Authoritarian efficiency

Standard

Authoritarian regimes are supposed to be at least efficient. Efficiency–at least in the Asian setting, where we have the prime examples of Singapore and Malaysia–is the expected trade-off for the restrictions on civil rights in dictatorships and various tyrannies.

Filipinos have had the short-sightedness to agree to the exchange. In his speeches after his declaration of martial law in September 1972, Ferdinand Marcos urged everyone to go about their business and to obey his orders and decrees so he could “save the Republic.” Implicit in those statements was the promise that in exchange for the curtailment of civil liberties, the citizenry could expect the government to be efficient, honest, and focused on the country’s development. Continue reading

False and nasty

Standard

There’s an entire universe of false assumptions about the media in the recent statements of National Security Adviser Norberto Gonzales. But why isn’t anyone surprised?

The National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP) did issue a statement in reaction. But most journalists and the public took Gonzales’ remarks in stride primarily because they’ve come to expect the worst from the Arroyo regime and its leading officials. Continue reading

Comparisons

Standard

By creating a commission to look into the political killings that are making the Philippines an international disgrace, Mrs. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo is inviting comparisons with Ferdinand Marcos. That she chose to create her commission on the 23rd anniversary of the assassination of the late senator Benigno “Ninoy” Aquino didn’t help any.

Like Marcos in 1983, who initially created a commission headed by then Chief Justice Enrique Fernando to look into the Aquino assassination, Mrs. Arroyo created her own commission (headed by former Supreme Court Justice Jose Melo) in response to national and international outrage. It was Ninoy Aquino’s assassination then that drove Marcos into creating an investigating commission. It is the killing of over 700 political activists and the shock waves these have generated that have forced Mrs. Arroyo to do something beyond mouthing platitudes and creating token task forces. Continue reading

Boomerang

Standard

The Arroyo regime’s “all out war” against “the Left” is reaping results it did not expect. What the policy’s instigators did not anticipate most of all is the outrage the killing of political activists is provoking in the Philippines and abroad. Neither, it seems, did they foresee the resentment it is encouraging.

The policy is driving Mrs. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo’s sub-zero approval ratings into a deeper hole. It isn’t earning the country the distinction of being the world’s biggest source of housemaids as Mrs. Arroyo hopes. Instead its government is being exposed as a coddler of thugs and assassins. The word is also spreading that the same government is unable and unwilling to implement its own laws as well as the international covenants to which it is a signatory. Continue reading

Terrorism as excuse

Standard

Like the September 11, 2001 attack on New York’s World Trade Center, the plot to detonate bombs onboard several trans-Atlantic flights originating from Britain has provoked stringent security measures all over the globe.

In the Philippines, additional security measures have been put in place in the country’s airports, and even in the capital’s Metro Rail Transit and Light Rail Transit systems. Though thwarted, the UK plot has also become one more argument for the passage of the anti-terrorism bill now pending in Congress. Continue reading

Teaching Myanmar democracy

Standard

Foreign Affairs Secretary Alberto Romulo is visiting Myanmar (formerly Burma) to mark the 50th anniversary of diplomatic relations between the Philippines and that country. Romulo said he would offer to help Myanmar restore democracy.

Myanmar’s isolation from the rest of Southeast Asia the Philippines had helped break when the Ramos government supported its membership in the Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN). Myanmar is under military dictatorship, and differs from some member-countries of the Asean in that its present rulers don’t pretend to be presiding over a democracy. Continue reading

What this country needs

Standard

Malacanang has once more urged Congress to pass an anti-terrorism bill. Press Secretary Ignacio Bunye said that Mrs. Gloria Macapagal Arroyo was commending the Armed Forces of the Philippines for its victories against terrorist groups, but that an anti-terrorism bill was still needed to prevent terrorist arms, funds and personnel from moving across communities. Such a bill is also necessary, Bunye added in a statement posted on the Palace website, to address the “terrorist threat” without having to resort to large-scale military operations.

Mrs. Arroyo was apparently commending the AFP for overrunning an alleged camp of the Abu Sayyaf Group in Sulu during a military drive to capture or kill ASG leaders and two Indonesian nationals who have been linked to the 2002 bombing of Bali, Indonesia. Continue reading

Charade

Standard

There’s a farce being played out in the Philippines, and it’s orchestrated by the country’s putative president. But her subalterns are either also in on it and have memorized their lines, so to speak, or else are taking their cue from what she and their superiors in various government agencies do and say.

As part of this charade, Mrs. Gloria Macapagal- Arroyo gave law-enforcement agencies last Tuesday ten weeks to identify at least ten suspects in the killing of political activists and journalists. While that sounds like a tall order, it’s not as difficult as it seems. The police can quickly draw up such a list, throwing into it whoever’s convenient, as they have done in the case of the killing journalists. Continue reading

State secrets

Standard

Why would Philippine ambassador to Lebanon Al Francis Bichara claim that the Philippine embassy in Beirut has run out of funds for the repatriation of Filipino workers unless it’s true?

Certainly Bichara knew the consequences to his career that claim could have, given the fate of government officials like Fe Hidalgo of Education, who’ve dared to publicly reveal such state secrets as the classroom shortage. And certainly Bichara knew how his statement would initially be received back home in the Philippines, where the immediate reaction of the public was to condemn Bichara and the embassy. Continue reading