The “all-time high”

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Philippine-Chinese relations are “at an all-time high,” as Mrs. Gloria Macapagal Arroyo declared in Xiamen the other day, China being nowadays a capitalist power exporting its excess capital all over the world including the Philippines.

Chinese capital—the homegrown one amassed through the privatization of such key sectors of its economy as heavy industry, rather than that of overseas Chinese Filipinos are most familiar with—is increasingly in evidence in the Philippines. One of the more visible examples is Chinese involvement in the North Rail project, which I suppose is among the reasons for the Arroyo regime’s current “high.” Continue reading

Winning the war

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The Arroyo regime may have lost a battle. But apparently it doesn’t think it’s lost the war.

Listen to House Majority Leader Prospero Nograles. “I personally think that even if we are brought to the Supreme Court, I don’t think that we can lose twice on the same issue,” Nograles said during an interview. Continue reading

Gonzalez’ advice

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The entire country should no longer be outraged by the remarks, acts and decisions of Raul Gonzalez, the so-called secretary of justice. The great tragedy of mankind—and it seems especially true of that part of it called Filipinos–is that it can get used to anything, whether great suffering, meaningless deaths, corrupt politicians, or putrid governance by incompetents. Apparently, however, Gonzalez still takes getting used to. That is why his “advice” to Chief Justice Artemio Panganiban last week outraged many sectors, including those opposed to amending the Constitution.

In response to Panganiban’s admission that the Supreme Court was being pressured on the “people’s initiative” issue by “people who are interested,” Gonzalez said Panganiban should limit his socializing as well as his contacts with the media. Continue reading

The Rule of Arroyo

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“The rule of law and not of men” is one of those clichés at least two generations of Filipino politicians have used to justify anything from the declaration of martial law to the demolition of slum communities.

It was of course “the rule of law” that made Ferdinand Marcos issue Proclamation 1081, and the same “rule of law” that we see at work when the shanties of the poor are demolished to give way to shopping malls. Continue reading

Looking for a justification

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Malacanang, through Executive Secretary Eduardo Ermita, has announced that it favors opening the Philippine mass media to foreign ownership through the Constitutional amendments it has been campaigning for. It had coyly avoided the issue in the past. Apparently it now thinks it necessary to declare in favor of foreign media ownership, on the assumption that the mass media are just another resource for exploitation, like the country’s mineral resources. Continue reading

Rogue states

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North Korea may or may not have exploded a nuclear bomb early this week. If it did, the explosive power of the bomb may not have been no more than that of 550 tons of TNT. That would make the bomb far less powerful than the atomic bombs the United States dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki during World War II.

Those bombs were babies compared to the bombs in the arsenals of today’s leading nuclear powers (the United States, Russia and China). But they had the explosive power of 15,000 tons of TNT, and were powerful enough to kill some 300,000 people and to level both Japanese cities. Continue reading

The bottom line

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The labor export policy is based on an argument that to every Philippine administration since Ferdinand Marcos’ has been specially compelling.

By sending off the skilled and semi-skilled to foreign climes, the economy benefits from their remittances—which last year amounted to over US$11 billion, by no means a small amount. What’s more, and what’s even more important, overseas workers and their families may not be enthusiastic supporters of the very status quo that’s been unable to provide them jobs at home in the first place. But it’s safe to say that few end up as rebels or, as the Arroyo regime would put it, “destabilizers.” Continue reading

Decriminalizing libel

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Press Secretary Ignacio Bunye wasn’t quite being candid when he said that Malacanang had “no position” on the decriminalization of the Philippine libel law. Malacanang’s not having a position on the issue is itself a position. It amounts to a position in favor of the status quo.

The status quo as far as the libel law (see Articles 353-359 of the Revised Penal Code) is concerned is that libel is a criminal offense punishable with prison terms that seem to have no limit except the judge’s imagination. The courts have also tended, not only in recent times but in past cases as well, to award crippling claims for damages to complainants in accompanying civil complaints. Continue reading

Perfect storm

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‘Milenyo’ was the worst typhoon to hit the country in years. The focus on the death toll and the property damage in its aftermath is giving the Arroyo regime a break from the political and other storms that have been smashing into it, and to which it has been mostly immune. While some voices have pointed out that the country’s inability to cope with disasters is a government failing, the regime is, as usual, evading responsibility. So far it seems to be succeeding, given the common belief that about natural disasters one can do little.

About the political violence the regime has unleashed in the countryside–and, most likely, in metro Manila as well–it can’t be slippery for long. Not only has that violence caught the attention of international human rights, church, and non-government groups. It’s also feeding the culture of violence that has ruled Philippine society for nearly four centuries. Continue reading