Howard’s end?

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Australia’s prime minister John Howard has called for elections on October 9. Howard, already one of the longest-serving of Australia’s prime ministers, will seek a fourth term for his conservative government. The Labor Party, led by political newcomer Mark Latham, has vowed to highlight “the failures of the Howard government, the dishonesty, the attacks on Medicare, the loss of affordable education, the way it has made Australia less safe in the war against terror,” while “putting forward positive solutions for the benefit of the Australian people.”

Although the Australian elections will take place a month before the US elections, they’re not likely to be of concern to many Filipinos, who’re currently less focused on the fiscal crisis that isn’t a fiscal crisis than on where the next meal’s coming from, and how to survive the wet season. They should be concerned, or at least interested. What kind of government Australians elect could be crucial to the rest of Asia including the Philippines. Continue reading

The key is in the exemptions

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Only the corrupt officials of which we have a plentiful supply, and our super-secretive police and military who regard an informed public as a threat to national security and public order oppose, if only in secret, the public’s right to access government records. It’s in the Constitution in the first place, and has been upheld by Philippine jurisprudence so often those who object to its exercise would also be going against the law.

In this country of contradictions, this is its blessing and its curse. Like press freedom—to the exercise of which information access is crucial, and which even the clueless support because it’s politically correct—even those who have something to hide will swear commitment to it. Again like press freedom, those actually opposed to it because they fear exposure resort to extra-legal means to frustrate it. Continue reading

Power

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Forbes Magazine explains its first-ever ranking of the world’s 100 most powerful women somewhat awkwardly. It describes its choices as women who’re “changing not only the societies where they work, but also the role of women in power,” and then says that it can no longer be said today that “women can gain power only by studiously working behind the scenes to forge consensus.”

Judging from the first ten women in its list, “changing…the societies where they work” doesn’t necessarily mean changing them for the better. Heading its list, after all, is US National Security Adviser Condoleeza Rice, who’s not your grandma’s token black, and who has indeed helped change the way her society works—but for the worse, say her critics. Continue reading

To whom it may concern

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Although A few years his junior, I met Jose Ma. Sison in the University of the Philippines years ago, in the Philippine Collegian, of which he was research editor during the editorship of Leonardo Quisumbing, then a law student, and who’s currently a Supreme Court justice. A liberal through and through with dreams of a law career, I nevertheless ended up editing Sison’s second book, Struggle for National Democracy (his first book was a book of poems).

The editing task was itself a struggle. Although an English literature major (he was then an MA student and an instructor in the Department of English), Joe, as he was then plainly known among friends, wrote in a prose style we in the esoteric circles of the UP Writers’ Club thought peculiar. Continue reading

Staying the course to war

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After more than a year of occupation by US troops, and despite the June 28 “turnover of sovereignty” to the “Iraqi interim government,” Iraq is far from being the stable and democratic country the US had said it would be.

Iraq is more likely to turn into exactly what opponents of the March 2003 attack had warned: a battlefield in a war that could lead to the creation of an Islamic state like that governed by Saddam Hussein’s ayatollah arch-enemies in Iran, and an inspiration, breeding ground and recruitment center for more ferocious terrorist attacks on the United States and its global interests. Continue reading

Promises and word games

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Research reveals—and every concerned media advocacy group agrees—that no one is serving a prison sentence for any one of the 55 killings of journalists that have taken place since 1986. But between promises to solve the latest killings, four of which took place within a two-week period starting July 31, the Philippine National Police says that it has solved 14 of the 55 cases.

How to reconcile the difference between the PNP claim and what such groups as the Center for Media Freedom and Responsibility (CMFR), the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP), and the Kapisanan ng Brodkaster sa Pilipinas (KBP) know? Continue reading

Arming journalists

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There are several things wrong with Philippine National Police chief Hermogenes Ebdane’s decision to make it easier for journalists to arm themselves, but let’s just mention three of them.

The first is that it frees the police from the responsibility of protecting journalists, who, as citizens, are entitled to state protection just like everyone else. Continue reading

Slaying the corruption dragon

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Filipinos have lived for so long with corruption that many think it impossible to eradicate. But the majority of Filipinos (60 percent), say the surveys, believe that a corruption-free government is possible.

Although not only governments can be guilty of it, corruption is usually associated with the government in the public mind, and it’s understandable why. Most Filipinos who have had to deal with government have not only seen and experienced corruption firsthand. Millions have also been victimized by government corruption in one way or another. Continue reading

The disposable journalist

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Laoag broadcaster Roger Mariano was on his way home Saturday night when he was apparently ambushed. Mariano was killed in a hail of bullets from M-16 rifles. He was the first journalist to be killed in Ilocos Norte, apparently for doing his job as a journalist. But Mariano is now also the 46th Filipino journalist murdered in the Philippines since 1986.

Since that critical year—during which, ironically, the institutions of liberal democracy including a free press were restored in the Philippines in the aftermath of People Power 1—an average of three journalists have been killed each year. Continue reading