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The following post is an email from Domingo T. Ligot:

Not too long ago Jessica Soho had Bongbong Marcos on a one-on-one interview on live television and, as may be expected, Jessica asked Bongbong what his take was about the past regime of his father qualifying it as one of the blackest (pardon the paraphrase) in this nation’s history. Bongbong did not respond immediately and appeared at a loss prompting Jessica to follow up to ask “mahirap bang sagutin ang aking tanong?” This time Bongbong replied “hindi, pero matagal ng pinagusapan and tunkol sa regimen ng aking ama at lahat ng maaring sabihin tungkol dyan ay nasabi na” now, what then?

Indeed, really, what then? I lived through the martial law years of Marcos and even before that, I voted for him for his first term. Certainly there were scandalous episodes then (as in all succeeding regimes) among which I vividly recall is an alleged affair of Marcos with a foreigner (American I think) actress named Dovie Beams. The affair with very sordid details was written about in a Playboy Magazine purportedly based on the confession of Dovie Beams and it was a sensational smash at that time especially because Imelda reportedly threatened Marcos  with ending their union unless he stopped this nonsense. I recall that Martial Law was declared during the final years of Marcos’ second term and, as Teddy Boy Locsin admits in his TV journal in “The World Tonight”, Marcos was twice elected in a democratic process and should be treated as such. There were many incidents happening in Manila prior to the declaration of Martial Law and in hindsight many would claim, rightly or wrongly depending on whose side one was on, that all of these were merely contrived and stage managed to justify the declaration. In the years before the war in Europe Germany reportedly went on a sustained media blitz warning the Germans and the rest of Europe that France was gearing up to invade Germany so that when war finally broke it was more a sigh of relief among many Germans that the war that they have been anxiously anticipating finally came. Historians report that it was Germany all along that wanted the war and the media campaign was really just a mind conditioning ploy to gain the people’s support for Germany’s plan to crush France and Russia first on its way to conquer the whole of Europe. Media was a tool then of the powerful as it has always been, even more so now. But during the time of Marcos the owners of most of media were his enemies so that among the first things that Marcos did after establishing Martial Law was to close down all media until new ones sympathetic to his regime started sprouting and were allowed to flourish. Opposition media however continued underground.

Historian Louis Paul Benezet in his book “The World War and What was Behind It” wrote “Someone has said that no people are happier than those living in a despotism, if the right kind of man is the despot”. He was referring to one Otto Eduard Leopold Von Bismarck-Schonausen or more popularly known simply as Bismarck. His one object was a united Germany, which should be the strongest nation in Europe. He organized the German army and equipped it with every modern weapon anxious to use it to accomplish his purpose to conquer all of Europe. The historian noted how “marvelous to see how near he came to carrying through his whole plan”.

The first years of Martial Law I remember were very positive. There was discipline among the people I noticed that people begun lining up to board jeepneys and buses and most importantly the economy markedly improved and boomed. I remember that I was at one time a scholar in The Hague, Netherlands under the sponsorship of the UN for students from developing countries during those years and my colleagues were all praising Marcos and the progress of the Philippines under his Martial Law regime. But as the saying goes: “power corrupts and absolute…” you know how it ends, and perhaps like Bismarck in Germany, Marcos despite his lofty intentions (I will grant him this) was destined to deteriorate in power as well as his health sooner than the time line required for his plans to succeed. That is over now and I agree with Bongbong that talking about it still will serve no useful purpose. As he said “What then!”

It will serve us better to look into our present and talk about where we should be heading. Accusations fly thick and plenty that P-noy is showing signs of authoritarianism and some even say that he is even worse than Marcos. Surely, with Sec. De Lima defying a TRO of the Supreme Court and we can rightfully assume that this is with P-noy’s blessing or upon his direct orders even, indeed there are signs that this regime is headed towards a despotic regime.
Any lawyer will tell you that a court order must be obeyed more so if it is the highest court that orders it, subject only to well defined exceptions under the constitution. This is another case where all that needs to be said has already been said so lets leave this to the courts to finally decide. As lawyers would say the matter is now “subjudice”.

My take on whats happening however is, granting that P-noy is intending (this must be intentional no less) to rule the country as a despot and will not tolerate political opposition of whatever color, he must look at it as an opportunity to progress the country. At the end he will either be loved or despised depending on what happens to us. As the historian said “no people are happier than those living in a despotism, if the right man is the despot.”

Domingo is a retired lawyer from the Philippines. He has worked in various capacities as a lawyer in both the private sector and Philippine government.

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This post is an email from Domingo T. Ligot:

In his book entitled “The Tipping Point” Malcolm Gladwell wrote about a campaign slogan a long time ago about cigarettes which read “Winstons taste good like a cigarette should”. Slogans like these are coined by highly paid experts employed by advertising agencies who sell their services to anyone wishing to promote something like an item or product for sale including a candidate seeking public office. Mr. Gladwell recounts that the Winston slogan successfully “stuck” in the minds of cigarette smokers in America first then the rest of the smoking world that steadily Winston started to gain ground and eventually begun to outsell its competition like Philip Morris, L&M, and other brands. It goes without saying that the study and coining of effective slogans certainly requires an understanding of its target market. The market for Winston cigarettes and its competitors Philip Morris and L&M clearly would be a higher strata of the smoking public than perhaps smokers of Bataan Matamis, Gold Coin, and Fighter, local cigarette brands then that were cheaper (1/2 the price of Winston etc. or cheaper for those who still remember) so that the slogan for Winston must appeal to a more sophisticated motivation to choose this cigarette from its competitors than slogans promoting the cheaper cigarettes. It will not be unusual therefore to find slogans aimed at lower strata markets like the poor sounding unsophisticated, inane, and ridiculously simple because, lets face it, they would’nt be able to understand or appreciate a sophisticated slogan anyway. (Do you recall a sound bite for Bataan Matamis that aired over the AM radio many years back which even sounded like a “ngo-ngo” speaking? The idea perhaps was to promote Bataan Matamis to the real poor even a “ngo-ngo” who is a ridiculed but amusing fellow likes it). An ad agency which does not know or appreciate this basic reality will fail in its business.

With the foregoing as background let us now examine certain political slogans of the recent past. Candidate Joseph “Erap” Estrada used the slogan “Erap Para sa Mahirap” when he won the presidency and more recently candidate Noynoy Aquino had the slogan “Kung Walang Corrupt Walang Mahirap” when he won the presidency. Glaringly common in the two slogans is the word “Mahirap” betraying that the target of both slogans are, you guessed it, the “Mahirap” or poor. Going back to the Winston slogan analysis above, it makes sense that when your target market for a slogan are the lower strata of society it must by necessity sound inane and ridiculously simple otherwise it will not be effective or, in the words of Malcolm Gladwell, it will not “stick”. If we are to ask their promoters whether the candidates sincerely believed or meant what their slogans said, we will probably just get a shrug and a “who cares they won did’nt they” retort. But unfortunately the “Mahirap” will swallow these slogans as true albeit inane and insincere, just look at how Erap remains popular among the poor despite his shenanigans while he was in office, and in the case of President Noynoy you can see how the poor currently resonate with his supposed anti corrupt campaign they have become like mindless hooligans out to lynch GMA at whatever cost. The lamentable thing however is many of those who should know better ride on this ignorance and instead of promoting calm and orderliness they serve like rah-rah boys egging the poor to proceed in their mob mentality (Recall who were on platforms with microphones egging the “masa” to invade Malacanang during the so-called EDSA III and those now in congress, especially the party list kind, and priests who love to run and those who love to appear in media every chance they get who are dressed and speak nowhere near being poor). Are the poor really in the hearts and minds of these powerful people, are they concerned that the poor are just being exposed to more harm than good? Who cares, they won didn’t they!

The ad agency and the expert who came out with the slogans must have gotten a hefty bonus and a rousing celebration after the elections for coming up with the winning slogan, now they rest until the next election, that is simply how it works.

Domingo is a retired lawyer from the Philippines. He has worked in various capacities as a lawyer in both the private sector and Philippine government.

 

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This is an editorial from Philippine journalist, Randy David, commenting on the political scene in the Philippines–which is due to have its next presidential election in 2010. It’s a good critique of moral views in politics–where politicians often use moral arguments to further their platforms, without really addressing the real issues at stake.

Good And Evil In Politics
Randy David

As my previous columns on politics may have shown, I am one of those who squirm each time I hear people reduce Philippine politics today into a fight between good and evil. I view this way of thinking as a residual habit from traditional society. And so to hear it from modern Filipinos who ought to know better is truly dismaying and alarming.

I don’t know what prompted Sen. Manuel “Mar” Roxas II, perhaps the most modern of those who have aspired for the presidency, to say in a recent Inquirer interview: “You know, this is good versus evil. This is tuwid versus baluktot. This is tama versus mali.” The interviewer, who had merely asked how he felt after his momentous withdrawal from the presidential race, wondered if she got it right: “As simple as that?” And Mar replied: “Yes. That’s why I was very willing to engage in this; it’s because it boils down to that. All the frustrations, all the anger, all the hopes of our people—it’s not anymore in the policy this or policy that. It’s just good versus evil. You know, that’s the campaign the reformists are going to wage.” Wow! I hope Mar uttered this more out of a sense of frustration than as a matter of conviction.

For, such moralistic formulations preempt and disparage the need for a careful and reasoned analysis of the problems that confront us as a nation. They tend to focus on the character of the doer than on the origins and consequences of the deed. They ride on unexamined moral prejudices, and simplify the search for political solutions into a quest for heroes. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo may be the most despised president in the nation’s history, but instead of ascribing to her sole authorship of everything that is bad in our government, I find it more arguable to think of her as a reflection of our society’s basic problems, or the street-smart personification of a dysfunctional social order.

I recognize the emotional power of moral language in everyday life. But, instead of exploiting it, I think it gives us all the more reason to use it sparingly in public affairs. In complex societies like ours, we can no longer take for granted the existence of moral consensus. Though they may use the same words, today’s Filipinos are likely to have different notions of what constitutes good and evil in various situations. Moreover, we may find that most of the moral dilemmas we encounter in everyday life are not so much choices between good and evil, as they are conflicts of values—choices between two equally desirable goods.

After Marcos proclaimed martial law in 1972, many of our people accepted the restrictions on their civil liberties and political rights in exchange for the promise of peace and order and economic prosperity. Had he succeeded in using his vast authoritarian powers to transform the Philippines in the same way Lee Kwan Yew rebuilt Singapore, he would likely be remembered today as a statesman rather than as a tyrant. But because he failed, only the abuses that were committed by him and his regime are remembered.

For this and many other reasons, it was not difficult to portray Marcos as the incarnation of evil in the 1986 snap presidential election. To combat evil, what the nation felt it needed was not another politician but someone of Marian purity, a person who could symbolize everything that was good and decent in our culture. There was no one else but Cory, the widow of the martyred Ninoy. Where politics had poisoned society, her political inexperience became a virtue. This morality tale quickly seized the imagination of the public. It shaped our politics in unexpected ways. It foretold the end of the Marcos regime, but it also defined the terms of the people’s engagement with the Cory government.

Instead of treating social reform as a continuing project of people power, Filipinos promptly withdrew from public affairs, preferring to leave the business of governing to the good men and women that Mother Cory had recruited. They were caught unaware by the power struggles that ensued among those who had fought Marcos. Many could not understand the virulence of the coup attempts against Cory, except as an effort to bring back the evil that was Marcos. But the “evil” did not go away with Marcos, it continued to reside in the system.

The reality is that while it is a great advantage for a nation to have an incorruptible president, it is not enough. Beyond serving as a moral exemplar, a modern leader is expected to be a statesman whose function—said the political philosopher Hannah Arendt—“was not to act but to impose permanent rules on the changing circumstances and unstable affairs of acting men.” In short, to build institutions.

Today, Noynoy Aquino finds himself cast in the same role that his mother played in 1986. He must not waste this chance to form a durable constituency to support a vision and program of social and cultural transformation. Because of the credibility he enjoys, Noynoy is uniquely situated to wage a campaign to change our people’s beliefs about politics in general—to make them see how, in many ways, they too unwittingly contribute to the problems that bug our society.

I would advise him against playing the morality card not only because it has no place in modern politics, but because it conceals the complex nature of our problems and the solutions they require. It is correct, in my view, to zero in on the record of the Arroyo government as the main issue in 2010, not in terms of the kind of person Arroyo is, but in terms of the kind of governance she exemplified from which she could not rise as president. But, we cannot stop there; we must take pains to define the alternative.

Original link is here.

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Boo Chanco writes for the Star:

I came across an analysis of the Philippine situation in the context of the global financial crisis that’s the best I have seen so far. It was prepared by Deutsche Bank – Equity Research about two weeks ago. The title of this column today is from that study and I think it captures the picture. I want to share it with our readers in the public interest because it would help them get the proper perspective of where we are at.

See the rest here.

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On Malaya’s columns today, Lito Banayo writes a very angry and edgy critique of police corruption. It’s deliberately one-sided but my thought is: considering the sorry credibility of the police force, is there really anything that can balance this argument?

Dick Gordon suggested that it might be the military culture still ingrained in the now-civilianized police force. The “mistah” culture, some call it. And Versoza agreed, saying they’re still trying to be less militaristic. Frankly, that is an insult to the military establishment. Unlike the police, soldiers are not into kotong; they do not receive intelihensya from jueteng lords. They suffer deprivation while putting their lives on the line, and many do not become corrupt until they wear stars on their shoulders. The police get more practice, so that when they become generals, they become more rapacious and immoderately greedy.

Full story here.

Too bad there isn’t the equivalent of an LTO that exposes crooked cabbies in the police force.

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I normally don’t pay much heed to corporate rumor-talk, however several bits of not-so-encouraging information have come my way, which with a very big CAVEAT, I am sharing here in case anyone can confirm their veracity:

First is that the local Philippine entities of banking giants Citibank and Standard Chartered will be or are in the process of rationalizing their branch networks. Citibank is said to be closing down at least six of its Savings Bank branches within the next three months, at the same time, a slightly conflicting report said the Citibank will instead be opening branches in the high-end areas of Rockwell Center and Fort Bonifactio. Rival foreign bank Standard Chartered is said to also be closing its Philippine branches in Quezon City and Caloocan City.

On another note, property giant Ayala Land is said to be offering a generous settlement of as much as thirty-six (36) months pay to those who will avail of early-retirement as a measure to rationalize staffing costs. As much as 20% of the company’s existing staff are said to have signed up for the offer.

The above bits are not confirmed, however what makes me a little worried about these developments, whether real or imagined, is its implications on the Philippine economy. The status of large banks such as Citibank and property developers like Ayala are an indicator of economic health. Only recently, the Philippine government downsized its GDP growth forecast in light of the recession already affecting the US, Europe, and just this morning: Japan. Throughout the financial crisis, the Philippines has seemingly escaped unscathed, but developments in the US have not spared the Philippine Stock Market, and even the financial woes of AIG has forced the sale of its otherwise healthy local Philippine affiliate: Philam Life.

These rumors are an indication that there may be no escaping the global recession that began with the blow-up of US mortgages. Peter Schiff commented on Bloomberg earlier about how Asia will definitely be affected by the US slowdown, but unlike the US and Europe, Asia’s manufacturing and production capacity remains intact–and is strong enough to weather the storm. Whether this assessment is correct, remains to be seen.

Meanwhile, I just hope there’s more fiction than fact behind the grapevine.

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A heartening, if not offbeat piece of news:

After mistaking the Land Transportation Office (LTO) chief for a promdi passenger and charging him P700 for a ride to Quezon City, a taxi driver at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) found himself in detention, without a license and his cab impounded.

Why? Full story is here.

The prevalence of crooked cabbies in Manila streets is probably 90% it’s already taken for granted by the citizenry. This latest scenario, courtesy of the Land Transportation Office (LTO) is probably a drop in the bucket, but can be a good thing.

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An interesting turn of events, considering that while Enrile is considered a pro-admin (Arroyo) Senator, it was Ping Lacson and Gringo who nominated him (who are both affiliated with the opposition).

Now that the US elections are over, time for local politics to start brewing again.

Full story is here.

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babes-morpheus

Babes Romualdez has a sober take on the state of Philippine governance. His column on the Star today reminds me of a line from one of my favorite movies, Morpheus (played by Lawrence Fishburne) from the Matrix Reloaded:

MORPHEUS: Consider what we have seen, councilor. Consider that in the past 6 months, we have freed more minds than in 6 years. This attack, is an act of desparation. I believe very soon the prophecy will be fulfilled and this war will end.

HAMANN: I hope you’re right, captain.

MORPHEUS: I do not believe it to be a matter of hope, councilor. It is simply, a matter of time.

Of course, if the movie is to be a guide, Morpheus’ blind faith in his saviour Neo is nearly shaken by the end of the movie and does NOT get proven correct until the sequel. Being convinced of something is not the same as making something happen.

This is the message I get from Babes’ column. Here’s an excerpt: (more…)

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Tony Lopez wrote a piece for the Manila Times recently, which I requote below. On first read you’ll realize that the title “The Philippines Is Not That Poor” is misleading because this isn’t what Lopez is talking about, but more of: “Filipinos Are Still Happy Despite Being Poor”.

Add to this is his bewildering misuse of context (e.g. Filipinos texting, American bankrupcy) and his mixing of per capita and total GDP statistics to give the article some weight.

No doubt this “feel-good” article about poverty was written with the best of intentions, but I cannot fully shake the feeling that the writer was being intellectually dishonest about it.

Judge for yourself:

VIRTUAL REALITY
By Tony Lopez
The Philippines is not that poor

I was a reactor the other day to the Jaime V. Ongpin Memorial Lecture of poverty expert Dr. Arsenio Balicasan at the Ateneo at Rockwell. Here is the first part of my reaction:

(more…)

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