond simply sticking to bare minimums.”

What could possibly be added to Ms. Morales’s proposal is that the strategy to favor targeted firms and industries (in South Korea, for example, long-term capital with favorable interest rates was allocated to Hyundai, Samsung and Daewoo over smaller firms) may not necessarily be limited to manufacturing because services and information technology are areas of competitive advantage with great value-added potentials that we could also take a shot at. We however need precise information about the long-term prospect for certain industrial segments or particular firms in the changing patterns of the global markets. This is where the full partnership of the political, bureaucratic and private sectors come into play in terms, for instance, of facilitating exchange of information on company and other relevant data with a view to inducing the least competitive to exit from the industry or nourishing the ones with the best outlook to compete internationally.

A different approach, it should be mentioned, is one proffered by our town mate, Nick Nadal, a private sector consultant operating in the Middle East, who calls for “a devolution of power away from the crony induced political system . . . and (for the development of) a strong civil society—in the local level especially—that would demand for greater transparency and question the prevailing (local) fiefdoms,” while insisting that “at the same time, the private sector (specifically the SMEs) needs to be fostered, harnessed and developed—through microfinancing, technical support, etc., administered by the private sector (or other independent entities) and not the government.” Nick Nadal strongly believes that “Dependence on government breeds the sad cronyist political system we have.”

In our virtual community, we had some exchanges about start-up business concepts as fanciful as “technopreneurial stewardship.” It’s always exciting to hope.

A Bayanihan pact

The idea that during a nation’s initial developmental thrust industrial enterprises merit the protection of the State in breach of the market paragon so that if such a national collaborative undertaking flourishes all may flourish is not adventurism “for the sake of appearing to be innovative.” When all the participants in a uniquely Filipino Bayanihan project of sort understand what’s envisioned and are fully committed to it, then that translates into a national aspiration for a “strong republic” sans all the empty shibboleths.

Let’s face it. Capital, labor, the community, and the government are mutually interdependent. Therefore, a Bayanihan pact where everyone makes the sacrifice (or, more appropriately, exercises the privilege) so that each may come out with something while preserving the survival of the State should be explored. By everyone, I mean to include everyone such as the poor sacrificing to vote their conscience instead of allowing themselves to be bought, so that the representatives they send off into the public sector as policymakers will serve as competent partners, not mere stable boys (that much the powerless can share and most certainly that will matter, if only to regain their individual self-respect) or labor being more compromising and cooperative, or circumspect in resorting to concerted actions such as work slowdown or strikes, otherwise there would be no work to hamper or strike about.

On the other hand, the media elites (as well as media practitioners doing diligently their homework) must perform their proper role as a “public trust” to put in appropriate context the definition of the goals envisioned and the precise trade-offs to be negotiated, and then articulate them in a proper balance.

The Japanese example

The route the Japanese had taken, as a late-industrializing country as earlier alluded to, is too close an example to ignore.

The zaibatsu2 (literally, “money-cliques”) were “great Japanese business houses” with vast business enterprises which comprised of banking and insurance, foreign and domestic trade, electrical apparatus and machinery, textiles, paper, cement, glass, chemicals, maritime shipping, shipbuilding, mining, metals, and mechanical engineering. They had a feudal past and family councils regulated their activities. The zaibatsu, together with those enlisted from the ranks of the samurai, not only helped finance the Meiji restoration (the reign between 1852-1922 that marked the downfall of Japanese feudalism and the introduction of Western ideas into Japan) but transformed government economic policies from a feudalistic economy.3

On the other hand, by subsidies and a favorable tax policy, the government granted the zaibatsu a privileged position in the economic development of Japan. They later helped bankroll strategic semiofficial enterprises in Japan and abroad, particularly in Taiwan and Korea. Far from the prescriptions of laissez-faire, one of their methods was for certain business families who could provide resources and means for assistance to network with particular statesmen who had great but concrete ideas to enact such as the later concept of “wage plasticity” where the earnings of particular workers were made to bear close correlations to their employer’s prosperity. The zaibatsu transformed themselves into active change agents to modernize and industrialize Japan.

During the Allied occupation, the zaibatsu were broken but in the 1950s and 1960s, the old groups reemerged as keiretsu. The bold initiatives of the keiretsu following World War II to pool their resources together paved the way for Japan to rise as a global economic power.

The market hypocrisy

We have some discussion [in another post] about how a mutant form of democracy was handed down to the Filipinos by the American colonizers. In a sense, the delivery of democracy in the Madisonian contrivance (a.k.a. democratic elitism) was fair because the Filipinos were given what the Americans have had in practice. Not so with respect to the market system. For, whereas America also mutated the market system, it has kept the mutant form to hold sway in its backyard while requiring Third-World countries like the Philippines to practice the pure variety through the bitter prescriptions of the market discipline by such institutions as the IMF and the WTO.

Despite the market rhetoric, state-capitalism (as opposed to market-capitalism) has been adopted by powerful nations—such as France, Great Britain and Germany. Britain then had emerged as the world’s most advanced “developmental state” (ironically, a label the West pejoratively ascribes to Japan), a model that has become endemic in the industrial world and certainly the United States being among its earnest adherents up to the present.

The United States has employed market-distorting schemes such as tariffs, quotas, tax breaks and abatements, loan subsidies, bailouts, and regulatory rollbacks to protect its industries. One recent and obvious instance of market mutation in America is the 2002 $15 billion corporate dole-out ($5 billion grants, $10 billion loans) to the airline industry post 9/11 for the industry’s pre-9/11 failures. Today, non-military aircraft production is concentrated in only two firms, Boeing-McDonald and Airbus, a European consortium, both being recipients of enormous state subsidy.4 This mutant form of the market permeates in agriculture with the mind-boggling $180 billion farm subsidy over ten years benefiting mainly wealthy US farmers. Amadou Toumani Touré and Blaise Compaoré, the presidents, respectively, of Mali and Burkina Faso, two cotton-producing countries in Africa, together wrote on July 11, 2003 an op-ed article to New York Times about the ill-effects to their least developed countries of market-distorting farm subsidies given to cotton producers in wealthier countries which lead to worldwide overproduction and deprive their poor counties of their only comparative advantage, cotton being their sole agricultural product to trade in the international market. The op-ed letter expressly noted that—
Although African cotton is of the highest quality, our production costs are about 50 percent lower than in developed countries even though we rely on manual labor. In wealthier countries, by contrast, lower-quality cotton is produced on large mechanized farms, generating little employment and having a questionable impact on the environment. Cotton there could be replaced by other, more valuable crops.
The figures provided in the same letter by the governments of Mali and Burkina Faso in the period of 2001 to 2002 are compelling:
America’s 25,000 cotton farmers received more in subsidies—some $3 billion—than the entire economic output of Burkina Faso, where two million people depend on cotton. Further, United States subsidies are concentrated on just 10 percent of its cotton farmers. Thus, the payments to about 2,500 relatively well-off farmers has the unintended but nevertheless real effect of impoverishing some 10 million rural poor people in West and Central Africa.
According to another figures closer to home provided by Senator and former Agriculture Secretary Angara, “The protectionist trade policies in rich economies cost poor countries 100 Billion US Dollars annually—twice the amount they receive in aid.” In seeming resignation Angara fretted about the particular situation of the Philippines. “Our agricultural products, he complained, “will always be more expensive since we cannot afford to give any substantial support to our farmers.” (Manila Bulletin, September 7, 2003)

By contrast, there is no question that even in other key sectors of the American economy than agriculture, such as in the high-technology industry including the Internet, robotics, biotechnology, and pharmaceuticals, the nursing hand of the nanny State abounds.5

Don’t we ever notice that trade barriers (not to speak of capital controls) are standard subjects of economic protestations voiced by industrially advanced nations, which manufacture most of the “goods” traded, but not labor barriers consisting of highly restrictive immigration laws they imposed against “service” exporting nations (and I’m not talking here about financial services, consultancy, e-commerce, tourism, or water supply but about the services of natural persons such as household helpers, nurses, teachers, and carpenters).6 Can we still deny the fact that migration and remittances by overseas workers constitute a transnational individual framework (a poor nation’s version of the transnational corporation phenomenon, where TNCs seek cheap labor while TNIs, if you will, seek higher wages or salaries) that brings immediate relief and stability to Third-World countries better than foreign direct investments? Following the coup attempt in July 2003, and the attendant political bickering by the trapos and profiteering by those so-called self-made paper entrepreneurs (mostly bankers), the plea made by the GMA government—not to investors, foreign or otherwise, but for individual Filipinos to convert their dollars into pesos and for the unsung OFWs to make their remittances earlier than Christmastime in order to arrest the decline of the peso to near historic low—categorically illustrates the whole point.

[One IMF study reported by Business World (November 5, 2003) claims that OFW remittances are a “moral hazard” because they are primarily devoted to private consumption “leading to decreased efforts on the part of the domestic workers, firms and entrepreneurs” rather than as development capital, especially where such remittances were treated as returns of human capital invested abroad. This is quite understandable considering that OFW remittances are not directly available to service foreign debts—the unstated raison d’etre underpinning IMF policies towards a developing country that is heavily indebted and whose enfeebled economic sovereignty, owing to those policies, has failed to grow an economy capable of absorbing overseas workers.

What cannot be ignored are the facts that remittances from OFWs (largely from the US, Saudi Arabia, Hong Kong, Japan, Singapore, and the United Arab Emirates) reached 7.6 billion dollars in 2003 accounting for about 16 percent of Philippines’ total current account receipts and 10 percent of GNP. These remittances are sources of funds for education, housing, and investments in SMEs as well as for payment of imports such as oil and parts and components for local industries.]

A brief look at the economic history of the United States shows that during the last quarter of the 19th century, the “robber barons” (from the label of feudal lords who owned huge estates during medieval Europe), the likes of J.P. Morgan, the lord of finance capitalism, John D. Rockefeller, the oil mogul, Andrew Carnegie, the sultan of steel, set the stage for what historian Howard Zinn calls the “greatest march of economic growth in human history.”7 The economic elites took the lead with the connivance of the American trapos, if you will, as well as the US Supreme Court. While Congress made sure tariff laws were passed to keep out foreign competition, the embodiment of “somber, black-robed fairness” did its own “bit for the ruling elite”8 by accepting the argument in a groundbreaking decision in Santa Clara County vs. Southern Pacific Railroad (1886), that corporations were “persons” and their money as property within the meaning of the Fourteenth Amendment, an amendment originally adopted to protect Negro rights.9 However, since the poor whites, the blacks, the women, the children, the European newcomers, and the Chinese labor were not there at the formation, the march exacted an enormous cost to them. The Chinese coolies were among those who suffered the most even as they worked for “starvation” wages to build the railroads for the engine of the American industrial revolution and for the vast network of business empires of the robber barons. However, while often performing the life-threatening part of the railroad constructions, by court fiat10 the Chinese were not considered 100 percent “persons” juridically speaking, even as late as 1871 or about a century after Americans declared the rhetoric that “all men are created equal.”

As a late-industrializing country, the Japanese caught up quickly by avoiding the pitfall of the American “ingenuity” and by seeing to it everyone was on the same page where work and patriotism were defined together.11

The Korean students, emulating Japan’s great sense of social obligation, kept the military regime and the chaebols in check in the unorthodox experiment of rebuilding their even later-industrializing nation.12

Lest we forget, Rizal, writing for La Solidaridad, the main propaganda organ of the Filipino expatriates’ movement against Spain, expounded in no uncertain terms on the “sense of country” and “revolutionary spirit” as vital requirements for economic development:
In order that the (Filipino) may make progress, it is necessary that revolutionary spirit, so to speak, should boil in his veins, since progress necessarily requires change; it implies the overthrow of the sanctified past by the present, the victory of new ideas over the old accepted ones . . ..
The lack of national consciousness gives rise to another evil, which is the absence of all opposition measure prejudicial to the people and the absence of initiative in whatever may rebound to their good. A man in the Philippines is only an individual; he is not a member of a nation.
13 Rizal demanded that the Filipino must transcend the self in order to build a nation.

A plunge forward

The challenge therefore that GMA posed to the economic elites to take the plunge with her—which could also mean EMPOWERING themselves to redeploy their resources against external dictation, mobilize their capital, pool their talent, and tap their network of connections, internal or external, if need be and, then, to gamble, create wealth, develop their own economic model, explore new economic opportunities in terms of new products, processes and markets, build an empire and a strong republic while dispensing social justice—if not mere rhetoric, is a great leap forward.

Doesn’t Jonathan Swift remind us in Gulliver’s Travels, “ . . . whoever could make two ears of corn, or two blades of grass to grow upon a spot of ground where only one grew before, would . . . do more essential service to his country than the whole race of politicians put together”?

Only a handful families control the banking system in the Philippines. That makes for the establishment of a private development bank of some kind specifically targeting to: help emerging industries capable of higher-valued productions; respond to the needs of older industries that have the best chance of becoming internationally competitive; develop, in parallel strategy, local capacities through large-scale microfinancing; underwrite research and development projects; and promote high-quality education and training, a realizable proposition. The bank will operate in conjunction with other financing sources. Primary reliance on international capital flows either as foreign direct investment, portfolio investment, or foreign assistance (we will expound more on this last one in the next chapter) as we have thus far experienced is precarious to say the least. A review of some pertinent economic figures14 indicates that US overseas manufacturing investments, for instance, have shifted invariably with great consequences to the host countries. In the 1950s, most of the US investment in the Asia region was in India, Indonesia and the Philippines accounting for 90 percent of the region’s total. While Philippine Gross National Product (GNP) per capita then was about just half that of Japan, it was a third higher than that of Taiwan and more than twice that of South Korea. As of 1970, by GNP ranking, India placed 10th in the world, Indonesia 32nd and Philippines 40th; whereas, South Korea was 43rd, Taiwan 60th (and Singapore was not even among the first 100 even as late as 1976). By 1988, US dramatically shifted its overseas manufacturing investments to Singapore, South Korea, Taiwan, and Hong Kong at 68 percent of the region’s total with Malaysia and Thailand accounting for a further 14 percent. Of these six countries, Singapore had the largest share at 32 percent. During this later period, the combined US manufacturing investments in India, Indonesia and the Philippines were reduced to 18 percent of the total in the Asia region, less than the share of Taiwan at 18.5 percent. Moreover, the US government redirected its foreign assistance to such political and security dependencies as Israel and Saudi Arabia.

On the other hand, portfolio investors are as flighty as a day trader. For all intents and purposes, they are speculators of the casino type moving in and out, at a moment’s notice, of different national currencies or exotic derivatives in a virtual world of finance capital.15 This then leaves us with domestic private credits and personal investments to finance a rather ambitious national development project without being subject to the dictates of foreign assistance establishments like the IMF and World Bank or to the fickleness of fly-by-night foreign operators. These foreign resources should therefore serve merely as supplementary to a vigorous entrepreneurship of our local economic elites.

The Philippines is also awash with business and management talents. In 1980, I took an abbreviated business management course at the Asian Institute of Management and I was elected president of our class, which consisted not only of Filipinos in middle-level management but Singaporean, Malaysian, Thai, Korean, Japanese and even Mexican mid-level business leaders and managers. We learned from our Filipino business gurus that good business management should really be nothing more than “resourcefulness” and the ability to work collaboratively and innovatively to tackle real-world problems. And that seemed where the rub was. My foreign classmates have practiced the theories they learned from our experts while we’ve tarried in our ingrained habits of risk aversion. So, money might not really be the problem after all but “in-kind investment” is, in the form of the right attitude to avail of our ability to use money that’s available. If at the slightest sign of turmoil domestic capital is exported abroad faster than foreign investments are withdrawn, or rather securely placed in passive investments or other rentier schema, then late learners like my classmates would overrun us, as they did, hands down. We do recognize that in today’s environment stakes are higher, return could be slower, and penalties for misjudgment harsher. But that’s the price of adventurism, of being “pariahs and pirates” of the ancient, or in today’s jargon, the prize of being mavericks. GMA’s call is therefore as much a challenge to plunge forward as to leap away from the old ways of doing things.

If all bets are on, we could expect some so-called liberal economists to label this “development strategy” with many epithets—“mercantilism,” “protectionism,” or “carterlization” even as their own economies blatantly continue to employ arrangements of the same nature although couched in friendly terms like “economic union,” “trade alliances,” “strategic competitive policy,” or, on rare occasions, “preemptive strike” in the service of “military Keynesianism.”

This is not to suggest that if we move towards the direction intimated here, we would in the meantime delink ourselves from the existing global economic relationship. Far from it (although, through democratic exchanges, novel economic alternatives can be imagined and fashioned). What’s being postulated furthermore is that even the market construct could become fair if struggling but willing and ready nations are given a decent chance to build and accumulate just as exactly as the leading economic powers of today did during their own growing pains and struggles; and enabled to be on similar footing, then and only then should these latecomers be made to face up to the challenge of competition. On an individual level, they call this “affirmative action” in America. I believe even nations are entitled to equal opportunity. This axiom, possibly more legitimating than “economic liberalism,” requires that adjustments to transformation of this sort relative to the prevailing international economic order should demand more of the stronger states than the weaker ones, not the other way around.

It’s never really too late to dream. But, let’s dream and go it together for the collective good.


1. Christina Morales, “‘From lazy liberalization to lazy protectionism’, ” January 27, 2003, .

2. The information about the zaibatsu is derived mainly from G.C. Allen, A Short economic History of Japan, 4th ed. (New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1981).

3. For a thorough account of the Meiji Restoration and the changing roles of the samurai during the period see David S. Landers, The Wealth and the Poverty of Nations: Why Some Are So Rich and Some Are So Poor (New York: W. W. Norton & Company, 1998) esp. Chapters 22 and 23.

4. Noam Chomsky, “Market Democracy in a Neoliberal Order: Doctrines and Reality,” May 1997, Zmagazine. .The piece was given as a Davie Lecture, University of Cape Town.

5. Ibid.

6. In New Jersey where I reside, the state Senate unanimously approved in December 2002 a legislation banning cheap overseas labor from being hired as customer service representatives to operate telephone call centers. The employments in call centers abroad are considered jobs “exported” from New Jersey, hence, the ban on the export. “Imports” of workers into US are generally subjected to immigration restrictions.

7. Zinn, A People’s History of the United States, p.253.

8. The quotes are from Ibid., p. 260.

9. Ibid., p.261.

10. People vs. Brady, 40 California Reports 198.

11. See Landers, p. 383, where the author explains: “a primary task of the new imperial state (during the Meiji reform): to imbue its subjects with a sense of higher duty to emperor and country and link this patriotism to work.”

12. Alice H. Amsden, Asia’s Next Giant: South Korea and Late Industrialization (New York: Oxford University Press, Inc., 1989), p. 51-52. Amsden postulates: 1) The students kept the government honest (and coming off the streets, they became the managers of the modern factories), and 2) The American occupation drove Korea towards “developmentalism.”

13. Quoted in Guerrero, p. 193.

14. See Holly Saklar, ed., Trilateralism: The Trilateral Commission and Elite Planning for World Management (Boston: South End Press, 1980), Table 1, p. 10, in relation to Peter Dicken, Global Shift: The Internationalization of Economic Activity, 2nd ed., (New York: The Guilford Press, 1992), p. 65.

15. For a fuller exposition of the workings of the financial markets, see William Greider, One World, Ready or Not: The Manic Logic of Global Capitalism (NY: Simon & Schuster, 1997), esp. Chapter 13 (The Rentiers’ Regime).