Friday, December 28, 2007

Benazir Bhutto: 1953 to 2007

Upon Benazir Bhutto's return to Pakistan last October, there was a [very] brief moment when i thought Pervez Musharraf, learning from Marcos' own failure to reconcile with Ninoy or conversely, F.W. de Klerk's success in reconciling with Nelson Mandela, would actually engineer a political reconciliation either as a way of co-opting and neutralizing her, or as a genuine act of statemanship. The sad reality is that dictators are seldom able to deny their nature.

Here's Bhutto's NY Times Op-Ed from last month where she writes about Musharraf's Martial Plan (via Firedoglake). I can only hope that her half-expected, but nevertheless still shocking murder does not set-off an even more fateful chain of events reminiscent of a previous assasination that took place in Europe almost a hundred years ago.

You can also read Rom's analysis as well as that of John Marzan.

Update 01-01-2008: Via Crookedtimber, an assessment by Jemima Khan, concluding that As Prime Minister, Benazir Bhutto Did Little.

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Friday, December 14, 2007

Interfaith Prayer Assembly Against a Morally Bankrupt Arroyo Administration

Forwarded invitation:

The events of the past weeks have shown in unmistakable terms the deep and intense political crisis that continues to engulf the nation under the current Arroyo administration.

The incident at the Manila Peninsula is a stern reminder that there are still unresolved issues of legitimacy, corruption, human rights abuses and unprecedented abuse of power under the guise of upholding the rule of law. While there may be varying opinions on the Manila Peninsula incident, it is clear that the issues raised were all too familiar. That various groups and personages continue to protest these issues is a clear manifestation that the ruling administration has done little to address them.

What is also disturbing is that the government's response to dissent has been more repression and threats addressed to the citizenry. The images of media workers being hauled like criminals - and the imposition of a curfew, the first since Martial Law - reminds us that repression remains the principal response to dissent under this administration.

And despite claims of growth and development, and the pretense of a "good economist" in Malacañang, many of our countrymen still cry out for economic justice; for land, better wages and decent services. The economic crunch has in fact dampened whatever remaining holiday cheer there may be.

The crisis has gotten worse with many of our people going abroad because they see no hope in our country. Unless the above issues are satisfactorily addressed, we can expect the same turbulence, desperation and frustration to mark the remaining years of this administration.

As the year comes to an end and a new one is imminent, we are again called to renew our commitment to truth and justice. We are again called to stand together to call for accountability in government. We stand firm in rejecting a morally bankrupt Arroyo government as we strive to achieve national unity and renewal.


Concept Paper of the Interfaith Assembly

The Interfaith Prayer Assembly for the Nation is the second activity of an emerging partnership between Catholic Bishops-Religious Leaders and Citizens Groups. The working relations started with discussions about the current national situation participated in by the various religious leaders and concerned citizens groups last November.

From the discussions came about a Unity Statement that was printed as a paid advertisement in a major daily. The statement called for the "rejection of a morally bankrupt government." Signatories to the statement also came together last November 30 to mark Bonifacio Day and trumpet the rejection call. Thousands joined the mass action at the Liwasang Bonifacio.

The same religious leaders and cause-oriented groups again convened to discuss the events that happened in the Manila Peninsula last November 29. There was common concern regarding the unresolved issues that continue to bring about the political crisis.

A proposal for an Interfaith Prayer Assembly came about as groups continue to express their strong rejection of the current bankrupt Arroyo administration. There is a need to come together once more and affirm our commitment to truth and justice and the decisive resolution of the issues of legitimacy, corruption, human rights abuses and abuse of power. The activity will also serve as a meaningful year ender as the various groups take stock of the achievements in the struggle for the past year and look forward to the challenges ahead.

What is the Interfaith Activity?

The Interfaith Prayer Assembly would involve various faiths and cause-oriented groups coming together in prayer and action for the nation. It would be a venue to express our common sentiments for change in the nation's leadership, a coming together of groups and personalities staunchly opposed to the current bankrupt leadership. The activity will follow the format of a prayer assembly (as opposed to the usual format of a rally).

What is the Theme?

The interfaith activity will reprise the earlier theme of standing together to reject a morally bankrupt administration. It is the broadest basis of unity so far achieved among the religious leaders and various citizens groups. The activity will call on the people to intensify the fight for the decisive resolution of the outstanding issues against the Arroyo administration and for the advancement of meaningful reforms. It is a statement that we vow to relentlessly pursue the fight next year.

Who are the Participants?

All are invited to attend. Aside from the convening groups, we expect participants from all walks of life, all faiths and denominations and various cause-oriented groups.

When and Where will it be Held?

The activity will be held outdoors at the Sulayman Plaza, in front of the Malate Church, Roxas Boulevard on December 14, from 4-7:00 PM.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Senator Pimentel's Report on Trillanes

Via Ellen Tordesillas:

Senator Aquilino Pimentel visited fellow Senator Antonio Trillanes and the other detainees from the Peninsula Standoff. He provided the following report in the form of a PowerPoint presentation:

I have extracted the following highlights from the above presentation:
  • Shots were fired to make it appear that there was an armed uprising going on in the Pen when in fact there was none.
  • The presence of media prevented a bloodbath.
  • Trillanes explains that his cause – even the recent Peninsula Hotel incident - was not an armed uprising or a rebellion. They wanted, he said, to simply air their grievance against their prolonged detention and pendency of the criminal charges against them in the Makati court and several disciplinary charges against them in various court martials.
Update 12-12-07 7:01PM: More clarifications from Senator Trillanes regarding his PDAF Allocation and apology to the Court.

Update 12-14-07 12:43AM: Schumey displays a copy of Senator Trillanes' letter to Senator Enrile.

Monday, December 10, 2007

The Sumilao Farmers' March: What's at Stake

Those who believe that the Sumilao March is of little concern to them should consider the following:

"Theory and empirical evidence suggest that widespread ownership of land not only improves equity but also improves land productivity. All the [High Performing Asian Economies (HPAEs)] with substantial agrarian sectors have widespread land holding, resulting from either traditional ownership patterns (Indonesia and Thailand) or land reform (Japan, Korea, and Taiwan, China). Malaysia, with a relatively small population and ample land, is an exception; there, corporate-owned plantations have dominated agricultural output since the colonial era. Hong Kong and Singapore have almost no agricultural sector." - World Bank Development Brief Number 21, October 1993
"inequality in the ownership of land not only is more important for explaining growth than inequality in the distribution of income, it also turns the distribution of income into an inconsequential factor." - Elhann Helpman, The Mystery of Economic Growth
"The [feudalization of industry] manifests itself in the pervasiveness of rent-seeking activity on the part of the local industrial elite, reflecting the dual activity (perhaps 'schizophrenia' would be more appropriate) of that group, which has one foot still in the landlord-tenant relations of the countryside and the other foot in the urban or industrial commercial sector. There has never occurred a severing of the links between the landed elite and the urban industrial / commercial elite as there has been for example in certain other Asian coutnries via the overthrow of landlord power through genuine land reform." [emphasis mine] (O'Connor 1990) - Temario C. Rivera, Landlords & Capitalists: Class, Family, and State in Philippine Manufacturing
"More significantly for policy purposes, though, are the findings that per capita expenditure, per capita income, and per capita net farm incomes of farmers owning lands...are significantly higher than their counterparts who do not own land. This shows unambiguously the importance of ownership or control of the land in determining incomes of farmers. Moreover, he also found that the odds that a household is non-poor is higher by between 1.8 and 2.6 times than the odds that it will be poor, if it owns land—again reinforcing the importance of land ownership. For poverty reduction, and for income growth, CARP is crucial." - Solita Monsod, A Look at CARP’s Impact on Poverty and Growth, 12/01/2007
What the Sumilao farmers are fighting for are the keys to our economic development which for too long have been in the hands of a pathological and predatory elite.

Sunday, December 09, 2007

Venezuela: Hugo Chavez Creates Own Time Zone

With the latest announcement from their President, Venezuelans must be wondering whether they are edging towards this classic Bananas moment.

Equality as a Factor in Economic Takeoffs

Below is my response to Silent Water's comment over at Manolo's has gone under moderation so i'm reposting it here. (You may have to read my preceding comment to follow the discussion.)
"Silent Waters, i'm not a communist but try to look at things objectively. You need only observe at how fast the land of your grandfathers is taking off economically to see that the combination of Communism first and then Market Reforms later, does work. If it's any comfort to you, i'm not advocating communism (especially the Maoist kind). Other countries such as Japan, Taiwan and South Korea was also able to take off without having to go communist. They just addressed the issue of inequality early enough so that it does not get in the way of economic growth. Dictatorship is also not my first preference. The case of India, (another country which followed Socialist prescriptions and then introduced Market reforms) shows that you don't have to be a dictatorship to engineer an economic takeoff.

You seem to believe that what distinguishes the elite, middle class and the poor is hard work. That's not the case since Philippine society is not (and has never been) a meritocracy. If you're born poor, you're likely to die poor no matter how hard you work. The poor people you look down on as being 'lazy' are smart enough to know the odds. It's only people's elitist attitude that keeps them from seeing that.
" - cvj December 9th, 2007 at 1:32 am
Update Feb-01-2008: In an essay at the Boston Review, Pranab Bardhan explains why equality has proven to be a "good launching pad" for market reform:
"China’s earlier socialist period arguably provided a good launching pad for market reform. That foundation provided wide access to education and health care; highly egalitarian land redistribution that created a rural safety net and thus eased the process of market reform, with all its wrenching disruptions and dislocations; increased female labor participation and education that enhanced women’s contribution to economic growth; and a system of regional economic decentralization (that linked the career paths of Communist Party officials to local area performance). County governments were in charge of production enterprises long before Deng Xiaoping’s economic reforms set in, and, even more significantly, the earlier commune system’s production brigades evolved into the highly successful township and village enterprises that led the later phenomenal rise of rural industrialization."
(Via 3Quarksdaily.)

Saturday, December 08, 2007

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Statement of La Salle Brothers: Let Us Start The Change We Want To See

La Salle Green Hills Retreat House
National Heroes Day
30 November 2007
To all Filipinos of goodwill,

Profoundly disturbed by recent events, we the De La Salle Brothers of the Philippines, have decided as a body to exercise our vocation as teachers and guides by raising our voices in protest at the moral degeneration that has infiltrated almost every aspect of public life since we called for a restoration of faith in democracy in 2005.

In July of that year, we and our colleagues issued a public statement in response to the crisis brought on by the Garcillano tapes and the ensuing controversies surrounding President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo. At that time, we spoke out as educators, charged with the moral guidance of the young and concerned with upholding the values of honesty, integrity and truthfulness in public life and civil society. In that statement, we affirmed the principle that moral ascendancy is a critical ingredient to effective governance, and warned that a leadership without moral authority cannot realistically command the respect of a nation. Today, two years later, we are alarmed and ashamed that the situation has increasingly worsened. The signs of moral disintegration abound:

  • the escalating number of acts of violence against journalists, leftists and members of the legal opposition, which according to a report of the UN Human Rights Council representative have been perpetrated by some elements in the military;
  • unresolved anomalies in government, including the aborted ZTE-NBN deal and the fertilizer scam, which involve billions of pesos in public funds;
  • the large amounts of cash distributed in brown bags to some lawmakers at Malacañang just as impeachment moves were being initiated and firmed up in Congress and the facile efforts to hide the truth about their origins and purpose;
  • concerted efforts among some lawmakers and government officials to block attempts at establishing truth and securing accountability;
  • the corruption of the electoral system as manifested in various anomalies related to the last national elections.
The net effect of these, together with past anomalies, has been to further undermine confidence in practically every institution of government. Widespread despair with these existing institutions can only spawn violence and increasing military adventurism. We need only think of the fiasco at the Manila Peninsula on 29 November 2007 to see that this is so.

What is even more lamentable is the degree to which many Filipinos have become desensitized to the stench of corruption because of the unending stream of government-related scams, cover-ups and scandals. The unwillingness of the public to engage in peaceful public exercises of moral outrage and to support calls for government accountability bespeak a weary cynicism and loss of hope in all possibility of meaningful change that is especially alarming for us as educators.

This retreat from civic responsibility bodes ill for the future. This is perhaps our generation’s greatest crime: to rob our people, especially our youth, of the conviction that noble ideals are worth every sacrifice and that moral principles must prevail in public life.

For these reasons, even if it amounts to no more than a voice crying out in the wilderness, we, the De La Salle Brothers of the Philippines, feel the need to proclaim once again the same values we espoused in 2005: truth, justice, honesty and integrity. Without these, no government can be trusted, and where there is no trust, governance degenerates into bribery and intimidation.

We join in the call of courageous religious leaders and of proven men and women of conscience who seek a moral revolution. But if such a call is to become more than mere lip-service, we must translate it into effective action on behalf of the values we espouse, keeping in mind the legal framework of the Constitution. We call on men and women of goodwill to act now to make real the change they want to see.

To all parents, teachers, pastors, religious and all those charged with the moral formation of youth: God has given us the extraordinary privilege of mentoring the young and laying the foundations of our country’s future. Let us not betray God’s trust. Let us teach the young that what is happening today is wrong. Let us teach them that a life without moral virtue or principle is no life at all, but a subhuman existence unworthy of their dignity as children of God. Let us teach them that we are all answerable to God for what we have made, not just of our lives, but also of our nation. Let us teach them, as one man showed us years ago, that the Filipino is worth dying for.

To all Filipino workers here and abroad, farmers and fisherfolk, men and women in business, entrepreneurs and professionals: your efforts and earnings sustain the economic and political life of our country. In solidarity with one another, demand more from this government. Come together to hold this country’s leadership accountable for their stewardship of the taxes you pay. Demand that every centavo be properly allocated and accounted for. Demand transparency and fairness in all business transactions. Consider the long-term goals and voice your displeasure at lost opportunities and the abuses that squander our nation’s wealth to the detriment of all, especially the poor.

To all artists, poets, writers and media practitioners: you are the vanguards of culture. You bear the great responsibility of ennobling the soul and creating a culture supportive of truth, justice and respect for human dignity. Focus on this task. Create visions and words that inspire and move our people to live up to what is best in them.

To all our men and women in uniform: our hearts go out to you for the ready sacrifices you have made again and again in the service of our nation. We acknowledge with gratitude the selflessness many of you have shown again and again. Remember that you are called to be defenders of the Constitution and protectors of human rights. Please do not fail in this charge. Let it be clear, however, that we do not condone military adventurism for it is inconsistent with the basic democratic values we hold dear.

To all civil servants, legislators and government workers: we believe that you also dream of a better nation for our children. We beg you to resist the culture of corruption. Help us build a future full of hope for our children.

To all our alumni and alumnae: we encourage you to take cognizance of the education you have received from La Salle all these years. As dark clouds hover in the horizon, we challenge you to and make a difference. Take heart from your fellow alumnus, Jose W. Diokno, and his vision of “a free nation, where men and women and children from all regions and with all kinds of talents may find truth and play and sing and laugh and dance and love without fear…”

We end this statement by sharing with you, our fellow Filipinos, this prayer of hope as we, the De La Salle Brothers look to 2011, the 100th year of the Lasallian ministry of education in the Philippines:

Lord, let me be the change I want to see
To do with strength and wisdom
All that needs to be done
And become the hope that I can be.
Set me free from my fears and hesitations.
Grant me courage and humility.
Fill me with spirit to face the challenge
And start the change I want to see.
Today, I start the change I want to see.
Even if I’m not the light, I can be the spark.
In faith, service and communion
Let us start the change we want to see,
The change that begins in me.


Sunday, December 02, 2007

Dream Academy's "A Crazy Christmas"

I just watched A Crazy Christmas, a Christmas concert by eleven of the best and most accomplished musical and theater performers of Singapore. If you happen to be in Singapore between now and December 9, i highly recommend that you watch the show. (For details, click on the link above.)

Saturday, December 01, 2007

The Phillippine Middle Class Plays Machiavelli

Over at Manolo's Victory of the New Society thread, I have been having a discussion with commenter 'Silent Waters'. My latest response has gone 'under moderation' so i'm reposting it here. (To follow the discussion, you may need to refer back to Manolo's thread starting here.)
"I think that reality dictates that we accept FOR NOW, the situation wherein the elites will protect their interest. and the middle class have become expedient. That should be the framework to come up with a strategy to fix the problem." - Silent Waters
My response: Fixing the problem involves dismantling that framework. It is in our interest to establish a different framework based on fair play and genuine democratic values because the Middle Class does not have the resources or numbers to play Machiavellian games.
"Your ideas are good in the theoretical world where everybody will be the goody two shoes you expect them to be. Fact is, they’re not." - Silent Waters
My response: Bayanihan is not a theoretical concept. If you think it is in our interest to sustain an environment that is hostile to the 'goody two shoes' (i.e. decent folks), then i think you should review your kind of 'realism'.
"As for the last part, look at what Dr. Martin Bautista did? Di naman siya kilala, middle class din siya, pero he did try. And I know for sure, he will try again. Now that is walking the walk and not just talking the talk." - Silent Waters
My response: I agree, which is why i voted for Martin Bautista and will most likely vote for him again. However to boost his chances, his supporters (like you and me) should be seen to be living his values (of justice and fair play) and not tolerating an unjust framework based on expediency.