Saturday, October 29, 2005

The Mar who would be the Man

If someone is looking for certain specific actionable programs of governance in “A Fresh Start on the Filipino Dream,” he is likely to be disappointed.

What appears to be a policy speech that bears the upbeat title above was delivered “during this continuing crisis” by Senator Manuel (“Mar”) A. Roxas on the occasion of the “Fourth Jaime V. Ongpin Annual Memorial Lecture On Public Service in Business and Government” at Ateneo de Manila University on October 12, 2005.

The rhetoric on leadership was aplenty in the speech, no doubt. But we hear them too every so often from run-of-the-mill Filipinos who do not have any ambition for high office, as some political junkies or bloggers like us, for instance, or even from the high-flying student who graduated at the top of the class during commencement exercises. And Mar Roxas is none of them not only that he is a top-notch senator of the Republic (the total votes he garnered during the last senatorial elections were unprecedented), but also because many believe he is the one Filipino who is most likely to win the next Philippine presidential elections.

Hence, despite the notion, obviously thematic in the speech, of leadership as “all about taking personal responsibility,” it is fair for his countrymen to expect from him as a leader to tell something more concrete about how “to deliver us out of this quagmire” and achieve the elusive Filipino dream.

Exclusive of the variable of individual hard work, self-sacrifice or initiative that Senator Roxas has thoroughly touched upon in his message, the great debate on how to attain the Filipino good society is also focused, as the Wharton-educated politician is certainly supposed to be familiar with, on whether the vehicle to rely upon on the whole would be the government or the market.

Recall that President Arroyo had been straightforward on this issue at the very outset of her presidential career. “During my administration,” she announced at her first Vin D’Honor on January 21, 2001, “democracy and the market will be the guiding principles of my domestic and foreign policies” (although two years later, Arroyo flip-flopped in a dramatic way saying that “unbridled globalization is no longer in vogue,” globalization being meant, it would seem, as the agency that will carry the ball towards the utopia of the good society built around a free market).

On the other hand, presidential timber Mar Roxas showed his state-interventionist bent as a congressman at least as regards one critical piece of legislation, the Retail Trade Liberalization law: he was accused of inserting protectionist clauses in the law.

As Trade and Industry Secretary, Mar Roxas allowed another glimpse of where he could be on the ideological divide during a brush with then Finance Secretary Alberto Romulo on the question of giving government incentives to investors. Roxas saw “jobs generated,” as well as “foreign exchange” and “technology transfer” created by the incentives whereas Romulo decried the “foregone revenues.” And when Roxas perceived that the Philippine tuna has been subjected to tariff discrimination (by the US) in favor of the Latin American package, still as DTI Secretary he threatened (indeed a gutsy move by a former Wall Street investment banker) to withdraw Philippine membership from WTO.

Is there something more discernible about Mar Roxas’ predilections from his Jaime Ongpin memorial lecture? Let’s vet closer what he said:
Our social compact is premised on the basic idea is (sic) that if people put something into their life, they should get something reasonably gainful out of it. We all “bought” into this bargain and we look to the government as the chief implementer of the same. This is a simple but basic bargain that seems to work in meritocracies like the US and Singapore, but here in the Philippines, the gap between effort and output has steadily widened.
The first sentence I believe is a nuanced manifesto of economic liberalism (which argues that since men are the best judge of their own limits and capacities, it follows that the most rational use of the resources available to them will happen if they are allowed to follow their pursuits under conditions of free competition). This also dovetails with Mar Roxas’ conception of “leader and leadership (being) within us.” The second sentence which “look(s) to the government as the chief implementer of the (bargain)” is therefore a non sequitur (italics mine); it smacks of protectionism (or the old policy of mercantilism, the granting of special privileges to merchants and manufacturers to encourage the development of commerce and industry).

Shouldn’t the suggestion that the meritocratic system in the US and Singapore are normative bother us too? (In the US government subsidies to wealthy farmers or aircraft manufacturers are mind-boggling and Singapore, as is well-known, is a single-party government.)

What else did we learn from and about Mar?
Everywhere else in the world today, governments are gearing up to meet the challenges of the 21st century: the challenges of globalization, of integration, of achieving economies of scale. Nations are identifying and building up their comparative advantages—whether these be in agriculture, in manufacturing, or in high technology or science.

Or we can decide to truly make the domestic industry competitive: this will mean overhauling our thinking and premises on our economy. This will also mean adjusting our tariff policy, our energy policy, and our agriculture policy, among others.
Now, we are getting the point: government must meet the challenge of globalization in order “to truly make the domestic industry competitive ….”

If we haven not realized it yet, the phenomenon of globalization is the engine of turbocapitalism that is running over the traditional role of government in domestic affairs by the ascendancy of transnational forces erected around free market. Globalization sees the “withering away” of nation-states that surrender their powers to non-elected technocrats and rationalistic global actors like the IMF, WB, WTO and multinational players such as the TNCs. Globalization is therefore the antithesis of Rostovian developmentalism which relies upon governmental intervention “to provide the enabling, nurturing and invigorating environment within which private initiative and industry, meaning people taking responsibility for their lives, can grow and be properly rewarded,” to borrow the language of Senator Roxas.

But with Mar’s belief in government as chief implementer of the bargain, doesn’t this one rather sound contextually oxymoronic just as the first quotation above?
Let government heed and respond to the people’s natural willingness to do the best and the right things for themselves and their children. Instead of telling people what to do and what not to do, the national leadership has to listen—to suffer criticism, if need be—if only to repair the floor upon which we all stand as a nation.
Or maybe just a safe political rhetoric from the Mar who would be the Man.

Monday, October 24, 2005

‘Economic takeoff’ on a runway of mistrust

Philippine President Arroyo is reported to have said that the country is “on the threshold of economic takeoff” after the Supreme Court had paved the way for the implementation of the expanded value-added tax (e-VAT). The new tax system is Arroyo’s central and rating agencies-sensitive fiscal reform strategy to tame the budget deficit and forestall a fiscal crisis.

The opening up of the mining industry to foreign investors, another Supreme Court-abetted economic measure, is also touted by the Arroyo government as a ground-breaking opportunity for the country’s economic development.

Can we trust that the economist in Arroyo is for real or is she simply pulling a fast one on the non-economist in many of us? What are the facts and the scholarship on the matter?

Many parts of the country still retain the basic features of the so-called traditional society. A traditional society is one whose structure has limited production functions because of its incapacity to manipulate the environment through science and technology. To break from the conditions of a traditional society that put a ceiling on its attainable output, new types of enterprising men willing to take risks in pursuit of profit or modernization must come forward. The risk-taking must happen in conjunction with the appearance of institutions for mobilizing capital like banks, the investment in transport, communications, and in raw materials in which other societies may have an economic interest, and the setting up of manufacturing enterprises using modern methods. These are the “preconditions for take-off,” the stage that the Philippines notwithstanding has already reached.

Takeoff however may not occur if the transition is proceeding at a limited stride in an economy still primarily typified by “traditional low-productivity methods,” by dated societal institutions and values, and by parochial political institutions.

The key to economic progress is somehow attitudinal too and this happens when economic men and political animals judge such progress to be good not only for the material comfort it brings forth for their pioneering spirit but also for national identity and dignity, the welfare of the next generation and the common good.

Historically, the decisive ingredient during the transition is the building of an “effective centralized national state” imbued with a “new nationalism” versus regional interests, the colonial power (if any), or both. When growth becomes steady and normal and institutionalized into habits and social structure and dominates the society, takeoff is said to occur.

To economist Walt W. Rostow (his two seminal books are: The process of Economic Growth [1952] and The Stages of Economic Growth [1960]), from whose insights the above ideas are mainly culled, the takeoff is spurred not only by the investment in “social overhead capital” (such as in railways, ports, roads and education) and the expansion of technological development in industry and agriculture, but also by the rise to political power of a group dedicated to the proposition that the modernization of the economy is a national goal of paramount order. Guided by the wisdom and knowledge of this group who trust each other, takeoff happens (parsing or interpreting Rostow anew) when:
1) Heavy investment in “social overhead capital” takes place;
2) The rate of investment and savings rises to about 10% of the national income;
3) Imports of capital goods form a high proportion of total investment;
4) There is rapid expansion in new industries, generating profits a sizeable proportion of which are reinvested in new plants;
5) The new industries, in turn, spur (through their rapidly expanding requirement for workers, support personnel, and for other value-added goods and services) a further expansion in urban areas and in other modern industrial plants;
6) Expansion in the advance sector yields returns in the hands of those not content with rent-seeking but who place their savings at the disposal of those engaged in modern sector activities;
7) The new breed of entrepreneurs emerges and expands; and it places and directs the increasing flows of investment in the private sector;
8) The economy exploits untapped natural resources and discovers new methods of production;
9) Agriculture is commercialized, and more farmers are educated to accept and apply the new methods and the transformative changes brought forth;
10) The economic, social and political structures of the society are transformed to allow for a steady and sustainable growth.
While many scholars and policymakers have also criticized Rostow, I find his ideas very sound and relevant to the Philippine situation today.

If we follow the logic of Rostow, how can the Philippines pass the condition that demands heavy investment in “social overhead capital” in the first place given the gargantuan national debt that we have as well as an economy that is subject to external dictation through “structural adjustment,” for instance? Today, our self-content wealth holders would play rather safe with their money in the finance economy (half of the national debt belongs to them). What would induce them to venture into vigorous entrepreneurship in the real economy of the nation? Two quick prescriptions: First, a sense of “new nationalism,” as Rostow requires (or a “sense of country” in the language of columnist Condrado de Quiros) at least among the group (of the economic men and political animals) who is supposed to guide the country toward the attainment of its national visions; and second, simply “grow out of (this debt)” (meaning, I suppose, the economic growth should outgrow the debt) according to Dean Jorge Bocobo, a proposition that still seems to echo the Rostovian modernization model.

On the other hand, what Ricky Carandang has expressively remonstrated about the need to thaw the iceberg of mistrust cannot possibly be gainsaid as another precondition for takeoff. The sense of mutual social trust is also called social capital (the attitude and willingness of people to engage in collective and civic actions, or the Bayanihan spirit, if you will). But how can this happen if the President herself is perceived to be suffering from political (as well as perhaps, as many Filipinos also believe, moral) deficit? Thus handicapped, can she step up to the plate to lead the process of rebuilding the indispensable bridges of trust? And is there time before total distrust begins to overwhelm everyone?

Back to the buzzword of “economic takeoff.” Are we really taxiing on the runway ready to takeoff or still looking to flag a taxi at EDSA in the wee hours of the night?

Thursday, October 20, 2005

People Power hazardous to U.S.

When I first posted People Power: watchful, impatient, alive in PCIJ on August 24, 2005, Dean Jorge Bocobo (a.k.a. Rizalist) politely, yet provocatively, responded thus:
...We cannot possibly be the first to discover that a people can withdraw their consent to be governed–and succeed ...

I would agree with Abe that the American Revolution was an example of People Power. In fact it was the very first big blow that caused European colonialism’s ultimate demise.

Much of the time I agree with Abe, but this time I sense that rhetorically he falls into the same logical trap as Jose de Venecia. Where JDV attributes the seeming failure of Philippine democracy to a flawed constitutional construction, Abe claims we developed an elitist democracy on top of that flaw because the Americans taught it to us.

I think that’s a bit of a stretch and reminds me of something I once read with regards to colonialism:

“There is no greater emotional loss than that of an excuse for one’s own failures–in the past actions of another nation.”

I say again: People Power is just ordinary democracy. We Filipinos are only now exploring its true extents.
People Power as “(withdrawal of) consent to be governed” which defines, in Dean Bocobo’s book, the “real people power” has surfaced again in a more recent post (Oct. 16) by him in PCIJ.

Truly I believe there is no better truism today than the statement that “People Power is just an ordinary democracy.” In fact, People Power is democracy. However, it is not the kind of democracy Filipinos learned from the Americans. The democracy that was handed over to us by our colonial mentors is the “elitist” version they were practicing at home of that hallowed institution.

The American version was a compromise between the Federalists (the Americans favoring the centralization of powers in the Federal government) who feared the spread of mobocracy of the French radicals to America, and the Democratic-Republicans (the Americans wanting to retain many of the powers of the individual states) who feared monarchism and plutocracy. The Madisonian compromise prevailed and written out in the fundamental charter was a uniquely American system that was neither monarchic (monarchy being the prevailing form of government at that time) nor people-powered (which was the sentiments of the American revolutionaries) but a non-tyrannical republic, i.e., a republic that is supposedly free from the tyranny of a monarch or the majority.

The American Constitution that was crafted in secret proceedings and behind closed doors by men of property (40 of the 55 delegates were land speculators, money-lenders, government bond holders, merchants, manufacturers and large plantation owners) failed to pay fealty to the aspirations of many of the American revolutionaries who had believed in spontaneous social action and radical democracy. Instead, “elitism” in the new federal structure was so couched to appear to the Americans as a happy, easy and sensible cross between a despot and a mob, gullible as they had been for too long to accept that English monarchy was a rational form of government.

As a result, Americans in general are today both incapacitated and desensitized from the obligation of governance. The American people don’t decide governmental policies through elections or choice of party platforms. Elites do. Most Americans loathe to vote or if they do vote, they are ill-informed of the issues anyway, thereby rendering those so-called democratic institutions as nothing more than symbolical formalities. To such an extent, the American Revolution has been a disappointment.

As the United States in the Wilsonian tradition tries to project anew to the world the American system (not to protect it, as is touted in the rhetoric of the global “War on Terror”), a successful People Power in the Philippines - that is, the triumph of real democracy in a former colony - will be a threat to that goal. The “little brown brothers” finally breaking the umbilical cord will serve to puncture the myth of the perfectibility of the American paradigm. Also, Philippines as the true and real “showcase of democracy in Asia” via People Power will be hazardous to America’s intentions in the Middle East.

It may be worth recalling America waged an atrocious war in an attempt to remake Vietnam. The war could be reducible now to no more than a failed effort to winning over “hearts and minds,” the strategic value of Vietnam to U.S. interest being dubious at best. Philippines, on the other hand, is made in the American image being America’s first empire, and has always been a reliable ally. The Island remains strategically located to play a role to “contain” China, an emerging global power, as well as radical Islam from the world’s most Muslim-populated country, Indonesia. Moreover, U.S. acquired the Philippines at a great cost in the pursuit of foreign market and it is logical to assume U.S. will not easily give up what remains of its influence in the former colony for the same purpose.

Therefore, liberating Philippines through People Power has dreadful consequences to U.S. interests either geopolitically and geoeconomically. People Power as a movement can thus be juxtaposed quite interestingly to the “wars of national liberation” without being attached to either side of the ideological divide in the “proxy wars” of the Cold War period. If it’s a war at all, it is one powered by the people or a coalition of people across the political spectrum who, like the American revolutionaries, have longed for true political sovereignty and political equality.

Losing Philippines to a real democracy - the People Power democracy - is something that Americans can ill afford: it will mean the final triumph of ordinary democracy (over elitist democracy) that the American revolutionaries came so close to achieving. With People Power III looming in the horizon, Filipinos must decide whether they want to be great imitators again or initiators of a new democratic paradigm.

Sunday, October 16, 2005

Defining ‘terrorism’

“Realize that the reason we do not see People Power is because it is already so BIG and all around us, we don’t even notice it. We do not see the people’s rage in the streets, because already in their hearts they have withdrawn their consent to be governed. That is the real people power . . . here at PCIJ and the blogosphere, we are connected to an even greater People Power, the power of a global human republic, a global civil society to overthrow the ancien regimes of tyranny and stupidity.” – Dean Jorge Bocobo

Wow! How I wish I wrote these beautiful accolades for People Power.

But, back to the topic, who do we think is the most “terrorized” person in the world today? (Clue #1: not Dubya. Clue #2: from the run-up to Iraq invasion until his capture in a “spider hole,” Saddam Hussein could be in his league.) Given the available technology to spot from the sky his lanky shadow, can this poor being even go outside to do his thing?

Now, with the imminent use of “emergency powers” being bruited about in the Philippines, isn’t it reasonable to assume a handful of PCIJ and other journalists are also feeling “terrorized” nowadays? Sans the doctrinal sieves, how do we re-conceptualize terrorism?

Let me offer some other frame of discourse than those already formulated by scholars like Dr. Victor Ramraj.

First, if a person or a group is labeled as the villainous “terrorist,” the other person or group is likely to assume the starring role, the “counter-terrorist” (or the “anti-terrorist”). Save for the casting process which could well be directed by the one who has unilaterally appropriated the more benign character, this might still look innocuous.

Outside of the terrorist/freedom fighter context, what if the role-playing were also transformed in some Biblical sense, say, in a David /Goliath conflict. Who should logically be called one or the other?

People who are routinely blowing themselves up (maybe because they could not afford a missile or a gunship helicopter) could not plausibly be pigeonholed into a Goliath role? And how could the most powerful actor in the world, at least militarily, be co-starred as boy David? The casting of the protagonists won’t just hold up, it seems. Only recently, President Arroyo blew it, did she not, when she tried to play the “victim” of the schoolyard bully because the forced analogy was ridiculous or funny at best, many thought.

Professing to avoid being “political,” Dr. Ramraj writes that “focusing instead on the acts of violence themselves and on the specific methods of terrorism might be more fruitful than trying to formulate a definition (of terrorism) acceptable to all.”

My problem about the rather nuanced assessment of Dr Ramraj is that it immediately and conveniently excludes from the discursive analysis the “acts of violence” and the “specific methods” of ANTI-TERRORISM with the effect of rendering those “acts” and “methods” as innocent and acceptable to be begin with except for certain concerns -- e.g., potential violation of procedural and substantive due process as regards the “rights” of the suspected terrorist or the expansive role of the executive vis-à-vis the restrictive scope of judicial review -- Dr. Ramraj has identified within the range of discourse thus narrowed.

Think about this: supposing the masterminds in the 9-11 attacks were unmistakably identified and there were convincing speculations they were hiding in London but exact whereabouts were not known. Would intense air raids by Americans over London (well, using smart bombs) be “justified” as legitimate “acts of violence” in the guise of counter-terrorism?

Even if the Americans, in our hypothetical, did not carry the threats to shell London or carpet bomb the outskirts of the city to spare no terrorists attempting to escape, the months of preparation to war against the terrorists supposedly hiding in London who would have “terrified” the whole city no end.

The twist: the terrorists were actually hiding in Iraq and Afghanistan (And no Al Qaeda operatives and nuclear weapons found in Britain?). Oops.

“But we can’t bomb the Iraqis and Afghans now,” the hawks in Washington muttered, “they are too pretty and too cosmopolitan to suffer or die like the Brits.”

Here’s the connection (an overkill perhaps) between the unnoticed force of People Power and the “terror” that is unseen and taken for granted. “There’s so much ‘terror,’” I wrote in my book, “happening in our midst today but we don’t see it, because it is not readily visible. Not being visible, we often don’t resent it. It is not suicide bomber but terrorism ‘on paper (that) hurt the most’ (says Raj Patel, this time).” For example, MOA or statute that requires the precedence of a debt repayment to feeding the people, or a sanctions policy that kills millions.

Monday, October 10, 2005

Whose hero is Aragoncillo?
(Beyond fiction and day-dreaming)

The following is part of the transcript of the Q and A that took place in Cebu on October 7, 2005 between the Press and the Chargé d’Affaires of the U.S. Embassy in the Philippines, Ambassador Darryl Johnson (The transcript appears on the official website of the U.S. Embassy in Manila and therefore I assume it’s NOT fiction, stupid):
Q: Can you address the issue of some of those who are upset about reports by your predecessor over some of our officials here?

Ambassador Johnson: These alleged reports are part of the case that has been brought against these two people (referring to Michael Ray Aquino and Leandro Aragoncillo) and at this stage it would not be appropriate to comment on the distorted portions that have been reported in the Philippine press. It is not appropriate because this investigation is still going on. I would say, however, that the versions of the stories that have been reported here are nowhere close to being accurate.

Q: One of our Bishops here, the Bishop of Lipa, says there might be American involvement in all the political conflicts here. How do you answer this?

Ambassador Johnson: The United States and Philippines enjoy very strong relations, and unfounded allegations of this kind are certainly inappropriate and absolutely not correct.
As above indicated, the Q and A is obviously referring to an intelligence dossier published by the Philippine Daily Inquirer. The intelligence report was supposedly prepared by Ambassador Johnson’s predecessor, Joseph Mussomeli that was in turn based upon the reports of certain US agents detailed in the Philippines.

It appears the Mussomeli dossier, which could be among the information given away by Aragoncillo to three still-unnamed Philippine opposition leaders, claims among others that –

1.) The Philippines will be worse off under Vice President De Castro because he is inept both on domestic and foreign policy issues;

2.) Returning former president Estrada to power is a better alternative than turning over the presidency to De Castro.

There are other assessments reportedly made in the dossier such as the questionable ascension by Arroyo to the presidency in 2001 and the perception of Filipinos in general that Arroyo cheated in the 2004 presidential elections. The focus however of this blog is really on the above assessments, or more precisely the claim in 1.).

To put the matter in a better perspective, it should be noted that the Mussomelli report was supposed to have been prepared within days following the resignation of the “Hyatt 10” when the momentum for the Arroyo ouster movement was on a crescendo. The agents, it seemed, calculated that there was a clear and present danger People Power III would take place, hence the rush to scout for an acceptable replacement.

It was then logical for the US agents to conduct a job interview with the one who is formally next in line. However, not necessarily bound by constitutional requirements or the rule of law, the talent search has to meet other threshold priorities. How did De Castro fare in the light of those priorities? Well, quite miserably by the interviewers’ own account.

First, De Castro was assessed to be lacking the required sophistication for the job in view, for one thing, of his comments on US-RP trade relations: sounding more like a fair-trader, he complained about the “imbalance” in those relations. De Castro was also quoted in the dossier as saying to the effect that the Philippines is America’s “Number One ally” and our President is its “Number One fan” and yet other countries are favored more.

Second, regarding De Castro’s take on Iraq, the dossier stated: “On Iraq, however, he said he didn’t understand ‘what was behind it.’ He then turned to his real interest in Iraq: jobs for Filipino workers.”

Third, on domestic matters, De Castro was portrayed as naive at best: “We asked about his legislative priorities and waited patiently as he searched for words. His chief of staff, Jesse Andres, broke the silence, noting that De Castro identifies his policy interest as anything that would benefit the masses. . . .”

U.S. can possibly deal with a left-leaning nationalist or a patron of OFWs (a multi-billion dollar industry, anyway). But the third one was the proverbial straw that broke the Camel’s back. Why is that? Because a Filipino leader (or Third World leaders, for that matter) who pays attention to the needs of the masses is likely to ignore the interests of investors, or U.S. investors in particular.

But, what exactly is the nature of U.S. investment interests in the Philippines?

U.S. has been the Philippines’ largest foreign investor, with about $6.3 billion in investment as of end-2004. Also in 2004, U.S. trade with the Philippines amounted to $16.2 billion and some 16% of the Philippines’ imports came from the U.S in the same year. Philippines is ranked as U.S. 21st largest export market.

The Philippines has untapped mineral wealth estimated at more than $840 billion making it one of the world’s highly mineralized countries. In December 2004, the Philippine Supreme Court upheld the 1995 Mining Act which allows up to 100% foreign-owned companies to invest in large-scale exploration, development, and utilization of minerals, oil and gas. Mining therefore offers enormous potential for U.S. investors in the Philippines. (The Venable deal, deemed to be one of those documents disclosed by Aragoncillo, is apparently intended to “constitutionalize” the decision of the Court.)

The controversial Electric Power Industry Reform Act (EPIRA) of 2001 has also opened great opportunities for U.S. firms to participate in the power industry in the Philippines.

A Gloriagate-induced People Power is what threatens the foregoing U.S. interests in the Philippines.

A successful People Power III (of a dimension different from People Power I and People Power II) that will give rise to a nationalist government responsive to the clamor of the people for improvement in their beggared conditions through the distribution of economic resources will not be conducive to the interests in the Philippines of U.S. investors.

It might be more enlightening to backtrack for a moment and access our knowledge of another of those classified documents (now declassified) from the U.S. State Department, the one authored by America's wiseman George Kennan:
Furthermore, we have about 50% of the world's wealth but only 6.3%of its population. This disparity is particularly great as between ourselves and the peoples of Asia. In this situation, we cannot fail to be the object of envy and resentment. Our real task in the coming period is to devise a pattern of relationships which will permit us to maintain this position of disparity without positive detriment to our national security. To do so, we will have to dispense with all sentimentality and day-dreaming; and our attention will have to be concentrated everywhere on our immediate national objectives. We need not deceive ourselves that we can afford today the luxury of altruism and world-benefaction . . . .

We should dispense with the aspiration to "be liked" or to be regarded as the repository of a high-minded international altruism. We should stop putting ourselves in the position of being our brothers' keeper and refrain from offering moral and ideological advice. We should cease to talk about vague and--for the Far East--unreal objectives such as human rights, the raising of the living standards, and democratization. The day is not far off when we are going to have to deal in straight power concepts. The less we are then hampered by idealistic slogans, the better.
Now, read again the complaint filed by the FBI against Aragoncillo and Aquino. Do you smell a plot or a leak?

Here’s what paragraph 14 of Attachment B to the Complaint alleges in part:
Aquino’s Introduction of Argoncillo to the Public Officials

14. Records from Yahoo! reveal that on or about January 2, 2005, an e-mail was sent from the Aquino Yahoo! Account to Public Official #2's Yahoo! Account along with the following message introducing defendant LEANDRO ARAGONCILLO to Public Official #2:


The other day, Leandro “Lean” Aragoncillo called me. He is the US Marine friend . . . . He already resigned from the USM and is now with the new intelligence unit . . . he is about to finish his training at the FBI NA in Quantico, Virginia.

He wants to talk to you and give you some updates on the political situation in the country. . . . He alleged that last Tuesday during a briefing . . . the recent political situation in the Philippines was discussed. It was the first time that he heard about a briefing on the Philippine situation. He claimed that a change in leadership is boiling and that it is just a matter of time . . . .

He gave me the following information:

. . .

These are all subject to confirmation but I think there’s nothing wrong if we give it a try to confirm/check especially if this will be a catalyst for change in our country.

The number of Lean Aragoncillo is . . . . He is available after 5:00P.M. EST on Tuesday after his class.

For your information.


“That is the problem with the Americans,” said a disappointed Justice Secretary Raul Gonzalez in a report by “I wrote them a letter (about the espionage case) and they have not even answered ... maybe it’s been a month now. They meddle with us and then they don’t cooperate with us.”

An unprecendented espionage in the White House and then a plea bargain? Who is Lean Aragoncillo really working for? Whose hero is he?

Wednesday, October 05, 2005

Why not a revolutionary government?

I still remember the excited exchange we had at the moribund about the search for a way out of the Erap standoff. At the height of People Power II, the presidential toughie was holed up in Malacañang clinging to his formal power even as his armed forces chief of staff, Angelo Reyes, was also secretly plotting to break the chain of command.

As speculations mounted about President Estrada’s eventual capitulation, suggestions were bruited about as to how the country should be run post Estrada. The one idea I was personally turned on was for FVR, GMA and Angara representing the military, the civil society groups and Erap’s supporters, respectively, to form a triumvirate to govern the country during the unexpired term of Erap subject to the condition that the three of them should commit to disqualify themselves from running for president in the next national elections in 2004. Apparently, Erap, like Marcos, didn’t see his ouster coming, and coming so abruptly. He possibly never had thought too of the foregoing or similar scenarios before his bargaining position dissipated or when ultimately a breakaway crowd of protesters sent him scurrying to a waiting barge in the Pasig river.

The civilian/military conspiracy to remove a duly elected president (and Erap was duly elected), as anyone now realized, was not treated as a criminal offense, not even as “inciting to sedition” (what mlq3 considers as a colonial crime), the easiest one to prosecute among the crimes of its category in the penal code. Free speech it was, the Supreme Court ruled, obviously to allow a constitutional, rather than a revolutionary, presidential succession for then Vice President Arroyo.

A couple of months ago, when many saw President Arroyo to be at the end of her tether, a transition government or a provisionary council of varied composition was also proposed. More than anything, the revolutionary nature of that proposal is what won me over to it as against “snap elections” as the immediate alternative for a post Arroyo government.

Why would my own instinct go against my entrenched belief in People Power democracy? Well, the self-contradiction was merely more apparent than real.

Firstly, I thought and wrote that GMA without declaring a revolutionary government “(lost) 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 . . . .” Indeed, as quickly as she was swept to power, GMA lost no time recoiling to employ extraordinary powers to put the house of the state in order the way she is determined today to avail of similar methods to ensure her political survival. It was a great disappointment.

Secondly, I believe a revolutionary route is the best imperfect solution to the long-standing scourge of the nation and that a piecemeal, painful, slow and deadly approach to the monstrosity of the problem would fail as any other incremental attempts before. Think about it again, do not the extreme destitution, desperation, and powerlessness of tens of millions of Filipinos deserve the use of extreme measures? But against whom should extraordinary powers be exercised? The state employs coercive actions against street marchers or labor strikers. Should the same strong-arm tactics be used against senseless and heartless capital strikers and fly-by-night operators? Whose liberty it is that is protected when the rights of others to seek redress for grievances are trampled upon in the name of commerce, for instance?

Thirdly, I draw certain philosophical parallelism BETWEEN the belief of some in the value of limited (versus universal) suffrage, that is, limited only to those who have a stake in the system (the stakeholders so-called) to the exclusion of the uneducated and the unpropertied until the latter earn and learn enough to become stakeholders themselves AND the idea of political sovereignty being withheld, albeit temporarily (hence, the preference for the establishment of a revolutionary government to the holding of status-quo-preserving snap elections), if only to hasten and secure direly needed political, social and economic reforms.

When political, social and economic resources are distributed, the attainment of true political capacity for fully qualified citizens cannot be far behind.

Saturday, October 01, 2005

EO ?6?

The writing of Executive Order 464 has also produced certain bold strokes on the wall, apparently illusory, but the most worrisome is the sad script about a country stuck with a lame duck president so palsied to leverage what is left of her influence towards certain national goals aspired, as she is frenzied to becalm a restive citizenry. No, it was not an undeclared martial law but a declared war against the Senate whose collaboration she direly needs to sidetrack those who are hell-bent chasing her out of her bower.

What were they thinking? Well, they weren’t. Here’s why. If it is not a Hail Mary pass, EO 464 is ill-thought and ill-advised. And, of course, ill-timed, considering that an overwhelming number of Filipinos believe the charges of presidential “stealing, cheating, and lying,” which are yet to be threshed out in the proper forum.

First of all, the power of the legislature to inform itself through legislative investigations, underwritten by the power of contempt, is anchored upon long-accepted traditions. While not unlimited, it is rooted on the right of self-preservation, the ultimate goal of any society. The inevitable opposure as well as corollary to that power is the duty of the legislators to inform the people about matters of public concern. The Philippine Supreme Court in Chaves vs. PCGG (1998), which EO 464 is conveniently (and maybe deceptively) shown to rely on, said so in no uncertain terms:
This principle is aimed at affording the people an opportunity to determine whether those to whom they have entrusted the affairs of the government are honesty, faithfully and competently performing their functions as public servants. Undeniably, the essence of democracy lies in the free flow of thought; but thoughts and ideas must be well-informed so that the public would gain a better perspective of vital issues confronting them and, thus, be able to criticize as well as participate in the affairs of the government in a responsible, reasonable and effective manner. Certainly, it is by ensuring an unfettered and uninhibited exchange of ideas among a well-informed public that a government remains responsive to the changes desired by the people.
How could they miss it, if they were not frantic and in haste, or frantically in haste like covering up the footprints and the fingerprints on the crime scene before the detectives arrive?

That “in republican government, the legislative authority predominates” is the other principle underlying a tripartite system that was ignored. What was seen by James Madison, the father of the United States constitution, as elementary then (Federalist, No.51) remains fundamental today. (In a number of cases in the United States involving similar tug of war between cabinet secretaries and congressional committees, mostly settled before reaching the Supreme Court, executive privilege has thus far yielded to legislative power.) Constitutional tradition concedes that Congress has as much power to enact laws as to oversee their enforcement by the executive branch. This is the power of congressional oversight.

In contrast, “executive privilege” is a theory based upon the Lockean claim that the president, likened to a king, has “the power to act according to discretion for the public good, without the prescription of law and sometimes even against it.” This claim is however justified only during emergencies and national strife or similar situations which are not even pretended in EO 464.

Now, the heads of departments, executive officials and public officers mentioned in the EO are between a rock and a hard place, i.e., between the wrath of a presumptive empress dangling the power of control over them and the indulgence of some grandstanding senators whose tempers are equally short for feigning and malingering witnesses summoned to inform them truthfully on pain of contempt citation and incarceration.

If the judiciary, the third party of the tripartite arrangement, trifles with its role the same way, what could have been seen written on the wall as EO ?6? might not be far from being an illusory after all. God bless the Philippines.