The Philippine coup

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Occurring only two days short of the 34th anniversary of the 1972 declaration of martial law, the military coup in Thailand immediately drew denials from Arroyo officials that it could also happen in the Philippines. Executive Secretary Eduardo Ermita– himself a general during the Marcos dictatorship– and Armed Forces Chief of Staff General Hermogenes Esperon led the chorus that claimed that the Philippine military was behind Mrs. Gloria Macapagal Arroyo and could not possibly rebel against her.

A faction of the military is indeed behind Mrs. Arroyo. But whether the military is solidly behind her is as relevant a question today as in 2004, 2005 and early this year. One recent indication was the speed with which the defense and military establishments assured the officer corps that Navy Chief Vice Admiral Mateo Mayuga was not about to be replaced by Vice Admiral Tirso Danga. Continue reading

Martial law 2006

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Since 1986, the anniversary of the 1972 declaration of martial law had been marked with the certainty and determination that it would never happen again. This year, however, human rights and other groups are not so much recalling the event as warning that a version that’s much the worse for its being undeclared is already in place.

The end of the Marcos dictatorship in 1986 seemed to signal not only the restoration of its pre-martial law state, but even the birth of a Philippines committed to the respect and enhancement of human rights and wider political participation. Continue reading

Quotable quotes

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It was a case of the pot calling the kettle black—and the pot in this instance was 14th century Byzantine Emperor Manuel Paleologos II.

It was bad enough that this Christian emperor described the prophet Muhammad as not having brought anything new into the world except “things only evil and inhuman, such as his command to spread by the sword the faith he preached.” What was worse was Benedict XVI’s quoting and apparently agreeing with him. Continue reading

More comparisons

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Asian Development Bank country director Ayumi Konishi has projected a 7.8 percent economic growth for Vietnam this year. Konishi also referred to Vietnam as “the star of Southeast Asia,” while the World Bank also praised it for being “remarkably successful in generating growth and reducing poverty,” 30 million Vietnamese who were once considered poor no longer being in that category.

These paeans came in the wake of Standard and Poor’s (S & P) upgrading of Vietnam’s credit rating to “BB,” because of “positive changes” due to the economic reforms the government has instituted. S & P said Vietnam had a high potential for further economic growth, but cautioned that it still had “structural weaknesses” it had to address. Continue reading

Gloria Arroyo, travelling

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Mrs. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo is in the European leg of an eleven-day trip abroad. From Finland, she’s flying to Belgium and London, after which she will proceed to Havana, Cuba on September 14 for the 14th Summit of the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) which actually started yesterday, September 11. From Havana she will fly to Hawaii before she returns to the Philippines.

Mrs. Arroyo has been named–unanimously, says a press release from the Philippine mission at the United Nations in New York–a vice chair of the NAM Summit. Continue reading

Only a tool, after all

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The exit from the military service of Brig. Gen. Jovito Palparan is becoming as controversial as his watch in Mindoro, Samar and Central Luzon. Palparan, whom human rights and militant groups nickname “the butcher” for the record number of murders and abductions of political activists in those places, retires on September 11 when he turns 56.

The New People’s Army has condemned Palparan to death as “a war criminal” allegedly responsible for some 70 murders and 50 abductions in Central Luzon alone, where the population has been so terrorized by military abuse many towns are as quiet as graveyards after dusk. Continue reading

One more Arroyo achievement

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It is best used to protect the public from media abuse. But the libel law can also harass, intimidate and silence journalists. It is in fact a weapon frequently used to stifle criticism or unfavorable reporting in repressive regimes, which in most cases have equivalent “insult” laws. In some African countries, for example, criticizing the head of state is an insult that can mean imprisonment.

These insult laws are modern day attempts to punish lese majeste, or the idea that criticizing or otherwise implying that the reigning king, queen or emperor is less than perfect. Whatever remains of Philippine democracy has not yet degenerated that far. No government official no matter how exalted his or her post has ever declared that criticism detracts from his or her majesty. But mostly unnoticed except by foreign observers, it could be already treading that path. Continue reading

Behaving badly

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I teach at the University of the Philippines and was also educated there. Unlike Justice Secretary Raul Gonzalez, and like most UP students and alumni, I know to whom I owe my education.

I won’t say who was President of the Philippines when I first came to UP ages ago. But I will say it wasn’t him or his government I felt grateful to, but my parents, as well as the Filipino people, whose taxes sustain UP. To Gonzalez and his fellow bureaucrats, however, it’s the government that’s giving UP students a “world class education.” Thus his recent demand that UP students should be thanking the Arroyo regime rather than “destabilizing” it. Continue reading