Friday, November 30, 2007

It is not folly to prevent a rebellion

The Philippines is in a state of war, but who created it?

Just a brief background. Impeachment should have been the appropriate process, by which Gloria Arroyo could clear the thickening clouds over her claim to the presidency.

Unfortunately, Arroyo and her allies in the House have chosen to ignore the essence of the Rule of Law in favor of procedural convenience. The House legislators were thus seen to have acted contrary to a power delegated to them by the people, which is to perform their check-and-balance role against the president.

By derailing the constitutional process of impeachment, the House has allowed itself to be bastardized by Arroyo as she by herself, thereby setting the stage for the people to take back what has been delegated.

In plainer terms, what have taken place are a rebellious conspiracy and or overt acts of rebellion on the part of Arroyo and her co-conspirators against the State. As a consequence, a state of war between the Arroyo regime and the Filipino People has been created. The condition of hostilities has thus been ongoing since Arroyo’s aggression against the State.

What are the known principles that support the foregoing propositions?

This paraphrase of John Locke, whose treatises on government became one of the foundations of American democracy, is straightforward: Where an appeal to the law and the courts (in this case the Impeachment Court) lies open, but the remedy is denied by a manifest perverting of justice and a shameless wrestling of the laws to protect the violence of some men, then it would be hard to imagine anything but a state of war.

“Whoever uses force without right - as every one in the society who does it without law - puts himself into a state of war with those against whom he uses it, and in that state all former ties are cancelled, all other ties cease, and every one has the right to defend himself, and to resist the aggressor,” Locke warned aspiring tyrants. By natural right, the people have the power to remove a government if it has rebelled against them.

If the Filipino people opt for a peaceful struggle, that is the Filipino way. But it does not deny the state of war the Arroyo regime has initiated and is prosecuting in various forms.

Arroyo is not ignorant of the rule having been on the opposite side of the fence before: the people have not only the right to get out of an illegitimate regime, but to prevent it from endangering the whole system upon which the people’s rights and liberties depend.

Why resort to people power? The Lockean sense is to the effect that people do not rise in rebellion upon every misgovernance, great or small, but only if a long train of abuses and corruptions makes the design unmistakable to the people, and they sense and feel it in every way, leaving them no choice but to re-entrust the power of governance into such hands which may secure to them the reason for being of every government.

Is the fear that the people can be habituated to people power well-founded? On the contrary, according to Locke, people are habituated to norms and as such they are the last to change. This aversion to change entraps the people in the system they have gotten used to. Hence, even if revolutions do happen, the people have the tendency to re-entrust authority to the powers that be for the simple reason that they are more habituated, and therefore more comfortable, to be ruled than rule.

But, who are prone to commit acts of rebellion? Rebellious acts are not normally committed by the people, Locke implied. For, essentially, rebellion is an opposition to the legal order. So those, who being in a position of power or under color of authority break that order, are properly rebels and create a state of war. The effective way to prevent that breach of the legal order that may develop into full-blown hostilities is to show to them who are under the greatest temptation to do it, the danger and injustice of it by real threat of counter-rebellion or people power.

So, is people power or for that matter mutinous act ruinous as it may occasion civil wars?

Let’s hearken to Locke once more:

“. . . they may as well say, upon the same ground, that honest men may not oppose robbers or pirates, because this may occasion disorder or bloodshed. If any mischief come in such cases, it is not to be charged upon him who defends his own right, but on him that invades his neighbour's. If the innocent honest man must quietly quit all he has for peace sake to him who will lay violent hands upon it, I desire it may be considered what kind of a peace there will be in the world which consists only in violence and rapine, and which is to be maintained only for the benefit of robbers and oppressors. Who would not think it an admirable peace betwixt the mighty and the mean, when the lamb, without resistance, yielded his throat to be torn by the imperious wolf?”

Now, have the people the right to nip a rising tyrant in the bud? Definitely, Locke argued, for why wait to be slaves first before acting like free men? Otherwise,

“. . . men can never be secure from tyranny if there be no means to escape it till they are perfectly under it; and, therefore, it is that they have not only a right to get out of it, but to prevent it.”

Friday, November 23, 2007

In the service of the common good

Hillblogger has called my attention in my last entry to Judge Richard Posner’s blog about the IMF’s report on the effect of globalization on inequality.

This question by Judge Posner in his blog has particularly bothered me: “Everyone is better off, and why should the fact that the rich are better off by a larger percentage concern anyone?”

That the economy works best when regulated least is a fundamental tenet of classical economics (of free trade and free market) Scottish economist Adam Smith fathered in 1776. That may be fine but were we to realize our unrestrained actions (or for that matter unfettered self-interest, our natural insularity) may have dire consequences to others than ourselves, a society would need more than a “night watchman” state to allocate boundaries or alter existing ones. Some people (like Jose Rizal or our valiant Overseas Filipino Workers) will always be bothered too by the claims of this system that not the wealthy but the poor themselves, or their laziness in particular, is responsible for the latter’s misfortunes.

Among the early supporters of classical economics were the utilitarians who believed that if the greatest happiness of the greatest number is advanced, then the resulting suffering of the rest would be excusable. Posner's question above is exactly utilitarian.

Herbert Spencer (1820-1903) was another intellectual who reinforced the classical view by extending Charles Darwin’s theory of biological evolution to the economic sphere: the fittest would advance and survive but the lower kind would be left behind or possibly perish, a natural inevitability that ought not to strike the conscience of the fortunate ones.

Thus, if religious pretensions or sheer moral arrogance of the older era had been relied on as the excuse for the deadly doctrine of “discovery and conquest,” permitting the extermination of an entire race by supposedly civilized and moral people, “social Darwinism” was drawn upon to assuage the scruples of more recent colonizers, settlers/frontiersmen and imperialists as well as racial supremacists who would cause parallel untold misery to “lesser” peoples.

But the poor were just poor. They weren’t dumb. They always understood the system was nothing but an institutional premise that protected powerful economic interests and promoted a culture of indifference and impunity for brutal and rank exploitation.

Fortunately there were also men of probity who were considered turncoats to their class because of beliefs that human beings were entitled to certain basic measure of dignity. Activism, then as now, either by these radical humanists and or on the part of the exploited themselves, has been the only means of rectifying institutional injustices such as the dreadful plight of workers during the early phase of the Industrial Revolution in the areas for instance of child labor, safety in workplaces and security against disabilities and old age. Among these humanists was Karl Marx who also predicted that the capitalistic system would self-destruct given that the flaws of the system would drive the workers to rise up and overthrow it in a violent revolution.

I do not buy the Marxian inevitability of the proletariats’ violent revolution because I strongly subscribe to the view that there are alternatives to bloody confrontation in order to transform in a revolutionary way, such as the alternative of discourse. I do believe that it is through discourse for example that, on the one hand, new models of institutional vocabularies like “market” and “democracy” could be discovered or, on the other, exposed as less than God-terms in the same manner that the Divine Right of Kings was proved as not all but God-willed.

Similarly, the literature is now plenty about how to re-imagine “entrepreneurship,” another institutional buzzword. To author and MIT professor of political economy Alice Amsden, the “defining characteristic of entrepreneurship is planning, or deciding what, when, and how much to produce.” And by historical standards, when it comes to milestone decisions in big business, Amsden argued, “the entrepreneurial function of planning has primarily fallen to the state,” curtailing in the process the role of the private entrepreneur. Thus, in South Korea according to Amsden, “every major shift in industrial diversification in the decades of 1960s and 1970s was instigated by the state.” The role of professional managers because of their expertise was relegated to implementing those investment decisions. It is only in small firm situation, she further pointed out, that the entrepreneurial function of planning or the initiative to investment in minor project still lies with the private entrepreneur, now “a pale reflection of the heroic figure of the past.”

On the other hand, economist and Harvard professor Dani Rodrik, re-conceptualizing the standard literature on “industrial policies,” has called for “the softening of convictions on both sides” in order “to fashion an agenda for economic policies that takes an intelligent intermediate stand between the two extremes” where “Market forces and private entrepreneurship would be in the driving seat of this agenda, but governments would also perform a strategic and coordinating role in the productive sphere beyond simply ensuring property rights, contract enforcement, and macroeconomic stability.”

As thus conceived, the Korean strategy for economic take off, for example, was not as simple as protecting “the so-called ‘winners’ chosen by governments and their cronies,” as our free trader friend jemy would suspect. “Industrial policy is a state of mind more than anything else,” Rodrik has concluded.

So, why Bayanihan Pact (a people-powered town effort) as the suggested appellation for a new entrepreneurial arrangement that may allow the Philippines to catch up or ultimately propel its economy to take off? Because, to begin with, even the text itself evinces discourse, negotiation, inclusion and collaborative enactment; it also serves to challenge the institutional text of hierarchy, elitism and patrimonialism as well as the sociology of exploitation and impunity or general apathy to the appalling predicament of the less fortunate, our poor or theirs.

In reaction to cvj’s comment at mlq3’s blog on economist Dani Rodrik’s approach, I have had the opportunity to explain certain of my thoughts about the Bayanihan arrangement in two entries.

. . . what’s needed in order for the Philippines to join the big-timers in the big world out there, are:

1) Not necessarily for the small guys to think big as a condition precedent but for the bigwigs (the political leadership, the economic elites and the technocrats) to think big TOGETHER. However, during this process of big thinking, the petty Pinoy of the tingi mentality must be given a bigger voice than usual, allowing the Bayanihan spirit thus generated to legitimate the process [for now, I guess, this is as close as we could get to the Lincolnian “government by the people, of the people and for the people”].

2) The taipans must realize that low private returns from vigorous entrepreneurship in new activities may be compensated by high social returns. This demands of the economic elites a high “sense of country.”

In an earlier post I have also noted: “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, according to (Walt) Rostow, 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.

Likewise, Rostow postulated, takeoff is spurred not only by the investment in “social overhead capital” (such as in railways, ports, roads or 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.
. . . to be legitimate, Rostow’s “transitional coalition” should not be equated to Justice Laurel’s “moral and intellectual aristocracy” . . .

The revolutionary path is not really what normally many of us would have in mind but only something of the Randy David’s scheme, as follows:

First, a large and articulate constituency for reform must assemble itself from the countless fragmented voices and social movements that are already making themselves heard in our society today. Its first task is to draw and agree on a realistic roadmap to national recovery [adopting the Dani Rodrik's thesis is one], carefully marking out the main obstacles and dangers and indicating the immediate priorities to be tackled. Second, the document must be explained and debated in public fora all over the country, refined, and then presented to the President and Congress for action. And third, depending on the response of the present political leadership, the reform movement may either call for new elections or a constitutional convention or both.”

It is therefore revolutionary simply because it assumes the system in place, the metizo/taipan political economy (which to me is no less an extension of Friar system couched in “Madisonian democracy,” one the American founding fathers designed against the so-called tyranny of the majority) after more than a century has, in Noam Chomsky’s terms, failed to justify itself. A system that cannot be justified after that long period of time must go. The systemic failure once acknowledged, it is time to go through another experiment, our own experiment, where every member of the body politic could be committed to an open inquiry of the system. The transitional coalition, which I’d hope to come out of the Randy David scheme above, is just one proposition towards an enduring vision of an independent modern Philippine state.
When 60 million or so Filipinos are under constant threat of daily terrorism because they live on less than two dollars a day, indeed all possible propositions should be explored. I have then pointed out one barrier-breaking alternative available to Filipinos and perhaps others similarly situated:
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.

Friday, November 16, 2007

What to do with the Philippine oligarchs

I have once taken note that with Catholicism and Spanish Aristocracy, the basis of our elitist, patrimonlialist and hierarchical system could be explained in the following:
The friar system reformists like Rizal intended to dismantle had an entrenched network of power relations among its 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. In hindsight, one would be hard put to surmise whether the uprising fueled by Rizal’s ultimate sacrifice could have ended the system (had the Americans not come into the picture from out of the blue). The fact is that Rizal had been fearful in Fili, and rightly so, of “(freeing) the slaves of today, if they will be the tyrants of tomorrow.” For, those who were waiting in the wings—to succeed to the powers of the Pulpit—were fawning sycophants, hostage and servile but only to the fat friar. To the ignorant and powerless, like the Crispins and the Basilios of Noli, they were as fiendish and callous hirelings who savored every conceivable scent of power, as was the petty and abusive parish sacristan mayor who, as the darker side of the Filipino character in the novel, had made use of every niggling authority it had arrogated unto himself. Still, and in fairness, there were many of them who emerged as the ilustrado, the enlightened ones, and joined the nationalist movement against Spain and then, but only for a fleeting chapter, against the Americans.

Many ilustrados, to preserve their privileges, abandoned the nationalist cause to collaborate with the Americans even while the war was in progress. They saw themselves as heirs apparent and logical beneficiaries of yet another “royal grant” from the new sovereign.
Let me fast forward to more contemporary events.

The political instinct of Ferdinand Marcos, it is fitting to remember, has served him well in his practical analysis of power politics in the Philippines. One of his claims was that the scourge of the country has in the main been the oligarchy of economic elites, some 60 families of a population of 40 million then. These families, mostly of Chinese descent, by their elitist bent and plutocratic complex, think they own the country (of about 85 million souls today), so for them it is just right to govern it – through their trapo surrogates.

Marcos’ solution to the problem was to dismantle the old power and wealth. Unfortunately, by doing so through the use of dictatorial powers, he created another version just as virulent.

Cory Aquino and the EDSA Revolution that ended the dictatorship restored political and civil rights to the Filipinos, but she stopped short at confronting her own shadow and those cast by the reinstated oligarchic clan of which she is a part. She’s just a transition leader, the convenient excuse.

Aquino’s successor, FVR, a West Pointer and a Marcos cousin, was well aware of the “perverse symbiosis” between the oligarchs and trapos, yet he knew as well without doing a Marcos any meaningful change initiative on his part would have limited chance of success. His reform programs could have picked up more steam if he was accorded longer time to lead. In the end President Ramos conducted himself as a good soldier and decided to respect the constitutional limit of his presidential term.

Supposedly populist Erap, once a Marcos lieutenant, was seen as a threat to “the rules of the game.” To the chagrin of the established elites, President Estrada has closely associated himself with the Binondo Chinese (Rizal’s Chinaman?); he in fact has driven a wedge between the “new immigrants” and the “Makati elites.” Consequently, his term was rendered short-lived. It was however under Erap’s watch that many more of the Marcos cronies sneaked back to power.

Wily Gloria Arroyo is the quintessential conservative (i.e., she has professed not wishing to be great, or adventuristic, intending only to “conserve” - even after EDSA II had swept her to power ahead of her schedule after evicting the “Champion of the Poor” - the old tradition and ideology of “market and democracy,” thereby keeping intact the existing wealth and power distribution). So, logically, in the presidential election that followed, the Establishment opted for Arroyo to rule instead of another Erap in FPJ, the Opposition candidate and the Man who would have been Da King.

The oligarchy of the economic class likes it when the political class like Arroyo, beset with one scandal after another, is helpless, a lame duck. If she can’t effectively muscle her way, the powers that be could simply sit tight, allowing the system to operate by auto-drive.

On the other hand, the oligarchy secures itself from external pressure for as long as it toes the Washington Consensus line in an “almost sycophantic” fashion even as on the sly it nurtures relations with its “roots” from China, the awakened Dragon with creeping global extremities. That way, it gains more confidence of having wider latitude to navigate the waters of regional as well as global political economy

A crack in the wall has however begun to appear as more and more of the oligarchs’ counterparts in the region have been consistently outperforming them. That nasty sore spot exposes the Philippine version of oligarchic regime as one of a lower or inferior form especially in the eyes of the “move-on” Filipino middleclass. As a result, this class has become increasingly “relatively deprived” even while going through some sort of enlightenment, as well as perhaps conscience-stricken by the inhuman plight of the vast hoi polloi and the Payatas horde.

To cut to the chase, the holy mess the Philippines is in today has been about the extreme disparity in wealth and power between the oligarchs and the rest of society. The problem is confounded and yet propped up by the twin ideology that’s supposed to serve as the solution – the “market and democracy” construct first hailed by President Manuel L. Quezon as the “new ideology in Asia.” For, what was seen as “the greatest event of modern civilization in the Orient” did not seem to fit the following Philippine realities outside of some borrowed idealism:

- First, the Philippine oligarchy is exceedingly family-centered which has yet to subordinate its ancient roots to the Filipino nation-state. (This baggage is non-existent in longtime world economic power Japan and in the “tiger economies” of Taiwan, South Korea and China which are all essentially homogenous societies; on the other hand, city-state Singapore has confronted this problem by decreeing integration, while Malaysia has institutionalized affirmative action for the Bumiputra, the “sons of the soil.”)

- The oligarchy is content with rent-seeking and paper entrepreneurship and of late is ignoring or failing to make the most of the OWF-generated boon as a medium for sustainable growth and development. Even as corporate entrepreneurs the oligarchs are still basically engaged in family-enterprise capitalism (where as owners they, rather than professional corporate managers, continue to be in control of the entrepreneurial decision-making) but, take note, are somehow disposed to leapfrog right into modern financial capitalism (of the speculative financier type or as traders in money), possibly skipping in the process the productive and employment-generating stages of industrial and managerial capitalisms.

In a nutshell, my preferred prescription for a successful solution to the scourge of oligarchy includes:

- The “tsinoy” oligarchs must do a Rizal (himself a direct descendant of Cue-Li Lam, an immigrant from Fujian, China) to form the Second Filipinos (the First Filipinos being Rizal and co.).

- Like the pariahs and the pirates of the ancient (who were the direct ancestors of the First Filipinos), the oligarchs, matching the risk taken by the OFWs, must venture into vigorous productive entrepreneurships.

- As risk-takers, the oligarchs must not allow their resourcefulness and imagination to be needlessly constrained, contained or contaminated by what was once touted as the “new ideology in Asia,” those pre-conceived notions of “market and democracy” that are themselves being re-imagined to obviate the inevitability of fading or dying away in a “creative destruction.” Instead, they could just attach a neutral appellation to the transformation process, a tag as simple as Design A or Design B.

The design could be something like operating under a Bayanihan Pact, an entrepreneurial arrangement where the oligarchs emerge as national business elites in partnership with the State, a representative group from the private sector, and the bureaucracy (hence, there’s no need for a bloody confrontation) in the nature of a Philippine, Inc., just as a Japan, Inc., a Korean, Inc. or a China, Inc., of recent time or the French, Inc. the British, Inc. or the American, Inc. of the old.

The U.S., the most advanced economy today, differed in economic strategy during its growing pains from the longer established European powers. Alexander Hamilton argued that a young country should use measures to shield its own industries from the vagaries of the market.

Friday, November 09, 2007

Little known heroes and great justice system

I have been a critic of the elitist nature of American democracy and of US frenetic foreign policy as a number of the commentaries in this site will show.

But, I have also been all praise to the American jury system. In one blog exchange I have posted the following:
America is great because Americans of today are fundamentally good and just. There’s a lot more to be desired but America has done away with slavery as an economic system, it is seriously fighting the last remnants of the scourge of racism, and it is more and more looking at the world as one large community, to cite some quite laudable signs of progress.

Moreover, things being equal, the justice system in America is something that presents itself as a model that deserves the admiration of the whole world. I guess this is because the “jury system,” the one democratic institution that America has chosen to preserve is well at work. Citizen jurors as you know represent a cross-section of the community initially chosen at random; once empanelled, they are empowered to hold to account aberrant members for acts or behavior inimical to the community. More often than not, the rich, the famous and the powerful could not escape the judgment of their peers. Enron’s Ken Lay, homemaking diva Martha Stewart, Congressman and “Top Gun” hero Duke Cunningham and well-connected White House adviser Scooter Libby are recent examples. Yet imperfect, but the jury system is as close as it gets to the very rudiments of direct democracy. It is “people power” in a microcosm. Unfortunately, the system is one of those democratic essentials that the Americans have decided to deny to the Filipinos.
There’s another true and close to life reason for my optimistic outlook. Here’s why.

Last year, nine Overseas Filipino Workers (OFWs) were brought into South Dakota, United States from the Philippines to work in a hotel under what appeared to be a fair and attractive arrangement for them: minimum wage for 40 hours of work per week.

The workers’ nightmare has begun right upon arrival. Their visas and passports were confiscated by their employers. No sooner, they were made to sign overstated and escalating debt obligations, and were held to work from early morning to midnight. Their employers would threat them with violence during late-hour meetings, denying them needed rest and sleep, and regularly admonished them about their debts and work performance.

Some were made to work as many as 160 hours in a week but were paid almost nil. The payroll modus operandi was simple: the victims were handed paychecks but only for endorsement because immediately the checks would be taken back by the employers and deposited into the hotel bank account.

One had been relieved from her plight by an uncle who is a doctor in the area, and she eventually returned to the Philippines before her visa expired. In Manila, concerned about the continuing abuse and worsening condition of her co-workers left behind in the US, she lost no time to initiate a complaint (in April 2006) before the local authorities and the US embassy. In a text message to a US Embassy representative, she has written “What I want here is justice, and I believe this will served as eye opener and lesson for all of us.”

On May 28, 2006, she sent a follow-up letter to the US Embassy in the Philippines, part of which reads:
. . . just to inform you that last April 18, 2006, Mr. Robert John Farrel presented himself at the embassy there together with the 9 Filipinos (with) . . . fraudulent documents, such as fake pay slips and pay checks, and these people are being intimidated and harassed, they were forced to lie . . .

Now these 9 Filipinos . . . left for US last April 28, 2006, meaning they were granted visas. These people are now seeking help and assistance here to help them in their worsening situation there in Oacoma, South Dakota.

In fact, one of those 9 Filipinos who just arrived last May 27, 2006, had tried her best to make her way out of that place, and lucky enough she was allowed because she told them that she needs to go home to attend to her mother’s serious ailments, but the truth of it is that she can no longer stay there because of the TRAUMA, HARD LABOR and EXPLOITATION, and most especially that they are now in DEBT BONDAGE with the FARRELLS. She is MS.GINA AGULTO . . . She decided to go home because like me she wants justice. . .

Filipino people are coming to America hoping for a better life, and it is a terrible tragedy to find ourselves victims of human trafficking . . .

This call is not just for me or for ourselves but also for potential victims . . . I know there are hundreds of people out there seeking for help and assistance. I FIGHT NOT ONLY FOR MYSELF BUT FOR ALL THE VICTIMS, BECAUSE WE CANNOT (OTHERWISE) FULLY EMBRACE OUR OWN DIGNITY AS HUMAN BEINGS.
On May 30, 2006, Gina Agulto from the Philippines wrote the doctor in South Dakota and her own plea was similarly afflictive:
Just like any other Overseas Contract Workers, we only dreamt of working hard to earn good money and save for our family’s future. We did work hard, as hard as we could and bore all the hardships we went through but good money never came. What we actually got ourselves into is DEBT BONDAGE which in the first place is very inhuman. If I am going to compute, they even owe me money with all the payments I made through my pay checks which they claimed and asked me to endorse. They owe me and all of us Filipinos for all the things they put us through.

I left a good and stable job, left my husband and 3 kids to sacrifice with a promise of wonderful things for us. The separation even instilled a negative effect on my children. It gives me a very sad and heavy heart that I had to go home and have accomplished nothing at all. But I cannot furthermore stay and work for them and slowly lose my self-respect and dignity with the way they treat us. I’d rather go home and start all over again.

But again, I am not going to allow them to get away with all these illegal acts. I want them to realize their unjust ways and be penalized. . . .

Please assist our co-Filipinos who are still there right now. They are helpless and have no one to turn to but you.

I am placing all my trust and confidence in the justice system of the Philippines and of the United States of America.
The doctor had consulted a local judge who in turn recommended that the matter be referred to the State Department of Labor, the State Attorney and the Philippine Consulate in Chicago.

In July 2006 the investigation began to take shape even as some of the workers escaped from their employers, and thereafter were provided assistance by the same doctor and the local law enforcement. From this point, several US agencies have cooperated to develop the case: the U.S. Department of Labor, the South Dakota Division of Criminal Investigation, the Chamberlain (South Dakota) Police Department, the Immigration and Customs Enforcement Attaché at the U.S. Embassy in Manila, Philippines, and the Department of Homeland Security.

The joint efforts have paid off. The employers, Robert John Farrell and his wife, Angelita Magat Farrell, both of Oacoma, South Dakota who own and operate the Comfort Inn & Suites hotel in Oacoma, have been charged in court.

Justice was swift: on November 8, 2007, after five days of trial the jury promptly deliberated on the case and returned guilty verdicts against the Farrells for conspiracy to commit peonage, peonage, document servitude, visa fraud, and making false statements to federal agents. Both face imprisonment of up to 125 years.

I’m quite familiar with the case. The principal complainant, Maria Corazon Margallo, is my niece and the South Dakota doctor, Lucio Margallo II, is my brother.

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Wily Arroyo

At mlq3’s website, I have posted a comment to the effect that Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo has a better hold to power than Pakistan’s Pervez Musharraf, unless the Filipino people do their own math and then exercise their power of the “last say” (I was actually referring to the People Power equation of one million street protesters and a handful of generals to change a regime). But then I also took notice of Randy David’s suggestion that “middle class activism” or in general the people’s democratic “engagement tends to stop at the polls” or, as I had before noted, even at the exercise of People Power for, in the latter case, there’s that process of re-entrusting too – to those who, they think, are better equipped to govern, the elites in other words.

The comment has generated the following retort from Manila Bay Watch:
I refuse to compare Gloria to Musharraf (insult to the latter).

Most of Pakistan’s population still live in the feudal world, half illiterate and virtually caught in the stone age of Islam.
But the “analysis of Pakistan,” according to another commenter hvrds, is “so close to home,” the Philippines being more (of) a construct of empire with a very short history of people . . . very much somewhere between the stone age and the bronze age.”

If we follow hvrds’ logic, we could claim quite plausibly that “most of Philippines’ population still live in the feudal world, half illiterate and virtually caught in the stone age of Catholicism,” with one notable distinction – Philippine warlords sometimes carry certificates of attendance at US Ivy Leave schools, an added negative against Filipinos, since by such credentials they ought to conduct themselves a bit more “civilized” (i.e., Westernized or Americanized).

Relative to relationship with US, I will agree that the comparison between Ferdinand Marcos and Pervez Musharraf is closer than the one between Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo and Musharraf (simply because GMA, to her credit unfortunately, appears more cunning than both dictators because, instead of being just macho, GMA exhibits amazing reflexiveness: she adroitly “backs off” when called for whether what’s on the table is charter change, exercise of executive privilege, the suspension of Makati mayor Binay, the ZTE deal, a strong stance on former president Estrada’s incarceration or a showdown with former president Fidel Ramos or House speaker Jose de Venecia).

Do we remember the “Kirkpatrick doctrine” (Jean Kirkpatrick served as UN ambassador in Reagan administration) during Marcos time, by which US supported authoritarian governments as long as they were pro-American irrespective of the regimes’ human rights or governance records? US saw no need to press dictatorships to move toward democracy if it feared that communist groups might triumph. That the conjugal dictatorship survived in the Philippines for two decades is largely attributable to Kirkpatrick’s tenet.

The foreign policy of containing communism is now dated. Following the 9/11 attacks, George W. Bush reconfigured the neocons’ professed goal about global defense of freedom and democracy by infusing into the rhetorical mix his “war on terror.” The definition of convenience democracy however remains the same: it means being pro-American (with free-enterprise capitalism a necessary add-on) regardless of whether on the hand the US dogs are cheating in elections, plundering the treasury and torturing or killing extra-judicially their opponents and on the other, economic growth is benefiting only a privileged few, as long as they are on board on the “war on terror” and advancing the cause of democracy. When it comes to US allies, in the so-called Third World anyway, the institutions of substantive democracy such as fair and honest elections, active citizenship, public trust, the rule of law, and accountability of public officials are frosting on the cake or play second fiddle.

So, even 1) President Bush’s call to Musharraf for parliamentary elections (recall that Musharraf came to power eight years ago via coup d’etat but like Bush senior who had been lavish at praising Marcos’ “adherence to democratic principles,” Bush junior at the White House in 2006 unabashedly paid tribute to Musharraf as “a strong defender of freedom and the people of Pakistan”), or 2) the US Senate’s condition that continued military aid to the Philippines must be tied to improvements in human rights, should be taken as mere lip service to the cause of freedom and democracy.

cvj on similar score seems equally prescient: a Democrat in the White House would (not) result in a policy change towards Gloria and/or the Philippines.

Meanwhile, wily GMA will not hesitate to play her China card against tougher US foreign policy, when it suits her ambition, an option that was not available to Marcos.

I have said it a number of times in this blog before and will say again: The real threat to America’s way of life is not from terrorism but the coming of age of true democracy.